The topic I am researching in seminar class is how the use of found objects in contemporary art comments on the economy of the United States. For the final project, I am making a series of collage and assemblage works using trash that are used by different people.This project was inspired by Jean Baudrillard’s book, The Consumer Society: Myths and Structures. In this book, Baudrillard states that “commodities are no longer defined by their use, but rather by what they signify. And what they signify is defined not by what they do, but by their relationship to the entire system of commodities and signs.” Moreover, those signifiers differentiate and personalize people by their class, identity, and gender. And those differentiations give happiness and satisfaction to those who consume. By bringing the abandoned objects into sculptural and collage form, I wanted to give different perspective on these objects that we often consider to be banal and meaningless. I think using found objects are effective because I am portraying the person with their traces and each materials have its own connection to the person who used them. Even though it is not clear in this mock ups, if I make these into a series of works, the differences of each person will be more evident. Each works are portraying each person, but the overall theme of this project is to make the viewers reconsider the nature of commodities and the consumerist society. The problem with the first mock up was that they did not look like a work of art. To fix this problem, I researched different artists who use found objects to make sculptures and I experimented with different compositions. From now on, I am going to search for different locations to collect the materials and create more of these assemblage and collage works.
For the last assignment, I developed my first final project mock-ups. During the group critique, I asked people if they can tell the content and the social contexts of it. Before knowing the fact that each work is a portrait of the person who used, they thought my piece was related to environmental problems such as pollution because of using packages. And they said that the shape of my sculpture reminded them of building and gun. I realized that the shape of the sculpture also can affect the interpretation of the work. They all said that they cannot get a difference between the works because both works are used by similar materials and they look similar. I need to figure out how to make the balance of differentiating each work and at the same time, making them ambiguous and stimulate the viewers’ curiosity. One way to fix this problem is to conduct an interview about the person. Another way is to add more information by adding more materials. Another problem with this series was that it is too big to bring them to the school. Also, because the trash are so dirty and dangerous, I do not have space to work with it. To fix this problem, I am planning to change to collages or two dimensional surfaces so that it would be possible to carry and be safer. For next class, I need to make new prototype for the final project and come up with new concepts for my project. I think it will take about twelve hours to finish this.
I changed my idea for the final project because using garbage was too dangerous. For my final project, I decided to develop my Bridge 2 collage. I am planning to make a series of collage using packaging materials. The composition will be similar to my bridge 2 but the size will be bigger. After making collages, I am going to use vacuum forming machine and cast of a mold of collages. Vacuum forming is a common way for packaging products. However, my works are vacuum form package of a package instead of commodity. Packaging a package is similar to over-packaging products. Packaging a package is a meaningless thing because packages serve its purpose only when they are protecting the object inside. Packages not only protect the products, but they are also signifiers. Packaging a package implies the devalorization of the use-value of objects. This meaningless activity is a metaphor for the consumer culture that consumption is for what they signify not their use.
For this week, I made three collages using vacuum forming machine. I used clear PETG plastic to cast the collages. I researched and experimented with the materials I could use for the mould. I made five collages in total, but I could only use three of them because the other two were too big to fit in the vacuum forming machine. And while I was working with the vacuum forming machine, I realized that sometimes I need to make holes on the collages so that the machine could pull out the air. After I casted the collages, I used white spray paint to color them. I intentionally left some parts clear. I thought that leaving some parts clear makes the works more visually interesting and also they signify that there is nothing behind the packages. This is a metaphor that commodities’ purpose has changed from having to appearing. For next week, I am going to make two more collages using cardboard boxes and beverage cans. I think it will take about two to three hours to make them.
Completed Final Project Reflection + Installation Photo
When I was planning for an idea for the final project, I tried to make a series of portraits of different people using the trash that the person used. The original idea was that what we consume represents our identities. While I was collecting the trash, I realized that collecting random people’s trash is too dangerous and I did not have a suitable place to store and work with those materials. Then, I decided to develop my bridge 2 project which was a series of collage using trash. The idea for bridge 2 project was to challenge the materiality of trash by turning into something valuable such as high art. However, there were some problems with my bridge 2 project. The first problem was that the contents and the context were not clear to the viewers. Moreover, as I researched artworks using trash, I realized that other artists from the past such as Robert Rauschenberg and Nouveau Réalisme artists already did this kind of work. Then, I fortuitously found a technique called vacuum forming and learned that vacuum forming is one of the most common way of packaging. Then I came up with a new idea of making a package of a package. Since I already knew how vacuum forming machine works, I thought I could easily make my works. However, I realized that I cannot use any kinds of materials in the vacuum forming machine because the vacuum forming machine heats up the materials inside it. So I researched the types of materials that could be used in vacuum former. Since I was using found objects, I could not know every material of the packages. So I decided to use aluminum cans, glass, and cardboard boxes which are safe even when they get heated up. Moreover, throughout the semester, the most satisfying thing was that I learned how to convey my ideas more clearly. At first, my concept was too broad and the collages were too confusing to understand. By sharing feedbacks in class critique and researching other artists and theories, I could narrow down and refine my ideas. However, one thing I think that was not successful was using paper bags because it was hard to know what it is when it was casted with vacuum former. Since I knew that it was a paper bag, I mistakenly assumed that everyone else will know what that is. From this mistake, I learned that every little detail is crucial for the viewers to understand my works.