A couple of weeks ago I was told that I needed to have a piece of work ready for an exhibition in my studio by this week. As I have arrived late to the course, after a brief month and a half of confusion at the University of Westminster, I have found it difficult to make friends in my new class as it is past the ‘freshers’ introduction phase. So I started thinking about who would be seeing this piece of work and how I could kill two birds with one stone, as such. I started this project by focusing on an unflattering but highly comical picture of me taken in a club. After looking at Shepard Fairey’s work with his ‘OBEY’ propaganda style posters, I simplified the image of my face to a simple black and white drawing and started adding simple text around it. I then went on to simplify this drawing even further in order to turn it into a stencil, as I found working in photoshop took away the humour of the piece but working by hand was too tedious and bland but I still wanted the piece to have a ‘hand-made’ feel to it. After a lot of development and fine tuning I came up with this A2 design:

                                                                                ‘THIS IS A SERIOUS ADVERT.’

This piece is meant to be many things, it is both propaganda and portraiture, performance and visual. The portraiture side of this piece led me to add in a list of my ‘qualities’, which flits between negative and positive descriptions showing both sides to my personality and desperate situation: ‘FUN LOVING LONELY COOL SAD FREE SPIRIT’. I didn’t want the final poster to be perfectly presented, like the experiments I was getting out of photoshop as I felt that the messiness of it was important to show the honesty behind it. I am hoping that this piece confuses people, I hope people don’t know whether to take is as a joke or to take it seriously and get in contact, the piece contains my own contact details so I am interested to see whether anyone does try to use them. The title I have chosen ‘THIS IS A SERIOUS ADVERT’ is also meant to disorientate people between fiction and reality, does the audience laugh or do they get involved? This was inspired by my recent lectures on semiotics which has made me more aware of the viewers interpretation of my work and therefore made me question how much control I have over the work once it is out of my bedroom and into the studio for all to see. I am not usually an ‘image maker’ so I struggled a lot with getting this piece together, I am thinking of maybe turning the portrait of myself into a tag to start putting around places that I visit frequently to start making this identity and advertisement I have made recognised by everyday people possibly even mapping my journey into and around university using these stickers.

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Original image.

Lance Nixon Review

The bike is said to symbolize human reason at work. To quote Angela Carter’s ‘Lady of the house of Love’, “To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion.” Although here Carter is referring to the fear of the super natural, this theory can also be applied to Lance Nixon’s work.

I first came across Nixon in late 2010 with his publically interactive piece based in London, ‘Roadrunner 2’. Inspired by, or some may say in retaliation to the ‘Boris bikes’ installed earlier that summer. Nixon collected over 300 old bikes, saving them from scrap and placed them around zones 2 and 3, as the Boris bikes only covered zone 1 at the time. These bikes were chained outside tube stations, in bike shelters and on streetlights with signs attached giving the user information on how to operate the bikes. Nixon specified here that the bikes could be used for any length of time and could be left wherever best suited the user so long as they were locked up. This free alternative that was given to commuters on the 27th of September resulted in only 9,000 people taking out a Boris bike on that day in comparison to the usual 14,000.

Although most of the bikes where inevitably stolen by the end of the day, the aim of Nixon’s interactive stunt was achieved. He gave daily commuters an alternative to the faults of the Boris bikes which made, and continue to make, revenue from unavoidable late fees due to the docking station to bike ratio.

Nixon came into the public sphere of performance and interactive art in 2007 when he debuted with his piece ‘Roadrunner’ based in New York City, which worked similarly to it’s sequel in London. Nixon was criticized for critiquing such new systems but has since commented that he was simply trying to “expose existing problems before the general public comes to accept them as fact.’” With this statement we can apply Nixon’s work to a much wider context, going beyond the realm of city politics and into semiotics, proving that his work not only provides comment on existing systems but also challenges them.

Alongside interactive art, Nixon is also well known for creating sculptural pieces using bikes. His piece ‘Speed’ (2009) consists of two bikes warped individually in their centers, which come together to create a circular form, whilst still appearing to be functional. As Carter describes in ‘the Lady of the house of love’, bikes are a symbol of reason, and by warping these two bikes into a continual circle and titling the composition ‘speed’ we can interpret this as a juxtaposition between the way that companies use materials to make profit as fast as possible, thus creating and continuing a cycle of profit.

Ultimately Nixon uses the art sphere and the symbolism of the bike as a way of exploiting both truths and lies simultaneously, contrasting reason with unreason and creating opportunities where the ‘readers’ use of systems come before the ‘authors’ benefit of it.
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