sarah van lamsweerde



“The snow globe is a curious object. Contradictions are concentrated in it. It contains a world under glass or clear plastic and as such, the scene inside is untouchable, but the globe itself exists precisely to be grasped in the hand. [...] It is miniaturised and cosmic. It is personal and mass. It is kitsch and sublime. It is for contemplation and for play. After shaking, it is as if life suddenly enters, in a flurry of crystals, and then creeps away again. Perhaps it becomes for a moment auratic, scintillating, enveloped in a haze that is its semblance of liveliness, only then to expose itself as de-auraticised, dead, exposed in some way. The snow globe meddles somehow with the edge between life and lifelessness.”

(“Snowglobalism and Terror Kitsch: Flurry and Freeze in Capitalist Cosmography”, E.P. Leslie)

Encapsulated dystopias
At home, I have a snow globe that isn’t working properly anymore: the water turned a bit murky and the figures inside came off the base, flying through the globe together with all the snowflakes. Each time I shake the thing, the figures inside land in compromised positions.

I think the object has become more interesting now. But it’s also quite sad and reminds me of our global situation: the turbid water and floating trees inside the globe ‘affected’ by climate change; the wild skier a ruthless exponent of our economic and cultural crises.


In our global economy, most things get made where the labour is cheapest. To prepare this proposal, I started looking for snow-globe manufacturers on the internet. Browsing through, I was imagining Chinese factory workers, making tiny monuments from all over the world, yet probably never visiting any of them. I pictured a back room in the factory where all the b-models of the world’s souvenirs would be stored: the Niagara Falls next to the Eiffel tower, the Lourdes grotto in front of the Chrysler building, the Mount Everest behind the Golden Gate bridge; all together in a miniature rearrangement of the world.


At the moment Kuopio’s market square is being excavated to enlarge the parking lot and create more shopping facilities. It is not the first time this square is being rebuilt and I’m sure a lot of people in Kuopio have imagined - secretly or openly - alternative scenario’s for the heart of the city.

My proposal is to have a collection of snowglobes made for Kuopio: special souvenirs encapsulating personal wishes for the ideal market square.

The cost issue of this project would turn the Kuopio souvenir into a global effort. My plan is to put four Kuopians in touch with a snow-globe manufacturer in China. Through Skype, they describe to the craftsperson how they would rebuild the market square. A giant see-through swimming-pool? A mega-sculpture to get lost in? Emptiness? Based on (the interpretation of) these descriptions, the artist in China would create four snowglobes, miniature versions of Kuopio’s ideal market square.

Being partly Dutch, a people notorious for their trading skills, it would seem only natural for me to profit from the situation and sell the souvenirs on the market square during the ANTI-festival. I will not sell them for money, but trade the snow globes for the answer to a question: how would you redesign this market square? As a special request I would like those short statements to be made in the spot where they imagine it, so that the building crater becomes a giant wishing well. I will record each wish and edit those into a video-list of “square wishes”.

To make my vending stall nicely mobile I would have a bycicle, something like a Dutch ‘bakfiets’ with a container in front that can become a small vending stall. Fastened on the back a small monitor, on which a video is playing: the list of square wishes, alternated by excerpts of the Finnish people describing their ideal market square to the Chinese manufacturer through Skype. With this bakfiets, I can drive around market and town as a mobile Kuopio souvenir shop.

                                             bike design: Wouter Mijland


Onderwerp: your interested snow globes from BaoXing Factory.
Datum: 27 december 2010 10:10:15 GMT+01:00

Dear Sir or Madam who concerned,
Thank you very much for your enquire.
I am Jenny. We are a Chinese factory. Our product’ designs are mainly according to our customer’s drawing. We have successful export to many such as USA, Italy and so on, except for Netherlands. May I know your Skype? So that we could discuss more details.
Sincerely hear your any advice which will let us serve you better.
Thanks & Best Regards