Cross-Course Reflection

My name is Hyun Woo Cho and I am from Seoul, South Korea. My major is fashion design. I am also interested in fine arts. During the first year in Parsons, I made several collages using different mediums such as Photoshop, found objects, and vacuum forming. In my drawing/imaging class, I had to make any kind of artwork that is related to New York City and body. When I first started to live in New York City, I noticed that there are so many graffiti and posters on the walls of the streets and I was always intrigued by those marks. I walked around New York City and took photos of graffiti and different marks on the walls that have a trace of gestures. These are the photos that I took. 

 

After taking these photos, I made a series of collage using Photoshop.

After I made the collages, I printed them out as the size of posters on the walls. In drawing/imaging class, I learned how to use the basic tools in Photoshop and I got a better sense of composition. Then, in my Integrative studio 2 class, I had to make five diptychs and challenge the materiality of an object that is related to my theme. The objects that I chose were packages and I decided to make a series of collages using packages and paints. These are the photos of the five diptychs that I made. However, when I made these collages, I did not have a clear idea of what message I wanted to convey and they were merely visual experimentation of the materials and composition.

After making these collages, I made two additional diptychs in response to the five diptychs using similar material and process. The concept of these diptychs was to challenge and explore the materiality of trash, which people often consider dirty, useless, and banal, by turning into something valuable such as high art. I covered two pieces with white acrylic paints and covered the other two with gold leaf gilding to make them abstract. However, the problem with these works was that the contents and the context were still not clear. My theme for studio class was consumerism and it was not clear what exactly I am critiquing.

Moreover, as I researched artworks using trash, I realized that other artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Nouveau Realisme artists already did this kind of work so I decided to develop this idea for the final project. During Space/Materiality class, we had to make a public social space using plastic such as plexiglass. Since we cannot make a curved shape with plexiglass by hands, my professor introduced us about vacuum former machine which can make any kinds of shapes with plastic by heating the plastic and making it flexible. As I research for the seminar class research paper, I fortuitously found out that vacuum forming is one of the most common ways to make packages. And during ESL class, I had to go to museums and galleries and choose any artwork and analyze it. The artwork that I chose was Andy Warhol’s The Last Supper. While I was researching Andy Warhol, I could understand the term simulacra further. Then, I thought that it would be interesting to make a package of a package using vacuum former and apply the concept of simulacra to consumerism. So I made a series of collages using packages and cast them with vacuum former. One problem with the final work was that the viewers could not recognize the materials I used in some pieces such as a paper bag. If I could research the vacuum forming technique further, I think the works would be much clear to the viewers.

The two highlights from my first year were ESL final paper about when something is considered art and the Integrative Studio 2 final project. In ESL 1800 class, our class had discussion about originality and authenticity and we had to watch a documentary called Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery. Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery is a documentary about Wolfgang Beltracchi who is an art forger who forged hundreds of paintings of artists such as Max Ernst and Heinrich Campendonk. After watching the documentary, we had to choose a scene from the documentary and relate to a broader question. The scene I chose was when the filmmakers interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Ommeslaghe who are art collectors who bought the fake Campendonk paintings by Beltracchi. After they realized that the work is not genuine, they said it is no longer a work of art and it is just a decorative object or decoration. They clearly draw a line between art and decoration, even though they use art as decorations for their house. Thus, I became to wonder when something is considered art and decided to write about this topic. To figure out the answer to the question, I explored this question by reading Art Since 1900 written by Hal Foster and Art After Philosophy by Joseph Kosuth. While there were several answers to it, the most convincing answer that I thought to this question was that the artist should call it art and the work should be placed in a certain context that makes it original.

In my essay, I argued that Marcel Duchamp was the first artist who redefined art and he changed the paradigm of art. Moreover, I cited Joseph Kosuth’s argument that a work of art is an analytical proposition. According to Kosuth, saying that a work of art is art is tautological, therefore it is always true without experiential or empirical evidence. Therefore, something can be art if the artists call it art as the sculptor Donald Judd said. Moreover, I argued that artworks such as Fountain by Duchamp could be art not only because the artists called it art, but also because it was placed in a certain context that makes it original. Even though anyone could bring a urinal to a gallery, no one did before Duchamp. Also, even though he did not actually make the urinal, he made a new thought which was to challenge the concept of authenticity and authorship in art. After providing the definition of art, I explained why Beltracchi’s works cannot be art even if he called his works art. The reason Beltracchi’s works could not be art is that he did not have the context that justifies him for copying other artists’ styles. The only reason he copies others’ styles in his works is to make money using the original artists’ fame and achievement for his own interests. Therefore, I concluded that he should be punished and excluded completely from art for the community’s own sake. From writing this essay, I learned what originality is in art. Because copying is so common in the art and design world and there are some cases that are justifiable whereas some cases are not, I was always confused about this question. I thought this research was helpful for me as an art and design student who has to create something original and creative.

Another highlight of the first year was my Integrative Studio 2 final project. My initial idea came from my Bridge 2 assignments for Integrative Studio 2 class which was a series of collage using trash. My idea was inspired by the French philosopher Guy Debord’s book, The Society of the Spectacle. According to Debord, “the spectacle is a social relationship between people that is meditated by images. In his book, he argued that the social life has changed from being into having, and having into appearing” and this change cause degradation of human life and degradation of knowledge, which hinders critical thinking. According to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard “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.” While I was researching for the seminar class, I became aware of the term ‘détournement’ that Debord and Situationist International used to comment on the consumer culture of society. Détournement is using spectacular images and language to disrupt the flow of the spectacle. In creating a package for a package, I deleted the use value of the product that is inside and create a new perspective towards it. The purpose of packaging is not only to protect the product that is encased, but also to attract the customers to consume the product itself. The works are metaphorical to the fact that what we consume is the sign value of a product rather than the purpose of the actual object itself. After I made this pieces, I decided to leave some parts transparent to suggest that the content behind these packages are essentially blank. Through such process, I tried to point out the problematic aspects of our society where the sign value of products become subject to fetishism. From this project, I learned a new technique and learned how to convey my ideas more clearly using visual language by trial and error. 

 

In the future, I want to learn and research more about the concepts related to my works such as consumerism, spectacle, and readymade. Moreover, I wanted to explore how these concepts can be applied not only to fine arts but also to my major which is fashion design. Ultimately, by making very political artworks and looking at other students’ works that are related to other social issues such as gender equality and immigration, I became to wonder the role of artists and designers as members of society and I want to explore how artists and designers can contribute to those social issues.

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