If You Can’t See My Mirrors I Can’t See You (2010) Kim Coleman and Jenny Hogarth
REFLECTION ON REFLECTION
For the AXIS commission we’re developing a new work in response to If You Can’t See My Mirrors I Can’t See You (IYCSMMICSY), a video we made together 10 years ago. At this midpoint in our residency we’re using this text as an opportunity to reflect on IYCSMMICSY and our other work that incorporates physical and allegorical mirroring, as well as moving-image and writing that has inspired our current thinking.
The structure of IYCSMMICSY was a recording of a video call about the making of the work, made using screen recordings and other cameras in our homes. This was in the early days of Skype, and live video feeds generating double-portraits were novel. There was magic in how the computer screen functioned as both a mirror and a lamp, as well as creating an instant window into each other’s world. Using a video call as the basis of a work feels pertinent in new ways today. Life can interrupt the form and formality of an online chat - something that has been captured to humorous effect in multiple pandemic memes. IYCSMMICSY didn’t focus on our emotional lives much and we’re now interested in the parts of our lives that may spill in or out of the frame of a call.
Reflexive consideration of the personal by artists - Chantal Akerman surveying her life through her relationship with her mother or Sheila Heti considering whether to have children in Motherhood - tend to be authored by one person. We’re interested in how a similarly reflexive approach can operate between two people, and what the effect of this might be. Whilst we have had comparable life experiences (like many co-authors) we want to explore the potential for difference and how the nuances of more than one person’s subjectivity, emotions, personal life and space can exist in an individual biographic work co-authored by two people.
Elsa la rosé (1966) Agnès Varda
We made IYCSMMICSY at a point when, although we were not aware at the time, our long and intensive period of collaboration was coming to an end. Recently, we’ve been thinking about the challenges and nuances of making co-authored moving image work. Agnès Varda’s Elsa la rosé (1966) feels particularly relevant as it captures some of the complexities of different subjectivities existing within a relationship, as well as employing physical mirrors and reflection to poetic effect. It was initially meant to be a co-authored pair of films, one by Varda’s partner, filmmaker Jacques Demy, the other by Varda herself. The idea was that Varda would profile poet Elsa Triolet through the words of her husband Louis Aragon, and Demy would look at Aragon through the eyes and words of Triolet. But Demy dropped out. Maybe this isn’t surprising: if the project had been co-authored, the work would have been an indirect reflection of Varda and Demy’s own relationship - Aragon and Triolet, and Demy and Varda were both bearded marriages between a gay/bisexual man and a woman. Varda creates two portraits of Triolet, one a portrayal by Aragon, in the other Triolet portrays herself. Aragon reads poems in which Triolet is his muse. They clearly fail to capture Triolet who, when interviewed by Varda, expresses - in funny dead-pan - a completely different understanding of her life and her relationship.