Mirage No. 1

Robert Smithson
Nine units of mirrored glass
36 3/8 × 253 1/4 × 1 in. (92.39 × 643.26 × 2.54 cm)
Collection of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

Robert Smithson’s Mirage No. 1 is an arrangement of nine framed mirrors that increase in size from one square foot to one square yard. Hung low on the wall at regular intervals, the mirrors create an experience of displacement: as they reflect the movements of people in the gallery, the shifts in the mirrors’ sizes cause jumps in scale, and the gaps between them interrupt visual continuity. Smithson’s efforts to decenter and disorder the viewer’s vision stemmed from his interest in entropy, a scientific law of thermodynamics stating that, though energy cannot be destroyed, it does become scattered, useless, and ultimately chaotic. Entropy relates to Mirage No. 1 by way of the fragmentation of the viewer’s experience and the perceptual confusion and cognitive hiccups it produces.

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