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Writing Excerpt on Chando Ao's Mirror series

Chando Ao’s Mirror series (2019-ongoing) creates “new” digital mirrors to redefine and reflect on taken-for-granted notions and experiences of seeing oneself. Starting in 2019, the Mirror series relocates the act of mirroring from reflective, actual mirrors to digital devices carrying camera lenses or monitors. Ao’s works were inspired by his research on mirrors, once-an-ultra-luxury commodity that are now mass-producible at a very cheap cost. Beyond the actual object, however, the visual phenomenon of mirroring occurs in naturally or artificially formed images, such as reflections in water or polished surfaces or vivid portraiture or photography. Inspired by the mirror as a visual phenomenon, Ao foregrounds mirroring as a process of magnifying and defamiliarizing oneself. The artist employs high-definition cameras and screens to spotlight one’s often obscured side views and redefine their self-knowledge through seeing in “mirrors.” Ao also incorporates social media as the phenomenon of mirroring, as the platform breeds self-loathing desires, hence the need for constant improvement and beauty consumption. With digitally-transformed “mirrors,” Mirror series uncover one’s desire to see themselves, obscured or magnified, filtered or untouched, frontal or peripheral.

Chando Ao, Mirror 1, 2019, installation view in 2021. Materials: iPhone, iPad, Memoji, antenna, Wi-Fi router, revolving stool. Dimensions variable. Photo courtesy the artist and YveYANG Gallery.

Mirror 1 (2019, 2021) foregrounds the perceptional gap between one’s peripheral and frontal visions with the assistance of a built-in AR avatar filter and camera lens. The work consists of an iPhone and an iPad FaceTiming each other while mounted on two corner walls. A rolling stool positioned in between the walls allows the viewer to rotate between two devices, confronting their peripheral and frontal visions. A face frontally captured by a camera will be automatically transformed into a green-skinned, gender-neutral AI avatar, whereas a profile view will not. With FaceTime shrinking the other caller’s window to the bottom corner, the viewer encounters misplaced visions even when their self-images are multiplied by four.

Mirror 2 (2019) presents camera-generated self-images filtered through distortion and opacity. The installation experiments with one’s obscured, contorted and reflected vision from a one-way mirror, curved monitor, and iPad screen and camera lens. Mirror 3 (2020) stages juxtaposed iPhones to present viewer’s self-images enlarged to different scales. The installation consists of two wall-mounted iPhones with maximally zoomed-in front-facing cameras, while one’s screen is doubly magnified with iPhone’s accessibility zoom-in feature. Mirror 3 invites the viewers to identify and rediscover their self-reflections enlarged and abstracted to varied degrees.

Chando Ao, Mirror 3, 2021. Material: iPhone.

Dimensions variable. Photo courtesy the artist

and YveYANG Gallery.

Mirror 4 (2020) is a screen-transformed mirror that confronts the audience with uncomfortable, misplaced self-reflection. The installation consists of a saddle chair, flanked by two sets of 4K cameras and faced with two vertically positioned TV screens. When seated, the participants will find their often obscured side views enlarged, and live-streaming on the TV screens. Mirror 4 entertains the excitement of a magnified self-image while poking at the discomfort of gazing into a self-reflection at the departure of their frontal vision.

Chando Ao, Mirror 4, 2020. Materials: 2 sets of 4k camera & high resolution digital screen, saddle chair. Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 2m. Photo courtesy the artist and YveYANG Gallery.

MirrorNFT (Mirror 5) (2022) choreographs a process of self-mirroring with step-by-step instructions. Installed as an exhibition wall text, the work lists 5-step instructions on how to compete in a selfie contest to win an opportunity to sell their selfie as an NFT (non-fungible token) on the gallery’s platform. Ao stipulates that the contestants must post their selfies with an existing filter on Instagram with specific tags, while consenting to the gallery’s merchandizing of their images. To acknowledge the project’s interweaving creative forces, the artist proposes the potential revenue to be divided evenly among the artist, filter creator, gallery, and selfie-taker.

Chando Ao, Mirror 5, 2022. Materials: social media platform (Instagram), NFT platform (Postmasters Blockchain), wall text. Photo courtesy the artist and YveYANG Gallery.

Disclaimer: Please refer to Chando Ao's website and his upcoming artist book, Warm Machine And Other Mirrorless Reflexions《敖乾枥 温柔的机器 镜非镜》for the most accurate descriptions.


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