The It Stares Back 

Before we were able to talk, my Brother and I were left to crawl and eventually waddle around with our chins touching our chests glaring intensely at everything. Unable to let our parents know, we were unable to see. However, prior to the age of eighteen months it is theorised that as infants we are autonomous within our own environment. Meaning we have no concept of self- awareness. Instead, we simply exist. It is only once an infant recognises its own reflection either literally or figuratively, that the child begins to develop a sense of the self. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan emphasised the significance of this early stage of development, which he posited and termed ‘The Mirror Stage’. It is through our own gaze that we become aware that we can see and thus be seen, this consequently leads to a loss of our autonomy. Lacan theorised that at this moment of realisation a fracture occurs and that this fracture ultimately leads to the formation of the conscious and unconscious mind. Following from this split, it’s speculated that each of us begins a process of forming an idealised construct of our own identity. We then use this identity as a mask to protect ourselves and others from our unconscious and its desires. During this pivotal six months my Brother and I would have blindly scrambled for a sense of self, only to then have to relearn it once granted our sight. However, within Lacan’s radical theory, he goes as far to say that largely we are all detached and entirely oblivious to our real self. Instead, our sense of ourselves is a desperate fiction that we hold onto, that may in fact simply be a ‘symptom’ of being human.

I would like to say a huge thank you to the London College of Optometrists for granting me access to their archives and for allowing me such creative freedom throughout the process of making the work. I’d like to say a specific thank you to the Museum Curator Neil Handley for being so enthusiastic and acommdating throughout my numerous visits. It’s immensely appreciated and the work wouldn’t have been possible without your support.

Using Format