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Samantha Emily Alland

Mixed Media Ceramicist/Maker

Research Paper PDP

This research paper concerned the subject of how we read and accept reality and also further explored the notion of the sleeping dream which was the focus of my first extended essay on this MA Course. However I also see this research as an extension of my overall interests within my practical work, even that of my BA degree final project. My practical work has always revolved around my interest in people, how we think and why we think that way. Within my BA work I looked into symbolism and tokens, however this was in a much more narrative and literal way. I presented each subject of that research on one sculpture each.

During this research I moved past just looking at the stories and more into how and why we construct the things we believe in. And what better place to start than with what we all base our lives so heavily on, reality.

From my previous research into the sleeping dream I concluded with a list of hypothesised constructs which outline how the mind uses perception and memory to build dreams. These constructs were; merging, fragmentation and heavy/low detail. I then explored how an artist could utilise these constructs as a framework of creating practical work to portray a physical visual representation of the sleeping dream. I therefore decided to tackle the subject of reality in the same manner.

During this research I began by looking at how the individual understands reality, how we alter our external selves to present to the outside world the person we think we should be, or want to be.This led to exploring societies affect on reality, as the perceptions the individual has about reality stems from the collective agreement about the rules of reality by society. Society is created when a group of people create and agree to a set of rules as to how to live their lives, what is normal and real based on their perceptions.

These rules are then cemented into the minds of people by the products and tools we create to back them up, for example being healthy is an ideal we back up by building hospitals, selling medicines and vitamins etc. However once an ideal becomes so accepted and due to consumerism, the reality of that ideal shifts and we find ourselves in a hyper reality. In which we try so hard to live up to our ideal that we push past reality altogether. An example of this is the idea that a signifer for health is white teeth, so we produce products which bleach our teeth to an un-natural extent.

One of the most influential aspects of my research in term of my practise was that into how we use the physical work to build reality. As humans we rely heavily on our senses, especially sight and touch. Because of this we take the things we can see and feel to be the best examples of reality, we believe it to be real. However everything we believe about the physical world is built on our perceptions of it. We create a set of rules about objects by how we perceive their value, function and worth.

Not only did researching into the constructs of reality help give strength to the research into the sleeping dream, as it became obvious that the two link and affect each other due to their dependence on perception, but it also strengthened my practical work. I had new constructs to work with in conjunction to the dream constructs. Therefore my full set of tools were as follows:

  • Fragmentation
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Hybridity
  • Detail (low and high)
  • Function
  • Value
  • Hyper-reality

These combined constructs allowed me to produce a range of object tokens. These tokens, unlike my more specific BA work, do not dictate any intended information or narrative. This proved vital to my work as I was then able to group and collage the objects to challenge and question some of the theories and constructs of our construction of reality.

  • How we base reality of an agreed set of rules of objects dependant on our perceptions
  • How we alter how reality is read due to pre-conceived ideas about it

By challenging our idea of reality I have created work which acts as our sleeping dream, processing and questioning our perceptions.

Therefore without conducting this research my practise could not have reached a point of being successful.

However this research has also raised a range of new questions, therefore I aim to continue my research into how and why we think as we do, whilst using my practical work to further explore my theories. I hope to narrow my research down to a specific question in order to complete a PHD utilising my practical ceramics.

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PDP

(Links connected to highlighted words in this post are included and are further analysis posts)

Throughout this course I have learnt a great deal about the way I work and how I can work most effectively. I’ve learnt to let go of the heavy control I held over my work in the past and to just let my work develop organically. I’ve also realised I would like to take my research further into a PHD level, once I can narrowed down a specific question to pursue. This was something I’ve not really thought about before, but I realised I have real enjoyment in and passion for research and reflecting this research in my practise.

I’ve written a full blog post about this here

My work began by looking into hybridity which was a theme that emerged via my collected  images and early work and evolved into looking at the sleeping dream and reality. During this time I’ve learnt a range of new ceramic skills including some alternate ways of utilising a mold and surfacing with terra sig and glazes. My confidence with using ceramic surfacing rather than paint has grown tremendously and has improved my practise ten fold as well as opening the door to many new textures.

I’ve confirmed my love for research as mentioned before and by allowing the materiality of my practise lead my approach I believe I am much more able to present the concepts I develop without speaking too literally to the viewer. I believe this shows clearly in my explanations posts (1) (2) as the work plays on the subconscious thought of the viewer, allowing them to figure out their own meanings using the tokens provided, rather than giving them all the information in one foul swoop. I see my full collection as tokens born from possible memories, They represent the idea that memories are fragmented and joined to construct a dream. The layers in my pieces also represent the layers of perception and memory we gather throughout our lives, we use these layers to see the world and read reality. We gain them from the outside world of reality and they in tern affect our reality.

Much like life, it is intended that my viewer move through the pieces and collect new information from each piece, this will then alter their perception of the piece before, and the piece they are about to see.

In terms of the work in relation to the Ceramics MA, I believe that without a ceramic element my work would be less effective. Ceramics comes with a wide range of its own collective beliefs. Ceramics is alchamic and conjours thought of an old world, straight from the ground and molded by hand. Because of this, it comes with a sense of value and trust. We put a lot of trust in the past, a time we believe to be most real due to the lack of technology and manipulation, despite the fact that history was easily altered regarding how it was recorded. But then again we have more trust in tactile things, objects, which can be read by most of our senses (in which as humans we trust most). Historic ceramic objects coupled with science (In which we also trust) cause this idea of value.

(I explore the the previous thoughts in my extended essay)

Clay also has a wide range of possibilities, it is a material which can be manipulated, altered and used in an extraordinary range of ways. This is much like perception, so to work with perception it only makes sense for myself to work with clay.

Now What?

Throughout this MA course I have learnt a great deal about my practise and the way I work. Before starting I was holding on to too much control over my practise, this was inhibiting me from really exploring the full potential of my work as I was always working to a preconceived idea rather than allowing my practise to evolve naturally. I was able to combat this by allowing the site of production to become a heavy influence of my work, I stopped trying to make to my plan and let the materials and molds etc influence my outcomes. This was a process that was invaluable to myself as once I had allowed that lack of control I was more able to develop the work rather than working within a tight constraint. I have also learned that previously I was giving my viewer too much information by presenting my idea too literally, I feel now I am able to create work that gives a sense of my context whilst simultaneously allowing the viewer to figure it out, read it in their own way and apply their own perceptions. This is a level of interaction I have been seeking  for a long time and I feel I am now able to achieve it. I’ve also learnt more so the importance of collage and illustration within my work. Collage is a mode of making that I find most natural and interesting and instead of supressing that in favour of making large sculptures I should embrace it as it yields me the most interesting outcomes. I think the MA has really been about letting go of the tight control I have held over my work, I now feel like I understand how I work much better now.

I would like to continue my research into the links between dreams and reality in relation to how we read and perceive the world. Ideally I would like to find a niche I can explore as a PHD subject

I also want to continue to explore my collage/eclectic style of working, and my use of tokens and symbolisms

Explanations II

These pieces present a more linear narrative to the others, as the transformation from the teapot to the orange links them. However the are not presented in the manner a traditional narrative would be. They are disjointed and separated by the glass, within dreams things are not chronological and cannot be read as such. These islands go someway to represent that, The audience decide which order the events have happened in. Also as the dream, the main ‘story’ of the dream is also littered with various ‘sub plots’ as the mind presents memory and perception in a disjointed manner, this is represented by the accompanying objects and islands. (This also applies to some of the other islands)

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The birds used within this body of work link back to my early collages which explored a hybridity between natural forms. I have developed the illustrated style into a 3D representation. They explore how detail is presented within the dream. Often time the detail of our memories are altered by our minds from what really happened to a version of what we perceived happened. They are similar accounts, but not correct. Therefore with the birds (and other illustrated objects) I decided not to model in the detail, but give an idea of the detail with illustration. It looks like a bird and all of the perceived details are in place, but it is not accurate.

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Explanations

These are the pieces which explore the idea of object value. (Left) I have placed a pink cast stick within a glass dome, accompanied with a slice of gold, the pink colour removes the stick from its context, so the viewer is not directly aware of what it is. The dome and gold then raise the perceived value of the stick. The stick is no more valuable than it was alone, it serves no important function but by simply adding these signifiers it is perceived differently and its reality changed. (Right) The claw is a more recognisable objects and is without a dome because of this. The dome is unneeded because the viewer is highly away of its function and where it comes from, so there are already preconceived idea which would work against the use of a dome. The questioning of why a pheasant foot is in a dome would outweigh any other thought on the piece. The gold is also more reminiscent of gold ore in its raw state, as if the plaster had been mined away to expose it. This still speaks of high value, however it is interesting whether this raw state gold is seen as more or less valuable than the more refined polished gold surface. Is the rarity of the raw or the craftsmanship of the worked more valuable?

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Some objects link by theme, such as the fragmented deer and illustrated antler, others may link by from, such as the tooth forming the illusion of the deer’s body.

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Other objects contain elements of the objects they are grouped with. The candle/antler in this dome seems as though it is floating, another representation of the letting go of logic within the internal selves of our dreams.

All Coming Together!

All island now in place! Exciting!

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Conclusions

Today I continued setting up my show and painting my plinths!

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I’ve also finalised by groupings

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All my Apples

My blue/green terra sig apple took a dive off of the photography table and inevitably smashed (boo)

So I made another one, and a melty one to challenge the viewers per-conceived beliefs when they read an object as an apple. This is a concept I explore in my second extended essay. It questions reality by playing on the set of rules we apply to objects, the apple, due to its function and worth

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Towers

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My idea for the display of this more is to have a variety of plinths in which the viewer can move through freely, they can view the work and gather information as they pass through it, much like the way we move through life to collect various memories and perception with which to build.  I decided on a variety of heights to give a non uniform and more natural landscape. This also allows more than one island to be viewed at one time, so the viewer can create links and narratives within the work as a whole rather than merely one island at a time.

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