New Exhibit: Standing Kaleidoscope

The idea for this exhibit sprang from another exhibit at Mindport, “Road Blocks.” In the process of creating the designs for that exhibit, then making reversed copies of the designs so that they could be arranged in blocks of four, with two designs printed forward and two printed reversed left to right, I thought that the blocks of four might make attractive tiles, and that they also seemed to possess a slightly magical ability to entrain the mind and keep you staring at them in a sort of meditative trance.

My observation of these patterns of four blocks and the meditative muse they inspired brought to mind the circular mandalas associated with various forms of Buddhist meditation. In Buddhism, the mandala is considered to be representative of the universe. The psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, considered the mandala symbolic of “the greater self.” The number four conventionally symbolizes wholeness or completeness, in the same way that four seasons comprise the full year. If you want to delve further into the idea of the mandala as a meditative focus, Wikipedia (on line: wikipedia.org) includes a good discussion on the topic.

Recently my interest in the “Road Block” project resurrected itself. I started making more tiny drawings, scanning them, then, repeating the process I’d used for the road blocks, assembling each  scanned drawing in groups of four, with two oriented as seen, and two shown as mirror images. Instead of printing them out, I used a computer photo program to juxtapose the four images in various combinations, thinking that they might make interesting graphic designs if printed in larger format.

This process of scanning and combining the images by computer was tedious. I wanted a faster way to experiment with various permutations of drawings to see which might be the most interesting when seen grouped in four. It occurred to me that some sort of device employing physical mirrors to reverse the images might allow this manipulation to be performed more quickly and easily than was possible to accomplish on a computer. I remembered how some clothing stores had two or more mirrors arranged at an angle in their dressing rooms so that you could see your own side view when trying on clothes. I thought, why not use the same principle to create a sort of kaleidoscope with which to quickly explore the many possible patterns that could be formed with one basic design, depending on how it was positioned under two high-quality, front-surface mirrors arranged face-to-face with an angle between them of 90 degrees.

And so, after some experimentation on the test bench, this exhibit was born. I scanned various photos and colored designs to serve as test “slides” under the kaleidoscopic mirrors. Some of these designs, if you slide them all the way in, then very slowly withdraw them, take you on a trip that seems indeed to feel like you’re traveling through multiple universes. If you stop and contemplate a stationary “mandala” pattern for a minute or two, I think it will become apparent to you why mandalas serve well as objects for meditative focus. It’s a bit magical the way a drawing fragment, when viewed as a “quad” of images,conveys a feeling completely different than that of the drawing from which it’s extracted. You discover many worlds in one this way, multiple dimensions in one universe, so to speak.

As a bonus, if you look into the right angle mirrors so as to see your own reflection, notice that it’s reversed compared to a normal mirror image, so that in the reflection you see yourself as other people see you.

-Kevin Jones