Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Formative Feedback.

Blog- This blog is of excellent quality.

Essay- Advertising Question.

Research- John Berger 'Ways of Seeing'- Final Episode and Final Chapter
O' Shaughessy- Persuassion in advertising
G. Cork- Discourse of advertising.

I was really pleased with the feedback I recieved from my progress meeting with critical and contextual studies tutor, Richard Miles, and was delighted to find that my blog was considered to be of a full and high standard.

Richard very helpfully directed me as to particular study material that would potentially enrich my essay (to be written by January 25th) and some ideas as particular points of advertising to highlight- a particular favourite feature I will consider being perfume advertisements.

More details to come!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Introducing Postmodernism.

*Postmodernism can be defined as the feeling that there are no more possibilities, no space for originality or creativity*

Modernism is progressive, whereupon people felt that the rules were unlimited.
-Initially born out of optimism, an aspirational reaction to WWI, with a view to harness technology to improve people's lives.
-However, it ends up doctrinaire, almost a blind obidence to rules.
-"form follows function" becoming a uniformed phrase, rule, and state of mind.

Le Corbusier's architecture was quintessentially modern in design- removing humanity or individuality with a utopian aspiration.

Modernism is associated with...


Post-Modernism is associated with the complete opposite, yet formed in response to the Modernist movement directly. Post- Modernism doubted progress with the viewpoint that "everything's been done already".

The Postmodern condition is characterised by:

-The feeling of being "fed up" with technology, reflecting upon negativity within innovation.
-Pessimism, Having not yet been saved by technology, and the idea that it has, infact, made our lives worse.
-Disillusionment with the idea of absolute knowledge.

-Fundamentally, Postmodernism is linked to Modernism, but rather than a celebration it's a pessimistic commiseration of the Modernist movement and Modernity.

Jean Tinguely's 1960 'Homage to New York' kinetic sculpture wonderfully expressed early views of Postmodernism. His nihalistic expression showcased a metaphor of the modern world, viewed by all in it's location outside the Museum of Modern Art in New York City (originally emerging from the Dada movement).
His intentions for the mechanical sculpture is that it would explode in a mad, climatic finale but instead it "fizzled" out- perhaps, therefore, an even stronger demonstrational metaphor for his views on the city!

Origins of Postmodernism

- 1917, German writer Rudolph Pannwitz spoke of 'nihlistic, amoral, postmodern men' whom had nothing to believe in anymore.
-1964- Leslie Fielder descrribed a 'post' culture which rejected the elitist values of Modern Culture.

*1960s beginning
*1970s established as a term (Jencks)
*1980s recognisable style
*1980s & 1990s dominant theoretical discourse

Today: Tired and simmering- the idea of Postmodernism has "ruptured", many loosing "faith in the movement".

Uses of the term "Postmodernism"

-After modernism (modernity, 1960)
-The historical era following the modern
-Contra modernism (rejecting the movement)
-Equivalent to 'late capitalism' (Jameson, critic)
-Artistic and stylistic eclecticism (e.g. hip hop music- sampling, mixing, new technologies which help to styalised production and products)
-'Global Village' phenomena: globalization of cultures, races, images, capital, products.

Theorist Charles Jencks described modernism as dying on 15th July 1972, at precisely 3:32pm when the demolition of the Pruitt- Igoe development, St. Louis occured (as he wrote in 'The Language of Postmodern Architecture' in 1977). The building, a modernist post-war social housing was constructed to provide cheap and affordable housing to ensure equality and fair society communities.

Less than twenty years on to the bulldoze, the failings of the modern utopian ideal are showcased- buildings and housing like these soon plunged into violent, criminal, prostitution fuelled sites.


-Reflects the idea that somehow modernists "got it wrong".
-Postmodernism has an attitude of questioning conventions (especially those set out by Modernism).
-Postmodern aesthetic= multiplicity of style and approaches.
-Space for 'new voices'- a different "uniqueness" vs. modernism supporting equality and uniformity.
-Post modernists dismiss and reject these new technologies, whereas modernists praise them.

*People start to see modernism as elitist- forcing itself intellectually and physically upon oneself*


-A reaction to these rules.
-Starts as a critique of the International Style
*Robert Venturi, Learning from Las Vegas, 1972.
*Ideas developed by Charles Jencks, 1977.
-The only rule is that there are no rules!
-Celebrates what might otherwise be described as "kitsch"- defined as "unimportant" in modernism, where "form follows function", but post-modernism really embraces and emphasises this.

Park Hills Flats in Sheffield c. 1960 are an example of the modernist style when imposing in the most aesthetically brutual way possible.

The building that was originally intended to be created as a piece of modernist, idyllic social housing, but has now become a slum- people there have even petitioned for it to be bulldozed so that they can be re-housed. However, the building cannot be bulldozed as it is considered to be a "listed" building due to it's modernist credentials.

The AT & T building designed by Philip Johnson (NYC, 1982) is a classic example of post-modernist design- a simple skyscraper but with far more individual and personified styling, with neo-classsical, Grecian influence creating a playful and opinionated design.

The Modernist Movement supported:

-A simplified aesthetic
-Utopian ideals
-Truth to materials

whereas Postmodernist suported:

-Mixing materials and styles (bricolage)
-Re-using images to create a sense of parody and irony

There are many examples of post-modernism in modern day culture, such as the film 'Blade Runner', which showcases the ultimate loss and failure of human progress in a postmodern dystopia. The film invents new genres, with mixtures and influences in various styles and eras.

Artist's statuses began to change during this time, taking the role of a celebrity, such as Andy Warhol, with a nihlistic act on the artists as a "great thinker".

At the end of the 1950s the purest form of Modernist painting was FORMALISM, theorised by the critic Clement Greenberg.

-Warhol's designs were not about creativity in any way, but was an attack of what it means to be truly artisitic.

Pollock's self-reflective style was expressionst in the purest sense, however, this style was lampooned by the pop artists who mocked this- such as Warhol's "painting", 'Oxieation Painting, whereupon he urinated over a copper metallic canvas, of course, selling for thousands (1978).

In summary, postmodernism is brash, driven, loud and proud- a representation of freedom in design like no other.

New Media and Visual Culture.

Lecture Structure:

-Learn the characteristics of new digitial media, critically define it's social effects.
-Learn the definition of, critically analysise and theoretically study mass media.
- Learn about the relationship between art and mass media "high culture" vs "low culture".

The term "the late age of print" comes from theorist Marshall McLuhan, from the "age of print" around 1450 when Gutenberg's printing press was developed.

The innovation of print has given accesibility to literacy to the whole world, reducing and connecting people all over the world- through research, maps, theories- anyone has accesibility to any knoweldge, thanks to print.

Literacy in the "late age of print" expands even further- we are now vehichles for the consumption and re-production of knowledge. We now not only live in a "late age of print" but one of mass electronic media.

 McLuhan "foretold" of how obsessed we would become as a culture for the consumption of information at all times, of course, now true thanks to mobile communications technology such as mobile phones, iPhones, iPads, notebooks, laptops, etc, aswell as insentives such as 'Computers for Schools' programmes- you are never far away from electronic resources, no matter where you may be.

Do electronic sources such as these show an insight to the future? Is this now "the norm"? As electronic information and media increases in popularity and technological delivery, surely paper-based information, as well as literature will become obselete?
Electronic media lets the reader take the role of the author- they choose what they read with a shift of power, creating a distance between those who create and those who consume, unlike what paper- based media used to provide.

Computer Media

Computer Media, the Internet, has completely changed the way in which we read. The Internet allows you to surf your way through information very quickly- perhaps creating a false sense of freedom or control? This induces a superficial style of reading in which the consumer reads what they WANT to read- possibly skimming over information that may help or enrich their views/outlook/knowledge.

The Internet also introduces a form of social constructivism, whereupon pupils and students can teach themselves. Stimulating and empowering, this is a receptive form of technology but perhaps ovewhelming, with such a high quality and range of technology to download- perhaps creating a struggle in terms of contemplation, and easily leading onto procrastination with other online temptations. Books force us to relax to engage with them properly, whereas online media is quite the opposite.

Definition of Mass Media:

*Modern systems of communication and distribution supplied by relatively small groups of cultural produce, but directed towards large numbers of consumers.*

-A few people organising what hundreds of people go on to read, thus leading to creating a political stance, making the reader feel more empowered.

Thinking Critically about the Mass Media.

Negative Criticism of Mass Media:

1. Superficial, uncritical, trivial- attempting to be popularist, shows such as Pop Idol and the X Factor are specifically designed to communicate to the masses- however, their popularity is merely worked from audience figures- not a true sign of quality, but conditioning. There is nothing radical, contreversial or thought-provoking about these shows, they are uniformed in the worry of alienating viewers.
2. Viewing figures measure "success".
3. Audience is dispersed- creating an illusion that you are part of a collective.
4. Audience is disempowered- always having to "bow down" to authority- phone-ins make it appear as if you have control or power, but the authority figures always win, whether it be through social climbing or financially.
5. Encourages the conservative Status Quo.
6. Encourages apathy.
7. Power held by the few motivated by profit or social control (propaganda).
8. Bland, escapist and standardised.
9. Encourages escapism (as oppossed to activism), seen as a drug which anaesthetises us.

Positive Criticism of the Mass Media

1. Not all mass media is of low quality (rapidly distributed, cheap)- creativity can sometimes be a feature- high art reaching broader audiences coming to US through television media as oppossed to ourselves seeking it out.
2. Social problems and injustice are discussed by the media.
 3. Creativity can be a feature of mass media.
4. Transmission of high art material can reach a broader audience.
5. Democratic potential- controlled, but also shared.

Artist's Use of Mass Media

-What happens to the previously elitist art in the age of mass media? How does the relationship shift?

*Resource material- John A. Walker's 'Art in the Age of Mass Media'.*

Many forms of Mass Media in the modern age are built upon "shock factor" or contreversy- gaining instant response and attraction, such as Oliviero Tuscani's advertising campaign for clothing brand, (The United Colours of) Bennetton. His campaign traded upon the ideas of horror, tragedy, race, unity, social issues and disaster, each with a profound and memorable image. Although the contreversial advertising strategy was not neccessarily liked or understood by everybody, it was remembered, and brand association is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of advertising and design.

The 'Leeds 13' group were another example of the movement of Mass Media within modern art- in the 1990's, the Leeds 13 Fine Artists group organised a "collection" named 'Going Places', whereupon they spent their grants 'going places' the world over, drinking alcohol and living the high life day-in, day-out, and documenting this photographically. Their lifestyles gained a lot of public interest as their images were published throughout the media, as many were unaware of their artists backgrounds. 
From this public interest, they even gained careers- using and abusing the media to gain status.

Key Questions, The Arts.

-Can art be autonomous? (Exsist on it's own within a vaccum with no politics or social affairs, etc.)
-Should art be autonomous? (For some, yes. By doing so it retains it's purity and integrity- some art theorists say yes- he only way for art to be truly pure, standing away from questioning and influence).

Jackson Pollock's work is an example of being autonomous, as his work was creating purely from aesthetic freedom and expression without agenda, however, conspiracy theories state that Pollock was infact funded by the CIA, when the USA was against Russia- with the free, capitalist mind against the communist views of Russia, therefore, he only presented the illusion of freedom, not freedom of his true self.

Many artists utilised and exploited mass media- such as Picasso, Richard Hamilton, and Roy Litchenstien, each with political agenda and purpose in their art.

Litchenstien showed this consistently with his work- utilising the design and style of low-sphere comic books, representing them as high art with challenging, elitist views and underlying political messages.

Warhol and other "Pop" Artists were also "guilty" of exploiting the mass media- often reflecting on consumerist superficiality and mass-production throughout repition in his designs. The kitsch colours in his work reflect upon product design, again, reflective of mass-consumerism and production within society.

-New Media is changing the way in which we consume and read text and images.
-Theorists of the mass media have different viewpoints, seeing it as either:
*negative and a threat or
*pleasurable, positive and democratic.
-A great deal of 20th century art has utilised the mass media, often to be critical of it.
-There is a serious question in art theory as to whether art should be autonomous or not.

Glossary of Terms:

*Hypermedia is a term often used interchangeably with the term multimedia, (meaning, many media forms) however, it specifically meand the practice of interlinking media texts on an online document, which might involve passage to either visual, audio, computer programme, or other (written text). The arguement goes that hypermedia will encourage a new kind of literacy. The kind of textual reading is reckoned on being exciting and rewarding. Claims are made that the new kind of electronic reading empowers it's readers, who can take a more active role in the practice of reading than formally available from the printed page. The user can select the pace and depth with which he/she wishes to approach the electronic text. However, hazards such as 'being lost in hyperspace' and accepting the textual route as 'all encompassing' are apparent.
The Role of Hypermedia
*If hypermedia is to be taken as characterising a new form of literacy appropriate to a 'post-print' era, then we need to question what manner of transformation in society will it herald, for whose benefit and at what cost.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Essay Questions and Preperation.

In preperation for our forthcoming 1,500 word essay, we have to submit by January 25th, 2011, we were presented with a list of essay questions, one of which we shall choose to title our piece:

-"Focusing on specific examples, describe the way that Modernist art & design was a response to forces of modernity?"

-"Choosing a particular period for 1800 to the present, in what ways has art or design responded to the changing social and cultural forces of that period? (2 specific examples)"

-"Is it possible to describe any aspect of graphic design today as post-modern(ist)?"

-"Could it be argued that fine art ought to be assigned more 'value' that graphic design?"

-"Advertising doesn't sell things; all advertising does is that the way people think or feel (Jeremy Bullmore). Evaluate this statement with reference to selected critical theories (past and present)."

Important things to consider:

-Limit the examples of discussion down to 2-3.
-"Graphic Design as Communication" by Malcolm Barnard for case study.
-Find quotes from numerous academic sources- books and internet sources, etc.

Critical Postitions on Advertising.

-Reviewing some of the negative aspects of advertising, from a Marxist left-wing opinion, whereupon advertising is seen as a "negative force".

-We looked at an image of Times Square, New York- perhaps the "ultimate showcase" in terms of advertising- and a true example of how impossible it is to avoid avderitisements in modern day. These images, "instructions" put before us "promise" fantasies and an enriched life with these products, persuading us that we should be unhappy with ourselves, and our lives, without them.

-The influence of advertising is impossible to deny, and is infact the most influentual design medium in the western world today. Twenty-five million new advertisements are created every year in Britain alone.

-Advertising is now an intergrated part of our lives. Shop window adverts, computer pop-ups, banners, big business- consumer adverts, they trade on the promise of a better life through consumerism and status within society.

-Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a philosopher, economist, political theorist, writer of the communist manifesto and analysed capitalism and class structure and the dominated classes.
It is from Marx that the left-wing views on advertising developed, with views of corrupt meaning and messages, and the lack of identity that advertising can promote.

Critique of consumer/commodity culture

-In commodity culture we construct our identities through the consumer products that inhabit our lives. This is what Stewart Ewen (another Marxist theorist) terms 'the commodity self' (selling ourselves to commodities and materalistic values).
-Judith Williamson, author of 'Decoding Advertisements':
"Instead of being identified by what they produce, people identify themselves through what they consume" (Williamson, 1991 13)- we now live in a society where we constuct our identities not by our unique and individual personalities, but by what we consume, what we purchase, what we own. The people we think we need to be are projected through advertising- becoming better through consumption.

-As time changes through advertising we can see a distinct shift. Once, it was purely the product that was trying to be sold (the commodity), but now, more so, it's "the dream", an idyllic view of how your life could be enriched with this product- which many critics view as saying "if you don't have this product, you are a lesser being". This was evident from as early as the late nineteenth century, and is still true two hundred years on.

Symbolic Association

-Advertising largely plays upon symbolic associations, and the CK One advertisements were a clear example of this- symbolically associating itself with model's glamour, youthful beauty, sexual sophistication, multi-racial androgony, trend, style, fashion and the "unisex" fragrance being reflected as a casual view on twenty-first century sexuality- the product is suitable for all, no matter who you are.
-Marxist and left-wing opinions are that we don't need this forty pound bottle of perfumed water to gain these things, or to aspire to be this- the products create false needs, we can be happy in ourselves and lives without it.

However, despite the negative arguements that advertising can arouse, if we didn't have advertisements, commodity culture would soon dwindle, seriously affecting economy and stabilisation of finances.

How does commodity culture perpetuate false needs?

-Aesthetic innovation- fashion trades off making something look desirable- looking "sexier", better than before. Over a long time this become sub-concious habit- the need to consume and buy more "stuff", not because we particularly need it, but because we want it.
-planned obsolescence- companies know the exact time when to release a new product- despite having the technological capabilities, they won't always use them at once, so as they can stilt the release of products regularly, always "improved" and also not as resiliant and strong as they could be- therefore, you will need to buy more, to replace or repair, however, when products are glamourisied in advertising, we forget about this, and cannot resist the product.
-novelty- the feeling that if you don't have something, then you won't belong- anything that appears "newer" demands a "need" for more- always the latest product, the new version, the upgrade- found in cases with brands such as Apple- your first series release of the iPhone still works perfectly fine, but the iPhone4 promises something new and glamourous that you apparently "need" in your life.

Commodity Fetishism

Fetishim: Object used to conduct a relationship through humanising.

-Basically, avdetising conceals the background 'history' of products, in other words, the context in which a product is produced is kept hidden (e.g. the fact that Nike trainers are now known to be sewn by women and children in LEDC's such as India and Indonesia for slave wages- yet we see it perfectly feesable to spend £60 on the finished product, purely to gain the social status that the trainer promises, thanks to glamourous advertising).


-Products are given human associations- whereupon "things" start to appear human.
-products themselves are percieved as sexy, romantic, cool, sophisticated, fun, etc.

-when people have the qualities of objects e.g. "emo's"- sub-cultural commodities- almost simplifying into stereotypes, and objects become more personified and human.

-Frankfurt  School (set up 1923)
-Herbert Marcuse author of One Dimensional Man (1964)- Marxist thinker, very critical of commodity culture- thinking that it manipulates us, makes us think two-dimensionally.

-John Berger wrote 'Ways of Seeing', in which was written his opinions of the mass-commersialism and consumerism that advertising promotes:
-Advertising makes you envy people-makes you want to be glamourous and competitive.
-Advertising trades on the need of belonging- you need to form a superficial identity whilst enriching your life, where you make yourself poorer, you infact makes the big businesses even richer.

-In modern day, we are too focused on aesthetics, how we appear- not who we actually are. The role of the model in contemporary culture is like the rold of an Ancient Godess, with an unattainable idea of perfection.

-In the past, art and culture was used to show off status, and now it's available for all as a commodity, not just the elite.

-economy- benefits: it keeps us spending, then keeps capitalism working, encouraging business and growth.
-subsidizing the media quality: produced many radical innovations in designs arnd campaigns- such as Guiness, a brand identity has been formed through advertising.
-sterotyping: challeneges stereotyping, but also perpetuates myths and negative stereotypes.


-It seeks to make people unhappy with exisiting material possesions.
-It 'potenitally' manipulates people into buying products that they don't really need and don't really want.
-It encourages addictive, obsessive and acquisitive behaviour.
-it disorts the langauge and encourages bad useage and incorrect spelling- it's communication limits the way in which people talk to one another.
-it encourages consumers, especially children to want products and brands that they cannot afford, causing feelings of inadequacy and envy.
-It uses images that encourages us to buy products and brands that have the potential to be unhealthy.
-It encourages unnecessary production, therefore depleting resources and spoiling the environment.


-Karl Marx- Marxist analysis used to critique advertising- e.g, John Berger's 'Ways of Seeing'.
-Commodity Culture.
-Commodity Fetishism (history of the product is diguised by advertising).
-Reification- Human qualities given to objects.