Friday, April 18, 2014

Exhibition day

I finally narrowed down on retaining my initial image: the sentence, "I might as well be blind" with the red background. However, I decided to experiment with another layer: the impact of a singular word on a viewer. Similar to how a word starts to look odd and meaningless if stared at long enough, I decided to experiment with the structure of sentences to see if they still retained meaning. 

I finally made a gif of different combinations of the same sentence. 

The fun part of this was what I discovered simply in making this basic gif. The different sentence combinations were overlapping in a way that once the final image is viewed, the words in the initial sentence start to come out. I found myself identifying the word "blind" simply jumping out at the image after the final sentence had appeared in the gif. This satisfied my experiment: regardless of the meaning of the sentence, individual words have an impact on a viewer in an intangible, distinctive way. 

I wanted this sentence to take up a large space, so I had it put up on a projected against a dark white wall in the basement. This was my concept note: 

Every day sight offers us an array of images: faces, trees, colours, life. Our brains mutate this sight, making it a complex, never-ending affair. Our brains force these images into significance, and project this significance onto our lives. We cannot seem to see, without believing. We are trapped by these images, by the singularity of the things we see. 
In a time rapidly mutating into the future, we are perhaps left with pure, raw material. We are left with words that have the ability to weigh down on our brains, forcing communication. We are left with sight. We can behold a word - one of the purest forms of thought - and see it as an image, moving, changing, working within our minds. In a time where every day sight is so intertwined with belief - in a time where we are pained by what we see - perhaps it would be a simpler life, a utopian life, to believe blindly, to perhaps not see at all. You can see this image but it doesn’t make anything simpler. We might as well be blind.  

I was all along aware that the actual work put into this was far too simplistic, and yet after I saw it up on that wall, I realised enough thought and ideation had been put into it that I felt utterly fulfilled during the exhibition. This was precisely my idea, and somehow I could sum it up in that image. It wasn't perfect, but it would do. I intend to play with a series of images like this, with different sentences, and also experiment side by side with photography that can match text in this manner. It opened up portals I hadn't explored before, and for this I am very, very grateful. 

Final work - the process

I began looking at conceptual writing in a huge way, and I looked at work by Vito Acconci, Victor Burgin and so on. I saw how importance was placed on pre-existing content and manipulation of it, finding relevance in existing texts in an entirely different manner. One of my favourite works was how the novel Nana was reduced simply to every sentence in the book that described light. The whole field remains absolutely fascinating to me, and I shall be working with it extensively in my spare time. 

After another task in the course that sealed my concept - we were told to find what we considered an "Indian face" and sum up what stereotypes and personal views summed up our view of the typical "Indian" - I decided to experiment with short, concise sentences against extremely basic images. 

My main concept - which again related closely with my personal work - was to show the negation of "sight", visuals, and how this leads to perception. I wanted to show how much of perception was affected by sight, and this co-related with my feeling of negating these visuals, and accepting only thought and ideas, and information. I was at a point where I felt at my wits end with the complex nature of making any field - whether it be visuals or writing - "perfect". So much of had to do with technicality and decoration, and I felt that I wanted to sum up these feelings with the most basic of raw material. I wanted to make text and place it against visuals that would simply negate itself, making the text more important in the image. This had the purpose of exploring text and words itself as a medium rather than writing as such, and also negating what is visually pleasing for what is conceptually significant. 

I had begun to form short, concise and yet vague sentences that summed up what my ideas were. The first of these was this sentence: I might as well be blind.

Some of the other sentences were these: 

This may be relevant to just one person 

They didn’t see it coming

I didn’t see it coming 

You didn’t see it coming 

Words that mean so much 

We used to know how to fly

Big and small have been reversed 

Fill in the blank with a memory

I eventually decided to stick to the first sentence, as it was the sentence that was most relevant to our exhibition. I placed the text against a red background first, and my initial concept was as simple as this: the colour red triggers an obvious emotional response in a viewer. Red is associated to many things,and regardless of the author, every colour has an impact on a viewer that is relevant to the viewer at that particular time. However, this visual impact is easily negated and mundane: it is a response that is momentary and vanishes immediately. So, what is the point of seeing this? What is the point of beholding an image to have an emotional reaction if something as simple as the colour red can trigger this? How is this truly impacting or changing anything? Hence, I might as well be blind.

Poster - I like all of them

We were told to make posters on any subject and I decided to make a poster on our exhibition itself. Our tagline was "I like all of them", and I chose to interpret this in a slightly different manner - ignoring LGBT altogether. I chose to interpret it as simply accepting multiple perceptions of the individuals in our society. I had no previous practice whatsoever making posters, so that was difficult, but I still enjoyed employing my new minimalistic perspective on my idea for the poster.

This was one of the versions I came up with, and the one I liked best:

Unexpected Conversations

As the course passed me by, I realised the process we were working under. We would first be lured into a sense of comfort, into a feeling of familiarity and knowing what we're doing, until someone or something new would emerge to make us doubt what we thought we previously knew.

For me, this happened quite distinctively twice.

First was the talk with the facilitator, Deepak. We had just begun work on the exhibition, full to the brim with ideas on LGBT, when Deepak emerged quite randomly and began questioning us on our rights.

He asked us what we thought our rights were, and if we had any instances at all of these rights being actually violated. He made me realise what I already knew, but had never pondered before - that we were quite clueless as a sect of society. We were privileged and sheltered, and we had the kind of objectivity that came with ignorance. Although we claimed to feel strongly about so many social issues, being essentially people that have not struggled even an iota of what we might have, we can never truly relate.

Deepak made us relate at least one instance of where we felt wronged, or where we felt we deserved justice but did not get it. This made me identify the one real case where my rights had been violated at all - the only emotional connect in an otherwise entirely hypothetical premise. Even if these issues were not the same at all, it was important to touch base with that personal motivation that might drive us all. It was a conversation that was quite insightful and challenging, and it definitely left me a little uncertain of where we were going. I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling.

It was after this that I decided to question the issue at the most basic level: as I knew exactly how unaware I was about the specifics of what our society was going through and why, I came down to the one thing I did know for sure. The one thing that I could relate to myself and the rest of the world: the difference between individual perception and prevailing reality. I would soon make this premise even more basic, and narrow it down to sight, but that happened mostly after the second mind-altering conversation, which was by Narendra himself.

It was after a certain talk in class about postmodernism and postructuralism, about how these concepts are not just philosophical, but are just the state of society in its day to day functioning, that I was truly inspired on what my final piece would be. I became very taken with the concept of postmodernism - something that I had always loved, but had never explored to this extent before - and I could see how to narrow down my ideas to the most basic possible form.

This corresponded exactly with what I was going through with my personal work. As I have usually written, and am a person that used to write almost every day, I am at a phase where writing feels overdone. It sometimes feels too easy to find the right words, to describe things and feelings, because I've already described them so many times before. It feels like a system, and the discovery of the process felt absent at the moment, which was something that was really disheartening for me. This made me realise that I could go at words from a different angle entirely: I was already looking at text installations, but this made me look at conceptual writing in a huge way. I realised that something wondrous lay in using words just as words, to using as few words as possible, to really going in depth into the form and meaning of words regardless of the author. I was enthralled by the idea of what a word could communicate just by itself regardless of who was saying it. I came up with the idea of combining conceptual writing to an extent with text installation.

Social Issues, and Us

So far the course had been about the self, and trying to figure out our own strengths and weaknesses in the medium we had previously chosen.

Suddenly, it became all about the world around us, and the issues faced by the society we live in.

We were sorted into two groups and told to discuss a number of issues that we felt we personally related to.

This led to a few funny conversations and controversial comments, but we finally came down to this list of social issues that we, as mostly upper middle class young adults could honestly say we felt strongly about:

- the LGBT issue and the consequences of section 377 in India

- animal rights in general

- the education of children and literacy

- the caste system and its prevalence in India

It was odd how the LGBT issue was the one issue that the whole classroom could somehow agree on, even if our views on the subject were somewhat diverse.

We had a vague idea of our ultimate goal with this social issue - to curate and conduct an exhibition, in either N3 campus, somewhere in Yelahanka or a gallery elsewhere in the city of Bangalore on the subject of LGBT and section 377. We were to make work of our own, not to mention get work from other people including peers, faculty and external artists, design the gallery space where the exhibition was to happen, make posters and create publicity for the exhibition. It did not seem like an easy task - and I have to admit, neither did it seem like an especially fun task at the time - but I could see exactly why it was necessary. It seemed important to first entrench oneself in one's own work, and then experience thoroughly the other side of the coin - the aspect of the audience, the whole process of exhibiting work, how it really is to be an artist. It is not enough to simply create work; perhaps one must also know what goes into the aftermath of creating this work, and how easy/difficult it is to exhibit it properly to a viewer.

I volunteered to be in the space design group, because I liked the idea of designing a space into a gallery space. However this course was obviously not just about the surface interest of any field; in space design, we were told to go completely into the specifics. If our exhibition was in the N3 basement, we had to measure the distance between pillar to post, between chair to table, get every dimension right and create a proper grid of the space. It was a systematic, although often frustrating process, but I thought it was designed to allow us to fully experience this aspect of an exhibition. Well, it worked.

ART ACKNOWLEDGE - how it began.

Art acknowledge was a course that seemed to correspond very closely to situations I was going through personally with my own work. From the very first class I attended, I realised I could easily tie up work for this course with ideas I'd been having lately, and this was the most exciting thought initially. I saw ways to explore concepts and also use this course as motivation to explore these concepts further.

Initially we were told to work on an artwork from any field we could choose. I first chose writing, as I consider it my primary field - but on realising that I could do simply anything, and there were no limitations, my interest in writing for this faded. I needed direction; I couldn't find direction if there was endless possibility.

I chose film instead, and decided to work on an experimental film. Although I couldn't complete it in the duration of this course, I have many ideas jotted down that I intend to work on later myself.

The most interesting part of this task was the research involved. I was told to spend time before I move onto the actual filmmaking process to look at work done by others in the field of experimental filmmaking. I spent two entire days watching an array of experimental and abstract films and reading about filmmakers that were part of various artistic movements such as Dadaism and the Fluxus group of artists.

Some of the films I watched and enjoyed most was Rene Claire's En'tracte, films by Hans Richter and Germaine Dulac. I watched collage films and of course, Un Chien Andalou, which was one the films that prompted some of my ideas in the first place. I observed these films carefully, trying my best to pay attention to art direction and cinematography, camera angles, trying to identity each frame and the work put into it.

I made many notes on these things, and some of the points I observed were:

- The audience is to be treated as a decisive perspective at all times. In every frame I decided to take into account the factor of, who is the viewer in this scenario? Is he the protagonist, the background, or outside of the frame? In each frame, I realised that this is a factor that is deeply taken into account. I had never noticed this before, and it was very interesting to me.

- Perfectly straight angle views are used to show absurdity very often in experimental film. It shows a disconnect from the characters on the screen, a sardonic sort of objectivity which is what creates the "strangeness" in the frame.

- I noticed many interesting scenes were videos were superimposed on top of one another. For instance, a video of a paper boat floating over waves of water superimposed over a cityscape to create the illusion of the city being like an ocean. This was a technique I greatly loved, especially considering the time at which most of these films were made, and how such ideas were so rare back then.

- As most of these films were made in black and white, the grayscapes are very interesting. The protagonist is often either surrounded with either stark contrasts of black and white with grey tones in the background - OR, alternatively, surrounded with softer grey shades with stark contrasts in the background. This creates an aura around the actors that makes a surprisingly deep impression on the viewer.

- One of the things I noticed the most - and which lead partly to my work later on - is the use of motifs to create atmosphere and meaning in experimental film. There are certain decisive images, such as clips of clocks ticking, footsteps, ribbons, etc - simple symbolic objects that make an impact on a viewer regardless of their literal meaning. This got me thinking about symbols and simple objects creating meaning for themselves, regardless of the artist and the context.

I shot almost all the footage I needed for the film but I did not get time to edit it. I was soon sucked into the project we did immediately after this one in the course, and have not finished the film yet. Yet, I somehow found a way to tie my hopes for the film to the text installation I attempted later in the course, and this was satisfying. I intend to finish the film over the summer regardless.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Final installation

When the time came for the final installation, I have to admit that pinning down what to do was difficult. I had read and looked into so many other artists, and I had too many ideas to the extent that I did not know what was practical and what was not. The field seems so limitless and full of possibility that simply anything is possible; and then it becomes necessary to draw a line between honest expression and just seeing what you can get away with.

Due to my work on art acknowledge, I was already working on the concept of text installations. I briefly considered simply combining my text installation for the other course with this one - but I realised I wanted to experiment with objects and assemblage - however little I could with this installation, even if I still play around with a similar concept with the text.

I worked with two classmates and we decided to combine text with objects to create our installation. We wanted a larger space that led a viewer to feel somewhat as if they were roaming around in the open, and so we chose a terrace in a house in SFS.

The text said, "What is behind the image is concealed". We took objects such as a chair, an old television, a bicycle, a water cooler, and so on, to the terrace, and covered them completely with white cloth. We placed these objects around the terrace in such a way that one could walk through them and there was no decisive pattern, even if the objects could vaguely be recognised through the sheets. The objects were all things that facilitated lifestyle - at one point it felt as though we were transporting a living room to the terrace. The text was placed on two opposite walls. These are images from the installation:

We invited a few people that we saw on the street to tell us what they think. As it seemed completely out of context, they didn't entirely understand what we tried to do, but it was still enjoyable. 

This was our concept note: 

This installation attempts to play with the concept of sight and image. Every setting before our eyes can be considered an image, a snapshot, a photograph existing in that moment in which we see it. Our every day lives exist in the form of memories and those memories are retrieved from our visuals, in the form of pictures. Yet what is truly to be considered is perhaps invisible - it is beyond the visual. The image often is simply a veil, behind which something of importance may lie.

Here we try to compress a lifestyle underneath white sheets; every day objects that perhaps sum up a day in the human experience - an experience hidden by white. The image is a visual, but the visual is not clearly recognisable. 

This installation addresses one to look at living as an image, and then imply that there lies an entirely different meaning beyond that image existing as a realm we may explore. The realm that is concealed behind the image.