Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Lecture reflection: Message Delivered
I this weeks lecture Sussana was in conversation with Sam Winston. Something that stood out to me from the lecture was Sam mentioning that you shouldn't always go into creating something with a preconceived idea of how you want the outcome to be. He says that by doing this your limiting your experience and potentially not doing the brief justice. There is, of course, a huge element of vulnerability in doing this as you don't have the safety net of kind of knowing what the outcome will be and therefore being more specific on what experience you'll have. The possibilities become endless and we enter the unknown. Susanna makes a reference back to Kenya Hara and how we like to make the unknown, known, yet it's what we don't know that excites us. Sam also mentions how there are elements of trust and fear within this process, trusting yourself that by doing this you're going to create something original and unique to the brief yet fearful that you won't!
In the reading, ' A smile in the mind; witty thinking in graphic design,' it describes how various designers encounter their ideas. Phil Carter talks of how ideas come to him when he's about to sleep and Mary Lewis almost echos this as she says she is at her best when she is 'tired and perhaps a bit cross.' I can definitely relate to Phil Carter with ideas shooting around my mind at a time when I'm ready to nod off. There have been numerous occasions where I tell myself I remember it in the morning, but seldom do, so a notebook sits not too far from my bedside to avoid this. However, this relates to what Sam is saying as it's about letting the idea come to you instead of forcing it.
Even though this approach seems pretty loose, Sam mentions how there is a process. Firstly, he describes the process in how you digest the information around you, which could be through looking, listening, touching, or a combination of all senses. Secondly, to look at the materials that are used within that environment, are there a lot of brick buildings? Metal? And how can these materials be incorporated within the design. Thirdly, is to look at language. Sam uses The Embankment in London as an example and how many of the signs are catered to Easterns tourists. This could also be the spoken language, dialect as well as body language, a persons body language in the city is probably a little tenser that someone in the country for example. Finally, the design, how everything is tied together.
I like Sam's use of material (below) in he has used one pencil to create a collage.
He explains,"This is the beginnings of a process looking at the materiality of the objects that inform artistic practice. By literally exploding, dissolving and collaging broken down artists tools we reveal their history and legacy. Whether the pencil graphite is from mines in China or the New Mexican cotton farms that make rag made paper - each artwork is a testimony to a globalized economy and the unseen geography of the tools by which we make art. “
Another point Sam touched upon which interested me was to look at layering. He mentions how London has multiple layers from generations of people living within the city. He says that through this there's a unique contrast of cultures. The example that he draws upon is having a bubble tea shop next to a pawn shop.
Within the lecture, Sam mentioned about leaving some elements of design to the audience's imagination. He spoke of a poem within a book that would be bound at both sides, meaning that if you wanted to read it you'd have to break it open in some way, or, you could let your knowledge of the poet imagine the poem. I wanted to create something similar by allowing the audience to experience my current location through either a visual, which is sealed and attached to the incense or through smell and feel by lighting the incense with the picture attached. This way I'm leaving which sense the audience wants to experience my emotion up to them. Either visually or through smell and feel. This is almost an experiment as I'm genuinely interested in the options people will choose. As most people are currently in lockdown I feel that there would be a yearning to experience something through smell and touch rather than visual. Visual stimulation is in abundance with the internet, Netflix, round the clock television. In fact, according to Business of Apps, there are currently 110 million Instagram US users, 70 million in Brazil, and 69 million in India, as well as this, Instagrammers under the age of 25 spend 32 minutes per day on the platform; those older spend 24 minutes, according to Facebook. These numbers will only continue to rise during the lockdown. With this in mind, I could just leave out the visual part and make it a statement that we're almost restricting our use of our senses but I want the audience to question this themselves. From a photographers perspective, I get caught up on how an experience is visually rather than anything else but I miss out on such much more with this.
I was inspired by Anthony Burrill (again) in the webinar and the 'No Safe Place' campaign he worked on. He used charcoal from the bushfires in Australia to make an ink which was then used to create limited edition prints with the money raised benefiting those effected. I like the idea of using actual material from the subject/topic your message is derived from.
Image (above): https://anthonyburrill.com/showcase/no-safe-place/
As well as this was Arnold Shwartzman's poster for the 1984 Olympics where he used track cyclists placed in such a way that their wheels made up the Olympic Rings. I love the subtleness of this and he even describes how it often took people a second look to realise the rings symbolised through the bicycle wheels.
Image (above): https://fi.pinterest.com/pin/45387908729888093/
George Poole (1915-2000)
Although there's little information on George Poole I did find that he was an artist and socialist who painted welsh miners. He often used coal from the mines within his paintings.
I was also reminded of some sculptures I had seen at the Eden project in Cornwall a couple of years ago where discarded objects were used to to reflect the damaging effect human consumption has on the environment. The image below is of a sculpture titled 'Wee Man' and reflects the amount of electrical waste the average household develops over a lifetime.
Using materials in a way which they possibly weren't previously intended also reminded me of Daniel Eatock's work in which marker pens are placed on the base with paper placed carefully on their nibs and left for a number of hours. The time in which their left has varied results.
Images (above): https://eatock.com/projects/pen-prints/
I mentioned Studio Sutherl& in the previous post but thought it was fitting here too as the campaign was for Extinction Rebellion and to promote the awareness of the extinction of animals. The prints were on recycled paper which is a simple yet key aspect of the narrative of which they're communicating. The medium is the message.
There are a lot of cultural differences in Taiwan compared to home in the UK, to list them all would take time but the ones that stand out are, firstly, the heavy smell of incense sticks usually surrounding the many temples that are often within a stone's throw from each other, the smoke from the incense almost connects them. Secondly, the colour red, it's a lucky colour in Taiwanese culture. At night you can see red lights glaring from a single room in houses as most people have a small temple within their houses. Thirdly, is the heat and smoke that bellows from small fires as people burn fake money for the gods outside their houses, shops and businesses at various times through the month. I wanted o to tie these materials together to reflect my emotion of warmth, as I don't just feel this literally from the fires, but symbolically through the colour red and sensually through the incense.
Images (below): taken (by me) Charles Howe
I used materials from my surroundings that together make the emotion I experienced.
Fake money (which is burnt for the Gods)
I drew a picture on the fake money which I also hope conveys my emotion, however, the picture is attached to the incense stick with wax from the candle. You can either unseal the picture to look at my emotion or you can leave it attached and burn the incense with the picture attached to feel and smell the emotion. You can only choose one way to experience it!
With the drawing I wanted to convey the warmth and glow of the temple. I attempted this drawing a few times.
I also tried different variations of the drawing. Below, I wanted to look at layering as in the lecture Sam mentioned the multiple layers that had been cast over London from the many generations that had lived there. I used candle wax to create the lanterns and the fake money to begin building the layers.
I created a quadriptych of images of the materials I used and in the bottom right corner is my finished piece. The incense stick with my drawing attached can either be burnt (smelled and felt) or opened (and looked at) but only one option is available.
For this challenge I was really inspired by the lecture and listening to some of Sam's projects and ideas. I think it's extremely important for a graphic designer to step out of the conventional and persue other paths of communicating. I was particularly driven by Sam's comment in the lecture about stepping into a space with no preconceived conceptions on what you want to achieve, or the medium in which you want your message to be communicated. Before I began to engage with any of the material for this week I had my mind set on using photography, however, I went with Sam's advice and left my cameras at home. There was a magical essence I felt on the evening I went around my city and wanted to capture that, exactly. I wanted my audience to feel a warm red glow on their faces and to smell a combination of smoke and incense, as to me, this is new and unique to Taiwan. By giving the audience a choice to see or feel and smell my emotion and experience was a nice way to combine the materials together and present the question of how do we really experience something. Instagram and social media allows us to share experiences with others (visually) but isn't the true essence of an experience reliant on so much more? Indeed it is, so to say we've experienced something by holding up a picture, is true and clear, but there's so much more missing and not being communicated.
I felt that the positive feedback from my challenge suggested it was a success!
Burrill, A. (n.d.). Anthony Burrill. [online] Anthony Burrill. Available at: https://anthonyburrill.com/showcase/no-safe-place/.
IQBAL, M. (2018). Instagram Revenue and Usage Statistics (2018). [online] Business of Apps. Available at: https://www.businessofapps.com/data/instagram-statistics/.
Mcalhone, B., Stuart, D., Quinton, G. and Asbury, N. (2016). A smile in the mind : witty thinking in graphic design. London ; New York Ny: Phaidon Press Ltd.
www.samwinston.com. (n.d.). Sam Winston - pencil drawing —. [online] Available at: https://www.samwinston.com/artworks/pencil-drawing [Accessed 7 Dec. 2020].