I don’t want to create one piece. I want to create multiple. It seems like a better approach in general, but this in this case, the topic almost demands a number of responses. There will be a final piece, but in many ways, there will be no final piece per se, they will all be steps towards a response, at a later date – which again might not be final. One week is an unrealistic timeline for creation and reflection.
I am still not entirely sure what week 2’s ‘Develop and make five initial visual responses to your self initiated project brief.‘ meant if not ideations.
Using those initial five ideations, and any feedback I received (outside of the course it should be said) I will attempt to create a more evolved version(s).
The main idea is one of layering, which is partly why I want to move away from digital to a more analogue production. There is nothing wrong with a digital response, but this project which is about more personal viewpoint might benefit from a more crafted and hands-on medium; also layering might have a more unexpected outcome when done manually physically instead of through opacity changes. And finally, an analogue response is by its very nature a unique piece, rather than an easily reproduced graphic.
Conceptually it is about juxtaposing fact and fiction. Combining factual pieces of writing or images a journalistic approach with pieces of fiction, all with the backdrop of Los Angeles.
Again for time reasons, there is a limit on what I can use, so ideal has a strong element of time for this project. I will be working with the following.
Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion
OJ Simpson chase
Old pages from the famous Thomas Bros. map of Los Angeles streets
The day of the Locust by Nathaniel West
Twilight by Anna Deavere Smith
Images from The 1992 Los Angeles Riots
Frames from the Rodney King assault by 4 LAPD officers
Murphy Brown vs Dan Quayle
Rodney King’s injuries
If according to Paul Rand ‘Design is a problem-solving discipline.’ then the problem becomes the main focus, and defining a problem can easily lead to appropriate art responses. What if the problem Is design. We give design typically the credit for being objective and rational. Art is a conversation, a dialogue between artist and viewer. Design has a target audience and talks
to, actually at, them. There is perhaps an arrogance that designers believe all of the target audience read and see their designs similarly, when in fact nature went out of its way (as did nurture) to make every human individual. Of course from a marketing perspective, this makes sense, but it is not foolproof, and if it were that easy there would be no failures, of which there are many. Also, and more importantly, design is considered truthful; and that is just impossible. Designers in advertising must know this, Packaging lies, advertising skews the truth, aven emergency evacuation procedures diagrammes show none of the actual chaos one would be dealing with. Design cannot help but lie, it is taking a complex three-dimensional issue and making it two-dimensional while seeking a lowest common denominator. I think that is – currently – the only way, meaning that technology and ethics (A LOT of ethics) could lead to designs that seak to individuals, to their benefit, though design is currently firmly in capitalist profit-creating hands.
Value is not the same as profit. What if as designers, for once, we are honest about our subjective view, diverse reading, or complete bafflement of a situation; that three facts are no longer facts if 13 other facts aren’t mentioned?
Format and Medium
Cai Guo Qiang is not a huge inspiration or influence, but apart from really liking his work, I like the trust he has in his craft, technique, process, and the fire to produce results beyond his immediate control. The layout of my pages (3 rows/28 columns) is partly for logistical/mechanical reasons, partly to allude to the (faux) idea of chronology, but also may be partly due to some of his pieces.
The larger influences thematically are Los Angeles Plays Itself, Alan Moore’s ‘Idea Spaces’
and thanks to Ben, Salomé Lamas, who also talks about the responsibility of the author.
One should think twice about imprinting a new image because of the overall saturation of visual stimulus in contemporary society. When we create images, we are somehow translating the language of things into a graphical language. — Salomé Lamas
I wanted it to feel immediate and personal, I want the authorship and personal to be obvious, hence the use of the screen printing, I don’t want mistakes per se, but the analogue nature of screen printing (albeit that there is a lot of digital prep) says something about authorship. Not to crowbar Walter Benjamin into everything, but it is not the aura of the original I am looking for, I am looking for the idiosyncratic, unique response, a metaphorical this-is-how-I-felt-at-that-moment-and I might-change-my-mind-later-with-more-facts. Of course, I could add to it with more pulls and adding elements, but only one would really ever exist, it might change, It probably should change, but a digital version feels more cynical, more removed less personal, and less honest. It also has a more physical layering of information than e.g. opacity changes in a digital format and is less controllable – once I pull the squeegee there is no ‘command z’, not going back.
All this bravado has a flip-side. As much as I love the analogue personal touch and idiosyncrasies, I am also – almost literally – petrified before every pull across the screen that I’ll ‘ruin’ the piece. There is a danger of being too precious, too careful. It is tricky to decide on which side to err.
The choice of images and text became an unexpected and intriguing concern. I am at the time of this writing still not finished, meaning, I have at least 3 more screens prepared. I did not intend for so many pulls. But the story became almost as important as the fact/fiction, design/art aspect. A responsibility I had not anticipated before entered my decision making. The initial point was to juxtapose fact and fiction, but now I am also concerned with creating an ambiguity that strives for neutrality (which I know is not possible).
As an example, it was going to be Rodney King abuse, jury verdict, riots, that however leaves out a significant person, the murdered Latasha Harkins, who for reasons I don’t quite understand is often left out of the mainstream telling of the 1992 riots. Though black women being removed from history is hardly a new phenomenon, leaving her out seemed unreasonable to me. Showing her execution-like killing seemed both exploitative and too accusatory (regardless of what I may think). The image of an actress portraying her also works well as a clue to the unreal aspect of other elements, too well-composed is the image.
The Day of the Locust
This project started partly as a look at Los Angeles in fiction and how it is seen through its fictional representations. Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locust is his response to the Great Depression. Tod Hackett, a recent graduate of Yale School of Fine Arts, arrives in Los Angeles as a set designer but aims to turn his brush to the people who have ‘come to California to die’ and create an apocalyptic painting of Los Angeles that he calls ‘The Burning of Los Angeles.‘
The elements of the piece
From left to right.
The message typed into the in-car computer by Stacy Koon who had just beaten Rodney King.
Image of Rodney King’s white Hyundai Excel being chased on the 210 freeway as depicted in Dark Blue, a movie which uses the tension and riots as a backdrop to its plot
Infamous image of Rodney King’s injuries used in evidence during the subsequent trial
Tom Bradley’s response after the verdict.
Movie still from A Rose that Grew from Concrete (itself a Tupac Shakur reference) depicting the altercation between Latasha Harlins and Soon Ja Du.
Florence and Normandie intersection as of October 2019.
Another still from Dark Blue
Murphy Brown’s response to then Vice President Dan Quayle’s accusation that Murphy Brown’s single motherhood is partly to blame for the breakdown in Values, and the fictional character using real cameras in a fake newsroom to respond to a real accusation
The imagination is just as real as reality
“I believe that magic is art, and that art, whether that be music, writing, sculpture, or any other form, is literally magic. Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness … Indeed to cast a spell is simply to spell, to manipulate words, to change people’s consciousness, and this is why I believe that an artist or writer is the closest thing in the contemporary world to a shaman.