Face (in) the Mirror
       (y)our eyes don't see (y)our face




The trick is not to transcend things, but to transform them. Not to degrade them or deny them –and that is what transcendence amounts to- but to reveal them more fully, to heighten their reality, to search for their latent significance. I fail to detect a single healthy impulse in the cowardly attempt to transcend the physical world. On the other hand, to transform a physical entity by changing the climate around it through the manner in which one regards it is a marvellous undertaking, creative and courageous. (Robbins, Tom: 273)  

Face(in) the Mirror is an experiential, participant-directed method targeted at cultural empowerment, art and philosophy are applied to enhance learners’ skills and improve self-esteem understood as the precondition for the development of person, community and well-being. The project also sets out to contribute to sustainable development and to promote and consolidate cultural diversity, democracy and tolerance.  

The social-artistic ‘Face (in) the Mirror’ project literally and figuratively holds up a mirror. At its heart lies a game of self-portraiture. Participants in a workshop play with creating and combining a series of self-portraits in drawing or painting – a portrait from imagination, a shadow-portrait, a mirror-portrait, a glass panel-portrait and a photographic portrait.

From these combinations it is possible to make interesting comparisons between the different self-portraits and to illustrate differences in the way children and adolescents deal with the task in accordance with their individual identity    

Self-portrait superimposed  

While most participants draw the mirror-self-portrait in comparison with their mirror-reflection, some participants, especially young children, frequently do not use the mirror-reflection as an example, but rather seem to draw an imaginary self-portrait on the transparent sheet in front of the mirror. In a similar way they often give the shadow self-portrait an imaginary face. Others, mainly adolescents, somewhat mask the mirror-reflection with imaginary attributes (Figure 7); One person gives him-/herself a luxuriant head of hair and yet another leaves out his/her glasses, another accentuates his/her lips with lipstick and so on.      

Mirror self-portrait with imaginary attributes  

The innovative format employed in this study encourages participants to explore various perspectives of themselves. Each of these perspectives is unique in addressing different questions about the self-image:  what image do I have and like to have of myself? what image do I have and like to have of the other? what image does the other have of me and what image do I like the other to have of me?  

The different portrait-perspectives stimulate the ability to surpass egocentrism and to take into account different points of view, understood as the condition for developing empathy and social responsibility. Also, they form a trajectory in which creativity and this empathic understanding is applied to the emancipative de- and reconstruction of the self-image (as a social construction). With this process the workshop aims to contribute to positive self-esteem and identity-building.   

As well as stimulating motor, social, artistic and reflective skills, it also empowers participants to imagine, reflect and speak about their experiences with self-phenomena. Therefore it develops self-awareness, communication and interpersonal skills. At the same time, it gives interesting insight into the way that art and culture are expressed locally and globally. The results of the project are not only a special form of feedback for participants, but also have research value in addition to intrinsic artistic quality. In conclusion the project can be interpreted as a study object, an interactive method, or an educational and learning tool. The project is also a way of producing works of art and may even be interpreted as an artwork itself.