Olafur Eliasson's time-stretching mirror
October 6, 2019 8:59 AM   Subscribe

I just watched the Olafur Eliasson episode of Abstract on Netflix. At 21:00 he's standing in front of a mirror that appears to delay time, and it makes NO SENSE.

He moves his hands around and in the reflection in the mirror, they move up to a second later (and at one point the reflection happens before what he does, which makes this extra fishy).

When you see the mirror it appears round, but he goes on to explain that it's shaped like an ellipse and when viewed at an angle it appears round, but his certainly would've have anything to do with the time delay. He talks about how he likes to "slow things down with the mirror", but does not explain what is going on, other than the fact that the mirror is elliptical, not round.

• At first I assumed it was a TV screen/monitor/project, but it appears to just be a mirror.

• I thought that it could be someone dressed like him off-camera doing the same hand motions, but when the camera moves (it's all one shot with no cuts), you can see that it's just him in the mirror.

I've googled various things and came up with no explanation. I assume that this is post-production trickery, but it seems like a lot for work what would more or less be a joke.
posted by jonathanhughes to Science & Nature (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
My assumption is that it’s an elliptical green screen with a hole for a camera in it. Easy to remove in post and then substitute in the camera footage at a variable slightly sped up/slowed down rate.
posted by supercres at 9:13 AM on October 6, 2019

Wait no, it’s simpler than that. It’s his other hand.
posted by supercres at 9:15 AM on October 6, 2019 [4 favorites]

Thought process: At first I assumed it was a curved mirror and that was why it didn’t look like a mirror image of the hand, then thought the camera trick idea was why it didn’t look like a mirror image, then realized that it was his other hand. And then I watched it again and saw his body moving when the mirror-hand was moving and that the thumbs were at slightly different angles.
posted by supercres at 9:19 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hey! I nearly posted this yesterday before the solution struck me. Yes, it's the other hand, which you can see when he's explaining it, he moves the left hand and you see that movement.

I'm not sure if the explanation he gives is deliberately wrong to make you think, or if it's just ambiguous wording. From a review which gives a similar explanation:

Eliasson uses elliptical mirrors positioned at certain angles to give the illusion of a perfect circle, utilizing the natural distortion to slow time, as his movements are not reflected until seconds later

Not sure if they're just going along with the con there....but that's illusions for you!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ha! That's hilarious, and it's so obvious now. Why did I not catch the fact that his hand is coming out from the wrong side? I guess that's why it's a good joke.
posted by jonathanhughes at 10:10 AM on October 6, 2019

I don't think the explanation was deliberately wrong, Jon. Rather, he's explaining how the deceptive angle of the mirror makes it seem like it must be reflecting his right arm (even though on closer look it can't be doing so), when in reality, as you and others explained here, it's reflecting his left arm. It's the angle of the mirror that allows it to reflect the hidden arm, so disguising that the mirror is angled is a key part of the illusion.
posted by C. Y. Hollander at 9:45 PM on October 31, 2019

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