Constellation Summative Reflection

Constellation has enabled me to learn about topics outside of my discipline. This has widened my knowledge and what I have learnt can be applied to my subject. I have found it really interesting and useful to learn about new subjects and writing the essay has improved my writing skills. I have learned how to efficiently find books and reference them correctly in my writing which is an important skill to have.

For my formative essay, I was in the Body in Art & Design study group. I found the group challenging but extremely engaging and interesting. In comparison to this term, I think I could’ve started my formative essay a lot earlier and it would have been an easier process for me. I didn’tΒ go to the library soon enough so I had to collect most of my theory in a big chunk, rather than doing a little bit each day to build up a body of research for my essay. Initially I found writing the essay quite daunting because I hadn’t written an essay in quite a while. I found that when I was writing my essay I sometimes found it hard to word certain sentences in a way that was suitable for an essay format. Eventually I got into it and found that I was on track to be over the word count by quite a lot. I decided the best method to get around this was to write everything that I wanted to say, then carefully read through it discarding parts that weren’t as relevant to the essay. I successfully got the word count down and had the essay up to my best standards by the deadline.

I have focused on the feedback I received for my formative essay to try and avoid the same mistakes for my summative essay. In my formative essay, I personalised some sentences with ‘we’ rather than sticking to the 3rd person. For this essay, I have tried to get out of this habit and stay with using the 3rd person. At certain points in my last essay I didn’t fully analyse some of the points I was making, so I have aimed to make all of my main points clear in my summative essay.

My study group for this term was based on Subcultures. I found this study group really enjoyable to attend. The lectures were interesting and covered a different topic each week. I found the way we analysed images as a class using the columns technique extremely helpful. I used this method for the images I chose to write about in my summative essay. This study group also made me feel confident in referencing and paraphrasing correctly as we practised it each week. This was helpful as when I came to writing my essay I knew exactly what I needed to do. At the end of each session we considered how what we had learnt about subcultures could be applied to our subject. This has helped me consider how what I learn in my Constellation sessions can be applied to my textiles work.

All of the subcultures we looked at went against the mainstream in some form, whether it be goths wearing black lipstick and white foundation or the punks dyeing their hair green and spiking it up. Having a huge list of examples like this shows me that taking risks can start new trends. These subcultures proved that mainstream fashion and beauty rules can be changed. I can consider these ideas in terms of textiles, being more experimental and taking risks will enable me to create more exciting work.

Another similarity in the subcultures we looked at was that they took a lot of their ideas from the past or something that already existed, but modified it to make it unique to them. An example of this would be punks using safety pins as jewellery and Teddy Boys taking the Edwardian suit and making it into a new style. Clarke, Hall and Jefferson (1975) referred to this as ‘re-signification’, and I can see how this theory can be applied to my artwork. They took certain parts of something and combined it with new ideas to create something that hadn’t been done before. This shows me the value in looking to the past to find inspiration. You can take inspiration from the past but modify it to create a new style, and I can apply this to my work in textiles. This could be in terms of materials and techniques used or looking to trends from the past and re-vamping them.

My favourite subculture to learn about in this study group was the punks. I found the way they used their style to draw attention to themselves and cause people to question society thought provoking. The punks are a perfect example of going against the mainstream and rebelling against the rules. They used their style to express their feelings on society at the time. I can use my textiles work as a tool to express my thoughts on current events and gain attention by being more experimental.

Constellation has given me a whole new area of inspiration, the thoughts put forward in the sessions provoke new ideas that can be applied to my practice. The keynotes are great to have a bitesize view into another subject. I particularly enjoyed the keynote on 60s Psychedelia which discussed Art Nouveau. The keynote looked at a variety of different artists including William Morris. We were also shown psychedelic posters from the 60’s which I found really interesting. Widening my knowledge with these extra subjects will be useful in the future. They might fit in perfectly with a brief or theme that I am set and I will already have some ideas based on that subject because of constellation.

The Punks

Punk Style Notes

  • Used ordinary everyday items like pins, bin liners, pegs, tampons, razor blades and lavatory chains in their style
  • Extreme makeup
  • Brightly dyed hair using food colouring
  • Zips and outside seams on show
  • Graffiti, fake blood combined with school uniform as an anti-establishment statement
  • Bondage clothing- fishnets, bodices, leather, belts, rubber, rapist masks, chains
  • Dancing – the pogo, the pose and the robot
  • Basic and angry shouting music
  • Outcast status
  • Piercings in places other than ears, this caused shock as it wasn’t mainstream prior to punk
  • Notions of beauty and acceptable behaviour trashed


Notes reflecting on lecture

  • Punks made political statements through their styles and action (just like the Zoot Suit, Hip Hop etc)
  • The punks changed meanings and functions of objects to shock people, they wanted attention and they wanted to cause outrage. For example, wearing tampons as earrings.
  • Subcultures went against the mainstream ideology and questioned things about society.
  • Subcultures wanted to cause change in society.
  • Subcultures used ‘bricolage’, taking objects and giving them new meanings by using them in an odd way.

Subcultures: Goths, Hip Hop, Zoot Suit, Teds

So far in my constellation study group about Subcultures and Street Style we have covered Goths, Hip Hop, the Zoot Suit and the Teds.

All of these subcultural styles have certain aspects in common. They all show that mainstream fashion and beauty rules can be broken and changed. For example goths using white foundation and black blusher, something not normally considered desirable. Many subcultures take inspiration from the past which is then modified or exaggerated to create a new style. One example of this is the goths taking inspiration from Victorian mourning dress but combining it with white face paint. (Steele, 2008) Another is the Teds adopting the traditional Edwardian suit but making the trousers skin tight, wearing suede shoes, vivid colours and having a long quiffed greasy hairstyle to go with it. (Jefferson 1976)

Subcultures can “counteract a dominant ideology” through clothing choices (Tulloch, 2006, p304) for example, the Teds were not conforming to the ideas of the British class system by adopting the aristocracy style as working class youths. Another example of this is the Zoot Suit being worn despite being illegal due to rationing regulations in the Second World War. This was a way of questioning America’s actions in the war and used as an opposition to White Power. They were making a racial statement through their clothing. (Cosgrove, 1989 cited in Tulloch, 2006) This shows that subcultures can disrupt establishment values.

All of the subcultures we have looked at take existing meanings and change them to create a new style. (Clarke, Hall, Jefferson 1975) One example of this is the hip hop subculture combining sportswear with big gold chains and Trilby hats. (Kellner 1997) These items would not usually be put together, heavy gold chains aren’t suitable to be worn with a running jacket if you were wearing the jacket for its intended use. The Trilby hat was Β associated with upper class gentlemen wear, not rap groups like Run DMC. They wore Nike Air Jordan shoes and took all of the laces out, once again changing the intended use of staying on your foot for running and walking. The combination of all of these things creates the new style.

These ideas are useful to me in my practice, in terms of considering combining objects and materials that don’t necessarily go together to create something new. I will consider how the past and present can be put together to create new meanings and that I can change the meaning of an object based on its use rather than appearance. Inspiration can come from everywhere: clothing, music, culture, literature from any time period.