Painting outside the lines

If pieces of art go against the social norm, do they make us see the world in a new light?

There are few things in the world that allow us to express ourselves the way that the arts do. Art has an uncanny ability to make us feel empowered, accepted and less alone.

Arguably, the best thing about art is that it has the ability to inspire us. It makes us feel something and can help us turn feeling into action. It can drive us, motivate us, spur us on to act.

Mavericks in Literature

Tracy Chevalier‘s collection of short stories is entitled Reader, I Married Him – inspired by the most famous line in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. The conclusion to the collection reflects on one of history’s first stories to defy social expectations.

Set in 1847, the heroine Jane Eyre is an impoverished orphan with no other family who, by the end of the novel, becomes a governess, the underdog who rises from the dirt. In the 19th century women had little power to determine their own future, so you would expect the line to go “Reader, he married me,” or even “We got married.” But this story sees Jane making the choice to spend her life with Rochester and be the driving force of her own life.

To celebrate and remind people of that self-determination and going against social norms, Chevalier created a collection of short stories from this generation that have the same effect of encouraging people to strive for change (To buy the book, click here).

Reader I Married him by Tracy Chevalier

Tracy Chevalier’s collection of short stories Reader, I Married Him (Credit: The Borough Press)

Illustrated Rebellion

In modern times, new platforms are supporting artists going against society’s expectations. Kidmograph, also known as Gustavo Torres, is an Argentinian video artist, illustrator, and art director who tackles social issues through his art.

He makes Matrix-style GIFs and music videos that sit between both the digital world and reality whilst denying to commit to either. It reflects on modern day society and how people live their lives in part in the ‘real’ world whilst the other half is stuck in the virtual one.

Musical insurgents

Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes lyrics speak even louder. The politically charged anti-Trump anthem Land of the Free by The Killers touches on a variety of important issues currently happening the US.

The second bridge of the song opens with the powerful line “but if you’re the wrong colour skin (I’m standing, crying), you grow up looking over both your shoulders,” referring to the ongoing race issue in America, and reflecting on topics discussed in last year’s Blackkklansman by filmmaker Spike Lee, who created the music video and is an outspoken critic of President Trump.

The song refers to Trump’s plans to build a wall segregating North America and Mexico, and addresses gun violence and school shootings:

“So how many daughters, tell me, how many sons do we have to have to put in the ground before we just break down and face it: we got a problem with guns?”

Interview: Ayshia Taskin

Edinburgh artist wants to reduce food waste and global hunger – one corn puff at a time.

Ayshia - Rachel

Artist Ayshia Taskin (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)

Meet Ayshia Taskin. She’s a mother, an artist, a wife, a student – and now, thanks to her recent project, an engineer.

With her installation performance art piece, Paradise Corns, Ayshia hopes to prompt visitors into conversations about the impact food waste and modern day corporate consumerism has on world hunger. Paradise Corns – the name of the machine Ayshia built herself – churns out edible corn puffs which visitors of the exhibition are free to help themselves to.

When I first encounter Ayshia, she envelopes me in a friendly hug. In the interview below, Ayshia passionately discusses the personal connection Paradise Corns has to her and about her hopes of a world in the not-too distant future where food waste has drastically reduced and everyone is happy and healthy with a full belly.

I thought that was all my life was going to work in hospitality, I never thought I was going to be an artist. I’m the first in my family on both sides to go to university. I’m really lucky because my husband took the brunt financially, he told me to finish university and focus on my art. Luckily I got funding to go to Venice, there are some really supportive tutors at ECA. I always try and keep myself and my work down to earth. It gives me a good worth ethic.

I think what happens in your childhood really affects you when you grow up. When I was a kid in Cyprus, me, my brother and sister would see the British tourists with an abundance of food and enjoying their holiday. I think that sticks in my brain that I was born in Britain but only had a bit of couscous to eat. It is very surreal to look back on.

Ayshia - credit to Ayshia

“Paradise Corns” produces an abundance of corn puffs (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

When I look and see people still starving in 2018 when we shouldn’t be – we have all these factories and mechanisms to make things available to people – it’s very irritating in my mind the way the system works and they don’t necessarily want everyone to have an abundance of food or anything because it’s all about the capitalist system. I think we are at a point where we don’t need capitalism anymore. There’s enough food in the world but it’s not distributed properly.

I don’t like to see the waste. It’s unnecessary. In the West we are so disconnected from other countries who don’t have access to food at all. If everyone was just more aware of the rest of the world, and how people in the world are struggling to survive then things will change.

“Paradise Corns” is the amalgamation of performance, multi-sensory methods, i.e. olfactory senses, sight, smell, taste and auditory. Visual stimuli in the form of video and the literal production of food – auditory stimulation in the form of the sounds of the milling machine, extruder and videos. I created a set of films as part of the Paradise Corns project that are inspired by adverts from the 90s. They were very child-focused…bright colours…very appealing. ‘You can have this, when you want it’…but not really if you don’t have any money. It helped create a spoiled society and food waste.

I harbour a fascination of mass food production and consumerism. When I watch documentaries about starving people, food waste, countries unable to feed their people and my son asks, ‘well why don’t we just send food’. I always think ‘yeah we could, but that’s not going to sustain them’. People need to eat everyday so if I make a machine, you can make a machine too.

Ayshia-Taskin-Paradise-Corns - credit to Ayshia

Ayshia constructs her masterpiece (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

I didn’t study engineering but I built a machine. It shows that women can engineer things. I’m not an engineer – I’m not even good at basic mathematics – but when you have such a desire to make something or do something for a purpose you just have to go for it.

Women are held back from doing engineering jobs because they don’t have the belief they can do it because it’s so historically male dominated. I think we have to encourage girls from young age to be interested in engineering and building things. The logic brain is considered masculine and the creative side of the brain is considered the feminine, sensitive side. To this all starts at childhood, so I think it’s important for parents and teachers to give girls mechanical sets.

We should all try our best but it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of individuals. The Council should provide more outdoor space to grow your own things – fruits, vegetables, corn – whatever! It’s more sustainable. I would love for anyone to be able to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever they want and to have an abundance of food, but it’s just not possible.

I set up a free-for-all pantry in the studio. I wouldn’t say it was me, I would just do it. I set myself a budget of five pounds a week to get as much as I can and then everyone can help themselves. People in the studio can add to it they want but not forced to, or don’t have to spend as much as a fiver.

With Paradise Corns, I’m creating the food waste and I want it to look shocking. The project has so many layers. I don’t want to tell people what to take away from it – they may want to just take a corn puff! But I hope the work inspires people to question how food is made and consumed so we can create a future where people do not starve.

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