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“The Tiny Tim”

Tim Enthoven’s book titled “The Tiny Tim” uses illustration and an easy format to create an intriguing coming-of-age tale that could mean any of many things.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 17-01-2013

When Tim Enthoven’s exhibition “The Tiny Tim” opened at art and design space MU last year in Eindhoven, a peculiar song played: “Tip Toe Through the Tulips” by an American singer famous in the 1960s for his extremely high-pitched voice. The musician’s name was Tiny Tim

When the original Tiny Tim passed away in 1996 The New York Times wrote:  “The cultural turbulence of the late 1960s produced many strange phenomena, but none stranger than Tiny Tim, a pear-shaped singer with a beak nose, scraggly shoulder-length hair and an outfit that could be described as haute-couture bum. In the age of acid rock, he crooned romantic melodies of the 1920s, accompanying himself on a ukulele that he pulled out of a paper shopping bag.”

His appearance was so awkward that, the newspaper continued, “Initially, journalists and critics debated whether Tiny Tim was a put-on or the real thing. It quickly became clear that he was genuine, a lonely outcast intoxicated by fame, a romantic in pursuit of a beautiful dream.”

Recently at MU we were introduced to a new “Tiny Tim,” the coming-of-age tale of designer and Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Tim Enthoven.

“The Tiny Tim” is a book containing miniature versions of childhood and adolescent drawings Enthoven made between 1994 and 2003, before he went to the Design Academy Eindhoven and started his career as an illustrator.

Enthoven is fascinated by the idea of being trapped in a world where all his work is finished.  At the MU opening he talked about a prison-like environment where nothing is left to be done other than show works that have already been created.

Or were they created? Like with the original Tiny Tim, critics are now wondering whether this is all just an act.

Did Tim actually join the merchant marine as a 17 or 18 year old boy, sail the Seven Seas and draw pornography for his sailor mates? And more magically manage to retrieve all the drawings unsoiled when leaving the vessel again?

The book contains some “modest suggestions” by Jan van Tienen, a friend of Enthoven’s, on how to embrace the illustrator’s drawings. They could be looked at as a literary experiment, for instance, a storyline leading to later work. Or the project could be seen as a requiem for Tim’s youth, the funeral of the younger literary character.

But why would an illustrator who hasn’t even turned thirty yet, want to look back at his youth? And why would we want to look back at his youth? Lovers of great artists like Picasso or Van Gogh might find a fascinating pastime in trying to detect the brilliancy of their heroes in their childhood works. But the works of Tiny Tim?

Not included in the suggestions by Jan van Tienen is Enthoven’s own playful idea of being caught in a prison filled with all the works he will ever make.

But van Tienen does suggest an option that probably holds the best key to understanding Enthoven’s mission -  to look at the project as an “An expression of slightly misanthropic disgust.”

The reviewer of “The Tiny Tim” at Metropolis M drew his own conclusion: “Yes, we all know the stories about drawings: the handwriting of the maker, mirror of the soul, direct translation of the spirit. But I don’t trust them. Especially not those by Tiny Tim.”  

Possibly not, but personally I enjoyed the mental adventure of wondering over and over, could this actually be real?

“The Tiny Tim” is beautifully designed and presented by Heyheyhey who managed to translate the original “The Tiny Tim” exhibition into a format that lends the project genuine believability .

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