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Major Project Proposal – The rhetoric surrounding Romanian and Bulgarian immigrant workers to the UK

 Major Project Proposal – 24/04/13

Question:

“State your basic question, proposition or hypothesis clearly.”

How can graphic communication be employed to document the rhetoric surrounding an Eastern European migrant workforce in the UK. Specifically, Romanian immigrants settling in Northampton.

 

Aims/objectives and audience:

“Explain your intentions in choosing your topic.”

In the 40’s, 50’s and early 60’s post war Britain encouraged a colonial workforce to come to the Uk for a better life and help keep industry running in the aftermath of WWII. The Empire Marketing Board, a government department, was set up to promote and protect our Empire trade and goods. After WWII Britain was left with a dwindling economy and workforce. The EMB advertised for colonial members to come to the UK and work, filling the gaps left by the casualties of War.

In 2014 Europe will be an open market place for Romanians and Bulgarians to move about freely – to live and work anywhere they choose within the European union. How have the public and the national media expressed opinion in the build up to this? How has this affected communities and attitudes towards ‘others’ – is this breeding a new racism and xenophobia?

The first generation of Romanians that have been brought up and educated in a democratic society since the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 are now migrant workers coming to the UK. Eastern Europeans have changed the face of communities in the UK both socially, culturally and politically – this has given rise to changes in our workforce, general resentment and negative journalism both locally and nationally. The media regularly speculate on the numbers of Romanian and Bulgarians that will travel to the UK for a better life on the 1st of January 2014. There is no evidence for these rumors, only speculation. Yet this migration can also be seen to have created cultural diversity and creativity within our communities.

Not all immigrants are here to drain the system of its resources. There are a significant number who are highly educated. Until the restrictions come down on the 1st of January 2014 these people, some with university degrees, are working unqualified manual jobs for a financially better standard of life. In turn helping to sustain our struggling economy by harvesting fruit and vegetables for minimum wage – working as Au Pairs, cleaners, construction workers or taxi drivers.

However the willingness – and necessity – of migrants to work long hours for very low wages is having a negative effect on small independent businesses by undercutting a skilled British workforce and forcing them out of a fair market.

This project seeks to use graphic design to present the discourse surrounding the recent Eastern European economic migrants. Specifically Romanians moving to Northampton.  To explore through word and image media and political reports, personal stories and accounts

poor, uneducated, scrounging dependents, or

pioneering, motivated, hard working people seeking independence and choice.

 

Context: 

“… the relationship of the Area of Study to graphic design must be identified.”

This subject sits within the realms of social and cultural discourse and would act as a piece of public information. Using graphic design I will explore methods of presenting the rhetoric of Romanian migrant workers through word and image. There are several areas of interest that I have begun to identify; a xenophobic narrative seen in the press and politics, the pioneering narrative of migrant workers, and the data collected by government in an attempt to gather evidence to support their fears and control the impending flood of people.

I have made contact with the local Romanian community and distributing leaflets calling for personal accounts of their experiences of living and working in the UK. I have conducted interviews with nine individuals who have contacted me as a result of this. I have also attended the local Romanian Orthodox church and spoken with religious leaders and the congregation in order to gain an understanding of their culture and traditions.

I have been regularly sourcing online news reports on the subject of Romanian and Bulgarians moving to the UK, archiving these along with the online comments in order to build up a profile of the concerns and tone of voice expressed in the media. This primary and secondary research has given me a deeper understanding of the issues surrounding the topic, yet I feel that I still do not have a cohesive perspective on the subject and am seeking data that gives an overview of the facts and figures.

 

Action Plan:

“Provide a detailed description of the project, breaking down the Research Question into a planned programme of specific research enquires.”

My own area of knowledge is printmaking, illustration and design. I intend to draw upon the visual language of printmaking, specifically print processes associated with Eastern Europe – and work with the graphic identity, craft and aesthetics of the printmaking process to visualize the spoken and printed word.

• Traditional print processes I have identified are; letterpress, lino, wood cut, lithography and screenprint. I have begun to research the design and graphic identity of this area of Eastern Europe as well as the posters of the Empire Marketing Board and have established that these processes are relevant to my proposal. The University of Northampton holds one of the most comprehensive poster collections in the UK – The Osbourne Robinson Collection – a few Empire Marketing Board posters (some by Edward McKnight Kauffer) as well as Romanian and Czech tourism posters – form part of this collection. I have studied and recorded these, speaking with the curator of this collection for a more detailed background history.

• Risograph printing is a vibrant and economical method of producing anything from books to artist prints. It sits in the realm somewhere between screen print and offset lithography but with a unique aesthetic. (http://www.victorypress.co.uk/_1./Home.html) Although Risograph, at first, seems like it maybe irrelevant – I feel that this low grade process has roots in subculture fanzines and the political ephemera of activist groups voicing a passionate opinion. Therefore has a relevance to my project and worth investigating and experimenting with.

• Semiotics, the study of signs and how we read them – how they create meaning within the images we read around us – an investigation into the mechanics of this concept will facilitate the graphic communication needed to make this body of work speak to its audience.

• Visualizing data – information design: Use the data gathered to visualize and map an overview. Visualizing the data will give context to the media reports and the personal accounts and give the project a position within current affairs. This neutral information will give balance to the emotive content of this project. I will be looking at Nicholas Felton, mwmcreative, Berg, Edward Tufte and other contemporary information designers as secondary research into this area of design as my own work does not usually venture within this spectrum.

* Tools of design proposed but less familiar with – information design, Risograph.

* Areas with some knowledge – letterpress.

 

The project brief: 

“Set out specific questions and speculate on ways of answering them.”

• Gather data. Make contact with Romanian migrant workers. 9 so far

• Personal accounts of their own experiences of moving here. *Transcribe and cross reference for consistent information. (Place of birth, residence in Romania, education, job in Romania, destinations in UK, job in UK)

•Online news articles relating to Romanian and Bulgarian immigrant workers. Current and contemporary news.

• Extract quotes to work with – take into printmaking to begin exploring ways of illustrating the tone of voice. *Personal stories and quotes / headlines from news

• Pinpoint facts: *age, place of birth in Romania, place of residence in Romania, destinations in the UK, education in Romania, qualifications, job titles in Uk, job titles in Romania, reasons for coming to the UK.

Use these facts to further explore in printmaking and letterpress

Use these facts to begin information graphics

 

The Relationship Between Film and Photography, Still and Moving Image

Rebecca Baron 2 - How Little We Know of Our Neighbours

Context: Still image within the moving image, a look at stillness within a saturated digital environment.

This essay will seek to outline my findings on screen and narrative by looking at the intimacy, beauty and comparisons between still image within moving image. I will discuss the value of, and interest in, stillness and moving image and present my findings and opinion within the wider context of social and cultural values of visual communication and narrative. How has digital and the omnipresent screen altered our consumption of moving image? Do we now seek more tactile qualities to quench our thirst for visual narratives and information? Does the message have more of an impact when we are able to stop, pause and consider the content being projected at us? Fine artist, Douglas Gordon, has taken this to an extreme in his piece 24 hour Psycho. He discovered, when he happened to reverse his Psycho tape, that slowing down a film, and pausing, to two frames a second, transformed the viewing (Death 24x a Second, L. Mulvey, p101) and allowed the beauty of the cinematography to be seen. Laura Mulvey suggests that beyond the artists commentary on technology, we – the audience – are made aware of the fragile nature of portraying time within film (Death 24x a Second) … This work creates a dialogue between the film and the technology to discover something that is not there in the original … but can be revealed within it … and thus the traditions of the Avante Garde film … beyond its slow motion, seems to take the cinema, paradoxically refracted through an electronic medium, back to its own materiality and yield up the stillness of the individual frame in the filmstrip … we become await of the intermittency of the film image and the fragility of the illusion of real time in motion pictures. (Death 24x a Second, Laura Mulvey). Advancements in digital technology have had a dramatic impact on our interaction with screen. Most of our daily activities are carried out through the screen, our house keeping  and communication, our social interaction is played out in part through social networking sites such as Facebook. Daniel Miller (Professor in Material Culture, UCL)  suggests that Facebook is a social community and an authentic culture (Lecture notes, 02/03/11, LCC). Our values and expectations have altered as technological advancements become commonplace and integral to our daily lives. Therefore, to clarify, film / moving image, has evolved in response to rapid changes in technological advancements and our social, cultural and commercial interaction with screen has become the fabric of our daily routine.

Rebecca Baron is a media artist who explores an experimental documentary style of film making, with a particular interest in still photography and its relationship to moving image. How Little We Know of Our Neighbours (2005) is a piece of film made as a response to the Mass Observation Project started in the 30’s and its links with wider contemporary issues of surveillance, web cams and reality TV. How Little We Know of Our Neighbours is an experimental documentary about Britain’s Mass Observation Movement and its relationship to contemporary issues regarding surveillance, public self-disclosure, and privacy. At its center is a look at the multiple roles cameras have played in public space, starting in the 1880′s, when the introduction of the hand-held camera brought photography out of the studio and into the street. For the first time one could be photographed casually in public without knowledge or consent. Mass Observation used surreptitious photography to record and scrutinize people’s behavior in public places. Mass Observation was an eccentric social science enterprise founded in the late 1930′s in England that combined surrealism with anthropology. The film traces the history of the movement from its inception as a progressive if naive “anthropology of ourselves” in the 1930′s through its reincarnation as a civil spy unit during World War II and its eventual emergence as a market research firm in the 1950′s. Mass Observation’s history is echoed in a range of present-day phenomena from police surveillance to web cams to reality television that points to ways in which our notions of privacy and self-definition have changed. “. Jessica Helfand notes that the voyeuristic nature of our surveillance society has led to a greater importance being given to observation and our collective role in storytelling “… the concept of the eyewitness is central to thinking about the new visual narrative … It values the power of the individual observation over the onesideness of oration.and, in so doing, makes the experience of viewing that much more memorable.” (Screen: NewMedia, New Narrative: The Lost Legacy of Film, J. Helfand, p119) Baron’s documentary highlights the prevalence of the camera in everyday life and the voyeuristic and flaneur results.  How Little We Know of Our Neighbours explores the theme of surveillance and observation within society and Baron comments that  “… there is a parallel between the snapshot and the diary because they belong to the private and the vernacular world.” she goes on to conclude “… surveillance imagery, which my new film deals with, is an extreme manifestation of this – the surveillance camera is on perpetually, and that changes the weight of the image.”

When moving image references its origins of photography in the still, either by literally freezing the frame or eluding to photography through colour palette, composition and perspective, we are forced to observe and consider the content of  what we see. This coupled with the powerful dynamics of the space, in terms of time,  around a still image, builds the sense of witnessing an event and intimacy. Referring back to my early point, that surveillance and the screen have become the fabric of our daily lives, we then can start to understand how creating a contrast within film and digital moving image by using the media of photography and the still can enable the audience to recognize the message – the moment – and its links with our everyday lives “… pictures provoke us by challenging our perception of – and hunger for – visual authenticity.” (Screen: NewMedia, New Narrative: The Lost Legacy of Film. The Remembered Image, J. Helfand, p132)

Several artists and filmmakers have explored the concept of still within moving image, or have been heavily influenced by photography within their filmmaking, Chris Marker is one such filmmaker / artist. He began his career in the 1950‘s as a photographer and writer, himself inspired by Alfred Hitchcock. Both his films – La Jetee (1962) and Sans Soleil (1983), were seminal pieces. La Jetee, was influenced by Hitchcock’s Vertigo, and made entirely from black and white still photography. The 29 minutes of film is intense in its narration, and the assemblage of stills is as if piecing together evidence and recording actual events – the semiotic values that photography brings with it is partly what falsely creates this sense of real time.  The snapshot – the replication of a moment in time printed as hard evidence, take this and drop it in amongst the sea of digital footage and screen based communication of today – reincarnate the analogue feel of film and traditional photography and it heightens our senses and registers with us as something to remember, “… ironically and inspite of the increasing emphasis on pictures that move, the images we tend to recall, quite often, are those that stand perfectly still …”  (Screen: NewMedia, New Narrative: The Lost Legacy of Film. The Remembered Image, J. Helfand, p132). 20 years after Marker made La Jetee Derek Jarman produced Blue (1993), a film that takes the poignancy of the still within moving image to another dimension, 75 minutes of a blue screen that begins to oscillate with its intensity. This the backdrop for a narrative on terminal illness and the inner most thoughts of the narrator. The nowness of the still image is never more directly felt than in this significant work, the blue of the screen both illustrates and focuses our attention on the spoken word. Using still photography to create a moving image and making us aware of being in the moment and the passing of time, is Sam Taylor-Wood’s Still Life (2001) and A Little Death (2002). As Marker did before her, she eloquently displays the fragility of life as it decays before our eyes. The silence combined with the stillness accentuates the beauty and delicacy of the image. The still life was purposefully staged to refer to classical Dutch painting in the 16th and 17th Century that used the still life to make visual statements about vanity, human life and the passing of time. Dryden Goodwin’s work is focused around voyeurism, capturing private moments as people go about their daily business. He is particularly interested in the scale and the juxtaposition between the frenetic qualities of the moving image, capturing and isolating individual frames – set apart to be viewed individually “… when they focus in on the individual it becomes a much more intimate and one to one contact.” (Dryden Goodwin interview on his work DVD)

The media of film and photography merge significantly in A. Gonzalez Innaritu’s film Amores Perros. A huge admirer of Nan Goldin’s photography, to the point that at a meeting with the producer he took a book of her photography to use as direct reference for the whole look of the film – the producer brought the same book along. Every aspect of the making of this film was heavily influenced by the look of her photography down to the type of film used to shoot it. This film is a perfect example of “… the mediums conflicted relation to movement and stasis … through the encounter of cinema and photography.” (Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography, Karen Beckman and Jean Ma, ed’s, p138) the structure of this film relies heavily on the still image within the moving image which serves to further illustrate time, motion and movement (Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography, Karen Beckman and Jean Ma, ed’s, p137) “… these narrative and formal manifestations of interrupted or strained motion are reinforced by the intrusion of a phenomenal number of still photographs into the mies-en-scene of the film.” . Gonzalez Innaritu’s constant iteration between film and photography reinforces my argument that the still image within the moving image can act as a powerful medium to tell a story or present a potent piece of communication. The intellect of the audience is actively engaged in bridging the gaps of time and space that occur between the two processes (Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography, Karen Beckman and Jean Ma, ed’s, p155) “… he (Gonzalez Innaritu) takes cinema to the edge of itself by staging its repeated encounters with stasis, photography and the instant, creating a visual and temporal gap, a pause for thought and imagination.” .

This play with time and scale alongside media and technology is a recurring undercurrent in all of the work discussed so far, it is not enough to have something to say but – arguably more important – is how you say it, with what medium. Marshall McLuhan in the 60’s, (and Lev Manovich more recently, 2001), expands on this statement in his books The Medium is the Message and Understanding Media, where he explains that any medium escapes attention as a mode of communication until it has content and why it can so easily be overlooked by the designer of visual communication – media is invisible without a message at its heart (Still Moving: Between Cinema and Photography, Karen Beckman and Jean Ma, ed’s, p155) “… he (Gonzalez Innaritu) takes cinema to the edge of itself by staging its repeated encounters with stasis, photography and the instant, creating a visual and temporal gap, a pause for thought and imagination.” . Semiotics is the study of the theory behind sign systems, structures and their meaning. Semiotics can be opened up and related to how we read an image based on the media it has been created with – for example a drawn image will have a different visual message to a photograph of the same image.

Interactive design and interactive screens – the democracy and interaction with the technology and screens we are surrounded by – makes the success of visual communication vital and critically dependent upon our ability to understand narrative, audience and drama (Screen: NewMedia, New Narrative: The Lost Legacy of Film, J. Helfand, p119) the playfulness of the fine artists and filmmakers discussed all use the screen combined with new technologies to create  narrative and drama with great effect, and could be seen as a model for development in the computer screen, using the richness and tactility of these arthouse examples in our everyday consumption of visual communication. We are a sophisticated society that is highly tuned to the subtleties and ease with which the worlds information is at our finger tips, an email is sent in a moment a phone call can be made instantly to the other side of the world, there is no corner untouched by the omnipresent screen and digital communication. Designers tapping into our innate understanding of multiple media and utilizing the impact that still image within moving image have a potent formula to work with. Baron, when speaking about her experimental documentaries says she never sets out to make neatly packaged hour long documentaries that pretend to have all the evidence weighed up and a rounded conclusion formed. She invites the audience to have some intellectual participation, presenting the imagery and footage and asking the viewer to reach their own decisions. In conclusion, this acknowledgment of democracy and participation of the audience and a technology savvy consumer forms the difference between the onesidedness of oration seen in traditional narrative structures and the collective role of storytelling that social networking, the internet and digital screen has to offer – a “… hybridization of alternatives.”  (Post Cinema: Digital Theory and the New Media.)

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