Perseverance, Presentation, and Perception

The Winter PLP Exhibition 2021 took place last Wednesday. The PLP class and I presented our conceptual art pieces, and like most of the exhibitions I’ve been a part of, it went surprisingly well. That’s awesome! We were tasked with creating conceptual art pieces that explored the historical significance of the atomic bomb through a variety of different lenses, mine being ethical philosophy. In all honesty this is one of the most challenging yet in depth projects I’ve ever done with PLP, not only because of the volume of work but because of the amount of thinking I had to do. I had to work around my preconceived ideas on what art should be, and manage to convey an idea of how ethics has changed since the Bomb.

 

Going through this project, we read and critiqued “Hiroshima”, learned about the fascinating art movement known as Conceptual Art, defined as any art piece where the idea is of more importance than the aesthetics. Personally, I think any art piece could be defined as conceptual art (if the viewer chooses), therefore, to me, I think that the movement is more accurately identified as the abandonment of art mediums (I.e the canvas, and the sculpture), and we also heard a plenty of lectures and activities relating to the timeline of the Manhattan project.

“ One and Three Chairs (1965)” by Joseph Kosuth is a very famous example of conceptual art.

Externally, outside of PLP class time, I found some resources on ethical philosophy. I am very much into the aestichis of philosophy in general, but mostly my reading has been on metaphysics, meta ethics, and a little bit of ontology. I was very excited to extend my learning into ethics as I believe that to be the most “practical” branch of philosophy. Considering all of the content that was rolled into and connected together in this project, it really validates my opinion of PLP essentially being this awesome weird postmodern cult.

 

The actual products I created this project include: my literary analysis and critique of “Hiroshima”, the introductory video for the exhibition that I made with Brenton, Kaia, and Meg, and finally the art piece I created titled “Perceptions of the bomb”, which was presented at the exhibition.

 

“Perceptions of the Bomb” from the front view, what I would label the “Western Self Perception Pre Bomb”

 

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The video we made was relatively straightforward as we had a lot of direction from Mr Hughes, and it was also just a quick summary of the timeline that we had been learning about for the past few months, in all honesty Kaia did most of the work here, I essentially only polished the script and video but she laid the majority of the groundwork. I am pretty proud of how nice I made it look though. Attached below is the introductory video and the art that I presented at the exhibition.

 

Making the video or writing my critique does not compare to the difficulty I had making my art piece though. “Perceptions of the Bomb” was a a perceptual art piece (now destroyed) intended to be about how the aftermath of the bomb destroyed the linear narrative of the west and furthermore, the bomb, being an absolute good within the world. That is to say, I don’t believe anyone that was a part of the bomb completely revolutionized ethics (although Einstein’s personal philosophy is pretty cool), but I do believe that the bomb was the catalyst for the destruction of the narrative of polarized ethics that one could argue was predominantly believed in the west during world war 2, “absolute good vs absolute evil”. You can read my full artist statement here, this is a more in depth explanation of my interpretation. Most importantly however, I don’t believe my intended interpretation should hold any greater value to the viewer compared to their own, as said in my artist statement, I believe that the real beauty of conceptual art (or any art) is found within the discussion it creates, not the picture it paints. So, the only thing I really truly wanted to say and ask was, we were here at one point with our perception of the Bomb, where are you (the viewer now). I don’t care if the viewer doesn’t see my vision of what that means, I only care to see them critically think about their own interpretation. 

 

During the exhibition, we stood beside our art and talked about it with guests. I hated that. It felt like the audience were to be walked through the art and told what to think, because that’s what the majority of other students presenting were doing. I really didn’t like doing that, I much preferred to just ask what the viewer thought about it, and I had some great conversations with guests as a result of asking stuff like that. My teachers might think that to be kind of lazy or perhaps even bullshitty, but I genuinely believe that my interpretation as the creator holds no more value than the viewers own unique one that exists, ideally, without the influence of my own. To me, I existed outside of the art (once presented to the public, it no longer belonged to me), I was not an authoritarian voice that told you what my art meant, instead, I wanted to try and be on equal terms with the viewer, discussing our interpretations as equals. For example: I had one really great conversation with a gentleman who claimed that the art portrayed how many different ways we could have ended the war, and how furthermore that was kind of bull crap to suggest since we can’t change the past. I agreed. That claim sparked a more in depth conversation on meta ethics, and how exactly we should determine the judgement of others and oneself. That was my favorite part of the entire exhibition. Seeing my art spark a conversation that I can take part in. That is when I really displayed my learning the most. That is when I feel human.

 

My original plan for how I wanted to portray my ideas was a lot simpler, I wanted to have a copy of “Hiroshima” hanging over an ethical compass, in order to ask “Where does the bomb land ethically?”. I felt that to be lazy and shallow. So I pivoted to what I eventually created, my perceptual art, that reads “absolute good” from a certain angle. I thought that perceptual art was a lot more nuanced and more applicable to my ideas inspired by postmodernism. Making it however, sucked a lot. I’m not a very naturally artistic guy, at least in the traditional sense of the word, and I had 0 idea on how much time it would take to get things to line up properly and look at least half decent. In my head, it seemed pretty straightforward once I had my vision, yet, through the choice of some less than cooperative material, and some poor motor skills, it took many hours to map it out properly. The final straw of stress was caused by my mistake of not setting it up fully at home, meaning I did my final glueing of the pillars the day of the exhibition. I remember feeling as if I was on one of those cooking shows, where the chefs are frantically racing to get their meal presented on the plate until finally they get it on perfectly just as the judges exclaim: “times up!” and they all raise their hands off their dishes.

 

Attached below is a timelapse of me mapping out the art at home.

 

This was one of the best projects I’ve done with PLP (not claiming it’s my favourite). I know I didn’t really show it all that well in some of the early stages, but I am proud of what I did produce. Most importantly, I’m very happy with what I learned along the way. After all, that is what school is about, right? 

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Out yonder there is this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking” – Albert Einstein

 

kind of corny but his philosophy is pretty cool

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