Duncan Marquiss: 'Mirror Test'

Image from film by Duncan Marquiss, 'Mirror Test', 2020

The ‘mirror test’ is a behavioural science experiment in which an animal is presented with a mirror to see if they recognise their own reflection, or mistake the image for another animal. Corvid birds such as magpies and jackdaws  have reportedly passed this test, yet it remains uncertain if the experiment proves that an animal is self-aware.

In Mirror Test, a jackdaw explores a domestic interior, flitting between shelves and disrupting kitchen counters. Images of Jacky exploring her environment are accompanied by an interview with Kerstin and Stephan Voigt, former residents of East Germany who live with the bird. Their conversation ranges from speculations on animal intelligence to ambivalent recollections of the reunification of Germany in 1990, recalling double lives within the GDR and the self-contradictions of the capitalist democracy that consumed the East.

In the cinema the projection screen often presents reflections on human behaviour.  The jackdaw in Mirror Test is elusive and inscrutable, yet observing her still makes us wonder about the inner life of other minds, whether they’re human or avian.

Duncan Marquiss
Video, colour, sound

About the artist

Duncan Marquiss is a Glasgow-based artist who works with film and video, drawing, writing and music. Much of his work explores overlaps between the cultural and the biological. His documentary work Evolutionary Jerks & Gradualist Creeps (2016) considered analogies between evolutionary patterns within the fossil record and the cultural evolution of popular music.

Marquiss graduated from the MFA at Glasgow School of Art in 2005 and undertook the LUX Associate Artist Programme, London in 2009. He was the recipient of the Margaret Tait Award 2015-16. Recent exhibitions include Stalking The Image: Margaret Tait & Her Legacy, GoMA, Glasgow, 2019 and a solo exhibition, Copying Errors, at Dundee Contemporary Arts in 2016. Recent screenings include at London Film Festival, Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival (both 2018), and at Kochi Muziris Biennale 2017.

Further resources

Still from a film by Duncan Marquiss, Duncan Marquiss, 'Mirror Test'


'Challenging the visual dominance of cinema, the opening scenes of Duncan Marquiss’ short film Mirror Test invite us to understand the world through other senses, beyond visuality, and to discover a cognitive experience that is led by hearing.' —Filipa Ramos on 'Mirror Test' Read more...