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reflection: kaleidoscope

“Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly/

A girl with kaleidoscope eyes…”

– John Lennon

1.

As some of the smartest allegories known to man,  a gorgeous three legged description of power comes from the East.

An old Japanese figure attributes might to jade, the sword and the mirror. Each of these elemental figures entails a rather arcane meaning, as is usual in metaphor. Jade is the power that stems from material wealth, tied to the possession of exceptional objects. The sword represents violence, and the ability to exert it on others. More sophisticated, however, it the third element: Our image, reflected in the mirror, is pure information (about ourselves and the cosmos); information – “know thyself!” – that is the quintessential source of power, among rationals.

This analogy finds obvious parallels throughout history. From Plato’s shadows, inside the cave (not more than reflections of a reality that can only be grasped through contingent mediation or accidental embodiment), to McLuhan’s “media”, it is clear that our existence is founded on cognitive responsibility. Even our optical apparatus is a mirror, that literally bounces information on miracle lenses and concave surfaces, into the depths of that universal speculum (infinitely shallow, absolutely deep) that is our brain.

2.

Reflection has two meanings, that in the end are the same thing. It is both an image that re-presents reality, and a thought or meditation (most probably the fruit of that rebound of the immediate).

A mirror, a polished surface, still water, peaceful eyes – all operate on the prodigy of duplication, that allows the mind to realize the nature and essence of what is hardly grasped at once. This principle of proliferation (re-production, re-presentation, reflection), perhaps the most fertile of cognitive tools, tests our lucidity through complexity, debunking comfortable assumptions and weak readings.

Every idea, every thought, every image and belief, are seriously challenged by the mirror – a window, open to the cauterizing light of truth. Even reason is tested by reflections that transcend logic and render the mind useless, allowing the spirit to take over and our lives to open up to the realm of pure understanding. Yes, the mirror is also that: a threshold to poetry, a source of revelation.

3.

But if the mirror allows the intellect to grasp the meaning of the universe, a higher evolution of the principle of proliferation leads even further.

In front of the mirror, we see ourselves and whatever is around us. We know.

In the barber shop, we achieve the Cubist painter’s dream: parallel mirrors offer us a chunk of infinity; a total view of a particular reality, that by sheer multiplication introduces the element of time into a limitless array of images. We understand.

The incorporation of yet another variable (or the intense proliferation of reflections and geometric data), ends up dissolving the limitations of the mirror that only reflects. Bouncing information several times around, within the informality of multiple directions, there comes a point where the output is no longer linked to something identifiable, nor a mere re-presentation of reality. It simply is / We are.

At this point, intensity has produced something original, openness has led to autonomy, and the kaleidoscope grants us transcendental information. “Whatever you create is but an illusion. All is ephemeral and flux.” – say the beautiful images, forming a myriad impossible universes inside the magical artifice.

And all power resides in that information…

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“Apollo” (2008) – Olaf Nicolai en Thonik
Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam
photo: J.M.

 

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