(partial definition of the word reflect from The Oxford College Dictionary, 2nd edition, Spark 2007)
Giuseppe Penone. Rovesciare i propri occhi
(Giuseppe Penone. To Turn Upside Down Your Own Eyes),
Turin 1970 gelatin silver print
12″ x 16″ (cm. 30,5 x 40,5)
(cover of Swiss catalog, unknown date)
(note: the above painting/drawing is made after one of Paolo Mussat Sartor’s photos of Giuseppe Penone taken in 1970)
Back in the 1970’s, the Italian artist Giuseppe Penone created a pair of mirrored contact lenses. He wore them in a documentary performance & was photographed by Paolo Mussat Sartor.
The lenses were not “lenses” in the traditional sense of the word. The lenses blocked Penone’s vision. They reflected inwardly & outwardly. The outside world was reflected in the artist’s eyes. The artist’s vision was then “reflected” back on itself & into itself. Penone’s contact lenses suggest that one must look inward to show the outside world a creative vision.
A mirror reflects & to reflect can also mean to think deeply. Penone thought deeply, while his eyes saw into themselves & others saw themselves in his eyes.
1st link to Allison Hunter’s article on Penone, in Sculpture (magazine), Dec. 2004:
2nd link is to an Art Povera show “Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972” at the Tate Modern in 2001:
Artist’s statement 1977
“Mirrored contact lenses cover my iris
& pupil; wearing them makes me blind.
Mirrored lenses, when placed over my eyes,
indicate the point that separates me from that
which surrounds me. They are like a skin, a
border element, the interruption of a
channel of information that uses light as its
medium. Their mirrored surface is such that
the information that reaches my eye is
reflected. By blocking my vision I eliminate data
necessary for my subsequent behavior.
When my eyes, covered by mirrored
contact lenses, reflect the images they
habitually capture as I observe the world,
my sense of sight is extended in space &…
in the possibility of seeing in the future
the images captured by my eyes in the past.
The image that an artist in the representative
tradition perceives, memorizes & retransmits
at a later time by way of the work is, in this case,
transmitted from the work before the artist has
seen it. The delay with which I appropriate the
image, makes the mirrored contact lenses
divinatory of my future vision.”
‘Artist statement,’ Rovesciare Gli Occhi,
Einaudi, Turin 1977, pp. 70-77.
published in Engish in Germano Celant,
Penone (cat.) Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol:
DCAF/Halifax: Electa, Milan, 1989, p. 58
Excerpted from Art Povera, Carolyn
Christov-Bakargiev (ed.), Phaidon 1999