Mirror sculptures by Anish Kapoor

The appearance of the Anish Kapoor’s mirrors in the blog had been drip-feeded from long ago. I have announced that they will come here more than three years ago (Anish Kapoor’s mirror in De Pont Museum). Back then I have shown only one picture, but had plans to show many more from this exhibition.

Instead, two months later I have written a more general posting about Anish Kapoor (Amish Mirror Kapoor), talking about many other works of him – but not about this specific exhibition. That’s very me.

This time I’d like to pay this old debt and show few more pictures that I took during the Kapoor’s exhibition in the De Pont museum of contemporary art in Tilburg that was held few years ago. The exhibition was showing not only mirrors, but other works by Kapoor as well, but the giant mirror sculptures were vividly the focus of attention.

The museum does apparently admire the works by the UK/Indian master, as they have few of his works in the collection since long ago. One of then, called ‘When I’m Pregnant’, is very interesting but also very difficult to capture on photo:

In essence, it’s a white curvy ‘belly’ protruding from the white wall; a very delicate play of forms and shadows, and the nightmare for any photographer.  The museum has another interesting work of him, a sort of concave stone ‘mirror’, but I don’t have its picture to hand.

Recently the museum has acquired his other work, called Vertigo (its picture also opens this posting); here are a few more photographs of this work:

As often happens with the mirrors (or any mirror-like objects), I am mostly interested in the way people interact with them, rather in the objects per se. This is particularly true for the creation of Kapoor, because enabling people’s interactions with them is what they do best.

In essence, the art work is nothing more than a bended metal sheet, reflecting everything around it with a certain distortion, not unlike funhouse mirrors (or simply ‘fun mirrors’) that are often installed in various amusement parks. Some of them make relatively simple distortions, and others are more complex (and the Vertigo is certainly is on the ‘complex’ part of the spectrum. It takes a while to figure out what exactly it does with your reflection, and puzzles many with the question how it does it (very few people, by the way, can answer the question why mirrors swap left and right in their reflections but not up and down; and how to make the one that does make vertical swaps.)

The rear side of this ‘mirror’ is more conventional, it has a convex surface and also distorts the refelction, but in more ‘normal’ way:

The last photograph also shows another frequent attribute of many art works of Kapoor, the presence of the guards somewhere nearby. His metal mirrors are made from the very expensive materials, and apparently should not be touched (or else they will disappear, I assume).

Here I tried to make a side view of the mirror:

All the above was more or less a preface to the main story. The main story was a special solo exhibition of Kapoor, when the museum brought about ten different mirror-like works by the artist (and few more non-mirrors).  Because of the nature of the blog I will show on the former ones.

What is striking in these pictures is the HUGE amount of people, otherwise unimaginable for this museum. We go there fairly frequently, and I’ve never seen anything remotely similar to this explosive interest, the museum was fully packed, to the extent that we had to queue for about twenty minutes to get it. This is not unusual for the mega-museums like Pompidou or Stedelijk in Amsterdam, but not imaginable in a tiny museum in a small town somewhere in the North Brabant province.

The magical power of mirrors pulled so many people in that I could hardly make any image of these mirrors *without* people nearby!

Another interesting moment was a wildly wide diversity of people in the museum at this day, of all ages, and from very different social groups (and very different from a semi-Bohemian audience typical for this museum otherwise.)  The old and young, and everything in between:

The ‘youngs’ behaved expectedly crazily:

And these only relatively same moment, as I couldn’t always to capture the most bizarre ones:

The next picture shows the guard doing her guarding job.

Here again the guard (in red) explain to the boy that he shouldn’t kick the precious surface:

For other visitors the museum placed everywhere these warning signs:

Despite all these warnings, not so young visitors were also becoming very playful at this exhibition, and were often getting dangerously close to the mirrors, especially when trying to take the pictures of them.

As one can spot from all the above pictures, there were more than one mirror there; to be precise, there were five of them; the Vertigo that I was talking earlier, S-Curve – somewhat similar, but much larger installation (here you can see its fragment):

Then there was a very complex mirror called Hexagon (on a background) and in foreground you can see another mirror sculpture called Spire:

and then yet another one called Pillar:

***

Basically here I can wrap up the story, I have many more pictures from the event (they can be found here in the set Anish Kapoor in Tilburg), but they wouldn’t add much to the story. From one side this story, and it just confirms that the majority of people still prefer the simple, vulgar even formats of entertainment, such as funhouse mirror. They are funny, indeed, but not exactly the examples of high-brow refined intellectualism somewhat expected from conceptual contemporary art.

Complete banality of these installation does prevent, of course, someone from producing a very art-speaky narrative about them, something like them being “existential contemplations that profoundly reflect radical upside-downing of our political regime of discourse” or any other similar gibberish.

But judgemental statements aside, there are a couple of interesting moments here that I would like to note. First, they are not ‘mirrors in art’, they are more mirrors=art, the mirrors that are presented as art, and thus become art objects. The work of ‘representation’ is cancelled here, they are what they are.

Kapoor was not the first one who employed this trick (dada artists with there ready-mades were), and he is not even the first who made it with mirrors – I would say Bourgeois was), but he definitely elevated the exercise to such a colossal level that this became a new form in itself.

Another interesting moment is that these mirrors do not simply hang on walls (their agreed conventional place), but enter the 3D space, becoming sculptures and even architectures.  There was only one mirror, the Hexagon, that still somewhat leaned to the wall, but even in this case it was detached enough to invite people to peek behind it:

Also, these are not the mirrors to objectively reflect the reality, they are here to deform and distort the reality – to the general amusement of people!

And finally, they are very social mirrors, not only because they are placed in a public space, but also because the interactions with them assume immediate sharing of your activities with others. These are all very interesting, and distinctive features that make Kapoor’s mirrors very unique, almost a genre on its own.

***

As I said, there were more art works by Kapoor there, and many of them had nothing do with ‘mirror theme’. There were a couple of sculptures, through, that had both reflective surfaces and also very characteristic ‘interfaces’ (or affordances) that were inviting people to look ‘into’ them, thus making them somewhat resembling mirrors, too.

If I remember, there was also another similar installation, of blue colour, but I can’t find its picture.  But enough pictures for now. A bit later I could come to these works again, and add some ‘thoughts’.

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