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

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The Mirror S(t)age – Draft 3

Infant × Audience × × × × × × × × ×

Mirror × Stage ×

Fragmented

Whole

Time to Meet

The Mirror S(t)age
by Ohad Ben Shimon

2011 © Ohad Ben Shimon www.timetomeet.org 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.