The performers are so occupied by their interactions, that they don’t have time to negotiate their image as they normally would on the Internet and so, almost without being aware of it, they show their vulnerabilities and doubts, their messy and sloppy sides, their “hidden code”.
-Annie Abrahams, Trapped to Reveal – On webcam mediated communication and collaboration
Annie Abrahams is a Dutch performance artist who focuses on video installations and internet related performances. She is particularly interested in portraying and expressing the idea of how performers are incapable of controlling their actions, or maintaining their social identity in the artwork.
In Angry Women, she got a group of women to vent their frustrations in front of their own webcams but on a platform with other strangers. In the video, the women can be seen talking at one point, then screaming and shouting. The timing as which this occurs to different individuals on the webcams varies however. They are alone together, and angry together.
Annie Abrahams intent on disentangling the entanglements in order to better understand the nature and quality of the third space environment we increasingly find ourselves in.
-Randell Packer, Disentangling the Entanglements
I felt like what Professor Randell Packer said about Annie Abraham’s work really reflected the nature of the piece. We are constantly putting out this face that we want to be seen online unknowingly and Annie Abraham’s work serves to exactly force the performers to express their true identity on camera and to disclose our true inner personality.
When I first got the project brief I had a headache really. Shirley wanted us to think of jobs that did not exist in order to make the composition more interesting. But because I had to think of jobs that did not exist, it was really really tough to be honest. My brain was so fixated on jobs that are already on the market and it was just so difficult to tell myself to look apart from those and think of something else. I spent the following week thinking about jobs everyday and I finally managed to come up with a few. I started by thinking about what I am interested in, hopefully to follow that path and think of jobs that do not currently exist yet.
Things I like to do? Things I like??
-touching soft plushies
However I soon realised that this would be of little help for me to think of new jobs because as much as it helps me to focus on a certain aspect, it also limits the boundaries of the job I want to create. I then continued to think about the jobs and came up with these below.
JOBS THAT DO NOT EXIST??!?!!? (or just jobs that I can think of in general that seems less common T_T)
-cute cartoon destroyer
-sanitary pad tester
-dead flower dissector
-pressed plant collector
Initially from this list, I had chosen the four I wanted to do because they were my initial ideas. They were namely the bedtime storyteller, pressed plant collector, shoelace tie-er and paw palmist. From here, I started to do sketches to show Shirley how they would look like, trying to incorporate the elements of that specific job.
1. Dog paw palmist
I thought that the idea of palmistry was really interesting so I was thinking about how it would be like if we were able to read the paws of dogs to tell their future. However, upon researching, I realised that palmistry follows a certain way of reading the palms according to the different line paths on our hands and this would mean that there is a standard line to read even for different hands. This also meant that if I wanted to portray palmistry on the paws and make my name visible and easy to read, it would be quite difficult since the line should technically be located at the same place. On top of that, I was not sure if it was possible to actually read the dog’s paw so I eventually gave the idea up although I really liked it and felt like there was a possibility to develop the idea.
2. Shoelace tie-er
This was like first ever idea and I was just thinking of jobs that seemed redundant and useless which obviously does not exist. So I thought of a shoelace tie-er, a person who works to attend to people when their shoelace comes loose. For my sketch, I decided to use shoelace to form my name and even included the formation of the imagery of a shoe to add in the element of ‘tying’. However, I realised that there were a lot of typography made using shoelaces already and they all gave off that cursive looking font which I wanted for this work. Eventually I just felt that this was not going to work because there was little for exploration, although Shirley suggested that I could improvise and add on additional elements such as the shoelace holes, but I tried it and it just did not look like how I wanted it to. So eventually I gave this idea up anyway 🙁
I even tried using black inks to try and imprint the textures of an actual shoelace for this piece, the prints came out pretty well, but I just thought it would not be any different from the other shoelace typography I saw eventually so I just gave up the idea in the end.
3. Bedtime storyteller
My idea of a bedtime storyteller was a role to help busy parents help coax their child to sleep. I thought about how I could possibly portray it in terms of a storybook concept, highlighting the alphabets that formed my name within the chunk of words. I later thought of using the method of collage, inspired by dadaism, to create the different alphabets to give it a comical yet possibly childlike look (with the help of the content of the text as well).
However, I later realised that I was probably doing it wrongly because there would not be a certain font for my name specifically and we were supposed to incorporate elements of the job INTO our names itself rather than just putting the imagery. After consulting Shirley about this idea, I thought that the job was still feasible to work out and so this idea stayed YAY.
4. Pressed plant collector (Initially pressed flower collector but I thought that would be a very narrow scope so I decided to include ALL plants after)
I really like the look of dried pressed flowers so I thought it would be interesting to try this idea out. It is also a relatively simple concept, where I just paste the plants into alphabets too signify my name. The tape should not be of an outstanding colour as well so as to not steal the attention of my name in the middle.
Shirley mentioned that this idea was feasible and interesting due to the minimal elements but yet was able to convey the nature of the job easily so I decided to keep this idea but go more in-depth to develop this concept later on.
So till this point I only had TWO out of FOUR jobs confirmed, which was the bedtime storyteller and the pressed plant collector. Throughout the next week, I did more sketches and tried to come up with more ideas to see if they were better. I did some sketches about rollercoaster tester, bedtime storyteller, space chef, sanitary pad tester, animal manicurist and dog’s optometrist.
I liked the idea of the rollercoaster tracks but I felt like it would be quite plain and if I were to add additional elements like the safety belts, it would probably be too messy. I wanted to try and use the pattern brush in adobe illustrator to recreate the tracks, but sadly it did not work out so eventually I had to give this idea up as well.
This idea was confirmed but I just had to brainstorm how I wanted to incorporate the idea of ‘bedtime’ and ‘storyteller’ into my fonts. I decided to go with the comic sans font because it gave off a more child-like vibe due to its bubbly appearance. In order to portray bedtime, I decided to add elements such as moon and stars with a dark blue backdrop to depict the effect of night time for half of my letters. I was thinking of what story I wanted to incorporate into my work so that it can bring out the nature of the job yet not complicate things. Eventually I settled on the story of the ‘Three Little Pigs’ and added the elements of the pig’s nose and tail into each alphabet. I wanted to use the three materials which the pigs used to build their house-straw, sticks and bricks as the background. After consultation with Shirley, she thought that it would be good if the background would be just a single material to not over complicate the work. So I decided to go in with a brick background ultimately. I will elaborate more on this as I share my final completed work.
Space Chef/Sanitary pad tester/Robotic surgeon:
Space chef: I gained interest in this job because I felt like it would be a job whereby the elements can be quite easily identified and it also sounds like a really interesting job to have. I was thinking about the different utensils used in the kitchen and how they could be bent to form the letters. However, we were supposed to include the elements into the letters itself so from here I actually made adjustments which will be explained later on.
Sanitary pad tester: This idea dawned on me one day and I thought about how nice it would be to do this, something that I can do to help other women, to test out the durability and holding power of the sanitary pads.
Robotic surgeon: With the advancements in technology, I was thinking about having a job that is similar to plastic surgery for humans, but in this case for robots. As u can see, I tried to form my name using the surgical tools. However, later I felt that it was quite difficult to execute because of the difficulty to identify and show the essence of the job in my name.
The idea of manicurist came across my mind so I just thought I will jot it down to see if the concept was able to develop. I tried using the nails to form my name as you can see in the sketch above. However, I eventually scrapped the idea because it would be weird if the composition was made up with painted nail clippings of animals and I just did not see that working.
I made use of the shape of the dog’s bone to form into my name to look like the board that is used to test our eyesights. I thought it was kind of cute but it was also kind of too plain for my liking so I scrapped this idea off as well.
At this point, I had to make a decision to choose the four jobs I want by now and I eventually settled for space chef and sanitary pad tester as the other two jobs, other than the confirmed bedtime storyteller and pressed plant collector. I had in mind a way to execute them and I thought that they were pretty interesting and unusual jobs.
I used poster colour to do up this painting, with the Earth at the bottom of the work to show that this scenario is in space itself. The alphabets are floating and I wanted to make the them galaxy coloured but it did not work out well, the details of the kitchen utensils could not be seen as well. I then added the helmet of the astronauts to each alphabets to show that they are floating in space. However, this needed more improvements such as choosing a specific font to work on and to try incorporate the essence of an astronaut into the letters.
Sanitary pad tester:
Initially when I thought of sanitary pad tester, I thought of blood and I came up with this. But Shirley said that it looks like a murderer instead so I opted for another way of representing it.
Shirley suggested that I used the serif font in our previous consultation so I went ahead and made the letters each look like a sanitary pad themselves with wings. The look of the ‘blood’ was a little weird so Shirley said to get rid of it and to just use blue liquid as the testing liquid instead. Shirley also mentioned to get a background which could be cotton to represent the lining of undergarments.
I combined the look of night time with the pig’s tail in the alphabets for consultation and see what parts I can improve on.
From here onwards, it was about making adjustments till I get the final piece of work.
1. Space chef
I chose the copperplate font for my space chef job because it gave off this outer space look with the slightly fat characters which almost has a squarish structure to it. Initially I wanted to do cutouts of the letters, then crumble them for texture and add white paint and ‘chop’ the alphabets onto the space background I did. However, the effect did not turn out as opaque as I wanted it to and the texture felt pointless to me so I decided to re-cut the alphabets and just paste them as how they are.
I do not have a lot of photos recording the process of making this but basically I just stamped black paint for the background using newspaper to give that almost like galaxy looking sky with empty spaces looking like specks of stars in the sky. I also used the same method to stamp the Earth at the bottom and I thought that the technique gave the look of the Earth a more interesting take because of the textures created. I then cut out paper for the alphabets, with the essence of kitchen utensils in each letter and pasted it on the black background. When I look up astronauts outfit, they all seem to be wearing this puffy white suit with a helmet so I thought that the white alphabets would make sense in this case. I wanted to make the alphabets look bit puffed up too but I was worried that the font would not be as visible so I decided to not include that. Instead, I added the red lines that was commonly found on the space suits and I also added aluminium foil to the top of each alphabet to signify the shiny part of the helmet. The alphabets was also arranged in a manner to look like they are floating in space so the orientation is in a more playful formation with the ‘S’ going out of the frame itself.
2. Bedtime storyteller
I tried to make a stencil for the bricks and experimented with acrylic and crayons. In the end I decided to use crayons for the bricks because it gave a more realistic looking texture. I then decided at this point to use only colour pencils and crayons for this piece of work since it was on bedtime storyteller and it would mean its very child-like so using materials such as colour pencils and crayons also hold this feeling of a child to me.
I also added the pig’s nose on each alphabet to make it more obvious that its pigs. The look was very outstanding but the background colour was quite similar to the bottom of my letters, the colour of the bricks was also too saturated that it stole the attention from the letter itself so Shirley suggested I change up the background digitally to make the colour at the back more muted.
I took out the letters and cropped out one brick and duplicate it for the entire background. I then tone down the opacity of the background to give this more muted orangey shade. However, I was not fully happy with how this looks because I used one brick and duplicate it many times, it gave a very structured look to the background. The brick was also slightly slanted and I just felt like it could be better. I also tried using photoshop to create the letters as shown below but I just felt like it was taking a really long time and there was no textures as a result of it.
So I decided to just redo everything by hand, making sure to tone down the bricks in the background. So TA-DA!!
This was the final look and I played around with the shades to give the bricks more definition. The letters were able to ‘pop’ because of the contrasting tones with the background as well, so I was quite happy with this one and how it turned out eventually.
3. Pressed plant collector
From the start when I did the composition to show Shirley, I stuck a lot of other plants and flowers around my name itself. However, it felt like the colour of the plants and the thickness overpowered the main focus in my work. So she told me to remove them and just focus on forming my name ion the middle of the work.
This was how it looks like after I removed the surrounding unnecessary plants but I had to paint the paper so that it will look like paper that has been kept for awhile and turned yellow. I went to search on how antique paper looks like and I tried to recreate the effect with two shades of poster colour namely yellow ochre and vandyke brown. I also tore the paper out from a sketchbook so that it will look like it came from a collection and was torn out from the book.
This was how it looks like eventually! It took a really long time to do the background because the effect of old paper is not so jarring, there needs to be the build up of brownish tones to eventually create patches on the paper that would look more realistic. The paint also dries lighter than when first applied so there was a need for reapplication many times to get the look I wanted, which looked good enough like old paper but to not steal the attention away from the pressed plants. I also darkened up the edges where it looks like it was pulled out from a notebook to signify the rusty staple bullets that were used to bind them together. I then googled for the names of the plants one by one and recorded it in a manner with the scientific name and the date I collected them. I intentionally made the last line bit slanted so that the composition would not be so straight and it would also feel more like a real torn out page from a book of pressed plant collection.
4. Sanitary pad tester
I thought that it would be quite literal if I directly formed the shape of the pads so I decided to play with the use of negative space, forming a border around the alphabets to give it that sanitary pad shape. Shirley suggested a cotton background in pastel colours so I got some cloth and tried to paste it up, however, after consultation it felt like if this was how its going to look in the end with each section of the cloth coloured ink a different colour, it might take away the attention of the name itself. Hence Shirley suggested that I use the same technique of what I did for the middle of the alphabets but to form the entire border around the paper so that the background would be less focused on. Thus I then redid the work and started with painting the base paper yellow to give it a more happy vibe. Then I layered this cloth that was from a high heel bag on it because the cloth had a texture that was similar to the ones from real sanitary pads.
I made up the shape of the sanitary pad using the negative space and this was how it turned out. I was a little disappointed at how the blue tester liquid spread out on the cotton itself and how it made the pale blue of the insides less visible. However, because of that, it also showed the characteristic of a sanitary pad of how it absorbs and spread out. This was particularly tedious to do because I had to put glue before sticking on the cotton wool and the cotton just keeps sticking everywhere which made the process a lot harder. There was once where I started to do the background and the cotton just keeps clumping together and it looked really bad so I had to scrap that off and redo again to get a more even coating.
This was how it looked like in the end, I am quite happy with the results considering that the process of ideation and actually doing it took a really long time. There was a lot a lot of experimentation involved which took up a lot of time because then you have to judge and see if it looks good and suits the job you wanted to portray. Although all my works are done by hand, I would really like to explore and learn how to use illustrator and photoshop properly so that I can do more digital works instead. However, I do also appreciate the actual texture of the material when its done by hand. Overall, I would say that this project seems simple initially but it is really not how I would imagine it to be. It requires a lot of thinking and trying to pick out the essence that would make more sense to portray the jobs chosen. However, I guess the challenge is necessary in order to grow and I will definitely be putting in effort to learn the various digital softwares for my works.