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Gigantism and Miniaturism

Gigantism refers to a state marked by unrestrained growth. On the contrary, miniaturism, as quoted by Jane Bennett and Michael J. Shapiro in The Politics of Moralizing, “As we all know, some twelve billion years ago the gods created the universe, including the earth, an interesting sideshow. For their amusement, they created dinosaurs and such like, but after a while found these huge creatures rather tedious and jejune. The gods sent down a great flood, or at least a meteor that cast a great cloud.

Turning from gigantism to miniaturism, the gods then created little creatures on earth, including humans, hoping they might be more nuanced and unpredictable. ” (Bennett et al. 218) These two natural phenomena have attracted a significant amount of artistic attention in human history. Susan Stewart observes, “We are enveloped by the gigantic, surrounded by it, enclosed within its shadow. Whereas we know the miniature as a spatial whole or as temporal parts, we know the gigantic only partially. We move through the landscape; it does not move through us.

” (Stewart 71) This essay is going to be structured on gigantism and miniaturism in the context of Australian landscape and the Kitsch culture. It is observed time and again that gigantism and miniaturism have been incorporated through an intangible form of the body upon the natural world. In the context of Australian landscape, the gigantic is metaphorically used as the container, and the miniature as the contained. One of the characteristic features in Australian culture is its preoccupation with objects of colossal size. Thematically they might be of no artistic charm, but the grandeur is what that appeals to the Australians more.

It could be an axe, an ant or orange, sandfly, codfish or just a Coke sign – the size does matter in Australia, especially in the Kitsch culture. Examples of gigantism are to be explored in bulk around Australia. The ‘big things’ are first and foremost products of local and rural artworks. The Great Bovinic Monuments of Australia was built torturously following the local tradition. The Big Ayrshire Cow at Yandina in Queensland is a perfect demonstration of gigantic container that has been the site of milk, butter and cheese displays.

It also provides an insight into the local economic status and elicits response from tourists about the identity of the region. Talking of symbols of gigantism dispersed around the country and it is worth considering how the modern shopping malls and other urban landmarks haven’t destroyed the rural charm. Far from just being monuments depicting the gigantic artworks, the Big Cow renders an economic value which is signatory to the regional economics. Regional placemaking is another attribute of the Big Cow that must be taken into account in the context of geography, social values and needs and agriculture.

While gigantic has carved its place in public and natural history, the miniature is to be explored more in private, individual history. In other words, the gigantic assumes an explanatory device for the environment itself, serving as a link between the natural and human world. Envisioned by decorators and artists, the gigantic figures such as ‘the monster on a leash’ are emblematic of exteriority and infinity. While the sublime aspects of a gigantic piece of artwork can easily be attributed to nature, the miniature forms of artwork are representative of interiorities and intricacies of domestic, private realm.

The placing together of the miniature and the gigantic may be compared to a form of indistinguishable landscape such as the mouth of the river, the fingers of the lake, the foot-hills and the elbow of the stream. All these terms to describe natural landscapes are coined bearing in mind projections of a huge natural body upon human external organs. (Stewart 71) To elaborate furthermore on this, one can visualize how our hands can hold the miniature object despite its lack of proportion with the world.

But the human hand is in proportion with the body itself and hence, a mouth of the river, for example, is justified as a projection of humanly perceptible gigantic object upon itself. In a way, the gigantic metamorphoses the body into miniature as we see in films how the shadow of King Kong blankets the city of New York. In Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, the idea of proportion is beautifully incorporated in the physical structure of both the giant and the Lilliputs. As discussed earlier, the exteriority feature of gigantism is reflected in the way the giant makes his movement from the most visible to the least visible.

When the “invisible threads enter the visible needle” (Stewart 47), we get into a sequence from naked eye to microscope, or in other words, from exterior to interior. So in this sense, the switching over between the gigantic and miniature is self-explanatory. To support this argument furthermore, we can state that Gulliver becomes the body of the Lilliput, where the giant figure’s external organs stand for his social being within the miniature world. The visual preponderance is apparent as the Lilliputians feel more troubled regarding how to dispose of Gulliver’s body after his death than the death itself.

One of the longstanding debates regarding gigantism is rooted in the tendency to exaggerate. The mechanical possibilities of exaggeration always remain when it comes to characterize gigantisms in terms of content and not facade. In the context of the Kitsch culture, we find that the landscape is dealt with as a souvenir of wild and natural times, and yet the town giant who is a representative of those primitive times eventually loses his violent disposition and becomes a moderate and sentimental figure in cultural sync with the native land.

The gigantic in pop art and culture rejoices the rapid increase of the new traditions. Unlike a few other forms of painting that represent the inner world of domestic and still life, the pop gigantic finds its existence in a less symbolic manner. The choice of contents in surrealistic painting is much more redolent and original in nature, but the same in pop culture is dependent more on facade. Because of this lack or absence of meaning, pop assumes a temporal art form which is subject to periodization. Its impact changes with changing times and values of the society.

The Kitsch culture of Australia holds in view contradictory aspects of the nemesis of pop culture. The Kitsch culture, due to its proliferation in gigantism as well as miniaturism, has been used metonymically (as ‘Kitsch’) for many other similar movements. Rooted in German origin, the term ‘Kitsch’ means ‘to put together sloppily’. The objects used in this culture are often considered to have bad taste and overtly materialistic values, something which is not a sign of refined cultural progression. The miniature objects in Kitsch culture are more representative of voguish cultural notions rather than transcendent beliefs.

“The inside bursts its bounds and presents a pure surface of outside. ” Another term ‘camp’ is applied in similar contexts where the objects are characterized by spuriousness and crude impersonation. What is reflected more prominently in these objects is the exaggerated demonstration of consumerism. (Stewart 168) Harold John Massingham’s account of giant figures that has been found at the villages of Cerne Abbas in Dorset and Wilmington in Sussex suggests that there were intentional constructions attributing godlike characteristics for animals or inanimate things.

This is a deviation from the common notion people have about those giant figures. Based on his research, it can be stated that the giants of folk-lore were etched in sculptures through painstaking creational procedures. The White Horse of Uffington Hill in Berkshire is the most notable of these gigantic figures, surpassing many other contemporary structures. It has an awe-inspiring stature measuring 335 feet from nose to tail and 120 feet from ear to hoof. Now the making of such figures was clearly inspired by humankind’s fascination with gigantic art forms.

It was something they can relate to in their world of turning ‘big’ dreams into visible reality. Coming back to the ‘Big Cow’ in Queensland, it is a symbol of ‘impossibly perfect’ sculpture that can invoke a sense of wonderment in the minds of millions (Ryan, 1996). Tales of prehistoric and ancient giants have continued to fuel human imagination for a long time. Structures such as Stonehenge, Avebury and numerous others carry an obvious implication that only giants could move such huge structures and hence, the artists and sculptors were inspired to build those structures.

In Germanic tradition too we see similar stories depicting how giants made canals, lakes, rivers, islands and mountains, and how the lakes and streams originated from the blood and tears of a giant. These are ample evidences suggesting that the ancient world, long before humans came to rule the planet, was likely to be infested by a giant race of man. The connection of gigantism with the rural world may be interpreted as the individual longing for pastoral imageries. But with the advent of materialism, the gigantic shifted to an economic society in which its worth is measured in terms of material utility.

The festive carnivals, for instance, draw millions of visitors from all across the globe. Many gigantic statues are on display in these carnivals, regardless of race or ethnicity. The prior notion of ascribing gigantism and miniaturism only to landscape changes in this social context of festivity where economic production is a major issue in contention. Studies of popular culture made by Leo Lowenthal present a distinct shift from the nineteenth century hero of the sphere of production to the twentieth century hero of the sphere of consumption.

The concept of the hero as an image to be consumed is reflected in the way we get into a fanaticism over movie stars and actors. The medium of presentation assumes more prominence than the historical backgrounds of the heroes. The ‘larger than life’ image is mainly generated from the abstract space of mass communication. The ‘Big Breasts’ in Western Queensland is a remarkable example of surrealistic sculpture. It embodies rural illusionary ideas and realities perfectly. Similarly in the Brobdingnag section of Gulliver’s Travels, we find how women’s bodies have been perceived as images of consummation.

The image of breast in particular presents a disembodied image to be consumed. The organic functions of breast as the nurturer are altered completely to fit into a role of destroyer, a contaminating agent. The nurse’s breast gives the reader an idea of its grotesqueness. The superfluous attributes are purposefully given to represent the other side of nature – the decomposition and bleakness of art forms. Gigantism, in this sense, stands in stark contrast to the microscopic world of miniaturism.

In miniaturism, we find objects having aesthetic appeals, surreal values and highly content-oriented relevance. Any description of the miniature tends to focus on contextual information where spatial closure is put before worldly closure. The miniature symbolizes a world which is unconfined to temporal limitations. A single instance is highlighted in the miniature, but that instance, without getting generalized, transcends abstraction. Commercial reproduction of art objects takes away the originality of the form just as much as it results in vulnerability of art itself.

Even though it is proved through psychoanalytical studies that repetition creates a reproduction that takes the very form of the real, the fact remains that there is always a possibility of exaggeration while repeating the works of a subtle form of art. To put this in the context of gigantism, we might refer to the idea of monumentality in the works of Picasso. The artist in his creative world imagined of the work he would be undertaking and turned his imagination into a substantial form.

He never saw the original works, but that did not prevent him from recreating them in an authentic manner. The proportion in these works is perfectly acceptable, courtesy to the immense creative vision of the artist. So we may say that the ideas of gigantism and miniaturism have been incorporated into many genres of art forms arraying from painting, sculpture, literature and so on. From the rural dominance of the Kitsch culture to the mythical attributes of English, the movement has indeed opened up a world of analytical outlooks.

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