Thursday, 6 November 2008

At the Threshold of the Visible

Notes on exhibition catalogue: '...:Minuscule and Small-Scale Art, 1964-1996' organised by Independent Curators Incorporated, New York.

'Minute artworks involve us, sometimes quite literally, in acts of discovery; some pieces are so insubstantial that they must be hunted for as if in a game of hide-and-seek. When first exhibited in the late 1960s and early 1970s, micro-paintings by Gene Davis and tiny sculptures by Joel Shapiro baffled viewers: small enough not to be noticed at first glance, their work sometimes went unseen by gallery visitors, who walked in and out of an exhibition without ever realising that a show was up.

With mischievous absurdity, art of this size wreaks havoc on our accustomed notions of scale. Its diminutive stature seems to mock the grand spaces in which it is displayed, appealing to our sense of humor and play. [...] Tiny artworks force us to draw closer, this forward movement parallels a mental process [...] the focused attention we give tiny art is almost voyeuristic in intensity. This charges our experience of the object, imbuing it with an almost hallucinatory acuity. [...] A single tiny work can appear at once assertive and humble, or intimate yet oddly remote. [...] Perhaps this is why Bachelard observed that "one must go beyond logic in order to experience what is large in what is small."

But miniatures also seem to exist in a state of haunted isolation, to occupy a permanently vacated scene. Physically, we stand outside their tiny domain, and when we imaginatively enter within it, we find ourselves its sole inhabitants.

Part of their appeal is to transport us to a world that is more precise, and more meticulously elucidated, than our own; charmingly perfect, they constitute a refuge from the domain of gross physical data and corporeal failings. The halo of the ideal seems to hover overhead. [...] The stillness of miniature landscapes evinces the profound calm of a tiny parallel world forever cut off from the activity and ungainliness of our own surroundings.'

Guy Limone - we cannot simultaneously comprehend the domain of the individual and that of the statistical mass.

Hiroshi Sugimoto's 1994 work Day Seascape, English Channel, Weston Cliff, 1994.

'Potentially engage us in a dialogue of revelation. As it alters our perception of the world around us, the minuscule object also arouses our sense of wonder - a creeping vein of curiosity is set loose in our imaginationm wandering and winding around far-flung mental points, and we are reminded as viewers that meaning can only be constructed through our active participation.
The barely visible calls our attention to a threshold, and such boundaries are resonant with meaning. Indirectly they invoke our own limited place in a potentially endless spectrum of scale, our inconsequential presence in the larger scheme of things. By leading us to reflect on its precariousness, the diminutive object conjures the threshold of mortality that defines our short-lived existence. And it is only in the light of such reflections that we may find a reliable measure of proportion, as well as a certainty that the most trivial fact can reinvent the margins of our world.'

No comments: