This PDP will cover my experience over the past three years of constellation and what I have learnt and how this has impacted my views, knowledge and practice.
Through lectures, I found an interest in the analysis of advertisement, controversial material and how media provoke a reaction through imagery. This interest began with my first essay on the subject of the baby cage and controversy and was later reinforced with the knowledge and skills learn by the study group of goddesses and monsters with the exploration of cultural identity and embodiment within visual culture. Proposing academic theories and arguments around gender ideologies, how they have constructed aesthetically, connotations of glamour as well as analysing how this identity could be challenged with the grotesque and abject characteristics of the monstrous body. This then led on to how culture polices and tries to disavow the organic materiality of the human body, something I could link back to my practice and making.
This was something I really enjoyed looking at and the study of ‘ideal’ aesthetics and social rules for a specific gender was an area I found interesting and something I enjoyed exploring. I feel this is something personally I am interested in, maybe down to a desire to understand why I conform to these rules. Why these rules are in place and seen as desirable as well as ways to enhance aesthetically.
When asked to come up with ideas for a dissertation, I was already considering the ideas of masculinity and how I could look into the social ideals of a man and where they had come from or promoted in images. This would take a similar approach as my previous essay looking at what makes the ideal form and ideas behind a gender and analysing how they enhanced or used this in the advertisement of products. This could link to body image and cosmetic surgery that I could relate to. I had cosmetic surgery to alter my nose and conform to a more socially accepted idea of beauty, I did this unknowingly at the time and was interested in understanding why we find things desirable.
Through books and compiling research, I was able to identify existing theories on hegemonic masculinity and phallic power. That led me on to analyse the similarities and differences between what is perceived as the ‘ideal’ male image and the glamour female. These traits of the glamour female, transformation and illusion are visible in the key theories on the metrosexual that challenges social ideology, which were explained through concepts of the uncanny, and queer theory.
Through these theories, I was then able to analyse chosen advertisement. As well as explore how Beckham’s image has changed over time through advertisement taken by Armani in 2009 and the other was 5 years later in 2014, by H&M. Discussing the topics of skin, hair and gender identity in relation to concepts of the pin-up girl image against the image of Beckham. How the photography positioned a footballer in a way that challenged masculinity and the traditional masculine values held by the footballing community. As well as establish how advertisement has changed from the depiction of Beckham as a Greek god, in comparison to his older mortal image. I then argued how tattoos enhance the masculine image, as well as increasing body hair and emphasis on his wrinkles.
The overall findings show that the masculine image has been manipulated with the aim to promote the ‘ideal’ man in advertisement. This has led to the blurring of gender rituals and visual queer style, with men enhancing themselves with beauty products and glamour photography.
The process of researching and finding books, I found a challenge. At times I felt I wasn’t sure my findings were relevant to my angle of study and argument. To begin with, I felt the need to read, take it all in to better understand and broaden my knowledge in the area. Then to find that there was so much information. I found the hardest part was selection and targeting the key bits of information that back up my argument. Also Through buying some of the books online, one being Antony Easthope, ‘What a mans gotta do’. Allowing me to highlight and read the books in my own time with being dyslexic and not worry about returning the book in time.
Having Dyslexia support during the writing of this essay was a huge help and being able to use my own Mac to produce the work at home was much better atmosphere than using the universities IT resources. It also allowed me to be more flexible with my time and designate more time to the writing of my dissertation. As well as having software that could proofread the work out loud helps me keep the construct and check over my writing; making sure the essay is cohesive and coherent in what I am trying to communicate.
In Influencing my practice, this assignment gave me the skills of analysing visual representations and explore the ideas of visual meanings of material and surfaces with contexts and academic theories. I also feel that thesis shares a similar angle as the blurring of materials, mixing them together, how materials can be manipulated through a process, as well as how they relate to each other; changing the aesthetic, contextual meaning or even function of a piece. It could be argued that this is similar to the blurring of gender and identity, visual masculinity and female beauty as well as a manipulation of someone’s images in relation the social beliefs of the ‘ideal’.
Through the analysis of what dictates the ‘ideal’ man, I hoped it would help me to understand what we see as desirable as well as ways to enhance an object aesthetically. This potentially unrelated knowledge may then inform my thinking and how I design an object, maybe influencing form, texture and combinations of materials.
I also feel like this investigation, as well as the previous study group has made me aware of how materials can change context. Whether this is due to the process undertaken or even that materials in relation to the body can be sexualized such as lacing and leather; changing my view on materials. Before, I never thought about lacing and why lacing was seen as sexual and understanding the notions of time and prolonging the stage of undressing. This wasn’t something I had thought about and now this way of looking at materials and contexts, I can not un-see it now.