John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Is it a Leprechaun attack?
Is Zagreb under a Leprechaun attack? If so, that race of mischief-loving fairies must have made a drastic wardrobe shift, because they've ditched green top hats and coattails in favor of the more stoic business-casual of the modern office world. No wonder they look so unhappy.
The miniaturized men were sculpted in the hands of Spanish artist Isaac Cordal, who recently took part in a guerrilla-culture festival in Croatia's capital for the MUU street-art museum. (Don't go looking for the museum's physical address, by the way, as its more of an ephemeral project to spruce up boring neighborhoods.) As he's done for past outdoor exhibits in Brussels, Barcelona and Berlin, in Zagreb the artist first used molds to forge tiny cement bodies in different positions and gave them a coat of paint for clothes. Then he headed out with a sack of the homunculi and stuck them into surprising or funny places in the city's crumbling architecture, like in between an apartment building's bricks where they peek out like storm-wary sparrows.
In an interview with Agenda Magazine, Cordal explained that his shrunken humans, who often adapt facial expressions or bodily poses that suggest they're sad sacks, are not meant to look depressing:
“Lots of people find them very sad and negative, but I think there is also a lot of humour to them.” But the laughter they evoke is no belly-laugh provoked by jokes; it is more of a slight smile at the acute, caustic absurdity and recognisability of the scenes Cordal puts together. “I’m not trying to tell jokes. I’m aiming for a more critical kind of art. For me, street art is a way of combat, a way of expressing my ideas. A sort of activism.”
Cordal's latest deployment of "Cement Eclipses," as he calls his flurries of figurines, went into what one Croatian reviewer calls the "Grandma neighborhood" of Dugave. He was joined by more than two dozen other artists, creating the largest street-art "museum" in Croatia for a few days. Aside from the statuettes, there were people doing 3-D video mapping, making nylon puppets and painting regular ol' graffiti murals on the walls. From what I've seen, though, nothing quite popped as much as the mouse-sized men. Here are a few more images of the experiment in Zagreb, followed by similar works from elsewhere: