Archive for October, 2010

Walking vaginas

I went to Frieze Art Fair and what image has burnt itself to my brain after the visit was this woman walking past me in a pink outfit, from top to toe. Her coat or cape was covered in big lips and tongues attached to the fabric in variations of bright purple, pink and nuances of these colors I think, very bright and catchy so it was. My friend and I were intrigued by this outfit and wondered whether or not it was her own design or someone else. But we were convinced that the lady wearing such an eye-catching work definitely wouldn’t mind if we asked her. The lady, firmly said that she was wearing vaginas because they should make us happy, hence the happy colors! (actually as I type the word vagina is automatically underlined with red spots indicating that it is spelled incorrectly, which it is not as I have double checked with my oxford dictionary…perhaps she should have sown on the letters v.a.g.i.n.a as well on her outfit).

Alexandra Holownia was her name and can be seen to the right wearing her project Fly at Art Forum Berlin last year. She gave us her website info which can be checked out at Alexandra Holownia.
Another related art work was Tracey Emin‘s embroidery Dark Hole which displays a woman spreading her legs. I am not an active feminist but I do find it very interesting to find works like these at Frieze Art Fair. Why the artist choose to exhibit them might be for many reasons but they do express very direct and strong images. It may not be linked to feminist art at all, as with Emin her work seems to be autobiographical, but for me they send out this message that we (both women and men) might have barriers or blocks when it comes to intimacy and sexuality. And when I observed people walking past Emin’s picture they would go closer to study the embroidery until they realize that it is this in fact a woman’s genitals being displayed, they feel uncomfortable and walk away (do you recognise the reaction?). Do they feel uncomfortable about the actual image or is it their assumptions of what other people might think when they look at the picture that makes them go away? Is it inappropriate to look at a vagina embroidered on a white canvas? Or is it a result of projective identification between the viewer and those who notice the viewer?
I am not so sure where I am getting at but I know that the thought of Holownia’s outfit covered in vaginas and not tongues and lips made me laugh. The fact that she was wearing brightly, unrealistically, colored vaginas, made me laugh. Why? Because it made me wonder why. Women and sexuality was a big topic during the feminist movement in the 60s and a controversial topic then, is it still? Is our own sexuality still a taboo? Is the title of my blog provocative or inappropriate?

Art doesn’t have to be beautiful or agree with the “norms” of aestheticism, neither do I believe that we have to understand it from the artists point of view. It is there, displayed to us, the audience, which gives us the freedom to think what we think, feel what we feel and react as we do. We do not have to determine whether ugly or not, which I find is often the terms of which inexperienced people judge successfulness/unsucessfulness. The fabolous thing is that there is no right or wrong. What we feel may be hard to describe in words as visual arts provides us with, perhaps, less tangible material than the spoken or written word. And I don’t think we need to verbalise our feelings. I like when the artist provokes feelings in me that I can’t put my finger on. My immediate reaction was that there was something interesting about Holownia and Emin and they have caught my curiosity; I was perhaps unprepared and caught off guard by their expression. I do know though that I wouldn’t wear this dress or decorate my living room window with a vagina and its black hole, I feel that would be inappropriate for me and my guests, I guess that is a product of me living and acting conventionally and after the norm. I don’t think I am the only one.

And I will stop there.

Below: Another of Emin’s works which can be found at her webpage.

October 18, 2010 at 7:18 pm Leave a comment

Why is it like that?

I have done some observations lately and there are three services/systems that I have experienced as dysfunctional or in need improvement (to make my day and hopefully others easier to cope with…):

1. The Kingston University Bus Stop
Waiting for the bus is boring..During the first week of Uni (freshers week) there was no bus route, just an empty sign. Luckily the bus route was posted during week two but when it is dark there is no chance of reading it unless you have a phone (ok, most of us do) to hold up and light on it. But, what if you run out of battery? The Kingston bus is less frequent in the evening and would like to know if it is another 30min wait or not.

I asked five different people who were waiting for the bus: 1 Do you know where to find the bus info? 2 Are the signs or the info clearly visible? 3 If no, how can this be imroved?. Three out of five knew where to find the info. All five thought they were not clearly visible. All five suggested a sign saying: Bus Information (or similar) and/or a light to make it easier for the user to find and read.

2. Train Station
The London Tube system is for me unique and compared to other big cities I’ve been to, for instance Paris, it is easy to find your way on the tube. However, now that the Oyster card system has been added to all rail stations around London there are no gates for you to enter or exit (i.e Hampton, Teddington, Barnes). Meaning that it is easy to travel for free if both the station you leave from and go to has got none (you do risk getting fined so it is not recommended, on the other hand there are not so many controls). Where I am getting at is actually more in favor of those who do pay. Because we are so used to these enter/exit gates I find it very easy to forget to swap my Oyster card when there is no gate there. They do have Oyster swipe machines, but they are placed next to the wall, not so visible, and doesn’t stop you if you don’t swipe your card. The result if you do forget is that you will be charged extra on your card! I do realize it is my own responsibility, but I imagine for tourists?

3. Tap Water?
For the environmentally friendly it can sometimes be quite frustrating to have to buy bottled water everywhere. It is very hard to find places where you can fill up your own bottle. And it might not be very attractive to do so in a toilet sink. So, when you spend a long day, say, in Kingston University Library and get thirsty, where can you fill up your water bottle? I think it is quite boring to keep looking for taps everywhere…

So, I went to the help desk in Kingston Library. I asked a friendly lady if there was anywhere in the Library I could fill up my water bottle? She replied that unfortunately there wasn’t. They had received lots of requests about water fountains but because of physical reasons, like plumbing, it had not been possible to follow up on these. My alternative was to use the bathroom sinks all tough the water didn’t taste so nice there… I thought, what about installing a water fountain inside the toilets or just outside? I am not convinced.

October 14, 2010 at 10:50 am Leave a comment

Plant plant!

My Sweet pepper is growing fast and now flowers are coming out! And a couple of weeks ago I also tried to plant Basil and Rocket. They seem to be doing ok as long as they get some artificial sun light provided by my kitchen spot lights. Cress grows at any time of year and are actually quite versatile, I’ve so far tried it in tomato soup, gravy, on my toast and in salads..mmm..For the spring I’ll attempt to grow tomatoes and cucumber!

October 12, 2010 at 9:28 pm Leave a comment

How To Save The World?

Providing the public with important information can be a good start. One thing that I am very concerned about is how much stuff we buy despite the fact that we don’t really need it, especially clothes, shoes and accessories. I think that most of us have a wardrobe full of stuff we never use or sometimes doesn’t know that it even exists. A very handy place to put all of this stuff is clothes disposal bins or charity shops (most of them welcome donations). I have been trying to search online to find one web-page that could provide details of what possibilities I have for where to dispose unwanted stuff in my area or other places in the UK. I found information only on individual pages such as councils, charity shops and similar but none where all of the information was gathered. That’s a shame I thought so I created a web-page prototype called Clothes Disposal:

The set-up of the page is very simple: Top header, header menu, site content (right side), advertisement (left side) and footer. This stays the same for all the pages while the main content changes to the relevant information. The page includes information on disposal bins, charity shops, home collect service and other ways to dispose unwanted clothes and items. One can browse by area and postcodes in the whole of UK. There is also a link to Greener Living which provides information on what you can do in your live to promote a sustainable future.

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I was inspired by a class where Corrine introduced us to web page prototyping and it was indeed a great way to explore a possible layout and page orientation. Of course, it looks clumsy on paper but it was a lot of fun to make as well as you can just cut and tape when you do a mistake!

October 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm Leave a comment

RSA Animates

The video The Empathic Civilization was introduced to us in class and I really liked the way it projected important information through animation. As the speakers voice is heard one can follow images being drawn as he speaks. The audio-visual learning is also supported through words and sentences actually being repeated, written on the canvas.

On the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts’ webpage one can find more RSA videos like this one which provides you with a lot of interesting information:

The following video is in fact relevant to all I have written about so far in my blog (and in general the ways in which we choose to live and act in the 21st Century). It covers such a broad area that could be elaborated on forever. It seems somewhat overwhelming to try to describe what I think about it, but it sums up a lot of my ideas and ideals. Pay attention to the final comment:

21st Century Enlightenment

October 5, 2010 at 6:22 pm Leave a comment

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