“What is this? A center for ants?”
- Derek Zoolander (dir. Ben Stiller, Paramount Pictures, )
“The writing of miniaturization does not want to call attention to itself or to its author; rather, it continually refers to the physical world. It resists the interiority of reflexive language in order to interiorize an outside; it is the closest thing we have to a three-dimensional language, for it continually points outside itself, creating a shell-like, or enclosed, exteriority. ‘Correctness of design’ and ‘accuracy of representation’ are devices of distance, of ‘proper perspective,’ the perspective of the bourgeois subject.”
- Susan Stewart, On Longing
This body of work can be described as a collection of models, videos, and digital artifacts surrounding the concept of scale modeling and Earth browsing.
Typically, we might say, the scale model can be understood as an object created for an architectural proposal — as a stand-in for something not present or as an approximation of a building yet to come. But this project suggests a broader set of implications in how scale models are made and understood as design objects, as part of a larger intellectual project.
The project surveys the history of Google Earth as a site of proliferating digital objects, defining a sort of stratification or layering to the accumulation of models:
The Google Earth Stratification Column
…The Age of Obligatory Landmarks
…The Great Mobilization of the Army of Hobbyists
…The Golden Age of the Handmade Model
…The “Building in Los Angeles” Boom
…The Ascent of Made-Up Airlines and Disasters
…The Era of Film Sets and Fictional Scenarios
…The Descent of the Handmade Model
…The Photogrammetric Urban Glaciation Event
Perhaps we could say that the practice of scale modeling is no longer about creating an abstracted version of something real, but might be a critical means to engage accuracy, abstraction, and spatial and personal relationships. The work unpacks the implications of handmaking and hobbyist modeling and centers on Google Earth as both an important and curious site of production — a site which was once populated with a wealth of individually created digital models.
The jury comments on the essay: “Fantastic! A new way of looking at a common thing, smart without using convoluted academic language—hooray! Out of all the entries submitted for the Core 77 writing awards (both student and professional), this was the best piece we read. It combined solid writing with the unique exploration of the practical and cultural purposes a scale model serves. The tone was conversational and the observations illuminating. The best part: the reference to Zoolander was quite irresistible.