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Mutual Portraits in a Convex Mirror

Project type



November, 2021



On the periphery of One Spadina Crescent, two old dairy processing plants house the University of Toronto’s Department of Visual Studies. These aging factories operated when Taylorism was in full effect in the early 1900’s and have changed little since. Today, their streamlined industrial spaces serve as studios and offices for the department, making for an interesting but impractical environment for the undergraduate visual studies students collaboratively and socially.

Mutual Portraits in a Convex Mirror is an Installation that quietly addresses the shortcomings of the space to serve the student body. The origin of its title comes from the poem Self Portrait in a Convex Mirror by John Ashbury, which speaks in part to the conditions of the lonely artist devoted to their masterpiece. Coming out of a period of prolonged isolation following the events of 2020-2021, the students of visual studies now long for the death of the lone artist fable that dictated how the program operated in the past. In this piece, two drawing horses made from on either side of a wall face a safety mirror like others found throughout the building. Two viewers may sit at either horse to draw each other through the distorted image in the mirror. The horses are also tied down to the building’s infrastructure, making face-to-face encounters impossible. This process functions in dual parts to both bring the scattered students together and to highlight their separation.

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