Continuing on from my last post around the theme of identity, I want to share my thoughts about my latest piece of work, ‘Mirror Mirror’ which was inspired by my sons. I dropped it off this morning, as part of two pieces I’m submitting for an exhibition in the gallery attached to my studio in New Cross.
My sons are identical twins and it felt particularly apt to me for them to be at the pv of This ‘Me’ of Mine last week in Folkestone, an exhibition whose main premise is around identity – and particularly around the changing face of identity through the impact of social networking. It’s a theme close to the heart of the curator, Jane Boyer and a symposium on the effects of social networking on identity has been organised for later on in the year when This ‘Me’ of Mine travels to Ipswich. I’m already looking forward to hearing what the ‘experts’ have to say – my sons are teenagers and spend a lot of time on social networks – and, there’s no denying, I do, too.
To write about what self and identity means for identical twins (and for me as the Mother of them), would be another whole post – and some! But in relation to the ‘Mirror Mirror’ piece I’ve just completed, I was reminded of something significant a worker at a day care nursery told me some years ago. The boys were around three years old and playing in a specially adapted sensory room, with mirrors, coloured lights, music and so on. One of my sons was asked who it was he saw reflected back to him in a mirror, at which point he said his brother’s name. Apparently, when pushed, he was determined – the reflection in the mirror was emphatically not him, it was his brother. I remember feeling quite perturbed by that. How must it feel to not truly perceive yourself as a single entity?
I’ve called the piece ‘Mirror Mirror’ which of course, also relates to the one on the wall into which the wicked Queen asked the question: ‘Who’s the fairest of them all?’ That’s a question in itself for identical twins, given that most peoples’ response to them is that they look ‘exactly the same.’ For the record, they don’t!
‘Mirror Mirror’ has been made especially for Zeitgeist Art Project’s (ZAP) annual exhibition and the title and concept is my response to this year’s title, ‘Discernible.’ A dictionary defines ‘discernible’ as:
clear, obvious, apparent, plain, visible, distinct, noticeable, recognisable, detectable, observable, perceptible, distinguishable, appreciable, discoverable
Are the two male figures in this piece identical? Are there any distinct marks that differentiate them from each other? Are they discernible? When they look in the mirror, what do they see?
The questions go beyond the visual, of course. It’s obvious but true – because they look the same, doesn’t mean they are the same. They are individual people with their own unique personalities and thought processes. And yet, ‘Are they different in personality?’ is one of the leading questions I’m frequently asked whenever I introduce my sons.
The second piece of work I’ve submitted for ‘Discernible’ is fittingly called ‘Other.’ I have more to say about this piece in terms of how difficult it felt to let it go, what price to put on it and so on. More of that another time, however …