The mirrors in this particular displacement join together in our visual perception to form a canvas, upon which an abstracted tangle of brambles seems to be painted. In actuality the mirrors’ reflections of sky provide a contrastingly light background, against which the darker brambles can be distinguished. Reflected and unreflected shapes morph together to create a striking visual array. The displacement calls our attention to details of the site that would ordinarily go unnoticed, which harkens to Smithson’s sentiment that the existence of place hinges on its representation.
Mirror Displacement: Indoors (Tree from Langenfeld, Germany)
Robert Smithson created Mirror Displacement: Indoors (Tree from Langenfeld, Germany) in 1969 at Kunsthalle Düsseldorf for Prospect 69, an exhibition that was co-curated by Hans Strelow and Konrad Fischer. The tree used to create the installation was most likely a pear tree, and it was sourced from Langenfeld, Germany by Smithson and the artist Klaus Rinke. Smithson directed the installation of the tree and the work was destroyed after the exhibition according to his instructions.
Subsequent presentations that have taken place posthumously are constructed on site using locally sourced materials each presentation of the work. A recently felled tree is positioned horizontally inside a gallery space and mirrors are then placed throughout the roots, trunk, and branches of the tree, creating a visually complex doubling effect as viewers move around the sculpture. Until 2021 this work was commonly referred to as Dead Tree—however, in 2021 the Foundation discovered a photograph of the 1969 presentation of the work which has inscribed on the back, in Smithson’s handwriting, the title Mirror Displacement: Indoors (Tree from Langenfeld, Germany) .