Sixes and Sevens

Sixes and Sevens

I am beginning to think about how people interpret or even see and comprehend the same stimuli differently. I am interested in how individuals read ambiguous information and fill in the blanks. But ultimately, and perhaps strangely, I am not interested in knowing the resulting meaning for them.

The type of work I am interested in creating is not something that reveals a complete truth, but instead, work to be contemplated and interpreted on an individual basis. And ultimately work that is unambiguous about its vagueness.

It some ways, I seek to place the focus (and perhaps the responsibility) on the viewer rather than the creator and reminding – if that is the word – the viewer that they have an equal, if not greater, role in the flow of information within the communication.

I believe what Toni Morrison says here has a lot to do with my project.

I’ve begun looking at Foucault’s Heterotopia and in what way it may apply to my project – my current idea being that perhaps each piece might be its own world, its own story set within, but separate from a larger world – one-sheet narratives that at once are static screenshots but dynamic in their allowance of interpretation and mental editing.

The layering and use of existing printed pieces cause a simultaneous addition and erasure of information. The past is haunting the present, while the present and upper layers of information function as both redactions and highlights of the disembodied/decontextualised spectre.

I also see some or maybe many parallels with Ani DiFranco’s collaboration with Utah Phillips, both in content (The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere) and possible execution. It is a whole album of Utah Phillip’s stories, edited and set to or layered with DiFranco’s specifically composed music and minimal background vocals.

It changes the original recording, it influences perhaps our understanding and it certainly strips away the context, place, and visuals in which the story was originally told – however, I don’t think it is destructive in a negative sense.

My consistent drift towards writers and artists is possibly based on designers’ too comfortable relationship with capitalism. There is no value in unfettered capitalism, none, there is only profit, and profit comes at a cost, and as we are finding out that cost is incredibly, depressingly, and unsustainably high. True designers should only be engaged in solving real problems; not selling more liquor to the essentially uneducated. We celebrate the dead Vivian Maier and Alberto di Lenardo, while simultaneously lauding the latest flash-in-the-pan designer who by day shills for corporations and then uses young designers as a way to enhance their brand and reputation via portfolio reviews. I wonder if the value in Maier and di Lenardo’s work is not in the craft itself, but knowing that it is a genuine subjective point of view of a time and a place. Of course, everything is mediated, but their work was not tested, not focused-grouped, Next to our instinctive sadness about their anonymity during their lifetime there is a pureness in the resulting work, it is almost more trustworthy. This also has a lot to do with the medium of photography and its (perceived) ability to capture ‘real-life’ more precisely and honestly.

I almost resent being a designer. I find myself not wanting to be associated with it, and I suppose there is a very easy way out of that. I do get the need to make a living a that that path invariably runs through capitalist pursuits, and I do think that some profit-making endeavours can have genuinely beneficial impacts, but far too seldomly. I can forgive the pursuit of rent and food and a looseness of ethics within that, but we have also entered a cult of Instagramability and personality within design. Every day or week, an already quasi-famous designer’s generosity masquerades as philanthropy to further elevate not even themselves, which would be humanly understandable, but their brand, which is barely forgivable. And I think that affects the type of work we do, and our constituents. As always, I just don’t believe anyone (but especially creators of visual work) should be a celebrity.

We are all narcissus and echo, we all respond to those we seek to impress while simultaneously trying to elevate and better ourselves. But it is those who seek to make a point, not a brand that I feel a kinship with.

I think truth in authorship is important, but identity is not important when the threat of death or opprobrium is involved, so it should not be when fame or celebration is either. I genuinely believe designers should be anonymous, not secret-identity anonymous but also human, meaning, they should accept blame, be ethical, decline projects, but never strut or try to steal the headlines from the actual creators of content.

I want to create work that seeks only direct emotional responses. Not work that can be measured in any currency, click-through, impressions or measurable ‘likes’.and I am incredibly happy in that naive utopia, mostly because it is not naive nor utopian, it is just a decision to not be part of a system to which we have surrendered our power and decisions.

I just re-listened to the whole of Ani DiFranco and Utah Phillip’s album.
My project may have actually started over 20 years ago.

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