We generally imagine sandcastles as modest estates formed by countless grains of sand. But for artist Vik Muniz and artist/researcher Marcelo Coelho, they thought the opposite. Taking a minuscule sand particle, they etched an entire castle on it. The process took them nearly four years to perfect, but the results are extraordinary. These detailed images (enlarged as photographs) are less than one half millimeter in length.
Through a series of trial and error, the two used a combination of 19th century techniques and cutting-edge technology. Muniz first created sketches of castles using a camera lucida, an optical superimposition device created in 1807. It relies on a prism to project a reflection of what’s in front of you onto paper. He then sent these drawings to Coelho, who etched them using a Focused Ion Beam (FIB), a machine capable of creating a line that’s only 50 nanometers wide. The FIB’s highly-sensitive levels allowed them reproduce the drawing at a microscopic scale.
To discover the truth behind these images will blow your mind. “When someone tells you it’s a grain of sand, there’s a moment where your reality falls apart and you have to reconstruct it. You have to step back and ask what the image is and what it means,” explains Muniz, who is no stranger to these types of awe-inspiring works. We’ve seen him previously construct fascinating images out of garbage.
The sandcastles are now on view at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art as part of a comprehensive exhibition of Muniz’s work over the last 25 years.