THE SACRED MONOLITH
In antiquity, the gigantic has been associated with the sacred. Religious monuments are large in proportion to the technics of the religious culture….. building churches, pyramids and giant Buddhas were the domain of the religious elite, designed to cow the masses with their fantastic scale.
Time to can also be used as an expression of the sacred giant; the karmic wheels of Hinduism roll around every 4,320,000 years (the Maha Yuga)….. a daunting time in which to consider a series of re-incarnations from gnat to dog to man. In many religions the God is expressed within the concept of the indivisible Infinite, the ultimate Gigantic . (and yet infinity can also be used to express the miniature, via the notion of infinitely small or the infinite fraction.)
THE PROFANE GIANT
Susan Stewart in “On Longing” describes the travels of Gulliver in Lilliput as becoming defined only by his body: “eating, drinking, defecating, sleeping and using his muscles are the sum of his social existence within the miniature world.” In this interpretation, even his death is considered with concerns for practicality instead of spirituality; the Lilliputans wonder, what shall become of his enormous mass? How shall it be managed? It is poor farmers that have to deal with his fecal waste and enormous hunger….. in Lilliput he is akin to a drunk playing with a doll’s house.
So too are gigantic structures becoming more profane. The democratization of building technology and the ubiquity of reinforced concrete has produced Mexico City, enormous prisons in America, and Disney World in France (Arizona Lewis Prison is above, via Google Earth). This is because man has mastered the building of the enormous. Construction is now in the realm of the profane. What was once a sacred task undertaken by the Church, Emperors and Kings is now handled by a multitude of financiers all around the world. Apartments in the tallest buildings of the world can be bought and sold as commodities…. Pyramids that were once perceived as the dwelling houses of the gods are now dwarfed by skyscrapers that house businessmen, and which indeed can be destroyed by a terrorists with simple means. How can these structures be pillars of the holy?
THE SACRED MINIATURE
Just before and after the invention of the printing press, the European society was fixated on the miniature book. In the pre-printing days, monks and scribes would compete to produce the longest text in the smallest book. Bibles were the most popular subject, followed by calendars and almanacs. The modern day equivalent of the digital organiser? They had their antecedents in ancient stone tablets, as well as the micrographic pictures and decoration of Jewish and Arabic cultures, which prohibit God being expressed in anything other than writing.
The nature of God as reflected in design has become more focused on the minute. We have turned our attention to the tiny to re-invent the nature of godhead. …. atoms, quarks…. the origin of the universe are said to be told in the minute building blocks of the universe. The most extravangant theories of the universe have come full circle back to religion, as seen in the “theophysics” of Frank J Tiplers’ and David Deutsch.
(Frank J. Tiplers Omega Point theory is based on commonly understood laws of physics, but wildly proposes that the universe must enter a necessary and fundamental crunch point at the end of its life whereby the computational power of the universe will enable infinite simulations of all existing realities…. bringing back the dead and everyone and everything now living. Tipler sees this as the expression of the God-head, or Heaven.
Perhaps the new sacred artifacts are the particle collidors being built around the world to study dark matter and other phenomena?
(The recent news about the Large Hadron Collidor on the border of France and Switzerland had a ominous religious tone…. In response to news that the collidor would be turned on for the first time, possibly creating miniature black holes, the world news was plagued with headlines such “Are we all going to die next Wednesday?” (Daily Mail) and “Collider Triggers End of the World Fears” (Time) , culminating in a doomsday inspired suicide from a young girl in India. )
THE PROFANE MICROSCOPIC
And lastly, the miniature is fertile ground for sweeping and deadly profanity. The bubonic plague, which wiped out half of Europe in the 17th century, is spread by bacteria in fleas on rats, a nice expression of regressing miniaturization. It is our fear of germs the fueled the hygiene explosion in the west and even the word dirt itself has its duel meaning of “soil”, an aggregation of small earth particles, and “unclean”.
In art does the act of miniaturization signal profanity? Miniature writing may be the result of religious dedication, but only when it is readable; micrographia is the progression to continually smaller and smaller writing, until so cramped and tiny as to be unreadable. It is a symptom of Parkinson’s disease and other mental illness. R. Crumb’s elder brother, who R. Crumb admits could write and draw with far greater skill than he at an equal age while young, began and never finished a sequential masterpiece which began with intricately looped drawings made with concentric circles….
…. and degenerated into scratch like markings for text, as he spiraled into mental illness. (Crumb, the movie by Terry Zwigoff, and Crumb Family Comics).