Where to start? Perhaps design (and art) are more easily seen and reflected upon as verbs rather than nouns.
This was only a quasi-self-initiated project. It was mandated, obligatory, and will be judged, all of which takes away from more traditional/actual self-initiated projects. however, I am happy with the path I chose making it quite personal.
It is hard to say where it actually started, a bit like tributaries that eventually form a recognisable river, there were a few starting points and inspirations. And much like a river, it meandered and found its own path based on environmental and contextual obstacles and features.
It was initially a project about fact and fiction, and it still is. the piece features real (documentary/news) and fake (movie/games) imagery and text. Though I do struggle to call one or the other real or fake; they are all real and all fake at the same time.
The more I researched the context of the piece, the more it also became about the idea of story-telling and perspective as a whole, and lastly, due to the subject matter being so racially charged, it also became about who the author of a piece is, and who should be the author of any design or story.
My main regret is that I did not realise this sooner and engage with some of those to whom this has a more immediate impact. The Korean-Americans and African-Americans. It is not that I didn’t want to, it is that I fell into the trap of not realising that it is borderline colonising to attempt to understand and tell a story that is not really mine to tell. Would an engagement prior to the process of creation have changed the piece or would I have changed the subject matter, and would that have been a good thing, should we really censor who tells a story? All stories are from a personal subjective point of view, and while I am not a member of either minority, did not and do not suffer from racial injustice, and wasn’t even in Los Angeles during the riots in 1992. However, the riots, the representation of the riots are also in my memory. The piece is not targeted at Korean-Americans or Black Americans, or even Americans for that matter.
Originally, this piece was not about the riots, it was not about Rodney King or Latasha Harlins, or the suffering of the Korean merchants, but how can it not be when the images of them are so prominent. I find it unlikely that the initial thought of a viewer will be about truth and fiction, too powerful and evocative are the images and the event, and I actually do like that. it will take some engagement and perhaps a bit of detective work. I decided at the end that there needed to be an obviously fictional image (the one of Rayven Symone Ferrell as Latasha Harlins) that would act as a clue for the viewer to then question the veracity of all of the elements
I continued to want to add more images and text to better or more completely tell the story, but every element I added changed the story a bit, because every image is a snapshot, a cup of the ocean, and it doesn’t matter how many cups you have or use, they will never represent the totality of the ocean. The interpretation and the meaning, therefore, will no doubt lie with the audience, no matter what I do or print. And that is sort of the way it should be in this instance. This is not escape-route signage, the whole point is that stories are never true and always subjective.
Isaac actually didn’t give me a Jewish-reading of the piece, he focused perhaps more on the visual language, he did question the use of locusts and whether it implied that the rioters were like locusts or insects. This is a fair question, but the locusts are not the bad guys, Pharaoh was – still, it could be problematic. The mixing of helicopters in with the locusts is supposed to help with that incorrect interpretation
Was it a successful project?
It is successful in the sense that it made me think, made me think differently, made me realise that my background can affect my work. The visual outcome is almost secondary.
It is not a nice thing to look at, it isn’t supposed to be. It is supposed to be challenging – which does put it in the art category rather than the design discipline perhaps.
In this instance, I think one sign (but only one) of success is that I do not consider myself finished with this topic (or the topics). It has maybe thrown up more questions for me than actual answers, and I like that. the piece itself is finished and not finished, it is currently in a stage in a moment of time. It would have been arrogant to assume that I would have gained complete and deep insights, and answers into the initial question(s), it was always supposed to be a stepping stone, a test balloon, the start of something.
Feedback from others on the topic will be interesting, do race and background determine who can tell which stories? Is ambiguity appropriate or detrimental to progress? Are images exploitative when used by me? I don’t expect a unanimous response either.
Finally, I have still not considered where, if at all, this should be exhibited. Because the context will have a bearing on the reading.