Wednesday, 28 October 2015

OUGD501 - Study Task 03 - Establishing a Research Question


Suggested Research Question:
This can be a topic or theme, but please try to be as precise as possible.
Which Of The Module Resources Does This Question Relate To?
My essay will investigate the broad theme of simulaca in contemporary visual culture. I am intrigued by theories surrounding hyper-realities and how postmodernist techniques and principles are still having an impact on trends and preferences in today's visual culture. I want to examine the extent to which pastiche and parody have created a simulacra, whether or not it was avoidable and what the future may hold in terms of defining aesthetics and movements. I am also interested in looking into analogue production methods and their relevance in contemporary creative industries, I may look into combining these two areas of research together. 

Points of personal interest include:
  • ·         Is print dead? Is printed graphic design still relevant to the digital age? Is analogue just a cool fad, a passing trend or something more?
  • ·         Visual trends with graphic design and the rebirth of printed design– why is when a piece of work is described as being trendy or on trend, its considered ‘bad’ or unoriginal? Is the rebirth of ‘Print’ just another fad, will it disappear? Why has there been resurgence in printed media in recent times? What is the driving force behind it?
  • ·         Technology’s influence and impact of graphic design practice. How has the spread and accessibility of technology impact on individual graphic designers? Methods such as screen printing, letterpress and traditional typesetting, DIY publishing, grunge aesthetic, self published zines etc
  • ·         Technology’s impact on typography and authorship of design work
  • ·         Postmodernists influence of typography and analogue design techniques
  • ·         Is print still relevant in the digital age?
  • ·         How did traditional production methods empower a generation? The politics of print...DIY/Self publishing
  • ·         Print is being reborn, but styles from the 80’s and 90s are replaying. This is blatant pastiche, but why is the past so desirable right now? Analogue techniques are being revisited but so are aesthetics and trends from the past
  • ·         What point did pastiche become unavoidable? At what point was everything done? Jameson The image as a commodity
Which Academic Sources Are Available On The Topic?
Include a Harvard Referenced bibliography of at least 5 sources.
  • ·         McLuhan. M (Originally published 1967) Penguin Classics, The Medium is the Message: An Inventory of Effects
  • ·        Levinson.P (2001) Routledge; New Ed edition, Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium
  • ·        Hoesterey. I (2001) Penn State University Press, Pastiche: Cultural Memory in Art, Film, Literature 
  • ·        Greiman. A (1990) Watson-Guptill Publishing, Hybrid Imagery: The Fusion of Technology and Graphic Design
  • ·        Pittman. R.K, McDonald. D, Baird. R.N (1993) Harcourt College Publishing, Graphics of Communication: Methods, Media & Technology
  • ·        Duncombe. S (2008) Microcosm Publishing; Second Edition, Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture
  • ·        Klanten. R (2011) Die Gestalten Verlag, Behind the Zines: Self Publishing Culture
  • ·        Nealon. J.T (2012) Stanford University Press, Post-Postmodernism: Or, the Cultural Logic of Just-in-Time Capitalism

How Could The Research Question Be Investigated Through Practice?
I would research through actually experimenting with and using the traditional/analogue methods. This is something I am interested in for a number of reasons. By trying my hand at them, I will be able to understand the processes in a much more personal and realised way. I will research the analogue methods in greater detail when I begin my research for the essay, this will then allow me to get a better idea of what sort of practical work I want to actually produce for this module. The research both primary and secondary will directly inform my practical work.  

What Graphic Design would you make in response to this, and why?
I would create a number of pieces of work that examine and implement analogue production methods ranging from screen printing, mono-printing, embossing, foiling, collaging, letterpress and so on. The practical work could take any form, but my strengths lie in poster and editorial design so I think that would be the rough route I see myself taking.

Monday, 26 October 2015

OUGD501 - Study Task 02 - Defining Pastiche and Parody

In today's session, we were introduced to two academic essays both tackling the wide topic of post-modernism in the visual arts. The first text we read was entitled 'The Politics of Postmodernism: Parody & History' by Linda Hutcheon, originally published in 1989. The second; 'Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism' by Fredric Jameson, written in 1991. 

We were given an hour to read the texts thoroughly and consider closely the themes of pastiche and parody and how this can be applied to visual communication, in particular Graphic Design. 

What is parody/pastiche according to each author?
Hutcheon – On the surface, postmodernisms main interest might seem to be in the processes of its own production and reception, as well as in its own parodic relation to the art of the past. Hutcheon wants to argue that it is precisely parody, that seemingly introverted formalism, that paradoxically brings about a direct confrontation with the problem of the relation of the aesthetic to a world of significant external to itself, to a discursive world of socially defined meaning systems (past and present) in other words, to ideology and history.

Postmodernism is fundamentally contradictory enterprise: its art forms and theories use and abuse, install and then subvert convention in parodic ways, self consciously pointing both to their own inherent paradoxes and provisionality and, of course, to their critical or ironic re-reading of the art of the past. Parody is negative; appropriation of historical styles renders them dead and irrelevant.

Jameson – Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language. Pastiche is thus blank parody, a statue with blind eyeballs: it is to parody what the other interesting and historically original modern thing, the practice of a kind of blank irony, is to what Wayne Booth calls the ‘stable ironies’ of the eighteenth century. Pastiche needs to be sharply distinguished from parody. Parody has anterior motives.

How does parody/pastiche relate to postmodernism?
‘Postmodernism signals its contradictory dependence upon and independence from the modernism that both historically preceded it and literally made it possible’

How does Jameson’s tone of voice differ to Hutcheon’s?
Jameson’s style of writing is a lot heavier and jumps topic a lot faster than Hutcheon’s. ‘Speech in a dead language’ indicates a very negative attitude towards the issues being discussed.  Jameson is a Marxist and is therefore overtly critical and negative in relation to the themes discussed.

Hutcheon is somewhat more positive about the themes but has a negative view towards the Marxist opinions discussed in Jameson’s essay. She discusses things in relation to the arts (any cultural output) but chooses to home in on architecture in her essay.

How might these ideas relate to graphic design/visual communication?
Postmodern graphic design is marked by the replaying of visual styles and the recycling of ideologies. Some of the earliest work that can be described as postmodern graphic design actually paid homage to the strict, lifeless rules of modernist graphic design, this is a classic example of pastiche rather than parody. 

Jameson's concept of "pastiche" is usefully contrasted to Linda Hutcheon's understanding of postmodern parody. Whereas Hutcheon sees much to value in postmodern literature's stance of parodic self-reflexivity, seeing an implicit political critique and historical awareness in such parodic works, Jameson characterizes postmodern parody as "blank parody" without any political bite. According to Jameson, parody has, in the postmodern age, been replaced by pastiche. "Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language. But it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without any of parody's ulterior motives, amputated of the satiric impulse, devoid of laughter"

Defining pastiche:

The dictionary definition of pastiche is very simplistic: 'A pastiche is an artistic work in a style that imitates that of another work, artist, or period' or put even more simply; 'to imitate the style of (an artist or work)'

After reading a segment of Jameson's essay, I would say that he would define it quite differently. His Marxist principles have resulted in him having quite a negative view on pastiche. This is how I imagine he would define pastiche:

'The process of imitating or copying a unique visual style within the realms of visual culture' - "Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique, idiosyncratic style, the wearing of a linguistic mask, speech in a dead language. But it is a neutral practice of such mimicry, without any of parody's ulterior motives, amputated of the satiric impulse, devoid of laughter" Jameson, F. 1991, Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Verso Books

Hutcheon would define it very differently in my opinion.

'A certain manifestation of parody within the context of the arts. Pastiche is often viewed as being a more neutral, blank form of parody'

 She opposes Jameson's opinion openly in her essay writing. Hutcheon disapproves Jameson's idea of pastiche which is equivalent to 'empty parody', to quote: 'Jameson argues that in postmodernism "parody finds itself without a vocation,"21 replaced by pastiche, which he (bound by a definition of parody as ridiculing imitation) sees as more neutral or blank parody. But the looking to both the aesthetic and historical past in postmodernist architecture is anything but what Jameson describes as pastiche, that is, "the random cannibalization ofall the styles of the past, the play of random stylistic allusion." There is absolutely nothing random or "without principle" in the parodic recall and re-examination of the past by architects like Charles Moore or Ricardo Bofill. To include irony and play is never necessarily to exclude seriousness and purpose in postmodernist art. To misunderstand this is to misunderstand the nature of much contemporary aesthetic production - even if it does make for neater theorizing'

Some nice examples of contemporary graphic design that features pastiche in some way or another:

Monday, 19 October 2015

OUGD501 - Study Task 01 - Study Task - Authorship & Graphic Design

‘The Death of Author’ by Roland Barthes was written at a very poignant time in the history of the arts. His seminal essay ‘Image Music Text’ is often considered a metaphor used to describe the dramatic social, political and cultural alterations that were taking place across Western civilisation in the late 1960’s, notably in Paris. Protests were breaking out all over Europe, mainly led by students and industrial workers. There was a strong sense of revolution in the air. People’s fundamental way of thinking about culture and society was changing. Disillusionment with knowledge hierarchy, class systems and the educational structure of the time was the driving force behind the so called revolution. To quote Barthes: “The birth of the reader is the death or author” This quote is significant as it throws light on the issue of hierarchy within the educational system. This hierarchy system in education involves institutionalized learning and teaching, and ultimately promotes the concept that knowledge grants you superiority over someone who is less advantaged. The system leaves people feeling inferior or inadequate of being on the same intellectual level as say someone with a PHD. The issue of hierarchy is still relevant today, not only in the educational system but in mainstream media. We are taught from a young age to ‘listen’ to those who are of ‘higher statuses, and this unfortunately, has created a divided society, with some dominant and some marginalised as submissive. Barthes fundamentally believes the author should be irrelevant when creating your own interpretation of ‘text’. Instead, he believes we should look to interpret our own meaning derived from personal experiences, knowledge and cultural references. In theory this would create a more free thinking society where we are less reliant on the dominant, hierarchical figures.

Barthes’s philosophy relates massively to the context of contemporary graphic design. Throughout the 80s, 90s, and the early part of 21st century, postmodernisms influence on graphic design led to the ‘reader’ becoming much more independent and free in their thinking. Modernisms ultimate vision was to create a utopian society constructed through a uniform aesthetic. Postmodernism abolished those constraints. Born out disillusionment, the new wave postmodernist designer began to realise the potential of their typography and image composition's to communicate human emotion and expression. Changes in technology gave the postmodernist designer/thinker more power than ever. Cheaper, more accessible pieces of technology such as the desktop computer changed the author/reader relationship forever. It gave the most unlikely figures the power to demolish the hierarchal system. Take David Carson for example. This now world famous designer came from a humble background. Carson was a surfer for many years before turning his hand to visual communication. His signature grunge style which is closely associated with postmodernism uses dirty type and unconventional photographic processes. His work evokes emotion, ultimately allowing the ‘reader’ of the ‘text’ to decide for themselves how to interpret the visual codes. He significantly influenced a generation to embrace typography as an expressive medium. He changed the public face of graphic design forever. A quote from the Barthes essay relates perfectly this. ‘A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal: the reader is without history” (Barthes, 1977). When this essay was written, this quote would have been more applicable; however, Carson’s unique style has proved that a ‘text’s’ destination certainly has the potential to be highly personal.

“The problem for anyone who yearns to retain older conceptions of authorship or the author function lies in the fact that radical changes in textuality produce radical changes in the author figure derived from that textuality. Lack of textual autonomy, like lack of textual centeredness, immediately reverberates through conceptions of authorship as well. Similarly, the unboundedness of the new textuality disperses the author as well” Landow, G.P. (1992) 'Reconfiguring the Author' in Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins University Press. 

To quote Barthes: and the modern scriptor “born simultaneously with the text, is not way equipped with being preceding or exceeding the writing”. We are living in the information age. People are born into a world now where ‘text’ is ridiculously easy to access. Take webs fonts for example, people like to think they have a grasp on typography because they can select trendy fonts and utilise them well. But for many years before digital computers, having an extensive knowledge of typography wasn’t something that everyone had, in fact it was an exquisite art form and profession, a rare talent to have. Typography has been massively impacted by technology and hand rendered type used to be owned by the ‘author’ however digital font packages have arguably destroyed the relationship between author and audience. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

OUGD501 - Study Task 01 - Design & Authorship - Analysis of Text

In today’s COP seminar we were introduced to a seminal text written by the French philosopher Roland Barthes in 1968 entitled ‘The Death of the Author’. In the session, we read through the text with Richard to get a good grasp on the content and a general overview of the issues being discussed. At first, I was a bit overwhelmed by the topics being debated in the text and the formal lexis being used, but after Richard had clarified a few points I was able to get quite a good basic level of understanding of the content. Here are a few interesting things that I took away from reading the article in depth:

·         Barthes is fundamentally a post-structuralist philosopher, which means he rejects ideas laid down by structuralist thinkers. Post-structuralism is defined by its coming after structuralism, an intellectual movement developed in Europe from the early to mid-20th century. It argued that human culture may be understood by means of a structure—modelled on language (i.e., structural linguistics)—that differs from concrete reality and from abstract ideas—a "third order" that mediates between the two. Post-structuralist authors all present different critiques of structuralism, but common themes include the rejection of the self-sufficiency of the structures that structuralism posits and an interrogation of the binary oppositions that constitute those structures.
·         The text was written during a significant point in Western culture. There were lots of revolutions attempting to take off in the late 60’s, especially in France. Students and workers attempted to stand up to the ‘higher powers’. The uprising was unsuccessful, but it paved the way for the sexual revolution in America. The ‘Death of the Author’ is a significant text to come out of this period.

·         Auteur theory - This quite abstract theory aims to explain the relationship between the author/creator of a piece of cultural text and the audience. It suggests that if you can understand the signature style and personal opinions of the director/author/creator then you will be able to understand the central meaning of the specific work. A key example would be Van Gogh's painterly style, which is often interpreted as a reflection of his inner turmoil, angst and utter madness that he experiences within himself and towards the world he saw around him.

We were then asked to analyse the text in greater depth in small groups. My group was allocated the word ‘technology’. Our task was to find key quotations from within the text and analyse them in depth. We also had to find a way of relating the key quotes back to the context of graphic design culture and history. The first significant quote we picked up on is as follows: “The removal of the Author (one could talk here with Brecht of a veritable ‘distancing’, the Author diminishing like a figurine at the far end of the literary stage) is not merely an historical fact or an act of writing; it utterly transforms the modern text (or – which is the same thing – the text is henceforth made and read in such a way that at all its levels the author is absent. The temporality is different.

Summary of technology:

When this text was written in the 1960s, mass media was only just coming into its own. Information in text was still pretty difficult to attain if you didn’t have the means to access it. For example, if you didn’t live near a library or have a book collection of your own, finding information in books was not exactly a straight forward task. Back then you actively had to go out and seek the information. Newspapers and magazines were being printed on larger scales, but even so, if you didn’t have much money or came from a disadvantaged background it was challenging to access the information. Nowadays, information is literally everywhere and is pretty much accessible by everyone. The internet has facilitated this. We are living in the information age, and the quote from Barthes stating ‘the removal of the author is not merely an historical fact or an act of writing; it utterly transforms the modern text’ couldn’t be more relevant or prominent to the current age. Text, image and music found on the internet is always difficult to fully appreciate because you are never 100% sure on who the author truly is. Online journalism for example, should always be viewed in a subjective stance, because as a reader, you have no relationship with the author. The cyber world has warped the concept of an author to a certain extent. The author/reader relationship has fundamentally changed. Take Wikipedia for example. Articles found on this site are more often than not edited by multiple authors, resulting in a body of text that contains mismatching facts and statistics and so on. It is becoming more and more difficult for the ‘reader/consumer’ of the information to have a relationship with the ‘author’

Barthes, R (1968) Image, Music, Text/The Death of the Author, London, Fontana Press, Pages 142-148

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

OUGD501 - Context of Practice 2

Extending on from Context of Practice 1, this module provides an introduction to the various theoretical, philosophical, institutional and critical discourses that surround art, design and the media. Through seminars, lectures and tutorials, students will be introduced to a range of theoretical and philosophical approaches to both their own subject discipline and wider society in general. As well as developing knowledge and academic skills, the assignments within the portfolio also prepare students for the task of producing an extended BA (Hons.) dissertation at Level 6.  It should be understood that work at this level is not the regurgitation of knowledge, but a critical response, citing detailed evidence in defence of detailed arguments.

This brief will give you the opportunity to build-on and apply your contextual knowledge and skills in critical writing; and using practice as a method of research. You will use a variety of theoretical and practical research methods to explore a specific graphic discipline (listed below) through the investigation and resolution of a question or issue of your choosing. Support from tutors will be given through tutorials, crits, seminars and workshops.
There are three deliverable elements to this brief; all of which will demonstrate a synthesized ability to research, critique and examine an issue practically and theoretically.

Develop an online portfolio of critical responses to lectures, seminars, set tasks and independent research activities. Use you Design Context Blog to document and evidence your engagement with, and understanding of contextual, theoretical and critical concepts and ideas that you have been introduced to during the course of the academic year. Your Blog should include; lecture notes, records of activities undertaken in seminars, a collection of short writing tasks completed in response to set tasks and activities. You should also provide notes and visual records of any self-initiated trips, studio visits, galleries and research activities relevant to the development of critical understanding of the context of Graphic Design practice. Your Blog will also become a space to evidence your developing understanding of the connections and relationships between the theoretical and practical contexts of Graphic Design.

Establish a question or issue and write a 3000 word essay AND produce a body of explorative practical work relating to a specified aspect of Graphic Design. Your essay and accompanying practical work should demonstrate a developed understanding of the nature of academic writing and the importance of critical and analytical approaches to your chosen theme.

Your essay should aim to include:
·         The selection of subject matter appropriate to your own interests that will allow you to critically analyse relevant source material.
·         A logical structure that has an introduction, a developed argument that is supported by appropriate references to at least four different academic sources and a conclusion.
·         A bibliography of at least 10 sources presented using the Harvard referencing system & the use of Harvard conventions within the main text of the essay when paraphrasing or quoting from other sources.
Your written and practical work will both approach the same overarching theme and give you the opportunity to consider the interrelated nature of theory and practice.
With support from your tutors you will establish a question or issue which will become the basis for your 3000 word essay and your practical investigation.