You are on page 1of 11

Samuel Roux English 802 John OHara Art as a Powerful and Influential tool

Art is a way of expressing ones mind and feelings. It is the most human practice that exists. As men were not programmed like computers with databases, they are prompt to reason in their own way and in everything they do. Interacting with nature and objects is spontaneously done by all human beings in their own and unique way. One single context may change ones mind about an object, a sound or anything that makes ones five senses react. As Sturken and Cartwright point out: Context influences our expectations and uses of images with respect to their truth-value(Sturken and Cartwright 21). However, the context and situation in which Jerry Uelsman or Zhu Jinshis work for example--is chosen is not the only factor that can affect our point of view. Ideologies are also produced and affirmed through the social institutions that characterize a given society(Sturken and Cartwright 23). Other peoples opinions about a same art piece may alter points of view as well. As a photo may produce a different impact on observers from distinctive social backgrounds, we all interpret the details of a photo--that constitute the meaning of itin different ways. A photographer may have a completely different message to give out to the public, than what observers actually interpret from his photograph. Zhu Jinshi, an abstract artist who produces mainly paintings but also photographs, installations, videos and performance works. His paintings are usually drawn with thick layers of oil paint that is usually applied with a spatula or a shovel. Zhu Jinshi was highly influenced by the time he lived in Berlin. His main goal is to challenge and go beyond the

norms of society. Zhu wants to revolutionize the way ideas and messages can be expressed. The Boat--an art work that Zhu Jinshi created with a twelve meter installation exposed in London--is an example of how people perceive art in completely different ways and get their own idea of the message that Zhu possibly wanted to give out to the public. One could perceive either a big mundane object or an actual art piece, which was designed after hours and hours of thinking, and applying technics of a true art master. According to Debbie, a graphic designer and Daniela a second year industrial design student at RISD and designer of the super-fab EARonic iPhone cases the, Boat is much more than this: The Boat acts as a metaphor with both western and eastern significance: the artists personal voyage from east to west; as well as honoring the deads passage from living to afterlife, something that Chinese viewers would recognize from the meaning of the Chinese character for boat. Even time travel could be insinuated by the spaceship quality of the interior. ( The notion of time travel is evoked by this art piece and its title but Debbie Daniela go even further by saying this is a representation of the passage from life to death. Stephen, a Manhattan College graduate and Egan Award winner for short stories explains that this time idea has to do with Jinshis memories as it may depict one of his past experiences: The tunneling aspect of the structure seems to become more like a portal through memory, transcribing a tale of travel and discovery through a delicate rip in the stream of reality.(

This gigantic art craft created from bamboo and 8 000 sheets of rice paper was finalized over three days with the help of 20 workers. Realizing this context may lead the public to think that this object was either created out of insanity and money, or for the purpose of expressing a particular message. The size of this object may symbolize the power of China or the actual size of Chinas territory or even Chinas huge population and density. The title Boat however serves as a guideline for the observer. Without this title, one would have to be interested in the artist or the materials before they could even find interest in the art piece. On another hand the travel notion would very unlikely occur to the observer without this title. Benjamin Starr--a very unordinary man who has done amazing actions according to out that the shape of the Boat may allude to the union notion as the empty space in the middle of the installation allows observers to contemplate the entire inside of the Boat: In a way, Jinshis piece is one which travels eastern and western worlds, using the international concept of the boat to bring the modern Chinese world to London. Similarly, the narrow pathway through the cylinders center acts as an invitation to make our own journey from one place to another. (Starr) Starr believes that the Boat is an illustration of the internationalization of todays world thanks to technology thus the Boat. Starr also refers to nowadays increasing immigration and travelling from and to China for economic and political reasons. An article from the Pearl Lam gallery claims it is only through the contact and dialogue with his chosen materials that he can express his perception and understanding of the world.( One could interpret the choice of materials coming

from rice and bamboo as symbolic objects representing China: the country in which the artist Zhu Jinshi was born and raised. Ellen Himelfarb--a young woman who has written articles for Toronto Life, Tatler, InStyle, Wallpaper, the Sunday Times Travel Magazine and the now-defunct satirical magazine Frank--reports from Pearl Lam Galleries that the Boat stems from an effort to demystify Asian cultures and philosophies for the Western consumer.(E.Himelfarb). These materialsused in China and many other Asian countries on a regular basis for clothes, food, utensils and other living essentialsare in fact representative of Chinas people as it implicitly depicts a Chinese persons daily life. If we perceive each rice sheet as a Chinese worker, we can realize how all of these sheets are glued together as each Chinese employees work in unison and harmony. The way these papers are forming a perfect and almost full tube may show how efficient and radical Chinas industry and economy is growing. The opening in the bottom of the tube allows observers to be inside the tube and notice how it is like to be a Chinese worker in a firm where all is seen are the same objects every day, every hour and every second. This could be why this art piece was designed in a perfect looking shape: to show the monotony of Chinas workers lives. If the observer were to take a brief look at this objects shape just like a short glance at what is happening in China, he would notice how this shape does not vary much just as the mechanical life of a Chinese worker: waking up, going to work, doing the same tasks, coming home, eating, sleeping and doing this over and over again in order to feed their families and simply live. In contrast although, focusing on the rice sheets from the outside and how they are juxtaposed on top of each other, we can notice how each one of those sheets are wrinkled on the edges in a unique way. Deep down--even though Chinese workers are seen as

machine-like humans executing the same tasks all day long for the sake of America, Europe and the rest of the developed countriesthey remain human beings and the way the edges are uniquely wrinkled shows how each Chinese worker endures a unique life unlike two similar computers seemingly existing as two unflawed but boring objects. Looking at this object as a boring and random shape, the observer endures what Chinese workers see at work. Although as this art peace is observed in detail, one can realize the true purpose of this artwork and we even get a picture of Chinas modern working class lifestyle. Throughout his artwork, Jinshi demonstrates how a representation can twist a mind in many ways as British artist Franck Auerbach says: it is a testament to the quality of Zhu Jinshis work that it has the capacity to tease us out of all thought, including those complex and interpenetrating categories of west and east.(Auerbach) Jerry Uelsman, an abstract photographer who creates very symbolic pictures by play[ing] actively and imaginatively with the forms and forces of nature claims that a camera is truly a license to explore.(Uelsman) From Uelsmans perspective, almost anything could produce meaning. A sandcastle in the middle of a room, what exactly is Uelsman trying to say? An article from Greg Cook-an arts reporter and critic for, The Boston Phoenix and The Providence

Phoenixstates that Jerry Uelsmann's photos are like hallucinations.(Cook) On one side Uelsmanns sandcastle could be seen as a brilliant idea: a sandcastle to let our imagination and dreams flow in a cramped and dark room where not much is happening. On the other side--as Cook mentions--this room could be nothing short than a playing room with toys and games that are outside the frame. Nevertheless, Barbara Kasten who is also an abstract photographer explains that artists as such help grow the

ever expanding field of photography by revisiting themes of hyperrealism, constructivism, and the materiality of time through light.(Kasten) With the presence of an intricately designed and fragile looking chair and an old painting on the wall, most people would think that this room is a place reserved for adults as these valuable-looking objects could be broken by children playing around. The contrast between these two worlds may appeal to many sociable human beings who go out and never get to see either the walls of a small and cramped room nor the magic of such a sandcastle but rather just people. The art piece here could be either just the sandcastle or just the room excluding the castle. However, when both of these elements are blended together, a sense of magic is produced: the observer subconsciously imagines the world of the sandcastle because everything around it is too dull and boring to keep the observers eyes focused on. This contract also refers to a childrens dream in the sense that many children would love to build a sandcastle in such a boring place. A room like this one could be a grandfathers room or the inside of a museum but in any cases, it would be a place to which a children is dragged by his parents--a room where a child would have absolutely no consent to be in but where it would be forced to stay in. This is where Kastens thesis could be right. By taking a closer look at the sandcastle, the observer may realize that this is not just a mundane castle, it appears to be straight out of a fairy tale: pointy towers and spiky roofs with ultra-thin walls. This also raises the question: who could have ever built such a castle? Certainly not a child even though a child could have possibly imagined it but anyhow, this was not built with plastic buckets and shovels, it was built with professional tools. Heavy ramparts and a possible moat around the castle may incite the observer to think that whoever imagined this castle is trying to protect himself against the outside

world, that is the adults world perhaps? The assumption that this castle was imagined by a child but constructed by an adult reflects the contrast of the dark and gloomy room with the magic sandcastle. An interesting light coming from the outside and going through the window and onto the wall reflects the shadow of the chair. Such a crooked shadow could indicate that the light is coming from a cars headlights going in the driveway of the house where this room is located. It is a bent and moving shadow, thus the cars headlights. Possibly a childs parents car? The context may vary depending on who the observer is. One could also think that the sandcastles architecture matches with the interior decoration of this room as fairy tales and classic art are, in some sense, close to each other. In that sense the sandcastle would have been built as part of the decoration. This castle may also not have been made of sand but rather from concrete. As the photograph is in black and white and the castles walls seem to be solid, one could think that sand was simply spread around the castle while the castle was built from something else than sand. Weather the observer is a child, a grandfather, a person who loves classic art or sandcastle fan, this photograph has a different impact on every human being and the way we interpret it varies because our ethics, morals, values and environment differ as well. This work was made with the help of Photoshop and as Paul Emerson, a previous student of Uelsmann commented on with Photoshop people don't really appreciate what Jerry did or still does. However, wether Photoshop is used or not, the uniqueness behind Uelsmanns photographs is what makes the genius in which they were realized. Uelsmanns rock photograph also shows a controversy in the choice of lights and shapes. One may think that n is showing a portal to another world or dimension but if we

would take a realistic look at this picture we could assume that the door on the bigger rock was just painted and is not an real. This rock could also be house. Although who could possibly be living in this? A rock lover, or a geologist? One may also notice the difference of lights between the rock and the outside. The rock is slightly darker than the rest of the environment. Could this give a negative connotation to the world or place that the rock shelters? Or is it simply a shadow reflected by the sun behind the rock. The rock is also located on top of a hill and this may emphasize the importance of it. It is although obviously not by accident that smaller rocks were placed forming a path to the house rock. The way these smaller rocks are spread may allude to the childrens book Hop-o'My-Thumb in which the main character spreads stones behind him in order not to get lost in the woods. This succession of little stones may refer to this same idea: the path of rocks conducts us to this door. In that sense, the door is a reassuring object as it becomes a representation of home and symbolizes safety. Uelsman did not randomly choose the location, the light and the size of these objects, instead he is controlling the observer by guiding his eye: while creating this photograph Uelsman dedicated every second to think about what he wanted the observer to focus on particularly. Photographs and art have a considerable influencethe power of controlling peoples minds. As the observer has absolutely no clue about what is real or not, the photograph lets the observer become guided by his basic instincts and his emotions. As Sturken and Cartwright mention in their book Practises of Looking: We use many tools to interpret images and create meanings with them, and we often use these tools of looking automatically, without giving them much thought (Sturken and Cartwright 26).

The tools that are used to create meaning to an image produce symbols which permeate the more mundane and everyday realms of life that we do not usually associate with the word culture(Sturken and Cartwright 23). Looking at an image may be a challenge; however it is a worthy experiment to observe an image as it helps us understand how other peoples minds function. Asking ourselves questions such as: why was a particular object represented in a certain way or what is beyond these symbols? considerably helps us to think further and more deeply than we usually do. Finally-regardless of the fact that paradigms and symbols affects every human being in a unique wayart has the power of, not only controlling people minds, but also transmitting the artists way of thinking to any observer that is willing to understand his art piece.

Works cited:
"Zhu Jinshi: Boat." CollabCubed. N.p., 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. Starr, Benjamin. "East Meets West: Zhu Jinshis Boat Installation." Visual News. N.p., 4 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Apr.2013. Christopher. "A Suspended Boat of 8,000 Sheets of Rice Paper Draped on Bamboo by Zhu Jinshi." Colossal. N.p., 6 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. Himelfarb, Ellen. "Gallerist Pearl Lam Docks Zhu Jinshi's 'Boat' at Art13 London."Wallpaper* Magazine: Design, Interiors, Architecture, Fashion, Art. N.p., 4 Mar. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Stephen. "Boat by Zhu Jinshi | GBlog." GBlog RSS. N.p., 2 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. "ZHU Jinshi (b.China) P16 | ART14 London." ART14 London. Pearl Lam Galleries, 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. Trotter, Andrew. "openhouse." Openhouse. N.p., 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. "Randian | ." Randian. Pearl Lam Galleries, 9 July 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Johnson, Bobbi. "Jerry Uelsmann, an Amazing Black & White Photographer Who Uses Multiple Negatives." Yahoo! Contributor Network. Yahoo!Voices, 19 Mar. 2010. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. "Jerry Uelsmann." Review. Weblog post. N.p., 2001. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. "Greg Cook | WBUR." Greg Cook RSS 20. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. Kasten, Barbara. "Barbara Kasten." Second Nature: Abstract Photography Then and Now. N.p., 21 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. Hendrix, Simeon. " | Blog: Jerry Uelsman & Maggie Taylor 'This Is Not Photography' - Course Review." | Blog: Jerry Uelsman & Maggie Taylor - 'This Is Not Photography' - CourseReview. N.p., 7 Jan. 2013. Web. 29 Apr.2013.