For part 2, we decided to do a timelaps video of one member of our group, holding a sign, signs having really strong meaning since the creation of manifestations. We wanted to translate the same aspect that Gillian wearing had in her work, the one that makes the sign holder strong, and determinate, in a way that he/she is expressing himself/herself, fighting for convictions.
We went to Palais Royal, with the beautiful column of Buren because this graphic and strong perspective interested us, as far as we are doing an artistic project. We didn’t want to go on politic issues by going to strong meaning places were manifestations would have already occurred. Also we found that the place can inspired people that we asked to write on the sign (“write what she thinks right know”) in an artistic way.
Gillian Wearing is an English artist who was always fascinated by the idea of identity. Most of her work focuses on the definition of one’s identity, whether it was defined by the person itself or someone else. Her series of photographs entitled Signs that say what you want them to say and not Signs that say what someone else wants you to say shows ordinary passers-by, strangers, she approached on the street holding up signs that they wrote to define themselves. Through this artwork, the artist gave people the ability to question their representation by allowing self-representation, which is often undermined when people are photographed or in any other way represented by others. Wearing creates an interesting illustration of how concealed people’s emotions or life in general are and how little a person’s appearance actually communicate. Giving someone the power over their representation she also makes you question why exactly they choice of thoughts to share. By remaking this work, we wanted it to talk more about today’s society. We feel like people nowadays often look at themselves through the eyes of others, for example judge themselves based on comments said by others. Therefore, in remaking the piece we did the exact opposite of what Wearing did. While she depicted the appearance of people, she gave them the possibility to state what they wanted to express.
“One of the striking things about this series is the way it highlights how difficult it is to read off from people’s expressions, appearances and manner the type of thoughts they have. In a very simple way it reminds us with psychological force of the depth of people’s inner lives.” writes Matthew Kieran in his book Revealing Art. Kieran also explains that the most interesting aspect of the piece is the absurdity between what we expect people to write down, based on their appearance, and the way they describe themselves through the placards. He adds: “We naturally tend to categorise, stereotype and overgeneralise people’s characters far too quickly.”
By studying Gillian Wearing’s work, we came to the conclusion that it still applied to our generation, but in a very different way. Indeed, the series was published before social media existed. Nowadays, captions on Instagram and tweets say what you want them to say. It is common for people to constantly define themselves. It is common to share your opinion and display a image of yourself, one you imagine is better than you actually are. Therefore, our aim was to make this work more appealing to our generation, a version that would pass on the same message to a different audience, a different generation. In order to achieve our goal, we turned the series around, giving people the possibility to make a girl say what they want her to say. Our pieces, Signs that Say what Someone Else wants You to Say and Not Signs that Say what You want Them to Say, is an interactive work. Alice was filmed standing holding up a blank placard while Vaiva, Chloe and Lara reached out to strangers asking them to write one the blank sheet something she might be thinking or she would maybe say. The use of three different coloured markers hits the participation of three other members of the group, each colour used by the people they asked to take part in the work. The location allowed us to have a theatre for a background: inside, actors say what people want them to say. This highlights the message we are communicating. Our piece is composed of both the signs and a time lapse video that shows our process. The analogue format is meant as a reminder of Gillian Wearing’s work and the pre-social media period in which it was made. Our work relates to the new generation better as it lets people express themselves through someone else and face to face rather than through their social medias. Wearing and us deliver a common message through our art piece. We both denounce the habit we naturally have to instantly judge people on their aspect.
The choice of the model was really important for us because it makes the answers of the public different. We chose me because I was the girl looking the most “french”. The fact that I am standing in this really meaningful environment would make people having more inspiration and reflections on a clear determinate environment : France. The building on the background in really significative because it is the “comedy francis”, place where people are acting, and say words that other people wants them to say. Actors only express themselves threw the movement and their appearance, to a certain extend, because sometimes actors cannot appropriate how to act and have to stick to a really determined rules. The columns de Buren reflect an ancient parc, columns representing previous tree trunk that have been cut.
Ultimately, throughout remake, we brought Signs that Say what You want Them to Say up to date. Because of the historical background and as we can understand from the analytical description, it is clear that the current relevance had changed since the emergence of social medias. Through the biography and the historical context, we were able to understand and appreciate the series better. The contemporary reception and current relevance was essential to our piece since we were bringing it up to date and the analytical description allowed us to define our project and evaluate it in contrast with the original work.
Our audience’s feedback was mainly positive: the video was captivating and it was interesting to see the process. It was pointed out that the piece was very personal and specific to the subject. We could have had multiple subject to explore this aspect. Some viewers would have liked to be able to better see the “writers” to have an idea of what to expect and have the potential to be surprised.
Overall, we are happy with the work. It could of course benefit from some improvement, on the technical aspect for example, but it was an enriching experience and a good way to share our research.