“This module is based on the ideas of media theorist Marshall McLuhan and his claim that, ‘the medium is the message’ (McLuhan 1964) – in particular considering the relevance of this statement in 21st century digital contexts. McLuhan has been hugely influential for the Media Art scene internationally, as well as informing media theorists such as Bolter and Grusin (1999), Manovich (2001) and Jenkins (2006) whose ideas will also be explored on the module. The structure of the module is based around a series of practical exercises, seminars and talks that foreground the influence of the medium on content, identity and culture more widely.”
Assessment Task Brief
“The assessment is made up of 2 parts, each constituting 50% of the mark. The first part requires that you make an artistic response to one of the following concepts from McLuhan’s ‘Understanding Media’:
• Media as Extensions of Man
• Media affecting sense ratios
• Hot / Cold Media
• The Global Village
• Art as anti-environment
Responding to one of these concepts might mean illustrating it, but it also means to critique, question or comment upon it. Do you agree or disagree with McLuhan? Was he right then, but now the theory needs to be updated? What examples are there of these concepts? How do contemporary examples nuance our understanding of his theories?
The project can be still image or animated, photographic or typographic and it is envisaged that you will use the techniques explored within the module to make the work. To do this, you will need to understand the text thoroughly, and have considered how it relates to contemporary media, as well as the other lectures, set texts and tasks on the module. This project will be carried out individually and constitutes 50% of the module mark.
The other 50% is based on a 5-minute presentation in which you contextualise and critique this practical project.”
I’ve decided to use my presentation script as the foundation of this blog. The reason is simple, to keep my communication consistent. Plus, this way should help to keep the word count down, hopefully making this a more enjoyable read, rather then me waffling on endlessly!
With that said…
I will be providing a response to Marshall Mcluhan’s statement and theory,
“Art as anti-environment”
I will do this by first given a brief expiation of the theory, both in the words of McLuhan, and in my own personal understanding.
I will follow this up by presenting my piece. In which I hope to break down my through and creation process.
”It is useful to notice all of the arts… as acting in the role of anti-environment.”
Why is it useful? and why does McLuhan believe that art is an anti-environment?
Shortly before this quote, Mcluhan says this;
“the ground rules, the pervasive structure, the overall pattern eludes perception except in so far as there is anti-environment or a counter-situation constructed to provide a means of direct attention.”
So why is it useful to note that art acts is an anti-environment?
Behind every piece of art is an artist. Each with their own thoughts, bias or agenda. Art has a profound effect on society and culture, therefore, it is important to understand that every piece of art, overtly or subtly carries a message.
Art is a way of expressing ourselves or challenging the status quo. Art should always provoke emotion or through. Whether thats through escapism or realism, art is used to shape our environment, but by first being anti-environment.
By going against the gain, art attracts attention, and therefor brings a message into the consciousness, where is can be developed and sometime manifest in our environment.
“To create an anti-environment for… electric technology would seem to require a technological extension of consciousness itself.”
To my understanding, when McLuhan wrote this essay, he didn’t believe that TV and other electrical media’s where anti-environment. However, I’d like to find out if and when his opinion changed.
Because few decades after he wrote this essay the internet was born. With that, I believe arrived the technological extension of consciousness he speaks about.
Never before have we had the opportunity to experience the world like we have in the internet age. With the smartphone we can easily begin to understand and experience – in real time – cultures distant from our own without having to travel an anywhere.
However, easy of access to a collective consciousness like the internet comes with its perils. Unless we understand that all man made products are innately corrupt, we will ultimately fall prey to those who wish to distort this anti-environment for their own gains.
“In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”
My Artistic Response
I’ve been thinking a lot about perception and ways to limit how an audience view the artwork.
I began with a thought of using layers to conceal parts of the work.
As you can see from the crude sketches, my ideas changed from being 1 to a number of images.
This is an image that I saw many years ago, it resurfaces from time to time, but the message stuck with me the moment I saw it, and I believe in someway it helped shape this work.
I check with the Media Hub for their preferred printing preferences, plus the time and cost involved with the prints.
Knowing that I only had a limited amount of time and only one real chance to print, I carried out a series of tests before starting on my artwork.
After speaking with Tim and developing the idea further, I could see that 1 strong image would speak louder than a series of images.
With the tests proving that the piece worked, I went ahead and started on the design and creation.
I have used ProCreate and Adobe Photoshop to create the front layer, however – for reasons that will soon become clear – I decided that the back image should remain unedited in any way other than resizing.
I’ve used the 2011 shooting of Mark Duggan as the subject to illustrator my response. This piece isn’t about the legality of the case, but rather the way in which a narrative was portrayed.
Nevertheless, I do think that the inquest came to the wrong conclusion. I have tried not to allow my personal opinion on the case to shape my artwork, but it may have inspired my in the first place. If you’d like to discuss this further, please get in contact here.
Who was Mark Duggan?
“thug”, “gangster” and even “[the] most violent gangster in Europe”
These were all taken from news stories – online and print – which carried this image of Mark.
Can this image tell us more?
A photo of Mark visiting his daughter grave was cropped, taken from reality (our environment), therefore, creating an anti-environment of sorts. One where some peoples only perception of Mark is what the media tells them.
Con-Text: The Media’s Mark
As this is a physically interactive piece, it has proven difficult to capture and document. I’ve tried to create some moving image examples that might help illustrate what I’ve created.
Nevertheless, if you live in Plymouth of the surrounding areas, this piece, along with work from the rest of the Media Arts first year students, will be on display until mid November. Located on the first floor of the Scott Building, Plymouth University.
Overall I’m pleased how the final piece looks and works, as it strongly resembles what I envisioned in the early stages of development.
During these first 4 weeks, I’ve been working mainly from impulse, while actively seeking constructive feedback from tutors and peers. Throughout creating this piece the concept remained the same, however, the number of images changed. Originally I started with the idea of using one image, just like I have now. However, this soon changed to wanting to use 3 images. Incorporating a monitor or TV screen, and a painting frame. Each with a cut out revealing a ‘bigger picture’. I wanted to use the Dakota Pipeline protests and the police brutality witnessed in Catalonia recently.
I reverted back to one image after speaking with a tutor, Tim Mills. He challenged me on my concept and asked a simple question, “why 3?”. I gave my reply to which he challenged me again, “then why not 5?”.
“Education is not the learning of facts. But training the mind to think”
– Albert Einstein
Critical feedback, or being challenged of work can sometime be painful. After all, who doesn’t feel protective of their ideas?
If Tim hadn’t asked me those questions, my final piece could have looked completely different. With that said, I hope that this exercise had helped me to feel more comfortable seeking feedback, as well as objectively receiving said feedback.
I also learned the important of using every element to support the narrative. Again challenged by Tim, he asked me why I wanted to wrap the edges in my chosen material.
At the time, I had selected tracing paper or cotton. When provoked to think why, I could attribute the cotton element to the racial connotations connected with it. Mark was a young black man who was killed by the police, and was then subjected to racist stereotypes by the media – also doctoring an incredibly sensitive image to portray their narrative. It’s 2017, why do so many people still believe that a young black man can’t be anything but a criminal?
I know that in this case Mark was found guilty, however, the media convicted him while the police were still appealing from witnesses. The media even went so far as to publish false facts which further complicated the case.
And I guess this leads me on nicely to my next point.
I had a personal battle with ethics throughout the entire creation process of this piece.
As an ‘artist’ I want to be able to use my work to highlight things I’m passionate about. While I’ve created this piece to highlight my disgust at the media for repurposing Mark’s image for their own gain, I have to be honest with my own personal gains in myself repurposing the same image.
I hope that this piece will help create thought first and foremost. Nevertheless, this piece has been handed in as part of a university assignment, to which I will be receiving some personal gain in regards to grades. Ethically, is this something I’m okay with? and will this experience change the way I approach subject martial in the future?
To end on a lighter note;
Before sending my artwork to print, it would have been so simple to use the rulers in photoshop to add drill marks. Instead, I had to use a tape measure to ensure that the front and back images married up perfectly. Having one chance to get this right meant that I spent around 30-40 minute extra building the physical piece.