Learning Lenticular Printing

30 10 2009

*Please note that this blog entry was created around the time of the Unit 1 Assessment (March 2010) and dated retroactively. I did this as it was necessary to illustrate this stage of development in the project for assessment purposes. This post is a summary two journal entries, online research and experimenting I had done from October 23-30, 2009. I never got a chance to post this in a timely manner as I had to leave the country unexpectedly due to a death in the family at the start of November.

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Visit to Earls Court

26 10 2009

According to a 2007 report from the Manila Times, London has over 120,000 ethnic Filipinos and Earls Court is home to the single largest community of them. And so I went to Earls Court today to take pictures and to talk to some Filipino-Londoners for the first time. Coming out of the tube station I interrupted a transaction between a caucasian fruit vendor and a Filipina customer to ask (in English) where I could find ‘Filipino-town’. Having lived in Toronto, Paris, Montreal and Tokyo each time failing to find a ‘Filipino-town’ I already knew that it was likely that none would exist in London either. The question was received with confusion from both the vendor and the Filipina. I clarified that I was looking to find the centre of the Philippine community in London, like Chinatown but for Filipinos. I’m not sure if it was my accent or the question but I was still no further ahead for an answer. Finally I asked where I could buy some good Filipino food around the area and to my surprise it was the caucasian vendor who answered first telling me what general direction to go in.  After she bought two large bags of fruit, the Filipina later elaborated on the specific roads that I should go to. I then realized right away that her level of english was such that it made sense that the vendor would answer first to my question phrased in my loud, rapid-fire Canadian delivery. I did not make eye contact and raise my head and eyebrows with a smile (typical Filipino body language equivalent of a ‘Hello, can I ask you something?’). I interrupted with the typical Canadian passive, polite, aggressive, “I’m sorry but…”

The day went on as I bumbled my way physically and culturally through several streets, shops, banks and restaurants that catered to the Philippine community. I asked the question, “Where is Filipino-town?” to several more Filipinos working in the shops and walking the streets and each time I was told that there was no such thing in London. Of course I knew this, even before I came here. This is the reality of the Philippine diaspora. There wasn’t a Filipino-town when I was growing up in Canada, and even now when Filipinos represent the third largest ethnic visual-minority group in Toronto, there is still no Filipino-town. This speaks to the displacement and assimilation of the Filipinos who leave ‘home’ and make a new home in their host countries while keeping ties with the Philippines. It is in these scant shops, restaurants and money transfer agencies that a space between their current reality in London and the life they left in the Philippines physically meet. It is from these spaces in between that I begin my image making process.

BBC2 clip on The Great British Parakeet Invasion

26 10 2009

I’m still not sure how this random story fits into my own project… but something in the idea of a displaced tropical bird finding a niche in London is appealing to me. I like the parallel narratives… I like that it’s light… I like that my search for these birds has been about as elusive as my search for a ‘Filipino-town’.

A question of why?

24 10 2009

I have plans to visit Earls Court tomorrow. This will be my first day out taking pictures of the PI community and I find myself asking why has it taken this long for me to get my hands dirty?

The most logical justification is that I’ve been doing a lot of planning, reading, writing and adjusting to my new life in London since I moved here over a month ago. All true. But, not exactly. Historically I’ve felt no hesitation talking to every Filipino store owner in the community, telling them of my art and asking permission to photograph their stores and homes. In fact, a good part of my creative process involved first going to the ‘field’ before I did any theorizing or planning. But it’s been different here. Why?

Pinoy Mini Mart, 2008

Pinoy Mini Mart, 2008 (Toronto, Canada)

I’m realizing that through this project I am trying to represent a community that I know very little about and possibly have less in common with. My tagalog is shabby and heavily accented and even my English is accented in this country! So I come back to this question, why? Allan Kazmer– Canadian copywriter guru who has work is in Toronto’s Royal Ontario Museum and who helped me get my first post as an art director– once told me that in order to find the truth in what you are trying to say, ask yourself the question, ‘why?’, at least eight times. Of course he meant this as a distilling process to create better advertisements but it’s an exercise I have come back to time and again as a kind of litmus test of my true feelings. So…

Why the hesitation to get out there?

Because I don’t feel like I really belong. I feel like an impostor. I am not a British-Filipino, I am a Canadian-Filipino and to be even more transparent, I have often related more to my Canadian heritage than to my Philippine one.

Why don’t you feel you belong? Why are you an impostor?

I barely speak Tagalog. I am a vegetarian. I’ve only been to the Philippines twice. I feel like a loud and aggressive N. American unable to pick up subtleties of British parlay, let alone the how this has been translated in the Filipino community. I’m not even clear as to what being Filipino is to me! I feel displaced.

Why aren’t you clear on your Filipinoness? Why do you feel displaced?

I was born in Canada in the mid 70s to Filipino parents who both had their university educations and eventually got white collar jobs in Toronto. At the time there wasn’t a big Philippine community in Canada and a majority of the diaspora were of a working class background. I did not quite fit in with the pockets of Filipinos in Canada at the time, nor did I fit in with the sea of caucasian kids who filled the private school classrooms of my childhood.

Brown Sheep, 2007

Brown Sheep, 2007 (Images used to create this collage were taken in Toronto, 1979)

I guess I’ve been on an identity search since then. Of course now, I realize that most everyone has gone through feelings of marginalization at some point in their lives, be it because of gender, class, accent, dress, religion, physical or mental abilities or challenges, etc. Foucault once said that each of is both oppressor and the oppressed– empowered and disempowered. I’ll take this concept of relativity one step further to say that I can be both part of a community and displaced from it as well.

Although I am certain there will be many things that I can relate to when researching the PI community here in London, I must expect that a part of me will always take this outsider status. I am the silent spy with the perfect disguise until I open my mouth. I am the anthropologist in the field with the ideal ‘in’. I am the tracker of a community who studies their echoes and footprints. I am the frustrated bird catcher in the rain forest… I am… still looking for those parrots 😉 and in a way my own identity.

Sifting through the flotsam.

16 10 2009

“Good ink cannot be the quick kind, ready to pour out of a bottle. You can never be an artist if your work comes without effort. That is the problem with modern ink from a bottle. You do not have to think. You simply write what is swimming on the top of your brain. And the top is nothing but pond scum, dead leaves, and mosquito spawn. But when you push an inkstick along an inkstone, you take the first step to cleansing your mind and your heart. You push and you ask yourself, What are my intentions? What is in my heart that matches my mind?”

Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter

I was looking through an old blog of mine when I lived in Tokyo, a lifetime ago, and came across this quote which I was so fond of at the time. At the time I was studying shodou, Japanese calligraphy, and much of my time was spent making ink and repeating the same kanji, characters. In this repetition I found a meditative clarity and a sureness of stroke.

I find it fitting and relevant to my week which has come to represent a mental step back from the project. I have spent a lot of time developing my intended method and contextualizing the final piece. I’ve spent a lot of time imagining what I want this project to culminate to, but it was only this week that I was reminded that I needed to revisit the ‘inkstone’ and stop worrying about the final piece. It’s time to get out there and get my hands dirty.

But first it is important to record a few of the more seminal events of the week that have helped me along the way. This week has provided a multitude of inspiring, refreshing and critical moments but as a consequence I haven’t had much time to get it all down. So here is a quick summary in the chronology that they happened:

1) TrAIN seminar with Yuko Kikuchi discussing Edward Said’s 2003 Preface to Oreintalism. I had read parts of this text before but I had never read this preface which placed Orientalism in the modern context of the global fiasco caused by the US Bush administration. Salient points that I took from this seminar were:

Orientalsim is a formulated concept of the East which creates a binary “other” that helps to define the West. In effect, Orientalism is a man-made which has been created by force.

Said posits humanism as an alternative where societal priorities shift to the realities of our interconnectedness rather than differences.

At the end of the seminar Yuko turned all our philosophizing back at us and asked us how Said’s critique of Orientalism inform us, our practice and our study. I’m still chewing on this one 😉 no simple answers.

At some point in our discussions models for multiculturalism were talked about and I learned of the “British Salad Bowl” view that multiculturalism is a mix of leafy greens and  and sliced tomatoes and carrots. (just kidding). The salad bowl actually reminded me a lot of Canada’s mosaic model. I did not go into this in the lecture but I have critiqued these models of plurality as well as the US melting pot in a previous online publication with lepanoptique.com, but it was refreshing to hear of like minded opinions of the datedness of these models.

2) MADA Seminar discussing Stephen Boyd Davis’ Interacting with pictures:

film, narrative and interaction. I found the article to be very relevant and enjoyed revisiting this concept of immersion. Davis detailed the relationships between the aesthetic of film media and ‘new media’. I put ‘new media’ in quotations as we sorted out through discussion that this term ‘new’ was indeed problematic for a media that is already a few decades old. Specifically, Davis used video games and online interactive documentaries as his case studies for ‘new media’ which obviously does not represent the growing numbers of examples which could be cited under such a vague term. That said a lot of very fresh points were made and discussed about:

Davis argues that there are two main approaches to image making, the first being self-effacing (transparent in it’s depiction… direct point of view representation of a scene) and the second being pictoral (using interpretive methods to convey the reality of the scene but creating images that could never have been experienced by the human eye… ie the event/scene of Vivien Leigh falling down the stairs, in Gone with the Wind, used six different camera angels in eleven seconds to portray an immersive reality to the scene that could not have been done from a simple point of view shot).

Davis also states that new media borrows techniques from cinematography to portray reality but that they eventually fall short as film’s guiding principle for spatial representation is narrative whereas new media may have a number of motivations outside of narrative.

Some holes in Davis’ argument involved the complete disregard of audio as an immersive element.  As I get caught up in figuring out the visual elements in my project I am reminded not to forget the audio component. How would I represent the multi-layered realities of the Philippine diaspora if my intended audience could not see. I believe that our current “MTV culture” has developed an acute and discerning eye for visuality as a result of several decades of movies, TV and advertising vying for visual attention and immersion. This has lead many to forget about humanity’s other four senses, specifically the immersive qualities of the auditory.  Back in the day when I used to teach English as a second language in Asia, I learned of a 1970s psychotherapist, Gregori Lazonov, who created a teaching method called Suggestopedia. Lazonov’s method involved creating an ambience that facilitated language learning. This immersive environment often included dimming the lights to dull one’s visual senses and playing classical music to turn on the learner’s ‘affective filters’. In the same way that we set the ‘mood’ for a romantic dinner by putting on Barry Mantilow to the dim of candles, immersion is caused by other senses other then the visual.

Furthermore there is an important shift in focus between film and gaming environments. In film, the focus is on characters and incidents whereas in gaming the focus is always on the one playing the game. In what ways will my audience be engaged in my work? To whom will my intended focus be on. In what ways have other artists dealt with this in their work?

Reflective video post October

14 10 2009

Proposal Complete! First draft anyways.

10 10 2009

I am very pleased to announce that the initial draft of my proposal is finished ahead of schedule! I have been doing excessive amounts of reading and writing lately. A world of thought and creative ideas have germinated because of this initial research and I am excited to to continue this aspect of my creative process but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t more than eager to begin experimenting further with the image making aspect of the project. This project has represented for me a chance to further deepen connections between theory and my art making practice. I am starting to realize the dynamics in which they feed into each other for me and have already added further depth to my practice.  Hopefully I can manage to maintain the fine balance required between theory and practice to maintain a healthy momentum in the following months.