on mirrors

Today while wandering around town I listened to Erik Davis interview Antero Alli on Expanding Mind .

Something Alli suggested, which struck me as an interesting exercise in self-identity, was to go for a week without looking in a mirror. Removing/covering bathroom mirrors, and house mirrors. Not checking yourself out reflected in shop windows. Not sneaking a peak in the rear view mirror. Just cutting out all reflections of the self, and seeing what it does to your experience of self.

Part of what interests me is that it sounds like a simple thing but would probably be quite hard in practice. (Presumably using a mirror to aid in putting on make-up is out, too.) But also that it potentially has quietly profound experiential effects.

One consequence of hyper-mediated living is our awareness of our image. We are photographed and stuck on Facebook. Images are flung at us relentlessly through media and we make comparison with ourselves. We craft our style – and even if we outwardly resist succumbing to style, we are aware of that resistance, that we are judged on this scale. It is very hard to be unaware of the visual aspect of ourselves.

Our familiarity with our external form encourages us to identify with our body as us – all of us. Mirrors have existed in various forms for at least a thousand years, but were not commonplace items until recent centuries when new production methods appeared. Another correlation with the shifts in ideas of self that occurred at that time…

Anyway. Would be interesting to do. Who are we when we aren’t looking in the mirror? What were people like when they rarely saw themselves?

2 Responses to “on mirrors”

  1.   tatjna
    January 24th, 2010 | 10:28 pm

    This is one of the things I enjoy about multi day festivals where there just aren’t any reflections except people’s response to you as a person. I often get a little weirded out when I get back to civilisation and see what I look like – my image of myself is quite different from what the mirror shows me.

    (and usually i’m quite a lot browner too)

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  2.   billy
    February 10th, 2010 | 3:33 pm

    Yeah, it is interesting. Like being realler and more embodied. Of course the festival context has a lot to do with that, too.

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