True Mirror

Invited to participate in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Dexter Sinister proposed to act as a shadow press office, publishing what we very loosely conceived of as a series of alternative “press releases” during the first three weeks of the show. We took up residence in a hidden room accessed by a secret button in the wooden-panelled Commander’s Room in a corner of the old Armory Building, some ten blocks south of the former Whitney Museum in uptown New York that was being used that year as a satellite space for a parallel programme of more performative works.

The project was set up via three documents: an abstract proposal to the curators in the form of a poem with visual annotations; a subsequent summary of our intentions faxed to the Whitney office in advance of a meeting there; and an open letter sent in the mail from a Dublin postmark to a number of potential collaborators, each invited to contribute some kind of “press release” for us to give form to and channel in some appropriate manner. The title and emblem was drawn from the True Mirror Company, a New York-based enterprise who for a number of years had produced an eccentric mirror we were familiar with from the bathrooms of the Pink Pony, a bar up the street from the Dexter Sinister basement. This mirror, housed in a box, is constructed from two mirrors set at 45 degrees to each other, in order to reflect back to the viewer an actual, i.e. “true,” reflection of the self, rather than the usual left-right reversal—a truly disturbing experience. We had a number of these made and installed in the bathrooms of both biennial buildings.

During the three weeks we produced and channeled 37 responses to the invitation live from the Commander’s Room. The results were wildly diverse in terms of media, including a range of physical documents, emails, webpages, audio works, an unusually vocal elevator operator, and a new music composition performed live in the same building, all of which remain archived at the mirror site

Subsequently, we assembled all the contributions into a live performance titled True Mirror Microfiche, which has been variously described as a “cubist variety show” and a “documents opera.” The founding image here was a small-format fiche (typically used by old-school libraries for archiving purposes), with each of our press releases represented by an icon. This fiche was then projected as the backdrop of the performance to serve as a schematic script for the event: as we progressed through each release, a cast of performers recited or enacted an excerpt of the original. This was first performed at The Kitchen in New York City on 25 November, 2008, then duplicated with a (mostly) new set of performers playing the previous ones at the ICA in London on 30 May 2009. The scripts for both events were published as print-on-demand books, True Mirror Microfiche Post-Script (2008) and True Mirror Microfiche Post-Post-Script (2009), and two of the audio works were released on either side of an LP, True Mirror Double AA-Side, released by D.S. al Coda in 2010.