Some ideas for working in limited spaces

Many of us will be working in small physical spaces for some time. Although this brings all sorts of problems, I suspect that any work you can make during this time may become incredibly precious and significant to you in future years. It doesn’t all have to be digital (although of course we are fortunate in a way that this is happening in 2020, not 1970, 1980, 1990 or even 2000, when online resources were much more limited).

Gary Perkins made miniature, dysfunctional rooms in the 1990s, which were viewed by his audience through CCTV systems, (where they appeared to be real interiors)

James Casebere does a similar thing with his photographs of small models, but they have a more esoteric, calmer feel

The idea of artists making tiny scenarios or building is something that returns in art every few years

The god-parent of them all is perhaps Marcel Duchamp, who miniaturised all his past work in a ‘boite-en-valise’ edition so collectors could buy his entire oeuvre

Also worth mentioning is Joseph Cornell, an American artist (associated with Surrealism) who captured the associations (for the American diaspora) of romance, history and folk-magic of Europe in Boxes and collages

Donald Rodney made a house out of his own skin (maybe caution should be recommended)

7 thoughts on “Some ideas for working in limited spaces

  • Oh thanks for this! I am sort of trapped in my house at the moment… it’s a bit difficult sometimes to be in an inner city apartment with not so much space… I decided to try working outside since the weather is good! I would recommend looking at the photographer James Bidgood he shot his magazine photos and made his movie “Pink Narcissus” in his tiny NYC apartment space with no assistants at all 😀

  • Thanks for this. I didn’t know about him
    (Link for any lazy readers of this blog)
    I guess there is quite a lot of scope for films now made with minimal resources
    I heard ‘Tangerine’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tangerine_(film)
    was filmed on iPhones.
    ‘Tarnation’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tarnation_(2003_film)
    was made on iMovie on a laptop, using lots of found footage and phone messages etc

  • Great references for working at a small scale, Jeff! There is also a great book about the use of miniature scale in Duchamp by TJ Demos called “The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp”. TJ examines the scale of art through ideas around migration and homelessness. It all seems very apt today when our movements are so restricted.

  • In the same vein – the use of Dioramas to depict scenes and microcosms. It has the added association of 19th century cabinet of curiosities/theatre/museum.


    An artist who utilises the historical context and channels it into a contemporary commentary: Mark Dion – Paris Streetscape (2017)

    I’ve made a quite a lot of small scaled work – if anyone has an idea which relates and wants help getting started, do let me know.


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