3 July 2009

(Wo)Man With Mirror

Last night I had a wonderful, unexpectedly lovely evening. I attended the opening of Imprint, an exhibition running until 1 August at Artspace in Sydney. It was not so much the exhibition that won me (though it is very interesting and worth a look), but the unexpected performance by artists Teaching and Learning Cinema (TLC).

For this work, TLC (Louise Curham and Lucas Ihlein) reenact Guy Sherwin's 'Man With Mirror' (1976-2009), retitling it '(Wo)Man With Mirror' (Louise is, after all, a woman) and giving it fresh life by reawakening Sherwin's beautiful combination of Super 8 film projection, prop/object and performance.

I was so surprised to be gifted such a wonderful experience at, of all places, an art opening, which are so often sterile, wanky, intimidating or plainly boring and so rarely as exciting, encouraging, welcoming or inspiring as they should be. Thankfully, '(Wo)man With Mirror', was triumphantly of the latter category.

What seemed to happen is this: Curham and Ihlein had been filmed completing various movements and repetitious sequences in which they manoeuvre a rectangular board, which has one white side and one mirrored side. This film was projected onto two opposite walls in the space while they reperformed the same sequence, i.e. with the same rectangular boards, in front of the projections.

The result is an accumulated effect of meditative surrealism, where one is faced with the literal beauty of self-reflexivity and where the magical trickery of light is juxtaposed with basic human discipline. The enchanting performance was backed by the reassuring hum of the Super 8 projectors, with the performers' composure making their ease of movement seem deceptively straightforward, allowing us to feel totally comfortable in observing them.

The artists' focus and commitment to the performance was brilliant, especially considering how simply one, as a viewer, slips into that trompe l'oeuil realm in which one asks oneself: What is mirror reflection and what is projection? What is shadow, what is light? Which image is film and which is reality?

And, by extension, one must beg the question of where reality's line really begins and ends in a world of infinite exposures, of endless 'real-time' footage.

Guy Sherwin's 'Man With Mirror' (1976-2009):


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