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  • Uneven Mirrors:Thoughts on the Use of Spatial Doubles and Duplication in Three Recent Works
  • Abel Paúl (bio)


I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me.

—Borges 1978, 27

This article examines the role of duplication in three of my recent works from a spatial perspective. Here I focus on several fields of study: instruments, objects, stage setups, and performers. These are regarded in light of spatiality, avoiding as much as possible the implications of the temporal and sonic domains. The role of the performers is mostly analyzed from a static point of view, regarding them as carriers and/or depositaries of spatial significance within specific musical setups.

A clear interest in setups in which the instruments, objects, and performers are duplicated is present in my work since 2010. This stems from a long-lasting fascination with the visual reproducibility and the [End Page 5] sense of spatial parallelism generated by mirrors. This interest has been materialized in my own work by the creation of setups in which instruments and performers mirror each other, both from spatial and performative perspectives. The use of duplicated instruments and objects may determine a process of visual and sonic equivalences and associations within the space of performance. However, this audio-visual symmetry may be challenged by the usage of dissimilar sonic materials. This possible contradiction may alter or reformulate the mirrored relationships established between two or more identical instruments, delineating a fragile equilibrium between the aural and visual realms. Metaphorically, from a viewpoint of musical duplication, we could regard the spatial domain—the conjunction of duplicated instruments, objects and performers—as the frame of a mirror. In turn, the reflective surface of this hypothetical mirror would be constituted by the sonic domain, completing in such a way the audio-visual contract.

The Borges quote above is particularly appropriate when extrapolated into this particular context: mirrors do not always imply an expected reflection, a causal effect. They are rather conceived as frames of potentiality, as indicators of a possible duplication that may be either confirmed or shattered by the nature of their reflecting surface.

In Of Other Spaces (1967), Michel Foucault distinguishes between "utopias" and "heterotopias" as spatial realities that, even if in direct relation with real spaces, reverse, counterbalance, and annul the set of relations they embody and/or reflect. Utopias are spaces without a real place, illusory sites "that have a general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society" (1986, 24). Heterotopias, on the other hand, could be defined as the reversal to utopias: existing places in which the rest of real places are "simultaneously represented, contested and inverted" (1986, 24). An illustrative example of this is the theatre. During a play, there is usually a representation of unrelated, alternative spaces—e.g., a battleground, a church, a café, etc.—in the circumscribed realm of the stage. In this regard, the theatre, as a heterotopian space, brings together seemingly disconnected and incompatible places and locations.

Interestingly, Foucault describes an intermediate state in which heterotopias and utopias are indissolubly intertwined: the mirror. Mirrors may be regarded as utopias as they create an impression of virtual spatiality, a feeling of displacement, of a place without a place. We find ourselves duplicated behind the surface, our corporeal identity virtually dislocated, transferred to an unreachable location. Simultaneously, mirrors may also be considered heterotopian devices as they are concrete objects that exist in reality. They mark a limit between the [End Page 6] virtual space and the real, allowing us to reconfigure our original sense of place in the process of mirroring. This feeling of displacement is paradoxically counterbalanced by our reflected image, our vision oriented towards ourselves from the other side of the glass, permitting us to reconstruct our original sense of space and identity. As Foucault observes,

The mirror functions as a heterotopia in this respect: it makes this place that I occupy at the moment when I look at myself in the glass at once absolutely real, connected with all the space that surrounds it, and absolutely unreal, since in order to be perceived it has to pass through this virtual...


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