241 Things

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

241 Things

The Spanish interior architect Iñaki Aliste Lizarrald draws detailed maps of houses from TV series and films.

From Will & Grace to The Big Bang Theory to Up to Breakfast at Tiffany's: fans will instantly recognise the apartments they have so often taken a peek into. Lizarralde (42) meticulously studies the series to find out the precise location of furniture and the way the rooms are connected.

'About five years ago I started to draw the interior of Frasier's apartment,' he writes in an email from Azpeitia, a small town in the Spanish part of the Basque region. 'I liked the series and the apartment, which I wanted to analyse. Then a friend asked me if I could draw a map of Carrie's flat from Sex and the City. That's how this got under way.'

Lizarralde claims he isn’t a complete tube-addict. 'My own taste is somewhat old-fashioned: I like Six Feet Under, Upstairs/Downstairs and Twin Peaks.' However, in order to draw up a map he goes through each and every episode, finger on fast-forward, not to miss a glimpse of the interior.

'Episodes in which the houses are clearly brought into view I study extra carefully. The most important set, usually the living room, features in every episode, so that's easy. But rooms that are more rare to snatch a glimpse of are built anew each time someplace else in the TV studios. Similarly, interiors of houses in films are often hard to reconstruct, because in films they hardly ever show you the whole place.'

Since most series are shot in TV studios, the maps don't show squares or rectangles as in a regular house. 'Films are often shot in closed sets that resemble a normal house. TV series and sitcoms, on the other hand, are made using something like theatre sets,' the interior architect explains. 'The designers use tricks to make them seem bigger. That's why many maps are shaped more or less like a trapeze. Jerry Seinfeld's apartment, for instance, is actually tiny. Yet the angles of the walls are wider than ninety degrees to make space for the actors and the interior. Additionally, these angular rooms make the room look more dynamic.'

Lizzaralde neither tries to make them into normal houses, nor does he strive for a perfect rendition of the sets: 'I translate the aspect of theatre to the realm of architecture, that's where my interest lies.'

Meanwhile, the draughtsman has become unemployed ('for various reasons'), yet he uses his twenty years of experience in interior architecture to make the maps as truthful as possible. 'I know much about measurements and proportions. In the final drawing, everything must be right: the measurements and proportions, the furniture, the colours of the woodwork and even the location of the accessories.'

The final drawings are made with a felt pen, ink and crayon on coarse drawing board. 'I find that this method is peaceful. As an interior architect I used to make digital drawings too, but to these maps I wanted to lend that sense of warmth that only handmade drawings possess.'

It costs Lizarralde around thirty to forty hours to finish a drawing. He sells his work on Etsy.com. Then he copies the whole drawing, which costs him another ten to fifteen hours. And he isn't pricy: they change owners for just forty euros.

Raymond Roussel
Jasper Johns' studio

Replica by Joe Fig

Raymond Roussel

At nineteen years of age, Raymond Roussel worked feverishly at his first grand novel, La Doublure. With great care, he shut the curtains of his study to prevent the light of his genius from escaping through the windows. Above all, Roussel refused to be distracted by the banality of the everyday world. His books were fuelled by nothing more than his endless imagination.

Many contemporary artists are just as fond of hermetically shutting their studio off from the rest of the world. There’s one artist I know who meticulously keeps the sliding doors to his studio, directly annexing his living room, firmly shut. Sometimes, when he leaves the room to fetch a book, I try to peek inside, but it’s absolutely impossible to catch even a glimpse. His scanner is in The Studio. but there’s not a chance in the world that I might make a scan myself, or even to accompany him to the other side of that door while he does it for me.

Having become slightly apprehensive at so much secrecy, I sometimes fantasize about an illegal photographer hiding in there, making all his work. Or that my friend copies all his work from old encyclopaedias or from smutty porn. That’s the great thing about art today, everything can be used as a source, which means that everything is possible.

The studio is traditionally seen as the place from which work originates while at the same time, it’s the prison in which the artist must endure hour upon hour of lonely isolation. Doubt seeps through the walls of the workplace like damp, and the artist asthmatically gasps for air. Every artist in the studio is a lonely hero.

Pollock's studio

Replica by Joe Fig

Artist Jackson Pollock needed the loneliness of the studio to come to his unique expressive drip paintings. “I am nature” was his response to the artist’s endless attempts at replicating nature. Like a gladiator, he stands in the middle of his canvases, allowing the paint to drip from the stick in his hand. The artist and his work are one. It’s precisely this location, laden with expression and drama, which is seen in replica form in a photo by Joe Fig.

Within the miniature sculpture, the studio is recreated in minute detail (based on Hans Namuth’s photos) and shows the master in the midst of his canvases on the ground, surrounded by paint in shades exactly corresponding the photo. Each detail is correct. The sculptures demand knowledge of the perspective, of the colour, and insight of the artist. Joe Fig’s craftsmanship is praised, and so it seems that a genius is needed to make a perfect copy, However fascinating the work may be, it never quite extends past the original, nor does it exalt kitsch nor the Gepetto-syndrome.

Charles Matton, too, makes replicas of studios and presents them as photographs within a catalogue. His studios are equally miniature and precisely fabricated as Joe Fig’s.

Rhinoceros: Homage to Eugene Ionesco​​

Diorama by Charles Matton, mixed media

Matton wanted to find a modern way to create realistic interiors like the painters of the 17th century, without having to rely on their level of craftsmanship. Initially, he wanted to photograph his friends in their studios and paint over these images. Not too difficult. In the end, he made dioramas in which he carefully made an exact replica of the studio that he photographed. These works were incredibly time consuming and ultimately, the complete opposite of the quick method he initially aspired to. The dioramas were a success (because secretly, everyone loves a doll’s house.)

The dioramas take things a step further because by portraying some sort of primal idea of the sculptor or painter. The spherical sculptures of the modern sculptor fill the space, while in Francis Bacon’s studio chaos prevails. A hippopotamus models in the middle of a studio. These strange boxes, with all their fantasy and precision, explore a world that exists out of our line of perception, even out of our presence.

Tisch

Replica of Fischli und Weiss' own studio by themselves

Fischli and Weiss also made a copy of a studio, their own studio, in full scale. Everything, even the juice packages have been precisely replicated. Just as painfully exact as Joe Fig. But instead of peering through a keyhole into the artist’s sanctuary, you walk through their reality, their reality which is just as banal as our own daily existence. And it’s exactly this deconstruction of the world and it’s enormous ability to place things into perspective that makes this copy genius.

Instead of locking their doors, Fischli and Weiss invite all to enter their holy land. But there’s nothing left to steal here, they’ve already stolen it themselves.

Warhol's studio

Replica by Joe Fig

Boites Comme Fins en Soi

by Charles Matton

Miniscule soldiers on a massive quest.

Armata Christi in a bottle
works of Marc Pantus
Armata Christi in a bottle

The calvary mountain in a bottle.

We all know that image of utmost intrigue of a boat in a bottle. How we delight ourselves in wondering how on earth one could fit the entire ship and its masts, sails, yards, booms, gaffs, bowsprit and rigging through the tiny mouth of a bottle! How very painstaking the task, how immensely disciplined the maker! Let alone the enormous amount of time spent making each separate object.

Although it may seem that way, ships aren’t the only things that have made their way to the bottle. In fact, the bottle is the scene for yet another setting.

In the south of Germany and Austria, entire Golgothas are places inside bottles. Simple wooden carvings of the crucifixion of Christ, framed by Arma Christi, otherwise known as the Instruments of Passion.

The word arma sounds related to weapons, and so it is. For the devoted, these symbols represent the weapons with which Jesus entered his conquest against death from which he emerged victorious.

I’d previously only been familiar with the Instruments of Christ through an interesting painterly theme, namely, the Gregoriusmis. During a holy mass led by Pope Gregorius, Christ magically appeared as the Man of Sorrows. The Arma are scattered around him randomly and in and are painted in a cartoonish fashion on the canvas or panel. There are many instruments. The most important are the cross, the crown of thorns, the whipping post, the cock, nails, a hammer, pliers, dice, a ladder, a lance, a sponge (on a long stick,) but the more fanatic might proceed with the shroud of Veronica, the silver pieces Judas was paid (with or without pouch,) a spitting mouth, a portrait of Pilaus, a punishment tool made of knotted string, a bottle of balm, a king’s mantel, a torch, a Judas kiss, the good and the evil murder, a bucket (for vinegar,) INRI written on a piece of paper, the sun and the moon, a representation of the Denial of Peter, a pitcher and a bowl (in which Pilatus washes his hands of guilt,) a cup (that he can’t let past him,) and my favourite instrument: a sword stuck into an ear.

According to John the Evangelist, that ear belongs to a servant named “Malchus.” In the heat of the battle at the Mount of Olives, where Christ is captured, the hot headed Peter attempts to thwart the situation by striking the high priest’s servant down with his sword, cutting off his ear in the process. This servant’s name was Malchus, and as such, he’s quite comically included in the gospel.

Using these symbols, one can reconstruct the entire story from Christ’s capture in the Mountain of Olives to his crucifixion and subsequent descent from the cross (which explains the presence of an object as mundane as a pair of pliers inside the bottle.) I’m well versed in the passion of Matthew and John. I even know them by heart, albeit in German.This is why: because I’m a professional classical singer, I’ve been singing Bach’s passions for four to three weeks a year since my college days. The passions are performed more in The Netherlands than anywhere else, whether this is St. John or St. Matthew’s version. At this point, it’s likely that I’ve performed the gospel dozens of times, and probably more than a hundred times per passion.

The simple wood carver unleashing his blades onto the blocks of wood in his wintry farmer’s home can find inspiration for the most precious details from St. John’s gospel. He tells us the name of the servant who’s short an ear after his meeting with Peter. He describes the garment that Jesus wears as he is dressed as a saint to be ““Ungenähet, von oben an gewürket, durch und durch.” These bottle of patience makers (“Geduldsflasche,) as they’re also referred to, don’t go as far. Besides the impossibility of really understanding what is meant with “gewürket, durch und durch,” most of these amateur carvers are not quite apt enough at their hobby to be able to go into too much detail with their bottle scenes.The dice might have the right amount of dots, and you won’t mistake the cock for just any old bird, but don’t expect any filigree wood works.

This is folk art. Ever endearing, the bottles start including cut outs from magazines and postcards as the years progress. And to show a bit of skill, cypress-like trees are placed in the bottle. It’s far easier to make than it appears, and although the cypress isn’t specifically mentioned in the gospel, we still understand its purpose in the scene.

In the same areas where the crucifixion is placed within bottles, you’ll find the theme outside the bottle, in large format, hung up in houses. These are called Wetterkreuz, around which entire families would congregate on stormy days and nights when thunder and lightning would threaten the hay and straw decked farms, to pray for God to keep the house from being struck by lightning.

The Eingerichte that I own have all been bought on eBay and have been delivered to me by mail. The most beautiful example has not survived its journey intact. The goodnews is that now own one in which the earthquake (one of Bach’s Mattheus Passion’s most famous scenes) is shown. Now that’s rare.