Thursday, September 16, 2010

Environmental Narratives

By contrast to the Picture Lotto problem, which is all about the creation of isolated unitary forms–visual integers–the alternative project for seniors this week and next will be a narrative which is dominated by a sense of place or environment. As a point of reference, I am posting a few examples. For starters:

from Peasant Paintings from Huhsien County. Compiled by the Fine Arts Collection Section of the Cultural Group Under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. Published by the People’s Fine Art Publishing House, Peking. [Beijing.] 1974.

This book is a compilation of Communist Party propaganda paintings, which are purported in the introductory text to have been produced by agricultural workers who work part-time as artists, “so as never to be separated from...the great revolutionary struggle.” Some of the paintings are unintentionally hilarious, but they are certainly not the work of amateurs. And very many are quite striking. These artists are illustrators. They are required to respond in alignment with a governmental text. And the assignment is pretty tough: make agriculture look wonderful, heroic, well- organized, and really fun.

For our purposes, what's notable is the plasticity of the spaces used to establish environmental information. The image above is reminiscent of the space-bending landscapes of Wayne Thiebaud, although in this comparison the figures seem to have been replaced by automobiles.

To take quite a different example, here is a Winsor McCay Little Nemo in Slumberland (I do not have the precise citation handy; circa 1905) in which characters play out a narrative in a mushroom-marked world. Here the control of emphasis is managed through a shifting frame that slowly reveals aspects of the environment to the viewer.

So in light of all of the above, those of you who want to build on the Galleria experience: I would counsel you to use that environment, but in an aggressive way, to make its presence felt on the action (however small that action might be–I'm thinking of the passing janitor image from Wednesday past.) If you eschew the shoppping mall, okay, but choose an environment that marks the space and the action of your tale.

See you tomorrow!

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