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Magic Mirror Paintings

My character Joey Moon says he’s an artist. He wanted his friend Morton Plant to show his work in an art gallery, but Joey wouldn’t tell Morton the gallery-owner what his work looks like. So at this point, I need to decide what Joey’s work does look like, so I can be prefiguring it, and so I can set it up for a role in the story of The Big Aha.

I’m thinking Joeys work should be nurb-related—where nurbs are the wetware tweaked biocomputational “devices” that we’ll be using in a hundred years. Simple idea: Joey’s works are squidskin displays that mirror the viewer’s face, but with some processing tweaks added.

Call it a magic mirror.

[Here’s a draft of a painting of Joey Moon and Loulou Sabado, characters in “The Big Aha.” The painting is called “Night of Telepathy.” An earlier painting of these two people appears below. Joey doesn’t really look like this, but it’s how he visualizes himself. Actually this might be Joey’s friend Morton Plant, and not Joey himself in the picture. Doing these paintings is helping me a lot with the novel.]

But I need more, something to kick it up a level. Another person’s face can kind of hypnotize you, and you sometimes feel compelled to mimic it. Speaking of fascination, think of the way that you can become enthralled with your own mirror-image, especially if you’re a teenager, or bored, or vain. So the magic mirror’s is showing you your own face slightly tweaked, and you start reacting to the image, and you get into a feedback loop that drives you toward some extreme emotional state.

The extreme state you reach varies according to the viewer’s emotional make-up. The magic mirror simply feels around interactively for the biggest reaction on your part.

Some viewers fully freak out—raging in anger, weeping hysterically, frantically apologizing, roaring in rage, getting lost in grimaces. Their faces get so distorted that they look like Francis Bacon paintings. And the magic mirror might then freeze on a little blither-loop of that peak intensity image.

Later, if you want, you store that clip into memory and reset the magic mirror and collect another image. Or maybe not—maybe Joey freezes all images of himself or of those around him and those are the finished works he sells. If you can do-it-yourself it has more the feeling of a toy than of an artwork, so you ask as high a price.

I saw something a little like this at the San Jose ZeroOne festival in fall, 2012. You’d lie on your back and right over your face you’d see an interactive video image of your face that was tweaked to show your face decaying like a corpse, and with flies, and with fungi growing on it.

Joey doesn’t want to show his magic mirror works to anyone until they go on sale, as the idea could be relatively easy to pirate.

Re. the software in the magic mirror, we can suppose that Joey has some nurb-hacking abilities. It’s fairly non-technical, in that you don’t use a formal computer language. You just need to learn to nurbs in a certain way—perhaps it’s like how the Unipuskers speak in my novel Frek and the Elixir, that is, every sentence is an imperative.


The same two people in a painting called “Louisville Artist,” oil on canvas, October, 2012, 24” x 20”. Click for a larger version of the image.

One Response to “Magic Mirror Paintings”

  1. Dave Says:

    Art that gets all tangled up with your neurons! (perhaps) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron


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