the importance of reflective surfaces

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YAYOI KUSAMA : INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM

Kusama spent much of her time between 1962 and 1964 sewing thousands of stuffed fabric tubers and grafting them to furniture and found objects to create her Accumulation sculptures. She exhibited the works together in an attempt to create hallucinatory scenes of phallic surfaces but found the labor involved in making them physically and mentally taxing. In response to the labor intensity of this work, she started to utilize mirrors to achieve similar repetition. Infinity Mirror Room— Phalli’ s Field was perhaps the most important breakthrough for Kusama during this immensely fruitful period. The reflective surfaces allowed her vision to transcend the physical limitations of her own productivity. Furthermore, the mirrors created a participatory experience by casting the visitor as the subject of the work, a feature that the artist demonstrated through a provocative series of self-portraits in which she used her body to activate the space. This work first appeared in the exhibition Floor Show, held at Castellane Gallery, in New York, in 1965.

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‘He sees right through me, it’s so easy with lies…’

(Continuing with my essay series on Electroma motifs - I’ve written on touches and relative positioning, but what about something that’s object-dependent? Reflections are very important in this film, and here I do mean literal ‘reflections’ on a surface, not something as subtle as ‘mirroring’ movements and motivations. (They can and do come into play, but I’m not focusing on them here.)

Close your eyes for ten seconds. Hold. Open them. Look down at yourself.
What do you see?

Mirrors are an ancient trope. They are inevitably linked with truth. Sometimes they unveil a deception, and sometimes they show something that the looker never wanted to acknowledge. Electroma plays with both tropes with ‘Thomas’ alone - the human mask melts off as he stares into the mirror, forced to face his reality. And it appears that the robots of this world have to live with this revelation constantly. This is a very serious thing.

If you did the exercise I asked you to a few sentences ago, I’m willing to bet that all you saw were your hands, clothes, and whatever was in front of you. Human beings, despite the interest in doing so, can never see themselves in the way they can see other people. Mirrors and cameras only get you so far; you are never going to be perpetually aware of what you look like when you smile, or when you eat, or when you are sleeping. But ‘Thomas’ and ‘Guy’, being robots - being shiny robots, who are also apparently the representatives of the two main ‘types’ of appearances in their society - are not afforded this. ‘Guy’ reflects ‘Thomas’ by simply existing, and the vice versa must also be true; but when a human sees another human being, they usually confront only the image of the Other.
Honestly? It’s bad enough that someone is looking at you. Being unable to escape your reflection on top of that is worse. If that’s not staring into the abyss, what is?

Then things get weird. Reflections in Electroma are at least double-layered; there is another face beneath the helmet, which functionally is a face in its own right. When ‘Guy’ finally rages against his reflection, he is quite literally ruining his face. But he is also breaking a mirror and making it so that it no longer reflects him as intended. Maybe this distorted image is the only true reflection of anything in the entire film, for he finally looks as destroyed as he feels inside. Maybe not. But seeing as ‘Guy’ self-immolates shortly afterwards, it’s not too unreasonable a thought. The robots exist alongside layers upon layers of perfectly visible ‘truths’ and none of them help until it’s too late.

Perhaps it’s a blessing that we can’t see our own faces easily.
I don’t know how we’d be able to live with ourselves otherwise.)

Reflection by thomasconrad At a certain angle you can get these wonderful reflections on the surface.

Sharks play an important role in reef health. We should stop killing over 100 million sharks per year mostly for the consumption of shark fin soup. This threatens already the stability of the marine ecosystem
which contributes up to 85 percent of the oxygen we breathe.

Our Nature and Oceans must be preserved!