Alix in Wonderland

by Patricia Valero,

Alix in Wonderland_1

The always incisive Joan Fontcuberta says the following on his essay The Dance of Mirrors. Identity and Photographic Flows on the Internet”:

The mirror encapsulates a symmetrical and hidden world, whose access is tempting. Therefore, when Lewis Carroll makes Alice cross the mirror, in the second volume of her adventures, he is making her enter a universe which is even more marvellous than that wonderland already visited in her first forays. Alice doesn’t want to recognise herself in the mirror she doesn’t want the mirror to show her the truth at all, as in the legend of Snow White and the witch jealous of her beauty: what she wants is to escape into its fiction.

Literature and fantasy abound with examples of the magical powers of mirrors. As do religion, folklore, art, science and psychology. We use mirrors to investigate our identity and to build our symbols. In this sense, they anticipate in our image-centred civilization a pre-photographic gesture: they have to do with our need for and pleasure in looking at ourselves, and the necessity and pleasure of sharing that look. Mirrors and cameras come to define the panoptic and scopic nature of our society: everything is inclined to an absolute vision and everyone is ruled by the pleasure of looking.

The confluence of the internet and the proliferation of digital cameras (as well as cell phones with integrated cameras) have brought about a tremendously popular modality of images, reflectograms, as evidenced by blogs and internet fora: the ubiquitous self portraits before a mirror made by all types of people, but especially by young people and teens (who without a doubt are the natural users of the internet because they have grown up in a time when the internet was already part of the landscape).”

Nothing better to detox from the proliferation of these ubiquitous reflectograms than visiting the photographer Alberto García-Alix’ self-portraits exhibited since February 6th at La Virreina – Centro de la Imagen in Barcelona. Although some of them are far from the definition of self-portrait (they picture objects, rooms or buildings), all photographs observed as a whole show an expanded self-portrait which witness the work of the photographer to analyse his own life and the photographic medium in order to find his own sense of self.

After watching these photographs, the words uttered by García-Alix during the presentation of the exhibition seem rather surprising: “I’m a bit embarrassed with this exhibition of self-portraits. I feel so shy. Sometimes I look at the pictures and I don’t recognise myself. I wonder: ‘is that me?’”. The photographer, like Alice, seems to not want to recognise himself in the mirror, but rather to escape into his own self-fiction.

Autorretrato con máscara, 2004. Alberto García-Alix Alix in Wonderland_6 Alix in wonderland_5 Alix in Wonderland_4 Alix in Wonderland_3 Alix in Wonderland_2 Alix in Wonderland_8