MIRROR Concept and Detailed Description

MIRROR resembles a beautifully designed vanity-mirror, a desirable commodity, however the consumer suddenly confronts himself with the hidden perversion of the consumable object: MIRROR is watching him. Wherever he goes, to the right, to the left, down his knees, on his toes, further away or very close to it, MIRROR tracks his moves and keeps him in its central focus.

MIRROR takes a consumable and turns it into an unexpected surveillance tool, in a twist of Detournement. It is no longer a static piece of reflective glass where you can see your image, but an interactive eye that is following you.

Any object, be it a commodity or a tool (electronics, telecom, etc.) and any media (advertisement, information, entertainment, software, etc.) have become equivalently suspicious.

Following my fascination/repulsion for the technologies of surveillance as well as the technologies of transparency/visibility, and their implications, my interest turned temporarily toward the mirror as a symbol to combine the two notions, which are two ways of viewing: seeing and being seen.

There is a need to come up with smarter tactics and strategies in order to engage people in what builds our daily environment, particularly our daily media loaded environment.

In the context of the contemporary cultural landscape, surveillance and visibility, war and fame, converged to faster generate more power. In a world where the new is instantly old, the mediated landscape is restlessly running after the next big thing. The Western world still continues its seek for the paradise (where everybody is wealthy, healthy and happy), be it on the detriment of the other part of planet earth and the majority of its inhabitants.

In a recent work titled Threatbox.us, I used violence to convey the underlying perversion of the contemporary landscape. My point is that violence has become a cultural value. Violence has many faces: it doesn’t need to be bombs and blood and torture and starving and war games and X-rated movies, all increasingly and dangerously invasive; but, for instance, even “desirable” worlds such as the Sex and the City TV series are violent in the sense that they expose luxury in the face of watchers who struggle for survival.

Here, for MIRROR, I choose to fake the underlying perversion. The subtle sounds that the head assembly emits when it pans and tilts, the short silence when it doesn’t move (accordingly to the observer’s behavior), emphasizes somehow that MIRROR acts like an animal. It has its own personality. When experiencing MIRROR, I am very much reminded of the behavior of a squirrel, when they watch you, just moving head and tail, or quickly rubbing their front feet together.

My work is not making a statement about surveillance, subjection or manipulation. It intentionally stays on the edges between playful and scary to let the interacting visitor carry the work on with his own feelings and thoughts, and hopefully confront, if only momentarily, his own autonomy of thought.

Technical information

MIRROR is a self-contained work, entirely plug-and-play. Using a small built-in video camera and ultrasonic sensors, it tracks a moving observer by panning and tilting so that the observer is constantly
facing the mirror. MIRROR was developed with custom software (Max/MSP/Jitter and Java) and completely designed and fabricated using computerized manufacturing.
MIRROR faces a moving observer by panning and tilting so that the observer is constantly facing the mirror. It uses ultrasonic sensors to determine the observer’s distance, and a video camera to determine their overall position. The video signal determines MIRROR’s pan angle, and the ultrasonic sensors, its tilt angle. The panoptic/control part of the robotic mirror links to ACCESS (2003).

The MIRROR project consists of a Mac Mini, Video Camera, Ultra Sonic Range finders, robotic pan and tilt assemblies, a microcontroller and an oval mirror all assembled around an aluminum enclosure.