|La Reproduction Interdit, Rene Magritte, 1937 (source)
A pair, when apart, are often comedic. Ever since Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors, which punned on two couples of identical brothers, a number of dramatizations have treated troublesome twins and the cases of mistaken identity—drawn out by spatial separation—that they cause. The Parent Trap (1961) is a particularly hallmark example as well as a preposterous premise treating the 50-50 division of ‘property’ recommended by the state of California in case of divorce: Dad acquires Susan, Mom Sharon. One wonders what the nature of this family film might have been were Hayley Mills cast as triplets.
Taken together, twinning often grows sinister; cellular separation might happen unevenly in the embryo, to present difference in eerily similar packaging. The possibility of an alternative personality—an alternative reality—is unsettling in its ceaseless urge to compare the pair. The twin is a reflection that can never be ‘resolved’; whose uncanniness disturbed Diane Arbus enough to evince its documentation (Identical Twins ) while Stanley Kubrick felt a psychological thrill (The Grady Twins continue to haunt popular culture).
Mimicry and adaptation are as common in architecture as any other art, witnessed by the current vogue for replicating western settlements, wholesale, in Asia-Pacific. At the grand scale of the urban, such projects signify a sort of loss in the geographic estrangement from their original counterparts. It was, after all, architectural duality juxtaposed in time and space which drove Philippe Petit to enact the most daring performance in August of 1974: crossing the sky eight times between the World Trade Center’s twin towers before being arrested the same morning.
|Taj Mahal, Photo by Jon Arnold
For centuries there has been speculation that Shah Jahan, the Mughal ruler behind the building of the Taj Mahal, had intended to mirror his wife’s mausoluem in black marble, across the Yamuna river, to serve as his final place of rest.
This legend emerges from the writings of Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, a Parisian pioneer of trade, who visited the site at Agra, in Uttar Pradesh, in 1665. Many suggest that Shah Jahan was unable to realize his dual vision because he was usurped by his son Aurangzeb partway through his Emperorship. Relics of dark marble were recovered in the facing Mahtab Bagh: the Moonlight Garden, which is located across the river from the original Taj. While these findings seem to support the existence of a Black Taj, excavations which were carried out in recent years, found that they were in fact fragments of white masonry which had become discolored over time, resulting in their surface appearance.
A more plausible theory regarding a secondary mausoleum was proposed in 2006 by archeologists who rebuilt a portion of the pool in the Moonlight Garden. A darkened reflection of the existing white mausoleum could clearly be seen in the water, ultimately resulting in yet another couple. Like Lava and Kusha, the Taj Mahal in its dual versions, joins the ranks of mythology’s famous twins.
Erandi de Silva
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