Research & Exploration of Concept

I took a look at the Social Issues Research Centre website where there is a useful summary of the many studies into the role of alcohol in different cultures and how attitudes around the world correlate with levels of “problem drinking”. It was really interesting to read that societies where attitudes towards drinking are more relaxed tend to have lower rates of alcohol related problems.

The most interesting thing to discover was that studies have shown that social attitudes and expectations within different cultures dramatically effect peoples behaviour under the influence of alcohol.
“The persistence of alcohol use, on a near-universal scale, throughout human evolution, suggests that drinking must have had some significant adaptive benefits, although this does not imply that the practice is invariably beneficial” is an interesting concept to consider visualising; how humans development has been effected by alcohol use.
Two further interesting points are the near-universal constants of attitudes towards alcohol which are:

   “1. Proscription of solitary drinking

   2.Prescription of sociability

   3. Social control of consumption and behaviour

   4. Restrictions on female and ‘under-age’ drinking.”

as well as the concept of alcoholic beverages considered as symbolic tools, to construct and make judgement on the social world around us.

“Cross-cultural research reveals four main symbolic uses of alcoholic beverages:

   1. As labels defining the nature of social situations or events

   2. As indicators of social status

   3. As statements of affiliation

   4. As gender differentiators.”

This initial research has provided me with a great deal of information to develop within my work. I need to now begin considering what it is I want to say with my work to help me focus my perspective and voice on the subject.
What inspired me to explore the subject in the first place was my interest in the importance of the role of alcohol in society and how it effects peoples’ lives today, socially and emotionally, and the types of events it triggers. To help gain a more immediate understanding of this I designed a survey about peoples attitudes towards and experiences of being drunk and distributed this to all staff and students as well as friends and family. I have had a brilliant response but am yet to decide exactly how I will interpret the information. My main interest lay in finding out peoples’ response to the question of “What’s the worst thing you’ve done when drunk?” as I am intrigued by the way that alcohol effects judgement and behaviour and how sometimes we can’t even recognise ourselves in this state. To me the visualisation of these events in some way could be a really powerful way to communicate my concept.
Leading on from this idea I read an article by Nicholas Clairmont, “A Drunk Mind Speaks A Sober Heart.” Really?, which examines the truth and science behind the proverb. Ultimately Clairmont’s summary is that this statement is completely unfounded in truth and alcohol effects our judgement and behaviour in almost every way.

I found a fantastic book of Grayson Perry’s work in the library which covers much of his career and includes comments and descriptions of process from the artist himself. I have always loved his work, particularly the ceramics. I love the idea of the subject matter being totally at odds with the medium, and I want this to be a strong element of my work.

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I also borrowed several books about the history of ceramics, clay building & throwing techniques, and have been researching into how to print onto clay. To further my research I also looked at the books “Cardiff After Dark” by Maciej Dakowicz and “How We Are: Photographing Britain” by Val Williams & Susan Bright.

These in turn motivated me to go and collect my own first hand photographic observations of Stamford night-life ‘landmarks’ during the day to consider the contrast of the purpose, people and events that coincide. It will be important to return to these locations on a Friday or Saturday night when the opposite end of the scale is unfolding. I will need to borrow a lens and flash gun to make this possible so I’m adding talk to Dan about this to my To-Do list.

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