From my early years this life didn’t resonate with me . . .
I walked a complex path between conformity, rebellion and withdrawal. I didn’t jell with the messages from my environment. I didn’t want to use them or be associated with them. I was pleasing but not becoming.
It wasn’t enough to just know what it was. I needed to dig it up, make connections, unravel it.
Eventually, I developed a methodology for creating a visual language founded on the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure, the teachings at the Bauhaus and the essential essence of the subject. This is the core though it extends beyond what’s mentioned here to any signifier including sound, smell, taste, gesture, texture.
Written and spoken language is a system of signs/ signifiers from which meaning can emerge, this denotes a visual language of signs/ signifiers from which meaning also can emerge. By rearranging the order of the signs/ signifiers in a sequence, a sentence, story or image we can change it’s meaning. Culture is a system of signs that from our birth, through language, programs our minds and habits to conform to the existing regimes dogma. This is reinforced through the built environment and the language of objects that fill our lives and order our minds, beliefs and behaviour. We are creatures of signs, of symbolism.
Familiarity with Ferdinand de Saussure’s . . .
structure of language is first; then decide on a subject and through research ascertain it’s essential essence; refer to the teachings at the Bauhaus on colour, line and form. Synthesise a symbolic image biased on these findings. The second step is to employ the elements from the symbolic image as structural components in design. The methodology is detailed in my book, “The Symbolic Significance of Colour, Line & Form”, ISBN: 978-0993002700.
The outcome from the methodology is exemplified in Sils Maria and Laissez-faire. Sils Maria is a construction of symbolic signs/ signifiers who’s narrative concerns Friedrich Nietzsche. Laissez-faire demonstrates the three linguistic signs; symbol, icon and index in a narrative about capitalism.
Lacan’s Real . . .
Beyond our man made, programmed mind and it’s limited imagination lies our essential essence, Lacan’s “Real”. Include what you have learned in the unravelling of your life yoga, meditation and Shambhavi Mahamudra, superconsciousness. We are born in to dogma. Reprogram your mind, create yourself.
Gary’s Real . . .
What you think you become. What you hold in mind is your reality. How we are living is our response to external stimuli, facts. Often we respond to these facts with an unconscious prototype that we acquired in our early years. What we experience is our interpretation of our thoughts, feelings and beliefs. Changing our thoughts and how we choose to respond to facts changes our experience and our world. In this way we can fashion our own reality.
1.0 Sils Maria, painting, acrylic on linen, 150cm x 90cm.
1.1 Sils Maria, shelving with five compartments, height 190cm, width 172cm.
2.0 Laissez-faire, painting, acrylic on linen, 150cm x 90cm.
2.1 Laissez-faire, two cupboards and three drawers, height 2m 30cm, width 1m 32 cm.
In the National Collection, Art & Design, The National Museum of Scotland.
The Goddess within . . .
She is one of three lamps. The other two are, Ares and Heaphustus. The collection was concerned with the exploits of these three characters in Greek Mythology.
To switch the light at the bottom on/off, grab her and push down. The light at the top remains on constantly while connected to the mains. Made in acrylic and metal. The lower light is produced by two 11w compact fluorescent lamps. Warm white lamps of course. The light at the top is red neon. Height 1m 95.
I was looking for my Goddess and realized she is the anima. What had prevented me from her was the intervention of the negative Warrior archetype prevalent in the West, that I’ve been at odds with my entire life.
The Goddess Hero is a reconnection with her and a shift towards a more balanced sense of being, a more conscious place to inhabit.
Le Corbusier, The Modulor updated, the feminine atoned . . .
With the addition of breasts.
The narcissistic split from the self and the brutal heroic attitude at large particularly in the west must subside for the forces of healing to be release. We have split from our internal nature and separated from our anima. We have repressed the feminine and natural ingredients of our psyche. Humans have lived and are living through an era where the abuse and disregard of women, the feminine, of nature and the earth, where bloodletting has prevailed.
Social, psychological, and ecological destruction have emerged together.
Disparity is the most powerful tool in existence used to great affect to perpetuate this separation ensuring our enslavement. Our native imagination has the power to transform our self concept and the societies we live.
Nature’s success is its diversity and difference. Humans natural being is a part of this system where all life flourishes, the earth breathes and rivers flow. Its success is dependant on its completeness, light and dark, awful and delightful, masculine and feminine all are a part of this whole.
Unique in history we are at the dawn of a new consciousness. The availability of information makes it possible to go beyond propaganda and learn about ourselves, our societies, our planet and to understand what is really going on. The era of abandoned anima, the negative warrior archetype and of separation from our nature is fading. Feminine and a more nature conscious-ness is succeeding characterised by an awareness our planet is dying, the prominence of women in business separately, social imbalance as well as a realisation growing among men of their deeper emotions.
The possibility of coming back into balance . . .
The re-integrating with the self in men and the end of repression in women. Re-connecting with our natural soul, our anima, typified by the re- emergence of the Goddess Hero archetype. The promise of a real new way a more complete way is emerging.
Our everyday environment conforms to the ideological dogma of the past. The chairs we sit on, the tables we sit at promote the current notion of what is “right” and give us permission to act within their confines of perceived acceptability. An important step in the changing of our self concept is to change our environment to support and uphold our new notions of our selves and of the future we dream of.
By recognising and understanding what is going on inside psychologically and outside socio-politically and economically we can start to create a more balanced, whole and conscious place for all of us to live.
Responsibility . . .
Designers and architects have the opportunity to lead the way to a new truly sustainable future for all creatures and life on this planet to live together.
Comment on the involvement literary critism, structural anthropology and the Bauhaus had on Memphis Milano and on Design . . .
Memphis Milano undoubtedly drew inspiration form Art Deco, Pop Art and 50’s Kitsch. But there was so much more to the Memphis Group than this. They demonstrated an awareness of the predominance of male-ness that dominates design, film and popular culture and of a femininity that was a fluffy pink sideline. The black box design referred to in Wikipedia was a symptom of this and a sign of how detached we had become form our primal naturalness and of a gender division.
Attention was brought to this through both overt and non-erect symbols of masculinity (Ettore Sottsass, “Treetops” 1981, right) and ‘dangerous’ feminine iconography (Sottsass, “Sol” fruit dish, Memphis 1982, left).
Other facets of Memphis Milano and fundamental to design is about people, human beings and involves two basics of design. One is concerned with the primal, trans-cultural activity of mark making. The other is how the mark and its message is communicated to those people who are the intended recipients of the marks. Sottass’s concern for our essential human essence in design and his recognition of our detachment from it is evident in the article, ‘When I Was a Very Small Boy’ here.
Developments in literary criticism brought about by Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics and published posthumously in 1916 by his former students. His theories had a monumental impact on the social sciences of the 20th-century. Saussure is widely credited as being the father of modern linguistics, semiotics and more pointedly Structuralism.
During this epoch ground breaking work by the structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss was published throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s and whose master project extended in to the second half of the 1960s was also well known. It is not too presumptuous to assume that as a writer and intellectual Barbara Radice would know of these developments in literary criticism, her field of professionalism.
Another presumption of small magnitude I suggest is that as an artist and designer concerned with mark-making Ettore Sottsass would be knowledgeable of the teachings at the Bauhaus 1919-1933. In particular the publications by prominent teachers there who sought to codify colour, line and form. The influence of the Bauhaus on 20th century art, design and architecture can not be underestimated.
From art and design a lexicon of marks . . .
From structural linguistics a methodology with which to encode the marks and from structural anthropology a theory of our common human and primal essence. It was a synthesis of these great 20th century advances in thought that enabled the precipitation of a new visual language.
The tenet is that objects can be encoded with signs integrated in to the design of an artefact that use language as a model producing culturally significant objects. Similar to (“Malabar” 1982, Ettore Sottsass, below left) and anthropological (“Carlton”, 1981 Ettore Sottsass, below right).
As with all languages to articulate meaning structure and context is all important, syntagmatic solidarities. To pluck a unit of meaning from its context and to locate it elsewhere out of context and without meaning may have a sensational originality but was often used by the masses with meaningless ignorance. Without history or depth it can only bask in the shallows of consciousness where its evaporation is assured. This was the sufferance that was to follow Memphis.
Structural Linguistics was cutting edge thinking in the 80’s and 90’s and required study. It produces linguistically literate and culturally significant articles (sofa above) that are very easy to confuse with ‘Postmodernism in design’ but, are fundamentally different. A few early Memphis pieces hinted towards this though were more embracing of a zeitgeist. Ettore Sottsass understood that design is cultural and demonstrated this by his use of materials, forms, construction for their symbolic value in his designs.
Workshops . . .
I ran workshops on The Symbolic Significance of Colour, Line & Form in Design at Colleges and Universities in the UK for some years. Above is a seat that was the result at the end of one such workshop.
The older I get, the more cynical I become and the more the more insights I have, at least on some levels. Methodology is never talked about. Why is this! Sottsass instinctively designed pieces using culturally significant elements and combinations of elements. He got it right some of the time. Other members of the group didn’t share his instinct and produced work more sculptural than postmodern. More about this later.
Light emits from a single source, a point, unhindered it’s spherical in space. With direction and focus a cone of light is formed.
In one orientation the cone is up and unstable like air. In the opposite orientation it’s down, stable and solid like the earth.
There is completeness in this.
Our two elements, one up and one down, need a connecting structure to hold them apart and together. In keeping with the idea of the completeness of opposites we arrive at the archetypes male and female. It’s a small step to the trans-cultural symbol Yin and Yang.
YANG, the definition; all that is female and bad. Well, who could resist that dogma.
A note about the illuminating tips; are ‘jewel’ like and bring a preciousness-ness and novelty into the design.
The methodology laid out.
Design of Yang floor light . . .
I sketched the design on a bit of paper with a pencil at the Bieffeplast factory during a quiet moment sitting in the corridor. The next day we made it.