Contemporary Practice – Week 4: The Self & Identity

Week 4 Lecture

My lecture notes.

After watching the guest lecture this week, I found a Ted Talk about the infamous Rorschach inkblot test and how it works:

I also discovered an interesting podcast which touched on the topic of how the Rorschach perception test, used in psychology, has an overlap with the dawning of Abstract Art. German philosopher and psychologist Karl Albert Scherner’s theory that our minds, whether asleep or awake, transform things symbolically, is an intriguing one, and helps explain how we connect to things visually, not just on a surface level. A good example of this would be seeing a painting of a beautiful sunset and having an emotional reaction to it.

Sigmund Freud cited Scherner’s work as inspiration for his book, The Interpretation of Dreams. Both of them believed that our dreams (or subconscious thoughts) can be decoded and their meanings interpreted.


Week 4 Resources

Thoughts on The Trajectory of the Self by Anthony Giddens (a chapter from Modernity and self-identity; self and society in the late modern age).

I found this extract a thought-provoking read, and the idea of therapy, or self-therapy as a mode of self realisation appealed to me. I definitely believe that it’s important to practice self-reflection and I like the idea of keeping a journal as a place to be honest with yourself, as well as providing a space to contemplate and learn from experiences and past mistakes. Personally I find journalling can be incredibly cathartic and a good way to express things which otherwise might be bottled up. I have kept written journals over the years and consider them a much-needed “safe space” to figure out my thoughts and feelings.

One of my written journals.

We really are faced with a myriad of (sometimes overwhelming) choices in modern life, but fostering a sense of self-worth and learning to be authentic, by staying true to oneself is key. I would also agree that to grow, you have to take risks in your life, for example by trying new things or opening yourself up to new experiences.


Workshop Challenge

20 words to represent my practice, character and values as a designer:

1. Creative
2. Passionate
3. Cultured
4. Adaptable
5. Perfectionist
6. Multi-lingual
7. Mindful
8. Resourceful
9. Determined
10. Pragmatic
11. Eye for Detail
12. Intelligent
13. Integrity
14. Empathetic
15. Always Learning
16. Committed
17. Imaginative
18. Open-minded
19. Collaborative
20. Perseverance

I refined this list down to the following 5:

  • Creative
  • Passionate
  • Imaginative
  • Cultured
  • Mindful

Below are my moodboards for these words.

For each of the moodboards I created, I very deliberately chose to use my own images and photography. I felt this would give the truest reflection of me and my values as a designer, but also as a person.


Visual Expression

Front cover of my zine.

After some thought, I came to the conclusion that a zine would be a good way to visually represent myself, my character, practice and values as a designer. It follows on naturally from the visual research I conducted in the previous weeks, and allows a lot of creative freedom as a medium.

A video showing the pages of my handmade zine.
A montage of zine pages.
Inside spread detail.
Inside spread, showing part of my astrological birth chart on the left.
Inside spread, showing the other part of my astrological birth chart on the right.
Inside back page of the zine.
Back cover with stitched fabric embellishment.

Below are some images documenting the process of creating the zine. I mainly put the pages together using collage methods – found papers/ephemera and fabric, photocopies, assembled with glue and stitching. I also added paint, rubber stamped and hand-drawn elements with ink.

Collecting collage materials from magazines, leaflets and seed catalogoues.
Collected ephemera.
A selection of washi tape.
Hand-stamping some of the lettering for my zine.
Planning the cover layout.
Planning the layout for one of the spreads.
Adding colour to one of the pages with acrylic paint.
Adding watercolour to one of the inner pages.
Detail of stitching and fabric embellishment on the zine’s inside back cover.

Visual Research

Visual inspiration. Collaged butterflies by Hannah Burnworth.

Reflection on the week

On reflection, I feel the zine format was a good choice, as it allowed flexibility and a chance to express different aspects of my personality – along with the option to cover several “topics” and being able to incorporate a mix of styles. It felt appropriate too, because zines are typically a way to express what you’re passionate about. Making it also got me thinking about alternative ways to introduce text and imagery to a graphic design piece.

Another reason I wanted to do this type of creative output was that I felt an analogue method of production was a way to give a sense of my character by making it with my own hands. I think it was important to explore ways of visualisation through a physical medium, as I often spend a lot of time doing digital work, so this provided a nice contrast. Going forward, I definitely want to do more mixed media creative work and discover the possibilities that pursuing this direction might hold.

This week, I enjoyed reading about and exploring the different ideas around how you can visually represent yourself. It was really interesting to see how my classmates interpreted this in varied ways too.


References

Giddens, A. 1991. The Trajectory of the Self. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Searls, Damion. 2019. How does the Rorschach inkblot test work? Ted-Ed Film. Available at: https://youtu.be/LYi19-Vx6go [accessed 12 October 2020]

All things considered. 2017. How Hermann Rorschach’s ‘Inkblots’ Took On A Life Of Their Own. [podcast] Available at: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/02/17/515449428/how-hermann-rorschachs-inkblots-took-on-a-life-of-their-own [accessed 12 October 2020]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rorschach_test
https://www.npr.org/transcripts/515449428
https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/02/17/515449428/how-hermann-rorschachs-inkblots-took-on-a-life-of-their-own
https://www.instagram.com/p/B6dywzDHory/