As part of our RIPU module, we are required to take part in a collaborative project. 

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My team consisted of myself, Emmaalouise, and Sam, as the three of us had developed similar and overlapping interests during the last few weeks, so it made sense that we would come together as a group. Narrowing down the task by concentrating on the brief was a key starting point to get us working and to figure out our strengths and weaknesses.

The brief, despite not being mentioned in any lectures or seminars, was outlined on the VLE as followed:

Develop a short independent collaborative project, based on the group’s interests and skills. The project, including any outcome(s), should be completed withing a 2-day period. We are looking for innovation and inventiveness, so your outcome might feel more like a proposal or prototype rather than a polished artefact.

You must interpret and respond to the task according to your own criteria. There is no correct way to approach this; only that agreed by your team. The is no directive for the format for your evidence, so you must choose the most appropriate methods to communicate your project.

Brainstorming

When initially discussing the topic for the research project, we realised the subject would need to have enough scope to produce further ideas and development-led practice. Our end product apparently needs to be in the form of a poster and a visual outcome / proposal for a project.

Our first step was to brainstorm our individual ideas and interests within a group framework. The list consisted of:

  • Audience perceptions
  • Interactive media
  • Questioning ‘the norm’
  • Information transfer
  • Understanding the impact of our work on the audience
  • Perceived authority – what gives something authenticity
  • What is ‘real’ / how is ‘reality’ defined or experienced
  • New media
  • Truth, in the context of film v documentary
  • Intent / agenda
  • Film / Photography
  • Visual aesthetics
  • Textures / layering
  • Vivid or eye-catching work
  • People, society, cultural reactions

From flying ideas and interests around quite freely without any restraints (other than trying to base our ideas towards the direction of the collaborative process) we quickly realised we were quite against the idea of conforming to a simple advert/poster that would inevitably work as a ‘list’. We could definitely feel our creative sides striving to achieve something worthwhile, which we felt showed our passion for the work. Overall, the idea of questioning the norms was a recurring theme with whatever avenue for research we would choose. 

Our collaborative process for this project is to use the informative brief and utilise our personal practises to turn the information on its head and approach it from more of a creative mindset. Our common language would be ‘Questioning the norms’, so we started to link this to the project brief in order to make the next step toward developing our ideas, and we asked ourselves a number of questions, continuing to brainstorm and bounce ideas around in a discussion.

  • How can we utilise these theme within the given brief?
  • How can we generate our creative approach of ‘questioning the norm’ within the brief?
  • Ideas of ‘contrast’, visual ‘abstraction’.
  • Installation themes, interactive themes.
  • How would people’s perceptions change if the image presented to them changed? 
  • Contrasting words alongside/over the top of images.
  • Play with themes of contrast to create an contrasting reactions:
    • An image of a calm beach, with opposing words boldly printed, (for example ‘HELL ON EARTH’)
    • What themes/what interactions/discussions does this provoke?
  • Can we utilise the concept of the viewer’s ‘conclusion’ as the main basis to our work?
  • Can we focus on the reaction we intend, other than the work itself?
  • By presenting conflicting image and text – can we confuse the viewer – or potentially design our own outcome?
  • Can we experiment with the idea of altering people’s reaction with a piece of visual art? Where we ‘play with’ the idea of ethics, and interaction? This THING they are questioning – is whether we have reached the brief or not – can we somehow utilise this anti-brief idea into an actual outcome?

From initially moving ahead at quite a fast pace whilst brainstorming, the discussion did begin to suggest conflicts when focusing on the simplicity of the task. Bigger and better ideas began to surface – and we started to question whether we were losing focus of the task in question. We kept returning to the brief, and outlined the initial aims of the project to keep us on course. We tried to remind ourselves that the main theme/idea is to present something/an artefact that we as the producers can manipulate to create a desired effect – and then analyse the effects for our brief. But similarly, the key request was to produce an educational stlye poster about our project, not the final project itself. We were in danger of focusing too much on creating a series of posters and audience interactive pieces, rather than what the brief asked for.

Are things as they seem? Contrasting themes might include:

  • HAPPY / SAD
  • CALM / ANGER
  • HEAVEN / HELL
  • BLACK&WHITE / COLOUR


h-is-for-houseEmmaalouise referenced Peter Greenaway’s experimental short film H IS FOR HOUSE (1973) in reference to informative themes being presented in more of a unique way. Where the idea of image is particularly manipulated alongside the idea of words as a presence.

IMDB SynopsisExperimental short film set in the English countryside, with strange narration which has a particular focus on objects beginning with the letter ‘H’.

I also mentioned the Kuleshov Effect, and how we might utilise the brain’s natural instinct to assign meaning to an image which might not appear to have any at first glance. If we could somehow present two different images to two different people but convince them that they were looking at the same image, would their discussions begin to conform to a social and informational compromise, or would debate and disagreement ensue? Would they trust that we, as the artists, held a certain authority over the image, and that if we told them they were looking at the same image, would they believe us or their own eyes? Or would they, as viewers, take ownership of the image and its meaning? Does it even matter?

Sam believed that we could create a similar experiment by utilising QR codes to direct each individual to their own version of the poster which would be displayed on their mobile device.

Individual skills of the group

Sam’s knowledge lay in a technical field where he uses his knowledge of graphics and digital based communications to reach out toward the public and provoke ideas for further analysis. Emmaalouise’s skills come from a love of visual imagery – capturing both stills and moving images, which are key to the work she wants to develop. Colour, memory, and texture are key themes in her work. My interests currently stem from the idea of working with technologies to inform and educate viewers/audiences, with my main focus being informative documentaries.

Emmaalouise collated some images from her own personal photo diary that initially suggest calm, visual poetry – ones that could be used to test connections and reactions to similar or contradictory words. She chose images with bold colour palettes and calm themes as a starting point for ideas development. The key idea is the interplay between language and imagery and how this might be used to gain attention and provoke different reactions in people depending on the combination of text/image that they are presented with.

What do both images say? How do they make you feel? What emotion do they give? How does how we show/say things affect the reaction we are generating?

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Following on from our earlier group conversation, I suggested that we present the ‘main poster’ as a simple, almost blank canvas and put a large QR code in the middle to draw viewers in (left). Sam advised that it would then be relatively simple to take viewers who scan the code to one of two slightly different secondary posters, where our main research would lay. He produced a web based prototype which randomly changes (follow the link and refresh the page a few times).

After some more discussion, we went back to the brief of producing an informational poster and realised that we were perhaps focusing too much on creating our project, rather than the poster for the project (which was the real aim, at least according to the VLE). Had we been given more time with our lecturers, or it had been explained better on the VLE, or someone would have mentioned it at all in any of the classes – this might have been clearer. As it stood, we were left to make our own decision about what we wanted to produce, so we decided to compromise and create a fairly basic, yet informative poster, which also included the working QR code.

Sam used his excellent design skills to create our final poster, which included our proposed title, brief, the QR code, and a list of references:

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Words by Emmaalouise Smith and Kellen Playford

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