What accounts for the ongoing appeal of the murder mystery? The murder mystery novel may be an odd choice for escapism, but its enduring popularity might express central societal fascinations. Many Mini Murder Scenes, an installation consisting of series of rooms constructed in miniature is based on crime scenes plucked from fiction. A hybrid of an architectural model and a dollhouse, the domestic interior spaces have in common their appearance in crime fictions as murder scenes.
Without the gore or evidence of violence, the scenes are nonetheless imbued with the uncanny. Embellished with hidden text on the surfaces of walls, floors and furniture, viewers reveal the secrets with the aid of “decoders” in the form of colored films, UV light, and other optical tricks. Using various treatments on the glass, the spaces will appear to change depending on vantage point. For instance, a wall may appear solid from one angle, but it will disappear when viewed from the opposite side of the room, merging two spaces into one.
A guidebook issued to each viewer equips him to decode the piece like a crime scene investigator, and the puzzles and activities in the guidebook serve as a souvenir and prolongation of the experience. Rather than solving the crime, visitors investigate the cultural significance of the murder mystery. The viewer’s attention activates the exhibition, and the impact continues long after the visitor leaves.
Candace Hicks holds a BA from Austin College and an MFA from Texas Christian University. Hicks’ work has recently shown at the Center for Book Arts, New York; Abecedarian Gallery, Denver, CO; Box 13 ArtSpace and Lawndale Art Center in Houston, TX; Pump Project in Austin, TX; and Living Arts in Tulsa, OK. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX.