Making Mirrors

Michael Hauffen
Kunstforum International, vol. 210, Aug-Sep 2011

Our enlightened contemporary claim to be understood as inhabitants of a global village contains within it an abstract acceptance of and equality for those with migrant backgrounds and different skin colours. As soon as this becomes concrete however, and manifested in real-life relationships, an everyday racism becomes evident – expressed through subtle nuances, prejudices and unconscious fantasies. The uncertainties brought about by such ideals and their manifestation are only intensified when those who do not correspond to the norm of white skin-colour defy their designated roles, and instead articulate their negative experiences, take critical stances, and put “our” ideals to trial [...].

An experiment by Dave Ball and Oliver Walker brings this to mind in the most eloquent way, and in an ingenious setting. Four individuals hold a conversation at a table, but the words spoken by each person are not their own: they are prompted by four more unseen individuals sitting in booths and observing via video cameras. These four observers remain unseen, and are able – through the mediation of their representatives – to talk to each other. At a non-verbal level, the communication gains an independence and breaks down. Most of the experiment's participants playfully savour and enjoy the resulting confusion, and it becomes clear the extent to which our perceptions and conditioning – which subliminally go on in every conversation – are a decisive influence [...].

Text excerpts translated from original German.