MIRROR, 2005

Art holds up a tragic mirror to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. Viewers entered through the Academy’s ornate gothic-revival entrance hall to find themselves inside a video and mirror drawing of the entrance hall as a ruin.

Four of the walls of the hexagonal space were hung with 9ft (2.7m) x 12 ft (3.6m) mirrored panels, each composed of sixteen hand-engraved rear-illuminated plexi-glass mirrors mounted on aluminum frames. The glowing drawings on the panels depict each of the four corners of the entrance hall as a ruin, as if it had been abandoned.

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The central 9ft (2.7m) x 12 ft (3.6m) video projection is an hour-long composite of sixteen hour-long videos of mirrors being engraved to create a drawing of the central view of the entrance hall as a ruin. Each individual video shows the camera sitting on a photograph of the portion of the view being engraved reflected in a mirror which is being engraved from behind. Strong illumination behind the mirror makes the engraved lines appear as glowing lines in the mirror. At the end of the hour when the drawing is complete, all the mirrors shatter.

The two side rooms showed small videos of hour-long drawings of the first two Academy buildings, neither of which are still in existence. At the end of the hour when the central video shatters, the drawings burst into flame and burn up revealing the mirror beneath the paper. Text painted on the walls described the fates of the first two buildings. The walls of the space were aged using a grey wash and white lines painted onto them to create a continuous line drawing in the space.

Mirror was funded by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. Images, courtesy of Michael Straus, Birmingham, Alabama. Videography: Jan Baracz. Video editing: Lauren Petty & Harvestworks. Photographs: Aaron Igler.