I grew up every close to nature. For the past 7 years, I lived in a Manuka forest in Makarora (a small town on the West Coast of the South Island) without cellphone reception, tv, the internet and using a generator as a power source for necessities. Talking about climate change and extinction is quite important to me and I think there is still a long way to go although there are many organisations and individuals making a difference.
After looking at other visual activism I wanted to have some specific visual strategies and techniques. Mirzoeff talked about how to define visual activism, “Today, we can actively use visual culture to create new self-images, new ways to see and be seen, and new ways to see the world. That is visual activism.” (Mirzoeff, 297). This particular quote is what I want to embody in my design; new ways to see, be seen and see the world. I want the final design to be factual, either quite symbolic or well-researched material so the viewer can get a real sense of the situation in one glance. I like the minimal aesthetic and could incorporate this look into my piece but having more going on visually can draw in the reader.
For me, the hardest part of this assignment was designing the creative piece. I had plenty of ideas but struggled when deciding on a way to express them. I wanted to make subtle connections in the piece without being too direct. From the new information I gathered over the past few weeks, I wanted to make a researched design. My initial idea was to cut and paste different sections of endangered and/or extinct animals to make the rough silhouette of a tiger. With roughly 3,890 tigers left in the wild tiger numbers continue to dwindle (National Geographic.com). The tiger is easily identifiable, globally recognised and admired making it a perfect fit for the general shape. If we were to make more I could investigate other animals, for example, an elephant.
After testing this idea and not liking the aesthetic of this concept, I decided to look into certain animals and what is there main cause of extinction/death. This lead to a new idea, cutting out animal silhouette’s and replacing them with the main cause of death to properly represent the unethical treatment of these creatures. I also had issues with this concepts. For example, animals like tigers and elephants are subjects to poachers which is quite hard to symbolise. It also made the design look quite heavy; there was a lot going on making it too much. Instead, I choose to replace the original background idea to images of burning paper. The colours would mesh together with the design and represent being removed from existence. In theory, the title is meant to resemble the cutout style used on the missing animals. I tried to make the text look like it is also cut out of the paper to link together the statement and endangered animals.
I found the last assignment extremely beneficial personally and wanted to incorporate an idea about Western ideologies into my design as I also looked at environment damage in that assignment also. It was at this point that I had the idea to look up a painting of Noah’s Ark, replacing several animals from the painting with the silhouettes. Westerner ideology has an ownership style culture over nature and animals, what Mirzoeff refers to as the “conquest of nature” (Mirzoeff, 220). It is believed that this concept of dominion came from when God first gave Adam possession over the flora and fauna of the earth. This would result in a merge biblical and symbolic reference in my design. The best image I found was a painting by Takino titled “Noah’s Ark”. This fit perfectly and had a range of animals that are endangered that I could incorporate (original below). By using the image twice it would create a subtle reference to a before and after, making the viewer consider how we have treated animals and their habitat to get to this point.
I had a few concerns with this idea. I was worried about copyright issues as we have to hand in this to be assessed but thought it should be fine as its being used for a symbolic purpose. I also was worried about how neat and precise this piece would look as a handmade collage, so decided to move to a digital collage to look more profession and tidy. I also toyed with the idea of adding a glitch rendition of this image in small sections of the camouflage pattern to represent a 21st-century influence to the design. It would have commented on how it should be a glitch not reality that several species are dying out due to what we’re doing. It also would have portrayed a technical component, relating it to today’s society.
When finishing the design I didn’t like how the images floated on the page. I then incorporated a camouflage pattern to make it seem like the animals were trying to hide from us like we are predators. Camouflage is often used for masking one’s appearance, location or movements for safety. This worked well with my overall idea as it would symbolise hiding from poachers, large corporations involved in deforestation or oil rigging and so on.
This project has been really beneficial to me. It made me critically reflect on what’s happening in the world and why. Although there are some very big issues that you can’t tackle alone, there are small steps I can take because every action helps; even if it’s only making sure all the flat lights are off at night. Overall I am happy with my final design. It included all the elements I originally wanted and ideally could be put in glass street displays or simply handed out. I believe this design embodies my ideas regarding animal extinction.
Works Cited List:
Guynup, Sharon. “How Many Tigers Are There Really? A Conservation Mystery”. National Geographic, N.D, http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160420-tigers-conservation-trafficking-world-wildlife-fund-panthera/
Mirzoeff, Nicholas. “How to See the World”. Pelican Books, 2015