António S. Gomes Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade de Lisboa Portugal – I Used to Be a Design Student

PORTUGUESE /SOUTH AFRICAN

António Silveira Gomes

STUDENT YEARS

5

A PIECE OF SOUND ADVICE + A SINGLE WARNING TO A DESIGN STUDENT

Design affects the way we perceive information. Students must understand the consequences of their work before placing a new artefact into the world + I would like to quote Cedric Price: ‘Technology is the answer, but what was the question?’

FAVOURITE FOOD THEN

Pasta fredda

YOUR MOST VALUED POSSESSION THEN

At the time I didn’t care much about stuff

YEAR OF PROJECT

1995

STUDENT PROJECT BRIEF

To make a short documentary film to be presented in a class critique simulating a festival ambience, for which we also had to design a poster and a booklet

COLLEGE

Faculdade de Belas Artes da Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon (Portugal)

TUTOR(S)

Aurelindo Ceia

COLLABORATOR(S)

José Albergaria (coauthor) Pedro Correia (voice dubbing and translations)

TITLE OF PROJECT

b.b.w: The Life and Times of Bill Burst Williams

TECHNOLOGY

Hi8 amateur camcorder, Polaroid Sx70 film, Letraset, photocopied images, Rotring artpen, Indian ink, Tipp-Ex, sticky tape, watercolours, paintbrushes, a PC and an overused Epson jet printer, scenery paper and glue.

TIME SPENT

1 month

TYPEFACE

Letraset, hand-lettering (mostly scrawl), system font (probably Arial)

WHY DO YOU LIKE THIS PROJECT?

Our response to the brief was inadvertently closer to the mockumentary form, which made the whole experience more interesting as a learning device – playing with narrative to reach a critical understanding of an artist’s work, in this case, that of the artist Bob Flanagan.

WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT IT?

Nothing.

OUTCOMES

The storyline for the film was a fake (five-minute) biopic constructed around the artist and poet Bob Flanagan in an attempt to understand the relationship between his art and the excruciating pain he felt during his performances. We first traced his identity (under a fictitious name) and then cross-examined his work through the eyes of four stereotypical art-scene characters. Due to technical restrictions, the film was shot in one take. We designed a huge map/collage to be the main scenery and making the film involved walking over it, shooting one continuous take, and dubbing live music from tapes and doing sound effects like a bad Kung Fu movie. We had to shoot the film more than once to get it right, so in a way it was like choreography. It was a physically tiring project and we felt a certain satisfaction when we managed to get it right. Making the scenery – a 4ú2-metre illustrated chart – and then walking all over it as we filmed also put us in a destructive relationship with our own work, echoing Flanagan’s sadomasochism. We never had any particular fondness for Flanagan’s performance work, yet as we delved deeper into his writings we encountered an incredible consistency in his thought.

FEEDBACK

There were some negative responses, given the brutality of Flanagan’s work. Still, the film was later chosen for an experimental video festival and it now belongs to the Lisbon Municipal Videotheque archives. We never got to send the film to Bob Flanagan because he passed away soon after, in 1996.

PROJECT SIMILARITIES THEN AND NOW

The contexts were very different, but there were nonetheless natural similarities between the projects. The student project is about a body of work that spreads over 20 years of suffering; the professional one is a moment in time where two communities mingle and celebrate over a thousand years of difference. Both challenge us as designers to represent problems of identity: an artist with a chronic disease and the identity he constructs through his work; the autonomy of a Gypsy community that bought land in a European country and began to settle. Each problem is addressed in both projects through a mapping device: a family tree, a street map or an imaginary cartography functions as scenery. And both projects were made with minimal costs in resources such as fonts and paper output. In the case of the Baralha project, we worked not-for-profit.