A Perfected Reflection of Imperfection

Tanizaki Jun’ichiro, in his book, In Praise of Shadows, mentions a preference, an obsession, for fair skin in Japan, using terms like “limpid glow”, “pure” and “unadulterated” to describe whiteness, and  ‘cloudy’ and ‘grimy’ to describe his own Japanese skin (32). While Asians bleach their brown skins white, Westerners tan their white skins brown, proving that the search for beauty, somehow always the opposite of what we already have, is fruitless as it keeps on changing over time and across regions.

A Perfected Reflection of Imperfection explores the idea of beauty as a mask, unnatural and hideous, the opposite of what it should be. It tries to define the line that divides mask and face, outside and inside, our reflections as we see them and as we wish to see them. Similar to In Praise of Shadows, the sculpture provides “[a] kind of ‘vision’ that can only provide a modulated visibility” (32). It becomes a part of its viewers, masking, discolouring, and blinding them, so that the reflection the viewers see no longer remain their own, but that of an Other, of a ghoul face, sickly, stained and sightless, with the impossible aim of reaching perfect beauty.

Unfortunately, I have no image of the sculpture. It was a box made out of mirrors, a wearable mask, and lights.


Jun’ichiro, Tanizaki. In Praise of Shadows. New York: Phaidon Press Limited, 1964. Print.


Published on: Dec 5, 2010

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