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Five-dimensional Reflections

Elena Mildner enchants the world with her mirror designs

Russian artist Elena Mildner designs fun-house mirrors that offer a surprisingly different perspective of the world. With her reflecting mobile sculptures she intervenes in arenas that are amenable to her subject of enhanced viewing and being viewed. There she transforms vision by positioning her reflecting objects and using photography to document temporarily emerging counter-reflections.

The result is imagery in which reality and imagination meet and merge in a new way. She thus succeeds in developing a form of abstraction that is absolutely objective and realistic thanks to the optical instruments she works with. Like in watercolor aesthetics, reality is drawn into flowing motion, with the boundaries of objects becoming dissolved and blurred. Elena Mildner alters the form of the two-dimensional mirror, bringing it to a third dimension. Time, the fourth dimension, also comes to bear in the temporary mise-en-scène. The artistic product of this transgression could be described as a reflective world image of the fifth dimension.

Long before mirrors even existed, an individual was able to see his or her reflection on the water surface – and this, of course, is the subject of the ancient myth of Narcissus. The first glance in a mirror thus already reflected the confrontation with waves, distortions and flowing movements. Up until the Renaissance all mirrors were uneven or curved. This phenomenon inspired art, literature and mythology in a manifold ways on all continents.

The cultural interpretations of the mirror image vacillate between two poles. On the one hand, the virtues of heightened self-knowledge, truth, clarity and sagacity were ascribed to it  - and this intellectual and enlightening dimension of the mirror lives on to this very day. On the other hand, the tradition of the Narcissus myth conjures up the dangers of seduction, lasciviousness and conceit. Confronted with his/her double in the mirror image, the individual recognizes his/her two sides – one rational, the other irrational. Even the term of identification is used in a dual sense – as a clarification of reality on the one hand, and as idealizing false perception on the other.

In art history the mirror has often been used in a symbolically laden way to reveal something invisible and to present a hidden truth. The best-known motives deal with “vanitas”, a dual notion that refers to the vanity and the futility of life on earth. In place of a mirror image death appears – a demon, a devil, or not, to the extent that a spirit or vampire seeks to recognize itself. Distortions through curved mirrors were used in Renaissance art for anamorphoses, i.e., distorted imagery whose secret messages could only be read from certain angles. The artistic use of mirrors generally aimed at rendering the sensual appearance of a supra-sensual insight.

For artist Elena Mildner a presentation of luxury cars lends itself perfectly for her intervention, offering nothing less than a challenge. For it is ultimately the reflecting objects and their reflecting chrome and paint surfaces that the individual seeks his/her reflections – in a both social and narcissistic dimension. Elena Mildner doubles the light effects of the distorting mirrors of cars, raising a second staging mirror to reflect the mirroring act of staging.

Dr. W.Pauser