I Can Talk

“I Can Talk!?”

What relationship do words have to diorama images or scenes? Or, to any work of art for that matter?

Traditionally, words are attached to particular works of art. Sometimes, words have played a great part in making a work of art. Many times, words are attached to types of third person “museum tour guides” telling us about the scene in front of us. The explanation comes before the perception can fully settle in. But perhaps this is the intended method today? Perceptions of things, uncommented on, un-classified, existing somewhat freely out there, like dandelines, whisking around in the slightest of breezes. And of course, the explanation is always outside the particular piece of art. Someone commenting on it.

But what if the piece of art could make comments for itself? What if the story of what is happening in a particular scene from a diorama is told by a participant in the diorama? When the words are from some character within the diorama there is a very different effect than that of a third person observer of the scene, telling us about it. Another view from our “scale” and perspective. Yet not a totally different view from a character within the diorama.

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In a number of our dioramas we have hinted at offering words with the diorama from first person perspectives of a participants in the scene. Such is the case with Desert Patriot’s Last Stand which provides a third person narration from an unknown narrative voice. With Studio Protest, a first person perspective is used. The blog is in fact being written by the head of a studio that has many protestors outside in front of it. The studio head drinks some wine from a German’s vineyard in Canada as he fondly remembers his three days in Canada in the midst of all of these labor problems he has when he gets back from Canada.

In Studio Protest, the words attempt to both explain the making of the diorama but mix it with the tense situation developing outside the studio. Attempt to picture in your mind the head of some studio inside of his office during an insurrection of his diorama figures and objects. He knows he must go out and address them soon. He lets the reader into his thoughts on all of this. He doesn’t attempt to keep much hidden from the reader. His journalistic style might suggest Hunter Thompsonesque. He seems a pretty good journalist as he drinks glasses of ther German’s wine.

What is the head of the studio (me) to do? Let my characters speak up more in the upcoming dioramas? Even employ them in the diormas in the first place? Doesn’t the nature scene inside the open door of the studio in Studio Protest suggest a movement away from using figures and objects in scenes from the studio. The image of the image in the Blackout diorama and blog. An image of nature. Perhaps the studio is changing to natural images and doesn’t need images of the figures and objects in the current protest in front of the studio.

Interesting for the first experiments with first person narratives inside of a diorama scene. Modern dioramas can use incredible LED lighting and bluetooth sound technology. And other forms of modern technology that might infiltate the diorama environment. Still, the idea of using a first person voice from the scene is not part of this technology. No, it’s rather a shift in looking at this technology. An interesting blending of perspectives on a particular scene. A key actor in a scene relates the background of the scene to the viewer of the diorama or the blog on the diorama in Studio Protest above.

Some of my Shoeboxes

What will the dioramist/artist do? Allow characters in his scenes to talk more freely to the audience as in Studio Protest? Or, take more control over the objects in his dioramas? Among all the various unions protesting in front of Midnight Oil Studios in the Studio Protestblog above, there is one that is very important. You don’t see their sign with the other protestors outside the studio. It is the Association for Assembling. It is a group that believes all true dioramists or scenographers are more assemblers than creators.

Of course, this is true about me. I assemble scenes by bringing things contained in my shoeboxes together (for the first time) in diorama scenes. I create things by using the contents of a number of boxes. Mixing them on a plywood foundation like paints on a palette.

In Studio Protest, the premise is a story from the perspective of 1/12 scale head of Midnight Oil Studios … me. I sit in my office writing (typing) this blog about the situation.

It is somewhat of an amazing thing. One of the characters in the diorama can talk and in fact is narrating the entire scene for us from his/her perspective.

The narrator might simply be excited about the fact that he can talk to us. But he is not. He simply wants another glass of the German wine he has been drinking before going out to meet the crowds of disgruntled workers in front of the studio.

Will he give them more power? Or give them less power?

We seem to zoom in on this situation at some critical moment in the history of Midnight Oil Studios.

“I can talk,” says one of my creations.

A Diorama Piece

So, I let this creation talk in the Studio Protest blog.

He talks of German wine and the break in the fence around the studio. But it is not about what he talks about. But that he talks (as a narrative voice) in the first place.

The character narrating the scene in Studio Protest is like Charlie McCarthy realizing he has some magical power. Or, like Pinocchio, discovering he might be a real boy. He is not interested in talking about this new perspective. Only giving us a report from this new perspective within the diorama scene.

Midnight Oil Studios Founder John Fraim – Above Palm Desert

I can talk!

For once, I’m a participant in a diorama I’ve created who is tasked with describing his/her situation in the scene. No other description is provided. The entire blog is from the first-person perspective of the studio owner. The diorama is photographed and posted to the Midnight Oil site called Studio Protest. And now, with this post, somewhat of a follow-up underlining of what we did in Studio Protest.

A new form of scene creation? Scenography? (The theater books on scene design I read thanks to my friend Darryl’s recommendations). Set design? Scene design? Dioramas? Words from participants in the scene rather than commentators on it. What is their effect in creating the scene?

Letting one’s creations do something for the first time. That is, “talk” for the first time. In this act of talking, it is not what they are saying that is anywhere near as important as the fact that they are simply talking. For the first time.

We always look in the wrong areas to find things in our western culture. We look at the content of words rather than the context of them. This is a major change here, but it is not one that is really recognized by the speaker/studio founder.

A character in a diorama allowed to talk.

The real magic exists in the words from the diorama character and how much we believe these words. He/she provides us with a new perspective and voice on the scene. Does the narrative become part of the final artwork? This is a good question.

3 thoughts on “I Can Talk

  1. Words are usually the impetuous or beginning for most open dioramas and also enclosed shadow box dioramas, especially the narrative ones, but also the non-linear ones.
    I believe words can play a bigger part, even in the diorama itself, just as words do in a Graphic Novel. They can be a prelude, part of, or even a post curatorial part of the scene with the audience,
    not just in the name label, but through out the piece.

    The use of words in a diorama scene, and especial together or in conjunction with sound will indicate the passage of time, so this must be of extreme consideration, which can be both good and bad.
    The indication of the passage of time can be a whole new dimension for the “Static Illusionist”.
    It has been used and done successfully in other visual arts, such as theatre , but to use it in a static environment is challenging. We can learn much from the Museum Diorama Exhibition artists, because they pioneered this over the past 20-30 years , with much success.

    Assuming that the audience is intelligent enough to decipher the content of the words used, and their intended meaning, whether written, projected, spoken or non-verbally gestured, or even symbolically told,
    the viewer can be brought into the diorama not only as a distant viewer but also as a willing participant. I’ve seen this do every well in life size historical tableaues and dioramas.

    This ties into the world of ‘photojournalism’, and ‘photo essay’, both much pioneered by image artists such as W.Eugene Smith and Larry Burrows, using a combination of striking thought provoking images combined with either captions, or short essays to support or add to the image content.
    Non-verbal communication, which is the domain and grandfather of all narrative art, current diorama art, and especially the ones containing figures models; using gestures, and unspoken words to drive the intended narrative home, which has always been my concern, but why any more?

    Modern or current dioramas can only benefit from current modern technologies, but with intent. They still used to tell a story, or do they?
    If the modern diorama is no longer tied to the narrative history, but instead ripped from that tradition, like the Impressionists ripped art from it’s narrative moorings, then why can not a diorama become a complete work of art onto it’s own, respecting but owing nothing to the past.

    Paper cut outs have been used for decades in dioramas. I used them extensively in my shadow box diorama, “When a Bond Among Men is Forged in The Blood of Faith”,
    All the wolves are paper cut outs pained and lighted with fiber-optics in the eyes, and all the ‘birds of prey’ perched in the trees are also paper cut outs pained, but now with 3/D printed figures, even the author themselves can be placed into the scene as a narrator, audience member or even in a curatorial role.

    The use of words in relation to the diorama’s intent can surely expand the content of the diorama as well as expand it’s context in today’s world.

    Does the narrative become part of the final art work? Does it have to be?
    Can the narrative, words, gestures, signs, symbols be the final work of art, with the visual diorama becoming the medium or connection for the message?

    Darryl Audette

  2. Fascinating comments Darryl (as usual). Very much appreciate them. Especially the reference and like to your wonderful diorama! Might the use of words in dioramas be somewhat similar to the auteur theory of the creator of a film. Is the writer or the director the real creator of a film? When a character in a diorama speaks (at the studio CEO does in our blog Studio Project) is this speaker the creator (writer) of the scene? Or, is the dioramist (director) of the scene the creator?

  3. John,

    Very interesting idea.

    The Director certainly is the “shaper” of the film, being in charge of a collaborative team or the head of a production team, it’s their vision along with the Designer /Art Director that mostly dictates the look, shape and feel of the film.

    Is he then the Creator? or is the author of the literature the film is bases on the Creator? Why are most films based on existing literature? Is not the screenwriter then the ultimate Creator, and the Director just a cog in the visual production team, is not who ever had the original idea of the story the original Creator

    If and when a character speaks in a diorama, if there is no passage of time, then is the speaker solely a narrator or curator to the viewer or audience. He can be a contributor to the scene depicted, an important element, that without him, the scene doesn’t make sense, or falls apart visually.

    I think that when the diorama has moved past the traditional narrative style into a more abstract non-linear style, is he still important; aside from being the person who indicates where a wall or other set element has to be moved or removed to, altering and benefiting the final look of the diorama.

    I see the dioramaist as the visual designer, placing and arranging objects, weather they be miniature figures or a chair or even abstract elements to better communicate the story or intended vision to the viewer.

    The dioramaist has traditionally being seen as the builder or maker of 3/D designs, projects, but isn’t he more than just a builder ? He/she can surely be the creator if the idea is theirs, otherwise isn’t he just putting things together to fulfill someone else’s creation.

    In the hobby realm, the dioramaist is usually arranging objects he/she wants to either display or to tell a story with, usually with 3/D cars, planes, armor models, figures, but what if the diorama concept or idea is more abstract, such as with a modern theatre model or setting, then he is more of a designer or even a creator?

    These questions open up many avenues involving creative copyright, and creative collaboration.

    Darryl Audette

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