Mirror Mirror, or the Tainted Tain
Mirror Mirror, or the Tainted Tain, 2015 / Varied edition of 10 / Nine unbound paper folders made of Dobbin Mill paper with pockets, to create a multi-layered reflection, each with archival inkjet text, Selfie photography, foils & gild
Size: 14” x 6.25” x 1.75”
From the Pratt Institute Libraries Special Collections
Mirror Mirror… presents the Aristotelian perspective on menstruation in a self-exploration of the mirror image as identity. This protofeminist obsession is mockingly riffing on the absurdity of both this text and our present-day obsession with self-presentation. The images are all ‘Selfies’ taken from dirty reflections (most often on my computer & phone screens) as they literally & figuratively reflect us back to ourselves. The choreography of the read is suggestive of the reverse axis of the mirror, a play on the text offered by Aristotle.
A wrap box contains 9 unbound paper folders, which are semi-translucent folded pages. Images, aluminum foils & gild, and printed texts are viewable as both embedded elements of the paper & within its pockets.
Mirror Mirror… is a reflection of both Aristotle’s treatise on menstruation as it is a critique of the power of looking/seeing. The topic, while one might imagine taboo, is more familiar amongst female students, who often generate art with diaristic narratives. And as such, I have strenuously avoided such thematic concerns in the past. I decided that for that same reason I must challenge myself with Aristotle’s pseudo-science. Hence the use of ‘Selfies’!
I did the photoshoots, altering my self-image by creating interferences on the reflective surfaces. I wanted neither ‘’beauty” (what a woman ‘traditionally’ demands from her mirror image), nor familiarity (we so often pose that we know ourselves as framed presentations rather than the fluid transpositions that we are). I chose NOT to use actual mirrors. I wanted to use computer screens of different kinds – to have the idea of one’s mirror image resonate, yet since we live by our screens, they are literally & figuratively ‘reflecting’ us back to ourselves.
This artist book is an homage to my students, an homage to wonderful artists like Martha Wilson who use their own bodies for powerful feminist statements (& fun), and finally an homage of self mockery: as a middle-age woman without her uterus posing for the camera as a woman menstruating!
PAPER: The paper went through many changes: I started with the red abaca – fresh blood-like in color with a hard clean surface -- but it overpowered the imagery and the surfaces ceased to be reflective. I then made several versions of the paper – exploring options of translucency as I tried to find a balance between surface and color density. Eventually I figured out that if I made pockets within the paper that the depth could be sustained and the surface defined. Figuring out how to make pockets in fine semi-translucent paper was also a challenge (something I thoroughly appreciated). And once I chose the cream tone for the paper, I realized that the red tones (mostly the feeling of dried blood) could be printed in the imagery & text.
The paper that I made for the box also went through many versions: I first thought I’d focus on washes of red / blood like flows. Then I tried different tones of red on black – using the black to highlight the red. Eventually I decided to have a translucent ground. I love the two expressive papers I made – one with the mica powder in the ground to suggest reflective surfaces along with the red vein-like web, and the other with the build up layers of vein-like reds & almost purplish tones to create a feeling of the circulatory system or what I imagined might be the look of a very blood-shot eye.
TEXTS: I had originally planned to use only select phrases of Aristotle’s but eventually realized that I needed it all – only by using all of his explanation was its insanity in full force. I chose the Perec & Kafka for their contrast to Aristotle; their texts spoke with a feeling of ‘magic realism’ and poetry. And the development of the text for this book was more balanced (& mirrored) with exclusively men’s words here. Rather than all handwritten, I chose to print the words, only handwriting a few words that were my own.
STRUCTURE & BINDING: Once I realized that the process of opening, viewing, and turning over created a choreography of the read’ that was a wonderful parallel to the mirror axis, I decided not to sew them together so that this activity was accentuated. Since the Aristotle text had an order, I added page numbers to avoid confusion.
MATERIALS: When I was testing to see how translucent the layers of paper should be I chose to use aluminum foils (less expensive than silver or palladium gild) – and found it so wonderful – the surface was almost reflective but only of light and not of image that I decided that I had to use it instead in most places. I just love this material!! Never imagined that.