Constellation ReviewPosted: April 15, 2016
Constellation this year has been hugely eye opening, definitely a beneficial experience for me; as a person as well as a mere art student. University can sometimes become somewhat hidden in its own world, secluded and kept neatly away from ‘reality’, and it is always refreshing when I am able to take something from lectures of workshops into my personal life, that I can apply to my design work and personal thinking. I really feel like this year has enhanced my awareness of consciousness as a concept, the mysteries of perception and the works of philosophers in these areas.
This is all down to the choice I made to study the Archeologies of Seeing and Knowing, a study group hosted by Dr. Martyn Woodward that I had to contact every single person I could find on Facebook and beg for a place in. I chose to take part in this subject, and try so hard to get into, because initially the idea of learning what it is to ‘be human’ drew me in; I have a real interest in being mindful of ourselves and our surroundings, as well as awareness as a general concept. I believe everyone should be consciously aware of their environments and of how they conduct themselves within it, and this subject appeared to offer an education in this area and encouragement to pursue my own research.
During this year I have developed a variety of skills. Am example is the improvement I have made with reading and understanding academic texts and further, writing academically myself (although this will also be mentioned as part of my assessment of weaknesses later on). During Constellation sessions the class was instructed to read texts by Edwin A. Abbott, Tim Ingold and Otto Neurath, among many others. On many occasions we were then asked to speak up about our notes and thoughts on the text. These exercises encouraged me to improve my understanding of academic writing and to be confident and share my ideas with others.
Confidence used to be an impossible task for me, needless to say I have come a long way since slumping in my chair and avoiding eye contact with primary school teachers. I no longer worry about social confidence, the issue is more with openly expressing my ideas and opinions, especially when it comes to art. This makes very little sense as art, especially in relation to consciousness, is often subjective and there are very few wrong answers. This worry mainly comes from fear of being wrong. This issue was somewhat overcome when, admittedly usually after the consumption of shameful amounts of caffeine, I was offered the chance to speak about my theories to a class of actively open-minded people. I was given the chance to develop my interest and knowledge in the area of consciousness study and given useful feedback and intellectual conversation in return, something I have never quite achieved with my family or friends outside of university.
Since the first Constellation term, I have continued to engage in conversation on the topics and conducted my own personal studies (I even convinced my regularly closed minded, religious family to buy me Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett for Christmas, a book recommended to me by Martyn Woodward) and which has continued my interest and, frankly, excitement for the topic.
As well as reading academic books and philosophers’ studies, as a conscious decision made during Constellation, I have started to read more classic books such as the Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Reading these has dramatically changed my views and again, awareness, on subjects such as politics, social standards and future theory. Just the act of reading more has increased my motivation for the course and my learning and has meant that I spend my time more productively than I did before. These skills, of confidence, motivation, academic reading and writing, awareness, all contribute to my design practise as well as my time during Constellation. They mean that I can think more openly about my work, be more aware of the impact it will have on the audience and work more efficiently. For example, as the topic for my dissertation I have linked the ideas of colour and consciousness; the way in which we experience colour and how this can be used in design.
In order to work to the best of our ability I must be aware of my strengths and weakness, to be confident with what I am capable of and conscious of my limits. Knowing these things means that I can utilise what I am good at and attempt to improve upon what I am not so good at. I will also waste less time trying over and over to do something I simply am not able to do. To begin, I know I am good at persisting with my work, if something goes wrong I do what I can to remedy the problem and recover, and being aware of what I cannot fix and move forward. This strength was tested recently when I lost all of my university work from a corrupt hard drive. I admit it took me a day or two to feel okay about this, but I strongly agree with the principle that worrying is pointless past the act of motivation. Fix what you can and not worry about things you can’t change. Now I am rebuilding my portfolio of work and hopefully achieving a higher standard I would not have achieved from adjusting a supposedly finished product.
Much like everyone else, I do also have weaknesses. I admit to sometimes valuing university commitments too low and that I probably have a slightly lower than average attendance rate. This is somewhat due to my external commitments: retail work, distribution work and my longing for adventure outside of the city. I am more aware now, after writing my dissertation proposal, that attendance is a lot more important than I sometimes think it to be and I intend to improve on this next year. I also sometimes struggle to differentiate between social, personal writing and what should be more academic, formal writing. This is especially prominent in my blog and I am aiming to improve upon this conscious act of separation.
Overall, I believe that despite the occasional bad day or lack of motivation, Constellation this year has been a very productive experience and after writing my dissertation proposal and beginning to read up on my subject of manipulation through colour, I am looking forward to starting the real thing.