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Week Seven – Farrah

Second Turtle from One Mask

This is a collection of process photographs which document the making of the turtle. It is my second attempt at a turtle made from one disposable mask. I photographed more stages of the turtle this time, such as the cutting and stuffing stages. I also changed up the order which I created the turtle, such as cutting the whole turtle body parts out first, and then cutting the scraps into smaller square pieces for stuffing. This streamlined the process further and meant I could do everything in stages, simplifying what I am doing. Cutting, stitching and stuffing. I am really excited by what I am doing and think it would make for a good workshop possibly. I also attached a wire to the back of the turtle, which is visible in the below photographs.

Collecting Disposable Masks

This week I have been collecting disposable masks again. I spent about an hour walking around, and managed to collect about 35. I tried my best to photograph as many as I could, and collected them as well. It was interesting that whilst I was out with the intention of collecting disposable masks, I wanted to pick up every other bit of rubbish I saw as well. I feel deep shame when looking at the photographs, even though I have not contributed to this particular problem. I find myself becoming more and more an activist and environmentalist everyday. The photographs are edited in a way so that the colours and saturation are attractive, yet this stark blue disposable mask infiltrates each composition. Sometimes the mask is the star of the show, centre framed and bold. Sometimes it is more hidden, seeming almost vulnerable caught in the branches of a tree. Disposable masks are a problem to society, the environment and wildlife. As I discussed intensely the hazards they cause in my first semester, I will not repeat it here, but instead will continue to educate personally each person I meet. Art is a fantastic way to spark conversation and change.

Idea for Video

I have been debating what to do with my photographs of masks for some time. I do not want them to simply be a record of what was there before I collected it, but instead serve a bigger purpose. I have an initial idea to make a video to show in the Spring Show, which I envision to be similar to my video from Semester One, using a sort of documentary style. The video could include photographs of the masks, which transform into the photographs of the turtles. I think this would be easiest achieved by having the images side by side. I have included two examples below, where I tried out this concept. The idea works well, but I think it is important to acknowledge that the images will never be perfect. Factors will affect the staging of the photographs, such as growth of new plants and difference in lighting. This is because each mask will be transformed into a turtle, which I will then place where I picked up the original mask.

Chris Jordan (1963-)

“The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits”. – Chris Jordan, 2005

Jordan’s work responds to the environmental crisis we are creating as humans through our everyday lives. Plastic waste, a result of our obsession with mass-consumerism, affects our natural world and the animals who live in it. This is something which I have been exploring in my project, both over the first Semester and into my second.

Midway: Message from the Gyre, is a series of photographs which depict the rotten carcasses of baby albatrosses. Their exposed stomachs are stuffed full of plastic, which was fed to them by their parents who mistake it for food in the Pacific Ocean. How can they not when the oceans are choking from the plastic waste.

The title is a reference to the island where the albatrosses live – Midway Atoll. This is 2000 miles from the nearest continent; which seems to make the fact that birds are dying there due to plastic all the sadder – there is no escape. Midway is also a reference to Jordan’s perception of the point in the world – midway between the horror of pollution caused by humans and the beauty of the natural world. The two points collide midway, resulting in these harrowing images.

Jordan asserts that the purpose of his art is “to raise some questions about the roles and responsibilities we each play as individuals in a collective that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming.” Whilst the images from Midway are highly disturbing, they most definitely raise awareness in people of the hidden consequences of our habits.

Jordan’s work has been a huge inspiration to me throughout my project. I remember the first time I encountered his projects, way back in my first year in an art history class. I felt driven to change my own habits; it woke me up to the destruction our planet is facing. The changes are not irreversible, we still have chance to save both our climate and wildlife but only if we act now. His photographic style in Midway: Message from the Gyre is something which I have tried to emanate in my own work, of the images of masks on the streets before I have collected them. The connection is even more visible in the photographs of the mask turtles on the streets with the way in which each photograph is like a gritty forensic image; a body lying vulnerable and exposed on the street.

Caps Seurat, 2011     60×90″ in one panel, and 88×132″ in 3 panels

Chris Jordan believes that every artist is some kind of activist. Recognising the fact that a radical change is necessary for our world to survive, he thinks an artist can motivate this by bringing both a personal and emotional aspect. Although the production of this work I have included images of is not similar to my own, I would like to briefly discuss it. Caps Seurat is an incredible piece of work, infused with a powerful meaning. At first it looks like a replication of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, if one looks closely and zooms close in to the image, it becomes apparent that each dot of colour is actually a plastic bottle cap. The work depicts 400,000 of these caps, which is equal to the average number of plastic bottles consumed in the United States every minute.

The question of responsibility is so complex when it comes to the issue of over consumption and consumerism. Who should provide the change? The customer could stop buying the bottles of fizzy drinks. The maker could use sustainable materials to produce them. The government could impose laws which restrict the sales unless sustainable. If everyone makes a collective change, we would not be in this situation now.

Workshop Reflection

Unfortunately for this workshop I was unwell and not able to attend. However, I did prepare what I could before I became ill, so I will include it here. The intention of this workshop was to research our intended idea for the collobaritve project. We did this by each choosing a word related to the concept – becoming endangered animals in captivity – and researching art which was created with that subject. For example, people chose words such as captivity, power, and freedom. I chose the word voyeurism to research further, as I think it summarises the entire concept quite well. People are voyeurs of animals behind the bars of a zoo, we watch them and laugh at them and admire them. But even if the intention of watching them comes from positive motives, does that make it right?

I decided to research the exhibition at the Tate from 2010 which was titled ‘Exposed’. I chose this exhibition as it has interested me in the past when researching other projects, and includes a wide selection and examination of the concept of ‘exposed’. Although the exhibition is focused on humans, it can easily be applied to animals. They are continuously photographed without consent, we put them in zoos and farms and there are little laws to protect them. I hope you enjoy scrolling through my small presentation; I would have liked to expand further on artist’s work within the exhibition but did not manage to due to illness.

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