MA Studies > Fine art > Fine art alumnus > Gayane Yerkanyan

Gayane Yerkanyan


Initial research on relationships of Art and Design

For centuries, artists, art critics, art historians, designers and thinkers alike have tried to define what art is, the perception and definition of which continues to change by a passing of time. Does this mean that we could refer to art as something hybrid, changeable, flexible and something that alters constantly in correspondence with time and society? My concentration around the topic of finding relationships between art and design during the last three months was about researching what has been said about it up to nowadays, what currently is going on in the scene and what are the approaches of actors towards the topic.

Design or applied arts, specifically or traditionally, some refer to, as a solution to a certain problem, but does not art come out where there is problem? Or the problem is of a sort that troubles the artist, the creator? Some designers also say “We don’t solve problems, we create possibilities. From the blind sighted vision of art and design I came to see that it is on a much wider platform and realm than I thought, from which I explored new visions towards art, design and other activities.

For example, design groups actually are working on self initiated exhibitions, rather than having their artistic activity be based on commissions in commercial markets. “Your work is about to provoke people to think” says Daniel Van der Velden from the Dutch Design Studio Metahaven about the exhibition Facetat. Metahaven uses graphic design, identity branding, and product development as weapons, harnessing the power of the image in the internet age to design concepts that both signal label and propel political and social change. As Metahaven states the notion of proactivity is really important, the notion that you can initiate stuff yourself. They think that this is the best when you work on something in collaboration with someone who is also passionate about the same topic. Collaboration is real art. Some say that art is autonomous, but for some art is a tool as a medium, in terms of reflecting tangible things. As for design, it itself cannot accomplish much either (says Dutch design group Metahaven). That is why they are interested in finding collaborations, or alliances, or conversations, where graphic design can become a useful tool. They think then it can definitely be very important and influential. They are sure that the most interesting graphic design is never purely on its own. Another interesting notion that started appealing to me is that artistic activity is about creating platforms, or linking to other mediums, some of which being economy, politics, time, communication, people, memory etc.

Artistic activity itself comes from personal fascination, questions and responds to the surrounding world. While a couple of decades ago, designers were asked to react to happenings or surroundings, now they are rather acting than reacting. They address social issues, seek collaborations, help each other and try out new economic models: says Thomas Widdershoven, creative director for “self” and the “unself” exhibition at Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven. Designers show projects that push them to reflect on the role and function of design in a changing world.

Another example is the major international exhibition at Walker Art Center which explores how graphic design has broadened its reach dramatically over the past decade, expanding from a specialized profession to a widely deployed tool says Dutch Design Studio Experimental Jetset in the “Exploding Aesthetics”. The role of design in many senses is to present possible model of the world, that is that its role is to make you think. The big revolution on art, as Michelangelo form Cittadellarte points out is that after the aesthetic revolution now in the twenty first century it is high time for ethical revolution, and to his believe there is no more necessity to concentrate on the medium, or the tool that has been used to create message, rather the concentration should be placed on the content, on what is being communicated. At some point all the possible boundaries have been blurring which gave new way for defining and discovering new approaches as art. Therefore, what I would like further to continue researching is not a relationship of art and design, but the design and its role in the artistic scene, its autonomousness as a tool to address issues and its existence as an artistic practice. And I would like to continue researching practices of Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holtzer, Metahaven, Experimental Jetset, Liam Gillick, Willam Kentridge, Metahaven which were pretty much my inspirations during the semester. Also, as Liam Gillick states in Exploding aesthetics “the audience no longer believes that the boundaries between art and design are that interesting. It is more interesting to view both of them as fields of expression where each can be used in conveying a message to the audience.”

The project with Jonas Staal was revealing. I learnt that art is not only responsible for aesthetic reasons but also it can choose to be responsible for social good, and be quite active in political field, even if given the name “propaganda”. Also, for example, if we take into consideration the politics of Armenia, and see how detached artists are from this, the idea that art can have such a powerful impact in the political field is quite provoking and powerful. Museum visits proved the notion that the medium of the message no longer matters.

The curatorial practice also was an exploration to me. The implementation of that I saw in various museums visited here in the Netherlands such as Van Abbe Museum, Rotterdam Fotomuseum, Amsterdam Foam Museum, Appel Arts Center. Graphic Design Studio Experimental Jetset say ‘Two or Three Things I Know About Provo’ was an exhibition that they curated, designed and installed themselves, while they were also responsible for all the research and texts. The subject of this exhibition was the Provo movement, including some of its post-Provo manifestations. Provo was an Amsterdam anarchist movement that existed for just two years.