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

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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

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