It's a strange place, and the combination of the macabre, the absurd, the racist, the bizarre, the sad brought out all sorts of emotions as I made my way through the exhibits. The entrance took me into a winding hallway that opened into exhibit rooms. It was a one-way street, and once through the exit, you can't go back.
Early on in the exhibits, there was a large mirror with an exhibit of the winners of an annual "funny face" contest on display. An instructional video plays nearby explaining what percentage of the population can curl their tongue, twist their tongue, fold their tongue. Like everyone else, I was drawn to the mirror to try my own tongue and see what it can do. I imagined we made a funny sight, tourists crowding around the mirror, contorting our faces.
So a few rooms later, I laughed at myself when I saw another display with a video playing from the last few hours...displaying each of us tourists as we stood in front of the mirror, grimacing and contorting and playing. It was easy to scroll back and find myself, completely unaware that I was being videotaped.
And then, a few rooms later, we came to the other side of the mirror, and we could see that it was really a window. Now we were crowded around the mirror/window watching the unsuspecting tourists on the other side playing with their faces. No sound could go through, no way to warn them they were being watched, there was just the voyeuristic pleasure of watching other people's antics. I could only look for a minute--it felt like a crossing a boundaries, the breaking of a social pact.
I suppose the entire experience at the museum felt like the crossing of boundaries, so the mirror/window was well placed.
Sometimes lately I have felt like I was on the other side of a mirror/window, watching people contort and frolic, no way to let them know that the mirror is transparent, that they're being recorded, that there are other people watching from this side. Sometimes I don't know how to tell what I know ten steps ahead down the road. I guess eventually folks will pass this side of the mirror/window too, and then they can see more truly. Or maybe they'll just stay by the mirror trying to twist their tongues.
But I'm on a day off in a fancy hotel room that was a gift. And there is a beautiful bath tub calling my name. Just hoping the mirrors here aren't really windows too...