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Written reflection #2

As mentioned briefly in my last post, the reading of 4 sides model of communication has inspired me to make my prototype 4, the beak mask. Before that, I was trying to find a way to visualize misunderstanding or communication. As usual, I started with an abstract, non-visual concept, and I envisioned my end goal to be something beautiful and artistic. So there is a big gap in between which is also a big space for opportunity. This transition requires me to do a lot of research and endless thinking to make a unique translation from theory to a tangible object, from knowledge and life experience to art. I think this is the hardest part, not just for my thesis project, but for any art-making process for any artist.

I've listed out a couple of readings around the topic "misunderstanding" and "nonverbal communication" for myself. The more I've read, the more controlled I feel about my thesis. The 4 sides model is a short article posted online for a workshop for communication. It introduces how misunderstanding happens and how to communicate better with the basic knowledge of misunderstanding and communication. The author definitely has a psychology background and she explains this psychologically and scientifically. The diagrams may seem a little boring but they give me a fundamental understanding of this topic in a professional setup, which I think is very helpful. This also gives me a fresh perspective which is quite different from my mindset of a designer/artist. It also reminds me of how"reading widely" could help us which Anezka said in class.

In a diagram of the model, an expert metaphorically demonstrates the relationship of the message, the sender and the receiver as "four beaks and four ears": when you’re the sender your main intent is spoken through one of 4 beaks. As the receiver you’re listening through one of four ears. The receiver will understand the message depending on the ear he listens with, but that might not be the beak of which the sender wants to deliver with. This leads to misunderstanding, frustration and potential conflict. This has been so inspirational to me because a direct visual translate is made here for me. I immediately felt that beak could be a great visual element and started to explore how to make that interesting. I even mapped it with my concept trying to rationalize this visual translation:

And then I started to look for references of bird mask or any kinds of unique and artistic mask/costume people have made. I was so fascinated by how creative it could be and felt really excited to make my own design.

In the process of trying to make absurd beak mask, I also thought of a similar artwork: Soundsuits by Nick Cave. The surreally majestic costumes blending fashion and sculpture are originated as metaphorical suits of armor in response to the Rodney King beatings and have evolved into vehicles for empowerment. Fully concealing the body, the Soundsuits serve as an alien second skin that obscures race, gender, and class, allowing viewers to look without bias towards the wearer’s identity.

This makes me think again of how the form speaks for the intent. It's not clear how a colorful and fluffy costume represents black identity, but it's so wild, so memorable, and you really feel the rage and strong emotions via the contrast of the color, the powerful movement of the beast with long hair. Nick Cave's experiences force him to confront his identity as a black man and fuel his impulse to create, “lashing out for me is creating this (Soundsuits).” Looking back at my beak prototype, I'm still unsure about how strong the connection is with misunderstanding, but I think the key is to find a way to give it power. Before showing it to any audiences, do I feel emotional or excited creating this? Will it empower me in anyways? I think there wouldn't be any more doubts when the connection is strong. For me, there are two paths going simultaneously at this stage of research and making: one is to equip myself with theory, knowledge and logical analysis to become "expert" of the topic; the other one is to constantly ask myself how will this represent me uniquely, and why do I want to do this. Hopefully the rational and emotional routes will merge sometime and give me an answer to all those doubts and questions.

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1 Comment

Anna Harsanyi
Anna Harsanyi
Oct 07, 2020

This is a really thoughtful reflection, and as we discussed last week, I really like your discussion of the relationship between form and intent. I think this text can serve as a central portion of your contextual critique paper, since you are doing a great job articulating your own thought process to the research you have read and then to other precedents. Talking about how your reflection on your research manifests in your prototypes is a fantastic way to expand on the research itself and build a contextual framework for what you are creating.

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