Small Humans Thematic Description

My work is a McLuhan-esque exploration of technologies’ role in culture; how our culture is shaped and evolves through technological forces; how we unconsciously engineer ourselves. Marshall McLuhan postulated that technological change in society occurs at an unconscious level. Humans are not actually ‘in control’ of how new technologies will change and evolve their societies.

Small Humans is a musing on technological folly. Humans are very proud of themselves. Small Humans attacks this pride by exposing the follies of our technological selves. Each of the sculptures in the series pokes fun at humans for their often overly optimistic creation and adoption of new technologies.

‘Small Humans Building Their Destruction’ uses the image of a tin toy robot made large to make a simple point: don’t build a giant robot – it’s just not a good idea. This warning is at the heart of the small humans series. Giant robots seem very useful but they always end up going on a rampage and destroying your cities. Other sculptures in the series examine specific foibles of our times. ‘Small Human Tidying up the Planet’ explores our tenuous relationship with the environment and the planet and our nature to use everything up. ‘Small Human Chipping Away at God’ is a dark look at the science of genetic engineering and our efforts to unravel the divine creation. The essence of Small Humans is a question: is our technological optimism balanced with a realistic skepticism?

The Small Screens

A significant formal element of the Small Humans series is the repeated use of small hand held LCD video screens. They give the series its name: the humans are small because the screens are small. These screens are a new object in our culture and I am motivated to explore them. They can be held in your hand and this makes them different from a TV or a video projection. Small LCD video screens seem like their larger brothers but I believe they are actually different and new. A TV is something you situate your self around (like on the couch) but these small screens invert that relationship – you position them; they do not position you. These small screens are like a window into a different space or time, usually as a part of a camera or camcorder. In the Small Humans sculptures the screen is like an x-ray that lets you observe the humans at work.

Paul Davies, September 2003