I had asked my tutors if I could use one of the smaller rooms for my film installation as I felt it would work better in an enclosed dark space without distractions. Although the room was fairly small, I had to consider how this would be physically viewed by the audience. The projected film would be quite low down and I did not want a shadow cast in front of the film by people walking past. I initially thought about asking Martin France the Fine Art Technician if he could help me make a small bench for up to two people to sit on. However, after thinking about this further, I decided to source some old school chairs which I felt would tie in better with the rest of the installation and would not look out of place.
Although the chairs were slightly bigger than I had hoped for, fortunately they fit perfectly in the space I had assigned without causing an obstruction to the door.
When I first thought about this idea, I had originally wanted to make a film installation. I thought about trying to make a large scale Newton’s Cradle which people would be able to move themselves and be part of the work and the film of the plimsolls etc would be projected toward it. However, I soon realized this would be extremely difficult task to undertake on my own. I then decided that I would simply produce a film piece which could be projected onto a white wall. This did not sit well with me, as I enjoy using objects as well as film. I felt that the use of physical elements would present more of an opportunity to evoke involuntary autobiographical memory within the viewer.
I started to think about my old school days and remembered the old wooden school desks with the lift-up lids. After considering this further I thought that I could use the lid as a screen to project the film onto. If I could remember these old desks, I was fairly certain that this would probably be a shared experience/memory with others.
Fortunately, I managed to source a school desk locally from ebay and I was extremely pleased with it. As with most old school desks, there was doodles and marks etched into the wood. I did not want to remove this as I felt it added to the authenticity, history and originality of the piece. Furthermore, I find it quite interesting why people feel the need to make their mark on objects.
Several months earlier, I had had a discussion with my tutor Edith Doove while undertaking my CURA301 project. I was discussing scarification and Edith had mentioned a cathedral she had visited where tombs (from what I remember) had been etched into over the centuries with peoples names and dates (unfortunately I could not find an image to demonstrate this). It would seem that mark making is humankind’s “defining language instinct” and a “fundamental human activity” (The Devon Guild of Craftsmen, 2013) Perhaps we scribble as a child to work out the world around us – much like the early humans did while drawing their experiences on cave walls (Ibid). I also feel that to write one’s own name or mark (if too young or illiterate to write) could perhaps be a way of establishing your place within society or to reiterate a sense of recognition, belonging or self worth. I think these ideas work well as part of my project because I think that some children (or adults) can find it difficult to find their place within a peer group or society. Adolescence can be a particularly confusing time in establishing who you really are as a person.
I had decided I wished to create a film piece for my CURA300 studio practice and had already established that I wished to use the plimsolls and Newton’s Cradle in my work.
For me, the plimsolls had reminded me of my school days and as mentioned in previous posts, religion had played a part in how my experience affected me in a negative way. I thought about another visual I could use to create a further semiotic meaning to the viewer which may hint toward the idea of religion.
As I already had two visuals which were somewhat pendulum based in composition – I thought about using an apple hanging from a tree which could be comparable to the metal spheres of the Newton’s Cradle. The apple can have many symbolic meanings including:
Religion i.e. Garden of Eden > Eve > Temptation > Original Sin > Tree of Knowledge
Education i.e. the act of giving your teacher an apple – thought to have perhaps originated in early America when families would give apples to frontier teachers as part of their responsibility for looking after the teachers who taught their children – (Children’s Museum, 2013)
Physics – Gravity i.e. the story of how Sir Isaac Newton discovered the law of gravitation on witnessing a falling apple (Tiner, p28) – (this also links into my use of the Newton’s Cradle)
There are possibly many other meanings the apple can have, but I am happy for the audience to interpret the addition of an apple depending on how they personally perceive it.
Tiner, J. (2006). Exploring the world of physics. 1st ed. Green Forest, AR: Master Books.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I wished to use the image of the school plimsols hanging in the tree because it reminded me of my awkward school years as a child. I was also surprised by how much these memories still effect how I perceive the world around me and how negative experiences can continue to haunt an individual and impact one’s life regardless of the years that pass.
On watching the plimsolls swaying in the wind, it reminded me of a Newton’s Cradle – the shoes acted as the suspended spheres while the laces took the place of the wires.
In terms of semiotics and visual metaphor, I felt that the Newton’s Cradle could also signify a singular, central figure surrounded by ongoing tension.
This could be applied to life experiences and in the case of the narrative I had created with the regard to the shoes, it could also relate to how a vulnerable adolescent may feel at school.
In David Chandler’s book Semiotics: the basics he highlights how the visual metaphor is used in film and advertising:
Metaphor need not be verbal. In film, a pair of consecutive shots is metaphorical when there is an implied comparison of the two shots. For instance, a shot of an aeroplane followed by a shot of a bird flying would be metaphorical, implying that the aeroplane is (or is like) a bird. So to would a shot of a bird landing accompanied by the sound of an airport tower and of a braking plane […] As with verbal metaphors we are left to draw our own conclusions as to the points of comparison (Chandler, 2007, p127)
There is also the idea of time passing with the continuous ticking as the spheres hit each other. This could relate to the idea of how earlier experiences can be carried throughout life – consciously and subconsciously. Also, as a child – I know from my own experience that time seemed to pass really slowly and it felt like I was at school forever. However, as an adult I have noticed that it seems time passes a lot quicker – even though there is no actual slowing or quickening of time in reality.
Chandler also cites linguist George Lakoff and philosopher Mark Johnson’s principles of metaphor which I could consider in my work:
In their book Metaphors We Live By Lakoff and Johnson also discuss how one’s “conceptual system […] is fundamentally metaphorical by nature” and is not something we are necessarily aware of (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980, p3). I found this train of thought extremely interesting in terms of how our conscious and subconscious perception works and how this relates to how one makes comparisons to things they come across on a daily basis without even realizing – much like my own experience of the plimsolls and Newton’s Cradle.
Chandler, D. (2007) Semiotics: The Basics. New York: Routledge
Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago
In my practical work I have often been interested in communicating ideas around social well-being through the use of recognizable symbols. I also use my own experiences as a source of inspiration, but try to use ideas which could be cross-transferable to individuals. Using objects, images and symbols I aim to create a narrative open to interpretation but which the viewer could perhaps empathize or find some familiarity within the work.
In terms of perception and objects, I had come across something which had created a narrative within my mind and brought about uncomfortable memories of my adolescent school days. The ‘phenomenon’ in question was a pair of plimsolls (black trainer shoes) hanging from a tree that I had noticed over the past two years when walking my daughter to school. For some reason and perhaps because of my own experiences, my perception of these plimsolls gave me a troublesome feeling in the pit of my stomach. On witnessing these abandoned shoes I built up a narrative in my head that they had got there, through some kind of bullying incident between school children. That perhaps a group of ‘popular’ kids had stolen the shoes from a vulnerable classmate and lobbed them in the tree for a laugh – much to the dismay of the shoe-less child. I, of course cannot be sure of how these shoes had got in the tree and for all I knew, someone could have chucked their own shoes in the tree in the hope that their parents would buy them a new pair. Nevertheless, I could not help feeling some sense of empathetic trauma every time I passed the tree.
I did not particularly enjoy my years at secondary school and was never one of the popular kids. I was also subjected to bullying because of my religious upbringing which made me an easy target for prejudice and harassment.
With this in mind, I felt I could use this image in my practical work because of the strong effect it had had on me and perhaps it could potentially have some relevance to other people too.
BA (Hon) Fine Art, Critical & Curatorial Practices