mirror | writing is a film poem, in which I explore the acts of looking, reading and writing, through a series of still and moving monochrome pictures. It started as a visual gag: I pictured a large hammer next to a mirror, with the caption, “In emergency, break glass.” What’s on the other side of the looking-glass? A chessboard, a red queen, Alice’s journey of self-discovery. A world where the rules are reversed. I decided to make a film poem featuring the red queen and me (represented by a black knight – geddit?), in which the viewer is taken to the other side of the mirror.
I used a compositional technique that often drives my writing, selecting a limited set of images (in this case, a mirror, a hammer, a book, a chessboard and the two chess pieces) and combining them in various ways, experimenting with juxtapositions and different ways of presenting the objects. Ever since I set fire to a tree in my grandad’s garden when I was ten, I have been fascinated by fire, and an image that has repeatedly imposed itself on my mind’s eye lately has been that of one of my own books, in flames. So I knew early on that I would include footage of a burning copy of the mannequins are more real than you. In the end, I burned just one page (a poem called “The mannequins are only playing dead”), and in the film poem this shot appears more than once, playing at different speeds and, in its first iteration, in reverse, so that the written page is created by the flames. But I didn’t want the destruction of my own work to end there. Inspired perhaps by @gadgetgreen (who a year or so ago tore up, mangled and generally wrecked a copy of my book Mono and tweeted the pictures), I filmed a stop-motion sequence, in which rips appear in pages of my book and the shredded remains crawl away, out of shot. Like the burning page, we see this more than once: forwards and backwards. Creation mirrors destruction.
At several points in the film, the viewer is presented with brief close-ups of bits of text, including random fragments visible on torn, scrunched-up pages. Looking becomes reading, or perhaps writing: the shots are so fleeting that the viewer is forced to select words and phrases to read, and in that act of selection, the viewer/reader writes the film’s meaning. When I write or make pictures, I never set out to determine meaning; that is for the reader to decide, through a creative act of interpretation. In making mirror | writing, my sole intention was to play with some objects that fascinated me, toying with reflections and echoes. I had no final destination in mind. The viewer looks in the mirror. The viewer writes.
The film was made using a smartphone and a tablet, commonplace possessions. We are all photographers, writers, artists, film makers now. As Isidore Ducasse said, “Poetry should be made by all.”