Small Wonders: Street Art That Hides in Plain Sight

For the last few years, the London-based artist who goes by the name Slinkachu has been crafting and photographing miniature tableaux on the streets of cities all over the world.

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For the last few years, the London-based artist who goes by the name Slinkachu has been crafting and photographing remarkably detailed, trippy and sometimes quite moving miniature tableaux on the streets of cities all over the world. Using plastic train-set figures — some of them cut up and glued back together in specific poses, or accented with modeling clay and then painted — Slinkachu creates tiny scenarios that, seen from afar, are almost unrecognizable, but when viewed up-close unveil an almost-hidden alternate reality.

On the eve of two international gallery shows featuring his “Little People Project” — showing at Andipa Gallery in London (Sept. 27 – Oct. 27) and in New York (Oct. 3 – 7) at Broome Street Gallery — we look at some of his works and ask the man himself a few questions about his process … and his offbeat name.

Like parents with their kids, most artists don’t like to choose favorites when discussing their work. But looking back, do any specific Little People projects spark, let’s say, fonder memories than others?

Springtime in Palestine (photos #13 and #14) was great to shoot — it wasn’t the most elaborate, but it was a real experience to cross over the [West Bank separation] wall, and it wasn’t at all like I expected it to be. We just wandered around for a few hours, and no one bothered us at all apart from taxi drivers. That section of the wall runs right alongside a cemetery, which was sad to see. And up the road, pretty much hidden, is a gift shop that sells photos of graffiti from the wall to the one or two tourists that happen to stumble on it, run by this very chatty guy. All very bizarre.

As for some other memories: to shoot in Moscow (photos #11 and #12), I had to lie in the snow for half an hour and couldn’t feel my hands after I finished. I went back to check on History in Berlin (photos #7 and #8) later in the day, and someone had taken the cigarette that had been stuck to the top of the miniature plinth but left the rest of the installation intact. Strange.

The hardest place to shoot was Marrakech in Morocco. People would always want to see what I was doing as I lay on the ground to make pictures, which is a totally different experience than in a city like, say, London, where people tend to ignore you whatever you’re doing.

What happens to the works you create? Do you build them and simply leave them to their fate? Do you ever revisit them to see how they’re doing?

I leave all the figures behind after I photograph them. To be honest, I prefer not to know what happens to them after I leave. Many are probably destroyed — stepped on, swept away — but for me, it’s far better that their fates remain unknown. It feels right, somehow, that they really are lost.

You work under a pseudonym, rather than your real name. What, if anything, is the benefit of remaining anonymous as an artist?

For some artists working outdoors, there is a need to remain anonymous because what they are doing is often illegal. Mine isn’t — in fact, I get hassled far more for using my camera in areas where it is supposedly restricted than I do for sticking down my figures. I don’t specifically try to be anonymous; I have just always worked under a pseudonym. I will often meet people at events that feature my work, or talk to people if they ask me what I am doing in the street, but I prefer that people think about the work and the characters in it, rather than the person behind it.

Can you foresee a time when you’ll have said everything you have to say with the Little People Project?

I’m sure that day will come. It’s important that I stay interested in the work, and there are definitely a variety of ways that I want to progress. The ideas behind the work are what I find interesting, not specifically the miniature aspect of the work itself.

Why “Slinkachu”? Does it mean something? Or do you just like the way it sounds?

It stems from my nickname, Slinky, earned when I was younger due to my, at the time, curly locks — like Slinky toys. It was a name I used online for email and other services, and when I started uploading the shots that I was taking, the blog I used was already registered under that name. I wish it were a more interesting story — but there you have it.

Buy Slinkachu’s book, Global Model Village (Blue Rider Press, 2012) or visit his Little People Project blog.

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