Personal Development Plan.

PDP

My journey through Constellation this term has been one that has challenged me academically. Firstly, I was daunted by the 4,000 word assignment that was due at the end of the term, because I felt that I was not confident or strong in this module. I struggled to adapt to reading theoretical and philosophical texts at the start of the five-hour lectures and I would not participate within the study group itself to begin with. I wanted to contribute to the discussions within the study group, but I was always afraid to speak up because I was scared of being wrong or appearing stupid. However, as the weeks went by, my confidence flourished and the anxiety I felt at the start of this module dissolved into the background as I grew confident through the weeks, which was demonstrated when I started to actively participate in the weekly study groups. As my confidence grew, I began to learn to adapt to reading theoretical and philosophical texts for each lecture – reading such texts may still not be my strongest ability but it is still a hurdle that I have managed to overcome to participate successfully within my study group in Constellation.

Throughout Dr. Morgan’s lectures, I have discovered that I am passionate about exploring the theory of Semiotics in deeper depths than I already have touched on for my 4,000 word assignment. The theory of Semiotics has started to feed into my practice as I have started to question what symbolic nature I want my artefacts to posses and how I want other people to perceive the object when it is displayed.

In addition to the theory of Semiotics, through Dr. Morgan’s lectures I have learnt about the theory of cool, where you look at something that was described as ‘cool’ and apply the theory of why it was to be considered ‘cool’. I have been educated about the importance of transitional objects and how, regardless of age, transitional objects guide you from infancy, to help inform, educate and develop the progression from infancy through to independent childhood, and into adolescence and adulthood. Although the age group changes, the transitional objects remain – the objects also alter with the age groups.

Furthermore, I acquired knowledge about consumer culture, where businesses use gimmicks to convince people that they need an object or item. In further depths, I learned that in some cases consumer culture is used to demonstrate wealth and upper class, who can afford such luxuries as for example, the brand new iPhone X.

Alongside this, within the study group, we studied social and cultural connotations, which piqued my interest and I enjoyed, through my 4,000 word assignment, how social and cultural connotations are established within materiality and objects.

Following on in the weekly lectures within the study group, I explored the concept of a subject and an object, where I learnt how to tell what was an active subject – which is that of conscious being – and an object – which is inanimate unless manipulated by an active subject.

I thoroughly found it interesting to discover social movements such as Shaker Design founded in the 18th century by Ann Lee, who paved the way for many future designers to come. They were crafts people with incredible amount of skill, who created everything that they needed, from crockery to clothing and furniture, Shaker Design is still influencing the world of designers today.

Because of this feed through Constellation, I am now beginning to apply theory to my practice. I am looking at the symbolic nature of the objects or artefacts I create, and I am looking at the symbolic nature in which materiality I choose to create my artefacts with. I am starting to consider social and cultural connotations of materiality within the objects I am creating within my practice, as I am more aware that each materiality has symbolic meaning, let alone social and cultural connotations.

Learning to know about objects and materiality, to me, has been essential to my practice as a maker, because I am always experimenting with new materials and processes that accompany the materiality, and I am constant with creating artefacts within my practice. The newfound knowledge from theories we have covered within the study group has enabled me to consider materiality more carefully, and it has changed my thinking pattern. I am now currently in Field and developing a Viking Nightlight. Before the feed from Constellation, I would have chosen any random colour of acrylic for the body of work but because of my new understanding of Semiotics through the study group, I chose red acrylic as symbolic nature for blood spilt on battlefields and Viking homelands as well as invasions Vikings actively underwent.

I am feeling less daunted at the idea of writing a dissertation as I feel more confident in my capabilities of academic writing skills than I did when the module began at the start of the term. Although I may have a base outline of an idea for what I would like to write my dissertation proposal and dissertation on, I still do not know what artefact(s) I would create for this body of work, but I feel more at an advantage at this stage than a disadvantage as I felt at the very beginning of this module.

It is with thanks to Dr. Morgan’s lectures that I have gained confidence with academic writing as I am feeling confident and prepared for my Dissertation proposal and Literature review that is to come next. It is because through this study group, I feel I have found something I feel passionately about discussing within my Dissertation. I am eager to undertake the Dissertation accompanied with Artefact, where I am considering to continue my exploration into Semiotics of Materiality, because as a Maker, I am passionate about materiality and processes.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
– Leonardo da Vinci.

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Reflection Entry: Learning to Know About Objects and Materiality.

My personal experience of Constellation this term has been a positive one, for a number of reasons. I am going to discuss the reasons why below.

Overcoming Academic Fears

Within this Constellation module, I was extremely anxious by the 4,000 word assignment and the additional 1,000 word PDP that accompanied the assignment. This was especially triggered by the weekly tasks of academic reading and writing – two aspects that I am not particularly strong or confident in. These fears led to distress until I confronted them in discussion with my study skills mentor Rachel. We discussed breaking down the tasks of academic writing and reading – and further discussed coping strategies to avoid information overload and panic attacks. In addition to this support in study skills, I sat down in a tutorial with Ashley early on and discussed my fears regarding the module outcomes.

As I progressed in the study group, I found myself starting to overcome social anxiety by starting to participate during the lectures, pitching in if only once. This built up to the point where I would start to try answer questions and always speak up about the recap of the week before. My confidence started to grow in these five hour lectures and in the end, you wouldn’t be able to shut me up! Which was a massive difference from the first session where I perked up and said two words and went into a panic attack. I am extremely happy with my progression within this module.

Through the weekly tasks Ashley set on academic writing and reading, I learned how to break down sections of essay writing and how to skim-read content in academic sources for what I am researching. Because of these tasks, I learned to develop better essay structure, referencing and content related research. I have overcome my academic fears in this module and I am not so distressed now about my dissertation proposal which is coming up next term, as I have tackled the 4,000 word assignment with more ease than I thought I would. I am now well over 3,000 words and my 1,000 PDP is also in progress. I am already feeling confident when writing and researching for my essay.

Opening Horizons

Through the intensive 5-hour lectures, I have started to broaden my mindset and develop a more thorough understanding of theory. I am still struggling to understand philosophy, but I can now read content and break down theories and learn to understand them, which is not what I was capable of doing before I engaged with my Learning to Know About Objects and Materiality study group. Because of this newfound knowledge, I have an expansive perspective on my work – I am now capable of applying theory to my practice; particularly the theory of sign in the Semiotics theory.

Through my subject matter for my essay, I chose to develop an extensive understanding on Semiotics and decided to apply them to my BAMS medals in my Subject module. I now understand the cultural and social connotations that different artefacts possess, as well as consumerism, monetary exchange values and the symbolic meaning of an artefact or material object.

Summary of Constellation Lectures so far.

Friday 20th October:
Notes from lecture:

  • (Objects are transpecies – animals like objects too.) When we are babies, we start to experience materiality in the world. We learn and are guided by objects.
  • An object you are given as a child you are likely to have a relationship with it – it is a security blanket. An object helps you to transition from one phase to another. Objects also smell familiar.
  • The point of transitional objects:
  1. This helps babies understand who they are and that objects are not apart of them
  2. Objects are used to transition towards independence and helps with separation anxiety
  3. A time when you feel better by holding something
  • Transitional objects – a blanket, a toy, music – becomes a familiar thing. Transitional objects help with anxiety and separation – they help you through a time of anxiety – it is a defense against depressive episodes of anxiety
  • Washing the transitional object can break the continuity of familiarity
  • Transitional Objects and Adults (reading material) – What is it saying?
  1. Emotional attachment to objects.
  2. Transitional objects combat against the stresses and emotional strains of life
  3. Objects are much more significant when they are favourite or personal
  • Objects are sensory
  • We have made our phones a transitional object

What is the Importance of Transitional Objects?

 

A transitional object – a blanket, toy or music – helps transition from a phase of dependence to independence. The purpose of a transitional object is to aid and minimise the effects of separation anxiety. This designated transitional object helps babies to understand who they are and that objects are not apart of them. For example, Young states: “One can still attach similar significance to other objects with a less addictive intensity. The sensuous, comforting quality and the sense of something that is favourite and to which one turns when in danger of depressive anxiety applies to all sorts of special things” (Young, R.W. 1994). Despite the transitional phase from infancy to adulthood, Young appears to be be suggesting that transitional objects stay with you from every transitional phase of your life. As your age group changes, the likelihood of the transitional object is going to alter.

Friday 20th October:
Notes from Lecture:

  • What is the difference between a Subject and an Object?;
  • When you are a subject you are active – we are a conscious and unconscious being
  • We are also subjects of events – and we are subjected to events in life as well
  • When you take a photo you become an active subject into a passive object;
  • Objects are passive until we manipulate them
    What is an object?
  • Passive
  • Material – have no conscious
  • Inert
  • Full
  • Self-sufficient
  • Complete
  • Fully sustained by themselves
  • Not sentient beings
  • Suggests interaction

What is the Importance of Learning About Subjects and Objects?

The importance of learning about subjects and objects is beneficial to one’s practice, because you can apply the theory to literally anything you are making. Now we have a better understanding of the difference between a subject and an object, it is easier to apply to an artefact one is making. For example: an artefact I am making could be a vase. The vase’s denotations are that it is inert, is material and has no conscious, it is full and self-sufficient, and fully sustained by itself. The vase suggests interaction. It is passive until we manipulate the artefact. The material of clay would not form into a vase unless we as active subjects manipulated the material to create a desired form.

Friday 27th October:
Notes from Lecture:

  • What do you know about objects and materiality?
  • Materials can change based on cultural reference/or learning to know about a society or culture through objects
  • Material culture refers to objects themselves
  • Objects have social connotations
  • William Morris;
    His designs were inspired by 18th century industrialism. His designs were a response to industrialisation and felt that nature wasn’t as important; his patterns are of nature.
  • Philipé Starck;
    Louis 16th had chairs designed for him. To modernise a Louis chair, he changed the material to plastic.
  • Shaker Design;
    Shaker movement est. by Ann Lee in England in 1770’s was the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. Called ‘Shakers’ as literally shook when worshipping for God’s presence. They designed furniture and made their own tools and clothes and everything else they needed.

The afternoon task was to practise academic writing:
Alfred Messel (1853-1909) was the architect in charge of designing Wertheim Department Store in Berlin. About 1900 the search for a more indigenous German class encouraged Alfred Messel in Berlin to study the austere Neoclassicism of Gentz and Gilly (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017; Accessed: 27/10/17). Built in 1896, the Wertheim Department Store on Leipziger Platz was among Europe’s most famous commercial buildings (Germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org, 2017; Accessed: 27/10/17). The Wertheim Department Store consists of high-level glass windows within granite columns, bronze tracery and the three central bays were decorated with elliptical oculi, phials and other sculptural, historical ornaments (Gossel and Leauthauser, 2012). Alfred Messel may have added a flavour of Greek Revival into the design of the Wertheim Department Store, which could explain the central bays being decorated in such a fashion. Furthermore, when Alfred Messel was studying austere Neoclassicism of Gentz and Gilly, there was a flavour of Greek Revival in Alfred Messel’s offices and his national bank (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2017; Accessed: 27/10/17).

Friday 3rd November:
Notes from Lecture:
What is consumer culture?

  • Culture where social status, values and activities centre on consuming goods (objects) and services.
    Example: as a service in this country, we have a health system (NHS).
  • 20th Century shift from mass production to mass consumption
    Example: Britain moved from farmland to factories. The system of exchange has changed.
  • People ‘educated’ to consume – i.e. through advertising
    Example: Our culture has shifted from creating many things to consuming many things.
  • System of objects imbued with values
    Example: The Ford Motorcar was the first mass produced car: Henry Ford created the concept of a car and it’s production in a factory. (Model T Ford Car). Cars over public transportation demonstrates a social wealth i.e. rich.
    Another example: from ‘Cradle to Grave’ consumerism – it is possible to buy for any stage of life.
  • Objects become imbued with meaning;
  • Use value
  • Exchange value
  • Symbolic exchange value
  • Fundamental use of Objects
    Example: You’re not buying a Supersonic Dyson Hairdryer to dry your hair. You buy it to demonstrate your knowledge of technology and wealth status.
  • Symbolic exchange value;
  • Value lies in the relationship between the subject (a receiver of an object) and the giver

    Task: Think of an object that’s specific to your Subject.

  • BAMS Medal;
  • Material is gold/silver/bronze
  • Use value is a reward system
  • Exchange value is limited. i.e. Olympic medals.
  • Symbolic exchange value defines the achiever

 

 

Objects in Social Settings – Week 1 Lecture + PDP Task.

Summary of Lecture:

Our first lecture with Dr. Ashley Morgan covered two theorists:

  • Arjun Appadurai – The Thing Itself
  • Miller – What is Materiality

Arjun Appadurai’s theory and belief is that objects do indeed have a social life and that nothing is permanent – everything, both human and object – have a lifespan or life cycle. There is also discussion about the illusion of permanence as Arjun Appadurai states:

“It is not just the materials from which art objects are composed that threaten to break through the illusion of permanence. It is the very action of the artists, the craftsmen, the builders, and the framers that is always waiting to show its hand. The tear in the canvas, the crack in the glass, the chip in the wood, the flaw in the steel are not just signs of homo Faber, but of activity that art both conceals and celebrates.” – Arjun Appadurai.

In this paragraph, Arjun basically states that nothing is permanent as anything can be broken or ripped, torn, slashed etc. This theory to read and try to understand was difficult and it took breaking it down line to line to understand.

Miller discusses materiality and how in his point of view, we should not simplify the meaning of materiality. It is a very expansive and diverse term.

“A volume that spans topics as diverse as cosmology and finance cannot afford to rest to rest upon any simplistic definition of what we mean by the word material. It needs to encompass both colloquial and philosophical uses of this term.” – Miller.

So the way we describe and analyse an object in easy or difficult terminology. Miller discusses the things or objects that we do not see that surround things – but they are only missed when they are removed from our social settings because we realise how they affect our lives and comforts.

This lecture has taught me about the life cycles of objects, objects in social settings, how to analyse their placements and symbolic meaning in our world and how materiality is a constant.

PDP Task: Prague (Orloj) Astronomical Clock

prague oldest clock ever yohoho

I chose the mediaeval Astronomical clock in Prague because it is the third oldest clock of its kind in the world. Therefore it is a historical landmark. Aside from landmarks, timepieces are evident in our day-to-day lives as they provide structure and stability to daily routines. We are so accustomed to timepieces ticking away in the background that if they were to be removed from our lives, where would structure be? For example: Your lecture starts at 11am but your mobile phone no longer demonstrates the time or your wristwatch has been removed. If timepieces were to be removed from our social settings, everyone’s lives would probably be unorganized chaos.

Learning To Know About Objects: An Introduction.

Summary of Level 4 Constellation.

With Constellation at an end for this academic year, I have wanted to look back on what I have learned in this module and summarise it for my blog.

In first term, my Study Group with Dr. A. Morgan ‘The Body in Society’ was an extremely interesting choice for me as I am interested in how the body adapts, evolves and changes with time. This study group packed a lot of information on the body through the ages, at different points in centuries, how societies coped with epidemics before an impressive breakthrough in medicine, social norms, gender roles, cyborgs and so much more.

What I loved about this study group was every seminar was different. What really helped get the information across and kept the seminars lively, was Dr. Morgan’s charismatic personality and her way of talking about all different subjects kept me both entertained and interested.

The Body in Society inspired my work on Cybernetic Organs, as I was very taken on the seminar we had on Cyborgs and Cybernetics. This particular seminar fueled the inspiration for my final outcomes for Future Generations in my project brief. I learned a lot about medical advancement and how cybernetics/technology is being used or rather, applied to the body via this study group. I’m not sure what my final outcomes would have been if I was in a different study group in term 1, as The Body in Society was a driven inspiration for my projects and work.

This study group also was a large source of inspiration for my first idea for project outcomes in Beautiful and Useable, although this changed in term 2, it’s still a prime example of how Constellation feeds us knowledge and aids our ideas for projects to match the briefs we are given.

Being transgender, and this study group covering a lot to do with the body, I was able to write my essay about Masculine Gender Identity, as I was passionate about this topic. I used multiple theories I learned from Dr. Morgan’s study group and applied them to my essay. It wasn’t as well planned out or written as I thought it could have been but it was a good introduction to Academic Writing and the level I was writing on.

For term 2, I moved into Dr. M. Woodward’s study group ‘Archaeologies of the Unseen’. This study group packed a punch with a whole lot of information on different theories that frazzled my brain and also was similiar in one or two of my seminars to my first study group in term 1, as I learned about different cultures in different time periods. For example, one seminar, Dr. Woodward played us folk music from the 16th centry I do believe it was, whilst we had to make some object from things were given beforehand.

This study group enabled me to bring my own interests to the table, as I am interested in Ancient Egypt, the process of mummification etc and decided to link one of the theories I had learned in Dr. Woodward’s seminar to my essay. The theory that carried out most of my resources and tied into my essay was the ‘Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present’ by Shryock and Smail.

This study group was a strong choice for me as an artist, because, we learned about materials and how the weather could affect them. Another prime example was a seminar with Dr. Woodward, where we learned about these men who went to the beach and tried to weave baskets but the windy weather made it difficult. Another was about perception and trying to find faces within objects like trees and rocks.

There isn’t anything I would change about Constellation. I know a lot of people moan about it, but I have found it so beneficial this year towards my work, myself as an artist and a person, as well as becoming more knowledgeable. Constellation allows us to learn and develop, as well as have open-minded discussions or agree-to-disagree civil arguements.

I have learned a lot from Constellation this year. I feel I have come out of my first Academic Year feeling more knowledgeable, enlightened and definitely a lot more open-minded. I am intrigued about Constellation level 5 and what theories I can learn next, or what can be applied to my level 5 work.