More Reflections on Mirrors

Each fairy tale is a magic mirror which reflects some aspects of our inner world, and of the steps required by our evolution from immaturity to maturity. For those who immerse themselves in what the fairy tale has to communicate, it becomes a deep, quiet pool which at first seems to reflect only our own image; but behind it we soon discover the inner turmoils of our soul—its depth, and ways to gain peace with ourselves and with the world, which is the reward of our struggles.” (Bruno Bettelheim, The uses of enchantment)


I was investigating mirrors and the archetypal mirror in Disney’s Snow White came to mind. As a child we normalise ourselves to mirrors through film. The magical quality of the mirror was interesting to me: mirrors are empty, they express no emotion, feeling or thought but have the ability to transfix us and to make us judge our own aesthetic, subjectifying ourselves under the mirror’s gaze, just like what would happen if we were being photographed.   The mirror is an empty void, non critical and non judgemental. This idea ties in with Christopher Isherwood’s idea in “Goodbye To Berlin” where he writes : ““I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking. ”

Poet Sylvia Plath also discusses mirrors in her poem “Mirror”. I greatly enjoyed reading this poem as it gave me a lot of  inspiration and knowledge on the subject of mirrors: I was intrigued by the objectivity of mirrors which she demarcates in this poem, in addition to the way that mirrors have a hypnotic effect, acting like a vacuum on the observer.   Plath describes the mirror as being ” exact” with “no preconceptions” yet it has power to hold us under its spell, owing to vanity. This is explicated in another line of the poem where she says: “whatever I see, I swallow it immediately.”  In this poem, the mirror has subsumed a woman’s life due to her narcissism with her self image: as Plath writes in first person about the mirror : ” In me she has drowned a young girl” thus portraying how fixated the woman is on her reflection for an extended amount of time. The end of the poem  states  about the mirror again and its viewer ” in me an old woman rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish. “The woman in this instance is the “terrible fish” – she has become dishevelled due to her age and because of her obsession with mirrors is no longer beautiful. From this poem I delineated that image can always change owing to age, whereas paradoxically mirrors are timeless.



van ryssselberghe -

(Coastal Scene by Théo Van Rysselberghe)

I recently attended an exhibition at the National Gallery entitled “Soundscapes.” It encompassed several musicians’ soundscapes which were fitted to certain paintings in the gallery. The musicians were: Nicol Muhly, Susan Phillipsz, Jaimie XX, Gabriel Yared, Chris Watson, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. I enjoyed this exhibition since it synced music with image in an artistic and detailed manner.It was interesting learning how visual art and sound can form a relationship. Normally one argues that the importance of sight precedes that of hearing, here however both are equal: neither one dominates the other but harmonise in an imaginative way to create something innovative and immersive.

I especially enjoyed Jaimie XX’s piece which was allocated to a painting made up of dots, and the music accurately conveyed the frenetic activity of the painted dot owing to its beats and melody. The style of the music could equally have fitted a Jackson Pollack painting, fitting with the creative freedom and messiness of the paint. The painting that Jaimie XX worked with was called  “”Coastal Scene” and was by Van Rysselberghe, painted in 1892. Other paintings which I viewed during this exhibition included: “The Wilton Diptych”, “Ambassadors”,  “Bathers”, “Lake Keitele”, and “Saint Jerome in his Study.” In addition to this I watched a video before I entered the spaces which followed the musicians’ creative journeys.

The Mozart Effect



The Mozart effect is the theory that listening to Mozart can make you more intelligent. It is based around children, although there have also been some case studies with this theory with adults. The term originates from Alfred A Tomasis and was created in an article called Nature by Rauscher et al in 1991. The idea was that listening to Mozart’s music can help children’s brains to work faster and help them to process images of shapes connected in an experiment with origami. Nevertheless, the Mozart effect was also experimented on adults. Since my major project is linked to the theme, music and health, I decided to look into this theory in order to gain knowledge of how the brain works in relation to music. I investigated several case studies of the Mozart Effect:

The first case study was conducted around thirty six adults. They were given select tasks and before it they listened to either relaxation tapes, silence, or one of Mozart’s sonatas. Those who listened to the Mozart sonatas proved to have succeeded better in the tasks than those who didn’t.  It was, however, only a fifteen minute task and the effects show that the effects were not long-lasting. After some experimentation, it was claimed that listening to music can help us to process shapes but it does not actually increase intelligence.

In 2010 a meta-analysis of studies showed that it was not Mozart’s music alone that stimulated the brain but all kinds of music. It was proved that listening to Schubert also aroused the brain. In addition to this it was found that engagement, i.e. enjoyment, was key to brain arousal and it did not have to be with music, but simply something that we enjoy, termed “enjoyment arousal” such as listening to a Stephen King recording.  Furthermore, the former observation was also proved right in 2006 whereby eight thousand children were made to listen to either pop music – including Blur- as well as Mozart. Interestingly, it was discovered that it was those who listened to Blur that succeeded in predicting paper shapes (origami which they had to observe and analyse.) More experimentation after this proved that it does not have to be music alone which can stimulate the brain, it could, for example, just be a cup of coffee.

According to a scientist, Jessica Grahn, learning to play an instrument can increase the IQ by three points.

A full discussion of this argument can be found here:

For more indepth study, this link is useful in describing the Mozart effect and the impact that music has on the brain:

On 4’33”

I am basing one of my major projects on Cage’s piece 4’33” as I am exploring concepts of emptiness and absolutism  which play a key part in 4’33”.

4’33” is a piece by the American composer, John Cage. It is a silent piece which consists of three silent, tacit scores and was composed in 1952 and was collaborated with David Tudor. The product was inspired by Zen Buddhism and his exploration of the notion of silence. The idea came to Cage when he first entered an anechoic chamber which he believed to be sound proofed yet he could not experience silence since he still heard the sound of his heartbeat. It was also inspired by Rauschenberg’s  “White Paintings” which reflect the idea of emptiness and purity.  4’33” conveys the idea that silence can never exist due to environmental noise which is ever present. This concept relates to my major project as I am investigating the importance of environment and its relation to emptiness, and how it is a concurrent theme in our understanding of absolutism and purity.

After reading up on this piece I made several observations.  Salome Voeglin states in “Listening to Noise and Silence: Towards a Philosophy of Sound Art” that “noise is experienced by us on a daily basis, and it can often be found not so much as an environmental factor but as a nuisance.” This idea ties in with 4’33” since the audience in the concert hall are invited to listen to the sounds which they make , contributing to environmental noise. The audience are thus in some way a nuisance (which as Voeglin states in her book: “Noise…can often be a nuisance”)  in addition to becoming a part of the piece itself. It is hence an immersive experience. In some ways, because of the noises which they are making, such as their coughing and shuffling, they become the composers of the piece. This links to my major project since my film clip with mirrors also conveys the idea that purity cannot exist because of environmental factors. The mirrors themselves, like Rauschenberg’s “White Paintings” may not be expressive themselves – they are objective and timeless-  however the environment impinges on them stopping the mirrors from portraying purity.

Interestingly, in addition to this, I also found information on music relating to a play of mirrors in Jonathon Sterne’s “The Sound Studies Reader”  which neatly links to the concepts for my major project:  In this text, Sterne echoes Marx’s interpretation of music, which is that music is a “play of mirrors” in which everything is “reflected, refined, recorded and distorted.”

Furthermore, Sterne also claims that  “if we look at one mirror we see only an image of another.”


My major project is a film clip of mirrors.  I have not yet decided on how the mirrors are to be placed in this clip, nor the filming logistics – i.e. what angle I want the camera to focused at, how many mirrors there should be, the lighting and  how I want to film the individual in the film clip.  Because of this I did some research online to see how other mirrors have been portrayed in order to gain some inspiration.

(1) This is a video of Charlie Chaplin in the film, ” The Circus”
I love how the mirrors have a kaleidoscopic effect and reflect all of the characters’ movements. It creates a feeling of disorder and chaos, and almost conveys a comic dance. All of the mirrors reflect the character’s body and the character becomes almost entangled in the mirrors around him. As the scene progresses and Chaplin enters the mirror maze again with the policeman, the mirrors make the scene almost dance-like as both individuals become lost in the mirrors, unable to exit it and every movement is reflected in the mirrors and distorted due to the quantity of them. This idea also adheres to Marx’s interpretation of music as a play of mirrors described in Jonathon Sterne’s “The Sound Reader”  as being “refined, recorded and distorted”, and  “If we look at one mirror we see only an image of another. But at times a complex mirror game yields a vision that is rich, because unexpected and prophetic.” and, just as the musician John Cage desired for his piece 4’33” in relation to the concept of emptiness, “at time it yields nothing but the swirl of the void.


Bruce Lee “Enter The Dragon

I watched this clip on Bruce Lee’s “Enter The Dragon.” I liked the way the character’s movements were reflected in every mirror, each mirror has a slither of the character’s body in it, creating a dreamy effect  and Bruce Lee performs his stunning martial arts skills in this film, breaking every mirror in which he sees his perpetrator’s reflection yet not all the time succeeding in  allocating his enemy owing to the mirrors around him.