The World’s Smallest Sandcastles Etched on Individual Grains of Sand


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Artist Vik Muniz is known for his gigantic composite installations and sculptures created from thousands of individual objects. In this new collaboration with artist and MIT researcher Marcelo Coelho, Muniz takes the opposite approach and explores the microscopic with a new series of sandcastles etched onto individual grains of sand.

However, trying to draw a sandcastle onto a small grain of sand was not easy. Muniz first drew each castle using a camera lucida, a 19th century optical tool that relies on a prism to project a reflection of whatever is in front of you onto paper where it can be traced. The drawings were then sent to Coelho who worked with a number of microscopic drawing processes for several years before deciding to use a Focused Ion Beam (FIB) which has the capability of creating a line only 50 nanometers wide (a human hair is about 50,000 nanometers wide).

Lastly, Muniz photographed the final etchings and enlarged them to wall-sized prints. He shared with the Creator’s Project: “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,” a fascinating play on scale and perception. Watch the new video above from the Creator’s Project to see how the project came together.

The sandcastles are on view starting today as part of a comprehensive exhibition of Muniz’ work spanning the last 25 years at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.


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