Artist Statement Draft

Studio, Uncategorized

My work aims to deconstruct the hysterical act, laying it bare for the viewer, as they can make their own assumptions about the emotion and intentions of the central character. Throughout this project, I have focused upon the idea of female hysteria, in both a modern and historical sense.

  • Inspired by the writing of Luce Irigarary, particularly in ‘The Sex Which Is Not One’ with her ideas on how a woman is unable to express herself in a language which is not created for her to conductively express herself. I was interested in how this idea connected to the historical study of female hysteria, in which women were often subjugated to horrific medical practices due to a deep sense of melancholy, which would now be regarded as other mental health problems. I was particularly interested in a hysterical act, as women have such a lack of ability to express themselves through language, they act without language to express their anger and deep resentment at being regarded as ‘the second sex’, where their voices are so diminished in importance next to a mans.
  • I was initially inspired by the work of Susu Laroche, and her exhibition exploring tales of female hysteria, which explored “four hysterical episodes in one room”, which told the tales of women who have ‘irrational’ responses to traumatic events. In this show, Laroche tried to understand and disprove the stigma of hysteria as she stated, “”The hysterical woman is not just furious or oversexed, but merely a woman confronting the constant undermining of herself.”
  • I took inspiration from this quote and began to look artists who used the body in a way which undermined the use of the language, the medium of the oppressors. I began to look to artists such as Louise Bourgeois and Rebecca Horn and the designers Hood By Air and Alexander McQueen, as they all used the language of the body as their spoken word, providing an emotive outlet which cannot be corrupted by the trappings of patriarchal language.
  • Thinking about this idea of language through the body, and the way language is used, I began to write short narratives, based upon an intense hysterical act, and was inspired by the work of Katrina Palmer, who often used narrative within her own practice in conjunction with other means.
  • This led me to explore the idea of combining narrative forms with visual imagery, and so I wrote a short story about a woman who removes her skin in an act of immolation and despair, and put this story to a slideshow of imagery which related to the story. I very much liked the narrative in this experiment, however I wanted to expand upon the slideshow and focus upon creating a narrative through visual forms by making a story film to accompany the story.
  • Inspired by my past research I began to look to film makers such as John Waters, for his portrayl of womanhood and hysteria in his early works with Divine, and to David Lynch and Nicholas Winding Refn for their portrayl of dark themes and unfolding mysteries throughout their films. I was particularly inspired by the way Lynch uses imagery throughout his films to allude to action, rather than portraying overtly graphic scenes.
  • I then went on to the making process of my final outcome by experimenting with ideas of symbolic imagery, by using different textures to create photoshop collages of imagined imagery which could be seen in the film

PLAN FOR PIECE

  • My film will depict the tale of an act of distinct violence caused by hysteria from a female point of view. I want to use language, yet contradict the overt natureof it as a patriarchal medium through the use of differing imagery on the screen.
  • I want my film to pan a series of textures depicting a mix of lust, wealth, decay and flesh, in order to hint at action to the viewer but not disclose the actual events through footage.
  • The story will be read above the film, and I would like this to be read in an apathetic, almost nonchalant manner in order to heighten the audiences space to react to the graphic events described.

Donna Harraway – A Cyborg Manifesto

Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized

I have been greatly inspired by Donna Harraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ and the way in which it debates ideas of feminism in terms of a totalising force, in terms of technology and in terms of language. I was initially inspired into looking into the idea of connecting my work with technology after reading Orlan’s ‘Carnal Art Manifesto’. I was interested in the idea of a combination between classicism and a sense of futurism, as her writing depicted a celebration of technology being able to change female representation.

I am very interested in how Harraway uses the myth of the cyborg to present ideas about nurturing connections within wider society, regardless of gender or politics. The beauty of the myth of the cyborg, is that it is a connecting force, which renders the problems of a need for difference and individuality in nature irrelevant. There need be no controlling dominant species, or gender or race, as a cyborg is a connecting force with which the individual plays a part within the larger whole. “We risk lapsing into boundless difference and giving up on the confusing task of making partial, real connection”, Harraway writes, as the fractions in society seem to dissipate a sense of wider community of striving for better as a humankind and part of one race. I am interested in the ideas of connection, and how alienation from others on a wider scale could cause a sense of dissatisfaction and individual loneliness, resulting in a hysterical act.

In addition, I am inspired by Harraway’s ideas on language, a subject I have been considering since researching the work of Luce Irigaray. Harraway writes, “We do not need a totality in order to work well. The feminist dream of a common language, like all dreams for a perfectly true language, of perfectly faithful naming of experience, is a totalizing and imperialist one.” Instead of wanting a common language for women, she argues that without the boundaries of gender in the world of the cyborg, we would all become connected and equal within the realms of the integrated circuit. I am interested in the idea of language in this way as a connecting force, instead of striving for a means of communication which will never truly fit the feminine experience. As such I want to consider the use of some cyborg-related elements within the narrative of my film. I would consider using a more robotic voice, and testing this against the more storytelling driven theme of using the human voice to see how this alters the effect of the story.

The Filming Process

Studio, Uncategorized

Here are some photographs to document the filming process:

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When filming, I first set up the scenes by draping fabric across the scenery to form the backgrounds. I wanted to use contrasting textures which would compliment not only each other but also the visceral nature of the fruit, meat or object which was being exhibited in the scene. I used white fur, taupe silk, blue velvet and gold sparkly chiffon to create my scenes and I liked the luxury of these fabrics, which related to the luxury of the home in the story. I was also interested in the way light affected these various materials, as they all looked beautiful when set under the lamp, with a simple flash of light.

I then added the objects in various compositions, using wine glasses, tea cups, watches, perfume bottles and shoes. All of these non-essential items represent the shallow nature of earthly goods in Vanitas paintings, and heighten the bleak sense of mortality and transience in the works.

Lighting Experiments

Studio, Uncategorized

After looking at Vanitas painting, I was aiming to use a chiaroscuro lighting effect, with most of the frame being very dark, with a sudden flash of light, illuminating the key aspects of the image. However, I wanted to try using varying levels of light in order to gain the best chiaroscuro effect. Here are some of my following experiments:

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In these lighting experiments, I experimented with having natural light as well as a flash of the lamp, or using complete darkness with the lamp to see which gave the most dynamic effect. In the first scene, with the shoe, the first picture I used natural lighting as well as a lamp, however, I feel the lamp was completely disguised by the other light sources, such as from the window, situated directly opposite the scene, as well as the light of the room. However, I feel with the darkness, and just using the lamp, a more mysterious and tension-inducing shot is achieved, as the viewer cannot fully see what is occurring in the dark fold of the fabric in the scene. I also feel a sense of luxury is heightened with the lack of light, giving the fabrics a more sensuous appeal.

I feel the same about the second experiment, with the scene with the apple and wine glass. Although the scene can be fully viewed in the first photograph, the background is far too light and needs to be darkened to retain a focus on the subjects. In addition, although I like that you can see the subjects more clearly, I feel the mystery of the second photograph, with the deep, clear form of the wine glass interrupts the otherwise overly centred composition of the frame. I will definitely just use on light source in my film in order to ensure this dramatic lighting effect, which I believe will produce dramatic visuals which will compliment my narrative.

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The next thing I wanted to experiment with was the angle of the light source. In the first shot, the light source was angled directly above the shot, whereas in the second the light source was ever so slightly further back. I like both results, however I am more inclined towards the second image, as I like the darkness the blue velvet creates to contrast against the candle. I also like that with the light source ever so slightly back, the candles light is able to reflect upon the glass to create interesting marks and reflections. I think with the texture of the blue velvet so overtly shown it detracts from the simplicity of the composition and the focus on the shadows and highlights of the separate objects. In my film for every different shot I will consider the effect of the angle of light in order to fit the specific frame, but I think as a rule I will try to place the light source back to give a softer chiaroscuro effect.

In this lighting experiment, I was exploring how a consistently changing light source affected the view of a scene. We moved the light source towards the scene and then away from it very slowly to cast differing shadows across the various textures of the scene. I think this looks almost haunting in a sense, as the viewer is revealed the secrets of the scene and as soon as they can picture them they are taken away immediately, leaving the viewer in amidst the darkness of the scene, never quote sure of the next action. I will definitely use lighting of this style in my film.

Inspiration – Vanitas Painting and the Symbolism of Objects

Artist Influence, Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized
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‘Vanitas’, Adriaen van Utrecht

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‘Allegory of Charles I of England and Henrietta of France in a Vanitas Still Life’, Carstian Luyckx

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‘Vanitas with bust’, Johann de Cordua

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‘Vanitas’, Abraham Mignon

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‘Vanitas-Still Life’, Maria van Oosterwijck

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‘Vanitas’, Edward Collier

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‘Vanitas Still Life with Self-Portrait’, Pieter Claesz, 1628

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‘Vanitas’, Harmen Steenwijck

After taking an interest in Helen Chadwick’s work, in particular her ‘Meat Abstracts’ series, I wanted to look into the symbolism of different objects used in still life works. I want to create a film composed of short still life clips, and so feel that the objects which I use within each scene are of upmost importance. This has led me to research Vanitas paintings, and the way in which they depict a narrative through the symbolism of the objects used within their compositions.

Vanitas still lifes, which are associated with artists in Northern Europe in the 16th and 17th century, depict objects with symbolic importance, which convey a narrative through their symbolism. These works are meant to highlight the fragility and transience of human life, depicting versions of mortality, as well as emphasise the emptiness and meaninglessness of worldly possessions.

I wanted to understand the meanings of different objects within these paintings, so began to research separate objects symbolism. Here are some of my findings on what different aspects of Vanitas paintings mean:

Skull – The fragility of life and the inevitability of mortality

Rotten Fruit – Aging and the passing of time. Mature fruits mean fertility and wealth, due to the abundance of being able to let fruit go rotten. Different fruits have different connotations, such as apples, tomatoes, grapes, peaches and pears meaning the fall of man, whereas apples and peaches, as well as figs and plums have erotic symbolism.

  • Peaches – symbolises truth and salvation.
  • Apple – wisdom, yet temptation and original sin.

Watch, Hourglass or Timepiece – the transience and limitation of time.

Books – Human curiosity and knowledge, and the limitations and temporary nature of this.

Shells – a sense of exoticism and wealth, as they were not commonly found in the Netherlands, where Vanitas paintings originated. Only the very wealthy would be able to afford exotic items such as shells, therefore they represent a sense of vanity and uncouth ostentatiousness. Large shells symbolise lust and beauty, therefore hinting at lust as a sin and the power of temptation. Also a sign of death and frailty, as shells were often once homes for a living animal.

Decaying Flowers – the decay of the body, and the inevitable mortality of human nature. Decaying flowers were often included in works with a variety of rich objects which depicted wealth, in order to contrast the beauty of wealth with the inevitability of impending death. Different flowers symbolise different virtues:

  • Rose – love, sensuality, vanity and sex.
  • Poppy – mortal sin and laziness, due to its opiate properties.
  • Tulip – irresponsibility, naivety and foolishness.

Silk or Velvet Materials – symbolise vanity. Silk and velvet were very expensive materials, which were exclusive to the richest members of society.

Oriental Rugs or Carpets – symbolise wealth. These were exclusive and expensive items, which were placed on tables to protect the colour and quality of the wood. They were also an industrious symbol, as they were brought to Northern Europe through trade and business.

Jewellery or Clothing – the temporal nature of beauty, and the sin of narcissism. The symbolise the transience of the beauty of the body and the nature of wisdom in human life. Earthly riches are important in life, but soon mean little once life is over. They also tell of the traditions and cultures of life at the time of the painting, placing the work in a clear sense of history.

Mirror – a clear symbol of vanity and self-reflection.

Candle or Lamp – the human soul. It’s loss or blowing out symbolises the loss of the soul and the transience of life.

Cups, Playing Cards, Dice or Chess – sign of faulty life goals, finding pleasures in sin.

Arms and Armour – authority and power. A sign of earthly power and designations that mean little in the afterlife.

Glass – an empty glass symbolises death. Glass also connotes fragility, whilst white porcelain represents purity. A bottle symbolises drunkenness and uncouth behaviour.

Knife – human vulnerability and mortality. Also acts as a phallic symbol and overt image of sexuality, particularly male eroticism.

Medical Tools – a reminder of the fleshy reality of the human body, and its multiple possibilities to fail.

In my own work, I want to recreate Vanitas style scenes, in order to lull the viewer in to believing the scenes depicted are stoic still lifes. Then I want to focus in on some of the objects, showing very slight movement in order to disconcert the viewer, chopping between still and movement shots. I plan to use various objects, especially fruit and meat to signify the fleshy mortality of the body, particularly using meat and the story descends into visceral violence. I think the symbolism of these objects will act perfectly, giving nuanced representations of the actions in the text through the use of Vanitas symbols.

Artist Inspiration – Helen Chadwick

Artist Influence, Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized
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‘Loop My Loop’, 1991

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‘Meat Abstract #6’, 1989

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‘Meat Abstract #2’, 1989

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‘Meat Abstract #8’, 1989

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‘Meat Abstract #1’, 1989

I plan for the visual language of my film to mirror the aesthetic qualities of Helen Chadwick’s work. I am particularly inspired by her ‘Meat Abstracts’ series in which she used different parts of a carcass including offal and skin, and arranged them into dynamic compositions, referencing the art historical tradition of the still life. I am interested in the symbolism behind the choice of subjects and their placements, and in my film I would like to use meat in a way that looks at once appealing, introductory and fetishistic, as well as emotionally charged and somewhat ecstatic in its composition – harking to the variety of emotions felt within the hysteria of the story. I am also interested in the way Chadwick has contrasted the fleshy gore of the meat with luxurious fabrics, such as silks and golden orbs. As my story talks of the emotional distress caused at upholding the idea of the ‘perfect’ luxurious life, I want to include fabrics such as these, as well as fur and other golden objects in order to present a vicious contrast in texture and form, disconcerting the viewer visually, whilst the sound of the film shocks them in a more overt way audibly. There is a sumptuous, inviting look about Chadwick’s photographs which entice the viewer despite their overt display of decay and mortality, and I want to entice the viewers in of my work in a very similar way. In addition, her use of lighting is perfect for these pieces, leaving a sense of slight darkness and mystery which again entices the viewer; I will experiment with lighting conditions before creating my film in order to gain a similar sensibility about my film.

 

Artist Inspiration – Adriana Varejao

Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized
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‘Folds 2’ (2003)

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‘Blue tilework in live flesh’ (1999)

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‘Tilework with live flesh’ (199)

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‘Green telework in live flesh’ (2000)

Adrian Varejao is a dynamic Brazilian artist, and I am particularly inspired by her ‘Tounges and Incisions’ series, which I previously looked into last year. I find myself coming back to her work, as I explore various themes surrounding the mortality of the flesh of the body, because I believe her work so powerfully displays a sense of transience and action, a moment in which everything has fallen down, and the true nature of the human has been revealed through their fleshy form. I find Varejao’s works visually stunning, as she combines the textures of the body, with the sophisticated textures of the interior. There is a distinct rawness about Varejao’s work, as if the viewer has witnesses a defining moment that has damaged the structural integrity of a building, and all the secrets of the house have been revealed. This in turn provides a moment for the viewer to investigate the action, passively looking at the gruesome scene, at first detached, yet then connecting themselves to the inevitability of it all.

I am inspired particularly by Varejao’s use of a combination of textures, as she uses a mix of oil paint and polyurethane to create the differing aspects of the interior and bodily forms. With my own work focused on a combination of luxury and hysteria, which culminates in a rather explicitly visceral scene, I want to use the idea of the moment that Varejao creates within her work in order to slowly reveal the action of the flesh and gore slowly, building up the tension through a false sense of security which focuses on interior textures and atmospheres.

Manifesto of Carnal Art by Orlan

Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized

MANIFESTO OF CARNAL ART by ORLAN

DEFINITION

Carnal Art is self-portraiture in the classical sense, but realised through the possibility of technology. It swings between defiguration and refiguration. Its inscription in the flesh is a function of our age. The body has become a “modified ready-made”, no longer seen as the ideal it once represented ;the body is not anymore this ideal ready-made it was satisfaying to sign.

DISTINCTION

As distinct from “Body Art”, Carnal Art does not conceive of pain as redemptive or as a source of purification. Carnal Art is not interested in the plastic-surgery result, but in the process of surgery, the spectacle and discourse of the modified body which has become the place of a public debate.

ATHEISM

Carnal Art does not inherit the Christian Tradition, it resists it! Carnal Art illuminates the Christian denial of body-pleasure and exposes its weakness in the face of scientific discovery. Carnal Art repudiates the tradition of suffering and martyrdom, replacing rather than removing, enhancing rather than diminishing – Carnal Art is not self-mutilation.

Carnal Art transforms the body into language, reversing the biblical idea of the word made flesh ; the flesh is made word. Only the voice of Orlan remains unchanged. The artist works on representation.

Carnal Art finds the acceptance of the agony of childbirth to be anachronistic and ridiculous. Like Artaud, it rejects the mercy of God -Henceforth we shall have epidurals, local anaesthetics and multiple analgesics ! (Hurray for the morphine !) Vive la morphine ! (down with the pain !) A bas la douleur !

PERCEPTION

I can observe my own body cut open without suffering !….I can see myself all the way down to my viscera, a new stage of gaze. “I can see to the heart of my lover and it’s splendid design has nothing to do with symbolics mannered usually drawn.

Darling, I love your spleen, I love your liver, I adore your pancreas and the line of your femur excites me.

FREEDOM

Carnal Art asserts the individual independence of the artist. In that sense it resists givens and dictats. This is why it has engaged the social, the media, (where it disrupts received ideas and cause scandal), and will even reached as far as the judiciary (to change the Orlan’s name).

CLARIFICATION

Carnal Art is not against aesthetic surgery, but against the standards that pervade it, particularly, in relation to the female body, but also to the male body. Carnal Art must be feminist, it is necessary. Carnal Art is not only engages in aesthetic surgery, but also in developments in medicine and biology questioning the status of the body and posing ethical problems.

STYLE

Carnal Art loves parody and the baroque, the grotesque and the extreme.

Carnal Art opposes the conventions that exercise constraint on the human body and the work of art.

Carnal Art is anti-formalist and anti-conformist.

 


When researching Orlan’s performance work, I came across some of her writings, and one which particularly struck me was The Carnal Art Manifesto. All the ideas I am most interested in I have highlighted with red text.

I am interested by the way that Carnal Art is carries spans temporal cultural moments through the classical aesthetics employed, whilst is made real through the advances of technology, particularly medical technology, so it is possible to gain control of the representation of the self through surgeries. I am very interested in the growing impact of technology, and how this changes our view of the self, particularly of the female self, and how advances in technology have the possibility to open up new forms of language for women, “Carnal Art transforms the body into language”, enabling communication through the ability to control ones representation. In my work, I would like to explore themes of technology further, and see if I could link them to my narrative, and what affect this would have on the tone of the piece.

Perhaps the defining phrase of the piece, which directly connected my work to that of the forms of Carnal Art Orlan states is: “Carnal Art loves parody and the baroque, the grotesque and the extreme.” I am interested in the ability to appropriate or parody different forms of previously patriarchal forms of art in my work, turning them into the “grotesque and the extreme” in act of hysterical defiance against the visual and verbal language of the patriarchy. I want to push my narrative to reach the extreme through the aid of a visual accompaniment, and will consider the ideas written in this manifesto when trying to realise this.