Takeaways III

I finally have the results of the first practice-research around my takeaways, an artefact representing the CD album in cement. I made a negative mould of the interior of an old CD case using air drying modelling clay – focusing online on the actually part of the inner casing that holds the CD. I then very roughly lined this with cling film and poured in fairly think quick-setting cement. The materials meant that the result has a varied, almost skin-like texture that adds to its fragile appearance – dry, brittle and cracked with loose pieces scattered around. Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 15.54.06

I intended on creating the entire object, but the dismantled and incomplete nature of the result adds to the feeling of this as some relic of the past. I may try also to somehow recreate the front cover in similar means and present together.

I also plan to continue this as a series in various materials. Next I plan to have both front and back covered scanned and 3D printed. I’m also looking into the possibilities of somehow having the shapes cast in some kind of metal or glass.

Inspiration Session: Barbara Kruger

This week’s studio session involved selecting and sharing the work of an artist that inspires my own practice. In even approaching this process, a whole series of questions came to mind. My first instinct was to reach for the bookcase, which perhaps not surprisingly led me time and time again to select books by photographers – almost exclusively of the social documentary variety: Diane Arbus, Daido Moriyama, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, Nobuyoshi Araki and Slava Mogutin, among many, many others.

Each time I selected a photographer or particular series, convinced of its importance to me, and therefore presumably my work, I realised it was pleasure and not inspiration I was drawing from it. Though interested in the seemingly no-holds-barred approach of the likes of Mogutin, Golin and Araki, or the eye of Diane Arbus that seems to pick out the most peculiar of subjects and simultaneously humanise and dehumanise them, I couldn’t define how their actual practice informs my own, though I obviously do take away much from each of them, if only in the sense that I see myself as a detached perspective, an outsider in the literal sense trying to make sense of, and in some cases manipulate, a world that I don’t fully fit into and that seems to not fit me.

Essentially, this is a rather long way of explaining my choice to share the work of Barbara Kruger, someone who seemed obvious to me, but perhaps that’s the point. Beginning her ‘creative career’ in advertising and magazine publishing – not a far cry from how I’ve found myself paying the bills – I’ve taken much inspiration from her approach, both literally and as a vague kind of sense of encouragement.

Utilising the language – both actual linguistic and visual – of the world in which she cut her professional teeth, and subverting that language, Kruger places her works into the context of the everyday, allowing its message to land feet first into the world of mere muggles and raise questions, make comment and point the finger. She is unapologetic not only of her love for so-called “low” art, the art of popular culture, but of her understanding of its power to influence – and her will to use it to do just that. She always had an agenda – be it political or social – and she approached it head on and in the most-direct way she could, speaking to the viewer instead of at him.

This direct approach extended beyond her visual works into a series of essays and articles written by the artist throughout the late ’80s and early ’90s, which provide a scathing of modern life, executed with a sharp conversational tone, and often with a sense of humour, touching on subjects from sex and gender to power and death, all of which could be transported almost word-for-word to describe contemporary life.


Takeaways II

Using the format of the CD as a covetable takeaway object, I’m going to experiment with printing onto glass / perspex / metal/ cement as a presentation method – to follow with interactive electronic component:


Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even, (The Large Glass), 1915-23


Angela Palmer, Renault F1 Engine (ink on glass)




Styles of Radical Will: Art, Film and Theatre

“Every interesting tendency now is a species of radicalism. The question each artist must ask is: What is my radicalism, the one dedicated by my gifts and temperament?” (Theatre and Film, 1966).

Upon reading a collection of essays by writer Susan Sontag I came across a number of interesting ideas and references related to a number of aspects of my project and the views I have around the wider themes that surround it: from accessibility and a general approach to the arts, to the consensus view on extreme topics (here, pornography) and on film and it’s relation to theatre, including references to both artistic forms as syntheses of a wider range of artistic media (re: Gesamtkunstwerk), and from this how these media also speak of the state of wider society’s relationship to the arts.

Firstly Sontag references a passage written by theorist and Furturist movement founder Marinetti between 1910 and 1914, where he proposes that film may be used as one element in the theatre experience: “He envisaged the theatre as a final synthesis of all the arts, and as such it had to draw on the newest art form, movies,” (Theatre and Film, 1966). In this Marinetti is presumably considering all of the media known to contruibute to film at the time: sound (i.e. music), narrative structure (the written word or script), mise-en-scene, and photography – in the conventional sense, i.e. cinematography, but also in the relationship between images (a kind of rapid-fire mise en page).

Approaching the discussion of the the connection between the two media she also references the later use – in fact the insistence of use – of film in theatre by Russian and Soviet director Vsevolod Meyerhold, where he “[described] his program as fulfilling Wagner’s once ‘wholly utopian’ proposals to ‘use all means available from the other arts’” (Theatre and Film, 1966), referring to the German composer’s theory of the Gesamtkunstwerk in theatre, and his assuming of the poisitin that this synthesis should involve new and therefore ever-evolving artforms, here the then-new medium of film.

In reference to Meyerhold’s practice, Sontag points out how “Wagner’s ideology of a total theatre played its role in confirming the philistinism of German culture,” (Theatre and Film, 1966), a position on the unwillingness of wider society to fully embrace the arts – whether out of inability or apathy. A year later, when discussing the concern of the increasing availability of pornography and the underlying idea that this supposed concern for the upkeep moral standards is really about the availability of a certain kind of knowledge, she proposes that:

“There’s a sense in which all knowledge is dangerous, the reason being that not everyone is in the same condition as knowers or potential knowers. Perhaps most people don’t need a ‘wider scale of experience.’ It may be that, without the subtle and extensive psychic preparation, any widening of experience and consciousness is destructive for most people,” (The Pornographic Imagination, 1967).

Here, Sontag is referring literally to a kind of psycological destruction that comes as the result of being shocked by disturbing images, or at least images that do disturb, if only for the fact that one is not prepared to see them. But she is also referring to the wider idea that certain kinds of information, as with certain kinds of images, cannot be appropriately appreciated or even witnessed without some sense of context, of understanding, and therefore of a kind of preparation for receiving them – whether actively or passively undertaken.

It may be fair, then, to apply such thinking to all art; with certain forms of extreme music – industrial, noise, techno, freeform jazz – is an appreciation of a piece of such music reliant on a greater understanding of the landscape of the field that surrounds it? I’d argue yes and no. If approaching any one of these without prior knowledge of their structure or style, why wouldn’t one recoil and declare “it’s too loud”, or repetitive, or lacking in beat or melody? The only possible answer would be that despite having no prior knowledge to the piece’s provenence, that it speaks to the listener in an innate or primal way.

However, this phenomenon is by no means common or consistent enough to be more than the exception to the rule. Sontag is perhaps right in both the idea that people may be neither prepared nor willing to receive this kind of information, these kinds of images or any extreme form of media that is inaccessible, uncomfortable, unfamiliar or even simply boring to them.

The obvious, if perhaps slightly overwhelming and maybe useless, question here is: why is this the case? Or, maybe more usefully, how has this become the case? A brief skim over the history of Western civilisation would suggest the answer is access and privilege; the rich are and have been privileged to information where the poor have not, and when and where the poor have gained access, compared to the difficulties of the daily grind, the pursuit of academic and artistic enlightenment understandably falls down the list of priorities.

But with the information revolution democratising that system, whereby said information is arguably accessible to all, has this changed anything? I’m reminded of a 2012 Vanity Fair article by Kurt Andersen, in which he argues the exact opposite: that as history has progressed, at least recent history, the development of the cultural landscape has slowed dramatically, especially in regards to the art of popular culture. Referencing the differences in music, fashion, literature, etc. each decade throughout the 20th Century, something so universally understood it shapes the way we reference history, the last two decades show the smallest change:

“[If we] try to spot the big, obvious, defining differences between 2012 and 1992, movies and literature and music have never changed less over a 20-year period. Lady Gaga has replaced Madonna, Adele has replaced Mariah Carey—both distinctions without a real difference—and Jay-Z and Wilco are still Jay-Z and Wilco. Except for certain details (no Google searches, no e-mail, no cell phones), ambitious fiction from 20 years ago (Doug Coupland’s Generation X, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow) is in no way dated, and the sensibility and style of Joan Didion’s books from even 20 years before that seem plausibly circa-2012.”


A War on Beauty (Short Film Project)

I am going to attempt a condensed (1-minute) version of the documentary output of my final project. Using the vehicle of SORT, the zine I co-creative direct, and the existing structure, aesthetic, ideas and following that already exists around it, I will create a fictional cult narrative, presented in mockumentary form.

Presented as an extreme political group made up of young people from a range of backgrounds, the cult narrative will centre on a core belief in rejecting contemporary western ideals of beauty –seeing such ideals as contributing to a system interfering with society making real change and a structure used to maintain an oppressive status quo – and through it express shared ideas found in existential nihilism and similar philosophical theories and belief structures.

Structurally the organisation will have a horizontal or flat hierarchy, with all members viewed with equal importance but a core group of founding members acting as spokesmen, documenting and distributing literature and media about activities.

Visually, members will be seen to adopt clothing and grooming styles that might be deemed (by wider society) as ugly, distasteful, grotesque, provocative or conversely adopt extreme versions of beauty conventions as a means of questioning their purpose or highlighting their absurdity. These will be seen in waves with large numbers adopting the same styles, including: shaved heads, extremely long false nails, (with chains) proportionally extreme pairing (extremely high waists, exaggerated shoulders, etc.), seemingly nonsensical styling (e.g. socks over shoes), sexual, fetish and military attire, contact lenses, symbol tattoos, etc. There will be no differentiation of styling across genders; all styles are deemed gender neutral and appropriate for anyone who choses to adopt them.

Activities performed by the group (seen in the film) will including ceremonial shaving of the head, hedonistic sexual and drug-fuelled gatherings, flyering and ‘corner preaching’, and conversely burning of literature (represented here by SORT zine), and conversely proclamations of a wish for anarchy.

The cult will adopt, adapt and misapply symbols from a wealth of religious and political sources not limited to, but including, Paganism, Christian religion, Western esotericism, Nazi propaganda, and The Tarot.

[Board of references]

Cult Narratives

Perhaps more so than the music documentary narrative that was so pivotal in my interest in the film format as a means of articulating social and political messaging, specifically Sini Anderson’s film The Punk Singer about Riot Grrrl pioneer Kathleen Hanna, cult activities and the way they are depicted in film (documentary, narrative, or a mix) seem like an interesting avenue to explore with a similar mindset – including both religious and socio-political groups and more knowing ‘anti-cults’ e.g. Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.

  • Laveyan Satanism
  • Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth
  • Thelema and the actvities of Aleister Crowley
  • Lord Our Righteousness Church (End of the World Cult)
  • The Peoples Temple: Jonestown (Mass Suicide Cult)
  • The Manson Family

When looking at them as a group, some common characteristics emerge including: the use of symbols, structured hierarchies or emotional leadership, geographical clustering or segregation, an emphasis on ceremony,  etc.