Mirrors


Mirrors is an installation piece completed in the spring of 1993.

Physical Description:
This work would be installed in the women's lounge of a public area. (A movie theatre, an office building, a museum, a university, library.....etc.) Monitors would be installed in the area where women stop to wash their hands or apply make-up, behind them, so that they can be viewed in the mirrors. Three synchronized screens (VTR's) would be playing tapes on a loop. The images, sometimes the same, more often than not, different, would tell the simple stories of various women, each discussing her own self image and events that shaped those images. Program time: 18 minutes.
Origins of the idea:
This work evolved when I was struggling with my own personal self-image. I could not bring myself to look in a mirror. Discussing the phenomenon with my husband I decided that it wasn't just me and I needed to find out why we (women) feel the way we do.

I put an ad in a local women's newspaper and talked it up amongst my friends, colleagues and co-workers. I ultimately interviewed 20 women and accumulated 60 hours of footage. The women signed a release after the interview, giving them three options, story release, voice and story but no image release, and full release of voice, story and image. 19 signed full releases, and one signed a voice and story release. After I had completed preliminary shooting two women wrote me requesting that I not use their stories at all. Those were two of the most compeling stories that I had. It made it very difficult for me to take what was solidifying as a narrative and remove them. But I felt that the sincerity of the work would suffer if I were to enforce their releases. Without these stories, the linear integrity of the work was breached. I spent 8 weeks trying to edit the tapes with nothing more than hours and hours of "This Happened to Me". Then a mentor of mine, Tom McDonaugh, cinematographer for Oscar winning documentary, (Best Boy), said that he saw this on a wall of monitors, speaking randomly at him. I liked the idea of multiple images, but I didn't exactly rush into the random park.

These women were speaking to me, to each other and to anyone who had these same feelings, questions, and issues so I chose three screens and the location of the installtion. The work is never really meant to be seen in its entirety, only in the space of time that a woman visits the lounge.

The work has been seen in theatrical venues, where men, including my husband and Tom could view it. It has been received quite well. Tom's criticism was as follows, "....there is a discussion of violence in this piece, and a simple display of its telling that Sam Peckinpaugh could not make more realistic...." "Karen's honesty, even in the created images, makes me stand up and listen."

There are no re-enactments in this videos, but enactments of images that intensify the events you are listening to. The theatrical nature, and the installation design are the only places that this piece works, as it is not meant to be didactic, but to be observed and assimilated.

Description:
Three acts:
ONE - Based on self-images and their origins.
TWO - Based on events that altered or shaped images.
THREE - Based on the quietly free self-image of sexuality and its joyously secret nature.


Karen GS Raftery Work