Humans have always been full of love for their self-image, and this infatuation seems to have only increased since ancient times. The early description of narcissism can be traced back to the story of narcissus in ancient Greek mythology.
According to legend, Narcissus is the child of free soul, the river god, and Liliopel, the water god. Her mother once asked the prophet about the child’s future. The prophet said that if he didn’t see his face, Narcissus would live to be a hundred years old. Therefore, when he grew up, he never knew what he looked like, even though he had grown into the most handsome boy in the polis. His handsome appearance attracted many people who pursued him, but he was unmoved. This move broke the hearts of many girls. Among his pursuers was the fairy Eko, who died of grief because of being rejected, leaving only a desolate echo in the valley.
Many heartbroken girls made up their minds to take revenge on Narcissus, so they found Nemesis, the goddess of vengeance, hoping that the goddess could help them get revenge. The goddess agreed. So one day, Nemesis created a coincidence with divine power: on the way back from hunting, Narcissus accidentally saw his handsome face by the pool. For the first time in my life, I saw my charm. Narcissus was immersed in her beautiful reflection and never wanted to leave.
In this way, he withered by the pool and finally died. After his death, a daffodil grew by the pool, as if it were his incarnation. Love one’s looks, love to death. Narcissus (English narcissism, French narcissism) has become the source of the word “narcissism” in western languages. Looking in the mirror has since been regarded as a typical narcissistic behavior.
From the reflection of daffodils on the water, to the rich looking for painters to paint their portraits in classical times, to the sharing of various selfies on social media today. It can be seen that the process of copying self-image has become more convenient and easy for human beings. Today, we can even use these artificial images to construct another self’s identity. We use artificial images to express ourselves, and correspondingly live in the image world created by others.
We don’t know whether the identities in these images are consistent with the real self, and we are more likely to be attracted by these virtual self-images first-sometimes infatuated with ourselves and sometimes jealous of others. All visual products caused by narcissism can easily manipulate our emotions. I can’t help but ask: Why are people addicted to artificial images? What have we created, distorted and changed in the process of copying our self-image?
At the invitation of Christophe Leribault, the curator of the little palace in Paris, the French artist Jean-Michel Othoniel held a sculpture exhibition closely integrated with the architectural structure of the little palace, called “Le Thé orè me de Narcisse” (Thé orè me means “theorem”, and narcisse is the name of narcissus, which also refers to daffodils or narcissistic men.
Just in front of the elegant and traditional gate of the small palace, people can enjoy the first work: La rivière bleue, a river made of blue glass bricks, running down the steps.
Under the sunshine, the specially made Indian blue glass is transparent and dreamy, and even pedestrians on the street are inevitably attracted by it. Standing in line on the steps is no longer boring. The waiting interval allows the audience plenty of time to appreciate this crystal clear glass river from different angles.
Blue makes people feel comfortable and calm, but the unique glass brick material gives them magical charm. The inner surface of the glass is plated with mercury and becomes a mirror surface, so the glass becomes particularly shiny and even more shiny under the irradiation of sunlight. Because the glass brick river perfectly matches the ups and downs of the steps, it seems to imply that people can enter a paradise-like world as long as they cross the Golden Gate flowing out of the blue river.
The flower show garden in the small palace officially began. The garden itself is a very comfortable and elegant space. When architect Charlie Girault designed the Petit Palais in the 20th century, he built it into an open inner garden with a circle of colonnades. Along a circle of colonnades, people can see the ordered glass sculptures of Jean.
Each sculpture presents a new shape: a closed-loop structure with no starting point, connected by glass beads. This is a beautiful visual skill-it is difficult for the audience to realize that it is made of glass without watching the narration. The color of metal gives people the illusion that sculpture is very strong, while glass is obviously a fragile material. Under the sunlight, these beads are glowing with golden light, turning into the jewels of giants and shining brightly.
The glass sculpture has no wall, so we invite you to watch it up close and even touch it. In the process of close observation, the audience’s sensory experience has gained a wonderful experience: because each glass ball is a spherical mirror, when you approach, the first thing you see is countless self-expanding selves in the work.
Glass beads are closely connected with each other, and images of other spheres are constantly reflected around one sphere, as if there is endless self-reflection changing with the movement of footsteps. Jean-Michel Othunle turned the viewer into a daffodil, forcing us to look directly at our reflection, or even less.
Faced with countless self-portraits, I can’t help asking myself: am I looking at my work or myself? Or is my reflection a part of art? Furthermore, are you immersed in the works at the moment because you like sculpture art or because you are infatuated with yourself? It secretly made me fully appreciate myself and defended the narcissistic process in the name of appreciating art. Is it human nature to fall in love with yourself in the name of falling in love with works?
In these sculptures, the artist used all means to shape the theme of narcissism. There is a mirror on the stone steps where the sculpture is placed, as if the works have soul and life, and they are watched one by one in the mirror lake. My own reflection. This design also gives visitors an opportunity to appreciate themselves, and an opportunity to blend in with works of art. In this way, at the moment of shooting the work, visitors are forced to put themselves in the position of selfie takers. From the moment people stare at this work, everything points to a name: Narcissus.
The most interesting design takes place in the central part of the garden, where there are green plants and ponds. In the pond, a golden “big lotus” stood obediently in the water. There are also golden glass bead sculptures hanging on the tree. They no longer reflect the appearance of tourists, but the colors of trees and flowers around them.
Here, plants become daffodils-they will change their appearance over time, leaving different reflections in glass sculptures. All the charming environment makes the myth in the book a reality. Sculpture and plants, light and reflection penetrate each other, and you will gradually realize that the problem of self may not only belong to human beings, but also to works of art, plants, buildings and even the whole universe. Gorgeous glass balls exert the magic of infinite replication. Looking at yourself in the glass ball, I can’t help but sigh how wonderful and dangerous it is to indulge myself-its beauty lies in its infinity, but this is also the danger.
Follow the signs, and the exhibition will enter the small palace building. On the ceiling of the spiral staircase, the “La Couronne de la nuit” hangs like a big chandelier. This work is made by a difficult glass process. Jean specially found craftsmen on the Venetian island of Murano, specializing in research and hand-customization. At first, this work was placed in the forest, like a mythical scene, looming among the leaves. Now, this work in a small palace still gives people a beautiful feeling.
Follow the spiral staircase all the way down to the underground exhibition hall of the small palace. The process of entering the underground is like entering an underground cave, and the concept of architectural space and exhibition design is perfectly integrated. When I finished the last one, I entered the temple, and what I saw was Narcissus Cave.
Pieces of metallic glass bricks are unevenly stacked together, forming a narcissus cave. Artists also use glass bricks to build seats in the cave for visitors to walk in, sit down and experience their works in a three-dimensional way.
After entering the cave, there is indeed a completely different feeling from before in the open-air garden. After all, unlike open-air gardens, caves are places with relatively few light sources. When I looked up at the ceiling again, it was hard to see myself clearly in front of the glass material.
Soon, you will realize that you have just met the important conditions for recreating your own image. Without light and the gift of nature, we will never see our own shape. In fact, the process of narcissism always depends on external forces. However, this is exactly what people who are addicted to their beautiful image will not realize.
In the underground exhibition hall of the small palace, I once again saw the blue river at the entrance of the building-glass bricks laid flat on the ground, forming a lake-like tranquility. There are many closed links made of colored glass beads, suspended in the air, and the projection of lights creates a dreamy world of light and shadow.
On the walls on both sides of the exhibition hall, there are many wall-hung sculptures. These cubes made of rainbow-colored glass blocks, as described by their name Precious Stonewall, are like a magic box decorated with precious treasures.
Looking closely at these magic boxes, they are not like the closed loop of glass beads seen outdoors-people can vaguely see their reflection on the glass, but with the addition of color filters, their shapes become distorted.
The artist Theon said that in “Wall of Precious Stones”, he wanted to remind people of les grottes maniéristes in 16th century Italy. Gardens in that period often combined plants with man-made handicrafts to express nature by craftsmanship. He hopes that the glass sculptures in this treasure wall and in the exhibition hall can fully mobilize the senses of the viewers and produce a perceptual aesthetic feeling.
I have to say that if you stare at these dazzling glass sculptures for too long, your vision will inevitably be a little tired, and too much reflection will start to make the recipients feel slightly anxious-just like dizziness and tension after being exposed to the flash for a long time. As a result, these beautiful works of art have also become a collection of contradictions: while attracting attention, they also resist to some extent.
Looking at them, you will think of things that we love and fear, such as fame and fortune, success and desire … If the exhibitions in the garden make people fully experience the beauty of narcissism through the open space, then the relatively dim lights and closed space of the underground exhibition hall make people understand how we use countless reflections to construct self-indulgence and at the same time wrap ourselves in this dazzling and endless world. The world.
In this exhibition, special glass constantly appears, replicates, colors and distorts “me” and the surrounding environment. Products. Suddenly, some complicated emotions came to my mind: think about the constantly updated selfie pictures and social media with various functions. The story of Narcissus is not a myth that has been made up for a long time, but more like a portrayal of the present reality, or perhaps an ancient prophecy about human nature.
At the end of the exhibition, at the exit, there is another glass sculpture. It is placed in a closed space. The gorgeous railings in the outer ring push visitors to a longer viewing distance. I walked around it for a week, but I didn’t see the explanation of the glass sculpture placed here. Perhaps, this is the open ending left by the artist for the exhibition. It seems to me that Theon is implying that keeping his distance is his final attitude towards narcissistic media. Are those gorgeous glasses