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Posted by Kevin Hartnett  March 19, 2013 01:00 PM

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It's impossible to carve the burnt end of a matchstick, right? German installation artist Wolfgang Stiller's current series, "Matchstickmen," is so perfectly realized that for a moment you believe he's done it. Stiller's work actually involves full-sized head molds attached to lengths of square lumber. In an email he explained that he modifies his oversized matchsticks entirely with paint- no fire involved- though you wouldn't believe it looking at them. As for the impression they leave, the spectacle of burnt heads on sticks has an unmistakably political whiff to it- of medieval torture, maybe, or, more recently, self-immolation protests. But alongside those heavy impressions, there's also something playful about what Stiller has done: You half expect those matchsticks, prone in their box, to spring up and yell, "surprise!"

Matchstick 1a.jpg

Matchstick 2a.jpg

Matchstick 3a.jpg

Images courtesy of Wolfgang Stiller.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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