Guangzhou Reversal Room

December 30, 2018 By arne hendriks Off

The Incredible Shrinking Man was invited by the Guangzhou Triennial 2018, curated by Angelique Spaninks, Zhang Ga and Philip Ziegler, to resurrect one of its favourite shrink experiences: the Ames room. An Ames room allows people to visually experience a shift in body size by means of optical distortion. We are generally keenly aware of our height in relation to others and changing the perception of body size can be a powerful reminder of its role in establishing our relationships and behaviour.

Unfortunately height plays a role in the creation of a subconscious hierarchy where greater height is valued over smallness: something The Incredible Shrinking Man regrets and wants to change. The Ames room allows for a momentarily release from this ‘fixed’ position and to redefine our relationship through resizing ourselves in relation to the other. Not surprisingly, earlier try-outs showed that short people want to experience how it feels to be taller, while the tall giggled at the experience of being short.¬†Although the room is not yet able to reverse the overall dominant desire for greater height it does initiate awareness of the subconscious forces in play. Those forces include the default response of most short people to allow tall people to be more present, to take control, to take up more prestigious positions in society, to be paid better, to have more offspring. Greater awareness of these ‘free’ privileges may lead to a more equal playing field as the small modify their behaviour, while the tall come to understand that some of their achievements were not necessarily achieved only by merit but because it is easier for them to succeed. While these are the same arguments that make most people want to be tall, awareness and mutual understanding can increase space for the short to take center stage, and in doing so create greater appreciation of the beauty and power of the small.