We are looking. Seeing. Peering, through the two skin-wreathed holes in our skull. The two holes situated slightly apart from each other, each containing an evolutionary feat. An eye. Together they make our stereo vision. They give us a sense to perceive depth.
I’m looking at a flat surface and It reflects this depth of the space around me. Within that depth a body stands alone. Always peering out. A transfixed gaze mounted upon a neck and torso. Secured, captured, anchored.
The more I look the more uncanny it becomes. I move, it moves. I’m three again, chasing its shadow. I’m a new born transfixed, in awe. What is this body?
This body that is socially imbued with values outside of itself. A body of mass, behaves according to the laws that govern it. But these are not our laws. His laws tells us we should look away.
We ignore you. Wilfully and with abandon we embrace the gaze. Remember I’m trapped here. Our vessel holds us so tightly it can hardly breathe. Who is this? It whispers.
In our hand is an object, coldly illuminating her face.
We still manage to pout and stare back as if to the void held at arms length. The object takes the depth of that space and flattens it. It’s an image just slightly outside the perspective of the body. A single eye. Perception transcribed to flat, binary, data. A digital reflection.
This is the moment we see it, ourselves outside of its self. The vessel. A third person. Unrestricted by the constraints of a body containing a rational mind. Radical self-definition. Or the embodiment of horror. Perhaps the same thing.
I’m not sure if it’s just us but we take photos of ourselves when we cry. To remind us that we grieve. That our tears can be remembered, that they’re not just our own. That what we feel and what we are is real enough to remember. If you forget to look away the shapes start to change and distort until new. If we blur our eyes you become two.
Perhaps this is why the self-portrait is still so unforgettable. The original selfie. The original escape. Maybe this is what it means to make a mark. To create the image of self is to escape it. To look away or to look deeper.
And after all this is done, somewhere here others can find a way to mark that body, encode us with a meaning we can never possibly comprehend. If we give in it will govern us till our grave. At least there the worms won’t care.
To distract, to glance back. The reflections of other directions. What if in this moment our reflected depth looks like this.
I don’t make art anymore but at least I can take a photo to remind yourself I’m still here.
Written by Alex Cuffe
Image: Alex McGovern and Tyza Stewart, please do not climb, 2016 (installation documentation)