According to Vilém Flusser, the medium of video is a “tool” with which something is “shaped.” “But it does not cease to be an object, that is to say, a problem. ‘Problem’ is the Greek word for the Latin obiectum.” (“Der umgekehrte Spiegel,” in: Die Revolution der Bilder, 1995, p. 129; translated from the German).
The video camera recorder, or camcorder, can record and replay images (and sounds) almost simultaneously. Hence it enables instant feedback. Rosalind Krauss says that this situates the body between the camera and the monitor; the body is centred as it were “between two machines that are the opening and closing of a parenthesis” (Krauss, “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism,” in: October, Spring 1976, p. 52). The monitor reproduces the moving images of the performer in front of the camera with the immediacy of a mirror.
The reflected light of a conventional mirror image produces an external symmetry, whereas the reflexivity of a video mirroring is characterized by radical asymmetry and radiates from out of the monitor. Whereas an optomechanical mirror reflects light rays, the electronic video mirror in a closed circuit radiates the light out of itself – rather like the human mind reflects on the world. But we cannot look our image in the eyes that is mirrored by video. For the monitor does not throw the reflected light rays back onto our eyes, but instead provides the image from a camera pointed at our face which is positioned outside the image. (When I look into the camera, I do not see my face. If I look at the monitor, I see my eyes turned away from me.) Consequently, I can see myself at the same time as an object, as an “object” whose “subject” (theme) I can become myself. In the words of Arthur Rimbaud: “Je est un autre” [I is another] (Rimbaud, “Lettre à Paul Demeny,” in: Œuvres complètes, 1972, p. 250). Thus with the help of the video circuit, I can discover “me as my other.”
The difference between a mirror’s reflected light and the reflection on the video image is revolutionary: The electronic monitor offers “[…] a completely different image than the classical mirror does, a revolutionarily new image. Because through its […] axis of reflection and its light, it reverses all our traditional conceptions of a reflected, speculative reality,” wrote Flusser in “Der umgekehrte Spiegel” [The Reverse Mirror] (in: Die Revolution der Bilder, p. 131; translated from the German).
Original article by Gusztáv Hámos