Thursday, May 26, 2016

other people's work 0.000001


As a child I was the proud owner of a special silver crucifix. What was peculiar about it was that in the centre there was a small glass circle that, when holding the cross up to the light and peeking inside, revealed the Lord's Prayer written on a mustard seed. It was a frequent source of amazement to me that anyone could write anything at all in such tiny script, never mind the Lord's Prayer which, as you may recall, is lengthy enough that writing it on a post-it note would take up the entire space. The crucifix disappeared long ago - I think eventually the centrepiece fell out and after that it was just a cross with a hole in the middle.


The reason I mentioned this is that a while back I came across an article about a man who makes the world's tiniest sculptures and when I say tiny I mean unbelievably, microscopically small. Willard Wigan makes his sculptures out of dust particles, sugar crystals, grains of sand etc. and then positions them inside the eyes of needles or on the heads of pins. Spending months meticulously carving his materials into micro-figures like the ones displayed above Wigan is a 'micro-miniaturist', an artist known for creating some of the world's smallest sculptures.


From his website:

“It began when I was five years old,” says Willard. “I started making houses for ants because I thought they needed somewhere to live. Then I made them shoes and hats. It was a fantasy world I escaped to. That’s how my career as a micro-sculptor began.”

Willard’s micro-sculptures are now so minute that they are only visible through a microscope. Each piece commonly sits within the eye of a needle, or on a pin head. The personal sacrifices involved in creating such wondrous, yet scarcely believable pieces are inconceivable to most. Willard enters a meditative state in which his heartbeat is slowed, allowing him to reduce hand tremors and sculpt between pulse beats. Even the reverberation caused by outside traffic can affect Willard’s work. Consequently, he often works through the night when there is minimal disruption.






I've seen pictures of Willard Wigan's studio setup and have seen him interviewed, but after searching the internets looking to find how these sculptures could be made and what tools could possibly be used I'm still at a loss. It's either magic or something so close to magic it makes no real difference. I still wonder about the Lord's Prayer on a mustard seed too, but I know it was real because it was mine for a time.




I believe in magic.
How about you?

10 comments:

The Crow said...

I believe in the magical, those wondrous things that could be explained using physical laws, yet take your breath away regardless, leaving you a joyful sense of wonder that defies reason, a willing suspension of disbelief.

Yes.

susan said...

Hi Martha, I agree with you that having too much certainty about what can and can't be real isn't good for us. Yes, to magic!

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
Fascinating art and magic of course has always captured our imagination. But once you delve into the mysterious sub atomic world of quantum mechanics it for me is by far the most mysterious of all things imaginable. The realty of particles existing in two places at once is not just a mere theoretical abstraction but opens up the possibility of timed travel through a worm hole.
We choose to examine a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery.” – Richard Feynman, a Nobel laureate of the twentieth century (Radin, Dean. Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences In A Quantum Reality. New York, Paraview Pocket Books, 2006.)
http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/12/07/physicists-send-particles-of-light-into-the-past-proving-time-travel-is-possible/
Best wishes

susan said...

Hi Lindsay,
You reminded me of a very favorite quote by Nils Bohr: 'If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet.' I'm continually shocked.
From what I've been able to glean about time travel theories among particle physicists it's that while individual particles may travel through time (or instantaneously through space) individual people made up of kazillions of particles wouldn't fare so well.
One of my more enjoyable fantasies involves being able to choose a time (and place) to retreat to away from present complications. Of course, just like those who say they'd like to be younger and know what they know now the same wish would apply. Impossible? Most likely yes now and forever but that doesn't mean such scenarios aren't fun to imagine.
All the best

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
True –you would be zapped by the radiation immediately but maybe if Einstein was alive today he would also enjoy time travel scenarios and find them fun to imagine... just like as you say you like to choose a time (and place) to retreat to be away from present complications. So I agree one can take comfort in the experience without having to believe anything in particular.

So I think we can say for sure our existence and reality is far more mysterious than what everyday large scale physics might otherwise suggest.
Indeed at the micro level observation alone changes the very reality of what we are attempting to observe so it hardly bears contemplation since it's so weird and unimaginable.
Best wishes

susan said...

Wise you are as usual, Lindsay. Science as it's generally understood is essentially about predicting what nature will do and usefully applying that knowledge - ie, making sure the toaster actually toasts. Quantum mechanics has stepped away from the strictly measurable aspects of concrete reality and into a world of strange phenomena, mysticism, and the unexplained. At that point (and of course describing exactly where that point is is problematic) there needs to be some accord between science and philosophy.
All the best

Lindsay Byrnes said...

Hi Susan,
I think one needs to get it right as in “science is a tool of philosophy just as religion can be if it encourages thought / contemplation”.
Science used to be called Philosophy as it formed an integral tool to aid philosophising based on creditable theories from the time we first started walking upright and carved pictures of eclipses on cave walls. Theories that work and so are philosophy’s worthy servant in logical ideas or discussions as in philosophising. But those theories only act as a tool until such time as a new discoveries brings out more creditable theories and or in humility we realise how much previously regard certainties are in fact mysteries. Anything else in my view taken to an extreme might be viewed as idolatry.
Best wishes

susan said...

Hi Lindsay, The scientific method is probably the best intellectual tool ever invented. I agree we must use our discernment before jumping to unsupported conclusions. That doesn't mean, of course, that we can't have some fun speculating about the ineffable.
Best wishes to you too

marja-leena said...

Amazing and magical work indeed! My old eyes and my patience would not manage anything so tiny, so the artist has my admiration.

susan said...

Yes, Marja-Leena, it really is amazing to see such tiny things. At the same time I'm not entirely convinced these microscopic artworks are real. Still, I know Doug Henning was fooling us even though I don't know how. Likewise I have no idea how Willard Wigan makes his pieces.