On a visit to the Tate Modern, London, not too long ago, I came across a piece that, at first, was quite puzzling. The piece is titled “The Big Picture” Untitled Painting, 195 by Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden.
The piece is of a large mirror that mimics one that may be placed above a sink in a washroom, and it was hung in a space directly facing a blank wall rather than another piece within the same space.
An unusual object to be seen in a gallery space but nonetheless being displayed as a piece of art in its own right. I sat with the piece for a while and came to the conclusion that the artists are trying to convey the representation of space itself. The piece, to me, represents the very idea of how an artist is able to use any given space in order to create dialogue.
This may seem like a bold statement but bear with me.
What I think was the most intriguing part of the piece was that it was purposefully created to generate an ever-changing dialogue with its viewers whether you were viewing the piece or not. The mirror is always reflecting different angles of the gallery depending on where you decided to view the piece from. There are visitors who are continuously moving about the gallery interacting with other visitors, art pieces, and the space as a whole. On top of that, there is the direct conversation one could have with this piece if one stood right in front of it! I found myself spending quite a bit of time with this piece viewing it from all sorts of angles and distances to see how it interacted with everything around it. Or rather, to view the gallery through its “eyes”.
Being a mirror, it reflects light. That is what it was made to do! This got me thinking: What of the piece if it were to be put in a gallery with little or no light? What if there was nothing to reflect off its surface such as other pieces of art recreating the piece every time one looked at it? What if nobody looked it at all?! Would the piece still be a piece or would it become something entirely different?
The gallery space itself is in constant dialogue with the piece making it the art that it is. If we were to see the same mirror in a conventional room nobody would give it a second thought. Since it is placed in the context of displayed art the space itself has given the mirror new life and we see it with a very different approach and perspective.