Over the past week I have been developing my ideas through a combination of practical experiments and research.
I produced monoprints and collages exploring negative space as metaphor for what we do not say or reveal about ourselves. This idea is in sharp contrast to the subject of the nude body and the cam girls that inspired them. I explored this concept as women who work performing strip-tease or porn online invent a new identity, one that looks very similar to themselves and appears to reveal all, in a physical sense, and yet nothing in a true personal sense.
After recommendations I explored the work of Paul Kindersley and Ryan Trecartin, along with videos by Rachel Maclean.
Paul Kindersley’s dead-pan ‘fake’ makeup tutorials are incredibly humorous as well as being an acutely accurate mimicry of the YouTuber’s who have gained recognition for such posts. The materials he uses and the way he applies the makeup is so ridiculous, contrasting with his very low key serious delivery, that makes the videos so effective.
Ryan Trecarin’s surreal video “Excerpt from Re’Search” parodies the behaviour and relationships of young teenage girls, chopping frenetically from scene to scene like a dream sequence, often overlaying clips or playing them side by side. The girls voices have been distorted to an even higher, hysterical pitch and they use text speak and slang to interact and mimic the behaviour of celebrities. The scenes are mostly in girls bedrooms, they all wear heavy makeup and in some they are shown singing and dancing, shouting, using mobile phones or abusing one another. The short film leaves the viewer with a huge sense of unease, inflicted by the frantic, disjointed imagery and high pitched sounds. Although the video is satirical it is not a laugh out loud experience, in fact the content feels incredibly dark and sinister.
Rachel Maclean’s videos draw inspiration from children’s television, pop culture and text speak. In “Feed Me” the story follows a young girl with a doll-like appearance who acquires a yellow ball with a sad face that when squeezed plays the phrase “I’m toooo happy!”. This phrase, along with “too cute”, “feed me” and “free gift” recur throughout the film exaggerating and parodying modern consumer culture. The bright, happy aesthetic of the characters contrasts with the dark storyline and surroundings of the dingey city.
Looking into these works has made me realise that exaggeration is more effective than emulation when it comes to the questioning of an aspect of culture. Because of this I have decided that instead of trying to produce images or videos that simply mimic online trends and behaviour I intend to produce over the top pastiches. For example a makeup tutorial deliberately resulting in bad makeup, using acrylic paints rather than cosmetics (directly inspired by Paul Kindersley). Or a coffee art photo, inspired by this common trend on Instagram, but of a bad instant coffee in a cheap disposable cup with Starbucks handwritten onto it.
Peer discussion and online research has helped me to discover these cliches and trends and I have compiled a plan of what videos and images I aim to produce.
I used Pinterest to create a moodboard in my sketchbook as I felt this visual reference material would help me to focus my vision and concentrate my ideas on how to proceed.
On Monday I produced persona photographs, self-portraits deliberately excluding the face of me in various outfits that I felt reflected social stereotypes. I considered afterwards how I put these together all from clothes I already own and wear, which demonstrates how false it can be to judge someone’s personality based simply on their appearance. This process made me realise that making myself the subject in all of these works focuses the message onto how easily we can all control and mould our online image.
Along with the moodboard I found it helpful to make a list of keywords that I feel relate to my vision and the direction of the concept:
identity, anonymity, identical, reproduction
preparing, editing, loading, buffering, sharing
I see the work as having four main concept strands to develop visually:
- How social media effects our sense of self, and how this is influenced by collective behaviour. Are you yourself or how you are perceived by others? Will you receive attention or recognition for something posted outside accepted parameters?
- How it introduces everyday subconscious thought patterns, habits and sequences, along with new and ever evolving language/communication. We have even greater collective social influence over slang, at a very fast pace. Viral videos and trends spread and references seep into everyday conversation.
- How emojis allow us to communicate our mood or activities without words, and that we invented these faces before more complex graphic capabilities from colons and parentheses.
- What does the internet look like? Where is this space? How does information look when it travels?
This last consideration inspired me to look into Stanley Donwood’s artwork for the Radiohead album In Rainbows.
This has long been a favourite record of mine and I have always loved the artwork and wondered how it was made. When picturing that the imaginary space of the internet looks like this imagery sprang to mind. Perhaps because it is reminiscent of photographs of outer space and nebulas. There is a wonderful sense of movement and it has an incredible sense of depth with drifting clouds of reflective, neon colour, like swirling chemicals chemical or irridescent puffs of smoke, and pools of colour seeping like lava. I researched into his methods and discovered that he painted with needles, adding splashes of melted wax after a happy accident while painting one day.
When this album was first released it was offered only as download on a ‘pay what you like’ basis. This meant there was no official artwork released for the album for several months, sparking fans to create their own. This aspect ties in with my exploration of the potential roles of the internet and online community.
I have been making experimental images with ink, cooking oil, washing up liquid, bleach, and correction fluid. I plan to test these techniques on metal to try and achieve a similarly reflective look, mixing the inks with polyurethane varnish to create a more viscose texture. I then intend to photocopy and photograph small details of these experiments, inverting the colours in Photoshop, and perhaps printing elements for collage work later on.
I also discovered the work of an artist called Boo Saville who produces paintings with bleach onto black fabric. I love the ghostly, x-ray aesthetic of these. I plan to find some black fabric over the weekend which I can then stretch like canvas and begin painting portraits onto with bleach. I feel this is relevant as the visual effect of x-ray relates to the conceptual idea of seeing somebodies true self.
Also to do:
- Videos and images for Instagram
- Sound experiments, add distortion with Audacity
- Populate Instagram account, network to gain attention for work
- Sketch plan of exhibition – feedback from Gemma/degree students on Weds. 4th
- Continue referring to SoI and keywords and moodboard to maintain clarity, direction, purpose, message