If shadows are the two-dimensional projections of three-dimensional objects, then does it mean that three-dimensional objects are shadows cast by things in the forth-dimension?
My shoes made a tapping noise in the rain as I walked towards the house. Stepping inside the white noise of the downpour was unnaturally and quickly severed, along with the sound of my steps. At first, the house looked exactly the same as on my first visits, as a child, a long time ago. It was, however, dimmer than I remembered and it took my eyes some time to adjust to the darkness and find the light switch. Once they came slowly on they didn’t seem to make much difference, as all the lights had been diffused by various pieces of cloth shrouding them. Though it did allow me to begin seeing certain curious changes. At one time it had been immaculate, with every surface polished to a fine sheen, but now it looked tired and forgotten, a cover, as I later learnt, for a calculated and careful state of disrepair.
The traffic was loud outside, but this was all evaporated by the cork-lined walls which I noticed, as I started to take in the house, were painted a dark colour that seemed to suppress any shadows that were cast over their surface — instead they blended into the wall. You usually know a house, a home, by the sound it makes as people walk around it; creeks and drafts transform into the character traits of a person — but I couldn’t know this one. The hushing was, as it tempted me deeper, ineluctable and so I continued through the house.
Everything pulsated in delay at low frequency wavelengths, and any potentially resonating or echoing volume or vessel had been stuffed full; the cupboard under the stairs was full of cushions, empty vases overflowed with paper and bubble wrap spilled from glasses and mugs. Some of the glasses had lids on as if to obscure, when drinking, whatever reflective liquid was inside them. I filled one up with water from the rusting tap, in which I had once gurned at my warped face in its shining brass surface.
Next I turned the tarnished metal door handle to go into the living room. In the windows someone’s circular hand and arm movements could be seen sanded into the glass, to blot out any glare or bodily and spatial doubles appearing in them. Gangs of scuffmarks had been left to densely congeal on the highly varnished floor where I often danced with my reflection as a child. Dust had been left to gather on the glass of framed pictures leaving only the blurred auras of their subjects behind, and layers of dirt had extinguished the crystalline surfaces of the black grand piano.
My grandmother had loved to admire herself in various mirrors placed around the house, now these — and this was the most obvious change — had been draped in thick black fabric. It reminded me of Shiva, a Jewish practice, where during the seven-day ritual of mourning, mirrors are covered to eliminate any chance of distracting a mourner from concentrating on the deceased, and, to stop evil spirits attaching themselves to reflections in mirrors.
Before leaving, I soundlessly made my way upstairs. Amid the various silences pervading the house I could hear the echo of water dripping in the bathroom. The slow drips, the only noise that met my ears, seemed to be set in a velvet background like a jewel in a display case. Standing by the side of the bathtub, after all the dulled surfaces, I was faced with the iridescently reflective plane of the mercury water. Within the wash of images, echoes and shadows I wasn’t sure if the reflection was mine, or the outline of someone else under its surface.
Cogitatio Amphibolia or its more common name Reflection Ambiguity, is a rare condition — though most commonly found in those of Jewish faith — whereby a sufferer is unable to distinguish between a reflection of reality and reality itself. Patients are unable to differentiate between the source of a sound and its echo, between an object and its shadow, between a person and their reflection. They often become lost and drown in the lack of clarity between these conditions.
People who suffer from this condition become weakened until the breakdown of their nervous system. They suffer primarily from a sensory overload, a kind of turbulence created from not being able to separate physical things in the world from their various immaterial and abstracted projections. Before the eventual seizure of normal bodily functions they often choose to live in reflections, shadows and echoes, ignoring the ‘real’ counterparts from which they emanate.
Matthew Turner is a writer living in London. He studied at University College London and is now working as writer and assistant editor for LOBBY magazine while also teaching at Chelsea College of Art.