Hardly a Word to Say: Mise en Abym

mise en abym n. An artistic technique in which an image contains a smaller image of itself. Also, the visual effect of standing between two mirrors so that the image recurs infinitely. Literally, “placed in the abyss.”

Bambi trots through the abyss to make sure the Duck boys have their lunch.

My first experience of mise en abym was carrying this lunchbox to school in 1978.

My first experience of the term was yesterday reading Marc Tracy’s article, “The Most Radical Art in America Has Been Cut,” which laments the loss of the Miami Dolphins’ helmet dolphin’s Miami Dolphin helmet.

(That’s the sort of sentence thinking too much about mise en abym makes you want to write!)

Really, Dolphin? Swapping a brain-wrinklingly artful helmet for naturalism and traumatic blowhole injuries?

4 thoughts on “Hardly a Word to Say: Mise en Abym

    • It probably sounds hyperbolic, but that lunchbox was the first thing that made me think about infinity: How many smaller lunchboxes are there?! And made me think about alternate perspectives/realities/universes: Each side of the box showed a different scene, each scene with several of the same characters as the others. They couldn’t be doing all those things at once…but it was definitely just one bus since the underside showed one chassis and four tire treads.

      Yeah, I was never bored on ride to school.

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