3rd July 2017

Unit 2 – Reflection & Presentation

Critical Evaluation of Practice and Future Development

 

The most profound discovery about my projects and my investigations over the last 2 years is finding out my work was about me.  It was only in the last 4 months that I started to feel emotional and protective about the work that I was doing, in response to critique and questioning; it made me feel very vulnerable.  At the same time I was enjoying what I was making more than ever – I felt that although I was able to be more free and authentic about my creative output, I was opening myself up for more criticism and judgement.  I developed a sensitivity to being misunderstood.  However, I felt my instincts to work against judgements were being validated by drawing autobiographical parallels with other people and wider contexts.

 

One particular artist I feel has impacted upon me is Marlene Hartmann Rasmussen.  Beyond the visual, her work is conceptually about finding strength in her own narrative, and finding personal ways to express herself and her ways of thinking through installation.  There are several other artists who work in this way and that have subsequently influenced my practice, yet it wasn’t until engaging with Rasmussen’s work that I found the ability to trust in my own story and feelings.

 

The journey of my practice over the last 2 years has been difficult to summarise due to the complex and deep reflection that has taken place.  The decision to express my work as a curated exhibition of works, alongside a written guide (‘A Reflective Narrative’) not only tracks my reflective practice in the clearest way (to me), but also helped to underpin a visual method of reflecting too.  The following list however provides a concise timeline of reflective practice.

 

Main stages of my work:

  1. Psychological phenomena of ‘I like it but I don’t know why’ – the unexplainable, irrational response
  2. Focus on texture to encourage push-pull effect
  3. Explore forms (and functions) which give push-pull
  4. Explore relationships between objects which cause uncanny response
  5. Breakdown of developing habits, to dig deeper into what it is I want to make and why
  6. Want to make work that I enjoy
  7. Becoming defensive over criticism of my creative decisions; feeling personally scrutinised and dismissed
  8. Is how I am feeling something everyone feels? Have I always planned to make work that defies total understanding (enigmatic, tenuous…)?
  9. Choosing to represent myself
  10. What my are objects inspired by: visual language, personal feeling, showing myself to the world
  11. Consolidating the parts of all my work that are recurrent (tropes), or seeing the value in certain creative gestures that were missed the first time around.

 

Going forward, I feel like I am walking into a vacuum or an empty space.  For the first time in my life I have no job or income.  I am trying to allow myself maximum availability to be able to take advantage of any opportunities that come along instantly, such as responding to open calls, applying to galleries, etc.  But the truth is I don’t feel I have a strong enough sense of networking to be able to capitalise on the opportunities out there.  Therefore it is vital for me to get myself involved in creative communities, through group projects and collaborative works.  I still have a desire to teach, or be involved in creative education, however I am keen that if I do go into this direction that I am able to be and express myself in a honest and unmasked way – which my work has just started to become.

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.

8th February 2018

WIP Show/Library Display

 

Working Title:

  • “Everyone is welcome”

Working Project Proposal Title (ideas):

  • Expressing and challenging conflicting feelings through zoomorphic sculpture
  • Expressing Investigating (autobiographical) feelings on inclusivity, coexistence and legitimacy through making and curation of sculpture.
  • Identifying why I make what I do, what it says about me, and what I communicate through my practice.

 

Objects to display:

  1. Ceramic Cast Jellybean – Magenta cast (+)
  2. Ceramic Handbuilt Jellybean – Yellow (+)
  3. Ceramic Black cup or Broken Cup (+)
  4. Ceramic Purple tactiform (or blue) (+)
  5. Ceramic mini Tactiform (+)
  6. Ceramic Blue Cactus (+)
  7. Wooden Robopants
  8. Metal Plughead
  9. Masking Tape Coral

 

Other/more materials (to consider/experiment/make before WIP Show)

  • Wax – make wax Tactiform or Jellybean
  • Card – pangolin hat style
  • Paper – papier-mâché?
  • Tape – more figurative?
  • Plasticine – make Tactiform or Jellybean
  • Metal – ???
  • Plaster – carving, whittling, casting

 

Ideas of how to display, and why:

  • In a round/crowd – conversing, mingling, participating
  • On grass – symbolic of existing in an environment – their land, world, microcosm, but a world we as people share too
  • In a house/dolls house – all living under one roof
  • A kunstkammer – a curious “world” where a range of wonderful, diverse and not-necessarily related (serialised) things are display and exist as they are
  • A selection (curated), based on maintaining diversity and equal distribution of all kinds of objects… but this makes the work quite ‘exclusive’, maybe.
  • All objects ever made by me… logistically quite difficult! Can this be played with, for example, by objects ‘overflowing’ a shelf, or starting to take over a wall, or defying gravity, etc?
  • Simultaneously displayed collections – the same objects, or different? How are these separate ‘worlds’ decided upon?

 

Feedback from Oscar, 08/02/18

  • Titles are a little clunky – broaden and then gradually decide which bit is the most important part to express/unpack.
  • Try to think about how critical my question/position of enquiry is – does it allow me to question, critique, investigate and analyse my process or approach to finding something out (ie is it objective)
  • Collage and bring in as much stuff as possible
  • A variety of forms, materials and processes makes for a more confident direction, and allows for greater objectivity
  • Could each of the three display opportunities be approached differently (I.e. try a different thing, arrangement, objects)?
  • How does the notion of simultaneous ‘worlds’ affect the notion of inclusivity and legitimacy?

 

Key words, and how to clarify what they mean to my investigation:

Legitimacy – what rules, laws, regulations? Can my choices be defended with logic, rationality or reason?

Inclusivity – how far do I pursue or press for inclusivity? Where does it end?

Coexistence – living in harmony, despite differences (ideologies, interests, species…)

Curation – how can curation still can make an exclusive statement, despite pursuing inclusivity?

Conflicting feelings – responses to texture and aesthetics such as recoil, adoration, inquisition, tentativeness, etc… is there a better term for this?

 

Next steps:

  1. Build strength of argument through contexts:
  • How have other artists/sculptors displayed collections of their works (retrospectives, etc.)?
  • How do other artists deal with questions about aesthetic differences between types of work they do (Damien Hurst, perhaps?)
  • How can a range of different objects (aesthetically, thematically, chronologically) by the same artist?
  • Have other artists used a kunstkammer or similar approach to displaying a range of objects/works? Why?

 

  1. Collate as many of my objects as possible
  • Start to assemble collections, photographing different combinations
  • How would these collections ‘overpopulate’, aesthetically?
  • How would these collections work when there is imbalance of certain types (i.e. too many blue things, too many ceramic things…)

 

  1. By Wednesday 14th February, ensure most of the objects I want to show are together, and bring to university.

19th January 2018

Reflecting on Unit 1 Assessment

 

Main concern – very big gaps/weaknesses from Unit 1, how can I resolve these (quickly) so that Unit 2 is more successful, and how can this be supported (beyond written Assessment feedback)?

 

Actual aims of project not defined in proposal; why am I trying to make uncanny objects? What (and what kind of experience) am I trying to draw out by creating these objects?

 

Is it to show that these particularly objects (expressed in ceramics) can be used to create or express narratives?  If so, who’s narrative, and why?

 

Also, defining attributes to what makes an object uncanny need to be outlined in order to measure and justify my choices.

 

Maiko to assist or explain further: “reflection on a regular basis”, as I feel I have been highly reflective, rigorous and ‘overdone’ the writing. To advise on how to “utilise my thoughts, rather than let them just run on paper”.

 

“Manner of which the submitted materials were presented…” very little support regarding this. This needed to be more explicitly supported, via demonstrations, suggestions, exemplars, etc.  This is very contentious. Comment regarding categorisation in sketchbooks is agreed however.

 

Certain choices (Kitsch colour, choice of objects) need to be addressed through rigorous contextual research and analysis, and experiments in turn.  Once these are done there is greater justification for my choices.

 

26th November 2017

Tropes from my history – a list of creative memories or tendencies:

 

  1. Assemblage, arrangement, build
  2. Modularity, pieces, construction/deconstruction
  3. Toys
  4. Colourful, contrast, colour-object relationship
  5. Collection, collectibles, grouping, genres, completion, interchange
  6. Display, show, curation, togetherness
  7. Fantasy, narrative, otherworldliness
  8. Uncanny, strange but familiar, transformation, beyond the ordinary
  9. Manufacture, admiration, wonder, workmanship
  10. Cuteness, friendliness, personification
  11. Form, tessellation, interrelation of forms
  12. Mechanism, moving parts, animation
  13. Craft, making, doodling, experimenting
  14. Materials, textures, tactility, interest, fidgeting
  15. Physical-digital world overlaps
  16. Pride – collection, creative ability
  17. Invention, pushing the limits of product function/intention
  18. Wanderlust, the exotic, the mystic, the ancient, the alien, discovery
  19. Psychology, relationships, identity, morals
  20. Gadgets, technological novelties

 

This list seems very long, and although there are lots of overlaps and cross references, I am unsure what to do with the information.  I would say that ALL of the above links in with what I have tried to do with my own practice, yet the words highlighted in bold seem particularly relevant to my current direction.

 

What I feel I need is someone to say that it doesn’t matter about finding an answer – it’s all subjective, we all have our likes and dislikes, and these can be irrational and interchangeable. We can be fickle and we can change our mind – we like what we like, and sometimes we can’t explain it or say why.  But I feel that I am being challenged to stay away from that ‘easy’ answer.

 

I just want to make what I want to – it has taken me long enough to find a practical project I can focus on.  I don’t feel I have time to do the requisite research into psychoanalysis or narratives or artistic imperatives at this stage. I can’t give any more effort than I have been doing so. I am at my maximum capacity.

 

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.

16th November 2017

First Impressions:

  1. The small cacti look quite cute and extra friendly… each took about 10 minutes to make however, and the arms had to be attached separately which was quite fiddly and labour intensive. To make 4 of these, this amount of time isn’t a big deal, but if I was making hundreds of these it would be very difficult, and there is potential for the joints to fail or at least crack. In order to test this further I will see how many I can make in a day, and analyse the quality over around 100 cacti.  The handmade quality of these small cacti were quite pleasing and really helped elevate the fluid/malleable characteristics of clay and hand building that is important to the piece as a whole.       However if it is impractical to make hundreds of cacti in this way (or other objects for that matter) I will have to consider casting, and finding ways to make the casts appear more organic before firing. This could be achieved by further shaping the forms by hand once removed from the mould.
  2. The scale of the cacti could work, however it does raise some questions about density or how far apart each object is placed/dispersed. With the original blue and orange installation from July ‘17 (Object, Language, Landscape), the spaces between each object was roughly between 1 and 1.5times the average size of the actual objects. For example, if a cactus of roughly 20cm diameter was placed near a tooth, it would be placed around 20-30cm away from the tooth.  This was all done by eye and arranged until the composition was “just right”. I will therefore have to see what sort of arrangement looks right with a larger number of smaller objects – this can be achieved in the same text as above; making around 100 cacti and arranging them.
  3. The “inherited kintsugi” cacti and mugs appear to yield interesting results.  The mug has been glazed with a ferric/volcanic stoneware glaze, which was inspired by the form itself… the effect of the broken mould upon the cast left very pronounced ‘spillage’ where the slip worked its way into the cracks of the mould.  These appeared torn, fragmented, aggressive and almost tortured in the way the earth might get ripped apart by an earthquake. But also, these ‘seams’ also reference heavy duty metal casting – something I have seen in the foundry or when I worked with molten aluminium casting last year.  So with those contexts in mind, the glazes had to be accommodating to these references. However, I would also be interested in seeing the effect represented in a more plastic colour and finish (like bright blue car paint).  The broken cactus casts have yet to be fired, and I am in the middle of making a series of these which show the degradation of the mould.  These would be ideal to explore other types of glazes and colour finishes.
  4. As mentioned above, the bright yellow mini cacti have a friendly and personify-able appearance – the cacti have always had 2 arms, but here they have a much more fluid texture against the previous larger cast cacti.  The colour also helps in some way make them appear friendlier, plus the yellow is much closer to an organic colour than the blue, and may even appear more like a skin-tone, especially when a viewer is familiar with cartoons such as The Simpsons or Minions.  In hindsight, the yellow perhaps is not inorganic enough, or too connected with these cartoons in order to avoid being associated with them. I terms of colour combination, I have briefly photographed the cacti on the bright green roof of the kiln to test this.  In reality there is not the same ‘colour shock’ as experienced with the blue on orange, however once photographed this appears slightly heightened. I will further investigate other colour combination.

 

I have also been further exploring newer contexts with these experiments, particularly the work of sculptor Katharina Fritsch and her brightly monochrome coloured objects, and ceramicist Pattie Chalmers, who seems to have a similar approach to selecting ‘everyday objects’ and hand building them in clay, in the same way that I do.  She is currently working on a project to make 365 objects in a year. I will be interested in how she plans to present the work once it is completed, however I may need to contact her and ask, as I am unsure when the 365 days is up! It could be after my MA finishes.

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.

26th September 2016

Since Thursday last week I have been trying to think of why I want to do this project – why it matters?

The tutorial with Oscar went ok – I am still finding it difficult to accurately and clearly express my proposal, which made it difficultly for him to truly grasp my intention thus far, although his suggestions were interesting.

Oscar asked “why this project – why does it matter (to me)? And I couldn’t answer him. I still can’t answer that question, 4 days later. Is ‘because I want to and I find the discourse interesting’ good enough an answer?

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).