Within the history of interactive video installations, there is a tradition of integrating the live image of the self: the screen as mirror, negotiating between pure reflection and (total) transformation. The installation Mirror Mirror engages with this tradition. It is an appropriation of cylindrical anamorphosis, a 17th century technique in which a distorted image can be observed in its reconstituted form through reflection in a cylindrical mirror. Cylindrical anamorphosis typically is a media setting in which the mirror is not used to look at oneself, and instead uses the phantasmagoric power of the mirror to reveal something that was hidden, intertwining the subversive and the magical. By implementing digital technology, the cylindrical mirror can however also become a mirror that allows to observe oneself. A semi-transparent cylindrical mirror hides a video camera. The video-image of the observer approaching the mirror is captured and warped in real time—from a Cartesian to a near-polar coordinate system—and projected on a horizontally-placed screen. The reflection in the cylindrical mirror reveals the reconstituted image of the observer. Warped projected image and reflected image are – literally – a mirror pair, a double face that offers an intriguing interplay of chaos and form. The cylindrical mirror acts as mediator that translates and folds warped projection into recognizable reflected form, and at the same time, re-injects some of its wild analogue magic into the digital apparatus. The reflected image, as of an apparition trapped inside a glass vessel, possesses a strange quality of three-dimensionality. Upon closer inspection, distortions at the edges of the reflected image unmask this three-dimensionality to be just an illusion. The reflection in the cylindrical mirror does not belong to the same reality as the observer’s, at this side of the mirror. An incompossibility central to the lure of Mirror Mirror, and that invites to explore the mechanisms of this quasi-impossible telltale mirror, and of one’s own visual perception system.
In our media-saturated world were digital processual images are becoming standard, cylindrical anamorphosis uses its own analogue and pre-digital processual power to re-inject uncontrolled magic and poetry into this techno-aesthetics. On the other hand by using moving images that are digitally manipulated, cylindrical anamorphosis is contaminated by the present and becomes a hybrid contemporary version of artificial magic.