Gothenburg, July 11, 2018
Yesterday we spoke about pronouns, fairy tales, learning by not doing, honesty and its disadvantages, homesickness, warriors, swimming, and other related topics.
Of course, we also talked about mirrors. You told me that you had tried to stop working with them. But instead of doing so, you found a new way to use them. I'm glad you did. Mirrors deserves to be investigated further. Despite their tangibility and everyday presence, I don't think we understand them at all.
Mirrors always make their presence known. "Here I am!", "Look at me!", they all signal. But the very moment we look at them, they lead our attention astray. That's how they conceal themselves. We hardly ever see the mirror when we look at it. All we see is ourselves. The mirror itself becomes visible first when it's dirty or broken and no longer represent us in a proper way, when it fails to mirror, that is.
The mirror truly is, as you said, very ambiguous and difficult to grasp. Is it a verb in disguise of a noun, or a noun in disguise of a verb?
Written words play an important role in your works. Written language and mirrors have several obvious traits in common. The mirror is for sure the most honest of them. It has no room for metaphors, promises, exaggerations, and lies. It always sticks to the facts. At least, it seems so. Yet, just like language, the mirror is far from neutral. It changes our perception and behaviour. It separates us from ourselves and others.
Isn't one always alone in the mirror image (also in the company of others)? Always me, never we. This isn't as bad as it sounds. Your works reminds us that one mustn't be lonely just because one is alone. As Hannah Arendt pointed out, one can be alone and together with oneself, and therefore two in one, a we.
Below the reflecting surface of your new works there are paintings of Medea, Maria Magdalena, Cassandra, and other women who were abused and exploited by men. Your portraits are painted after old sculptures by artists like Bernini and Canova. During this process, something decisive has happened: the women have become less vulnerable, less lonely. Furthermore, they're armed, and prepared for revenge.
P.S. Yesterday, a couple of hours after our conversation, I went swimming in the ocean. You told me that you also like swimming. Isn't one always alone in the water, in the sense of being together with oneself?
Letter from Jens Soneryd to Alex Lebus. 13 July–21 July, 2018. Åplus, Berlin.