Our first Critical and Contextual studies lecture was about Reading Images. It made me think about the manipulation and the deception of the image and the word and how, in advertising particularly, they are used to brainwash us, through association (which, I learned in The Art and Philosophy lecture on Aesthetics, the human brain is particularly good at) and fear. This gave me some background and context to the ideas I had already begun to have about adverts this week. Having lived without a TV for thirteen years and suddenly finding myself in a flat with one – I was shocked and disturbed by the adverts. They probably haven’t changed much over the decades but I was reminded that if we are exposed to TV on a regular basis, we become mind-numb to them and that I was seeing them in an open and un-numbed state and that I wanted to stay open and question how such, entrenched, every day, insidious, dangerous brainwashing is such an accepted part of our culture. I would like to start doing some research into artists who have produced work around adverts in the past. It also made me think about the conventions we use in image composition and how these can be subverted to, for example, give authority to a powerless, passive subject by using a low camera angle and to look for examples of this already being done in art.
I have also been playing with symbols for a while, without realising that this could come under the heading of semiotics, which the Reading Images lecture also went into the principles of.
We had our induction at the DJCAD Digital Make workshops and I drew some of my symbols in Illustrator (a first, and much easier than any digital drawing I have tried before) and cut them out of thick card on the digital laser cutter, making both stencils and figure symbols which I could place in different arrangements on different backgrounds. There was limited time and computer space during the induction so I went back during the afternoon to try out my idea. It seemed a huge effort to go back, fighting against apathy as always, which partly comes from a resistance to the mental and physical effort required to do anything and partly comes from a low level anxiety at using new equipment, dealing with new people and creating work in communal places. But I did and was pleased with the results and they have begun to bring forth developments in my ideas. I like the fact that paper and card are biodegradable and for this reason I would be happy to use wood too, but am less keen to use the 3-D printers, even using the plant based plastic, which, we were told, is still not great for the environment.
Freuds iceberg metaphor was discussed, and this is another subject that I have done years of research on already and would like to continue. My interest is in the subconscious and in C.J.Jung’s theories on the unconscious rather than Freuds, particularly his shadow metaphor. I have been trying to develop a system of symbols to illustrate the underlying subconscious drives which many of us allow our behaviour to be unknowingly driven by and which according to Jung can take the form of shadow characters which we develop unconsciously early on in life to protect ourselves and which, if not identified can lead us to destructive repeating cycles of behaviour.
Ellie Harrison and Anna McLauchlan’s presentations about their work echo much of my own thoughts around art and activism. And I was already very interested in Ellie’s The Glasgow Effect project and so have bought her book about it. I have so far, never really considered my work activism, but there are elements which could be considered a quiet kind of activism.
Buying a small piece of agricultural land in the North East of Scotland with my family thirteen years ago and slowly building a handmade off grid house with local wood, clay, strawbales and salvaged materials and establishing forest and vegetable gardens while home educating my two children could be seen as a quiet act of activism. There is also irony in the fact that after all that careful use of local sustainable materials and reusing, we accidentally burnt the whole lot down two and a half years ago along with two household’s worth of carefully collected possessions and had to start rebuilding again from scratch. This has understandably perhaps, affected my outlook and I find it a struggle at times not to think that any kind of activism is fairly futile.
Despite this, while renting a room in Dundee during term time, I try to shop predominantly in the new zero waste shop, continue to compost my vegetable peelings, be careful with my water usage, avoid wasting food, move around by foot or train wherever possible.
I want to work small and unobtrusively and avoid the use of too many toxic substances, I don’t want to waste materials, I would like to utilise the waste of others where possible and I am inspired by the cycle of reuse practiced by one of DJCADs lecturers; Kate MacLeod, with her impermanent clay and wood sculptures.
I would like to make small separate images, maybe painted on cardboard, later layering them together/assembling to make a larger composition/sculpture. I am looking forward to trying out new methods of working, like laser cutting, print making and combining sound and video with painted work.
I find myself preoccupied a lot of the time with the fire and the loss particularly of my sketchbooks and journals; a written and visual recording of the thirty years of my life leading up to the fire and the loss also of the children’s books I had as a child. I was an archivist and my archives were taken away. The hundreds, maybe thousands of books; fiction, art, history and; All my children’s childhood possessions, collections and books wiped out like a brutal coming of age ceremony. (They turned 19 and 16 the year of the fire); The destruction of my family’s past.
I have not yet really been able to process this much through my creative practice and think that this is something I would now like to be begin to do. I think I might try to create an index of symbols of lost things as well as an index of shadow behavior.
The other presentations we had were by Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay and Gair Dunlop. I am particularly interested in Benny’s sound and video work as it relates a little to my own interests and projects using these media. I had already watched one of Gair’s films: Yellow Cake, which had been on our summer projects reading list and had my interest piqued by the poetry of the language used around nuclear technology and its terrifying danger and toxicity.
I am delighted by the amount and range of art books in the DJCAD library and feel it is a great place to go for inspiration as well as research. I have never had access to this range of art books before and for painters in particular, I am finding it so much more immediate and satisfying, at the moment, to scan the shelves, than to search the internet.
I have been enjoying reading Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton, How to Write About Contemporary Art by Gilda Williams, Ellie Harrisons The Glasgow Effect, Laurie Anderson – Talk Normal and Clare Woods – Reality Dimmed…But I have not yet tackled the tome that is Art In Theory…
Pictures to accompany this and all future DJCAD blog posts can be found here: