1st February 2018

Proposal Rewrite

 

Working title:

An investigation into where the worlds of judgement, guilt, disgust, nurture and the maternal*** overlap, and manifest as sculpture.**

 

*As yet, I am unsatisfied with the choice of descriptors in the working title, and I am searching for terminology that is more encompassing, such as:

  • Jolie-laide/Belle-laide (pretty-ugly/beautiful-ugly) (although a better term would be one that doesn’t specify human attractiveness, but more a feeling, sentiment or emotion rather than an aesthetic)
  • Wabi-Sabi, although it has connotations with Japanese craft specifically
  • Cute/gross
  • Charming/disgust
  • Sentiment over rationality
  • Want to be picked up, despite flaws or failings
  • Inclusive, everything valid, yet defying genre or order

 

**I am also unsure of the use of the term ‘craft objects’, but I am reluctant to pigeonhole the investigation to ceramics only.

 

My investigation is as much a reflection of my own creative practice, the struggles to associate myself, feel accepted and validated within the world (and professions) of visual culture. The feelings of self-doubt, insecurity and feeling vulnerable to questions of appropriateness and validity of my work and mindset, or lack of validated ‘welcome’ or ‘place’ for me and my work within the industry.

 

In terms of display, it is appropriate that the work is presented as a microcosm, collection or installation of everything – a world of things which exist together.  This could be simply arranged in a room, depending on the allocation for the end of year show, or could have a specific structure built for the objects to be displayed in/on.  For example a shelving system, a kunstkammer, a doll’s house, a playroom, a studio, a workshop, a bedroom, a shop window… Each of these has particular connotations attached, and therefore these need to be investigated in order to analyse their appropriateness.

 

In order to extend and explain the philosophies and theories associated with my practice and the investigation, there are opportunities for the exhibition of my work to be accompanied by the delivery of workshops or other forms of audience participation.  Currently, the notion of the public all making their own sculpture to be curated and exhibited together using a small selection processes which I use, seems like an appropriate way to do this (clay hand-building, scrap wood modelling, cardboard maquette-making, etc.).

 

 

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 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.