This year has differed greatly from the previous two; I have felt inclined to abandon all physical practise and focus more on research and academic writing; reflecting on existing art, not creating new. The most beneficial experience has been the meditation with Anna Bhushan where I have learnt about and discussed the theory and practise of mindfulness. This has been helpful for clearing my mind and encouraging focus on dissertation writing and has given me some clarity in terms of where I see myself within the industry of art and design.
Since September, prompted by my research, I have thought about and debated the topic of morality extensively. I have discovered more of the importance of honesty and working authentically. This will continue to benefit my practise when I move out of education and into an agency or freelance work where I must decide how I conduct myself honestly to my views and still have financial support for living costs and the occasional costs of leisure. I think this is something all designers struggle with, and a lot fail at, but I am determined to do well after university and I hope after researching so much into moral living I will be able to accomplish this goal.
This year of constellation merges more seamlessly to other areas of study (Field and Subject work) than other years. I have found that in the first and second years the work is more centred around fine art topics and not so much about design or graphic communication directly. While it was interesting to learn about philosophy theory (I especially enjoyed the Archaeologies of Seeing and Knowing subject with Martyn Woodward), it was a struggle to transfer the information to graphic design, I felt these sessions were much more suited to fine artists and illustration students. This year I had the opportunity to choose my own topic and work more within my own interests and creative practise.
Academic writing is a useful skill for the world outside of university as well as this year and my dissertation. The ability to transfer abstract ideas and observations into written language in a precise way is greatly beneficial for personal clarity as well as communication to others. My research since September and the things I have learned about colour theory has helped in other areas of the course. There have been projects, including the Penguin book cover and BBC Edinburgh Festival brief, where I have needed to consider colour palettes to create an effective design. The knowledge I have acquired this year has meant I have been more aware of my use of colour and the effect it might have on the audience. Because of this awareness, I have been able to create more precise and successful design work.
Over the last year, I have made a few changes to my approach to learning. Writing my dissertation, with a set deadline and a higher word count than I have ever faced, gave me a reason to channel my energy more towards university work, to sitting down and reading books on academic and philosophical study. I have had to write and edit more than I thought I was capable of. In previous years, there have been many projects to work on at one time which can become confusing and often overwhelming. This year the dissertation has been the primary focus and I have had something to give my full attention to, which has been refreshing in comparison.
An example of work I have done this year that I am happy with is my final design of the BBC app for the Edinburgh Festival. I believe this went so well because I enjoyed the challenge and I made improvements on the previous design without the pressure to finish by the deadline. I am aware that there are strict deadlines in the industry and creative flow cannot be left to happen spontaneously, however I believe that when it is natural, and not forced from pressure to finish, my work is a lot better. An example of some substandard work is the original design for the same project, where the deadline was creeping up and there was a lot of tension between the team. During this time, there was also a great deal of miscommunication and disagreement in terms of approaches to the task. This meant this design took longer than anticipated and the result wasn’t up to either of our standards. Working in a team can be difficult and this is something I will improve upon with practise.
I am happy with how well I have structured and carried out my work this year, however there are always ways to develop; I am still unhappy with a few aspects of my learning. It has become obvious during the last three years that I struggle with committing to classes and tutorials and giving my attention to the sessions. In future I will improve by communicating more with co-workers, lecturers and clients and make more of an effort to stay motivated to work well to a schedule as well as utilising spontaneous bursts of creativity. I have also struggled with writing such a large document, especially with referencing correctly and staying consistent. It is important to be aware of your weaknesses but more so to be willing to tackle them, in the industry I will need to work hard to overcome these issues.
Many people measure success in terms of financial gain, or how much closer to their main life goal they have got because of a piece of work. I am aware of how often change can happen and how important flexibility is and so I give myself smaller, more manageable goals as a pose to one big life achievement. My goals are centred around personal happiness, temporary contentment, pride in my work and how I am affecting my environment. My success this year has been in completing this dissertation, on a subject I am passionate about which I believe tackles important matters that are often overlooked. I have been successful in giving my energy to people who need it with my Women’s Aid work, and the experience I have gained with my photography for this company has also contributed to my future in the creative industry.
My blog has had 3,049 views over the last 29 months, which works out at about 26 a week. I think that’s pretty good (and a decent way to procrastinate 5 minutes away).
There are 4 days left before I have to hand in my dissertation, and to be honest I am panicking a bit. I haven’t utilised my access to a mentor as much as I should have, I’m not sure my referencing is up to scratch and I may have copied and pasted straight from my books a few times without going back to change it. These are just a few of my fears about this year. To name a few more, the end of the year is approaching worryingly quickly and my plans are still up in the air and unfinished. At this point I usually have the next phase in my life set in stone, awaiting my arrival impatiently. This year is different, I am relying on others to give me confirmation; responses to applications, concreted plans. I don’t know where I’ll be, or even where I’ll be aiming to be as of June this year, and that’s a little scary. For now all my half-finished plans rest on this dissertation getting me a pass for my course, and I am really not sure it is good enough. But I need to upload it anyway and trust that I have done enough to pass this year.
5,000 words in, half way, and I am yet to rage quit or set anything on fire out of anger or frustration. I’ve just had my feedback for the first half and it’s not too bad, if I do say so myself. I have a few major things to work on such as referencing issues, there’s a little repetition in my chosen subjects and my bibliography isn’t complete. But I have more listed on the RefMe app on my phone and the structure will pull itself together in the end I am sure. All my work is backed up about four times over, so I am feeling content about it all. Not quite positive, but I am happy to settle for contentment. Essentially my mark fell in the ‘Good’ category so I am happy.
I am enjoying the writing of my dissertation, up to a point. There’s only so much one person can read about a single subject, and only a certain amount of time that can be spent on that single subject before that person never wants to read anything on colour theory ever again, and withdraw from the topic completely and possibly consider becoming a nun on a mountain somewhere who never has to deal with ever writing anything more on morality or ethics or colour for the rest of her existence in this world. Colour blindness seems like a decent option right about now.
But I will persevere, and really I don’t feel that negative about it. I am actually quite enjoying learning so much and the sense of achievement and purpose from writing so much is a welcome bonus. I am sticking to my plan fairly well, except I find it easier to work on different sections during the same sitting than competing each section and chapter in order like I had planned. I’m not quite sure how effective this will be in the long run, and maybe it would be a good idea to finish up some sections just so I can leave them alone and focus more on others, but it seems to be working pretty well so far.
I am taking a trip to Beijing in December for three weeks over Christmas and New Year (which I am getting more excited about by the day), and I may get distracted and spend a lot of the time wandering around the city exploring and taking lots of photos, but it might also be the perfect opportunity to knuckle down on the writing of my dissertation. I don’t want to have to rely on this time to complete it but it might be just the scenery change I need to get it done. So I am not putting a lot of pressure on myself right now to rush and force myself into working. I know myself well enough to know that if I panic and try to get it done ASAP there is a good chance I will burn out and produce a sub-standard piece of work and not want to pick it back up to improve the quality of my writing later on, so I am working at my own pace, at least for now.
I still need to check on Moodle for the notes on how to write a proper reflection but for now I suppose this will have to do. This is where I am at this moment, I will try my very best to keep this blog updated as I go.
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.
Today I enjoyed my first Constellation lecture; 4 hours, because I arrived an hour late (I am really struggling with Constellation this year and it’s only just been the first class). The subject being ‘The meaning of the body’, I would love to say I was eager to begin but instead my defeatist, pessimistic side was rearing it’s ugly head and I was just feeling fed up and ready to go home and crawl into bed, and the terrible first impression I gave didn’t help. So I sat down, awaiting the fate that was the next 4 hours in a stuffy lecture room trying to comprehend the philosophical questions and explanations that were being launched at me.
When I walked in the class had gone for a break and I had the chance to sit down, compose myself and try to grasp a bit of what had been spoken about in the first section. I overheard Martyn (the lecturer) say “Every progression is a regression”, which is something I immediately rejected, instinctively offended by the word, and absolute, ‘every’ and naively thinking that progression, in the scientific sense which it was meant, did not necessarily mean replacing and discarding another concept or practice. But Martyn went on to address his comment in a more general way, expressing that all new developed opinions and views mean we lose some of the old ones, and that advancement is improvement on an existing thing, making that thing ‘outdated’ and no longer needed. And as much as I hate to accept absolutes (there’s ALWAYS an exception, ooh another paradox) I did find this concept interesting as it’s something I have never really noticed or considered before and it proved to be a nice introduction to the ‘shenanigans’ ahead. (This blog is so informal, I will get better.)
To begin with, after doodling for a bit and trying and failing to listen to what was being said or pick up on what the lecture was actually about (I heard the word “ideals” being thrown around a lot, that’s as close as I got), I was presented with an extract from the book ‘What Kinds of Body are there?’ by Mark Johnson, which turned out to be surprisingly engaging, after the first twelve attempts at reading it, and also apparently at 6:00am when I really should be sleeping before work instead of reading academic texts and pondering over the different elements of the body. The text was about the different meanings of the word ‘body’; beginning with the typical “organized collection of skin, bones, blood, organs, nerves, and fluids, made up of various chemicals, all interacting together” that science has told us is all there is, telling us that all feeling and emotion can be explained by a selection of chemicals produced and released to create a physical reaction. Something that came up was the idea that scientists can explain what love is purely by pointing out the changes that occur in the brain in certain situations, and as much as my logical side entirely agrees with this, I suppose a part of all of us hopes, correctly some might say, that there is a lot more to it that that.
That was what the text was about; arguing that there are lots of different, invisible (for want of a better word) dimensions of the body, all interlaced to create an entire phenomenological (new favourite word) being. Beginning with the body as biological organ, we looked into how it can “percieve, move, respond to and transform its environment.” (Johnson. M.); A physical organ that makes possible the thought patterns, feelings and emotions that enable how we attach meaning to things and understand the world. None of these processes would be possible without a physical form to enable them. There are things that could be argued to just take place in our brain, implying that the body is merely a vessel to enable the brain to function, however this would not explain subconscious reactions to our environment; things like bodily posture (both in terms of universal awareness and individual conditioning), meaning, “reference and truth”.
We then went on to realise the body in an ecological sense; where Johnson explains that we should not see the body as separate from our environment, that there are bonds between who we are and the reality that we live in that cannot be separated or reduced to being purely outside of ourselves, as if we are somehow shielded to our environment. He says “we must think of organism (or body) and environment as we think of mind and body, as aspects of one continuous process” and “any boundaries we chose to mark between them are merely artifacts of our interest and forms of inquiry.” Then there is the phenomenological body, explained as “our body as we live it and experience it. This is the feeling of being in the world as a living organism, through self awareness, of bodily feeling and orientation as well as internal emotion. Another part is the social body, this is the notion that we are only who we are as a product of our social interactions; shaping us to conform or react to our experiences within society. Last is the cultural body, the idea of the body in regards to culture, and the section which I personally find most interesting. The body is shaped by the environment and cultures that it is surrounded with, whether that be because of race, gender, social class etc. For example, a body in certain African tribes will be scarred for rituals, their necks ‘stretched’ with wooden disks (although I learnt that this tradition actually pushes the shoulders and rib cage downwards, causing a more compressed torso rather than stretching the neck upwards, thank you National Geographic Youtube Channel…). If a body is part of the female gender, it might have been criticised for being weak and therefor cause a rise in women athletes, to combat this notion. Without bodies to interact and practice them, cultures wouldn’t exist; There always needs to be people and bodies to carry on traditions and physically engage in the activities, rituals and actions that hold a culture together.
In this first text, the idea being argued against is that the body can be reduced down to just a physcial sense, to just a collection of bones and nerves and muscle, that everything can be explained simply by chemical reactions. Instead the writer is suggesting a whole collection of dimensions of the body that we need to consider. The main “take home message” (a horrible term but one used a lot a lot in this lecture) is that “The human body has all five of the dimensions outlined above, and it cannot be reduced to any one (or two or three) of them.”
After reading and analising this text and grabbing a quick coffee to raise my caffeine levels and hopefully take in a bit more useful information, I was given another: ‘Language of Vision’ written by Ellen Upton and J. Abbot Miller. The text is about the theory of graphic design and the aim of this exercise was to apply some of what we read in the first text to our subject and practice. Something that is written about in the text is the difference between modern design theory and historical, cultural theory that is less prominent in the design world as maybe it should be. It explains, quite interestingly, that perception is more of a surface reaction, based on “universality over cultural difference”, playing on people’s initial judgement rather than consideration, based on cultural background and personal differences. Perception is how people see things, an almost primal, instinctive reaction to something, perception is thought to override cultural and historical barriers. Interpretation on the other hand changes over space and time, depending on cultural background, and the things that differentiate us as people. The text says that modern design relies more on perception, “drawing over writing”, whereas historical theory uses interpretation more by using specific, time and space relative symbols, styles and formats. This part was really interesting to learn about, despite being tired and hyped up on caffeine, as it gave me an insight into design theory that I hadn’t considered before and allowed me to relate to my practice to Constellation.
While reading this text I learnt about Arnheim and his Mexican design piece. He explains that the symbol cannot be understood without the caption as the sombrero alone is not an accurate representation. For it to be recognised there would have to be more stereotypes relating to the “visual concept” of the Mexican: “A big mustache, a bright poncho, leather boots.” The intended message was that the way we see things is based on purely visual perceptions, however this perception is filtered by culture. He explains that understanding is assembled out of visual perceptions, with linguistics existing only to fill in the gaps, and that concepts of objects are influenced by the views and interpretations of its audience, achieved by experience, education and the media. Arnheim also introduced the idea of objects in an environment being seen as ‘stable’, however, taken out of this environment, their stability is questioned. He also explains that basic modern design heavily relies on interpretation, with designers taking complex, familiar scenes, photographs and type and transforming them into abstract, simple designs that rely on people to be aware of the implications. This is done for the aesthetic value; to make them visually appealing to the audience, who then has to relate the images to their personal conditioning and experiences and not how they would immediately perceive it.
This text and the argument behind it was more difficult to understand that the first due to the fact that it doesn’t have a point of view as such, it is purely explanatory and doesn’t communicate the main message until the very last sentence (“A design theory oriented toward cultural interpretation rather than universal perception would consciously address the conventional, historically changing aspect of words and images in design problems), unlike the texts for the other practices which explained the focus at the very beginning. I did enjoy reading about the differences between perception and interpretation though, and will consider my design technique based on this new information in future.
Now it’s time for another mind blowing Constellation class so I should probably be going. I apologise for basically quoting the entirety of the texts in this post, I just find the content fascinating and didn’t feel as though my writing would do it justice. It might not look like it but I did take a lot from this lesson and, other than the stupidly long bike ride over there, I am looking forward to uni this afternoon.
Until next time.
Yep, you heard right. The blood rain and locusts are yet to grace us with their presence. What. A. Shame.
We were set our Constellation study groups today and after missing the time slot to make my choice, freaking out over it big time and basically thinking the world was crashing down around me, I have been assigned my second choice after all. Thank you universe. Unless I can get someone to swap with me from Jayne Cunnick’s ‘The Many Guises of the Absurd’ I will be studying ‘Archaeologies of Seeing and Knowing’ with Martyn Woodward (although I’m pretty sure archaeologies isn’t actually a word, which makes me question the authenticity of his teaching slightly).
Also, I saw ‘him’ today (Pete, but none of you know who that is) and cemented the fact that breaking up with him was indeed the right thing to do. I won’t go into details but he’s much better off and his acceptance and generally friendly nature towards me means this hopefully won’t be too horrible in the uncertain times ahead.
As well as this, I just sent over the work for Beebee’s and they love it! My photography skills have come in handy once again and I have recovered from the frustrated, restless mess I was earlier. Happiness has been restored.
(Except for the fact that he hasn’t been in touch and I miss him and I shouldn’t miss him but ugh.) Well did you really think I could be entirely content? Ha.
I had the choice, to chose to take the study group based on ‘the absurd’, the meaning of life or the viewpoint of different organisms and our realities merging together. I could have chosen to do anything I wanted, I sat in that lecture theatre taking in every word that was said because I was determined to do better this year than I did in the last. The morning came around when we had to log in to Moodle and make our choices. I went to work, forgetting completely why I needed to rush home afterwards, got to the end of my shift, decided to go and get those new shoes I so desperately need, came home, opened up my laptop and started typing up a blog post. Not even one for this compulsory uni blog. I let myself get distracted and missed the time slot and this is entirely why I need to sort myself out.
Now I’m going to be randomly assigned a subject that no-one else wanted to do, so I won’t be able to swap and if I do manage to, chances are it won’t be my top choice. I have been AT MY LAPTOP. It’s not even like I was out or working and not able to fill out the form, I was literally about four clicks away to the page and I still missed it. I am so angry with myself, the whole point of the last two weeks has to re-focus and get things done and I’m screwing up again. So now I’m angrily eating yogurt on my bed, head in my hands, completely unable to focus on anything but this. This is my whole year, a whole chunk of my course messed up because I let one thing get in the way and there’s nothing I can do about it now.
I’ve been assigned my ‘Field’ subject as well; it’s ‘Engineering of the Imagination’ and I entered that one late as well. AND I can’t open up the details because of of the virus I got on my laptop so I don’t even know what that means, and I can’t check until I find my product key for Microsoft Office and I can’t believe I’ve screwed up this much in the first week of uni. This year is ruined already, and I know I’m being dramatic but it genuinely could be, and it’s only the beginning of October.