Monday, 17 March 2014

Follow-up questions - Assignment 2: Mental Map

So another student on the course had some follow-up questions for me based on my Assignment 2 post, here are my answers to the further questions they had.

Another thing that caught my attention about your post was this statement; "I am also interested in artists who lie about their work; so that what is fact and what is fiction is questioned by the viewer, making the artist an untrustworthy authority."
I would like to know more about what you meant with this statement. When you say "untrustworthy authority," do you mean as in the "unreliable narrator" used in fiction? 

Yes, another way I could phrase 'untrustworthy authority' could be 'unreliable narrator'.
I am really interested in the idea of the artist/photographer being the keeper of the archive, particularly the use of found images and where the boundaries of documentary, historical artifact and art merge. 
Also, as found images have historical value, the images have a museum quality to them they automatically have an air of authority, whereas the way an artist uses these images may completely go against the original intent of the image. 
For example a portrait of an unknown woman from say 1910 could be labelled as a portrait of the 3rd Duchess of Kent by the artist but how would the viewer know this was a lie when viewing it in a gallery. To uncover the lie the viewer would have to go home and do their own research to discover the truth and to see what the 3rd Duchess of Kent (if such a person exists) looked like, like a strange historical treasure hunt.

Also, since you have an interest in in artist as the untrustworthy authority, are you familiar with William Beckford's gothic novel "Vathek"? 

I am not familiar with this work, I tend to read a lot of contemporary fiction and usually struggle with Gothic literature but I will look it up. Thanks for the recommendation.

I noticed your album contained a mixture of film, artwork, and music. I looked over them and admit that I am unfamiliar with them. Do any of these works call to you because you feel that they fit the above criteria of which you spoke?

All the items in my mind map are either based on stories being told from 1 view point, uprising against authority, unreliable narrators or people pretending to be someone else/something they're not. All the pieces make me question the creators reasons behind the work and question what is the truth beyond the image.
I'm at the very beginning of this project so trying to articulate what I mean is still abit rough around the edges but I hope I've managed to answer your questions in someway. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Assignment 3: Characters Drawn from Life

  • Choose one person and invent a life for them. Think about who might be in terms of occupation, relationships with family and friends, pets or lack of them, personal possessions or lack of them, personality quirks and flaws, likes and dislikes, obsessions and dreams, crimes or acts of bravery or charity in their past. Don’t give your imagination completely free rein; try instead to link everything you say to something you can observe in the person. Write about 300-400 words. 
She stomps down the street like a runway, looking straight ahead like no one else exists. She is, in fact, a barmaid on the way to the post office to post her nieces birthday present, which is in the large oversized carrier bag she is carrying, before work. She hates ques and as it's lunch time knows the post office queue will be out the door. It's a sunny day which makes her happy and she dreams of maybe being able to afford a holiday abroad in the sun this year, that's if she can convince her boyfriend to take the time off work.

As she walks she is regretting her choice of shoes, the new boots with the 4 inch heel were a bad choice from a 7 hour bar shift, but she likes to look good to make her feel better about her boring bar job. She has to use her Fashion merchandising degree somehow.

She wishes she had a dog, one of those little ones rich women keep in their handbags, not as a fashion accessory but for company while her work-a-holic boyfriend works his long hours. She would look good walking a dog, like one of those upper class Parisian ladies you see on tv.

As she walks towards the post office, her eyes start to drift down to watch peoples feet, she is obsessed with shoes and finds herself judging people solely on the state of their footwear. As Haim blasts through her headphones she remembers last summer when she saw them at Glastonbury just before she graduated, it seems like a lifetime ago, when the possibility of moving to London to get a job in fashion still seemed possible. She's not given up completely but the job applications seem few and far between now.

As she finally reaches the post office, she is relieved the queue isn't as big as she thought it would be and begins to wonder what she will do on her day off tomorrow.

Assignment 2: Mental Map

  • In your sketchbook, assemble ten (10) images, books, films, or even music/songs that provide a history and context for your current work or interests in art, animation and/or gaming, whether as a practitioner, viewer or player/participant. Choose works that are important to the way you think, and just as importantly, works that inspire you in ways that you can’t always perhaps put into words. Reach back into your childhood (where you may perhaps find some unexpected sources of inspiration) and look around you to collect some contemporary resources. (This assignment is particularly well-suited to a digital sketchbook, like a Tumblr or blog, but as before, if you are posting content that is not your own, please cite where you retrieved each image with a link.) Sequence your images/items in a way that makes sense to you, chronologically or thematically or some other way. 

My current practice involves manipulating the historic values of photographs to create fictional histories. I am looking at a lot of artists that are re-creating historical scenes and artists that are creating fictional realities. I am also interesting in artists who lie about their work; so that what is fact and what is fiction is questioned by the viewer, making the artist an untrustworthy authority.
I am also influenced by family history and storytelling, particularlly stories of relatives pasted down verbally from generation to generation. These stories, due to time, lose details, names and places. Although the essence of the stories remain, the facts have been forgotten, sometimes to the point where you begin to question if the stories have now become a work of fiction.

The following currently inspire my current work.

Music: Silkworm - Firewater (Album)!/album/Firewater/183653

Book: American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. 1991.
Wikipedia Entry:


Film: La Haine. 1995. Dir: Mathieu Kassovitz.
Wikipedia Entry:


 Diane Arbus
Triplets in their Bedroom, N.J. 1963

Julia Margaret Cameron


Cindy Sherman
Untitled Film Still No.13 1978

Nikki S. Lee
The Hispanic Project (25), 1998

Jo Spence
Phototherapy 1, 1984.

Mark Ryden
59 Allegory of the Four Elements, 2006

Travis Louie
Richard the Small (Year Unknown)

The Crit from...

Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008
The second chapter of Thornton's book, titled "The Crit", is a close examination of the late Michael Asher's Post Studio class at CalArts.

I really enjoyed reading this, it reminded me of the crit's I took part in during my degree and how they really helped me to work through my ideas. I think critique is very important when producing work as constructive criticism really pushes you to question yourself, what you want the work to say and how effective the work is.

I also think that when Thornton and the academics she speaks you to talk about the students falling apart before pulling it together is very apt. I really identified with this point as I think breakthroughs often come from breakdowns, you have to admit what is not working and your own failings before really being able to see the solution.

Most of all this essay made me miss crits, since finishing my degree a number of years ago I have not been able to find a group environment that enables critique but I am still searching and hopeful.....

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Assignment 1: Follow up questions

Based on my answers for the 1st assignment someone on the course (the fantastic Marlio) had some follow up questions for me, so here they are.

– Do you think the Barbara Kruger's art work could also be applied to other political situations, for example, other gender, race or political oppressed minorities?

Yes Kruger’s work can definitely be applied to other political issues such as gender, race or other oppressed minorities. My reading of the image was based on what political issues are important to me therefore, I applied/projected my politics onto the image. I would expect  people of different races, genders or sexuality to read the image in a different way in accordance to their own politics. All art means different things to different people due to their own cultural influences and social status, anyone who is oppressed in some way would probably see the image as one of protest but a CEO of a huge company who has never struggled a day in their life may read it as an image of power. The impact or power of art depends completely on the experiences and influences of the beholder. The artist may have had their own politics in mind when creating the work but once put in the public domain the meaning/reading of the work is no longer in their control and is places entirely in the hands of the public.

– Can you find a piece of art work that would serve as example for the question what you think people in the world think art should be?

Because I identify so much with the idea of the value of art being determined by the individual, I really struggle with the generalisation of ‘people in the world’, what art should be to one person might be the most ugliest art piece in the world to another. I’ve been trying to think of a piece of work that can be appreciated on many levels with different levels of context and I just keep coming back to impressionism.

Take for example Degas’ pastel drawings of Ballerinas; the flow of his organic drawing style, the exotic isolated dancer, the construction of the ballerinas limbs and the framing of the image is truly beautiful and on face value, if someone just wanted something pretty to hang on their walls, this would be an excellent choice.

Edgar Degas - Dancer Adjusting her Shoe. 1885.

Then again if you look at this image in the social context of the time is Degas trying to say something about the privileged life of these ballerinas? To be a ballerina at the time took money, money for dance classes, money for private dance school and money to pay for tutus. These ballerinas certainly come from upper-class well-to-do backgrounds so, if Degas is not producing the work as a form of social commentary regarding classism, is he in fact creating it because he knows he can sell the work to the families of these rich ballerinas? Degas himself came from quite an upper-class upbringing (his father was a Banker) so why wouldn’t he be making art to maintain the life style and financial security he was used to?

Lastly there is the art history reading of the image; although considered an impressionist Degas actually preferred to be associated with the realist art movement and did not use the typical colour palette of other impressionist artists. Degas also had many clashes with other impressionist artists of the time due to him favouring to work indoors and he was heavily criticised for not painting landscapes. If we do look at the images as a work of impressionism we also need to remember that impressionist art was controversial at the time as it went against the popular high art of the time. Impressionist art did not conform to the accepted drawing/painting techniques (they had much freer unstructured brush strokes), subject matter (everyday modern life rather than formal compositions) and used a different colour palette to fit the natural lighting (as I said above most impressionists shunned the studio). I mean really impressionists were the graffiti artists of the day, protesting traditionalism, trying to keep it real and taking to the street. To sum up; Degas was not only controversial for being labelled as an impressionist at the time but he was also controversial within the impressionist community for not conforming to the impressionist manifesto.

Degas is what I think the people of the world think art should be because it can appeal to everyone on many different levels.

– If the world was perfect in the way you describe here: no misogyny, no oppression, no one telling you what to do, no machismo and no alienation, how would be the art form or in that world, how Kruger would have made this poster?

Sorry I know I’ve written a lot so I’ll try to keep this one short.
No art can be created in a vacuum. Without culture, society or inequality I honestly do not think art or Kruger would exist. Well maybe landscape artists would still be creating…..

It would be like David Bailey’s portraits, would they been important without the fame of his subjects? I doubt it.
David Bailey - Michael Caine. 1965.

Would Tracey Emin’s bed have any artistic worth if it wasn’t a statement on female vulnerability? No.

Tracey Emin - My Bed. 1998.
We need these social constructs and cultural context to form meaning and without meaning I don’t think a value of something (personal or financial) can be determined.


Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Sketchbook Assignment 1: My World and the Art World

  • In your sketchbook choose a work by another artist that stands for what you think art really should be in your perfect world—if art was daring, bold, unique and special, if it was community-building or affirming, if it made the world a better place or turned the world on its head. Here, you get to decide. 
Barbara Kruger. Untitled 1981.
I think the first time I ever saw a piece by Barbara Kruger I knew it was exactly what I thought art should be; confrontational and questioning. Kruger manages to achieve what I feel is a perfect balance between the political and the personal. This piece obviously draws on the feminist art of the 70's but also advertising techniques of the early 80s creating a provocative piece that questions the political issues of the time: money, greed, consumerism but most of all misogyny of the male dominated business and political environment. 
Of course I am reading into the image based on my own experience the male shhhing the viewer which as a female I view as a dominant symbol of male oppression the dramatic colours/framing reminding me of consumerism/advertising and lastly the catchphrase its self which directs me to to incite protest, to rally against the statement. It also directs me to apply and question the issues introvert; why should someone have the right to tell me what I can and cannot do? Why should I say quiet and unquestioning? Is it because I am a woman? but the work also makes me think that I am important, my opinion matters and I, like Kruger, should question authority. 
For me good art should question the social norms of the time it was created but also incite a personal response that makes you think about your role in society and draws upon your own experiences. This work particular reminds me of the Riot Grrrl movement in the late 80s and early 90s with its confrontation approach, in the words of Kathleen Hanna “I’m so sorry if I’m alienating some of you. Your whole f**king culture alienates me.”

  • Then, make or describe something that stands for what you think people in the world think art should be—because a teacher or expert told you that’s what art is, or because that’s what you think “good art" is, or because you think this is what the art market wants, etc.  
This is by far a more difficult question than what I think art should be, I really think it depends on your own personal preferences. Some people want something pretty to look at, others it's about the investment, others prefer art that's different and others, like me, want something political.
I really feel that what makes good art is your personal interaction with it, that it provokes a response. Like the MFA students said in this weeks video on critique there is nothing worse than indifference!
So weather you think something is so beautiful it takes your breath away or makes you so angry you want to start a political uprising, the personal response doesn't relate to the quality of the art but it does confirm that the art is important to you and that's all that really matters at the end of the day.
If everyone was the same the world would be a very boring place....