My final thesis project will be comprised of two installations. These installations will be designed and constructed using the research I have been developing over the past two years; it is an exploration of the intersections between consumption, desire, and anxiety. My pursuit is intended to explore the pull between desire and anxiety that is a reaction to over-stimulation and over-consumption. By researching and trying to recreate this phenomenon, I may provoke in the viewer associations concerning our common experience of over-consumption, bringing to the forefront what may have been taken for granted and allowing them to re-examine and question our daily interactions with visual culture.
Living a lifestyle that is beyond our means is more than a habit; for many American’s it is a way of life. There are many factors that have contributed to our over-consumption. Multi media outlet advertising and governmental economic stimulus plans based upon shopping have contributed to our routine habit of over-consumption. This bigger/more is better attitude has become a part of our national identity. I am interested in the causality between our desire to consume and the anxiety produced by consumption. When we try to fulfill our needs with consumer products our anxiety increases and we continue to look insatiably toward the next must-have trend or object of craving (1). From the text Consumer Culture, Sturken and Cartwright assert, “this is a fundamental aspect of contemporary consumer culture…it gives us pleasure and reassurance while tapping into our anxieties and insecurities” (2). Studies have shown that as rates of consumption go up, our national happiness rates go down.
I am particularly interested in the bombardment of images, materials, and information that fill up our daily lives. How do images induce desire? What are the methodologies that are involved in the distribution and consumption of the image? How much can co-exist within a space and where does the excess go? I am fascinated by cycles of consumption, how they build up and break down; if anxiety is our body’s way of heightening self-awareness or warning against participating in dangerous behaviors, how can we remain so complacent? As my work explores areas of intersection between consumption, desire, and anxiety, I attempt within my pieces to recreate an initial state of complacency in the viewer that mounts into an increasing state of apprehension, an indication that induces awareness that something is not quite right. In so doing, it is my hope that the viewers experience will provoke questions similar to my own, about desire and excess, consumption and break down.
My first installation will involve the creation of an environment comprised of collages containing fragments of imagery, material, and objects, that may be configured in different ways within the space (or function in a separate context outside of the installation). These collages will be rectangular and will vary in size, combining to relate to the scale of signage, banners and billboards. Hanging methods will be based on the industrial methods used to hang banners on buildings and billboards. Some pieces will be hung directly on the wall and others will be standing on the floor, or suspended from the ceiling. These collages will be made on tyvek, out of found objects as well as traditional art materials and processes such as airbrush, projection, resin, stenciling, drawing, painting, collage, and latex. I will be utilizing imagery that can be found in our visual culture, emphasizing aspects of culture that rely on visual images. I will appropriate Internet imagery from web pages, YouTube, blogs, social networking sites such as Facebook and pictures from search engines such as Google image. I will be collecting magazines and newspapers, as well as fliers and signage found in public spaces like bulletin boards and utility poles. I will carry a notepad in order to sketch out text from signage and other interesting visual phenomena such as patterns in architecture or advertisement design. These images, forms and objects will then be reconfigured, fragmented and placed within a new space in order to study their function and how they are organized and distributed. Materials will spill off of the collages into the surrounding environment; fragmented, images, objects, and materials will surround the viewer.
The image plays a pivotal role in channeling desire, which in turn creates an
anxiety. We have been taught that this anxiety can only be suppressed by another desire-induced consumption; however our satisfaction in what we consume is fleeting and the cycle continues, uninterrupted. By combining and reconstructing visual culture, I intend for the viewer to re-examine their relationship to the images that they encounter in daily life. Through digital media, our experience of the image has been reinvented. The bombardment of imagery we experience on a daily basis has increased by our use of the Internet. Bringing the ephemeral imagery that we experience into a physical space makes it less transient and therefore more open to critical examination allowing a building process that is intended to climax in a visual overload.
My second installation will explore the take over of physical space through metaphor. I have been interested in the fractal forms of romanesco broccoli because they remind me of toxic spores or mold that reproduce and take over environments (like a non-native species without a predator to keep them at bay). I am interested in manufacturing these “toxic signifiers” and reproducing and replicating them through the process of mold making. By repeating the fractal form I am attempting to yet again overwhelm the viewer and communicate a sense of endless continuity. I will be creating toxic growths by casting fractal-like forms out of plastic, packaging material, waste, latex, and resin. The materials will seduce with shiny surfaces and candy colors, yet the fractal forms will become more ominous as they accumulate, creating a tension between desire and repulsion. These toxic growths will interact with simplified architectural forms made of Masonite that will be attached to the existing architecture of the gallery space. The forms will be white like the walls of the gallery and reminiscent of simple architectural planes and angles. The forms are simplified so that the context will remain ambiguous and not be read as a specific site. Giving viewers the impression that this could be any site. The cycle begins with fractal buds emerging from the ground and wall. The fractal forms become larger, more numerous and abstracted with mounds growing off of their own decay as they consume space until an obstacle in the architecture creates a barrier for the forms to build up on, impeding further growth. Buds then reappear in another area where this cycle is repeated as the forms interact with another architectural form. This is intended to create a sense of anxiety for the viewer as they come to realize that the growths cannot be impeded and will continue to consume and multiply ad infinitum.
I use painting, collage, and sculpture as they are all intimately connected to image consumption, layered excess and physical growth. (3) As Charles White states about collage “collage is not only a common response to the layers of information that burden us but also an invisible force that recognizes histories, logs, and lineages to be more readily accessible.” I am confronting visual culture as I am entangled within it. By exploring imagery, objects, and material through separating them from their context and rearranging them in new ways I hope to gain insight about the intertwining relationships they are involved in and their effects on us. I am interested in the images ability to induce desire at the same time as anxiety and how our routine consumption of images may relate to overstimulation and what implications this might have for the human mind.