Discourse: Mirror, 14th December 2009
The following text is the combined work of nine 6th Form students from King Edward’s school in Sheffield. On the 14th of December 2009 I led a writing workshop at Bloc space as part of the education programme, in conjunction with the video installation, Mirror, by Tony Caunce. The aim was to develop critical thinking and to produce a text that would challenge conventional writing forms. There was much debate amongst the group around Tony’s work and the discussion influenced small snippets of text that were written onto post-it notes and arranged on the gallery wall in what may vaguely be called an order. This order was designed to reflect the way the students had encountered the piece. These thoughts ranged from initial reactions to anecdotal attempts to make connections to their own experiences. The students looked at the work with a critical eye and examined the artists’ intentions asking themselves if the work was ‘working’. Finally opinions were formed, examined and re-formed. The resulting ideas are a mixture of reaction and reflection. I was deeply impressed by the ability of these students to look critically at the art-work and to examine their own opinions about it, some of the snippets show astonishing thoughtfulness and insight, some are just refreshing in their youthful lack of compromise. As the editor of the project I have taken a huge liberty and arranged the sentences and paragraphs in a way that doesn’t reveal too much about the work too soon and have therefore reversed the order in which they were originally arranged. The reader may read these responses in any order.
Mirrored image: Reminds me of twins, a team. Not one individual.
The masks: Phantom of the Opera sleeze, v. sinister, adds questions of identity and why the actor is hiding his face.
40 minute loop: The anti climatic nature of the piece, whilst being continually projected on a loop, suggests a statement on society, politics, humanity.
I thought it could have been about addiction- bleak, lonely atmosphere slowed speed and emphasised sounds/echoes. Cluttered bottles. Repetition, looped activity- no end/conclusion. Loss of identity.
The piece reminded me of communism, especially with the uniformed, robotic way of movement.
Is good art simply art which sports controversy and attention? Contemporary art seems to embody this.
You cant stand directly in front because it block the projector.
Audio effects: Suggest a sense of space which is not really present in this studio. Cave-like, dripping.
Raw image: Production values are low. This adds to the overall effect of disjointed and undeveloped work. But can be seen as pure laziness and lack of effort. The discussion this sparks makes this interesting however.
Although I did not see what perhaps the artist was creating or portraying, the piece did resemble something to me. The fact that I was still able to get something from it and was able to provoke emotion means, for me, the piece works.
What has a mirror got to do with rote learning? It doesn’t fit at all.
No individuality, copying, cheating…
He didn’t learn to do the tasks with both hands- it seems a bit of a cheat.
Having read the artist’s statement it is possible to see his intended idea of ‘learning’ in the piece. For me, I could take the slowed down pace as a reflection in being ‘held back’ in the learning process and the dull blue background symbolising the lack of creativity in learning today. Masks take away the figure’s identity. Could this mean that the way we learn now prevents us from being individuals?
Repetition/mundanity in everyday life. Subject identity-less (no skin or hair can be seen), so it could be anyone in society- everyday objects.
TENSION BETWEEN ARTISTS AND AUDIENCE IMPRESSION. SHOULD ART HAVE ONE SOLID MEANING?
Slowed sound and video: This creates a dream-like sense of calm and deliberateness. This has its own sinister air, as it is quite controlling with the atmosphere it creates and the slow movement. The audience is ‘forced’ to watch this man carrying out his RITUAL whether they like it or not whether they even consider it art.
Yet more sinisterness, mask and ingredients of his cocktail almost potion-like.
I feel that it creates the confusing, unnerving, eerie atmosphere of a nightmare or a bad dream. The slow pace is frustrating and therefore reminds me of how in some nightmares you are unable to move or run or simply perform a task. The masks add to the sense of nightmare as we can assume they are concealing something and so things may not be as they seem. Their lack of emotion is unnerving. Things in a nightmare world are muddled and wrong- the sound reflects this. It is not in time and is too exaggerated but works well for nightmare.
HONESTY IS IMPORTANT. ART, WHETHER TECHNICALLY SOUND OR NOT, MUST BE HONEST. HONESTY TAKES THOUGHT. THOUGHT TAKES TIME.
Tackles issues which effect everyone: learning, identity, repetition and routine.
POLITICAL STATEMENT. Caught in the clockwork of society. Attempts at individuality such as choice in washing powder do NOT in REALITY, make you different. “FREEDOM is not the choice between 200 types of toothpaste”.
Too many additional aspects included if artist just wanted to explore the learning process- confusing, cluttered. Why masks? Why different uniforms?
Although it is messy it is practiced and learnt.
If it was about the process of learning, why is it looped? Why is nothing achieved at the end?
The artist intended this piece to be about learning, but learning is a journey, it builds up to something. The video shows no progression, no mistakes during the process, and no climax. It doesn’t really show learning at all.
Before reading the artist’s description I thought the piece was about destruction and creation. The video is obviously about making something but the sounds suggest tearing something down.
Learning has a point- what’s the point of mixing beer and juice?
Why need masks and gloves? Is it dangerous? Is it giving the wrong message?
Mundane actions- the artist shows an obsession but in a bleak and uncanny light. Contradicts the idea of beauty in art. His work is a soulless craft that even the artist himself distances himself from.
It engaged me because I had to keep comparing the reflections, so it drew my attention brilliantly.
The contrast of the masks help to create the atmosphere and emotions of a horror film, drama piece etc. But the purpose became unclear when viewing artist’s intentions.
There is a stark contrast between the mundane routine and the surroundings which although initially gave a message was undone by the handout.
It was an unexplanatory piece of work, why were there masks? Why was one black? What were they up to? The problem is that you just don’t know… It provoked stress and it played with my imagination, so is this what the artist intended?
Sound effects- cold echoes suggests a church or dungeon- cold drafty and spooky. Why?
Definitely provokes a reponse because of the ambiguity of the work. Sound effects are unnerving, even though they are produced from banal objects.
The clutter on the table although perhaps intended to signify something served to distract from the artist’s stated intentions i.e. to highlight the meticulous process of mixing the liquids.
No beauty, craft or soul. This would be acceptable if the message itself was intending to portray skill, but I think it is more a comment on obsession.
The sound and video seem like two different pieces.
The ominous sounds and dramatic slow-motion give the video a disturbing and unnerving effect on the audience.
There is a tension between the order and the clutter that is distracting.
It was like a chemistry lab, a hideous experiment. Were the masks protecting or hiding the activities? Perhaps it stood for commercialism distracting the viewer from their curiosity.
A quack doctor, mixing dubious concoctions repetitively.
White room, grey floor and a projector.
A hand made wooden stand with a video projector inside, projecting the image on a large empty wall.
Stood against two messy desks a mirrored of 2 masked men.
Two images of a man performing a learned routine behind a desk filled with different containers.
A visual/audio piece using a projector displaying a 40 minute film against a white wall in an entirely white room. Surround sound effect, with slowed video uses the audio to create a sense of space which is not really there. The audio loop is slowed to correspond with the video and echoes with terrific resonance
Two men behind masks on a split-screen. What initially appears a mirror image becomes a depiction of two different men mixing and pouring liquids due to a slight difference of speeds.
Video projection of two figures mirrored image of each other, mixing drinks, This is done in a ritualistic, intricate way. It is slowed down, which I feel, emphasises the sense of ritual. The sound is echoed and exaggerated. This alongside the figures’ masks gives the piece an eerie surreal feel.
The masks remind me of mime artists, which doesn’t seem to fit as the sound is such a prominent feature.
Josef Z. Shankley-Jackson
Thanks to Juliet Heatly
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