Mark Wallinger: Self Reflection

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Mark Wallinger: Self Reflection

We’re constantly being told how self-obsessed we are. The selfie has become the emblem of first-world shallowness; we’re all self-entitled; there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’ etc. So here’s an opportunity to reflect on what the idea of ‘self’ even means. And where better to do it than Sigmund Freud’s house. Not only did the father of psychoanalysis theorise human consciousness, as arefugee he had a particular sensitivity to the relationship between what we are and who we are. Mark Wallinger has created two pieces for the 160th anniversary of Freud’s birth. One is permanent: in the back garden of the Freud Museum is a large, black letter ‘I’ on a plinth. Only it’s circular, so it might be a kind of columnar grave monument, or an empty spool of thread or film. It’s a quiet comment on the individual, of things being unwound, lost and followed. Much more entertaining, though, is the temporary installation ‘Self Reflection’. Wallinger has put a mirror across the whole ceiling of Freud’s study and consulting room. It doubles the height of the room, and reflects back Freud’s ethnographic knick-knacks and his famous couch. Of course, there are plenty of suggestive dimensions to this: Freud wrote about how a doctor should be ‘like a mirror’; later, French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan developed the idea of a whole ‘mirror stage’ in the development of the sense of self. But it’s also quite a cheeky idea: who has a mirrored ceiling, anyway? Pervs, that’s who. Pervs and narcissists. So go and take a good, hard look at yourself (it’s also a great selfie opportunity).

By: Chris Waywell

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