Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Mirror and the Self

The scene of Zoe seated across from the hypnotist can be seen as a conception of Lacan’s mirror stage. The opposite pantomime, their hand movements that imitate walking, the space between them where there images are transformed. The water in the fountain between them is barely enough for a reflection, yet it creates the chasm over which the two characters reflect one another.

What we eventually see is a candle floating in the water. Careful observation allows the knees and feet of a body, presumably Zoe’s, totally submerged, as if she is now John Everett Millais’s Ophelia. In death she is connected with her other half, Gradiva, the ghost-like version of herself who walks among stone ruins. While Zoe organically traces the sunlight in the mansion, Gradiva’s tracing of shadows are more considered, and more structured.

While Zoe and Gradiva are mirrors of each other, albeit in death, the twins mirror each other in life. And these mirrors turn outward on us, and how we see ourselves.

We must consider Sequence One in Four Movements , inspired by the story of Narcissus and Echo from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. In each frame of the four-channel film a man stands in profile in front of gazebo like background, his purple shimmery leotard complete with wings that drift with the movement of his arms. Sometimes it appears as if the screens are moving in directions exactly opposition to one another, but the careful viewer can see that something is always just slight off.

It is this slight discrepancy in movement that invokes the idea of mirrors. For each screen at first mimics the other, and then not. Here the idea transformation of bodies is explored; we use mirrors to explore our own transformation; and similarly transformation can take place in the mirroring of gestures.

For both Sequence and Splendid, the act of mimicking itself can take on the role of the mirror, and whether or not the mirror is present or not becomes secondary.

If we truly discuss Lacan’s Mirror Stage here we must consider his take on the transformative properties of looking in the mirror…. the process of looking results in fragmentation, manifesting in dreams, disintegration in the individual, and even the “growing of wings.”

Doa and her film therefore show us that whether we are growing into butterflies or just growing into ourselves, the transformation is continual; we are slowly walking, slowly transforming, into what we cannot know, except that it is undoubtedly splendid.

See Lacan, Jacques. The Mirror Stage. Delivered: 17 July 1949.


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