Well, it’s been a busy Fall for Piehole, what with all our devising and blogging and making elaborate dioramas. We’re taking some time off to rest and revive before heading back into Old Paper Houses rehearsals in early February. In the meantime, here’s an ecstatic moment from one of our early rehearsals to get you through the holidays. See you in 2014!
In elementary school I was building a diorama for a book report assignment, and my 4-year-old sister (confused or precociously snarky) called it a “diarrhea-rama,” which should give a pretty good sense of the culture of my household. That particular diorama depicted a scene between Mrs. Frisby, a regular mouse, and Nicodemus, a genetically-enhanced rat, from Robert O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Only now do I realize that, by choosing this book about rodents for a diorama-based assignment, and thus scaling my diorama roughly to life, I was deftly fucking with the diorama medium!!! Or just fundamentally misunderstanding it.
Although I really, really like the idea that dioramas are the invention and sole provenance of elementary school teachers, I could probably do some kind of obsessive genealogy of the diorama throughout history. I could trace this mutating medium from eerie taxidermies to discredited anthropologies behind museum glass; from Persian miniature painting to ancient narrative friezes; from adults goofing off in tableaux vivant to children getting serious with flimsy trompe l’oeil toy theater; architectural table models aspiring to full-scale reality, and boxed-in modernist fantasies intended to trouble it out of existence; Terra Cotta Warriors at attention in the dirt, and Mr. Rogers’ Land of Make-Believe one trolley-stop away; North Korean communist spectacle that shrinks the human and Vegas weddings that enlarge love with immersive kitsch; from puppet shows to panoramas to peep shows; shadow boxes and ships in bottles; cult shrines and curiosity cabinets; idol niches and Christ creches; Victorian dollhouses and Castle Greyskull playsets. And I could maybe explain why Piehole’s found this form useful in examining Transcendental utopias and New England winters. Sure, I could do that.
Cover image by Carol Rosegg