Chashmal (2011) - Tom Isaacs
The title, ‘Chashmal’, is a hebrew word, meaning polished or shining brass, which refers firstly to the material nature of the mirror. My choice of brass is a reference to Beuys’ totemic use of the substance with its imbued energetic and healing properties. Beuys favoured copper and brass for their conductive qualities and interestingly in contemporary hebrew the word ‘chashmal’ also means electricity. The prophet Ezekiel even used the word ‘chashmal’ to describe the likeness of the glory of the LORD which he witnessed in a vision (Ezekiel 1:25-28).
This brass mirror is an art object which offers purification through examination. Like the brass snake, Nehushtan, raised up in the desert by Moses, this artwork invites individuals to look upon it to receive healing. But as this object is a mirror, albeit made of brass, it also offers the viewer their transformed reflection.
In psychoanalytical terms, Lacan’s theory of the Mirror Stage describes the period of an infant’s life when they first recognise their image reflected in the mirror. Lacan hypothesised that this recognition could lead to a tension between perceptions of wholeness and fragmentation. Lacan believed that this conflict could only be resolved by the individual’s identification with their reflection. Similarly the apostle James writes in his epistle that “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”
The artwork’s reflection also refers to the doubling motif employed by Joseph Beuys in his exhibition, ‘Show Your Wound’, intended to provide understanding through the re-presentation and re-experiencing of wounds. This re-presentation of our afflictions is characterised by its displacement from the original wounds, allowing for a therapeutic effect rather than a simple repetition of the initial trauma.
Ultimately the efficacy of this work is purely conceptual, but the ideas echo real truths, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)