25th July 2017
Today we are being introduced to the six-week-long independent project. I came up with three possible themes for the project: Collage, power struggle and freedom of speech. I chose them because these are the fields that I'm really unfamiliar but interested with. I created a mind map and a mood board for each of them. Collage art includes photo montage, assembly art, and paper collage. I think there are infinite possibilities for outcomes for me to experiment with. Power struggle is a theme that relates to my observation of society and of relationships. I gained inspiration from German artist Anne Imhof's performance art 'Fraust' and Harold Pinter's play 'The Homecoming'. These two works all deal with the power dynamics between people.
During the tutorial, I was told by a tutor that the theme collage is too broad, he would rather like me to narrow it down, or choose other themes to expand on. He showed lots of interest in the Freedom of Speech theme. Personally I prefer it than the other two as well, as it deals with a current issue in China and I am directly affected by this issue, so I have a lot to say on this matter. I will use China's severe censorship over the internet as a point of entry, and gather examples of it. Nowadays internet becomes a vital tool for us to exchange opinions and gain information from different communities. China's barrier is an effective control of the citizen's mind and human right.
Theme1 collage: Museum as medium
Theme 3 Barriers and Blockades
1st August 2017
- Why would I perform in public?
Because I would like to show the intimate link between individual and society, how our inner struggle can be reflected through our interaction with the environment. The project would have more impact if it is performed in China. However it is unfeasible, so in order to compromise I will perform in public in London. London has diverse cultural backgrounds so I would like the people to perceive my performance in their own way. Barriers doesn't have to refer to China's great fire wall, it can be any sort of obstacles people encounter in their lives.
- Where would I perform it?
Preferably politicalised places, or places with less population to convey a sense of seclusion.
Places with Chinese style architectures, or places with no significant historical background; e.g. concrete blocks of buildings, etc.This is because I want to blur the distinction between performing in UK and in China.
- What would I do?
Simple actions in daily life, actions that associates to media. Reading newspaper.
3rd August 2017
After my visit to Lisson gallery, I became increasingly interested in the use of barbed wire as a visual representation of barriers. Inspired by Serra's work, I began to look for artists that used barbed wire in their work, such as Kendell gears and Melvin edwards, they both use razor wire to create sculptures. Personally, I wanted to use barbed wire as a prop in performances. Inspired by China's Avant-garde artists I think performance is a powerful and strong language to express political thoughts and to challenge social norms in society. I believe that the connections between personal experience and larger social and political structures can be established through performance art.
The Wall, Linoprint
9th August 2017
Contextual Practice in the afternoon
For the contextual practice this afternoon I brought some crafting wire and modelling clay as the two materials I will be using in my project. We were asked to write the physical and cultural
Barbed wire sample (made on Friday)
16th August 2017
Today we learned about contextual analysis. We were given a text on post-constructualism, which states that a jig --- a device for very specific use such as fixing a china in place, have similar structure as lots of things in human society. For example, a table and a sidewalk cafe are considered as jigs when they form a relationship with group activities of humans. The concept proposed in the text is very new to me and I am really fascinated by how many possibilities it opens. By doing more research of Post Structuralism I would be more capable of comprehending the nature of readymade art, and eventually manipulating the use of this artistic approach with more ease.
I went to a workshop that taught me film editing using Premiere Pro. As it's very likely that I will make a digital outcome I decided to learn basic skills of film editing. The workshop was extremely useful for me, I now know how to add titles, effects to a video as well as manipulating the sound. These skills are vital for me to record my performances as they can make my video record more well-made.
For the activity in the afternoon I extracted two paragraphs of text from a book titled Investigative Journalism in China : Journalism, Power, and Society by author Jingrong Tong. This is an important source of information for my project as it deals with the government's control over media. The text claims that the attitude of the government towards investigative journalism is 'paradoxical' and 'contradictory'. On one hand the CCP wants to regain social integration by the help of investigative journalism, revealing and criticising official corruption and illegal businesses. On the other hand, excessive media exposure of social conflicts threatens the Party's ideological education of a 'harmonious society'.
Performance plan 17th August 2017
Plan: Street performance homage to Mona Hatoum's Performance Still. Will be walking barefoot through the streets with red engineering bricks tied to both of my ankles. Bricks, commonly used as construction materials to build walls etc, now becomes an obstacle that holds back my pace.
Reflection on my street performance
Preparing props for the performance. I used coarse drops to tie the bricks to my feet in order to increase friction when I'm walking.
When my feet are tied to two blocks of engineering bricks, walking became an extremely difficult task. The friction between my bare ankles and the coarse rope made me hurt every single step forward. I felt like I was striking against an intangible force which constantly tried to hold me back.
I did the performance Great Portland Street, where I walked past the Embassy of China. There were lots of surveillance cameras there which made me really nervous. Luckily there were no guards and no one showed up during the performance. I am pretty sure the CCTV camera must have recorded me, but other than that I left no evidence for the performance. However, there were still slight traces and bits of pieces on the side pavement caused by the friction and clashes of the two bricks. I am quite pleased with the result,as my performance is intended to be a interaction between me and surveillance, I didn't want other people to be involved.
Photograph of The Performance
Sketched plan for domestic installation
Today we started off our final outcome. My original idea was to present photoshops of my domestic installations as my final outcome. However, the installation outcomes were not as good as I have expected. I didn't buy enough equipments ( bricks, spikes, cctv cameras) to make a big installation that actually fills the room as I wanted. The photographs does not look very imposing and doesn't seem like it could be a finished piece. Therefore, I decided to make an installation using CCTV camera, computer screen and bricks. I have purchased some dummy cctv cameras as props for my domestic installation, but didn't actually make use of them eventually. My original idea for the final outcome was to use real surveillance camera, but the price of it is too high, so i decided to make one myself using dummy surveillance camera and webcam.
Dummy CCTV Cameras
I removed the fake lens of the CCTV camera and put in the webcam. I then drilled a hole at the back of the CCTV camera in the DT workshop to let the cable go through.
The prop I made looked just like a real one, and it worked like a real one, too. I didn't expect I would actually succeed in making it as I seldom work with technologies.
My final outcome consists of various parts: There is a cctv camera mounted on wall attached to a computer on a plinth, beneath which there are bricks neatly laid out in equal distances. The camera is monitoring the bricks, which is shown on the computer screen. The name 'The Regime of Truth' is taken from the famous French philosopher Michel Foucault's concepts.
I would like my outcome to have multiple layers of meanings. Bricks can be seen as a symbol of the Chinese people and conformity. They are also a kind of construction material. The fact that they are recorded and monitored by the surveillance camera shows our vulnerability against power of state control. However the monitored image is displayed on a computer facing the bricks, almost as though the bricks are watching their own projected image on the laptop. The paradox here is that we are both subject to surveillance and part of its intricate system as well, as bricks can be seen as a representation of China's Great Fire Wall censoring over internet.
Overall I am pleased with the outcome, I think it definitely talks more about surveillance than the domestic installations I did before. The only thing was that only after I had arranged the installation I realised that I should put more bricks to make the scale larger. If I had more time, I would also consider placing multiple CCTV cameras in the space, each monitoring different objects (mundane, everyday life objects for example), and then live streaming them onto the same screen. I think this would make my work more interactive as people can walk around the space to look at different objects.
27th July 2017
Methods and Materials
1. How could I make my work?
- Collage: assembled installation, oil and mixed media on canvas
- Power Struggle: performance, video, interactive installation, painting series, photography
- Freedom of Speech: installation, sculpture, sound art, digital art, painting, screenprinting
Skills needed: painting skill(existing),DT Workshop skill (new), video editing skill (new), photography skill (existing), performance skill (existing), digital technology skill (new/existing)
2. Identify methods that you can access
- At college: painting, performance, digital technologies, photography.
- In the workshops: wood and plastic cutting, moulding, crafting, spraying, sewing, screenprinting
- In the studio: Painting, performance, photography, installation
- Independently: specialist printing, digital technologies, Sound track., screenprinting
3. Methods I cannot access:
- Sand casting, injection molding, wax casting, riso printing , digital knitting, glass blowing, iron casting, 3d printing.
Theme 2 Power Struggle
2rd August 2017
Today I spent the whole morning reading Contemporary Chinese Art, book written by Gladstone P. I found it quite difficult to understand due to the use of sophisticated vocabulary. The book delves deep into the evolution of art form in China, which is inextricably linked to China's political changes. Despite of it being quite hard to understand, it is indeed a useful tool for me to gain insight of the Chinese artists working under the political restrictions at that time.
During the contextual practice session I exchanged ideas with several partners and they gave me many interesting and useful suggestions. Inspired by my peers, I would next look up Jordan Peterson's speech about boundaries, as well as Wang QingLin's political photographic work.
By far I found the experience of developing my own proposal quite challenging, as it requires me to consider every single aspect of my planning, and be consistent from beginning to end. I found it difficult to concisely explain and summarise my ideas, as I am interested in a very broad theme (freedom of speech in China). I am concerned about collecting historical and political evidence of the project due to the sensitivity of the issue. I would definitely select unbiased, credible and reliable sources as my supporting research.
My ideas start of quite vague, and after I saw the exhibition of Santiago Sierra's work, I was really impressed by his use of military razor wire to create virtual boundaries, as a metaphor for the immigrant crisis. Therefore I decided to use barbed wire to embody China's barrier against freedom of access & of speech.
Monday 7th August 2017
Today I focused on making a linoprint to experiment with different medium. Inspired by Cildo Meireles and the Chinese artist Wang Guangyi, I made prints of the phrase 404 not found and stamped it repeatedly onto a white background. '404 not found' or ‘Part of your search results cannot be displayed' is something that constantly appears when you try to visit a banned website in China.The apparently obscure text '404 not found' becomes a symbol of restriction and censorship under the context of China. By printing it in predominant colours of black and red against a white background, the work resembles the propoganda painted or printed on wall. This is also how the name of this piece is derived from, as it also suggests China's Great Fire Wall. I made a mistake in the beginning and resulted in the text being reversed. I think the message would be more blunt if the text is presented in the correct way. In this case the viewer would not recognise the text at first glance. The reversion of the text makes the concept more complicated, as it could have allusions to mirroring Chinese society. When we look at this work we realise that we are on the opposite site of the text, thus isolating ourselves from it. Therefore the work creates an intangible barrier that isolates the viewer with China's policies, suggesting limited access to media and all other resources.
08 Aug 2017
Today we had a tutorial with Karen on our development of sketchbooks. By looking at each other's sketchbooks, I am able to recognise what I'm lacking in content. I only did three pages of mind maps and two pages of research and experiment. During my presentation, I realised that I am speaking more than what is shown in my sketchbook. This means that there is potential for me to develop further. Therefore, what I will focus now is producing more sketchbook work and stuck-down researches.
I decided to start a new, smaller in scale but thicker and better quality sketchbook for the project. Personally I am not a big fan of heavy and thick A3 sketchbooks. When I start a new page I always have to plan the layout carefully and it took me too much time and effort. If I use a smaller sketchbook I wouldn't have to worry too much about composition and layout. Since this project is based very much on performance and installation, there will be more photographs in my sketchbook than paintings or collages. Therefore the scale of sketchbook is not an important factor that effects my project. Working on a sketchbook of smaller scale makes me feel more comfortable and confident.
Study after Seung-Taek LEE's Fire Ceremony from the exhibition
11th August 2017
Today we all have to compete an outcome for the project. The outcome can be a sample, a design or a maquette but it has to be relevant to our project. I decided to make barbed wire myself. Before I had purchased prop barbed wire on eBay, and thought it was too fake and wanted to make one using real metal wire. I bought three kinds of wire with different diameters from the shop. I decided to a small piece so I got the hang of how it is done. Twisting wire is a difficult task, as I have to grip the end of the two pieces of wire firmly and then twist with hand. The thickest wire is impossible to twist as it's too hard to bend it. The second one worked just fine. Then I coiled the barbs on the wire using jewellery wire, which is the thinnest one. eventually I made two pieces of scale-down sample of barbed wire. I am concerned about making it in its actual size. First of all I need to find the kind of wire that is long enough (20m at least) and at the same time being thin enough (no more than 1mm diameter). It could be quite hard to find. My initial idea was to carry the barbed wire out on the street and take photographs of it being placed in different surroundings. Now it concerns me that using these self-made barbed wire may not have the effect that I have been expecting. They are not as visually striking as real ones doe to the difference in diameter and length. Yet self-made barbed wire can be applied to some video performative experiments, where I could experiment with the power dynamic between barbed wire and individuals. For example, the act of constructing barbed wire and deconstructing it. It occurred to me that making barbed wire is much easier than trying to deconstruct it. Could this have allusions to human nature as a whole? In which we always tend to seek for the easiest way to solve a problem.
Process of Making
The text is probably published by individual with limited access to statistical information about the investigative journalism in China, due to the tight restriction imposed by Chinese government. Extensive use of vocabularies like 'propaganda', 'CCP', 'harmony' 'threat' and 'ideological education' is unique to China's political background. If we take a look at these words, we would find that such words all refer to a kind of supreme power that is concrete and tangible and can be traced. Although the author doesn't include many statistical evidence in his/her writing, I myself as native Chinese agree to many of the points he/she made, based on my own existing knowledge.
Through this text I realised that Government's control over media and freedom of speech is essentially identical in its nature. The extinction of paper media in China, resulted from demoralised individual journalism, now leads to the outrageous surveillance over internet speech. This is because internet is a great platform for the re-emerged individual journalism, while it is also extremely easy for the party to censor it.
After reading the text I decide to shift my focus from freedom of speech to the government's control over media, as media is a more specific approach to this project.
18th August 2017
After having tutorial with Karen, I made a few changes to the orientation of my project outcomes.
Widen use of materials and re-consider the context -- domestic space is more effective than public for this project. Barbed wire etc. is more disturbing and unlikely in areas like kitchens, living rooms, etc.
Other surveillance objects I will use: Dummy CCTV camera, pigeon spikes, bricks, blinkers and so.
However, before new materials arrive, I will carry on my current plans for the project over the weekend.
In the afternoon, I decided to make blinkers that are designed for human.Blinkers commonly refer to a pair of small leather screens attached to a horse's bridle to prevent it seeing sideways and behind and being startled. I like the fact that horse blinkers have similar properties as a jig, in the sense that they are very useful when put in a specific use with a certain subject (horses), but they become just a peculiarly shaped 'object' when they are taken out of their context. Making blinkers for human is an absurd action that reduces human being into labour animals. It also restricts the view, which is reminiscent of government censorship, showing the people what they want us to see in order for the construction of a 'harmonious society'.
I made the blinkers with felt wool and transparent plastic. I used felt because it is a kind of cheap but efficient material. The cheapness of felt would make the blinkers look universal as it is designed for everyone. I thought about using leather but it is too difficult to manipulate this material. In addition, a leather blinker would have heavy sexual innuendo as it can be associated to sadistic sex toys, which I think may overtake its political concept.
I made two plastic semi-spheres that are hollow inside, using the vacuum plastic holding machine at the 3d workshop.
The hardest part of making blinkers is the sewing part. After so many inductions I still haven't got the hang of how to use the sewiwgmachine. I spent nearly 1 and a half hour trying to sew two pieces of fabric together and they ended up looking really roughly made.
The blinkers for me is just an attempt to make an unfunctional design that bears a political meaning. Overall I really enjoyed making something that is both practical and absurd. Because it really broadened my mind to think deeply about the context of every single object around me.
Blinkers for the Majority, 20 August 2017, accessory
Ideas for further experimentations on performative outomes
Experimental Installation in a Domestic Space
Comfortably Numb, sofa, bird spikes
This is my first attempt to make installations in a domestic area. As a starting point I covered my couch with two kinds of bird spikes, and titled it 'Comfortably Numb'. A couch or a sofa is a typical domestic furniture. It is where people sit and watch television. Unlike beds, sofa's function isn't limited to resting. It is where people relax and read books, papers and watch news reports. It is the place where people receive information from media. The menacing spikes that seem as if grown out of the couch suggests a sense of insecurity and uneasiness, signifying government's control over media and eventually over people, in China.
My initial thought was to cover the entire couch with spikes, yet I didn't buy enough of them to cover entirely. Therefore I only photographed a section of the couch. I think it would be more appalling if my initial idea worked.
My other experiment, putting spikes on each stairs that act like virtual barriers for people at both ends --- neither can they go up or go down the stairs. By doing so I eliminated and altered the function of the stairs, restricting our access.