Daniel Agdag creates worlds out of cardboard. Using glue and a scalpel, the filmmaker and artist from Melbourne, Australia, fashions intricate miniatures of amusement parks, houses, hot-air balloons, and public buildings.
“Cardboard gave me means to realize ideas I had only imagined previously,” Agdag told The Guardian. “The pieces are like mathematical problems, which I work through as I create them, decoding the world around me.”
Agdag recalls his first sculpture, a life-size spaceship, which he began building as a teenager in the 90s. The project took him a total of eight years, and he took a break from all sculpture during university, receiving a fine-arts degree at the Victoria College of the Arts.
Then, during a visit to a neighboring architect’s house, Agdag had the realization that cardboard closely resembles timber and steel. “I found it was a medium that was easy to acquire and manipulate using simple hand tools to form my ideas,” he says.
From that moment on, Agdag’s painstakingly detailed designs have been the subject of solo shows at galleries across New York, London, and Melbourne. They were also the backdrop to his 2018 Oscar-contending short film, “Lost Property Office.”
In April, he completed Lattice, a 10-foot-long sculpture of an amusement park that mimics the design of Coney Island and Melbourne Luna Park. It took 897,560 individual pieces of cardboard to complete the truss section, and in its final form, the work serves as a metaphor for life’s ups and downs. “The long downward drops powered by gravity evoke a sense of dread before the opposing force lifts skyward, countering that sensation euphorically,” he explains.
Lately, Agdag has shifted his focus to Tide Houses, a new series of pared-down yet elegant structures on stilts—a lighthouse, a hot-air balloon, and a birdhouse with an imposing megaphone on top—which are headed to Messums Wiltshire in the United Kingdom. Beautiful from afar, his whimsical designs are best absorbed up close.
“It’s about living out a fantasy,” Agdag once said. “I construct environments I want to be in.” —Elena Clavarino
”Tide Houses” opens at Messums Wiltshire in Salisbury, U.K., on September 30
Elena Clavarino is the Senior Editor at AIR MAIL