9th November – Final Version of Project Proposal

 

Unit 1: Project Proposal
9th November 2017

1. Working Title

‘Sandbox’

  1. Aims + Objectives
    The ultimate aim of my investigation is to produce a range of uncanny ceramic objects, possibly presented as an installation. The desired effect is to encourage a state of wondering and imagination in a viewer, by proposing a range of objects as ‘props’ that a viewer could piece together to make some kind of imaginary narrative, in order to read or make sense of the scene.

 

The objectives of my investigation are to explore notions of the uncanny in design objects/object d’art, as well as exploring and analysing characteristics and attributes that can be manipulated in bestowing a sense of the uncanny. I intend to decode what makes an object uncanny when looking at the works of others, while comparing those findings to my own experiments and practice. These attributes concern colour, material, texture, object typology, associations between objects, scale, tangibility/tactility, and environmental placement/context. These will be discussed and dissected in the methodology.

 

  1. Context

There have been a wide range of visual contexts I have drawn upon thus far; some of the most important influences I have detailed here, where as links to others can be found in further personal writings (my blog).

 

In terms of uncanny objects, Jeff Koons’ work has been particularly useful, when analysed. The notion of how he intends his audience to respond and react, and the metaphysical world he wants to direct his viewers into bear particular relevance to my investigations into triggers and attributes of the uncanny. This can also be echoed in the ‘MacGuffin Library’ project by Onkar Kular and Noam Toran.

 

Like the MacGuffin Library project, Sandy Skoglund’s photographic/installation works have a strong impact on my attitudes towards how colour can be used to manipulate an audience and usher in the uncanny. Skoglund’s approach to mass-multiplicity of objects also links to Antony Gormley’s ‘Field’ projects. ‘Field’ harkens back to the importance of material, in how I construct my work. The importance that each object is made by hand, and not via a tool is in some ways an ode to the clay itself, and a direct translation of the malleability and fluidity of the human (sub) consciousness.

 

The works of Malene Hartmann Rasmussen are particularly impactful to my practice in the sense that her work revolves around storytelling and personal narrative. Her approach to object choice and environmental transformation, as well as the childlike aesthetic all help to reinforce a telling-of-tales.

 

Other contemporary visual contexts include Paul Nash, Richard Slee, Ken price, Felieke Van Der Leest, Tony Cragg, Yoshitoshi Kanemaki, Helen Marten, Joshua Ben Longo, Nick Cave, Freddie Robbins, Ugo Rondinone and the V&A exhibition ‘Telling Tales’.

 

Theoretically, my investigation is informed by the writings of Freud on the uncanny (‘Das Unheimlich’) and subconscious mind (the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego), as well as some of the work of Reigl regarding the intention of an artist/maker (especially when applied to Koon’s work). Furthermore, theoretical understanding of artistic intention is underpinned by Derrida’s Theory of Deconstruction, regarding the struggle between viewer and artist.

 

  1. Methodology

The process of which the investigation has taken place thus far has been largely practical, with extended periods of reflection and analysis. This has been paralleled by periods of contextual investigation and analysis. There are 4 main areas my investigation aims to explore; the methodology of each centres around my own practice and analysing the results against the attributes associated with shifting an objects into the real of the uncanny, as mentioned above.

 

Colour can be used to distance, disconnect or disassociate an object from its original meaning – this can be seen in the works of Onkar Kular & Noam Toran’s work on the MacGuffin Library Project. There is also an interesting phenomenon that occurs when high contrast colours are presented together, where the usually do not exist in reality, causing the mind to detect a ‘glitch in reality’. This can be seen in the work of Sandy Skoglund, and is referenced in my 3rd period of practical investigation; ‘Object, Language, Landscape’ (April-July 2017).

 

Material and texture can also be interchanged and manipulated in order to make an audience feel displaced (the uncanny)… This can go beyond typical skeuomorphism; disguising a material to appear as if it is made of something else – and instead achieve a sense of inexplicable connection in a viewer or holder of an object. For example, in my 1st period of practical investigation; ‘Mini-Tactiforms’ (September-December 2016), I experimented with a variety of textures on amorphous, palm-sized ceramic objects in order to inspire a reaction in a holder. Observing people holding and talking about their experiences, it became quite clear that beyond specific textures, often people were not able to rationalise their likes of dislikes about certain textures and sensations. Often the response was ‘I like this but I don’t know why’, while continuing to hold and fondle their object of choice. On reflection this is an element of the uncanny at work.

 

The types of objects represented and their association with each other and how they are placed is the most recent of my initial investigations. There is something itself uncanny and inexplicable about the objects I chose to represent in ‘Object, Language, Landscape’, where specific objects seemed to conjure themselves to me to be made, for no rational reason. These fragmented associations between objects demand a viewer to first address way these objects exist alongside each other, but when no connection can be determined, they becomes a ‘sandbox’ in which to be used in any way the participant determines, by offering a range of metaphysical objects a viewer can piece together in creating their own narrative. The term ‘sandbox’ is derived from a video gaming trope, where a player is able to proliferate and populate anything and everything they want into the game-world, with the basic ‘building-blocks’ of the game available to them to play and work with.

 

Lastly, the notion of environmental context will be explored and analysed through a process of creating objects and installing, assembling, arranging and curating in a variety of locations (gallery, indoor, outdoor, collectively, separately, etc.), and documented photographically, as well as anecdotally. The results will be analysed and marked against weather the context has further impact on the uncanniness of the objects, and gives a strong enough platform for a viewer to participate in the sandbox mechanic. These again will be recorded anecdotally.

 

  1. Planned Outcomes
    The form of my final work is likely to be a series of hand-built ceramic objects presented as an installation or assemblage. It is likely that the work will be presented in a gallery context, yet there are still opportunities for me to investigate site-specific contexts, both indoor and outdoor. In order for the work to be elevated beyond being ‘just a small series of ceramic objects’, the scale of the installation and the multitude of objects is important; the experience should be immersive to a viewer; like stepping into a world, or a ‘glitch in reality’.6. Work Plan
    As mentioned above, there have been several periods of practical investigation already: Between September and December 2016 I explored, experimented and analysed the impact of texture, material and amorphology in ‘Mini-Tactiforms’. My second stage I tried to apply these findings to functional objects in ‘Tacti-Vessels’, between January and March 2017. Then, between April and July 2017 I began to explore the notion of uncanny objects and how they can be used to encourage narratives and an immersive experience in a viewer, in ‘Object, Language, Landscape’.

 

I now envisage that between now and January 2018 I will define and determine exactly which attributes I want to manipulate in order to push the notion of the uncanny in an installation of objects. This will be achieved through investigating and exploring colour contrasts, analysing environmental contexts of object placement on a smaller scale (fewer objects at first), and trying to achieve impact through multitude and carefully considered scaling of each object. From February 2018 onwards I aim to be steadily making in order to achieve the impact I have specified while the expansion of the number of made objects will enable me to investigate and critique environmental contexts for my work to be displayed.

1st November – Looking At All Practical Work Again

IMG_1828 (1)1st November 2017

 

Actions:

Laid out all previous practical work, like it was the unit 1 assessment

 

Why? To really compare and reflect by looking at the journey I have taken so far… I have a tendency to remain ‘inside of my head’ about my work, which often gives a distorted view of m6 work – often too negative, critical and self-doubting, and good ideas with potential get thrown away.

 

What did I find?

I still liked the Object, Language, Landscape project because:

  • The colour! Visually impactful, exciting and has a digitally-rendered aesthetic which makes it uncanny.
  • The objects are fun! They’re quite kitch; the skewmorphic quality of turning familiar, banal objects into blue, miss-scaled iterations is something of a hallmark of kitch-ness.
  • The objects are kinda wobbly! It adds a fluidity, flexibility, malleability, ephemerality… to the object, referencing with the clay and hand-building process. Perhaps all my objects need to be hand built?
  • The blob creatures! They’re fun too but they feel important to punctuate the ‘objects’. Without them the installation is about things – consumables – in a way, and not about the fluidity of an imaginary world, as referenced by the material. These personifiable forms make the collection have a narrative of sorts, or suggest a play-out of a narrative in the mind of the viewer.
  • The space occupied… immediately I can imagine the installation going further, bigger, filling a larger space.

I am not that interested in my vessels project because:

  • It feels like I know exactly where the outcome will lead, which is just the same thing… just better quality of finish, more consistent… and the prospect of doing that is not exciting.
  • The objects straddle the realm of kitch, camp and fun objects but with a high degree of ‘do not touch’ that just doesn’t work (they’ll break if used)… aesthetically they do not do enough for the eye to warrant them just being like that.
  • BUT…! I do still like some of the textural elements of the work – the raised dots and the tendrils. Is there a reason why I could use either of these with my installation idea?

I’m somewhat interested in the tactiform project:

  • I know I can make them, and make them well – this shouldn’t be the reason why I continue to do the project.
  • I can’t think of a way they should ‘exist’ in a wider context, apart from abstract sculptures.
  • Again, I like the textural elements… could I or should apply this aesthetic to my installation, and what qualities would that bring… and what meaning?

 

What do I want to do next?

  • Hand build a range of objects… try to heighten the quality of finish as these may be used for the final installation!
  • Experiment with colour combinations, including gradients… really explore that ‘uncanny’ contrast of colour, which makes physical objects look digital or virtual.
  • Think about scale… how extreme can I go with my scaling?
  • Can I apply any textural elements from tactiforms/vessels project, with relevance and purpose?
  • Can I increase the ‘malleable’ nature of the clay into the objects? Can I merge objects, or have them transform between clay and form?

 

15th September – I Want…

15th September 2017

 

I Want.

 

Now that I have started to distill my lines of enquiry I am beginning to rationalise these thoughts against what it is I want to do, make and find out. At this point (and in reference to Lecture 1 – ‘Introduction to Practice as Research’) I am unsure as to which of these questions to address first; which should take president and lead into the others.

 

I want to develop existing and learn new making skills using a range of 3D media, because this is what I enjoy doing. It is hard at this point to give specific reasons as to why I enjoy doing this, beyond the simple responses of I am good at it, or that I use these skills in my vocation, or to lead me onto an alternative line of employment.   I also want to build confidence in what I do and make; I am historically objective and realistic (pessimistic) of my own abilities and how my work applies to wider contexts, professionally and creatively (more on that later). I need to gain the confidence to make my practice work for me, and take myself seriously as a practitioner.

 

I also want to move beyond the experimental stage of the creative process; my job as an Art & Design lecturer inhibits time spent on what I make (in practice, in reflection and in continuum). My creative output is condensed into the spare hour or so that I might have between teachings, and although I can be easily inspired by the fast pace of contexts I am exposed to (as well as the practical opportunities), it is hard to find longevity in these endeavors. Often the work I produce exists as one-offs, successful or failed experiments, or merely ‘good ideas’. The next wave of creative stimulus comes along quickly, and therefore my practice exists in a constant state of halfway through several creative processes. This needs to change.

 

The want for the more ‘intellectual’ side of a body of work may at first appear to be lower down on the list of demands, and to some extent the hunger for this is not the same as the hunger for making, but it is an integral part of what I enjoy about visual culture. I enjoy deciphering and unraveling context within artworks and the open discussion of contexts, concepts and meanings in art and craft works is stimulating, and something I readily participate in. There are broader and specific thematic areas that do interest me, however I often omit these and err towards the superficial when I produce my own work (or embark upon my own stunted version of the creative process (possibly because I rarely reflect and develop these ideas)). Beyond the attachment to a creative output, I am keenly interested in my own behaviors & beliefs as they change and respond to the world around, which in extension I relate to the behaviors and beliefs of others in this world too…

 

…Ultimately I am concerned with non-spiritual existential questions, and the struggle between reason and feeling. I find it often too easy to justify or explain my actions and behaviors (and the actions and behaviors of others) through a rational ‘scientific’ approach (cause and effect), yet the answers often don’t help to reconcile the emotional feeling. As an example, I often feel the sense of average-ness about my self, my abilities, my looks, my thoughts, my choices, etc. I use this notion to help connect to others – often it has been remarked that I give good advice and help people identify and understand the ‘psychology’ of their own confusions, predicaments and problems. As a result I find people gravitate towards me as a good listener and someone who can make sense of the mental or moral mire they may be in. But in stark contrast, within me this evokes a feeling of loneliness and disconnectedness from others; why can’t they see things like I do? Why can’t someone make sense of why I emotionally annex myself from other people? Why do they seem happier than I am, in their irrational, provincial bubble? My thoughts are serious, weighty and often make me feel unsatisfied, judgmental, isolated and aloof. – and very alone. But I cannot help trying to rationalise these feelings by applying my own psychobabble and rationality, with no warmth or feeling. To summarise, I find it impossible to just ‘be’.

 

My lack of self-understanding and wider respect often manifests itself in my attitudes towards visual culture as well. Certainly throughout my younger years as a creative I had struggled with the definitions of ‘art’ and ‘design’, and often tried to rebel against the ‘elitism’ of the creative industry’s low view of the superficial and the purely visual. I have come to understand and reconcile this through my teaching practice, but I also believe there can often be an undeserved leaning towards the conceptual in lieu of the aesthetic. This leads back to the question of rationality versus the irrational; why things feel right (or in my case why things feel wrong), despite all fact and reason stating the opposite.

 

With these notions in mind, it makes sense to explore the notions of rationality and the irrational mind, if anything but to illustrate the difficulty of doing so in such a ‘proven’ world, where cultural conditioning tells us how we should think, act and behave, yet as individuals we often feel applying a rational mindset is not satisfying. Is this a human condition; do we long for a pre-culturally programmed mindset (infantile, or perhaps even animal)?

 

NB – Importantly I am not remarking that my work will necessarily be cathartic or serve as self-help, moreover this discourse outlines a personal rationale for the effect my practice could produce (no pun intended).

 

14th September – Planning for Year 2

14th September 2017

 

The main topics arisen from the tutorial:

  • The Future/Beyond the MA
  • Reflection on last 12 months work
  • Defining ‘The Uncanny’
  • Immediacy of Making
  • What next?

 

The Future:

  • Teaching at HE level (Associate lecturing, technical facilitation…)
  • Requires experience in professional creative practice, i.e. exhibiting work and/or publishing written work – neither of which I have yet done
  • Opportunity to apply for residencies and/or open call exhibitions; artist statement required for this – TASK: write an draft artist statement and send to Bridget
  • Opportunity to get some teaching experience with BA 3D Design – TASK: speak with Jason (new course leader of BA 3D Design)

 

Reflection on last 12 month’s work:

  • Agreed that a new proposal to be written, however some kind of direction or short term action plan needs to be in place in order to avoid stagnation (see slow)
  • Earlier work I feel ready to’let go of’/put down (Tactiforms and Tacti-Vessels)
  • Interesting debate came up regarding the term ‘gimmicky’ – I referred to my Tacti-Vessels as too gimmick in a negative way. Unpacking this point, I realised this is ighly sue give, and can have a lot to do with intention and function, and how original the idea is… there’s certainly roo for gimmicky or camp work in my future projects but it does beg the question ‘where is the line, between acceptably gimmicky and tacky-gimmicky?’
  • I still have a strong feeling towards certain aspects of my later project (Object, Language, Landscape)… there are several elements that I particularly like/enjoyed and feel there’s more to be done with these:
  • The types of objects I had chosen to make still hold my interest, however I’m starting to think that food objects might be the way to go with this – I seem to be able to come up with a lot more examples of potential uncanny objects which are foodstuffs – there must be a significance in this, possibly to do with how food plays a fundamental element of culture, but also because I’m a bit more partial to food than I should be!
  • I also particularly my selection of finishing treatment to the ceramic forms: I like the cheeky, unconventional-ness of using car paint to coat the ceramic forms, rather than glaze. It makes them more plasticky, and helps to enforce that the objects aren’t meant to be an accurate representation of a sandwich, a cactus, a hotdog, etc. (i.e. not a still life), but more like a suggestion or an indicator – like a glyph or icon. I could have used a typical ceramic glaze, but that would have enforced the ceramic element, made it more ‘formal’, which I didn’t thin would help to enforce the notion of the uncanny within the forms.
  • The colour choice was quite a subconscious decision, or should I say it was something of a matter of fact in that in y mind there was never any question as to what colour the objects would be… they were always blue in my mind. Blue is a very inorganic colour, especially when associated with food. It makes objects immediately look plasticky and inedible, and helps to confuse the materiality of the form – it looks man made, but I could be hard, could be soft, heavy or spongy… blue is hard for us to tie to a particular organic medium. The pairing of blue with orange was also something of a gut feeling – a certainty. The two hues have a very similar value, which is why they contras so vividly – this brings another uncanny effect to the assemblage. The overall impression appears so striking, and so inorganic that it bares the appearance of a digitally rendered image – like CAD/graphic design but in the flesh.

 

Defining the Uncanny:

  • I had been often using the word ‘Iconic’ in the wrong way: I meant Uncanny. The problem was that the meanings are actually quite different. Uncanny objects reference other attached experiences and feeling – they emote beyond their function and inspire wonder, daydream and whole worlds of ‘otherness’ not figuratively depicted with its form. They are almost transportive or teleportive. An iconic object on the otherhand stands for something… it means itself. I would argue that there are instances where an uncanny object can be or can become iconic – such as The Statue of Liberty (representative of American culture, but also representative of liberty and empowerment). And this can also be the other way around – an icon becomes uncanny, once its original meaning is removed through a change in its meta-language. This can be exemplified in the Eggplant Emoji, which is used to emote ‘penis’ (as an uncanny object)… yet a cartoon picture of an eggplant just 5 years ago would have only meant ‘Eggplant’, and thus referred to as an icon.
  • I think I would be good to get some other’s take on the idea of the uncanny, I am certain Magritte probably write or made work based around this aspect of semiotics and semantic visual language, but also Inhave been recommended to look into the works of Martin Puryear… he speaks of the idea of visual language being used in a non figurative way to conjure and represent the figurative within our minds.
  • My contextual writing will focus around this, and I will spend the majority of the next 3 weeks working on this. I aim to identify 3 case studies of the uncanny – or what isn’t uncanny – one of which I think will be Jeff Koons, who I believe works towards devoiding objects of any iconography or uncanniness – good way to define my terms by identifying an antithesis.

 

The Immediacy of Making:

  • A discussing came up regarding my choice of material; I have always worked in clay yet I always feel reluctant to limit myself to clay in the future, regarding outcomes. There is an immediacy that I connect with when I use clay, it is instantly manipulated, I can sketch with it, and I can refine it all in a relitevly lo-tec way (excluding the firing, and glazing). The actual making is very instant, and changeable. You don’t need a rubber to undo your mistakes or anything you’re not happy with, you can add or subtract clay in an easy way, it is resilient enough to cope with an organic mindset and changes to design. It is also cheap and very available to me.
  • There are other materials that I work with which are also quite similar in their immediacy… I have experience with building using card and paper, and even stationary materials such as masking tape. It was even suggested that cheese, or other foodstuffs could be used and manipulated in an immediate kind of way… before I embark on a period of refined making and ‘final designing’, I have the opportunity to do some more experimenting in these materials before I commit to what my major outcomes will be.

 

What next?

  1. Research into other people’s take on the uncanny
  2. Find and curate a selection of uncanny objects – possibly focussing on uncanny foodstuffs?
  3. Photography and/or arrange these items with a similar colour treatment to ‘Object, Language, Landscape’ project, in order to elevate the uncanny aspect. This could involve spray painting or dipping the objects into some kind of plastic.
  4. Respond to the objects by making ‘immediate’ versions or responses, in card, tape, etc…

1st August – Reflecting on Year 1 So Far…

1st August 2017

 

Martin Williams

MA Visual Arts: Designer Maker

Review of 1st Year Projects

 

Project 1: ‘Tactiforms’; September-December 2016

3 keywords:

  • Texture
  • Amorphous
  • Handheld

3 positives:

  • Explored a range of different textures and people’s response to textural (subversive) qualities
  • Began to explore amorphous forms that felt ‘just right’ while making and while holding
  • Looked good as a whole set/collection

3 negatives:

  • The work seems more like a scientific experiment with little aesthetic/artistic merit
  • The project is somewhat unfinished in that the results didn’t lead to any specific outcome
  • The general quality of the making was questioned by my peers/mentors

 

Project 2: ‘Tacti-Vessels’; January-April 2017

3 keywords:

  • Texture
  • Visceral
  • Perverted

3 Positives:

  • The forms had a function, and therefore some kind of outcome or resolution of the contexts/concepts was tangible
  • Making skills were stretched in learning the mold-making process for casting; keen to use this skill again
  • Tried to push irrational revulsion of texture further by making forms which reference human (sexual and gastro) anatomy

3 Negatives:

  • The pieces were quite cliché and gimmicky
  • The pieces were not finished to a high or useable standard (glazing)
  • There were fundamental issues with the usability, by the material of choice: ceramic (i.e. small, brittle, breakable parts)

 

Project 3: ‘Object, Language, Landscape’; May-July 2017

3 keywords:

  • Iconic
  • Colour
  • Meta-Meaning

3 Positives:

  • Enjoyed making these pieces – it felt like fun, and ambitious (installation)
  • Gut instinct about which objects to make, which objects were ‘iconic’
  • Really pleased with the colour, plus the cheekiness of using car paint instead of glaze

3 Negatives:

  • The pieces were not finished to a consistent high standard – some where better made than others
  • Some objects did not hold enough meaning on their own, and made the viewer question to their inclusion
  • The size of the objects or the number of objects needs to increase to maximize presence

25th June 2017 – Planning to Build Uncanny Objects

25th June 2017

 

Objects to make:

  1. Hotdog
  2. Sandwich
  3. Pie
  4. Toothpaste
  5. Plug
  6. Padlock
  7. Screw
  8. Tooth

 

Supporting objects:

  • Cactuses (x4+)
  • Big blobs (x2)
  • Small blobs (x2)

 

Arrangement:

  • On floor
  • Felt ‘tendrils’ connecting objects
  • All painted blue
  • Original ceramic texture important

 

Timeline:

  1. Monday – Hotdog, Sandwich, cast cactus #1
  2. Tuesday – 2x Big Blobs, cast cactus #2
  3. Wednesday – RUTC SHOW, cast cactus #3
  4. Thursday – Padlock, Screw, cast cactus #4
  5. Friday – Tooth, 2x Small Blobs, cast cactus #5

 

  1. Monday – AWAY
  2. Tuesday – Experiment with felting wool: arrangements and into plaster
  3. Wednesday – Felting wool into plaster
  4. Thursday – Firing (A.M.)
  5. Friday – Take out of kiln, Photoshoot with Dorota

 

  1. Monday – Last day for firing
  2. Tuesday – Installation
  3. Wednesday – Display work
  4. Thursday – Summer Show

 

What about bone? Or bone china?

These things come from my mind – what material is the right way of expressing this?

22nd May – Making What I Want To Make

22nd May 2017

 

After several, generally supportive and encouraging tutorials, I feel fairly confident in my instinctive vision for some kind of ‘final piece’ to be exhibited during the summer show. I think I am going to create a landscape of the afore-mentioned objects, as an assemblage or installation of some kind. There are 3 main aims of the work:

 

  • For me to try and ascertain if there is any rationale to these particular objects being interesting for me to build. Are there any similarities in these forms? Am I interested in the objects’ manufacture, or is it an affinity towards the individual forms/types of form that drives me to make these selections?

 

  • To see if these objects (and the way they are displayed) have a connection to a wider audience. Is it the same connection? Are these objects significant to me, or are there wider significances embedded in these objects?

 

  • To develop my crafting and fabrication skills, improve the overall quality of my output and achieve consistency (mastering of skills)

 

There are a few contextual questions I am posing while making (and while presenting) the work; questions I hope to be able to find out, understand in some part or lead to further critical thinking:

 

  • What these objects communicate? Individually? Collectively?
  • Do these objects mean the same thing to other people? To all people?
  • How are objects used to communicate meaning?
  • How does assemblage communicate meaning?
  • (What is meaning? Is it a language? Is it a universal language?)

 

I currently believe that the selection of these objects are likely to be understood by me very differently than to others; my instincts tell me that the selection and creation of certain objects is defined by my own conscious and sub-consciousness, and informed by my own contexts. Thus I hypothesise that while there may be some common ground for like-for-like meanings and significances, I think there is a great deal of personal choice at work within a great number of variables, and therefore the meanings will differ person to person.

 

There have been a number of contexts I have discovered and recommended. Each brings its’ own influence and potential, and these must be considered in order to enrich and give purpose to my investigation:

 

  • Felieke Van Der Leest, jewellery.
    • Playing with familiar forms, deconstructing and reconstructing
    • Applying the recogniseable and familiar to motif and aesthetic
    • Applying playful, toylike qualities to precious jewellery