Constellation PDP: Concept


Prior to the start of this academic year, I had never been introduced to a wide range of concepts drawn from the history of art¬†theories, let alone any experience in writing academically. Of course, I have¬†done some analyzing and self-reflection in my own practice; however, I felt straight from the beginning that was about to change. When I began the year, I dreaded the whole idea and concept ¬†of Constellation. I honestly, naively thought to myself,¬†‘I wanna make pretty pots, not a bunch of essays’. However, this innocent thought, quickly changed throughout the first weeks, knowing the potential of these lectures. After all, what is the point of coming to an art school and just do ‘pretty thing’? I initially thought Constellation was a way of writing academically by looking at a range of theories, but not only that, I rapidly learned that those ideas could be crossed both into Subject and my own practice as well as Field. Constellation is all about making connections. It allows me to engage with critical ideas regarding many views of visual and material culture, which enables me to position my own practice in relation to wider contexts of understanding.

The keynote lectures on the first term were a really good insight into choosing my two study groups. Starting these series of lectures with Dr. Asheley Morgan, ¬†“When is a nerd not a nerd? When he’s a geek”, was a refreshing way to mesmerize me into her study group, “The body in society”. The body is¬†something that has always¬†captivated me and is something that I always think about on my quotidian, and often people ignore it. Another exciting keynote¬†lecture included, “Teenage Kicks: Cultural Approaches to Dr. Martens boots” with Cath Davies, which I did not necessarily¬†connect it¬†with ceramics but felt completely ¬†immersed with the whole idea around it. Some of these lectures,¬†I found vastly complicated to understand and quite hard to connect with my own practice. At first, the lecture, “The Image World” seemed really exciting, in which, Johnathon Clarkson ¬†touched upon some innovative ways of viewing the world, and although it was an exciting lecture, I took some notes and didn’t really look back at them. The beauty about these lectures which we might take for granted is that it has the potential to ignite a sparkle in your head and generate ideas, which was the case with that lecture. My recent work in Subject has been concerned with the whole idea of perception and ways different people views¬†matter.

Having a vast amount of study groups to pick from was slightly¬†daunting, as the selection of those two study groups was going¬†to determine¬†ways I would view myself as an artist, my work and the word around me, and acknowledging from that I knew it would take a big portion of my first academic year, so in other words, I had to decide wisely. However, having the fair with all the study group lectures was great as a way to ask any questions and determine my options. I knew from the begging I wanted to pick two options in which I¬†could relate my Subject and Field with. “The Body in Society” was quite an easy option to decide upon as from Dr. Asheley Morgan’s keynote lecture I wanted to explore more in depth some of the theories and ideas she touched superficially. My second option was slightly harder, but I decided to choose, “Pertaining the Visual” with Jayne Cunnick as I thought it had the potential to analyze my work more in depth, and after all visual culture is something that excites me and that you see everywhere and was I intrigued how that could relate to Ceramics.¬†I really was thrilled to find the two study groups I selected were allocated to me.

“Pertaining the Visual – Questioning the Everyday”, being my first term option, and being really excited for the potential of these lectures, we looked at a range of theories ¬†which of course had its ups and down in which some I was much more immersed than others sessions such as the theories of the Frankfurt School which I found incredibly¬†monotonous. Following the rapid passage of time and realizing the deadline of my first essay creeping¬†upon me and lot allowing enough time to develop it was a massive mistake as my feedback, let’s say, wasn’t the best. However, from my previous mistakes, and attending some of the academic skills workshops has made me hopeful for my current a. cadeic piece of writing.

Coming to the second term, and looking forwards to attend “The body in society” study group, previously taught by Dr. Ashley Morgan which we did not have the privilege¬†to be with; however, we were in great hands with Davida Hewlett. Really loved and felt really immersed with the whole study group exploring different theories about the body ¬†using examples from art and design. Just the sheer diversity on how the body is viewed was really interesting to explore and something that I could of never of gotten if I only made ‘pretty things’. Many exciting topics to pick from to move towards and explore on an essay, from identity, cyborgs and masculinity. I decided to look at affordances and relationships around body and object as I found a direct link with my Subject in which has the big potential to be further developed into my dissertation.

Conclusively, I can see major beneficial points to what I have taken away from my experience of Constellation in which I didn’t really see starting this academic year. I have been able to see things from different perspectives which have indefinitely furthered my own skills in Subject, Field and most importantly pushing me as an artist.


Bodies in Art & Design

On this final session of The Body in Society we discussed the views of the body as an absent/presence in Art&Design.  We began our lecture by questioning, what is reflexive embodiment?

Reflexive Embodiment In Contemporary Society, Nick Crossley, 2006:

We have previously touched upon some of the key aspects of this extract. The body is often objectified in representation. Artists might be the subject of the work, for example Tracy Emin. She is the subject of the work, but also she is somehow embodied in the work. Even Though she is not there in either of these pieces, we reaslise she is the subject and used as the object. We have a sense of her presence even though she is absent.

In Art&Design, it requires the application of the body and often people take for granted on how we use the body for an action, por example, we dont simply draw with a pencil, yes we draw with a pencil but we also draw with our hand which is often forgotten. Every act of production requires the application of the body, so in that sence design requires reflexive embodiment.

Leader (1990) argues the idea of absence presence in which that the body itself disappears into the ckground when we do things with our body for example walking and talking. The relationship between body and tools to produce an output is forgotten.

In which ways creativity responds to emotion? What about consciousness? Would that make a difference to things produced using two items? Manipulated materials in a certain way based on their composition.

Absent/Presence using beds:

Sarah Lucas

Sarah lucas bed
Au Naturel, 1994

Rachel Whiteread

Whiteread’s art operates on many levels: it captures and gives materiality to the sometimes unfamiliar spaces of familiar life (bath, sink, mattress or chair), transforming the domestic into the public; it fossilises everyday objects in the absence of human usage, and it allows those objects to stand anthropomorphically for human beings themselves.

Felix Gonzalez Torrez


The abject body has a strong¬†feminist¬†context, in that female bodily functions in,¬†particular, are ‚Äėabjected‚Äô by a patriarchal social order. In the 1980s and 1990s many artists became aware of this theory and reflected it in their work.

Hannah Wilke

Starification Object Series, 1974

The Abject Bodies: Paul McCarthy

Everyday Cyborgs

This week we looked at cyborgs, post-human and prosthesis in ways and ideas of extending the body and we explored rehabilitation of the body to normative functions.

we have an apparent desire to go beyond our capabilities, to push beyond on our limits. We study to increase knowledge, making machines to produce more than what we can with our own hands. Create devices to go faster, see further, speak louder and when our bodies refuse to do what we think they should, we find ways to supplement them and exceed our corporal boundaries. Technology is everywhere and we swim through most our current lives in a tangible digital dream.

We looked at Chris Burden, which on the 70s looked at the physical capabilities of the human body, in which he was crucified to a¬†Volkswagen and on another instance shot on the¬†arm. So why would anyone go through this? He used the body because it was democratic and valueless as in a means it couldn’t be sold, and its used as an anticapitalism material, anti-art market. Not only could he be the artist, but we also could become the work itself, so in another way he is the subject and the object of the work.

We looked at other artists which explored the body and its physical limitations:

Tehching Hsieh

Marina Abramovic

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (2012)

Dennis Oppenheim

Rebecca Horn

Such horrifically maimed and disfigured men were far from uncommon in Germany after World War I, when 80,000 amputees returned home from the front. Reliant on prosthetics, canes, and crutches, these veterans have become as mechanized as the war that claimed their flesh.

War Cripples, Otto Dix, 1920


This attention to the prosthetic figure has ricocheted through 20th-century art, with artists expanding the body beyond its limits. Extensions celebrate possibilities while revealing the constraints we have engineered for ourselves. Working directly after the First World War,¬†Oskar Schlemmer‚Äôs body supplements amplified the frailties of both the natural and enhanced body. He had experienced a short period of military service and, while in hospital recovering from injury, saw many men with lost limbs. The sculptural costumes of his¬†Triadic Ballet, first performed in 1922, forced performers to submit to the weight and geometric form of their attire¬†while¬†Slat Dance 1¬†from 1927 used equipment designed for physical education to lengthen the dancer‚Äôs limbs. Just as 18th and 19th-century ‚Äėprogress‚Äô compelled people to conform movements to the rhythm of the factory, Schlemmer‚Äôs constricting additions forced their wearers to empathise with their own¬†mechanics.



The body and language are the two things that we surely know best: whether linguistic or physical, prostheses are both material and metaphorical; they are markers of a technologized body, and far more than mere supplement. As Aimee Mullins, athlete, activist, and protagonist in¬†Matthew Barney‚Äôs¬†The Cremaster Cycle¬†1994‚Äď2002, has eloquently explained: if a person needs false legs, why should they look like human ones? A prosthetic has the potential to extend the body far beyond the limits we are born into ‚Äď a prospect that is equally terrifying and¬†exciting.

But what is a cyborg? A cyborg is described as a ¬†fictional or hypothetical person whose physical abilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by mechanical elements built into the body. On reading¬†Technologies of the Gendered Body, Anne Balsamo, 1996¬†according to Balsamo, these hybrids are “neither purely human nor purely machine”. Talking about binaries a dew sessions ago, this book goes to explain how dual dispositions are never symmetrical. Harway¬†goes on to argue that cyborgs have the potential to disrupt the persistent dualisms that have been “systemic to the logics and practices of women, people of colour, nature, workers, animals”. Some of the troublesome dualisms include¬†culture/nature, human/artificial, male/female, as well as other such as reality/appearance, truth/illusion, theory/politics. Cyborg bodies, then cannot be conceived as belonging wholly to either culture or nature, they are neither wholly technological nor completely organic. “Cyborg bodies cannot be completely discursive. Cyborgs are a matter of fiction and a matter of lived experience”.

Ear on arm credit ABC-970-80

Doctor Von Hagens



On this catch up session we looked at theories on affordance and how they are all around us. We started by reading an extract from,  Affordance, Conventions, and Design, Donald Norman, 1999 in which explains his views and perceptions on affordances.

The handles on a tea set provide obvious affordance for holding

An affordance is a relation between an object or an environment and an organism that, through a collection of stimuli, affords the opportunity for that organism to perform an action. For example, a knob affords twisting, and perhaps pushing, while a cord affords pulling. As a relation, an affordance exhibits the possibility of some action, and is not a property of either an organism or its environment alone.

Different definitions of the term have developed. The original definition described all actions that are physically possible. This was later adapted to describe action possibilities of which an actor is aware. Some define affordance as a potential resource for¬†some¬† organism or species of organism, and so while inviting the possible engagement of some species, not identified with any particular one.The term has further evolved for use in the context of¬†human‚Äďcomputer interaction¬†(HCI) to indicate the easy discoverability of possible actions.

Gibson‘s Affordances

  • Action possibilities in the environment in relation to the action capabilities of an actor
  • Independent of the actor’s experience, knowledge, cultre, or ability to perceieve
  • Existence is binary – an affordance exists or it does not exist


Norman‘s Affordances

  • Perceived properties that may not actually exist
  • Suggestions or clues as to how to use the properties
  • Can be dependent on the experience, knowledge, or culture of the actor
  • Can make an action difficult or easy

Bauhaus (1912-1933) had one theory, form to follow function. Everything made at the Bauhaus School was meant to embody one central tenet: form should always reflect and enhance function. Utility comes first. The lesson was never sacrifice your message for your design. Focus on readability, narrative, and information first, artistic flair and frills second. Use your design to reinforce your message, never the other way around.


Really exciting session this week, in which I can relate alot of the theories into my own practice of ceramics and perphaps could explore this idea of relationsships between the body and objects or environments even further on my essay that I should really start thinking about.

Body Projects and The Regulation of Normative Masculinity

In began by reading Body Projects and The Regulation of Normative Masculinity, Rosalind Gill, Karen Henwood, Carl Mclean, 2005, in which focussed on the interests  in body modification practices such as working out, tattooing, piercing and cosmetic surgery. They explored the significance of this analysis and how it extended beyond the topic of body modifications to a broader set of issues concerned with the nature of men’s embodied identities.

“Over the past decade, there has been a dramatic rise in the visibility of the male body in the media and popular culture. Men‚Äôs bodies are on display as never before, from the muscular heroes of the cinematic action genre, to the ‚Äėsixpacks‚Äô who grace the covers of Men‚Äôs Health, and the ‚Äėsuperwaifs‚Äô of contemporary style magazines”

-Tasker, 1993;Edwards, 1997; Nixon,1996

Where once images of women dominated advertising and magazines, increasingly men‚Äôs bodies are taking their place alongside women‚Äôs on billboards, in fashion photography, and large circulation magazines. Looking back when we looked at visual art history and ways the nude ways viewed by the man,men look at women and women watch themselves being looked at” (Berger, 1972, p.47). The male body in a sence has become an object of the gaze rather than simply the bearer of the look.


A variety of explanations have been put forward to account for this shift in visual culture, variously crediting the gay movement, feminism, the media and  consumerism. While the reasons for it are questioned, there is widespread agreement that a significant change has occurred, in which men’s bodies as bodies have gone from near invisibility to hypervisibility in the course of a decade.

We done some further reading on¬†The Fashioned Self, Joanne Finkelstein, 1991¬†in which she argues that due to the consumer culture of modern society ideology, “physical appearance has come to be seen as an important means for claiming a degree of statues”. She has gone to explain how painters backing to the 18th and 19th centuries have depicted the subject in ways in which don’t show their imperfections, which prevail in todays media using editing tools such as Photoshop. She further explores this idea by stating by “blurring the distinctions between the image and reality by emphasizing appearances has a substantial influence on how we see one another” and how we interpret these signs and modifications of character is “culturally contingent”.


Interesting video below in which we see how dynamic different countries view standards of beauty in males using photoshop:

Identity, Cross Gender, Gender Performativity

In this weeks session in connection with last weeks session, we looked at how we are controlled by our identity and gender.


In 1999, Spanish artist Santiago Sierra paid six unemployed young men in Cuba to take part in one of his installation pieces. The men were offered $30 each to participate, and stripped to their shorts to become a part of  its human experiments, this time in the Espacia Aglutinador, Havana’s oldest art space.Santiago Sierra had the men tattooed, one straight, horizontal line reaching across each of their backs.

‚ÄúHaving a tattoo is normally a personal choice. But when you do it under ‚Äôremunerated‚Äô conditions, this gesture becomes something that seems awful, degrading‚ÄĒit perfectly illustrates the tragedy of our social hierarchies.¬†The tattoo is not the problem. The problem is the existence of social conditions that allow me to make this work. You could make this tattooed line a kilometer long, using thousands and thousands of willing people.‚ÄĚ

-Santiago Sierra

We looked at an extract from¬†Identity: Sociological Perspectives,¬†Steph¬†Lawler, 2008¬†which looks at sociology and anthropology in regards to identity and how its hard to define is due to the fact that there isnt a single over arching definition of what it is. Jackson (2002) says that, “one’s humanity is simultaneusly shared and sigular” (p. 142) which implies that we similarities and differences with each other which makes us identical with ourselves.

There are various forms of identity with which people identify. You may identify with a wider category, being a woman, but overstating the case you may dis-dentify from certain features of being a woman. Perhaps identity with some features attributed to a man. Lawley goes to argue, “identity must be managed”. One simply does not have one identity and the combinations of these “identities impact on each other”. For example how does a white woman compare in terms of meaning or experiences to a black woman? I would argue that these differences should be seen as dynamic and a way to celebrate life and its differences. Lawley says that there are identity categories which are understood as being oppositional which are the examples of binaries of man/woman, black/white, homosexual/heterosexual, in which the context, “identifications rely on their own dis-identifications”.

Looking at Obama and Cameron, even though we see shared identities such as being men and being leaders of countries they share also singular identities such as race and nationality.

People can further be categorised into smaller identities or groups, such as names, colours, , styles, body art, music, things people do, which are constructs we as a society follow.

Warner, 1991. ‚ÄúBelief that society is built upon such strict norms of different genders, and that heterosexuality is the ‚Äėnorm‚Äô.‚ÄĚ From this I get that when a thing is defined as a norm, anything outside that definition transgresses the norm such as homosexuality and transsexuals.

Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble explained with cats:

We went to further discuss¬†Cross Gender/ Cross Genre, Mike Kelley, 2000¬†in which an extract intrigued me in which discusses the unfairness on the sexes when it come to cross gender and ways they dress and are viewed by society, “In Western culture,men who dress in female clothes are considered funny,while the opposite is generally not the case. A woman dressed in male clothes has little comedic value. The sexism at the root of this difference is obvious, for why else should the adoption of feminine characteristics a man be abject.”

Connell (2005) describes how there are different types of masculinity, hegemonic masculinity in which men enjoy high social economic and cultural status which is portrayed globally and on the other hand, subordinate masculinity which is described as the marginalisation of some men despite their high social, cultural and economic status in general, for example homosexual men and black men.

I have learnt that identity is not fixed but its embodies. It is also a way that we read, judge and know people. Sexuality however in society is mostly fixed. Gender though is not fixed and is a cultural construction. Really interesting new information that could be potentially be explored furthermore.


Regulating Bodies – Power and Control: Why Don’t Men Wear Skirts?

Tacking the ideas from last session we are extending those ideas through how power and control and why dont men wear skirts? Why do we feel the need to act in a certain way, as a way of being constructed?

Extract from Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault, 1975


We began this session by looking at an extract from Discipline and Punish, 1975 in which explained the concept of the Panopticon. The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow all inmates of an institution to be observed by a single watchman without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly.

I was really intrigued by Foucault’s argument on how much a body is actually controlled for example in a schools, bells which controlled the use of time, timetables to control the placement of bodies, and various systems and rules to follow at all times.

Is visibility a trap? On todays society there is a range of rules and confinments which show how not so free we think we are. Yes, I do believe its important to have a certain degree of control, otherwise, to what point would society get to? Wars? Economy? There are other arguments as to how our bodies are controlled in contemporary society, perphaps not written rules but ways of living and ways we are constrainned, passports, social media, clothing, cars, food, medicine, expectations.

Looking back in time, our body has been controlled in a range of ways, for example religion as the idea of the standard of life both in materialistic things and religion would lead to just rewards which was the concept of heaven and hell. Body in past was controlled through religion. Now, its more complex and pervasive.

Discussing the question, why dont men wear skirts? Why are sexes encouraged into wearing certain items of clothing? In contemporary society we tend to put genders into categories in thing they should do, act, wear and be. Why is it stereopically blue for boys and pink for girls? To me it is really just a bunch of mare questions because, me wanting to wear a certain thing of a certain colour doesnt make me less of a man, or more macho. I remeber when I was on 4th grade and the teacher asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up, and me innocently wanting to be a hair dresser. And God it was motive for laughter and rediculazation, from calling me names that I dont even think 4th graders actually know the meaning of and looking back how secluded I felt and my self-esteem went down to the point my mum had to come to the school several times due to the ridiculous amout of bullying. From that past event, it really affected me of following some of possible career paths (fashion designer, cabin crew РI guess being a potter is masculine enought for society, and in that sense, society wins) I could of had which simply were demmed to be female and homosexual orientated. In a way I feel sad that these views are opposed on people and how really it can affect us in a way we can’t do what we want and in that sense we are controlled and restraint.

Looking at an interesting example below of a boy which swapped a toy he had received for his birthday for a doll: