Covid, the storm wake-up call. Exposing students to the truth and reality of the job market.
Photograph: Diane Macdonald
As a student, our lives travel from station to station. Hopping to our next assignment, next assessment, and next job shift. Each structured around our routines, timetables and social lives. Our design projects propelling us forward at full speed, with each project outcome entirely entwined to our inner self-worth.
Then post-graduation, we are to be spat out of our structured system onto an empty road in the middle of nowhere. The bus of: “structured approval” stops, and we step off into an empty wasteland: no-one knows our name or cares who we are.
Scattered across this wilderness, we’re fed billboard messages telling us that this is the time to “grow-up”. While being constantly reminded that as Gen Z’s we are: “spoilt, lazy and entitled”.
Yet reality is far from this, on average during our 20’s we will change jobs every 18 months, (that’s around 13 jobs before we’re 30). During this time many of us have, and will, have to move back in with relatives. Taking on vast debt, with far less saved and far less stability surrounding our lives. No wonder peak alcoholism and drug addiction begins at this age.
A few months ago, we stepped off this bus. Undertaking DPS while others across the country graduated. At that particular moment, the majority of us may have found ourselves at a junction of the two classic roads forward.
The first road perhaps prompted us to run full speed into our DPS year: up and along the road of exploration and adventure. Jumping into something crazy, telling ourselves a “real” job will land someday. Drawn off around the world, designing in Kathmandu while learning to paraglide; or joining a start-up in Silicon Valley. All while maintaining a pretty awesome Instagram profile and hovering over a hundred different possibilities, conversations and relationships.
This road is very enticing. Offering a collection of random experiences, each moment fun, perhaps rewarding, yet temporary. Perhaps an opportunity to build “identity capital” for dinner party conversations for the next five years. But, do we really remember all of each of these encounters? Are these experiences adding up to the true fulfilment of our values?
Or does the journey of turning and sampling every new corner leave being terminally distracted by every new sign that we encounter along our way. With no discernible direction perhaps leads us back to the start all along.
Sonoran Desert Road on June 20, 2017, southwest of Tucson, Arizona. Photograph: Caitlin Ohara
Alternatively, we may have begun DPS down the second “pragmatic” road, a continuation of our structured education. Window shopping through laptops for the next-best mentor, developing perfectly manufactured portfolios and linked-in profiles. Flocking to big-name design agencies, hoping a high-profile job would determine our career trajectory and our value. Relishing the high-status projects of rebranding Amnesty International’s logo, which we told ourselves: “justifies the Amazon design project”.
Our journey along this second road, is met with a hyper-pleasing gold star workplace, built on our set of robotic finely-tuned design skills to be maximised. Meanwhile we may end-up neglecting friendships through explanatory descriptions of how busy we are. A ladder of status rungs to be climbed, constantly looking to our left and right in comparing our own climb to others.
At a certain moment along this road, the status markers of the climb may obscure our surroundings. Drifting along through a capitalist society that is consumed by our skills of design production, with efficiency at the centre of our purpose. Along this path, we eventually reach a point of feeling disengaged. Our feelings lost, from us once having ignored our true desires.
Then like all Gen Z’s, a storm hit. Whichever of these roads we may have selected, the Covid cyclone blinded us putting this direction on hold.
On the surface, we are faced with a student loan system that doesn’t cover basic rent without a side hustle, roped into a squeezed job market with both skilled and temporary jobs in short supply.
The pandemic carried an interruption into everyday life, exposing areas of my own and other’s surroundings and that were once ignored. Surrounded by increased financial uncertainty we are left with little space “mental bandwidth” to make decisions about anything. Crawling to shelter in bed and watching Netflix didn’t seem so bad after all. For those of us that haven’t found our purpose or stability, a storm can feel like a complete crumbling of the self.
New records broken: high levels of unemployment across the UK and globally. Photograph- James Veysey/Rex/Shutterstock
Since then, the pandemic has only left our financial stability, employability and future feeling less stable. As of such, we’re ready to put up with unpaid internships, terrible bosses and workplace of companies treating us like-crap as we don’t have another option. Managing the risks of every little decision we don’t quit, we work around the clock, fed an internalised notion that we need to be striving for more by society.
When we began our DPS journey nearly a year ago, we were told to “brand ourselves”, putting ourselves out there and “selling ourselves” sums up our internalised value: a product.
But as we know, not every product gets bought from the shelves. We’re left with a psychological hole, being originally sold, and believing that a university degree offers the “security of middle-class jobs”. When then reality hits we are left with the belief that we weren’t worth it, or even good enough.
Our notions of adulting and job-searching, down these potential roads, leave us feeling melancholic and drained in the face of the world.
Perhaps that’s the true intention of DPS year. Rather than conforming and selling our character to build on workplace traits of grit, productivity and discipline. It is our ability to come to terms with the discomfort of this detachment, instability, doubt, underemployment, and shit bosses. We’re trying to win at a system we should all be trying to break.
A third road, to be carved out and designed.
What new agency has come from a complete global reset?
In this essay I will be exploring the idea of how the global pandemic has changed how creatives work and furthermore my experience with working either remotely or from a studio.
During the first lockdown I was situated at home with limited resources for creativity such as my laptop and camera so I spent a lot of time doing photography of my surrounding areas and trying to incorporate them into my projects, I found this calming and helped me to get out of the house and away from my computer screen. Alongside uni work I was attending professional practice online classes which were difficult to concentrate on in contrast to sitting in a real lecture hall but I fully enjoyed hearing from people who had been working in industry and inspired me to keep working. Moving back to london at the end of summer was a strange feeling but it was nice to be back in the city and to start my professional practice year.
My first and longest running internship has been working with Alan Kitching, a Letterpress and typography designer who has been my inspiration for years, the opportunity to work with him was exciting enough but what I have experienced is life changing. When I first started working with him I was quite shy and nervous as you would be in the presence of your favourite designer but I quickly adapted to his analog ways of working and understanding how the process of letterpress works. Alan has things he likes to do traditionally such as creating layout sheets using inked blocks and tracing paper to get an accurate result and how to apply ink to the blocks to create his well known style so I believe I have learned a lot from him in these last few months. It has got to the point where I am working on his commission prints almost solely on my own. Working with Alan has taught me a lot about printmaking but also I have increased my knowledge on typography and traditional methods behind it and this is definitely something I will be taking forward into my future work and I am very thankful to have had this experience.
After working with Alan so much I wanted to experiment with letterpress more for myself so I set a project to hand print christmas presents for my family and alan was kind enough to let me use his studio. For the first time doing this kind of task purely on my own and following a layout sheet I had prepared I was very pleased with the results it yielded and I shall be experimenting more with printmaking of all kinds in my work from now on. It has been an amazing experience working with Alan and I hope in the new year he will let me continue to work with him.
When it comes to working from home I have faced a few difficulties but it has mostly been quite easy, A lot of the work I produce is digital poster/ book cover designs so working remotely has been no issue, at the start of november I was given the opportunity to work with 2 MA script writers and produce a poster for there tv shows they were presenting to big companies such as netflix and amazon. Working remotely made this task simple as I did not need to travel to meet anyone and was able to use my own computer, furthermore I was able to converse with the MA students via zoom calls which made it easy to share my digital work over screen sharing and make minor adjustments as the call took place.
My first poster was called Peller which is based on the folklore of witches surrounding the cornwall area. Katie (the script writer) wanted the poster to incorporate a mysterious house overlooking a cliff so I used photoshop and some 3D modelling programs to achieve this and at her request I did 3 different posters from 3 camera angles. The angles were top down, profile view and front view and we settled on the side view being the most fitting for the script she has produced. To further the project I used sticks to make a typographical logo to fit the poster/ scripts aesthetic and from the general response I'd say it was a success. This project was very useful because it allowed me to experience working with a client with different ideas and how I can adapt myself to working from home.
My last poster was called Memento Mori which is a story based on venice during the plague, The overall mood given to me by lola (script writer) was that it was a dark drama so my first initial idea was to have the poster be quite ominous in a similar way as my previous poster. I would achieve this by using a single light source to bring out the surroundings followed by a plague doctor who would be holding it. On this project I was accompanied by a classmate Shazia who helped me with composition of the text and also designed the logo which tied the design together nicely. Working remotely and conversing with lola and shazia was very simple and took me only a week or 2 to produce the final outcome. I was very happy with how the poster turned out and it allowed me to explore new ways of working.
In conclusion the DPS year so far has been a good experience even though there has been a global pandemic and I am excited to see how 2021 will develop.
I’m sure like most people, COVID really changed my plans drastically.
My plans for travelling for holiday got cancelled as well as my flights back home was cancelled multiple times, a dream internship contract was destroyed, the first lockdown really triggered my mental health and wellbeing on top of many other things. My main goal at the time being, and many months following after that was to focus on my health both physically and mentally therefore I only began to think and arrange more tactically about my DPS year in the past month or so when I felt more ready to prepare for this year.
I managed to participate in an exhibition right before COVID hit the UK where I explored in more depth about what I study and why I study it. Even within the LCC design school, our course, Design Management still seems to be puzzling to the community for what kind of work we produce. Attending this exhibition made me not just think about the topics we were taught in our classes, but rather branching out to see the wider perspective of notion. I intended the final product to be simple yet effective so that not only people of our own community (designers and creators) but also those who are studying or working in complete different sectors have a small step to a better insight about design management and design as a whole. Recently I was able to participate in their autumn season’s exhibition as well, which was after the pandemic hit. The exhibition changed from an in person experience exhibition to a virtual one, being able to view the exhibition through street view and 360 pivoting points to see the nooks and crannies of the exhibition space. I created a photography collective for this exhibition. Being stuck in London and unable to go back ‘home’ to my family, I thought about the meaning of ‘home’ to me. Although my family is now in Seoul, Korea, Being born and mainly raised in Hong Kong, as of now Hong Kong still remains as “home’. I wanted to be the lens to show the Hong Kong I grew up in as it has vastly changed over the past few years. I named this piece ‘Home Kong’. I think it is interesting to bind my piece that represents Hong Kong in my London studio apartment as it blends two locations, past and present all at once. I widened my scope about the ‘arts’ after going into university. Before I came to London, I only associated the arts to fine art as that is what I experienced during my primary and secondary school years. However, after I came to London, I began to learn a lot about the creative industry as a whole. It was quite therapeutic going back to this medium as I haven’t been able to go back to it after coming to university as I was focused on my degree, but this has really helped my mental health in this current situation.
There are quite a few major differences from the previous exhibition and made me realise that the world adapts to change quite quickly. It is also speaking for other changes we have seen in the world currently. They say that vaccines take over 10 years to create and approve but this pandemic really was an eye opener showing that it was indeed possible to bring it down to just one year to create a vaccine. It really comes down to what is prioritised and how productive everyone is!
The main aims I have at the moment is to focus on finding internships/work placements and experiences as well as fixing my CV and portfolio to its highest standard. I feel that my overall progress has not moved forward as fast as I initially planned, but due to the unexpected circumstances the pandemic has created, I am working towards fulfilling the gaps that were created by taking things one step at a time in detail.
As a design management student, I apply critical thinking and design research methods to a range of projects and collaborations, that addresses social, business and environmental needs in the perspective of a communication, design and media industry. My study focuses on the role of design within the creative industry, and is often referred to as the connection between businessmen and practitioners. We use design thinking as an approach to innovation and problem solving that takes into account “the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and requirements for business success”. I have learnt so much of theory side of this area, I would really like to be implementing this knowledge in the real life working industry.
After studying my degree in Design Management for the past two years, I have grown my interests in work ranging from creative strategy, branding, innovation, project management and marketing strategies. I hope that during the DPS programme I will be able to explore all those areas and by the end be able to figure out more precisely what I want to do in the near future. Although my interests specifically is around luxury fashion and beauty, I was open to an opportunity working as a branding and marketing specialist for a luxury music label company based in London. Although it may not be the specific area I want to work potentially in the near future, I believed this role would help me learn and evolve in that area of branding and marketing in a different field and therefore would create a much more insightful learning experience.
It is such a difficult time for everyone and I have struggled with many aspects trying to move forward positively but I do understand that everything is designed to work out for the better and have learnt so much along the way. I am staying positive and am look forward to see what opportunities and learning opportunities I may run into that will help me develop as a person in the work industry.
“Be the change you want to see in the world”
Sinclair, N. and Sinclair, N., 2020. The Change.
BREAKING WITH MY PRACTICE
Helvetica and Times New Roman walk into a bar.“Get out of here!” shouts the bartender. “We don’t serve your type.” (Reader’s Digest, 2020)
The joke isn’t mine, but I thought I might kick off this blog with a laugh or at least a slight chuckle. We’ve heard time and time again how odd, surprising, devastating and especially crazy 2020 has been. Myself and everyone in this wide world included are living through – cue the most overused word of the year – unprecedented times. I’ve experienced loss, heartache, joy, laughter, severe boredom, but what I’m most amazed by is the success I’m having. In March, I left London to quarantine in my hometown of Lausanne with my family. Like most people, it was an uphill battle until the end of the year. Between March and May I had to pass my second year remotely, make my portfolio, apply for internships/jobs/residencies and I entered the Tate Christmas Card competition which I won!
I continued over the summer with my photography and some personal design projects that I’m still fiddling with. I also entered the Jonathan Cape/Guardian graphic novel competition, though I didn’t win I’m extremely pleased with my entry and have learned so much about my comic book making capabilities. Between March and the start of my internship on the 2nd of November, I sent out 160 applications, 50% which I never heard back from, 49% that said no, 0.67% that said maybe and 0.33% that said YES! An issue I feel which is understandably human is also an extreme handicap: difficulty accepting the word NO. We need to start focusing less on the amount of NO’s we get - which can be disheartening I agree - and more on getting that one YES. We don’t need 1000 yeses we only need one. It goes to show the attention I invested to get my first ever 6-month internship at Publicis paid off, instead of wasting my energy lamenting about how nobody wanted me.
That leads me to my second point, it’s not (always) about you. It’s not that they don’t like you or think you’re a bad person, it’s more about their needs and if you’re the right fit. I applied to an intern position at Pentagram but a classmate of mine got the job simply because he’s a better motion designer than I am. They were looking for his specific skills in order to achieve their objectives. I’m happy that it turned out this way, because the position I currently have at Publicis communications Lausanne is the perfect fit for me and for Publicis.
That goes into my third point: trust the process. This essential if not vital! The first ingredient is hard work, if you don’t put in the hours, you’re not going to see results. Second ingredient is patience, not idle lounging around, but in a focused state of waiting, being on the ball until opportunity strikes. Professional athletes are masters at this. A striker on a football pitch can wait right up until the final whistle before seizing his chance and scoring. As designers, artists, etc. we need to do the same. From the moment I created my first portfolio on InDesign back in March until I took my first step into my new office, was a total of 8 months proactively waiting. While I was waiting for the confirmation that I got the job, I was constantly seeking out others. You can’t put all your eggs in the same basket.
Segueing into my fourth point: adaptability. This triumphs everything we do, internships and art aside. Being able to adapt is crucial for our survival, never in history have we endured so much evolution like in 2020. We were forced to change. While life was updating, I seized the opportunity to work more than I ever have. There was nothing else to do, one man’s boredom and frustration were my 16-hour workdays. I knew that if I wanted to emerge victorious from this sanitary crisis. The foundations need to be built now. You can’t wait on the world to change in order to achieve, you need to act as if. I recognize my fortune with the opportunities that came my way, but if I didn’t put in the work I could have easily given up. I acted as if I could work 8 hours a day for Publicis and work 6 more hours at night on my own projects. I acted as if all my goals had been achieved, I believed I was submitting my work on time and I acted as if I had no choice. I adapted my brain and my attitude in order to get the work done, if I didn’t force myself to continue working then I wouldn’t be showing you my entry for the Locarno Film Festival Poster Competition:
Through sheer perseverance I not only submitted a poster to a lucrative competition, but I also used this as an opportunity to upskill. I learned 3D using Adobe Dimensions. Learning is the key word to being adaptable, you constantly need to learn about what’s going on around you and applying the knowledge gained. What ties this blog together is my title (which Sarah pointed out to me): Breaking With My Practice. I needed to constantly break my old ways of working in order to succeed and achieve more, work smarter and harder. If I were still stuck in my old ways, I wouldn’t be typing out this blog right now. You need think like a muscle during a physical activity, in order to get stronger and better I need to break so that when I repair, I become three times stronger than before. Like the athlete who gets better with every training, so do we as designers need to constantly break our practices in order to become the superstars I know we already are.
I’m not too sure how to write about the ‘the opportunities in design since the start of pandemic’ as most of my time has been trying to fit around the uncertainties the global disease has caused. The one thing that can maybe pass as an opportunity would be the copious amount of free time that has come with the pandemic - I am trying to use this time for evaluation and growth which is the result of the blog title ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ as I question the skillsets I would like to learn in this dps year that I will still value when I’m old. My main goal for my dps year was to learn hands on the detail of typography in print and digitally, micro and macro. I want to create design that derives from the content in an intelligent and sophisticated manner. I’m on a mission to learn from great designers however at the moment it feels like everything is on pause and I’m stuck behind my laptop in my room sending out portfolios :/
I think the process of precisely selecting what studios I want to work for opened up a lot of important questions such as what kind of projects I want to work on? What kind of clients I want to work for? What do I want to learn? To answer the following and to keep track as it may very well change by the time I finish dps – My main interests are in projects that are typographically focused and occasionally use some interesting printing techniques. Some of which projects may include visual identities, book design, type design, poster and website design. I would like to work with cultural clients, galleries, artists, architects and publishers.
Interning with Lorenz Klingebiel - I made the most of the opportunity by my giving it my all. Starting a project from scratch was super amazing and even though it was stated at the beginning there wasn’t any pressure for me to deliver I knew I was going to try my hardest to impress. In the end it worked out really well as the client had chosen the option I had been driving forward. I am still in contact with Lorenz over the collaboration of Obligato – a typeface which came out of the creation of the visual identity for the project I was working on. At the start of the creation of Obligato my ability to use type software Glyphs was very basic and when it came to design problems such as kerning and opentype features I often found myself clueless. However with the determination to make things happen I openly responded by researching and checking online forums to learn more, while receiving advice from Lorenz. This has received great feedback not only from the client but also from Lorenz’s friends and colleagues @ https://abcdinamo.com https://veryvery.de/web/en/ I have also been told studio veryvery will be using the typeface for their Christmas cards (roughly 150-200) which will go out to their clients having the name of the typeface ‘obligato’ as well as my name in the credits.
Unfortunately, my plans to intern at Semiotik Design have been cancelled due to covid - I have learnt to remain motivated by keeping myself busy and working hard (more time for Obligato). If I’m honest I can’t see this opportunity happening anytime soon due to all the hassle with covid plus changes in Greek Law which affected the hours working in the studio - however I am defiantly still eager to train with great designers abroad. Instagram offers a great opportunity to find out about new studios abroad and I think I may have potentially secured an internship if corona settles down (via a studio liking one of my photos). Nevertheless, all this time sitting like a banana on Instagram and behind my laptop is doing my nut in – if I am in the same position after christmas I am going to make sure I visit UAL as much as possible and sign up to all the workshops just to get out the bloody house. It hits me most days that I haven’t been outside yet which results in a freezing cold run at nine thirty.
To keep myself proactive and in a constant state of learning I have been completing online courses on LinkedIn Learning to increase my knowledge. A territory I am exploring is learning how to design books / magazines, I am fascinated by learning a craft that enables such freedom yet technical restraint. One thing that I think will be very beneficial to my future career would be to learn the ins and outs of InDesign. Maybe I can start making my own books to practice these skills and share to the world what kind of projects I want to work on - I know that’s what the founders of Actual Source done and look at them now! This may be something I look into further once I complete some courses and read more into designing books – I know that the met museum has open access artworks of more than 375,000 hi-res images, I could design something as simple as a daily planner alongside these amazing images and sell it via ual art shop.
Most recently I sent out a portfolio for the editorial role at evening standard role and was offered the position however I politely declined due to the fact they were asking for 3 months unpaid! I fully understand as an intern it’s not about the salary however working unpaid for 3 months is something I’m not prepared to do and I am glad I didn’t settle. Something will come up.
If during the first month of lock down that I spent in Spain at my parents someone told me where I was standing today I would have never believed it. During those moths I experienced some feelings I had never felt before, with my mind constantly playing really bad tricks on me. After several months of living in denial I came to understand that life was not going to get better, or normal in just a day. My creativity during this time was null and trying to find sources of inspiration seemed like the hugest effort. Just sitting at the computer and being productive was not a possibility. Even though I overview this as a negative time in my life, I did achieve certain things that I am now proud of, specially looking back at how my personal state was. What I didn’t know is that my luck was going to give me a good surprise, finally, after a long time.
This summer was a healing process for me. As I consider myself as a social person, I needed to see people in order to survive creatively and mentally. I decided to not work and take a couple of months just focusing on healing, though at the same time I was building a spreadsheet with all of my contacts and studios I admired. Moreover being able to develop interesting conversations with my friends was also very inspirational. The research must never stop! I kept taking pictures, going to as many places as I could. This all helped me get back to my real self.
Since my Erasmus in Berlin UDK had been cancelled because of corona, I decided I wanted to move there to experience the city anyways. I needed a break from London. So I landed on an amazing opportunity through a friend: to have an amazing flat in Hermanplatz for 3 months, which I thought would be enough to get some work going. My duty was now find an internship. I visited some studios, with both positive and negative experiences. Overall everybody was too busy to look at my work or show me around so I kept applying online. I felt lucky when I got a response saying no (after sending 70 emails).
I kept looking forward, I had to find something , I was making a huge effort at this point, asking friends, family, I was selling myself to anyone even for small or unpaid projects. During this time, I designed a website for a NZ music project (unpaid) but still good experience. I also developed with my design partner, Yuan, the idea for a studio/collective for our SIP project. I designed a logo with Veronica Alba for a brand of handmade up-cycling bags, Georgia Borrett Lynch. I attended modus system workshop… I was not hopeless but can’t deny I was having hard time, since nobody was replying to my emails.
After a while, I decided that Berlin was not going to give me the opportunity I was looking for, so I started applying to different cities. The first place I applied to was a small studio in Mannheim, Germany called Deutsche & Japaner. This was the first studio I ever encountered when I first started uni about 3 years ago. I wrote a very honest email explaining my situation and interest, how I felt connected to them and why I liked them. I did not expect any reply. Within two days they asked me for an interview, even though they were not looking for anyone, I was shocked. This had been my biggest achievement so far! The interview went so well and I felt completely comfortable in my skin showing my projects. The next day I received a confirmation email for the position. After this, I spent the rest of my time in Berlin learning German.
I started the first week of November, and by now I can say I have never learnt so much about design in such a short period of time. Since the start of my internship I have already worked on many different disciplines. I have designed different posters, postcards and merchandising for a women’s festival in Mannheim, I have also designed and coded(!!!) a website and I am about to start the design of a 200 page journal starting next week. All of this while helping with whatever I can in the studio from bigger projects. I am trying to absorb as much as I can, I am constantly looking at everything that is happening around me: how they work, how they make presentations, how they explain ideas, how they go thought the different stages of a design concept… and it is already passing so fast!
In my short time at D&J I have already experienced a huge personal growth. The team I work with is amazing and very experienced, learning by their side is the greatest thing that has happened to me this year. I am able to manage stress a lot better, have more resilience and confidence. I feel very lucky but at the same time I know that I have worked hard to be here.
For the next months I plan on developing more personal projects. I want to keep DJing and producing music and hopefully finish an album by March next year. I am currently working on a mixtape for a design related research platform on instagram. I will keep working on the collective with Yuan, my SIP for DPS and also long term project and collaboration. I will also keep looking for more collaborative projects, like spam paper 📓(by Vero & Greta). I have a lot ahead and I am very excited!
Patricia Núñez Núñez
Miscommunication between neurons, the synaptic messages not quite going through, cold sweat, hands slighting shaking, heavy arteries just trying to do their job and an intense migraine in the middle of the forehead. Google thought that you were dying but it was worse, it was another creative block. According to Wiki How, there are several recovery techniques indicated for those patients: a walk in a conceptual gallery down the road, a cult movie which you pretend that you are the only one who knows about it, many drugs... On this case, I just painted what I was seeing, a plant. My new sketchbook opened in my safe space (my bed) and I started sketching with a light colour pencil to unblocked my mind from this deadly disease. Suddenly, I had an epiphany, I was drawing a plant using a plant in a plant. Mind slightly blow.
This is the Meta effect.
Here is some context: above, Meta comes from Metalanguage which is the language of the language, when your message is the same as the media. It is an inception of the most humankind, the artistic one. This method is all over many different kinds of expression; you can see it on music, movies, poems and even paintings (like the one I’m doing now). There are many levels to the meta effect and the basic one is when it’s used as an easier and impressive end to make young adults that spend too much time trying to find a conceptual explanation to trendy culture as a flirt technique in semi-cool rooftop bars. Being using this method myself, I’ve been noticing and collecting meta media in this semester: the end of the OA (2016-2019 Netflix), being the first, the best that they could do to save this series was a last-minute meta-accident (spoiler alert after the spoiler). After seeing Holy Mountain (1973 Directed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Mexico), you may think that this end is not that original, which is completely true. Many other shows used this method, like Community (2009-2015 NBC) with Abed knowing that he is in a sitcom and Adaptation where two Nicolas Cage are trying to do a script while suffering from the same illness as me (2002 Directed by Spike Jonze, USA). After all, the use of metalanguage is not that unique, but the effect can be.
From this semester collection, the winner is Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami (1999, Japan). The purpose of the meta in this book is another medicine for creative block and other syndromes. The main character, a writer whose life was only about her own writing, with no published books and a small collection of large clothes, seek advice to improve her narratives from the narrator, a school teacher named K who is madly in love with her. In one of their conversations, by a lake, she realises that there is something missing for her to become a novelist, after an awkward silence K does what any almost poetic man would do, a particularly long metaphor:
‘‘A long time ago In China there were cities with high walls around them, with huge magnificent gates. The gates weren’t just doors for letting people in or out, they had great significance. People believed the city’s soul resided in the gates (…) people would take carts out to the battlefields and gather the bleached bones that were buried there or lay scattered about. China’s a pretty ancient country – lots of old battlegrounds – so they never had to search far. At the entrance to the city, they’d construct a huge gate and seal the bones inside. They hoped that by commemorating the dead soldiers in this wat they would continue to guard their town. There’s more. When the gate was finished, they’d bring several dogs over to it, slit their throats and sprinkle their blood on the gate. Only by mixing fresh blood with the dried-out bones would the ancient souls of the dead magically revive. Writing novels is much the same. You gather up bones and make your gate, but no matter how wonderful the gate might be, that alone doesn’t make it a living, breathing novel. A story is not something of this world. A real story requires a kind of magical baptism to link the world on this side with the world on the other side.’’
While finishing my plant painting, this concept came to my mind, it was the cure. The sacrifices that I made to be able to recreate a plant after a dead plant. The plant died to become another plant, a different plant, a meta plant. The resurrection. The killing of yourself, your beliefs, your ideas in pro of new ones, not better but distinct ones. It is a necessary loss for you to be able to create more. Having just references, a background, are not enough, they are the structure but not secure enough. You need more, a purpose, a killing; it is the way for you to be connected with the world with the plant with the other plant, raw sap and incense. In the end, you left something behind, the creation stopped, an illness from all over the world spread, it reached you. Now you understand that, in this whole time, the sickness was part of the treatment. The isolation, the nothingness was essential for what will come after, the other plant, your own plant. You need death to be reborn. You need to give birth.
How many plants did I sacrifice to make this sketch?
At least 3.
Note: the author of this text doesn’t recommend killing dogs (or any other animals) to cure creative block.
II. What creates purpose in practice? By Mariana Cheniaux