So this week the process has started. I had 9 weeks as of today to build 9 boxes with working lights. I’ve spent the morning planning out exactly what I’m going to do each day (then Amelia came in immediately afterwards and told us about several all day workshops we have).
It shouldn’t be too much of problem, because I’m left a whole week for catching up on anything I’ve missed. And I’ve realised I’ve left a lot of time for paper macheing when I only have two boxes that really need it.
But then again, some things might take ages when I think they might only need a day (I’m looking at you lights and wiring). I don’t think it’ll be a disaster if I don’t get it all done in the time I’ve planned. I’ve only given myself 3 weeks to do 4 boxes. Then I want the next week to be making the next 5 wooden boxes. And then I’ll have 5 weeks to make the last 5 interiors. I’m pretty confident in my time scale at the moment. I’ll figure out the schedule and deadlines for the next five boxes when I’m little less bogged down with these. I think they’ll be fine too though, because I am going to be doing the time consuming things, like the porcelain and the wood at the same time I’m doing the things for the current boxes.
FYI, I’m making boxes 2, 4, 6, and 8 now and 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 later. Chosen to do it this way round, because at least then I’ll have a range of scenes rather than a chunk.
This is the first layer of paper mache on Box 6. I’m doing it in paper mache rather than my usual expanding foam because I think it’ll be easier to cut out sections to fit wires into and under. I’m happy with how it’s looking at the moment, although I think it will look a lot better with a few more layers! Hopefully will do that later this afternoon and tomorrow.
We had a trip yesterday to Bath to see Grayson Perry’s tapestries at the Victoria Art Gallery. They were really very impressive, and actually very funny. Me and Ross discovered they all had a little symbol of an anchor with W above it, hidden within them, which we had a lot of fun finding.
I think this trip happened at just the right time for me. I was really struggling with how I wanted my work to look, and how I wanted to speak, and just by seeing an actual exhibition, it gave me a little more confidence.
I also found a painting in the main gallery that was really relevant
Psyche Crossing the Styx (1925) John Armstrong
This has given me a little confidence boost as well, that there is a little backing up my project!
This was my plan for how I wanted the box to look. I drew a neat image instead of the usual scruffy sketch, so that Nigel from wood work could help me cut the wood, and actually understand what I was talking about!
I also sketched out plans of all the individual pieces I needed, and the dimensions and all bits that are cut for the half lap joints. (Excuse the strand of hair that fell into the frame when I was taking the picture)
And this is the finished box! I couldn’t take any photos while I was making it because the camera on my phone is broken, but I can promise I did everything apart from the cutting! Even the drilling and nailing, I was very proud of myself. It says Ross on the bottom because Ross ordered it the wood on the phone for me, so when it came it had his name on it.
And these are my wonderful cams! One of them is unfortunately too big (because I fucked up the box, and didn’t leave quite enough room in the bottom), but I think the rest of them will be fine. I’ll fix the other one next week I think
I spent a long time thinking about these animals. About how they looked last time, what I wished I had dome differently, what they were supposed to represent, and lastly, how I was going to make them movable. Firstly, they are supposed to represent violence, hunger and lust, and last time I didn’t think they really worked as that. So this time, I tried to make the leopard more flesh toned, and the tail is going to be waving around in a kind of slinky way hopefully. I made the tail more movable by making it out of sections of plasticine on a thread. This seemed to work really well.
Last time, I thought that the lioness should have some scars on her to make her look like she’d been in fights, seeings as she represents violence. I also made her front paw movable so that she could claw at things.
I’ve changed the wolf the most. It no longer has fur on, because I think it makes them all look a bit more uniform. I also made it skinnier, and the jaw able to move, as the mouth is associated with hunger obviously. It seemed like the right thing to move to represent hunger. Let’s hope this works!
When I think about how my work is encountered, I’m unsure about how I imagine it. I’m not sure if, for my degree show I want to just have some gifs playing on a loop. I want it to be a bit more than that. I think that it needs to be more visceral, especially seeing as I choose to make my illustrations 3D and textured for that exact reason.
I had the idea to put my scenes into boxes that people can peer into. I also like the idea of having the top levels of hell/consciousness be high up, so you have to climb a ladder, or go on tiptoes to see into it, and the bottom layer being on the floor so you have to crawl on your tummy to see in. I’m reminded of that bit in As Above so Below where the entrance to hell said “And they shall be made to crawl on their bellies to enter the kingdom of darkness”. I think it’s referencing the part of the Bible where God curses the serpent to crawl on it’s belly.
But how to organise the boxes?
I thought about these lay outs, but I realised if I wanted the boxes to be any bigger than 30cm tall, the whole structure would be in excess of 8 ft tall, which I think might be a bit silly, also a bit dodgy safety wise…
This was my final design before I realised the height issue! I’ve since decided that all the levels are going to be the same size, because of time and logistics, and price of wood. I’m just going to make nine boxes the same size, and think about how to display them later. I think at the moment just shelves at different levels, or plinths around in a circle.
I’m imagining something like the piece of work Scenes for a Future History of Ornament 2015 by Phoebe Cummings. It was in the Fragile? exhibition in The National Museum Cardiff. There were loads of cardboard boxes with clay sculptures inside.
You’ll also notice that I have colours next to each layer of hell/subconscious, and this is because I want to have the colours bleeding into each other so that it is like a cohesive journey.
Last year, when I thought about doing my dissertation I was filled with dread. But I think that dread has carried me through to a successfully written piece of work. I’m so glad that I started writing and researching during the summer. I’m also glad that I decided to take Cath’s Glamour and Grotesque lectures, because it really intrigued me, and influenced what I decided to write about.
The book that she showed us that really got me hooked on feminist readings of horror films was Barbra Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine.
I found it really interesting, and although perhaps a little outdated in some respects, really relevant to how films are changing the way they represent women.
As I talked about in my introduction, I think that now is a great time to talk about how women are shown in films. A couple of great examples are the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, and Mad Max: Fury Road. They both have female leads that aren’t sexualised in anyway or fit any kind of trope. The fact that they are female isn’t even raised as an issue. There isn’t even a hint of side boob. To examine the difference in these films compared to past ones, let’s compare the posters.
This shift in cinema is a great opportunity for us to compare and contrast old with new, and to look back retrospectively at what caused the shift, and why women were represented that way to begin with. I’m really glad that I chose to look at this topic, because although I don’t really plan on actively incorporating feminism into my practice, I am interested in the psychoanalysis part. I’ve always been really into it, the whole Freudian analysis thing, and applying it, and other similar theories to horror films, another of my interests, seemed like a natural progression.
I chose to look specifically at mothers because I thought it was a little less obvious than the typical girl in slasher films. There has already been a lot written about that character trope (see specifically Men, Women, and Chainsaws by Carol Clover). I found the topic of mothers and motherhood really interesting, because it’s not really something I’ve thought a lot about before, but in the context of horror and psychoanalysis, motherhood is an excellent topic in my opinion. I was so close to just looking at the monstrous feminine in my dissertation, and I’m so glad I chose this instead. Although there are quite a few resources that have talked about motherhood in horror, it’s a lot more unexplored and fittingly specific.
I started researching in the summer and reading books like Barbra Creed’s The Monstrous Feminine and Phallic Panic, Carol Clover’s Men Women and Chainsaws, and Sarah Arnold’s Melodrama and Motherhood. I think that these were a good starting point, but my research ultimately moved slightly away from what these authors were discussing. To begin, I was mostly interested in the abject and uncanny, and what made things grotesque, but fairly soon into my research, I found that what I was really interested in discussing was more the psychoanalytic theories surrounding those topics. I kind of wish I’d known that I wanted to go in that direction to begin with, because I think then it would have been a little more comprehensive. I also would have been able to figure out what I was doing for my Subject work sooner. I frittered a lot of time away by starting projects that weren’t going anywhere, because I’d not realised what my dissertation was leading to.
I also wish that I’d not written my fourth chapter (Men as Maternal) separately, because it ended up feeling a little disjointed, and out of place. If I’d originally written it into one of the earlier chapters I think it would have felt more relevant and flowing. I think I also should have done all my research before starting to write. I did a bit, and then started writing, doing more research as I went a long. I did quite enjoy this way of working, because it felt like I was getting it done. But in retrospect, it might have been more sensible to do all of the research first.
In each chapter I found that I was automatically explaining the theories I was looking at first, before going on to the case studies I had chosen. For example in the first chapter I explained some of the ideas that have been written about enclosed and haunted spaces in horror films, the archaic womb, and the Buddhist beliefs about sato 里 (the village) and yama 山 (the mountain). I then related these arguments to my example, The Shining, and how they could be seen within it. I then tried to counter the argument, and give another perspective, and talk about my own opinions after reviewing all that has already been said. I tried to follow this kind of structure in the rest of my chapters too, although I’m not entirely sure how successful I was.
Overall, the thing that I found most difficult about my dissertation was relating it to my practice. I hadn’t thought that part through when I chose my topic, and I came to realise this very soon after starting after the summer. I was very much against just illustrating my dissertation, but I wanted it to have some relevance because my dissertation was something that was so interesting to me. I ended up doing a project for every aspect of my dissertation, horror films, cautionary and fairy tales, social fears, feminism, and the monstrous feminine. I should have thought about it earlier, but I managed to zone in after a while. I’m now looking at the Freudian idea of the subconscious, and I think it is similar, but still related to my dissertation. Even though I don’t reference feminism very much in my practice, I think that it is important to be well versed in the often misogynistic origins of visual tropes such as the evil witch, or ‘Final Girl’ (Clover), so as to avoid them, or reclaim them.
Van Fleet is a visual artist who created a 14ft wide instillation called “A Guided Tour of Dante’s Inferno. Her work can be found here.
I really love how she uses textures and a limited colour palette to create her work. It’s also quite childlike and rough, and I think that adds to the visual language.
She chooses to use clay for the punished souls and papier mache for what she calls the “Employees”. I think that this is a good idea, to make a distinction.
So I have done the second image that I wanted to do regarding Dante’s Inferno. I have illustrated here the gate into hell that Dante and Virgil encounter. When I first thought about how I wanted it to look, I imagined a proper upright gate, but on further thought about what I wanted it to symbolise, I decided to have the gate horizontally on the ground.
I did this because I wanted the story to have an underlying theme of regression and reverting back to nature and the unconscious. I wanted the gate to have a sort of vaginal look, and thought that the hole in the ground, with the fiery light escaping from it would give that kind of theme. I also added some globular drips of clear glue around the outside to give a kind of moist, organic feel to the hole, but they didn’t reflect the light as I’d have hoped and you can’t really see them as much as I’d planned.
I also like that the rocks look a little bit like brains? Because this entry into the subconscious should physically reflect the themes.
Here are some images that I’ve created for the section of the poem in which Dante is confronted with three beasts, a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf. As I talked about in an earlier post, these three beasts could well represent the three characteristics of the id; libido, hunger and violence. Because the wolf symbolises hunger I’ve put her at the front so you can better see her teeth and the glue I used as drool. I wish I’d made her look skinnier though. The lion should symbolise violence, and I just tried to make it look really angry, but hindsight being 20/20, wish I’d added some wounds or scars like she’d been in loads of fights? In the poem Dante describes the leopard as being very slinky and a bit sexual. I tried to make it look a bit more appealing than the others, but I’m not sure I did a brilliant job. I also used flesh coloured plasticine to make her, to kind of hint at nudeness?
I’ve tried to make the image look more bodily, by accentuating the reds, and you’ll notice I also made the lion a lioness, just as artistic licence to add to the femininity of the image. Overall, a lot of thought went into this, but I’m not sure how successful it was.
I think that the image that is most successful is the oval one. I think that it draws attention to the mouths, even though it makes me sad that I spent so long on the set and you can’t see it!
I struggled getting the camera to focus on everything at once, but I’ve booked a workshop on dslr cameras, so hopefully I can fix that.
So I think it’s best to look at how The Divine Comedy has been illustrated in the past, and if it bears any relevance to my own practice. One that I quite liked was the Italian film L’inferno. It was made in 1911 and was the first full length film to come out of Italy.
It’s got some really great imagery. And because it’s silent, it really has to work to tell the story, which is also true of illustrations. These are just examples of the films, but already I can see links to the subconscious and regression that I want to include. Like people emerging from graves, and holding their own head.
I also should talk about Alberto Martini’s illustrations.
These are interesting and his artwork has a definite phallic quality. This could also be an interesting direction to take my work.
While we’re here I should definitely talk about Layla Holzer’s work, because she does a lot of work about the monstrous feminine, and the womb. She had a project called Four and Twenty Unruly Wombs, which I will just add a link to instead of posting all of them. I think they’re definitely worth referencing, as I want to look into regression and motherhood in my work.
Before I go into what it all means, I’ll explain how it’s all made. The set is made out of two planks of wood, and then expanding foam over the top that I then carved up to make more rock like. Then I painted it and dusted it with ball clay . I placed moss, sticks, crushed up leaves, paint brush bristles, and small balls of plasticine around to add more textures. Then I used glue gun glue to add small puddles around the floor. The animals are made of foam with wire limbs, covered in plasticine and fur.
Now to explain my vision for the trajectory of the project. I see the images/animations that I make to, first and foremost, illustrate the story that I’m telling, which is one of caution and cyclical retribution. This is how I started off looking at cautionary tales and how they relate to modern day.
I also want to link in the monstrous feminine to my work. When I imagine the story of Dante’s journey, I see a journey to the bowels of the earth. Perhaps this could be seen as a sort of regression to birth? I have written a chapter about the monstrous womb in my dissertation, and I think I could link it in really well. The gate at the beginning, guarded by the three female beasts is very reminiscent of the vagina dentata theory. This is sort of what I’m hinting at here. I’m going to have three animals bearing their teeth and drooling. Nature is often related to the feminine, and the female wolf I think really signifies the feminine monster because of the idea of the moon.
The idea of the monstrous feminine and regression to birth as hell I think really goes back to my starting point of cautionary tales and horror films. As I talk about in my dissertation, mothers are seen as an all encompassing, archaic force, that is either entirely good, or entirely evil. To include them in a gory, cautionary tale is quite suited I think.
This is one theory of the unconscious, but I also want to remember back to the id and the ego, and how they are presented in this story.