O Espelho (The Mirror) is a theatrical sound installation inspired in part by the story of the same name by 19th century Brazilian writer Machado de Assis. It is by sound artist Iain Mott and performer Simone Reis and includes objects and paintings by visual artist Nelson Maravalhas and video by Alexandre Rangel. O Espelho investigates the games of deception we play with our identities using a variety of contemporary audio technologies, video and visual illusions from the 19th century, together with pre-recorded performance and electroacoustic composition. The installation is devised for a solitary viewer in keeping with the isolation experienced by the protagonist in the original story. Of great importance in this work its investigation of how sound, voice and listening can function ontologically side by side with visual representations of the self.
The characters played by Simone Reis are projected as "pepper's ghosts" in a false-room adjoining the publicly accessible installation space. This 19th century theatre technique involves angled glass positioned on a stage or diorama to provide the illusion that the space is occupied by a phantom figure. In our installation, the false-room is identical to the installation-space, however all furniture as well as pictures and objects on the walls by Nelson Maravalhas are arranged in mirror-image. The gallery visitor sees the projected video images and the false-room as if they were a reflection. This is by way of a false-mirror, a simple pane of glass in a frame. An "audio spotlight" (a special loudspeaker) is used to produce what are experienced as "in-head" sounds by the participant. These sounds principally correspond to the voice of the false-reflection played by Simone. Other sounds representing the memories, thoughts and fantasies of the characters (and by implication, the visitor), surround the seated listener and are projected in the space by what is known as an "ambisonic" sound system, consisting of multiple loudspeakers.