Maria Zahle

Checking his reflection. Leaning in towards the mirror, out, then in again. Walking away, looking back over his shoulder. Testing it. He hops, skips then jumps past, returns with a white hat. Leaning in again, he circles his reflection suspiciously, crossing the surface’s threshold and back again.

Harpo Marx’s bodily imitation of Groucho’s President Firefly in Duck Soup (1933) holds until a third impostor stumbles in on the scene, giving away the game. The infamous ‘mirror scene’ itself has its own doppelgangers pre- and pro-ceeding it – from Chaplin’s The Floorwalker (1916) to Harpo’s own re-enactment of the scene in a 1955 episode of I Love Lucy, to countless cartoons and on to the shattering mirrors of Inception (2010). The figure of the double has, since the Victorian psychoanalysts, been seen as a threat, a wayward other who threatens the self it mimics. But we don’t really need the advice of a literature scholar like Debra Walker King to point out, “the fictional double is always with us.”

Marisa Zahle, Foot on the Ground (Leaning), 2011, image courtesy the artist

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