portfolio > In me he has drowned a young boy

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2015

Site/audience specific 1.5 hour performance @ Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, curated by Anabel Vázquez for the Yeah, You Missed It... show.

Title inspired by the poem Mirror by Sylvia Plath

Wearing a mask cast of my own likeness with mirrors set into the eyes, the entire performance is taken up by my sanding the face of a small, Brazilian-made machete until I have achieved an (imperfect) mirror finish. I cannot see throughout the performance, and the audience, looking directly into my obliquely-set mirror eyes, equally struggles to see themselves. The blade is never pointed towards the audience, only inwards––at times pressed into my thigh or into my chest.
When my allotted time has elapsed, I remove the mask, revealing my face to the audience for the first time, and gaze at the machete-mirror, recognizing myself as if after a lifetime of obscurity.

The performance came about as part of an ongoing investigation into the philosophical, historical, and poetic interpretations applied to mirrors––especially as they relate to ideas of otherness, identification, recognition, objectivity, and prejudice. It was in part inspired by the infamous photograph from the Altamira Gathering of 1989, in which a female Kayapó tribal leader, Tuíra, holds a threatening machete against the cheek of a Brazilian state electric company engineer; as well as the somewhat humiliating history of European colonial traders giving small mirrors to the indigenous people of the Americas in exchange for precious resources––an action that not only implies the unfair transaction of selling one something they already own, in this case, a representation of the self, but may also have marked the beginning of a profound psychological shift in the people of the Americas, the introduction to what José Lezama Lima refers to as a period of history being woven by the image, "the image participating in history."

Click here to see the Altamira image and other inspirations for this project.


Framing quotes:

"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
– 1 Corinthians

"He who is reluctant to recognize me opposes me."
– Frantz Fanon

"The ekphrastic mirror never reproduces an exact double. There is always a rupture, a difference, inside the image itself." – James Schamus

"I am sharpening a hurricane to plow the future with." – David Diop

"For a long time I loved a boy who had a feather on his tongue and we lived a hundred years inside a knife." – Frederico García Lorca

"We polish an animal mirror to look for ourselves."
– Donna J. Haraway

"Nothing to do with the mirror is ever fixed––reflections of ourselves are always in flux."
– Josiah McElheny

[on glass architecture] "Its most profound effect, however, will be that it breaks the European of his rigidity along with his hardness…Glass will transform him." – Adolf Behne

"I had three large mirrors in my room when I was a boy and I felt very acutely afraid of them … I was very afraid of the thought that perhaps the three shapes would begin moving by themselves."
– Jorge Luis Borges

"How do I show you that which you are unwilling to see?" – Harun Farocki

“Behind the calm surface of the lake there is no illusive reality but the intense life of the water itself. Behind the mirror there is solely the silvering with its particular reflecting virtues. If it were possible to compare our mind with this mirror, its silvering would be made up with the silvery luster of our deep desires.” – Pierre Mabille

“We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can’t accept it for what it is.” – Stanislaw Lem

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, for the smoke screen is you." – Ian Deleón