The Microscopic World of Hat-Making
April 24, 2012
“Construction Overhead” by Sorensen Grundy Milliners
“Why has not man a microscopic eye?” asked Alexander Pope, who eulogized that, despite advances in microscopes and lenses, we were no closer to “comprehend the heaven.” Yet, equipped with such integrated faculties (as we arguably now are) would we possess the wherewithal to perceive the vibrant infinite life Jonathan Swift so vividly conceptualized and envisioned in Gulliver’s Travels or would we use them, as Schopenhauer suggested, as self-aggrandizing tools with which to sidestep the comic smallness of existence? This all has only tangential relevance with “Construction Overhead” by Sorensen Grundy Milliners, yet it’s literally with microscopic eyes that lilliputian workers construct one of the shop’s specialty hats.
“Construction Overhead” imagines an impossible scenario, lifted from the colorful pages of The Borrowers or Swift’s Travels, wherein Big-endians and little-endians co-exist in space, alike in every detail save for the discrepancy of scale. Workers, “transferred from the railway”, have been commissioned with the task of building a bespoke hat of “buckram, blocing wire and 100% worsted wool” directly on the head of the client. Rendered at 1:87 scale, the team of hard-helmeted workers erect lattices and structural bracing on the giant’s shoulder, independently scaling the half-finished top hat and going about their respective tasks. The whole scene, with bits of scaffolding framing the model’s expressive visage, recalls Raoul Hausmann’s Dada cyborg, yet with more whimsy and warmth. As Sara Grundy, one of the makers behind the project tells MyModernMet, “Because it’s such hard work and takes such a long time [to fabricate a hat by hand] we have often daydreamed about having the help of a miniature workforce or leaving something half finished that get’s magically completed overnight.”