Secret Entry 14 - Reflection

This whole experience working with my groupmates has been extraordinary. Understanding and finding out thing together is much harder but much more rewarding than working alone. Making mistakes and learning during the process is truly a good way to learn.

But I still think we’ve got a lot to learn. Time management wise, we didn’t get to do any finishing touches or making our artwork more presentable at the end. Not to mention, we wasted more of the time doing experiments instead of actually developing ideas and finding a good narrative to use. This greatly affects how we do our art, it was a mistake that we couldn’t decide at the very beginning and that cost us our time. The final artwork was not the slighted presentable but at least our intentions were there and we tried to narrow down what we want.

I’ve also learned that asking questions is key to understanding how you’re doing during the working process or when you’re still figuring things out. We were pretty much stuck in a rut but we couldn’t pull ourselves together. We didn’t embrace any chances of asking questions and stuck to our own ideas. Asking questions and broadening our mindset by understanding what other people think and receiving criticism is key to improvement.

All in all, sharing ideas with each other and learning from our mistakes together is a very precious experience. I would gladly do this again, but next time, we’ll do it better.

Secret Entry 13

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We drafted our artwork to look like a journey, contorted like the stars that move like crazy. One end will be dark with stars and the other will be skin coloured with goosebumps. Their transition will be instant.

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We first made the base first which consisted of newspaper and light clay and waited for them to get hard. Then we tried to use superglue to glue some bumps onto the clay to create goosebumps. However, superglue was drying too slow and it didn’t have a tactile feel to it, so we moved on to using bubble wrap. Then we painted acrylic onto the clay. Then we started to flick white paint onto the black part of the figure to create the stars.

Finally, we hung it in place.

Secret Entry 12 - Phosphenes & goosebumps

We were brainstorming again since we had no time left, and I was closing my eyes when I saw stars. They are actually phosphenes (left: Phosphene depiction by Peter Serebrovskyi). I closed my eyes and watched them move so nicely. They are like strips of star ribbons floating and evolving. I asked if the others see them and they do but different patterns since they are everchanging and unique to every person. That’s when it click when I felt a connection with this idea. I told the others that secrets are so unique to every person that we get fixated on them like the stars we see when we close our eyes. We’ve also researched that keeping secrets may lead us to have false realities or illusions. Such as we might think that we’re bad people but in reality we’re just normal. Or people who have been raped may feel physically dirty. People who are in the closet may feel like they are alone.

But we can’t just focus on the secret, we have to break the secret. We were complaining about the cold temperature in the room and some of us got goosebumps on our arm and we thought how about we try telling our secrets and to stimulate them? The best we was to get naked and tell our secrets to see if words can stimulate more. But it didn’t work. Then one of us suggested hugging, to bring a physical element to it. So a couple of us hugged and told our secret while closing our eyes watching the stars move. The results were astounding. There were a lot of goosebumps all up our arms. And some of us were so touched. They report that it was like everything went from starry to goosebumps all around. It was instant they said. We had to make an artwork out of that.

Secret Entry 11 - Serious reflection

However, we gotten some advice saying that we do not have a clear narrative at all. We were trying to say so many things at once and we never really further developed any ideas. We were advised to choose one aspect of our thought process but we chose to rethink. Since we were too focused on using thread we actually forgor about anything related to secrets. Its outcome, its traits, the feeling it gives off etc. We were too self-indulgent. It was in our best interest to rethink what we could use.

Secret Entry 10 - Our biggest mistake

We emphasis on the power to affect others like a ripple effect and Yan drew a draft of what she meant. It was the continuing and spreading like Melinda’s artworks that starts from a point and starts to go outwards. However, Yan’s experiment caused uneven lines. ‘I wanted to make pretty and uniformed lines’ she said. But we thought it looked visually beautiful. But the fact that she tried to correct her next move with her needle to try to cover up her messy lines is what makes it special. She went with the flow. Chloe also mentioned, “we would change our life decisions based on the emerging of secrets.” We tried to explain this phenomenon that we are all searching for our own perfection, but in real life having secrets is normal and a part of us. Maybe the act of sewing thread equals to our search for perfection in this worls and the messy lines are how we choose to hange things due to our secrets. Naïvely, we thought,

  • We all have our own view of perfection without needing to hide any secrets

  • When we originally hope our life to be normal with nothing to hide

  • The end result might be not as expected - this becomes our secret, our flaws we want to hide

  • But if we show it, it might be the better version of you, becoming power

So secrets are the flaws we think we have. Thinking it merged Melinda’s work with our cutting thread experment and how we can’t control outcomes like the tension of fire, we made a draft. Our plan was to make our own thread similar to our attempt at making rolls of thread, and try to work together to make an image to creat more of those patterns, turning the secret into our process and try to make it as hard to make as possible to try to hide our mistakes during the process.

Secret Entry 9 - Inspiration from Melinda Schawel

We then got a chance to go to the Art Central 2018. I got to know Melinda schawel and her work. She focuses on the physicality of the creative process by scraping, sanding, painting, perforating, drawing, cutting, drilling and tearing the canvas. This leaves trails and marks on the canvas that overlap each other. She believes that ‘trails of perforations exist in others and is a metahor for movement, journey and migration’

We then tried the same method to impale, poke and cut canvas and plastic to see how it would look like and how it felt. However, we still couldn’t make much of it. At this point we felt very lost.

Melinda Schawel’s work

Melinda Schawel’s work

Secret Entry 8 - Stuck doing experiments

We then got some advice to show not tell, to find out why secrets are secrets or why people don’t understand some secrets. Our reaction was to rethink, and do experiments to see if it can symbolise the breaking of a secret.

 

1.       Thread in AB glue experiment

We tried to symbolise thread as secrets and tried to see if we can ‘dig into’ the secret by sealing the thread into AB glue first then scraping black acrylic paint off the thread to see if it stimulates any thought, since we were pretty much stuck with no ideas since we never funny develop any ideas and we never felt that any of them was good. The experiment was too obvious that was telling more than showing because I over-explained it.

2.       Cutting thread experiment

We were trying to cut the thread, which is just like the feeling of telling a secret.  And then we try to tie different coloured thread inside. When you’ve told a  secret and tried to speak out, the outcome may become different or the direction of your mindset will be different, like the direction of the thread after being cut.

3.       Tension of burning experiment

We also tried to burn the thread we’ve cut and we understand that secrets are like fire that almost has a mind of its own, and its hard to control it. However we still didn’t have a lead to go on because we didn’t know how to develop this idea.

Secret Entry 7 - Shock factor

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We did may different ideas but we all want the shock factor. We want the audience to be shocked. No matter the ‘power of words’, study of power, raising awareness for acceptance to prevent hurting, we all want the audience to reflect on why we only see the issue when it is already late. Perhaps this question is a sign of hope? We stumbled across Gary Hill’s Incidence of Catastrophe (1987-1988) at the school library. We watched the video and was immediately stunned by the image of the naked body with nothing to hide. It kind of signifies a sort of death physically or mentally. And like a crime scene, there might be information left at the scene for the viewers to find as evidence, to understand what happened to the person left there naked. It is like a secret left for the audience to break, the power is the reflection. Or maybe the sight of human skin is very stimulating to anyone who views it. Artist Tetsuya Ishida’s work incorporates the image of human bodies into his works as well. Seeing the bodies contort and being put in different situations, we begin to think and reflect on the secrets hidden in social issues. We wanted to use the image of a body to hint at the severity of the issue and use the shock value to trigger change.

Secret Entry 6 - Study of power

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Since it’s the power of speaking out, we tried writing secrets down. And we found that it kind of look like some garbled characters of a computer, lots of information is clumped together. It becomes confusing, chaos, messed up, a little depressing, but it looks a power, a power of words.

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But we didn’t know what to do next, so we tried to see what can symbolize the ‘breaking’ of the secret in a physical narrative. We did some experiments on sticks, cling wrap and some string. By breaking it, tearing it, cutting it etc, we found that there is a tension as we break the secret. We noted that down until Chloe found a poem that kind of peaked our interest. The poem is written by Theodore Roethke, called In a dark time. We were attracted to the first line of the first stanza.

‘In a dark time, the eye begins to see’

We like the transition from darkness or a sense of nothingness to something as we try to digninto our secret more. Leaving people in their own world in the dark with their own secrets, they might be enlightened to be brave and strong after reflecting on self-worth and belief.

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However, “being in the dark” is not a good idea. I think this idea is more ‘breaking in’ than speaking out, as it is about how we deal with our dark secret, we break into our mind and find the hope of our own, hence ‘our eyes begins to see’ However, not everyone can deal being left alone with their secrets. It needs the cooperation of the society to encourage self-enlightenment.

Secret Entry 5 - New direction

However, the secret of the oppressed is too broad of an idea. Sexual harassment can be studied as a specific case instead of the whole picture. Besides, there are too many different demographics that have been affected by these kinds of dark secrets and it’s not good to generalize. We were then given the advice to focus on how secrets bring about the energy of hope or great strength.  So, we then focused on the breaking of a dark secret and how it can bring about great power.

Secret Entry 4 - The secret of the oppressed

We were playing around with a light and a shadow and thought maybe secrets are shadows, until Yan thought we meant ‘trauma’ or ‘childhood fear’.  There are many rape cases, sexual harassments, and even victim blaming in our society. Most women or even men have experienced one or more of these issues and only some choose to speak up. This is kind of like the society’s secret hidden by those who do not have the power to change the statistics. They are oppressed. What if all of them speak up? The lifespan of the secret ends. Breaking the secret signifies courage to fight for ourselves and protects other people. This is inspired by Oprah’s ‘time’s up’ speech during the Golden Globe Awards. The secret evolves into a collective power. When it’s not a secret anymore, it will be a time when nobody even has to say, ‘me too’ again. Therefore, the secret of the oppressed and become a power.

Secret Entry 3 - Secret as a living energy

Edward Hopper’s  Office in a small city (1953)

Edward Hopper’s Office in a small city (1953)

Feeling as though we were going nowhere we went on artwork browsing randomly. We found Edward Hopper’s Office in a small city (1953) and it clicked, what if the secret was living and has its own space in our mind? What if it had a lifespan? People keep secrets for a long long time, some wait till they are ready to be told, some die with it and the secret becomes unknown. If many common secrets become untold, it’ll become a social problem and affect things culturally, changing how open people are to accept these issues. Or, what if secret has a will, a mind of its own? Our mind and the secret’s mind affect each other strongly, causing conflict or contradiction within a person. Similar to when someone wished to come out of the closet but our conscious mind is too fearful to do so. We put this idea aside to see if there are any other better ones.

Secret Entry 2 - The uniqueness of secrets

After looking at Secret Histories, we thought that the mood of the whole picture was interesting. How about the moods of secrets? The colour/ tone that represents secret really depends on the person. Mine might be dark red while Kit’s might be dark blue. Both blue but different nonetheless. Everyone is unique and maybe in our minds we all have different secret worlds. We came up with several reasons why we keep our secrets based on what our secret was. Including keeping secrets to conceal the ‘real’ you (wearing a façade to cater to everyone or to fulfill everyone’s needs), to protect others or ourselves due to shame or low self-esteem, to keep a normal distance with other people and the wicked who like to conceal dark secrets like a kink. Mine would be to protect others. And based on our secrets, we also came up with why we share our secrets. Such as for people to connect, through the web anonymously or in real lide to express your ideas freely or to get closer to other people, depending on who we tell our secret to might bring about the best comforting effect, as well as keeping each other’s secrets to build trust.

 

The feeling of keeping a secret may vary. For us, it feels lonely, unhappy, shameful, and terrifying. Mixing together the burden-like secret with some social pressure and the fear of being found out and the though of facing the consequences creates a very complex feeling. Like it has its own mass in our mind.

Secret Entry 1 - Getting started - symbols

As we were given the topic of secret, we were puzzled to how we were going to come up with a good idea since all our secrets are so different after we have discussed the first time round. But we started brainstorming. We understand that secret itself is mysterious which is very attractive and arouses our curiosity. This made us think about symbols that are sort of secrets to our society. Inspired by Patrick Tyman’s Secret histories (2013), we took note of the symbols such as the eye of providence, the pentagram and the swastika etc.

Patrick Tyman,  Secret histories (2013 )

Patrick Tyman, Secret histories (2013 )