Sandcastles Built on Single Grains of Sand

March 27, 2014 | Andy Cush

Vik Muniz’s castles made of sand are unfathomably small. Instead of using sand as a building block, stacking huge numbers of grains until they achieve a desired form, he approaches his material like a classical sculptor might approach a block of marble — taking a single grain and etching his images out of it.

The video above, from The Creators Projectdetails Muniz and collaborator Marcelo Coelho’s process for creating these extreme miniatures. Muniz chose to represent castles because of the familiarity they’d create in viewers. “I rely on images that are simple, that you’ve seen a million times… You think you know it but then you have to know it again,” he says.

Coelho, who etched the microscopic images using a device called a focused ion beam, says the tedious process led to an existential question about the nature of the work. “Sometimes I asked myself, ‘Should I just do this in Photoshop?'” he says. “But you realize that it’s not the same thing. In some ways, the final image carries with it the history of the process that you’ve developed.”