My proposal for essay /contextual studies

I am an artist who has a real interest in people, behaviour,ritual, traditions and how we interact with each other. Most of my work so far has been about identity, both of myself and others. I love to laugh and I inject humour into my work by way of engaging others.

I am driven by nostalgia and memories, the things that are relative to us all as human beings. My contextual studies have taken me to the British seaside. A place steeped with nostalgia and tradition. Here is my opening proposal to my contextual studies that will clarify my work at present.

How can I use theory of the everyday to open up understanding of images of the so-called traditional British seaside holiday?

I am interested in the theory of everyday and how art can be used to convey powerful messages though the most ordinary visual representations. I intend to investigate a variety of artistic traditions associated with the British seaside holiday in order to examine how a particular medium or message relates to matters of ideology. To do this it will be necessary to look at people and their relationship with their environments and the constant repetitions, and patterns that are evident when applied to the holidaying public.

From the Victorians with their bathing huts, to the Art Deco pavilions and lidos, to the amusement arcades piers and candy floss vendors of current times, I will endeavour to unravel the complexities of the tourist facade and why it is that people seem ever eager to buy into the promise of a good time. Do we really believe in the fantasy that we are presented with via a bombardment of visual stimuli, promoting this or that resort, and its benefits? Why do we repeat the traditions that have been passed down from our childhood holidays? Is the British seaside resort victim to consumerism to the extent that its natural beauty and coastal lure have been compromised with the construction of tacky souvenir shops and greasy spoon cafes? I expect to discover divided opinion on the perception of both the traditional seaside resort and the people that frequent such places, raising such questions as “culture or kitsch?”

Mirzoeff (2009) states that Visual Culture is, “concerned with visual events in which information, meaning or pleasure is sought by the consumer in an interface with visual technology…from oil painting to television and the Internet.” Within Visual Culture can be found many critical theories that can be placed in the context of the theory of the modern-day. Mirzoeff further argues that postmodernism is visual culture and often presents messages through ironic means – something that deserves further investigation when considering the clichéd messages that are conveyed by British seaside traditions.

It is quite usual for a Marxist system to be employed when research is being carried out in the field of Visual Culture of this era. In relation to the production of meaning, there is an assumption that where there is a mass production of culture then those in control of that production control the culture. However, a non-Marxist approach suggests that it is the different ways of consuming cultural artefacts that ultimately dictate the product’s meaning. This debate will be central to my research and will involve the examination of the theories of semiotics, idealism, and simulacra to dissect visual culture and better understand how people respond to everyday stimuli of the seaside resort.

Whilst there is little research that has been carried out in relation to Visual Culture and the British seaside holiday, there is a great deal of research available on the theories I intend to examine in order to understand what makes the British seaside holiday so enduring.

Using Roland Barthes’ key terms I will endeavour to open up a clearer idea of semiotics and how they work within visual culture. This will be within the historical context of the 1930s, from the selling point of healthy seaside air to the bawdy postcards of Donald mc Gill; looking at Humphrey Spender’s mass observation photographs in Blackpool to the scathing depictions of British resorts Of Martin Parr.

Banerjee, J. The Seaside in the Victorian Literary Imagination. Victorian Web (UK)

Cross, G. (1990) Worktowners at Blackpool: Mass Observation and Popular Leisure in the 1930s. London: Routledge.

Endacott, S, and Lewis, S. ( 20011) Butlin’s 75 Years Of Fun The History Press

Feigel, L., Harris, A. and Lang, P. (2009)  Modernism on Sea: Art and Culture at the British Seaside. Aphrohead Books.

Gray, F. (2006) Designing the Seaside Architecture, Society, and Nature. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

Highmore, B. (2002) The Everyday Life Reader.  New York: Routledge.

Mirzoeff, I,. What Is Visual Culture.…/Intro-VisualCulture.html

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Mussallem, K. (2000) From the Subtle to the Hyperbolic: The Rise of Irony, Camp and Kitsch in 20th Century Photography. Google scholar

Parr, M. (2009) The Last Resort. England: Lewis Publishing.

Rose, G. (2007) Visual Methodologies (An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials.) 2nd edn. London: Sage Publications.
(1993) The Lure of the Sea The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World. 1750-1880 A Corbain Google Books University Of California Press.

Going to the seaside- V& A museum of childhood Childrens lives..>holidays & entertainment

poster, john Hassall. 1909 museum no.E 1326


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