Monday, June 23, 2008

The Swiss Miniatur effect

My older sister – I'll call her "Heidi," like the Swiss milkmaid - has always been my hero (cf. the 7th grade character sketch I wrote about her, calling her my personal hero. One of my reasons was that she'd never taken drugs "even though she's been offered." Also around this time, though I did not put this in my paper, she told me that this really mean kid who harassed me on the bus would probably get "stuffed in a locker" once we made it to high school, a bit of perspective which gave me great comfort that year.) Lately I've been thinking about how hard it is to be the oldest – she has to be braver, more determined, more responsible, more forgiving, and more patient than the rest of us. We're generally twenty steps behind and totally unaware of what happened while we were catching up.

I'm coming around to my point, which is that I always learn a lot from "Heidi" (and from her husband "Peter" for that matter.)  In addition to being my moral exemplar, she is my personal liberal arts tutor. So one thing I did not know before her recent visit was that artists used to paint themselves into their pictures (often with this queer look at you out of the painting). Now that I know this, I see it everywhere, of course. Anyway, this led us into a long discussion of "trompe l'oeil" effects, pictures within pictures, and how weird it is that took artists so long to use painting as a means of personal expression.

Here, art and science met in a weird philosophical way, as we considered the Swiss Miniatur effect – "probably our [my] most valid fear about living in Switzerland," according to Swiss Mr. That is, what would happen if we went to visit Swiss Miniatur and saw ourselves standing outside of mini Swiss-Miniatur, and then looked closer and saw mini-mini us going to mini-mini Swiss-Miniatur inside the mini Swiss-Miniatur... and so on. Would the world implode? Or would our minds fold in on themselves? If neither of these things happened, would we have physical proof of the multiverse theory? How fast would a paper about this get into "Science"? And would anyone care that artists have been thinking about this for more than a thousand years?


Li said...

Ms Swiss, I can catch the same feeling when I stood under the Giant Bean in Millianeumn Park and looked up at myself. In short, the whole world might be actually a crystal ball--- you will never know whether you are watching the scene or you are in the scene.:)

Swiss Ms. said...

Nicely put!