The Mirror of Ink (Sinister)

Black and white photograph
Frame size 50 x 40cm; print size 17 x 13.5cm

This photograph  takes its inspiration — and title — from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story ‘The Mirror of Ink’ (1933). In this story, Borges relates a tale from Richard Francis Burton’s The Lake Regions of Equatorial Guinea that the explorer was, in turn, told by the sorcerer Abderramen al-Masmudi. In it, the sorcerer is held captive by the cruel Sudanese governor Yaqub the Afflicted and, in pleading for his life, promises to show the governor ‘forms and appearances more marvellous than those of the fausi jihal, the magic lantern’; through a series of magical rituals, these are shown within a mirror of ink poured onto the governor’s right palm. These rituals continue day after day, thereby keeping the sorcerer alive, and are only brought to an end when, in a gruesome vision desired by the governor, he unexpectedly witnesses his own execution and dies instantly.

Installation view: Inverleith House, Edinburgh (2007)