Sunday, 22 October 2017

Subculture - GCOP200

Firstly, culture can be defined as 'the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively", or the "ideas, customs and social behaviour of particular people or society". Subculture can be defined as a "smaller group within a larger culture". Not only this, but there are also many different subcategories of culture, including:
- Mainstream/Norm Culture = dominant culture that the majority of people follow, e.g music, fashion and politics.
- Low Culture = interests and preferences in comic books, fast food restaurants (e.g McDonalds)
- High Culture = interests and preferences in classical music, Shakespeare, museums.
- Counter Culture = "a way of life and set of attitudes opposed to or at variance with the prevailing social norm", e.g  Hells Angels.

Dominant cultures can sometimes divide us, and can lead to people forgetting that in fact we are all human, and all the same. Within this, differing cultures, languages, and phrases describe different things, and can sometimes lead to confusion or conflict, e.g nationalities and the difficulty in communication between different languages. A very dominant culture in UK society is Christianity, as our public holidays (e.g Christmas and Easter), are all based around traditional Christian beliefs, however all religions and smaller culture groups still have to follow these. Furthermore there is evidence of past cultures and their routines that still affect our lives today, despite them not being needed anymore. A good example of this would be our summer holidays. Before, they were created so that the whole family could help with the harvest, but in the modern day this is no longer required, however we all seem to still stick to what we have always known - to have the summer months off from school.

Arguably with the increase in globalisation, and the development of technology, cultures merge and there becomes less differences between them. The world is 'getting smaller', as it becomes increasingly easier to communicate between different countries and to transport and share goods and information - which was never possible before. Cultural values are now seeming to blend, and the worlds cultures are becoming more familiar and less unusual to each other.

Cultures can also affect on how we look back on our history. For example one might ask, "why was there never any great women artists?". Now its not the fact that there actually weren't any, but it is instead that how we as a society look back on our history. We exclude them. Our old  'Eurocentric' culture never valued success coming from women, and so they were never brought to light. Things like women's rights and equality in all aspects of society is something that we are trying to improve on, and to change this part of culture for the better. Post modernism tries to consider all things, whereas before, people's views were very narrow.

Youth Culture
Youth culture is the way adolescents live, and the norms, values, and the practices they share. Very often aspects of old youth cultures make a return in the modern day, and bring a sense of nostalgia with them. For example rave culture in the late 80s and 90s are becoming more mainstream in the last few years. Also youth culture can be seen in fashion, which seems to come back into fashion e.g 80s style clothing seems popular currently.

Punks are a form of youth culture, in which young people stole materials, and adorned themselves with it e.g chains. This was a way of expressing rebellion, and breaking the mainstream - causing controversy in the media. Ultimately youth culture was an opportunity for youngsters to be creative, to stand up for what they believe in, and to break the boundaries of social norms.

Cultures are constantly changing with the moving of time. Although 'punks' aren't as popular anymore, there are plenty of other examples of subcultures and youth culture groups which take their place, for example 'skater boys', or 'hipsters'. Ultimately, youth cultures threaten the establishment, and push for social change - an example of change in traditions would be Wham! being the first western band to play in China.

The Carnivalesque
The carnivalesque can be seen through many examples throughout our history, an early example would be the "Feast of Fools". This celebration/festival took place after the celebration of Lent, and early records date back to the early 20th century. The wild and outrageous carnival was seen as a juxtaposition against the restrictions of Lent. During this celebration, the social hierarchy and powers are reversed, and ordinary life and rules are suspended for parades and balls. Kings would swap roles with beggars and the common people, and the fools would become wise. All sense of social ideologies were abandoned and forgotten amongst the liberal and freedom celebration. Everyone was 'extracted' from their non-carnival lives, and acted outside of their normal characters/roles for the day.

Examples of the 'carnivalesque' can be seen in our culture today (although not as extreme). We have fairgrounds which come to our towns/cities, where we all 'let loose' and become carefree for a while. In Padstow they celebrate the Obby Oss on May Day, in Gloucester they have the 'Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake', and in Ottery St Mary they have a Burning Barrel Festival. Even Cosplay is an example of a modern day take on the 'carnivalesque'.

These examples are an excellent demonstration of how old cultures morph into new ones, and still remain dominant in our society today. Even when old cultures seem to disappear, new ones take their place with the same focus and attitudes. George Michael has said that "he is the last of the youth movement", although he is right in some sense (as his type of youth culture is no longer active), he isn't in another - as modern day's youth culture expresses themselves in different ways, and are motivated by other social challenges that are relevant to current social affairs.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

What the Faucault? - GCOP200

Today's lecture covered the themes of power, discourse and madness, which were all ideas discussed by Michael Faucault.

Discourse can be defined as 'a written or spoken communication or debate'. Faucault describes discourse in 'The Archeology of Knowledge', by using an example of book. He claims that rather than a book just being words on a page, they are instead a 'node in a network', whereby they are within a 'system of references' to other books and medias. So books are in discourse to other books, and are responses/ developments of other written work (rather than existing independently and being entirely original).

This concept can be likened to art, whereby art pieces link together in a network, and are all connected under one subject. For example, 'Las Meninas' by Diego Velazquez has been copied and interpreted by countless other artists including: Salvador Dali, Joel Peter Witkin, and Gerard Rancinan.

Power can be defined as the capacity or ability to influence/direct ones actions or behaviour. There are many examples of power in the world that we live in, it ultimately governs and binds together society. The saying 'Big Brother is always watching you' is particularly relevant in the UK, as we are one of the most watched countries in the world. There is 1 CCTV camera for every 11 people in the United Kingdom, so it's no wonder we are often referred to as the 'surveillance state'. This form of power is used to deter people from committing crimes, the subconscious feeling of being watched is proven to control ones behaviour. However, some critics think that this is an abuse of power, and the level of which we are being watched has been blown out of proportion. Questions have also been raised to the legitimacy of the watchmen's judgement of power, who's to stop them from abusing their power and the ease of reporting 'petty' crimes? Despite some peoples doubts, CCTV has proven to be an effective form of crime control. Not only does it stop people from committing the crime in the first place, but it also helps to bring justice to crimes that have been committed - for example in 2009, 95% of Scotland Yard murder cases used CCTV footage as evidence. Therefore, with this in mind, maybe being watched all of the time is outweighed by the advantages and safety it brings to society?

This form of power, and the relationship between the watchmen and civilians, can be evidenced throughout our history. The Panopticon was designed by Jeremy Bentham, and was a carefully designed layout of a prison which played/depended on psychological power. All of the prison cells were arranged in a circle, with a singular blacked-out tower positioned in the middle, which could see into every cell. The prisoners were not locked inside the cells, but instead were kept captive under the psychological power of the watchmen, and the notion of being watched. Bentham looked highly upon this technique, as he claimed that it was more humane. However others saw it was an invasion of privacy and psychologically draining for the prisoners as they knew that they were always being watched. Perhaps the panopticon is the same as CCTV?

Power can come from language, and can often be used (and abused) by people who have lots of power in societies. For example white privilege and corruption in governments, e.g unfair voting rights and unlawful prosecution against individuals (e.g Chelsea Manning). These examples predominantly come from people who are abuse their power, and unfairly treat the minority. For example in America the police force are abusing their power and are unlawfully killing black people. This has lead to the 'Black Lives Matter' campaign which highlights and showcases how power can be used in language and art. Illustrations can not only be powerful in themselves, but they can also stand up to figures of power (Banksy for example).

Madness can be defined as the state of having a serious mental illness, or chaotic behaviour. In societies throughout history, there have always been a label given to a group of people, who were outcast from communities. In the Middle Ages, people who had Leprosy were forced to live in an area outside of the rest of civilisation (called the Leper) and were labelled as the 'madness'. Once the disease was eradicated, another group/type of people were put in their place, for example the creation of the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. These people were an outcast and considered mad, as they didn't believe in the Christian God. It can be argued that in the 21st Century, refugees have become the 'madness' of our age. People of power can influence which social minority is considered as the 'madness' . The language that the media and people of power use towards refugees (e.g a "swarm"), labels these people as inhumane and different - just like the the people inhabiting the Jewish Ghettos and Lepers. It seems that in this age, the refugees have filled this space.

This demonstrates how power can be used in societies, as the people of power look down upon the minorities. Power is also used in language to be used against individuals, and to persuade people to change their views/opinion towards others. Faucault claims that it is the "societal need to have outsiders, in order to reflect their own cultures as 'normal'" - this is why there always seems to be a group of people in communities labelled as 'the madness'.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Remix / Culture of the Copy - GCOP200

"It's not where you take things from, it's where you take them to" - Jean-Luc Godard

Today's lecture was focused on the theme of 'remixing' and the process of creation through copying. Anyone can remix materials at any level of creation, some are transformative, and others are not and hold no fundamental differences from the original piece. There are countless examples of art and media that have been copied/remixed over the years, and it's all about the boundary between 'ripping someone off', and creating an 'original', new piece of work. Music is a big example of this, as many songs copy the same beat and base line, and then overlay different lyrics and change the tempo of the song, for example:

Furthermore films are subject to this too, as 74 of the top 100 top grossing films in the last 10 years were remixes, sequels or adaptations. Even then the remaining 26 all fit into certain film genres where the same themes, characters, scenes and plots get copied and repeated - meaning that they're not entirely original either. Hollywood uses 'intertext' within their movies in order to evoke emotions within us. Symbols, well known characters and sayings, are all examples of how films try to create a sense of nostalgia, and sometimes end up with so much of this transferrable media, the film just becomes a copy in itself. This is however how produces ensure that the sequels are successful, and do so by using old content from past films/media. 

Creation requires some source of influence or inspiration. It's almost impossible to create something entirely new, without intentionally/unintentionally coping ideas from another source. When we create, we do so by creating something that we are passionate about, and during this process we draw unconscious reflection from things that we have seen and liked in the past. Therefore we are always being inspired by things that we see, and this process is an essential component in human discovery, progress and development. 

Why do we do this? Perhaps we use ideas that we like as a 'springboard' to kick-start our ideas. By using an already successful concept, we are stopping ourselves from starting from the very beginning. In terms of music, films and other technologies, by copying an already popular sound/theme/look, they are building upon the public appeal on what's already popular, and what people are used to at the time. For example cover bands are proven to be more popular than new original bands, this is because people are already familiar with the songs - which makes it harder for new upcoming artists to breakthrough (they will however copy/remix the sounds from popular songs, in order to attract the attention from the public). It's all about appropriation, and creating something not too similar to the original piece.

The process of copying enables us to learn, and we do this throughout our entire lives, not only at school, but at home too. We copy videos, books, and others, in order to learn how to do things, e.g to play music, sew, cook, draw... Copying gives us knowledge and understanding, and allows us to repeat the given task repeatedly without a stimulus/reference. For example Hunter S Thomson rewrote 'The Great Gatsby' word for word, just to know how it feels to write a good novel.

The basic elements of creativity: Copy > Transform > Combine 

The most successful and breakthrough creations are formed when things are transformed and combined after copying. This allows us to create new original ideas and combinations which haven't been discovered before. Many of the world's greatest inventions were created through this exact process. For example apple, and the creation and development of the Mac. 

Isaac Newton said "Stand on the shoulders of giants", meaning that we must use the understanding of 'great thinkers' in order to make intellectual progress. This however has become more and more difficult in the modern day, due to The Copyrights Act 1990. Despite this act originally setting out to push creative developments further, it has since been abused and has in fact done the opposite. Record companies and cooperations now go out of their way to sue other artists and businesses due to similarities in their work, in order to gain an economic surplus. This problem has halted the creative industry, and ignites fear within creatives, meaning that it becomes harder to see huge and groundbreaking developments within any design sector. Copying is such an essential and vital component in industries such as these, and it's such a shame that the idea of protecting your work has become so competitive, and has become of more importance than inspiring and pushing others to create freely.