LET’S TALK ABOUT *THAT* JOKE: ON TOURETTIC HUMOUR

Many of you might be aware of the joke that won ‘joke of the year’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year. For those who are not, it goes a little something like this:

“I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve laughed at my tics before, I’ve even laughed at others’ (though I’d like to add that this was all out of love). However, much like Jess Thom states in response to this joke, I am ‘tired’ of Tourettes being used for cheap gags. I completely understand that humour can be a great way of educating people, however not only have people found this joke offensive, but also in my opinion it’s not really that funny as a joke itself (I feel sad for the quality of comedy that exists to make this the supposed height of comedy at Edinburgh Fringe this year…)!

It’s no secret that disability, notably tourettes, has been used as the brunt of many jokes by comedians, tourettic and non-tourettic alike, but the real question here is as follows:

“Is it okay to use Tourettes Syndrome for comedic purposes?”

It’s hard for me to give a short and concise answer, but I’ll do my very best (there’s a reason I have blog as opposed to just tweeting)! What it all boils down to for me is the context of the joke.

in case you didn't notice...

Above, you can see a piece from previous research into Tourettes Syndrome and post-phenomenological geographies (see here for more context). Evidently, the creator has used comedy in this zine piece to make a point about the fact that due to the very vocal nature of their tics, it becomes very clear to others that they have Tourettes Syndrome. So what’s the difference between the ‘joke of the year’ aforementioned, and this? The main thing is context. 

The key issue with this is that Olaf Falafel, the comedian in question, does not have Tourettes. An illustration of why this is problematic stems from some interesting history about the use of memes that are related to disability. Over the last decade, memes have been used in a variety of ways and many of them are entirely problematic. Three examples of this, as discussed by Hermans (2004) include (1) the charity case; (2) the inspirational meme; and (3) the cheat meme…

Charity case memes are those that exist only in order to show support for a cause performatively – for example, a company could post a meme about accessibility and how important it it, but then not follow through in the workplace. This gives the illusion that it is a cause the organisation cares about, but in reality what they care about is appearing good from a branding perspective. It’s a bit like the digital version of having recycling bins in that fast-food chain that just get thrown in with the general trash in the back alley anyway. These memes also allow for the performative support of causes by other social media users – does that individual really support Black Lives Matter or are they just reposting it onto their Instagram story because everybody else is…? It’s clear to see the issue with these memes. 

Inspirational memes are another big issue. Have you ever come across a meme that reads something like: ‘what’s your excuse?’ placed on top of an image of a female amputee running? This is a meme that makes use of somebody who is disabled, in a way that might boost their own business, even if the ‘business’ in question is a charitable organisation. This is commodifying the disabled body, for the benefit and inspiration of those who are able-bodied. Again, this is not acceptable.

And lastly we have the ‘cheat’ meme, which often depict those with disabilities as scroungers, tricking a capitalist system into getting welfare benefits. They might read something a little like ‘Being fat is not a disability’. This is the most outright and explicitly unacceptable meme kind that impacts the disabled. 

So where does Falafel’s Joke of the Year come into play here? Maybe you’ve made the connection already, but just like all of these meme-types that I’ve mentioned, this joke uses a disabled population (the tourettic community), whilst serving to benefit an able-bodied population exclusively. It may not serve to provide inspiration to run a marathon, or to explicitly slander those with tourettes, but the capitalist commodification of disability is the underlying issue here. 

However, on a more positive note the tourettic community have been fighting back and creating memes of our own as a form of resistance. Many without TS don’t understand the jokes, and can not currently (and may never) relate to them, but that is precisely what makes these memes a political act of resistance. We have been using our own diagnoses to produce memes that are for our community; memes by tourettics, for tourettics, to put it in short. 

You might be asking, where do we go from here? I’d suggest that going forward, you take notice of the memes that you interact with. Are they ableist? If you don’t know, why not ask a disabled pal of their opinion? What is the intention, and is it offensive? Why are you interacting with this meme? What more can you do that like or share a post to benefit the cause in question? These are all things you could consider to ensure that you’re a better ally to your disabled pals. But perhaps, and most importantly of all, we should be challenging commercial and entertainment giants like E4 about the impact and ableist joke that they’ve awarded the title of Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s Joke of the Year back in 2019…

The Song of My Life: Reflections on ‘Quiet’ and Tourettes

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Did you know that every single thing in this universe is currently vibrating? Did you also know that sound is simply how our bodies react to and acknowledge said vibrations?

As humans, we are not exempt from the science that tells us that everything is made up of loads of teeny-tiny particles. From our hands to our hearts; our brains to our bladders – our bodies and it’s organs are accumulations of particles even smaller than the specks of dust on the ground that man was created from. This means that every single individual part of our bodies is creating different and unique sounds. Your very body is a concoction of noises, all in different pitches, timbres, tones and melodies. Your very body is the ultimate song, with more harmonies and key changes and styles than you could ever even comprehend.

And so when I think of ‘quiet’, I know that my body is NOT. I never sit in silence; my entire life has a full orchestra playing out its unique soundtrack that I often forget exists. I forget about the most beautiful song of my life because of technical issues. Synapses meet, electrical pulses jump, and my life seems to get set to ‘fast-forward’, twitching and snorting and grunting and cracking and yelling. It disrupts the flow. It is the kid in the AmDram production of RENT who thinks he can riff, attempting to improvise all the associated intricacies, but most definitely cannot. He attempts without any success, but he attempts. He sings off-key and out of time and let me tell you now, conducting your life in fast-forward is uncomfortable for every party involved.

Then it comes to me and all of a sudden I realise I’ve been trying to train the kid who can’t riff, and that kid exclusively. The orchestra has become a clique and so no matter how much I train him, that kid won’t get better until we all learn to accept him for more than his musical ability. It’s time for the song of my life to become inclusive. Perhaps together we can make something new that has never been heard before; perhaps it’s time to follow that simultaneous, unplanned change of key, time signature and melody. One band can’t sing one song forever, after all.

60 days indoors: Tourettes and why it took me 60 days to leave my house during the quarantine

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Everybody is staying indoors more in the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a given. We’re all trying to remain safe and protect ourselves and our loved ones. However, I know I speak for more than just myself when I say that as a result of my Tourettes I haven’t left the house to run errands at all since I began social-distancing and quarantining myself to my house. Until today!

My anxieties over leaving the house in this time were particularly bad purely because of my Tourettes, and the associated tics that I have. Firstly, the large bulk of my tics currently are breathing-related. Exhaling quickly through my note, breathing hard, and forcing what sounds like a tickly cough. As you can imagine, that’s less than ideal with everything going on right now. Admittedly, a lot of my reluctance to leave the house here comes from feeling self-conscious about having people give me dirty looks, thinking that I’m ill as I sniff and cough. However, it’s also caused me to worry that if I am carrying COVID-19 asymptotically then realistically I am more likely to be passing it along to people I encounter.

“So why not wear a mask?”

Good question. My tics are pretty influenced by the clothes I’m wearing, and by my comfort levels. Wearing over-the-ear headphones, clothes that are too tight, or anything that comes into contact with my face can sometimes trigger my tics to be worse. Unfortunately, this includes wearing a face mask.

On my run to the post office (that as much as I wanted to avoid, I had art commissions that I’d promised to post to some clients), I decided to wear the facemask. The post office is perhaps a two-minute walk from my front door, so thankfully I didn’t come into contact with too many people. But as I walked down my road, I couldn’t help but notice the occasional glance as I coughed and sniffed under my mask. I twitched my head upwards, blinked too hard, and stretched open my mouth as my tics were worsened by my face mask’s presence. To my frustration, this meant that the facemask kept moving out of alignment, and meant that I had to keep readjusting it, perhaps defeating the point of me wearing it in the first place?

As I sit back in my home now, I’m realising how blessed I am to currently be living with others who are able to run errands on behalf of the household. If I was living alone right now, perhaps I would be more used to the masks and new rules of social distancing by now. But the fact of the matter is that I’m not, and it’s made me worry about going back to work. What if we’re required to wear face masks? What if my tics are bad to a point where they distract the others in my office and make it hard for me to focus on getting any work done? Will I be allowed to work from home a little longer? I’m sure these are questions that many others with TS are asking themselves at this point and they’re all very valid questions. It’s so incredibly important to consider nuance in terms of how different populations respond in odd times such as this, be it nuance in terms of disability, race, or gender amongst many other things.

Does TS then make somebody more vulnerable in this pandemic? I do not know the answers, but I think it’s definitely a nuance to think about (or a narrative that I wanted to ‘put out there’ and discuss).

I’d love to hear any thoughts that you may have, so please do feel free to comment or drop me a message! I hope you’re all keeping well and safe in this crazy time!

 


This post was written as a part of Tourettes Syndrome Awareness Month began a few days back, on the 15th of May and will continue until June 15th. There will be more posts to follow, so watch this space!

Disability Justice & COVID-19: How is activism changing?

Untitled_Artwork 11Activism is a very contested term nowadays. I know people who consider themselves activists; those who cannot stand the thought of being in the room with an ‘activist’; and those who would just roll their eyes should I mention the very word. But what actually is activism? What does it look like? Who is an activist?

The Cambridge online dictionary defines the word activism as “the use of direct and noticeable action to achieve a result, usually a political or a social one”, and subsequently defined an activist as “a person who believes strongly in political or social change and takes part in activities such as public protests to try to make this happen”.

I’m pretty sure that, like myself, you thought of protests and marches when you even saw the very word ‘activism’ in the title of this post. However, it’s important to discuss how activism is much more than that, particularly from a Tourettic/disabled standpoint. Especially in times such as these what with COVID-19 causing us to isolate and rendering us pretty much unable to participate in stereotypical forms of activism.

Disability Justice

Disabled Justice is a movement/framework for disabled activism that derived from the initial disability rights movement. Whilst the disability rights movements tended to focus on one issue at a time, the idea of disability justice builds upon these initial movements, implementing a framework that allows us to consider the intersectionality of disability rights and issues that surround it.

“Disability Justice is contextual, it’s improvised, it changes…” – Kay Ulanday Barrett

There is a whole lot more information giving the full ‘backstory’ as such that can be found – I’d recommend Skin, Tooth, and Bone: The Basis of Movement is Our People. A Disability Primer” if you want some more context here! However, one of the principles of Disability Justice as a movement is sustainability, the idea that we should collectively pace ourselves and value our bodily experiences in disabled activism; we should use our experiences as a map of sorts that move us into a more intentional approach. In the past, how many times have you heard of a political and/or social issue and ran full steam ahead with passion, trying to change things as quickly as possible and running full steam ahead? How many times has what you’ve done worked out, without being detrimental to others or other causes that you support? The Disability Justice movement has been criticised for being slow-moving, but perhaps we could learn something about the intentionality of our specific activism activities, generally speaking?

I feel that disabled individuals (including but not limited to D/deaf, neurodivergent, mobility-restricted, etc) tend to be better than able-bodied individuals at listening to their bodies, and allowing themselves to live life at the pace their own body works the best at. Perhaps a part of this, and the Disability Justice movement’s leadership of those who are the most impacted by disability issues, are to thank for their focus on intentionality? Regardless, it’s interesting to see how able-bodied activists have been responding to this forced isolation as a result of governmental movement restrictions as a result of COVID-19.

What’s changing?

I will not mention any specific organisations or individuals in this, but I have noticed certain people I know who consider themselves ‘activists’ really struggling with this idea of not being able to respond quickly and with urgency in response to political, environmental, social, etc changes occurring. There seems to be an influx of activist distress all around whenever I open my social media at the moment. However, it’s been interesting to see that those who I mentioned earlier that actively disassociate themselves with the term ‘activist’ have been participating in activism perhaps without even realising it. What is most notable to me is that disabled individuals I know have not changed the ways in which they are participating in activism… How does this make sense?

Unfortunately, it’s no secret to note that we live in an ableist society (shortly put, capitalism depends on the gain of a ruling class at the expense of others, encouraging competition as a means of survival. As disabled individuals resist conforming to normative levels/forms of productivity, their worth is – according to capitalism – much lower than able-bodied individuals). As this society can be very isolating for disabled populations, perhaps disabled activists are not changing so much in terms of the ways they act out their activism because they have been better equipped to thrive in isolated-activism? I’ve seen it myself, even in work, that we’re moving towards a focus on accessibility. From image descriptions, to live captioning, to BSL interpretation, to consideration of colour and contrast on promotional materials – COVID-19 has started to make everything we do revolve more so around accessibility. It’s moving to the forefront, albeit ever so slightly, of what we plan and the same is happening with other activist activities that have been forced to move online, as just one example – what Disability Justice has been focussing on for years now.

Everyone has been talking about things ‘going back to normal’ eventually, but I truly believe that they should and will not. I genuinely feel that this move to a more accessibility-centric way of operating should remain, both in activism and in the work we do generally, be it events planning or administration or human resources or teaching or generic management of teams. This change is necessary, and it looks like it just might be happening.

So what might activism look like post-coronavirus? Marching in a protest? Yes, that’s activism. Checking up on and showing up for disabled individuals? Yes, that’s also activism. Activism can take many forms, but it’s important to realise that now, more than ever, these acts of micro-activism (for lack of a better phrase) are becoming more and more common, particularly amongst those within their community. Buying food for Foodbanks or delivering groceries to a neighbour with mobility issues who can’t face to stand for 2 hours in a queue for Tesco are acts that resist the capitalistic structure of our society, and surely anti-capitalist acts are very much activism, right?

And so I warmly welcome to you come back to my initial questions once more, and invite you to ask yourself the following.

What is activism? What does it look like? Who is an activist?

 

“IS THERE A PILL FOR THAT?”

I always find it interesting when people talk about treatments or remedies that they’ve tried in an attempt to cure tourettes. Across multiple online forums, people talk about what medication to try, considering CBD oil, antidepressants, and even things like antihistamines in an attempt to lessen the frequency and severity of tics. Asking advice on physical medications, this is most frequently (that I have seen) parents posting about how they can cure their child. However, many times when an individual with TS posts about physical medication, they’re referring to the side effects of medications they have tried in the past for a variety of physical illnesses and mental health conditions, from blood thinners to antipsychotic meds. Tourettic individuals seem to take into greater consideration the experience of the medication as opposed to the end result.

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It’s fascinating to me that there’s so many questions every single day in these online forums, from both tourettic and non-tourettic individuals. However, I’m more interested in this idea of generalisation. It’s no secret that TS is something that is extremely difficult to diagnose. Without mentioning specific organisations or individuals, there are multiple medical professionals, charitable organisations and popular media outlets who present a huge array of incorrect generalisations when discussing TS. Some of these generalisations include the idea that Tourettes Syndrome always consists of swearing or obscene gestures (coprolalia; copropraxia), and that TS is a condition that only children can develop (surprise! You can develop TS at any stage in life). I think there’s a lot of danger in generalisation. This is particularly the case for TS, because if tics can vary on an individual scale in severity, mode, and frequency even day-to-day, then how can we assume that TS presents itself similarly across all it’s sufferers? And that’s even before considering socio-cultural-specific developmental psychological factors that might have an influence (more on this in another post to come!). This lack of uniformity within the tourettic community actually causes an absence of the sense of community amongst tourettics. Many people with TS have never met another individual with the same condition, and I know that was largely the case for the majority of individuals who participated in my Masters Thesis research sessions, and I personally find it somewhat refreshing to see the sheer variety of forms tics can take. It never fails to surprise me.

I suppose then that the answer to the question that the title and collage presents is not as simple as yes or no. It’s not black and white. Whilst medications may work for some, it may increase the severity and frequency of tics amongst others. There is no one pill you can pop to get rid of it. Tourettes Syndrome is something that varies significantly in the way it presents itself on an individual scale, and even on a day-to-day basis. Tourettes Syndrome is truly a creative neuroatypicality, and I believe it can offer boundless insights into the study of space, place and the human body within the field of cultural geography.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you consider Tourettes Syndrome and it’s associated tics as creative? If you are tourettic, what medications have you tried? How have conversations with others gone when you’ve discussed medication and TS? I’m sure I’ll publish a post at some point considering creativity and TS in a lot more detail at some point, but I’d love to hear others’ opinions on this!

3 REASONS WE NEED TOURETTE SYNDROME AWARENESS MONTH

So for those of you who may not know, TS Awareness Month is from 15th of May until 15th of June. A few people have genuinely asked – from a place of good heart I’m sure – why we need TS Awareness Month. Here are a few reasons:

1. Misrepresentation

As you read more and more of these posts, you’ll realise that misrepresentation is a recurring theme. The media portray it as a ‘swearing disease’, charitable organisations argue that only children can have it, and medical professionals even suggest that disciplining an individual for ticcing will make them stop. From personal experience, all three of these things are not the case. Tourettes Syndrome is a hyper-individualised condition, that affects the body and manifests itself in such a huge variety of ways, even on an individual scale. From my research, doctors have said it’s a pain to diagnose precisely because of this. Tourettes Awareness Month is vital in combatting these incorrect narratives and representations of TS. There’s power in numbers. The more people sharing their own truths, the more people will begin to realise the extent of TS’ individuality.

2. Coming Out

Many live in fear that announcing that they are tourettic may negatively influence their lives, and this can be largely due to the stigmas that arise as a result of mass-misrepresentation. Through my research and through previous personal experience I have met many people who live a double life of sorts, spending all day trying to suppress their tics and then completely exploding once they return home from work or school. However, I think that TS Awareness Month is the perfect time to make it known. It just makes sense to let people know about your Tourettes during the month solely dedicated to it’s awareness. Yes, it feels like the most awkward thing in the world. No, you’re not better off suppressing. Let loose. And even if you do decide to continue to hide your neuroatypical nature, just please let your school or college or workplace know about it. People are out to help you, find somebody who you trust and let them know. Believe me, it does wonders.

3. Encouraging Community

In my next post I’ll be discussing this a little more, but one huge thing I’ve found is that having TS can feel like the most isolating thing in the world. You feel as if no one understands you, but then so many of us stay as far away from other people with tourettes because we’re scared about having our tics triggered. It’s this weird and vicious cycle that just continues to increase the extent to which you feel isolated. If you have TS, definitely think about joining our online community/safespace dedicated for UK adults with Tourettes. If you’re from outside of the UK there’s a bunch of other groups available, so feel free to get in touch and I can set you up into a good one! If you know someone who has TS, why not send them in the group’s direction also? It’s a great way to share your experiences and an easy way to feel like a part of a wider community without the worry of being triggered by tics. For me, it was a nice stepping stone allowing me to feel confident enough to meet other tourettics face-to-face.

If you have any other reasons you think TS Awareness Month should exist, do let me know – as always I love to hear people’s thoughts! If you’d like to support those with TS, be sure to ‘go teal’ for TS to share awareness. Feel free to share any of my resources if you think it may help!

CONTRIBUTIVE TICCING

In my research I have begun to consider the idea of the tic as a contributive act. In one tic diary written by hand, a participant was unable to finish their week of entries due to personal reasons. This one entry featured physical evidence that a tic had occurred during it’s production…

TIC ON PAPER

 

Within academic inquiry, there’s this idea of affect, which is a thing – physical or not – that influence another thing. If affect is something that changes the atmosphere in a given space, then a tic can be considered affective. Within my research, when I’ve been around a group of other Tourettic individuals I’ve often ended up being triggered by others’ tics. Scholars Gregg & Seigworth argue that “affect is found in those intensities that pass body to body” (2010). Have you ever had someone walk really close to you and you feel the urge to move away to give them more space? That’s the perfect example of affect in a normatively scripted body. When an individual has TS, things such as heat, noise, and emotion can subconsciously change the way the body navigates the space it finds itself in. It seems as if the tourettic body could be more sensitive to affect than those that are non-tourettic. Ahmed (2010) states that affect is a bodily evaluation of an occurrence; for tourettics this is out of our control.

 

We see this ‘evaluation’ illustrated in the tic diary entry above. The scribbles that remain following the tic results in the author changing the way they write; their navigation of the blank piece of paper changes – it is no longer blank. The phrase “tic, oops” is written small enough and well within the frame of sorts that was created by the tic. It’s a natural thing. If you see lines on a piece of paper, you naturally write along them. The same principle applies in space. Just as you might move out of the way of someone passing by, or drive on one side of the lines on a road, if a door is being held open for you at the end of a corridor you might be inclined to walk at a faster pace in order to ensure the individual holding the door for you isn’t waiting too long.

When it comes to TS, I’ve had many experiences – notably on public transport – where I’ve ticced physically or vocally and as a result the others who are within range of noticing the tic will look up if they’re far away, or perhaps they lean or turn away from me if they’re sat within close proximity. It seems that just as tics influence other tics amongst the tourettic community, the bodily movement and experience of the space in question is also altered and affected by a tic. It raises the question of what influence even the mere knowledge of having TS might have in the experience of a variety of spaces. I know I avoid public transport like the plague, because I don’t like the embarrassment of ticcing and seeing people respond harshly. It’s clear to see that tics past, present and still to come have an affective contribution to how people experience specific spaces.

So let me know – what contributions do your tics have on the way you interact with space? Or for those who do not have Tourettes, have you experienced TS before? How did you react? What was the first thing you thought? How did the experience change the rest of the time you occupied the space in question? Let me know in the comments or by dropping me an email!

A Very Brief Introduction to ‘Geographies of Impulse’

First and foremost I’d like to apologise for having not posted in almost six months; this year has been extremely hectic so far. However, as I am presenting this research at the RGS-IBG International Conference, which seems to be looming on the horizon, I thought it would be a wonderful time to introduce the research for my MA thesis.

For those of you that don’t know me personally, I have Tourettes Syndrome. TS is a neurological syndrome characterised by involuntary tics that take the form, mainly, of physical movements and sounds. My dissertation research will be exploring the ways in which the impulsive body (a body occupied the genetic makeup causing TS) experiences the world.

There is a lot of research into the post-phenomenological body which spans across cultural geography and disability studies as a discipline, so why should I study the impulsive body? What can it bring to the discipline? Not wanting to go into too much detail for the sake of avoiding self-plagiarism (and spoilers for those attending the RGS-IBG Conference of course!) through my methods of tic diaries, focus groups, and making a zine with the participants, I’ve gained many insights that I had not previously considered previously. My research has taken a turn to focus on ideas of the societal panopticon (c.f. Fagan, 2013), and the ideas of pre-acceleration and plastic dynamism (Manning, 2009) in the case of the tourettic, impulsive body. These two themes act as the foundational pillars to this study, highlighting the post-phenomenological aspects of the tourettic experience and how the impulsive body’s post-phenomenological worldy experience is significantly different to that of the bodies written about previously in literature, both in the case of able-bodied and of those that are disabled or impaired. Ultimately, studying the post-phenomenological body through the tourettic lens is important in challenging existing understandings of everyday world experience and will assist in the production of a new way of theorising a body that is not ‘normatively scripted’ in the eyes of society.

I’m really excited to publish my findings more explicitly on this site following the project’s submission, but in the mean time I am hoping to start publishing posts that are related to the themes I am using in this research in order to somewhat preface the publishing of my thesis findings, such as exploring the phenomenological body, zining as method, and potentially more about Tourettes Syndrome as a whole.

Andy Goldsworthy and the temporariness of things

Standfoto RIVERS AND TIDES

Andy Goldsworthy is described as “a British sculptor, photographer and environmentalist” who produces site-specific art pieces out of natural materials. His photographs are full of colour, and generally very aesthetically pleasing as a result of direct manipulation of natural materials into a specific shape, to produce certain lines, etc. I remember stumbling across his work when studying for an A Level in Art & Design, but little did I know the relevance of his work in the discipline of cultural geography!

Within geography, there have been many recent debates regarding materiality and matter. Previously the material study of things was focussed primarily around their consumption and production, but more recently there has been various calls to re-focus our attention in other areas. One of the key academics doing this is Tim Ingold, of the University of Aberdeen. His approach is to consider materiality and it’s production. Whilst previous literature had focussed how human consumption altered the identity of an object, Ingold argues that we mustn’t disregard the potentials of the non-human in the process of materiality. Talking about so-called ‘weather-scapes’, he refers to how matter is subject to change not only by direct human interference but also through climatic factors such as heat, moisture levels, and wind direction. This is exactly what Goldsworthy’s work represents.

 

 

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Within the art world, it is common to want to conserve artworks for as long as possible. We see this in cases such as the Mona Lisa, which is protected with a bulletproof layer in between the viewer and the piece itself, and is even shown through the fact that universities such as UCLA and Northampton offer degrees in ‘art preservation’ and ‘fine art conservation’, to name just two. This is exactly what I like about Goldsworthy’s work, as it celebrates the temporariness of matter, which is currently off-trend. Understanding that identity, even of inanimate objects, is only temporary, he allows the natural process of decay to occur – the moment in time being captured only by coloured photographs. His work explores materiality as a process, acknowledging the currents of the lifeworld whereby both human and non-human direct and non-direct actors play their own significant parts.

Personally I feel that there needs to be movement away from the obsession with preserving art. The question of whether art is in the ‘process’ or the ‘product’ is long debated, but drawing upon ideas of the fluidity of object identity, I would argue that Goldsworthy’s work ends this argument with great clarity. However, it simultaneously raises interesting questions about what the implications of representing the temporality of his work with still photographs might be. If he is attempting to expose the temporality of art as a constantly flowing, non-static phenomenon (or never-ending process) then surely photography contradicts this? Realistically, the use of photography is likely to make his work easier to distribute to larger audiences, and therefore spread this celebration of temporality more widely. However, this digitalisation of the sculptures opens the work up to a whole range of other potential actors, both human and non-human, which have the potential to alter the object biography of a specific piece even further.

I’m aware that this is just a splurge of thoughts on materiality and art, but if you’re interested then I’d definitely recommend giving Andy Goldsworthy a quick Google search for sure! There’s a whole bunch of his work shown on ArtNet also!

“IT’S CALLED FASHION, LOOK IT UP”

If you’ve ever chatted to me about my research interests I will likely have talked about my research into spatial identity and it’s construction. However, I’ve recently found interests in applying this to the space of the body. If you know me personally, you may know that I currently work in fashion retail for a popular brand in order to fund my masters degree, and through working within this industry I have many thoughts…

A ‘trend’ is defined as a general direction in which something is developing or changing, and one obvious example to use to illustrate this is with the fashion industry. These trends evolve over time, and this evolution coincides with what is deemed as what is generically sexually attractive at the time. We can see this in the extreme contrast between the women’s fashion trend of the low-waisted, hip-hugging jeans in the disco scene of the 1970s, versus the rise of the high-waisted jeans of the 1990s. Evidently, these trends are extremely different. In order to delve deeper we must discuss the differences between commercial style and personal aesthetic style.

 

 

 

Clothes are an “extension of our private skin” (McLuhan, 1964)

The first, commercial style, is a lot easier to define. It is simply what is seen as generically sexually attractive within society. It ties in closely with ‘fashion’ which is the manner in which something is done, notably the act of dressing in this circumstance. Ultimately, the presence of commercial style along with our capitalistic society has resulted in fashion style as seemingly one of the easiest routes into social integration; the entire industry thrives on the natural human desire to fit in. This is where it may get confusing with personal aesthetic style. Obviously, we are all different with different levels of melanin, different facial features, varying heights and sizes – the list goes on. If clothes are a mere extension of our skin as McLuhan suggests, then how we dress reveals what is on the inside – it could be argued that the self is embodied in the clothes we wear.uglybettyblog

Popular media such as television plays a key role in exhibiting garments in different ways that create associations with certain social groups. For example, if I were to say the word ‘nerd’ I’m pretty sure you would picture somebody with big glasses, a buttoned up checkered shirt tucked into trousers that cut off mid ankle (or something very similar). Popular media’s influence creates imagined identities of different clothes and if this is done so in a negative light, such is done so with ‘nerds’ then it becomes socially undesirable to become associated with said group. The ‘nerd’ becomes a sexually undesirable group to be associated with. With fashion being an easy routine into successful social integration, this feeds the evolution of various fashion trends; just as all objects eventually disintegrate, the positive associations with certain fashion trends do too. This, in turn, means less of said undesirable garmants will be produced, and therefore will ultimately be worn by fewer people. Working in fashion retail, I regularly get customers making their buying decisions on what I tell them our most popular items are, even if they express that they don’t particularly like the item of clothing that is more popular.

This being the case, how can we ensure the retention of our true, unlimited creativity through fashion? Is it possible at all? One comment I get a lot whilst on shift is “You must love working here and having discount on such trendy clothes” (or something along those lines). Interestingly enough, whilst I find a lot of the clothes aesthetically pleasing I don’t necessarily identify with the clothes. Personally, I identify as cis-male who and personally I don’t identify with many of the clothes designed for female customers. Yes, I think some of them look great, but I don’t identify with them. The same goes for some of the men’s clothes too.

It’s still a confusing concept for me to dress with clothes I identify with as opposed to what will help me fit in. In a world where we grow up being told what to wear at school, with specific tie length in our school uniform, and often having parents choose our outfits when we are younger, it seems that the whole system of capitalised fashion is ingrained into us from birth. If so much of our identity and upbringing is based on fitting in and on being normal then how can we truly fulfil our full creative potentials as humans through fashion. I would argue that the clothes we wear are not an extension of our skin, but rather a representation limited capitalism and desire for social integration.

Can we ever have a true personal aesthetic style portrayed through fashion and the clothes we wear? Who knows, but at least now you can wow people with a much deeper response than “It’s called fashion, look it up!” that should keep your haters at bay! As always, I’d love to hear some opinions about this so please do leave a comment or get in touch!

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