David Reed
Vampire Journal Excerpt

David Reed Installation,1996. Mirror Room, Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum, Joanneum, Graz, Austria. Painting #350, Oil and alkyd on linen.
Photo credit: Johann Koinegg

In this matter dates are everything, and I think that if we get all our material ready, and have every item put in chronological order, we shall have done much.

Mina Harker's Journal, Dracula, Bram Stoker, 1897

November 6, 1995 — Over and over, in a dream, I found myself outlining complex gestures. I cut them out until they became distinct, isolated forms. I was obsessed with watching myself repeat this process which I couldn't stop. Opening my eyes, I realized that the brushmarks in the small painting by my bed were the same as the gestures within my dream. Unnerved and unable to sleep, I've started this journal.

The repeated motifs in vampire movies isolate themselves from the rest of the narrative, giving the objects used (wooden stakes, garlic, mirrors, hypnotic stares, bloody teeth, self-opening doors, crosses, high collars and capes) a particular kind of significance. Looking up Tod Browning's Dracula in Gilles Deleuze's books on the cinema, I've just read about "crystalline narration" and remembered the points of spectral light which flash from the chandeliers of the Mirror Room in Graz. Full color is everywhere, but unseen. While walking under the chandeliers in Graz, why did I think of the vampire's inability to cast a reflection in a mirror?

November 7 — Without a "likeness" reflected in a painting, does the onlooker become, in some way, a vampire?

November 14 — I have mixed colors for the horizontal bands that will be under the brushmarks of the paintings for the Mirror Room. The color sequence from top to bottom is: rose/paler red/white/pale green/blue. These colors will be barely visible when the brushmarks are cut out and surrounded by white. They will cause a subliminal suffusion, like the sparkling, prismatic flash of the chandeliers.

November 21 — The Hunger by Tony Scott, 1983.

November 22 — Bram Stoker's Dracula by Dan Curtis, 1973.

November 24 — Near Dark by Kathryn Bigelow, 1987.

November 25 — Queen of Blood by Curtis Harrington, 1966.

November 26 — Planet of the Vampires by Mario Bava, 1965.

November 27 — The Horror of Dracula by Terence Fisher, 1958. Great color; No mirrors.

November 28 — Kiss of the Vampire by Don Sharp, 1962. Again, no mirrors, but a wonderful color effect: at the end of each scene, just before the cut to the next, the values of the bright, lurid colors compress and shift darker.

November 29 — Mondrian's "New York Paintings"(no background)/ non-site (Robert Smithson)/Vampires.

November 30 — In a Gulf War documentary, technicians call unidentified incoming images on their radar screens "vampires."

December 1 — In the seven movies I've seen, I've yet to see a vampire not be reflected in a mirror. Why did I remember this motif as being so significant? Is it in the classic films?

December 3 — Robert Smithson made a mirror device that reflected a human like a vampire, The Enantiomorphic Chambers, 1966: "The chambers cancel out one's reflected image, when one is directly between the two mirrors."

December 6 — Bela Lugosi and Dracula: a Cinematic Scrapbook. Two documentaries.

December 7 — Nosferatu, A Symphony of Horror by F.W. Murnau, 1922. In the first scene Hutter, the hero, knots his necktie and primps in front of a mirror. Later, in the Count's castle, he checks his neck in a mirror held in his hand. This image somehow confuses what is internal and what is external. His reflections seem to float, autonomous from their cause.

December 8 — Vampyr by Carl Dreyer, 1931. This is still my all-time favorite film. Perhaps the motif of the shadow moving separately from the figure replaces the mirror motif.

December 11 — Dracula by Tod Browning, 1931. Mina and Lucy discuss Lucy's infatuation with Dracula in front of a mirror. Then, the scene that I'm looking for: a mirror in the top of a cigarette case shows that the Count (Bela Lugosi) has no reflection and proves that he's a vampire. When he is tricked into looking into the mirror, Dracula starts, and knocks the cigarette case to the floor. What causes his reaction? The common assumption is that he does not see his own image in the mirror; is upset to be discovered and reminded that he has no soul. But my intuition is that there is another reason. Mortals can't see his reflection in the mirror, but what does Dracula see? Do vampires see something that we can't see? Do vampires see in a different way than humans?

December 12 — Why does one need a soul to be reflected in a mirror? Mirrors reflect only surfaces, animate and inanimate.

December 13 — Do I remember the vampire's trait of non- reflection from seeing just this one movie as a child? And if so, why would it resonate for so long in my consciousness? Did I use it as a test on strangers, to see if they were vampires? Did I use it as a test on myself?

December 18 — Mark of the Vampire by Tod Browning, 1935.

December 19 — Dracula's Daughter by Lambert Hillyer, 1936. "This is the first woman's flat that I've been in that didn't have at least 20 mirrors," says the unsuspecting hero in the vampire's flat. Very interesting scenes of the hero before a mirror and of his secretary knotting his necktie as if she were replacing the mirror. Does one look in a mirror to determine or confirm one's gender?

December 20 — Son of Dracula by Robert Siodmak, 1943.

December 21 — The Vampire Bat by Frank Strayer, 1933. Contains a hypnosis machine similar to the one in Dracula's Daughter.

December 22 — The Return of the Vampire by Lew Landers, 1943. A good scene with a hand mirror. This time, unlike the mirror reflections in Browning's film, the clothes of the vampire are reflected: Only the vampire's head is missing. Dr. Tesla is suspected of being a vampire when the mirror in his hotel room is found turned to the wall. Exactly the same cigarette case and model of a ship which stand out incongruously in the mirror non-reflection scene in Dracula also appear in this film. These objects are in a scene in which the vampire is defeated by another coded object: the cross. I'm glad that someone decided to have these objects return. Then they proliferate like the vampire, the cross and the other devices.

December 24 — I have now seen 17 vampire films, including most of the classics, and have found only two scenes in which the vampire is not reflected in a mirror. Why did I remember this device as being so significant? This project is crazy. How many of these films will I have to see?

January 2, 1996 — As I rented a tape at Kim's, the girl at the counter said that I should go to their store in the East Village: there were a lot of real vampires over there.

Journal entries until July 26, 1996 have been published in a catalogue, "I started, for it amazed me that I had not seen him, since the reflection of the glass covered the whole room behind me.," New Paintings for the Mirror Room and Studio/Archive off the Courtyard, from a show at the Neue Galerie am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz, organized by Gόnther Holler-Schuster and Peter Weibel.

David Reed is a painter who lives in New York. He has now seen over 75 vampire movies.


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