Collection: Part 1

Research

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.

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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).

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Continuity in Evolution

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Science is proteced by authority

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Comparison graph of heating water

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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. 

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The piece

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Transition states of water

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Why Water?

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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.

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Purity and focus

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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.

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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.

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Song Dong, 'Waste Not' (2012)

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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.

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Nicholas Nixon 'Brown Sister's' (2016)

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Criticising collections

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.

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Haim Steinbach 'Once Again the World is Flat' (2014)

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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. 

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Explaining Universals and Particulars

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.

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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.

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Alberto Giacometti, 'Man Walking III' (1960)

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Conceptual Art

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.

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Joseph Kosuth, 'One and Three Chairs' (1965)

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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.

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Rachel Whitread, 'One Hundred Spaces' (1997)

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Why circles?

There are two reasons why I chose to use circles to convey the idea of universals and particulars. The white rings which portray the universals are supposed to be outside space and time (the background) and the spatial disruption of circles conveys this well. Their white colour also helped with this by conveying the idea of emptiness and alluding to the fact that they don’t really exist. The other reason I chose circles was because as a regular shape they have an element of uniformity. This is important as there must be a level of continuity between them to show their attachment to each other and to the particulars. The fact that the circles are the same size helps with this as it means although the particulars (inside of the circles) are all different- they all fit into the universal ring.'Art and Visual Perception: A Phycology of the Creative Eye'- Rudolph Arnheim
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Idea for final piece

This is a sketch of how I imagine my final piece to look- it will a painting.
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Timelessness

I was inspired by the successful way Giacometti had used a sense of timelessness in his piece to convey the philosophical content. In my piece I will attempt a similar notion by having the universal circles move off the page. This will suggest that there is more beyond the painting- a sense of infinity- reinforcing the spaciotemporal content of the piece and the philosophical nature too. This idea was inspired by Lisa Milroy’s painting ‘Greek Vases’ (1987) in which she allows the vase fragments to not be contained by the edge of the canvas, suggesting and endlessness to the collection.
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Cubism

From reading Amy Dempsey’s section on cubism from her book ‘Styles, Schools and Movements’ I have come to appreciate how the technique so effectively conveys time and space. From viewing the ‘object’ from multiple perspectives simultaneously the technique has a great sense of movement and depth. In comparison to the static nature of a plain black background the cubist technique is clearly superior in conveying time and space. The depth it has also produces a contrast to the very flat white circles, emphasising the non-spatiotemporal nature of universals. It is also very interesting that the depth created in the piece actually emphasises the flatness of the canvas. This is useful to bear in mind when I debate why I have chosen to paint and canvas as my medium.
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Making sense of the background

I was conscious in planning my piece that the lines, shapes and shadows of the background were not random. As well as conveying time and space, I also wanted the background to cohere the particulars together to reinforce them as a collection. In his book ‘Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye’ Rudolph Arnheim mentions how visual effects such as anisotropism can fool the eye into thinking something is longer or shorter i.e manipulating the space to create tension. This is something I will use in my piece to form a sense of structure in the background rather than just a random mass of lines. Hopefully this will aid the viewer's reading of the piece and make it easier for them to see the collection aspect of the composition.
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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.

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Akram Zaatari 'The End of Love' (2012)- own photo

Note the way Zaatari has be quite rough and violent in scratching the face- it is nit neat and tidy. This reflects the harshness and negativity of removing someone's identity.
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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.

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Durational aspect of film

Christian Marclay 'The Clock' (2010) plays with the durational aspect of film. The way he has edited the film to be 'real time' adheres to idea that all moving picture is submissive to time, yet by making it a clock he adds an aspect of self awareness therefore subverting time altogether. The editing here is genius and is something I will bare in mind when doing my own piece.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xp4EUryS6ac

Relationship between sound and visuals

Another film I liked was 'Clapping Music' by Steve Reich (date unknown). The way he took total control over the footage by making it almost like an instrument shows the true power of the editor. By focusing on the sound of the image and reducing the importance of the visuals Reich has succeeded in totally subverting the footage. Furthermore, the comical aspect of the whole film adds to the editorial power of the piece and gives a critical edge about the nature of violence and film that the viewers can debate.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BY4bL_bO8sA

Juxtaposition of different pieces of footage

Harun Farocki's 'Worker's Leaving the Factory in 11 Decades' has a more subtle approach to editing. The way he subverts the film by juxtaposing the different pieces of footage next to each other is less obvious than Reich, leaving more room for interpretation by the viewer. I think in my piece I will try to find the balance between producing a very striking film but also be subtle enough to allow the viewer to come to their own conclusion.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gnCO9l-AHkI

Examining the dinner scene

In my film I am focusing on the dinner scenes and their relevance in Hollywood. I was inspired by the sentiments of Norman Rockewell's 'Freedom from Want' painting in which he depicts a utopian American family, all sitting together eating a meal. The 'perfect' nature of the piece against the background of turmoil and destruction in Europe indirectly criticises capitalism and the American Dream. This perfection is similar to the face of Hollywood, and by subverting the footage and revealing it's broken nature I am achieving a similar sentiment to Rockwood.
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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

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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.

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Support from the Compulsory reading

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Abstracted Space

In her piece 'Dispersion' (2002) Julie Mehretu looks at space from a very physical perspective. Through layering paint and mark making she compresses time and space and forces it into a mould of her own design. One can imagine her manipulation of space as similar to playing with clay- being pushed, squeezed and stretched into the desired shape and form. The combination of sweeping paint splats and geometric shapes adds depth which gives a three dimensionality to the piece which empathises this idea. In my exploration of this project I think using such techniques will be useful when I want to visually create my own space.
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Space: A Collision of Worlds

What I like most about Justin Mortimer's 'Kraal' is the implied narrative in the space he creates between the two opposing images. By juxtaposing the innocent balloons against the dystopian background and the legs of a corpse he creates a snapshot of a story or a condensed version of it- almost like a narrative painting. Unlike the Mehretu the use of space here is not physical but temporal- one feels as though the painting is saturated with an invisible story which you can't quite touch. Using space to create such a presence is definitely something I would like to use in my work
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Dreamscape

Toba Khedori's piece untitled 'Rooms' 2001 focuses on the imagined aspect of altered spaces. In examining the world through a 'dream filter' she creates a space outside of reality. Through putting this imagined space into reality through her artwork she directly confronts the grey area between the physical and immaterial. In doing this, her piece extends beyond the idea of altered spaces and comments on the nature of reality in 2D art. Her use of linear perspective reinforces this idea. What I like most about Khedori's piece was how it puts space in a wider context- she not only acknowledges the subject matter of her piece but also the piece of art it's self. This is something I would like the play with in my own work.
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Found Images

This quote from Vija Culmins embodies my approach to the work concerning found images. The framing of a photograph implies a space around the subject matter which the photographer has opted to omit. This gives endless possibilities for an artists to work with and interpret that space. The space can also be shared between two photographs, thus juxtaposing photographs in different ways can alter this imagined space.
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Visualising Empathy

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.

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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.

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Fahrelnissa Zeid 'My Hell' (1951)

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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.

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Juxtaposition of objects in three dimensional art

The aspect of this particular piece of Ortega's show 'The Independent' (Ulysses Way- 2010) intrigued me by the how he had combined everyday objects. By placing the boxes of ordinary household items so precariously on too of the bike Ortega projects a sense of fragility and danger into the space surrounding the sculpture. Through doing this, he embodies the feeling of desperation and the plight of the Pakistani floors survivors. The piece is simultaneously personal through the objects used to create the sculpture but alien and unusual in it's shape and form. Such an effect just from the way the objects are juxtaposed against one another shows the importance of presentation and order in a sculpture- something I will bare in mind in my own work.
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Transforming the meaning of space in three dimensional work,

Another artist who deals with 'Material News' in a very interesting way is Michelangelo Pistoletto who in in 1966 did a performance piece where he rolled a ball of newspaper around a city. By putting the news physically into the landscape where I came from almost brings the stories back to life. Pistoletto uses the physical space almost like a canvas for the stories and narratives. Using space in such a way is very clever and is something I will consider in my work.
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Spacial density in three dimensional work

Doris Salcedo also uses space in a very interesting way in her piece 'Untitled' (2007). By combining pieces of everyday furniture with concrete she fills the space between the objects, making them stationary in their set positions. The sense of inertia that follows this conveys the artist frustration and despair at the current situation society is in. She uses space, or lack of it, to suffocate the objects, using it in a compressive way to obtain the desired effect. The relationship between space and sculpture in terms of difference in density is something I want to further explore in my piece.
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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.

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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.    

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