Summary of Day
I participated in an activity in a group of 3. We took words from different columns, ‘-ism’, ‘medium’, ‘method’, and discussed potential projects and artworks that could be derived from these.
Working as a group allowed me to bounce ideas off friends and collectively contribute towards a common idea. Sometimes there would be moments where ideas conflicted but later on merged together. By working as a group we were able to develop more meaningful and thoughtful ideas, as we were able to approach the words from different perspectives. The challenge of working together is that sometimes these perspectives may not align.
At the beginning our group was overflowing with ideas, speaking on top of each other. This was more to do with fresh ideas rather than the time restriction forcing us to produce ideas quickly. However towards the end our group slowed down and ideas developed slower. As the time drew closer, we became pressed to think of ideas quickly. Unfortunately, this meant the ideas were less developed.
My peers understood the ideas very well as it had been developed with everyone's contribution. Rather than presenting the ideas it was more about discussing them. The feedback I received from my peers was very encouraging and positive. Instead of shooting ideas down, we built upon each other's or took a different path. I decided to take the idea that I found most intriguing forward, which was the Utopianism idea. This was our first idea and I felt it was developed very quickly with a lot of energy without sacrificing depth.
In my final proposal, I want to present clearly how my piece would be created. I want to draw a representational sketch of my artwork and express the intention behind through text. Through this project I learnt the importance of conceptualizing and researching as an artist, before beginning any physical work. So far my experience here has been very positive and stimulating. The importance put on concepts and ideas pushes me in terms of creativity and I am looking forward to the coming projects.
By being given specific time to research our concepts, medium and technique, I was able to really consolidate my intentions. The bulk of my research was regarding utopias. I found that the deeper and more rounded my understanding was of the notion, the more ideas I was able to produce. What particularly interested me was the idea of individual utopias and I tried to add my own perspective to this idea. My proposal was that everyone was in their own personal utopia, this can be and was argued against. The research for this project did not involve many visual artists but rather novelists, philosophers and editors. However, by reading the literature of these individuals I was able to solidify my concept. I believe that ideas and concepts can be expressed in a number of ways including but not limited to visual arts, literature, theatre, music and design so on. So, through this research I realised the importance of not limiting one's research to artists but also widening their perspective to other practices of expression.
I did not, however, find the research on materials and techniques very helpful or inspiring. Of course there are inherent and imbued meanings in every material, but it was generally limited to simple connotations. Silk signified wealth, affluence and comfort. Water signified life, tranquility, and so on. I tended to be more interested in the topic of utopia which had a greater depth to it.
Finalizing my presentation involved drawing a representational sketch of what would be the final work if exhibited. This was straight forward to do, I drew silk pillows, encased in vinyl, floating in vast waters. In retrospect, I should have used colour for better clarity. Then I annotated the drawing, writing down my research and thought process behind this piece of work. It was a shame we didn't get to present our work, as nervous as I was to do so. Instead, my peers had only the descriptive annotations to understand my intentions and conceptual ideas. Still, the tutors reminded us that the artist's intentions may not matter often in art, rather it is up to the viewer to interpret and decide what the artwork is about.
In an unusual method of critique we were given at minimum two feedbacks, written on post-it notes, by our peers. The first post-it note was interested in my personal definition of utopias, suggesting utopias are subjective. In my understanding of the word utopia, it is a perfect world without suffering or pain. Yet, I agree, this strict definition of utopia does not encompass the subjectivity of good and evil, of happiness and pain, of freedom and security. Personally, my utopia would still involved pain, suffering, and loss to a lesser degree. In a world of perfect bliss, I believe humans would lose a sense of purpose with no failure, no regret and no death. These things that make us human must remain but greater suffering such as pollution, lack of food, poverty, human and sex-trafficking, climate change, in my utopia would disappear. This, of course, is an ideal world, almost impossible to achieve.
The second post-it note wanted to know how the piece would be exhibited. It was specified that we did not have to create this piece nor did it have to be physically possible. I believe this was done to challenge our creativity, breaking any physical limitations and widening the possibilities. If I had to exhibit this work I would fill a room, the size of a standard 25 meter swimming pool side by side, with water. The viewers would view the work from above in a platform around the perimeter of the room. However, the pillows must be enlarged in order for the viewers to be able to see them, unusually big for human-use. I would then have wave machines creating movement within the waters. The impression given should be that a person standing on the platforms should feel as though the waters are vast, the movement of the waves hypnotizing and as though the waters may engulf them as well.
After being given two hours to come up with a collection of any sort, I thought of 3 possible ideas.
1. Sound and impressions
2. Momentary joy
3. Video log of 2 hours
The first idea was inspired by the Impressionism movement and the idea of a drawing or painting which embodies the atmosphere and feeling rather than direct representation. For this idea I thought of recording audio in particular places with distinct sounds. Then I would go back to the studio and draw the location only using the sound captured. I felt this idea was not as developed as the others and did not even attempt it. However, in hindsight this idea of using the auditory senses to inform a drawing is very interesting, almost like synesthesia. I may revisit this concept at a later date or in my personal time.
The second idea is the idea of capturing a fleeting moment of joy. Since the earliest days of photography, its ability to capture a singular instance in time was unique. I wanted to exploit this characteristic by capturing a moment of laughter, achieved through a joke. I believed this would be challenging because, I was not the greatest comedian, some people would not laugh, and the timing of Sara (helping with the photography) would need to be perfect.
The third idea was inspired by Dieter Roth's "Flat Waste". I was interested in how he documented a year of his life through his trash, painting a very unusual 'self-portrait' in a way. I wanted achieve a similar goal: documenting my 2 hours through video recording in 12 minute intervals, giving me 10 videos. I would take a 360 degree video of my surrounding, repeating every 12 minutes until the 2 hours were over. I began with this idea initially, I took videos of the studio, a nearby Sainsbury (where I was told off), a small park area and a street corner. Unfortunately, I gave up halfway, slowly losing faith in this task. It felt very mundane and uninteresting. I opted, instead, for the second idea of momentary laughter. Again though, I could have presented the videos in a particular way, borrowing scientific taxonomy perhaps, that would have made it a short yet interesting documentation of my life.
I decided to commit to my second idea. As I predicted, it was personally challenging to tell a joke again and again but it was also a lot of fun. The process of 'collecting' these moments included exciting, awkward, hilarious and embarrassing interactions with my peers. I used the burst function on my iPhone to capture the sequential moments of 'anticipating the joke', 'getting the punchline' and 'laughing at the joke'. Looking at the minute changes in their facial expressions, I could tell the exact moment when they understood and registered the joke in their heads.
The process of deciding how I will exhibit my work went through many iterations. At first it was placed simply in chronological order, each photo depicting the exact moment of laughter. The effect of this arrangement was underwhelming. Next, I tried to place them in order of degree of laughter, the more conservative reactions on the left to more expressive reactions on the right. This had a greater impression but I felt a before and after photo would greatly emphasize the effect or power of the joke. The next arrangement I tried was a simple before and after sequence. I felt that this was definitely able to show the change in facial expressions cause by the joke. The final and most effective arrangement was a blurring of 4 sequential shots. First shot: anticipation of the joke. Second shot: Listening to the joke. Third shot: Understanding the punchline. Fourth shot: Laughter. This series of events documented in a single arrangement highlighted the change in facial expression and inner emotions of the subjects.
After editing each series of photos in the same layered way, I printed them in A3. I exhibited them along a white wall, in a horizontal direction. I deliberately did this in order to encourage viewers to walk across the exhibition space from left to right. This control of how the artwork is viewed is reinforced by the joke written across the wall as well. Acting as an accompanying text to the piece, it increases the viewer's inclination to view the photographs from left to right. The effect is that the audience experiences the joke in a similar way as the subjects of the photos. There is a sense of build up and anticipation as the viewer walks along the exhibit, and then it is followed by the punch line. Not only does this build a relationship between the viewer and the photographs, the viewer is able to understand the context behind the artwork as well.
The feedback I've gotten from my peers was positive and constructive. I felt the artwork was effective in delivering my intentions. One of my peers pointed out the clear connection between the written text and the photographs that allows the viewers to understand what the piece is about. Additionally, they found the sequential characteristic of the edits interesting, it is able to depict the stages at which the person is 'thinking about it' and then 'getting it'. Another positive feedback was the gradual increase in saturation, in relation to the humor and reaction of the subjects. At first, when the models are listening to the joke the photographs are de-saturated, however as the joke is being told and they begin to smile, the hues become more saturated. They also discussed how, by showing 4 different image of the same person, the viewer is able to get a better impression of who the person is. The capturing of their personality is not something I had considered but I still conveyed unintentionally. Especially, placed in close proximity to each other, the viewer compares the different array of reactions and is able to get a better understanding of each person's personality.
A suggestion I received from Luke, was to display the photographs without the joke. I agreed that by doing that, the viewer would receive a different experience, having to superimpose their own judgement or meaning. However, I felt that the simplicity of the concept, telling a joke and capturing reactions, would be lost. By having a clear understanding of the context behind each photograph, the viewer does not feel the need for a political or cultural interpretation, they can enjoy the happiness found in each photograph. In this way, I feel the artwork is more successful and powerful.
My peers appreciated the positivity of the artwork, as they put it; 'there aren't enough feel-good pieces nowadays'. We discussed the power of a joke and how easily it can bring joy into people's faces. This is evident in the fact that everyone in the photographs are smiling. Though some people did not understand the joke or did not find it funny, a smile ends up on their face. Thus, a interesting paradox is found in that even if the joke is not successful it accomplishes its job in bringing joy, that is the power of a joke.
For this project we had to use Adobe Premier to edit and appropriate found footage into a new piece of work. By doing so creating a new message, interpreting the footage in a new perspective, or subverting its initial message. From the related artists and artworks that I saw, their work was either politically or culturally charged (CNN concatenated, Omar Fast, Video Flag, Nam June Paik), or it explored the medium of video in a new way (24 hour Psycho, Douglas Gordon, Horror Chase, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy).
So, I started with two ideas:
1. I've been reading George Orwell's 1984 and was fascinated by the idea of the telescreen, a constantly turned-on television that the political institution uses to influence and brain-wash citizens. I wanted to bring this idea into the context of the 21st century, using snippets from news broadcasts and advertisements. The idea was the draw parallel between Orwell's dystopian world and our present day lives, suggesting that the media brainwashes ourselves for the benefit of the elite, as much as the telescreen does in 1984.
2. This second idea is the one I decided to follow through with. Influenced by 24-hour Psycho by Douglas Gordon and Soliloquy Trilogy by Candice Breitz, I wanted to explore the medium of film and video. 24-hour Psycho experiments with how an individual experiences film, while Soliloquy Trilogy exposes the nature of and the movie industry by exploiting Hollywood archetypes. In my research, I looked at iconic films such as Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino and Forrest Gump by Robert Zemeckis. One my favourite scenes in all movies is the death scene of Mrs Gump. It left a deep impression on me and my view on death, yet, in most films, death is trivialised. The gore and violence in movie deaths are brushed off and are inconsequential, where as in reality the loss of human life is consequential and impactful.
To follow through with the second idea I took a collection of movie deaths from iconic movies, such as Reservoir Dogs, The God Father, L.A. Confidential and so on. I arranged them together in sequence with the audio track from Mrs Gump's death scene playing in the background. However, I did not want to simply compile these video deaths one after the other. So, I created my own narrative using these scenes. In order to build tension, I arrange scenes of anticipation together. To accentuate this tension I gradually reduced the time each scene stays on screen. Then as soon as Mrs Gump says: 'I will miss you Forrest', a torrent of gunshots and rapid explosions is heard, followed by quickly flickering death scenes. This reflects how death can come suddenly and without warning, highlighting the fragility of life. Yet, these scenes of shooting, killing and carnage are contrasted with the calm and collected dialogue between Forrest and Mrs Gump. Hollywood movies have numbed us to the idea of death by routinely disregarding its consequences, my piece highlights this fact. Yet, most movies are meant to entertain its audience, to appeal to the masses and thus movies deaths must only serve to keep the viewer's interest. On the other hand, my belief is that great movies are more grounded to real life, are relatable and try to explore the human condition.
Having used Adobe software and Sony Vegas in the past, I picked up Adobe Premier quickly. The software was a very powerful editing tool and allowed me to easily perform tasks. I cut and arranged the movie clips in the manner discussed above. I always felt that an editor needed the intuition for a good cut, therefore I watched and replayed the video again and again in order to gauge the timing for a perfect and natural cut. Where to place cuts were sometimes obvious, such as a beginning or end of a dialogue. Other cuts were difficult and felt unnatural. I found that these uneasy cuts interrupted the flow of the video and was hard to fix.
Another limitation I faced was the movie clips were all in different resolutions and aspect ratios. Some were in a more cinematic 16:9 ratio while others were in a normal 4:3 format. In order to keep a uniform viewing experience I used Adobe Illustrator to create black rectangles. I overlaid the rectangles over the film clips and this made for a more smooth visual transition between each cut. This adjustment had created another problem, in some of the clips a portion of the character is cut from the frame. I rectified this by off-setting the clip in the appropriate direction.
Toward the ending of the 2 minute video, I created a montage of gun shots, blows to the head, and deaths. The difficulty I found in creating smooth and natural cuts in the beginning of the video was amplified in the quick and flashing montage I wanted to create. I needed to zoom into the timeline in order to precisely edit each cut. The audio was also edited in the piece. I wanted there to be an initial cacophony of different gun shots, leaving an impactful impression in the viewers. This was done by overlaying various audio clips and increasing the decibels. As the montage ends, the audio gradually fades out along with the visuals. I wanted the video to slowly fade to black, leaving the audience dazed after a bloody, violent montage of deaths.
I enjoyed this feedback session, it involved sitting in a large room with a projector and watching everyone's work. This method of critique allowed for a wider range of opinions and perspectives which is beneficial to the artist. It was also beneficial as the audience, as I got a lot of practice giving back feedback. Additionally, I was able to soak up much more influence from my peers than a normal group critique.
This session I received very constructive feedback on my video. The first feedback I was given was about the obvious disconnect between the video and audio. To elaborate, some of the video clips I chose to use had people talking but since the audio was of Mrs Gump, from the movie Forrest Gump, it created an awkward moment of disconnect between audio and video. I had deliberately tried to use video clips of people not talking but in order to keep visual coherence between the characters introduced in the beginning of the video, and their subsequent death at the end of the video, this was sometimes difficult. For example, Rachel's death in The Dark Knight, in all of her appearances immediately preceding the death scene she is always talking. Therefore I had no choice but to mute the video clip and include her silently mouthing words. In hindsight, I could have chosen to use a different movie death scene but, again, being one of Hollywood's iconic movies I decided to include it.
A positive consensus I felt from the group critique was the tension created by the video. I was happy with this feedback as I had deliberately done what they called 'a crescendo' of clips. This built up tension is finally released in the barrage of gunshots in the ending montage.
A strong point given by a peer was that the clips in the beginning did not seem relate to death. This was because in my attempt to build up tension, I took the clips out of their original context. As demonstrated in 'Learning from Vegas' when a movie scene is taken out of context, it loses its meaning. My peer suggested that the clips should be coherent to the theme of death, such as the old man with a breathing apparatus in his nose. Even with the limitation of solely using found footage, with more time I would be able to find relevant clips to use. My reasoning for using these specific clips, however, is their recognisability.
Finally, what I found interesting about this feedback session was the range of different reactions to the film. Some were heavily impacted by the jarring gunshots, others were indifferent to the blood and gore. This goes to show the different reaction to death scenes in movies, perhaps Hollywood has conditioned us to become insensitive to the topic of death. More likely is that viewers know the gruesome deaths, no matter how realistic, are not real. Yet, if death is brushed off by both the movie industry and the viewers as a mere spectacle then how does this affect our perception of real death, our ability to empathize with families and friends of victims and our understanding of our own mortality?
Before we began the Altered Spaces project, I read one of the mandatory reading requirements about David Schnell. His bright and colourful paintings were really inspiring. It seemed to me that aesthetical value came before symbolic or insightful meaning in his paintings. Although, without a doubt, there is meaning in each decision the artist chooses to make, the end result is beautiful and can be admired in purely visual terms.
I felt that this notion was echoed in the project brief, one of the project aim was to: 'identify how meaning and subject matter can develop out of a working process'. To put it bluntly: 'do now and think later'. I followed this method by collaging, layering and pasting different found images in my sketchbook. I incorporated techniques of copying, cutting and tearing, in an attempt to create a happen-chance that interested me. After many layers of newspapers, postcards and printed pictures, I started to add some paint.
I remembered reading of how Schnell's initial perspective grid lines often remained visible in the final painting, leaving faint lines and a particular aesthetic quality. So, on a photograph featuring a riot policeman aiming a rubber bullet rifle, I followed the perspective lines and created a grid. From these guidelines I created for myself, I created rectangular holes in the ground. I tried to employ the concept of 'reality and imagination co-existing'. The end result looked like something out of a video game.
At this point I still wasn't considering any concept or meaning behind my work, as I did so in previous projects. I kept experimenting with different techniques and visual motifs. Next I took a postcard of Elvis Presley and painted his face in the warm hues of yellow, orange and red. I wanted to add collaging techniques to it and so used various black and white photographs and laid them in the shadows of the painting. Then I used a sort of chromatic grey, discussed in class, in the background. This experiment I found quite successful and wanted to take it a step further but didn't know how.
I went back to the artists discussed in class and looked at Adrian Ghenie, Nigel Cooke and Justin Mortimer. What I found was that Nigel Cooke had colorful, swirling compositions that was not shown in the powerpoint slides. Thematically, it was related to other worldly or dream-world, much like David Schnell's paintings. I used a couple of different images that I had found interesting but had not yet put to use, and trialed this swirling visual. The effect was similar to the image melting away, or a glitching screen.
The final outcome borrowed concepts and techniques that I had previously trialed in my sketchbook. The first thing that I did was enlarge the image on the computer so that the face of Elvis Presley would fit on my board. Since I was enlarging a scanned image, the printed dots were also enlarged, this created a subtle Pop-art feel. I then flipped the scanned image in preparation for image transferring onto the board. This is a technique I previously used in my high school using white emulsion paint, however this time I used branded image maker. The result was very different from using emulsion paint, I expected the printed image to rip and expose some of the wooden board underneath. Instead, the printed paper stayed intact leaving a complete and perfect transferred image. In fact, I would have preferred a imperfect outcome, leaving scratched off marks, as I felt this also has a certain appealing aesthetic.
After the image transfer dried, I started to paint the streaks of lines that would be pulled from the face. However, the process of transferring the image left the colour of the image quite dull. I decided to paint over the face in order to increase the saturation of the image. By doing this I was able to match the intensity of the coloured streaks, this helped in creating the illusion of these streaks dripping or melting away from the face itself.
Next I mixed acrylic paint in an attempt to create chromatic greys. I was unsuccessful in creating chromatic greys, I believe this is because my paints are not of good enough quality. To get around this problem, I instead mixed red and blue. This created a subdued purple which I applied to the background of the image. This helped foreground the portrait as the cool and dark purple contrasted the redish-orange of the face.
Finally, I stuck printed cut outs of images depicting the Catalan Independence protests on to the military hat. This was straightforward to do and only required a modest amount of precision. I do not have a clear reason for including this aspect of the piece. I wanted to refer back to the collage experiments that I made in the beginning of this project and it also appealed to me visually.
I was very proud of this piece as it strays from my normal style of painting and incorporates different techniques that I feel adhere to the project aims. I flipped, overlaid, enlarged, painted, cut and stuck images together to create this artwork. My peers were interested how I painted the ear, as though it was caught on the camera, motion-blurred. They also liked the colours I chose to use, creating a surrealistic portrait of Elvis.
When they questioned my intentions and meaning behind the piece, I was not able to give a concrete answer. This was because, as mentioned before, I focused more on the process of creating this piece rather than the conceptual ideas supporting it. Rather, I was working and trying things out, 'letting the work speak to me'. Still, in order to give some context and thought to the piece, I discussed my artist inspiration, Nigel Cooke. I borrowed the visual style of sweeping and flowing lines from Cooke's various dream world paintings. Additionally, when originally painting Elvis in my sketch book I liked the use of warm colours; red, yellow and orange. It reminded me of propaganda posters used in China during the Cultural Revolution.
At one point, another pathway tutor looked at my painting and remarked about how it looks similar to a Christian 'icon' painting. These paintings are similar in size to my piece and are also protruding from the walls. Though, the similarities are purely coincidental, the mixture of religious, celebrity, and political imagery lends itself to a controversial interpretation. Perhaps it could be a criticism of modern celebrity worship and how it is similar to the worshiping of religious figures. This can coincide with the ignorance of newsworthy happenings such as the Catalan protests, the struggle for independence mirrored in the allusion of propaganda posters and the passion of nationalistic pride. The truth is, however, I did not begin nor complete this piece of work with a certain meaning in mind. Even still, I am pleased with the outcome. 2D is the pathway I wish to take eventually and I am excited to produce works of even greater quality.
Sculptural art is not my strong point and I have very little experience, so I did not feel confident in beginning this project. I brought in a copy of the London Evening Standard and flipped through the pages to find an article or image that interested me. I cut out a few image and articles: a headline that reads 'Hey Mister Music Man', a clipped article of low self-esteem in UK teen girls, an article criticizing the unrealistic and merciless assumptions of free-market scholars, an image of a gang member performing a wheelie on a moped, an advert featuring a waiting room and finally an article on the assassination of Kim Jong Nam. I stuck these clippings in my sketchbook and annotated them, highlighting what aspects fascinated me and interested me.
As I continued to annotate the Kim Jong Nam article I realised there was a lot there to unfold. There was an obvious political aspect that could criticize Kim Jong Un's brutal regime and his need to consolidate his power as supreme leader. But on another level there is a certain sense of poignancy in that the suspects are 25 and 28 years old, and may be facing a death penalty. Additionally, I started to research the poison used to kill Kim Jong Nam, VX nerve agent. 10 mg of VX nerve agent is enough to be lethal and was smeared on Kim's face. Entering the bloodstream through skin absorption, the nerve agent disrupts signalling between the nervous and muscle system, causing paralysis throughout the body. The victim eventually dies from asphyxiation as the diaphragm muscle is paralyzed.
I decided to explore the effects of this VX nerve agent and how I could represent this in a sculptural form. As discussed when we looked at Damian Ortega's newspaper project, the actual sculpture does not need to encompass the entirety of the article's story. Therefore, I felt confident in focusing on the nerve agent, a small but crucial part of Kim Jong Nam's assassination. Originally, and I may go back to this idea, I wanted to recreate the plastic bags they use to keep evidence and make it as though the cloth containing VX nerve agent, the infamous 'LOL' shirt worn by the suspect and other DNA samples were inside the plastic bags. This is similar in a way to 'Ulysses Way' by Damian Ortega, a recreation of something that was referred to in the news article. Such a recreation would allow for a physical reading of the news.
However, today I wanted to try something I haven't done before. I decided to cast my hand in plaster. I was also interested in representing the effects of the nerve agent itself. Specifically I wanted to depict the gradual paralysis of muscles. This could represented in an abstract way, having one object represent the nervous system and another object represent the muscular system, somehow cutting off the connection between the two. I may return to this idea later, but instead I plan on creating something straightforward. By casting my hand in plaster and stringing the fingers together I want to represent the slow stiffening of muscles.
This school day we were given time to continue our work in the workshop and the classrooms. After discussing my idea with one of the tutors, Adrian, I took a while to reflect on my project. I believe pin-pointing and focusing on what specifically interests me, it has allowed me to move my project in a strong direction. However, I did feel that the hand was already a formalized and established motif in sculpture. I made the mistake of viewing this project from my pre-conceived notion of what sculptural art is like. Instead of viewing this as a sculpture project, I was suggested to look at how materials symbolize meaning and relate too one another. At this point, my work strongly represents the story of Kim Jong Nam's assassination but it doesn't embody it.
In order to rectify this, I decided to use the formality of the hand and undermine it. After my plaster hand finished drying I needed to create an armature which would allow the hand to be positioned. I screwed together bits of scrap wood to create the base, spot-welded two steel rods together, and drilled the hand into the rod. After the armature was finished, I made some more plaster and dipped some string into it. I took the string and attached it from finger to finger as though it was holding them together. This was harder than expected as the plaster was too runny at first and wouldn't stick but became very viscous towards the end, giving me only a small window of time before the plaster completely hardened. After having to remake plaster a couple of times, I was satisfied with the end result. However, in my discussion with Adrian, we talked about how the plaster hand could be decomposed. This would reflect the process in which Kim Jong Nam died, gradual paralysis and eventual death and decomposition. I thought that this would embody the story much better and tried to dissolve the plaster in hot water, pouring it over the hand. The water didn't destroy much of the hand at all but dissolved the plaster covering the strings. I kept pouring hot water, hoping that the plaster hand will eventually disintegrate. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, I decided to pour plaster over it instead. Although, this was an additive method, it gave the appearance of the hand being deconstructed.
I felt that the feedback I received from this project was the most in-depth and constructive. From a totally surface level, the first comment was on how the piece was presented. The way the hand, which looks and is quite heavy, is mounted on a fairly thin copper plated steel rod creates a sense of anxiety. It looks as though the hand might fall or the whole sculpture may lose balance. Someone also pointed out the medical or clinical feeling that comes from the white colour and the formal presentation. Another peer suggested that the still hand looks as though it had been stopped in motion. I think is true for most sculptures involving the human figure, any part of the body frozen by nature of the sculptural form looks dynamic. A comment on the use of materials that interested me was regarding the contrast between the grunge-looking copper and steel rods compared to the clear white of the hand and base. This contrast does definitely bring a visual balance to the entire piece that would be lost if I had painted the rod as well. Another comment on colour, that came at the end of the critique session, is about the symbolic quality of white. While, white can suggest innocence and purity (quite contradictory to the story behind it) it is also the colour of death in Asia (which is more relevant to its context).
Then the group started to suggest meaning behind the work. The initial comments were surrounding the loss of control. Since, the hand often symbolizes the control and functionality, by detaching the hand from the body entirely there is a sense of losing control. This concept is reverberated in the hand being tied down and restricting movement. Additionally, I was surprised at how one of my peers interpreted the metal rod as the nervous system. This isn't something that I had done intentionally but completely fits in with my original intentions. My peers also remarked about the uncomfortable and frustrating feeling it evoked in them. I was happy to hear this as this emotion of 'frustration' is something I had kept in mind while constructing the sculpture. They likened this feeling to a dream, not a nightmare, but just a peculiar feeling of endless elasticity, like gum or webs.
When I pushed them to connect the sculpture to a concrete idea or story, they argued that without a title they cannot immediately relate to a specific story. Instead, they knew that the piece was centered around tension and frustration. Therefore, perhaps the story contained similar themes, such as: restriction of freedom, futility, powerlessness, not being able to do what you want, or maybe even corruption. At this point, I decided to let them know that the piece was based on the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Once they heard this they seemed to understand the piece better or at least connect with the piece on a deeper level. They agreed that the paralysis due to the nerve agent come across strongly. However, there was more of a discussion on what the title of the piece should be. Some suggested that it should directly refer to the death of Kim Jong Nam, while others disagreed and preferred the ambiguity. I think that by keeping the title quite ambivalent it opens up the possibility of interpretation quite wide. By doing this, I think the piece does not become a representational piece of a specific incident but is able to embody many different stories. As dramatic and shocking a title like 'This is the Death of Kim Jong Un' would be, I strongly prefer the latter option and if I were to exhibit this I would either not give it a title or a name it broadly.
Before we began the project we were given a primer task to draw a few places from memory. These places had to be somewhere that you haven't been to in a long time but can remember very well. I chose to draw my childhood house in Korea and my current house in Hong Kong. I was surprised by how much I could remember and felt nostalgia in my own sketches. I believe the purpose of this exercise is to demonstrate the significance a particular place can have to an individual. For me, my childhood home has a lot of meaning and emotion behind its memory, while for other it may just be another apartment building. This notion of specificity is central to understanding site-specific art.
The way I understand the project brief and aim is that certain sites and places have meaning. This meaning can be embodied both in physical and in abstract forms. For example, the King Cross campus, where we will exhibit our work, has physical characteristics such as materials, layout, structure, form, but it also has significance as a place of art, of community, of social interaction, of learning and academics. By exploring these different aspects of the site, I will be able to respond to it through my art piece.
One thing that Susan said that stuck with me was to question rather than state; question the purpose, the reason, the behaviour. This interrogative state of mind changed the way I saw artists and their works. Rather than imperatively stating their opinions and perspective, they bring into question the norm and status quo. They bring issues to light, pointing things out by saying 'look at this' instead of 'this is it'.
The most influential artist for this project was Michael Asher. His art is easily interpreted as institutional critique but his method of doing so is so simplistic and elegant. In one instance, he removed the wall separating the gallery and the office, making it so that the viewers were able to see the business side of the art industry. The wall is a physical barrier dictating what you are and aren't able to see. Asher exposes the underbelly of the art industry, through the simple act removing a wall.
I was interested in the idea of the separation of space, created through physical and non-physical means. An example in terms of non-physical means is that by observing the movement of people, a sort of social and cultural pattern can be seen. Invisible and fluid boundaries between individual and groups of people determined by the social context. The behaviour of people, however, are not only determined by social circumstances but also can be encouraged (or discouraged) by architectural and physical means. The perfect example is a wall, it prevents individuals from entering a certain space, restricting their freedom of movement. The wall is a deliberate and purposeful structure, to reiterate my point; it decides what you are and aren't supposed to see, where you are and aren't supposed to go, what you are and aren't allowed to hear and so on. It is a barrier between one space and another.
By the second day I came up with three possible proposals. The first was the projection idea, inspired by Michael Asher. This idea was still under development but was felt was my strongest conceptually. There were many possible paths this idea could have taken and different layers of depth I could have explored. Kaori agreed with this and told me to carry out some experiments. The concept of destroying a wall visually could be carried out with a projection, a painting, a photograph or a screen. After discussing the feasibility of each path, I decided that projection or screen would be the best bet.
The second idea was related to what the King’s Cross campus could have been, a shopping mall. This historical/architectural context was interesting to me and I wanted to explore this further. Specifically, it raised questions about the structural layout of the building and how this affects our behaviour and movement within it. The high walls and vertical height of the street is reminiscent of shopping malls, with the skylight allowing natural light to flow into the building. Perhaps I could call this into attention by creating a fake advertisement, through painting or photography, and hanging it high above the street exhibition wall. By itself it would be as if the campus had been turned into a mall for a brief moment. Another method address this architectural history of the campus was to render a wide angle photograph into a scene that looks like a mall. To elaborate, I would take a picture of the campus and visually transform it into mall through techniques such as photo-manipulation, using Photoshop.
The third idea was developed from the primer exercise before beginning this project. When given the task to draw a memorial place entirely from memory, I chose to depict my childhood home back in Korea. During this process I was reminded of the playground right in front of our apartment that I used to spend hours in with my brother. These pleasant childhood memories inspired the idea to create a playground in the space of the street. Of course it would not be possible to install an entire playground in one and a half weeks however, Kaori and other tutors asked us to cast our nets wide and narrow it down later. Starting with the ambitious idea of constructing a playground, I dialled it down to constructing a simple sand pit. I thought that this was the most feasible plan. With this piece I wanted viewers to participate and manipulate the sand, creating sand mounds and castles. I felt that most people have a childhood memory of playing with sand, either in a sand pit or the beach. Thus, sand as a material embodies the emotion of childish curiosity and creativity. This emotion is important and hopefully abundant in the art-making practice taking place in the King’s Cross campus.
In the time between the second and third day of the project, I decided to continue with the projection idea. I was given time to go to the King's Cross campus and carry out a few experiments. I loaned projectors, screens, a tripod and extension leads from the CSM loan store. I then set up my camera behind the wall to capture some video. The first problem I ran into was that there wasn't a lot of movement in that space. Therefore, when I projected the video on to the wall directly in front of that space, it was hard to tell it was a video and not a photograph. Another problem I faced was calibrating the size of the projection in relation to the video captured. I wanted the image projected to be directly proportional to real life, this would reinforce the idea that the projected video is in fact a window into the studio room. Additionally, the height of the projector needed to match the height at which the video was shot in order to keep continuity and again maintain the illusion. All these small functional problems reminded me that the execution of the idea is much harder than its conception.
In order to rectify these few problems I continued to experiment, recording results and measurements. I calculated that the plinth would need to be around 100cm tall, and around 160cm from the wall, in order for the projector to be aligned with the video. I also took pictures using different focal lengths and apertures in order to see which combination would best suit my purposes.
After taking measurements and recording the outcome of my experiments, I went back to get my proposal approved. In my discussion with Susan, we discussed how the projector would be held up. A simple plinth would not add anything to the meaning of the piece, if anything it would be reminiscent of galleries, museums and related institution, which is not what I wanted. I visually brainstormed some ideas, creating simple sketches. I came up with two concepts for the 'plinth' or 'base' for my projector. The first was a scale model of the King's Cross campus floor plan made from clear acrylic plastic. I thought that this would emphasize the idea of being able to look through walls, questioning their purpose. The second was a metal scaffolding that would also reiterate the concepts surrounding the construction and structure of the campus. I discussed these options with Susan and decided to create the plastic plinth with clear acrylic.
For the rest of that day I spent trying to build my plinth. I ran into many problems the first of which was that the plastic plinth may not be strong enough once its reached its final height, to hold the project up. This was to be solved by drilling L shaped metal support frames on the corners but I was never able to finish the plastic plinth to its final height, so I didn't need the support frames. There were several other complications in the process of making my plinth, including accounting for the width of the material in my calculations, the fiddly aspect of carefully aligning the plastics, the technique needed to stick them together using solvent and so on. By the end of the day I had barely managed to finish one level, and I had 5 more to do. So I soon realised that I may not be able to complete this plinth by the time of exhibition.
For Day 5 I immediately resumed constructing my plastic plinth. By this time, I definitely got the hang of cutting plastics on the band-saw and sticking them together using the solvent glue. However, by the time I finished another level, the workshop was closing for lunch and was having inductions later that afternoon so I would have to wait till the next day to continue.
So with physical work halted, I continued reading the texts related to this course, which I can reflect on here. The text by Mi Won Kwon, One Place After Another, was a very good read and although I haven't finished it I've gotten a good grasp of the ideas she was trying to get across. In the beginning she summarised and introduced the contents of the following book, this made reading the book a lot easier. What really interested me was the changes in site-specific art in such a short period of time. According to Mi Won Kwon, site-specific art originally stemmed from an area of institutional critique. In an effort to seperate themselves from the commodification and commercialization of artworks, artists created works of art that were immobile, and therefore impossible to sell, buy and commodify. However, this avant-garde approach, this effort to react to the contemporary art scene and expand its boundaries, did not sit well with the general public whose space site-specific art generally intruded. I agree that by creating art that the public audience cannot relate to, such as the Tilted Arc, especially in the physical domain of the public, artists are placing themselves above others. As such, I also agree with the sentiment that public art projects should involve some aspect of the community. This is a sentiment Mi Won Kwon feels is being assimilated into the practice of site-specific art in bringing art to 'non-art' people, 'non-art places' and so on. In relation to my own art making practice, I feel that my piece is too much a response to the physical characteristics of the King's Cross campus rather than the cultural or social aspects of the CSM community. However, as it was evident in John Ahearn's controversial art commision in the South Bronx, it can be difficult to truly represent the interests of the immediate community. Being situated in Archway campus for most of the time, I don't think i would be able to appropriately discuss, respond and convey the cultural and social spirit of the King's Cross campus.