As an image-maker with a passion for printmaking, colour and texture I have chosen to pursue the imaging pathway with the intention of creating print related outcomes that will develop and display my skills as a multidisciplinary creative.
All I Have groups together the body of work I will be creating for my Final Major Project. It will investigate the value of objects in the 21st Century and question the relevance of consumerism and materialism in modern consumer culture. All I Have explores the theme that the value we hold is measured by what we possess.
Documentary ‘Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer’ (Goldcrest films, 2013) directed and produced by Mike Lerner was my first major inspiration for this project. The Documentary focused on 3 members of the Russian punk group and their journey from protest to prison. I felt really compelled their story and the injustice that they had suffered in their fight to highlight their opposition to the current Russian government and regime. The documentary contained powerful juxtaposing Soviet and Bolshevik propaganda imagery with contemporary political issues and protests; I thought that this inspiring uprising could be a good starting point for creating imagery. During this time I had begun to experiment with various printing techniques and used screenshots from ‘A Punk Prayer’ to create digitally printed fabric and an array of screen prints, focusing on text and graphic imagery, these also worked effectively as a base for further experimentation. Although these experiments were more about testing, I intend to utilise them later in the implementation of the major project
Left: Screenshots from ‘A Punk Prayer’ and examples of print techniques from my sketchbook.
To discover what had inspired and influenced members of Pussy Riot I began to research into Russian and Soviet history. I was especially drawn to Soviet Textiles; prints applied to clothing and used to communicate ideas to a largely illiterate Russian public, anyone wearing them would become a ‘walking billboard’. I felt really excited by this idea that clothing and prints could communicate complex visual messages to a large numbers of people. I became interested in highlighting modern political issues to create my own ‘positive propaganda’ in the form of prints that could be developed and applied to fabric and interior items. However, The more I researched into Russia past and present, the more I realised how detached I was from the world of Pussy Riot and the adversity they faced in many senses. I felt that a project based on such distant and complex political issues could end up being ill informed and I was already starting to feel that I had exhausted some of my found imagery. I decided that I wanted to create something loosely print based with that communicated a message as a starting point incorporating contemporary and personal elements.
Left: Sketchbook pages feauturing examples of prints from Soviet Textiles: Designing the Modern Utopia by Pamela Kachurin.
Adam Curtis’s BBC4 documentary ‘The Century of the Self’ (BBC4, 2002) is a four part series documenting the rise of consumerism in American and the UK, and the key figures (including psychoanalysis and the work of Sigmund Freud and daughter Anna) who created consumerism as a tool to control ‘the masses’. The government engineered methods to link mass produced goods and services to unconscious desires to create ‘A world in which people were reduced to expressing their feelings and identity through mass produced objects’. The documentary also highlighted a new idea; ornamentation over usefulness, a new ideal for the working class masses in the economic boom of the 1920s. This idea really intrigued me and was also in the same vein as my previous research into soviet textiles, with both concepts ultimately aiming to alter behaviour by communicating visual massages to large numbers of people.
Left: Sceenshots from ‘The Century of the Self’. An image depicting brainwashing and a woman overjoyed at the sight of a new car.
Throughout the research process I have referred primarily to artists in terms of inspiration and to mimic their working methods, both to inform me over the next few months and to prepare for when Iâ€™m practicing independently. Initially I focused on two female artists whose working approach I really admire, American Ellen Gallagher (Tate, 2013) who manipulates a range of mediums to explore social history and prolific Brazilian Mira Schendel (Tate, 2013) whose work represents complex philosophical thinking. I chose these two artists based upon their obsessive style of creating high volumes of quality imagery, something I hope to emulate within my own work. Artists who use objects and categorisation as key themes within their work include Mark Dion, Sophie Calle, and Lisa Milroy who use photography, documentation and painting retrospectively. British artist Michael Landy (Ridinghouse, 2008, Illuminations, 2005) was most influential to me in terms of his interest in consumerism and consumer values and his innovative installations which communicate contemporary topics such as 2001 artwork â€˜Breakdownâ€™ in which he cataloged all his 7,227 personal possessions before destroying them all individually. Landy, similarly to Gallagher and Schendel also engages in a daily, obsessive practice that gives a really important, personal element to his work.
Left: Sketchbook pages featuring the work of Mira Schendel, Michael Landy and Ellen Gallagher.
The idea of consumerism and materialism really started to interest me and I wanted to utilise my own behavior and belongings to create artwork that would make people consider and think about why and what they consume. Most people subconsciously demonstrate their value on a daily basis simply by putting on clothes in the morning and getting in to their car. The brands we’re wearing, what we eat for lunch, all our decisions have come to represent us as people. Showing your ‘value’ through objects and consumption is an everyday occurrence for almost everyone. In contrast, some people quite literally carry around their ‘value’ out of necessity; the homeless for example. I thought that this contrast was a strong, contemporary starting point something that applies to a large perecentage of the population or ‘the masses’. This is where the concept of ‘wearing everything you own’ was born, to quite literally be represented by everything you own.
Left: Exploring the value of objects and initial sketches for the ‘All I Have’ concept’
It was at this point that I began to record my own possessions. I began with a white roll of paper and drew around every item on my desk, to create basic depictions. I documented a large selection of objects but was unsure how they could function beyond sketches on white paper. I cut the objects out into paper silhouettes to have some physical representations to play with. I experimented with layering and arrangement. I used basic, utilitarian style clothing as a base for sketches to highlight the contrast between ornament and function. I experimented with making faux garments and used my paper cut outs to envision how the objects could be worn. I experimented with various materials including different papers, fabrics and coloured acetate in a similar vein to Mira Schendel who uses transparency and weights of materials to express different concepts. I plan to develop the idea of categorising the objects somehow, possibly in terms of value, whether that is monetary and personal by using different textures, sizes and colours. In my experiments I used primary colours, basic and childlike, they are one of the first things we learn and are often used for categorisation of objects and data.
Left: Using object representations to experiment with various techniques and materials.
I plan to create two themed outcomes. A record of all my personal possessions inintially in the form of cut out shapes and deveoped using a range of techniques and materials to categorise them. I then plan to apply them to utilitarian style garments, although Iâ€™m intending for the final outcome to be sculptural rather than a functional piece of clothing. A representation of consumption in real time created by recording everything that I consume over a month (or possibly longer) with the intention of creating an original print that could be developed into interior items, such as wallpaper or printed fabric. I feel there could also be some scope for an interactive element at the time of exhibition where viewers are invited to share their consumption habits. I am also planning to document the works in the form of photography and possibly illustration, not only to suggest a multidisciplinary approach but to be able to share my journey and outcomes interactively. The aim of the project isnâ€™t to shame or criticise peopleâ€™s habits, but to highlight a concept that was originally invented to keep us happy and docile almost 100 years ago. How relevant consumerism and materialism in contemporary culture?
Is it all we have?
Art Gallery of New South Wales (2011) YBA, Michael Landy, on his art and practice. http://www. youtube.com/watch?v=tq9HDoDLqkc. [Accessed 13/11/13] Barson, Tanya. (2013) Mira Schendel. London: Tate Publishing. Benson, April Lane. (2004) I shop, therefore I am: compulsive buying and the search for self. Lanham. Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004. Bingham, Juliet, editor. (2013) Ellen Gallagher (AxME). London: Tate Publishing. Burgess, Jean. (2009) YouTube: online video and participatory culture. Cambridge: Polity.
Nava, Mica. (1992) Changing cultures: feminism, youth and consumerism. London: Sage. Petrova, E. A. (2005) Collage in Russia: XX century. St Petersberg: Palace Editions. Ridinghouse. (2008) Micheal Landy: everything must go! London: Ridinghouse. Snickars, Pelle. (2009) The YouTube reader. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden. Soviet Propaganda: Capitalist Sharks and Communism's shining future [videorecording] (2007) Odeon Entertainment.
Calle, Sophie. (2003) Sophie Calle: m'as-tu vue. Munich; London: Prestel.
Tasamin, Doe. (2013) The print revolution: groundbreaking textile design in the digital age. London: Goodman.
Coldwell, Paul. (2010) Printmaking: A conemporary perspective.London: Blackdog Publishing.
Tate Modern Gallery. (2013) Ellen Gallaher [AxME]. London: Tate Modern.
Corrin, Lisa G. (1997) Mark Dion. London: Phaidon.
Tate Modern Gallery. (2013) Mira Schendel. London: Tate Modern.
Curtis, Adam. (2002) The Century of the Self. [Videorecording] BBC Four. 240 minutes
The Saatchi Gallery. (2013) Paper. London: Saatchi Gallery.
Fick, Bill / Grabowski, Beth. (2009) Printmaking: A comlete guide to materials and processes. London: Laurence King.
Tufte, Edward R. (1900) Envisioning information. Cheshire, Conn: Graphics Press.
Grosenick, Uta. (2003) Women artists in the 20th and 21st century. Koln; London: Taschen. IllunitationsTV (2008) Micheal Landy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hYUnkW4sNA [Accessed 13/11/13] Kachurin, Pamela Jill. (2006) Soviet textiles: designing the modern utopia. Aldershot: Lund Humphries. Landy, Micheal. (2005) Michael Landy [videorecording] Illuminations. 26 minutes. Lerner, Mike (2013) Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. Russia/UK: Goldcrest Films International (US: HBO Documentary Films) Lima, Manuel. (2011) Visual complexity: mapping patterns of information. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Milroy, Lisa. (2001) Lisa Milroy. London: Tate Publishing. Molon, Dominic. (2000) Gillian Wearing: mass observation. London: Merrell.
Virtual revolution [videorecording] : the great levelling? [20.01.10]; enemy of the state? [[06.02.10]; the cost of free [13.02.10]; homo interneticus? [20.02.10] (2010) London: Open University. Wing, Frances. (2001) The complete book of decoupage. London: Pitman