Sunday, 24 April 2011

Three Fork Road

So I have been scrupulously working towards finishing my exploration into the Beat Generation... I posted a couple of weeks ago the stage I was at. My aim was to give, On The Road, Howl and Naked Lunch, their own sense of a clear definable identity...
Three forks...
---------On The Road---------
----------Naked Lunch ---------
---------- Howl -----------
Still so much to do, but determined to crack this in the next few days

Friday, 15 April 2011


Russell Hancock gave use some very lively advice about how to be a freelancer. Russell himself talked about his post university journey, which was great to hear, because he went through a lot of knock backs until he finally decided that freelancing was for him. I am a strong believer that knock backs are one of the best things that can happen because it forces you strive to be better and try harder. Russell was an instantly likeable character and I am sure that is a quality which is of great use and imperative to being a successful freelancer, as there is no studio name to hide behind, it is literally just you. After the talk, Russell came to the studio and talked through essential documents, which we would need if we were to become freelancers. This was so valuable as prior to Russell's visit I wouldn't have had any idea about which documents to use to protect myself and my work and to avoid getting ripped off. Russell then did a few portfolio surgeries with us, he has really constructive about our work and gave some good feedback and advice on how to improve. I have considered freelancing as a possible career path and speaking to Russell has been really beneficial and will definitely be of use once I leave university.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Denver Doldrums

Last Stanzas in Denver, 1947 Art is illusion, for I do not act -
Dwell or Depart - with faithful merriment
My thoughts, though skeptic, are in sacrament
So I enact the Hope I can create
A lively world around my deadly eyes
Sad Paradise it is I initiate
and fallen angles who lost wings and sighs.
In this unworldly state wherein I move.
My Faith and Hope are hellish currency:
In counterfeit worlds, I coin swell Charity
About myself, and trade my soul for Love.
Allen Ginsberg's poem, part of The Denver Doldrums, handwritten in a letter to Kerouac. The words 'Sad paradise' in the second stanza, appeared to Kerouac as 'Sal Paradise', the name he used for himself in On the Road.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Sarah@OWT creative, travelling sketchbook

I thought I would post up some photographs of some pages I have contributed to Sarah Stapleton's travelling Sketchbook. The idea is to send a sketchbook on a journey and see how different people respond/reject/embrace work within the sketchbook and make their own mark in it before passing it on. Here are my contributions, I have tried to keep the pages quite light and leave lots of space, to encourage others to add to my pages with their work.
If anyone would like to be the next contributor, let me know!

My Life At Present

I decided to pin up all the different aspects of my Beat Generation Project, in order to see where I was with it and assess the next step. So far I have created a book, posters and pamphlets, which amalgamatee my visual responses to Naked Lunch (Burroughs), Howl (Ginsberg) and On The Road (Kerouac). Attempting to throw these three, very different, creations together into one proved very difficult, but I am happy with the imagery I created. I have most certainly succeeded in creating a 'personal' response to the poems, however, now I would like to look upon the material objectively and try to give each piece a unique identity. My final outcome will hopefully express a clear identity for each of the three pieces, allowing the three to be grouped together without causing confusion. For my personal response I like the chaotic, confusing and spontaneous aspect to the work, so I would like to now refine what I have to make something interesting, conceptual and also coherent.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Pina Bausch, Die Klage der Kaiserin

John Walsh is currently running a Flux Magazine brief again for the second years, so for inspiration he showed Pina, Die Klage der Kaiserin, the first film by choreographer Pina Bausch, and I tagged along. After watching this film, I will never look at contemporary dance in the same way again. I found the film wonderfully weird and got really engrossed in the strange mirroring of 'reality' through dance. The movements seemed completely natural, not rehearsed. I became really inspired by the absolute expression of self within the film. Often seeing things on screen can dilute them but when I really thought about what the people were doing in the film I became fascinated by the ever evolving narrative. It is interesting to think that a film which seems so obscure and seemingly sub-cultural could easily be an influence for many big screen, popular films. I could see how Black Swan could have been influenced by this and certain Tarantino films. I like the thought that an idea can start as one thing and evolve into new and changing things until on a fine thread remains between beginning and end, a subtle non-obvious link. Anything can be inspirational and can be a seed of a new idea. I really want to make my own film after watching Pina, so I think I might.

Sam Meech Workshop

I was asked to joined the second year film workshop, which was ran by Sam Meech. I had completed a project in second year which used found film to map out the song, Heroin, the Velvet Underground. I felt like this workshop was ideal for me to return to moving image and get my hands on some archival footage courtesy of the North West Film Archive.
In the first session, Sam wanted to see how we each responded to the same set of ingrediants in different ways. therefore he oddly brought in a wide selection of fruit and veg and asked us all to make our own smoothies, this was really enjoyable (and healthy) and despite my huge aversion to beetroot, my smoothie turned out nicely.
Then it was time to apply this technique to film, Sam gave us each the same set of film clips, selected from the archive, the rest of the workshops were spent manipulating and amalgamating this footage using the skill sets Sam had given us. Each person showed their unique work in progress. I experimented with female and male gaze, here is the film, which I will most likely continue to develop

Angelheaded Hipsters

After a critique about my Beat Generation project, I decided to go back to my research phase and try to learn a little bit more around the background and culture of the Beats, hoping this would inspire me further in the project.

What better way than to visit the Angelheaded Hipsters exhibition at the National Theatre in London. the exhibition was an extensive collection of Allen Ginsberg's photography, amongst others, which mapped out, behind the scenes of archetypal Beat characters such as Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Carl Soloman, and Herbert Huncke to name a few. I was surprised at the sheer quantity of photographs and found Ginsberg's annotations of the photographs a great insight. It was intriguing to see Ginsberg's photographs of close friends,David Hockney, Madonna, Patti Smith and Roy Lichtenstein as well as the Beat's huge influence on the likes of Jim Morrison and Bob Dylan.

All images courtesy of Corbis.

Wim Crouwel: A Graphic Odyssey, talk and Exhibition

From right Mels & Wim Crouwel & Rick Poyner, Tony Brook (Spin) on front row.
I took a trip to London to visit the the Design Museum's retrospective of Dutch Typefather, Wim Crouwel. A Graphic Odyssey was accompanied by a talk from the man himself and his architect son, Mels Crouwel. The whole discussion mediated by renowned design critic Rick Poyner.
Curated by Tony brook of Spin, the exhibition is aptly gridded out with long white tables. A huge collection of Crouwel's work adorns the walls. Crouwel's lesser known early exhibition design resides alongside his iconic posters, detailed sketchbook extracts and logo roughs as well as Crouwel's lower case re-design of the phonebook. The exhibition also showed work from contemporary designers who have since been inspired by Crouwel, proving that the Total Design aesthetic remains undated even by todays standards.
After seeing the exhibition I walked upstairs to the intimate lecture space, to watch the talk, which was sold out. There were a limited number of seats, which created a good atmosphere as the talk felt much more like an informal discussion rather than a hard nosed design debate.
On seeing Crouwel I noticed that he had such a presence amongst his many admirers and it was clear that I was in the company of an icon. Mels also white haired an bespectacled, didn't wilt in his fathers presence, but rather embraced it, as he explained he had done all his life. For Mels, a career within design was inevitable, growing up in a converted house boat, surruounded by the designs and creations of his father from furniture to the house structure itself.
I found the discussion lively and upbeat, Poyner certainly knows how to curate a discussion and it was interesting to see that although Mels had been saturated by his fathers design influence and shared his modernist values, when applied to architecture, Mels is certainly a designer in his own right. The idea that graphic design can be applied to the way a space works is not a new idea, but it is certainly one that makes sense, highlighting the ever blurring boundaries between creative disciplines.
I bought the beautifully designed catalogue at the end of the show and if it wasn't for my need to catch an early train I would have definitely hung around to meet the man himself and perhaps get an autograph. Overall an great insight into Modernist Dutch design as well as the influence of Britain (Fletcher Forbes Gill) on the Dutch design scene. A great addition to my ever increasing interest in typography.
I have recorded the talk and it can be listened to here

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

It was never about “me” or “I,” It is about “we.”

I have just read an interview between Jessica Svendsen and Sheila Levrant de Bretteville for Broad Recognition, A feminist newspaper at Yale. I feel incredibly inspired by this interview, I find Bretteville's articulation of language empowering and her absolute belief and passion for her life's work, completely affirms her as one of my idols. I have posted some extracts and also my own opinions.

"When you look at the word demo­c­ra­tic as a part of fem­i­nism, that equal­ity and that abil­ity to argue with each other, come into fric­tion with each other or come into con­nec­tion with each other, on an equal plane, that is inher­ent in the ideal of democ­racy. If you try to trans­fer that into a fem­i­nist per­spec­tive, it holds that same mean­ing that we can talk with each other, agree or dis­agree, and work it out, as a part of self-criticism, as well as a crit­i­cism of fem­i­nism, as well as a crit­i­cism of mod­ernism, how a demo­c­ra­tic and more equal soci­ety is cre­ated so that what­ever kind of gender—there is as much dif­fer­ence within each gen­der as between the gen­der. You come from that per­spec­tive, it makes it very hard to talk about men and women all the time, around it. But I do think the word fem­i­nism is impor­tant because it car­ries with it an activist buzz. It really belongs to pay­ing atten­tion to how women are being treated, which, until we are treated absolutely equally, then I can­not let go of the word."

I often feel as though the word feminism carries with it certain negative or perhaps cliched connotations and it seems that most, male or female, have their opinion on what feminism means. For me, I feel that feminism is not a word that can be described with one sweeping definition as everyone's opinion differs depending on their experiences and their actions or involvement in feminism. I feel that almost all women are aware feminism in some way whether they proclaim this or not, simply by being a woman, involvement is unavoidable.(I can't imagine how any woman would want to avoid the topic)

JS: Many women design­ers acknowl­edge the glass ceil­ing and every­thing that sur­rounds them being a woman designer, but they are not nec­es­sar­ily fem­i­nist designer. Can you clar­ify the dis­tinc­tion between a female designer and a fem­i­nist designer?
SB: A female designer is often talk­ing about her­self, as many of the women who voted for Hilary in the elec­tion. These women talked about the expe­ri­ence with misog­yny as their rea­son for vot­ing for Hilary, rather than look­ing at what Hilary might do as Pres­i­dent. That was not what they were look­ing at; they were look­ing at their expe­ri­ence, and where they felt dissed. Vot­ing for a woman was acknowl­edg­ing them­selves. That is sim­i­lar to women design­ers who acknowl­edge the glass ceil­ing are really look­ing at.

I think to be fem­i­nist is to really care about women in gen­eral, not only design­ers, not only at priv­i­leged insti­tu­tions like Yale. Think­ing about women who don’t have any­thing, and what are the forces at work in our shared glob­al­ized cul­ture that keep women from actu­al­iz­ing their poten­tial. That is not what those women are talk­ing about. They are talk­ing about their poten­tial and their actu­al­iz­ing. That is the dif­fer­ence between being just a woman designer or being a fem­i­nist designer. It doesn’t mean that you are always work­ing on fem­i­nist con­tent, it means you think about, more broadly, women as a cat­e­gory and how that cat­e­gory is used against women, wher­ever they are, on a socioe­co­nomic level in a glob­al­ized world. That, to me, is fem­i­nism. It was never about me, what­ever “me” or “I” is. It is about “we.”
I find this statement explains an aspect of feminism very well. Being a woman does not make you a feminist (although you may be affected by feminism) in the same way that being a female designer does not make you a feminist designer. This idea of a 'we' instead of I, really rings true for me.

Much of my work centres around feminist attitudes and the portrayal of women, however I create work based on alternative themes too. The fact I make work about women is not what makes me a feminist necessarily, infact if I describe myself, as a designer, feminism is only one dimension and I would not like to narrow the perception of myself in that way. I feel my work does, and will span across a wider platform, therefore, yes I am a feminist designer but also an experimental designer, a concept-driven designer etc. etc.

Certainly as a person (being a designer as part of that) I would absolutely describe myself as a feminist. Although I may get angry about certain issues regarding the treatment of women, this is a level of unrest not designed to be anti-male or to take over the world, but merely to be offered the modest chance of being absolutely equal to men. no more than that. Some may think that equality has been achieved, however the balance is not level (in both directions, I wouldn't claim that men have all the advantages) It is, as Bretteville described, a genuine interest in the well-being of women, not just myself, not just designers, but all women be it those who are deprived of choice, my peers or colleagues.

There is one thing I would like to return to. You men­tioned the Miami poster cam­paign, and many peo­ple asso­ciate fem­i­nist graphic design with more con­fronta­tional or aggres­sive tac­tics, like the Guerilla Girls or Bar­bara Kruger. What alter­na­tives are there for fem­i­nist design?

SB: I am one of the alter­na­tives. I chose to focus on what we don’t have and how to get it, not on what is oppress­ing me or oppress­ing us. Some peo­ple are filled with a tremen­dous amount of anger and the way to express it is through their work and through their work about what is oppress­ing them. I think that that is very impor­tant work. It just hap­pens to not be my work.

Yes, because it is also how the notion of good design has changed. Both have changed. I just felt that Yale was known for good design, which was very much aligned with mod­ernist design at that point. So I was try­ing to open up the design, try­ing to open up the fem­i­nist design. A state­ment, like that, out of con­text, requires a lot of unpack­ing. Both around what is “good” and what is “feminist.”

I had an inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion with some stu­dents the other day. It wasn’t about fem­i­nism, but it is like this: two stu­dents were doing work that had images of like, kit­tens and sun­sets and palm trees, but they came off of Google images—they were get­ting them off the net. I was try­ing to locate what it is that those images were serv­ing. One of the other stu­dents, who was older than the two stu­dents who were doing it, said, “It’s gen­er­a­tional. The response to that.” I said, “I don’t think that if that’s oper­a­tive, it is not all that’s oper­at­ing.” It turns out that one of the stu­dents was doing it as a reac­tion against good design, clean design. Here we are, 2009, and some­one is choos­ing, what I call trashy, low, images to sig­nify “sweet­ness” as a reac­tion. My com­ment was: “You are here at Yale to do your own work. You don’t have to react against some­thing. Go for some­thing.” Because to spend your time against that now, unless you do it from an extremely informed, thought­ful, broadly-researched base, is a very knee-jerk, against, kind of activ­ity. It is not that you can­not use kitty kats and sun­sets. It is more: Why are you using [these]? I want to here from you, why, some­thing other than “I am against good design, clean design, all that design I learned at RISD.” I want more. I want to hear more. Talk about it more. Tell me more.

Bretteville continuously offers a considered and intelligent insight, Here is the full interview