Upon entering the endangered & extinct species room on a recent visit to the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, almost all of the lights went out. Walking through the long room in this crepuscular mode was oddly fitting—eyes swimming through darkness and history in the glooming dim. As banal as it seems to highlight, elevated brightness is intrinsic to most displays of fine art—including video works closeted in dark rooms. We don’t tend to wander round galleries squinting, unless it’s from over-illumination, but tempered brightness and tone can offer more than they hide. Stepping into darkness, with both terror and exhilaration, is an essential and universal passage. This exhibition, which started an an idea to broadly explore the history and mythology of the black mirror*, as both theme and object, has crystallised into a collection of visual incantations by five artists. A textual accompaniment, with excerpts from a variety of fiction and non-fiction sources in the form of a booklet is available at the link above.
* used variously as a tool in black magic, hypnotism, divination, scrying and catoptromancy and also as a painters’ aid (dubbed a Claude Glass) across Europe during the eighteenth century as an image reflector, to compose scenes to work from—its black surface tonally compressing overly bright landscapes.
Curator’s talk – 20th Feb.