To re invent something principally is to give it a make over, to re design its look or construction without taking away its basic function. For example cars are re invented regularly. New models build on the successes of previous models but are re invented with new technologies or styling.
For this assignment I have the task of artistically re inventing something. This means I am not restricted to practicalities, my re invented object will not exist in the real world so can therefore be non functional as a real object.
My research started with words that have double meanings in an attempt to make a visual play on words:
BASS – Fish / Voice, CONTRACT – Get smaller / legal document, REFUSE – say no / rubbish, ANGLE – Geometric / to fish, BANK – River edge / place to deposit money, BAT – Flying mammal / object used in cricket
Following on from that I started to explore the idea of animal markings with the thought of reinventing their markings with garish wall paper patterns. A zebra for example in a paisley pattern or a tiger in the same colour scheme as danger road signs.
I then looked at tools we use every day, saw, pliers, paint brush and re inventing them with an animal part replacing the key element. A paint brush would be replaced with a lion’s tail, a saw with fitted crocodiles teeth, pliers with a birds beak.
My next thought was to re invent flags such as our Union Flag but again use wallpaper patterns to fill in the block colours.
Many of these ideas I believe, have been done before by someone else, which would make the task of re inventing a little harder to accomplish successfully.
Then I looked at emotions. This came about due to the recent unexpected death of a close friend which evoked strong emotions in me, coupled with an ongoing family crisis where others emotions were most definitely out on display.
Many people in this situation turn to recreational drugs to give instant respite, (mine’s a couple of beers) which is part of their appeal. Comfort eating is also a big health issue as chocolate is the food consumed by almost everyone leading to or contributing to obesity. Many people consume alcohol simply because it makes them feel happy.
Re inventing this thought I looked at ‘packaging’ instant emotions. The picture would suggest that you can ‘buy a box of Love or a box of Hate’ off the shelf of a supermarket, along with your weekly shop. I looked at soap box cartons and breakfast cereal cartons for inspiration. This led to research on advertising campaigns and the realisation that all advertisers are doing exactly that already. Re branding their produce to link it with a basic emotion. ‘Eat chocolate and be happy, buy bleach because you hate dirt, buy expensive toys because you feel guilty about not spending quality time with your kids’ and so on. The idea developed, I looked at positive emotions, happy, proud, excited, love and then at negative emotions, sad, anger, jealous, scared. The package design on each box would have to be different and the type of lettering used would have to convey the emotion. This I felt was my strongest idea so far.
Listening to Colin at our Wednesday lecture though provided inspiration in the strangest way. Our lecture theatre had become double booked and space was a premium. Colin tried desperately to précis our lecture into the shortest possible time so our group could leave and the criminology group could have their lecture. At the same time noise was filtering up from the construction site outside, where space was being ‘re invented’ to create our new library. The old derelict site was being transformed into something new and modern. A germ of an idea was started…
That evening I was mulling over this new approach to the assignment when a TV programme started called ‘Monster Fish’. (Atomic Assassin -Jeremy Wade – Discovery Production 2013). Essentially the documentary involves the exploits of an expert fisherman who travels the world exploring stories of monster fish encounters and attempts to catch a fish that explains the truth behind the story.
This episode was set in the disaster zone of Chernobyl in Russia, scene of a nuclear explosion in the 1980’s. Most poignant were the images of the city which was abandoned when the alarms sounded. The place is a time capsule where nature is slowly reclaiming its hold on the land. The children’s toys left behind now gathering radioactive dust gave the me the most evocative of images as it displayed the innocence of childhood mixed with the reality of the nuclear disaster.
There have been several occasions in my life when I have explored derelict properties, many where nature has made its foothold once again such as seen in the scenes from Chernobyl. Many of these locations though no longer exist as they have been transformed into apartment blocks or demolished and are now open spaces. One particular site, an old quarry just outside Dunstable, is currently being transformed into a nature reserve.
The artist Sam Nightingale in his work ‘Spectres of Film’ has explored the end product of this transformation with his examination of old cinema locations in Islington, London. Nearly all of the cinemas he examined have long since gone and have been replaced with new modern buildings which serve a whole new purpose.
Urban decay and the slow process of regeneration is everywhere. Old factory warehouses are left to rot and become the domicile of the homeless and the rats whilst they wait their turn for the ultimate make over. But what if I could reinvent that space, through montage, and return it in an instant back into the natural scene it was before mankind made his mark. The photographer Sebastiao Selgado has travelled the world looking for places that are untouched by nature, where man has yet to make his mark on the land, and his images allow you to imagine the world as it once was. (Genesis – Sebastiao Selgado – Taschen 2013 – ISBN 978-3-8365-3872-5) I love Selgado’s work for many reasons but mostly as a reminder that wild virgin places do still exist although many are in the remote corners of our planet. However with the right motivation and effort mankind has shown that our discarded urban landscapes can once more be turned into something beautiful such as the nature reserve project.
To bring some of these threads together I conducted further research which led me to a website http://www.art2day.co.uk/urban-decay.html where one artist, Jan Vormann, has used a childs toy, lego bricks, to act as a colourful alternative to polyfilla. The lego is installed into crumbling buildings filling small holes in the brickwork which would otherwise be empty. The images conveyed to me a sense of playful childness whilst in a practical sense achieving the desired result, the hole in the wall filled. I could see an echo of the Chernobyl pictures in Vormann’s work a sort of merging of innocence and reality.
I decided that a childs toy would therefore be key to my re invention as I could then provoke memories of those childhood haunts we all have, of open grassy spaces, secret woods and meadows full of life. To key together the elements of innocence and reality I decided to use a dolls house, symbolising the world through a child’s eyes, set in an urban decay picture. Searching the internet for anyone who has carried out similar work I discovered artist Peter Feigenbaum, and his piece “Hole in the Sky 1”
Hole in the sky 1
Peter has constructed a miniature apartment block and then photographed the model inside a ruin.
My idea in concept is to show a dirty, grimy, derelict factory site where only weeds and rats live and nestled in the scene is a childs dolls house. However open that dolls house and inside is a wonderful colourful space showing the same scene as it was before man arrived. To reinvent the space outside and show it inside, to show the urban derelict landscape as it might be viewed by a child.
The next stage was to plan how the images would interact, so initially I sketched out a rough storyboard following that with a more detailed series of sketches.
To construct my montage images in particular the urban decay set I studied Peter Kennard’s work. Two of peters montages reflected the style of imagery I wanted to create.
The former of the two images displayed the black sky and urban wasteland look I wanted and the latter displaying nature’s reclaim of the land in the form of the bush, the only living thing visible.
Trawling the internet and other sources I assembled a number of photographs of derelict urban sites (called Brown Belt sites by the Government) and set to creating the first of my montage images.
The method was to use Photoshop to cut out parts of the scene from each urban image and rescale these together to try and create a ‘believable’ montage image.