Glamour and the Grotesque – constellation reflective post

A reflection on what I have learnt from the study group Glamour and the Grotesque and Constellation as a whole.

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In this study group I have learnt a lot about materials and their connotations. I have learnt that different materials convey different concepts and that materials have ‘cultural CVs’ which can have a massive impact on the overall meaning of a piece. This knowledge has encouraged me to consider the materials that I use within my work with more care. I have also learnt that you can contradict yourself within your work, you can convey two different concepts through the use of materials, forms and objects. Again this has encouraged me to consider the materials that I use, the forms that I create and the objects that I select more carefully as everything has connotations that I may or may not want to imply through my work. In a piece that I made for an editorial project I was more aware of the materials and colours that I chose and the forms that I used as the image was for an article about a sensitive topic and I wanted to convey that sensitivity through my work.

This study group has also allowed me to consider how different mediums can convey the same messages and concepts, for example, we have looked at how the grotesque can be portrayed through clothing, artwork and photography. I have learnt about the importance of tactility and design in relation to the body and how these things can have a huge impact on how someone interprets a piece and what they take from it. I have learnt about liminality and how things can shape-shift through meanings, motifs, physical changes and how people perceive something. I am now able to consider all of these concepts when creating my work, I am now more selective of materials as each material has its own connotations, I consider the objects that I choose to include in my work as different objects hold different meanings. I also think about how I can contradict myself and how multiple meanings can be conveyed through the things that I choose to create and include.

I have also learnt how to analyse my work and others effectively in this study group. Through the concepts we have discussed I am now able to identify them in pieces of work, allowing me to think of certain materials and forms in a way I had not considered before. I can now analyse a piece of work by picking out concepts and annotations and then backing this analysis up by finding theories from academic writers.

I have learnt about how artists can be cross-disciplinary in order to convey messages, for example as an Illustrator I can use materials in a collage in order to convey concepts or create three-dimensional objects and forms to use within my work.

This study group has made me more aware of the motifs that I can include within my work, and that there is a process of selecting and discarding in which I can specifically select concepts and connotations to include or discard in my work.

The concepts that we have discussed surrounding femininity have allowed me to look at images in a different way, It is now apparent to me how castration anxiety and the phallic woman is a common theme in art and everyday things such as advertising.  

 

My working process has changed since last year, I have taken more time to analyse my chosen images that I used for my most recent essay. I found it easier to start my planning earlier and to repeatedly go back to the analysis with fresh eyes in order to see more within an image. This also enabled me to add more to my analysis by discovering new concepts and ideas through theories which I could see applied to the images I was looking at. To improve upon my last essay I needed to do more independent research into theories that I could use to backup my analysis. I was sort of successful at doing this but I occasionally found this process difficult when looking for quotations from books  which I could use to support my argument. I found some books which related to the topics that I explored didn’t have anything that I could use to support what I was stating in my essay. This wouldn’t have been an issue if I had had more time to do this, but as I only had a few weeks to write my essay this became a problem as the process of looking through books for relevant information was time consuming. I should have also managed my time better as I found it difficult to do this essay and stay on top of my field project work at the same time.

I found the process of planning the essay using the columns analysis just as effective as last time, I find that it helps me to sort my thoughts effectively which then makes it easier to write my analysis is essay form. I think that the idea of looking at the bigger picture when writing a conclusion helped immensely, rather than re-writing what I had already said I was able to talk about my practice and how the meanings and concepts in the images really show how materials and forms can be used to convey meanings.

Constellation has taught me to be more mindful when considering the materials, forms, textures and objects that I want to include within my work as all of these elements have their own connotations and meanings. It has also taught me to question things and to be more inquisitive when looking at a piece of someone else’s work or my own. It has also taught me how new meanings can be created through the juxtapositions of materials and objects and the combinations that can me made from these features.

Constellation Reflection

My reflection on what I have learnt from the constellation module at university.

What I Have Learnt

During this constellation module; Smells Like Teen Spirit, I have learnt many things about analysing work and making connections. I have learnt how to effectively analyse other work, and my own, and use theories from authors and academics to back up my analysis. This has helped me to explain creative decisions within my own work and the contexts behind these decisions. It has also enabled me to understand how messages and ideologies can be conveyed through people’s work and in turn it has enabled me to consider how I could convey messages through my own work. I have learnt how to unpick aspects of my work in order to effectively explain why I have chosen to include certain colours, figures or motifs within my work.

By using different subcultures as mini case studies I have learnt what each subculture can teach and inform me about my own practice. From looking at the gothic subculture I learnt that you can take inspiration from other styles and influences in order to inspire your own practice and that inspiration can come from a range of different mediums. For example many aspects of the gothic style is inspired by gothic literature.

From looking at the hip-hop subculture I have learnt that objects and possessions can be combined to create new meanings and political statements and this can then be applied to my practice. I also learnt that the context in which you use or include objects can create new meanings. I also learnt from this subculture that history and heritage can influence design. For example the inclusion of traditional African clothing within the hip-hop subculture not only brings two cultures together but it is also used as a political statement about African-American history.

From studying the punk subculture I have learnt that my practice can be a way to ask questions about the norm and it can be a way to challenge it. I also learnt about “re-signification” (Clarke, Hall, Jefferson), how objects can be modified or used in a different way to give them a new meaning or function. I also learnt that I shouldn’t be afraid to break the mould when it comes to my practice. For example punks changed the meanings of safety pins when they used them as facial jewellery, as well as changing the meaning of the union jack when they wore it on their clothing or when it was used on posters.

I have also learnt many things from attending the keynote lectures. For example the lecture ‘Teenage Kicks’ taught me that every object has a cultural CV and a cultural biography. It also taught me how meanings can be applied to objects and how connotations of objects can change over time. I also learnt that objects have social lives and that there are stories and culture embedded in them. This has been able to inform my practice as I can now consider this idea that all objects have a cultural biography when including them in my work. Using this information I can convey information just through the use of objects and I have learnt that the context that these objects are in can also change the way that they are interpreted.

I have been able to use what I have learnt from this study group in my own practice, Illustration, as I now consider what I want to convey in my work more carefully and how I an convey it. For example, in my work from last term, The Fake News Machine, I considered the materials I used more carefully as different materials carry different connotations. I also put more consideration into the font I chose for my animation because I wanted it to convey a particular meaning of boldness and prominence. This module has allowed me to become better at communicating ideas and stories through my work which is an important part of illustration. It also encouraged me to question why I was doing certain things which in turn allowed me to explain my creative decisions at the end of the project when I had to present my work.

 

How I Learn

During my first term constellation module; The Body, I found it difficult to use theory to back up my arguments and statements in my first essay. I didn’t know how arguments and statements from authors and academics could be used effectively in my writing to support what I was trying to say. During this second constellation module; Smells Like Teen Spirit, I was presented with an effective way to analyse my work or others and and a way to easily include theories in my analysis to support what I was saying. This technique called ‘Cath’s Columns’ given to us by our lecturer Cath Davies was a simple yet effective way to analyse a piece of work in detail also allowing you to easily include the theory needed to support our arguments. This technique is made up of three columns, in the first column the image you are analysing is described, for example, the colours used and other details of the image and the visual motifs are identified. In the second column the connotations of these motifs are explained. In the third column quotations from books and papers are included that support the connotations that you have linked to the different aspects of the image. This system helped me immensely when analysing my work.

The university experience has developed me as an individual as it has encouraged me to question more when looking at my own and other people’s work, it has also allowed me to expand my way of thinking when considering why I have made certain design decisions within my practice. Constellation has taught me to question things which has made me more inquisitive as an Illustrator. It has also taught me to be more analytical when looking at my own work and others. I have also learnt how important theory is when it comes to my practice and how it can help me to explain my work to others.

Using Interlibrary Loan

For my study group lectures on The Body in Art and Design I had to use interlibrary loan to find a book that interested me and that related to what we are currently studying.

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For the constellation part of my course, the study group I am in , The Body in Art and Design, had to use interlibrary loan to find a book that interested us that related to our study group. The book that I chose was ‘Body Modification’ by Mike Featherstone. I chose this book as I am interested in the different ways that cultures and individuals chose to change and modify their body and the reasons why they decide to make these changes to their bodies.

Bodies and Identity

For this task I had to use books to learn the definition of some words linked to the body, identity and masculinity.

Hegemony – ‘often used to explain the relative stability of capitalist societies, (hegemony) is a mixture of both cultural consensus and political coercion.’ Bryan.S.Turner, The Body and Society 1984.

Heteronormativity- ‘focuses on the mutual constitution and enforcement of normative – or even compulsory – heterosexuality and rigid binary sex / gender orders. Focusing on the power of norms is central to the critique of heteronormativity.’ Maria do Mar Castro Varela, Hegemony and Heteronormativity: Revisiting ‘the Political’ in Queer Politics, 2011.

Binary – ‘some forms of identity, however, are understood to be mutually exclusive, and indeed rely on not being able to be combined. Examples included the binaries of men / women.’ Steph Lawler, Identity: Sociological Perspectives, 2007.

 

Object and Subject

Discussing the body as a subject and how it can become an object through social media and selfies.

The body as a subject is free, it can’t be owned by others so we have control over our own bodies. It can also communicate freely with other bodies, as a subject the body is free to do what it wants when it wants. However through things like social media the body can be seen as an object, for example when a selfie is posted. This happens as the body then becomes the object of observation online and people don’t know what others use their images for. The publisher owns the selfie but others can download it and use it. Selfies are also subject to criticism and scrutiny from others, this criticism is not always posted online so the owner of the selfie may never be aware of it. Selfies are also subject to control from popular culture, people go to great lengths to capture the ‘perfect selfie’ by editing their images using filters or photoshop. Selfies objectify the body through the need to be seen as beautiful and for others to accept and like us.

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Emily Hilditch Selfie 2016 

The Body in Art and Design

The relationship between the body in art and design and my practise, illustration.

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Dr Matteo FARINELLA and Dr Hana ROS – Neurocomic 2013

The body has been depicted through illustration for many years. Illustration has been used to explain the inner workings of the body, for example medical drawings showing how organs work in the body. Life drawing is also used within illustration to accurately depict the body but it can also be about capturing the movement of a person and portraying it on a page. Illustration in comics or books, like the one from the comic Neurocomic above, can also be used to explain how things within the body work in an artistic and simple way.