Archive for January 26th, 2011

By Bob Clark

There’s an interior-decorating philosophy that espouses the idea of using mirrors to make a small room look bigger. I don’t know if it’s related to fung shui, or perhaps just a very basic recognition of the power of duplicated imagery, but there’s something about it that can work rather well, and at times even do wonders. With one mirror, the horizon of a single room can extend just a little farther, and open things up just enough to stave off unconscious feelings of claustrophobia in the mind’s eye, if not in the actual ones for very long. Place another one in the room with it at an angle, and things open up even more, allowing you to curve space subtly with reflected reflections, building a new and artificial kind of architecture through the location’s subliminal atmosphere. Finally, put a pair of mirrors directly across from one another and you have that classic barber-shop parlour trick of infinitely extending reflections receding into both directions, that little feat of magic that Orson Welles put to such good use near the end of Citizen Kane and Carl Sagan used to similarly impressive import in one of the later episodes of Cosmos, expressing the inherently evasive concept of eternity itself.

Plenty of filmmakers and artists have exploited this potential for mirrors as instruments of mind-bending challenges of time, space and pure mathematics– some ten years ago I can remember a recreation of a Yayoi Kusama installation, full of polka-dotted rock formations extended in all directions by an entirely mirrored room, while strolling through a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art. Recently I had another encounter with the mirrored-lens visions of uber-reflective expression at MoMA while catching a rare screening of a newly remastered World on a Wire by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a work which has long gone unseen since its original broadcast as a two-part miniseries for German television in 1973, and expands the famously bold director’s body of work to include science-fiction alongside all the old familiar places of Douglas Sirk melodrama and World War II era expressionist musicals. But not only does this film show Fassbinder’s take on sci-fi– it also manages to tell one of the first cinematic depictions of virtual-reality, long before the likes of Tron, The Matrix or Inception, and with a surprisingly dexterous hand, especially when it comes to presenting various layers of simulations.


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