Reflection on previous work

After producing a piece of work for my summative assessment I feel that the major factor I have learned was from the weaknesses within the work. This was perhaps because I had not fully developed the piece, as the work was still evolving. I feel that I have recognised that I am an artist that needs to make mistakes along the way in order to progress my practice.

What I particularly liked was the idea that through my work I was able to make people laugh in the gallery space. I liked the way the participant put the piece of paper into the suggestion box, falling straight back out onto the floor, this made me laugh. It is this comedy element that I decided I wanted to develop further; this was a challenge to use the serious issues of politics with humour within the same work. I realised that humour was a way for me to somehow break this serious subject matter down. At the same time I recognise that politicians use humour all the time as a political tactic.

What happened?

I decided I needed to research the use of humour using both primary and secondary research. Two of the most important influences for my work have been David Shrigley and Martin Rowson. David Shrigley, his reduction of colour to the bear minimum and use of monochromatic images makes me question whether something is black or white, right or wrong, true of false, yes or no, life or death. Shrigley deals with the emotive issue of death within his work through the use of humour. Laughter can be seen as the polar opposite to death and the use of these opposing issues helps us to deal with such a serious subject matter. Another influence for my work is Martin Rowson’s way of creating caricatures by using what he calls the ‘Micky Mouse protocol’, he is the most recognisable character on the planet and his image is reduced to three symbols (drawing a circle for the face, with two circles for ears) and by using three symbols for a character (a simple format) you can create an image of anyone you like.

What are my aims?

I want to convey a message about politics with regard to specific issues that I feel strongly about but I want to do this in a way that engages people getting them to take an interest through humour rather than being passive, but at the same time avoid preaching. People find politics an emotive issue and often direct involvement is avoided, however in using humour they find they can relate to the issues indirectly. 

Developing my ideas

Martin Rawson quoted the words of H. L. Mencken who said ‘The journalist has two responsibilities: to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted’, by concentrating on this principle of challenge those in authority.

The Test

I asked people in the studio what they felt about the cuts to the arts budget in Newcastle, getting them to make a comment and put it into the suggestion box. They queued up one at a time to enter the room individually to cast their suggestion and I then captured their response on film. Some responses from this test surprised me, many found it funny and when they were leaving the room they were laughing, connecting them with humour. What else I learned was how it made me feel, they had written something down about something that was close to them yet I knew that nobody would get to read what they had written which I found difficult. I realised that this made my work have ‘dark comedy’ element to it which I had not previously realised. Someone commented that I was feeling how they (politicians) should feel.

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AuthorOliver Perry