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Box No. 23

Caroline Evans & Hansjörg Schmidt /UK/
theoretical installation

„Here, then, is the subject of knowledge: it is speculative and specular at the same time, and the recovering of the speculative by the specular – of intellectual reflection by imaginary self-captation – is precisely wherein lies this magical character of the box.“

Georges Didi-Huberman, Confronting Images, Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005, 138

In the middle of a black box sits a model: an intensely-lit cluster of tiny mirrors that reflect a miniature wire-frame figure, next to a second figure on another plinth. The visual trickery of the installation multiplies the figures and confuses image and reality. Yet its components are simple: light, darkness, mirrors, and wire figures. Its setup is based on the dancer Loïe Fuller’s Mirror Dance first performed in 1895, and other nineteenth-century optical tricks. More theory box than art installation, this collaboration between a lighting designer and an academic fashion historian poses a series of questions about the relationship between the original and its reflection. Doubling as a box of tricks that is both intellectual and visual, it conceives theory as spectacular, from the Greek theoria, contemplation or speculation, and theorein, to speculate or look at; hence theoros, spectator. It triangulates three terms: theory –speculation – model. The box is a speculation on the nature of the model, based on the rich etymology of the word as a measure, a scaled representation, a pattern for artists, an architectural model and, in the early 20th century, both a fashion and a mathematical model. Its little wire-frame figures create a model of a model, the Théâtre de la Mode that toured Europe in 1945-6. Does it theorize the model, or model theory? Like the miniature hall of mirrors in the installation, the answers endlessly replicate the questions from new points of view.

Bio: Hansjörg is a lighting designer, and Programme Director Lighting Design at Rose Bruford College. He graduated with a BA (First Class Honours) in Theatre Arts from Goldsmiths College, University of London and an MSc Built Environment: Light and Lighting from the Bartlett School, UCL. Hansjörg’s research interests lie in the area of lighting, site-specificity, and narrative, and he has presented papers on his lighting for two innovative performance projects, Kursk and Under Glass, at Design Symposia in Zurich, Riga and Cardiff. Hansjörg is currently preparing research-led installations for the Camillo 2.0 Festival aan der Werf in Utrecht, and the Prague Quadrennial 2011. Recent lighting designs in London: On Ageing and The Forest (Fevered Sleep), Kursk (Young Vic), Under Glass and Red Ladies (clod ensemble), and Wedding Day at the Cro-Magnons (Soho Theatre).


Caroline Evans is a Professor of Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (University of the Arts London), UK. Her research spans twentieth century and current fashion.  Evans is interested in contemporary practice and its interface with both history and theory. 


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