Goldsmiths University of London

MA Design expanded practice  

2020-2021

Omer Gaash

Second first skin

Personal scarf

Keywords: calculation, terrain, territory, bodies, borders, geopolitics, nation, stat, urban, natural, nature, boundaries, camouflage, pattern, texture, protest, cartography, challenge, scarf, garment, community Introduction


My motivation for this project comes from my professional background, throughout the years I studied and practice in different fields such as Architecture, Cartography, Graphic design, Photography, and dancing. But also, from my personal way of life, I grow up in a seaside town (Kibbutz) and as kids we used to walk to the beach at night for Skinny Dipping, I remember how free and liberating it felt and how we didn’t make a big deal out of it, each with its own given body, no judgment no questioning about the act, just us and nature. I wanted to expend my practice in both photography and graphic design and create an experience that will combine these two passions of mine. In my work I am looking to explore a way to create experience that will give my audience a sense of ownership and positive thoughts about their history, territory, and especially their body. Positive future thinking is a more general and defuse term referring to the belief that good things will occur in one’s future. We don’t often pay attention to the mundane, that’s why it’s called this way right? It’s the same as driving the same road every day, some parts of the road we just won’t remember, no recollection to what we’ve just past, that’s routine. The same with ourselves, one day we just wake up realizing we don’t look the same, we don’t climb those stairs as we used too, our interests’ changes, goals take a new turn, and our own skin and general appearance suddenly nothing like we remembered. This realization can be for some paralyzing, frightening, for others just part of life with nothing to be alarmed from. I relate to this topic from a personal place as I’ve always being aware to changes in my body and came to accept these changes, especially because I’m taking self-portraits every now and then, this helps me see and acknowledge changes in my body and allow me to decide whether I want to do something about what I see or just accept and move on. People from the same culture often share values, beliefs, norms, and self-construal that are relevant with regard to fundamental motivational processes. We submit that these culturally shared thoughts may also underlie aging preparatory activities across adulthood. For instance, the salience of self and other-related utilities regarding aging preparation may depend on whether one construes oneself as a unique individual (i.e., independent self-construal) or oneself as part of an encompassing social relationship.


Scarf

Garments are something that helps celebrate what we are proud of or conceal things we prefer not to show, some won’t pay attention to outfit at all, but I think it’s another way of showing they do care a lot about what people might say, so much that they will just avoid the subject completely. I’m focusing on specific individuals and their inter relationship with themselves and their surrounding but also see this in a broader way and talk about community, human behavior, and society’s norms. In my project I’m using the scarf as the main craft of work. Scarf is commonly seen in a party wear and as a specialty fashion accessory for the old age people to hide the skin fold and wrinkle near the neck region. It can be used for a religious reason or community dress code. This code can be preserved in deferent ways depending on the geography. For example, in idealized portrait of multicultural London, clothing diversity plays a very significant part, acting as visual proof of British tolerance and acceptance of ethnic and religious differences whilst, at the same time, naturalizing and reifying these differences in the process. In America on the other hand the political map and demographic polls reveal a frightening perception against other’s ethnicity and visibility among them Muslims. This escalated during Donald Trump’s speech in South Carolina in 2015 that although was condemn as racism the polls showed how divided the American society is. I will try to take the Scarf as a fashion accessory rather than a religion or political piece and so will show it in another context by avoiding using it as a head covering placing it as a personal identifier rather than an ethnical marker. The focus of my project is more about the wellbeing of the individual. Conventions There was a guy at my gym, that at the end of each practice he used to shower and then stand naked holding his phone answering to all those messages he got during workout, I thought it was obviously very sexy but at the same time very brave even slightly cocky of him to just stand like this in the middle of the changing room. We don’t allow others to express themselves without criticizing them, and so we grow as a society into tend to go only to the place we feel naturally the most comfortable. By scaling down the portrait of my participants and using patterns to tell my story, I reduce the readability and, in this way, keeping their privacy. In fact, by playing with the figure’s scale on the fabric, I can decide how much I expose the person’s natural form in an environment that might not accept it. What’s there to accept? The portrait I’m taking are nudes’ portraits.


Nude

This nude pattern reflects two maybe more period of times in my model’s life. Then I will take portrait photos of the model wearing himself, skin on skin. Austrian architect, philosopher and artist Friedenreich Hundertwasser in his article “The Five Skins of the Ecological Man” explain about The Five Skins. Hundertwasser explained the connection between the individual, the natural and social environments, by referring to man's five skins. His natural epidermis, his clothes, his house, the social environment, and the planetary skin which are all directly connected to the biosphere, the quality of air, water, and soil. The challenge is to be aware of the dynamic and integrating connections and relations between the individuals and their social and natural surroundings. The First Skin: Epidermis forms the outer layer of the skin, creating a tough, renewable, water­proof barrier against the environment. This is a dry, technical explanation but the theoretical, esthetic of this part is crucial to why I am choosing nudity and body to create these patterns. To be aware of the epidermis is essential to experience nakedness. Hundertwasser also criticized man's illit­eracy of perception and he revered radical affirmation of the right to absolute free­dom of individual expression a perception I relate to and see relevant to my project. The nude photos I will use are a mix of staged photo and archive one that probably had very deferent intention while taken. I see this as a direct and looped connection between these two skins Hundertwasser is talking about. In regard to creativity and individual self-expression, I am looking to make something that is beyond conformism and uniformity. The prepose is to be happy, Happiness does not depend on production. If each of us is creative, we do not need to travel far because paradise is here in the moment. Having this belief, Hundertwasser designed clothes for himself. By doing so he showed his individuality and authenticity. Moreover, the identity of each individual corresponds to the diversity and dissimilarity of clothing. I chose to create for each participant its own pattern and print it on a scarf that is uniquely his, The scarf is within society norm but the print is personal. Reactions Based on casual informal conversations I had with my models I could see their mix response to seeing the results, “It’s hard to see your younger self like this and so many of it, brings up a lot of memories”, good ones I’m telling myself quality. “I’m still looking good!” other mentioned. Now the challenge was to create the portrait of my participants and represent the level of comfortless they have with themselves thinking this might be something they are going to wear outside. This theoretical part talks about our territory, borders and our community, these subjects effected my visual outcome and the way I personally pressive my practice. I’m not a fashion designer but I find myself drown to the textile world many times, it has a lot of power to show to the outside world how we feel or want to be perceived from the inside. Topography, Cartography As a soldier I worked with maps and aerial photos to create products to help soldiers in combat, even though I wasn’t in the front line I felt my job in the intelligent corps was meaningful and had a lot of impact about the performance of troops. In this project I will make use for some of the tools I learned during my service, to help communicate the idea of gap in look, years, location in each of the layers building the visual outcome. It can be considered as conceptual cartography in the environment and individual context: The term ‘environment’ is used broadly to include a community’s physical environment, history, social location, and anything else external to the subject that will be used in the visual outcome. For example, the concept ‘desert’ in my design might affect specific communities in hot environments but unnecessary for communities in cold environments. This corresponds to the fact that, when engaged in conceptual cartography, we are sometimes interested in very general communities and sometimes interested in very specific ones. I chose to talk about community through the lens of individual. The model will wear a scarf with pattern printed on it. The pattern will be made from that individual two or more photos of himself from deferent period in his life. The way I will fold the scarf on the model will change according to the connection the model has towards his own patten. The use of cartographic details in the patterns such as age, geographical points where the pictures were taken, country etc. will emphasize the merge of deferent points in this individual’s life. This will also put to a test our need for being individuals within our own community which will hopefully show how both might be affected and change over time.


Medium

“I don’t work with scale . . . I work with size.” / Michael Kimmelman (1999) Looking at ourselves in the mirror can be a very scary thing to do, we can see the skin aging, our flow’s, what we want to fix or simply a reminder to where we’re in life camper to where we would like to be. By playing with the scale of the model in the pattern and printing it on fabric which will later be used in a portrait the model will wear, the resolution and details of the body almost becomes flat, it’s hard to see the skin completion and the figure becomes a silhouette in a way, that just might be the mercifulness of the medium. At my uncle’s house there’s a painting of him when he was nineteen, I can still remember how it looks like, the brush strokes forced the resolution to let a lot of the details to go and it became a very iconic painting in our family, still on an easel at my uncle’s living room. I hope by going through these stages I can help the participants to accept themselves but more importantly to allow others seeing this project, to imagine themselves in a positive way. Patterns Patterns in textile has been developed for years, they can be analyzed because they confine variations within identical motifs. But this possibility recedes as soon as the pattern is made up of looser and more flexible classes and subclasses, forming interlocking hierarchies. When we turn to the larger hierarchies of a Persian rug, we will find it hard to specify the interplay of similarity and difference which governs the design. The stars and lozenges of the rug are related in colour and scale, and the characteristic shape of their outline recurs in the border in a very different context. Its motifs, in their turn, are also distributed over the ground of the central field with colours symmetrically altered. In my design I will try to create these classifications, similarities and connections basing the patterns on geometrical shapes that are definable. Element 'a' may be similar to 'b' in one respect and to 'c' in another- so the design is interesting. Skin in this case is my tool to manifest these patters, a graphic tool that inspired by the epidermis, he will be based on simple, elementary techniques, mate­rials, and colors. Just as the epidermis is a bridge, art is also a bridge between man and nature. I wanted to develop my project around patterns even before applying to my MA as I knew it can have the right visual DNA to express my ideas. Man needs nature and its habitat to survive. Small scale patterns of human texture represent layer of society and by playing with the scale of my pattern compared to the landscape or an object I reflect about that relationship and connection. This connection can be abusive or co-dependent and symbiotic. Patterns where in use for thousands of years, the motifs change between cultures and the combinations and meanings are endless. For example, Pine, bamboo, and plum are known collectively as the Three Friends of Winter and are symbols of longevity, perseverance, and renewal. The pine tree is an evergreen and lives for many years, bamboo bends in the wind but never breaks, and the plum is the first tree to blossom each year. In Japan the plum is particularly favored for winter kimono as its use suggests that spring is not far away. In the Edo period, it was common to have room dividers in a lattice pattern. Thin wood or bamboo was set horizontally and vertically to create this pattern. It is said that Koushi is based off these patterns. Koushi with thicker lines represents power; thinner lines stand for elegance. Each culture and each region over the years developed and embraced symbols, shapes, and meaning from things around him, nature, animals, spiritual believes and more. Different symbols were used to emphasize the connection between the person how wears the garment to its religion believes such as: The star and crescent, a polytheistic icon adopted during the spread of Islam, and its use today is sometimes controversial in the Muslim world. The Hamsa, also known as the Humes hand, the Hand of Fatima and the Hand of Miriam is a popular symbol found throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, particularly within the Islamic and Jewish faiths. Others are form of decoration like arabesque, geometry, and calligraphy. In my pattern I will use the human body as the tool to create these decorations and give new meaning to the model and viewer. By not basing my visual on known structure and norms, but creating something new, I hope to be able to release the model from its own restrains, projecting something positive by creating esthetic he can wear and be proud of. Since the elements creating the patterns are made from human body in different stages of his life the set of tools I’ll able to produce is limited by several parameters: The model’s age, his mobility and flexibility, the model ability to listen to direction and other outer body parameters such as light condition and our photographer model chemistry. Michael Kimmelman used the bulldozer to examine the relationship between art, architecture, and landscape architecture. The connection is surprising because art is not typically thought of as being a priority in suburbia. However, the common use of the bulldozer, and other everyday technologies—including automobiles, televisions, and fluorescent lights—in both realms reveals their shared interest and dependence on these devices and that what he is using in his work. In relation to Kimmelman’s work I chose scarf as the linkage between the individual and society. To make the patterns, or as I like to call them, NudeTextures, I had to direct the models at my studio the way I wanted them to appear, I had to consider their physicality and ability and after understanding the limitations we started shooting. Why NudeTexture? The main subject is the naked body and as my background is graphic design and text as paragraph is also a texture, I thought the combination reflects better on who I am as a designer and a person.


Facing the challenge

By combining two photos of the same model each from a different period in time, I’m creating interactions that never happened in real life, it’s a setting that can be frightening to some, reminds me a scene for a movie 1984 “The NeverEnding Story” where the main character has to face a mirror challenge: “Engywook: Next is the Magic Mirror Gate. Atreyu has to face his true self. Falcor: So what? That won't be too hard for him. Engywook: Oh, that's what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming! “ Seeing our true selves can be scary, I’m not trying to scare anyone, on the contrary, by using this medium of silk scarfs printed with the patterns I’m complimenting the model and allowing him to enjoy himself in the context of art where he is the center of the creation, I think by choosing to participate the model has already made the biggest step, he chose to look in the mirror. Process Working with people as a subject requires a lot of sensibility led alone when taking nude pictures. I had to find people that will be comfortable enough, trusting, and will allow me to design and execute this project. All participants came through my Instagram account @omergaash, the number of followers in this account gave it a sense of trust, and the portfolio in it reflect my practice in a way that made some people be eager to be part of it and understand what’s it about. Once the model arrives, I’m explaining them about myself and my photography, asking the model to tell me a bit about himself and his movements abilities. Next step is starting the photo shoot, at this point with each direction I’m starting to understand my model’s limitations and abilities and so, some poses I thought will go nicely can either be amplified or changed completely, I’m never exactly sure what will be the final outcome, but I have a rough idea as to what I am looking for. The editing process requires me to go over hundreds of photos selecting the most suitable for a pattern, usually I’m looking for clean lines, maximum use of the body. I’m imagining the possible variations I can create with each posture and make a few alternatives, eventually choosing few to incorporate in the design. The next part might not be achievable within the timeframe of the course and the point in which I’m submitting this publication, but I will explain about the final step. Each printed scarf will be used to create a portrait of the model wearing its own scarf, completing the experience by demonstrating deferent ways to wear the scarf and by that expressing himself as a representation to how comfortable he is showing his true self. Those portraits will be printed and framed.


Conclusion

I learned how to combine deferent aspects of my practice into one coherent designed experience. The process is clear to me, and I can only now start to see the potential of this project’s DNA. I’m hoping to farther develop this mechanism and find places a process like this can be of good use. A few weeks prior to this publication submission, I set down with two ladies in their fifties, one is a curator I am working with, we talked about my photos, my life, about nakedness and shared fears, it was a very honest and open conversation. But the more we talked, and I explained about my world The more they looked intimidated saying they will never be able to be in photos like these, that they have parts they don’t like in themselves. I’m hoping the process I designed in this project of becoming the subject of your own pattern will allow them to see themselves in a more forgiving light and like them, many more people. 

All graduate projects:  https://stretchthespring.com/

Special thanks to my mentor and studio tutor Roberto Feo, our conversations and insights during the process meant the world to me.


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