Inverse Reverse Perverse is a large concave mirror, positioned on the wall so as to reflect the viewer. Its highly polished surface, like the inside of spoon, presents a distorted reflection that varies depending on the distance from the sculpture. As the viewer moves towards the mirror, the reflection flips from an inverted likeness to a magnified, elongated image. The sculpture is a sleek, minimalist version of a funhouse mirror, whose disfiguration of the human form both entertains and horrifies.
Inverse Reverse Perverse was made in an edition of three for Wyn Evans’ first solo exhibition at White Cube, London, in 1996. Its reflective qualities emphasise the subjective nature of the viewer’s experience; no two people will see the same image when they look at this work, though they may have a similarly unsettling experience as they watch their gigantic distorted reflections. The ever-changing nature of the reflections suggests the passage of time, and the transience of identity. It calls into question the experience of perception, particularly self-perception.
The sculpture also succeeds in inverting, reversing and perverting French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage. Lacan (1901-81) suggested that the infant has a fractured sense of self which only coheres into a sense of personal identity when he or she is presented with the image of a whole child in the mirror. Recognizing his or her body as a contained entity, the child begins to differentiate his or her self from others and from the environment. Wyn Evans’ sculpture is a mirror that does just the opposite. By distorting what the viewer is used to seeing in a normal reflection, the sculpture calls into question the idea of a coherent, consistent self. Lacan’s mirror is a tool to aid individuation; Wyn Evans’ mirror presents the viewer with an inconsistent reflection that disconcertingly merges figure and ground.
Wyn Evans began his career as an artist making experimental films and videos. In the 1980s, he worked as an assistant to the filmmaker and painter Derek Jarman, and collaborated with choreographer Michael Clark as well as teaching at the Architectural Association in London. His interdisciplinary interests have influenced his practice as a visual artist; his work has frequently incorporated elements of performance and promoted audience participation. His Dreamachine, 1984/98 (La Coleccion Jumex, Mexico City) is an installation in which members of the public are encouraged to sit in front of a spinning cylindrical lamp. Regular perforations in the lampshade cast light in geometric waves across the audience and are designed to induce a dream-like meditative state. Like Inverse Reverse Perverse, Dreamachine has connotations of drug-induced states and suggests the artist’s engagement with what he has called ‘somewhere that is out of place, the skew, the hinge in reality on which the relation of image and object swings’ (quoted in Meredith, n.p.).
Norman Rosenthal, Richard Shone, Martin Maloney, Brooks Adams and Lisa Jardine, Sensation: Young British Artists from the Saatchi Collection, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997, reproduced p.191 in colour.
Rachel Meredith, art now: Cerith Wyn Evans, exhibition brochure, Tate Britain, 2000.