It took Brazilian artists Vik Muniz and Marcelo Coelho, who is also an MIT researcher,  four years of trial and error to master these sketches of castles. What you should probably know is that each of these simple drawings is etched onto a single grain of sand.

As a photographer, Muniz had been exploring large scale art—art so big, you could only see it from far away—when he had the idea to make an image that was so small, you could not see it all; it would have to be imagined. Fortunately, he says, he ran into Coelho.

The pair has spent years perfecting their technique, but even now, it’s never a guarantee. Sometimes the image won’t take because the grain is either too hard or too soft.

In the video below, the artists explain their process and how they got this far. “Over the course of four years, sometimes I ask myself, ‘Should I just do this in Photoshop?’ But you realize that it’s not the same thing. In some ways, the final image carries with it the history of the process that you developed, ” Coelho says.

To create their art, Muniz begins by using a camera lucida to draw the castles, an optical device used by artists to project images for sketching. Coelho then uses a machine called a FIB, a focused ion beam, to etch the drawings onto grains of sand no more than half a millimeter long.

Not only is their art incredibly creative and unique, but it’s also a reflection of where we are as a society. “It is a great moment to be a photographer today, ” Muniz explains, “because photography is completely obsolete, in terms of its relation to reality. We’re pretty much at the spot where painting was around 1839 when photography was invented.”

“Painting was released from its relation to the factual world. Painters had to think, ‘What is painting?’ In a similar fashion, the relationship between photography and reality has changed significantly with the advent of digital imaging.”

Watch the video for yourself and catch the microscopic sandcastles in their exhibit at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art from now until August 2.


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Category: Art