things are queer — duane michals

The Uno Mag is now collaborating! Today's guest-post chronicling the work of Duane Michals is curated by Manas Godara. He will be going over Duane's series of 9 photographs — Things are Queer.

The first image is quite basic and a familiar one.

The second image is where things get interesting. Because of the introduction of the foot, we get an idea of scale.

 In the third image the camera zooms out and we realise that it is a miniature bathroom.

Upon further zooming out we see that it’s not just an image. It’s an image of an image. By this time Duane Michals has our full attention. We’re not just viewers, we’re participants.

The camera keeps zooming out and we see a silhouette of a man in a tunnel reading the book with the picture of the miniature bathroom.

In the seventh image, we see that it’s not actually a tunnel! It’s just a picture hung on a wall.

Oh, wait!
It’s not a picture. It’s a mirror hanging above the sink...

The sink is in the miniature bathroom… or is it a different sink? Is this a normal size bathroom? Or a bigger one? Or an even smaller one? I guess we’ll never know unless the camera zooms out further. Our perception of what there is and what is normal has been distorted so many times now that we can’t make sense of what we see. 

Through this series, “Things are Queer”,  Duane Michals makes us question our reality. Why do I say our? Because everyone has their version of it. A reality is formed by what we see and how we interpret it using our knowledge. The artist here is controlling what we see. In turn, he’s controlling our perception of what is real and what is not. Whenever he introduces us with something new, our whole idea of the image changes. Whatever we thought of previously is rendered false or rather incomplete. Like when he introduced the giant foot or zooms out the camera, we sort of see “the bigger picture”.

The first and the last image in this series seem to be the same, we’re not sure if they are. You can see the silhouette of the man in the tunnel on the mirror above the sink in the first image also. Michals is taunting us by giving away the whole series in the very first image. He wants us to look closely and from a distance at the same time. He wants us to observe and question things, form our own version of reality.

As Albert Camus once said, “There is no truth, just truths.”