The phenomenological playfulness in the process of model making is guided by Jonathan Swift’s descriptions of the inversions of scale between humans and architectural environments in Gulliver’s travels. In his sojourn on Lilliput, Gulliver was housed within the outer walls of a large property but was unable to access the interior of any building other than to peer through windows. This play on the denial of access to space other than through tiny vistas triggers the imagination of the viewer in a particular way so as to transcend the impossibility of being able to physically enter that space.
An architectural model does not replicate the sensory experience of the full-scale architectural source, but it does provide a reference for triggering memory of experience or imagination, and it is indeed a work in its own right. If the notion of the miniature as a metaphor for interiority is to be embraced, then the contextual placement of the model within a gallery space may well heighten the experience of interiority and relationships of public and private. The architectural model that contains a micro-installation can also compensate for a sense of loss when an art installation is removed from an exhibition venue. Storage, too, becomes an issue for sculptural works, and an artwork and its crating can co-exist as an exhibit.
As a method for recording and considering a series of site-sensitive exhibitions dating from 1998, architectural models containing micro-installations first appeared alongside the full-scale installation at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, Dublin, in 2000 and continue to evolve with The Doll’s House project. The starting point was an investigation of the eighteenth-century print room at Castletown House, County Kildare in Ireland. The observation of deterioration and decay in the study of eighteenth-century architecture has led to the incorporation of these elements into the production of the most recent models. Identifiable models of specific spaces and installations at times give way to fragmentary works. These fragments and ruins parallel the piecing together of clues from centuries of lost knowledge in order to build an understanding of the life of Lady Louisa Conolly and her Castletown print room.
If we experience life and re-live memory in a fragmentary way in the Proustian sense, then the ability to record experience in miniature and model form is a way to make sense of broken moments and experiences that can be absorbed within the field of vision, as a metaphor for understanding.
Photography: Joy Hirst