Date of this Version
Ho, Jamie C. magic mirrors, 2023.
When a beam of bright light hits the convex and polished surface, an image is reflected back onto the wall. This is a description of a magic mirror, an object from the Han Dynasty (206 BC -24 AD), that embodies how Euro-America views China: both technically advanced and shrouded in mystery. The magic mirror also points to the history of photography, as this term was often used in the Victorian era to describe a camera. The image created by a camera is a mimic of reality, both all too familiar and unfamiliar. Like magic mirrors, the GIFs I create generate mirror images to reveal an alternate world that highlights the ways rituals are both private and public and the ways my body cannot fit into the impossibility of Euro-centric beauty standards. I use the aesthetics of Camp, the lighting studio, theatre-esque curtains, and spotlights to stage drag performances that confront audiences’ understanding of gender. I reference historical Chinese objects as a method of reimagining connections to my ancestral roots and to build a reality where Chinese American femmes can exist and thrive outside of a patriarchal, ableist society. Through installation and projections, my GIFs both reflect and refract within the space, alternately obscuring and challenging the viewer’s perception.
The mirror manifests in the magic mirrors exhibition through the mirrored actions that occur in my GIFs, in the ways the images of me reflect off the acrylic sculptures, and through the circular shapes that continuously repeat, as spotlights, bowls, round fans, tabletops, and mirrors themselves. The stylized repetitions found in both my GIFs and installations are informed by Judith Butler’s exploration into gender performance and employ José Esteban Muñoz’s disidentification, not just as a method of survival, but one that imagines a limitless futurity. My self-portraits refuse to provide the viewer with a full experience of my body; thus, refuse to further the exploitation that I am critiquing. As Legacy Russell stated, “[Glitch Feminism] asks us to look at the deeply flawed society we are all currently implicated by, participating in and to confront the violence this society has done to bodies who disidentify, to bodies who exist within the liminal and embrace the in-between as a core component of survival, of futurity.”
 Andrea Henderson, “Magic Mirrors: Formalist Realism in Victorian Physics and Photography,” Representations 117, no. 1 (2012): pp. 120-150, https://doi.org/10.1525/rep.2012.117.1.120, 133.
Legacy Russell, “#GLITCHFEMINISM” (presentation, Refiguring the Future Conference, New York, NY, February 9-10, 2019).
Advisor: Walker Pickering
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