Anyone who has spent time around small children has likely observed the moment when a child goes toddling up to a reflective surface and presses himself against it, standing hand to hand, nose to nose, with self. Adults tend to undercut the profundity of these moments by cooing things along the lines of “Who’s that? Who IS that? Who is that handsome boy in the mirror?” What the child is in the process of discovering, if Mommy could please just be quiet for a second, is that that handsome boy is him, and that he is in fact a thing that exists beyond the confines of his own mind. He is not only subject, he is object.
Jacques Lacan called this phase of development the “mirror stage.” It’s a crucial step on the road to self-awareness, to understanding not only that I am me—a unique individual consciousness—but also that I, as an object in the world, have the power to affect other objects around me.
With the exhibition Ghost Machine, currently on display at the Chicago Artists Coalition, BOLT resident artist Christopher Ottinger explores the idea of machines on the threshold of consciousness—machines captured in the mirror stage.