The purpose of this blog is to reveal the practice behind The Dreamer Fish project. I don’t really expect that many people will read this whilst the project progresses. Should the project work out, if lots of people play the game, visit the £B businesses, if more people join the £B and if people then choose to buy the book, it is then that I think this blog will be of interest to people. (I’m not sure who these people are exactly, but they might be interested, you never know.)
So far I have been drawing, colouring, researching into materials, costs and funding possibilities. I have also been reading, thinking, talking and writing about theory. A lot. And theory is hard work sometimes. There are often things that I feel I know and understand, but find it hard to explain these ideas, whether speaking or in writing.
The following is an extract of what I have written for my masters course. I am studying an MA in Art, Media and Design at UWE. By posting this extract here, it feels like I am taking some of this academic theory out of the ivory tower of universities and popping it here, in the public domain of the interweb. Usually it is only long suffering tutors that have to read through these sorts of musings.
(This extract is written in formal academic form and includes quotations and citations. I have included the bibliography, because this means if any of it spurs any interest, then it is possible to look up the exact texts that I have read. As well as being an academic convention, bibliographies, or reading lists are also a really good ways to share information, resources and ideas.)
As the I explain in the extract, I am trying to learn how to explain something that I find very hard to explain. Hopefully I will get better at this in time….
RELEVANCE OF PROJECT TO OWN PRACTICE
My practice includes a variety of multi-disciplinary, solo and collaborative projects, ranging from, designing and making merchandise for musicians, experimental projection installations, illustration, character design, concept art, painting and printmaking. Thus my practice is a bricolage. I am a post-modernist artist. I claim to be post-modern, regardless of how hard it is to define, in that I recognise that as I am a human and as such a complex being, I do not fit neatly within one neatly formed ideology, philosophy or doctrine. (Edgar et al, 2002:295)
There is a common held belief in the humanities that everything is political. (Vardoulakis, 2010:1) The Dreamer Fish book and treasure trail is a very big and ambitious art project. If everything is political then The Dreamer Fish book, the treasure trail and every decision and action that I make in the process of its production is also political. As such, due to the scale of the project, it would be impossible for me to both predict and write about the political significance of every single action and decision that will be involved.
Everything is political in the sense that any action we take or decision we make our conclusion we reach rests on assumptions, norms, and values not everyone would affirm. That is, everything we do is rooted in a contestable point of origin; and since the realm of the contestable is the realm of politics, everything is political. (Fish 2002)
At this proposal stage I will be considering in a broad sense the political significance of this project. In Visual Culture: An Introduction, Walker and Chaplin discuss first, second and third ideological forms that are either internal or external to art:
In this instance, by ‘ideological resources’ we mean, first, belief systems … which are external to art but which artists may serve; second, belief systems … which are internal to artistic practice; and third, particular systems of representation … which can be thought of as ideological in certain respects. (Walker & Chaplin 1997:71)
At this stage, I believe focussing on the particular systems of representation and the belief systems that are internal to artistic practice would be detrimental to my creative process. More than just being time consuming and thus giving me less opportunity to be making and practicing, my ability to find intrinsic reward and focus, in the act of drawing and designing the book and treasure trail would be clouded by and potentially over influenced by theory and comparison. Hubert Dreyfus pertains to this in his lectures on Heidegger’s Being and Time:
… I think from a Heidegger perspective if you were very skilful and could do all the things you wanted to do in a sort of Zen like way of no-minded involvement…that would be the life worth living… sitting around and reflecting is a life not worth living… sitting around and reflecting is a life not worth living from this perspective I think. Even authentic dasein as you’ll see is not reflecting… authentic dasein just responds immediately and skilfully and intuitively to the current situation. (Dreyfus, 2012:P1)
Contrary to Dreyfus’ statement I believe there is value in reflection and in understanding the internal ideological resources that Walker and Chaplin discuss, however I believe it would be better suited to applying to my creative work, after I have produced it.
As such for the purposes of this proposal I will be discussing the first set of ideological resources, those which are in Walker and Chaplin’s terms external to art, yet I may serve, or feel that I take significant influence from. These being capitalism, anti-capitalism and existentialism (Please note that as a post-modernist I would argue that affiliating myself with both capitalism and anti-capitalism, regardless of the contradiction in terms is both possible and necessary, because life is complex.)
Capitalism, anti-capitalism and existentialism are vast, complex and overarching terms. As such I will outline my definition of each of these terms, to make it clear what I am discussing and referring to and then explain how The Dreamer Fish project relates to these terms.
Capitalism – a vast theoretical structure that is based on the right of the individual to gain capital in competition with others.
Anti-capitalism – synonymous with anti-greed and anti-exploitation. Influenced by Marxism, socialism and anarchism.
Existentialism – is often associated with certain authors such as Albert Camus. It refers to humans as conscious beings determining their own value systems. Having determined their own meaning to life, existentialist may feel outside the norms of society. (Morse, L 2013:1 and 4)
The Dreamer Fish book relates to capitalism because it will be a product that George and I want to sell in order to make profit. By profit, I mean to make a financial gain, in that the amount earned would be greater than the amount spent on materials, printing and producing the book (Pearsall, 1998:1480). Far from being profiteers, I anticipate that this profit will only refer to the material costs of the production of the book and this will not cover the costs of the time that George and I have and will spend on this (although, it would of course be very favourable if our time was covered)(ibid).
Our anticipated audience is children and families. As yet I have not ascertained which age range.
Commercial children’s books are sold at a low price, usually £5 or under. (Horn 2011). Thus in order to be able to sell The Dreamer Fish book at a competitive price I will need to find a way to get the production price low. In order to produce books at a price under £5, so that a profit can be made, then I would need to print in bulk, 100 – 1000 copies or more, dependent upon the printers (Inglis, 2014). If we are to invest in printing this many books then we will need to generate a demand for the book. The Dreamer Fish treasure trail is a marketing strategy attempting to communicate or indeed generate this sense of value for The Dreamer Fish book.
I look at society with a critical eye. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Rights and Social Anthropology. I am influenced by writers such as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Albert Camus, William Morris and Joseph Beuys. Thus I am aware that my stance is shaped by both anti-capitalism and existentialism. Marxism, socialism and anarchism are anti-capitalist theoretical perspectives. I do not know enough about the finer details of each of these theories to decipher which is best to fully align myself with. As am existentialist I am determining my own value system, so at this stage of my development I am aligning myself with the overarching term of anti-capitalism.
Referring back to the previous commonly held assumption that everything is political, my decision to approach the £B for an internship, to affiliate myself and The Dreamer Fish with them is indeed loaded with meaning. The Dreamer Fish treasure trail, could work as a marketing strategy for a variety of businesses, and indeed is influenced by the marketing strategies of large multi-national corporations. However, I specifically approached the £B because I felt that their support of local community and local independent businesses aligns with my own value system.
Katie Finnegan and Jen Green, both work for the £B and they consider this local currency to be a form of ‘radical economic activism’. At this stage, I believe that the £B is radical in terms of consumption. Consumption means the “using up of a resource” and is a “major concept in economics” (Pearsall, 1998:395) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumption_(economics). Capitalism is an economic and political system and thus as consumption is a major concept in economics it simultaneously is a major concept in capitalism.
Post-modernist writer and photographer Jean Baudrillard, in his book The Consumer Society, critiques contemporary capitalism’s growth imperative in terms of consumption:
The advances of affluence – that is to say, of the possession of ever more goods and individual and collective amenities – have been accompanied by increasingly serious ‘environmental nuisances’ which are a consequence, on the one hand, of industrial development and technical progress, and, on the other, of the very structures of consumption.
First, we have seen the degradation of our shared living space by economic activities: noise, air and water pollution, environmental destruction, the destruction of residential zones by the development of new amenities (airports, motorways, etc.). Traffic congestion produces a colossal deficit in technical, psychological and human terms. Yet what does this matter, since the necessary excess of infrastructural building, the extra expenditure on petrol, the costs of treatment for accident victims, etc. will all be totted up as consumption, i.e. will become, under
cover of the gross national product and statistics, an indication of growth and wealth! Does the flourishing mineral water industry permit us to speak of a real increase in ‘affluence’ since, to a large extent, it is merely a response to the deficient quality of urban water? And so on. We should never be done listing all the productive and consumer activities which merely counteract internal nuisances generated by the system of growth. Once it has passed a certain threshold, extra productivity is almost entirely wiped out, swallowed up, by this homeopathic treatment of growth by growth.” (Baudrillard, 1998:39)
In this extract Baudrillard analyses consumption, and I would argue what he refers to as ‘nuisances’ pertains to the innumerable problems with contemporary capitalism.
In the book The Unmanageable Consumer, Gabriel and Lang argue that ethical consumption is a form of political activism:
the cooperative movement, which argued that consumers must take control of production; the value-for-money movement, which argued for scientific testing of products to provide information on best value; Naderism, which proposed that consumer activists must fight against corporate greed; and a new wave of alternative or political activism, which seeks to completely restructure and redefine consumption on more ethical and ecological grounds. (Gabriel and Lang, 2006:152)
They go to argue that:
responding to these protests and demands has had to be factored into corporate strategy. Gone are the days when suppliers had to deal with consumerists only in times of crisis. Today, being aware of and anticipating consumer complaints almost before the activists have articulated them is routine corporate behaviour. Of course, public relations in the pejorative sense of ‘spin’ and playing with appearances happens, but even there rhetoric can belie significant change. (Gabriel and Lang, 2006:153)
This latter notion, that ethical consumption is only forcing corporations to change the appearance of their actions is unfulfilling. Indeed I am sure that the £B team, too would find this unfulfilling. During my time as resident artist at the £B I want to ascertain, if it is not a form of ethical consumption, why it might be referred to as a form of radical economic activism and be able to clearly and succinctly articulate my findings. Thusly, in conclusion I am sure that my better understanding of the £B as a form of activism will help me to better articulate my position as an anti-capitalist that wants to make money from doing the things that I love.
* Baudrillard, J (1998) The Consumer Society, Myths and Structures. 6 Bonhill Street, London. SAGE Publications LTD.
* Edgar, A and Sedgwick, P (2002) Cultural Theory – The Key Concepts. 3rd ed. England: Routledge, 11 New Fetter Lane, London, EC4P 4EE
* Gabriel, Y and Lang, T (2006) The Unmanageable Consumer. 1 Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Road, London. EC1Y 1SP
* Jansson-Boyd, C (2011) Consumption Matters, A psychological Perspective. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire. Palgrave Macmillan.
* Pearsall, J (1998) The New Oxford Dictionary of English. Clarendon Press. Oxford
* Walker, J.A and Chaplin, S (1997) Visual Culture: An Introduction. Oxford Road, Manchester. Manchester University Press.
* Dreyfus, H. (2012) Hubert Dreyfus Lectures on Heidegger’s Being and Time, P1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMdF6ueH59s [accessed 22/4/13] Published on 26 Dec 2012
* Fish, S (2002) Is everything political? The Chronicle of Higher Education 29/3/2002 (http://chronicle.com/article/Is-Everything-Political-/45993 [accessed 28/3/14]
* Horn, C (2011) Kids sales fall for third year in a row. The Bookseller. 9/5/11 http://www.thebookseller.com/news/kids-sales-fall-third-year-row.html [accessed 3/4/14]
* Vardoulakis, D (2010) Critical Praxis: Or is Everything Political? Parallax Volume 16, Issue 4 Special Issue: Critical Praxis. http://dd6lh4cz5h.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=Critical+Praxis%3A+Or%2C+Is+Everything+Political%3F&rft.jtitle=PARALLAX&rft.au=Vardoulakis%2C+D&rft.date=2010&rft.pub=ROUTLEDGE+JOURNALS%2C+TAYLOR+%26+FRANCIS+LTD&rft.issn=1353-
4645&rft.volume=16&rft.issue=4&rft.spage=1&rft.epage=2&rft_id=info:doi/10.1080%2F13534645.2010.508643&rft.externalDBID=n%2Fa&rft.externalDocID=000288157600001¶mdict=en-US [accessed 28/3/14]
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism [accessed 2/4/14]
* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing [accessed 2/4/14]
* Inglis, K (2014) Self-Publishing a Picture Book. Self-Publishing Adventures. WordPress blog. http://kareninglis.wordpress.com/self-publishing-a-childrens-picture-book/ [accessed 3/4/14]