The Uncanny by Mike Kelley

The Uncanny by Mike Kelley was described by the artist as a response to art world discourse at the time (Tate Liverpool 20th February- 3rd May). The exhibition was purposely designed to be curated in an old-fashioned way to contrast against the unorthodox curation and placement at the time. The work was based on an essay by Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny 1919” where Freud describes the phenomenon as ‘a hidden, familiar thing which has undergone repression and then emerged from it’.

Kelley mentioned the importance of traditional curation through the majority of the exhibition, with an end twist of an anomalous room containing a collection of Kelley’s uncanny objects. These were named ‘Harems’ which is defined as ‘a fetish accumulation of objects which are generally alike in character’, Oxford Dictionaries. These were placed for the audience to question the purpose of the exhibition itself. Kelly explains that the presentation at first sight is a collection of organised objects which represents an experience of ‘repetition compulsion’. This term was created by Freud within the original essay to described a psychological encounter where an individual repeats a traumatic event. This combined with a conscious feeling of familiarity constructs an uncanny feeling. Through the exhibition the uncanny was produced through Harems and images related to the human body, resulting in the audience distrusting their own mortality.

I was directed to the work of Kelley to discover how to enhance the sense of surrealism and familiarity within my practice. My current project is also related heavily to the body which are the main influences throughout the uncanny experience. I am hoping to achieve an experiential outcome where the audience is interactive within observation and may not fully comprehend what the object is at first glance. Once the audience begins to understand the concept and message behind the work they may change their opinion of the aesthetics of the piece and begin to wonder which forms represent each body part. Kelly’s work can be rather disturbing and I am aiming for a more motivating response, however the sense of familiarity with both soft objects and body parts.


Frustratingly Good Mistakes

This week has been a mixture of good mistakes and successes which will drive through to my final outcome.

With my tutor I explained both the issues of texture and inks. Leigh agreed with the roughness of the fabrics and understood that I am looking to achieve a personal design vision where touch and interaction is crucial. Therefore, a change in material is needed, for both the larger black sections and the base fabric. There was a comment on the natural calico fabric as it has been ‘over used’ with products such as tote bags which means that there is already a cliché and personality attached to the aesthetic. The final fabric must be tactile in texture, flexible to be filled and have a colour which doesn’t announce itself to the viewer. Through discussion we arrived at using the wrong side of denim which is a washed blue in colour but both durable and soft to touch. This also runs alongside my concept of bringing the inside outwards and wrapping the body in a type of ‘clothing’. Denim will also provide an interesting base for strong vibrant colours, however if I am to use inks as a colour source they may need to be layered on top of whites to gain the full strength.

From this discussion I purchased a meter of denim and quartered fabrics of green, red and purple. This was to create a further long and sizable experiment to test inks and fabrics on the new surface. Through a swatch test I experimented with the quality of the line created by both quink and Indian inks. The two liquids didn’t blead into the weave and therefore I chose quink to use because of the softer feel once dry. These painted marks were then combined with appliqued black sections of coating material (similar to felt) and coloured appliqued fabric to recreate the previous experiments. A thicker line was added to the coloured shapes so as to connect to the inked lines. This was produced by sewing a running stitch to attach the fabrics, and then a double stitch for decorative purposes. Throughout this process I became clear of a number of improvements which would need to be resolved in the final outcome;

-The appliqued fabric needs to be felt as the original fabrics frayed at the edges as the shell was handled, ruining the quality of the shape and the longevity of the outcome.

-I need to produce each section of the piece separately and attach to create length. Originally I thought that I could cut a pattern from one piece of fabric, however because of the narrow joins the constructed shell is impossible to turn through. Within this experiment I had to cut the joining sections apart and reconstruct when the shells were stuffed. Fortunately, I have a matching thread which can be used to make the overstitching invisible. Stuffing, seams and matching patterns must also be considered here.

-The felt and denim is too thick when turning through a point. The sharpness of shape cannot be maintained even when the seam allowance is cut away.

-borders of quink ink were added (much like the calico experiment) and will need to be made thicker as the seam allowance lost the consistency of design.

-When the opening to fill the shell is small, the funnel and polystyrene balls become static meaning that they will not fall through the opening. The openings will need to be made bigger, and soft stuffing can be added at the ends of each shape to made the stitching easier.

The experiment did come with success. The black coating areas are tactile and are easy to handle through the sewing machine. The blue fabric and vibrant colours are complementary plus the ink matches the black sections appearing as a continuation.


Through a further tutorial today, questions of form and fluidity have arisen. The issue with the current experiment is that it could become an oversized cushion and take away from the seriousness of the subject. Therefore, I need to choose my colours wisely so as to promote the message rather than distract. A way to overcome this is to choose colours which represent the original image, for example flesh colours and yellows for fat, this will then lead the viewer to truth as my shapes may become too abstract to interpret. Also I need to rediscover the looseness of my brush marks to give a fluidity to the final outcome. This can be done through tracing the exact shapes on paper and transferring to fabrics.

Artist references to consider

Louise Bourgeois


Annette Messager


Eva Hesse

Ink Issues

Since the last experiment I have made valuable mistakes through testing a range of materials so as to find the optimum methods of combining ink patterns and colour within one outcome.

The first experiment was to use black quink ink and then add coloured Indian ink in the same manner as I have done previously. The quink ink was successful in the softness of the liquid once dry and didn’t blead out into the bare fabric. The issue occured when the colour was applied afterwards as when the black was wet the two colours would bleed together, ultimately affecting the quality of finish. To salvage the experiment, I painted black Indian ink over the damaged areas but this caused a change in the consistency of black colouring. The next experiment was to firstly paint the coloured Indian ink and then add the quink ink after the first layer had dried. This still led to a bleed in the edge and therefore was unsuitable.IMG_6855

As the coloured inks are proving difficult to use, I began to applique the coloured sections with fabrics. I used the same illustration as the previous experiment so as to make a direct comparison and to be time effective. This was a successful experiment as it added another layer of texture to the product whilst still keeping a tactile feel. The only issue is whether the fabric sections compliment the thick bold lines that the ink provides. I used a black stitch to attach the colours which has tied the aesthetic together, but could be improved by a thicker line. Also the image where coloured sections interact with the inked areas are more endearing as the image is not disconnected. These are technicalities to consider through the next stage of development as a stronger colour may be welcomed and framing of the more delicate in style.

Creative Dilemmas and Clarina Bezzola

This experiment was a complete learning curve which consisted of both successful and unsuccessful elements.

Firstly, the inks have produced a creative dilemma surrounding the stiffness of the fabric once the liquid has dried. When in banner form this was unnoticeable as the purpose of the outcome was to be looked at. However, this experiment is to be interacted with and therefore needs to be tactile and soft to the touch. Also due to the hard fabrics this gave an issue with stuffing the constructed shells as there was no movement meaning that intricate sections (which were also covered in ink) were creased and puckered. Initially I was filling the shapes with soft toy stuffing, but quickly moved to polystyrene beads found within bean bags. This allowed for more movement in the connecting shapes and ergonomic ease when being placed around the body. It was also more time effective as the beans could be poured into the shapes with a funnel. The beads are also in line with my concept, strengthening the idea of flow and constant change, but still inviting the audience to hug and feel the shapes. This is an element which is crucial to the success of the outcome as I want to build a comfort and close relationship between body and my abstract design.

When considering the ink issues it is clear that either I need to change the medium or the material so as to create the perfect match. The first change that I will make is to change the black Indian ink sections to quink ink which dries softer and within the fabric rather than sitting on top. Quink ink is only sold with the traditional black, blue, red and green colours so the colour sections will still need to be in Indian ink so as not to compromise my pallet choices. I could also explore silk painting, knitting or screen printing the patterns onto the fabric. This will all require testing and new skills to master to achieve my vision. Furthermore, I could also applique fabrics to create new textures alongside the ink mark makings.

Clarina Bezzola is a key reference for this exploration, in particular the project Inside Out Galerie Antie Wachs, Berlin, November 2005.

We are vessels filled with thoughts and feelings. Most of them we never become aware of because there’s no place for them in our rational minds. They seem childish, inappropriate and too strange. As years go by, we lose track of all those little voices. We shove them into the dark chambers of our unconscious and succumb to our social responsibilities.

In Inside-Out, I illustrate the tragedy of an individual losing connection with herself. The multitude of unacknowledged emotions has accumulated and grown into an unbearable burden. When the drama becomes intensified to the extent that even breathing becomes difficult, the protagonist gives up control and lets all seams burst. Songs of longing and sadness slip out along with fantastic creatures of all shapes and colors. Once all aspects of herself have been acknowledged and welcomed, any protective shield becomes unnecessary.

This performance is of visual interest as the artist has an intimate relationship with the concept and produces a dramatized performance. What is equally admirable is the individually created ‘insides’ which are sculpted through fabric and are all abstracted in a way which are recognizable as body parts even though the audience cannot name specifics. I am inspired by the intricacy of each body part and the quantity of production which contributed to the overwhelming and disturbing effect on the viewers. Although performance art is not the outcome I am looking to produce, I could replicate the still images in a campaign format to communicate the bodily interaction. I feel that the purpose of my sculptural work is not within fine art context, but something which could become more commercial and be a safe realization rather than a disturbing one. This is something to closely consider through the experimental stage.

Video link, still shots and blog of production

Development of Calico Designs

Yesterday’s tutorial saw a change in the way I approach my visual practice and contextualise my outcomes. Before the tutorial I also experimented with other colours of Indian ink to expand the story telling calico experiments. This was a result of a desire to add colour and theory back into my style, allowing for my work to become more attractive and endearing to the perspective audience. Furthermore, I took one distinctive section from the black ink drawing (the pancreas) and created a three dimensional version. I crafted this by cutting two sections from calico and painted on the surface allowing for the pattern to be carried across the seam allowances so as there is a continuation in design when constructed. The next stage was to sew the rough sides together leaving a hole in the stich work so the shell could be turned the correct way. The sculpture was then stuffed and finished with over stitching. This was a successful experiment in terms of the visual outcome however there was technical difficulties when stuffing the pancreas. Something to consider in the future is where the opening is positioned as I couldn’t reach the end of the shell resulting in an under stuffed product.

My tutor commended my drawing work but felt that the surface materials were holding back my ambition. It seemed a subconscious decision for me to produce long drawings and therefore I should carry on this new venture through sculptural and installation work. I was also asked what I intended to communicate through my project, my answer being that I want people to take notice of harm which cannot be seen. I believe that if people could actually (for example) see their brains shrink or fat being transported on the outside of their bodies that the health implications would be diminished. Therefore, I am to bring the inside outwards in a long sculptural piece which could be wrapped around the body. This will highlight the process and alarm people into changing their attitude. I have been directed to the work of Mike Kelley, in particular an exhibition called ‘The Uncanny’. This alongside the portfolio of Clarina Bezzola are areas of study within the next week.

I have already begun the developmental stage by cutting and designing a larger shell which will be stuffed in a similar manner to the previous experiment. This will also have an opening at the top of the structure so as to add further sections to create the desired length. I initially intended the sculptural work to be constructed from only one shell, however this would be difficult to manage. The only issue is the pressure on the joins so double stitching may be required. I have also added colour to be design to enhance the narrative. At the moment I have created a colour pallet of yellow green and orangee block colours. These are complimentary colours which also contrast well against the black areas and negative space.

The Hidden Persuaders

In order to strengthen my message and understand how to communicate ideas to an audience it is necessary to study advertisement. The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard is described as an “introduction to the techniques of mass persuasion through the unconscious”. The book begins by explaining that professional persuaders sought out guidance from the social sciences in order to find our weaknesses so as to alter human behaviour. Motivation research gives an understanding of what motivates people into making decisions. Researchers understand the subconscious as a link to general preferences, but we cannot assume to know what people want from products. Packard give the example of toothpaste in which the main selling point of the product is dental hygiene. However, consumers were not necessarily looking for this type of product, for example they were more interested in one which would make their teeth shiner. This boosted product sales as the advertisement got behind the real reason for why people brushed their teeth.

Therefore, in the context of my work I should be looking at why people would want to change their lifestyle. I need to propose the correct balance between communicating the scientific facts and what will actually motivate people to alter their nutrition. Personally I think that it is sometimes difficult for others to make a link between the scientific language and explanations of what is happening inside the body which cannot be seen. I feel that my visual practice can become a platform where an audience can be enlightened through playful images which can be easily interpreted. These visuals will be abstracted and surrealist whilst having endearing narratives which will allow others to understand the dangers of type three diabetes. There could also be two opposing narratives which could demonstrate how the condition could be helped.

Things to consider:

What will drive others to conform?

What are motives for improving brain health? (living longer, keeping memories, slimming down)

How can I make others feel secure?


Experimenting with Working Styles

This week has been a mixture of many experiments to try and find a breakthrough in processes. The visual journey began with visualising descriptive language seen within the text, How Not to Die by Gene Stone and Michael Greger. The text explains the different processes in the body which will lead to disease or how the body can be helped through diet changes. The style of writing is thorough and I began to interpret the knowledge through Indian ink drawings as a way of taking note of the relevant sections. These drawings portray explanations of fat spilling into the blood stream, insulin signals becoming lost, nerve cells being fatally damaged etc.

After these studies, I photographed my work in the flat copy facility so as I have digital copies of all my sketch work. To help me bring colour back into my visuals I took the colour palettes which were originally present and changed the hues and inverted through Photoshop. This is always a useful experiment so as I can explore colour ways which may be more suitable to the concept whilst keeping the relationship between individuals constant. The most interesting experiment was changing the hues on the felt cushions as the tone changed into colours which were curious and not necessarily attractive. This compliments the idea of enlightening others into the dangers of bad lifestyle and nutrition.


Eventually I was beginning to become frustrated with the restricting scale of A3 paper and moved onto long pieces of calico. Previously I found that I was drawing scenarios individually, which all had a potential to be joined as one narrative. The long off cuts of calico allowed me to still work in Indian ink, whilst visualising the processes in a storyboard format. The first experiment started with an image of bad health and then progressed to fat spilling and disruptive insulin signalling to produce insulin resistance. The second experiment was a more in depth explanation of the key and lock scenario described in How Not to Die. “Think of insulin as the key that unlocks the doors to your cells to allow glucose to enter. Every time you eat a meal insulin is released by your pancreas to help shuttle the glucose into your cells” The text then explains that the extra fat that you consume gums up the key holes so glucose can no longer enter. The shuttling process has also been visualised at the end of the narrative. This is a successful experiment as each section appears to have a personality which an audience can relate to. This endearing quality Is something which is necessary in order to change attitudes. The next step in my visual practice is to advance the textile work by adding colour to the drawn sections.

First Tutorial and Research Material

Throughout the remainder of the Easter break I continued with the drawing process and textile developments. This was to enable my research to be visualised as well as internally absorbed and to allow for a development of successful imagery for a wide audience. Other points of research were found through Alzheimer’s Society’s research projects which offered new drug testing to cure the disease. This research projects were incredibly scientific in approach, but on did offer an exploration into insulin-like drugs on the disease. The study didn’t fully extend my knowledge, but did allow for new terminology to be characterised through Indian ink drawings and provide with a more extensive coverage of the issue. For example, one of the most interesting phrases was, “Amyloid plaques are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s Disease and are thought to play a large role in the development of the disease”. This then set my imagination running through ideas of visualising hall marks and metal plaques and relating the complex language through playful imagery. My experimentation also moved away from A3 Indian Ink drawing, back to smaller 3-minute pen drawings which gave me a chance to become more spontaneous with ideas. I started to imitate the sounds of such scientific vocabulary to invent new shapes for each cell, and for smaller details to be described. Furthermore, I also expanded the felt drawings to create another pillow with a different concept and colour pallet. Within the new object I place on one side the “tsunami of neurodegeneration” (which is the most stand out phrases of my whole initial research) opposing with the idea of suffers “being away with the fairies” which is a saying commonly associated with the symptoms. This was successful as both designs were strong in communication, and portrayed both scientific and non-scientific approaches. Additionally, I realised that a pillow is significant in concept as the user will either rest their head (brain) or cuddle the object close to their stomach (the pancreas). This can be symbolic of love and thoughtfulness of their internal health.

This preliminary research was crucial for the first tutorial as it allowed for more specific guidance to be given from my tutor. Leigh was excited and connected to the subject, with the only problem being that I haven’t discovered a specific message that I want to communicate to my audience. Furthermore, at the core of my work is an ability to turn difficult subjects into positive solutions- so this must be a major part of this project. To enhance this, I was advised to look into advertising and selling ideas in order to change people’s lives (in my case for the better). I am currently studying The Hidden Persuaders by Vance Packard, in which advertisers are systematically investigating our hidden weaknesses in order to change our behaviour to relate to a product.

Another point of further research in order to find a purpose to my investigation is the book, How Not to Die by Gene Stone and Michael Greger. The book examines the top fifteen causes of death in America and explores how altered nutritional habits could cure the diseases, sometimes better than prescribed medication. Within the book, there are chapters dedicated to “How Not to Die from Brain Diseases” and “How Not to Die from Diabetes”. Although the chapters do not intertwine in the same way as type three diabetes suggest, the prevention of both health issues are accelerated by lifestyle choices and can be prevented through plant based diets. The general issue is the trans fats found in meat and dairy products which cause life shortening diseases, and in some cases the symptoms can be reversed through natural plant food sources. The text has also allowed for more insight into how diet has affected the internal workings of the body and given more scenarios to visualise.

Felt Drawings

In response to the information gained through Diabetes UK, I began to visualise both the interesting scientific words which appear as foreign languages, and statements describing the health issue. I increased the scale of my drawing to A3 and chose to express the amyloid beta and the deposits found in both the brain tissue of an Alzheimer’s sufferer and the pancreas. By increasing the space, I was able to add more detail into shapes, and also use negative space to suggest the placement of body parts. Red ink was also used in some sections to signify danger and to block out sections of importance so as the focal point could be altered.

Although Indian ink drawings were successful in presenting visual shapes to the audience and communicating the scientific explanations, I wanted to explore how these could be translated into textiles. By using the left over felt from the zoo brief, I began recreate the most recent Indian ink designs using a range of coloured felt shapes. I used the same matching system as in the outcome of the previous project, and placed contrasting colours together with no more than four colours within each design. Each background is black to signify the internal position of these processes also creating a successful base for the colour schemes. This will also give a chance for the images to be inverted once photographed for additional colour pallet inspiration.

IMG_6531IMG_6537The intension was to create a series of 2D felt drawings so as to gain an idea of how my thoughts would appear in a softer medium, however I also constructed a cushion from two of the smaller drawings. These designs were abstracted from the A3 sketch communicating the link between the amyloid betas found in both the brain and the pancreas of suffers. The drawing consisted of crucial details which couldn’t be composed into one section of felt, and therefore needed to be spread across two parts (the pancreas on one and the brain on another). This was adequate but didn’t portray the strong link between the discovery in both organs. In order to highlight the research, I joined the two drawings together in cushion format where the audience can clearly interpret the correlation. Further details could be added such as a chain linking the two organs, or a line of felt across the seams to strengthen the concept.

Diabetes UK

To progress my research, I followed through on an offer to speak to a professional dietitian (through social media) who treats adults and children with diabetes.  The dietitian suggested that I looked at the information on the Diabetes UK website as there was a section explaining the current studies of Type Three Diabetes. Also purple foods, omega 3, dark chocolate, green tea, nuts, avocado and olive oils are all good foods for a healthy brain. Foods to avoid include salt, sugar and trans fats.

The information on Diabetes UK reinforced the knowledge I gained from the previous Women’s Health Article. The most interesting ideas within the section was that Alzheimer’s can develop without the presence of a significant hyperglycemia in the brain. Within Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes one of the main symptoms is a high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). The primary role of insulin is to allow cells to use glucose as fuel or to be stored as body fat. If there is insulin resistance then the glucose is deposited in to the blood stream and can cause hunger, tiredness or loss of concentration. However, if this is not a symptom of Type Three Diabetes, how can the issue be recognised? Other interesting statements included “Researchers have discovered that many Type 2 diabetics have deposits of a protein called amaloid beta in their pancreas which is similar to the protein deposits found in the brain tissue of Alzheimer’s suffers.” This in particular inspired visual communications of linking the pancreas to the brain, and presenting the information to educate others of the science. Furthermore, more general research was carried out to help understand diabetes as a health issue, including in-depth explanations of insulin resistance and ketogenic diets. A ketogenic diet is also named a low-carb diet which encourages the body to gain energy from burning excess fat (ketones).  This is proven affective for those suffering with both Type 1 and Type 2, and could be used to reduce the insulin resistance in those with Type 3 diabetes.

Another source of research was to visit the Huntarian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons. The museum is a collection of human and non-human anatomical specimens dating back to the 17th century. The purpose of the visit was to understand the form of the human brain and to sketch details as photographs could not be taken inside the galleries. Unfortunately, the trip was rather unsuccessful as the current collection housed a majority of animal artefacts rather than human and therefore I couldn’t gather the intended information.