Espejismos (Illusions)

Friday May 6, 2011 - Wednesday April 6, 2012

Main Gallery, Visual Space & Elena Lamm's Hall

We don’t know for sure when the mirror was invented, but there are references to it dating back to ancient times, in Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and China. The mirror has symbolic significance in nearly all cultures. In Mesoamerica, it was represented by Tezcatlipoca, “Lord of the Smoking Mirror" whose attributes are associated with the “first land not yet illuminated by the Sun”.

In his Dictionary of Symbols, Juan E. Cirlot says the mirror is an “organ of self-contemplation and a reflection of the universe”. If we relate this to the myth of Narcissus, the cosmos would be “an immense Narcissus who sees itself reflected in the human conscience”. Over the centuries, the human mind has come to be viewed as a mirror that reflects reality. From the Ancient Greeks right through to Scheler and more modern thinkers, the mirror has been connected with the mind, making it a symbol of the imagination and awareness, due to its ability to reproduce the echoes of the visible world. So, too, in art the mirror is associated with the idea of “imitation” or “mimicry”, since according to Socrates, it is “the great master capable of creating everything”. On the contrary, Plato held the mirror to be the great deceiver, saying that it reflects mere “phenomena” that do not reveal what is “true”. Like art, the mirror has the power to seduce, leading us to believe what we are seeing is real, when what we are looking at is but a reflection, like in the Platonic myth of the cave where the objects the men think they see are mere shadows of the real thing.

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