The Domino Effect in Art

The domino effect is a theory that suggests one event can have a chain reaction that triggers many other events, as the next item in the sequence pushes on its predecessor. This theory has been used to explain everything from terrorist attacks to natural disasters, but it is also a metaphor for how focusing on one thing can help us knock over other interests. Lily Hevesh, a professional domino artist, uses the concept in her work to create amazing domino setups for movies and even the Katy Perry album release party.

A domino is a small, rectangular block of wood or plastic that is marked on one face with an arrangement of dots resembling those on dice. The other face is blank or patterned differently. Depending on the game, the number of dots may be indicated by an inlay or by color. Some domino sets have a colored inlay, and others have the numbers printed on both faces.

Dominoes are used in a variety of games, both positional and tactical. In positional games, a player places a domino edge to edge against another in such a way that the adjacent faces match either identically (e.g., 5 to 5) or form some specified total, such as a five-pointer. Unlike the chips in a deck of cards, the numbers on a domino are permanent and do not change as cards are dealt or discarded.

To play a domino, the first player places a tile on the table with its edge touching that of the previous tile, and then plays other tiles in the same manner. The rules of each game determine how the resulting chains are scored. Most games count each paired domino as a single unit, but some consider doubles to be two units joined together.

Hevesh, who has more than 2 million YouTube subscribers, says her process for creating an installation begins with thinking about the theme or purpose of the work. She then brainstorms images or words that might be related. She then draws a diagram of the overall structure and, after testing each part individually to make sure it works, puts the pieces together.

Then she films the whole project in slow motion, which allows her to adjust the pieces as needed. She says, “It’s a lot of trial and error and watching the videos to make adjustments.”

Hevesh often creates test versions of each piece of her work in her garage workshop, which is full of tools including a drill press, radial arm saw, scroll saw and belt sander. This gives her the opportunity to make changes quickly before the installation goes live. And, she says, that’s the best way to ensure her creations work flawlessly. If you have ever played a game of domino, you understand the importance of a quick reaction to changing circumstances. And, Hevesh believes the same can be applied to personal development. “The idea is to focus your energy on the things that are going to move other things forward,” she says.