My theme for the Collaborative Experimental Project rose from reflecting about my dissertation topic, which will aim to discuss how young Russians protest against the current socio-political climate through art and style. The idea of protest against one’s own cultural system and society led me to explore this topic from a slightly different angle in this project, which was to look at the feeling of alienation and feeling of displacement/disconnection from one’s own culture and “home” due to the prevalent political and social ideas. I particularly decided to focus on the theory of alienation of people and objects, which took me to exploring the idea of the alienated youth and individual in today’s climate of capitalism and fast-paced environment overall. Through my experiments, particularly with textiles and post-production of images, I delved deeper into my own personal experience of feeling displaced due to my upbringing, where I, together with my family, moved to various places and I therefore never felt truly attached to a place and never had a concrete idea of “home”.
Throughout this project, one of my main struggles during the process was the initial confusion about my theme and how to approach it. The theme of alienation and displacement felt too broad and I didn’t have a clear starting point - I decided to do more research and to see how different artists conveyed this feeling (through existentialist thought, film etc.) and found that the pieces I resonated with most, that spoke of alienation and displacement, were in fact drawn from the artists’ very much personal experiences. I therefore decided to approach the topic through a personal lens and to understand what alienation meant for me. I looked at old albums and photos and tried to recollect certain memories from the cultures I had experienced and how those experiences formed my ideas around “home”. As well as that, I took out key concepts and words from theories I had read so that I would have clear starting point to explore. Similarly, conducting research and collecting visual references from eastern european artists (specifically Russian, Polish, Czech and Ukrainian) was very efficient as the imagery around “home” is very much different to that of western photographers and artists due to factors such as the cultural and historical contexts.
Another challenge that I had encountered was that due to the current situation, it was quite hard to find collaborators who would be able to collaborate physically and as well as that, despite having a few collaborations in mind in terms of post production, I wasn’t sure how quickly I would be able to execute my research, project and then hand it over to someone when it comes to post production in time. I therefore decided that the best option would be to collaborate with materials around me and to explore a collaboration between multiple mediums to create one final product. I decided to explore textile design and various textile printing techniques to convey the feeling of my own personal displacement. The starting point was to explore the traditional costumes of the cultures I grew up in (Czech and Russian) and to merge the key elements into one garment/design. This therefore created a sort of personal cross-cultural collaboration. I experimented with various textile printing techniques such as linocutting, clay designs, ink printing, which in the end ended up not working to the desired effect I wanted them to. I therefore decided to explore the technique of crocheting as I found that experimenting with the material ended up conveying a certain feeling of displacement and fragmentation. Upon reflection, this was not the most ideal decision as working with the material ended up taking a lot of time that I could have used to develop the other techniques further. I therefore decided to style the separate pieces of crochet I created as part of my experiments, so as not to spend too much time creating a whole garment, and take editorial pictures that conveyed the theme further. I experimented with film photography as well, however made sure I had digital copies, which became useful as some of the film photographs did not come out well.
Additionally, aside from experimentation with textile design, I decided to experiment with other objects such as food and explore the theory of alienation of objects. I was inspired to do so by a photo/poetry book ‘The Alienation of Objects’ by Toby Ziegler and Elizabeth Johnson, which portrays photos of random objects in random settings combined with written word about the diplaced person. I found this combination interesting, as despite the book not necessarily addressing the concept of alienation as such, the reader definitely gets that sense looking at the objects. I therefore decided to take still images of food (including traditional Czech and Russian food to further explore the personal aspect of the project) and despite the images themselves not being as strong, I ended up using them in production of my third test - the poster. I developed the concept of the poster due to the fact that I was taking still life images as well as disposable camera images throughout the project to use as part of my research, but found that in fact, they could work together with the crochet garment images quite well in an editorial scenario. I found that in combination with written word, the photographs made sense, however upon reflection, I could have explored still life imagery further as I found a great interest in it and how it can convey meaning, despite there being no person present in the images.
Experimentation with post-production techniques was the most crucial part of my project as it brought the two tests and various experiments together - specifically experimentation with various aftereffects tools, as well as new softwares I had previously not explored such as Adobe Fresco, to create interesting patterns out of photos I had taken of the crochet garment and to create further textile designs/colour variations. As well as that, I experimented with illustrations and collage to further convey the feeling of displacement. I would say this was the crucial part in my project as despite the initial photos of the crochet working well, they did not translate the theme well enough. Throughout post-production, I had created interesting graphics and merged the two tests (still life and editorial) together into one aesthetic within the poster to convey the theme of displacement. Upon reflection, it would be interesting to further explore illustration as a tool, as it worked well especially when highlighting the material/textile.
For my Personal and Professional project unit, I will aim to explore the techniques I have tested out in this unit, specifically photography. As I was developing the concept for my zine and what photos I would like to include, the medium of photography, specifically analogue photography and still life intrigued me and I would like to explore this further. As well as that, I will aim to further explore my cultural background and the eastern european culture in general, specifically post-soviet times and how in fact, there is still a visible impact of that on the younger generation. I will be able to use the theory and cultural knowledge I have acquired throughout this project as well as my dissertation to hopefully translate into a final outcome and I intend to further explore theories by eastern european authors and different perspectives on current political climates and how they impact the youth. Similarly, I will aim to bring in my personal perspective and experience into the project, as I found that by doing so, the final outcome acquires more depth. I also found that turning my research inwards makes my work more conceptual rather than surface-based and this is something I would like to further explore in my future artistic practise.
Overall, throughout this project, I developed the skill to come up with a concept, explore it, test it and create an outcome within a tight time frame. I struggled time-wise with trying to narrow down the theme, which I overcame by bringing my personal experience into it and starting with that as a base. This project therefore allowed me to explore what informs my own artistic practise and how I can use my cultural background as a starting point to different projects and how that can develop and as well as that, through tutorials and peer-reviews I was able to talk about the concept and see how another person would respond to it, without knowing the full context. This helped me to begin with the experimentation process, which was at first quite frustrating as none of the techniques I had hoped to work, weren’t producing the desired outcome. This pushed me to be able to critically self-reflect and abandon certain ideas if they weren’t serving my project and not overthink them too much. As well as that, I was definitely forced out of my comfort zone as I decided to experiment with techniques/materials I haven’t before - including still life imagery or crochet and through this I have found ways in which I can translate a certain theme to the audience, through various mediums.