Miriam Čopíková M.F.A.

Master-Thesis: "Mirror in History"

Supervision: Prof. Ute Eitzenhöfer, Prof. Eva-Maria Kollischan, Prof. Theo Smeets



Mirrors are part of our identification process. Jacques Lacan in his psychoanalytic theory explains that infants recognize themselves in a mirror around age of six months. And this is not just one step process this is the first step of building the structure of subjectivity or in another words personal identity. 

Every time we look in a mirror something in this matter is being fine-tuned, changed or questioned. Self-awareness is a very rare thing in animal kingdom only higher primates were able to recognize themselves in a mirror. 

Thousands of years before ancient nations Egyptians, Mayans, Incas, Aztecs have buried their dead with mirrors made of stone or metal. They were not only considered a high value possession, intimately personal, but also they were supposed to hold the soul away from evil spirits and be there for the owner to make him allow last check of the body and hair before the eternal journey. They were closely connected with gods, divinity and purity. 

This symbolism has changed over the history. In mid ages when Venetian mirrors entered the European market as an expensive part of interior design they became more of symbol of vanity, luxury and sin. After the end of the monopoly they become more affordable and slowly entered to be a daily companion of masses. Now-a-days shiny surfaces flooded our environment heavily in all possible places. There is always a wonder, how this influence and stimulate our thinking. The story of mirrors is story of looking but simultaneously it is story of light. Light - mysterious medium that is actually invisible, can act like wave and/or particle, but we still do not exactly know how is functioning. And how is receiver of light functioning – our eye? Why we see colors and is there something more than visible light? Every time when scientists were trying to move the research in these matters mirror was a big helper there. 

Mirrors have magnetic powers that brought me to them intuitively. They have the capacity to reveal and hide. Magnify, clearly focus and also delude. I dedicated to research on materiality of mirrors one year and now I decided to find out about their history. It was an exciting journey and I have learned a lot of new context about such a “banal” thing as is mirror.