This is not the first day of study for me, I have done a fair bit of reading over Summer, but today is the first day I thought to write in the journal. Just now, I've been reading parts of a book titled "French Philosophy in the 20th Century" by Gary Gutting. I won't go too deep into the details of it here, but you can see my vague notes here, and my legible notes here. I am really glad I found this book, it seems like it is very difficult to find a narrative of Structuralist thought, but this book provides that at the perfect level of detail for me. It explains all of the concepts to a moderate understanding, which I find most books are either far too basic and barely scrape the philosophical work, or they are too advanced and I struggle to make sense of it. I find this book challenging, but I understand it.
I just finished reading a chapter about Roland Barthes. I wrote about "The Death of the Author" in one of my first-year DHT essays, so I had a vague understanding but I never understood the importance of his thought. Again, I won't go into too much detail explaining the concepts here, as I want to keep this section of the blog about my thought during this project; but Barthes essentially crushed the structuralist goal of finding a structure in language.
Yesterday was the first day back. We had a Q&A session with Jen discussing the studio brief and general questions about year 4. I had already made notes about my brief but was concerned about the level of detail necessary at this stage. I was relieved to hear that it sounds as though the brief doesn't need to be too exact, it seems to serve the purpose of focussing study into a direction.
My brief is still quite vague, possibly still too vague. I know that practically, I want it to be an interactive real-time piece, and most likely on Unity. Theoretically, I think I may still be too vague. I think my work will be politcal, (I don't really like the word 'politic' because it is too closely linked with the system of politics, when I am more interested in the though behind it) because that's usually the context in which I think about the world. I also feel like all of my thought has been grounded in modern thinking, and I would like to progress into postmodern thinking.
Admittedly, I don't know all that much about Baudrillard, but I am interested in the sort of post-structuralist neo-marxist thought. I think the most profound commentary on modern politics comes from this era, and luckily, the concept has great artistic potential.
Hopefully, I can get through the rest of this French philosophy book and it will give me more clear pointers as to what thinkers I should dig into to get a better understanding of the ideas I want to explore.
Today was the first feedback session on the brief. The main points to take away from the session are not to constrict myself to a specific medium just yet. My brief stated that I intent to produce a real-time interactive piece in Unity. This was included based on my assumption that I would want to use the software I wish to develop further, and also an anxiety to make my brief more specific.
I also need to make my definition of 'sign' more obvious, as I suspect it was interpreted to mean a graphical symbol, when in reality I mean a property of an object that signifies a deeper meaning. For example, in advertising, a lot of time and effort is put in to signify a desirible attribute with the signifier that is the product. This can be the outdated sign of ciggarette's representing freedom, or the car as a phallus.
So in my next revision, I may stress that the sign is more conceptual than a reference to symbols. Although the flat graphical representation of signs in a sort of pop art way raises some potential avenues to explore.
Although I am started to get nervous about spending too much time researching these topic and not developing a piece out of them, I can't help but see it as necessary to the success of this project. I think I just need to study it more efficiently, and keep an awareness of the main concepts that I want to explore, and not stray too far from that path.
Aside from the brief, I have spent some time studying the thought of Michel Foucault, I was vaguely aware of his work, particularly his archaelogical method and the gist of Discipline and Punish but I was hoping, given the fact that he is the most well-known of the post-structuralists, that he would write in more of a semiotics context but that doesn't seem to be the case. It may be best not to spend too much time studying his thought.
The concept of reification, where a subject becomes so defined by their objects, that they become more object than subject. That's probably a crude definition because it came from the Baudrillard page in the Stanford Encyclopeadia of Philosophy. I find this concept interesting, because I feel like I have seen it in real life.
Occasionally I meet somebody that feels shallow, a sort of inauthenticity that eminates from them. You often learn that they are obsessed their career, self-image or social media after talking to them for only moments. Perhaps its this cultural sign of success, that is permeated in the media and people feel they need to replicate in order to be worth something. The only authentic expression you really sense from these people is a sadness that sometimes seeps out.
I don't mean to look down on these people, I'm not calling them mugs or anything like that. I believe we're all guilty of it to some extent.
But just to round this point off, this concept came across as interesting to me because it isn't so abstract, its a quality you can feel in people. Also with social media, that is an endless flow of signs, I reckon reification is more common than ever.
I am rewriting my first draft and I realise I can boil down my proposal into 4 main themes.
1. Semiotics - the nature of signs and how they express ideology
2. Media - the method in which signs are communicated and developed
3. Ideology - what is signified by signifiers
4. Politics - the real-world affects of this ideology.
I feel like I need an area from which I can base these themes around. It seems like ideology is the driving force of this project, seeing as it is the object of representation of all other themes. Perhaps instead of framing my proposal around political signs, it should be on contemporary ideology, and its signifiers. Does this make sense?
Perhaps I should ask my self what the driving force of this project is. I am angered by the false appearances in contemporary politics. Particularly in the US where politics is split into two factions, who actually disagree on very little. Neither support any form of social welfare, and both desire economic growth at the expense of the poor, domestically and internationally.
However, these two factions are depicted on either ends of the spectrum and the parties seem to attack eachother based on appearances. Blue vs Red, social liberalism or conservativism.
I recently watched a video where Malcolm X describes the danger of white liberals.
His point is that liberals and conservatives goals both are of detrement to black Americans. They only differ in their approach, the liberal is friendly, and provides symbolic victory, but they will not allow any moves that threaten the inherently racist system.
These were the thoughts that I my proposal at this stage developed from. It boils down the idea that politicians will adopt political signs and symbols, instead of embracing systemic change. Contemporary politics is an illusion, conflicts are only symbolic in nature.
So what do we have here? We have signs that represent alternative ideology, these signs are distorted and the signified is lost. The signifiers still carry political connotations- they still signify political association, and therefore they become a mode of identification for rivalling factions. However, since the signifier is lost, the rivarly is self-referential and essentially meaningless.
The faction is defined through negation. One faction gains meaning through not being the other party.
What is Next?
Although the above statement is the closest to best articulation yet, I will try and further make sense of it tomorrow.
Just now, I think it is most important to continue theoretical research, so I have the best idea of what I aim to make before I look for artistic inspiration. I will probably keep up the theoretical research until next Tuesday / Wednesday and then I'll transition to a focus on art research.
I also think it is best that I keep up the secondary research. If I build up a broad and shallow picture, I'll have a better idea at where to find the relevent primary research.
Today I spent most of my time writing a chapter outline. This was actually really helpful for articulating my thoughts and finding areas that require more reserach on the subject that will also be the basis for my studio work. I still think its too early to read primary sources, so I should keep reading secondary sources to fill in the gaps. I will read primary sources when I find that my knowledge of a subject doesn't go deep enough.
I have also been thinking about researching the works of other artists in this area. I could do with inspiration to see how other artists have tackled this theme, and it could even make for a good chapter within my dissertation.