This is a PDF on all of my Manifesto work so far. Feel free to read through it.
To define design is simple, and yet complex. It can be compared to the fact that all thumbs are fingers but not all fingers are thumbs. You cannot simplify what design is, and in doing so would be senseless. Everything is designed, whether you believe in intelligent design theory or evolution. Just like we cannot define beauty, but we know it when we see it, we cannot say what art is. To try and put art and design into a set definition would be like caging an elephant in a 4cmᶟ box. It is impossible. The differences between what art is, and is not are great, but revolve around normative statements. One cannot define what art is, but we can look into our own personal feeling toward something.
To label something can be both helpful, but also can be seen as a death sentence. For this reason, I cannot define myself as an artist, designer, illustrator, philosopher or critic. If you wanted to look at what I am from the facts, I am an academic in a world of nebulae. I am a grounded person who sees, analyses and then continues, looking at the bigger picture whilst pinpointing the intricate.
Most people think that education can ruin the creative mind, but in my eyes it can open your eyes so much more. Without academia, one cannot be expected to problem solve artistically and with integrity. Art and design can be very controversial, but cannot afford to be dysphemistic, after all, there is a fine line between art and pornography and vulgarity. One needs to know the rules before one can try and push the boundaries. Even a child knows that.
All artists wear several hats and cannot just wear the one that says ‘artist’. If they do, then it would be as career killing as a ‘kick me’ sign. Not only are we artists, but we are the listener, the dreamer, the philosopher, the activist, the eye opener, the head turner, the critic, the speaker for those who are afraid, the day maker, the middle man, the creator, the architect, the hope, the definer of beauty, the designer of ugly, the employee, the manager, the individual, the hope, the entertainer, the man behind the curtain, the narrator and so much more. Art and design have the same hats. Their main hat however is to cause reaction.
All art and design must have a purpose or it is not art. Without purpose, nothing could exist. If you wanted to label the box that you want to attempt to confine in a definition for art and design in, you could label it ‘purpose’.
During the first of a short lecture programme, we were taught about manifestos. We were given an example, which was “I am for an Art” by Claes Oldenburg, which can be found here. As a response to this, we were told to write our own form of the manifesto poem, keeping the same structure. Here is my attempt:
I am for the design of simplicity
I am for the design of the complex
I am for the design of intrigue and wonder
I am for the design of innocence
I am for the design of the explicit
I am for the design that pushes the boundaries
I am for the design of new boundaries
I am for the design of the new world
I am for the design of the rebirth of styles
I am for the design of imagination
I am for the design of remakes
I am for the design of gimmicks
I am for the design for the masses
I am for the design for the mere self
I am for the design of expressionism
I am for the design of maps of knowledge
I am for the design of dreams
I am for the design of the future
I am for the design of the ridiculous
I am for the design of sensibility
I am for the design of passion
I am for the design of work
I am for the design of intrigue
I am for the design of essentials
I am for the design of sensory needs
I am for the design of wide eyes
I am for the design of practicalities
I am for the design of envy
I am for the design of want
I am for the design of desire
I am for the design of manufactured desire
I am for the design of the practical
I am for the design of the non essential
I am for the design of the norm
I am for the design of the extraordinary
I am for the design of life’s visual content
I am for the design of beauty
I am for the design of ugly
I am for the design of harsh reality
I am for the design of dirty little secrets
I am for the design of the unspoken words
I am for the design of utterances
I am for the design of the people on your shoulders defining right and wrong
I am for the design of persuasion
I am for the design of advertising
I am for the design of promotion
I am for the design of success
I am for the design of the middle man
I am for the design of culture
I am for the design of tourism
I am for the design of the hidden corners
I am for the design of paradise
I am for the design of hell
I am for the design of nature
I am for the design of man-made structures
I am for the design for selfishness
I am definitely for the design for the benefit of others
During Thursday’s lecture last week, we were told about falsified nostalgia and it’s impacts. The main example of falsified nostalgia can be seen in period dramas. We don’t know what those days were like from experience, but we trust these dramas to be a somewhat accurate representation. It was said in the lecture though, that without history, one cannot be contemporary. In layman’s terms: you need to know where you’re going before you can start on your journey.
For a child, this isn’t the case. Discovery is how a child learns, they do not learn by being bubble-wrapped or by living in a “I told you so” world. With being an artist, as mentioned in prior blogs, we are the child in an adult world. We need to teach how to learn once more. An artist’s journey can be personal or it can just be a world of discovery in itself. The idea behind learning is too complex to explain.
Many films tell us that we must be lost in order to find new places, for example, Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Neverland, and Starstruck. The same goes with art. Discoveries and inspiration happen when, and where, we least expect it. One artist might find inspiration in a castle’s ruins whilst another watching [his] child make mud-pies. We can get lost in our own thoughts too, which can cause inspiration. Memories can influence so much.
Consider how period dramas work. We don’t know first hand what living in those days were like, but we assume it is accurate. This is called falsified nostalgia. It’s not a bad thing in anyway. We see these types of dramas as a reality of times once gone by. We may wish that we lived in those days. We get lost in the whirl wind story lines, the drama, the emotion, the nostalgia. We take inspiration from period dramas.
I mean of course, any truth behind these dramas, may not entirely be accurate, but we hope, and dream. Everyone is born when they are for a reason. “If I was born in the…” is just a fantasy. We forget that right here, right now, this is where we are supposed to be. Artists paint these pictures, so we can dream and use our imaginations, not to make us actually want to go back in time. The times have changed and so have our living standards and other things.
This type of artistry, will forever puzzle us, but forever inspire us to move forward. You cannot move forward without knowing where you have been, but you can move forward without knowledge of your path.
In days of late, there has been much controversy over the use of Photoshop and various other marketing techniques. As a graphic designer I struggle to set aside my personal opinions on this topic. These techniques have pros and cons, whether you like them or not.
I will admit to being reluctant to learn how to Photoshop people’s waistlines and various other components. I may feel like I am being unethical, but sadly, the industry dictates to us what beauty is, or rather, what it thinks it is. Like it or not, sex sells and as graphic designers, we must make up a generic image of what the industry consider ‘sexy’ and ‘perfect’. Sex used to be a taboo subject and now-a-days it has lost it’s innocence and naivety. Sex used to be a secretive topic, but now it is widely spoken about as if it means nothing. This kind of makes us a very sex orientated world. Everything can be sexualised. A nation that can speak freely, is often seen as idyllic, but should we keep some subjects behind closed doors?
Advertising campaigns that use sex to sell, work. The majority of perfume and male cologne is sold in this manner. Human beings, due to our natural instinct, will strive to be a better mate. Not everyone finds these models attractive, but they are there as commodified heroes. It’s difficult to understand, but we idolise people who we see on television and in other media, because we feel they are better than us. I admit that advertisements like this use our insecurities to persuade us. That’s all commodified heroism is. Our extra jiggly bit, isn’t as sexy as a slim model on t.v. We will strive to look our best, or rather what the majority think is the best.
I have seen first hand the manipulation that goes on in various ads. You can witness for yourself on the likes of youtube what goes on to make an already beautiful, or handsome, model look ‘perfect’. In looking into this further in my own study, I realised what magazines do in general: lightening skin tones, making a body skinnier, eyes bigger, lips plumper, boobs given fake, non realistic cleavage, legs longer, feet smaller, abs drawn on or more defined and much much more.
I know, it’s cruel to us ‘normal’ people and possibly offensive to the models, but we have to realise that this is just an advertising strategy. It works, probably better than other legal strategies.
Dove most recently had a natural beauty advertising campaign, where they used ‘real’ sized models and ‘real’ women in their ads. I would however like to point out that this was not the case. Yes they did have real sized women, but they still asked for women with perfect skin. I’m sorry, but the average woman probably will have the occasional blemish, one or two scars and stretch marks. Dove’s idea of ‘real’ was still moulded. I do, however, appreciate the attempt, as did millions of women who bought into their products. This is more the kind of advertising that we think we buy into, but it’s just not true. We admire this advertising, but whether or not it works in the same way, we will never know.
Everyone reacts differently. In changing topic a little, to another form of commodified heroism. There was an advert not to long ago by SMA Baby Formula. The advert shows the reality of parenting, but ends with the voice over person saying, “Take it from us, you’re doing great”. It normalises the realities of parenting. It tells you the reality of it all. Some ‘super-mums’ found this advert patronising, but first time mums, and mums who maybe had post-natal depression, found this exactly what they wanted to hear. They, therefore, bought into the product.
Commodified heroism, may seem bad in certain ways, but the truth of the matter is that we are all just a demographic. Advertisers need to do anything to sell their products. I may not agree with the over use of Photoshop in magazines, or raunchy adverts for perfumes, but I acknowledge the necessity to be like that. In conclusion, I think, as graphic designers, we must embrace the modifications we do, as it is just business. It doesn’t mean we have to like it, we just have to get on with it. If we had it our way, we probably wouldn’t use Photoshop to adjust images, for the greater good of the average human’s self esteem.
Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Take it from me, if you are reading this, someone out there believes you don’t need Photoshop to be perfect. You are perfect to them exactly how you are.
Thursday’s lectures crossed over a bit. In my first lecture we discussed coding and mathematics inside art and nature, and in my last lecture we discussed ideologies. I thought I would bring the two lectures together in this blog.
Ideologies in life are what we desire most. Idyllically, we’d like to like to have the maximum amount of control with the least amount of conflict. In life, however, are we sure we actually have any form of control? During the morning lecture we learnt about the fact that everything is predictable and that it can defined by numbers. With this taken into account, is it possible to to to have what we would class as individuality or are the numbers forcing us to think that way.
In nature, the Fibonacci sequence is prominent. Shells, sunflower seeds and even pine cones display this in a physical form. Fibonacci also tells us what is beauty as well as the golden ratio. With this being said, is human sexual instinct based on numbers?
The famous hitch hikers guide to the galaxy quote that the meaning of life and everything is 42, is somewhat accurate. In science, 42 is roughly the angle at which a rainbow appears, also known as the critical angle. In 1966, mathematician Paul Cooper came up with the epiphany that if you bore a hole through the earth, it would take 42 minutes to go from one end to the other. In technology an asterix (*) corresponds to the number 42, according to computer programming. A more digital art stance, would tell you that in a TIFF image file format , the second 16 bit word of each file is 42. The number 42 crops up in most topics from religion to astronomy. This means that most things come down to a mere number.
In psychology and certain magic tricks, ‘mind reading’ is possible due to mathematical and logical predictions. Guessing a number or card someone has chosen involves simple maths. Guessing words however, is more about annunciating. Psychoanalytical professions in crime prevention, could tell you that they, just like in the film the Minority Report, can aid in predicting where, and when, crime is going to take place, the the use of algorithms.
Moving away from numbers, many religions tell you that the deity knows the future, by this reasoning do we actually have a choice in life, or are only led to believe that we do? I refuse to argue religion though, as I have too much of a respect for it.
If you bring everything I have stated above down to an art related topic, we can see how artists show a level of control in their work. Marionettes and puppetry is the most obvious art form that shows us that we can control something. Puppetry is like playing God. As humans, we wish for control, through puppetry we can do this. In a more modern form we can see control in the way we pose models for photographs, as seen in AES+F films, and the fact we ‘photoshop’ images after to aid in showing how we feel something/one should look.
In conclusion, we should be reading into life more philosophically. Do we actually have control or do we only strive for it?
During our Thursday lectures, we have been looking into the works of the Russian group AES+F. In the most recent lecture we compared them to Ryan Trecartin and his work. Examples of said artwork can be found here: AES+F and Ryan Trecartin.
Both art pieces, to some, can be seen as quite graphic, and, mostly in Trecartin’s work, quite offensive. There are many differences between these groups/people, but also a few similarities, which I shall discuss.
To begin with, one of the main differences between AES+F and Trecartin is that AES+F use euphemisms in their portrayals of stories etc. In their exhibition ‘The Last Riot’, scenes of children murdering adults, we curbed. The animation was built up of three images: (1) raising their hands/weapons, (2) in the process of striking and (3) the moment just before impact. The idea of the action of the kill not being shown, manipulates the audience into anticipating and filling in the blanks themselves. An imagination can sometimes be scarier than showing the event you are implying. Any point that the company would want to get across would have a greater impact, just because of the forced audience participation, than they would if they had showed the full installation as a full film.
Ryan Trecartin, on the other hand, uses a reality show, or confessional styled television shows, to create his final pieces. Nothing is left out, even the camera men at one point are shown on film. Although this doesn’t have the same manipulative effect as AES+F’s pieces, it does have the same level of impact. With everything being shown, it doesn’t leave much up to the imagination. In displaying everything, however, the concepts and messages these films are attempting to re-enact, are stated bluntly. It would be more like ripping a bandage off or tearing off a blindfold. The impact of being blunt, yes, can be offensive, but will also manipulate an audience in wanted to act in relation or retaliation.
As mentioned above, Trecartin’s work showcases everyone and every aspect of making his films. This contrasts with AES+F, who only show their models. AES+F force their images where as Trecartin’s seem more improvised and natural. Trecartin’s may seem a little less like ‘art’ to someone who doesn’t know the true definition, and AES+F’s may seem more posed, and therefore artistic, but both are still ‘art’. The aesthetics may be very different, but they are still art forms in their own right.
As mentioned in a previous blog, artists are defined as people who portray dreams in the physical aspect. Dreams in this case can refer to the embodiment of various things, such as story telling and satirical ideas. One key difference between these sets of artists is that the one is story telling in a modern form and the other is poking fun at the modern form. Trecartin’s work shows the ins and outs of life today and basically makes us lose faith in humanity. AES+F try to retell stories, such as The Feast Of Trimalchio. Granted they both could be classed as story-telling, but they both do it for different purposes, Trecartin does it to tease and poke fun at society, whereas AES+F do it to just retell a story or to apply it to modern society in order to put a point across.
In conclusion, yes these two sets of artists display their ideas in exceedingly different ways, but they do it through similar means. Pornographic images are displayed to make us, as the audience, think.
As a part of a practical lesson, we had to make a collage in the style of Richard Hamilton’s ‘Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different?’ (1992), which gave our own views on society today.
I chose to base mine on the loss of innocence and how those in charge of our nations seem to be in the middle of it all. Political scandals and there being ‘near nudity’ and ‘adult themes’ on daytime t.v. (i.e. before the watershed), have been the main causes of concern. The image I created depicts so called role models making everything seem ok. They merely joke and pass off the women in front of them and their dress sense. It has become the norm.
In a day and age where nations seem to be outgrowing the need for politeness, euphemisms and subtlety, it is no wonder we are out of control. I’m not saying it’s right, but if kids now a days were raised as I was, the threat of a light hit to the back of the hand would enough to put anyone back in their place. As well as consistency and the love behind it. No parent wants their child to be like ‘that’. Some parents don’t even praise their kids when they do right.
Children now a days get away with murder.With the internet and television, barely being filtered, it’s no wonder children seem to be getting less well behave. Television shows tell us that casual sex, perversion, voyeurism, swearing and violence are all ok. Kids now, have access to so much. I didn’t have a mobile phone until just before high-school, now I see 7 year olds with I-phones. I mean seriously, what are they going to do? Snap chat Dora the Explorer? BBM Banana’s in Pyjamas? WhatsApp the Clangers? (Granted, the last one may not be around any more). I also had limited time on the house computer for quite sometime. Now, children have more privacy to search around on a non-filtered sources.
I can remember a school boy harassing me on the bus once, because I asked him politely if he would stand up for this old lady who just got on the bus. I personally couldn’t do it due to ill health, but he was more than capable. I would never dream of swearing around children or in front of strangers, but this pip-squeak did. If I was his mum, a nice clip around the ear or grounding him would have been enough.
The funniest ones, I have to admit, are the hypocritical parents. Parent’s will be a child’s first role model, and will shape how the child grows up. The main example of hypocritical parenting has to be when a parent tells their son, or daughter, to “Stop F****** swearing”. If they cannot even get one sentence out without swearing, why should they be telling their kid not to curse?
With role models like some parents, some famous people and some politicians, who is to blame when it comes to society breaking down?
During the lecture of 7th November 2013, we looked into Sigmund Freud and Michel Foucault, and how they interpreted ‘the subject’. Being a person who has grown up in a house with a psychiatrist, these names were very familiar to me, and so were some of their practises. What I did learn, and interpret from the lecture however, I did not expect:
Freud is probably most famous for psychoanalysing dreams. In looking into some of his writings, for example ‘The Human Subject’ and ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’, he challenges the interactions between a subject’s reality, and their subconscious. In his work as a psychologist, Freud discovered that with most ‘hysterical’ and ‘ill’ patients, the majority of which, female, that once a patient had aired their trauma, e.g. dreams or hallucinations, their mental health seemingly got better. A hypothetical narrative is formed around the trauma, i.e. dream, and it can be processed easier. In once sense, it could be said that a problem is solved, due to careful guiding in the ways of narratives, in order to be understood and dealt with accordingly and properly.
In relating this to art, the above statement could be put into this perspective. The problem would be being an audience in need something yet unknown. The narrative would be the piece of art. Then the interpretation of the art, by the audience, means they would then be manipulated into processing a relevant emotion or acting in response. In this form, an artist is a middle-man; an artist creates the narrative. Looking deeper, if an artist has no agenda given to him from a higher authority, for example a client, then this means that [he] paints [his] dreams. This therefore makes an artist the dreamer.
Foucault tells us that we are all social subjects of institutions, which means we must conform to remain in said institution, or be seen as ill or a disgrace. To fit into social conformities, a person merely has to continue with life as is laid out for us by the discourse of our institutions (including family life, being a student of a university, sexuality, etc). Those who don’t conform, are seen as ‘ill’ and can be cast out, disowned or become a taboo.
An artist’s job is to dream, and express these dreams physically. Expressing this could mean veering off from the paths we should be following consciously, to remain in life’s institutions. If dreaming, and expressing those visions, are not conforming to reality, should an artist be seen as mentally deranged? Granted, creatives, including myself, are all a little insane, but does that mean we need to be cured? If all the world wants is conformity, then the world would be silent and under communist regime. Curing all those who do not conform would just leave the world more broken than it is now. This surely means it is not ethical to wake the dreamer.
Reality can be a harsh punishment once our eyes are opened. As a newborn baby, eyes must sting as they see for the first time. Likewise, when innocence is lost, it also stings. If to remain naive is wrong, then why does it hurt to learn? I was once told that the difference between normal people and creatives, was that one never stopped dreaming. If growing up means that we lose sight of our hopes and ideologies, then we shouldn’t. People who have grown up and lost their innocence, need to be reminded of those days.
The film, ‘Finding Neverland’ is a tale of a play-writer giving the gift of innocence back to a child. We are all children in our own right, but sometimes we need that guidance to return to that state. An artist paints the dreams we no longer see, to close our eyes once more to harsh realities. If for a few seconds, a subject can be brought back to being their pure self, then an artist has done their job.
As artists, we must embrace the responsibility we have on our shoulders. It is a heavy weight to carry, but we must. We are the narratives of time gone by and the architects of the bridge to being able to cope. We are the reminders of innocence and naivety once lost. We are the cure for a world of conformity.
Prière de Toucher by Marcel Duchamp, 1947, as seen here, (and reinterpreted in Sarah Lucas’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle (shown here), 2000, as seen at the Freud Museum), can be interpreted as the openess of the ability to touch, but questions whether it is right. The temptation of adjusting something so easy for the taking is too simple. Once touched, in that respect, something cannot be untouched. A dreamer when woken, can not return to the dream they were woken from.
We should not be woken.
May the dreamers never be woken.
“The Exquisite Corpse”, as highlighted by André Breton (written in the 1920-30’s), is a name given to a childhood game we all used to play. It is set so that part of an image is drawn, then folded over. The next participant will continue the drawing and fold that over. The result is then shown, which can be quite humorous.
On looking into this further, I watched the Steve Sandvoss film, Exquisite Corpse (2010) and the trailer for The Exquisite Corpse Project (2013). Looking into different ways the ‘exquisite corpse’ can be interpreted, made me realise that there is more to it, than meets the eye:
The exquisite corpse, when I was a child, was played to both entertain and to help break the ice amongst new people in a class room setting. The drawn version of the exquisite corpse, can be used to fill the void of loneliness, when used to break the ice, or to entertain one’s self. The segments drawn by each individual could give an insight into an idea or into a mind set. A more creative mind would draw something elaborate; a more academic mind would draw the next logical progression to the starter that are visible; an immature mind may draw something inappropriate; a fast paced mind may draw something totally unrelated. If each segment can tell the audience a lot about an individual player in the game, surely an exquisite corpse based activity can be used, and interpreted, in multiple ways.
In looking into alternative perspectives of the exquisite corpse, such as the Steve Sandvoss film, and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we can see that when it is brought to life, it is to fill a void. Frankenstein’s monster was created to remove the pains of loneliness, though it didn’t work well to the Doctor’s liking. In the Sandvoss film, multiple women are harvested to save one life; the life saved in the film, thanks to the creator of a cure for death, was used to eradicate the feeling of the loss of a loved one.
In the written form, as shown in the 2013 movie and another Exquisite Corpse Project, the idea of the exquisite corpse was used to bring a set of friends together, one last time. In one sense it is used to mask, for a few more moments, that they are all going their separate ways. In referring back to my previous point, it could be to fill the void of the loss of good friends, or lack of entertainment.
In my opinion, life is the embodiment and personification of the exquisite corpse. People, just like in the 2013 movie, are brought together on a daily basis to help each other. If you look at it from the perspective of ‘the player’ and their part, it is easy to see. The player, a farmer, plants a seed, water helps it to grow, the sun helps to photosynthesise it, a picker harvests the fruit from the plant, a market will then sell the fruit, the whole outcome would be that a person can be fed. From that analogy, my point can be seen in a simplistic form.
In applying the exquisite corpse approach, life happens.