Big history of the little things
From Banksy’s Dismaland to a titchy Eiffel Tower, what can miniature worlds say about us, asks Lewis Jones
matchsticks. There is a substantial one in Las Vegas, and a Siberian has made a 3.2mm-tall metal midge with a micro-miniature Eiffel Tower on its proboscis.
Micro-miniatures may be appreciated only through a microscope. Ralph Rugoff of the Hayward Gallery thinks that while the miniature offers a world “more precise and more brilliantly elucidated than our own”, the micro-miniature evokes “a shadowless order of reality”. Taking us back to Lucretius, he wonders if there can “be truth in the musings of mystics who speculate that every atom comprises a universe unto itself, containing a thousand suns?”
Willard Wigan, a leading micro-miniaturist, often works within the eye of a needle, between heartbeats, while holding his breath. Having depicted Michelangelo’s The Last Supper, the main characters of Star Wars, and a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, from which he accidentally inhaled Alice, he thinks he may end up in a lunatic asylum.
The childhood desire for the miniature is “usually jettisoned as adulthood approaches”, writes Garfield. Usually, but not always. H G Wells was a devotee of what he called Floor Games, and an illustration shows him solemnly at play with couple of besuited chums, deploying tin soldiers and artillery against spear-throwing natives in defence of the British Empire. It was, Garfield tells us, “a time before irony”. Has he read Oscar Wilde or Max Beerbohm?
Model railways appeal to many adults, such as the old rockers
Rod Stewart, Roger Daltrey and Neil Young. The world’s biggest, Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, has about 10 miles of track, and includes a model airport, a road network and a waterway, mountain ranges, castles, a truly miniature golf course, and a theatre playing Romeo and Juliet. Garfield’s visit leaves him unable to decide if it was “stupefyingly impressive or stupefyingly deranged, but of course it was both”.
He admires a “magnificent formation of matchstick
One artist accidentally inhaled the Alice from his micro-miniature Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
WHEELY SQUASHEDArtist Wijnand Loven’s 2016 colourful scrap heap of vintage toy cars