Whilst holidaying in the Lake District I took the opportunity to continue to make work with my 3D printer pen, I had only expected that I would be making quick, disposable pieces on a worktop in the kitchen and that my only observations would be on the change of my studio space. Little did I know that I would be fortunate enough to be staying in a cottage with a garden that would seamlessly blend into the stunning environment and rolling hills.
It was after a brief exploration of the garden than I decided that I would make work for the outdoor environment, but what? I was rather taken by the dry stone walling that separated the garden from field and fell, and on closer inspection could see that stones became mountainous peaks separated by deep, moss sewn valleys. I decided that I would create a bridge to aid mini beasts cross the “mountains”.
I had a vague idea in my head of what I wanted to do, combine nature with the man-made, I wanted to support sticks and twigs with towers made with my pen. I set to work and found a stick that I would incorporate into my bridge and built supports with my 3D printer pen but I found this arrangement to be quite unstable and built further supports.
I soon found that this method was rather fragile and a further stick was added to aid in supporting the structure and a suitable valley in the stone walling was located. I also felt that whilst the bridge did its intended job it was lacking in any aesthetic flourish and as you can see from the image below, the bridge was complete.
But what is the point of all this? What have I achieved? Displaying the work outdoors “juxtaposes claustrphobia and agoraphobia“(Bachelard, 2014), it challenges societies increasingly introverted and ever dwindling social interactions and pushes the image to the limits of what we thought imaginable.
In the realms of the outdoors we, as viewers, are unsettled; there are many more distractions, many more ways of enticing away concentration. In ‘The Poetics of Space‘ Bachelard comments on the relationship between the inside versus the outside:
“Outside and inside form a dialectic of division, the obvious geometry of which blinds us as soon as we bring it into play in metaphorical domains. It has the sharpness of the dialectics of ‘yes’ and ‘no’, which decides everything” (Bachelard, 2014).
This division is painfully obvious when we compare how my bridge translates into a gallery environment. The void-like dullness of the gallery surround eats away at our distracting thoughts and numbs our concentration so that we can and only focus on the objects that break up the nothingness. As you can see from the image below the bridge in a gallery environment has no life about it, yes the sketch like nature of construction appears to be more animated when set against the plain backdrop of the gallery wall but the whole object feels lifeless in the same way that preserved vehicles sit static in museums – a shell of what once was.
Taking the bridge into the outdoors and into the context for which it was made, the miniature, allows the art to fulfil one of its primary functions, enabling the viewer to make their own personal connections with what they are seeing. It is “in this ambigous space, the mind has lost its geometrical homeland and the spirit is drifting“(Bachelard, 2014). Art is supposed to provoke thought and trigger memories, removing the “cell” of the gallery environment here allows those connections to be made but it should be asked where does the spirit drift to?
I like to think that in this moment we are carried off on a daydream to rekindle childhood fantasy, encouraged by the context of the miniature (the bridge for mini beasts), we imagine that we are in scale with those surroundings. Of daydreams Bachelard says:
“Daydreams of this sort are invitations to verticality, pauses in the narrative during which the reader is invited to dream. They are very pure, since they have no use. They must also be distinguished from the fairy-tale convention in which a dwarf hides behind a head of lettuce to lay traps for the hero“(Bachelard, 2014).
Bachelard attaches connotations of purity to daydreams, a safe place in which we can escape our daily routines and bustle and can return to relive better days, albeit momentarily. Here in this daydream rational thought is suspended and our imagination is allowed out to play having being restrained and suppressed by the bores of adulthood. With this rediscovered vision we are able to see ourselves within the environment of the bridge and mini-beast, in our mind we become to scale with it and the world in which it has created for itself in a sort of “Lilliputian hallucination”(Bachelard, 2014).
The miniature is covered in great depth by Bachelard as a sourse of refuge, “The minuscule, a narrow gate, opens up an entire world. The details of a thing can be the sign of a new world which , like, all worlds, contains the attributes of greatness. Miniature is one of the refuges of greatness“(Bachelard, 2014). The miniature then, seeks to wipe us clean upon entry as if to make us fit for this temporary roost in the new world, returning us to childhood innocence. “Miniature rests us without ever putting us to sleep. Here the imagination is both vigilant and content”(Bachelard, 2014). The miniature, as Bachelard suggests, “detached me from the surrounding world, and helps me to resist dissolution of the surrounding atmosphere”(Bachelard, 2014); taking on the role of a guardian or nanny, making sure we are fully recovered and rested, washing us clean and preparing us for our return to rational thought and adulthood but always careful to leave imprints in the deepest of memories that entice us back every once in a while.
It is also worthy of note that the visual sense is not the only way of accessing the world of the miniature:
“The casuality of smallness stirs all our senses, and an interesting study could be undertaken of the ‘miniatures’ that appeal to each sense. For the sense of taste or smell, the problem might be even more interesting than for the sense of vision, since sight curtails the dramas it witnesses. But a whiff of perfume, or even the slightest odour, can create an entire environment in the world of imagination” (Bachelard, 2014).
Bachelard’s suggestion that the other senses could prove much more prosperous territory to explore is certainly an interesting avenue yet to be explored. We have already seen this touched upon in places such as ‘Dans le Noir?’, a ‘blind restaurant’ that suppresses the sense of sight to bring an entirely different eating experience but we have yet to really see other sensory play used in the search to return to the miniature.
It is, of course, worth asking if this quest to find means to the accessing the childhood memories of multiple strangers is a fools errand. The likelihood of many people sharing a common trigger is highly unlikely due to the fact we are all individual and have individual experiences but also we must remember that these memories fade quickly, dissipating into a fine mist.
So my bridge, through the creation of a miniature object I have managed to trigger childhood memories of fairy-tale endeavours and re imagine myself in miniature in the world in which my bridge has created. The use of the outdoors helps to root the believably of the fairy tale and coax us deeper into the world of the miniature. We are temporarily removed from our usual world, through childhood imagination we complete a herculean trail before we are rested, dusted off and returned to the normality or rational thought with a refreshed outlook on the rational. We see things differently upon our return to the rational, a temporary hum of our childhood selves lingers within us, an optimistic mood, a smile, a laugh. And finally, if I may leave you with part of a poem by Noël Bureau (as quoted by Bachelard and translated into English:
“He lay down behind the blade of grass
To enlarge the sky” (Bachelard, 2014).
Bachelard, G. (2014) The Poetics of space. London, United Kingdom: Penguin Group (USA).