1. Formulate, describe and implement a challenging and self-directed programme of study, relating to your Project Proposal (research; subject knowledge; communication and presentation; professional and personal development)
To start the assessment, I will begin by attaching both my original and final project proposal as well as my research paper and workplan:
My original proposal acted as a continuation of the work I had been doing on my Foundation course at CCW 2015/16, where I had been looking at the at times unhealthy relationship between social media and activism. I then intertwined that thinking with the notion of celebrity also as social media has helped to redefine that term.
When I started this course, feeling a bit unsure and overwhelmed myself I decided to focus more on the person – why do we take selfies? what does it say about us? My main challenge was to think about how to look at identity and relation to social media without having always to use social media or at least a digital element in my work. This led to my first area of development where I tried to turn myself into another person and take selfies.
It could have been a reflection of my mood at the time, but the whole process of creating a character that was based around the idea of an unhealthy relationship to sexuality and validation actually left me feeling incredibly vulnerable and exposed. It also allowed me to reflect on the effort people make to curate the best photo of themselves. Even though I had disguised myself heavily with makeup and took lots of photos to find the ‘best’ one, the process made me feel unsure about myself and brought to the surface feelings of insecurity. I did, however, enjoy the subtle trail of information that I accidentally left in the photo, an unclean bathroom etc. This left me wondering about my experience in relation to others. If I feel exposed in the photos then they must say more about us emotionally than you would expect on first glance.
This then led to doing a photo shoot in the studio, with the help of my classmate Vic who acted as the director. The formality of the setting, as well as the lighting left me feeling all the more emotionally bare. Having to act always in a way, which inspires confidence even when you don’t feel like that yourself. The only moments I felt comfortable was when I tried to add my own humour to the photo. I think humour can act as a kind of deflection of your inner feelings, a kind of guard. If I am a quite guarded person, am I the right subject for my photos? Perhaps yes? Perhaps no? It was an idea I could return to but needed to leave for a while.
Taking the time to understand the work of Gillian Wearing galvanised my developmental work. It refocused me. I was still working within the general territory of ‘social media and identity’ but I was back there, and it was a good feeling! I thought about Wearing’s use of masks and wondered how else I could take a subversive look at identity and self-image. This made me think more materially, and I ended up buying a ‘mannequin head’, an object which, in my mind, represents our preoccupation with the outer self.
I had introduced a new material quality to my work, and surreality. What I would later come to think of as a ‘disjunctive element’ which Russel Ferguson of UCLA’s Hammer Museum when talking of the work of Gillian Wearing helps to both ‘separate and unify’. A notion, which inspired me greatly.
I chose my final project of the year to serve as an exercise. I decided to emulate Gillian Wearing’s work ‘Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say’. I wanted to use photography, work with strangers and see what we could learn about our inner self.
It was a nerve wracking, incredibly fun and productive experience. I found that I liked putting myself into new situations with strangers where you don’t know what the outcome will be. There’s a quality about that process that I find exciting, and does not need me to be so conscious of technical ability with equipment – it’s about the experience. It was also an exercise into the ethics of photography, something that seems to be very difficult to navigate. I purposefully asked people to write whatever they liked as opposed to an ‘inner thought’. I preferred this method as I believed and felt like the outcomes of my work show that anything we write will say something about ourselves. Looking back at all those photographs, I believe that’s true. I presume that Gillian Wearing’s project could have gone over the course of months, where as mine was much briefer. I didn’t want to push anybody’s responses. I wanted it to be positive and natural.
One interaction with a group of 3 men was incredibly memorable. The photographs, which ended up being in my interim show represent to me the wonderful interaction we had, and as a consequence they ended up writing very thoughtfully on their signs. I realised that the process of capturing the photo is as important to me as the photo itself.
In the new academic year, I have once again returned to the idea of mannequins. Being both life like and inanimate, they have potential ‘disjunctive’ qualities:
My other aim for the year 2016/17 was to explore different processes and mediums, as I do not come from a practicing art background. It was important for me to play, gain confidence in just the idea of using different mediums as well as becoming familiar with technicians in the building.
The mere act of making and playing I found to be beneficial, it kept me in a pattern of work even if I was yet to have a greater focus within my area of research. It also introduced me to more of the technicians in the college, people who I could turn to to discuss my ideas. The more I ingratiated myself into different parts of the college, the more likely I was and am to use those facilities. These projects although seemingly unlinked to my overall project were an exercise of being productive and proactive.
I took the same approach to gallery visits. I visited a number of exhibitions, as you never know what can inspire you and also tried to tailor my visits to exhibitions more particular to the area of identity or social media. This was a very helpful exercise, which lead me to the Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun exhibit:
A cheesy term to use but I was blown away by Gillian Wearing’s work. I hadn’t had a gallery experience quite like it! My experience of the work was that it felt subversive, loving, very quiet and equally confused with a huge amount of information. She completely inspired in me the communicative medium of photography, as well as the ways in which you can explore identity. Her work and writing on her work, particularly of Russel Ferguson has come to anchor me, a place that I keep returning to. I still can’t understand how some of her work can be so quiet and yet so full of emotional information. Baffling, wondrous. I good anchor for my work.
Other visits include:
Due to the complex nature of my topic, I wanted to have a more contextual understanding of human relationships with technology. This led me to research the idea of the self and identity from a psychosocial as well as philosophical point of view. The work of Dr. Sherry Turkle who focuses on human relationships with technology became a very important part in me gaining greater understanding of the topic. Her work also led me to the developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, who coined the term ‘moratorium’ – a psychosocial stage where people form their identity. Discovering the term ‘moratorium’ was an important moment in my development, the definition of it reflected the area of identity that I am interested in.
Coming across the work of British contemporary philosopher Simon Blackburn made me much more thoughtful to the idea of narcissism or ‘self affirmation’, which he calls a ‘grandiose yet vulnerable self-concept’. I could see that link right back to how I felt when undergoing my first selfie photoshoot. His words as well as Sherry Turkle’s on narcissism made me realise that it is a much less understood (at least to me) concept than I’d first realised, and is so intertwined with insecurity etc. I came to see ‘narcissism’ sitting on almost a kind of spectrum, which made me once again contemplate the nuances of selfies and why people take them.
Quite simply, artist, exhibition and contextual research has been so important to me as one book leads you onto another, one exhibition gives you one idea and one artist makes you feel a deeper connection to your area of work. Research has anchored and inspired me.
2. Critically engage with practice-based research and contribute actively to debate and discussion (analysis; technical competence; experimentation; collaborative and/or independent professional working)
Active research has been a big part of my practice last year. I think in part because my area of research is a complex topic. This means that my development has overlapped very much so with my active research. Some of my active research was based around social media and other research was based around exploring different processes and what could work for my project:
Drawing + Youtube
In particular with my ‘signs’ project, I wanted to use that project as a way to actively reflect and research on the importance of thoughtfulness before undergoing a photography project that relies on the help of strangers. It was about researching approaches to your practice, as it is a vital part of the outcome of your work.
In terms of actively contributing to debate and discussion, I tried to go about this a number of ways as I find that working with and listening to other people is the best way to reflect on my practice and gain inspiration:
- I recorded an interview with my classmate Vic who asked me questions about my own work. It was a great exercise when looking back on it as when I listened to myself, I had a much better understanding of my aims and objectives of the shoots than I actually first thought:
- I visited a LCF talk ‘Art in Polarised Times’, and asked questions to the speakers. I wanted to meet and listen to others to see if there were people within the UAL environment who had a similar interest to mine in their work:
- I participated in group crits, which have been exceptionally helpful. They act as ways to cement your thoughts about your work, provide clarity, serve as inspiration from other classmates who suggest artists or ways of working. It is also incredibly valuable for me to listen about others work – how they go about their development and research, what interests them. In the most unparalleled of subjects you can sometimes see a connection or flash of inspiration. They also help you gain confidence in speaking about your work and critiquing others.
I took it upon myself to collaborate where possible, so I could get to know other members of my course, learn about new methods and processes and learn from others:
- 3D scanning & Printing
- I originally decided to try this as my classmate Terry had organised a trip to the Veronica Scanner (a 3D scanner used for cataloging museum objects) at Waddson Manor. This led to printing my work alongside Terry’s as well as him teaching me the basics of 3D scanning and printing. A process I would have been too intimidated to try on my own without his enthusiasm!
- > 3D scanning
- Green screen
- My classmate Vic and I decided to experiment with a green screen alongside our second years Alasdair and Terry, for what was their project. Vic was already attuned to the software and process and so was able to lend her expertise to the session. I was able to learn about the software as well as act as a ‘test’ model for Terry and Alasdair’s work. Again, through the collaborative process I was able to learn about the basic practicalities of using a green screen. Making it much easier for me the next time I decide to use it. The project also made me much more familiar with the technicians in the media suite
- > Green screen
- Selfie Photo shoot
- In order to do my selfie photoshoot, my classmate Vic helped both photograph and direct it. Having her there made it possible for the shoot to happen as I would not have been able to be both the photographer and the subject with ease. She brought her knowledge of lighting to the shoot and was able to direct me as she could see how the shots were coming out.
- > Studio shoot
- Interim Show
- A hugely collaborative experience that required the whole of our group to work together as well as to liaise with other parts of the course. We had to work together to clean and setup the space as well as work on behalf of the online students, setup their work and ensure they were happy with it.
- > Interim show setup
- Inter college work
- I have also collaborated with a friend who currently is in her 2nd year of BA Graphic Design at Chelsea. Her project was to focus around Peckham and wanted to speak to homeless people in the area. We discussed how to go about this delicately, for example, only recording audio and not faces. During our interview she acted as the person recording the whole thing and I was more of an interviewer.
- > Peckham: Riders of the Storm
In the same vain that I find it important to have group crits, I’ve in the past year tried to take up volunteering posts for arts related events so as to have a better understanding as to the type of exhibitions/festivals/events there are out there, what processes they go through to set them up and meet other people in the practicing art world that sit outside our University
- Longplayer Day: Volunteer
- Our group was put into contact with James Bulley after he came in to give a talk for our class. He co-curated a day long festival called Longplayer Day, which was celebrating durational sound pieces. I volunteered over a course of 3 days and was lucky to be working with genuinely nice people who answered all of my questions and really made me feel a part of the whole process. The local art world opened up a bit more for me, I made new contacts and gained a better understanding as to the amount of work that goes into even just a day long event
- > Longplayer Day
- Lumen Presents: Adventures in Digital Art: Invigilator
- Over the course of the coming week I will be invigilating this exhibition at the Winn’s gallery. I decided to do this so as to again, open my eyes more to the art world and it’s different approaches. I will also be interacting with the public and have to be comfortable explaining and presenting the work, which is a good habit to get into when speaking of others people’s work and of course your own
- Staff Exhibiton
3. Critically reflect upon your practice and articulate a clear understanding of methodology and context of your creative practice (analysis; research; communication and presentation)
This blog has been a vital tool for me to be able to reflect on my practice and research. I have in the past used a sketchbook but have found the blog a much more intuitive way to write and reflect. I’ve used it both to jot down quick notes, and reminders as well as much longer reflections as the more you write, the more you think. The blog also has opened me up to a more relaxed way of writing, which allows me to write down my thoughts much more freely and thoughtfully.
I’ve both reflected about group work, lectures and artist talks as well as specifically about my work.
Examples of work Reflection:
Examples of reflection on lectures and artist talks
The blog also serves as a form of diary as I do believe my work overlaps into my real life in certain ways, thinking about the self etc.
My whole first year really felt like in many ways random exploration of processes, so it seems quite clear to me from my blog that my development jumps around a fair bit. But it also showed to me that I was still trying to work and navigate through confusion. What really helped cement my focus was the research paper, although that did come with it’s own difficulty has it took such a long time to pin point a specific thing to write about. The prospect of the paper began to focus my research, which is what made me come across thinkers such as Dr. Sherry Turkle who has informed a lot of my research.
The writing of the paper has allowed me once again to start to look forward and think about how to progress my practice. Re-writing my project proposal also really made me reflect on what is important for me to focus on write now, which are the materials and objects I will be using. So feel that my area of research over Unit 1 has slowly come to focus, which makes me feel like i’m in the right place for the start of Unit 2. I still have some of the same insecurities to do with lack of technical skill, but with the help of the work plan, I can commit to play and development with a final goal in mind.
A general reflection of my mood last year was that I slowly gained confidence throughout it and really approached everything with a rather general eye. I know it’s good to have focus, but that was just where I was. This is why the fact that this course is 2 years long is so vital to my development. I felt last year I could play, really try to work on my confidence by approaching new mediums, process and ideas. I think I have a big learning curve still to go through – but last year has allowed me to set decent ground work so I can approach the new year with more focus and confidence.