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Mirror States

17 May – 28 July 2008

Both art and technology act as mirrors that reflect our selves and our relationship to the world. Both also create “quasi-others” – entities which we endow with subjectivity through the projection of ourselves. Mirror States draws together art and technology, combining these two powerful systems of reflection and projection. The exhibition presents digital and interactive artworks that offer arresting glimpses of the self and intriguing interactions with digital others.

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In Mirror States, some art works act as digital mirrors, enabling the audience to interact with magical reflections of themselves. These works make use of the seductive allure of the reflection, but go beyond narcissism into a realm where the self is creatively transformed. They explore aspects of contemporary identity, but also point to historical metaphors, myths and mechanisms for understanding our subjectivity.

Other art works act like Alice in Wonderland’s magical looking glass, taking audiences into a digital realm where they come face to face not only with transformed selves but also with digital entities and simulated personas. Computer technologies allow artworks to ‘come to life’, demonstrating life-like behaviours and sophisticated modes of audience interaction. In these encounters with digital others the audience enters into a new participatory relationship with the artwork. These can be magical moments or uncanny and disturbing confrontations depending on the style and mode of the interaction.

Together, the artworks in Mirror States point to new ways of exploring and understanding our own subjectivity and relationship with ourselves as well as our increasingly important relationships with technology.
The exhibition brings together some of the leading artists working in digital media in Australia and New Zealand and demonstrates the strength and diversity of contemporary digital art practice in Australasia. Into this Australasian line-up we have invited Canadian artist David Rokeby, whose artworks and writing have been an inspiration for this exhibition, and an influence on many of the artists in the show. This is the first time that Rokeby’s seminal works, Very Nervous System and Giver of Names, have been seen in Australia and New Zealand.

We would like to thank all the artists in the exhibition, whose works have unfailingly stimulated and challenged us as curators. We are grateful to the writers who have contributed texts to this catalogue; their insights shed new light on all the art works. We also thank Ross Gibson, whose essay draws out the complexity underlying the experience of digital interaction that characterises the works in the show.

We are very grateful to the MIC Toi Rerehiko, Auckland and Campbelltown Arts Centre for their support. Mirror States is ambitious in collecting so many digital and interactive artworks together in one exhibition. Both galleries have embraced this challenge with gusto, driven by their enthusiasm for bringing new kinds of art-experience to their audiences. Finally we are grateful to the audiences, whose participation is the magic ingredient which brings Mirror States to life.

Lizzie Muller and Kathy Cleland

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