Professional Context – Email to Bay Brackner

Hi Bay;

I hope you are well and have had a good week!

I am an MA student at Leeds College of Art and a full time Graphic Designer working in the Fashion and Beauty Industries. I have been talking to my MA tutor, Janine Sykes, this morning whom I believe visited your exhibition recently in Saltaire and was talking to you about the ‘universal elite’ and Bauman! 

I just wanted to drop you an email as I absolutely love your work and I feel it completely resonates with the magazine I am producing for my FMP. I have focused on cross cultural studies of the Fashion and Beauty industries, primarily looking at how social media and magazines have influenced social-cultural ideals in both the UK/US and Japan. 

I visited vogue in Japan and spoke with their beauty director and found that if they can’t use western models they will use someone who is half Japanese and half western which I found really interesting and relative to your paintings.

I am putting all my findings together in a magazine covering academic readings and interviews with a range of practitioners, bloggers and brands from both the West and Japan and wondered if you would be interested in collaborating or showcasing my magazine as part of your travelling exhibition? I feel they are so relevant to each other it would be extremely complimentary to both of our practices.

The magazine is around 200 pages and will be printed mid July. I am more than happy to send you a copy if you are interested at all?

Please let me know and I look forward to speaking to you soon!

If you are ever in the area please do let me know as it would be lovely to speak with you and share our interests in what I feel is an extremely relevant and fascinating topic in a modern day society of digital and social media that contributes to a mixture of positive and negative outlooks on the industry. 

Many thanks!!
Danielle Muntyan 

 

Response:

 

Hi Danielle,

Brilliant to hear from you. Your research and work sound fascinating! 
Yes, happy for you to showcase The Industry Magazine as part of the next exhibition. Planning something quite soon in Leeds – I’ll let you know when we’ve a confirmed venue and dates.  When are you planning to launch your first issue?
Also – just about to start a new series of paintings on modern fashion icons. Fascinated by the creation and reinforcement of fashion icons via digital media… mythology via pinterest and instagram!  Who’s yours? And who do you see coming through from Japan and/or China?  
PS – yes please to a copy of The Industry Magazine!
 
x Bay
Further correspondance:
Hi Bay!
Hope you’re well and had a good weekend!
Sure I will let you know when it is printed! I am aiming to send it to print mid July! They normally take a week to turn around and be delivered so I will send you a copy. I can’t sell it unfortunately because some of the images aren’t allowed to be redistributed for commercial proposes so it’s firmly staying an MA project! I want people to see it through other ways though such as your exhibition so would be great to showcase it amongst your work! 

R.e. Japan I don’t know any specific names. Vogue were very vague in disclosing names when I was there and always looked more into blogger culture than their own models. It wasn’t until I was there that it was found celebrities and models were still leading the way unlike here in the U.K. and the US. 

Icon wise I don’t think you can beat Alexa Chung and even Aimee Song. I think they’re pretty similar but saying that, Aimee song is half Korean and has been in Vogue and walked loads of runway shows recently so perhaps she would be good for you to look at? She wrote a book called ‘Capture your style’ telling people how to curate their Instagram feeds to brand themselves and now she’s one of the most followed fashion icons. I’ve written an article about her in my magazine because she’s now so influential.
Sounds good re Leeds! Do let me know when you’re in the area.
And I will be in touch when I have a date set for the magazine to be returned so I can send you a copy. I haven’t thought yet about a launch event because I can’t sell it so not sure how to work around that!
Many thanks and speak soon!
Danielle 
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Article: Is This The First Instagram Masterpiece? – Amalia Ulman

With my FMP work taking the format of a fashion and beauty magazine, I have often been seeking feedback in order to critique/deconstruct/question – and also have been doing this myself throughout the course of the writing, designing and editing process. The more I have done, the more I question and more that seems to be added, or taken away, editing the magazine continually and taking on board feedback and inspirations in order to make it the best it can possibly be.

A quote from Sooke, taken from below in regard to Ulman’s work states that, “this was her masterstroke: the fact that Excellences & Perfections exists in the very form that it simultaneously deconstructs is a sleek, sophisticated, intelligent move.”

In simple terms, her Instagram-based work aims to evidence that women are constructed and self-curated in order to come across and appear a certain way, not born a particular way and not born into an Instagram famous, digital-celebrity world. This is a notion and ideology which I too have tried to embody in to my work continually, especially into my FMP magazine, “The Industry”, and believe and have been told that my work “provokes the ethical considerations of this cultural phenomena, and has affinities with Ulman’s work”.

I really resonate with Ulman’s work and believe it was a brave and bold move of her to make, reaping in criticisms and judgements whilst making a stance and proving a point through the platform itself which creates narcissistic Instagrammers – the same notion as with my magazine – utilising a platform which often influences for negative deconstructions of oneself in order to educate, advise and inform on it, rather than promote it. The same can be said with my MA Instagram account.

The following article has been taken from The Telegraph, and can be found here.

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“Amalia Ulman’s spoof selfies tricked thousands – and made her the toast of the art world. She talks to Alastair Sooke

In April 2014, a young Argentinian-born artist called Amalia Ulman uploaded an image on her Instagram feed. It consisted of the phrase “Part I”, in black letters against white, accompanied by an enigmatic caption that read “Excellences & Perfections”.

Although 28 of Ulman’s followers quickly “liked” the post, few of them realised that it signalled the beginning of one of the most original and outstanding artworks of the digital era.

Before long Ulman was uploading a series of images – mostly preening selfies taken on her iPhone – that seemed to document her attempt to make it as an “It girl” in Los Angeles.

In some of them she posed in lingerie on rumpled bed sheets in boutique hotel rooms. In others she offered cutesy close-ups of kittens, rose petals, and strawberries and pancakes captioned “brunch”.

So far, so banal: Ulman, who studied fine art at Central Saint Martins in London from 2008 to 2011, had apparently succumbed to the narcissism of social media.

She was mindlessly bragging about her supposedly enviable lifestyle in LA, as she attended pole-dancing classes and underwent breast-enlargement surgery.

“People started hating me,” Ulman, 26, told me recently, speaking via Skype from her studio in downtown LA. “Some gallery I was showing with freaked out and was like, ‘You have to stop doing this, because people don’t take you seriously anymore.’ Suddenly I was this dumb b—- because I was showing my ass in pictures.”

A promising young artist – selected a year earlier by talent-spotting curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, co-director of the Serpentine Galleries, as one of the leading lights of the YouTube generation – was swiftly wrecking her career.

Except that, unbeknown to the tens of thousands of people who started following her, she wasn’t.

Almost five months later, Ulman posted a black-and-white image of a rose, which she captioned “The End”. Soon afterwards she announced that she had been staging an elaborate performance called Excellences & Perfections via her Instagram and Facebook accounts.

All those “dumb” pictures of Ulman, half-naked, staring vapidly into the lens of her smartphone camera? They were a joke. The shot of her bandaged breasts, after her operation to have them enlarged? It was faked.

Ulman, it turned out, had been playing a role – or, indeed, several roles. And almost all of the 89,244 followers she had amassed by the end of the performance had been fooled.

“Everything was scripted,” explains Ulman, who grew up in Asturias in north-west Spain. “I spent a month researching the whole thing. There was a beginning, a climax and an end. I dyed my hair. I changed my wardrobe. I was acting: it wasn’t me.”

Now, a year and a half on, several of the 175 photographs that Ulman created for Excellences & Perfections will be shown in two new exhibitions: Electronic Superhighway, at the Whitechapel Gallery in east London, which will trace the impact of computerised technology on artists from the Sixties to today; and Tate Modern’s Performing for the Camera, which will examine the relationship between artistic performance and photography.

Ulman first had the idea for Excellences & Perfections while she was at college, but she “never had the budget to do it properly, because I was on the dole when I was living in London, which is a very elitist place”.

Towards the end of her time in the city, she tells me, she earned money as a “sugar baby” – an escort. “I’d rather not talk about it,” she says. “It’s too dark. It was out of necessity: I wasn’t playing around. But being an escort is how most of my female peers are paying for their student fees. It’s very common during these s—– times of recession.”

The experiences of her escort friends, she says, informed the narrative of Excellences & Perfections, which Ulman finessed while recovering in hospital after her legs were “destroyed” in a coach crash in 2013. “I still can’t run, and suffer from chronic pain,” she says.

Planning her comeback on Instagram, she decided to divide her performance into three distinct “episodes”, inspired by stereotypes of how young women present themselves online.

To begin with, in the finished piece, Ulman plays the part of an artsy, provincial girl who has moved to Los Angeles for the first time. This fictional version of herself breaks up with her boyfriend and becomes a “sugar baby” to make ends meet.

This marks the start of the second episode, which offers a pastiche of the “ghetto aesthetic” popularised by American celebrities such as Kim Kardashian. At this point, Ulman says, her anti-heroine self “starts acting crazy and posting bad photos online”. She “gets a boob job, takes drugs, has a breakdown, and goes to rehab”.

This initiates the denouement of Ulman’s social-media satire, as she devotes herself to “recovery”, and uploads pictures inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog Goop: “Kind of girl next door,” Ulman explains. “I liked yoga and juices. That was the end.”

When I first heard about Excellences & Perfections, I assumed that it was a spoof lampooning the self-regarding way we all behave on social media. It seemed like a modern-day, digital version of Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress: a sharp diatribe against vacuity.

Not so, says Ulman, who had something more specific in her sights. “It’s more than a satire,” she explains. “I wanted to prove that femininity is a construction, and not something biological or inherent to any woman. Women understood the performance much faster than men. They were like, ‘We get it – and it’s very funny.’ ” What was the joke? “The joke was admitting how much work goes into being a woman and how being a woman is not a natural thing. It’s something you learn.”

In this respect, Ulman was following in the footsteps of important older artists who have explored the fluid nature of female identity, from the 20th-century French photographer Claude Cahun to the American Cindy Sherman.

Yet, from the beginning, Ulman knew that she should stage her performance online. She wanted to play with the conventions of Instagram, such as labelling images with hashtags.

This was her masterstroke: the fact that Excellences & Perfections exists in the very form that it simultaneously deconstructs is a sleek, sophisticated, intelligent move.

It also explains why the performance created such a buzz. As a result of Excellences & Perfections, Ulman is now feted as one of the sensations of contemporary art.

“The idea was to experiment with fiction online using the language of the internet,” she explains, “rather than trying to adapt old media to the internet, as has been done with mini-series on YouTube. The cadence and rhythm were totally different.”

Is this why the work was so successful? “Yes,” she says, before laughing. “But I also know that photos of half-naked girls get a lot of ‘likes’.”

Ulman’s Exhibitions:

Performing for the Camera is at Tate Modern, London SE1

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Saatchi Gallery: Selfie to Self-Expression Exhibition

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Source: Saatchi Gallery. Last Accessed: 8th June 2017.

“Saatchi Gallery and Huawei have joined forces to offer artists, photographers, and enthusiasts around the globe a chance to show their most creative selfies internationally, and have their work exhibited at The Saatchi Gallery as part of the #SaatchiSelfie competition. 

This international competition offered a chance to be part of a worldwide cultural phenomenon and for entrants to express themselves, by exploring and advancing the creative potential of the selfie today. 

Entries have taken the form of a photographic selfie. We encouraged entries that were experimental and innovative that took the selfie in exciting new directions.”

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Additional Interviews/Image Requests

Additional interviews have been carried out with the following in order to gain different perspectives on my research topic to include in my magazine:

  • Stephane Alexandre from Milk and Honey – interview regarding the blogger collective showcasing a positive platform for young women to view online – including fashion, lifestyle, beauty, travel and faith.
  • Nadine LeBlond – perspective on the Fashion industry, body image and self-perception from the viewpoint of an Art Director/Creative Director.
  • Charlotte Stacey – viewpoint of a Westerner living in Japan, and her perspective on Japanese beauty trends.
  • Bobbie Rae (Gastall) – viewpoint of a feminist illustrator.

All interviews have carried out the same ethical practices as laid out in semester 2, following good working practice.

Additional images for the magazine have been requested from the following forming a collaborative nature and involvement in the magazine:

  • Nadine LeBlond
  • Talia White
  • Charlotte Stacey
  • Bobbi Rae (Gastall)
  • Nicole Takahashi
  • ASOS
  • Milk and Honey (Stephane Alexandre)
  • ‘Selfie Callout’ – a callout was used on social media platforms to gain selfies from people whom wished to be apart of my ‘selfie feature’ in the magazine. I had over 30 responses from a range of males and females varying in age.
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Professional Context – Crit/Consultation with Nadine LeBlond regarding Magazine Feedback/Future Interview

I have recently gained a new career mentor, Nadine LeBlond, a freelance Art Director and Creative Director working within the fashion industry (clients include TK Maxx, Givenchy and Hearst Magazines, for example), and have been have conversations with her over the past few months in regard to career progression, interview briefs for full time roles, portfolio advice and my FMP project.

I began talking to Nadine via a mutual connection in the industry several months ago, and find her advice and guidance really beneficial, honest and crucial to my future path. I feel very lucky to of made such a connection via my existing networks within the Industry whom works in the same field as I do, and has experience which I can call upon when needed in regard to both FMP/MA and career advice/expertise.

I wanted to gain some editorial feedback based on Nadine’s time working for Hearst Magazine, and received the following feedback.

It was also discussed and agreed that Nadine would carry out an interview based on my research topic/magazine in regard to the perspective of the body image and self-perception in the industry based on the viewpoint of an Art Director/Creative Director, and how from the design/concept side ideas are relayed out into realised visuals which embody positive body-image, whilst also questioning ethically what it is like to work with brands who don’t do so/agree with this commercial and moral strategy. This is something I have struggled with before whilst working on a freelance basis and with agencies in the past, and I think this will add a really crucial and critical point of view to add to my magazine. This interview/article will focus on someone who creates content, opposed to critiquing and analysing content itself in an isolated context. The interview is to be carried out in the next 2 weeks in order to meet deadlines for editing and print.

Feedback from Art Director and Creative Director, Nadine LeBlond:

“It’s cool. Has some great pieces in and some great layouts. I would maybe work on the narrative in terms of beginning/middle/end… in terms of articles so that there is a natural flow in terms of reading. So work on the contents/cover and work out what goes where… then break up the stories with the punchy facts / quotes to reiterate the narrative.

I would change the order of articles so that you’ve introduced certain concepts then follow with the positive brand stuff. Then compare to a really strong magazine in terms of length/content”

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