From the other side of the mirror: Adrianna Eu and the others
“As for the mirror, it is the instrument of a universal magic that transforms things into spectacles, spectacles into things, I into another and another into me.” (Merleau-Ponty, Eye and Mind, 1960)
What do we see before us? Mirrors. Not just this. Something more, surely. Mirrors are objects that embody the human fascination with the reflected image, but beyond that, bear a symbolic dimension, based on the reflection that they are metaphorically capable of provoking. Viewing our own image in a reflective surface is, at some points, akin to the gesture of Narcissus. Not literally, in the sense of falling in love with one’s own image, as if it were an ‘Other’, but analytically, in acknowledging this “other” as something we are a part of but different from, precisely because it represents an unconscious state. Thus, Narcissus’s fixation on his own image is the index of his process of self-awareness. As Merleau-Ponty puts it, the mirror becomes a device through which an “I” is transformed into an “other” (and vice versa), mixing objective and phenomenal body, since the mirror image is an extension of the subjective and sensorial relation with our own body and of it with the world.
Here before us, however, there are not only mirrors and reflections, since the whole work cannot be reduced to its object or to the phenomenon that it produces. The work also has a symbolic dimension, which may or may not coincide with that of the object. Let’s see, then. The aesthetic substance of the group of works on display—works in the artistic sense—lies in its corporeality and mirror-like function. These pieces are a sample of the work of Adrianna Eu, who for some time has been using mirrors, glass, crystals and other materials to embody some of her artistic investigations. These meanings connected with the reflective/reflexive capacity of the mirror seem to take on a wider tautological function in the work of someone whose artistic name is “Eu” [‘I’ in Portuguese]. “I”, Adrianna states, am not closed in on myself, but have an implicit “other”, an identity that can only be established through a relation of otherness. For this artist, the element of exchange, of contiguity, is crucial.
The works Adrianna Eu presents include The Other, an old unreflecting unsilvered hand mirror, threaded on a string. This literally and figuratively sparks and sums up the perception of the mirror not as an opaque surface, but transparent, a kind of “throughway”, which, beyond repeating/reflecting, shows something that cannot be seen, what is from the other side. In Gilded like Illusion, a group of make-up kits fastened to a larger mirror re-affirms our fragmented identity in our search to build up certain disguise-images, everyday masks. In the Dive of Narcissus series, hand mirrors even acquire Baroque airs, fancifully reproducing the instant in which the mirrored surface is changed after the dive, by the displacement of the water. In this case, the mirrors become delirious objects, whose reflections are transformed and modify the image of that which stands before them. A feature these works have in common is the use of old objects, worn down by time, stained, chipped, cracked—as appears powerfully in Self-Portrait of the Artist, a mirrored sun visor, decorated with a floral pattern the presence of the expression “I will win”: although the condition of the piece reinforces a sense of its apparent obsolescence as an object of use. The inscription referring to the future affirms the projected constancy of a shared desire.
The exhibition also includes previously unseen works from the Swan Lake series, powerfully symbolic and narrative photographic images, retaining a fable-like quality. Once again the surfaces of framed mirrors make us think of water and a fragmented reflection, but positioned now on the dark floor of a forest, full of dried leaves, reflecting the sky and the treetops, showing us what the framing of the photographic image does not allow us to see. As in the story to which the title refers, in which a princess is transformed into a swan, the identity of the girl standing over this figurative lake is hidden, while, by covering her eyes with her hands, different from Narcissus, she appears to be avoiding a direct confrontation with any more specific image. In many cultures, the mirror is an instrument of divination, since it allows us to see beyond apparent reality, enabling us to think of the nature of a meeting that is mediated not by the eyes but by the extension of one’s own body. That which has been seen or has ceased to be can only be the fruit of a reflective dialogue between the character and the observer, the viewer, prostrate before such images. This is precisely the moment in which we are confronted, like Narcissus, with this other before our eyes. Anyone can understand what the image reflects.