I got hung up on taking pictures of myself in mirrors and reflective surfaces around this city that has changed so much in the year of 2020.
This project started with me attempting to take selfies, and quickly finding I am not very good at it. I could improve with practice but it seems I lack a certain coördination, or maybe just a lack of desire. Apathy is a commanding force.
The most interesting thing about selfies, to me at least, is getting people behind you in the picture without them necessarily noticing. Who knows if this dude, at One Wall Street, would have been wise to this maneuver had he not been asleep.
I was also motivated to document myself in these pandemic days after a somewhat disconcerting encounter. I crossed paths with a couple of friends I’ve known for about 13 years. None of us recognized each other.
Between the facemask, my hair (uncut since January) looking like an exploded popover, and my face further somewhat obscured by a hat, the friends said they would not have known that was me if I had not recognized them, which I only did after several seconds.
We also had not met in person since at least February, and I don’t think they had ever seen me wearing a semi-sleeveless muscle shirt, because I’m about the last person you’d expect to see wearing such a garment.
I wanted to get on record my unrecognizable self, in case I ever go back to looking like the person my friends remember. Here I am on Pearl Street near Peck Slip, waiting for an M15 bus. I might not recognize me these days.
I am reflected here, on the Staten Island Ferry ,in Le Milieu du Monde: The Middle of the World, a collaborative artwork by John Roloff and Werner Klotz comprising Sonar Space and Staten Island World Space. Apparently this space was supposed to contain some kind of multimedia experience, with audio and video creating what Klotz called a daily “mandala” passengers could experience.
I’ll have to look for that next time. I just thought this was a nice looking map with the mirror reflective surface I was looking for in my quest to document my unfamiliar-looking self.
I guess it’s cliché, but I found it interesting in some cases to see myself in the context of the world I inhabit, but which often passes me by, and which I refuse to believe exists.
How can this reality not exist, you ask? I respond with another question: Where is the evidence?
So much of our shared experience involves unprovable transactions of seeing, hearing, and looking. What proof, what factual and inarguable evidence exists that I saw anything yesterday, or heard the world outside?
No layers of strata form on my eyes to document or calculate how much they saw. No amount of hearing things, unless it is at too-high decibel ranges, changes the basic function of hearing.
If other bodily functions can be overwhelmed, such as overeating or too much pressure placed on an appendage, why do eyes have infinite capacity to intake visual stimuli?
Furthermore, what of consciousness? What proof have we that it exists? Where is a drop of fluid, a blob of fatty tissue we can bottle up and say “That’s it. That’s consciousness.”
I do not take these solipsistic lines of inquiry too seriously, so don’t worry. But the question of the mystery of consciousness reminds me of the first brain MRI I had done. Something was definitely wrong with me in those days. I was stumbling into walls, walking into things, and blacking out for several minutes at a time.
But when the doctors examined every slice, every fatty deposit, and every drop of fluid in my skull they simply could not see what was going on in there.
I’ve most aligned with Julian Jaynes on the matter of consciousness, though my own biases about the artificiality of spoken language, biases I guess I got from Lacan, make me an easy match for Jaynes.
I have not read The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind in a long time but I seem to remember him comparing consciousness to ants, individually incapable of much but as a colony they collectively form a sort of meta-consciousness that drives their task-based decision-making.
With ants, as with humans, there is no magic drop of brain fluid we can point to and identify as the stuff on consciousness. There is no stuff of it.
Here are some other mirror and selfie shots from around town.