The mise en abyme. Of course a mindfuck of this degree has a French name. You’ve encountered this effect if you’ve ever accidentally lined up two mirrors or watched Inception. Or the Japanese movie Paprika, for that matter. Well, some more expert reporting from over at Bustle (if you don’t follow them yet, you should) has revealed that a woman has gotten a tattoo of her own selfie.
If you can’t see the maddening possibilities for this yet, let’s explain. She can now take a selfie that shows her tattoo of her selfie, and then get that tattooed on her other arm. Then she can take another selfie, and another selfie, and another, and another…
To prepare your brain for this, we’ve compiled some animated mise en abyme GIFs from around the Web. Enjoy!
The mise en abyme is a picture within a picture within a picture within a picture…
…spiraling on and on into infinity.
“I can deal with this,” you say so far.
While the “abyme” is found in medieval heraldry, it is also sometimes called the “Droste effect,” as it was famously used in a 1904 advertisement for Droste cocoa powder.
A pretty clever advertising gimmick, to be honest.
“Okay,” you say, “so far this is child’s play.”
It’s all happy things and ponies. Or so you think.
Unicorns and magic. We’re good. Right? Of course right.
…an endless tunnel leading into virtual space…
…where objects only exist within the mind.
Starting to feel a little nervous yet?
Like we’ve opened a box which cannot be closed?
Like we’ve crossed a line which, once we cross it, we can never return?
It started out all happiness and puppies…
…but this creeping distortion of scale is really getting to us now.
It started off all like, “YO DAWG, WE HERD YOU LIKE PICTURES, SO WE PUT A PICTURE IN YOUR PICTURE SO YOU COULD PICTURE WHILE YOU PICTURE!”
…but a nervousness started building, like that itching feeling when you realize that throwing back the rest of that bottle of cough syrup might not have been a great idea.
You’re starting to feel dizzy. Very dizzy.
Geometries that seemed to make so much sense just moments before are spiraling out of control.
Everything looks like a copy… of a copy… of a copy…
…and what was once familiar is becoming eerily strange.
You don’t know it yet, but you’ve already crossed over to the Dark Side.
You feel like a tiny version of yourself, and like the world is a bigger version of you.
You’re starting to think that maybe you want out of the crazy-car…
…but the crazy-car’s not stopping.
Nope, you’re leaving behind Crazy Town…
…and rocketing to the madness beyond madness beyond madness.
Maybe if you drink a nice cup of tea… OH GOD.
You think maybe some toast will help. But when you stare into the toast, the toast also stares into you.
Everyone always says, “Get some perspective!” like it’s a good thing. Well, you’ve got more perspective than you can handle now, and we’re not even done yet.
“WHAT IS HAPPENING???”
Flung far into space and time…
…in contact with beings none should meet…
…in contact with secrets none should learn…
…the core of your being screams against infinity.
And then something within you… changes. You don’t know how to explain it. It’s like you’ve evolved. You are… different now, even as you are the same.
You take a deep breath, look at myriad eternities scrolling past you at each instant, and suddenly… peace.
Relax. Nothing is in control. Enjoy the ride.
ADAM WEISHAUPT is a Professor of Law at the University of Ingolstadt. His hobbies include rationalism, masonry, and opposition to Kantian idealism.