Craftivism

A type of activism that focuses on using craft to express views and collectively empower and negotiate with others. To ‘craft’ something means to make by hand. For example many Craftivists use needlework to express themselves but this could be replaced with graffiti or even a zine, but the idea is making use of humble materials. Craftivism pieces can be found in public spaces and will often carry messages to do with the environment, politics, feminism, solidarity and anti-capitalism.

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https://craftivist-collective.com/mini-banner, The Craftivist Collective

The Craftivist Collective, founded in 2009, craft items such as the lovely embroidered fabric pictured above and sell their own craftivism kits as it is about getting people involved as part of the solution. The idea is not necessarily to be aggressive but rather “to make people think, and to encourage them that positive change can happen, and that they can be a part of it!” (Craftivist Collective, 2017).

Graffiti is also used as a form of activism, but can also be seen as vandalism. In ancient times it was originally done by scratching onto a surface within public view, however modern ways include using markers or spray paint. Taki 183, based in Washington Heights, was one of the first people to start tagging (marking your personal signature) in public spaces (WideWalls 2017). This spread to Brooklyn and moved onto subway systems with whole train carriages covered, but this soon became banned and people moved onto the streets to do this. This also became part of the Hip Hop scene in the late 1970’s and has continued to evolve.

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https://www.taki183.net/gallery/vegar7b4wyshxnqvcmu78v67y9bjdq, 2017

Graffiti and street art is developing in many parts of the world and Banksy is well known for his street art now. One of his paintings ‘Kissing Coppers’ on a Brighton pub wall was stripped off and sold to a buyer in Miami in 2011 for £345,000. I think the only vandalism committed here was whoever stripped Banksy’s painting off the wall.

 

"Kissing Policemen" mural, by Banksy (opposite Brighton toy and Model Museum)

http://www.brightontoymuseum.co.uk/index/Kissing_Policemen_mural_(Banksy), after Bankysy’s original was stripped it was replaced with this replica enclosed in perspex
Creating our own Feminist Craftivism pieces! Materials: felt, thread, PVA glue, authors: myself, Ekaterina, Tabetha, Abigail, Frankie

 

Sources:

https://craftivist-collective.com/mini-banner

http://www.widewalls.ch/10-graffiti-terms/tag/

http://www.widewalls.ch/brooklyn-graffiti-new-york/dumbo-the-bushwick-collective/

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/feb/19/banksy-mural-kissing-coppers-sells-us

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/feb/19/banksy-mural-kissing-coppers-sells-us

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Rear View Mirror: Nostalgia & Retro

Nostalgia is described as a sentimental longing for a period in the past. This can be seen as in both a positive and a negative lights. Zoe Williams, from an article in The Guardian, states that ‘Ideologically, nostalgia is a retreat from a frightening future.’ which may be true within politics, especially as we can often cherry-pick certain positive aspects from a time in the past meanwhile forgetting the negative aspects which were most definitely there at the time. For example, in America, the 1920s was a prosperous time for some but for others it was riddled with unemployment and poverty, yet when we think of the 20’s we think of flappers and the glamour of it all.

 

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However, when she describes The Great British Bakeoff as “saccharine, as old-fashioned, perhaps, but mixing in the disproportionate glorification of a timeless craft that, however dauntingly complicated it becomes, will never deliver anything but simplicity.” If baking is a timeless craft and many still practice it today, why is it wrong to glorify it?  but baking is not ‘a thing of the past’, is it? Why is it so wrong to glorify a ‘timeless craft’, because it is infact timeless. ‘McTaggart argues that an event can’t be in the past, in the present, and in the future’, so really none of this matters lol

In addition to this, nostalgia can inspire works of art and for this example I use Frank Ocean’s debut mixtape ‘Nostalgia, Ultra’. Frank expresses his nostalgia by telling stories. An online magazine describes his work ‘Even the interludes on his records — the whirring cassette players and analog alarm clocks and recondite movie audio — are of an era that Ocean was mostly too young to have experienced directly, as are the old BMWs he rebuilds with such care. But he longs for these things just the same, and his creative triumph is that he has found his own musical and lyrical language to express that longing.’ In this case, I don’t think that there is anything wrong with being nostalgic. Frank says himself “Art’s everything we hope life would be, a lot of times,” and if it inspires beauty, like the stories he tells, in the form of an artwork, what is wrong with that?

 

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Slightly differently, retro suggests not a ‘wistful affection’ of the past, but rather an imitation. Retro is like the baby of nostalgia and pastiche, combining the love of something which is passed and manifesting this by recreating it at the current time. For example, Elizabet Guffrey (2006) argues you can see many similarities between Art Nouveau and Psychedelic Art (as pictured below).

 

Alphonse Mucha

In conclusion, of course it is most important to embrace the present and where we are at this current moment, but so much, if not all, of what we do now can be attributed to the past. Rather than conclude I think I am going to have to end this post with a question, is it wrong to take inspiration from the past, not necessarily because it was ‘better’ but because it resonates with you and God forbid, you like it?

 

Sources:

Nostalgia, Ultra – https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=nostalgia+ultra&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwju5qHo8eXSAhVkAsAKHdqRCmgQ_AUIBigB&biw=1366&bih=662#imgrc=0sqF_RQX_Bu-OM:

http://thequietus.com/articles/07450-frank-ocean-interview

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=mucha+art&espv=2&site=webhp&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj2yriOg-bSAhXhCMAKHSetAsMQ_AUIBigB&biw=1366&bih=613#imgrc=4P6GeeYe1n9X5M:

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=psychedelic+art&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi94-GNgubSAhUHL8AKHeV2CX4Q_AUIBigB&biw=1366&bih=613#tbm=isch&q=60’s+psychedelic+art&*&imgdii=CHFFtSgOdNwQFM:&imgrc=PuIHDACGlwKvaM:

http://www.physicscentral.com/explore/plus/timeless.cfm

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/20/nostalgia-political-poison-strictly-bake-off

https://startupfashion.com/fashion-archives-history-of-culottes/

 

CTS: Stereotypes and Categorising People

A type is a widely recognised characterisation of certain traits whilst a stereotype is when a person is reduced to those traits as they are exaggerated and simplified. Stereotypes maintain boundaries (Dyer, 1977 in Hall, 1997).

A very well-known stereotype is that of the character Vicky Pollard in the comedy show Little Britain. Famously played by Matt Lucas, Vicky is a parody of ‘Chavs’ living in the West Country, she has six ASBO’s and left school at age eleven as well as twelve babies. Many people find these sketches hilarious, whilst others have different views; Little Britain “has been a vehicle for two rich kids to make themselves into multimillionaires by mocking the weakest people in Britain… In one fell swoop, they have demolished protections against mocking the weak that took decades to build up” (Hari, 2005).

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The history of stereotyping dates back to the 1770s and the concept of physiognomy ‘the art of determining character or personal characteristics from the form or features of the body, especially of the face.’ I think that there are certain boundaries when it comes to stereotypes. If Matt Lucas was actually a ‘Chav’ himself then there would be no problem because it would be true to his life. However, there is a generalisation that takes place e.g. the assumption and appearance of ‘Chav’s’ according to Little Britain, when stereotyping which is ultimately unfair. This is not only done with appearance, it occurs with religion, racial stereotyping and feminism to name a few.

A very current example of stereotyping is that of people of the Islamic faith. Whether it is here in England, in the U.S.A with Trump’s travel ban or France with the banning of the veil, you have to ask when will it stop? Famous satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has published mocking cartoons of the prophet Muhammad more than once, which is disrespectful to the Muslim faith, resulting in attacks by Muslim extremists killing ten members of Charlie Hebdo’s staff. This was and is extremely sad. There has to be some kind of boundary between free speech and discrimination, I think free speech should be allowed but not when it is discriminatory. This may be contradictory, but when it is a matter of life and death I think that it is justified.

Sources:

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/physiognomy

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjk8tqCkabSAhVHNxQKHd-JCikQjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.hbo.com%2Flittle-britain-usa%2Fcast-and-crew%2Fvicky-pollard%2Findex.html&psig=AFQjCNGBFJPz9G9Mpi2H9MKEtvkBbk21gw&ust=1487936325273122

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2007/feb/07/pressandpublishing.france

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/06/charlie-hebdo-journalist-quits-zineb-el-rhazoui-islamist-extremists-muhammad

https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2015/jan/07/charlie-hebdo-magazine-shooting-france-police-manhunt-suspects

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/07/charlie-hebdo-shooting-paris-magazine-target-raid

CTS: Humour

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Humour comes in many forms and this lecture began with listing the various types. There are key ingredients and theories which partner with these humour types for example incongruity theory, where the viewer’s expectations are thwarted because the joke lies within the inconsistency in question.

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For example in the above adverts, you would not expect to see the adorably goofy Wallace and Gromit characters paired with the elegance of Harvey Nichols, creating a light humour. ‘The mismatching often involves the transgression of social norms, or the breaking of established social patterns’ (Kuipers, 2009), thus widening the scope of people who could find it funny.

Often with cartoons or drawings, they may get away with a lot more than they could if it were live action. Take Tom and Jerry for example, their goal in each episode is basically to kill one another, but as a viewer you always know that whatever happens they will stay alive and Jerry will not end up eating Tom. It is this continuity which I think plays an extra part in the comedy as well, because if one of their pranks was to succeed, it would have very sad consequences indeed, and then what would the joke be?

Nowadays, at the height of technology, funny images e.g. memes and videos are instant and you can scroll through one after the other which can cause a desensitization to certain jokes. For example, memes are very popular today and personally it would take a really good one to make me laugh.

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Creating our own satirical memes!

Whilst there are political memes, there are also social issues discussed within these, which personally I find easier to understand.

Take the above left meme, you do not expect the artist in the image, Kali Uchis, to ask for a cosmo at the drive thru. This adds a sense of humour using incongruity theory and with the above right image, I feel the laughter is more out of the sense of being able to relate to it as a young woman. In a way this could use relief theory, because it is a relief to know that you are not the only girl who feels this way and it is nice to have that acknowledged. It is also satirical in a way, in the social context of a relationship between a man a woman I’m sure this would be relatable for many women and girls.

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Sources:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/#IncThe

http://www.hungertv.com/feature/exclusive-nadia-lee-cohen-video-and-shoot-with-kali-uchis-in-la/

http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/harvey-nichols-signs-wallace-gromit-bristol-campaign/841520

 

CTS: Serious Play

Game designers must maintain a playful attitude to their work, right? Otherwise how would the games be fun? It is not always only about ‘having fun’ though, it is also about learning. To learn and to have fun often go hand-in-hand. I learned this lesson not long ago, from my own experience as a tutor for children, that it’s the engagement and enjoyment that brings the best out in learners. If you can present a topic in a fun way, people are more likely to gain an understanding from it and willingly, not just to retain the information.

Edward de Bono’s world famous Lateral Thinking Technique is a prime example of this as it emphasizes the importance of creative thinking. ‘Lateral thinking may take no more than one or two minutes. You try to see things in a different way. You try to find a new approach or a new concept. And if you do not succeed you just drop it and get on with the usual way of doing things.’ (de Bono, 2016).

‘There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.’ (de Bono, de Bono online course). This is refreshing to say the least, as I have often found myself being questioned as to why I am doing an Illustration degree.

Lego is a great example of using creative thinking because it is a fun construction process which naturally stimulates the brain to think about how the pieces fit together. More importantly it is made so that almost any piece can fit with another piece, you may deconstruct and reconstruct, so everything you do is right. The Lego Foundation’s mission statement says ‘Our contribution to the world is to challenge the status quo by redefining play and reimagining learning’ (Ward, 2016)The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method takes place as a meeting and is a problem-solving technique. The participants will answer the trained facilitator’s questions by creating their own model out of Lego and discussing this further. During this lecture we made our own models in groups and discussed each one and the thinking behind it. I think we should place more value on learning through playing because of the freedom it can give to the mind; this is when you have your best ideas.

 

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Making our own lego models!

 

Sources:

https://www.edwdebono.com/lateral-thinking

https://www.edwdebono.com/

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/15/children-learn-play-age-eight-lego

https://www.lego.com/en-gb/seriousplay/the-method

CTS: Seen And Not Heard: Considerations on Creating Public Exhibitions

A Curator’s Influence

How does the curator influence the exhibition? Do we think we’re looking at the truth when really what we’re looking at are not facts, but opinions?

‘Cabinets of Curiosity’, display cabinets often seen in museums, ‘also known as ‘wonder rooms’, were small collections of extraordinary objects’ (British Museum, 2016). Extraordinary objects, we are told. Behind these ‘wonder rooms’ is a curator who has decided what objects shall be seen as ‘extraordinary’ and what story they tell when placed in a specific order. In other words, the curator defines the narrative that they want.

Many years ago, paintings were hung in museums/galleries strategically for example, good paintings at eye level (because we’re all the same height yes?!), top paintings angled down which were normally portraits so the viewer felt their gaze and unimportant paintings placed at the bottom known as ‘flooring’. My point is that someone gets to decide what is important and what is no, therefore influencing the viewer’s own opinion, this is done in such a way that it is almost the curator’s work that makes the art, not the artist.

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http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/p/paintings-galleries/, Victoria & Albert Museum, 13/11/16

An example of this is back in 1937 when the Nazi party put on an exhibition entitled ‘The Degenerate Art Exhibition’ which was just down the road from a second exhibition they created which was designed to “show works that Hitler approved of – depicting statuesque blonde nudes along with idealised soldiers and landscapes.” (BBC, 2016). Before Hitler became a politician, he was an artist who most appreciated realistic paintings of buildings and landscapes, however this “had been dismissed by the art establishment in favour of abstract and modern styles.” (BBC, 2016).  Essentially, Hitler’s aim wasn’t only to make a mockery of modern art, but to present it as an “evil plot” against the German people.

Therefore next time you visit a museum or gallery, think about the history of the place it is located and who placed it there and I guarantee you will come up with your own conclusion about the work 100x stronger that you would have before.

CTS: Guerrilla Girls exhibition review ‘Is It Even Worse In Europe?’

Sporting gorilla masks to achieve complete anonymity, meet the Guerrilla Girls. Feminist activists since 1985, their mission is to combine facts with humour to expose what is underneath the surface when it comes to the representation of women in the art world. Located in The Whitechapel Gallery is a room filled with responses from 101 out of 383 European Museums/Galleries to a Guerrilla Girls questionnaire about the diversity (if any) of each of their collections and exhibitions.

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https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/jul/19/guerilla-girls-feminist-art-0activists-first-uk-show-whitechapel, The Guardian, 06/11/16

The activist group’s initial work originated from the exhibition ‘The International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture’ at the MoMA (New York, 1984) which was supposed to be a survey of ‘the most contemporary artists in the world’ (The Whitechapel Gallery, 2016) but only 13 out of the 182 artists were female. In the context of displaying European women’s art, the exhibition explores today’s meaning of a Guerrilla Girls 1986 piece ‘It’s Even Worse in Europe’; conducting this survey in 2016 they conclude that it IS worse in Europe. In addition to sexism the Guerrilla Girls draw attention to racism, looking into how many of the artists given exhibition space are white and included questions involving Africa, Asia, South Asia and South America.

Guerrilla Girls. (2016). Is It Even Worse In Europe? Poster. London: The Whitechapel Gallery

Followed by a short film outside the modest exhibition space, offering more insight into the Guerrilla Girls’ work, the clearly presented museum/art gallery responses took the far wall; overlapped by large posters of selected responses in bold and the Guerrilla Girls’ replies. The colours were a mixture of striking and muted for example bright red with dull grey, to avoid distracting the viewer but enabling them to remain aware of the project’s significance. On the opposite wall were books compiling every answer from the various museums and art galleries who bothered to reply, beside a wall length poster portraying how they do not represent a diverse range of cultures. So girls, a word of advice from the Guerrilla Girls on how to get your work into museums: ‘Keep making trouble like we do.’ (Guerrilla Girls, 2016).

Guerrilla Girls. (2016). Is It Even Worse In Europe? Poster. London: The Whitechapel Gallery