Updated: Dec 12, 2020
Lecture Reflection: Noticing the Ignored
I was intrigued by The Girl Chewing Gum film within the lecture. The Girl Chewing Gum 1976 is a 16 mm black and white film with sound by the British artist John Smith. The film consists of two camera shots. The first occupies the major portion of the film and is located at an intersection near a cinema in Hackney, London. People walk through this scene and cars drive past while a voiceover of the artist appears to provide directions for the movements of people, as well as those of pigeons and a clock’s hands. The second, much shorter shot shows a piece of open ground, Letchmore Heath, marked by overhead electrical pylons. At this point the voiceover track reveals that the artist is actually located there, some fifteen miles away from the street scene, and is thus, like the viewer, unable to see what is being directed first hand. The film neither glorifies nor dramatises the street scene; instead it records the everyday actions objectively, from a camera mounted on a tripod.
This film reminded me of the Truman Show a 1998 American psychological science fiction comedy-drama film directed by Peter Weir. The film stars Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank, a man who grew up living an ordinary life that—unbeknownst to him—takes place on a large set populated by actors for a television show about him. Eventually, he discovers the truth and decides to escape. For him, his reality was unknown until he decided to look beyond.
In the book, 'Ex-formation' discusses how A New York guide book guides us to the expected sights. He says, "To these people, traveling is sightseeing, period. Their desire is to see the expected scenes." He then suggests that the, "I-know," cycle is broken, by creating a guidebook, "that would act as an entrance for curiosity." Hara then quotes Socrates, who said,
"The only true wisdom in in knowing that you know nothing." - Socrates
Hara also describes how the distorted daikon has lead to a narrow-minded view that it is the "correct" daikon because of its irregularity. The image below shows imaginary daikon being grown in an idealistic, symmetrical planter. The idea was to question, "What is the correct form for a daikon?"
We feel we know something to be known and accepted yet looking from another angle we're presented with a completely new perspective.
I found that noticing the ignored is something I’ve come accustomed to through photography, when I have my camera with me, I always have to delve into the unknown. I guess it is that feeling that if you don’t, you’re potentially ignoring something extremely unique and beautiful that hasn’t been captured before. I remember driving through Yucca Valley in California as the sun was setting, I was tired as I had been driving all day and couldn’t wait to sleep, then I saw a signpost for a bowling alley. To me, it looked beautiful as there were mountains in the background with a light dusting of snow on top and one of the letters on the sign was falling off slightly so there was a little bit of comedic value I felt had to be captured. I pulled up to take the photo and then decided to go into the bowling alley itself. It was slightly run-down but there was beauty in this, I felt like I had entered a cave full of treasure. I guess this is the true essence of travelling, veering off from the guided route.
Not only do I capture my version of the unknown through photography but am inspiredby other photographers through their photos. Steve McCurry is an American photographer whose work documents vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture, usually through portraits. To a lot of us in the west the east is largely unknown yet through Steven McCurry's photography we're able to get a glimpse.
Image (above): https://www.stevemccurry.com/galleries
Image (above): https://www.stevemccurry.com/galleries
Vivian Maier is another a photographer I’ve admired for a little while now after watching a documentary about her, ‘Finding Vivian Maier.’ She was completely unknown until her negatives were discovered through a thrift auction. An auction where unclaimed belongings are sold off. Her photographs aren’t just of a geographical location unknown to be but a period in time.
Photographers might be capturing their version of the unknown or they might just be capturing the every day (to them), either way, this is unknown to me and is a new way of seeing. It also encourages me to appreciate that my every day is someone else's unknown and so I should capture my every day too. By doing this I can compare and contrast, figure out what's similar and different. As well as this, photography pages on Instagram allow me to peak into numerous different places, cultures, people around the world that are unknown to me.
Below are a few Instagram pages that I occasionally look at, they allow me to discover and be be inspired and to learn. To learn about other people, cultures and places but also processes within photography itself.
I was inspired to look at ‘Hackney Flowers’ by Stephen Gill, from the lecture, and his use of photography. Gill’s work is extremely interesting and unique. I hadn’t thought about taking a photograph of a photograph before, although his work is more than that, it’s another avenue of photography I’d like to explore. The original photographs Gill has taken of Hackney have been enhanced by beautiful bright colours from flowers, seeds and other objects he has found, also within Hackney. This is almost how I imagine colour would’ve been added to images before the likes of Adobe software.
Image (above): https://www.nobodybooks.com/product/hackney-flowers
I have had trouble with previously keeping sketchbooks, however, I am a hoarder. I will collect all kinds of things such as tickets, flyers, posters and put them on display at home. I do think there are so many advantages to keeping a sketchbook as a recording device, as Frederique Daubaul explains, "Keeping sketchbooks helps me to empty my brain, while making connections between ideas without judgement."
A sketchbook is a rough draft of ideas, it doesn't have to be pretty or beautiful, it doesn't even have to be seen by anyone except yourself, it's a tool for putting ideas onto paper and deciding if they work or have potential. Typographer and graphic designer, Paulus M Dereibholz discussed how he used sketchbooks in school and college saying, "It was about composition, colours, layouts and simple visual energy.
I was a little nervous about this week's challenge as I’ve only been living in Taiwan for just under two years, everything here is still unknown to me. However, I walk a lot as I don’t have any other means of transport which has been beneficial for this challenge as I already had an idea of what I was going to do. As I turn right from my road and walk (for about five minutes) I walk past the ‘National Lang-Yang Girls’ High School’ (marked red on the map below). When I walk past the school, I can often hear the orchestra rehearsing. There are many beautiful trees that arch over the pavement I walk along past the school, which combined with the music creates a really unique experience for around 30 seconds on what is generally, a normal road.
Green = Cherry blossom tree.
Orange = Where I live.
Red = National Lang-Yang Girls’ High School
I wanted to incorporate a recording in my challenge but the traffic is too loud, and they weren't rehearsing this week. I tried finding a video online but that was unsuccessful.
I was aware that some students in one of my classes at school were in an orchestra so I asked them if they had a recording that I could use, the video can be found through this link: 宜蘭縣育才國小參加108學年度音樂比賽榮獲"國樂合奏"優等!!
Unfortunately the music seemed to up tempo in comparison to the original orchestra I had heard at Lang-Yang. However, I did find this song called "Rainy Night Flower", which is a 1934 Taiwanese Hokkien song composed by Teng Yu-Hsien (below) and written by Chou Tien-wang (周添旺).
On deciding what image I could use to accompany the song I remembered a photo I had taken of my boyfriend next to a cherry blossom tree, which is about a ten-minute walk in the opposite direction to the girls' school (marked green on the map above). I had taken the photo in January/February as they only blossom between January to April. I felt this would be a perfect image to use, as it too documents the road close to me, but as I was researching the song the name flipped between "Rain Night Flower" and "A Blossom On A Rainy Night," which I felt connected the two nicely.
I believe it is extremely important to constantly engage with the unknown through art, books, even social media, and our endeavours, as this allows us to learn and be inspired. Learning about our history and culture, other cultures and their history allows us to have a much broader approach to our practice in graphic design. To explore our unknown and every day is important too. Firstly, our unknown doesn’t mean travelling to some unexplored part of the world, it could merely be going to a shop or café that we’ve never been to on our local street. To document our every day is equally important, as through this we can compare and contrast with others, we can question why one person does a certain thing and we don’t, or vice versa.
In regards to my workshop challenge for this week, I feel content that I have fulfilled the brief. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to record the actual orchestra from the school yet it was the school that inspired me to research Taiwanese orchestras thus finding a piece of music that perfectly accompanies the photograph whilst simultaneously discovering new music and learning a little more about Taiwanese culture. Even though I used a photograph I had taken before this course it fits in perfectly. Cherry blossoms only blossom for a few months so I was lucky to take the photo when I did. Timing is so important with photography, capturing a subject at the right moment is a skill I’ve been (and still am) learning and developing.
Tate (n.d.). ‘The Girl Chewing Gum’, John Smith, 1976. [online] Tate. Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/smith-the-girl-chewing-gum-t13237.
Hara, K. (2018). Ex-formation. Lars Muller.
Brereton, R. (2009). Sketchbooks : the Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators and Creatives. Laurence King Publishers.
Wikipedia Contributors (2019). The Truman Show. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show