My feedback from Simon thankfully validated my direction and the risks I had taken with this assignment, but also confirmed some of my fears about the weakness of the work and also the clarity of my rationale and explanation. Below is my response to some of his points:
Simon described the assignment as a “bold and interesting” and that I “produced a cohesive set of images” against a well-argued background and informed premise.
Experimentation – a willingness to take risks:
A major factor in finishing this assignment was my fear that I had strayed too far in my interpretation of the brief. It is reassuring to know that my experiments are viewed favourably, and I hope this will improve my confidence in the future. A lack of complete confidence in what I was doing could be an explanation for the lack of consideration of different approaches that I considered – on reflection, I believe I viewed this as showing weak belief in my concept which explains why I did not show more of this. I realise now that showing I have considered different approaches strengthen the work rather than diminishes it as it shows the journey I have gone on to arrive at my chosen presentation.
Initial concept good, backed up by analysis and rationale:
Unfortunately, the subtext here is that I did not completely follow this initial concept through.
A willingness to develop own ideas and voice:
This is the most pleasing part of the feedback, part of the journey I feel I am at level 2 is becoming more self-directed in my work – something I know is an essential aspect of level 3. I am starting to feel more confident in this respect and understand that going out and producing the work is an essential part of the process and that it is important to experiment as this can often take the work in new and unexpected directions.
Areas for development:
Simon’s main criticism was that although I had taken a bold and individualistic step, I had not taken this further and considered how it could be developed and applied to different circumstances/situations.
The issue of copyright:
Appropriation art featured as an assignment in my last course, Understanding Visual Culture, and this is one of the reasons I was inspired to take on a form of appropriation for this project. (See, UVC Assignment 2: The Displaced Image) The acceptability of appropriation as a means of artistic expression is something I am completely comfortable with and would argue that my images are significant alterations of the adverts so do not represent direct copies. It is a glaring error not to discuss my thoughts about this and consider the ethics of such an approach as part of my reflection – what seems completely obvious to me does not automatically translate and this is important to remember. In my preparation for the assignment I also made notes on various influences which would go a long way to helping contextualise the work. The clear precedent to my work is Richard Prince’s ‘Cowboy’ series in which rephotographed parts of advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes removing the branding and thus producing a comment on myths of masculinity and the American dream. Prince is a hugely successful and provocative appropriation artist who has been sued many times, including for this series, more often than not winning these cases. I suspect the desire to take legal action against Prince is in direct parallel with his success (one of his cowboy photographs was for a time the most expensive photograph sold at auction) and I doubt that my work would attract the same attention. On the reverse side of this however, and given my clear intent as being against the ideology presented by the advertisers, I suspect I would have little recourse or means of defence if I was challenged on grounds of copyright – the very aspect that makes Prince such a target for litigation, his wealth and success, is also the means he uses to defend himself. Simon also mentions copyright issues for the newspaper articles, something I believe is not an issue due to using links to the articles rather than displaying them directly.
A lack of developing the initial idea:
Simon points out that the work is a little coarse and heavy-handed, lacking a degree of finesse. I would agree with this wholeheartedly as this was my intent. Where I have failed is to describe this in my blog, for example, the increased saturation of the images was a deliberate strategy to accentuate the false nature of advertising and reflects my view. Simon also rightly point sort that I could have explored the subliminal nature of advertising further, which again I would agree with. The whole point of photographing the adverts out of focus was as a commentary on this and a means for me to intervene between the audience and the advertisers intended messages.
Simon argues that because some of the imagery I use is barely recognisable the initial grip on the viewer is lost. My initial thought for the project was that I wanted to present adverts that all featured a clearly identifiable brand, something that in practice proved more difficult than I anticipated. There are probably only two images that achieve this (Coca-Cola and McDonald’s) and the compromise I reached was to focus instead on other images that illustrate the concerns that are expressed in the articles. Reviewing the work again I can see how my wish to obscure the original adverts as much as possible has clouded my understanding of how viewers coming to the work with fresh eyes would struggle to read the images – to me, it was obvious what the images were of but I can see how this is perhaps a little too obtuse, particularly for example the national lottery image.
Consider different modes of presentation:
My presentation is reliant on a digital display and my initial thoughts were to follow this explicit direction in the brief and produce an assignment that could only be presented digitally – hence the use of links and the need to click on the images. The idea to present the images as diptychs that Simon suggests was something I considered but discounted for the reasons above. Considering the feedback and my own more objective thoughts about the work after the passage of some time, I can see how this could be something worth experimenting with.
Improve navigation and presentation of blog:
Simon makes the points that the layout of the blog presentation is unclear and that he is unsure what I intend to be included. For example, if the title is intended to be included it is too big and unbalances the image. This is a classic example of being so focused on solving a certain problem that I failed to consider this important stylistic issue. I wanted the presentation of the assignment to be purely digital and had a clear idea of how I wanted this to be but struggled to get WordPress to behave as I wanted. Ideally, I wanted clicking on the small thumbnail image to take the viewer to an image so large that it filled the screen. The only way I could think to do this was to publish to link the small thumbnails to pages which by default displayed the title of the image at the top of the screen – on reflection, I should have simply had no title, and this would have solved the problem. Simon also points out that the caption of the image which acts as a link to a newspaper article is quite small and could be missed. Again, this is a fair point and something that can be solved by having a text in a larger font size below the image rather than as a caption. The problem with increasing the font size, however, is that the caption then mirrors the problem that having a large title creates in that the text unbalances the imagery. My rationale for having a small caption was to demonstrate how the negative commentary presented in the news articles was completely subservient and overpowered by the advertising imagery. By preventing the viewer from being able to easily discern what the image is of the text becomes necessary to drive understanding.
Simon makes the point that over time the links to the news articles could become broken. This is an issue I considered and one that can be solved by linking to screenshots of the articles – of course, this raises further questions about copyright.