The Mirror: The Cyber-Portrait of Dorian Gray (1998)

Mirror_real1_AVIGNON. 2000

The installation uses the interactive character of the mirror and its symbolic potential which has been many times elaborated in literature, art, psychology, psychoanalysis or philosophy. The visitor enters a darkened room lit only with a point light on the ceiling and after entering the light circle she gets a view of herself in the mirror. After several seconds the originally blurred image begins rapidly to change; deformations of face and skin movements induce an impression of aging or growing young and she begins to understand that the changes originate in the viewer’s interaction: a hidden camera is recording her moving image, a microphone, sound, and computers transmit this data into visual alternations on the mirror.

“The Mirror” follows the fascination with the subject of a double, which is a constant theme in the arts while it usually contains certain uncanny aspects; the mirror becomes the symbol of witchcraft or at least of the bifurcated personality. The Picture of Dorian Gray in the novel by Oscar Wilde is being transformed; instead of the hero himself, who continues being young and beautiful, the gruesome changes of the image visualize his amoral behavior while the moment of its destruction signifies also the moment of the “real” Dorian’s death. The mirror subject also often appears in Latin American literature, especially in the writing of Jorge Luis Borges, in connection with the problematic of doppelgänger, identity diffusion, and permeations of reality and dreaming. In contemporary philosophy, for example in the writings of Gilles Deleuze, the idea a crystal image appears (?) in which the actual and virtual images interconnect: the virtual reflects the actual while being inseparable from it. This results in a “coalescence”, a confluence of the real object and its mirror double: “It is as if an image in a mirror, a photo or a postcard came to life, assumed independence and passed into the actual, even if this meant that the actual image returned into the mirror and resumed its place in the postcard or photo, following a double movement of liberation and capture.” (G. Deleuze, Cinema 2. The Time-Image, p. 68). Also in “The Mirror” the image continuously develops more and more independently based on the movements and voices of the visitor; the mirror existence becomes autonomous, and the visitor encounters her own alienated double.

Technical realization:

Video camera equipment is interconnected with two hidden computers providing interaction with the observer in real time. The image of the visitor recorded by a camera hidden behind the mirror is digitized and further transformed and “stretched” over the automatically generated 3-D clone of the observer (by the Silicon Graphics computer, SGI). The computer monitors the visitor’s movement and replicates them on her 3D clone with the use of movement tracking software. The second computer (Macintosh PowerPC) uses input from the video camera for analysis and interpretation of the movements (direction and speed) and voice (hue, dynamical scale, rhythm). This information is continually transmitted into SGI through the MIDI interface which controls the visual information of the visitor’s clone and the computer generates the voice of the clone through real-time sound processing (Max/MSP). The visitor’s double is then projected on the back side of a two-way mirror.

Technical equipment:

Hardware 1


• Silicon Graphics ONYX 2 Workstation avec Digital Video Card I/O, 4 x 195 Mhz R10000SC, 1,24 GB Ram Memory

Serial Card

"PCI T1/E1 Synchronizer Serial Card, 2 port with V.35 cables. Origin & Onyx2" Hard Disc

Extern 4.0 GB , Ultra SCSI Option Disc for O2


• Standalone 20" Multi-Scan Tilt-Swivel, Color Stereo Monitor for O2 Systems

Hardware 2 

Computer Mac PPC

• Power Mac G 3

• Card Video

• Fire Wire

• Screen 21'' Taxan

• Double Processor NPower : Dual 350Mhz CPU

• Memory RAM 256 Mo DIMM 168 -2k

Hardware 3


• Sony Digital


Development: ProDev C++ Bundle for O2 System Workshop RapidApp C C++

Divers: Son MAX 3.5.9 BigEye BeOS


Les Nuits Savoureneuses. Premier festival d’arts multimedia urbains. Belfort 17-26 décembre.(s. 22)

The House of The 9 Cities – exhibition catalogue.


Mirror_real1_AVIGNON. 2000
Plan of installation
Computer array of Mirror

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©2007 Pavel Smetana. All rights reserved.