Shelagh Robinson Mirror Read Blog 27: The Art of Reading in Reflections- When foreheads are canvases

Would you write something on your face in mirror text so every time you looked at your reflection you could read it? What would you write? And would you write it in semi-permanent henna?

Since I blogged about “Chin Writing,” I have had several people respond with related websites.  A number of you forwarded information on an art project that was done a few years ago in NYC. Thanks!

Organized by artist Adrian Piper, and ‘Creative Time on Campus,’ 100s of participants were called upon to be a part of a performance/social experiment called “Everything # 10.”

Each volunteer submitted to a henna pen, and had written this phrase backwards on their foreheads; “Everything will be taken away.” Then they followed their regular routine for the next 10 days, while the henna was brilliantly visible: Going to work or class, riding on the subway, eating in public … and looking at themselves in mirrors. Each was asked to record people’s reactions, and their own experiences in a journal.

The quotation was taken from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, and implies the impermance of life, and the fleeting nature of the material world. It was intended to cause people to question what drives them, and examine priorities. To provoke, and be a cause for reflection.

The journal entries are fascinating –here is a sampling of several people’s diaries: (* link is below)
-“I try to behave as if everything was just normal, but I guess I don’t do it very well. I am hugely interested about the people’s reactions.”
- “People did not pay to see this.  They didn’t ask to be a part of it.  My forehead has intruded upon the expected.”
- “I scream at my forehead: I will not be taken away! You cannot make me believe that!”
-“I just want to hide.  This is definitely out of my comfort zone… I don’t want to be the object of art!”
-“Everything? Yes—take away my husband.” – Slightly drunk woman at the bar.”
- “(a guy said) “I respect your individuality.” He gave me way too much credit. This is not a display of brave individuality but of groupthink. I am one of many branded with a message that is not my own.”
- “Someone suggested a different message: “One good deed can change the world.”

I like this last entry: Myself, I would prefer something a little more positive; a little less nihilistic, on my forehead.  What would I write?  Maybe something like “I am more than what I see,” or “Look up, wayyyy up.”

And you?  What would you write? Do you have the faith of your convictions to bare your hennad forehead to the world, and yourself, to provoke and play?

I love the idea of inspiring ourselves every time we see our reflection, and for years have made t-shirts specifically to create that experience for family and friends, including, “You are worthy,” “Remember Spirit” and “Open Sesame.” “My Middle Name is Truck” – the Mirror Read book with that title – was inspired by one such t-shirt.

I really like my niece’s request: “Edamame!” It’s a semi-private joke when she reads it on her t-shirt in a mirror. And one that inspires lots of smiles from quick readers.

Do you make backwards t-shirts too, or write messages on your face? Please let me know!


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