Straight rye whiskey, 100 proof
you need a better friend?
the lonely lovely fucking lights
and the bridge on a rainy Tuesday night
Blue/green double-stars the line
that is the drive and on the dark alive
Xmas trees of tugs scream and struggle
Mother Night, 1961
We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
Reflections are everywhere. In many ways, they are the only visual connection we have with ourselves. In fact, the power of reflections can be so strong that often we begin to surround ourselves with people we would most like to emulate and mimic. Eventually, the person we wear every day can look like fragments of an external world.
The two quotes, by Paul Blackburn and Kurt Vonnegut, best represent my sentiment with regard to my perception of self. Blackburn captures the alienation I feel away from the mirror, as well as, the unwelcomeness of my permanent companion when we do meet again. After all, in the end all I have is myself. The excerpt I chose from his poem Brooklyn Narcissus (We enter the tunnel./The dirty window gives me back my face) is the end of a well-organized stream of consciousness as he rides the subway over the East River in New York City. The poem centers around a lost relationship and a longing for companionship. Still, he begins and ends reminding the reader that he is all he has left.
The image at the end is dirtied literally with the residue built up over time on the train window, and metaphorically with this cycling inner turmoil. I read the poem as a letter to himself: a reminder that he is the cause of his own losses, which now make up the disgusting past he’s forced to face at every turn, when he meets his own gaze.
Vonnegut provides another argument: rather than accepting and becoming the consequence of our experiences, he suggests that we can choose every new moment. Like Blackburn, Vonnegut’s outlook acknowledges the responsibility of the individual, inferring that our past is made up of our actions. Nevertheless, the quote is hopeful for the future: who we each become is just pretend, and through human choice (free will) that can change at any moment.
My project falls between these interpretations of the individual. No matter how hard I try to dress up like my own ideal, my reflection can never match the goal. Imperfection exists within the eyes I am forced to communicate with on a regular basis. They may take in more than they put out, yet are touchstones for everyone around me. They wear the decisions I make and are signifiers of my intentions and emotions. Moreover, they often seem out of my control, until I find a reflection.