1. Present a resolved body of original creative practice that has evidenced the systematic enhancement of your knowledge and understanding
For me, the first year of this course, was a foundation in every sense as I still felt like someone who was transitioning from a non-art background into art education. I wanted to expose myself to as much as possible so I could form my own understanding of the sensibility I wanted to have as an artist as I still didn’t feel like I had a strong artistic voice or overall confidence. I thought the best thing I could do was to expose myself to a variety of ways of making, the subject of the work didn’t matter so much to me, it was just to start exploring different creative processes.
This kind of ‘casting the net wide’ approach was ultimately a beneficial process and the only way I think I could have pushed through, but it was still a process of which I didn’t see the real benefits of in my work until the second year. I remember before the course started that Jonathan mentioned how I may well experience the feeling of floundering in the first year but that that’s ok and with that advice, I knew it was more important for me to keep up the act of making, even if I didn’t feel satisfied with the results otherwise how else was I going to push myself?
I wanted to challenge myself, as that was the only way I felt, I would learn. That’s why Gillian Wearing became important to me at the end of my first year. I wanted to push through my confidence issues and that’s why my project for the interim show wasn’t so much about the results, it was the act of me getting out there, talking to strangers, and getting me out of my comfort zone.
But it wasn’t an easy place to be, at the beginning of my second year, with still no strong voice in my work and I knew I had a long way to go and so the research paper came at a perfect time for me. My work was all about the self, which is of course a rather big topic! The research paper helped me to clarify the ways in wanted to approach my way of thinking, which was from more of a psychosocial view of the self as opposed to a philosophical one. This meant that psychologists such as Dr. Sherry Turkle and Erik Erikson became a very important aspect in my thinking.
At the end of the research paper though I was still left with questions that had been niggling at me the whole time – how do you represent yourself in your work without necessarily putting yourself in it? And how can you represent the self without using a physical body? The questions that the research paper led to to continue looking at the work of Gillian Wearing and Juno Calypso, both of whom use masks in their work but themselves also:
Artist research was valuable to me as this then lead me to the idea of mannequins:
This was also a very important moment in my work’s development as I had back in November during a tutorial, told Jonathan that I had earlier towards to start of the year filmed myself during a very difficult time in my life.
The footage, which was of me drinking on my own, listening to music and filming myself, was so closely related to my overall project that I decided to use it. But due to the sensitive nature of the material and how much it related to my personal life and state of being at the time, it was incredibly tough for me to work on it and it took a long time to gain comfortability treating it as a piece of work. Perhaps even as a way to make the work easier for me to look at, I started playing with the source material and layering images of myself on top of each other to make it less obvious what’s going on. This, I think was in part inspired by the artists I have previously mentioned. Can I create my own kind of mask by layering images? Will it help to distort the narrative of my work? Will it create a new kind of atmosphere to it?
I then, still with the idea in mind that I wanted to learn about new ways of making, took myself to the darkroom with the hope that an extra level of process would further distort the images and create a disjunctive element to my work:
This was the first time in the course that I started to get enthusiastic about what was making. The stills had a dark quality to them, a slight surreality that I wanted to explore more and represented a kind of ‘multiplicity of the self’ – which resonated well with me as on that particular drunken night my mood was all over the place! I then with a solid foundation, spoke to technicians as a sounding board and to contemplate how I could push my idea further. I was suggested the use of After Effects, something, which i’d never tried but offered more possibility in ways to distort imagery, which lead me to a testing phase:
- Work Reflection: After Effects
- Rotoscoping 1
- Rotoscoping 2
- Rotoscoping 3
- Rotoscoping 4
- Rotoscoping 5
And what a testing phase it was! I learned a lot about rotoscoping and namely how laborious and difficult it is. It would take me a whole day to get a few seconds worth of footage made. But just the feeling of testing, knowing I was actually starting to feel like I was solving the big puzzle that was my project was a great feeling even if I didn’t continue to work on this process. The help, support and reassurance of the technicans at this point of the course was absolutely invaluable. After a good discussion with a technician this was a really great and motivating piece of advice:
- I mentioned to Tim how I sometimes feel that I’m doing stuff without knowing what i’m doing, but he at a point in the conversation referred to the way that musicians improvise and with editing and play, you, as an artist, can often be improvising with yourself. That made me realise that I have been going through a process, a process of improvisation and that I shouldn’t be afraid of not knowing what an outcome could be. This whole process so far really has been one of improvisation, which is slowly getting me closer to a coherent plan/idea.
- Technician catch up
At this point, I had hit a small wall again but this time had much more confidence in how to overcome it. I, after talking to a technican, made a shorter edit of my (3 hour!???) film and decided to email my coursemates and ask them for feedback on it. This was an incredibly important step for me because I had to see for myself if I felt comfortable with people seeing my work as the thought of it had been causing me quite significant amounts of anxiety and as I’d been looking at it so much I wanted to hear the perspective of other people. This was the most important thing I could have possibly done throughout the course as it lead me to the idea of datamoshing, something another coursemate had suggested and up until that point i’d never even heard of it before! You should never underestimate the benefit of working with and talking to other people as you really don’t know what you’re going to learn!
Once decided on the idea of datamoshing, I then had figure out what it was! YouTube became a big friend of mine as I was able through that to learn the different ways you can datamosh or glitch. The first ways I learned was through breaking code using software like HexFiend or putting an image file through Audacity. More testing of course then ensued but started off by just testing image files:
I knew I was getting onto something, so then tried to glitch parts of my film:
The results were not what I wanted, they were too overtly ‘glitched’ but I was still pleased I had made some results! I was on a path of problem solving and one that I was really enjoying. I had to go back to YouTube to find more inspiration and during this time I was still using the idea of my layered stills as a visual example of what I’d like the moshing to look like:
Luckily, I encountered a video someone had made on YouTube where they had figured out to datamosh using an old version of an editing software called Avidemux and after about a week of figuring out how to download the right software, which really was no easy find, I figured it out:
This was the most exciting part of the testing phase, and I really started to feel that all my hard work, floundering, pushing through confidence issues had started to pay off and I had found something I could make my own and that aesthetically was in keeping what I hoped to achieve from my project proposal. This also lead to the idea of live datamoshing too, something else which I was able to start to figure out thanks to YouTube, the technican Matt and most largely of course, to Ed!
I now had 2 ideas in tandem, the live datamoshing and non-live datamoshing.
Testing had been a great way for me to figure out what I was doing so I continued making tests that became more realised pieces. I quickly learned the obstacles of my source footage. It was low resolution, low lighting and grainy. Qualities that made it harder for footage to blend together so I started to mosh my footage with YouTube material that I had been looking at in the first year of the course. That being namely Selfie Tutorials and Danger Selfies. The content of these videos were in keeping with the ideas from my project proposal and practically speaking much higher quality videos with more movement that I hoped would lend well to moshing, and did!
In regards to my live moshing. YouTube was again my friend and I found a short clip of someone live moshing and who had also (very thankfully) left a Max MSP patch for it in the comment section. I could then take that to Ed who was able to work on it and get it going. His skill and knowledge have been immensely valuable in me being able to realise this project. Something I’ll always be incredibly thankful for.
I am now at the end period of my show setup where things are pretty much finalised aside from a few finishing touches.
And now that I’m at a point where I can reflect on my 2 years of the course I feel almost overwhelmed at how much it has benefited me both personally and professionally. I feel as though i’m developing an artistic voice, I’ve learned that I love problem solving and can have patience for certain creative processes more than others, I’ve reaffirmed to myself how important it is to be open, engage with other people’s work and use the wealth of support that is around you, which in my case has been teachers, coursemates and technicians. My work may have been an individual pursuit but could not have been done without the openess and willingess to work with others as well as the kindness of people to have patience and work with me! The same goes for the exhibtion setup, although we are all showing our own pieces it’s just so important to be there for each other as it benefits the whole!
As Jonathan has mentioned, my work that I have been building towards for our Summer Exhibition doesn’t feel finished to me, but more like a great representation of what I’ve learned and where i’m at after the 2 years of this course. And even though it’s work that I will continue working after the course, it’s equally the most realised work I have ever made, and I really do feel proud of how it’s turned out!
- Analyse and critically reflect coherently upon your own practice and its context (research; analysis; personal and professional development).
Research and Analysis
I used my research paper really as a way to have a grounding on the different ways you can look at the idea of the ‘self’. I needed a good clarification as to what I was looking at in my work, particularly after the broad approach of studying that I applied to the first year of this course. This meant my research was broken up into the philosophical perspective of the self, the psychosocial and the self in relation to technology. All big topics I have to say!
My research really took off thanks to being introduced to the work of MIT Professor Dr. Sherry Turkle who studies humans relationships with technology. Because of her work I learned about the idea of the ‘Moratorium’.
This is a ‘psychosocial’ stage of development, originally developed by developmental psychologist Erik Erikkson and his wife that denotes a time, usually in teenagehood, which is relatively consequence free and as such people can play with ideas such as love as well has play with their own identity without huge fears of repercussion. Turkle went onto connect the idea of the Moratorium with technology, where she believes that people into adulthood will use online spaces such as games to work on their own identities. That idea catalysed me into thinking about how we used social platforms like Facebook to work on and construct idealised versions of ourselves. And it made me question how beneficial this kind of ‘identity play’ is. If we work on our identities online does this improve how we feel in real life, or, as I have come to believe leave us in a cyclical state of being preoccupied with our self image – forcing us to worry about the outer self as opposed to the inner?
This topic inevititably lead me onto the idea of narcissism. And it was the work of British Philosopher Simon Blackburn that really got me feeling that narcissism has somewhat of a gradient and can really show the vulnerable sides of ourselves:
He refers to the state of being that is chronic self affirmation as a grandiose yet vulnerable self concept. And this particular analysis of the self really resonated with the way my work was developing. It also lead me to having much more empathy towards the reasoning behind the act of taking a selfie – it’s not just, what I first thought, an empty cry for self-validation, it is a much more complicated relationship between ourselves, and our need for others to see us to feel validated. There’s something almost sad about that, something lonely.
It was an exciting area of research as the notion of the self is both an enduring preoccupation in the arts and sciences but also relatively new in the context of the self in relation to technology. It is telling that Will Storr’s book ‘Selfie: How We Became So Self-Obsessed and What it’s Doing to Us’ was published the same year I was writing my research paper! So I as I was writing the paper, I felt like I was researching a topic that that is not new, but was looking at it from a fresh angle at least from a fine art perspective.
The pursuit of this topic has made me realise that I, certainly in this course, have treated my art as a kind of therapy, not necessarily consciously though. As if you gain a deeper understanding of the idea of the self, then you probably do inevitably get a bit more understanding of yourself too. I’ve actually been doing this project in tandem with therapy and that weekly internal reflection has probably helped benefit my work and particularly my capacity to continue to work on it as there were many times when it was a real challenge and I questioned that if it was causing me further pain, was it the right thing to do?
The authenticity of process is still a really important idea for me. It is really still bizarre to me that I ever filmed myself in such a vulnerable state, how conscious was I that I could use this for my work? But it meant that I had filmed something that was genuine. In my final piece there’s definitely been an element of self preservation going on. Distorting the narrative and image has been key. It’s been hard to show myself in such a private, embarrassing moment but I think there is something valuable about that. We can all, at times, be more lonely than other people realise. It’s actually quite normal. I was hoping that there’d be something kind of freeing about showing that side of myself, which in some ways there were and in other ways not. But it was a brave thing to do, and the fact that it was challenging for me made me more galvanised to work on it and share it with others. And it has also made me feel comfortable with the idea of being a shy performance artist. A quiet extrovert as it were. And I feel excited about where I can take this work, both the subject matter and the style of it seems relatively unexplored and as such I have even more enthusiasm as to where I can take it next. If Gillian Wearing has masks as her thing, couldn’t datamoshing be mine? 🙂
This was also the first time since my foundation where my work moved away from just being topical. My work has always tended to be topical, and it was a challenge to consider how to approach what seemed like a non-art theory based topic with a creative outcome.
But I combined this research with other artists who explore the idea of the self through the use of masks:
During my MA I also visited several museums and galleries such as the Tate Modern, Tate Britain, National Portrait Gallery, TJ Boulting Gallery and the Saatchi Gallery to conduct exhibtion research. I was particularly looking for exhibitions that looked into ideas of the self, representation of the self through technology or use of masks and mannequins.
- Saatchi Gallery: From Selfie to Self Expression
- Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun
- David Shrigley
- Juno Calypso
- Alex Prager
- Joan Jonas
Especially the work of Juno Calypso and Gillian Wearing kept me mulling over the idea of a ‘mask’ and finding subversive ways to look at the relationship between the inner and outer self. With those artists constantly in the back of my mind, I was eventually able to find my footing with datamoshing.
It seems to me that datamoshing is a technique known by a relatively small online and art community and my practice has benefited incredibly from being able to access YouTube tutorials. It has also visually combined for me both the idea of the digital and a painterly quality.
The very fact that it was quite hard to figure out how to do it has given me hope that I could create a niche for myself if I keep working at this technique as it does seem to me like it’s not been explored in a fine art context. Like Grayson Perry shows here, could I have found my perfect venn diagram?
Despite the lightheartedness of what I’m saying, I do really feel excited about how my work has come together and have an even greater feeling of excitement as to the many ways I could carry it on after the course has finished as I feel it is still a new territory to explore in the art world, or at least in a fine art context. In a really practical sense it’s also a creative process that doesn’t require me to have a studio, all I need is my laptop and a camera and the practical nature of that makes it even more possible for me to continue this work after uni finishes.
Personal and Professional
Throughout the MA I also made sure to engage in all opportunities to display work, which was through group pop up exhibitions where I got a chance to put my work up as well as learn more about the curating side of things:
I also volunteered at the Longplayer Day festival and invigilated the Lumen Arts Prize:
These experiences alone have allowed me to build contacts with people from various parts of the London art world as well as get a sense of what it’s like to curate different kinds of exhibitions or arts festivals. Grayson Perry spoke of art school as a ‘subtle bodily experience’ where you learn about the sensibility of being an artist. I absolutely agree with that and as such have been attempting to take any opportunity to learn about the art world as there is no one way to be involved in it.
I’d like to thank all the teachers and technicians who have supported me on the journey that has been my MA. I could not feel happier about my whole educational experience on the course and the very fact that it was as supportive an environment as it has been has given me the comfortability to try new things, challenge myself and create work I never thought I could. Thank you all!
- Summarise and evaluate your overall progress and formulate a constructive plan for continuing Personal and Professional Development (personal and professional development; collaborative and/or independent professional working).