Week 12 – 18 Nov

This week I worked on my research. A pdf of writing in progress is sent via email.

Supplementary references for the writing:

Extract from “The Art in Humor, the Humor in Art” by Wendy Wick Reaves

“The Shallows” This is Your Brain Online by Nicholas Carr https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127370598&t=1605623688428

How to Swear by Stephen Wildish

Amusing Ourselves to Death – Public Discourse in the age of show business by Neil Postman

Written Component 4

31 May 2020

Reflecting on your coursework in the first half of Unit 2, answer some/most/all of the following questions: How has your original position changed as a result of your further work? Where have holes or gaps appeared in your research, and how do you expect to fill them in future work? What existing networks of knowledge do you have access to that could reinforce your practice?  How do you want to use the summer break to keep momentum going in your project?

Reflecting on my coursework in the first half of Unit 2, my original position was to find the beneficial thing for my practice. This was fulfilled in my project. Initially, I intended to interrogate my practice, trying to find a difficult way out, so I can move forward from my comfort zone. The result leads to some new thoughts on my existing working methods. Towards the end of the project, I refined the way I work and rebuilt a sense of practice.

My research in terms of reading was slightly disconnected with my studio work. The direction was often off track. Throughout the project, I tried to identify and clarify the focus of the project. I was used to working with a purpose and the purpose comes at the early stage of a project. I did research on picture theory by W.J.T. Mitchell, investigated on relationships between text and image and explored illustration as a topic. Although I had been trying to connect writing and research with my studio work, they were still detached. Yet, this failed attempt leads to a realization that my position and focus come from making, iterating, reiterating and reflecting. I identified “subject matter” and “Medium” as something that were less investigated but “methods”. The presence of “working methods” is strong and prolonged among all iterations. I am aware that I am not creating guidelines or assistive materials but merely concluding insights I have gained from the process of making. Most of my insights came from the iterative process. It generates knowledge that even the creator, I was not aware of. They are beneficial to the way I work, bringing new thinking to my practice.

Now that I have finished my visual essay, I am curious about more methods. I am eager to find more methods from others that I don’t acquire. I often think making reflections on the work itself is very personal, almost secretive. I wonder how others figure it out “their way” or “their practice”. Intellectually, I had no idea what books to read or which theory to investigate. I haven’t read enough to be able to make a decision. First off I would read the suggested books from the reading list.

In the past few weeks, I explore illustration, image and text by tearing them down and exploring parts separately through iterative exercise. I wonder if I can do the same to a different topic. Graphic designer Ryan Carl has a similar approach in which he takes text out and explores its qualities in isolation. Of course, he makes work in graphic design discipline as a whole. It seems like a good exercise to apply to other disciplines, perhaps text?

In this summer, I plan to devote some time continuing the iterative exercise. I am eager to do something fully made of text, like the “alone” iterations in week 5. I am excited about the potentials of using text as an illustrative device.



W.J.T. Mitchell (2005) ‘What Do Pictures want?’ in What Do Pictures Want: The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp.28–56.

R. Carl (2019) “Past-Present-Future”. Available at : https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Ky6aiBUA7/ (Accessed: 30 May 2020)

Written Component 3

Create a piece of writing that uses specific writing structures, tones, or organizational methods to enact or embody your position

Exercise in style” Raymond Queneau
Complied writings of the same story reinterpreted by individuals
“Species of Spaces”George Perec
Descriptive documentation of observation of every detail

These are descriptions and notes of my iterations, roughly grouped by themes. This is intended to clarify what’s been presented.

Imagine how boring it might have been – to repeat 40 times the same message, and the message is made of one word. Generally, there is a word/message when I start drafting the work. But the message is pointless, it is blank, it is just one word. The variations are expanded from personal knowledge and comment on life.

Is it an experiment in expending visual language? narratives? interplay between text and image?

12 iterations. These iterative exercises are performed once in Week 1.

  • Started with “Isolated”
  • Multiplied number “Isolated human”
  • Categorised a group of “isolated human” as a community, the text “community” acts as metaphor for human society
  • Performed a scene of “isolated human”’s human contact, classified this interaction as an interaction that does not exist.
  • Performed a dialogue between two “isolated human” with a sentence that is often used in the news during pandemic.
  • A sequel of the dialogue above with a positive response.
  • Presented the relationship between a brick wall with the word “Together”. Brick wall acts as a metaphor of togetherness.
  • Presented at the relationship between loose bricks with the sentence “We are not together”. Bricks act as a metaphor of looseness.
  • Presented a general fear of the public on showing symptoms of illness during pandemic.
  • Performed scenes of lockdown with the use of dialogue, showing the change of mood.

33 iterations. These iterative exercises are performed twice in week 1 and week 3.

  • Started with “A date”
  • Performed a date scenes in the modern times, in which one can leave quickly. No commitment required.
  • Followed by a change of focus. “Love” is presented with two closely attached protagonists.
  • Presented a different variation of relationships – Love between three.
  • Presented tinder as a variation of relationships, in which one can meet many others, overlapping with others’ dates
  • Replaced “tinder” with “Glee” showing the complex “you love him, he loves her, she loves you.” relationship in the TV show Glee.
  • Used loose bricks as metaphors of love(s), visualised how “love spread” is spread literally + how “lost love” equals to disappearance of bricks
  • Used brick walls as metaphors of lovers/ human, visualised how “blind love” is being unseen literally + how “first love” equals to queueing up to the first in line.
  • Defined “love” and replaced “love” with synonyms.
  • Straightforward presentation of the word “love” and use of colour red.
  • Presented the chained nature of love relationships
  • Presented intensity of love in relations to the distance in letters.
  • Used a protagonists – brick walls as characters again
  • Performed scenes in a love relationship aka. “cheating”
  • Metaphorically used brick walls as human/lovers, and presented a queue of humans as an alternative option (plan B) to one.
  • Expanded brick wall to the edges, brick wall acts as isolating device between two humans/lovers.
  • Selected circles from the previous iteration and metaphorically used them as carriers of love. Love is at two opposing destinations.
  • Switched focus from “destinations/journey of love” to “weight of love” , in which love is split into layers and compiled to become one “love”.

45 iterations. These iterative exercises are performed three times in week 1, week 3 and week 5.

  • Started with the word “Excuse Me”
  • Performed a dialogue of “excuse me” and “sorry” – request and apology. With the hand illustration, hinting a sense of rejection.
  • The sense of rejection is further intensified and transformed into being unheard from the use of crowds, dark colours and hole.
  • Added a more literal illustrated scene and dialogue to present rejection and loneliness.
  • Placed a familiar format taken from graphic novels panels to intensify the weight of dialogue. The dialogue is to present rejection and loneliness. The black text at the bottom of the page in contrast to the dialogue panels is to present the internal voice from the speaker – differentiating the split between thoughts and spoken dialogue.
  • Metaphorically used brick walls as protagonists of isolated humans. The word “us” is in contrast with the isolated nature/individualism of a brick wall – hinting “us” does not mean “togetherness” and “closeness”. It is a reinterpretation/re-definition of the word.
  • Directly presented “loneliness” with a dialogue of a lonely human. The human (brick wall) stands among all the other human (other brick walls in this case) – hinting that even the lonely human lives with other humans, he is lonely.
  • Presented a passive attitude and the powerlessness with the dialogue of one lonely human (brick wall)
  • Defined “lonely” with dictionary definitions
  • Replaced the word “lone” with images of brick wall.
  • Presented dialogue and use of hands to hint a sense of rejection.
  • Presented a comical scene with the use of frames, dialogue and sequential images of pushing a fish bowl to the floor and ultimately the fish is dead. The death of the fish can be understood as the consequences of “rejection” or two lonely human.
  • Removed images from the illustration and used “lonely” the text as a illustrative device.
  • Abstracted circle (image) are used as metaphors of “lonely people” (text). The fact that the circles are closely overlapped hinted that they are a group of “lonely people”(text).
  • Removed images from the illustration. The text “Lonely” is used as an illustrative device.
  • Switched focus from “lonely people” to “proportions of loneliness”
    The text “lonely” is used as an image. It is humanised to serve as a hint – its trials to break free.
  • Used a photograph to present a city/community of lonely people
  • Presented “mode of loneliness” in the images of switches
  • Removed images and presented “Alone” in literal flatness
  • Presented “Alone” in relations to the distance of the letters
  • Used grids as an image + metaphor of a cage. “Loneliness” is hinted with a “loner” behind the cage.
  • Presented “Lonely” in its sound in writing
  • Switched focus to “lone wolf” with the sound of howl
  • Presented a scene of a wolf howling with the verbal sound of howling and a dot as the image of a moon

13 iterations. These iterative exercises are performed once in week 3. (tbc)

Human interactions
26 iterations. These iterative exercises are performed once in week 1. (tbc)

27 iterations. These iterative exercises are performed once in week 5

Started with an illustration. The original attempt is to show how prepared I am to carry a handkerchief in summer heat. I started by writing a short description of what is on the page. It ended up with a complex message, with several keywords. I created the next few work by slowly exfoliating some keywords from the message, and presented work that carries a simpler message. It was still too much to work on. I wanted to keep the work consistent in the central message. It was difficult to reiterate the same message while considering the simplest use of text and image. I further exfoliated the message into one word – “summer”.


Raymond Queneau ([1947] 1998) excerpts from Exercises in Style. London: John Calder, pp.17–26.

Georges Perec ([1974] 1999) excerpts from ‘Species of Spaces’ in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. London: Penguin, pp.50–55.

Amended brief (Week 3)


To better understand how graphic communication design plays in this project, it is important to know what it is. According to XiaoLing (2020), graphic communication design comprises of a wide-range of multi-disciplinary mediums and interpretations, continuously influenced by the geographical locations and reshaped by different cultures. The word “graphic” is associated to drawing, while “communication” is often linked to the exchange of information and interpretations ; “design” is often associated with plans and drawings.(dictionary.com, 2020)

Why did I design this brief?

I use design and the iterative process as tools for self discovery. Through creative processes and exercises, I clarify and build a better understanding of my work and amplify the scope of design to make the work more communicative.

Through investigating the possibilities of formats and evaluating work from the Elaborate project and 100 Screengrabs, I found that I tend to eliminate the obviously illustrative props and settings when delivering a message. I utilised the idea of “economy of form”, in which I use as little drawings/texts as possible in one work.

I also depend heavily on the use of “captioning”, particular from iteration No.52 in 100 Screengrabs onwards. The captions give meanings to the work. The complimenting image is often abstract, with no facial expressions nor props. I explore creating ambiguity and characterisation in these work.

The fact that I use text to control meaning plus images to explore ambiguity makes me wonder the possibilities of creating more different formats that fits in this way of working. Here I would like to do more testings on formats and hopefully expand the scope of communicative images.


First, I select one iteration from “100 Screengrabs” and redo it in 10-20 different formats. Then, repeat this exercise until I create 100 in total. Then, review what I have done, how has this changed from the first iteration.


Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore ([1967] 2001) The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Berkeley: Gingko Press.

Susan Sontag ([1965] 2009) ‘On Style’ in Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin, pp.15–36.

Xiao Ying (2020) Graphic Communication Design. 18 January. Available at: https://vimeo.com/385633495 (Accessed: 20 April 2020).

Dictionary.com (2020) Available at: https://www.dictionary.com/ (Accessed: 3 May 2020)

Raymond Queneau ([1947] 1998) excerpts from Exercises in Style. London: John Calder, pp.17–26.

Written Component 1 (Week 2)


What is your position relative to discipline of graphic communication design. What aspect of graphic design does it interrogate?

In 100 Screen grabs, I created work with a relatively free flow where I did not set myself any particular boundaries. Instead I intentionally take one or a few elements from one work to developing it in the following one. This led to a discovery of a comic-window format that I applied to more than half of the iterations.

The economy of form has been applied and the message was highlighted with the use of space, text, title, comic panels and a non-human but personified protagonist. I use design/image making as a way to inquire and explore the composition of images, the relationships of image components.

I incidentally used design/image making to subliming certain concepts, ie. the isolation and loneliness within human, library and society in 100 Screen grabs. I take design as a way to redirect and refine information. I would like to create work with a extent of “relaxed irreverence.”

Does it confront or exploit a principle of form, meaning, distribution or circulation?

My 100 screengrabs tried to exploit the economy of form. The use of space, dialogue, static titles, non-human but personified character and comic panels since iterations 36, explores the limit/potential of form.

The meaning of work changes throughout the 100 iterations. That is because there was no intention in keeping the content consistent. The messages of work varied, some says nothing, some are about love, some about isolation.

The meaning of work may varied among different viewers. It depends on how intensively and extensively they have taken visual training, ie. in reading symbols, colours, light etc. I have come to realise that measuring and refining the image’s power and the way it works can be problematic and very complicated., according to Mitchell (2015).

I want to shift from power to desire, hence explore on the desire of images as Mitchell (2015)suggested, the image born and personified would become an existing separated from the creator’s intention. It has a “life” of its own.

In iteration 52, the inwardness of the character in the top window , the invisibleness of the brick wall blending in the many brickwalls and the absence of expressions make it seem beyond desire, in comparison to the obvious facial expressions when a dialogue is made in classic editorial illustrations and classic figurative paintings. But the verbal text “I am so lonely.”in the bottom window sends a totally contrary message. If we read this text as words spoken by the character, the brickwall, the whole look of the brick wall changes, as if the brick wall is a living person who suffered from loneliness. The image sends incompatible messages about its desire : it doesn’t want to be seen, it wants to be seen, it wants to be heard.

Iteration 52

This analysis only briefly identify what iteration 52 wants. According to Mitchell (2015), “…The question of what pictures want certainly does not eliminate the interpretation of signs. All it accomplishes is a subtle dislocation of the target of interpretation, a slight modification in the picture we have of picutre (and perhaps signs.) themselves.”. Like people, pictures have to helped to recollect it through a dialogue with others, through analysis.

Hopefully through analysing images, as the brief below suggested, will help in building a better understanding on how images work, what do image want and what do they lack.



This brief is intended to explore what pictures want without overriding the maker’s desire or the beholder’s (viewer) interpretation.

How can we identify the desire of an image? How will it help us build new images that better communicate/signify the maker’s desire?

First, I will select a few images from 100 Screengrabs and apply the question “What do images want?” With reference to W.J.T. Mitchell (2005), he suggests a few questions to turn analysis of pictures toward questions of progress, effect, and to put in question the spectator position:

“What does the picture want from one or from “us” or “them” or whoever?
Who or what is the target of the demand/desire/need expressed by the picture?
What does the picture lack?
What does it leave out?
What is its area of erasure?
Its blind spot?
Its anamorphic blur?
What does the frame or boundary exclude?
What does its angle of representation prevent us from seeing, and prevent it from showing?
What does it need or demand from the beholder to complete its work?”

These offerings serve as a starting point to better understand an image and the “intuitive” process of image making.

In the meantime, I will study the work of Barbara Kruger. I am aware that the context of her work and my 100 Screengrabs are different. But the economy of form – in other words, use of text and dialogue, synchronised.

In terms of pushing it forward by making, I will select one iteration and re-iterate it with the same context/message. Next, combined with the readings and questionings above, make an analyse with these iterations.


W.J.T. Mitchell (2005) ‘What Do Pictures want?’ in What Do Pictures Want: The Lives and Loves of Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp.28–56.

Barbara Kruger (1981), Untitled (Your gaze hits the side of my face.). Available at: https://medium.com/artbloc/your-gaze-hits-the-side-of-my-face-b3d244aade77

Marshall McLuhan & Quentin Fiore ([1967] 2001) The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects. Berkeley: Gingko Press.

Susan Sontag ([1965] 2009) ‘On Style’ in Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin, pp.15–36.