Covid charms and where to find them

I don’t have a lot of experience with jewelry, I dislike the feeling of metal on my skin, so that rules out necklaces and rings. I only just got my ears pierced last year, in a post lockdown identity crisis, and have not yet brought myself to wear anything but sleepers outside the house. This semester I was lucky enough to get into the Casting and Metal Alloying, a class that would probably benefit from some basic knowledge of jewelry.

Having said that, I do think I understand the appeal of charms, though I’ve never worn them. I’ve always had trinkets and baubles, and little objects of importance, strewn around my room, kept safe in small boxes. Badges, shells, polaroid’s, leaves, tickets and toys, but this class deals with charms in relation to jewelry, so first!

What is a charm?

A charm is a small artifact, or object, that has some significance or meaning behind it. They’re often designed to be attached to a bracelet, or other piece of wearable jewelry.

During World War 2, soldiers would send home charms that reflected their experiences while stationed overseas. In the image above, sourced from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, there is a combination of army signifiers, like a jeep, and artillery gun, but also coins from several allied nations.

This type of charm became incredibly popular post WWII in America, as servicemen would bring home these charms from local artisans overseas. My father served in the Australian army, and as a child I remember seeing lots of small charms including Akubra hats, Australian crests, and indigenous animals, all made from silver, or sometimes even pewter. My family home had huge cabinets filled with trinkets, ceramic elephants, tiny glass dogs, and these small charms of Australiana.

I remember having one charm in particular that I attached to a keychain, I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, but I knew it was made from some kind of rough metal or stone. I remember being obsessed with the idea that if I rubbed it enough, I could wear down over time. This somehow made it more valuable to me, that it would eventually disappear.

How is it different to an amulet and a talisman?

Traditionally an amulet is an object with apparent magical power, it’s purpose often to protect the owner from the evil influence of others. This can be worn, or simply held in a location, in order to confer it’s powers. Amulets were originally made from natural material, such as animal bone or gemstones, but in more contemporary settings could be made out of any material.

A talisman is thought to be an object of great power, the can provide energy, luck or connect someone to a sense of spirituality. Traditionally made from the bones and trimmings of predatory animals, but more modern totems could include a piece of clothing with significant value, a tool that has proved incredibly useful, or really anything to which a person could form a strong emotional recognition for.

In summary
A charm is for remembering, or tradition
An amulet is for protection, or comfort
And a talisman for power, luck or spirituality

All these functions may apply to each, and the definitions of each seems pretty mailable

Covid Charms

The first class project is titled “Covid Charms”, and it got me thinking about what my charm was. The only item I feel gave me power was my FitBit. I got really into running about halfway through, and it was really good for my mental health. Every time I left the house with the FitBit on, it was a physical reminder of my commitment to self care.

(this is not an advertisement for FitBit)

References

Letting the Paper do the Talking

How do you wrap up a project? After it’s on the wall, honestly, all the energy leaves my body, and I’m just left with two useless limbs and a list of images to catalogue. Apologies in advance, these works are very difficult to capture in a photo, but I’ve done what I can!

So here it is, my final series for the semester, REFLECTOR

If you read my last post though, you’ll notice a few new images, and maybe some other bits of polish that have been added since. So what I’ll be doing in this post is running through a few of the technical difficulties I faced, how I overcame them, and what I learnt from this project.

First, how did I resolve the works?

So these screenprints were done on adhesive holographic vinyl, which basically means it’s a big shiny sticker. Having completed them all, I had to find a way to present them, and hopefully make them seem resolved. In my experiments with blind embossing, I noticed on the flat areas the vinyl would take on the rippled texture of the paper. These small bumps helped catch the light, and create a more vibrant surface.

I set out to press the vinyl onto the paper. I decided on using black paper, hoping it would enhance the colours, also I would use one sheet of damp paper and one dry, to see what affect that had. I removed the backing of a spare print, and put it through a press, sandwiched between a sheet of paper and a blank lino block. I learnt two lessons from this, one, black paper didn’t give the affect I want, and two, dry paper produced the least warping and most satisfying surface.

wet on the left, dry on the right

While trying to create a larger lino block to run through with my prints, Rob the lab technician suggested it might be easier to use a simple book press. This ended up saving me a lot of time, and created prints the were perfectly flat!

What prints have I used for the final series? Moving from top left to bottom right we have, REFLECTION, THE PIT, REFRACTION, SURFACE, INSIDE, and OUTSIDE.

REFLECTION and REFRACTION were the first two prints I worked on in the series, and originally I wasn’t intending on including them, as I didn’t think they would fit. I’ve presented them, along with THE PIT, as a group of three, their purpose to describe a process of introspection and actualization.

REFLECTION describes looking inwards, becoming more self aware. The figure is closed off to the viewer, but the image is still lush and inviting, maybe it’s a trap? or maybe a path to better understanding.

THE PIT has two figures, but one person. When I found these two images, and placed them side by side, I instantly saw a conversation between them. The grey figure as the critical inner self, disgusted by the despondent dandy slumped in his chair. This image describes the pit falls of excessive self critique, an endless inward spiral of negativity.

REFRACTION is the other side of the coin, when introspection leads to self development and actualization. The joyous feeling, when you’re hard work, and discipline, start affecting how you interact with the world, and the people around you.

These last three prints SURFACE, INSIDE, and OUTSIDE are also presented in series. These prints draw more inspiration from my reading into the chameleon effect, an study that showed people subconsciously mimic those around them.

Each print has a different adhesive paper used under the face, each creating a different effect. My thought process in naming these was simply observing how a change in surface pushed, and pulled, the surface of the image.

I could go deeper into my thoughts on this work, but it’s 1am, and I need to leave a little bit of mystery you know? Anyway, I know my photos were a bit high contrast, so here’s a video showing the work how it’s viewed best, slowly sliding side to side,

On reflection, there are a thousand things I would change about this series, but honestly I don’t know that I’ve ever not felt that way after finishing work on a project. I think it’s what drives me to make bigger and better things every time.

Something I learnt though, I need to test more, I’m way to keen to dive into he finished product, that’s a bad habit. Another is my research phase, in that it should start existing, instead of being something I scramble to realize halfway towards the finish line.

This will most likely be my last post for this semester, after a short holiday break I will be back, reinvigorated, energized, and ready to friggin’ rumble!

Naked People and the Chameleon Effect

Are you always 100% you? of course right? Well I wasn’t sure, so I did some googling about why we might act differently around certain people. I was, like any good hypochondriac millennial, expecting to find I have an obscure neurodivergence. [1] Instead I came across a scientific paper from the 90s, focused on understanding if, and why, people subconsciously mimic the behavior of those around them.

Now, I’m going to be honest, I am not a scientist, I also did not read the entirety of the paper. The deeper I got into the paper, the more my eyes crossed trying to stay focused on these densely worded sentences. They were really trying to say as much they could, with as few words as possible. I’d also just finished reading The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with my partner, which is a book that tries to say as little as possible, with as many words as it can. So it was an abrupt turn.

BUT! here is the gist, we as humans, will mimic those around us subconsciously as a form of social bonding. That’s the tagline, monkey see, monkey do, monkey lack awareness of own subconscious mimicry. While this wasn’t the new hot thing I could blame for all my problems, It was very interesting. The study states that how much people exhibit this behavior can vary greatly. Personally I feel like I do it a lot, and I notice myself doing it too. If you recognize this behavior in yourself, I’d love to hear about it!

I was already working with reflective surfaces when I came across this study, and I wanted to incorporate these concepts into the work. I set about finding figures in my collection that would be appropriate, while also keeping an eye out for good visual relationships. I already knew the greyscale man and the reclining dandy worked well together, from an earlier work. This portrait of Adam, paired up nicely with a farmer holding an axe. Finally, the accusing man, and the flustered butler, I don’t really know about this one, I don’t think I’ll use it, but I just think they are both bursting with meme potential.

My approach was to create simple interaction between two figures, then somehow represent a mirroring between the two. I would do this through how the figures were placed, and through the use of varied materials. So like my last few prints, these would have the rainbow vinyl base, but I would add some reflective adhesive paper to the faces, as well as some other colored adhesive as an experiment.

So after two days of internally screaming at my screens, stripping and reapplying several layers of emulsion, and bungling a few registrations, here are the fruits of my labor!

Printing on this vinyl can be tough, especially when it’s so close to the due date. The vivid colors of the vinyl can really wash out the image, so as you can see here these two boys are in desperate need of some vitamin D. But in it’s own way its kind of very subtle, I don’t dislike it, but it’s not something I really planned for, despite being aware of the issue.

I was too excited to leave the studio for the day, so I didn’t get a picture of one with the red adhesive, but TRUST ME! they’re great. In fact I think they worked better than the mirrored adhesive, which seemed to just get muddied down by the ink. You can see your reflection when you really get close to it, and It plays with the light in some strange ways.

From here I’m going to press the whole image onto some black paper, sign and title those bad boys, and then call it a day. I’ll probably do this same process with the other prints I’ve finished on the vinyl, and call it a series of thoughts as images.

References

  1. Chartrand TL, Bargh JA. The chameleon effect: the perception-behavior link and social interaction. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1999 Jun;

Pound, Stezaker and Höch

Patrick Pound

I think the single thing that made me appreciate and connect with Pounds work the most, was him referring to his practice as a puzzle he engages in. I also like to think about my relationship to the images I cutout to be a sort of game. I set myself rules and attempt to work within those confines. Rules include no printing off images to cut out, everything I cut out should stand on it’s own, and trying to source everything from books I happen across in a normal day.

That second one might be confusing, but I just have this idea of an images integrity, so if there is a portrait painting, I would cut out the image, add it to my collection, then use it later, I’m not cutting out images for specific works, more building a collection.

Museum of Air, 2013, Patrick Pound, Mixed Media
The Photographers Shadow, 2012, Patrick Pound, Mixed Media

John Stezaker

A teacher of mine once heard Stezaker give a speech. At the end of the speech he took questions, and my teacher who was a big fan asked his opinion on digital collage. His response was less than enthusiastic. She didn’t go into great detail about what he said, but it boiled down to digital collage not being real collage.

This in mind, I can’t imagine Stezaker would have any great love for my work. Maybe If i captured my work with a camera instead of a scanner? but probably the most If I just glued my work down, LIKE A REAL MAN! /s

Despite this I still love Stezakers work. It’s simple, smart, elegant and really just so smart. Hearing him talk about it though feels like eating a crouton sandwich. So I won’t subject you to that, instead I’ll post several images for you to look through. They require very little explanation. Each work feels like a coy little smirk, begging the response, “oh I see what you’ve done”

Marriage L, 2007, John Stezaker, Collage
She (Film Portrait Collage) III, 2008, John Stezaker, Collage

Marriage VIII, 2006, John Stezaker, Collage

Old Mask IV, 2006, John Stezaker, Collage

I really loved this style of collage, just after high school, before I started studying art. I had but a humble tumblr blog and I posted poetry, along with some photos where I had taken American presidents faces, and placed wood knots over where their skin should be. I can’t place exactly what I found satisfying about it, the texture, the way the grain mimicked the shape of the face, but there was something to it. I see it here too in Stezakers Old Mask series.

For one of my more recent projects I attempted to recreate this effect. While I liked the result, It didn’t really fit with what I was working on. One for the vault.

Howdy, 2021, Jake Brown, Collage

I did incorperate this idea of a “through line” though, In wh-why… me? you can see parts of the background image are followed through on the larger figure. This helps cement him as native to the domain, while the smaller figure is out of place.

In this extract it’s easier to see how the rolling swirls from the background, meet up with the forest floor of the larger figure

Hannah Höch

I didn’t really look at Höch’s work for this latest project as something to emulate, instead I looked at her work as a counterbalance to Stezakers more controlled and subtle style of collage. Höch’s work feels like bending the limits of collage to send a desired message. Whenever I look at her work I feel like she is simply painting with images.

Actually, you know what, maybe I’m more inspired by her than I thought!

Untitled, 1930, Hannah Höch, Collage
Indian Dancer: From an Ethnographic Museum, 1930, Hannah Höch, Collage
With Seaweed, 1950, Hannah Höch, Cut-and-pasted papers, torn papers, and gouache on paper

Höch’s work has a wonderful crudeness to it, I really admire artists who can make work so lo-fi, yet so refined. I always feel I have to work my collage into oblivion, making sure everything sits right, and that the colors are replicated perfectly,


Of course, If anybody knows any interesting facts, or outstanding works by these aritists, please comment down below.

I’m also always looking for more artist references!

Fair use? Fair Dealing? Fair Enough!

click here for an audio reading of this post!

One of the largest concerns I faced while working through this latest collage project, and really it’s a concern I’ve had whenever I’ve worked with collage. What are the moral implications of using images that I didn’t create? I didn’t make the images I cut out, and I don’t have any copyright to them, so how can I justify using them?

I’ve listened to a lot of discussion surrounding this over the years, but mostly in the context of YouTube’s fair use policy, and it’s effect on creators. Specifically there was a fairly public dispute between Matt Hosseinzadeh (Matt Hoss), and Ethan and Hila Klien [1]. The Klien’s ran a popular YouTube channel, called H3H3, which produced satirical content, poking fun at others on the YouTube platform. After a releasing a few videos on Hoss, who ran his own channel producing short films, with himself as the lead, he filed a lawsuit against the Kliens. This was a lengthy saga, and stirred up a lot of conversation on what exactly constitutes fair use, and how exactly parody and satire function.

I should mention this all happened in America, where the law governing copyright is called “fair use”, which is a different system to what we have in place in Australia.

Ultimately the Kliens won the lawsuit, but it was a long and arduous journey, which clearly took it’s tole on the two of them. They won the case after the courts applied a four step analysis, this is the process used to determine if a work that contains the work of another is appropriate. [2]

Factor 1: The conditions of use
This step identifies how the material is being presented in this new work

  • In the context of someone criticizing or commenting on the original work
  • For the purpose of reporting, researching, teaching or in the context of a scholarship

If any of these factors are satisfied, It bodes well for fair use to be found. Often courts will use the term “transformative,” which asks if the work takes on new life, instead of being merely a reproduction of the original material.

Factor 2: Nature of the work
As best I could determine, this step aims to identify the nature of the original material, in order to determine how the fair use rules apply. So typically, creative works are often given heavier weighting towards the copyright holder, as opposed to non fiction materials.

Factor 3: Amount of original material used
This factor loops back to the idea of a work being transformative. Generally speaking, the less of the original material you use, the better the case for fair use. But context is also important, such as in the Klien case, this factor ruled in the Klien’s favor, as the court found they only used enough material as to accurately criticize the original material. Time is not the only factor, but also resolution of image, or any factor regarding how recognizable it is.

Factor 4: Does the new work diminish the value of the original material
This is the most complex of the factors, as what determines value can be hard to determine. In cases where the new work is commercial in nature, this can be made simpler, as value can be deemed as income gained. But if it has a different purpose than the original material, or operates in a different market, things again become unclear.

So that’s fair use, and It was, up until writing this very post, what I thought my works would be judged against. But it turns out we operate under a different law in Australia, called Fair Dealing.

Fair Dealing works in a similar way to fair use, but is considered to be more restrictive on what is an acceptable use of copyrighted works. Even if you’re work falls under the categories defined above, there are often extra conditions that muse be satisfied. In the case of criticism, where you must site the original authors and the name of their work. While using literary texts, even for research and scholarship purposes, there are limits on how much you can use before it falls outside of fair dealing. [3]

The Australian Society of Authors actually thinks very highly of Fair Dealing, and is worried about the Australian governments apparent desire to import Fair Use. Fair dealing gives greater protection to the original copyright holders, and as the laws are more restrictive, results in lower legal fees when it comes to protecting your own works [4]. I can completely understand this perspective, and it would feel dishonest arguing against it, solely because fair use would benefit me in my practice. Though I don’t think anyone could argue, that in a modern world of YouTubes and TikToks, that a legal code written in 1968 really cuts it anymore.

So what does this all mean for me and my work?

I have no idea

the end.

Nah, but actually this system seems so complicated, it feels like some insurmountable obstacle to sort through what is appropriate and what isn’t. But as a jumping off point, from what I’ve read, my collage work is most likely to fall under the satire / parody provision of fair dealing. Though this does in it’s own way present problems. For starters, satire is not the central driving point of my work, though it is a part of it. Does this mean I have to play up the satirical element? Can I only use these images in my art if I’m making fun of or criticizing them? Can’t I make work as a love letter to the printed image?

Not to mention my complete lack of book keeping when it comes to image sourcing!

For the moment, and probably foreseeable future, I’m just going to keep expanding my practice, and following my own moral compass for what seems appropriate. I very much like to think my work is transformative! But a jury of my peers may not agree.

References

  1. Matt Hosseinzadeh v. Ethan Klein and Hila Klein
  2. “Fair Use”, Columbia University Libraries
  3. “Fair Dealing and Fair Use: How Australian Copyright Differs from the USA”, Lawpath.com.au
  4. “Fair Use”, Australian Society of Authors

Melodrama

Before my second Contemporary Figuration Feedback session, I was lucky enough to have my induction on an Epson 11880. This is, for anyone not in the know, a pretty good printer to say the least. Heading in I thought I would print of 3 a2 prints, kind of to test how they look? just get a feel for it?

I walked out of the induction with an absolutely massive 118 x 90 cm fine art print.

wh-why… me?, Jake Brown, 2021, 118 x 90 cm, Archival print, 300gsm Matte Paper

So this is one of the finished works for the class, some I discovered from printing these on a regular printer is that the yellow was way too high and it could do with some more contrast. My thoughts on printing this were mainly good, though I do wonder if a glossy paper might be more interesting and give deeper blacks? but my printmaker brain just can’t get around the glossy paper.

I hung this in the studio for a few days and got some pretty positive reviews. I also posted a photo of this with myself in front of it to Instagram, and It’s now my most liked image. I think people like to see the artist with the art? but I’m also bad with photos of myself, so I’m not sure how that’s gonna work going foreword.

So this brings us up to the second round of formative feedback. Here are some notes from the session

⦁ In the first session people suggested the works could exist purely as projections, but people seemed more impressed with the large print in the second session. I made them with printing in mind so that makes total sense, If I had made it with projection in mind things would of developed in a different direction.
⦁ The image speaks to more photographic progresses rather than print or painting.
⦁ The print quality is high enough that it gives the illusion of a real collage, the subtle shadow where cutouts overlap adds to the effect.
⦁ The dramatic imagery with the melodramatic comic book text adds a sense of satire to the work, It says out loud what the image is trying to say.
⦁ People noticed interplay of cutouts, where landscapes would blend through the placed images.
⦁ Some viewed the larger figure as an exit to a cave, which is something I hadn’t noticed. Once they mentioned it, I kept seeing both alternating.
⦁ The work had a heavy biblical overtone. I felt this while making it, the larger figure has the image of a priest on the reverse side, so strange that it still shone through in the image.
⦁ The comic book text gives scale to the image, because we are familiar with the size of a comic / magazine.
⦁ large figure is almost lifelike, or the size of a small person.
⦁ Scale brings importance to the work, a sense of reverence for the images.
⦁ The consensus was that the prints have achieved a resolved finish.
⦁ Evokes thoughts of a stain glass window, a sense of a journey, part of a larger story.
⦁ Breaking the frame makes the larger figure seem other worldly. That is it continues off the bottom edge of the print, It’s not contained. Exists on a different plane to the smaller human figure in the image.

Following this session I was super happy with the work I had done, so I decided to go ahead and continue printing off works. obviously I had learnt from the first print, so this second one turned out even better! which was good because it looks better, but worse because It highlights the flaws in the first print. No stress though!

The Fools, Jake Brown, 2021, 118 x 90 cm, Archival print, 300gsm Matte Paper

This print got even more love than the first, I think this is definitely my favorite work that I’ve produced in recent years. An odd feeling came over me when I saw this one, and it was how much I was borrowing images. An off thing to say about a collage work, but the colors came through so vibrant and crisp, but none of them were mine. I don’t know really where this though will go, It’s the kind of thing I’ll need a lot of feedback about.

I hung both prints up in my studio to see them side by side, and was surprised to see how well they work together. Some of the yellow from The Fools feels like it’s bursting into wh-why… me?.

The two works side by side

So that’s almost the end of this project / class and I’m really happy with how it worked out. I really think this project could be expanded to 10 or 12 works, and possibly propose the works to a gallery. I’ll be presenting these next Monday, I’ll post an update when I have my marks!

Wish me luck!