I spent a lot of time thinking about the physicality of my work, and how it would look the most effective based upon the images that I collected surrounding the idea of Altruism. I was thinking about creating a fake campaign at the beginning of the project as the best way to tackle my initial concept, and I spent time considering using certain pieces of imagery and lettering how to go about presenting the campaigns that I wanted to create, and I also spend time to create my own posters/ adverts to show people the campaign.
I also did make some simplistic drawings of some of the chairs that I wanted to use when I had changed the idea for my final piece, which I wanted to be an installation with chairs acting as figurative sculptures, suggesting different types of people in society. Making these drawings helped me to really look at and simplify the shapes of the chairs which then made it easier for me to think about how each chair would mould to the type of person that I wanted it to represent. As the simplistic drawings highlighted the basic shape of the chairs ( if they were more square in shape/ more circular).I also created a diagram with a key so that I could play around with the way that I wanted the chairs to be presented. The use of this diagram with clear imagery, made it easy for me to change my mind and switch the way I wanted to present the final installation, whilst showing to others in a simplistic way the changes that I had made.
I have also taken reference photographs in this project of various different people that I have spoken to and interviewed regarding altruism. These photos have helped a lot as they have grounded my experimentation, so that it is not all completely random and shows that I have spent time studying different people and have make an effort to consider the images that I have before going straight into taking photos.
Another angle to my project has been the incorporation of hair, flesh and bone into my final sculpture. Which meant that it was important for me to take photographs as reference points of these human attributes, so that I could try and and interpret these physical bodily elements as well as possible. I wanted to create a spine and so I took multiple photos of a human skeleton with particular focus on the spine. I also took photographs of my father sitting on a deck chair with his hairy belly out, just wearing a blue tie, which I needed to do to help envisage how well my hairy tie might look.
I do feel like it has been hard for me to incorporate a lot of visual inspiration into my project as the idea behind the project is Altruism, which despite all of the research I did for the concept does not have a lot of visual imagery to go alongside it to take inspiration from. I definitely think that compared to other areas of this project, visual research has been on the weaker side. However, when I have used visual inspiration, whether it be through photographs I have taken as reference points or by using simplistic drawings/ diagrams it has helped to clarify the direction of my project and can also help an outsider looking in to see the way in which images have helped inspire and develop my final installation, so that the idea and realisation of the final outcome does not look as if it has not just been plucked out of thin air.
When I first decided that I wanted to do a project based on ‘An Exploration of Altruism’, it was because I had watched a documentary where the investigative journalist had been extremely judgmental towards all that she interviewed, and whether she had or not, it did not come across to me that she had spent much time actually immersing herself in the culture and truly trying to understand more than her own point of view.
After watching this documentary, I watched some more investigative documentaries, which then allowed me to form more a rounded opinion about those who created documentaries addressing an issue, and then never talking about it again in their day to day life, and those investigative journalists who are committed to a cause or an issue around the world. Doing this contextual research was a very good base to start my project with quite a clear idea in my mind about our society’s ability to seem concerned and then, after they have done just something for that cause they can drop it and forget all about it.
I also read a lot of books explaining Altruism to me as a concept, even on the most basic level. This was all very important for me to do because without some kind of basic knowledge of what Altruism is about, and what contributes to altruistic behaviour in society, how could I possibly come up with a comprehensive response? I decided to also go a bit further, and look into some philosophers, and Freudian speculations, to help deepen and richen my research.
The difficulty with research for me came when I had to start thinking about artists that could potentially help with the development of my ideas and give me inspiration. I struggled to find any artistic commentary on the subject of altruism, which meant that I had to think further afield to looking at particular artists whose whole artistic philosophy might contribute in a positive way to my project. When I had started to become more invested in my final piece idea of using chairs as figurative representation of different groups in society, I came across the performance artist Marina Abramovic, whose use of the physical body is very powerful in her work, as if people wish to interact with her performances they are forced to view the human body in a new and fresh way that they would not in their day to day life. The way that she achieves this through her work often has an extremely powerful impact on the viewer. The idea of using the human body in this way for art, I have found incredibly inspiring, and led to me considering her influence as an artist in my work.
In terms of the artistic references that I looked at for visual inspiration, I considered Marcel Duchamp and his creating of ‘Readymade’ art, as my final piece was mainly a carefully considered combination of readymade objects. When creating the sound clip to go alongside the installation I also considered different ways that artists had used sound in art pieces to create certain effects, like Gillian Wearing’s video ‘2 into 1’ and Susan Hiller’s installation ‘Witness’.
Overall, even though I struggled at the beginning of the project to find artists that I thought had a lot of relevance to my project, and could help inspire me, I ended up finding artistic influences both for the idea behind my piece and for the visual side of my piece.
At the beginning of the project when I thought that I was going to create a fake campaign, and then talk to lots of people and see their reactions and hopefully spark discussion and debate, I felt as though the project was going to be so conceptual that their would be next to no experimentation with artistic materials. However I decided that I wanted to create a physical installation for my final piece, in which I wanted to incorporate elements of the human body like hair, flesh and bone. I wanted this combined with lots of ready made objects, with the base of all of the sculptures being various different white chairs.
There were two main parts to my experimentation. The first part was the picking and refining of readymade objects, that I wanted to use to represent the different characters I was trying to present. This was by far the hardest part of the experimentation because when you are playing around with two or three objects for each sculpture, there are endless variations that you can create. Furthermore. I had to consider the fact that all of these sculptures have to combine well with each other as a whole installation. I believe that I went through a long tow/three week process of just combining many, many different objects to create the most, simplistic, suggestive, figurative sculptures that I possibly could. Even when I finished the piece within the time that I had left. I still felt as though their was much more that I could have done to make some if not all of the sculptures more effective through more experimentation with different objects.
The other element of experimentation that I had to contend with was creating the suggestive physical bodily elements like hair, skin and bone. To create the bone I used air drying clay but, I had to spend time moulding the clay to create the shape that I wanted for the segments of a spine, the same happened when creating the arm bones, which took many attempts to get to a shape that I could live with. I also had to mix acrylic paint a lot to get the perfect shades for the bone. I also had to spend a lot of time moulding various piece of latex, trying to create a modrock torso with liquid lat and eggshells stuck on top and had to sew lots of synthetic hair into one of the readymade objects.
I do think that I did a lot experimentation and tried copious variations of all of the objects for the final installation, however I do believe that their is a lot more experimenting with the placement of objects that I could have done to take some of the sculptures to the next level.
I do think that a lot of the experimentation that I have conducted has helped to influence my idea development, as a lot of the ideas that I was having were to do with how I wanted my sculptures to look for the final installation would not have developed if I had not tried then out first. For example, the development of the idea of how I would layout all of the chairs came about as I took all of the chairs that I was thinking of using and placed them in different way until I came up with an order for the chairs and the way that they should be arranged that would be the most effective.
When I had my initial idea of creating a fake campaign, it was through my experimentation of creating posters and different scenarios for the campaign that I began to realise how difficult it would be for my to come to a coherent conclusion if I carried on directly down that route. This then lead me to think about creating an installation which would be a much more tangible way of sharing my thoughts and opinions on the topic of altruism through art. I thought that an installation would overall be more accessible to a wider range of people on some level. I was initially thinking about having an identical number of chairs with identical dummies on them and having voices playing in the space all with different opinions and stories talking about altruism. The idea behind this was to highlight the importance of anonymity for someone who is trying to reach a certain level of altruistic being. However, I concluded that this could potentially just add to much confusion to the piece and that their would not be enough physical differentiation between the sculptures that would not match the differentiation of the voices.
I do think that I did have quite a lot of idea development from my first idea, however this idea development did happen fairly early on in the project, and when I had decided on the installation my core idea for the final piece did not change, and also the idea that I wanted to present through the project about altruism did not really change throughout the project, which I think is fine because what did develop was the idea of how to present the initial concept in the most effective way. I think that presenting the concept in the most effective way was key to my project as the initial concept is much more complex.
The initial idea behind my final piece was conceived in my mind quite straightforwardly quite early on in the project when I had decided against focusing all of my attention on a fake campaign. However, the majority of the time after this point was spent making agonising decisions about the eight individual sculptures which I wanted to be visually simplistic whilst having lots of different levels incorporated within every item, which would then combine together to be coherent and have a certain flow.
Basically, I had a basic idea for the final piece near to the beginning of the project and every experiment that I did was to go towards helping to create the best sculptural representation of my ideas to do with altruism. I think that there are definitely individual sculptures in my final piece that are stronger than others, like the spine screwed onto the white bars stool as the presence of a human figure is heavily suggested and, with very little, and the barstool has a lot of connotations within itself of whom that sculpture represents as a type of person. There are a couple of the sculptures that are definitely unbalanced and are lacking some unique enticing quality, like the chair representing a middle aged woman, with the scarf and necklace. I definitely think that this sculpture could do with a lot more experimentation of the placement of objects.
In terms of my final piece satisfying the criteria outlined in my statement of intent, I think that I have partially kept to all of the questions that I wanted to address in my final piece that I spoke about in my statement of intent, as I have spoken to a lot of different people about their opinions towards helping others and how this works in society, and I have incorporated all of these ideas in a sound clip which will be played along side the installation. However, what I did not outline at the start was the fact that I would end up using tangible/ physical objects to try to present my findings about altruism. Although, my project has changed from the statement of intent at the beginning of the project, I just think that it shows that I have been constantly experimenting and developing my ideas to try to get the best outcome possible. I do think that the final piece has an overall impact especially when the voice clip is playing along side the installation as it brings the sculptures to life. I do think that there is potential for the final piece to be pushed further in terms of the composition of some of the sculptures, however I think that how the final piece is now is fairly satisfactory for the time that I have had to complete it.
For the presentation of my research I tried to make sure that there were clear visual links between the research and how it had influenced my experimentation. For example when I was looking into Marina Abramovic, and I found secondary imagery of some of her work and put it into my sketchbook I wanted to make sure that it was near to the pages with reference photos of the skeleton and also photographs of the process I went through to make interpretations of bone out of clay,as it was a lot of her philosophy as an artist, using her body in way which forced people to step outside their comfort zone which influenced me to incorporate bone, hair and skin into my sculptures.
For my final piece I had decided that I wanted all eight of the sculptures in a square shape with a space in the middle to look as if all of the figurative representations of the sculptures are having a conversation. I had painted all of the different chairs white, to help simplify the sculptures and draw attention to the objects that had been added to them, to represent specific categories of people in society, (also the colour white symbolises purity and often has connotations of innocence and light, which links to the idea of altruistic behaviour, as pure and light- but also therefore unattainable for humans, who have physical bodies of flesh and meat to lug around, and human appetites that cannot be ignored). When I started thinking about how big the square should be (I decided on quite big to get the full effect of each of the sculptures individually and as a group), I also began to consider the use of some kind of white flooring to emphasises the sculptures. I decided to buy over 100 lino tiles which I painstakingly stuck to the floor, initially I had wanted the white floor to cover the whole space, but and did not have enough so, the tiles created a patch of white floor, with borders of the normal floor around it. I think that this ended up being very successful as the differentiation between the two floors meant that my final piece was contained in one space and looked more like an art piece.
For the sound clip, I wanted it to be played through loud speakers so that the noise would be very impactful when people walk into the space, however, I have to consider the other final pieces that will be in the room for the final show, and so I have begun to think about the possibility of the building small white boxes to attach to the wall which contain some kind of a device so that people can put headphones in and listen to the sound clip whilst looking at the installation.
From doing this final major project, I have learnt a lot about time management, as I discovered whilst in the middle of the project that if I had done a lot of the stages of creating the final piece earlier in the timeline, like painting all of the chairs white for example (which is a time consuming job) then I would have more time to experiment with the placement of objects on the white chairs.
I have also learnt that the presentation of your final outcome can sometimes nearly be as important as the final outcome, as people come to view artwork and so you have to consider every eventuality of the presentation, so that you can do your final piece justice. In this final major project for the first time I realised the important of presentation as when I put the white floor tiles down underneath all of the chairs, my piece was immediately lifted and the visual impact became a lot more striking.
I feel as though I have massively improved my ability to resolve a piece no matter how disappointed I am before I finish, as with other projects on this course especially I have not been willinging to fully committee to some of my final outcomes as I am already too disappointed with how they have turned out before they are finished. I feel as though I tried really had to push through this kind of negative thinking, so that I could get one of my final piece to some standard of completion. Although I would not consider the final piece I created finished, it is completed to a standard where it does not look particularly unfinished, which I personally think is a big step forward for me, as I prepare to move onto the next stage of my life.
I think that doing this final major project has definitely proved to me the importance of context, especially when you are starting of with such a conceptual idea. As it is important that you are able to ground your ideas in legitimate theories and explanations that mean that you are not just plucking information out of thin air. I definitely think that context and research in general is something that I would like to put more emphasis on next time I am doing an art project as the more information you know about the subject you are taking about in your work the better the work will be.