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Week 6 - Processes

Noticing the Ignored

Experiential Drawing, Capture, Writing, Recording, Play, Photography

The investigation this week focused around ways of documenting 'things' in order to explore them to their fullest.  Resources this week presented a number of artists, designers and creatives with their unique views on explorative process.  My discovery notes and points of interest are detailed in the presentation below.

Analysis of Research

Sarah Langford, course tutor, said of this week, that we should spend time exhausting opportunities of information, vary our research methods and invest in the investigation.  The resources this week, including Susanna Edwards lecture, John Berger's film "Ways of Seeing" and the Situationists movement all presented esoteric angles to consider, alongside the more traditional and obvious ways to consider and capture data.  Throughout my absorption of these interesting approaches I kept one phrase in mind 'Unique Insight'.

John Berger's film series "Ways of Seeing" reflected a distorted view of art imposed by the inception of the camera.  He discussed how images are reproduced and presented to us with a narrative manipulated by producers and directors.  Such images lack authenticity because they are not originals, seen in first hand terms.  He also talked about how powerful images are, that they "come before words" (Berger, 1976 ) and leave an imprint on our mind.

 

When we view an image first hand we engage more control, we choose to zoom in on parts and pan out on others, we choose how far away we stand from the image, we choose the context in which we view the image and often the literal location in which we view.  Berger explains how important it is to view an art painting in it's hanging locality because of the intrinsic link to the fabric of the building, it's meaning & history. (Berger 197  )  With a reproduced image through a screen, we do not get that tangible link.  Unless of course we print and mount a reproduction on to the wall of our home or our workplace.  It may not have been the intention of the artist, that his/her work hangs in your downstairs washroom, but the reproduction and indeed the sale of an original, forces the image to have relevance and significance in our history and the fabric of our buildings, the second we choose to place it in our environment.  It seems there is a strong parody between the image, the creator, the viewer and the space, with a series of choices along the journey

The year that John Berger's film was released and the notions of permanence, reproduction and viewing capacity he discussed are outdated in our modern world, for now we have the development of augmented and virtual reality, and images seen on a multitude of different size screens.  The general public have become editors and producers of image, making them freely accessible and in some cases for controversial or illegal motivation.  We are so used to seeing reproduced pictures, many of which are heavily distorted by image software and are published with no consideration for the original owner, that the idea of an 'original piece of art' seems lost.  Perhaps people will tire of this excessive exposure to such visuals and crave a more honest communication in the future?  Avenues of hand crafted, unique, bespoke pieces may be on the increase as we see the more discerning, Generation Z continue to make their mark on society.

 

In 1967 the Situationist movement rallied to end the idea of lives lived through commercialisation and desire for commodity.  They were concerned that people's social relations were based on the consumption of material goods, rather than a life lived through honest, genuine, first hand experiences.  The Situationists were interested in the decimation of  'The Spectacle', life that is controlled by mass media.  It feels like the Situationists predicted the current lifestyle we find ourselves living in Western society.  Our obsession with consumption of media, celebrity, lifestyle and goods, visible through the excessive use of electronic devices, packed with applications for viewing, recording, comparing, commenting and purchasing.  It does feel like 'The Spectacle' lives on and shows no signs of abating in our global digital world.  

 

It was watching the film "Girl Chewing Gum" by John Smith that I began to think about our senses and how they can be manipulated or distorted in creative output.  Smith's film in which he appears to direct passer's by and inanimate objects in a street scene, when in reality he was in a field miles away, had set up a camera on a stand and edited the film retrospectively to distort the viewers comprehension.  He cleverly reveals the façade, little by little, as out of sync directions, asking an object or animal to move and showing his true rural vantage point towards the end.  I was particularly interested that the loud alarm heard throughout the street scenes was actually being heard in the field where Smith was sat.  This took me by surprise, as I had genuinely thought the sound was in the background of the street scene.  I was keen to explore the senses, including sound during my workshop challenge this week.

Investigating the book 'Ex-Formation' by K Hara, I was interested to read her perspectives on teaching design today.  She echoed my thoughts about sensual qualities of research when she said that focus should be on "insights2 and "ideas" rather than facts and analysis.  She posed the question "Wouldn't it be a good thing to unknow the world?"(Hara, 2018)   I felt that a good way to approach this idea when discovering; to think like you were a baby again.  Babies have reflexes that help them explore their world whilst their brains are still immature.  Our most basic primitive reflexes along with our senses could provide those unique visions we are looking for, walking, rooting, hearing, seeing, feeling, tasting & smelling. 

Hara also makes refence to the proliferation of media and how each and every activity flies around the world on our global web.  This relates to the Situationists view of "The Spectacle", Hara realising the massive scale of the coverage today.  I wondered if we are being discerning enough with what we choose to absorb, that then becomes what we know?  Should we be more selective when viewing online content to avoid being, what Hara defines "unavoidably, incessantly touched by those data fragments"  Can we avoid some/all of the unnecessary in our lives?

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Fig. 1 - John Berger - Ways of Seeing Film, Episode 1, 1972

Workshop Challenge - Document, explore, evidence a geographic location 1-2 miles from your home.  Produce something unique to your street.

Development of Ideas

I decided that I wanted to explore a variety of documenting methods using my senses.  Having chosen my street, Station Road, New Milton (the local high street) I stumbled across designer & lecturer Kate McLean.  The title 'Smell Walks' intrigued me, so I investigated her work.  I found her website and a BBC podcast, in which she discusses her approach.

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"the smells of the city recall the multiple temporalities which coexist in a single human sniff." (McLean - sensorymaps.com)

What I particularly respect about McLean's work is the meticulous documentation and scientific application she employs, both qualitative and quantitative.  Using other people to help collate the data, she asks them to name the smell, its intensity and the duration as they take the walk around the city.  She also asks the participators to reflect on the memories and emotions a particular smell evokes. 

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What I particularly respect about McLean's work is the meticulous documentation and scientific application she employs, both qualitative and quantitative.  Using other people to help collate the data, she asks them to name the smell, its intensity and the duration as they take the walk around the city.  She also asks the participators to reflect on the memories and emotions a particular smell evokes.

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In order to present the project findings in a visual way, McLean put together a "smell visualiser" (Fig   ) in which she asked those involved to rate the smell intensity with colour code.  Although not overtly stated, I would assume that the colours that participants chose for each 'smell' we uniquely insightful for McLean, for example why choose sage green oval shaped dots for 'olive smell', or a dark brown line for 'coffee smell'?

McLean shows her work in both diagrammatic and typographic versions with accompanying colour code, the results of which are beautifully elegant and uniquely informative.  I think a great example of someone investigating the ignored. 

Station Road, New Milton

Having an idea about focusing on senses when taking my walk on Station Road, New Milton, I next wrote down ways of representing a place to use a a guide.  This is the list:

GPS Track my walk - heart rate, pulse, incline, distance, direction

Smell Walk - Inspired by Kate McLean, walk and pay attention to smells, get up close to smells and note them down.

Record sounds.

Sketching - edges, spaces, light & shadow, relationships

Photograph - macro, panoramic, perspective, framed

Feel, touch

Rubbings, imprints, sculpting

Collecting objects, found paper collage, pressed flowers, litter

Interview people

Just before I left, I looked up found object art and came across this great piece by Peter Blake.  

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The Collected, Observed, Recorded, Noticed, Documented, Smelt, Heard, Felt...

Location:  Station Road, New Milton

Date of Walk: 2nd March 2021

Start of Walk: 09:22am

End of Walk: 10:30am

The morning I chose was quite chilly and I had to wear gloves which made taking photo's a little difficult!  The documentation I made was as follows:

A.  1 x Video walk with camera lens facing pavement to focus on where we step and the sounds being heard.

B.  1 x Smell walk recording smells as I walked

C.  1 x GPS Tracking my walk and associated application data.

D.  Rubbings of wall surfaces

E.  Photographs of Covid 19 Signs on shop windows/doors

F.  Distressed surfaces of interest, macro shot

G.  Shop keyholes - a comment about so many being locked up due to Covid restrictions

H.  Collecting found objects blowing around a courtyard just off the street. 

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Smell Walk
Start 10:o3am
Exhaust Fumes
Iron
Cigerettes
Candyfloss - Sugar
Cold feeling in nose
Body Sweat
Fried Food
Pastries & Bread
Ham, Raw Meat
Washing Powder
Soap
Aftershave, musk
Fabric Softener
Dog Poo & Urine
Mint
Bodywash
Metal
End 10:15am
Fig. A - Sound Walk
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Fig. B - Smell Walk
Fig. C - GPS Tracker
Fig. D - Wall Rubbings
Fig. E - Covid Signs
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Fig. F - Distressed Surfaces
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Fig. G - Shop Keyholes
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Fig. H - Found Objects Collage
Development

Following the collation and documentation, I firstly listened and watched the video file, recording the sounds I heard.  I realised that the sounds all had different depths and intensity, particularly the vehicles as they approach my position, move alongside me and then begin to move away.  I felt like the sound intensity was moving in waves and I thought about Waveform - the visual representation of sound you see when using film editing software.

I pulled together a small collection of each set of images to make some sense of what they represented, the keyholes, the posters, the surfaces.  I also produced a collage inspired by Peter Blake's piece "A walk in Tuileries Gardens 2004".

I also looked at the patterns created by the rubbings and distilled them to more simplistic forms (Fig  I  )

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Fig. I - Pattern development from wall rubbings

Following experiments with some of my insights, I kept being drawn back to the idea of the sounds of the street and how I could visually represent this.  I decided to start with the Waveform (Fig   ) created by movie editing software and cut a piece from the audio, stretching the chart to enhance the highs and lows.  I then decided that I could use colour tone to demonstrate louder more intense sounds and quieter and softer sounds as illustrated by the rise and fall of the Waveform.  Dark red tones would represent the quieter sounds and bright red the louder.

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Fig.    - Waveform section captured from audio visual file taken during Station Road Walk 2nd March 2021
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Fig.   - Sounds of Station Road, New Milton 02/03/21 
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Fig.   - Sounds of Station Road, New Milton 02/03/21 - Details
Journal Reflection 

This is the kind of brief that sparks something in you, that lights an almighty blaze, that wants to spread as far as it possibly can.  How can you really look at something from multiple ways of seeing?...by opening yourself up to the multitude of ways you can pay attention to something.  The way you apply yourself to a problem can generate an infinite number of design journeys to take, selecting the most appropriate seems to be the most difficult decision, and yet anything can be made to work with a discerning eye and a level of restraint.  What this week has demonstrated to me is that using a broad approach to recording, documenting and exploring, provides a wealth of rich starting points from which to launch ideas.

Capturing and recording was intrinsically linked to my senses working in harmony with the chosen medium.  When looking to document sounds, I instinctively used my phone as a recording device, but I could equally have closed my eyes and just listened.  Both facilitate a response to sound but as two different outcomes, each with its own qualities to further explore.  This is exciting as it presents paradoxes and harmonies that can be investigated through design.

How do you use the unnoticed?  By giving it a visual voice.  Those unnoticed elements we extract from their place, and replicate in our work, I believe resonate with our unconscious minds, conjure up emotional feelings and connect on a deeper level with our audience.  Perhaps we all need to have a little more 'Situationist' about us, to really see beyond the brash spectacles of our lives and see the beauty in the ordinary.

Resources

Edwards, Susanna.  c2020.  Noticing the Ignored Falmouth University Lecture Resources  [Online] Available from: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/686/pages/week-6-lecture?module_item_id=48203  [Accessed on 27 February 2021]

 

 

Brereton, R. 2009. Sketchbooks; The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators and Creatives Lawrence King: London.  Available from: https://content.talisaspire.com/falmouth/bundles/5bb7616969df50044658dec4  [accessed 2 March 2021]

Hara, K. 2018.  Ex-Formation  Lars Muller: Zurich. Available from: https://content.talisaspire.com/falmouth/bundles/5bb75fce540a26720b37f6c4[accessed 2 March 2021]

 

The Boring Talks BBC Sounds Podcast. (2018) Smell Walks: Kate McLean.   Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p065j151 [accessed 2 March 2021]

BBC (2012) Berger, John. 1972 Ways of Seeing. [online video]  Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pDE4VX_9Kk [accessed 2 March 2021]

Youtube (2011) Smith, John 1976.  Girl Chewing Gum. [online video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57hJn-nkKSA [accessed 2 March 2021]

Herz. R. S. (2001) Understanding the Brain. Available at:  www.dana.org [Accessed on 2 March 2021]

McLean, Kate. Sensory Maps Project Available at: https://sensorymaps.com/ [Accessed on 1 March 2021]

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