The Aesthetics of Scale: Or on How to Grasp the Little Things is a convened curatorial talk at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton that will see my participation as well as that of distinguished speakers Bill Balaskas, Bronwen Buckeridge, Sunil Manghani and Helen Sloan. The talk will focus on the concepts that underpin the exhibition The Small Infinite and provide a moment of reflection on the aesthetics of scale and the relationship between gigantism and the minuscule in contemporary art.

The talk analyzes issues that are related to current artistic practices that focus on more intimate perceptions of reality, the environment and humanity. Is smallness a reflection of infinity? What are the adjectives that can characterize artworks that explore an idea of infinite space? Is there a different way to perceive the infinite, beyond the traditional imaginary of an extremely large space that we cannot comprehend? What if the infinitesimally small is a visual image that allows us to understand the complexity of life, art and the universe?

The conversation explores how The Small Infinite‘s exhibition presents a curatorial context that juxtaposes the adjectives that characterize gigantic artworks to the adjectives that characterize infinitesimally small artworks. Within this space – that provides both opportunities and challenges for articulated displays and discourses – will be analyzed artistic practices that provide tactical responses that reveal the ‘intimate, self-reflexive and profound’ in juxtaposition to the grandiose, spectacular and universal.

Smallness, in the context of today’s big data, expanded digital worlds and representations of infinite global riches or tragedies, becomes a reflection of the role of humanity and human beings in a universe in constant expansion: where everything becomes larger than life. Cosmic infinity, trillions of dollars, billions of people do not provide the mind with comprehensible numbers in a mediated society that increasingly seeks the larger, the gigantic, the bigger to achieve awe and perceive immensity.

Instead, as Jussi Parikka suggested, The Small Infinite is a return to the world as suggested by the 18th century philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, mapping the minutest infinity of matter in his Monadology:

“Every portion of matter may be conceived as like a garden full of plants and like a pond full of fish. But every branch of a plant, every member of an animal, and every drop of the fluids within it, is also such a garden or such a pond.” [2]

Beyond the immediate perception, we are able to comprehend or at least imagine the infinity of worlds packed in worlds. Perhaps this escapes our cognitive capacities but the importance and smallness of humanity is perceived only in the context of worlds within worlds and measured against scientific frameworks in a variety of fields from geology to nanotechnology – but also in mathematics, the original poetic imagination of the infinite.

On September 20, 2014 before the event a complimentary buffet lunch will be provided in the Gallery from 12pm-1pm, followed by the panel discussion from 1pm-3pm.

Image credit
Outside the National Gallery, detail, Mark Lewis, 2011. 4k transferred to 2k, duration 6 minutes.
Courtesy of the artist and Daniel Faria Gallery.