Reviving “All is Vanity” Optical Illusion

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“All is Vanity (Mirrorless Version)” is a remake of Charles Allen Gilbert‘s classic op-art drawing. It is now art installation with a high-definition video and custom built set by Adad Hannah, who has created an illusion within an illusion, i.e. “The artist asks a pair of identical twins to perform a tableau vivant in order to render a mirror where there is none.” [1]

Notes about “All is Vanity (Mirrorless Version)” (from Hannah’s website):

In All Is Vanity (Mirrorless Version) Adad Hannah stages a historical drawing as a video. The artist asks a pair of identical twins to perform a tableau vivant in order to render a mirror where there is none, creating an illusion within an illusion. The source of inspiration for Hannah’s installation is an image made in 1892 by an eighteen-year-old illustrator named Charles Allan Gilbert (1873-1929). Gilbert’s drawing, entitled All Is Vanity, remains one of the world’s most famous optical illusions. It depicts a young woman surrounded by perfume and makeup, gazing at her reflection in the oval mirror of a wooden vanity. However, the drawing can also be read as a large human skull, the objects carefully arranged so that the vanity’s mirror forms the dome of the skull, the woman’s head and reflection its eye sockets, her toiletry bottles doubling as the skull’s jagged teeth, and the table cloth delineating the jaw line. […]

Below: Production Stills.
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Top Left: “All Is Vanity” (1892), original drawing by Charles Allen Gilbert. Right: “All is Vanity” by Adad Hannah.
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Installation view at BMO project Room, 2009.

[vimeo height=”529″]http://vimeo.com/8676128

[vimeo height=”1251″]http://vimeo.com/20338772

1."All is Vanity (Mirrorless Version)," adadhannah.com, retrieved on April 4th, 2011.

Film stills and videos © Adad Hannah

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Adriana de Barros

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Adriana is the Webby-winning designer and editor-in-chief of Scene360 magazine. She's created successful projects over the course of 20 years in the fields of art, design, fashion and web. Currently dividing her time between Lisbon and San Francisco. Follow the author @ Instagram , Twitter, Facebook and view more articles.