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The Mirror S(t)age – Draft 1

To be honest I am no expert in Lacan nor in what he had to say about The Mirror Stage. I only have a few associations on the relation between Lacan’s conception of how an infant comes to identify its own self-image in the mirror and a public or audience who comes to see a show or performance in a theatre space. Somewhere between the (im)

age of 6 and 18 months, a little child will at some point look in a mirror and recognize that what is reflected in it is his or her own self-image. To most child developmental psychologists this marks a point at which the human being, for the first time in his or her life, becomes aware of its own subjectivity. As the infant is busy develop2

ing a strong and stable human body, it experiences this body as not yet complete and very much dependent on the care and support of its parents. It misses a complete and wholesome image and as a result the infant has a general fragmented experience of its own body. Yet when the infant looks in the mirror, that self-image is experienced as a whole. A public that comes to see a

performance is made out of different individuals. It experiences itself as fragmented. And yet at the same time, the public as a whole, is focused on the space of the stage and whatever is happening on it. Just as the mirror reflects back to the infant a sense of unity so too should a good performance reflect a sense of unity to the public.

The Mirror S(t)age – Draft 2

“Ok. Remember KISS”. She said to me after I showed her a first draft of this text. “Kiss?” I said. “You mean the sculpture by Brancusi”? “No. K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid”. She is a counselor and artist living in New Zealand.

I met her in an artist residency in Portugal in which I’m spending the month of August. I explained to her that I was asked to write a last-minute text about my upcoming performance The Mirror Stage at de Brakke Grond in Amsterdam. “I was trying to stretch the point”, I told her, “that I see a lot of similarities between an

infant looking in the mirror and a public watching a performance on stage. While the infant has, in general, a fragmented bodily experience, when it looks in the mirror, it first identifies and later experiences its own self-image as a whole. “Oh, yes”, she said, “I know what you mean.” I continued. “It’s based on

the idea of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan called The Mirror Stage. Do you know him?” “A little bit”, she said. “Now, what I am trying to get at in this text”, I told her, “is that just as the mirror reflects back to the infant a unifying experience, the stage, performer or performance, also reflects back to the different individuals that constitute a public, a

unifying experience.” “Yes, I see what you mean.” “My problem now”, I continue telling her, “is trying to find out what exactly in the performance creates this effect. I would like to try to discover the mechanism that does that. If I do so, I will be able to prove that there is something essentially similar in all of us.”

“Well”, she said, “maybe we can discover it in the negative assumption way. In your performance last week, there was a lady sitting next to me. She whispered to me during your performance ‘I can’t understand a word of what he is saying, Im going out to get some ice cream.’ ” “Oh yes, that woman, she emailed me the day after complaining that she didn’t under10

stand a word of what I said in my performance”. “Well”, continued my counselor / artist colleague, “maybe she did not want to recognize some hidden parts in herself that your performance brought up.” “I think so too”, I said, “but I’m not objective, I mean, I was the performer.”

“True”, said my friend, “and this is the counter-transference part, you too want something from the audience”. “Oh?” “Sure, you want to be understood”. “That’s true”, I admit to her. “So maybe that’s the mechanism?”, she says and takes off

her glasses. “Maybe”, I answer, as I take a quick look in the mirror beside us.


The Mirror S(t)age – Draft 3

Infant × Audience × × × × × × × × ×

Mirror × Stage ×



Time to Meet

The Mirror S(t)age
by Ohad Ben Shimon

2011 © Ohad Ben Shimon Printing: De Raddraaier, Amsterdam Graphic design: Our Polite Society

Published in the context of The Second Act – A Festival on Photography Goes Live, taking place at the Flemish cultural center de Brakke Grond in Amsterdam, 8–11 September 2011.