The idea behind this blog was simple. Or it seemed to be.
I thought to collect the examples of art works that depict mirrors and present them in a somewhat orderly manner, to tell the history of mirrors in art. I didn’t plan to collect all such works (‘this will be a few hundreds, may be, and that’s too many to cover’), but I planned to find a couple of dozens of the ‘major ones’ and to finish this business in, let’s say, ten posts.
Let’s say that my assumptions about the simplicity of this enterprise were sightly off, just slightly.
I have been busy with this topics for more than seven years by now. I gathered 12,500+ artworks that depict mirrors or use them in some way. I wrote about 250 post, some short, some very long, and I easily 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.
What was the very impulse for the project is a bit difficult to tell, even for me. Like many, I have been bumping into interesting examples of the ‘mirrors in art’, such as Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait of Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas. I read some academic studies and more popular interpretations (often fairly esoteric). I remember being bemused by how differently people interpreted these artworks.
In fact, it is this multiplicity of interpretations that caught my attention first: I recall writing a long review of re-interpretations and re-appropriations of the Meninas by different artists (including fifty something paintings by Pablo Picasso),
At some point I started to gather these ‘mirror artworks’ more systematically, and to write about these findings. I was discovering both well-known artworks and fairly obscure pieces. Most of them were paintings or photographs, but in any case, 2D works, but I also found a wide variety of other things too, like sculptures, tapestries, or installations. Sometimes these were even the mirrors themselves, decorated so lavishly that they would easily go as the art pieces. Of course, when I say ‘gather’ I mean collecting (mostly digital) reproductions of these artworks, not the real paintings or sculptures.
There are many similar collections already (and the number only grows, thanks to the platforms like Pinterest). Whether gathered by amateur art lovers or professional art historians, these collections mainly focus on the artistic side of these works, and occasionally on the biographies of the artists themselves. Some of these collections focus on certain themes (for examples, the artworks that illustrate the Bible or depict ‘female beauty’).
I am obviously interested in these things too, but my own take is somewhat different, and I hope my stories about these subjects, too. To start with, I am not an art critic or an art historian; I am not even a ‘just historian’.
Time-wise, my background could be seen as the exact opposite to anything ‘historical’, it lies in a corner of humanities referred as ‘future studies’. On a practical side, I help people to think about, and to work with the ‘possible futures’ (the type of business known as ‘strategic innovation’.)
At some point, with some amusement to myself, I have discovered that these stories about ‘mirrors in the art of the past’ can in fact help me in my own work with the futures! This discovery didn’t happen at once and it took me a while to see the things more clear, but after some time this project also started to work as a training platform, an intellectual gym of some sort, for my thinking about the futures.
I also found that these mental exercises – reflections about history of technology, history of cultures and societies, and general history of ideas – may also help other people to deal with the concept of possible futures a bit better.
At some point I even summarised all these ideas in a separate post, a kind of methodological introduction to this blog, called it Future of Mirrors, Mirror of Future.
This framework is still in a making, and it evolves as a result of studying certain topics (for example, the history of the Prudence’s mirrors was an important addition to my initial thinking).
Perhaps worth saying that I initially started to write about these things in Russian, first in Live Journal, and then 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 thoughts in Russian using 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. Well aware of 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.
These kind of intros are usually ended with the calls to Enjoy! or Have fun! Please have those, too, but be also ready to confront your own ideas, to dis-illusion yourself – or rather, find the new illusions.