The story continues…
Let's start by mentioning how we left things off last time - we managed to put together a list of themes, which I may or may not pursue further. This time I am back with (something like) a proposal, which is still quite (very) broad and a few notes on that topic + references.
Since every great plan needs a plan B, here is my back up idea -> The Future of Education (Online courses, Minerva project, TheFutur).
Now, back to the main event!
What it means to know?
Senses –> Emotions –> Logic -> Language –> Learning –> Knowing –> Understanding –> Believing
What does it mean to know something?
- It means you trust the source (internal or external).
- It means you believe (even though 7% of the world population are atheists).
What does it mean to understand?
- Trusting the external source and their evidence - OR just standing underneath (behind) someone else’s beliefs?
What do we know?
How do we know?
Secondary Research – Literature Reviews, Explore Conceptual Artists, Case studies, Polymaths, Idioms.
George Orwell - Newspeak & Doublethink
2+2 = whatever feels comfortable to you? whatever makes you happy? whatever makes sense to you?
Bruno Manari – universal symbols as a tool for communication (language)
Stanley Brouwn – Conceptual art ( -> “This way Brouwn”)
Lawrence Weiner – Art of Language (his own font - Margaret Seaworthy Gothic)
José Parlá – Nature of Language (abstract landscapes of words creating a sense of history)
Healthy Conversations – Do you call a time-out when things get heated or if there is a misunderstanding? Or do you let yourself to be carried away by the slurry of anger and hurt?
- Who are you talking to? (the audience)
- What are you saying? (the content)
- When/Where are you saying that? (the context)
- How are you saying it? (the medium + tone of voice + structure of the words)
- Why are you saying that? (the intent)
Different Mediums (non-latin alphabets, audio, visual, haptic, digital world and social media -> new etiquette)
Language is a string with no end.
Primary research – start a conversation with experts? (what experts?)
1 image and 100 stories
A single image telling 100 different stories.
Create/Select an image. Send it to 100 ‘human test subjects’ (online – means we can reach a wider audience - different parts of the world). Everyone is then asked to write a short story about the image – what is it telling them?
These stories would be collated, analysed and the whole experiment could be released as a publication.
Is it abstract or more realistic?
With an abstract image we can assume that people would try to identify shapes within the composition – drawing on their ‘knowledge’ (experience). There is a risk that people will be more likely to give up on the experiment because this activity is mentally taxing as it requires a higher level of creativity, then the participants might think they have. Thankfully, identifying abstract forms is not the goal of this experiment, rather we are interested in the narrative story that people create when they are faced with an image that is out of context.
We must differentiate between a descriptive story and a narrative story – for the sake of this experiment the image is used to provide the WHAT and the participant should construct the WHY and HOW (in some cases WHO) to create the story behind the image.
But how descriptive should the image be?
This question can be answered only through testing – so far, we there are three ideas for the image – one shows a scene from the outdoors, one is focused on personal objects, and the last one shows a figures interacting. The ones that do not involve any human figures, do involve signs or clues of activity/change that could be explained by the narrator.
What about colour?
Again, this depends on how much we want to influence the viewer. A yellow rectangle is happy, a red one is angry while green might suggest money or nature. However, if the image is kept in black and white then it also suggests a certain atmosphere.
Perhaps the easiest way to move forward is to start with an abstract piece with colour and then see what the results are. Once, we get some feedback we will be able to adjust as necessary – which could possibly mean that we go through all the variations possible (abstract+colour, abstract+b&w, figurative+colour, figurative+b&w,…).
What if we reverse the test?
1 story and 100 images
100 different ways of telling the same story.
Write/Select a short story (or a quote/statement). Send it to 100 ‘human test subjects’ (maybe even a few professional illustrators). Everyone is then asked to create a single image about the story – how did they make sense of it?
These images would be then collated, analysed and the whole experiment could be released as a publication.
Admittedly, I have not gone through with this experiment (at least not yet).
Sure, it would be interesting to explore how people construct stories about the world and all the crazy things that can happen in it but once I had to come up with the image, I reached a dead-end (or a Catch 22, whatever you prefer). To create an image or an illustration you must put something (aka meaning) in it. (What a surprise, right?) You can’t just leave it blank – Well, of course you can! (Obviously...) However, this is not the type of conceptualism we are looking for.
So, I found myself caught in a tricky situation -> I don’t want to suggest too much but on the other hand, I have to provide something. What is that something? (Huh? Can you tell me, please? Or at least a hint would be nice!)
Points of reference
(How to get unstuck?) I guess it is only fair to hit pause and take some time to just explore. And let me tell you, I have made some pretty amazing discoveries and re-discoveries. (Who knows? Maybe you are already familiar with these gems but please do not ruin this feeling of momentary happiness!)
(Warning! We're entering into the realm of Conceptual Art and Design.)
Last chance to walk away...
*checks if anyone is still listening*
(Okay, so I guess we'll continue...)
The first entry is actually a duo of great artists (or thinkers? designers? investigators?). Let me introduce you to the brilliant minds of Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens (Ibghy&Lemmens). What they do is quite hard to explain in a simple and readily understandable way, but I will try my best. Essentially, they run a collaborative practise where they combine statistical thinking (data, graphs and models) and use a range of mediums to make ideas visible. Perhaps, it would be easier to take a look at some of their work. Although, as you can imagine their work is quite varied as well… but here are some (not all) of my favourites:
"Exploring the relationship between economic growth and biological development."
"...a speculative measuring device, the work suggests various correlations between two variables, in this case the degree to which you know what you want and you know how to get it.”
Anthology of Performance Pieces for Animals (2018 - ongoing)
"Drawing upon key experiments conducted in laboratories by psychologists, biologists, ethologists, zoologists and neuroscientists, the piece explores the various devices imagined by scientists to test the cognitive abilities of animals, including the examination of memory, spatial awareness, numerosity, and communication."
Key points: Data doesn't have to bee shown in a mind-numbing format. There are many (better) ways to communicate the message. You are free to explore themes by inviting other people to interact with your practise -> reffering to Is there anything left to be done at all? (2014).
Number two goes to Jenny Holzer, which was a true discovery for me. (How come that I did not get introduced to such a genius during my earlier studies of Graphic Design? I feel cheated!) Some may be tempted to place Jenny Holzer right next to Barbara Kruger, as a graphic designer. However, from what I have seen and read, Holzer is more likely to occupy the space between poetry, sculpture, and street-art. Her work, whether it is printed, projected into space or carved into stone is connected by her passion for composing and presenting language, as she explains in her Interview with the Apollo Magazine,
“I like to make the language spatial. I like coming at it various ways to various ends.”
Holzer is most known for her Truisms and Inflammatory Essays, which kickstarted her career, once they were discovered by a fellow artist. However, this is not what sparked my curiosity in the first place. I actually came across Holzers LED Light Projections (notably it was a photo of ‘Abuse of power comes as no surprise’) and only then I started to look through her portfolio.
What I am taking away from Holzer and her work is an incredible appreciation for her outspokenness - > rising awareness around current issues. Her words are very purposeful, and she is using them to critique the culture around her. We must acknowledge that this started as something very personal, but she was still able to produce something that anyone can connect with and assign their own meaning to, perhaps because the words are presented with no context. Her work is also featured in the commercial sector with t-shirts and other items sporting her sentences. Although, she is no longer writing all the words - they are still just as meaningful (she has probably developed an impeccable sense of taste when it comes to choosing the copy).
My own understanding is that these statements (or the copy if you’d like) tell us a story from a certain POV to which they are true (like in Truisms) but they are not necessarily true to the viewer which can potentially open up a much needed conversation, discussion or a reaction from the public at large (Social Change).
A few unrelated thoughts
We (the human kind) are a medium through which design manifests itself. Sometimes we are the ones who simply get to epxerience it, perhaps the ones who are able to recognize it, or the ones who actually realize it (make something 'imagined' a reality). We are a conduit, constantly processing our surroundings and making appropriate (okay, not always) adaptations and reactions.
Everything is designed, either by nature or (these days predominantly) man-made.
Ibghy&Lemmens (s.d.) Works. At: https://www.ibghylemmens.com/ (Accessed 28/01/2021).
Schwarz, G. (2019) 'An interview with Jenny Holzer' In: Apollo The International Art Magazine 20/04/2019 At: https://www.apollo-magazine.com/jenny-holzer-guggenheim-bilbao-interview/ (Accessed 28/01/2021).