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.

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 my 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 kitsch; the skeuomorphic quality of turning familiar, banal objects into blue, miss-scaled iterations is something of a hallmark of kitsch-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 kitsch, 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.  This could be done at this stage as a palette of swatches, small ceramic objects (tiles, cubes, etc.) or even through spray painting an existing uncanny object (like a real banana) and photographing it on different coloured backdrops.
  • 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?

 

Also: ‘inherent damage’ idea.

  • Explore what effects/qualities are achieved when smashing a mound, and rebuilding, then taking a cast… I expect it will create a kind of kintsugi effect, yet with a raised seam along the cracks.  Try this out using an old cup mould first, then the cactus mould.
  • Why? It sounds interesting and could potentially be quite inventive… it would certainly take my work into direction where casting becomes important (to achieve this effect). However other than visual interest it is unclear as to why this process ‘needs’ to be applied to what I want my work to communicate otherwise (as per the intentions outlined above).
  • This idea came about while in Japan, exploring the old amalgams kiln sites, scrambling through the shards of old pots and saggars, and talking to Giorgio about some of his research.  When discussing this idea with Giorgio, he suggested that this could be quite unique – a kind of ‘preordained damaged’, referencing to the concepts of past lives or parenthood-childhood, and how damage in a parent can transmit to the child, manifested as physical damage.
  • Interestingly, the ‘scars’ on the surface of the child (cast object) will not be physical weaknesses – the object will be just as robust.  However the life of the parent – the ability for several identical casts to be made – becomes jeopardised much more quickly, and each child is likely to be very different to the previous one with the rapid deterioration of the mould. Also, the variations of the mould being rebuilt each time allows to a lot more deviation and inaccuracy in its reconstruction, which will also offset the sense of perfect replication… (Jane might be interested in this notion for her own project).

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).

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 highly subjective, and can have a lot to do with intention and function, and how original the idea is… there’s certainly room 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 my 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 other hand 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 I have 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 relatively 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 2017

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 mould-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

5th May 2017

On the run up to the start of term, I have feel I have been working with a different kind of attitude towards making. Term 2’s output felt very forced and objective, to the point where I was trying too hard to formulate a functioning brief, rather than making something I feel engaged or passionate with. Instead, over the Easter break I had been making work that I wanted to make, with no rationale other than ‘I made it because I wanted to’.

Perhaps there is something to this statement: something that gives a truer insight into my sub-consciousness perhaps?

The work I made could be categorised as non-functional objects (often in ceramics) – some of which were figurative/recognizable objects, whereas others were more abstracted. I made the following objects:

  1. Twisted aluminium wire figure with obsolete electronic plug for a head
  2. Small ceramic blob creature, with a hole for a face
  3. Thrown ceramic bowl, filled with a fragranced wax candle
  4. Scrap wood ‘cubist’ self portrait, using only 10 pieces
  5. A ‘dinosaur bone’ image using heatpress-melted cellophane
  6. A larger ceramic blog creature, with felting-wool coming out of its face
  7. A series of slipcast cactuses in various inorganic colours, which maintain their casting edges
  8. A ceramic sandwich, where golden glaze is used instead of jam

I am unsure as to why these objects were chosen other then out of a whim or gut feeling perhaps, however I seem to be drawn to fairly recognizable objects (sandwich and cactus in particular). I am also somewhat keen to play with size differential between the objects, and against their real life counterparts – again I am unsure at this point as to why I have made these decisions, beyond gut feeling or intuition.

1st March 2017

Mid Point Review sheet

Pathway: Designer Maker

Name: Martin Williams                                                      Date: 1st March 2017

Briefly write here (500 words max) on two or three key issues (you can list these in bullet points) on the development of your practice in the following and see them as points for discussion. 

  1. Exploring notions of rationality and irrationality in object design and application: what is function/non-function?
  2. Splitting and conflicting fields of consciousness and sub-consciousness by presenting sub-conscious (primitive) behaviours
  3. Applying point 1 to point 2; making and presenting objects with questionable functionality that provokes the response to sub-conscious behaviours in a holder.

Firstly I wanted to address and define processes and responses to the creation of forms, which question conventions of rationality, purpose and function. I wanted to raise a discussion through my works as to what function and non-function is… Personally, I often feel it is hard to describe or rationalise why certain forms and visual language appeal to me, and I feel somewhat uncomfortable or dissatisfied with a sense of needing to give a reason to why I like a certain thing.

To explore these concepts I created a series of small ceramic objects, called Tactiforms (“tactile forms”). I chose to construct a multitude of forms, with similar visual language, yet innately individual in order to spark choice and preference in a beholder. The visual language employed references several contexts. Firstly, the size and shape of the form is designed to be hand-held, to encourage haptic exploration, rather than visual. Secondly, the forms are amorphous (unrecognisable) and non-functional as to discourage the eye from pre-analysing the object. It is my belief that the eye can often steer our other senses away from further exploration, if it is presented with something our mind already recognises. Thirdly, the choices of texture applied to each of the Tactiforms serves as discussion points, choices and haptic explorations, mainly to give rise to the ‘I like this one but I don’t know why’ response, or push the boundary of what function is within an object. They are designed to inspire the beholder to pick them up and explore with their hands, in both a conscious and subconscious way.

The questions raised by the Tactiforms lead me to explore the schism and conflicts of the rational and irrational mind. I believed that the sense of conflict between saying one likes a particular object (for example), but cannot explain why was perhaps down to an inner mental/behavioural conflict between different states of consciousness and sub-consciousness. After being influenced by primitive talismanic objects (Pitt Rivers, Ashmolean, V&A and British Museums)… with psychological and behavioural theories, particularly Freudian theory of the Id, the Ego and the Super-Ego, I noticed that there was a clear rift between the Id (which is primarily responsible for thoughts of instant gratification and primal urges) and the Ego (which gives credence to morals, social expectations and the acceptance of rationalisation of reason/law frameworks). The Id within us is only concerned with the very animalistic side of our human nature; the need to satisfy our hunger, with food and with sex. It made me think about what it would have been like to be a primal human: what sort of feelings do I have that I could relate to primitive behaviours?

In response to these thoughts I set out creating a series of semi-functional (or questionably functional) objects that attempt to reconnect a beholder with primitive behaviours, or even attempt to draw attention to their inner conflict of the Id and Ego sensibilities. Will a beholder be repulsed by the actualisation of basic human instincts (sexually suggestive forms)? Will the user attempt to use the objects to feed from? Or will they only go so far to admire them as non-functional objects?

Evaluation of my project proposal as a part of a self-directed programme of study:

My proposal has gone through multiple reinventions, and is currently in a state of deconstruction. The process of exploring ever deepening contexts and responses to each smaller ‘make’ has seemed to have paved a very long and meandering road. Most aspects of my proposal are almost unrecognisable in my later work. I am however not deterred by this, and don’t feel it is necessary to have answered all of my previous intentions in order to give value to what I am currently doing. Moreover, the creative process has been applied as an organic one; there are links back through various stages of makes (mini-projects as it were). With this in mind it is hard to apply a scaffold to evaluate my current progress.

I feel however that the journey has been necessary and much distance has been covered. I feel there is a lack of depth in some areas of my contextual understanding; for example I am only just starting to understand the nuances of Freudian theories, as well as contrasting these with the works of others (Maslow, Jung…). I am also somewhat aware that the practical qualities of what I have made lean towards the sketchy, the experimental and the unresolved, rather than showcasing real craftsmanship.

Where I need to develop study plans in relation to the Unit 1 Learning Outcomes (please refer to the unit briefing sheet):

  • Deeper and wider reading and understanding of contexts, leading to synthesis
  • Qualitative feedback on my work; recording the responses of others using/holding my work, comparing these results to my intentions and contexts, and developing responses by identifying opportunities to develop further work or manipulate certain variables.
  • Develop making skills to a level that yields ‘finished’ results, to a high standard of crafting skills.

Review sheet (2)

Student to complete on the day of Mid Point Review and email a copy to tutor by Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Pathway: Designer Maker

Name: Martin Williams                                                      Date: 8th March 2017

Peer group comments noted during the MPR:

  • Not enough work made
  • Visual contexts not specific enough
  • Work is not of a high enough standard of finish (although I somewhat disagree that at this stage it is vital that they are representative of ‘finished’ pieces: they are sketches/experiments)
  • Try being more specific regarding particular reactions, i.e. phobias
  • General direction of intentions somewhat unclear and/or alienating
  • Responses are not ‘personal’ enough
  • Ceramic may not be the most appropriate material to apply recent designs
  • 2D drawing is not utilised effectively to express reflective thinking

Response to the discussion and next step – actions to be taken: 

  • Visual research – identify at least 5 artists/practitioners who make objects which apply contrasting textural elements (hard and aggressive/soft and comforting).
  • Break down the broadness of my current proposal and select one singular avenue to focus on until the interim show.
  • Explore other materials, such as rubber, wax, foam and textiles, in conjunction with ceramic elements.
  • Explore the notion of attraction/repulsion of human bodies and textures.
  • Draw more… human forms, body parts and contrasts of human textures.
  • Focus on my own response, rather than working ‘for others’.
  • Be more personal about what I do: do what I like and like what I do.

5th January 2017

What I am expected to do: Term 1:

  1. Project Proposal, continuously re-worked and refined as practice and context develops and deepens.
  2. 20-30 hours per week, practical or contextual

What I have done so far:

  • Written and re-written project brief several times (still not clear)
  • Made 50 mini tactiforms
  • Briefly explored the tactile qualities of amorphous hand-held ceramic forms
  • Gotten minimal feedback from public
  • Gotten some feedback from peers
  • Written a lot of notes – not followed through
  • Created a blog

What I haven’t done so far:

  • A clear proposal
  • A clear idea of what I want to do and why
  • Any formal reading, or recording of.
  • Any formal feedback of practical work, or recording of.
  • Not enough connection with context
  • Not enough practical work
  • Developed existing practical skills, beyond what I already knew how to make
  • Learnt new practical skills

What I need to do (this term):

  • Formalise a schedule of working – week by week
  • Formalise a blogging schedule
  • Identify term, course and overall aims
  • Make, Read, Share something every day.

Aims:

What I want to do (this term):

  • Have a clear idea of what to make
  • Have a clear idea about why I want to make it
  • Identify and understand a selection of appropriate contexts
  • Learn new practical skills and improve existing skills
  • Show a considered, high-quality selection of developmental work at WIP

How I will achieve these targets:

  • Be inspired by going on 2 contextual visits each week; having a clear idea about what I want to see, why and how I am going to record the experience.
    • New Design Museum
    • Martins WIP Show
    • British Museum – ancient, primitive figures, hand held
    • Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford

Explorations of consciousness through objects

Current Project:

Explorations of the subconscious mind through ceramic objects

  • 3+ drinking vessels
  • They must be drinking/eating vessels, as the act of consumption is a key primal human function
  • They must physically connect with a user’s mouth in order to experience ‘the irrational’ tactile sensation
  • I believe the irrational response to be a breaking down of the barriers between raw human primal functions, suppressed by the modern/culturally-programmed mind. When people use the vessel they feel an unexpected or surprising
  • The action of putting something to the mouth references the close psychological connection between food and sex (both key primal human functions), as referenced by Freud, etc.

My aims:

  • Each vessel will physically stimulate the user’s lips and hands (grip) with unexpected haptics (in contrast to norms of function/form/design).
  • This should draw significance with the action taking place – consuming, feeding and inserting.

My objectives:

  • To stimulate an unexpected, surprising or ‘unexplainable’ response, caused by a tactile sensation of using serve wear.
  • To reconnect a user with basic human functions, though bestowing ‘irrational’ thinking.
  • Create an interesting range of serve ware that feels (and looks) interesting and unusual, as a haptic experience.
  • To promote discussion of suppressed human behaviours; to draw attention to the conflict of behaving as to societal expectations, versus basic human instincts.

Cup 1: ‘Voluptuousness’

  • Visual language (VL) of the basic form: chubby, curvy, engorged, soft, fleshy… this references ‘the body’ as a fertile, nurturing, nourishing and grope-able object.
  • VL of additional features: dimpled rim… this references the softness and grope-able texture of flesh; something that can be pressed and impressed. This is an unusual texture for the lips; particularly in contrast to typical smooth drinking vessels (cups, glasses, etc.). Belly button draws additional attention to the object being a representation of flesh – a torso – rather than a representation of a complete, or gender-specific body.
  • Context: flesh being a key part of the conditions of feeding and sex; we eat flesh and we crave flesh carnally.

8th September 2016

Below is a rough summary of my initial project proposal for the MA programme; this was written in January and has since gone through much digestion and mental deconstruction, reconstruction and reimagining; of which I will share more later…

Working title:

Exploring
the physical and allegorical values of amorphous objects

Rough idea:

To investigate irrational thoughts, reactions and associations we have when presented with unfamiliar and abstract objects.

The basis of this proposal centres on concepts of justifying and valuing objects and things based against societal norms of function and material worth.  Moreover, it aims to open discussion as to what happens when the rational mind (socially programmed mind) is unable to process the emotional or subconscious response we may have to objects that do not fit into the category of functional or familiar object.

There are two main threads to this concept.  Firstly, the response of the holder, who has no prior expectations of what these objects may be. Secondly, the response of the maker, during and after the production process of said amorphous objects – decisions of design are made throughout the stages of creation, and therefore may not be as subconscious or abstract as initially thought.

Recently I have been reading about some contexts which I think are quite interesting to apply to this project; 2 notions of psychological habits.  Apothenia and Pareidolia are occurrences where the mind tries to ‘force’ sense and pattern out of random information, such as seeing a face in the craters on the surface of the moon, or seeing Jesus on a piece of burnt toast.  These conditions can also be extended to the Rorschach inkblot test.  An understanding of these pending further investigation will help me to understand why the mind makes these erroneous judgements, and may help me to control or trigger this through my practical work.

Some of my previous practical work has already begun to explore these themes, although findings have yet to be formalised.