The previous blog touched on the beauty of micro-scale origami, commonly seen in nature. Yet, diminutive patterning is often lost in the grand landscape before us. Gazing into the fractal folding of birch bark or a leaf’s lacey veins, opens our eyes to movement — a sense of infinite lines and endless depth. The micro-folds tempt and train the eye to see into the essence of things.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of microcosmic scale is origami writ large. Artists across multiple genres have drawn upon origami processes to create large (macro) scale sculptures in everything from fashion to interactive architecture. Here we encounter the parable of the improbability of a camel passing through the eye of the needle. By pushing the edge of large scale, they test the limits of human perception. Grandiose, (wo)man-made origami overwhelms the eye in a different way. The gigantic extends our concept of bodily boundaries, capabilities, creative process and techne (craftsmanship). It harnesses our attention and annex our perception in ways that free us from the confines of habitual seeing.
Check out Origami artist Sibho Mabona’s White Elephant– a life-size (3 meter high) origami elephant made from a single sheet of paper! Mabona’s process is both art and performance art.
Playing with the scale of origami also finds a home in dance performance. Dancer Satchie Noro collaborated with builder, designer and poet, Silvain Ohl, on a wonderfully interactive macro-scale choreography, created for the Dance Umbrella Festival (London 2017), Noro chose the Battersea Power Station on the Thames in London as her origami platform. She dances freely and wildly as gargantuan portions of the Power Station mechanically open and close underneath her. The Power Station seems to come alive – a giant dance partner. You thrill to Noro’s risk taking in this massive mfolding and unfolding of naked power. Noro drops and slithers off the Station’s ledges, slides into its gaping mouth, hangs from its monstrous ‘chin,’ unleashing her daring energy with child-like nonchalance.
In the fall of 2018, multimedia artist and dancer Susan Sentler worked with fashion and dance students at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore on the concept of minimalism origami. Sentler, a long-time collaborator with the human origami project, has found unique ways of exploring artistic performance. Sentler recently co-taught a module on fashion and origami with professors Daniela Monasteries, Ginette Chittick and other fashion colleagues. Using large paper to fashion origami outfits, the students designed large scale fashions that transformed the dancers’ bodies – not only their proportions, but also their use of space, inviting a new movement vocabulary. This fashion statement below was created jointly by students Arak See, Shanice Tan, Tan Hui Ru. Here, Sentler captures a folding moment as dancer Celine Sin Yuin plays with the textural richness of her paper body.
As the body partners with paper, minimalism stretches the mind beyond its material constraints. What emerges are counterbalancing dynamics of playfulness and functionality, of fragility and strength, all enfolded into macro and micro folding patterns of the dance fabric. As Sentler notes: “You’re a sheet that is shaping but not making shapes, the paradox of something flat and something curved, the emotional binding that speaks of continuity and discontinuity, that tailbone, that spine from its origins, liquid into substance, flat into fullness. Like a dream that finds you, a dream of your deepest unconscious, becoming conscious…”
Human Origami readily finds consilience with other disciplines where nanobiology, material science, and aesthetics meet. Ample examples exist where artists, scientists and engineers drew from origami to reveal complex processes in biology, embryology and biomedicine, and carved new pathways in space craft, responsive architecture and fashion design.
It all seems logical enough, yet when confronted with the problem of scale, the simplicity of origami gives way to the magic of the unknown. Technology allows us to experience a paradoxical reversibility of scale that challenges our fixed perceptions of reality. Electron-microscopes render micro-cellular data accessible to our visual eye. Satellite technology seems to do the reverse – shrinking the macro-map of a coast line into a micro image. Check out the work of Stephen S Young and Paul Kelly. Playing with an electron microscope and satellite technology, the two artscientists created an exhibit called: Macro or Micro? Misinterpreting the Unfamiliar, (exhibited in Iran in 2015). This blurring of macro and micro is one more way that origami offers an endless source of conversation that deeply confounds and satisfies.