mirror, mirror 



steel, plexiglass, wax, aluminum, glass, water

Made possible in part by the Office of the Arts at Brandeis University and the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts 2013 at Brandeis University. On view April 24 – 27, 2013,  located on the Great Lawn in front of the Shapiro Student Center, Brandeis University campus.

Brief description:

Outdoor installation consisting of two devices that make sound, each paired with an acoustic mirror. Acoustic mirrors face each other and transmit sound from one to the other, allowing participants to privately communicate with a non-verbal language in a very public situation.

Dimensions: variable distance between 2 (~ 6’x 4’x 6′) structures.

More information:

“In order to hide without lying… I shall divide the economy of my signs. The task of the verbal signs will be to silence, to mask, to deceive: I shall never account, verbally, for the excesses of my sentiment… I can do everything with my language, but not with my body. What I hide by my language, my body utters.” (Roland Barthes)

Roland Barthes, in the above excerpt from a chapter in A Lover’s Discourse (1977) titled “Dark Glasses / cacher – to hide”, articulates the constant dualism present in human interaction and communication. Our language and our body may communicate a cohesive, unified message or they may each communicate different, conflicting messages, the conflict of which may be the true message we hope to get across. Here, Barthes, known for his work with semiotics among much else, pinpoints how we deliberately separate the verbal sign from the bodily sign “in order to hide without lying.”

This (sometimes deliberate) disconnect between a planned, directed verbal utterance and the mute truthfulness of body language can be seen every day, from dark glasses worn indoors to provoke an expression of concern for the wearer, to someone unaccustomed to lying who either moves or says too much, to an expression of sympathy belied by unsympathetic eyes.

mirror, mirror  consists of a pair of outdoor structures, placed far away from each other, whose forms will borrow elements from acoustic mirrors (whisper dishes), religious gates, altars, and temporary sacred spaces. Each structure will act as a portal for communication, in which a person standing in one portal can communicate aurally (but not visually) with another person standing in the other portal. This non-verbal sonic communication is made possible by acoustic mirrors placed in the structures. In each portal, there is an acoustic musical instrument that can only be used to make sounds heard at the other end of the portal and not in the public space between. The viewer/performer standing at a portal will be the only one able to hear the music from the other portal, from one specific point in the portal that must be found,  creating a kind of intimate connection made even more intimate through the public setting.

With this public display of intimate communication and connection, mirror, mirror aims to explore our desire for communication and our simultaneous desire for anonymity. This piece responds also to the Barthes excerpt above, by creating a voyeuristic, multi-layered experience of performance in the viewer/performers and their audience (who they cannot see directly while in the portals), ideally provoking a recursive experience of non-verbal, non-literal, complex communication.

Many thanks to J.Koppel and D.T.Wheeler for their help, support and advice.