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Toys & Play

Mexican Top


When this Mexican wooden top appears in the Eames film Tops, it is shown from directly above and at close range, making its black-and-white pattern look like a quintessential hypnotic spiral. The cerebral nature of this and many other frames in Tops blur a distinction that was made by film critic Paul Schrader, who categorized the Eameses’ filmmaking into toy films and idea films. The so-called toy films—which include Tops, Parade, and Toccata for Toy Trains—“reveal the definitive character of commonplace objects,” while the idea films use a method of “information overload” to ultimately convey singular messages about topics like technology or mathematics. But a toy film like Tops also offers lessons in big ideas, powerfully displaying physical forces while also making an argument for multiculturalism. The Eameses were well aware of the connections between their two kinds of films, and Charles once insisted that, “I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that without a film like Tops there would be no idea films. It’s all part of the same process, and I think I could convince IBM of that, if necessary.”

  • Medium:Wood, paint
  • Dimensions:1 1/2 x 1 3/4 in. (3.8 x 4.4 cm)
  • Item:T.2019.2.244.3