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RYAN LONG . CRITICAL STUDY


SECTION 1 Through interpreting the course title as a merging of Graphic Design with Graphic Arts, I have decided to explore the blurred and somewhat controversial line that separates these two professions. I will develop an ability to distinguish between Graphic Design and Graphic Arts, and subsequently question the placement of each project I embark upon within the arts. 1. Self-Consumption A critical analysis into the graphic conventions of the work I create through semiotic self-reflection, whilst simultaneously attempting to challenge graphic communication into complete incoherence through the gradual deconstruction of the pragmatic conventions of graphic language. I intend to create a series of books each analytically reviewing its precursor. The semiotic / self-reflective breakdown would, each time, assess the conventions of its predecessor whilst gradually declining in graphic communication; a process applying to both the design and content. This self-conscious deconstruction of communication will attempt to transmutate into an abstract state of incoherence. Prior to this stage of study, I intend on researching and exploring the concepts and practices relevant to the production process of this project proposal. I will research into semiotics and the


techniques of self-reflective critical analysis. I will explore the conventions of pragmatic / traditional design, and the techniques and concepts surrounding design deconstruction. Contrary to graphic belief, the work I intend to create is primarily concerned with self-discovery, as opposed to providing a service (although, what I do learn would aid in this field). There are two ways in which I want my work to impose an influence upon me. The first is my contextual written analysis within each of the books I create. I aspire to gain a greater, more developed outlook on the work I make as the body of books progress. I believe that constant reflection is a healthy process that spurs development, and as development takes place so does the reflection skills. The other influence derives from the graphic communication of the books. I want my series to portray a gradual decline in graphic communication in an attempt to highlight the boundary between the function of graphic design and the abstract impunity of art and design. I also believe that deconstruction is a form of learning that, like my selfreflective analysis, will develop me as a designer, an artist and an individual.


2. Typeface Designing my own typeface is inspired by my handwriting, whilst simultaneously I learn the theory and traditions of type. I want to understand the invisible art that typography possesses in its perfection of function. This project would strengthen my understanding of pragmatic graphic conventions and interject my own typographic communication, as opposed to those of a pre-existing typeface. I intend to use a self-made light box to draw my letterforms and then use computer based programmes to finalise the shapes into a typeface. Through research and tutor guidance, I intend to develop an understanding of typography which I can apply to my design of a typeface concerned with body copy legibility. 3. Extravaganza This project is primarily focused on event organising. For example, my intention is to create an art exhibition which also includes a celebration of the 1,000,051st birthday of art. This exhibition will invite students, via posters dotted around the university, to take part and submit work to be shown. The exhibition will start on the 17th January 2014 and run for four days. The opening day will commence


with a celebration of the extra special birthday of art. January 17th 1963 was the day the Fluxus artist Robert Filliou declared that art was 1,000,000 years old when a sponge was dropped into a bucket of water – prior to this there was no art. Extravaganza will welcome any number of events that evolve organically.

4.

Audience Film Film

This is a short film depicting a ‘cinema’ audience watching a regression of cinema audiences filmed up to point of the final screening which will take at least six months. The intention is to elicit feelings of spatial awareness and paranoia in the spectators present at the time of showing the film. The live screening would be a performance piece in its ability to interact with the audience. This project will entail organising an appropriate venue to screen the final production of a film of an audience watching an audience. It is hoped that this final viewing will include an audience of at least a hundred.


SECTION 2 Review of an exhibition

Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture: 25th July – 20th October 2013, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds Leeds This exhibition explores how objects resist and how they are coerced into becoming sculptures that attain cultural and historic value. Once I had read and admired the typographic wall decal, I was welcomed into the gallery space by Félix González-Torres’s ‘“Untitled” (Placebo)’ (1991). This installation consists of shimmering silver-wrapped sweets placed on the floor; the audience are invited to take one and consume it. However, if someone did not know the conceptual meanings behind this or any of the other exhibits in the gallery they would only be able to outwardly admire and enjoy the mystery of the art at work. I was not able distinguish if the objects and sculptures possessed relationships linked by their concepts, or if the relationship was that they simply contrasted with each other in an attempt to highlight the art gallery’s ability to transform object into art in a gallery context. This is an element each exhibiting artist was aware of and it reminded me of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917). Duchamp was the first artist to introduce this type of art into a formal gallery space. In this exhibition


there was an example by Robert Smithson, ‘Asphalt Lump’ (1969), which in its original environment of a factory it would have been overlooked as a frequent by-product from the industrial process of steel production. A gallery space acts like a hypothetical frame that transforms the spectators’ approach to understanding an object, because what they see is communicated differently and it becomes a piece of art or sculpture. However, I felt as though the gallery failed to explain the relationship between the objects and sculpture. It was not clear whether this was deliberate. I considered the possibility that the objects were juxtaposed to represent an implicit relationship. For example, Félix González-Torres’s ‘“Untitled” (Placebo)’ (1991) is paired alongside Neolithic jade bi discs from 3400-2250BC. Both these items commemorate the dead via concept; the meaning of which is attained from their location - the Neolithic artefacts were found in burial sites and ‘“Untitled” (Placebo)’ uses the gallery to communicate the concept by replenishing the sweets to ensure the sculpture is returned to its original commemorated human body mass. Robert Smithson’s ‘Asphalt Lump’ (1969) became sculpturally ‘manmade’ when the artist decided that this by-product was already a sculpture


and he claimed it as his own work. Like a designer brand, a name gives the object added value by the virtue of the product of a well-known name; if the artist is not recognised then the gallery would instead fulfil this role. Contrasting this are a neighbouring collection of Eoliths which were widely debated in the late 1890s because they were not ‘man-made’ as originally thought but a natural geological process. This juxtaposition implies the fluid instability of a given name in that an object or sculpture’s change of meaning can render its name out of context and even out of date. Hans Haacke’s ‘Grass Cube’ (1967) stands adjacent to an unnamed recently discovered mineral species. It was interesting to note that the nomenclature would be decided during the course of the exhibition. Both these items seem out of place to me because they are both natural and are usually found in their outdoor environment. However, the unnamed mineral is unfamiliar i.e. recently discovered, therefore, it could be viewed or misinterpreted as a sculpture in the gallery context in which it is placed. This shows that the piece of grass in the ‘Grass Cube’ is no longer just a piece of grass, but instead, just like the unnamed mineral, it is viewed as a sculpture i.e. a piece of art. Therefore, it is illustrating the interchangeability of


an object into art and vice-versa. This could be the intention of the exhibition showing that the items on display possess relationships. The hardest space to critically assess was my favourite part of the exhibition, which was the room of Andy Warhol’s ‘Silver Clouds’ (1966). The whole space in which the bloated silver bags floated seemed surreal; it almost felt like stepping into slow motion. This sculptural piece drifted around a display by Steven Claydon, which was designed to protect Roman marble sculptures that were made by unknown authors and sitters, whilst, simultaneously representing gallery and transit storage, and the manner these pieces are observed and interacted with in different contexts. Claydon’s installation represents the changes an object or sculpture undergoes as it passes from storage to the pristine public space of the gallery or museum. In doing so, this installation reaffirms the exhibition’s intention of showing how a gallery interferes with an object’s original communication. When you understand the role of Claydon’s display installation, it is easier to consider a relationship between his work and the surrounding piece by Andy Warhol. The main contrast is that Warhol’s ‘Silver Clouds’ are interactive, whereas Claydon’s display demands the


traditional convention of distant careful observational respect. However, Warhol’s work further challenges this as the ‘clouds’ appear fragile and ethereal yet they are touched and interacted with by gallery visitors. I would like to believe that although the message of the juxtapositions were difficult to attain without prior knowledge of the items on display, it appears to me that the gallery may have selected these items and carefully juxtaposed them to further highlight the fact that a gallery context transforms an object into art; this reaffirms the understanding the exhibiting artists already have. Overall, I have found this method of implicit juxtaposition rather thought provoking, but I do not feel it is as relevant to me as the transformative ability the gallery space possesses in altering the perception of objects. This technique of altering an object communication relates to my study of communication and my attempt to gradually dissolve graphic language. This exhibition has shown me that location is a key factor to consider when attempting to analyse the ways a piece of graphic design communicates.


SECTION 3 My study into the communication of graphic design has naturally led me to the communication of linguistics in design. Writing consists of symbols that can take any form, but its primary focus is to communicate, as, some believe, design should. The juxtaposition of words and layout i.e. the communication of the interplay between the two is the role of the designer, as are the shapes these words form; therefore, text is an element of the design. In my attempt to challenge graphic design conventions, I am subsequently altering the communication of any text in situ with zed design. Everything communicates, and this includes the shapes that form our words; each time I alter design or text I must write, with an analytical semiotic view, how the communication has mutated. “Language and writing are two distinct systems of signs; the second exists for the sole purpose of representing the first.” - Ferdinand De Saussure, (Course in General Linguistics (1916), by Bally.C & Sechehaye. A, cited in Of Grammatology, 1976, p30) The quote is taken from ‘Of Grammatology’ (1976) by Jacques Derrida. The book is a Deconstructivist criticism of grammatology; the study and science of systems of graphic


script. I chose to quote from this book as opposed to its origin: ‘Course in General Linguistics’ (1916), by Bally. C & Sechehaye. A because Derrida’s Post-modernist deconstruction of this set way of thinking, concerning language and writing, represents my project intentions to deconstruct ideological graphic design conventions. Although I have cited Derrida as use of the quote for his connection with Deconstructivism, it is the original meaning of the quote by De Saussure that applies to my work. I interpret this quote as meaning that writing is a product of speech, in that speech is relatively a direct means of verbalising the mind, whereas writing works to visualise the verbal but in doing so possesses its own communication that alters the meaning. In a sense writing is a derivative form of communication, and therefore a representation of my project intentions. Multiple interpretations cloud and distort our understanding of the visual; this quote represents not only my intentions to distort communication but also the need for a semiotic outlook: this epigraph relates to my critical practice in two ways. My first reason for my use of this quote is that De Saussure is the father Semiotician. In my attempt to understand the work I make and the possible communication or languages


that take form throughout my project, I intend on using semiotics. Finally, as opposed to Derrida, I agree that writing obscures language. There is more said concealed within, around and outside of the text than what is written to communicate on one level; this is a shared dilemma in design, and is something I am confronted with in my attempt to gradually mutate graphic communication into the impossible state of complete incoherence. De Saussure has provided the quote that best represents this. As mentioned above, the design in relation to writing alters its original communication because the shapes of our words possess the ability, in our culture, to denotate emotive expression. For example bold or large type appears to shout. Some typefaces possess associations that can alter the meaning of a piece of text; an understanding of the typeface you use should be a consideration in the process of choosing one. The layout of text implies a hierarchy of importance that directs the attention of the reader. The design of the text is as expressive as emotive speech; this led me to my choice of Sixual category: Ways of Drawing Speech. In my exploration of the ways typography attempts to represent emotive and expressive ways in which we speak I discovered Zang Tumb


Tumb by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. This book is an Italian Futurist sound, or concrete poem published in 1914. I see this piece of work to be a great visual representation of speech and sound through the use of typography. The poem is an account of the Battle of Adrianople, which Filippo witnessed as a reporter. The poem uses a technique known as words in freedom, or creative typography, as well as other poetic expressions to express the events of the battle. Although Italian and illegible to me, I chose this design for the expressive use of typography to represent the onomatopoeia in the poem. I feel as though it best represents the ability of design and typography to visualise the auditory. The technique in use in this piece by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti is very much a literal representation of what Ferdinand De Saussure states in my epigraph.


SECTION 4 When in search of a practitioner to interview I considered those that self-reflect, deconstruct or stand by a pragmatic approach to design. Although these specifications limited my choice, I was not concerned if the practitioner was an artists, designer or writer. This did not matter to me as what I wanted to know and study was the theory, beliefs and practice of the individual, and then understand what they do. The practitioner I had chosen to interview was Will Holder a designer, writer and editor based in London. His work takes the form of books, various publications, public performance and writing. In these various formats Will interrogates the relationship between language and the object, exploring how the fixed nature of objects can be destabilised through linguistic interpretation. Holder’s biannual journal FR DAVID, edited with Ann de Meester and Dieter Roelstraete, provides an experimental space in which to discuss these relationships, and in which to explore the use of language in the “service of the visual”. After researching and reading a couple FR DAVID articles I typed up a few questions I could ask Will once I had contacted him. Due to the varied nature of his work I decided that the


best means of acquiring information would be a face to face meeting. I did not want to ask Will set questions for straight forward answers, but instead use my questions as conversational prompts for a more natural discussion about work as opposed to a formal interview. I believe the consideration of your questions’ is important and so is the way in which you ask them; you need your practitioner to feel relaxed and confident with who they are talking to and where their words will end up. I will talk about my work briefly, but aim to ask questions firstly about Will Holder and his work and then ask questions that relate to my projects but tie together elements of what Will does. Some questions included in the talk are as follows: • You are described as a typographer, designer, editor and writer. How do you define your practice? • How do you interrogate the relationship between language and object, and why? • How do you destabilise the fixed nature of objects through linguistics? • In your performance work, what are the intentions of verbalising written text?


• Do you consider writing a form of design? If so, how? • What came first writing or design, and how did you begin to merge the two? • Do you think graphic design can be as self-expressive as art and design? • What is the process involved in making a performance out of publication? On Thursday 5th of November I successfully managed contact Will via email. We eventually organised to meet up on Wednesday 27th November after his talk at Northumbria University. However, despite emailing a few days in advance Will failed to get back to me with the details of the event. On the day of the meeting I did a lot of research and made lots of phone calls but could not gather any information on the talk, I had to call it off. On Thursday 28th November Will got back to me in an apologetic email. We are currently still in correspondence and so far it seems as though we will be meeting sometime in January 2014.


Bibliography Books Ambrose, G & Harris P (2008) Basics Design 07: Grids (2nd Edition), Lausanne, AVA Academia. Brotchie, A (1995) A Book of Surrealist Games, London, Shambhala Publications Inc Davis, M (2012) Graphic Design Theory, London, Thames and Hudson Gossling, W (1970) A Time Chart of Social History, London, Lutterworth Press Lupton, E (1996) Design, Writing, Research: writing on graphic design, New York, Kiosk Newark, Q (2007) What is Graphic Design?, Switzerland, RotoVision. Nunoo-Quarcoo, F (1998) Bruno Monguzzi: A Designers Perspective, New York, Distributed Art Publishers. Thirlwell, A (2012) Kapow, London, Visual Editions. Articles Holder, W ‘Spin Cycle’, F.R. David, Summer 2011, Issue 8 (accessed via Leeds Metropolitan Library Archives) Exhibitions Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture: 25th July – 20th October 2013, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds. It’s a Cut Up: 2013, 23rd July – 12th October 2013, THE Gallery at Flannels, Leeds Television Ways of Seeing, 1979, dir. John Berger & Mike Dibb.



Draft critical study