Context of Practice 1 Evaluation

Context of Practice was a module that I was really looking forward to. The history of art and design is very important to me and is something that I have always been interested in. The lectures we got throughout the year were fascinating and introduced me to some artists that I previously knew nothing about. I would actually have liked to have more lectures like this as I enjoyed them so much.

I found the public art task difficult to get into at first. Even though I really enjoyed the workshops we had with David there was something about the actual work itself that I couldn’t get into. I think the issue may have been how the emphasis was on treating it as if it was a live brief even though it wasn’t. Although I managed to come up with a few fairly good starting points for ideas, I found it very difficult to develop any of them further. I know that this is a weakness of mine as I worry too much and don’t just try things out which I hope to combat next year. I will do this by exploring more of my ideas and not worrying about making mistakes.

Despite a few issues, once I decided upon my installation I enjoyed creating the visuals and writing the statements. Writing is a strong point of mine so I wasn’t very worried about that side however using computer software is definitely a weakness. However, I persevered and did the best I could with my limited image-manipulation skills. I am going to practice with the computer software over the summer to try and improve my knowledge and understanding of the programs.

I enjoyed writing the essay for this module. I got so many books from the library and did a lot of research to make sure I knew what I was talking about. However, this did not stop me from struggling to write a total of 3000 words. The word count is the largest I have ever aimed for when writing an essay and it did not come extremely easily. My expertise definitely lies in writing shorter essays. Even so, the research process and choosing a topic of my choice made the essay component interesting and kind of enjoyable.

The essay caused me to appreciate the way that art can be used so strongly to evoke emotion and change opinions. Visual Communication, as a course, holds this ethos so highly and researching art that aims to critique society just like we aim to do was inspiring.

Public Art

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Contextual Statement:

Leeds as a city has so much to offer to its residents and the many visitors that pass through. Millennium Square sits in the heart of the busy town centre, surrounded by some of Leeds oldest and most famous buildings. The square was opened in 2000, as part of the flagship project to mark the millennium. In the 14 years since it opened, it has been host to Christmas markets, sports screenings, live performances and various concerts to name but a few events. It provides the city centre with an outdoor space to set up events, which is often quite invaluable for a bustling city such as Leeds.

The square is a thoroughfare used by thousands of people each day. Many people who pass through are people going to or from work, others are students attending the nearby colleges and universities, others are families visiting the museums and galleries. It is a hub of movement and also a meeting place for many of the city’s residents.  When examining the site and taking various photographs, I noticed a pattern in the movement of people. Most people walk directly across the square, neither stopping nor looking around at what is going on around them. Also, no matter what time of the day, the main route across the square seemed to be from the Northwest corner down to the Southeast, this is the direction that would lead people further into the town centre, towards the shops and the transport lines.

After looking at my findings, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to create something that would somehow make people stop and pay attention, and hopefully for them to realise how amazing Leeds is and how much it has to offer. After coming up with various ideas, I decided to create a ‘vending machine of surprises’. The concept is exactly the same as a normal vending machine but the customer would simply put a small donation into the machine and receive a voucher for some kind of Leeds related experience back. This would be in the form of a golden ticket which would have various gifts on them. These could be money off in local Leeds stores, vouchers for meals at Leeds based restaurants or a day out at a local attraction. This would benefit both the recipient of the voucher and also the local businesses it would help them to gain a wider customer base, boosting the local economy through the extra money spent by the customers.

I decided to place the golden ticket vending machine near to the busiest area of the square. This means that the more people would be likely to stop and use the machine, and so more likely to receive a gift card for their local area. The machine could be a permanent fixture in the square, with the occasional visit from a maintenance team member who would restock it and also take out all donations. The donations would then be put back into the Leeds community through charity donations. The option to pay whatever you want means that poorer members of the community are not excluded from participating.

 

 

Artist’s Statement:

As an artist, I am very interested in public art, community art and projects that thoroughly engage with people in any way. As well as engaging with the community, projects that enable and benefit the community inspire me more than anything. In my opinion art should not be an elitist part of culture; it should embody the local culture.

Creating an accessible-to-all vending machine will help poorer members of the community make the most of their city and will also give businesses a platform to advertise, gain more customers and create awareness of their services.  All of these elements allow for everyone who participates to benefit from the project which is amazing. Leeds can be proud of the installation as it shows just what they have to offer and allows anyone to get involved.

The installation will cause people to stop and think which is also what I believe art should cause people to do. I am increasingly concerned with the way society is so disengaged with what is going on around them. Hopefully, this will cause them to stop and engage with each other while using the machine and then it will give them the opportunity to have a valuable experience within their local community.

 

Notes for Final COP Essay 2

a)    relevant social, cultural and historical contexts

b)    form of the artefact in terms of shape, line, materials, texture, volume, weight etc.

c)    purpose and functions of the artefact

d)    target and/or potential audience, and their social status

e)    past and present significance

 

Don’t Buy It by Kimberly Cross

Anti-Iraq war poster, 2003.

Came as part of the surge in less famous designers creating anti-war artwork in their homes, was on Cross’ website anotherposterforpeace.com where all material is available to download for free and are all copy-right free. Project gained momentum and more mainstream and experienced designers got involved.

After all, the Pentagon and the White House know how to market to the masses, so why shouldn’t the same slick tactics and polished imagery be used against them? “They’re using branding as a way of promoting their war agenda,” Cross says. “I thought, ‘I know how to do this. Let’s beat them at their own game. Let’s make peace the new black.’ ” Culture Shocked, San Fransisco Bay Guardian.

Target audience are mainstream people so no profane language used in posters.

 

Daddy, what did you do in the Great War? By Savile Lumley

From 1915, “During the First World War the majority of British Army recruitment posters were conceived not by government officials but by printing companies. Adept at commercial advertising they applied the same persuasive skills to army recruitment. This now notorious poster was published in 1915 by the London printers Johnson Riddle & Co. It arose from the director Arthur Gunn’s own feelings of guilt at having not volunteered himself. Seeing the persuasive potential of a child’s awkward questions to a shirking father in peacetime, Gunn commissioned a poster picturing such a scene. Although Gunn joined the Westminster Volunteers shortly after the poster’s publication, the poster became the source of much bitter trench humour on the Western Front. Such was the resentment towards it in post-war Britain that its creator, Savile Lumley, a children’s book illustrator, is said to have disowned it.”

Before conscription so recruitment posters were vital.

“tone of emotional blackmail” V&A collections website.

Colour lithograph on paper.

Parliamentary Recruiting Committee were the publishers.

Text embedded in image – necessary to portray point/aim of poster.

Very personal message, targeting potential soldiers.

Become infamous.

 

Eddie Adam’s Saigon Execution

Vietnam War: 1956 – 1975, between communist North Vietnam and government of Southern Vietnam. South was supported by anti-communist USA.

The photograph shows a uniformed South Vietnamese soldier, Major General Ngoc Loan, shooting a prisoner in the head.

35mm lens camera, black and white.

1st February, 1968.

It seems as though a brutal and savage crime is being committed against a civilian and so was used as anti- war propaganda.

This man’s name was Nguyen Van Lem, but he was also known as Captain Bay Lop. He was an assassin and a member of the Viet Cong (North Vietnam forces), and leader of the Viet Cong Death Squad. He had been targeting and killing South Vietnamese National Police officers and their families.

He was caught at a mass grave of around 34 men, women and children.

Photographer says he wish he hadn’t taken the photograph as he “killed the general” with his camera. “Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths.”

Played vital role in changing perspectives of US war involvement and played small part in ending the war.

It won the Pulitzer Prize for spot photography.

Photographer worked for Associated Press and had no idea how much of an impact it would have.

Appears to be a grainy action shot, seems extremely authentic and leaves you in no doubt of what is happening.

The target audience of Associated Press would have been Americans, however photograph was used by anti-war Americans and also the Northern Vietnamese troops to show brutality.

 

Bibliography:

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2013/03/the-story-behind-the-man-who-was-killed-in-the-famous-saigon-execution-photo/

http://www.cah.utexas.edu/db/dmr/gallery_lg.php?s=3&gallery=eddie_adams

http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O74621/daddy-what-did-you-do-poster-lumley-savile/

http://www.sfbg.com/37/31/x_culture_shocked.html

The Times, April 2014.

Triangulation Task – First Things First Manifesto

First Things First was a manifesto created in 1964 by Ken Garland, a British graphic designer. During a meeting of the Society of Industrial Artists in January of that year, Garland, also a photographer, writer and educator, asked to read out the manifesto he had come up with, hoping to change the outlook of designers worldwide. In Looking Closer, Bierut calls the manifesto “a plea for a shift in designers’ priorities” (1999, p154). Garland hoped that designers would reassess the commercial work that they do and put more of their valuable time into pro bono work. Garland was countering the consumerist culture that had been established during the 1960s through Britain becoming more wealthy and affluent. His call to arms managed to gain 21 signatures from his colleagues and fellow designers. In 2000, almost 40 years after the initial publishing of the manifesto, Adbusters (a Canadian magazine) republished the manifesto. 33 signatures were gained from designers who agreed with the original sentiments of the manifesto and who also felt that the issues Garland had discussed had gained significant relevance in today’s society.

An important issue regarding both the 1964 and 2000 publishing is how necessary the manifesto was. In 1964, Britain was flourishing economically and so people were generally living more luxurious and consumerist lifestyles. This meant that advertising campaigns were battling to grab the attention of everyday shoppers through bill board signs, newspaper magazines and, as televisions became widely available, televised adverts and promotions. With newspapers, magazines and the product packaging itself being the main ways messages were put across, graphic designers were being snapped up to create the most eye catching adverts possible. In 2000, society had become even more materialistic and so the re-issue of the manifesto had become ever more necessary to make designers realise that in the advanced era we are in, money should not be the ultimate goal when there are so many other issues to address and promote. It is possible that the manifesto is even more relevant for the more recent societies who are subconsciously affected by advertising almost every minute of their day. In Looking Closer 4, Rick Poyner states that the situation is ‘incalculably more extreme’ than 50 years ago as so many designers ‘are engaged in nothing less than the manufacture of contemporary reality’ (1999, p6). As an extreme a statement that is, it is impossible to deny that advertising surrounds our every movement and so it can be fair to say that more time could be spent carrying out non-profit, charitable work without the advertising agencies falling to their knees.

Another important issue is the advancement of technology since the first issue of the manifesto. In 1964, technology was starting to take off for mass-production however it was nowhere near the scale that it was at in 2000. Mass-produced consumer goods were becoming increasingly available and popular but the capability for fast, widely-distributed advertising was not anywhere near to the level the recent millennium has seen. Computers and lightning-fast software have allowed graphic designers to be able to create effective work in minutes, with seemingly no increase in the amount of pro bono work carried out. This is another reason that the 2000 re-issue of the manifesto was so relevant.

The 1964 publishing came at a very important time in the world of design. Design had only recently begun to be seen as ‘a confident, professionalized activity’, meaning that it was now a more than acceptable career path and was a respected profession. This is one of the reasons why it is such a shame that the manifesto did not cause more of a shake up amongst the new brigade of creatives. The manifesto was intended to change not only their mind-set, but also their actions which it did not seem to do.

However, this is where another issue arises: how is it possible to judge to successes and pitfalls of each publishing of the manifesto? There is no certain way to judge how many people read the article and were prompted into giving a portion of their time to pro bono work, especially not when it comes to smaller, unknown designers. Although the advertising industry was not negatively affected, there is no definitive evidence that more designers did not pick up their pens or go to their computers and help a local charity or advertise a charitable auction for example.

The manifesto also seems to focus heavily upon what each designer should not be doing and work they should be avoiding rather than giving ideas and specific, helpful guidance on issues which they could spend their time addressing. Garland advises designers to ignore the ‘high-pitched scream of consumer selling’ (1999, p154) but there is little to help them gain understanding of what is classed as work with a positive social outcome.

It is impossible to disagree with the idea that people should do things to help society and not conform to the consumer society, however, society would not function in the same manner if designers were not willing to work for advertising agencies. Advertising may often be a tempting image of an overpriced, inessential product, but, it frequently advertises things that are not essentials but may be extremely important. Another possibility is that an advert could be for a cheaper alternative to a household product, which would thus give the poorest of society the chance to save money on goods. Although ‘detergent, hair restorer, striped toothpaste, aftershave lotion… pull-ons and slip-ons’ are not necessities in life, they do make many people’s lives slightly better or easier.

One of the main issues with the manifesto is that it expects designers to have to comfort, luxury and financial stability to be able to pick and choose the work that they accept. Consumer advertising is often well-paid and provides job stability so that designers can afford to live. Charitable work is more often than not expected to be done for little to no money as the charities aim to make as much revenue from a campaign. Although there will usually always be a graphic designer ready to accept the occasional unpaid job to boost their CV, many designers cannot choose to work for free when rent and bills need to be paid. This brings up another point surrounding both manifestoes: they were both signed by very middle-class designers. It would have been possible for them to take time out for unpaid work and it could be argued that the manifestoes seem elitist and shun the lower classes of designers.

Although both issues of the manifesto were created with the best intentions of changing the way society and designers work, it seems as though neither had a very large impact on the way they think and approach projects. Although social design is becoming an increasingly popular field of design, the advertising world still seems to be thriving, despite Ken Garland and the original 21 signatories’ efforts.

 

Bibliography:

Bierut, M. (1999). Looking Closer 3: Classic Writings on Graphic Design, New York: Allworth Press

Bierut, M., Drenttel, W., and Heller, S. (eds.) (2002), Looking Closer 4: Critical Writings on Graphic Design, New York: Allworth Press

Bierut, M. (2007), Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design, New York: Princeton Architectural Press

Notes for Final COP Essay 1

Compare and contrast two or more examples where visual communication has been used to critique society or effect social change

  • Art and Politics, Claudia Mesch:

‘This art is explicit in its combative stance, or in its tone of political dissent, and does not shrink from making direct reference to the social problems and issues that are unique to the postwar era.’ – Page 1.

‘In its broadest sense political art seeks two things: to comment on, and also to elicit a reaction to, an issue or development that is of current concern to a social group in the decision-making process that is politics.’ – Page 12.

‘Socialist realism had, as a goal, the depiction of the revolutionary advancement and victory of the industrial and rural working class…’ – Page 16.

‘According to Zhdanov it is the duty of art to reveal, through an easily understandable depiction of everyday reality, evidence of the steady progress of the working class to a position of social and economic power.’ – Page 16.

*** Eddie Adam’s Saigon Execution – Page 85…***

 

  • Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek

Responding to meaning in art – page 6. Guernica reference.

The way we comprehend and appreciate the ‘rightness’ of art and design depends upon the ‘meaning with which we invest’

“Design must be meaningful. And “meaningful” replaces such semantically loaded expressions as “beautiful,” “ugly,” “cute,” “disgusting,” “glamorous,” “realistic,” “obscure,” “abstract,” and “nice,” labels convenient to a bankrupt mind when confronted by Picasso’s “Guernica,” Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater,” Beethoven’s “Eroica,” Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps,” Joyce’s “Finnegan’s Wake”. In all of these we respond to that which has meaning.” – Page 6.

 

  • Peace Signs: The Anti-War Movement Illustrated by James Mann

Foreword – page 4.

Anti-war art can be “sobering, sometimes frightening, often hilarious.” – Page 4.

“But those images can wake us up, can cause us to think, to feel, and hopefully to act.” – Page 4.

“The artist in opposition to war has taken a moral stand and has acted as a global citizen – one who is concerned with the human rights of all people and the lives of all soldiers.” – Page 5.

Before camera invention (pre 1837), war was depicted through paintings, which can capture scenes in some way  but never showed the realities, feeling/emotions of victims and tragic atrocities that a photograph captures in that split second the shutter opens and closes. War was depicted as “heroic and honourable” by artists who were commissioned by those in power – page 5.

War art can also be used to “dehumanize and demonize the enemy”, depicting enemy soldiers as “monsters, thieves or rapists”.

Some nations in the past have “employed drastic forms of state censorship using art as a means to convey an illusion, a version of society that was far from reality.” “Socialist realism was ushered in by Joseph Stalin in Russia” He also “outlawed abstract art and individual expression by artists”, instead they were to “portray the official party doctrine through paintings and monumental sculptures” – Page 6.

Iraq War of 2003. Anti-war graphics were “more prevalent than ever”. “The reasons are complex and have a lot to do with access to technology, an unpopular war and world opinion against the only remaining super power.” Page 6.

“With the influx of computer design programs, scanners and photocopy machines, nearly any person with an idea could create a thought-provoking visual statement.” Page 6.

“Instead of relying on a handful of well-known political artists, an inclusive mass movement was born.”

Copy-right free graphics sped up distribution. “copyleft” – anyone can use image for free as long as iy’s not for profit.

Bypassed galleries and museums, message and speed of delivery to audience was more important than profit.

Colours – red and black = danger, death, blood, oil, anti-capitalism. Bright colours used ironically. Monochrome used as cheap and easily reproduced.

***Possible idea – NO WAR! By Alan Hughes. Baghdad war, Page 61***

***Possible idea – Untitled by Luis Miguel Munilla. Page 62***

***Possible idea – Don’t Buy It by Kimberly Cross. Page 77***

“other posters encourage consumer boycotts” – Page 52.

“these images imply a relationship between war and the products of first world consumer society and ask people to break their daily routines and take a stand against military injustice” – Page 52.

 

  • System Error: war is a force that gives us meaning curated by Lorenzo Fusi and Naeem Mohaiemen.

Makes the point that Iraq war, for Americans and Britons, is an “overseas career choice”, there is no conscription and only reason to go there is by signing up to do so. Therefore the everyday person does not necessarily experience the war in anyway (apart from loved ones going to fight etc). So realities of war must be brought to them. Page 52.

 

  • Art and Social Change edited by Will Bradley and Charles Esche.

“the role of photographic ‘truth’ has been successfully questioned to the point where nobody really believes anything they see” page 415. From Time Capsule by Lucy R. Lippard.

 

  • Art and War by Laura Brandon.

“television had taken the war into living rooms in most countries…” – page 1.

 “’War art’ means art shaped by war… war inspires permanent and impermanent art that may be propaganda, memorial, protest, and/or record.” – page 3.

“The idea that the meaning a viewer derives from a work is as much about his or her reaction to the piece as about the work itself is appropriate for war art.” – page 5/6.

Discussion of sensationalising some scenes and events, the artist may have experienced war but has then left the war zone and returned home to create art which could then be exaggerated, questions validity.

“The United Kingdom’s Foreign Office initiated the national war art scheme in late August 1914, when it set up a secret government department known as Wellington House to manage and disseminate British propaganda” – page 39.

Photography not widely used in WWI as heavy equipment and long exposure times prevent action shots, painters were generally far from the action, paintings showing injured/killed soldiers were generally forbidden or censored.

Throughout Vietnam war, “Artists increasingly protested against war rather than accepting commissions lauding the successes of conflict – a trend that started in 1964 with the War Artists and Writers Protest Group opposing the Vietnam War.” – page 78.

US military forces sent artists to cover war but in traditional and documentary styles.

 

  • General Points:

Some artists subconsciously create political art or art with a message whereas others actively pursue a strong message within their work.

Voiced sharp criticism.

Dada movement formed in response to atrocities of WWI, opposed militarism, nationalism and colonialism.

Technology, mainly the internet, has revolutionised role of artists, anyone can produce a piece of art, originally or using existing pieces, and distribute it so much more quickly by simply posting it on the internet.

‘oppositional art’

One of few genres of art that is very accessible as war art is just as likely to be created by an anonymous protester as it is a famous artist.

***Daddy, what did you do in the Great War? By Savile Lumley***

Public Art Brief

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As part of my Context of Practice module, I have been asked to create a proposal for a piece of public art that would be situated in Millennium Square in Leeds city centre. The piece must fall into one of these categories:  permanent art, temporary art or an event/performance. It also must somehow provoke thought. Luckily, costing is limited however if we do choose to create an expensive piece then the cost must be justified.

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After visiting the site and observing the people and surroundings I came up with a few initial ideas. Most of my ideas related the fact that so many use Millennium Square as a thoroughfare but hardly any stop, or even look around or away from their destination.

My first idea was a piece that would somehow document footsteps across the square; this could be a temporary piece such as a giant sand pit or a more permanent piece such as a concrete cast or metal cut out footsteps set into the floor. This could show the footfall over an hour, day, week, etc and could have names stamped/cast into the footsteps of the person.

Another idea was to somehow document people’s journeys to or from the square. For example, screens could be placed around the square and people could send videos or photos of them coming from their homes/going to their destinations which could be shown around the square. I think that this would have to be a temporary piece as it would be expensive for the screens and also someone to curate/control the content of them. It would also rely heavily on audience interaction and this could lead to a less successful project if people did not engage well. It would also alienate those without access to cameras/smartphones or the internet.

I also had the idea to create a large sculpture in the centre of the square as there are sculptures and trees around the edge but nothing in the centre. I came up with the idea of a large, metal message tree which would have branches which hung low enough for people somehow to attach notes and message to them. The health and safety restrictions for this would probably cause the sculpture to be different to how I imagined it. Also, it would have to be temporary as the square is often used for markets, fairs and other public events which need the entire space.

Another idea was a vending machine of surprises. The concept would be that local business, companies and organisations would donate ‘surprises’ such as local gig tickets, vouchers for transport, a meal at a restaurant and other tickets/vouchers for ‘local experiences’. These would then be placed into the vending machine and people would give a donation and then be allowed to select a random ‘surprise’. This would promote local businesses and would give underprivileged families the chance to have cheap days out. In addition, the money donated could be put back into the local community and local charities. The maintenance of this project could be expensive and would take a lot of involvement with local businesses who may or may not wish to participate. Also, I was unsure whether I have stepped away from the ‘public art’ theme and more into the ‘public engagement’ field.

Another idea which I have decided to research more into and develop is an ‘impossible maze’. I am beginning to do research into whether the ‘maze’ could be in the typical form of a labyrinth or whether I could other ways to distract people from their direct route across the square.

Alec Dudson of Intern Magazine


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On 16th January, I attended a talk and Q&A session at Village bookstore, with Alec Dudson, the founder of Intern Magazine. He gave an amazingly interesting presentation about his experiences setting up an independent magazine and his journey from leaving university to his current situation surrounding the magazine. His ethos is all about how any level of intern should be paid for their work; whether that be a contribution or some of their time and expertise. This is currently a very controversial topic as many argue whether young talent should be paid for everything they do or whether they should be appreciative of the opportunity for exposure or experience.

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His lecture was really inspiring as he has created his magazine from absolutely nothing, using hard work, determination and also the online platform Kickstarter to raise the funds necessary for the first issue. Kickstarter is a great way for otherwise unknown enterprises to gain the backing they need to get on their feet. They created a video to go alongside their campaign to help to show possible funders what the project is all about.

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It was motivating to hear someone so young to be so successful and to have had so many opportunities to further his knowledge and experience since university. His insight into publishing and media has really made me consider whether this should be the path I go down in the future. I learnt a lot from the talk, especially how much you can achieve if you are really passionate about something and put your mind to it.