‘Mirror III: Horizon’ is part of a broader’ project series’ created by London-based artist David Cotterrell in collaboration with Ruwanthie de Chikera. ‘Mirror III: Horizon’ is part of the six-week online programme curated by Tess Charnley of Danielle Arnaud Gallery, titled ‘Mis(sing) Communication. ‘Mirror III: Horizon’ is profoundly complex, evident in both the making of the project and also throughout the thematic intersections the work addresses. These intersections relate to anxiety and empathy, feelings brought forth by the inherent fear of isolation, risk and the unknown. All this is set against the context of the ongoing global refugee crisis.
‘Mirror III: Horizon’ is a ten-minute, six-second HD video produced simultaneously on land and sea, filmed in Malta. One crew filmed from the Valletta harbour, placing themselves as outsiders within a landscape foreign to their own. The second crew filmed facing the island at sunset. They deliberately set themselves a kilometre away from the island allowing the tide to pull the boat away. In doing so, the film does not display the meticulous detail of the backdrop and this creates a heightened sense of ambiguity. During a chat with Cotterrell about his work and process, he explains that the concept was to challenge the audience to confront their failure of empathy.
The project is a mirror of two frames created by opposing cameras facing each other. One is the gentle movement of the ocean and a still horizon - the other horizon tethers, broken by an active ocean and the architecture of Malta. The frame and silhouette of the work is both intentional and prominent. The openness of the sea is sublime and humbling. Boundless landscapes maintain a powerful agency that forces recognition of the macrocosmic aesthetic frame of the universe. Silhouettes within the frame control perception. ‘Mirror III: Horizon’ juxtaposes two screens: the infinity of the ocean compared to the dramatic profile of an unknown land on the horizon. The incertitude of the silhouette raises questions: is it safer on the ground? Or at sea?
On observing the opposing screens, with keen attention to detail, the viewer becomes aware of a central flashing light, the result of custom fabricated morse code generators. The flashes pulsate, switching between screens and underscore the importance of language, communication, and Cotterrell’s artistic ingenuity. The language detected translates to - “lost” “help” “Are you a child? Or are you with a child?” The translation is simple but the underlying message is impactful. It never becomes clear whether the person(s) in distress is a mother or child. It is also never clear who the respondent is. Eventually, the respondent does agree to help, as the person who reached out disappears. The script encapsulates various empathic triggers - “pregnancy” “mother” “child” - all who would solicit mindful concern. Cotterrell’s project provokes the audience to inherently question risk, and vulnerable and empathetic factors of communication. Would you help a stranger who calls out that you cannot see? When the visual is erased from connection, prejudices become less prominent. The project probes the question, would we cross the threshold of comfort and extend an empathetic gesture to the unknown?