Mirror Mirror 

Daniel Barrow, Auteur of the Overhead Projector

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WITH HIS manual animations, Canadian artist Daniel Barrow marries the innovative and the anachronistic. His signature technique employs an overhead projector and hundreds of see-through Mylar sheets adorned with hand-drawn images—sheets that are manipulated and sequenced to create moving pictures, while Barrow narrates. At TBA:09, Barrow presented Everytime I See Your Picture I Cry, which followed an art-student-turned-trash-collector as he made an intimate/creepy phonebook cataloging people on his collection route (though, spoiler, an antagonist named the Bag Lady kills each person after they're added to the book). For TBA:13, Barrow will perform new work including The Thief of Mirrors and Looking for Love in the Hall of Mirrors.

MERCURY: What will you be presenting at TBA:13?

DANIEL BARROW: The main new work I am presenting is called The Thief of Mirrors. It's the story of a jewel thief who wears the mask of a sad clown. The weeping expression of his mask is activated and delicately moderated by the criminal's emotive eyes. The resulting facial expression is so powerfully evocative that it possesses supernatural powers. Mirrors, specifically, are so enamored by the thief's expression that when he gazes into his reflection, the mirror inscribes itself permanently with his image. The narrative I have written introduces this character and follows him into the home of a rich couple. I then have a few short experiments I would like to weave into the presentation. I'm still working on these, so we'll see if they actually develop into something presentable. 

Why did you choose to focus on mirrors?

Mirrors have been a consistent motif throughout my career for many reasons. However, I don't map out my motifs before each script or choose them consciously. I'm really just guided by the freedom of my own imagination and sense of humor. Elementally, mirrors fascinate me because they are magic framed artworks. Something about the image of a person holding a hand mirror up to her face, like a second head, branded itself on my imagination in childhood, and I am consistently drawn back to it. Most of the intensely charged experiences I have had with images happened in infancy.

What sorts of thematic concerns have you taken into account while writing The Thief of Mirrors?

I don't usually have thematic concerns in a conscious way. I will say, however, that The Thief of Mirrors does specifically reflect my anxiety about the ever-widening gulf between the rich and poor in Canada, America, and just about everywhere else.

What do you hope it will offer audiences?

My hopes for this work are nearly identical to the aspirations of all of my past performance work. I hope to create and moderate an intimate and innovative live moving-picture experience, which might lead an audience into shadowy territories, but also offers a kind of renewal that begins with a descent into darkness. 

You mentioned you're also going to show some other work.

I'm currently developing two brand-new pieces here in Scotland, where I am an artist-in-residence at the Glenfiddich Distillery. One is called I Can't Stop Looking at You and features the same thief from The Thief of Mirrors. It could be considered a prequel or sequel or simply another chapter in The Thief of Mirrors, but it's distinct in that I do not present it with the overhead projector, but rather an antiquated animation program that I repurpose as a kind of PowerPoint software. I've used an emulator to turn my laptop into a Commodore computer circa 1988. I'll use this (in a way that mirrors all of my overhead methods and techniques) to tell the story of a young boy who is followed through a picture gallery by the eyes of his ancestors' portraits. He gets turned on, strips off his clothes, and recites a prayer for eternal loveliness. The thief from The Thief of Mirrors lives behind the portraits and activates their inviting gaze. In this piece, the portrait has become his mask.

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