Day 1 of Commune + Photographer's Gallery + National Gallery
Despite being in such a wonderful place like Osterley Park, we spent the majority of time indoors; and when we were outside, it was always from point A to B. During the hiking we did find some common ground in types of people we despise, we also know a bit more of each other's backgrounds.
Here is Stacey doing a cool pose with some stones, on the right is Lloyd's Building.
I made this itinerary for our first (pre) commune day, I was a bit too optimistic when planning this, hence we only made it to Lloyd's before calling it a day. Back in army I would always be subjected to strict timings, and exactly in this format; now I'm here bringing the group around, I understand why it's important for timings to be met.
More On Lloyd's Building:
Architect Richard Rogers was commissioned to redesign the original Lloyd's building in 1977. The "high tech" style (although Rogers doesn't think so) is due to Roger's decision to design it "'inside out.' All of the service functions are removed from the interior and placed at the exterior of the building. This not only allows for easy replacement and maintenance on the elevators, plumbing, or electrical facilities, but it frees up the interior to create an open and flexible plan that allows for uninterrupted activity on each level."
Rogers kept a portion of the original building's facade, mixing modern with old (I couldn't enter, this is from the internet). Rogers even left the original cranes used in the construction on top of the building, this creates a very modern, industrial feel to it.
4 Saints in 3 Acts - A Snapshot of the American Avant-garde
4 Saints captured a key moment in the American Avant-garde; Gertrude Stein wrote the piece and Virgil Thomson composed the piece. The cast were all African Americans (because of their voice), and most if not all of them were part of the Harlem Renaissance. Photography served as "insights into the importance of the African-American contribution to the opera’s popular success..The [production's] strikingly innovative cellophane stage designs...reflected a complex interdisciplinary intersection of white and black, queer and straight, avant-garde and mainstream subcultures." Basically through photos we can still understand how big 4 Saints was.
It was interesting to see the talent from the Harlem Renaissance 'teleported' to Broadway, because usually Broadway back then was dominated by Whites, and when the Harlem Renaissance was at its peak even the cabarets and bars, usually filled with African Americans, White people started going there because it was "trendy". Apart from their unique voice, Stein wanted to show that what the African Americans came up with wasn't just a trend, they are humans just like us and we should treat them so.
It seems naive to assume race does not play a factor in any work. Is there a way to transcend this racial barrier, and just communicate in a purely visual way? Is there a visual language that is not bound by any culture or race, that can be understood by all? Maybe this language is currently in the works, as the world is getting increasingly connected, maybe we will see a unified language that just speaks, without any connotation to race or whatever.
Instant Stories: Wim Wenders' Polaroids
Wenders said that taking photos with a Polaroid felt like stealing, because unlike negatives there is only one copy of the photo, so in a way the subject might have more ownership of it than the photographer. Shooting with it also felt effortless, the result was instant and there wasn't a need to properly frame the shots, as a result Wenders quickly accumulated thousands of these prints. Wenders used his Polaroid to document the light and shadows in finding sites for his films, because back then it was the only way to get results instantly. Compared to today, digital cameras and the ability to copy practically anything 2D, made this magic of replicating originals gone. Sure, Polaroids produce a tangible product instantly, but what exactly is the allure to it? Is it its uniqueness, instant result, or that white border around the image? Today we have the Instagram phone printer, but it still doesn't feel "weighty" or "beefy" enough.
I guess it's just comparing what you see to what you think you see, like photography in general. It's an idea I think, that never-ending comparison between your eyes to the lens of a camera, and these two exhibitions showed just that. In 4 Saints, the photographers wanted to capture the wow and the magnitude of the opera, how it was another source of pride force for all the African Americans, and a leap forward in Broadway. On the other hand, Wenders used his Polaroid to scout for sites for his films, document daily life, and just to play around with it. I don't ever think we can translate what we see in our minds to a piece of paper for all to see and feel the same, but photography isn't about that, there is beauty in comparing what actually came out with the "original" in the mind, and it's that surprise and excitement I feel that is so addicting about taking photos.
Monochrome: Painting in Black and White
Spanish Monarchy 1794, Grisaille, Oil on Canvas
Bayeu Y Subias, Franciso painted in grisaille to study the light and shadow, because this is actually a rough sketch of a painting that would go up in the ceiling. Grisaille, and a big part of painting in monochrome was the painter's way to reign dominance over all other forms of art. It's pretty childish to flaunt around that "my art is better than yours", but as a result we got a lot of cool lookalike paintings (some that are hung like reliefs that actually looked like reliefs).
Giacometti's Annette Seated 1957, oil on canvas
The monochrome colours and the linear, aggressive strokes "[represent] something more universal than an individual likeness; it addresses the entirely subjective nature of seeing and experience". Giacometti "is famously known for his own artistic account of the people around him, expressing his interest in seeing the other’s inner self and painting or sculpting it." Colours is kind of a distraction, and Giacometti wants us to focus on the bony figure of his wife, and the sparse surroundings around her. I can describe this piece forever, but her gaze, her almost mummified figure and the aggressive strokes draw me in.
Unlike Franciso, Giacometti's monochromatic palette doesn't serve an utilitarian purpose, instead it is a technique that goes with his painting that describe a person.
Eliasson, Room for One Colour, Monofrequency Lights
The yellow sodium lights overpower all other lights in our visible spectrum, resulting in everything we see to be in shades of black and white. Eliasson points out that in the absence of colour, it becomes easier to see the details in things. Physically this installation provided me with a novel experience, conceptually it's pretty neat that despite all the things we can see, we only start paying attention to it when it gets reduced. For example, we only miss or want the things that we either lost or don't have.
Monochrome is an idea, it doesn't explicitly mean black or white, instead it's the lack of different colours. Monks decorated and painted their church in hues of indigo so they can focus on their prayers, old painters wanted to show their prowess in painting, and show that painting is the superior form of art, and modern artists question what does it mean to have no colour; this exhibition pulled my brain like taffy (in a good way), and it answers the question why paint?
Interior of the Fort
Pillow Fort (Day 2)
Pillow Fort (Last Day)
Developing Film + Shooting in Flash
I remember the subjects in Wegee's photos were almost like being brought back to life using flash; the sharp contrast between the subjects from their background creates this very noir look. Hence, I went off to borrow a Nikon speedlite, get myself a 400 ISO film to document stuff at night.
Out of all the 36 shots I got 6 shots... and luckily I made a shot-by-shot reference sheet so I kind of figured out what went wrong. Firstly, using logic I can deduce that the other 30 shots were underexposed, because there was absolutely nothing on the developed film. This couldn't be handling because everything should be black, but my f stop ranged between 8 to 22--3 stops isn't a big difference that would lead to 80% of my film missing...I also realised that I might not have set the flash properly too, I mean I did set the the correct f stop to ISO in the speedlite, but there might also be something I am missing.
Firstly, I've always wondered how to read an image's histogram properly, because I never really know how properly exposed my images are, as I can easily manipulate it digitally.
Notes on histogram:
- y axis= # of pixels, x axis= luminance of pixels, left is darkest and right whitest
- an overexposed image has a lot going on on the right, the opposite for underexposed images
- that being said this isn't always correct, also underexposed images are generally better than overexposed ones
- avoid having values on the extreme sides of the graph, without them it's 'safer' to manipulate images without losing detail
Now onto guide numbers, an equation that states " the light output of an electronic flash is equal to the distance of the flash unit from the subject multiplied by the lens aperture, or f/stop." It is a measure of distance at which the light can illuminate the subject.
GN = Subject Distance from Flash Source x f/Stop
In most of my shots, my f-stop were 22~8, and it makes sense to do have those indoors during the day, but when it's nighttime not really. Now that I think of it, the only shots that did turn out at night was when the subject was very close to me.
I completely missed Wegee's style, but I did learn some rules of photography. In regards to the developing procedure, I learnt that different developers have different effects (duh), and how they react to the silver crystals on the film; solvent based reduce graininess but lose sharpness by chewing around the crystal, non solvent holds sharpness but the result is grainier. Then if the developer is liquid or powder also affects contrast and tonality. Currently I'm sticking to ID-11, which from what I have read is the most general purpose.
Now I also realise I need to learn how to read negatives, so this is what I have complied:
- Factors to look out for when reading a neg:
- overall density, contrast, shadow detail + highlight
- Shadow detail +highlight : should be dense, but still transparent and full of detail, a good rule is to try to read newsprint, in a proper negative you should just be able to read the words
- Overall density means the ratio between the transparent bits with the solid bits of the film, it really depends on the shot, but for landscapes or portraits it needs to balance
- overall density, contrast, shadow detail + highlight
Looking at my film, this roll lacks detail, so it means it's either underexposed or underdeveloped. I know definitely there are some shots that are underexposed, so to compensate for that in the future I can push my film. B&W film has a large latitude, and that means if I were to bracket my shots, I need to do so i intervals of 2 stops, because 1 doesn't make much sense.
There are a lot of things to do now, I think I need to develop my own reference for film developing, which is kinda hard when you don't know what proper exposure is (oh wait I can use the negatives that I paid for as a reference point). This film photography is so huge, but I'm keen to continue learning it.
Speculative Design Pt.1 (Big Ideas)
Speculative Design is "is to unsettle the present rather than predict the future" (88). According to Dunne and Raby, designers need to shift from designing applications (so designing for the preferable future) to designing implications, by creating imaginary products and services that situate these new developments within everyday material culture" (49). Get this, designers are not shaping the future, instead they are creating futuristic scenarios, that act as catalysts that generate discussions between different people's version of future.
Currently, "design’s inbuilt optimism can greatly complicate things, first, as a form of denial that the problems we face are more serious than they appear, and second, by channeling energy and resources into fiddling with the world out there rather than the ideas and attitudes inside our heads that shape the world out there" (22). Dunne and Raby brings up a good point, and yes design should strive to not only serve its purpose, but also encourage thinking. However, I don't agree that its optimism can shift our priorities around, and not all designers are the same. Yes, big corporations and companies ram materialism down our throats, but it isn't too hard to reject it no? I can see the world getting along just fine, with some designers focusing on fixing my chair, and then some asking me if sitting is really the correct posture. However, I do agree that we "need more pluralism in design, not of style but of ideology and values" (9). For example, Bauhaus rocked the world by responding to nouveau, saying instead fiddling with the embellishments of a chair, which have zero utilitarian value, how about focusing on its manufacturing process? The ergonomics or what's necessary. This idea was in way brought out by the Industrial Revolution, and in our case, with the rise of rapid communication, our response to over-consumption (the current trend) is finding our voices again, the idea that we are individuals not governed by any group of people.
Though designers and artists are often seen as the "chisel and hammer" of society, after reading Speculative Everything I get the idea that everybody can in their ways, shape it. I mean, if say designers do create imaginary contexts to provoke thinking about the future, who are the people they are trying to provoke? It is our versions of what the future ought to be, that designers are trying to unlock; after all, "change starts with the individual and that the individual needs to be presented with many options to form an opinion" (160). Designers simply display alternate realities that provide a starting point for its audience to chew on.
Lastly, a section I think summerises what and how speculative design is:
The idea of the “proposal” is at the heart of this approach to design: to propose, to suggest, to offer something. This is what design is good at. It can sketch out possibilities. Although these proposals draw from rigorous analysis and thorough research, it’s important they do not lose their imaginative, improbable, and provocative qualities. They are closer to literature than social science, emphasize imagination over practicality, and ask questions rather than provide answers. The... value is not what it achieves or does but what it is and how it makes people feel, especially if it encourages people to question, in an imaginative, troubling, and thoughtful way, everydayness and how things could be different. To be effective, the work needs to contain contradictions and cognitive glitches. Rather than offering an easy way forward, it highlights dilemmas and trade-offs between imperfect alternatives. Not a solution, not a “better” way, just another way. Viewers can make up their own minds.This is where we believe speculative design can flourish—providing complicated pleasure, enriching our mental lives, and broadening our minds in ways that complement other media and disciplines. It’s about meaning and culture, about adding to what life could be, challenging what it is, and providing alternatives that loosen the ties reality has on our ability to dream. Ultimately, it is a catalyst for social dreaming. (189)
I'm not here to solve anything, and I do not know if this is the correct direction or whatever; however I agree with Dunne and Raby that design can be viewed as a catalyst. Our job isn't to solve world peace, addressing the issue and bringing it out for all to look at should be our goal. In this case providing alternatives not only through design, but any medium that allows us to conjure up different images of what the future could be.
I occasionally dream about what happens if the entire world was run by people like me, and instead of figuring out the details, I like to leave it as a question. I am interested in knowing the unknown, and the essence of speculative design dug this idea out from my thoughts. Taking this a step further, instead of simply raising a question, designers provide a visual representation of the alternatives out there. To put it metaphorically, before this book my thoughts were like water, and after reading it it's now contained in a vessel.
Speculative Design Pt.2 (Artists)
Thomas Thwaites took the logical argument, reduction ad absurdum to the extreme. In order to prove a statement's validity, in this case to illustrate "what goes into making even a simple product like a toaster...the absurdity of what has to be done to lightly burn a piece of bread each morning", he went to mine for the metals then smelt them in his microwave. We have become too detached from the actual making of products we take them for granted, we then surround ourselves with rituals like this without questioning ourselves, "why am I burning my bread?".
Thwaities questions us by doing something absurd, like Alys and his ice block, most of us would ask why did he spend so much time doing something so useless? It is only after reading the process that I realised its meaning. I remember when I first saw this piece in the V&A, I thought it was just an ugly toaster and didn't see it as a question; my understanding of this piece only deepened when I read Speculative Everything.
Throw away whatever idea that neatly designed objects are what designed objects should be, sometimes the crudeness of something is the heart of the question. Thwaities's dismantled a ritual that we perform without thinking, then presented it a question. Going back to providing alternatives to encourage thinking, Thwaities presented us in a different light; the toaster doesn't look like one, but it functions as one, providing us an alternative view of the same ritual we carry out.
Kind of similar reduction ad absurdum, designers can employ ambiguity through their works, through a bit of confusion to ask questions. Dunne and Raby calls this "aesthetics of unreality", and it explores the interrelationships between real and the unreal.
Rather than focus on something fantastical, Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation uses CGI to swap an adult's hand with a child's one. The result is disturbing, simple and it works, and because it digs out something that we don't normally know we are doing (just like the rituals by Thwaities), that is what makes this juxtaposition profound.
What makes this series unreal for us it that "They embody extreme values that for some have no place in this world... a parallel world where extreme aspects of our own world have somehow metamorphosed into whole environments...They suggest a techno-poetic landscape situated somewhere between what we are and what we have the potential to become." It's quite obvious, places that we don't normally see can also seem unreal to us, especially those surrounded by taboo. What I liked about Devlin's piece is its ability to shift the meaning of the subject; an electric chair turns into a throne, a lethal injection theatre looks like a morbid show, and a gas chamber looks like the interior of a submarine, and when they are all placed in the speculative context, then what does this all mean? Is capital punishment slowly going back to public hanging? Are we going to still individually execute people? Or will there be massive chambers? Extreme ideas people don't normally see everyday, framing the shots to remind us of something familiar, then the realisation at what we are doing, comparing something used to execute people to our everyday object.
Dunne and Raby's United Micro Kingdoms reminded me of the DK Illustrated books I would always read in bookstores. My favourite ones were their cross sectional diagrams of various Star Wars locations, sites, and the best, VEHICLES! The book and the imagined world both presented distant realities, with details so rich it seems almost possible.
I would trace each room or machinery with my finger, try to imagine if I could navigate through all these and read each description box to see if I can be convinced that they are real.
In a similar way Dunne & Raby constructed worlds, but they took it a step further by defining groups of people, their ethos and how that permeates into every aspect of their lives. For example the Bioliberals "are social democrats, pursue biotechnology, and with it, new values...live in a world in which the hype of synthetic biology has come true and delivered on its promises...a society in symbiosis with the natural world" (180). The duo made miniature version of cars that each group would use, from vehicles powered by gas, to fully automated cars that cut across buildings and roads, and these and other aspects provides an alternative that takes an idea to its extreme (kind of like Thwaities).
They are not saying that any of the ways are correct, but instead saying that an alternative does exist, and even if it sounds unfinished I come to realise that is potent enough. The illustrators are not proposing we build a Star Destroyer from Star Wars, but are saying that it would work if it had these bits... Taking this idea into the commune project, I can lead my group into creating a world together, or if a world is too big maybe a space, a service or a product that doesn't have to be ideal, but filled with ideas.
Post Portfolio + Commune Pt.1
This was my first real portfolio making experience; I learnt that printing on different paper can result in different shades of white, despite coming from the same printer. Looking back, it would have been better if I paid more attention to the finish of my works, because my projects didn't really answer to the briefs.
In class, we have never said that a piece has failed the project, by missing the brief; instead I think we saw the brief as guides or starting points. In the beginning of the commune project we broke down all the projects in unit 2, by concept, process and aim. We did that to plan our own project briefs, which will all take place sometime in the future.
I have only been underlining key points from the briefs, but when you break it down into the concept, aim and process, the project isn't just clearer, but it makes it actually possible to carry it out. For example, in the HWH project, the concept is the idea of an archive, where information is hidden unless you go digging for it. The process is to translate one medium to another one, like converting interviews into transcripts. I mean, that was essentially what I had done, but the brief is so much more than just a starting point, and if I could go back and start unit 2 again, I would have had a way more fruitful time carrying out the work instead of wondering how to start.
Afterwards, I watched Adam Curtis's HyperNormalisation...I'm not sure what exactly I should do with all this information now. I feel compelled to do something, to react to this documentary but I don't know what. Aside from the conspiracies, I follow the idea that we create safe bubbles of simplified versions of reality (perceptions), and that scares me. In an environment that is obsessed about reality and real stuff, it's ironic we prefer simple lies rather than complicated truths. As if that wasn't enough, we want choices to be made for us, even if those simplified agents portrayed a cartoon version of what we 'want', which is completely different from what we truly want, we will take the fake one.
Reality doesn't matter, it's all in the perception. In politics, or just people that are in positions of immense power, their job is to simplify what was really happening, and give the public a direction to go. This could be, Gaddafi is a good man, because he is dismantling his weapons, to Gaddafi is a dictator now, we support the rebels in ousting him from power. On the other hand, living in an age of individualism, it's also ironic that people feel comforted just by reflecting on themselves. In the case of ELIZA, people are comforted by a machine, whose job is to reply whatever the user inputs in a question form of their previous response, which essentially makes the user talk to themselves. Immediately, this mirrors Maria's the artist is present performance, and Descartes's Cogito ergpo sum; Maria demonstrates how everybody just need to look at themselves, and nothing is real from Descartes.
I don't know what to do now, I just got my paradigm shifted, and my jimmies rustled.
Today I watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s There will be Blood, a drama film released in 2007. I enjoyed the narrative in Magnolia and was hoping to find a similar level of complexity in the narrative in There will be Blood, but instead I was taken away by Anderson’s use of long shots. The extended shot has numerous effects, because it simulates a viewer focusing from a particular angle. This effect generally creates unease in the viewer; if a scene was purely about focusing on Daniel’s face for example, it would simply be his face for 15 seconds, and in that amount of time I would run out of things to look at. In a scene where there isn’t much happening, you start to notice the nuances of the facial expressions, each individual sweat bead or the flickering of the fire reflected from the face. These shots can create tension or unease, but also fluidity. With less jumping around and cutting, we can take in more of the background also.
With more time now, I feel I can catch up on classic movies, and some books. Speaking of books, with blending sound into drawings still fresh in my mind, I decided to read Kandinsky’s Concerning the Spiritual in Art.
Kandinsky states that good art must be the child of the current age, and creating art should come from within the artist, and not “material reward for his dexterity”. What surprised me was this struggle between “true” art, and art for art’s sake was already present during the early 1900’s; when artists were essentially selling their dexterity, instead of reaching greater artistic heights like what we read in books. Kandinsky is against materialism, but how he got where he was would have been near impossible if his father wasn’t a wealthy man. Sure, he did make great art, but I just feel a bit conflicted that he neglected his upbringing when he dismisses materialism.
Taking a step back, I find it difficult to stop overwhelming myself with information. I constantly need to read or listen to something. I feel like I am wasting my time, even if I am just reading Kandinsky, there is this urge to do something more.
This idea that I have been sterilised to information overload is interesting, and yes it could lead to nice art and stuff, but actually this is a problem I am keen on tackling. I mean, this could be the result of living in an urban environment all my life, or formal education’s method of stacking up work and giving it out in steady pace.
I’ve planned out the commune trip, and tomorrow I will be taking my group to the Osterley Park, Lloyd’s insurance building and Finsbury Health Centre. I plan to discuss some of these with them tomorrow.
Today was the first day, and although we explored numerous places together, I feel I didn't build up any meaningful research material.
We started off in Osterley Park, where we immediately had lunch and stayed inside to hide from the snow. In there, we learnt about each other’s family, interests and random bits of info here and there. I don't actually think any of us know what we are supposed to do, as all we are doing is planning things as a group, then exploring new places.
Research does not always have to be all about books and stuff, a simple interaction and gathering with classmates counts as it too. The point of commune is to utilise group thinking; to tap into each other’s mind to solve problems.
Point of Commune project:
Through a super duper experimental research process, one that involves spending time together with other group mates, generate project briefs (4 of them) that I will need to carry out later. The emphasis is on making the experience as social as possible, so that can be renting out an Airbnb or spending time in a confined space together.
So what we have done so far is a good starting point, but instead of trekking around town we should focus on a specific site and stay there. I remember in the video of the Futuro house, the participants kept on talking about the enclosed space and its effect on them; the space made them isolated, confined them together, and ultimately served as a catalyst for whatever their most inner thoughts were.
Reflections on Photography and Other Mumbo Jumbo
I don't know what photography is, and I don't want it to take over me. Less than two years ago, I thought photography was this boring 2D way of capturing what everybody sees; fast forward to today, I still hold that view, but I am also doing the exact same thing! In my defence though, I am more interested in the technical aspect like the construction and the development of the image. It's interesting that I shifted from all things sculpture and drawing (back in high school) to photography, maybe it was because of army and all the stress that it entailed.
When I was in the army, usually I get the weekends off. I use that one and a half days to remain in the art-making momentum, and it was then I picked up pinhole camera making; I figured out it was a little project I can do to add to my portfolio for product design (I thought I wanted to do that back then). I started with matchbox cameras, then slowly progressed to ones that I need to create an actual body for. I didn't realise it back then, but I was actually interested in manipulating film's recording capacity. I felt I took everyday technology for granted, and I was blindly enjoying the benefits of centuries of technological advancement. I felt responsible for all the progress we made, and I can acknowledge the dedications of those before me by simply making them from scratch. At the same time, I was researching how to make a motorbike by strapping a lawnmower engine to a bike wheel. I never got to actually wielding and finding the engine for my bike, but now I'm here...maybe...
- photography is fun because you can compare it to what you think you saw, at that exact moment
- as a denizen of this Trump era world, I need to prepare for the eventual apocalypse by knowing how to construct the objects that provide the greatest connivence to me (within reason)
- white spaces that remind me to take a deep breath and shelter from the fast paced life
Monochrome Revisited + Other Thoughts
I went back to Monochrome today just to see Annette Seated again. While writing the reflection yesterday I had this feeling for this piece that I can't describe; the description on the side says it shows how subjective our sensory and experience is, and obviously that's true because memory is reconstructive and we can only perceive a thin bandwidth of the spectrum of light. Giacometti's portrayal of Annette as a lifeless husk, surrounded in a dilapidated studio, made me challenge it as a portrait. This resembles a portrait, but the technique, the impasto like, Kline's aggressive strokes challenges what it is supposed to be. Going on a slight tangent, I realised that older works (in this exhibit it was stuff before Giacometti) all delivered their 'punchline', the artist's virtuosity by showing the audience what, whereas modernist ones showed the how.
In Giacometti's case, the wow factor came from how else can a portrait still seem like one. On the other hand, Jacob de Wit's Jupiter and Ganymede tricked the audience into thinking it is a relief, but actually it's a painting. Take Malevich's black squares for example, there isn't much going on in the 'what' realm, but it challenges you, creates an experience of confusion, questions awareness and just shifts your paradigm on what art is supposed to be. Yes, there are works that provokes the audience done before Malevich, but I don't think any of them deal with abstraction.
Singling elements out, purity in abstraction and emphasis on form are topics that were not conceived when Titian was busy engaged in the paragone debate. I'm not exactly sure where I am going with this observation, and at this moment I have all these separate ideas, concepts that I am finding difficult to fit in the goal of the Commune project. The project asks for social experience, and the end product are clear definitions of what is considered a success in my project briefs.
An inefficient leader gives instructions that causes confusion within his/her ranks. After the jumping session my group discussed what an effective leader is to each of us, the underlying factor are:
- Firm with instructions
- A listener, understands different perspective
- Knows each member well
I remember I was bursting with ideas, because I was a sergeant myself and I want to share my experience leading a section of men; I was more interested in putting my ideas out instead of being receptive to my member’s ideas. I believed that my definitions are more correct than theirs’s, and as such I also to vet every aspect of this project.
I can’t pinpoint whether all these factors came from my time in the army, but I believe my time there exacerbated these traits; as a sergeant I am forced to be responsible for all my men, and I am proud to have underwent this experience and I want to exhibit my militaristic background. But then, does it really apply to this context? In army we didn’t have much of a say in anything, whereas here I have more freedom, more alternatives and choices.
I need to trust people, just like giving in to uncertainty and expect the unexpected. I also need to agree more with others, because it’s not just my decision that matters.
Delegation of work, trust, and just not being so “on” when it comes to work.
Spending about seven hours in a constructed place is quite isolating, it would be interesting to re-see the outside world after we spend our day inside the fort. Similar to Eliasson's installation, overloading the our perception gives us "super vision", and we can use this to see regular day subjects from a different perspective. We also decided to randomly pick out activities from a hat, as this alleviates the need for a person to be in charge for x hours at a time, and I think it allows more flexibility and uncertainty in our project.
We are a group of individuals with uh, strong ideas, and are quite passionate about them. For me, I am learning how to, without sounding like a tyrant, not treat this as an individual project. I don't think many people know this, but a group project isn't an individual project in a sense that you need to always need to agree with the group. It's easy to sit back now and say these, but when we are debating about the project, I can't help but get sucked in and fight it out with the rest.
This project requires a different type of reflection, instead of reflecting on decisions that have physical consequences, we are altering the topics of the conversation. I realised we could have saved time if we delegated the work earlier, and instead of everybody working on the same part of the project together, we could have planned different things more efficiently, then make alterations later. For example if Sharo and I worked on the concept and text for the manifesto, then Stacey and Febe could sort of the schedule and activities, we would have a plan a lot earlier, allowing more time to polish it.
Speaking with my group mate Sharo, she feels the problem isn't efficiency, but it's the lack of knowledge of other's backgrounds. She believes it's important to know the history of others, to better understand why people act now. In a culture melting pot like London, it makes sense to understand people individually. Yes it all sounds pretty damn duh right now, but why didn't I think of doing that when we first started? Listening about other's history, then knowing more about yourself through others by identifying similar habits and experiences is something Sharo enjoys doing, and hopes to continue to throughout this project (almost making a dossier about each of us really).
Stacey led us on an audio tour of Covent Garden, but this wasn't any ordinary tour, but one that fuses a narrative, performance with some bits of city. I was apprehensive throughout the tour, and it was difficult to immerse myself in the environment that Stacey had created for us. I felt unease hearing something that people around me didn't, and felt I was being judged unfairly because of this. There were a few people who disturbed us during the tour, those ranged from asking us questions to mimicking us doing activities.
I recall standing with my eyes closed in a roundabout, following the audio cues on my headphones, realising that I can't get into this constructed world. It wasn't my friend's or anything's fault, but looking back now I have this irrational fear that I am always burdening people. Be it walking down the road or standing stationary, I need to look around and making sure I wasn't an obstruction in any way.
I feel it might be interesting if I address this and see what the group thinks.
Day 1 of the fort:
We spent most of the time building a fort and cooking. Uhh, card games were ok but I predicted we need a a full day to settle down and get the momentum going, so I wrote down a few things we can improve on tomorrow:
- bring bulldog clips
- the design of the fort should not be complicated, but enough to cover us all and make it comfortable, basically we should cut down time on construction and meal prep
- movies never after lunch, otherwise nobody will pay attention to it
I realised we finally got talking when we got out for dinner, but also I turned a conversation between two into a group conversation. Being the "glue" of this group, I learnt I brought all of us together without really realising it, as none of the members knew each other before this project (well not very well), I feel responsible for this group.
Yes, we didn't do much today honestly, but taking what Sharo said about learning about a person from his/her history makes the person more "alive". Putting aside learning about my friend's history, it's fun to treat conversations as a stream, diverting it or stemming it to change the flow. To be honest, being awkward isn't that bad, I know I see the world differently but it's the only reality I have got.
I will be more proactive with my note taking, and take down every decision making situation.
Commune Pt.7 (Conclusion)
I based my activity on the inputs and contribution of each group member, in other words I assumed I could start with a topic, then see it being analysed and discussed by everybody in the group. In reality, I just assumed they would do so because I would, and looking back that doesn’t make any sense.
Firstly, my goal for this activity was too vague--I wanted them share what I found interesting about speculative design, and see what can come out from it when I give them something to sculpt.
Secondly, even when I leading the activity I felt it was already going off topic, and I didn’t “fix” it because I felt I needed to make this activity as “convenient” for them as possible. In retrospect I guess aside from more planning time, I shouldn’t have assumed how they would react to the plan, especially I only knew them on a rather superficial level.
This project allowed me to view myself socially from a new perspective. I knew I handle conversations with others differently, this commune project roughly defined it for me—people need time to gradually know each other, and cannot be immediately open. I know this sounds obvious but before this experience I simply went with it.
Imperial War Museum
I realised that it’s good to have a concept in mind when visiting places filled with information, especially like the Imperial War Museum that I went to today, so that I have something to compare and work towards. I felt I could have gotten a lot more out of the visit if I simply went in with an idea, and since the artefacts in the WW1 exhibit are not things I see every day, I can see my idea with different objects. In other words, for me at least, going out to see interesting stuff requires lots of planning.
I mean I didn’t leave empty-handed, I got to see objects that I have only read about or seen via a screen. For instance, I thought it was interesting to see how the uniforms, locations and weaponry felt different from real life when it was portrayed in video games and movies/drama. In video games, important elements like weight, mechanism and experience of the firer are all discarded. Instead we get mathematical equations that dictate how many times it takes to kill a player, and the time it takes to reload the weapon. In movies weapons act like uniforms, a person holding a Thompson SMG will always be the hero, and the villain always wields a Luger for example. I remember how it felt firing a weapon caked with mud, how rain and other weather elements can not only impair movement, but also mood; and now looking back at the constructed worlds that use those artefacts as props, I’m equally amazed and scared that we can deviate so much from the original intent of them.
Futurism died right after WW1, after the artists were shocked at the violence, and the general consensus was not to repeat it. Well obviously it didn’t work because we dropped two nukes on Japan, and blew lots of people to bits using drones just a few decades later, but what I found interesting is this is an example of speculative design, but in reverse.
We don’t design with the future in mind, we strip elements right out of their context from the past and apply it to suit our needs. Increasingly video games and movies in addition to providing entertainment, also seek to show that the perils of war and all that stuff; but I feel, especially after finishing the Holocaust exhibit that I need an explanation why systematic killing are still in place.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this idea, but the fun part comes from trying to fit all these random ideas into “one sheet of paper”.
I thought it was pretty cute that people would, under the cover of night, fell a tree and replace it with an artificial one like this to spy out of. I can imagine the people behind this were saying, "I wonder what happens if I can see out that tree..."