Re-contextualising images

Exercise 2, photomontages and collages.

So my initial research was with the named artists in the course book. These are my thoughts on those artists, with the addition of some of my own found artists.

My initial reactions to the artists is one of intrigue. They seem to all cover war. I appreciate that this was the most controversial topic over the last 100 years, it also reminds me, that with Brexit, the EU peace treaty comes to an end between Britain and the rest of Europe.

John Heartfield satirises it with the use of photo-collages, mixing hitler with an ape certainly invokes the dark humour of the time. His piece called “The Executioner and Justice” certainly shows how, at times of war, justice becomes blind to what is going on. Very few words are needed to discern their meaning, and at the time the visuals would have been startling compared to the “blitz mentality” and official propaganda that was being produced across Europe.

Another great example of an anti war activist is Peter Kennard. His visual language is completely different from Heartfield’s. Where Heartfield’s montages are more chaotic and have humour, Kennard’s are more instructional and fierce. His use of bold text on his montages adds a different dynamic than Heartfield’s collages. There’s little to unravel and the message is revealed with a single glance. His tone is louder, his use of capital letters across the anti bomb posters is something that has continued into modern digital conversations as attention seeking or shouting. A matter if urgency is displayed across the works from anti nuclear bombs to protesting the privatisation of the telephone systems in the UK.

Cleaning the drapes by Martha Rosler

I find Martha Rosler’s collages sit neatly between Heartfield’s and Kennard’s works. They mix the dramatic war imagery of Kennard’s work with the satirical nature of Heartfield’s. Rosler uses everyday scenes juxtaposed over war scenes to show how western society turns a blind eye to the atrocities across the world. The images strike a complex balance between a satirical look at modern society in America and the UK and the harsh realities of living in a war zone. Her use of curtains adds a reality into the images as we close our curtains to shut out the outside world.

Meanwhile I find myself perplexed by Hannah Höch’s work. Her collages seem amateurish, however technically the images are well sought and placed. It takes me to read about her background to understand the meaning of her work. At face value it is difficult to discern why she picked these particular images, and I can only assume that at the time she made them these images would have been well recognised. It is well placed within the Dada movement, of chaos and satire, and you can see how surrealism developed as an offshoot of dadaism.

This exercise reminds me of the recent ghosts of war images used to remind people of the atrocities that are being forgotten. The collages of every day scenes imbedded with war time photography is a stark reminder that our landscape hides the evidence of our past.

Seth Taras

The collection of images below are from an instagram artist called urugallen.

I find these images as startling as the ghosts of war images due the artists attention to detail in the images he selects. They have similar storylines as Martha Rosler’s work, however the clean lines between images seems to add the immediacy of Kennard’s work.

People holding Red Leave posters being force fed right wing propaganda through foie gras feeding tubes
© Fois Gras by Kekezza Reece

This is my montage based on my belief that no decisions are made in isolation. We all make decisions based on our assumptions and perceptions. We are surrounded by information all the time, even if we choose not to buy newspapers, watch the news, and view adverts. We are still bombarded as we go about our daily lives. This force feeding of views and opinions, wrapped up as news, has now become so endemic in our mainstream media that it is hard to find the true facts in any article.


Mixed Messages

In this blog I shall be comparing typographical message with the actual words in the message.

Photo of text from a course book.
Creative Arts Today, 2017, Visual Communication
  1. The first message is encouraging visitors to enjoy their stay. This looks, from the typeface, to be a heritage or historic place. It’s reminds me of calligraphy.
  2. This message has an urgency to it, however I find the typeface at odds with the message. It’s an older typeface, and not one usually associated with danger messages. At a glance people might not read it as it looks like an informational notice as opposed to a hazard warning.
  3. This typeface is a typewriter font, one which suggests that although these people are professionals, it’s in funky way as opposed to a serious way. Maybe a collective of authors?
  4. The message states Luxury, however the typeface is slightly arabic/egyptian. From this visual statement I’d expect the supplier of the luxury to be from overseas.
  5. The simplicity of this typeface suggests that these are home made crafts. There has been a growth in the hand made/home made craft sectors and the debate continues as to the difference between hand crafted and home made products. This typeface would suggest the later.

This exercise has reminded me, and my husband, of this meme which circulated on Facebook and Reddit. I think it illustrates the point well.

Identifying visual communication

Exercise 1

  1. Persuasion: “convince, entice or direct the viewer for commercial, political or social ends”
This is a leaflet from the 2015 protest. Used to notify people of an upcoming protest in London. The bold use of the green and red colour symbolise the left of the political compass. Trying to unify the parties against the conservative party. The use of this particular font adds a home made feel to the leaflet.
A company who focused their marketing on youtube advertisements. This company fuses information and entertainment to convince people to use their blenders. It’s a clever blend (pun intended) of persuasive, information, and authorial content.

Information: “delivering information or content”

In this image we can see assembly instructions. These have now come in a pictogram format for some time, to save publishing instructions in multiple languages.
Here is a classic example of information based visual communication. It is impossible to go into a doctor’s surgery in England without seeing this poster. Public Health England using easy to digest bullet points to stop people asking for antibiotics.

Here we have the classic disabled accessible sign. Often used on toilet doors. However there has been an increase in hate crimes (Home Office, 2018) towards disabled people and even as a wheelchair user I have been subjected to it.

This was designed by Grace in Scotland to include people with invisible disabilities.

Identity Design: “creating an emotive response or association with a brand identity, logo or other visual identity”

Here is a well recognised logo of Burger King. These brands have come to stand for a consistency across the globe. You know if you walk into a Burger King, or a MacDonalds, anywhere in the world the products are going to be almost identical.

I wonder what the discussion would have involved at the design company, did the company go with the executives wishes or was there room for freedom of design. A lot of these idents we recognise were established at a time before brand identity and continuity of message.

Here we have the Toblerone logo. This is a logo representing the Matterhorn in Switzerland. Did you know there was a bear on the mountain? Not only was one of the founders called Theodor, but it was also started in the city of Bern, whose city logo is a bear.

Here we see a video of the 2018 Coca Cola Christmas Truck. Coca Cola has used visual communication to change our entire perception of Christmas. Before this Father Christmas was either a saint, or an elf. Neither of which were dressed in bright red with a fluffy white beard (Coca Cola Journey, 2018).
The truck wasn’t added until 1995, and it was originally an advert made by Industrial Light and Magic (Staff, 2018).

Authorial Content: “aims to entertain, satirise or educate”

This is a comic by Sophie Labelle, she is also known as Assigned Male across social media. She is a trans woman educating society, whilst supporting the LGBT+ community. I think she is an excellent example of authorial content. These are topics that have become very controversial as the mainstream media has started to cover them.

This is a fan fiction animation from the My Little Pony Universe. I think it highlights how a fan fiction can become a cult classic in it’s own right.

Interactive Design:  “offer users the opportunity to get visual feedback, contribute content or to feel a part of something”

This is a range of websites designed to give information, but in an interactive way. The websites above are My Little Pony, Taylor Swift and Tool. Another interactive design would be within the gaming industry. These encompass everything from apps on your smartphone through to massively multiplayer online games.

Alternative messages:  subcultural and grassroots tool for protest, creating identities or alternative ways of communication. 

The main example I could think of for this is the #metoo campaign. The conversation started with a hashtag, this is a way to link conversations together on social media, and has taken on a visual communication in its own right. It is now used on t-shirts and posters at rallies.
Following on from this you have the Pussyhat project, and although many believe this is trans exclusive feminism, it has been a vehicle to add a cohesiveness to rallies and protests.
Finally there is Project Semicolon, taking an innocuous punctuation mark and turning it into an entire visual campaign to raise awareness on suicide and mental health. The strap line “my story isn’t over yet” is a clever use of the meaning behind the semi colon. The sentence could have ended, but it didn’t.
In this age of digital communication messages have become global, social media has exploded ways for grassroots protestors and cultural movements to find allies around the entire globe.

The Road, exercise two.

So I made notes in OneNote. Hope you can read my crappy writing. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

He pushed the cart and both he and the boy carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things in case they had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that he used to watch the road behind them. He shifted the pack higher on his shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley the still grey serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? He said. The boy nodded. They set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other’s world entire.


The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Exercise one.

I had to start with researching other narrative styles.

First Person = I

Second Person = You (DnD/adventure games)

Limited Third Person = He/She/They, but limited view of just that character.

Omniscient Author = All seeing overlord

Unreliable Narrator = suspect assumptions

Observer Narrator = witness, not a character.

Changing the Narrator.

I pushed the cart and both the boy and I carry knapsacks. In the knapsacks are essential things in case we have to abandon the cart…..

By changing to the first person the story becomes present tense. I tried to write in the past tense but the urgency of the story became lost.

I tried to write second person, but my brain became overloaded and fizzed.

You push the cart, and both you and the boy carry knapsacks. In the knapsacks are essential things in case you have to abandon the cart…..

Again the tense has switched to the present tense. This time the reader feels directed, like a puppet.

Changing the narrator.

I reread the snippet and found that there’s a loss of control if the third person narrative is from the boy’s point of view. In the slice of story the man is clearly in ‘control’ of their actions with the boy following.

As for the choice of omniscient narrator, I find a detachment from the story, voyeuristic in its approach to the characters. Without reading the rest of the story I find it hard to deduce why. There are nudges towards some impending threat, so I presume it’s so the reader can remain outside of the story?

Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas

Close Reading

I found this particularly difficult as I had atrocious brain fog this year. A lot of distractions with my care agency handing my contract back to social services.

My first discernible thought is that the poem shows movement through time with seasonal references throughout.

“…happy as the grass was green”

A symbolic gesture towards spring, whereas later in the poem it nods towards the end of summer.

“…………………….., the hay

Fields high as a house,”

Ending with childless land and lamb white days, Thomas also reflects on the changing light through the seasons, from golden spring glow to white winter’s glare.

The imagery is vivid in this poem and it certainly brings images of farms and childhood. Of laughter and freedom. Lack of responsibility and growing. Using crops to symbolise the growing and maturing of a child into adulthood. The use of alliteration and consonance as poetic devices are apparent, even if Thomas’ lines are spread over many.

As to a rhythm there is one, its took me ages to find it.

My syllable counting of the poem.

Took me a whole evening to count the syllables in this poem to find a rhythm.

There’s a choppiness to the rhythm which I find reminds me of being easily distracted as a child. The meandering between activities, with school interjected between fun.

He also uses personification to add human qualities to the changing sun and seasons. I think this adds to the metaphors and enhances the symbolism of growth, time and life.

My scribblings on FernHill

I get to a point where I’ve read it so many times with brain fog that it becomes a jumble of words.

The last two lines confuse me. They seem to be referring to some constraint, and I can only allude to meaning, maybe the responsibilities which comes with adulthood, and with age, mortality.

“Time held me green and dying,

Though I sang in my chains like the sea”

Ways of Looking by Ossian Ward.

One of those books which I’d have missed if my tutor hadn’t recommended it. It breaks down viewing artwork into a formula which I can’t wait to try out.

  • Time: 5 breath rule. Just look at it whilst you breath.
  • Association: Do I relate to this piece of art? What do I feel?
  • Background: What’s the artist’s story? What’s their meaning behind this piece?
  • Understand? Has this helped you see the art from the artist’s point of view?
  • Look Again: Has your perception or opinion changed with this information?
  • Assessment: What do you think of the art now?

Apparently this is different to when Ossian Ward is critiquing a piece, when he uses Quality, Consistency, Endeavour, Originality & Bravery.

When I’ve read some more, I’ll come back and expand this post.