Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

Public art Installation and Publication

(Govanhill International Festival & Carnival 2023)

Developed by Paria Goodarzi

Govanhill Baths Culture Collective project

Govanhill, is a unique area in Glasgow, continues to attract people from diverse backgrounds due to its political, economic, and cultural appeal. This has resulted in a community with a rich tapestry of subjectivities and stories, both in its history and present.

The installation in Govanhill consist of three mirrored chairs of varying sizes, each incorporating different materials such as acrylic, wood, and tiles. The use of mirrors serves as a reflection on Govanhill’s role as both a sanctuary and a reflection of society.  Tiled lines and engraved words WONDER, HOME, WISH, offers a visual and conceptual exploration of the area, and a gateway to contemplation on space and time.

The mirrors in this particular displacement join together in our visual perception to form a canvas, upon which an abstracted form of nature and urban spaces seems to be painted. In actuality, the mirrors’ reflections of the sky provide a contrastingly light background against which the darker shadows can be distinguished. Reflected and unelected shapes morph together to create a striking visual array. What we see in a mirror is a reflection or representation of something else or ourselves that has been displaced. The placement of the mirror brings attention to details of the site that would ordinarily go unnoticed, demonstrating that the existence of a place depends on its representation.

The mirrors, appearing as mirages where the urban fabric meets nature, take the form of different words that conjure the idea of an unrealisable dream or illusion fabricated by the mind. In relation to the border, these concepts reflect on the phenomenon of migration and the citizenship process, which is inescapably associated with attractive promises that unfortunately do not materialise for all who embark on this path.

The repetition of blue-tiled lines on the chairs explores the geographical borderline through the history of the Govanhill area. I walked around the area and followed the line that creates the boundaries between ‘citizens’ identities to determine its essence, to find the beginning and end, and also to discover what lies beyond its borders.

The engraved words on the mirrors can summon emotions of adulthood and happy and carefree childhood, arising from conversations with a women’s group at Milk café and young people during a social engagement workshop.

The installation is inspired by recent socio-political conflicts and invites us to rethink our relationship to a landscape that does not have the same meaning for all the inhabitants of this community.  The mirror seats create a dialectic between the outdoors and indoors, representing the literal and allegorical, confounding the illusion of materiality and order, and the time we live through, experience, and feel.

The three different-sized mirrored chairs represent the generations of people from diverse backgrounds in the Govanhill area, representing the cultural diversity of the past, present and the future. The past that intertwined with the present, and constantly being remade by the present.

Going beyond a static structure, this installation serves as an interactive platform for open dialogue, education, and critical reflection on historical events and societal issues. Throughout my engagement with various groups, I have integrated elements such as historical context and educational materials to enhance the impact of the installation, encouraging visitors to engage in constructive conversations about equality and social justice.

Throughout multiple conversations with community members, creativity, and the need for access to cultural opportunities emerged as recurring themes. However, the lack of resources, cultural barriers, and representation have been identified as obstacles in accessing creativity and culture. Recognizing that culture and creativity are potent tools for communities to shape a positive narrative about their identity, the project also delved into the present migratory reality and cultural displacement experienced by many. Through this exploration, I aimed to understand does socially- engaged art and transformational education develop a new understanding and response to issues facing migration? and how participants benefited from their participation in a community arts project?

Through the installation, I aimed to foster a deeper understanding of the significance of culture and creativity in shaping a collective sense of identity and promoting positive change in our communities.



Creative Scotland
  Culture Collective