The mirror and the imagined space

 

The mirror &

the imagined space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandra Holt

BA (HONS) Contemporary art practise

 

 

 

   Contents

 

  1. INTODUCTION
  2. LITERATURE REVIEW

 

  • Trompe L’Oiel
  • Linear perspective
  • 2D/3D
  • Street art
  • Heterotopias
  • The Mirror become medium

 

  • ARTIFACTS ANALYSIS
  • Formal and contextual analysis
  • Robert Smithson
  • Site/non-site theory
  • Mirror displacements
  • Mat Collishaw
  • Retrospectre
  • This is not an exit
  1. PRACTICAL ELEMENT
  • Kaliedoscope
  • Conclusion

 

Introduction

This research topic will explore the concept of the mirror and imagined space. It will examine how artists have utilized the mirror and reflection, allowing them the freedom and skill to explore new and multiple perspectives portraying illusions of three dimensional space on two dimensional planes. Furthermore, it will explore the  French theorist  Michel Foucault’s  concept of Heterotopias from his essay ”Of other spaces,” spaces within spaces; virtual spaces that are connected by experience, memories, imaginings  an idea that evolved over time  influencing the thinking of many artists. In addition to this, I will research the shift in aesthetic thinking which resulted in changing attitudes favouring the art of ideas and imagination and how certain artists began to critique what they termed cultural confinement and the effects this had on artistic freedom; signifying a transformation in the creative practices of many artists and resulting in the use of alternative spaces.

In relation to the above, it is intended to explore further the work and ideas of the renowned artist Robert Smithson (1953/1978) who was at the forefront of breaking new boundaries. Although known as a land artist he used a variety of mediums to convey his ideas. An example his use of mirrors as medium and concept, is evident in what he called his mirror travels, mirror displacements.  In addition his revolutionary theory of site/non site, creating a dialogue between the real and imagined.

Leading to the contemporary art of Mat Collishaw whose art is gentle but fierce. Collishaw’s ability to combine past and present creating an oeuvre of real and imagined. By using the latest technology, he has a talent for breathing new life into old techniques revealing dark truths in imagined settings. In a world where images are central to our existence he manages to blur reality with what reality is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Litreture Review

 

Trompe L’oeil/Linear Perspective

This story originated in ancient Greece:

a                        Two painters were rivals in a contest. Each would try to make a picture that produced a more perfect illusion of the real world. One, named Zeuxis [ZOO-ziss], painted a likeness of grapes so natural that birds flew down to peck at them. Then his opponent, Parrhasius [pahr-HAY-zee-us] brought in his picture covered in a cloth. Reaching out to lift the curtain, Zeuxis was stunned to discover he had lost the contest. What had appeared to be a cloth was in reality his rival’s painting. (Anon., 2014).

Trompe L’oeil and Linear perspective are both techniques used to enhance the artist’s ability to depict images which could convey an accurate mirror image of reality. Techniques which had been known to the Greeks and Romans yet somehow lost or erased during the middle ages. Only during early renaissance years when artists were once more in pursuit of knowledge looking to nature and the things around them for inspiration would they again rediscover and relearn these techniques. In doing so change the course of the art history. (Anon., 2005)

Filippo Brunelleschi italian architect/artist rediscovered linear perspective while experimenting; using a mirror with a pinhole as shown in the diagram, the pin hole allowed the artist to mark his vanishing point enabling him to create accurately that which was reflected. Brunelleschi would then go on to design and oversee the construction of the red dome, the duomo of Florence the largest of its time. He became one of Florence’s most important architects  (Anon., n.d.). Though it would be another artist Leon Battista Alberti, who in 1435 would go on to write a detailed manual on how to achieve linear perspective allowing artists to make use of this knowledge and go on to create some of the world’s greatest masterpieces. (Delavaux, 2013)

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Jan van Eyck, 1434,  The Arnolfini Portrait

Nationalgallery.org.uk, n.d.

 

 

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Jan Van Eyck from the Netherlands would be the artist who would paint the infamous masterpiece The Arnolfini Portrait. Painted in flawless detail and perspective, the subject is a private wedding of the wealthy Italian business man Giovanni Arnolfini and his unidentified wife. Between the couple a convex mirror hangs. The convex mirror cleverly depicts the couple, the artist, and another, in the space which is reflected in the mirror. (It should be noted that neither artist nor person are represented in the painting anywhere else other than the reflection within the mirror). The painting has been the subject of many discussions; mostly concerned with the mirror techniques Van Eyck used while painting it. The artist David Hockney in his book Secret Knowledge is quoted as saying” Van Eyck used a concave mirror in a darkened room opposite a small window where he projected various objects upside down”. The critic Robert Hughes also suggests the use of a convex mirror. It was also noted that Van Eyck was an expert in geometry. His patron Philip the Good suggested he was a master of science and art. When the artist died in 1441 he had mirrored the world on canvas better than anyone before him. (Delavaux, 2013). Michel Foucault’s theory of heterotopias can be applied to the above painting and others of the seventeenth century with the inclusion of the convex mirror It has also been reported that the actual painting is a legal documentation of a marriage between the couple. The representation of the artist and another in the mirror is to bear witness. Above the mirror the artist has inscribed Van Eke was here.

( Nationalgallery.org.uk, n.d.)

 

 

During the seventeenth century Trompe L’oeil became an important style this was due to the extreme realism combined with an understanding of perspective; artists were creating illusionistic ceiling paintings in fresco. When viewed from below it gave the impression of space above. This could only be accomplished using a variety of techniques together, for example foreshortening, perspective and trompe L’Oeil. This kind of painting is called (di sotto in sù,) translated from Italian to mean from below upward. Perspective theories allowed artists to open up a wall or ceiling creating a 3d illusion of space beyond. This was named painting quadrature. Forced perspective another technique of trompe L’oeil used to paint archways or spaces where their depth receeded forever into the wall often used to create realistic stage scenes (Edgerton, 2009)

Trompe L’Oeil was popular with artists and critics till the beginning of the nineteenth century when the appeal for this style of painting diminished. The artist Pere Borrrell Del Caso painted Escaping Criticism 1874 (below); a visual response to the changing attitudes a young man climbing out of a picture frame suspended between the two spaces the pictorial space and real space, the present and future questioning both. (Delavaux, 2013)

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Pere Borrrell Del Casal 1874 Escaping critisim. Oil on canvas

http://rijksmuseumamsterdam.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/pere-borrell-del-caso-escaping.htm

 

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1656. Velázquez. Las Meninas, oil on canvas

Figure 1las meninas ,velazquez

https://philografia.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/la-luz-en-la-pintura-barroca/

 

 

 

In a journal by Danielle Manning called (Re)visioning heterotopias, she studies Foucault’s theory in relation to mirror and reflections within paintings to illustrate the difficulty in 3 dimensional realistic painting. A combination of both mirror and technique allows the artist the ability to create images on 2D surfaces that literally fool the eyes. Foucault’s opening chapter in The Order of Things also gives an analysis of Velazquez’s painting Las Meninis where he discusses the heterotopic character of the artworks spatial arrangement. In Foucault’s essay he illustrates importance of resemblance and repetition as a process of generating knowledge in Western culture and cites representational painting as a mirror of nature. Also the idea that patterns of resemblance can occur despite the spatial distance that separates them. The echo of a mirror reflection is a system where things scattered across landscape or skyscape can react and respond to one and other. (Manning, 2008) The idea of interconnectivity can be seen in Smithson artwork an example being his site/nonsite and mirror displacments as they are a series of ideas, events and objects that are integral to one another which together become the artwork.

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 Trompe l’œil : Salvador Dali Salvador . Dali Painting Gala Behind His Back

Salvador%252FDali-from-the-Back-Painting-Gala-from-the-Back-Eternalized-by-Six-Virtual-Corneas-Provisionally-Reflected-in-Six-Real-Mirrors-unfinished-1972-73-oil-paintings-18187.html%3B640%3B646

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trompe l’oeil and illusion became popular again with many artists this time the content was equally important. Salvador Dali a master at illusionism together with a group of artists known as the Surrealists were influenced by dreams and the subconscious. Inspired by the work of Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytical theories. (Delavaux, 2013) The mirror was a means to allow artists alternative ways of representing reality at the same time challenging the perceptions of a fixed reality. Mirrors were a contradiction in terms, reflecting yet also deflecting the mirrored image this gave artists an opportunity to create multiple viewpoints and infinite reflections

http://www.unisa.edu.au/Global/Samstag/Education/SMAMirrorMirr orEducationResource.pdf

Today street artists have adopted tromp l’oeil using it in many different ways. An example of this is the artist Mark Jenkin’s work; his art takes the sculptural form of the body. The bodies he casts are then dressed becoming much like a real person. He then places them around the city. To passers-by they look like real people. Usually placed to look like they are in need of help. One man lies on the ground face down with a knife sticking out his back. Jenkins and his team film or photograph the reactions of those going by. His work is a kind of social experiment. It brings to our attention how self-absorbed we have become in our own lives, our mobile phones preventing us from stopping to look or pay attention to our surroundings. His work also has a hint of humour, for instance the tromp l oeil setting of the man lying face down in the river drowning, attached to him are strings of coloured balloons helping the man out of the water. It has been called a kind of art therapy on a large scale. (Delavaux, 2013)

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Another artist with a well-documented interest in mirrors was Leonardo da Vinci (1452- 1519), in his notebooks words were often written backwards needing a mirror to decode them. His keen interest in mirrors was not for the purpose of creating a painting. Although, he often used the mirror as a metaphor for the artists mind stressing that the true artist must have vision beyond vision (Prendergast, 2003) The questioning mind of Da Vinci was captivated by the limitless visions which the mirror could offer when placed side by side, in circles or two mirrors placed directly across from one another showing infinite reflections of the opposites sides. (pendergast, 2003)

 

 

Figure 2 jorge luis borges, book covers

http://www.seankernan.com/data/photos/301_1borges_all_coversweb.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Borges

 

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges KBE (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986) is an example of another great mind with a limitless amount of visions; his medium the written word. Borges was  a great poet, essayist and writer of short stories renowned for his fantastical imagery. His used mirrors, chessboard and labyrinths to conjure up landscapes of the imagination. He was part of a small group of writers called the ultraist movement who rebelled against what they called the decadence of established writers of the earlier time of 1898 and was later credited with being the founder of the Ultraist movement. During the 20th century his work became classics of world literature. He was awarded the National Prize for Literature accompanied by an honorary doctorate from the University of Cuyo. In 1961 Borges and Samuel Beckett were both awarded the Prix Formentor. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2014) It was during this time that Borges’ writings gained notability in America and overseas his writing would go on to influence both artists and writers and continues to do so today

In “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”, Borges describes ‘a certain Chinese encyclopaedia,’ the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, Borges duplicates the cataloguing of animals supposedly found in the encyclopaedia in which it is written that animals are divided into: (Perneger, 2006)

A.those that belong to the Emperor,

  1. embalmed ones,
  2. those that are trained,
  3. suckling pigs,
  4. mermaids,
  5. fabulous ones,

G.stray dogs,

H .those included in the present classification,

  1. those that tremble as if they were mad,

J.innumerable ones,

k.those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,

l.others,

M.those that have just broken a flower vase,

N.those that from a long way off look like flies.

The above paragraph documents a written account of the infamous index taken from “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”, in which Jorge Luis Borges makes reference to a pseudo-text purportedly by Franz Kuhn. There, Borges compares Wilkins’ attempt to categorize and order the world by the invention of an analytical language to the chaotic and wild categories found in a Chinese encyclopaedia. (Encinas, 2013) Cabinet-of-wonders.blogspot.co.uk

This imaginary book and index would be quoted by many. This classification has been used by many; writers. anthropologists and ethnographers, German teachers, postmodern feminists, Australian museum curators, and artists also quote it. The array of  people influenced by the list has the same heterogeneous character as the list itself. (Multicians.org, 2014)  Smithson is also documented referring to the writing of  Borges. In his essay Entropy and new monuments “instant-monuments” Smithson discusses the works of fellow artists work monuments of an inactive history, entropy or energy drain., Smithson comments on these new monuments, saying that they make us forget the future, they represent time without space. Time as decay or biological evolution is eliminated by many of these artists; this displacement allows the eye to see time as an infinity of surfaces or structures, or both combined. “This City (I thought) is so horrible that its mere existence and perdurance, though in the midst of a secret, contaminates the past and future and in some way even jeopardizes the stars.” Jorge Luis Borges, The Immortal  (Robertsmithson.com, 1966)  There are elements of Smithson’s work when studied together with Borges which show definite similarities such as their language of signs. Another would be Smithson’s own writings. A perfect example of this is “ Yucatan is Elsewhere,”  Hotel Palenque the infamous essay which Smithson gave to a group of students. The documention of this is accompanied by a copy of Borges’s On Exactitude in Science.. (Robertsmithson.com, 2014)

 

             On Exactitude in Science

“ In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographer Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the  Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars;in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography” (Topinka, 2010).

A written message to the artist Ad Reinhardt from Robert Smithson the artist sending his fellow artist the book the inscriptions says,”Dear Ad,Here is one of my favouraite books .Hope you enjoy it”

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.Jorge Luis Borge, Book cover Labyrinths.

 

 

 

Heterotopias

In The Order of Things, Michel Foucault’s first major work to bring him celebrity philosopher status in France, he tells us the origin of his book: (Encinas, 2013)

 

This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought—our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography—breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten,with collapse our age-old distinction between the same and other.(Foucault, 1994) Heterotopias; Michel Foucault

”From the standpoint of the mirror, I discover my absence from the place where I am since I see myself over there. Starting from this gaze as it is as it were, directed toward me from the ground of the virtual space that is on the other side of the glass” (Foucault, 2009) 

               

The mirror is a utopia in the sense that it projects a virtual space behind its surface, a space in which the observer is misperceived as being present. Conversely, the mirror is also heterotopic due to the oblique manner in which it affirms the observer’s position in real space: “it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual point which is over there.” (Foucault, 1986)

1966 the French theorist  Foucault gave a lecture to his students that would spark off debates and literary battles for generations to come. In the lecture titled ‘Of other spaces’ Foucault would make reference to the term heterotopias, later he would refer to them as counter sites. The work has been interpreted, revised, and evolved eventually taking on a life of its own. In a written account in 1984, Foucault speaks of utopias as the unreal spaces that have similarities to real space. Then there are the places which are real places, counter sites which signify yet differ from that which they speak of. Utopia and Heterotopias are opposites; the mirror being their shared experience. Foucault’s concept of heterotopias refers to spaces within the wider context of space, virtual spaces, or spaces that can be connected by experience, memories, and imaginings. His controversial idea went on to inspire many artists and writers. Many opinions, numerous accounts and theoretical discussions surrounding Foucault’s definition of heterotopias exist, also saying that Foucault left it somewhat hanging; therefore allowing others to reinterpret his theory. This was especially the case in the arts, particularly within the new breed of conceptual artists that valued context, for example the artist Robert Smithson’s (1953/1978) theory of site/non site could be seen as heterotopias, also his mirror displacements when Smithson removes the mirrors documenting the site on return to the gallery by means of phototransparencies, maps of the site, it then becomes the  imagined space; a heterotopia the two sites are connected by imaging and experience.

 

 

 

The Mirror becomes the medium

 

Mirrors have always played a major role within art, allowing artists to represent the world by means of their reflection. Attitudes were changing around the time of 1960s and 70s; artists were looking for new ways to express themselves, rejecting traditional art of the past and questioning art’s role in society. At this time Modernism’s ideals were also being questioned. Artists were pushing the boundaries, breaking through with new ideas. Mirrors began to be used by artists across a spectrum of international movements including Pop, Kinetic, Minimal and Conceptual Art.(Krauss, 1977) The mirror was again in focus, this time it would become the artist’s material. The mirror-as-medium would open up another dimension for artists the white wall of the gallery space could be opened up. Layered with multiple reflections, changing perspectives. Allowing the viewer to participate, to view and be viewed entering into the work both physically and conceptually. New names given to art trends like post object art, minimalism, and conceptual art would signify change. From then on everything would be open to question. In Rosalind Krauss’s essay, Note on Index she states that

’70s art is proud of its own dispersal. “Post movement Art in America” is the term most recently applied’ We are asked to contemplate a great plethora of possibilities in the list that must now be used to draw a line around the art of the present.: video; performance; body art; conceptual art; photo-realism in painting and an associated hyper-realism in sculpture; story art; monumental abstract sculpture (earthworks); and abstract painting, characterized, now, not by rigor but by a wilful eclecticism. It is as though in that need for a list, or proliferating string of terms, there is prefigured  image of personal freedom, of multiple options now open to individual choice or will, whereas before these things were closed off through a restrictive notion of historical style.(Krauss, 1977)

 

 “Now that the mirror has come to light from art, we can see inside history.”

I can see myself, or perhaps I can’t see myself, while you can see me in the mirror. But it’s not just us or whoever is in front of it now, he who is distant is also in the mirror. Indeed we are in the mirror even when it’s not in front of us. Nothing escapes the mirror. The great space is in the mirror, time (whole time) is already in the mirror, and space has the dimension of time.” Michelangelo Pistoletto

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Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mirror Architecture (Architettura dello Specchio), 1990

 

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Infinate Mirror Room; Love-Forever , lights and mirros instalation

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2213510/Yayoi-Kusama-Maybe-reflection-bit-overpriced-Infinite-mirror-art-installation-goes-sale-350-000.html

 

 

Yayoi Kusama’s latest exhibition’s mirror-lined room, hung with colored LED bulbs, called Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2524912/Would-wait-hours-selfie-People-line-day-Yayoi-Kusamas-Infinity-Mirrored-Room-envy- inducing-photograph.html

 

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 One-way colour tunnel, 2007  Olafur Eliasson, Tanyer Boniker Gallery New York
Site-specific sculpture, http://www.sfmoma.org/exhib_events/exhibitions/232

Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and neugerriemschneider, Berlin

Site-specific sculpture

 

 

 

 

 

 

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Yayoi Kusama and Olafur Eliasson are three artists that have utilized the mirror as their medium recurrently through their long careers. They have worked across the decades producing art which is original, innovative, and inventive.

Yayoi Kusama is 84years old, she has been making art for five decades her work comes from a need to express herself, her inner feelings, and fears. Her work consumes you as it surrounds you. It seems humorous, magical at first glance like Alice in Wonderland. Inside the bright coloured polka dots and giant phallic structures we enter the artist’s fears. Signs and repetiton are prominent within her work  Kusama has suffered from the terror of visual and auditory hallucinations since childhood. In 1972 after the death of her companion Joseph Connery her mental state deteriorated, she returned to Japan. In 1977 her mental state worsening she would checked herself into a psychiatric ward where she would remain till this day. With her studio nearby she works there every day with a loyal team of assistants’. After some years of obscurity she is once more a household name. (Yayoi-kusama.jp, 2014) Her work Infinity room shown in the David Ziwirner gallery in New York 2012. People queued up for eight hours to spend 45seconds inside her infinity room, covered entirely with mirrors and lights, creating a limitless view of a starry infinite universe. Only one person at a time was allowed in to the gallery space this was to allow the viewer to experience the work in the way the artist intended. The work is a visual, sensory experience. The viewer stepping into an infinite universe, a vast replication of space within a space. Confronted with limitless visions.

Olafur Eliasson 1967/2015 is a contemporary artist who has also used mirrors through out his career. He moved to Berlin  to set up the Studio Olafur Eliasson, which comprises of artists,architects,technicians, actvists. He produces work  on a global scale creating major architectural  pieces worldwide.  Eliasson is motivated by his interest in perception, movement, embodied experience, and feelings of self. He believes art is about making thinking into doing; the images above are of his 2001 artwork the “viewing machine” made by 6 ft long six mirrors forming a hexagonal tube in stainless steel. The mirror gives the effect of reflected light Eliasson is using the principles of the  “kaleidoscope”, the name formed, from the Greek words kalos (beautiful) , eidos (form) and scopos (watcher): “watcher of beautiful shapes. Elaisson Olafur  continues to make art that re-creates natural phenomena in order to examine the perception of light, time, gravity, movement and sound. Recurring elements in his production are steam, water, fire, wind ,sun and reflections of reflections.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artifact Analysis

 

Formal and contextual analysis

 

Both formal and contexual analysis are dependent on each other. In formal anaylsis we look towards the visual and physical attributes of the work; material, form shape and colour. By looking at the visual we strive to find answers, what is the artist trying to convey.  Contextual anaylsis requires you to go outside the work of art  You may consult books, archives, examples of the artists own writings to help you gain an understanding of the artwork. Questions you could ask, does the artist use material that has ritual and symbolic value. (D’Alleva, 2012) In Robert Smithsons art this would help form a better understanding of his work. Other questions such as the choice of subject matter.What social messages are being conveyed. Was the arist influenced by other sources, if so what were they. Applying contextual analysis helps you form a deeper understand of the artwork in its proper timeline in art history.

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Matt Collishaw magic lantern

2010  Victoria & Albert Museum  12 Video projectors and hard drive, silicon, steel.10 x 10 x 4 m

http://www.matcollishaw.com/art/archive/magic-lantern

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Four Sided Vortex, (top view )

Stainless steel, 4 mirrors 35″ x 28″ x 28″

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Smithson

“For too long the artist has been estranged from his own ‘time.’ Critics, by focusing on the ‘art object,’ deprive the artist of any existence in the world of both mind and matter.

I am for an art that takes into account the direct effect of the elements as they exist from day to day apart from representation.”

 

We saw this show together. We saw it differently. We enjoyed those differences Below is a  image of Smithson’s Four-Sided Vortex, which gives the viewer the ability to see one’s companions in a mirror instead of oneself, for a moment.. (Atari and Tarada, 2005)

 

 

 

 

In a review by Charles Atari on an exhibition of the works of late Robert Smithson, Atari states that Smithson seems an enticing anomaly. In an age where the reigning interest is political, Smithson still gets treated as he would have wanted to see himself–that is, through the lens of powers attributed to genius or, as he put it, as above all a “generative artist” creating context more than responding to specific cultural forces. In 2005 an exhibition of the artist’s works was shown at the Modern Institute of Contemporary Art in San Francisco. It was to bring into focus Smithson’s capacity to reinvent himself in order to make art objects show versatility in his concepts and process; which made his art engaging, diverse and a clear extension of his thinking. He could manage that role because his preoccupations lay not with the human or social orders so much as with an imaginative site produced by the mind’s dialogue with geologic time and crystallographic space.

 

“ Comparisons to Leonardo are not uncommon, and not unjustified in relation to Smithson’s constant inventive activity, as well as in relation to how that activity seems to warrant a position apart from the culture wars” (Altieri and Terada, 2005)

 

As long as artists are outside the dialectics of nature, art will be an abstract currency…. If museums are not to become esoteric banks, they must reach people of all classes. This does not mean an appeal to the ‘masses’; rather, each person must be respected no matter where he happens to be in terms of site, nature, politics, or value.

– Robert Smithson, 1971 (Smithson Papers, Archives of American Art, Washington D.C.)

 

 

“Dialectics, so-called objective dialectics, prevails throughout nature, and so-called subjective dialectics (dialectical thought), is only the reflection of the motion through opposites which asserts itself everywhere in nature, and which by the continual conflict of the opposites and their final passage into one another, or into higher forms, determines the life of nature.” Fredrick Engels

 

American artist Robert Smithson, achieved cult status in the international art scene during the 1960s and 70s and continues to generate great interest among artists and curators to this day. His criticism of the art world,  spectatorship and media are well documented in his many interviews and writings and are relevent topics in society as it stands today. His work relays his interest in entropy and time, chaos and reorder, opposites, nature/culture, language as material, placement/ displacement. These ideas would take root as he began his excursions  to  abandoned quarries and geological sites. This would be the start of his nonsites and mirror displacements of the late 1960s and 70s. Sadly Smithson’s life was cut short at the age of thirty five before all his ideas were able to come into being.  (Smithson, 1996)

 

 

Smithson’s theory of site /non-site

The artist’s work creates a dialogue between the original site and gallery space. Reflecting the tension between the outside and inside, Smithson believed that gallery spaces inhibited artists from being free to be truly creative. He believed in taking art outside the gallery.

Cultural confinement takes place when a curator imposes his own limits on an art exhibition , rather than asking an artist to set his limits. Artists are expected to fit into fraudulent categories. Some artists imagine they’ve got a hold on this apparatus, which in fact has got a hold of them. As a result, they end up supporting a cultural prison that is out of their control. Artists themselves are not confined, but their output is”  (Smithson R, 1972).

With the site /non-site works Smithson would search for a site in disused mines or quarries he would then remove materials from the site, returning them to the gallery where they would be placed in geometric structures made with glass and mirrors etc. The mirrors would change the perspectives, opening the work up, creating new dimensions. Here the artist is commenting on his idea of containment and displacement. Creating a dialectic between site and non-site. “The non-site being a three dimensional abstract map pointing to a specific place on the earth”. (Smithson, 1996) In simple semiotic terms the non-site is signifier and the site is the signified.  Smithson began to use mirrors by placing them in various positions at the sites of his choice, photographing the mirrors he would then remove them. The photographs, maps or essays would then become the artwork. These he called mirror displacements which expressed a conceptual idea of containment. (Smithson, 1996)

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[(SMITHSON, 1969)

NONSITE (ESSEN SOIL AND MIRRORS) 1969 Twelve mirrors, soil Each mirror: H: 36” W: 36” Overall: H: 36” W: 72” D: 72”

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

 

The image above is of a non-site structure as it would have been viewed in a gallery setting. The soil gathered from the original site and brought to the gallery space to become part of Smithson’s nonsite structure. Twelve identical square mirrors have been placed next to each other to form a row, the spaces between each mirror are the same distance apart each space holds a mould of soil the hill-like moulds seem to be holding the mirrors in place as they protrude slightly above with soil, spilling over onto edges of the mirrors. This effect seems to join the structure together. It resembles a giant vertebra in its skeletal forms. The mirrors reflect that which lies above the skeletal form reflects what may lie below.

 

http://curate.tumblr.com/post/402911071/robert-smithson-chalk-mirror-displacement-1969

 

 

The artwork above is from Smithson’s mirror displacement series, his materials for this piece again comes from within and from the landscape. This work brings the physical properties and materials of the earth into the gallery, there by extending the traditional confines of the exhibition space. Even in Smithson’s design we see how the artist has placed the chalk in a circular shape. The sheets of mirrored glass placed within the chalk opening outwards break up materials creating multiple reflections. Chalk Mirror Displacement belongs to a series of works, created during 1968–69, that combines mirrors and organic materials called “Mirror Displacements”.

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Robert Smithson

Nonsite – Essen Soil and Mirrors 1969

http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/sculp.htm

 

 

 

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YUCATAN MIRROR DISPLACEMENTS (1-9)

Yucatan, Mexico

1969

Nine original 126 format chromogenic-development transparencies;

Collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

In notes on index it speaks of the shifter, a linquistic sign that contributes as asymbole while it shares the features of something else. The pronouns are part of the symbolic code of language in so far as they are arbitrary: they take their meaning from the presence of something else. (Anon, 2014) These signs are of an index their meaning comes from the axis their physical referents’, like Smithson work they are marks, traces of that which they are referring to the object or place they signify. Cast shadows, foot prints are traces of a paradoxical index. Collishaw uses signs in his choice of medium, his use of archive photographs depicted as fleeting projections here we have the trace of the index in choice of transformed into content allowing us to trace out deeper meanings they are referring to.

 

 

 

 

 

Mat Collishaw

Contemporary artist Mat Collishaw (1966) trained at goldsmiths. He was part of a group of artists who would later be called the Young British Artists. In Collishaw’s words they were a group of misfits who hung out together and made art. It was an exciting time for art a lot was going on. In 1989 the young Damian Hirst a good friend of Collishaw came up with the idea to curate an exhibition of work featuring fellow students from Goldsmiths. The exhibition took place in a derelict warehouse at the London Docklands it featured artists such as Tracy Emin, Sara Lucas, Gary Hume, Marc Quinn to name a few. Collishaw’s work was the infamous bullet hole, a head wound from a medical textbook that would be repeated sixteen times and becoming a large light box. The work would be used for the cover of the exhibition magazine which they named freeze.(Lack, 2008) A few of the YBAs would became successful virtually overnight through the help and influence of Charles Saatchi the art dealer and advertising mogul. Collishaw would spend the next 10 years or more refining his crafts. Collishaw says his work represents moral dilemmas, there are no taboos, no holding back. Could Collishaw’s upbringing as a Christadelphian, a small, unworldly Christian sect that prohibits television and the education of females have influenced Collishaw work? There are certainly enough religious references within his work to suggest a questioning of sorts, being denied television may also have had an effect. Collishaw states he is fascinated with the subliminal effect images have on our psyche. Collishaw also works with latest 3d computer generated technology, LCD monitors, fleeting projections and two way mirrors. (Eyre, 2009) Today Collishaw is an internationally known and sought after artist. His work shines a light on the darkest side of human nature, critiquing society’s dark truths and unimaginable realities. Is Collishaw waking us up with his fine blend of art history and Victorian sensibilities? Reminding us of cruel realities that hide beneath the beauty of awe inspiring images. Could Collishaw be telling us that our past mirrors our present? Mirrors play a major role in Collishaw’s art, like Smithson he uses them as medium, and concept both artists share this feature a connecting thread between two equally talented artists, working in different cultural time frames.

The concept of Heterotopias features in Collishaw’s art. His two way mirrors, projections and daguerreotypes are traces of a memory both connected by shared experience of that time and place they speak of. Similar to Smithson’s non sites being abstract maps which point to a specific place in which he sought out Collishaws work draws on experience of time and place. His work draws us as viewers into an imagined space by placing triggers. Collishaw takes us as viewers through time, mirroring past and present, beauty and the beast. His are heterotopias of virtual space signified by the shared experience of crisis Collishaw forces us to remember, take notice.

 

Heterotopia (2007-2008)

 

KARSTEN KRONAS

 

Interspaces, illusory sites, ‘places beyond all places

 

It is not based on creation of a concrete image of an actual geographic place. Instead, the work focuses on the fascination with Beyoğlu as a place which poses ever new questions, where dreams are born as quickly as they are shattered, a site of incomprehensibility, of permanent and collective limbo, of countless contradictions (KRONAS, 2014).

 

The above passage by artist Kronas can be used to help us understand the ever expanding concept of heterotopias. The artworks looked at within this paper are individually comparable and by the same token can be placed within Michel Foucault, theory of heterotopias.

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RETROSPECTRE, Wooden frames, Antque alter frames ,two way mirrors lcd,

Matt Collishaw

The BFI Gallery commissioned artist Collishaw to make a work in response to the life and work of the activist and visionary; the late film director Sergei Paradjanov. The finished artwork coincided with a retrospective of the artist’s films shown at the Southbank film festival in 2010. Collishaw created an installation showing pieces of films assembled and displayed as a sculptural collage made from large antique altars, window frames, bird cages old and new, pieced together resembling a shrine. Collishaw travelled to Paradjanov’s homeland of Armenia to gather authentic film footage of the landscape, he also went to the artists home, he later remarked that there was a shrine like feel to it where all Paradajanov’s personal things were held. Collishaw combined the footage gathered during the trip with other sourced footage paying homage to the filmmaker’s own style. This work exemplifies the idea of mirror and imagined space. Two way mirrors have been inserted into each frame. By using two old projectors Collishaw projects his source material onto the mirrors from the rear each frame portraying different images which continually change. In the middle we see a large white horse peering out through the frame, fires burning, blood dripping a sacrifice, a bull fight a succession of images you might see as you flick through the countless channels of our digital age.(Old.bfi.org.uk, 2011) Beauty and brutality projected through images and sound. No humans are present in the artwork the viewer becomes part of the work only as dark parts within images become a mirror. Transporting the viewer into the piece by reflection. The window frames reminiscent of the windows in our own homes, where we sit and watch our large LCD screens. Collishaw critiques our desensitised selves. By taking the mirror as a heterotopia Collishaw places the viewer into the virtual world of apocalyptic scenes reminding us that we are not just passive viewers.

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Mat Collshaw  This is not an exit,. Sinners

Oil on canvas

 

 

At first glance you could assume you were looking at an abstract painting only on closer inspection do you notice these are scraps of paper taken from the corners of up market glossy magazines. They have been folded into small envelopes, they would be used to hold cocaine to be sold on. They are opened, blown up by the artist to paint using the illusion of the trompe l’oeil technique. We see the folds in the paper, every strand of hair, the flesh of the hand painted with precise detail even the bits of white powder residue left behind is depicted. Mat Collishaw’s exhibition “This is not an exit” the artist, commenting on the Illusion spoon-fed to us by media saturated images seduction of beauty, extravagant lifestyles, and human greed. Using drugs as a metaphor, “always wanting more” (Hawksley, 2013). Each of the six paintings have been displayed hanging diamond shape from the gallery walls a further indication overstated excess. The title of this show is taken from the last chapter of the book American psycho

 

Collishaw placed his veimenereal flowers instead of bouquets at the entrance to his recent exhibition about the madness of the bankers on the eve of the crash. His art is lovely and vile. It is an art of our time and it hits true, like a bullet in the head. (Jones, 2013)

 

 

 

 

Thus the man who is responsive to artistic stimuli reacts to the reality of dreams as does the philosopher to the reality of existence; he observes closely, and he enjoys his observation: for it is out of these images that he interprets life, out of these processes that he trains himself for life. It is not only pleasant and agreeable images that he experiences with such universal understanding: the serious, the gloomy, the sad and the profound, the sudden restraints, the mockeries of chance, fearful expectations, in short the whole ‘divine comedy’ of life, the Inferno included, passes before him, not only as a shadow-play — for he too lives and suffers through these scenes — and yet also not without that fleeting sense of illusion;(Nietzsche, 2014)

 

 

 

Practical element

 

Kaliedoscope

 

While thinking about my practical element as a finished piece many hours were spent contemplating which materials to use that would be relevant to the project. Since the mirror was the interconnecting medium and prominent factor within my research I felt the mirror had to be cooperated into the work.  I thought about Smithson and Collishaws artworks pondering ways of bringing elements from their work into a piece of my own. Smithson in his nomadic journeys scattering mirrors around the landscape. While Collishaws work brings objects from the Victorian era fusing them with new technologies. With these thoughts in mind I began documenting my own journeys. Through the city I walked capturing urban reflections. On occasion I shot photographs through a vanity mirror to capture what was in front and behind at the same precise moment in time. On other journeys I would search out places were multiple mirrors were installed G.O.M.As mosaic mirrored reception was perfect for capturing visions of visions. The mirror has unique qualities, multiple mirrors side by side and across from one and other create an anomaly. It gives the impression of split time or juxtaposing realities. Finally and after much deliberation the final Artefact would take the form of a video projection- Kaleidoscope. There are three finished videos avi format a 20min, 10min, 5min, each video is made from photographs documented from each journey. My reasoning behind this idea was it allowed me to reflect on both artists’ works. Combining many elements of them into this one idea, the principles behind a kaleidoscope is to create images from multiple reflections using mirrors and light. The mirrors are placed 60degrees apart this creates an equilateral triangle. This made me think of the geometric structures of Smithson and how they did the same. The use of technology and projection appealed to me as this gave the work an essence of Collishaws. The use of documented photography was something both artists used Collishaw’s photography would be projected onto the mirror from behind creating a mirage of images infused with the reflection on the mirrors surface, Also in his work he himself has taken the principles of a zoetrope and created something using innovative technology on a large scale. On reflection I struggled with the idea of using a computer programme, as if somehow this was cheating. Eventually I thought this wasn’t an issue, the journeys, the time spent and the photographs taken was my work. (They were never random they were for the purpose on this project.) I also picked a selection of the images and worked with them in Photoshop using layering and the mirror tool creating what I called pieces of an abstract map. I hope to get the opportunity to project my video pieces in the show I have treated my projects as being combined therefor I think the projection only needs to be projected along with connected pieces created for a space imagined

This project has been a journey for me, sometimes I felt like Alice in wonderland other times I was Alice through the looking glass. There were times when I thought I would never make it to journeys end. I struggled and it was hard but personally it was worth it. My journey around the imagined space has introduced me to a world of artists and literature that I might never have read I would defiantly never have done so in such depth. I am thankful for the support and patience I have received from my lectures I would not have succeeded without it and the moral support from my guidance lecturer.

 

The Kaleidoscope was originally a science experiment then a toy that took the form of a cylinder with coloured bead, glass, pebbles at one end when held up to view through it was able to make images that constantly changed and evolved this was due to the light reflecting on mirrors inside. It was originally made by the Scottish inventor Sir David Brewster in 1817  “kaleidoscope” is derived from the Ancient Greek καλός (kalos), “beautiful, beauty”, εἶδος (eidos), “that which is seen: form, shape” and σκοπέω (skopeō), “to look to, to examine”, hence “observation of beautiful forms.” Kaleidoscope evolved to become a massive success in London and Paris. Artists are still crafting them using finest materials today,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaleidoscope

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  1. artefact stills, Sandra Holt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Smithson, R. (1968). A Nonsite an indoor image. 31 sub-divisons based on a hexagonal “airfield in Maniewoods in New Jersey ( Topograpnic) each sub division fron the nonsite contains  contains sand from the siteas shown on the map. Tours between the  site and the nonsite are possible the red dot on the map is where the sand was collected. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/nonsite2_280.htm [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1968). HYPOTHETICAL CONTINENT (MAP OF BROKEN GLASS, ATLANTIS  Four original 126 format chromogenic-development Collection of the Estate of Robert Smithson. [image] Available at: http://://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/hc_atlantis_300.htm [Accessed 23 Mar. 2015].

Smithson, R. (1968). Sculpture ,A NONSITE, PINE BARRENS, NEW JERSEY. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/nonsite_350.htmCollection of National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Virginia Dwan [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1969). HYPOTHETICAL CONTINENT (MAP OF BROKEN GLASS, ATLANTIS) Loveladies, NJ 1969 Four original 126 format chromogenic-development transparencies Collection of the Estate of Robert Smithson. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/hc_atlantis_300.htm [Accessed 27 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1969). NONSITE (ESSEN SOIL AND MIRRORS) 1969  Twelve mirrors, soil Each mirror: H: 36” W: 36” Overall: H: 36” W: 72” D: 72” San Francisco Museum of  Modern Art. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/12.htm [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].

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Images

 

Google Books, (2015). Borges 2.0. [online] Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=GkaImmdvSs8C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed 28 Mar. 2015].

 

Jan van Eyck, 1434,  The Arnolfini Portrait  [Image]   available at Nationalgallery.org.uk, n.d.

 

Pere Borrrell Del Casal 1874 Escaping critisim. Oil on canvas

http://rijksmuseumamsterdam.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/pere-borrell-del-caso-escaping.htm

 

Trompe l’œil : Salvador Dali Salvador . Dali Painting Gala Behind His Back

Salvador%252FDali-from-the-Back-Painting-Gala-from-the-Back-Eternalized-by-Six-Virtual-Corneas-Provisionally-Reflected-in-Six-Real-Mirrors-unfinished-1972-73-oil-paintings-18187.html%3B640%3B646

http://www.seankernan.com/data/photos/301_1borges_all_coversweb.jpg

 

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mirror Architecture (Architettura dello Specchio), 1990

 

 

Infinate Mirror Room; Love-Forever , lights and mirros instalation

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2213510/Yayoi-Kusama-Maybe-reflection-bit-overpriced-Infinite-mirror-art-installation-goes-sale-350-000.html

 

Yayoi Kusama’s latest exhibition’s mirror-lined room, hung with colored LED bulbs, called Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2524912/Would-wait-hours-selfie-People-line-day-Yayoi-Kusamas-Infinity-Mirrored-Room-envy-

 

viewing machine  ,olafar eliasson 2007

 

One-way colour tunnel, 2007  Olafur Eliasson, Tanyer Boniker Gallery New York

Site-specific sculpture, http://www.sfmoma.org/exhib_events/exhibitions/232

Courtesy the artist; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and neugerriemschneider

 

Robert Smithson

Four Sided Vortex, (top view  STAINLESS STEEL, 4 MIRRORS35″ x 28″ x 28

 

Matt Collishaw  RETROSPECTRE, Wooden frames, Antque alter frames ,two way mirrors lcd

 

Mat Collshaw  This is not an exit,. Sinners

 

 

Smithsom, R. (2014). YUCATAN MIRROR DISPLACEMENTS (1-9) Yucatan, Mexico 1969 Nine original 126 format chromogenic-development transparencies; Collection of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/mirror-yucatan_300.htm [Accessed 28 Nov. 2014].

smithson, r. (1969). Robert Smithson. [online] Robertsmithson.com. Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/hotel-palenque_300.htm [Accessed 28 Nov. 2014].

smithson, r. (2014). CHALK MIRROR DISPLACEMENT Oxted Quarry 1969 Three original 126 format chromogenic-development transparencies Collection of the Estate of Robert Smithson. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/chalk_mirror_nature_300.htm [Accessed 27 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1968). A Nonsite an indoor image. 31 sub-divisons based on a hexagonal “airfield in Maniewoods in New Jersey ( Topograpnic) each sub division fron the nonsite contains  contains sand from the siteas shown on the map. Tours between the  site and the nonsite are possible the red dot on the map is where the sand was collected. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/nonsite2_280.htm [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1968). HYPOTHETICAL CONTINENT (MAP OF BROKEN GLASS, ATLANTIS  Four original 126 format chromogenic-development Collection of the Estate of Robert Smithson. [image] Available at: http://://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/hc_atlantis_300.htm [Accessed 23 Mar. 2015].

Smithson, R. (1968). Sculpture ,A NONSITE, PINE BARRENS, NEW JERSEY. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/nonsite_350.htmCollection of National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, gift of Virginia Dwan [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1969). HYPOTHETICAL CONTINENT (MAP OF BROKEN GLASS, ATLANTIS) Loveladies, NJ 1969 Four original 126 format chromogenic-development transparencies Collection of the Estate of Robert Smithson. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/hc_atlantis_300.htm [Accessed 27 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1969). NONSITE (ESSEN SOIL AND MIRRORS) 1969  Twelve mirrors, soil Each mirror: H: 36” W: 36” Overall: H: 36” W: 72” D: 72” San Francisco Museum of  Modern Art. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/12.htm [Accessed 1 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (1969). Robert Smithson. [online] Robertsmithson.com. Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/photoworks/hc_atlantis_300.htm [Accessed 26 Mar. 2015].

Smithson, R. (1970). MIRROR AND SHELLY SAND 1970 Fifty mirrors, shells, sand Mirrors, each: H: 24” W: 48” Overall: H: 24” W: variable D: 28’ Installation: Museet for Samtidskunst, Oslo Collection of Dallas Museum of Art. [image] Available at: http://www.robertsmithson.com/sculpture/mirrors_and_shelly_and_350.htm [Accessed 27 Nov. 2014].

Smithson, R. (2014). mirror works. [image] Available at: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-IWZqfqp9Qsc/T_2fNrsIVoI/AAAAAAAACWs/98bFKZSVuL4/s400/9 [Accessed 3 Nov. 2014].

Matt Collishaw  RETROSPECTRE, Wooden frames, steel  Antque alter frames ,one way mirror, 2010.

http://www.matcollishaw.com/art/archive/retrospectre

Mat Collshaw  This is not an exit,. Sinners http://www.blainsouthern.com/exhibitions/archive

Sandra Holt Kaliedoscope .Still. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, J.

 

 

 

 

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