29th May 2018

Symposium Feedback/Outcomes

 

  • Decide if audience touching or audience looking – what strengthens my intentions?
  • Try writing an artist statement in 3rd person, in order to help be clearer and more succinct in explaining own work.
  • Autobiographical work (self-portraits) – how do other artist ensure their message is watertight?
  • Narrative – does it have to be a written out story, or is it enough to name the characters?
  • How do my personal effects impact the message, when the creatures are displayed on them?

 

Further thoughts of reflection

 

  • I feel frustrated that I seem to be making more problems for myself. Each action I take, each object I produce or aesthetic decision I make seems to cause Maiko/Oscar – and the world – to question my work more. It seems my work is becoming very unclear to them. I feel mistrusted.
  • I innately know that I am not interested – and it is not important – that people arrive upon a common narrative, reason or interpretation of my work – it actually seems incredibly superficial, and quite vain to be that demanding of a unanimous meaning. It is very important in fact that the notion of demanding the answers and the definition of my work to be presented or communicated really irritates me – it doesn’t matter to me if it all makes sense, so why should it matter to others? The constant search for an answer fuels judgemental behaviours. Things can be experienced, witnessed, even enjoyed just because… not everything should have a reason, and not every action or existence deserves to be analysed in order for the decision to be made for it to become legitimate.
  • When I look at the work of others, I don’t really care if I ‘get it’ – I’m looking at it, and if I like what I see, or it moves me, then that is what matters to me as a viewer… I don’t look for legitimacy through meaning. I don’t need to feel clever that I managed to work out the ‘code’.
  • If the world requires an example, I can link my frustrations very closely to Derrida’s theory of deconstruction, in that the meanings of creative works can greatly differ from person to person. For example, my contexts and development of my own ‘language’ is mine and my own, as a product of my unique journey. As the maker of my objects, I can never rely that what I transmit will be totally understood by someone else, because they come with their own unique contexts and grasp of language, and did not make it.
  • This is how I feel about myself in the world – no one ever really understands me, I feel. I very much alone with my mind, and I constantly battle to feel legitimate in the world. When I feel at my loneliest, is when I feel myself the most. I don’t build deep relationships with lovers or friends because I don’t feel validated by them.  Instead I feel questioned, invalidated and let down by them, and as a result I feel the person they know is not the real me… that they don’t look hard enough to find me.
  • The process of creating allows me to learn and develop my own “language” that makes me feel connected with a world, a place, where even if it doesn’t make sense, it isn’t confusing.  I exist alongside my work – we are as good as each other, we all belong together, despite being misunderstood by the world beyond.
  • But something inside me tells me that surely there must be others who feel this way – I am not a nihilist, I am an empath – there must be a world out there somewhere where I feel like I belong, even if that world is just one person. Maybe many people feel how I do. Maybe we all do?
  • In my bedroom, in my flatshare, is where I feel at my loneliest, and my truest. A 3×3 meter room. Everywhere else I am some vamped up, well behaved, diplomatic, homogenised, capable, adjusted version of myself. I am myself when I sleep alone on my mattress… my shelves collect objects of my own choosing, which would seem random to anyone but me… my cups and plates serve me with the food I make for myself only, without any judgement other than my own… my selection of clothing exists out of my own will. This is my own world, or perhaps it is the only world in which I exist?
  • So my creatures – who are all me’s – all find each other, no longer feel lonely, no longer feel illegitimate, judged, scrutinised between themselves, and shame on anyone else who looks at them and judges them. Your lack of empathy, your judgements and insistence on understandability are what has driven me to feel so lonely that I cannot connect with anybody, and I hope you feel bad about it.
  • I am the empath that no one empathises with.

3rd January 2018

Themes:

  • “Everyone is welcome”
  • Aesthetics of friendliness
  • Why creatures?

 

“Everyone is welcome”

A particular personality trait I have, and one that I have always had, is a distinct sense of want for togetherness and inclusivity.  I recall being a child and enjoying the premise of collecting all of a particular series, of toys or other collectible objects, even if some of said objects were not my favourite or first choice. Rather, there is something to be said about those objects or things that would otherwise be ‘left behind’ or excluded if I did not take them in too.  There has always been a sense of responsibility towards togetherness in my history of things.

 

These feelings are also exercised when one of said collection is broken, damaged or less that perfect, and in fact the feeling towards this imperfect object exacerbates the sense of duty to include.  Although nowadays there are less toys in my immediate possession, these feelings can still be found with plates or mugs, wherefore should a mug become chipped, I cannot bring myself to throw it away and exclude it from the others.  The chipped mug still remains, and may even get used more, or at least more consciously than a) before and b) the others.

 

Yes these feelings are irrational – they are inanimate objects – but they are participants in my world, and I want to take responsibility towards what I can affect in this frenetic world, which in this case is looking after my things as if they were sentient, children or friends who share my world.  Rationalities such as space, aesthetics (I.e. colour coordination) and practical uses (i.e. it might not function, if it is broken), are disregarded for the sake of inclusivity. Everyone is welcome.

 

There is also an underlying guilt towards waste and respect for the craftspeople behind each object and thing, which further underpins my emotional connection.  I want to make sure the craftsmanship of each thing is respected by not treating the object as a throwaway, transient ‘chachki’.

 

Moreover, in my own work, over the last year or so (and looking further back), my creative output seems to be concerned with a few tropes which support these ‘inclusive’ obligations I have.  Firstly, a lot of my work centre around multiples, or a series, and every object is different in its own way. This could be through individual organic fluctuations in the design, variations in decoration, or being made ‘with lax standards’.  All objects are included, none are mistakes, and all make it to the final ‘display’.

 

Aesthetics of friendliness

Secondly, is the notion of friendliness, specifically the aesthetics of what makes an object ‘friendly’?  A crowd of people don’t look lonely, whereas a single person does, so a multitude of objects makes for a friendly scene, and much of my practice concerns a group or series of things.

 

However on an individual level there has always been a concern for the things I make to look or suggest anthropomorphic qualities and friendly gestures – not explicit smiley faces and hugging arms, but the suggestion of a friendly creature or character.  This can be seen through the large Tactiforms, which seem like they might have a head or face, or be looking up at a viewer/owner as if to be wanting to be picked up. The Mini Tactiforms also reference a personality through subtleties in visual language, in the way a slight roundness can suggest a face or belly, or 2 protrusions could be limbs, etc.  The handheld-ness of these objects also encourage them to be picked up and ‘petted’, smoothed or stroked. Interestingly, when these objects were made available for sale, most people chose to purchase more than one. Could this be an aspect of the new owner wanting to maintain the ‘inclusivity’, and stop a single Tactiform from becoming lonely (at their new home).

 

Currently, I have exploring different ways to incorporate ‘friendly aesthetics’ into ceramic objects, for example an ‘almost-amorphous’ object which looks like it might have a head, or arms, or feet.  These are seem to be an extension to the Tactiform series, in the sense that they are being modelled in a similar way, but this time with a different sense of purpose (beyond the textural experience). However these are elements of the Object, Language, Landscape project which are also present here…

 

…For a long time I have been unable to underpin why I feel a cactus is ‘cool’, or what I feel to be the ‘best’ object that I made.  I think that it might be because the cactus embodies the aesthetics of friendliness that I have been thinking about, with its arms stretched up for a hug, it’s expressionless, yet emotive face, and the fact that as a group they all look happy together.  The other objects all around all reference the sense of inclusion as their rationale – each object is welcome in the scene – which is the only decisive factor in the assemblage. They’re not a collection because they’re all edible, all consumable, all contemporary, all Western, all blue… they’re together because everyone is welcome.

 

Incidentally, the colour treatment is the only unifying attribute of the pieces in Object, Language, Landscape… for some people, the rationale of these objects existing together is that they’re all blue, so they belong together.  However I want to avoid my future work being read as such and so I will explore a more diverse colour pallet or possibly centre on CMYK to reference all colours/a spectrum, and all colours are welcome.

 

Now I have some clarity to my rationale I feel ready to experiment and plan ways to visualise this to an audience.

 

23rd November 2017

Why do I make the things I do?  Why am I compelled to make certain ‘ordinary’ objects, and not others?

 

This is a question I have been trying to answer over the last year, and although I feel I have tried to resolve this through my practice, I still feel the answer is fleeting.  I have spent time analysing others work (Skoglund, Kular, Koons, Gormley, Rasmussen, etc.), I still feel that their individual rationale regarding their object choice is fleeting.  I have listed and grouped my own work, I have noted a clear ‘inner voice’ that almost decides what to make, and what not to make, but I can’t answer the ‘why’.

 

I have even gotten to the stage where currently I don’t even see the cactus as a ‘cactus’, and more of an avatar or a placeholder for the eventual form it will become, which demonstrates that the specificity of the object is interchangeable at best, and indeterminate at worst.  The project seems stuck until I can resolve this problem, and I feel very vulnerable to criticism of my work until I can be sure of this answer.

 

In order to understand these questions I have tried to look back into my own personality and interests in the visual and physical, to see if there are any identifiable tropes or themes.  I am curious to see if the are links between my own history and interest with the visual, creative and “play” worlds – from toys, games, stories, films, cultures, objects and things – which might explain my own choices.

 

Another way I could explore my choices may be through deep psychoanalysis, however I am reluctant to make my work seem serious and scientific.  The same inner voice which tells me to make certain objects seems disinterested in taking this route. Perhaps we are talking about artists’ intuition here?  Are there any writings on this, or is it one of those ‘tacit knowledge’ things, where I can only obtain the answer by doing and experiencing it myself? I feel that I have done a lot of contextual research about this and asked this question already and still I don’t find I am any closer to the answer.

 

However, is it 100% necessary to resolve this answer? Even that, I cannot be sure.

9th November 2017

Project Proposal

  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 1stperiod 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’. 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.

15th September 2017

 

Now that I have started to distil 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 endeavours. 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 unravelling 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 behaviours & beliefs as they change and respond to the world around, which in extension I relate to the behaviours 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 behaviours (and the actions and behaviours 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 mind-set is not satisfying. Is this a human condition; do we long for a pre-culturally programmed mind-set (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).

18th September 2016

Now that I have started to distil 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 endeavours.  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 unravelling 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 behaviours & beliefs as they change and
respond to the world around, which in extension I relate to the behaviours 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 behaviours (and the actions and behaviours 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 mind-set is not satisfying.  Is this a human condition; do we long for a pre-culturally programmed mind-set (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).