One of the many highlights of attending the BrickSlopes convention in June was this model by Kyle Ransom. When I hit the showroom floor after setting up my own stuff I had no expectations in terms of the models I was about to see. With regional cons you never know what you’re going to get because the vast majority of participants are what I like to call low-key locals. Often these good folks don’t have a robust online presence in the hobby, they are active in the local LUG and active builders but they don’t focus on forums and blogs and such. They are however, essential to the success of small conventions in largely unsung volunteer roles and they are the ones that fill the tables. When rabble like KeithLUG roll into town it’s a bonus (I think), but you can’t count on those yahoos as the foundation of your event.
Once I’ve registered for an event I routinely scan the “AFOL Attendees” list to see who is coming and have a guess at what they might be bringing. For BrickSlopes I have to admit that I didn’t recognize most of the people on the roster but one name jumped out at me, for images like this, this and this. You can imagine my disappointment at not being able to locate any evidence of Kyle’s work after touring the convention floor several times or failing that, to locate the builder himself. In the meantime there was a model I was drawn to several times, to study from different angles and speculate in the absence of any information (there was no MOC card). I even dragged rountRee over for a look or two, such was the pull it had on my attention. Of course it turned out to be Kyle’s post-apocalyptic tower diorama entitled “Paradise Lost“. I remember thinking that it looked underdeveloped and a little sloppy in places, but there was a creative spark at work that was notably absent from many of the models surrounding it. The entire build suggested larger ideas and storylines and just a bigger LEGO landscape. I was more than willing to look past the rough edges (or entirely absent back wall) and admire the talent behind it, but it was also frustrating in its unrealized potential. The biggest issue was that it just sort of emerged from the table, there was no landscaping or context to help fill in the gaps. I think it would have looked really cool sticking up out of a vast lake or sand-dunes, or rubble-strewn streets.
In case you’re too lazy to go to Kyle’s Flickrstream, you really should read what he has to say about the project, it’s one of the most candid observations of a model I’ve read in ages. After reading it, I was reminded that every ambitious build that makes it to a convention has a unique story behind it.
“O sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams
That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious once above thy sphere.”
Any words I may try to write in describing this build and the creative/spiritual/personal journey that accompanies it would be insufficient in my mind. But here is a little bit of backstory. This was my display for the Brickslopes 2016 convention. The idea itself had been in my mind for quite some time, but a trip to Memphis Tennessee awoke an urge to express my thoughts on poverty and those that live in it. Inspired by my own personal experiences and slums from around the world, I began building. Five sleepless days later, on the day of the convention, I was finished. I packed up and headed down. The two hour drive proved disastrous for the build, and upon unpacking at the convention center it was entirely destroyed. I spent the rest of the day rebuilding, haphazardly mind you, the display. Several times in this entire process I reached a point of despair. My desperate desire to present a build that represented what I wanted mixed with the frustration of its fragility led me on a roller coaster of a week.
Looking back, each part of this build added to a journey for me. Disappointed initially by the build for several reasons including how quickly it was built, lack of stability, and other things, as the convention went on I realized what a metaphor this was. I had set out to build a fallen society, one that was haphazardly built, with no society stability and with complete disregard of the impoverished. Because of how quickly it was built and the collapse and rebuild the day of, the build had become more accurate to my creative vision than I could have ever set out to create. Leading me to a new respect and dedication to the ‘process’ of building over the final product.”
Stress, sleepless nights, damage during transport, despair that you’re not translating your vision into the brick…it doesn’t matter what scale you’re working on, the convention experience is universal. I think Kyle’s conclusion that the building process is more important than the final product is an interesting one, but I’m not sure I agree. If I don’t have that payoff at the end I tend to view things as a failure (see Hub 14), but I wish I shared Kyle’s perspective, I think it’s a little more mature.
This is also a tale of two models and it highlights the differences between an internet posting and seeing it in person. When Kyle posted the shots online I didn’t initially recognize the model and even after I did it seemed like two different places. The posting is in black & white (with an artistic splash of color) and features exclusively close-up perspectives that don’t reflect the entire build. In person the diorama seems more fragile, but also more ambitious. Kyle made a brilliant choice to take advantage of a lit-up microscale skyscraper that was displayed right next to his tower and include it in the photo. The result is an extremely immersive, cinematic image…but the impression the model gives in person and the one it gives online are very different. Way to exploit your surroundings Kyle!
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, this model still feels like a near-miss to me, but what a compelling near miss. I’m pretty sure it won a trophy, so take all of this with a large grain of salt.