Pedro Lasch

Games, Non-Habitual Habits, Temporal Re-arrangements
Selected Works Catalogue | 1998 - Present

Black Mirror/Espejo Negro
Pedro Lasch, editor

The provocative three-part project Black Mirror/Espejo Negro by the artist Pedro Lasch encompasses a museum installation, photographs of the installation, and this bilingual book, including many of the photos, the artist’s statement, and critical commentaries. The project began as an installation commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to accompany the exhibition El Greco to Velázquez: Art during the Reign of Philip III. In a gallery adjacent to the exhibit of Spanish Golden Age masterpieces, Lasch placed black rectangular mirrors on the walls, each with an image of a Spanish Renaissance painting behind it. Pre-Columbian stone and ceramic figures, chosen by Lasch from the museum’s permanent collection of Meso-American art, stood on pedestals facing toward each mirror and away from visitors entering the room. Viewers were drawn into a meditation on colonialism and spectatorship when, on looking into the black mirrors, they saw the pre-Columbian figures, seventeenth and eighteenth-century Spanish priests and conquistadores, themselves, and the contemporary gallery environment. The book Black Mirror/Espejo Negro includes full-color reproductions of thirty-nine photographs of the installation, as well as the text that Lasch wrote to accompany it. In short essays, scholars reflect on Lasch’s work in relation to current debates in art history and visual studies, race discourse, pre-Columbian studies, postcolonial theory, and de-colonial thought.

Contributors. Srinivas Aravamudan, Jennifer A. González, Pedro Lasch, Arnaud Maillet, Walter Mignolo, Pete Sigal

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments / Agradecimientos

Preface / Prefacio, Kimerly Rorschach

Foreword / Prólogo, Srinivas Aravamudan

Black Mirror / Espejo Negro
Introductory Statement by the Artist / Texto introductorio del artista, Pedro Lasch

Black Mirror, Ink Mirror: Fascination as Entrapment / Espejo negro, espejo de tinta: La fascinación como trampa, Arnaud Maillet

Stone Muse / Musa de piedra, Jennifer A. González

Colonial Reflections/Magical Imaginations: Pedro Lasch's Tezcatlipoca / Reflejos coloniales/imaginaciones mágicas: El Tezcatlipoca de Petro Lasch, Pete Sigal

Decolonial Aesthetics: Unlearning and Relearning the Museum Through Pedro Lasch's Black Mirror/Espejo Negro/ Estética descolonial: desaprendiendo y reaprendiendo el museo a través del Black Mirror/Espejo Negro de Pedro Lasch, Walter Mignolo

Index / índice

Contributors / Contribuyentes

Publication of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University
And the Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University,
With additional support from the Joan Mitchell Foundation
2010. 128 pages, 41 color illustrations
978-0-938989-34-9, hardcover $35.00

Black Mirror / Espejo Negro - Duke University Press

Artist Statement

ABSTRACTION AND REFUSAL As we enter the room, black rectangular mirrors of different scales and proportions stand in stark contrast to the white walls, calling attention to the structural aspects of the gallery. Facing each mirror, at different heights and depths, defiant pre-Columbian figures stand on pedestals, all of them turning their backs to the viewer. While their refusal may push us away, their reflections in the mirrors pull us in. Even so, we find that it is impossible to see these figures’ faces without also encountering our own faces, reflected in the same mirrors. The dark flat surfaces of black glass transform images of sculptured bodies into ephemeral paintings, incorporating the viewer’s reflection, the environment, and the ghostly images of yet another set of gazes, those of Spanish priests and conquistadores.

MEDIATION The individual works that compose the overall sculptural installation are entitled Black Mirror 2 through 12, each pairing one or more pre-Columbian sculptures from different regions and periods with a Spanish painting of the colonial period that emerges gradually from behind a dark sheet of glass. At the center we find Black Mirror 1, the object that inspired the whole installation. It is an elegantly shaped obsidian disk from the museum’s permanent collection. I propose we use this black “rosetta stone” as a tool to decipher ancient Amerindian civilizations, as well as a window onto the wealth of contemporary indigenous civilizations and peoples across the American continent.

TEZCATLIPOCA AND THE OBSIDIAN JOURNEY In pre-Columbian America, as in many other cultures, black mirrors were commonly used for divination, the art of knowing past and future events, and for necromancy, the art of communicating with the dead. The Aztecs directly associated obsidian with Tezcatlipoca, the deadly god of war, sorcery, and sexual transgression. Threatened by similar associations with sorcery and deviance, Pope John XXII banned the use of mirrors for any religious purpose in 1318. Yet centuries later, obsidian plates of all shapes and sizes would be introduced into Christian altars across Spain and its colonies, eventually becoming the surface on which artists, including the Spanish Baroque master Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, would paint saints and virgins.

THROUGH THE CLAUDE GLASS AND INTO THE AGE OF SURVEILLANCE The Spanish colonial works appearing in this installation can be seen as early examples of two key modern and contemporary forms of representation that resemble the obsidian black mirror: the everpresent photographic camera and the “Claude mirror” of eighteenth-century Europe. Named for the painter Claude Lorrain, the Claude mirror was a portable, convex tinted glass or mirror, which painters and photographers used to compose their pictures. This optical device marked a shift to a new period, when ritual and magic gave way to scientific illusionism and colonialist expansion. We no longer use black mirrors to speak with the dead, or to fix a gaze on objects that may last a little longer than we will. Yet little black eyes still hover all around us in the form of cameras placed in many public buildings and outdoor spaces. These black mirrors still act as gobetweens between the present and the absent, the visible and the invisible, the colonizer and the colonized.

Note: All the historical information and interpretative statements accompanying the artworks included in this book were researched, edited, and written by the artist. They accompanied the museum installation as bilingual English-Spanish labels and, as an integral part of the works themselves, are also included in the photographic suites.

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