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Go Where Raisins Swell Into Grapes, And Lemons Light The Sky

Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 08:01 AM

There's a book by the novelist China Mieville that describes two cities plopped one on top of the other. One is large-scale, the other smaller-scale, and while they live in entangled proximity, both cities have the same rule. Each says to its citizens, pay no attention — on pain of punishment — to what the "others" around you are doing. See your own kind. "Unsee" the others.

In the novel, most people comply. They may be in the same place at the same time, but learn to not notice. A few, of course, break the rules and watch — even talk to one another — but they are cursed with restless, wandering eyes.

When I was seven, I had those eyesI was keenly aware of a world superimposed on mine. It was littler than mine. But I knew it was there. I could imagine it at will. In my version, I could see my little people. But my little people rarely saw me.

I'd be in my bedroom with a toy speedboat. I'd add passengers – small railroad figures (also from the toy store), the ones sold by model railroad companies. I'd place my little people on the boat, or into the "water" (made of crinkly cellophane sprayed with Gillette "foaming" shaving cream to make tumbling waves, which hid tentacles of giant squid — my dad's pipe cleaners — looking scarily for something to squeeze to death). And I'd watch beautiful ladies with luggage spilling into the sea, getting oh-so-close to disaster ... unless I decided to rescue them, which, sometimes, with my giant hands, I did.

I spent hours and hours with my little people. That was my world.

Pierre Javelle and Akiko Ida live in this same world. But they are much, much better at it than I was. That's because they're adults living in Paris, and they've got wonderfully ridiculous imaginations, so, for example, they too will go to sea and imagine a brave sea captain staring out at the restless water:

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

But in their version, the sea monster is scarier, meatier, with olive eyeballs:

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

Pierre and Akiko have another advantage. They're commercial food photographers, so they think about food constantly, which makes their food fantasies much more dangerous. Peppers in their world aren't just hot. They're fiery hot...

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

... and need to doused:


Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

Pomegranates can blow up at any moment ...

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

... maybe because the French word for "pomegranate" sounds so much like the English word "grenade."

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

Things in their world are different. We all grew up believing that grapes dry in the sun to become raisins. That's wrong, apparently. When we're not looking ...

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

... exactly the opposite happens:

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

The Moon, it turns out, is not made of cheese. It's made of cinnamon (or maybe cocoa):

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

Winters, in this little world, are much like ours, only better:


Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

Construction workers, on the other hand, still have to get by with short lunch breaks in high places:


Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

But happily, superheroes, even with their extraordinary talent for jumping, soaring and climbing ...

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

... in this world have taken time out to think hard about electromagnetism and its possible implications for urban lighting, and have developed ... yes, the lemon-powered lamp. Thank you, Batman. We've been waiting for the LemonLamp for a long, long time.

Courtesy of Pierre Javelle & Akiko Ida

And thanks to Akiko and Pierre — who've been making these images since 2002. They now have scores and scores of them, on display here at a site they call Minimiam. They've also got a videowhich takes you on a train ride through their various creations, themed "milky" and featuring a city of milk bottles, cows, and whiteness. They will be at the International Agriculture Show in Paris next month, if you are reading this (lucky you) in Paris.


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Comments [9]


The word "grenade" comes directly from the French word for pomegranate, so that would explain why they "sound so much [a]like."

Feb. 13 2014 01:35 AM

When I saw the images above, I thought I was looking at work from Audrey Heller. She has a very similar aesthetic and concept. Are you aware of her work?

Feb. 10 2014 10:07 PM

Um... I have to take exception with the description of Mievielle's "The City & The City" as having a cities "One large-scale, the other smaller-scale."

One of the cities is not substantially larger than the other. They are both just cities... that happen to overlap.

Did ya read it, Robert? :)

Jan. 29 2014 01:18 PM

The first image is by the artist Slinkachu and called "how grapes are made".

Jan. 27 2014 02:07 AM
Terry Haywoode from Boston, MA

I just heard one of the guests on Radiolab attribute the quote "Genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration " to Henry Ford.

Wrong, wrong, Wrong!

The true genius who said that was Thomas Alva Edison.

Further, I don't think anyone in 21st century America should quote Henry Ford about anything. He was a raving anti-Semite. His rantings were published in the newspaper of a town that he owned and any place else he could place them. His work inspired Hitler to write Mein Kamph and indeed Hitler did not hesitate to appropriate Ford's words.

Please broadcast a correction.
Thank you.

Jan. 25 2014 04:18 PM
Albert Chubak from Utah

Way cute and creative. The amount of scenes could be endless. Not sure the application but it is really fun and creative. Love it.

Jan. 25 2014 07:28 AM
Alex Lheritier from Pocatello, ID

More evidence of the truth of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Jan. 23 2014 06:08 PM

lol That polar bear! This is so charming

Jan. 23 2014 12:57 PM
Benjamin Metha from Melbourne, Australia

Everything you guys do is so interesting!! Keep it up :)

Jan. 20 2014 07:07 AM

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