Same same (but different)

Two same same texts

From the mirrors' side

I love reflections. I love to watch them on mirrors, on windows or on any shiny surface. I let myself get immersed and imagine that they are windows open on different spaces but describing the same world.[PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR: visual content 1] I love reflections that involve two mirrors.[2] Either on the same wall or on opposite walls. If two mirrors standing side-by-side on the same wall are just slightly misaligned or cracked, then my fascination begins.

Indeed the image is multiplied. [3] And the image is no longer continuous. There is now a fragment of the image in the vicinity of the splitting edge between two mirrors that is now doubled. If one wanted to generate this effect on paper he would have to use two reproductions of the same image and after appropriate cutting, he would resort to collage.[4]

On the other hand, the image can be truncated.[5] There is now a fragment of the image in the vicinity of the splitting edge that is now missing. To generate this effect on paper one would have to use only one reproduction of the image and proceed to pliage (folding). And again the image is no longer continuous.[6]

The difference between collage and pliage lies within the angle between the reflecting surfaces of the two mirrors. An acute angle results in a collage, an obtuse in a pliage. In the case of a flat angle between two perfectly aligned mirrors (neither obtuse nor acute), no fragment of the image is at stake. As the angle becomes more obtuse or more acute, the size of the fragment at stake only expands. The larger the missing part in the middle the wider the image expands onto the outside edges.[7] And the larger the doubled fragment in the middle the narrower the overall frame, down to the point where it is only constituted of two replicated images.[8]

In the case of two full replications of one image displayed side-by-side, my eye will tend to operate a comparative analysis. My eye will tend to search for differences. And there is a difference as the two mirrors have each a slightly different angle on the object that they reflect. The mirror on my right-hand side will have a view more direct on my right cheek while the other on my left cheek. This difference is inevitable unless the two mirrors are strictly parallel. Furthermore, if two parallel mirrors are not on the same plane but one is slightly setback on a parallel plane, then the two images are exactly the same. It can be seen with parallel semi-transparent surfaces like two window panes facing each other, or a double-glazed pane.[9] In this case we have a superimposition of twice the same image with a different ponderation (weighting). One is bigger than the other due to the distance between the two panes and one has a different tint than the other due to optical properties of glass. The shape however is exactly the same (two images, one object). From these two ways of replicating images comes the principle of “twice the same” as a process to generate artificial images.[10] Once we are dealing with twice the same image and we are attempting to assemble them within one frame, the attempt becomes a purely formal exercise of “two-dimensional composition with two elements”. To achieve any such exercise, one will inevitably resort to one or a combination of abstract binary compositional laws (lois de composition à deux éléments).[11] As we play with the further range of acute angles, we cover all the scope of the “twice the same” principle. In the end, we reach the point where the two mirrors have nothing to reflect but themselves infinitely.[12]

Considering the case of an obtuse angle between two mirrors, as we increase the angle, the missing fragment becomes wider and wider. The result is now a side-by-side display of two objects from the outer reaches of the initial frame.[13] The final extent of this angle is when the two mirrors are back on back, facing opposite directions. The result is not graspable at one sight and requires the viewer to move around. A fair account of this situation can be given by the study of a semi-transparent surface. It produces one image where both a reflected image of an object on the viewer’s side and a transmitted image of another object on the other side are superimposed.[14] Within one frame, two independent objects are assembled, whether juxtaposed or superimposed. As opposed to “twice the same”, this idea generates the principle “once two different” as process to generate artificial surrealistic images (two objects, same image).[PLEASE DON'T MISS: visual content 15] When we are dealing with two independent objects in the same image, the interaction between these will operate at a level of pure content. A repertory of all binary interactions at the level of pure content can be equated to the list of figures of speech.

If I consider two random images that I display side-by-side. They will operate bluntly as “different images, different objects”. However, as a viewer, my eye will try to read them in either one principle or the other. And my fascination goes to the limit where no principle prevails over the other and where they actually equate. This limit is defined where the question whether the assemblage is “twice the same” or “once two different” is unsolved ; when my eye cannot decide if it is looking at two images of the same object or at the same image of two different objects.[16] At this limit the two principles are asking the same question and they become one. Seen from different sides. With an artist’s eye.

From the eyes' side

My two eyes don’t see the same. When I look at your face my right eye has a better angle on your left cheek and my left eye on your right cheek.[PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR: visual content 1] It is only once the same object is identified in each eye’s point of view, that the analysis of the difference can provide depth. When the depth is correctly assessed, the two images connect and form one continuous image. Thereby my eyes are natural comparators. They are always comparing what they both see in order to first find what is similar and second what is different. My vision behaves with the same pattern. I am arrested when I see twice the same image in my vision field.[2]

Facing myself in the mirror, I see my two eyes. If I artificially shift the depth of my focal point on a setback plane, the image of my face becomes doubled and I see four eyes now. I can achieve to fool my vision to make appear a third virtual eye that is apprehended as my right eye by my left eye and reciprocally my left eye by my right. Shifting the focal depth artificially can make appear a virtual image fusing the two same objects equally into one. This is the characterization of the stereoscopic vision tools: twice the same image side-by-side and depth is contained within the difference.[3]

Considering depth with abstract eyes, like the depth of a message, we understand what can be implied with the depth of a comparison. To build a comparison between two images or objects a prime condition is that something gets apprehended as “same”. There has to be one item identified as same in each abstract eye’s point of view before the analysis of the difference can even begin. The question about difference is irrelevant without solving first the question about sameness. Difference begins if and where sameness ends.[4] This limit point is what gives the depth of the comparison. To understand a comparison is to shift our vision to reach that depth and make appear one virtual image fusing the two.

To build a comparison, various examples around “same image, different objects” and “same object, different images” can be found in comparative visuals for studies or advertisement.[5] However, the variability of what defines as same has a wider exploration scope. What is a “same object” or a “same image” as another one? When my eyes perceive a certain category of sameness between two random items, building a comparison invariably requires assembling these in one frame.[6] The next question is how to assemble in order to raise a comparative reading in a viewer’s eyes. Respecting the symmetry axis that organizes our eyes and vision would be to display the two images side-by-side. They are then given an equal weighting in the comparison and our eyes are immediately compelled to look for visual differences.[7] A set with one of top of the other reads naturally like a titration.[8] The weighting is unchanged but the relation between the two is apprehended as explanatory. Alternative modes of organization exist such as spacing, transparency, superimposition, cutting, overlapping… although the potential for comparative reading wanes significantly.[9]

In the end, the form of the assemblage serves only as guide for the eyes and indicates how to approach the comparison. It is on the other hand the binary content that qualifies the comparison by assessing the depth where they equate and fuse. In the case of two extremely disconnected objects, their comparison drives the focal depth towards infinity. If ever infinity is virtually reached, the eyes of the viewer follow the directions of two parallel lines. Here the question of the angle becomes highly acute: if these directions are only slightly misaligned, then the infinite depth becomes infinitely variable. The exploration of that variability is the mirrors’ art.