When Sol Lewitt says “the idea becomes the machine that makes the art”, I find this to be a very interesting and straightforward way to think about art. We often think of art as just a product of one artist or a work as a product of one single effort, when it does not always act that way. This idea that each member of a team is a functioning part of an idea that has evolved into a machine is definitely something new for its time. When the team fully and irrevocably understands the idea and internalizes it, they can act as the machine carrying out such an idea.
Thinking of Lewitt’s ideas, the artist’s actual hand is more of an automatic, less important matter. Because he has a team of people working for him, Lewitt has demonstrated that the execution of a work is “more of a perfunctory affair” rather than what’s most important. From what I understood, the key to a massive team project is a deep integral understanding of the structure, idea, and vision. Personal flair is unimportant in these works, and the intention is to “re-execute the original score”. This idea can easily be applied to conceptual artworks, as within such works the idea is what is translated, rather than simply the execution. We should not place such emphasis on the execution, but rather the driving force behind the execution and what it represents.
It is difficult to draw boundaries with Yoko Ono’s works as they are so captivating and stand alone. By this, I mean that each section Ono read gives no further instructions other than what is written, and provides no visual. She allows the viewer to focus on what she is saying and to interpret however they please. This challenges the viewer because it leaves them alone with their thoughts and understanding of what she’s just said, and provides an outlet to express such emotions about this work without any outside influences.
Although Ono’s instructions are clear, each person who follows such instructions might do so differently. Because we all experience life and art differently, no outcome will be the exact same. Specifically this can be demonstrated when she says “arrange your room in a way you wish your mind would be”. We all have varying wishes and vastly different minds. And yet, perhaps people will act eerily similar. The range in which we can choose to think and act is so broad, yet we see people with similar ideas every day. Perhaps this is a side effect of environment, or personality; the psychology behind this work is fascinating.
These concept-works are strange to experience, as I am a visual person. Although I struggled at first, trying to follow Ono’s instructions and interpret how I please was an interesting feeling; trying to visualize something or act accordingly with no visual prompt is challenging.
Bruce Nauman is most definitely an innovative mind. What most people would consider unimportant, irrelevant parts of one’s day, he turns into art. When he says “a work of art ought to hit you like being hit in the back of the head with a baseball bat”, I find this to be somewhat of a commentary on how we don’t expect normal, everyday things to be turned into such public (and sometimes provocative) displays of art.
Self Portrait as a Fountain shows Nauman shirtless while spitting water out of his mouth, as a sculpted fountain would do. His imitation of such fountains is almost satirical, as he purposely imitates stereotypically poised figures. Initially, I saw this action as someone in the shower, pretending to be a fountain. Showering is such a banal activity, yet Nauman has managed to take the comedic aspect of it and turn it into art. The framing of such an act shows Nauman’s intentions to not take himself so seriously. Our experience of pretending to be a fountain, or even just taking a shower is suddenly shared, as we view someone acting comedically as we might do.
Bruce Nauman: Contrapposto Studies depicts Nauman walking in a narrow corridor while keeping the typical contrapposto pose as he walks. The dramatic, S shape of the pose is one we often find ourselves displaying in life, without realizing it. He imitates what is simultaneously a normal, everyday state of being and a dramatized, respected sculpture technique. This framing allows the viewer to see how when actually trying, moving in contrapposto is not as easy as being still in the pose.
- My wish tree is on a begonia maculata, currently one of my favourite plants in my collection. I wished for better work ethic this semester and I’m hoping the wish grows to come true just as this plant has been growing (so cheesy)
For my conceptual kilometre, I was a bit lost at first. I had a lot of trouble finding a concept that I felt would be successful. I ended up landing on an “uneventful kilometre”. After some research I learned that it takes the average human approximately 10 to 12 minutes to walk one full kilometre. I filmed myself doing some tasks around my room for a goal of 20 minutes, and carried this out until my FitBit marked one kilometre traveled. I found it interesting that we can travel so far while staying in the same place. During this activity I did not physically leave my house, so did I really “travel” a kilometre even though I was able to commit an act equivalent to walking a full kilometre?
I also found the science behind this activity (the free energy change of bodily exertion and fuel burned) to be extremely interesting, as mixing science and art is something I am fascinated by. Looking at it literally, I didn’t walk a kilometre, but scientifically and conceptually I produced the same results; the same average amount of calories were burned, I produced the same exertion of bodily energy, and my steps–or at least the energy equivalent to steps–during this activity were roughly around 1300 (the average number of steps in a kilometre). This has me thinking about what is possible in terms of conceptual art in relation to scientific evidence.
I think this was successful conceptually, as I address what it truly means to travel a kilometre; is it covering the distance of one kilometre, or is it possible that it could be an activity that produces the same results in terms of biological function and free energy change? I do think that my execution of this task could have been more successful, as it is a bit difficult to see in the video what I’m doing at some points. I also was unable to capture the before and after of my FitBit as it died immediately after I finished.
Hour of Stillness and Marina Abramović
For my hour of stillness, I sat and read the same two pages out of the book I am currently reading, Normal People by Sally Rooney. I kept my body still, while only my eyes moved to read the book. Over this past week I found myself wanting to pick up a book again; having bought this book but never getting around to reading it, I finally did so and I’m glad I made that decision. This book has had me absolutely engrossed the past couple days; for how old it is and how late I am to reading it, I find it to still be a great read with parts that apply to present time.
While reading these two pages for an hour, I found myself firstly analyzing the pages more in depth than I would have while reading normally. I reread the same excerpt(s) over and over until I could infer new possible meanings. By the end, I felt more connected to each character and I feel like I understood the scene exactly as Rooney intended it to be understood.
While I did come to appreciate Rooney’s writing, I also found myself starting to pick at flaws within the book, even though I was focused on only two pages for the hour. I came to realize the books that are pushed to become popular often only focus on white, straight people/relationships, and oftentimes such books focus on the small, dainty, white feminine body. Normal People is no exception, and I started to feel disappointed in myself for participating in a flawed romanticization of white relationships. While this is not a new realization for me or most people, I find that it is easy to forget that such a small representation of people is pushed so heavily in the media. Having this hour-long experience with Rooney’s writing helped me to continue the book more critically, and I hope to be more conscious in the future of what books I read and what societal expectations are subtly enforced in such books.
While sitting for so long, I found myself growing extremely tired (more so than I thought I would). Keeping such stillness for a long time is taxing physically, and I commend Abramović for her commitment to this type of conceptual art. My hour of stillness loosely connects to her work, Art Must Be Beautiful, Artist Must Be Beautiful, in that I found myself to be worried about how I looked while reading this book on camera. I did not necessarily feel “beautiful enough” in the outcome, however I am realizing through this exercise that beauty is not owed to the viewers of art. Abramović carries out this sentiment excellently in her works, and while mine doesn’t measure up in the slightest, I found myself relating to her in a small way.
For my defenestration, I threw one of my plant cuttings out my kitchen window. I thought it would be interesting to do a plant that actually has fenestrations (holes within the leaves). This monstera adansonii cutting has very pronounced fenestrations, and it made some interesting shapes within the photos. I find the biology behind leaf fenestrations extremely interesting, and I’m currently learning about cell death/apoptosis, so I enjoyed making the connection between my two interests.
Something else about this that I found interesting is the fact I threw a living organism out into the worst possible conditions for it. This was a water propagation that lived in prime conditions in my room, and I essentially ripped it from its place, and threw it into freezing snowy conditions outside. The thought of doing this to a living thing in any other circumstance upsets me, but actually doing it for this assignment was surprisingly introspective for me. The plant will most likely recover now that it is back inside, but thinking about how much intracellular work it takes just to recover from a 10-minute stint outside is compelling. I essentially set this plant cutting back in its cellular growth timeline, altering its entire life cycle. Yet for me, it was a simple activity for a class that affected my life very minimally.
This assignment had me thinking about recognizability and how we present ourselves to the public. Am I still recognizable if my face is obscured? I find that we often subconsciously alter or personalize elements of our appearance, and these small changes add up to one’s recognizability. The face is not necessarily what allows us to know who someone is at first glance.
Using these different items actually allowed me to see that the things i chose to cover my face with are actually indicators of myself as well. Let me explain myself:
- I often write myself to do lists (almost everyday). I actually keep the old ones in a stack on my desk, and while trying to find items for this assignment, the stack immediately stuck out to me. I live and breathe by my to do lists, and I would not get anything done without them; they are something I use to keep myself moving forward in my everyday life, and although to do lists are not unique, I would say that my regimen of keeping every single one is somewhat individual to me. I find that this mask specifically reflects how I’ve been feeling about school lately, and I think it’s definitely visible in my eyes how I’ve been feeling.
- This brown hoodie has been one of my favourite clothing items recently, and the process of buying it is a small anecdote that makes me smile each time. I had seen it on Depop for dirt cheap, and with these hoodies often being quite expensive, I jumped at the chance. The seller had also listed it with free shipping (absolutely unbelievable) so of course I metaphorically slapped my debit card down. This hoodie has been one of my staple items in my wardrobe, and although it’s “just a hoodie”, it has become part of my life in a way, and essentially part of me as a recognizer.
- As we know, I am a plant girl through and through. When introduced to this assignment I immediately knew I wanted to incorporate a plant as a mask. this string of dolphins has been in my collection for a while, and its become somewhat of a miniature beast (definitely needs a repot). I would say it covered my face in a more loose/minimal fashion than the other items I used for this assignment, yet I think I like it the most. Being able to see small slivers of my face, including my defining physical features such as parts of my eyes/mouth, adds a sense of humanity to this photo that I really enjoy.
- I would say my hair is my single most important feature that makes me identifiable aside from my face. I’ve gone on a long journey with my hair; learning how to take care of it myself and recovering from heat damage has been a long process that I now feel has really paid off. I care about my hair a lot in that I’m proud of its growth in the last year and it allows me to express myself. Being a person of colour in a white town, as well as now a PWI, it’s important to me to value traits/features that remind me of my origins.
I find it extremely interesting how these defining factors of me and my life are able to both hide and expose me simultaneously. Literally, my face is obscured and I am “unrecognizable”, yet looking intrinsically it is obvious who is behind the masks.
“What’s Pent Up”
Someone I Know
“A lot of thoughts, I feel like I’ve been thinking a lot”– Faith M.
Faith is one of my closest friends, and I feel I know her well enough to ask her such a question (ironic since I did ask a stranger as well). In living together, we have both experienced university during this pandemic, and I feel her response is something a lot of people can relate to. In a time of feeling alone and isolated, we are bound to let our minds run and accumulate a ‘rolodex’ of thoughts, good or bad.
In being a university student currently, I can heavily relate to Faith’s response, and I find that the added stress of school during these times has changed how we view healthy school/life relationships. I find myself constantly thinking about school, even when I am caught up, and it can be truly damaging. Many students feel shame about this, and I hope Faith’s candid response will help more people feel “normal” for what they may be thinking about.
Someone I Don’t Know
“Sex drive”– Isla S.
Faith and I live on quite a busy road, and our specific street holds a shortcut from campus to Gordon street. Because of this, we see a lot of students making their way to and from campus. This day, I saw a student walking with a friend and asked if she’d like to be in my video.
I admire Isla’s candor in her response, and I found it refreshing to hear something comical. Isla’s honesty was great to hear, and during a time of lessened personal connections, I can see why she might feel this way. Isla displayed courage in giving me such a personal response, and being so straightforward like this assists in removing the taboo of this subject; hopefully her response can make others feel more comfortable in discussing personal satisfaction during this pandemic.
For my buttons, I ventured into what it would possibly look like if people were “stuck” inside their buttons, and the weird and wacky angles that come with that. I used the 0.5x lens on my iPhone camera to achieve this fishbowl-like effect, and I think it was successful in replicating that look.
At first, I had the idea of enlarging/emphasizing what everyone said their favourite facial feature was. In hindsight this was more of a way of dancing around the fact that this lens undoubtedly makes everyone look super weird! I’m glad I went with more of an “escaping face” idea, as I was able to embrace the ugliness of the lens and how it distorts everyone’s features.
This series of buttons was a new concept to me, and I found it to be more difficult than just a standalone work; I did enjoy this process as creating a collective took some more preliminary thinking, one of my favourite things to do (although I’m usually pretty lazy about it). My final collection is one that I am happy with and I hope these buttons can make some of you laugh 🙂
Some of my favourites:
Audio Art Brainstorming
Main Idea: relation to living with a lesser quality of hearing, how I perceive/experience life
- Hearing tests
- Having hearing aids, I often have to go in for routine hearing tests and reprogramming, This encompasses many different beeps and tests
- recreation of a “beep test” – the audiologist usually plays beeps and I am told to raise my hand when I hear them; beeps range in volume and tone
- creative enough? recordings already exist of this, ∴ idea scrapped
- I can hear everything that goes on in my house; recording these sounds and specifying who is doing what would allow for an interesting set of comparisons between how each roommate performs tasks within the house.
- Did not work out: all the roommates were actually out of the house at the same time; I figured I would not be able to get as many recordings as I wanted to. Additionally, in my test recordings the sound quality was not the right “muffled” sound I was going for, ∴ idea scrapped
- Layering different sounds from being in public
- Could create chaos if too much noise – need a similar vibe to a busy store/restaurant to make sure listeners can still make out some words
Final Audio Art: Chaos of Conversation
I ended up deciding on a layering concept; I recorded a tidbit of the public sounds any time I went out, and layered them together. This resulted in what sounds like an extremely busy public area, and it is hard to make out what anyone is specifically saying. I then decided to try and muffle the recording as well.
All these elements worked together to result in what I consider a representation of how I experience life with hearing loss. Oftentimes, things are quite muffled and bleed together, resulting in many missed bits of information. In public places I often need extreme focus to engage in a conversation; this element of my life is represented as the many different conversations occurring that are all simultaneously unintelligible. I recorded sounds of personal conversations, other people speaking, retail store chaos, and more. My goal was for this to be an unpleasant listening experience as listeners try to make out context and words for each of the conversations going on.
By allowing for some breaks in the noise and including clips from varying distances from the mic, this accurately represents a lot of my life. As the audio plays, some words become intelligible while it also descends into pure white noise; I find this to be a look into my experience navigating a constantly obscured range of hearing, even with my hearing aids.
Conceptual Portrait Brainstorming/Proposal
- Different uses of everyday items
- Taking a photo of the products I use daily each time I use them, showing them decreasing in quantity over time. This would show how I prioritize self-care/maintenance and provide viewers with information on who I am based on the subcategories of my products
- Ex: curly hair products = curly hair, specific face wash = certain skincare needs, etc
- Showing the “degradation” of things I use every day
- Similar to the first idea, this would be taking a photo of things I touch/use every day. This could expand to different items
- Ex: showing my makeup brush(es) each time I use them and the change in bristle conformation
- Ex: showing my ip balm slowly losing layers as I use it
Proposal: I find that one’s choices regarding their personal care can tell a lot about a person. I’ve always enjoyed seeing what products others like to use and comparing them to mine. I find that this element of our lives can be a connector and allow for mutual understanding between people without a need for heavy/deep conversation. Displaying such products like a brand photoshoot will highlight the vast array of things we use on a day-to-day basis as consumers and as people in society
Hide and Seek by ANTJESCHLEY.DE displays a creative use of what can be considered a personal care product, and the significance of it in one’s life/lifestyle. The overwhelming consumption of such product(s) combined with the individuality behind it is displayed beautifully here. This person seems to be blinded by their bubbles, and to me this is a statement of product consumerism and its effects on individuality.
Brand photography displays creative composition and allows for different conformations of the things we use every day. This style of photography is a simple approach to displaying something that holds a more significant meaning.
The Consumers’ Place in Society is a more industrial insight to consumerism, but displays key themes when thinking about how our uses of products places us and has the ability to define us within a world of others. The book’s themes are in line with the goal of this project.
Final Conceptual Portrait: Personal Products
In this final work, I collaborated with classmate and friend Faith to display our personal care items as a conceptual portrait. We collected all of our daily personal products and posed them in contrasting compositions with our hands shown adjusting in each one. The goal of these photos is to show that we contrast as face-value people, yet in other realms (such as personal care and hygiene opinions) we are quite similar. This can be seen in my use of curly hair products versus Faith’s use of blonde wash treatments. Our hair differs in every aspect; this then allows for the further assumption that we are different ethnicities and possess vastly different features requiring different care. Including our hands in each photo was an element that I did not expect to work out as well as it did. Having this extra piece of information further allows the viewer to understand who we are and what we use/need. Because so much of our personal lives are displayed, hopefully viewers can gain an understanding of who we are, what we like, and maybe even product recommendations!
While trivial at first glance, these items do show our individual differences and agreements simultaneously. Past our differing needs, we agree on certain smells and brands, such as our similar perfumes and face products, or our deodorant. The slight variations in specific products displays our knowledge of our needs in terms of skin, hair, and hygiene. Our differences as people are displayed in everything we use; while it can be easily overlooked, our connection to our needs paints a portrait of us as people. Each product acts as a supporting beam for our presence in others’ lives, and provides building blocks for a deeper connection to oneself.
Our contributions to consumerism can be seen through these images. We each use at least 10 products in our daily routines, and through using and buying them we establish our place as consumers as well as individuals. The relation between consumerism and individualism is something I hope to continue to explore in my studies.
Through these photos, it can be understood that Faith and I are two separate entities with varying wants and needs. Those who know us are able to pick out who’s who between the two, and they are also able to understand who exactly is behind each set of products.
Contender photos before choosing the final two: