Thursday, February 25, 2010

the self clearly

"Nico looks at himself"

Hold up a mirror to the face of a bird and the bird will peck back at the mirror. As far as the bird is concerned, the mirror is just another bird pecking back at it. Birds, like most animals, cannot recognize their reflections as their own. In a way, these animals cannot see themselves, at least not in a mirror. To dragonflies, seahorses, llamas and lizards a mirror looks just like a window.

Dolphins, magpies, an elephant named Happy, orangutans, humans and other species of ape see the face in the mirror as a reflection of their own. Provided with a mirror, these animals will instinctively perfect a technique for examining those regions of their bodies that the limits of facial rotation have hidden from the sweep of their vision. For example, the eyes can glimpse the nose or a cheek without a mirror, but both the front and the back of the head are beyond the reach of the eyes. The face, for good reason, stays out of its own way. Then along came mirrors.