2014, Bronze, concrete, wood, rods, led lamps, glass, variable dimensions, exhibited at the He Xiangninig Museum,
Shenzhen, as part of the exhibition, Double Vision
Looking Glass combines optics with geometrical patterns to cast projections in a dimly lit room. A lamp emits rays onto the surface of a mirror, radiating the back relief of the “Flower of Life” pattern through the polished surface onto a screen. Projections from three mirrors converge into a single illumination. By appropriating the Chinese bronze magic mirror, an ancient artifact derived from the Han Dynasty, and a symbolic creation pattern, Looking Glass transform these ancient relics into a light chamber, presenting a triptych shadow projection exploring the phenomena of light and reflections.
Looking Glass combines optics with geometrical patterns to cast projections in a dimly lit room. A lamp emits rays onto the surface of a mirror, radiating the back relief of the “Flower of Life” pattern through the polished surface onto a screen. Projections from three mirrors converge into a single illumination. By appropriating the Chinese bronze magic mirror, an ancient artifact derived from the Han Dynasty, and a symbolic creation pattern, Looking Glass transforms these ancient relics into a light chamber, presenting a triptych shadow projection exploring the phenomena of light and reflections.
Custom bronze stands with slender legs support the mirrors. Clean yet fragile, these lean tripod frames raise the mirrors from the cold concrete base like elevated water towers. The primary shapes of circles, squares and ovals, introduce a microcosm that references universality and mathematics in architecture and space. While the presentation is simple, this pattern embodies a complex matrix. These circles represent the Genesis of mankind and six days of creation. Existing in many ancient cultures, such as Egypt, Israel, China, India, Rome, and Islamic culture, this pattern has been known as a creation pattern. Euclidean geometry can also be found in this mandala like pattern. Inspired by Chinese architecture and geometry, the bronze circular disc represents the sky or celestial dome. This configuration utilizes the Chinese geographical ideology of a “round sky square earth” or “Tian Yuan Di Fang” (天圆地方). The harmony between the circle and the square repeats regularly throughout the piece. The plinth with a concrete slab provides a square foundation for the mirror stands.
The Chinese Bronze Mirror, made from an alloy combination of tin, copper and lead, was produced with an ancient technique of intense polishing to yield micro uneven surfaces. An intangible cultural treasure, the magic mirror has been used as diplomatic gifts or in temples to ward off evil spirits. In contrast to our rapid digital age, the mirror represents the last vestiges of a dying tradition that dates back to 200 BC. The technique was traditionally passed on as a secret family artisanal skill. Few remaining masters in China know this specific technique and the production of this mirror was an engineering triumph in the foundry, as this was the largest magic mirror they ever produced. The craftsmanship relies on a combination of mechanical and hand-made expertise. The reflective surface occurs over several days of pressure, applied by the master, to reveal the brilliance and transparency of the mirror.
“Made predominantly without ‘sight’, the installation was my first venture into fabrication in China. The entire preparation was done remotely from New York with only one week of onsite production. The history of my work draws from ancient crafts such as weaving, dying and casting porcelain. These crafts have origins in aesthetics and survival, and evolved in early civilizations. I am attracted to these intuitive processes and juxtapose them with video or light to create immersive environments. The ephemeral result is often fragile and elusive. When I discovered the Chinese magic mirror in the Shanghai Museum last year, the fascination with this rare object led me to consider reviving this old technique. The opportunity to work with a foundry in China seemed like a logical progression from my intimate studio practice. I sought to extend the philosophy of production, a direct engagement with the object, by way of an intimate and meditative process, to this work. This early optical device reminds me of the human eye as well as the camera eye. Illuminated with light, ancient knowledge is emphasized through this artwork, critiquing and reviving aesthetics that have been forgotten, and may vanish altogether. For me, this piece transcends the physical dimension, is this reality, illusion or magic? There is a lot more to know than what is in the visible spectrum, our eyes may be limited but ancient knowledge is not. Like a small miracle and a wish blown to China, the creation of life stares back in bronze splendor.“
Special thanks to:
Fang Lihua, Feng Boyi, Maggie Gou, Phillip Ngan, Bryan Wang, Ellen Zweig, Xu Tan , Wang Jing, David Block, Raphael Zollinger, Guy Sherwin, Lynn Loo, Leow Sui Foon, Chin Lai Seng, Lynn Chin, and the lovely staff and volunteers at the He Xiangning Art Museum that cared for and polished these mirrors.