Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Fuelled by early experimentation and an exploration in unconventional materials, the early development of my project has been based upon a link between shadow and memory. More specifically, I have been considering the way in which we process visual information through memory and recognition or in other words, a means of 'filling in the gaps'. Four of the key words that have been driving my project are representation, interpretation, perception and recognition.

Research around the psychology of memory was influenced by an autonomous action, recognised during an experiment to further my experience with unfamiliar materials during the process of dressing. Furthermore, the link between shadow and memory became evident. I had not satisfied the emotional or physical sensation of being dressed until making a cornflour and water concoction that was piled on top of a gladwrap singlet. Although most of the substance remained stuck to my body after the action of applying the singlet, I had felt it necessary to fill in the gaps to pose for a photo. The photo of me 'wearing' my 'singlet' was somehow more valid if the straps were obvious and the silhouette was more singlet-like. This prompted some key questions like: Can we have remnants of a garment to feel dressed? Are memories shadows? Are shadows valid? Are memories of dress valid?

A dictionary definition states: Shadow: An imperfect and faint representation; adumbration; indistinct image; dim bodying forth; hence, mystical representation; type. The new garment becomes a shadow or a 'representation' of what previously existed. As the wearer, I was compelled to fill in the gaps based on what I already knew about how a singlet should look and feel on my body. This has prompted more specific questions to guide my research, based around the recognition of an object, how it is catalogued and contextualised, which effectively alters perception. As a concept, was interested in exploring ideas that challenge this process of interpreting visual information.

In line with this direction and as my initial response to shadow, I deconstructed a generic shirt to reveal elements that were found to be pivotal to its structure, such as seams, cuffs and button wraps. This version of the shirt had become a mere representation, where as a viewer, we are still able to recognise the garment as a shirt due to past experiences. By previously encountering a garment of this nature, information is generated, retained in our memory, and later recalled in order to make a judgement.

In a comparable approach, artist Beni Bischof produced a series of images that epitomize this element of the project direction. Photographs of historical castles had been digitally manipulated so that they become a solitary depiction of what was before. The windows were removed, along with any internal, foreground and background details. With little visual information, the viewer is still able to recognise the object as a castle by interpreting basic features such as vertical lines, curves and diagonals. With these features appropriately catalogued to form a silhouette, we recall information from our memory to 'fill in the gaps'.

Also exploring the idea of perception, artist Ricky Swallow plays on our typical associations by drastically changing the material in his work. Sculptures carved from wood portray soft or draped objects, creating a paradoxical experience as a viewer that constitutes a shift in the way the object is typically received. The nature of the object is instantly changed due to this substitute in material. A specific example is the carved wooden beanbag, titled, 'Come Together'. No longer is the beanbag something that is desirable and comforting - the usual connotations - but estranged and foreign. Though in reality it is still a beanbag, a new object that is made of entirely different substances has been created, and thus it cannot be treated in the same manner. Roland Barthes, Author of ‘The Fashion System’, reinforces this hypothesis, with a theory with which he applies to the relationship between image-clothing (photographed or drawn) and written clothing: “In principle, these two garments refer to the same reality… yet they do not have the same structure, because they are not made of the same substances and because, consequently, these substances do not have the same relations with each other.” This is an idea that, for me, has enhanced the definition of shadow, by suggesting that this ‘imperfect and faint representation’ that I am intrigued by, is born, simply, when its structure is made of a new substance.

Through his work, conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth has consistently explored the connections between words and things, between language and representation. 'One and Three Chairs' is a particular installation that consisted of an actual chair, a photograph depicting the same chair and a written description of the chair. A tautology is created, where a closed system resists any kind of transcendent meaning. The work does probe questions, however, as to which is the most valuable or the most real version of the chair. While reading some responses to the work on various Blogs, I came across a suggestion that the title indicates the existence of a fourth, imagined chair. At this point in my project, I pondered how important the idea of the object would be and whether the actual object really needed to exist at all. I was interested in the relationships between the different mediums, but also the spaces between them. As the object passes from one mode to another, the question of interpretation arose. What information is lost and gained and to what degree does a new expression of the object bring about new meaning? These questions have become the essence of my project and the basis for my ‘garment’ outcomes.

Hoping to address this subject of interpretation, I conducted an experiment wherein participants were required to construct a written response based upon a series of photographs, which was then interpreted by another contributor. The photographs were of existing garments - where none of which revealed their entirety. The photos were all close up and from different perspectives, documenting a variety of details. The first participant was instructed to briefly view the images, before then composing a written response based on what they remembered. I was interested to see how the details were interpreted and whether the participant would ‘fill the gaps’, recreating how they imagined the garment to look. The second, (different) participant was to reinterpret, (without seeing the original photos) the description in a visual sense, where again, I was interested to see what details were lost and/or gained and how the written response would then translate back into a visual sense. In each case, the result was dependant upon the richness of the written response and the ability of the participant to express their ideas. But nonetheless, an assumption that I had made was negated by the results. It was found that participants did not in fact piece the garment back together, but further disassemble the images in terms of lines, shapes, colours and dissimilar associations. Details were lost and connections were made during the process of recollection and consequently, a representation of the initial object, which had been disassembled and distorted, was resorted in a more sensible way.

The developments of this process lead me to consider other various forms of media as a way for participants to document their response. This faze of refinement was imperative in distinguishing the significance of the written component of the experiment. I also reconsidered the starting point for participatory responses, where I established an alternative means of presenting information, which would also analyse whether people would ‘fill the gaps’ based upon what they already know. I progressed to identify four key factors within my research that attributed to the notion of disrupting the manner in which visual information is processed. I felt as though by beginning with images of pre-existing garments, a degree of interpretation had already been executed. Rather, I chose to create four tangible objects that would facilitate a cycle of responses. Evoked by an analysis of previously mentioned works, (including my own) the objects epitomised the following ideas: 1) the notion of substituting the material to provoke a paradoxical response; 2) to strip the object of its most recognisable features / details; 3) context influences perception; 4) to present the object as a disarranged collective of information. Each beginning at a different stage, the prompts systematically travelled through the written, drawn, sculpted and photographed languages.

"...this transition, as in all structures, can only be discontinuous: the real garment can only be transformed into 'representation' by means on certain operators which we might call shifters, since they serve to transpose one structure into another, to pass, if you will, from one code to another."

- Roland Barthes.

Though my intent was to generate a starting point that participants would eventually deviate from, it became evident that the relationship between language and its visual counterpart were the essence of this process. It was only by fixing a written description to the visual responses, that I was able to measure interpretation in terms of intended meaning. Requesting that participants briefly describe their response was pivotal in this realisation, where the consecutive steps of the process became increasingly random and further from the fundamental nature of the project. It was found that the information that participants were recalling was quite often non-relative, or they simply could not express their ideas confidently through that particular medium. The first responses to the four objects had become shadows, where a vague impression or an ‘imperfect and faint representation’ was produced. As the experiment continued, the correlations to the initial objects became substantially weaker, since shadows of shadows were being created.

Earlier on during the development of this project, questions regarding the purpose of my outcome arose. I was uncertain as to how this ‘representation’ would compel the viewer to ‘fill the gaps’ and in what way it would influence the manner in which visual information is processed or, in this case, produced. Though I have completed the course of this process, the more refined version deliberates the significance of the written language. The reader, or the viewer, is invited to conjure up an interpretation based on their own knowledge, which will be unique to the individual. The ‘garments’ that I am presenting demonstrate that a new expression of the object does bring about new meaning, as per the theories of Barthes and the conceptual work of Joseph Kosuth. By subtracting all other information, I have indicated that the actual object need not exist at all and that, in the case of this project, the spaces between the different mediums, which “transpose one structure to another”, (Roland Barthes) allow for a considerable amount of interpretation that is entirely subjective.


After a chat with Liam about the findings of my experimentation and the general message of this project, I have decided that although I have alot of interesting information that has been produced by a very wide variety of people, the information that I will present, will be based soley upon the written responses. I will ask more people to respond directly to the four objects. These words will be presented in a concept book, which will be layed out much like that of a magazine. Therefore, it is upto the reader to conjure up a personalised vision of the object, or 'garment', where lots of space and blank pages within the book will allow them to do so. I think that by presenting my project and narrowing down the information in this way, I am addressing the epitome of the concept and probing the question that is whether the actual garment needs to exist whatsoever and also demonstrating that a new garment is born when the nature and the substance of the material is changed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


These are some of the photos taken of round one. The experiment was set up in one of the fashion rooms, where three out of four participants were from within the course. The other particiapnt I found in the caffeteria, where he was studying for a maths exam and was more than happy to contribute.

Each station was set up with instrcutions and the relevant equipment. Participants were to spend 5 minutes responding to their allocated object - which varied each time they shifted stations. (And meduim)

At the photography station, participants were required to take a photo of themselves before spending four minutes documenting their object and one minute to reduce the photos to the three most interesting. Below are 'round one's' photographs and also their written responses.





The most interesting part of this round of experimentation was the sculptural responses - particularly that of the engineering student, Rob. As I walked over to have a look at what he was creating, (with so much passion) I was compelled to ask him what it was about, since just by looking at it, I had no idea. In response to the item that presented a 'jumble of information', he had moulded an amalgamation of pottery techniques. "A combination of a coil, a handle and a pipe," he said, were representitive of the object. And yet, without this explanation, I personally, would have assumed it to be a bodily organ - maybe the heart?

This made me realise the importance of the spoken, or written language, especially considering the very thing that I was hoping to test - being interpretation. I could not possibly gague the degree to which an item has been interpreted if I do not know anything about the intended meaning. Also, Alex's response to the silicone top was to imprint the clay with her fingers, to depict the connotation of skin.

During the consecutive steps of the process and due to this epiphany, it became imperative for me to ask that participants write a few words about what they have drawn or sculpted. As the drawings became more and more random and further from what I had set out to understand, I had begun to grasp the importance of the written reponses. Each person was always going to see a different vision than that of the creator. In addition, each person is able to express what they are thinking or feeling to a varying degree. This became evident as some people simply did not know how to respond based on written words that require imaginative qualities.

Sunday, June 13, 2010



I deconstructed four seperate garments and then pieced them back together in a rearranged order. Garments included: white shorts; a white tailored jacket; a cream sleevless dress and a pair of jeans. I kept white and denim constant to make the piece appear cohesive, yet still an obvious jumble of information.

During the process, the aim was to collate as many details as possible so that a vast selection is available for participants to respond to.


For this stimulus, I was aiming to create an object that is completely open to interpretation, with an interest to see whether participants will relate it to a garment, given the fashion context. I think I will paint the sculpture the colour of denim. This way, the fact that it is blue may provoke a more obvious correlation.

I found the process slightly difficult, (though enjoyable) as I didn't quite know how to create something from the clay that included enough information that could be interpreted in different ways. I decided to begin with a shape that resembled a long sleeved garment. Eventually, I ended up with something much more abstract.


With this item, I was intending to create something that would provoke an altered perception by the fact that obvious details have been removed. I chose to work with generic jeans, where the waistband and belt loops were removed. I also decided to sew the legs together so that the item could no longer be considered pants. I am curious to find out what people will write about and how it will be interpreted. Also, with all of the stimuli, how it will be documented.


The aim of this object was simply to change the nature of the material. I wanted to test whether participants would make an association with other objects within their response. I set a large volume of silicone flat, then cut pattern pieces, which were then handsewn together. I think the outcome is really successful. Lots of people wanted to know what material it was that I was using.

Sunday, May 23, 2010


'One and Three Chairs' Joseph Kosuth

Kosuth is a conceptual artist who's work was at the forefront of the contemporary art movement in the 1960's. The philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein influenced the development of his work, where he has consistently explored the connections between words and things, between language and representation.

This work, titled 'One and Three Chairs' consisted of an actual chair, a photograph depicting the same chair and a written description of the chair. This tautology creates a closed system that resists any kind of transcendent meaning, though it does probe questions as to which is the most valuable or the most real version of the chair. While reading some responses to the work on various Blogs, I came across a suggestion that the title indicates the existance of a fourth, imagined chair. How important would the idea of the chair be?

In terms of my project, I can relate to these relationships between the actual object, the imagined, the photograped and the written. Though I am also interested in the spaces between them. As the object passes from one mode to another, how much information is lost and how information is gained? Does a new expression of the object bring about new meaning? I'd like to know how much room there is for interpretation.

The mechanisms of this particular work were founded by Kosuth, though he also devised a set of instructions, so that any curator was able to recreate the installation. Various chairs were used, alongside a saw, a kitchen pot, a lamp and other everyday objects.

'Box, Cube, Empty, Clear, Glass--a Description' - Joseph Kosuth 1965

Barthes suggests that objects can be the same in reality, however, since they are made up of differing substances, they cannot be treated or read in the same manner. The written version, for example, is made up of letters and words, while an image can be visually processed in terms of lines, shapes and colours. Within the written language, there are possibly more variations? Where synonyms can bring about a comparible association.

The above work is also by Joseph Kosuth. Five glass boxes are presented - where each is labeled with a different adjective. The description of the box in each case becomes varied in it's meaning, although the object is exactly the same. Here the relationship between language and its visual counterpart become evident. The viewer could have interpreted the boxes as any one of these things, but by fixing the language to an object in this way, there is almost no room for interpretation.

'Four Coulors, Four Words' - Joseph Kosuth

'Neon' - Joseph Kosuth, 1965

Magritte discussed the relationship between words and images: "An object is not so attached to its names that one cannot find another which suits it better." In his systematic, broken up composition, Magritte points out the superficial nature of language.

'This is a piece of cheese' - Margritte

'The Interpretation of Dreams' - Margritte

tau·tol·o·gy (tô-tl-j)
n. pl. tau·tol·o·gies
a. Needless repetition of the same sense in different words; redundancy.
b. An instance of such repetition.
2. Logic An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false; for example, the statement Either it will rain tomorrow or it will not rain tomorrow.


[Late Latin tautologia, from Greek tautologi, from tautologos, redundant : tauto-, tauto- + logos, saying; see -logy.]