Sometime last year I heard that Ricky Jay was writing a book on Matthew Buchinger. (Just a quick note before we go any further, you probably notice the variation in little Mahdi Buchinger's name. The reason for this is he would use derivations of his name depending on where he was performing. In Germany he was Matthias, in England he was Matthew, in France he was Matthieu, and so on and so on. I find this to be extremely intelligent and will talk more about it in a later post) Then, just a few months later I learned that he would be involved with an exhibit at the Met to share The Little Man with the world. So I did what any normal person would do and I waited for the exhibit to open.
The exhibit opened and was very well received by the public and received great press from the media. I even heard that some people were so astonished that they thought that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax put on by Ricky Jay and that Buchinger was a fictional character. I mean, who in their right mind would believe that a man that was born with no arms and no legs was capable of doing anything, let alone anything incredible right?
Now, I have a small confession to make... I was slightly afraid of going to the exhibit out of fear of being recognized. I mean, I physically resemble Buchinger. It's almost as though we aren't human beings but the same legendary creature that has roamed the earth hidden in plain sight for the last three and a half centuries...
Anyways, I got over myself (which is no easy feat indeed) and went to the exhibit. When you enter the Met you go straight up the massive stairway and once you arrive to the top there is a little sign (above) to the left that let's you know you are about to enter into The Little Man's domain.
I personally would have made an interactive cutout of Buchinger (from the bottom of his body to the top of his head exactly 29 inches tall) so that people could take photos with it for their social media and to share with their family and friends.
You walk into the room and there is a giant wall(?) telling you what you are looking at. I don't know if it's a wall...
Anyways, let's move on... I was only partially recognized. Some people would look at me, then look at the sign, and then look at me again. Only a few people mentioned the resemblance. Thank God I didn't wear my cravat, wig, and my pirate hat there...
You are now in the room and people look incredulous. The reason is that Buchinger so unbelievable that many people have a hard time believing that this guy existed and that he was doing all the things he did at as high as a level he did or that he even existed.
Attached to the wall is a little stand with magnifying glasses. You pick one up and walk around looking at all the artwork. The pieces are incredible by themselves but then when you look at them through the magnifying glass a secret world is revealed to you.
Suddenly you begin to see that strains of curling hair contain letters and if we follow them as they twist and swirl that those letters make up words and that those words form passages from the Psalms and the Lord's Prayer.
Everyone, from school children to the high society people were huddling around the Buchinger pieces in awe of what they were seeing. The exhibit only had a handful of magnifying glasses so people had to wince and wait for their chance to see it. That was my favorite part. Make them work for it. Force them to really engage instead of taking it in passively.
There were a couple of insignificant other pieces in the room based on the idea of "Wordplay". Pieces of micrography and various pieces on type-work. To me, they weren't worth looking at. Matthew Buchinger should have gotten the whole room.
After I left the exhibit, I wandered off a bit through the Met and came upon the different period rooms. I spent a long, long time in this room. Not moving, not thinking, just imagining. I imagined how the scene must have looked in the 1700s. Little Matthew Buchinger seat a table performing for the richest and most powerful people alive in the world. The Little Man comes out. People probably feel sorry for him or at least in sense, better than him. He opens his show by shaving his face. A simple act but necessary one. He does this to show that he is self-sufficient, and that he has an extraordinary amount of dexterity, that he can carry out his daily tasks with grace. He then carves a quilt and starts to write then draw with ink. You soon realize that the artwork on display is his. Also in the room are a deck of cards, some dice, a gun, instruments, cups and balls, and a bowling ball. This puzzle of objects is slowly getting solved in front of your eyes. He picks up each object and creates wonder with them. Throughout the show this Little Man who is thought to be lesser is shown again and again to be greater. Buchinger is a master. People leave his performance seeing the world in a new light. After the show, all of the women are gathered around Buchinger taking in every word of his adventures and laughing at all of his jokes. "What the harm in that?", their husbands think and don't pay too much attention, not perceiving the Little Man as threat, not knowing that he already has fourteen children....
I perform wonders without hands and walk the earth without feet.