Mirror Mirror

Artist: SOFTlab
Location: Waterfront Park, 1 King Street, Alexandria VA, USA.
Year: 2019
Researcher: Edgar Endress

Mirror Mirror is an interactive public art project that creates an environment and a visual experience with direct dialogue with the site where artwork is located and the community history. Built with metal, glass, and LED light systems, the artwork links the past and present very effectively with high-tech interaction, engaging the audience into a familiar contemporary vocabulary of interactivity and participation. Mirror Mirror responds effectively to the challenges of communicating about a community's past in a current, engaging way.

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Mirror Mirror was originally commissioned by the City of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts. The artwork takes the form of an opened circle, 25 feet in diameter and 8 feet high, that visitors can walk inside and around, placed on a site originally occupied by the lighthouse known as Jones Point in front of the Potomac River. This structure in-the-round, like a lighthouse, is both a place to look outward at your surroundings and a beacon to be seen from afar and watched. The materials and interactive nature of the artwork reference the special type of lens used at Alexandria’s own historic Jones Point Lighthouse – called the Fresnel lens – the most advanced lens technology of the 1800s, which used a series of prisms to concentrate the light source and direct it into a narrow horizontal beam that was projected outward. The original lenses used at Jones Point Lighthouse are now at Alexandria’s History Museum at the Lyceum. Playing with the ideas of reflection and refraction of light, Mirror Mirror’s interior and exterior are clad with a mirrored surface that reflects the surrounding environment in unexpected ways. Through a panoramic array of mirrors and sound-responsive lights, Mirror Mirror will visually blend the waterfront, the fabric of Old Town, and the activity of pedestrians in the new park. While the exterior is a monochromatic mirror that reflects the urban environment, the river, and visitors themselves, the interior’s mirrored surface is tinted with the full-color spectrum, providing another layer of vibrancy and interest. The artwork is also programmed to respond to sound with light, allowing visitors to interact with the artwork and affect its appearance using their voices and bodies. LED fixtures inside each of the artwork’s vertical components are activated by sound and respond by producing light, transforming the front-facing panels from mirrored to transparent, while the interior panels remain mirrored, creating an infinite, colorful reflection and forest of light. Mirror Mirror public art project serves as well as a reminder of Alexandria’s maritime history.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

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