My earliest memories of creating photographic imagery was as a child, my father worked for "Canon" company and gave my sister, my brother and I a Canon camera each to play and experiment with as he would get them for next to nothing. Then our mum would take our films in to have them developed.
I found it a great way to enhance creativity within a child and I still possess many of the pictures I took at these times. Which makes me think about the "photographer's eye" and how a child's view is fairly different from what a grown person would see.
At those times digital wasn't around and came a few years later. My first experience with it was using a phone-camera, and my brother's digital camera. I still don't possess my own, although I do have an SLR camera which a friend recently gave me.
My first approach towards printing photographic images was by creating photograms using the enlargers. This consists of placing objects on paper onto the enlarger and setting the timer for a few seconds. Then placing the sheet of paper into each chemicals at appropriate timings. Finishing with a wash and a rinse.
I enjoyed doing this as it felt creative, working with materials. The composition, being able to choose the objects, inspired me the most and then seeing the results of what effect each object would produce. It's an interesting process because the outcome is unexpected. It is different from what the eye sees. This has really helped to appreciate what a camera does.
The next step was to master the Single Lens Reflex camera, understanding their function, processing the film, and, finally what I felt most difficult, processing the negatives to produce that perfect final print.
Going out shooting was a task in itself, learning to focus, using the aperture, all the different functions one needs to know to produce good quality photographs. All these different steps need a lot of practice, from inserting the film to removing it. As for most beginners, disapointments happen: such as loosing a film, either whilst taking it out of the camera or during the processing. Fortunately, this has only happened to me once and I say fortunately because we learn from our mistakes.
Now that I am more confident using an SLR camera and had some practice, I am starting to see things as a photographer. Noticing detail, because a camera doesn't see, it captures instants. The work I have presented in my sketch book is mostly moments captured from my weekends out with friends. (Victoria and Albert Museum and Brighton). My work reflects what I notice in that particular moment, what I think would make a good photograph. I visited Antoine d'Agata's exhibitions (he's well-known in France - record sleeves) at the Photographers Gallery. His work although being shocking for some, has being a real inspiration for me. The exhibition was called Insomnia and shows how people don't sleep.
My most frustrating moments with photography, as I mentioned before, were working in the dark room. I find it a very technical place to work. All the settings must be right to produce a good quality print. It is a long process, doing all the tests before actually printing the negatives. I do like it, though. It gives me a sense that photography is a real craft. With drawing its isn't so apparent that there is a real business to it - the production is easy sharpen some charcoal and have some good paper. But with photography, there's composition, lighting, setting the camera for the shot and, then, there's developing the film. Where you have a second chance to add more composition and touch up. I already experimented with PhotoShop and I'm looking forward to working with Digital cameras.
Finally I have enjoyed working on this assignment and have learnt a lot about photography, although I feel like I still need to work on my skills such as know how to use an SLR camera without so much delay and to improve my final prints in the dark room.
This is the essay I wrote for my final major project during my foundation course. And a picture of the art piece I made (the screen) representing this concept.
Figure 1- Paravent Alhambra by Christian Lacroix
In this project I am going to explore and interpret Post-Modern Art and Design. I've been looking at what new design philosophies there are. An influential designer in the 1990s was Philippe Starck and he was considered to be Post-Modern. I wanted to get a better idea of what Post-Modern meant and to find out if I could use a neglected piece of furniture - the screen - to make an art statement.
In our course we've looked at how Modernismi began and how it developed. I will try and do the same for Post-modernism. A key concept is deconstruction, so I will look at how they are related. I shall start by exploring Jacques Derrida, 20th centuries philosopher, his concepts on the Hymen, then relating the Hymen to deconstruction, then comparing deconstruction with post-modernism. Discussing the beginning of post-modernism with popart and then discussing post modern architecture. Art, Philosophy and the Hymen
There have been many art movements. The Modernist period of Art started in the late 19th century and probably finished toward the end of the 20th. The most important Modernist art movement was Dada and The Surreal. Most artistic movements claim to have some sort of manifesto that states their ideas. And they also claim to be influenced by a philosopher. Sigmund Freudii was probably the most important influence on the Surrealistsiii. His ideas about the human psyche and the unconscious inspired many of the artists. Dada was also a response to the destruction of the First World War and the end of the rich Empires. It was a very political movement and was inspired by anarchist, nihilist and communist philosophers, like Marxiv and Kropotkinv.
The Post-modern period of Art has overlapped with the Modernist period. It probably began with the Abstract Expressionists after the Second World War. It is difficult for us to explain how the post-modern period has developed because we are living in it. The art movements are not so clear to us but will be once the movement is over and another will have began.
But the important philosophical ideas have influenced the artists. And the influence of these ideas is just as clear as Freud's had upon the Surrealists. The most important philosopher during postmodernism was Jacques Derridavi. He was half-French half-Algerian. He died in 2004 and was known as a Post-Structuralist philosopher. He had a new analytic technique, which he called "deconstruction." A deconstruction has a number of aspects. They are differance, trace, ecriture, supplement, hymen and pharmakon. These are all specialist philosophical terms. The key idea for me, the Hymen.
The Hymen in Deconstruction
Derrida chose the image of the Hymen in his philosophy because it is a suggestive image. When a virgin loses her virginity, her hymen is broken. In some primitive societies, a woman had to prove to her husband that the hymen had been broken on her first wedding night.
Deconstruction is a way of thinking and Derrida did not clearly define it. He suggested what it is not more than what it is. As a comparison to the Modernists, we can look at Karl Marx's way of thinking. It became known as the Marxist dialectic and Marx wrote about society before the First World War. A dialectic is a contradiction in ideas that leads to a conclusion. Marx applied his dialectic to the economy and saw that Capitalists were exploiting the Proletariatix. He felt that this would lead to revolution led by the Proletariat. In Russia, in 1917, this did happen.
Derrida analysed art literature in a same sort of way. He was writing after the Second World War and in philosophy he is described as a post-structuralist thinker. Marx was probably the first structuralist, but Derrida was answering another famous structuralist called Claude Levi-Straussx.
The deconstruction of an idea is like a construction but in reverse. A real building is constructed to realise the idea of a building, but it is demolished to bring it down. Physically demolishing the building does not destroy the idea of the building. When a building is de-constructed we are trying to dismantle the idea of the building, we would ask ourselves questions like: Why was this building constructed in the first place? What would have been put in its place? When it was built, why did we choose this architecture for it? And so on.
A deconstruction has a number of aspects. They are differance, trace, ecriture, supplement, hymen and pharmakon. These are all specialist philosophical terms: differance - this is a French spelling, because Derrida wanted it to mean something special. If an idea is important, it makes a difference. trace - if something has a differance, then there must be a trace for it to have a differance with. ecriture - in French this means writing. In deconstruction it means that the differance has been stated or written down. invagination (or supplement) - this is another sexual term. It is another French word, but a new one, and it means to make a hole. When an idea arises, then there must have been a hole for the idea to fill. So the idea makes it obvious there was a lack of something. hymen - this is the key sexual term. As I said earlier, a hymen is the skin that breaks when a virgin has intercourse. For an idea, it is that moment when the differance happens. pharmakon - this is an Ancient Greek word. It means a cure. It is the expression of the idea - the cure - but it affects the person who takes it.
Hymen comes from the Greek, meaning 'skin' it is also referred to the piece of membrane recovering the vagina's entrance. Derrida uses it in one of his concepts of the inside and outside. Because it is not possible to distinguish if the skin/hymen is inside or outside.
Art is easy to associate and compare with nature. The Bauhaus would look at the way nature works to create their designs. For every art movement that has happened in the last centuries, there are a group of artists who are influenced by the previous art movement and the artists involved. The art evolves and changes and a philosopher will interpret what is happening at that particular time.
Derrida, philosopher in the late 20th century has developed 'the hymen' concept. It applies to post-modernism. Derrida is half French half Algerian and is a founder of deconstruction.
Deconstruction and Post-Modernism
Deconstruction is a technique that Derrida used to work through his ideas. Critics who studied his work, began to study post-modern artists and architects and applied Derrida's deconstruction to artistic ideas. It must have started to make sense. After a while, the artists themselves started to deconstruct what they were trying to say in their art.
The aspects of deconstruction - differance, trace, ecriture, supplement, hymen and pharmakon - become particular techniques that artists use.
differance becomes irony trace becomes quotation and references to a past ecriture becomes self-reference and the expression of intellectual concepts invagination becomes self-consciousness and ornament hymen becomes contradiction pharmakon becomes ambiguity
This is very simplified. In post-modern art, you can see these different techniques being used in different amounts. Artists do not really worry about philosophy or the techniques they use when they make Art. Sometimes, they produce the Art they do because it is part of the zeitgeist - the spirit of the age. Art is an evolution that keeps on growing, everything is linked and born from something before it. And you can see artists respond to the changes in the zeitgeist. Probably, the first artist to be post-modern was Andy Warhol.
Andy Warhol and Photoshop
Andy Warhol can be said to be the first post-modern artist because he used a lot of irony. He called his art studio The Factory, referring in an ironic way to the industrial age. But Art is supposed to be something produced by highly skilled craftsmen. And the Art he produced used icons from his own time in a self-conscious way. The icons he used were not saints or kings, but media celebrities. He saw the contradictory beauty in soup cans - a very ordinary item.
Figure 2 Andy Warhol's Campbell Soup Can
The most striking thing about Warhol's art to me, is that his silk-screen prints are very much like the work that many artists now do with Photoshop. 'Make your own Andy Warhol Pop art' is the heading for many website links you get when typing 'Andy Warhol photoshop' into Google. Andy Warhol was the founder of Pop Art. Popular Art is a contradiction. Art used to be about aesthetic beauty: a high-brow ideal. Warhol showed us that beauty could be kitsch and low-brow. The Elvis photographs are images of The King of Rock and Roll. Once Artists would have painted the King of England in his shiny battle armour. Warhol showed Elvis in cowboy costume. A famous beauty like Marylin Monroe would have been Marie Antoinette. So Warhol understands that he is making Art that is not quite Art as it was. He understood the "differance" between his Factory Art and the Art of a different zeitgeistxi.
Figure 3Marilyn by Andy Warhol 1967
Figure 4 Triple Elvis by Andy Warhol 1963
Conceptual Art and Post-Modernism Warhol produced his most significant work in the 1960's. Jeff Koons xiidevelops Warhol's use of kitsch and this remained an important technique or theme.
Figure 5 Rabbit by Jeff Koons Warhol's art was not very challenging. He did not make political statements. A branch of post-modern art emerged that did: conceptual art. One of the key figures was Sol LeWitt. At the MoMAxiii, Sol LeWitt's co-workers included fellow artists Robert Ryman, Dan Flavin, and Robert Mangold.
Figure 6 Sol LeWitts cubic-modular wall structure
Conceptual art was a huge influence. Artists were able to make very profound statements in their work but in a witty way. Mother and child, divided by Damien Hirst is a great example. It works on a couple of levels. Damien Hirst had just become a father and he had been present for the birth of his child. The mother and child are separated at birth. The birth of a child is like an anatomy exercise for doctors. It makes us look a life as a machine and with life we make relationships that make more life. It is quite a profound statement.
Figure 7 Mother and child Divided by Damien Hirst 1993
Art, Architecture and Design
Architecture within Art movements evolves more slowly than fine art because it takes more time to build. Fine art is something we can make or purchase and use as a decoration or as a political statement. It can be removed or replaced, whereas architecture we live in so we can't just change things and move things around when we feel like it. Maybe the interior like wallpaper or furniture, but not the structures and foundations of a building.
The Fine Artists are the first to pick up the new ideas in philosophy. And Fine Artists can make more profound statements. Architects can propose new designs for wealthy patrons, if they are not too controversial. Some buildings do make important political statements: the Ground Zero memorial at the site of the World Trade Center, the Jewish Museum in Berlin - both by Daniel Liebeskind.
Figure 8 The Jewish Museum in Berlin, designed by Daniel Liebeskind
Figure 9 Ground zero memorial at World Trade Centre, designed by Daniel Liebeskind
Designers have the hardest task. People have to live with their products. They will take a long time to develop and produce and many people will be involved in the process. People don't want to live with very profound political statements. Post-modern designers have had to develop very subtle ways of expressing their idea. A good example from the Modernist era was the founder of Bauhaus, Walter Gropius. Originally an architect, he produced Fine Arts pieces, but developed his key ideas in Design. He returned to architecture only when he arrived in wealthy America and found patrons who believed in his work.
Bauhaus designers would be shocked at the principles of the famous post-modern designers. Philippe Starck produces beautiful, expensive works of Art, but he is described as a designer. He once described one of his stools as: "a stool for people who prefer to stand.", because it doesn't seem to be a piece of furniture very comfortable to sit on. Another on is St Martins Lane hotel lobby designed by Philippe Starck with the huge golden teeth as seats.
Figure 10 Philippe Starck stool
Figure 11 St Martins Lane hotel lobby designed by Philippe Starck
The Hymen and the Screen - Inside and Outside
I've tried to apply some deconstruction to give myself a design idea. To do that, I've looked at modern life. My generation is very different from my parents. We don't own homes. They are too expensive, so we have to rent. And the flats that we rent are usually very bland and usually white. Minimalism is the design concept. Not because of its aesthetic, but because it is cheap. Everything is simple, there is very little room for self-expression. People like me move from city to city and from flat to flat within the city with just a few belongings: a laptop and a mobile phone.
My friends live in different cities and I keep in touch with them with text messages and through Facebook. The only part of my flat that is really me, is the display of photographs and postcards.
I realized that this is like the hymen. It is the skin that I appear through. When I went to the Louise Bourgeois exhibition, she had a screen in one of her rooms or Cells. It made me think that people used to dress behind these screens and then present themselves. I decided that I would like one - a screen - in my flat. I could make one side - the inside - be me: all my photographs and memories and the other side would be how I would appear.
Because screens are light and easy to change and carry, it could be a personal piece of furniture that people could take with them.
I'm hoping that it will be a post-modern statement in a home. Something that allows people to quote and refer to their life in a flat that is owned by someone else.
Figure 12 No Exit By Louise Bourgeois 1989
Ideas for Screens
Party Girl This screen is for those girls who go out every night they possibly can. It tries to show how they are sexual on the outside, but scared and delicate on the inside. Outside A huge image of a pair of beautifully lip-sticked lips drinking from the neck of a Coke bottle. You can just see a grain of white in the nostril. It is very sexual and suggests oral sex. Inside A little girl holding some flowers. Photographs of ponies. The Traveler This screen is for those people who plan their lives around travelling Outside A huge pair of walking boots over a projected landscape. Inside One of those pieces of embroidery that says: There's no Place Like Home. The Ambitious Those people who put their lives into working so that they can retire. Outside A huge dollar bill, images of oil rigs, gold mines, gold bars. Inside A huge English country garden with an old man in a panama hat on a bench reading the Financial Times. Conclusion
It has been difficult to follow how the ideas of Derrida have influenced artists. His ideas have appeared in post-modern art, but as techniques: like irony and self-reference. There is room for post-modernism in design. I like to think that the idea I have had of using screens to express one's identity is a post-modern one. I have tried to de-construct my sense of identity in the way I live. I have used the furniture screen to do this, making it have an inside that is me and an outside, which is how others should see me.