The idea behind this blog seemed to be simple. I thought to collect a few examples of art works that depict mirrors (or use them in some way) and present them here in a somewhat orderly manner. May be adding a word or two of my personal impressions as a bonus. I thought I would find, say, a hundred of such art-mirrors or so, and the work be done in a dozen of posts.
Let’s say that my assumptions about the simplicity of this enterprise were sightly off. Just slightly.
I have been busy with this theme for more than six years by now. I gathered 12,500+ artworks. I wrote about 250 postings (and I already have enough materials to write three times more, if I would have more time). And I don’t see any end of this, increasingly feeling that I just scratch a surface.
The very beginning of the project is a bit difficult to locate in time, even for me. Like many of us, I bumped into interesting examples of the famous ‘mirrors in art’, such as Velázquez’s Meninas or Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait, and was intrigued by their enigmas. I read both serious, academic studies and more mainstreas interpretations (often fairly esoteric).
I even wrote a couple of posts about some of these works myself. Back then I was more interested in various re-interpretations or re-appropriations of these masterpieces. I then started to collect these ‘mirror artworks’ more systematically. I found both well-known artworks and fairly obscure pieces. Most of them were paintings (or photographs – but in any case, 2D works.) I have also found a wide variety of other things too, like sculptures or art installations. Somethings these were the mirrors themselves, decorated so lavishly that they would easily go as the art pieces. Of course, when I say ‘collected’ I mean collecting (mostly digital) reproductions of these artworks, not real paintings.
You mat have seen many similar collections already. Whether gathered by amateurs or professional art historians, they most often focus on the artistic side of these art works, and sometimes on the biographies of the artists themselves. Some of these collections aim to highlight certain themes (for examples, the art works that illustrate the Bible). I am obviously interested in these things too, but my own take is somewhat different.
To start with, I am not an art critic or an art historian; I am not even a ‘just historian’. My background lies in a corner of humanities that is referred as ‘future studies’. It is often perceived as the exact opposite to anything ‘historical’. More specifically, I help people to think about, and to work with the ‘possible futures’ (a profession otherwise known as ‘innovation consultant’.)
Then, and with some amusement to myself, I have discovered that these ‘mirrors in art of the past’ can in fact help me in my own work with the futures. It didn’t happen at once and took me a while to see the things clear, but with time this project started to work as a training platform or a springboard of some sort for my thinking about the future.
I also found that these reflective exercises – reflections about history of technology, history of cultures and societies, and general history of ideas – may also help other people to better deal with the concept of possible futures.
At some point I summarised all these ideas in a separate post, a kind of methodological introduction to this blog. I called it Future of Mirrors, Mirror of Future. This framework is still largely valid, I feel it only gets better after studying certain topics (for example, the history of the Prudence’s mirrors was an important addition to my thinking).
Perhaps worth saying that I initially started to write about these things in Russian, in my Russian-language blog called Specularum. At some point I realized that I need a separate blog in English, and here it is.
Now, speaking about ‘blogs’, I have recently found a very appropriate ‘warning sign’:
It is exactly the way this blog is run, too. The only things I can add is that English is not my native language, so in addition to the above problems I also keep making all kind of stupid mistakes – grammatical, stylistic and what not. Very often I don’t write in English at all, but rather express my Russian thoughts with English words. You are warned twice, people!
The postings here are often ‘drafts & stuff’. They are not aimed at competing with any serious academic or even journalistic publications, and indeed always remain to be very bloggish (and I want to keep them this way).
When I write these postings, I don’t follow any particularly structure, or strategy. One day this may be a story about an exhibition I visited at this very day, and another time I can write about a paintings that I’ve seen years ago. Knowing this turbulent flow, I also maintain a more or less structured overview, a list of all the postings in a chronological, regional and topical order. You can find this overview in the Inventory of Mirrors in Art.
Finally, the copyright stuff. My own texts and the visuals I create myself are under the Creative Commons license (Attribution + Noncommercial, to be precise). In other words, feel free to use and share them, but please provides credits to the creator). If you plan to make lots of money with them, we need to talk.
As for the other visual materials I use, I don’t hold copyrights to any of the art works that I post here. I am using all these reproductions with research and educational purposes only, adhering a fair use policy. If you look for the copyrights for these work, you need to search elsewhere.