Dead Cat - the work of Matthew Gaffen


The Dissertation Post

The reason I am opening this post with an image by Anthony Gormley will be explained as this post continues but I'd like to get stuck in with this long-overdue post. Alongside miscellaneous travel and teaching I have been (semi) busily putting my nose to the grindstone researching for my dissertation. I don't have a title yet, but it will be something along the lines of:
"The Difference Between Design and Fine Art in a Modern Context; How Professionals Define Their Practice Within That Framework"
The reason I have chosen this subject is because from the moment I started foundation at Camberwell I have never been able to define a clear, theoretical difference between the two disciplines.

I realise that the above statement may create a lot of flak for myself, so before the angry comments start I will attempt to justify my position. From what I can deduce, both disciplines are fundamentally about the clearest, most affective way of communicating an idea through the most appropriate medium. This communication can be simple, straightforward, abstract but I believe it is always there. Most differences I have had pointed out to me are only stereotypical differences about the 'tendencies' of design or the 'tendencies' of art, rather than definitive differences.

I should continue by highlighting the fact that by no means do I plan to go out and prove that art is design and design art. In fact, if I manage to find a solid difference it may well be more rewarding for me. What this dissertation is about is gauging the way design and art are perceived in the modern climate, and comparing it to the best possible definition I can assemble from research I have been conducting. I intend to survey a number of people, and conduct a few interviews which I will have carefully constructed with some professional artists and designers.

Finally, back to Gormley. I had the good fortune to attend a private view in Mexico City for Gormley's recent show there. At the introductory talk I managed to ask a question concerning my dissertation, something to the effect of "how would you relate Art to Design, in lieu to the fact that they are both essentially communicative mediums?". To which his reply amounted to; "In my opinion, design is there to facilitate and make life easier, whereas art is there to complicate and make life harder".

 An interesting statement, and one I had to muse on for quite a while. Until I realised that it was just a rephrasing of the stereotypical differences I had already been given, that is. In short; design is always selling something and is commercial whereas art is always abstract and expressive. This is an argument which I believe to be insubstantial. Does design have to be commercial? Does art have to be abstract? You may say, from a designer's viewpoint "well, if you want to be successful you have to be commercial." Surely this is true of the successful artist too? If you want to make money, you have to sell work, or get a second job.

The above work is called 'Inside Australia'. Unfortunately I can't remember Gormley's exemplary speech on it, and exactly what it was meant to communicate, but the piece resonates with me, which means that on some level it is communicating.

As a footnote to this post I would like to add this video, I find it very interesting and like the idea of stepping away from the homogenised 'iPod/iPhone culture'. Plus the idea of being a 'gadget maker' makes me smile.


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