A commission by muf architecture/art for the Science Museum's new interactive gallery Wonderlab.
In 2015 I was walking through an exhibition called Revelations: Experiments in Photography in the Science Museum and came across an image that was so bizarre and iconic that it glued itself to the back of my head. The photograph was by a female photographer called Berenice Abbott and was taken at MIT in 1958 - she simply called it Parabolic Mirror. In the black and white photo, hundreds of Hitchcockian eyes stare out at you from triangular fragments of a circular, concave mirror.
Having been asked by muf architecture/art to conceive a striking artwork for the entrance to the new gallery, I immediately recalled the image and wondered if it could be recreated; and built as large and precisely as possible. A public artwork that only comes alive when a visitor interacts with it.
Initially developed in collaboration with, and subsequently commissioned by, Liza Fior of muf - the mirror began to take shape. The main challenge centred on developing a structural system that could support the reflective mirror fragments whilst allowing for adjustment: the mirror would have to be 'calibrated' once installed. Also of great importance was finding a material that could not only act as an excellent mirror but also as a structural element, not to mention being robust and resistant to the wear and tear an interactive exhibit receives over a lifetime.
Stainless steel is used throughout: the mirror panels are polished to a mirror-like shine on the front and brushed on the reverse. They are in turn protected by a polymer film coating, much like a smartphone screen guard, which resists scratches and scuffs.
The mirror was assembled piece by painstaking piece - first the structure then finally the mirror pieces. The entire artwork (including leg and plinth) weighs 450kg.
stainless steel
photography by Paul Plews
Berenice Abbott - Parabolic Mirror | taken at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology​​​​​​​) in 1958