Critical Rationale (Duality Final Project)

Critical Rationale

After producing my first project and finding links to identity that I could relate to, I wanted to explore who I am and what makes me, me. I wanted to explore into my life and identity, to see how I feel living in the world today. As life changes, opinions and feelings change, and I wanted to document and explore what I feel as a British-Indian.

To begin with, I researched Sikh history in England, and my own family history to see what their lives were like in a different culture. I thought about ways to explore this area, but I found it was not reflecting as much of how I feel living as a multi-cultural woman today. I then looked into the affect of Indian culture In Coventry. I photographed a main area for Indian shops and businesses. However, I still wasn’t fully connecting to the project. I looked at Sunil Shah’s work and other artists, and drew inspiration to create a project based entirely on me. I was advised to use self-portraiture, which appealed to me, as I have never done it before.

Inspired by artists such as Elina Brotherus, for example, I was able to begin my self-portrait exploration into my identity of being a British-Indian woman. Using self-portraiture I felt could reflect aspects of my life to others to reflect the disposition I feel between the two cultures and worlds.

I travelled to India in March making images there wearing English clothes. I wanted to show the element of one culture seeping through into the other, to show the feeling of displacement I feel when in each place. I consider both places my home, but I’m never fully satisfied and content in either. I feel like I am never truly accepted, no matter how hard I may try to fit in. Clothing is a huge part of outward identity, and it can reflect who you are to people. Wearing opposite cultural clothes in each place reflects the dissonance I feel between the two, showing no matter how hard I try to fit in I’ll always feel a connection to the other place. I based my project in a domestic household situation showing subtle differences and similarities in each place and lifestyle, allowing the audience to pick up on the clues within the images of the two different cultures, and my two different lives.

When deciding on presentation, I wanted to originally have a book with the UK image alongside the corresponding photo in India. I thought about methods to merge the two together to show the duality of my life and the flipping between the two cultures. I had the idea of holograms, combining two images to make one, yet still being individually intact. I researched lenticular images, I found printing to be a very difficult task but found a printing company, so that the final outcome would be slick and smooth merging transitions between the two images.

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Critical Rationale – The Perception Of Beauty

For this project I wanted to address taboos or topics people don’t often discuss. I originally wanted to focus on one culture such as my own Indian culture, or to address something related to the perception of women. I decided on the latter and kept it broad initially, deciding to cover different types of women. I chose the topic of women and body hair, as I felt it’s a subject that people don’t often discuss openly, reflecting the current state of mind within socially and within media of the perceptions and expectations of women and beauty.

 

I started creating photographs experimenting with documenting and exploring this. I initially started with documentary images, taking close ups of body parts to show hair on a women’s body, creating interesting landscapes, not knowing exactly what we’re looking at. Whilst I liked these, I realised that I wasn’t happy and that I wanted to create something different and beautiful and empowering, as women with body hair are often considered manly and ugly. I then did a shoot with a baptised Sikh woman. Some portraits were subtle, and some were more raw and ‘in your face’. Some portraits reflected editorial shots, and I wanted to pursue this further. I experimented combining the two styles to create something different and unusual, I received feedback on this saying it worked well, but equally questioning its subtlety, as it drew more attention to body hair rather than demonstrating its normality. I decided against doing this and developing this. Suggestions from my peers reflected interest in telling the story of body hair and normality within the Sikh culture, and this would still be accessible to all women.

I took photos of an English model, however because of her fine blonde hair the hair wasn’t clear enough. When comparing them to the photos of the Sikh model, I felt the latter told more of a story. I continued researching Sikh women and their experienced with body hair, as I realised it’d be a better route.
My images are presented as a pitch for an editorial spread within a magazine. The publication that interested me most was ‘the gentlewoman’. I felt it reflected the values of my project and that my photos matched its style. I designed a spread and front cover, with my project proposal accompanying the photos alongside a poem to inform readers.
Overall I’m happy how my project developed. I enjoyed exploring this topic learning about social norms and values. I faced many struggles along the way, e.g. how and where to photograph, what route to take, whether to niche it, and finding models. In future if I expanded, I’d do more casting calls as I struggled to find models with body hair at short notice. I would search for models earlier, and contact organisations, groups and societies. Niching the project allowed me to focus on one thing rather than many. If I were to develop this, I think it would be interesting to go deeper into the values and beliefs of a Sikh Woman and tell people more about this culture. Another possible route is to continue with body hair and photograph a larger variety of people. Another option could be to look at various other ‘taboo’ subjects to do with women and the perception of beauty.

 

Experimental Narrative 263mc – Your Body Is Not A Prison

I had quite a few ideas for my final experimental piece. First I was considering exploring a more spiritual/soulful theme, as I was inspired by a poem by writer Kiran Kaur from Canada. I had the idea of using this poem as a narration, along with an instrumental piece of music called ‘Rain’ by Naam Kaur as the audio for the video. While I really liked the thought of doing this video, I felt like I was too much in my comfort zone and that I wanted to challenge peoples perceptions of something or reveal a truth. When this module first began, I spoke about how I wanted to create something that explores truth, and tell a story that maybe people are too scared to tell.

I then began reading poetess Rupi Kaur’s work. She recently published a book titled ‘Milk and Honey’, and regularly posts her writings on her website/blog and social media. I sat and read through much of her work and also watched/listened to her spoken word videos. I felt like this touched me deeper and encouraged me to also speak out about issues within society today, that maybe people push aside or ignore. A lot of Rupi’s work could be considered to be feminist, and I liked that she stood up for those who have maybe been abused or hurt, and she draws out emotions within us via her poems.

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I wanted to explore the idea of a woman being herself, and how nobody should be allowed to take control of her, to use her, to stop off at her body like a hotel. She is not just a one time thing, she deserves respect and shouldn’t be assumed to be up for anything. She has her right to decisions, she is never asking for it, and she is strong yet vulnerable. I wanted to tell the story of a woman who is battling with emotions, fears, doubts, confusion, happiness, and reflect ideas of abuse in an emotional yet different way.

I considered using one of Rupi’s poems as a narration to my video, but then once I put my video together I felt that it would be best without it, to avoid it becoming to cliche and traditional. I wanted the visuals to speak for themselves, telling the woman’s story through the acting. I worked together with actress Kate Phillips to create an experimental approach to telling an abuse story. We discussed at length our thoughts and feelings on how women are perceived, women abuse, rape, and how even now in the 21st Century it can be considered a taboo subject. We discussed 50 Shades Of Grey and how it can seem okay for women to be treated in abusive contexts. While some may say it is just a story and people know right from wrong, they don’t always. People could take inspiration from this and re-enact things in wrong situations and with the wrong mindset.

We used the poems as inspiration and played off certain elements and feelings within Rupi’s work, along with inspiration from the new HeForShe charity and Emma Watson, wanting to show a strong side to women also. Another inspiration for the video and acting was from the play 4:48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane. Myself and Kate had both studied this play deeply and performed it. In the play, the main subject had many different emotional states, and I decided that I wanted to incorporate elements of the different emotions a woman may go through when in such a situation.

I also was inspired by another poem I read by Warsan Shire, for which I created a short video.

Warsan Shire – The House

Mother says there are locked rooms inside all women,
kitchen of lust, bedroom of grief, bathroom of apathy.
Sometimes the men they come with keys,
and sometimes the men they come with hammers.

Sometimes they come with hammers

For my final video I spent some time in the studio with my actress Kate, and we filmed many different scenes. We discussed before-hand the theme and what we wanted to create, and we free-styled acting from there. Kate used eye contact in the video to try to draw in the viewer and to create personal immediacy, with the hopes of connecting with the audience and create an emotional response within them. I decided to focus on her emotional states and attempted to tell a womans abusive relationship story and how it has affected her.

Your Body Is Not A Prison

‘Your Body Is Not A Prison’ is an experimental narrative of the emotions a woman goes through during an abusive relationship. It attempts to depict the variety of feelings and situations she experiences in the relationship, showing the happiness, pain, abuse inflicted upon her, and also the courage she has through and after this. It is an attempt to show vulnerability and strength, and show a truth that perhaps people brush under the carpet or ignore. Woman abuse is real and occurs very often, and also in relationships. This short experimental movie is an insight into this issue, and tries to show the various states of her relationship and emotions visually without a specific verbal narrative.

Inspiration for this video – Rupi Kaur – Poetess & Spoken Word Performer – rupikaur.com/
Music – Jon Gomm – Passionflower – jongomm.com/

Experimental Narrative 263mc – Here And There

Over the course of a few weeks we delved into the topic of ‘Here And There’.

‘I am from there. I am from here.I am not there and I am not here.I have two names, which meet and part,and I have two languages.I forget which of them I dream in.’
Mahmoud Darwish

We began by thinking about our own personal ‘here’ and ‘there’, discussing as a group what each place means to us. It was interesting to hear other peoples stories and see what other peoples perception of places are. To begin exploring this topic we were asked to create a set of phrases about our places. I decided my ‘here’ was Coventry, and that my ‘there’ would be India, as although I have only been twice so far in my life, I feel a strong connection to the place. Along with creating the phrases, we later were asked to mix and match the words up, creating an experimental approach to the phrases.

HERE

Cold, Grey, Rainy, Dull. – grey cold rainy dull, dull rainy grey cold, grey dull rainy cold, rainy dull cold grey, rainy grey cold dull, grey rainy dull cold, dull cold grey rainy.

This is where my family are. – is this where my family are, are my family is this where, my family are where this is, family is where this are my, where are my family this is, my this is family where are, this my are family where is.

I grew up here, there’s a lot of memories – i up grew theres here lot a of memories, lot of there’s grew memories i here up, a memories of grew i of here lot up theres, grew lot a here memories i lot of theres, here i grew memories there lot of a i, a i of lot there here memories grew.

It can seem quite boring here to me – seem boring quite me to here can it, here boring can it seem to me quite, boring me seem it can here, to seem boring it can quite here me, can it seem boring to me here quite, quite it boring me to here seem can, me to quite can seem it boring.

At the end of the day, it’s Home. – home its end of the day at the, end home the day at the of its, the at home its end day of the, day home its end the of the at day, the of the home end day at its, of its end home at the day the.

THERE

It feels like my Home away from Home. – home home its away feels it my like from, my away home like home feels it from, away from my home it feels home like, from home away home like feels it my, feels it like away home home from my, from home away it feels home like my.

Life there is completely different – is life there different completely, there is life completely different, life different completely there is, completely life there is different, there is different life completely, life is different completely there, completely there life different is, different completely there is life, is different life there completely, different is life completely there, completely life different there is, life different is there completely.
Constant noise, horns, animals, people, talking, shouting – horns constant animals noise people shouting talking, animals talking shouting horns noise constant, people horns constant animals shouting noise talking, horns animals shouting constant talking noise people, shouting constant people animals horns noise talking.
It can be vibrant and buzzing or beautifully calm and peaceful. – vibrant and peaceful or it be buzzing can calm and or beautifully, can it be beautifully buzzing or peaceful and vibrant and calm, and it calm be can it peaceful vibrant buzzing and or, be can buzzing beautifully vibrant and it and or calm, and peaceful it can be beautifully calm or vibrant and buzzing.
I love it, I love the people, the smells, the scenes, the food, the experiences, and the memories. – the smells i love the food and it experiences scenes and i love memories the people, memories the smells and i love experiences it food the love scenes the people , it love scenes the smells and love the I memories the people experiences love i the food.

I had a few ideas for creating a response to the theme, one of which could incorporate the Isadora software we learned about in class. I wanted to incorporate both worlds in some way, presenting how I miss India or how that is what I think about regularly. I thought about how when using the Isadora Software I could try to create almost a mini virtual world of some sort, where once a person is stepping on sensor or past a sensor, an image could be projected or shown somehow, of a life size person perhaps. I wanted to bring elements of each world together maybe, or take people into my world in India. This was a possibility or a starting point if I was able to successfully use Isadora for a big project.

Another idea I had was along the ideas of the Maps, which we had also discussed in class. I considered how I could use maps and satellites on a larger scale, and thought of holographic images of portraits I had taken popping up in my video, as if I was hallucinating them there. It feels to me like this longing to be there, and I wanted to perhaps show memories falling through the cracks of my mind into reality which end up playing through here in real life. Unfortunately I was not able to successfully undertake this idea as I did not have the correct knowledge to create such a video in a short space of time.

However, I did take along the idea of my own point of view walking, but not via satellite. I decided to shoot my own video as I was walking, to bring it more into my reality in Coventry. I had the idea of taking the audio from a video I took in Punjab, India, where I was doing a similar thing, sitting on the back of a scooter travelling through the streets and alleys of Amritsar. I wanted to bring all of the sounds from my journey and juxtapose them with the images of Coventry. I walked through the City Centre of Coventry and videoed my walk. In the editing process, I decided to change the colours and make the video black and white, to reflect my distaste to Coventry in comparison to India. I also slowed the video down and reversed my journey, to reflect how much I miss India and give a feeling of displacement.

Here is my short experimental video response I created for the theme of ‘Here And There’

Experimental Narrative 263mc – Lars Von Trier

As part of my research I also watched the starting of Meloncholia by Lars Von Trier. I found it to be a beautiful video, and I really enjoyed watching it, and would go as far as saying it is captivating. I really loved the way it was shot and the editing I feel is brilliant. The slow motion really grabbed my attention and I decided I wanted to also try to incorporate some slow motion into my final video. I definitely think that in the future I will keep experimenting with hyperlapse and slow motion as I feel this video is brilliantly done.

Experimental Narrative 263mc – Not I – Samuel Beckett

Not I – Samuel Beckett – 1973

In one of our lectures we watched Samuel Beckett’s Piece ‘Not I’. It was a very different and weird video, and focuses on one body part – the mouth. It feels quite surreal and weird and is uncomfortable watching something filmed so close to someones mouth, and is a bit creepy as we don’t usually see a mouth like that. The mouth is actually really disturbing when you focus on just that – emphasising to us how film allows you to focus on minute things and isolate them. It uses phrases, repetitions, and incomplete sentences, giving a sense of pain and a sense of disturbance from this. It is a powerful, simple, but disturbing piece. From studying about Samuel Beckett in Theatre Studies I was intrigued to watch. I really enjoyed watching it, even if I did find it a bit disturbing and uncomfortable, I found it interesting, experimental, and a different idea.

Experimental Narrative 263mc – Maps

In one of our recent lectures we began to look at maps and how information can be presented. An interesting map we looked at was the John Snow Cholera Map, which is an old map of soho. The sewage and water wasn’t good, and because of this there would be bad outbreaks. This map shows cholera which is waterborne. The black marks denote the number of deaths from cholera. John Snow collected this information and put it onto a map, showing who died, when and where. He put the ‘where’ on the map, and when he put them visually on a map he could see that they were clustering around a certain area. The mapping made people think and look at other causes of cholera. Most people didn’t actually have water in their houses – they would go to the pump on street to get water. John Snow thought that the pump in broad street was cause of most people dying. This information on the map persuaded tbe council to shut the pump down. Deaths then started to lesson. Staticians use this way of mapping, showing deaths on a physical topography of map of soho, which showed to people that the cause of infection was likely to be that water pump. Through the use of mapping, lots of things developed, including data analysis.

John Snow's cholera map of Soho

We also looked at a London Riots Map which shows incidents that happened in each area. The blue areas are more wealthy we could say, and the darker red areas are poorer areas. It was spread pretty widely across London, from Croydon to Hackney – to the m4 corridor. It doesn’t reflect badly on to the poorest areas either as there were some areas that are fairly wealthy where a fair amount of incidents occurred, not predominantly in the poorest areas. The data allows us to interrogate an event in an interesting way, with maps giving us another visual story, an impression of a slice of time.

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We looked into different ways of telling/giving impression of an event or time, using maps as a new way of presenting events. We looked into Google Maps, Satellite, And Earth, and discussed how we could use them and create a mashup of media presentation techniques. We discussed how we could use Mozilla Popcorn, however felt that editing Google Maps worked well also. I also tried using Google Maps to create a personal map, attaching photographs or videos along with information to places I have been or taken photos in Coventry.

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Experimental Narrative 263mc – Bill Viola – The Reflecting Pool

Bill Viola- The reflecting pool was shot on 16mm film, with the effects done in analogue form. Moving image is able to control elements such as time, sound, light. The half-half split in screen space shows the perception of time, looking at time and the differences in time. Time is treated differently in each split – in video we could argue we have the ability to control time. It is not a conventional narrative as there are no story or words, but it is an experimental piece looking at time and how it can be expressed in split screen. The video gives us certain feeling, with the sounds and imagery denoting summertime. It is almost like entering into a garden – the water looks pleasant, and there is feelings of warmth, laziness, and time passing, with a powerful impact on a large screen. It is a relaxing and easy to watch film, and I liked the idea of playing with time.

Undetected Trades – 250mc – Final Images

Undetected Trades is an exploration into the different people and trades within Coventry City. It is a modern-day documentation of the variety of people in Coventry, highlighting and drawing attention to those who do not necessarily get noticed or who may be overlooked. Due to ignorance, we may underestimate the true value of people and the jobs that they do, as each member of society plays a role in what makes the City what it is today. This project aims to pick out the hard-workers who may go by undetected, in comparison to someone in a more commercial job. There is a wide variety of different trades and jobs that people must do in order to earn a living and survive, and often the people doing these jobs may not be acknowledged, or simply just not noticed in the wider scale of things. In an attempt to create an expression of Coventry today, portraiture is used to reflect stories and in a sense commercialise the uncommercial. Smaller, undetected jobs and trades have been picked out and presented via the subjects, reflecting their story in their portrait whilst also creating another description of Coventry City. Discourses were held with the subjects, some short, some longer, and each subject was photographed whilst at work/doing their work. Undetected trades reflects Coventry through the people and aims to convey the need to appreciate the hard work and effort each different job requires to allow a person to pay the bills, put food on the table for them and their family, and keep a roof over their heads.

It is interesting to see the journey that I undertook whilst doing this project, and developing the project from a map location. I changed my decision on having black and white photographs, and the final outcome is that they are in colour. I felt that having them in colour brings it away from the classic August Sander style portrait, and brings a more contemporary element, whilst also supporting the theme of drawing attention to the subject via the vibrant colours. The decision to modernise my portraits I feel was a very sensible one to make, and I’m glad as I feel it creates more interest and draws more attention to the subjects, whilst creating something new, fresh and contemporary. It is also interesting to me how the majority of the subjects I photographed altogether were men, and it makes me wonder why I didn’t discover as many women. Perhaps this means I wasn’t looking hard enough or in the right places, as maybe they are even more undetected. To further develop this idea, I think it would be good to try to find even more ‘underground’ or undetected workers, such as night shift workers for example, but due to time constraints and access, I felt it was sensible to focus on those who I could discover within and near the city centre. I had to also be aware of who I was asking and who I was able to photograph, or in some cases not able to document, as aside from personal preference, I was told by some subjects (such as a traffic warden) that I was not allowed to take a photograph of them in Uniform, as that was a sackable offence. Moving forward, I tried to take and edit the portraits with the influence and inspiration of environmental, corporate/business and commercial portraits, drawing from the compositional styles of front facing portraits, direct eye contact, and a closer proximity. This also makes it stand out I feel, bringing a different element to a street-documentary photograph, whilst modernising it and bringing forth an essence of commercialising the uncommercial. I wanted to incorporate objects that related to the subject, and some of the surroundings, but not too much as when I shot a full length portrait with a lot of the background visible it created distractions and took some of the attention away from the subject, which I didn’t want happening. The aim was to subtly incorporate these things to help add more context, adding to the visual story of each subject.  I feel that each portrait tells its own story about the trade and the subject, whilst also as a set, they are able to paint a picture of what society in Coventry is like.