Project 1: Ideas Factory
The three words I used as part of the project 'Ideas Factory' were Darwinism, water and protect. All three words have a element of overlap between them, including concepts such as development, truth and stability.
Development and Change
When investigating the words Darwinism, water and protect I was drawn to the idea of change and development. One of the fundamental concepts of Darwinism is evolution (the other two being adaptation and classification of species), a concept which examines change and continuity in parallel. The way in which organisms evolve is not random- it is determined by selection pressure and genetic variation. This provides a constant in change. Similarly the change of water between it’s solid, liquid and gas state is not random, but determined by the temperature of the substance. In this case temperature is the reason behind the change, making it the constant (I use the term constant in this case cautiously as obviously the temperature of water changes between state, but the fact that the temperature of water can explain all changes in state of matter makes it an element of continuity in the process).
Continuity in Evolution
Why is continuity and constants in change important?
Psychologists Michele and Robert Root-Bernstein give an interesting insight into constants and regularities in patterns and development. They say that ‘in order to make sense of the world, we look for repeating qualities in phenomena around us; we try to discern the reasons behind repeating events and processes’. From this we can infer that humans find a certain amount of comfort in the constants in both evolution and the changing states of water.
Comfort in continuity: the dangers
Finding comforts in the constants and reasons of patterns can have detrimental consequences. When re-examining Darwinism, the word ‘theory’ stood out to me. To often people see the reason in science as truth and forget the importance of the scientific method and questioning the evidence before us. Of course there is numerous evidence for Evolution, fossil records being an example, but as Jonathan Howard states in his book Darwin: A very short introduction ‘the scope of the theory of evolution is such that most the ‘facts’ which Darwin used were really themselves large generalisations’. This suggests that Darwin’s argument, at the time which he presented it, was not bullet-proof and thus should not be treated as fact. It follows then that science is often protected by the comfort people find in reason as they often fail to challenge what it is they think they know.
Change, continuity and breaking the protection of science
In my art piece I want to look at the constants and reasons in development and Evolution, and challenge protection science feels from people assuming these reasons as truth. To do this I will play with the idea of heat of fusion and heat of vaporization. This the energy that goes into changing the water between states (breaking the bonds between the molecules) rather than increasing the temperature of the substance. This means that that temperature remains constant when the water is changing state. If we refer back to my earlier proposition that temperature was a 'constant' in the process of water changing state we can see that that is not the whole picture. Temperature does play a role in explaining the change of state of water- temperature is the average energy of the particles in a substance, which when low means the particles are less active (solid) or when high they are more active (liquid and gas). However the full explanation for why water changes state must also include the energy required to break the bonds between the molecules- not just the temperature of the substance. This demonstrates how we must challenge the reasons behind the patterns of evolution and development and break the assumptions that protect science from such activities.
Science is proteced by authority
Comparison graph of heating water
Idea for piece
The way in which I would express this idea in a piece of art is to have a column at the bottom of which is ice, the middle water and the top steam. The viewers would only be able to see the point at which the water changes state ie the point where the ice melts to water and the point at which water becomes steam. The purpose of this is for the viewer to focus on the transition and ask the question ‘what here is ice and what here is water?’ or ‘what here is water and what here is steam?’. This may prompt the question 'if we don't know what state of matter this water is in, then what temperature is it?'. These questions bring to the viewers attention the flaw in assuming temperature is a constant in the change/evolution in water. This in turn forces the viewer to challenge the information they know and break down the authority that protects science.
Transition states of water
Breaking the protection of science
The idea of tearing down the protection of science in my piece may be ambiguous- however there are elements to my piece which may aid the realisation of this idea to the viewer. For example there is a reason my piece is a sculpture rather than a painting or film and that is because the physicality of the water has a much greater impact on the viewer than a secondary depiction of it. This encourages the viewer to ask the questions that break down the protection of science.
Purity and focus
Project 2: Collection
Our second project was entitled 'collection'. The word collection can be interpreted in many different ways: from one angle one could look at the process of acquiring objects and the psychological and materialistic connotations this holds. Alternatively, one could look at the collection as a group of objects with a common element. In my initial study of the word 'collection' I will investigate the different ways in which I could interpret the word and discover how it translates into pieces of artwork.
The psychology of acquiring things
The process of collecting is something all humans do. In an article in the Guardian, Christian Garett gives some insight as to why this may be. For some it's about obsession, for others collecting is 'motivated by existential anxieties', by which he means finding a way of continuing our identity once we are gone. From this, one could interpret a collection as a way of looking at the artist's identity. For Song Dong this was certainly the case in his piece 'Waste Not', in which he exhibits all the objects his mother collected during his childhood. Set against the context of the cultural revolution, the fear and love this collection portrays gives the viewer an intimate look into Dong's life and the part of his identity that is attached to his mother.
Song Dong, 'Waste Not' (2012)
What makes a collection?
Another way to look at the word collection is to determine what a collection actually is: a group of entities all with a similar property. This vein of continuity in a collection can be the essence of a collection. Take Nicholas Nixon's 'The Brown Sister's' for example, the key feature of this piece is the fact that ever single photograph features the same four women. This gives the piece a feeling of documentation, and makes the collection of photographs a visual journey rather than a random mass of faces. Moreover, Nixon's piece also hilights another important element of a collection: the importance of looking at all the objects together rather than separately. The photographs are almost like puzzle pieces, individually they are meaningless but together they form a very beautiful story.
Nicholas Nixon 'Brown Sister's' (2016)
Hair Steinbach's stance on collections is much more critical and self aware. In his piece 'Once Again the World is Flat' he examines collections themselves through questioning their importance. By placing a museum artefact next to a regular household object he gives them equal status, thus asking 'what makes certain collections more important than others?'. In my opinion he is criticising museums and the superficial elitism that comes with their collections. In this way, Steinbach's piece is extremely self aware and deals with the theme of collection on a deep and philosophical level.
Haim Steinbach 'Once Again the World is Flat' (2014)
The essence of collection
My initial research into the word of collections provided me with inspiration for my personal take on the theme. I want to create a piece that takes a step back and examines what a collection actually is. Like Steinbach, I want a piece that is self aware and critical of it's subject matter. To do this, I will examine the metaphysical concepts of universals and particulars. A universal is a shared quality between two objects, such as redness or the characteristic of being a table, and a particular is an object which instantiates the universal. Unlike particulars, universals are abstract objects which are not spaciotemporal- they can exists in more than one place at the same time. By looking at collections through the third entity of universals the piece questions what the collection is- is it the particulars that exhibit the universal, or is it the universals it's self. Furthermore, it invites the viewer into the debate about the status of universals.
Why is this important?
A viewer may question why I am examining universals and particulars- why is it important? To this I say it is part of appreciating the context of post-modernism in which I am working and embracing art as a way of communicating with the viewer and encouraging critical thinking. In his book 'After the End of Art' art critic Arthur C. Danto comments that post modernism is the age of philosophical enlightenment in art- we are finally asking the big questions and have come to a stage of self realisation. By looking critically at collections as a concept my piece will embody this sentiment. Moreover, by critiquing and questioning the word 'collections' I will also suggest the very relevant problem with modern curation and museum culture. As Steinbach points out in his piece 'Once Again the Wolrd is Flat', one of the big debates in the art world today is the moral integrity of museums and collections, i.e, what makes a piece of art worthy to be in a musueum collection.
Making my idea visual
The next step is investigating ways to make my idea visual and transform it into a piece of art. To do this, I will look at how other artists have transformed philosophical concepts into art. For example, Alberto Gicometti's 'Man Walking III' is part of the Existential Art movement and the way he has made the walking figure unidentifiable and ghost like reflects the ambiguity and disillusionment of existentialism. Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman said Gicometti's figures looked 'as if they were made out of spit- new things with no form, not texture, but somehow filled' which directly questions the idea of being and what it means to exist. I would also add that the thin and long appearance of the body emphasises the tension in the piece, and inflicts a feeling of inertia on the viewer. The timelessness this implies also complements the philosophical nature of the piece. Indeed, I think this is what made Giacometti's translation of a philosophical, abstract and non tangible subject into a piece of art so successful. Although Giacometti's piece does not focus on collections, the way in which he conveyed timelessness is something that I could use in my piece.
Alberto Giacometti, 'Man Walking III' (1960)
Joseph Kosuth's 'One and Three Chairs' is an example of how am artists has looked at the relationship between the real and the ideal. By placing a picture of a chair, a real chair and the definition of a chair next to each other he encourages the viewer to ask the question 'what is a chair?' or 'what is the essence of a chair?', thus opening a debate to the most 'real' chair. Kosuth once said that “art is making meaning" and this is certainly demonstrated in his philosophical approach to art. What I like about Kosuth's piece is the simplicity in which he conveys his idea- the chair is a very mundane object and makes the concept he is trying to talk about more accessible to the viewer. When making pieces of art I think it is important that, even if dealing with difficult subject matter, to make the piece as available as possible to all audiences. Furthermore, the fact that this installation is a collection is very important to the piece- the common theme of the chair in all the separate elements is the focus of the piece and drives the questions which he wants the viewer to ask themselves.
Joseph Kosuth, 'One and Three Chairs' (1965)
Collection of negative space
Rachel Whiteread's piece 'One Hundred Spaces' is particularly interesting to me as to me she directly looks at the problem of universals and particulars. Although her piece is supposed to be a poetic and intimate insight to negative space, to me casting the underside of the chair is her trying to capture the 'chair-ness', or the universal, of the chair. By making this a collection she has displayed the universal in many particulars. The physicality of the piece, i.e making the negative space positive, is what makes this piece so successful in translating philosophical concepts. This is definitely something I can learn from when making my piece.
Rachel Whitread, 'One Hundred Spaces' (1997)
Idea for final piece
Making sense of the background
Support from the 'ISelf Collection'
Visiting the ‘ISelf’ exhibition at the Whitehall gallery contributed hugely to my interpretation of the brief. The curation of the portraits encouraged me to view the pieces within a collection, and see how their individual meanings were changed by this. For example, Fiona Tan interpreted the existential content of the exhibition in a very fulfilling way- by choosing to have the children in the video externalise their identity she looks at existence in a positive sense. Akram Zaatari on the other hand took a more empty approach, scratching the faces in his photographs to remove the person’s presence. Juxtaposing these two pieces of art together gives the viewer a more holistic view what it is to exist and what it is to be human. This has given me a much better understanding of the importance of the act of collecting, the presentation of a collection, as well as the content.
Akram Zaatari 'The End of Love' (2012)- own photo
Fiona Tan 'Study for Provenance' (2008)- own video
Project 3: Re-edit: against passive resistance
This project focuses on how editing found footage can be just as meaningful as the content of the footage it's self. After reading the project brief and doing the set reading I began to think of the relationship between pieces of footage, the different ways one can manipulate footage and the different effects that can have.
Examining the dinner scene
Visiting the 'For a Partneship Society' exhibition
To support my work on this project I visited the 'For a Partnership society' at the Zabludowicz Collection. On the whole I disliked the exhibition as the pieces themselves did not really have a sense of individuality or meaning. This being said, I did feel that Haroon Mirza's installation '9/11-11/9 Fear of the Unknown' did very well at conveying his confusion and disgust at the current political climate. The seemingly random collection of pieces of footage and the loud noise give an unsettling feel. The way he subtly alters the footage to subvert adds to this uneasiness. What I liked most about this installation was how Mirza had synced the changes in lighting with the sound to immerse the viewer in his art. By pulling the viewer in he enforces his message to a greater extent. This may be something to consider in my work
Project 4: Altered Spaces
The altered spaces project focuses on the possibility of the found image and exploring the relationship between real and imaginary space. My initial research into this theme opened up ideas of the philosophical take on reality the creation of physical and non physical space and different ways the term 'space' can be interpreted. I therefore decided to progress from this by examining how different artists had interpreted the theme.
Support from the Compulsory reading
Space: A Collision of Worlds
For my final piece I want to work with the space between people and their pain and visualise empathy. For this I studied Susan Sontag's 'Regarding the Pain of Other's' for ideas on how I could visualise a person's relationship with a source of pain they are unfamiliar with. I was inspired by a number of her ideas, for example the idea that sometimes it is not lack of empathy but rather lack of imagination that prevents people from genuinely feeling sad at the sight of the pain which they relate to in no way e.g a terrorist attack in another country. She also mentions the unreliability of the image, in particular the photograph, and how no one views the image in the same way. This is also a concept I could explore in my piece.
Going to the Fahrelnissa Zeid exhibit
When doing my altered spaces project I went to the Fahrelnissa Zeid exhibit for inspiration. The way her abstract paintings were almost a kaleidoscope of colour conveyed space in a scientific yet personal way. Her piece 'My Hell' is an example of this, where she managed to simultaneously create a hollow absence and a terrible tension using the juxtaposition of shape and choice of colour. I have chosen to visualise empathy in the space between people and using such techniques will help me to project my ideas into the thoughts and emotions of my viewer.
Fahrelnissa Zeid 'My Hell' (1951)
Project 5: Material News
The Material News project was inspired by the Damian Ortega show called 'The Independant' in which everyday between the 29th of August and the 27th of September 2010 he responses to something that caught his eye in the newspaper. He used material and space to convey his thoughts and ideas in a three dimensional way. Such a transformation allowed his own opinion on the subject matter to show through and provided and alternative perpspective with which to view the problem.
Juxtaposition of objects in three dimensional art
Transforming the meaning of space in three dimensional work,
Spacial density in three dimensional work
Glasnost in the age of technology
For my final piece for this project I wanted to concentrate on the relationship between the media and the people and the people and the Government. I focused on how information is transmitted and visualised this process. I am very dissolusioned with how and what information I receive so went to a talk about Glasnost in the age of technology. This opened up my eyes to how much manipulation and control the Government has over the information we receive and how there are so many ulterior motives and underlying political agendas in the subtext of the media we see. I wanted to translate this idea into my art.
Project 6: Place
The two week project entitled 'place' was not aligned to a specific pathway, but examined the more curatorial and practical side of art by emphasizing that what you do is affected by where it is done and for whom. This can be explored in multiple different ways: through audience participation, site specificity, curation, collective art and much more. To begin my investigation into this project I will examine how other artists have used the idea of 'place' as central to their art.