The Miniature Object and the Living World 

Eleanor Margolies

Performance Research, A journal of the Performing Arts, édition Routledge
28 novembre 2019

The making and handling of miniature objects offers an opportunity to consider the complex life expressed in the relationships between human and non-human things, through the understanding of the physical properties of materials, and their ‘grain’. As in the Andean animist traditions using small objects called conopa, the animation of miniature objects in performance is a way of connecting humans to the more-than-human through representation and synecdoche. The article discusses the implications of the choice of materials for miniatures, whether the maker faces new physical constraints by working with materials ordinarily used at a much larger scale, or seeks to escape those constraints through the use of mouldable, uniform substances like stucco and plastic. Examples discussed include a spectacular doll’s house designed by Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary, and the clothes and furniture made for Gulliver by the giant citizens of Brobdingnag. Puppet theory offers images for the spectator’s understanding of the process of animation of objects, describing an ‘oscillation’ (Tillis) or ‘opalisation’ (Jurkowski) between the perception of matter and of life. In the related tradition of ‘object theatre’, the handling of small objects highlights the independent processes of the object rather than the performer’s ability to project life into inanimate matter. Performers in this field, notably Agnès Limbos of Belgian object theatre company Gare Centrale, have developed a distinctive physical vocabulary of ‘positioning’, rather than ‘animating’ objects. The article argues that the type of animism employed in object theatre, working through resemblances (play with scale and semiotic systems) and synecdoche (found and otherwise ‘charged’ objects), offers a valuable companion to concepts of ‘assemblages of agency’ (Jane Bennett) and of a ‘meshwork’ of human and non-human relationships (Tim Ingold).