Week 2

This week I really enjoyed looking into a few of the handful of suggested artists, namely Hiba Abdallah and Barbara Kruger

Starting with Kruger, it’s clear right off the bat, even before reading the text, that her message is immediate. That colour pallet of black white and red – the dark and light contrast combined with danger associated with blood red – screams urgency. Her messages are extremely politically charged and visually, the composition of her images resemble propaganda almost. The use of bold text, bold simple shapes, and urgent colour pallet remind me a little of Russian constructivist propaganda. Sometimes the messages aren’t all that far off, in the sense of calling for a mass group of people to organize, like in “Your Body is a Battleground” which was promoting a rally in support of abortion and women’s rights.

I love the “I Shop therefore I Am” as a comment on modern consumer capitalist society. The hand looks so ominous and mindless, reaching out towards us as if we the viewer are about to be consumed. I feel a hint of irony with Kruger’s work, or style I should say, as it relates to the Supreme skate and streetwear clothing brand. Supreme basically copied her white text on red shape design and claimed it as their own, suing other companies who remotely copy it, like streetwear brand Married to the Mob did in 2013. Kruger commented on this in an interview calling Supreme “uncool jokers.” The irony is definitely real comparing “I shop therefore I am” to Supreme, since the billion-dollar streetwear enterprise is entirely based off of fast fashion. Owning the latest product signifies some form of street credit, fitting into the consumers mantra of being what you shop, where the less you buy the lesser you are.

The other artist who’s work I loved looking through and who was not featured on the week 2 blog was Hiba Abdallah. She’s a UofG alumni who specializes in text based work and has done a lot of collaborative work with communities in Toronto to re-imagine public agency. One work of hers that I really love is her “Something written in the Arabic language” logo, which is placed on cards as a print, as well as on t-shirts. Here she uses corporate branding strategies to sell an Arabic logo that literally says: “something written in the Arabic language.” While the message is apolitical, the script and logo design is highly charged and can challenge people who carry so much as a hint of anti-Arab sentiment. To me, wearing one of the shirts feels like a really cool opportunity for some prejudice checks!

Week 1 Book Stacks

Rough Work

Investigating the artists work:

I’ve been sort of chuckling to myself all week when doing this assignment thinking about its connection to my current studies in ARTH 3320 Lives: Aspects of Western Art. In it so far we’ve briefly gone over our disagreements with Roland Barthes theory from his essay “Death to the Author”. He essentially argues that as soon as the a book is finished and shared, the author and their biography add nothing to the context of the book in the eyes of the reader. Of course there are many valid arguments for and against Barthes theory, but what I find interesting in relation to this course is that while one might use a book they own as a window into the life of its author, Nina Katchadourian goes a step deeper and uses someone else books as a window into their owners life. To sum up her process, Katchadourian will take a group of books owned by someone else and rearrange their order so that the titles on the spine can be read in sequence. The sequence includes books that she sees as illustrative to their owner(s) life, almost like a portrait of them as well as a glimpse into their library taking into account how they organize their books, which ones they love, or don’t care for, etc. Compositionally, Katchadourian will also take aesthetic elements into account such as fonts used in the titles and other physical qualities such as the books “heft”. Her method of arranging stacks was the one during practice that I was most drawn to. 

In his project One Billion Years [Past and Future], 2012, Dave Dyment aimed to create his stack using chronology as his organizational tool. When arranging, the source of where the books came from, their authors, previous owners, or titles, did not take precedence over the time (past, present, future) that each books contents pertained to. He found books that wrote about thousands of years in the past and thousands of years into the future and arranged them accordingly. 

Ryan Park on the other hand, in his 2009 Untitled project, took on a more playful approach and arranged books focusing on their colour and aesthetic. Of the three artists in question he is the only one to stack the books opened as opposed to closed. Ironically each books contents have nothing to do with the meaning of the whole sculpture. 

Process

As I mentioned earlier, when it came time for me to compose my own stacks I was most drawn to Katchadourian’s method of book selection and arrangement. I wanted the books to say something about me and my literary interests. I’ll say this, it’s quite difficult when you’re someone that doesn’t ever read, which is why the first stack idea I had was one composed of various sketchbooks and notebooks I own. I also pulled select books from my roomate’s collection, using ones that I felt reflected shared interests we have in music, poetry, society, culture, and nature. The primary goal was to arrange the books so that their titles would read a little interesting phrase that reached for, if not encapsulated a common theme shared amongst them. I tried to compose each phrase like a poem, though forgive me for I wouldn’t call myself a poet by any means. Similarly to Katchadouran and Park I paid attention to the shape of the full sculpture that each book acted as a single unit of. I wanted the sculptures form to support the flow of the poem – spacing the books to emphasizing certain words when needed, and aligning or skewing titles position in relation to one another to form groups or stanzas. 

Stack 1Wood, Ink, & Paper

Stack 2Wandering the Blasted Pine

Stack 3Embers