Constellation Second Year Review

Constellation has been a lot more interesting this year, as well as easier to navigate seeing as this is my second year here at the university I had a better idea of what to expect. For my topic choices at the beginning of the year I feel I had a limited range of  options that  I could pick in terms of my interests and things that relate to my course, graphic design. This at first made me a bit down beat about constellation this year. In the end I decided to go with Puzzling out Contemporary Art. My reasoning behind this was after speaking to some people I thought, “What the heck, if there is nothing really relating to what I do as a designer, I may as well choose something in a creative subject that I know very little about”. That is how I ended up choosing, Puzzling out Contemporary Art.

During the first session with Jon Clarkson we had a discussion about what we think make art contemporary. During this we debated about the date, particular style and if the art had to symbolise or mean anything. None of these points really got decided upon as contemporary art I found out can be considered as many things, something that later on interested and annoyed me. The first piece we had a look at Leonardo’s Cat by Isa Genzken. I found this a very intriguing bit of work or installation to start off with. It was a pile made up of mundane objects and at first it just looked a big random mess to me. To this day I still can’t really say what it is about, but I would like to think that it is  piece about challenging composition and structure. This was one of the good things I found while on this module. Contemporary art, unlike other creative areas like graphic design, product design and architecture, for example, can be interpreted in more than one way. Later on in the course I found this sort of work frustrating. Examples such as Damian Hurst, who would simply put things into tanks, his most famous the shark. For me to call something like this art might be a bit too easy, with little skill involved it may seem to someone like myself who does graphic design, which is all about a process and construction that exhibition pieces like this are infuriating. It almost feels like contemporary and modern art is just there for the sake of it. To this day I still find things like this annoying that they can pass as ‘art’, but I still do find them interesting to examine and try and find some sort of meaning behind what is happening and in addition to this I have felt his choice has opened up my perception of contemporary art.

The second part of the constellation topic was the summative assessment. Due to my slight dissatisfaction towards modern and contemporary art, I wanted to compare and contrast it to my course, graphic communication. This way I could research contemporary art more and broaden my horizons further by comparing the two subjects. At first I found it challenging to research the contemporary art side of the essay because the only experience I have had with the subject is the constellation course. As the essay took shape, I was able to gather a greater understanding for the subject and began to accept it more for what it is. Overall, I feel that is the biggest benefit I have gained from this, not an improvement in my written skills but being able to look at exhibitions and modern art and not judge it so negatively.

The final part of the constellation module was to write our dissertation proposal. After partly writing my summative assessment on graphic design, I wished to do a whole essay on it which is why I have eventually come up with the question/statement, “Graphic Design is the art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines or books, which will be nonexistent in the future”, discuss. I have also chosen to create a visual representation of graphic design from my findings.

One of the key issues with graphic design and communication is that it is hard to pin down what it really is. Some people think it is one thing, while others believe it is something completely different. I feel that this is down to peoples’ perception and how educated they are on the matter. For example, the online Oxford Dictionary definition is  “The art or skill of combining text and pictures in advertisements, magazines, or books” (Oxford Dictionary, 2017). This definition is not wrong as these components are an important part of the industry, but people will argue that this is a very dated view of the subject, and in the modern day  a lot more different practices and thought is involved. From this introduction to graphic design there is already a few conflicting ideas about what it really is. This is why I wish explore this area.

Before this, I found it difficult coming up with a question. Because we could literally write about anything, I struggled with narrowing down what I wanted to do. All I knew at this stage was that I would like the question to relate back to graphic design somehow. At first I was desperate to do something on Star Wars, but was finding it rather difficult to link it back to graphic design in some way. After some more research I found that graphic design had no clear definition and everyone they asked would say that it was something different. Most people said things like, Photoshop, computers  and posters, but graphic design is much more than that which is why I wish to explore this topic.

Overall, constellation has been more interesting than last year and I think more enjoyable. It may have raised more questions in terms of contemporary art and my potential dissertation, but this has left me intrigued to find out and research them more.

 

 

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Overview of Constellation

Starting from the very beginning my first experience of constellation was analysing a couple of different movie posters and deconstructing the meaning behind them. I have done similar stuff to this before at A Level on my previous subjects; Graphic Communication and Media Studies. So I found this process fairly natural but was useful to get back into the habit. This skill has always been very useful for my subject of Graphic Communication, it means I can quickly deconstruct and analyse pieces of work very thoroughly. What I found particularly useful about this first session was how it was structured and the method used on how to break down the images. This method is called ‘Cath’s Columns’. It is where you have three columns labelled ‘describe’ ‘analyse’ and ‘theory’, helping me break down the visual movie posters in a easier way to what I have been used to previously. The describe and analyse bits were fairly straight forward, but theory was a bit more difficult, which involves finding the suitable evidence to back up my claim. But to this day I still use this method and use it frequently in my own practice of work and subject area, probably one of the key skills I have gained from constellation.

My first term module was ‘Smells like Teens Spirit’ which was all about subcultures and how they function in society. This subject helped me with my image breakdown even further, so much so that I wasn’t looking at just designs of posters etc anymore and breaking them down, but just standard photographs as well.

During my time in ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ I took a particular liking to the punk subculture which I ended up doing both of my essays on. At first I found it difficult to connect constellation with graphic communications, trying to make links and similarities. A lot of the time I felt I couldn’t connect the two and although what I learned about subcultures was interesting I feel it hasn’t benefited me in terms of linking constellation and graphics. The one thing I did link though was during my assessments. For the first essay my question was “How does the God Save The Queen album design relate to punk?” This was good because it was relevant to what I was doing in graphics because I was focusing on a piece of design, but also got to learn about the context of the piece.

The most important bit of information I gathered from this part of constellation was how to structure my essay and reference correctly. When it came to the essay side of things I would make sure that my arguments were clear and sufficiently back up with specific referencing. As mentioned above I learnt  how to use direct quotes and how to paraphrase to back up my arguments. Although this is not linked to my subject of graphic communications it was still a vital skill that constellation has taught me to use, and use correctly.

In my second term we focused a lot on critical thinking which is a process that you actively evaluate sources of information, and the reasoning and actions behind it. Similar to what we were doing in first term but focusing more on the origin of the source . I learned that as a critical thinker I should never accept anything as face value. You should always ask questions like; Who has written/said this, Why are they writing/saying and are they biased. If you take all of these into account you can analyse the source of a piece of information albeit a piece of text or image very well. Through all of this though it is important to keep an open mind and better to give your strong opinion, rather than sitting on the fence which helped me have a clearer understanding of the topics at hand.

Thinking about it I have used this critical thinking technique in my practice of graphic communication, most recently when analysing magazine double page spreads. I would often look at the spread and question why the designer has put the ‘headline’ where it is and why the image is the size it is and not another side, which is similar at looking at a piece of text and asking the same questions, why has it been written this way and who wrote and what are their motives etc. By doing things like this, sometimes without thinking about it is what would make me a successful designer in the future and that is partially down to the critical thinking methods I have picked up from constellation.

On the whole the two main things that I have taken from Constellation is the analysis technique, Cath’s columns and the critical thinking. I feel I use the columns analysis more consciously as I am physically drawing the three columns out and making sure I do each step correctly, where as with the critical thinking I am doing subconsciously all the time as a graphic designer.

Formative assessment Plan

How does this image represent the values and style of the punk culture in the 1970’s?

(PLAN)

SEXPISTOLS

  1. British flag- This is sign of patriotic values and links to the queen and her British values. It also signifies that Punk originated in Britain.
  2. Existing image of the queen with black strips covering her eyes and mouth- This shows punks were anti monarchy by  defacing the queen.
  3. Black Strips across eyes and mouth-This has connotations of crime which is associated to the punk culture and way of life. This is enhanced even further by them being ripped, much like a ransom note, linking to crime again.
  4. Finally the name of the band and song are done in a bold news paper font-This is to show that Punks were beginning to make front page news. (For this I will use an example of when the Sex Pistols swore on live TV)

This art piece reflects their culture and style very well because of those reasons. It highlights the anarchy punks were known for, often shown through their clothing and music. (For examples here I will use the Sex Pistols as the band, and an image of Vivienne Westwood of her style and anarchic statements)

In my formative assessment I will add and expand on these points by researching on it more and finding quotes and theory to back up my points.

Punk

Punk as a sub culture was very anti establishment, often described as a culture that used semiotic guerrilla warfare, which is terrorism through style. They were also labelled as ‘bricolage’. This meant they took mundane and ordinary objects and gave them new meanings. This ranged from lavatory chains used as necklaces, or safety pins used as piercings.

The punk style was garish and for the time it emerged, often offensive. The style of clothing included ripped T-shirts, drain pipe trousers, mini skirts and unnaturally died hair, always bright colours such as green, yellow and orange.

They had set rituals and shared attitudes of being different and usually confrontational. They were anarchic and were different to the mainstream culture and society, which can me shown through their style of music. Their music contained swearing which was an obscenity at the time, heavy guitars and spitting, all in the time frame of quick two minute songs.

This overall style is summed up by punk rocker Johnny Rotten, “We are into chaos” Johnny Rotten

The Zoot Suit and Referencing

In my last Constellation session of Smells Like Teen Spirit I learnt about the Zoot suit and the style and statements behind it. I found it was an extravagant suit, worn by young African and Hispanic Americans, originating in lower class neighborhoods such as Harlem and New York.

The Suit became a way of identifying ethnicity and by 1942 had become stereotyped with crime and was effectively an illegal symbol.

By wearing the suit, you would be considered anti establishment. But it was more than that. The Zoot was there to critique America’s stance in the Second World War and its defence of other races from inhumane crimes, when it was guilty itself of such crimes such as lynching and the Jim Crow system against non whites.

By wearing the Zoot suit, the African Americans made a statement, they would not be controlled by the white American Government. This was emphasised  by the large amounts of fabric used to make the suit, when fabric rationed and used sparingly, which is why it had anti establishment connotations.

Additionally I learned how to reference correctly by using direct quotes and paraphrasing, which will help me greatly in future with essay writing.

Using quotes

Constellation

The other day I expanded on my knowledge on how to read and analyse image, to gather different meanings. The first time I had done this in Constellation was of an image of Madonna, revealing a strong masculine sides to he outfit and personality. But the key thing in this lecture was the use of ‘Cath’s columns, which was an easy way in which I could easily take notes and refer back to the different columns. This will not only help me analyse other peoples work, but also my own work as a graphic designer.

Cath's columns
Cath’s columns