TWO WAY MIRROR (2016/17)

The Gallery, Third Floor Tyneside Cinema

OPEN DAILY 5  – 25 JULY 2017

In his two-channel video work Two Way Mirror (2016/2017) Haines takes the viewer on a cyber journey into the password closed rooms of online ‘chat boys’. Fully aware of their own narcissistic subjectivity, alluring and autonomous male bodies in almost identical forms, permeate the image. Fetishising the value of visibility, the masculine act of bodybuilding is performed inside this technology of love, twisting torsos and flexed toned muscles parade before the viewer.

As the status of the image is depersonalised, a scripted voiceover advances through the work, narrating parts of lectures given in the 1960’s by the British philosopher and theologian Alan Watts, ruminating on the desire, and yet the impossibility, of treating the ego as a physicality, as the narrator says:

“this image of ourselves is obviously not ourselves, […] our image of ourselves is extremely inaccurate.”

Central to this work is the Lacanian notion formulated in the mirror stage theory that the ego is formed by the image of the other, where narcissism and aggressivity are correlatives. The psychoanalyst Philippe Julien writes in Lacan’s Return to Freud that “narcissism, in which the image of ones own body is sustained by the image of the other, in fact introduces a tension: the other in his image both attracts and rejects me.” What appears on the two opposite screens, one a mirror of the other, are flattened virtual identities, exposing the strange futility of the men in their struggle as objects of desire.

The physicality of clammy flesh is abstracted further when the footage ruptures through optically dazzling abstract animations, strobe and hypnotic dance beats, obliquely mediating the feelings of alienation and vulnerability, dislocated through a prism of time and space. From the embodied position of a viewer, a shift takes place from representation to ones own participation. This inescapable physical interface is weighted against the otherwise cold landscape of the digital world, laying bare the ‘otherness’ of these appropriated dematerialised bodies whose identity is their code.