I am going to put this right here and bask in the happiness of a job well done. I shall come back later and respond more fully, as at the moment I don’t really need to elaborate on my initial response of punching the air in joy. Thank you everyone who took the time to comment and provide feedback, it really helped.
So, revisiting this feedback and starting to think about the rework needed for assessment. Obviously, I’m very happy with everything that was successful in this work but my attention needs to go on the areas for development.
Action 1 – each of the two approaches that I used (still images and video) offer benefits and drawbacks. I need to consider and reflect on this. Since submitting this work I have had 7 of the images put onto a Viewmaster Reel and bought a Viewmaster to view them on. This gives a very different way of viewing the images, they are forcibly moved back forty years or so, along with the idea of housework being a woman’s domain. Another piece of peer feedback that I received at the Thames Valley Group was that I could develop the work further along the Cottingley Fairies route, or along the feminist route, and that the viewmaster works better for the feminist reading. Somehow it encapsulates the fairy images as a fairy story in a vintage presentation.
update – I have continued to think about this. I liked the Viewmaster but it felt quite shiny and contemporary, which was not what I wanted. I have since bought a 70s viewmaster on ebay. It’s in the original box, depicting a boy gazing into the ViewMaster. I’d never noticed the gendered name before, how well it aligns with the idea of the male gaze, and have chosen to make that my primary presentation. I have revisited my selection of images and found another supplier of viewmaster reels who is going to see if he can make my new selection as a vintage viewmaster reel. I have also printed the images as squares on square paper as reference prints.
Action 2 – although I recognised that there was a feminist reading possible to the work I did not pursue or elaborate this in any detail. My tutor has suggested that I explore this further and draw on some credible sources as this will provide a more theoretical foundation to the work. I have come to realised that this work is rather more about feminism than I gave it credit for. I need to do more reading about feminism and feminist visual culture to find the context for my work.
update – I still have a mental block with seeing my work as clearly feminist work. I keep reading feminist books and books about feminist work and hope that the connection and context will become apparent soon. In the meantime I came across Fliss Quick’s work Home-Maker which isolates domestic tasks, and labels her home museum style. Her work takes a different approach – whereas mine elevates the chores to fantasy, hers shows the routine as performance art in her own home, museum-style caption capture the activity, the frequency, the little failures to live up to our own expectations. http://www.flissquick.co.uk/index.html
Action 3 – consider the possible conversations “across and between” the polarities of everyday cleaning and routine and escape via fantasy and myth. As housework is often done by women in households with women, so fairies tend to be female.
Update – I had to ask for help on interpreting this from the other members of a collective that I’m in. I’m too close to see this obectively but of course now I have other opinions it makes perfect sense. One comment was that the image explicitly articulates “the mismatch between the understanding of housework by those who don’t do it as something that happens effortlessly as if by magic, and as tedious chores by those who do it”. Often but not always this divide occurs along gender lines, although the main culprit for abandoning dirty socks at will in this house is my ten year old daughter.
I consciously chose images of female fairies for my final set. This could be considered manipulating the data, however there were only two male characters in the whole set of 20+ transparenciess – one male elf with a unicorn, and one white-bearded elder. Many women would be as surprised to see a male elf putting a load of washing on as they would be to see their actual partner doing so. Despite an increasing number of exceptions, at least one of which has been documented on the comments on my blog, responsibility for scheduling, executing and paying for (in some cases) domestic work and childcare remains primarily the woman’s responsibility in heterosexual partnerships.
Another peer considered “what the juxtaposition of routine and fantasy mean”. She pointed out that some of us are prone to watching lectures on You-Tube whilst ironing, which is a different kind of escapism entirely. There are numerous housework mixes on Apple Music too. The banality of housework routine is where my mind wanders – I am in partial agreement with Austin Kleon who says in Steal Like an Artist: “I love ironing my shirts – it’s so boring, I almost always get good ideas.” (Kleon 2012 p67) Yet he’s the only man I’ve ever heard saying that, and sometimes I think I could generate ideas just as well out walking or enjoying a coffee and a magazine somewhere anonymous with no hoovering/ironing/toilet-cleaning on my mental back burner. The fairies symbolise fantasy, an escape from the mundane.
Another comment reminded me of Ally McBeal “that fascinating mix of the conscious and unconsconscious mind, overactive imagination and how it could spill into real life”. Perhaps housework is responsible for the genesis of some of the great creative works of our time.
Action 4 – consider changing the title to “suggest a connection to the broader cultural contexts”. This one is something of a challenge, hopefully inspiration will appear as I do more reading.
Update – I’m still woefully short of inspiration on this. The images seem to stuck with “The Housework Fairies” even though I’m conscious that that’s fairly obvious from the images themselves. I need to absorb some more fairy and feminist material and see if anything suggests itself. “The domestic gaze?”
Action 5 – experiment with making more images where the fairies are aligned with particular objects (power switch, shower, bath etc)
Update: Due to practical constraints I decided to keep the work as is and refresh the edit – there were plenty of images to choose from. I do need to sort out some low light stands so that I can return to this work in the future.
Action 6 – experiment with video – a more seamless loop, and tighter timing on the washing machine. Consider the form that would be used if the video were to be included in the final submission.
Update – I have made several videos as a convenient way of displaying physical work on my blog. I think I prefer working with objects – things that can be held, touched, annotated, passed through people and time. Although I enjoyed making the washing machine and bath videos they seemed a technical step too far from the Cottingley Fairy inspiration and a complication in working out exactly what, and how, to submit for assessment. I’ve therefore chosen not to progress this aspect of the work.
Action 7 – consider the still images and ensure that they are not too hard to read. Reshoot if necessary. If I go down the Viewmaster route I will need 7 strong images.
Update – I decided to go with the Viewmaster route and refreshed my selection. I have tried a new Viewmaster provider who works with slightly larger images. Looking at the set with fresh eyes I think the shower head image might be slightly ambiguous but I’m definitely out of time for further viewmaster reel iterations now.
Action 8 – ensure the historical context is easily found at assessment (needs to be close to the images).
Update: Done, added to summary post and will also add to artist statement.