kindness can only be perpetuated if one is kind to themselves

DESIGN ACTIVISM

‘I paint what I like and when I like’ David Hockney

The freedom that is permitted to creatives when they apply full dedication to their profession and careers is something I see as the ultimate goal in life. This idea of personal activism and the exploration of the self, which goes deeper than selfish decisions or frivolous actions, is one that interests me endlessly. In a talk by Tracey Emin that I attended in December, she said ‘look after yourself and you can look after hundreds of people’. It is not a case of making selfish decisions that negatively impact others, it is about loving and respecting yourself enough that you do not make decisions that harm each other. Using the the theory of nature vs nurture, you can argue that the consequences of negative experiences in childhood lead to actions in adults that otherwise would not behave in this way; whether that be world leaders making globally affected decisions or events happening in a microcosm of society, each event is a domino effect on another. In which case, if this idea of loving yourself to help others is true it really does highlight the need for personal activism; the recognition that activism must begin truly in your own mind and kindness can only be perpetuated if one is kind to themselves.

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Chanel’s faux feminism

DESIGN ACTIVISM

The image of archetypal beautiful women carrying banners and signs emblazoned with slogans such as ‘boys should get pregnant too’ and ‘ladies first’ on the catwalk, whilst adorned in the finest Chanel garments, is one that raises many issues within the fashion industry’s fetishisation of rebellion and counterculture. The embodiment of the spirit of protest purely for commerce is one which stands against everything that socially and politically conscious designers try to achieve in their work. The commodification of counterculture completely contradicts that of say Katherine Hamnett and the political slogan t-shirts she is synonymous for; some of which are on sale at the moment on the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) website. It is the sincerity in which this link to counterculture is achieved in that it is clear for example, Hamnett, is consistent in her work attacking social and world issues she is concerned with. Chanel however are attaching ‘feminist’ principles to a show dominated by a nearly all white, very slim casting, it is near impossible to see any genuine feeling about the causes Chanel are attaching themselves to. It is purely a way for those fortunate enough to be able to buy the garments, to also simultaneously buy into a feeling of rebellion or that the consumer is somehow part of fighting the struggles of inequality through a thinly veiled representation of protest imagery. I am not at all suggesting that fashion must simply sit in a realm of its own with no reference to social causes, however it is incredibly degrading to commodify these causes with no sense of dedication, only perpetuating the acceptibility of the throwaway nature of fashion today.

What do anonymous voices stand for?

DESIGN ACTIVISM

I didn’t really know anything about the work of Anonymous and the culture of Hacktivism apart from the odd reference to them in mainstream media until the film, We Are Legions. I found the film (We Are Legions: The story of Hacktivism, 2012) a really interesting insight into their history and campaigns; however I think it highlighted some holes in their ethos firstly in that the lack of specific message in turn results in a conflict of belief. It limits the ability in connecting with a wider audience as it seemed clear to have a very particular white male dominance that established from computer gaming culture. Relating back to the lack of clear beliefs or moral identity, it  reminded me of a quote about London that I cannot seem to find but it discussed that as the city never set out with specific aims, it is malleable over time. This was reminscient of Anonymous in that its organic growth results in a conflict of beliefs or aims due to it’s roots in comedic internet humour on 4Chan. This resulted in some people hacking an epilepsy charity website with animations that caused many people to fall ill and have fits as a result. This clearly contrasts with the positive campaigns they have completed such as that in support of protestors in the middle east uprisings. This conflict in ethos reminds me of a quote I saw on the back of the stage of band Enter Shikari’s set at Reading Festival a few years ago that is from their song, Quelle Surprise. The backdrop said (Enter Shikari, 2010) ‘if you stand for nothing you will fall for anything’; this highlights the flaws in the group Anonymous as they cannot represent themselves strongly enough due to no structure or shared idea within the group.

Enter Shikari. (2010) Reading Festival 2010 set. Performed by Enter Shikari [Reading. 2010].

We Are Legions: The Story of The Hacktivists (2012) Directed by Brian Knappenberger. USA: Ro*co Films International.

 

 

 

 

The art of protest: Art is your human right by Bob and Roberta Smith

DESIGN ACTIVISM, Uncategorized

 

I have known the name and vaguely the work of Rob and Roberta Smith for some time but it is the campaign with students to save the closure of the CASS, London Met’s art department, that alerted me further to his work. An ethos revolving around art and creativity being for all is something that permeates his body of work and the project titled, Art is your human right, is no exception to this. Deciding to stand against Michael Gove, Education Minister, in the constituency he represents of Surrey Heath, Smith took direct step in challenging the beliefs he disagreed with in the political sphere. By including himself in this domain with his colourful, joyful aesthetic, it opened up a sense of accessibility to the otherwise elitist world of politics. It is not just a piece of design activism against physical space, Surrey Heath constituency, but the claiming of a otherwise snobbish political place that seems completely unachievable to most.

After facing limitations at secondary school, over the choice of three creative options which resulted in a lengthy battle that I thankfully won, I completely understand Smiths’ desires in his manifesto. Smith (2014) states that ‘It’s almost impossible for kids to study art and music together, let alone dance or drama as well’, which I know all too well the reality of and therefore the need to have artist figures defending the artistic rights of children and teens. A piece of work by fellow British artist, Grayson Perry, highlights the absolutely necessity of Smith’s campaign to protect the arts. The piece by Perry (1996), Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot, that can be seen below has ‘I was a mad kid and now I ain’t. I got out coz I could paint’ inscribed into it and reveals massively the importance of the support the arts provides.

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Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot, Grayson Perry, 1996. Photo by Nick Moss.

Smith, R. (2014) Why I’m standing against Michael Gove. Available at: http://bobandrobertasmith.co.uk/why-im-standing-against-michael-gove/(Accessed: 1/02/2016).

Perry, G. (1996) Mad Kid’s Bedroom Wall Pot [Sculpture]. Available at: http://www.craftscouncil.org.uk/articles/mad-kids-bedroom-wall-pot-grayson-perry/ (Accessed: 1/02/2016)

William Morris Gallery (2015) Bob and Roberta Smith: Art is your human right trailer Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LH0gG3r2C_c (Accessed: 2/01/2016).

B, James. (2016) Know Your Rights: the campaigns of Bob and Roberta Smith. Available at: http://rs21.org.uk/2016/01/27/know-your-rights-the-campaigns-of-bob-and-roberta-smith/ (Accessed: 2/01/2016).

It’s Nice That (2016) . Available at: http://www.itsnicethat.com/features/bob-and-roberta-smith-art-is-a-human-right. Accessed: 2/01/2016).

 

 

 

Assemble: Political art or not?

DESIGN ACTIVISM

The work of Assemble, London based collective with experience in design, architecture and art, had not been something I was familiar with until I became aware of their Turner prize nomination and subsequent win. Describing themselves as the first ‘non-artists’ to be up for the prize, it seems a strange choice to reference their work in relation to political art. However, their Granby four streets and workshop projects are exactly what a piece of political art should be if using ‘an open letter to critics writing about political art’ as guidance. It claims that ‘the function of political art is to challenge and change the world’ (Lambert and Duncombe,2012); at a talk about the place of art in architecture I attended, they explicitly spoke about feeling the desire to do something in the world. The project in Granby, location of the Toxteth riots in 1981, is an ongoing collaboration with the residents who set about trying to reclaim their area

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Granby four streets (source: Hunger Tv. Image by unknown) 

after the council used the riots to get hold of the space for development. However, the area was left to decay and residents took it upon themselves to renovate the streets in small acts of rebellion including painting the fronts of empty houses and lining pavements with plants and flowers which can be seen in the image on the right.

It also included the creation of a community land trust, CLT, who have worked with Assemble on this project and still are; they are currently planning the design of winter gardens that will be placed in the abandoned houses that are beyond viable economic repair. This desire to change the world is exactly what is required in political art as it is not bound by aesthetic or medium just an explicit need to effect change which is another idea discussed in the article. To quote Bell Hooks, ‘the function of art is to do more than tell it like it is-it is to imagine what is possible’. This is clear in the ethos of Assemble as the Granby workshops, debuted in the Turner prize exhibition, as it has been set up to provide a long term self sufficient space that encourages creative skilled learning and removing class associations with artisan, ‘trendy’ design products. There is an irony to this as the houses in the Granby four streets were initially established to house artisan workers and it seems to have come back full circle.

Granby four streets n.d. photograph, viewed 25/01/2016 <http://www.hungertv.com/feature/turner-prize-shortlist-announced/&gt;.

http://assemblestudio.co.uk

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/dec/07/urban-assemble-win-turner-prize-toxteth

http://simplyreference.com/quotes/view/8406/—-the-function-of-art-is-to-do-more-than-tell-it-like-it-is–it’s-to-imagine-w

Duncombe, S & Lambert, S. (2012) An open letter to critics writing about political art. Available at: http://artisticactivism.org/2012/10/an-open-letter-to-critics-writing-about-political-art/ (Accessed: 25/1/2016).

Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian collection

FASHION

The work of Yves Saint Laurent spans decades however there is one dress he will forever be synonymous for and that is the Mondrian dress of Haute couture collection A/W 1965. A collection that sits between the borders of fashion and fine art due to the clear inspiration from famous modernist artist, Piet Mondrian. This collection is featured in the film biopic of the designer directed by Jalil Lespart, released in 2014. A pivotal moment in his career, the event is dramatised in the film as Yves (Pierre Niney) is seen to be lacking inspiration and has a eureka moment when reaching for the Mondrian book. These dresses will forever be heralded in the career of this legendary designer but they also served the purpose of reminding audiences of the work of Mondrian. To a contemporary audience, his creative output is hugely well known however Saint Laurent once said the dresses ‘helped to make the general public aware of a tremendous yet forgotten artist’. Others also suggest the idea that Saint Laurent was trying to align himself with the masters of the purist forms of art and expression and somewhat distancing from the business matters that increasingly dictate the fashion sphere. As a designer that began in Haute Couture, becoming creative director of Dior in his very early twenties, his practise was one that would potentially sit further to this idea of what is truly art. Saint Laurent did not however shy away from the wider fashion world in fact he was a pioneer of the broadening of fashion’s spectrum. A true maverick figure, not only did he dare to place women in tuxedo suits and jeans, he was arguably one of the first designers to be seen taking inspiration from the street and naturally stylish people. His first ready to wear store, Rive Gauche, translating as Left bank, featured garments inspired by the beatniks he hung around with in Paris’ left bank area. By pioneering a combination of artistic influences such as the work of Mondrian and the style of the Parisian locals around him, Yves Saint Laurent was a visionary that transcended the ideas expected of his role of a fashion designer and is what I would deem as a true artist.

Yves Saint Laurent (2014) Directed by Jalil Lespart [Yves Saint Laurent]. Worldwide: SND Groupe M6.

Chenoune, F. (2010) Yves Saint Laurent. New york: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.

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Review of essay: The clothes make the fan

FASHION

Using the definition of fandom culture as a ‘participatory culture’, this essay explores the way in which this particular event of the sale of Buffy the vampire slayer’s jeans has been used to elongate the popularity of the show. Indicating that the use of the internet allows a show to live beyond it’s air time, due to the dedication of the fans and the obsession displayed with the demand for the props sold when the Buffy series ended. Described as having a long standing emphasis on style, the sold items have multi faceted levels of desirability from use as a collectors item to a fetish object. The timing of the series with the increase of the internet to society but also crucially with the coinciding of the internet’s popularity amongst teens is intrinsic to Buffy’s popularity. This article also discusses the central dichotomy that runs throughout the characterisation of Buffy in that she is described to be a strong riot grlll esque example for teenage girls but yet is perfect in her aesthetic and highly image concious. This raises several issues within feminism of unattainability and an image of the perfect girl created in the male gaze. Also discussing the value vs. gained value via association debate, this explores the way in which items can be fetished in an attempt to live vicariously through the items. An interesting idea raised in this is that of the ostracisation of the fans due the items in the auction being priced at an unattainable amount for most fans. Thus highlighting that the auction ‘for the fans’ was actuly one for collectors and opportunists. The article ends on a really interesting point, suggesting that the greatest rebellion and sense of ownership the fans could have was their ability to not purchase any of the items in the auction. It allowed them still to participate and follow the event of the auction but put to the rest the series in the present day providing an opportunity to revel in nostalgia; exploring the fans obsession not purely with the show itself, but a period of time that symbolised a jovial youth and hope amongst them all.

http://www.binaryspark.com/classes/Fandom/readings/The%20Clothes%20Make%20the%20Fan%20Fashion.pdf

 

hot and cold

FASHION

If I were to design a new garment, it would be a jacket that facilitates a variety of different weathers and heat levels as it is something that I struggle with living in London. Going from the cold winter weather on the street and then into an overheated tube environment is a daily struggle and so I would want to make my jacket human centered to allow for these kind of temperatures. It would be a denim hooded parka style jacket but with an oil cloth covering to provide rain protection. It would also have a warm puffa style detachable lining to allow for warmth when needed but that can be folded down small as not to overbear the wearer once on public transport and in warmer situations. I would also make sure the jacket had several zipper pockets to hold a variety of things that I carry day to day including phone, oyster card and a notebook etc. The audience participation would include an ability to select the pockets and design the coat to facilitate the needs of the individual. This process would begin during the manufacture process to enable the design to be human centred and to establish a dialogue with buyers from early on in the process.

 

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FKA twigs-Glass & Patron music video costume investigation

FASHION

The music video for Glass & Patron by FKA twigs is significant in displaying the use of contemporary British fashion within the world of music, featuring garments from a range of designers including Craig Green and Liam Hodges. I have chosen to look at the blue outfit designed by Craig Green and is from his SS15 which was known for evoking such emotion from the audience of the fashion show, most ended up in tears at it’s beauty. With influence from uniform and workwear, Green (2014) described how “Everything was meant to have a delicateness and a beauty even though it was kind of hard and padded and drapey and a had lot of fabric. It was the movement of it”. This is interesting in the use of these garments within this music video as FKA twigs is known for her expressive movement and exploration of contemporary dance within her music and world she creates with her art. The dichotomy of delicacy and strength padded within the garments also represents this contrast that is within the profession of a dancer. The ability to push physical potential within a body whilst appearing to have a sense of transience and movement is one which can also be seen in Greens’ beautiful work.

Green, C. (2014) Craig Green SS15. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/20336/1/craig-green-ss15 (Accessed: 9/11/2015).

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Fast vs. Slow Fashion

FASHION

The debate of fast and slow fashion is one that has become of prominence as more and more people within the industry question the sustainability of the pace of fashion that many are struggling to keep up with. Raf Simons’ recent departure from Dior has really brought this to attention as he has questioned the need for as much as 6 collections a year as it leads to a lack of time for ideas to be incubated. Menswear traditionally has been considered to ere more on the side of slow fashion as it is assumed men buy pieces that transcend the idea of trends and seasons. This coat below designed by Margaret Howell, is an item that is functional whilst also in my opinion is aesthetically pleasing. It is a jacket that can be worn in several ways and is therefore more sustainable. The example to the right however is what I would deem fast fashion and is a look from Moschino, headed by Jeremy Scott. It is not something that will last over years in terms of style as it very much riding on the coat tails of popular culture. Featuring a motif from Spongebob Squarepants, the TV show, it tends to be something that is more likely to be copied by high street brands that also encourage fast fashion.

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