Don't be cool

Posted on by Ben Hodson

This is a poster up at the University of Bedfordshire, the slogan is from the Incomplete Manifesto for Design.  The words, started making me think about my work and how often, I do things because of what other people think.  Its not that I am trying to be "cool", but there is a certain element of wanting people to think "wow" when they look at my work.  Some of this is due to one of the main points of my work is social responsibility, therefore people hopefully will be affected by what I create and therefore the role of the viewer is important in my work.

Writer: JG Ballard

Posted on by Ben Hodson

“I suspect that many of the great cultural shifts that prepare the way for political change are largely aesthetic.” (JG Ballard, 2004) argued the British novelist James Ballard.  I have been researching in the with the assumption that this statement is true, namely that art is an important forerunner to social and political change.


If Ballard's statement is true; public opinion is a catalyst to political and social change.  This would certainly seem to be the case in democratically based governments.  The former Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago suggested that; "Democracy, finally, rests on a higher power than Parliament. It rests on an informed and cultivated and alert public opinion." (Eric Eustace Williams 1938). 

Writer: Susan Sontag & war photography

Posted on by Ben Hodson

War photography is clearly something that draws the public’s attention to the reality of the world around them.  The writer Susan Sontag suggests that there is now “ war without photography” (Susan Sontag 1977).  As Sontag compared photography to previous forms of art, she suggested that along with the invention of photography came a greater level of “sanctity” to the imagery.  The images were suddenly connected closely to truth.  In terms of documenting war it was now no longer created by the imagination of the artist such as in Goya's Los Desastres de la Guerra (The Disasters of War).  My initial assumption was that we could see in a direct and quantifiable way the dramatic effect of a single photograph on the course of a war. 

After exploring two of the most likely images to fit this description from the Vietnam War, this assumption appears not to be totally correct.  I found that there are too many other factors which contributed to these changes.  I would therefore suggest that an image can contribute to a change in the course of human history. However, it cannot solely cause a dramatic permutation without other major factors influencing this change.  The problem with this research is that it mainly comes from secondary sources and it remains impossible to find recorded text which is objective.  War, (especially where the USA or the UK are involved), has the tendency to produce strong opinions.  Not being alive at the time of the Vietnam War has made it hard to know how well the history books had recorded all the information that would be relevant for my line of enquiry.  

Quote: Stalin

Posted on by Ben Hodson

The Soviet Union dictator Stalin argued that, “One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.”(Joseph Stalin)  Although I do not agree with the ‘spirit’ of the statement, in reality there is truth in the statement as we find we need to identify with the individual in their suffering before the reality of the suffering of large numbers hits home.