THE BIG WORLD OF LITTLE THINGS: A Close-Up on the Very Tiny

I don’t want to generalize, but it seems that most people – and particularly most architects – love things in miniature. Do we gravitate to the very tiny because we’re accustomed to building things at scale to test them, or is it just because they’re adorable? For today I thought I’d do a survey of some of my favorite small things. In this case, all from the art world, all either funny or creepy or both. Enjoy!

"Traveler 258" by Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz

“Traveler 258” by Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz

I saw the world of Walter Martin & Paloma Muñoz in Helsinki’s Kiasma Museum. I entered a gallery populated by a grid of display stands capped with snow globes. At first I thought, “Cute,” and then I looked more closely. I don’t want to ruin the surprise so click on the image above to visit their website and see for yourself.

RoberTaplin_Dante01

“Everything Imagined is Real (After Dante)” by Robert Taplin

I saw this work by Robert Taplin at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in North Adams a few summers ago. Approximately 12 of his incredibly detailed dioramas were presented in custom wood display cases. Dystopic? Yes. Beautiful and meticulously done? Yes. His use of trompe l’oeil in each scene has to be seen in person to be adequately appreciated, but hopefully you can get a sense of the painstaking attention to composition and light from the photo above.

“They’re Not Pets, Susan” by Slinkachu

Slinkachu has a blog called The Little People Project. If you haven’t checked it out, just do it. He tells stories, usually very funny ones, by minimal means – one or two custom figurines and (typically) the things he finds on the street. He sets up the scene, takes a photo and leaves it in place for someone else to discover. I keep hoping I’ll stumble across one.

"The Garden of Unearthly Delights" by Mat Collishaw

“The Garden of Unearthly Delights” by Mat Collishaw

You have to watch this video. I saw this about two years ago at the Museum of Art and Design in New York. They had a show on Dioramas! I had never heard the term Zoetrope before this and now I’ll never forget it. Essentially, the artist, Mat Collishaw, made a carousel in which each “horse” is a frame of a looping animation. When the carousel spins and a light strobes it creates an incredibly complex animation. In this case, a very bizarre one involving some aggressive children and some unfortunate animals, but it truly has to be seen to be believed. Watch the video (and watch the whole thing because it shows how the characters were made and so on at the end).

“Woman with Sticks” by Ron Mueck

I first saw Ron Mueck’s work at the ARoS Museum in Aarhaus, Denmark. Mueck, a former puppeteer, who is now famous for his meticulously made sculptures of (mostly) humans, always plays with scale: sometimes he blows things up, sometimes he shrinks them down. This past summer I had the chance to see his work in person once again and was again floored by his attention to detail. The image that I’ve included above is one of several new sculptures he made for the show. “Woman with Sticks” was about three feet tall. Incredibly, you can discern not only the veins beneath her skin but even the spots where blood has been displaced because of pressure.  The thing that I’m perhaps the most excited about is that the Cartier Fondation made a video documenting his process. It’s time for a popcorn party.

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