… poetic trash – miniature sculptures …

Miniature scupture - 2981The eye-catching miniatures created by Yuji Agematsu pulled me back to my student phase in Munich during the 1970ies, when a group of friends looked out for small items like roots, twigs, leaves, seeds, grasses, feathers, stones, shells, dried or fresh flowers, the occasional bottle top or bits of shiny sweet wrappers, and sampled such bits into cellophane bags. We then handed these tiny poetry worlds to pedestrians or people sitting outside cafes in the then student district of Munich, Schwabing. It gave us thrill when recipients expressed a shock of surprise.

Yuji Agematsu is drawn to trash. Since mid-1990, his daily ritual is collecting small debris from New York’s streets. From the harvest he creates dreamlike dioramas inside cellophane sleeves of cigarette packets.

In this delightful interview (press for link to a separate page) he shares how his passion for collecting started during his childhood. Here a few more snippets: ‘I see each object as a notation in terms of music. Each has its own sound and rhythm,’ or, ‘Each person has to find his or her own sense of scale,’ or ‘… my objects are accidental objects, already consumed. The object itself stimulates me. The subject relationship is reversed. I’d say that one is consciously unconscious, and the other is unconsciously conscious.’

The last thought rhymes with a recent thought of mine I shared on twitter … my mind is unconsciously magical, while my unconscious mind is irrationally pragmatic …  Like most poetically inclined people I embrace paradox to be able to function in daily life .

Yuji’s search for trash treasures developed into a language that emotionally embraces urban archaeology. He attracts bits of litter we may regard with a smirk, mostly ignore or simply not notice. While his miniature installations are scaled down to finger size sculptures, the mind-expanding and transformative effect equals grand scale installations. My experience, apart from the cognitive surprise, was being left with a bodily sensation, a deep feeling connection with these miniatures.

world objects 1 - smaller

World objects from my sand tray

This deep feeling of wonder can happen in sand play therapy; where in a tray of fine sand world objects are brought into relationship. The imaginary process can symbolise models of operation in the life of a client, bringing with it emotional clarity.

I have miniature installation in my home, on windowsills … unable to resist picking up feathers,  seeds, leaves, driftwood, pebbles and so on, which often hold the story of an eternal moment in time.

A small black stone, for example, features prominently  as a protagonist in my novel, Course of Mirrors..


You can glean more information about Yuji Agematsu and his impressive work here in this Guardian gallery, and in this article in Frieze … here.

The earlier images of Yuji Agametsu’s work are courtesy of the Miguel Abreu gallery, NY.


Filed under Blog

12 responses to “… poetic trash – miniature sculptures …

  1. Fascinating! This reminds me of that kid book series The Littles, A simple thing like a leaf can become a boat or plane, the tiniest twig a broom, a Little’s cane…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yours is a good way to connect with the natural world.

    The assemblage with the big leaf (2nd photo from the bottom) is beautiful.

    See you!

    Neil Scheinin

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very interesting, not all woul appeal to me but natural things do. E.g. The boat with twig for a mast and leaf for sail, driftwood, stones. I have a black stone just like the one in your last picture. It sits on top of a cream one.

    Art has many ways to express itself


    Liked by 2 people

  4. “This deep feeling of wonder can happen in sand therapy”.
    Reading this evoked beautiful memories and a sense of calm.
    A miniature world of tiptrucks and graders, all within the boundaries of the sandpit.
    I wonder what your own mini-world movie played like?
    Great to read Ashen. Thanks.B

    Liked by 1 person

    • If this interests, there are many books on Sandplay, but look out for ‘Sandplay’ by the wonderful Dora M. Kalff (1980 – Sigo Press). Through the medium of the play the imagination becomes visible. I compare it to lucid dreaming. Never static, always moving.
      My present mini movie is one of feeling lost – a creative place to be in 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love your sand tray Ashen – I could play for hours! I too pick up bits here and there – a feather, a stone, a piece of wood, a shell – all meaningful in their way –

    Great post thanks … gorgeous photos. Will check the links when time permits ..

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome, Susan. Re: Sand play … my tray does not have the classic rectangular proportions, it is a beautifully carved round antic Afghan implement sitting on four wide legs, with an 18 cm deep insertion, which I filled with fine white sand. When not in use I cover it with thick glass and it becomes a table. I must post an image of it some time. It seems to have been used by Afghani women to sit round it in a circle and either pound seeds or mix bread dough.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, lovely installations. Must try this, too. It looks so satisfying.

    Liked by 1 person

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