Concept of Show

The Miniature Worlds Show will comprise of a group of seven artists, exploring and working with, ideas about the miniature. The media employed will include painting, drawing, sculpture, animation and installation. Working with, or creating, miniature environments each artist creates new imaginary spaces. The artifice of these spaces is both believable and unthinkable. Places from everyday life are merged, creating new hybrid worlds, imaginary tableaux taken from memory and fantasy. These environments become a deliberation on distant places; that can not be entered, only observed.

The curators of the show, Andrea Gregson and Laura Youngson Coll selected artists whose work explores and develops a making process that is highly original, and relates to a range of other practices such as model-making, technical drawing, carving, horticulture, taxidermy and museology. The attention to detail and scale will invite a sense of wonder in the viewer: reminiscent of a cabinet of curiosities, the show presents another version of the world in which we live. The physical process of making in, and from the miniature, belies the non-sensual world in which we must inhabit these creations.

On first encounter with the show the viewer will leave the greater sensory world and visually enter an imaginary space. A dream world of recycled fantasy, aspiration, fears and voyeurism; these strangely familiar environments relate to the highly individualistic world of contemporary western life.

“The miniature world becomes a stage on which we project….a deliberately framed series of events. Susan Stewart, On Longing

Wider Context of the Miniature

All of the artists explore several contexts that surround the making of miniature objects or images found within everyday life. The following categories have formed a framework, and ongoing dialogue both amongst the artists as a group, and within their own practices. Some of the artists work from opposing positions, yet the show as a whole aims to use their work as a visual exploration of miniature worlds as a metaphor of human experience.

The Miniature as Model

The architect's model represents a skillful display of aspiration, and creates an ideal space in which to create a better world. A show piece is created, which may or may not be realized, the purity of idea without the complication of human intervention. Compare this to the hobbyist who creates a whole world in their garage, attic or shed never realised to full scale, purely a stage to project their own world; play god. The maker or ‘owner' of the model imposes narrative into the space; re-enacting family or public drama but without human intervention.

The Miniature and the Natural World

Human beings are the only species who miniaturize life, there is no such thing as the miniature within nature. Our general separation from the rest of the natural world, and our ambition to dominate it, is concurrent with this idea. Once we leave the sensory world, we move further from our instinctual selves. In this way Descartes believed we could enter the objective ‘mind of God'. He asserted that the conscious mind with its imaginative function, detached from the subjective body, can realise objective truth. In this quantified world, humanity reigns superior, as with the miniature world, in which he can dictate its existence. Humanities disposition for wanting to ‘play God' can be realised.

The Miniature and Childhood

This ‘playing God', or re-enactment of the wider world, also takes us into the realms of childhood. Here, the boundaries between fantasy and reality can be transformed into an entire world. Appreciation is taken of small detail and a lack of judgement allows fantasy to become more real. With equal consideration of the sensory and the imaginative, perhaps this is closer to the objective truth often sort by the adult. While the first miniature spaces were constructed in the 17 th century to instruct wealthy young ladies how to manage large households, current doll houses are firmly located within nostalgia and mainly set within the Victorian or Georgian period, where objects, domesticity and industry are bound up in past imperial grandeur.

The Miniature and the Collection

The museum presents a hierarchy of human achievement and events, a miniature journey through time using rooms, dioramas and glass cases. Both the museum and the miniature create a sense of arrested time. A world devoid of all sensory experience, bar the visual, becomes less susceptible to contamination, and thus an ordered world. Aspirations of containment are realised with the organisation , order and categorisation of artifacts. This interaction, arrangement and display of objects, reveal universal human aspirations of survival and control. The Lilliputian world of Gulliver's Travels illustrates similar desires, set on an island and inaccessible in both its geography and scale, it remains uncontaminated. This isolation extends into the domestic, although a life is physically lived within the home, its interiority can be exclusive. This opportunity to dictate an environment often provides the closest we will come to living within our own miniature world.

The miniature, linked to nostalgic versions of childhood and history, presents a diminutive and thereby manipulatable version of experience, a version which is domesticated and protected from contamination . Susan Stewart, On Longing