Constellation PDP

The first term of constellation I studied Smells Like Teen Spirit: Subcultures and Street Style which really interested me when choosing our options. I enjoy learning about subcultures and their style and how they originated. I’m also a fan of Goth and Punk, so learning about those gave me a better understanding. I found the learning process to be fascinating as I was amazed to know why they wore the clothing they did and what significance it had to them. The first subculture we explored was Goths. I learnt a number of things I had been oblivious to before. They took elements from the Victorian era and used it to fit their needs and exaggerated their makeup with black eyes and a pale white face. This wasn’t unfamiliar to me as I have seen what goths looked like, however I never knew the meaning behind it. They also changed the concept of objects. They also considered Gothic Literature and novels that signify their subculture. Which are Dracula and Frankenstein. This conveys the ‘undead’ and horror in which they dressed and looked. This subculture then evolved into many more, as they borrowed ideas and combined features from Goth to link to their subculture.

Punk was my favourite subculture to learn about, and after the lecture I found myself wanting to actually be around in the 70’s to witness it for myself. I can imagine it must have been a culture shock to the society as punks really did want to stand out and challenge the system. I learnt punk enabled women to stand up for themselves and challenge establishment and how women should dress and behave.  It was interesting to learn that the punks were so rebellious, and they would have safety pin piercings, which shocked the public along with their crazy dyed hair, Mohawks and dramatic makeup. What I love the most about this subculture, is that it originated in Britain and how fascinating the punks were by standing out from the normative and making a statement to prove a point to the world. Another subculture was Hip-Hop, although in comparison to the others I didn’t enjoy this one as much, although they had similarities to punks. This was clear when learning that they would exaggerate their gold chains and steal the car symbols to wear as a necklace also to signify rebellion and lack of care for society.  Hip Hop subculture was also similar to the goths, as they weren’t shy of breaking rules to make a complete statement with their clothing. They changed the function of sportswear and used it as part of their everyday attire.

From what I’ve learnt during the first term is that it’s okay to break the rules within reason, and make something unique to stand out. I have always had a desire to challenge my art practice, as I like combining things and putting things together that wouldn’t usually go. From this study group it has enabled me to make that happen even more so than before. Also how looking at things from the past can be great inspiration as you can gain more research and make old ideas modern. Punk has also been a great influence to me in the way that they combined an object or idea to change the meaning. For example, they changed the meaning of the safety pin as they weren’t using it to hold something together. Punk taught me about ‘Bricolage’ the ideology of putting together two things to combine and change the object/idea and meaning, the punks did this by using objects like tampons and safety pins as jewellery. The Hip Hop subculture also reminded me of that certain colours have a meaning and can link in with cultures and being a textile student colour is very important.

The second term of constellation I studied The Body. I found this to be really challenging as the questions and case studies we were given were complex and really made us think. I enjoyed the challenge and liked learning about identities and body modifications. We discussed how people are always wanting to modify their body in a particular way to fit the way society and the media portrays the ideal body. We also discussed the idea on how when we upload our pictures on social media, we are making ourselves an object. This was really interesting to think about, we then had to upload one onto our blog and talk about it. The lectures were also enjoyable as there was a lot of group interaction which was nice to hear other people’s opinions and views.  I also learnt a bit of history of the body in the 19th and 20th centuries. I was fascinated by all of the new information I was containing. During the lecture I also enjoyed the many debates that occurred when we were asked ‘Why don’t men wear skirts?’ and how we are being controlled within contemporary society.

I found all this really interesting and chose to combine The body with Smells like teen spirit for my final summative essay. The process of completing my final work in December didn’t go as well as I hoped due to difficulties I encountered.  I didn’t understand how to read academic texts, as admittedly it is daunting picking up a book and the thought of having to read through it all made me less ambitious for the essay, however I then learnt what to do ready for the final constellation submission. I also found it hard to reference correctly within my writing and not to talk in first person, as it makes it less professional. I overcome this by double checking with the handouts on Moodle on how to reference in the right way and making sure I wasn’t referring to myself when writing the essay. Also having a one to one tutorial with the tutor helped a lot and the academic librarian. I now feel confident in writing and I really enjoyed writing this essay. My confidence has grown with writing and reading through academic’s to back my argument and especially finding them on metsearch. Constellation overall has been challenging, learning all of the new theories was difficult at times, but still enjoyable as it enables you to think differently and put yourself in another perspective.



As part of constellation, referencing and academic readings are crucial to our essays, so Ashley told us a really useful technique on how to read academic theories as sometimes it is daunting when you choose a book from a library and you’re not quite sure where to start. So being told to use the index and search for the key word you’re using to then find the page number was extremely helpful.

I chose to look at Body Modification, edited by Mike Featherstone. My final essay idea is going to be about modifying the body, looking into piercings, tattoos and other ways of changing appearance through going under the needle. I thought this was a great way to succeed in constellation as it’s something I find interesting.

So looking at the first page where piercings are mentioned in the book and it’s titled:

‘Modern Primitivism’:
Non-mainstream Body Modification and Racialized Representation’
Christian Klesse

My understanding of this was very narrow so I googled what ‘Modern primitive’ was as I hadn’t heard of that term before. The google definition is below:

(Modern primitives or urban primitives are people in developed and culturally altered post-colonial nations who engage in body modification rituals and practices while making reference or homage to the rite of passage practices in “primitive cultures”).

This was useful to look into and helpful to know as I gained a better understanding and maybe use that phrase in my upcoming essay.

Introduction: Marking the Body and Marking the Problem.

(Mascia-Lees and Sharpe, 1992; Rubin, 1988; Sanders, 1989) imply that the development of style in western societies has a growing appearance of highly visible modifications on the body which are looked at as ‘practices’. (p.15)

‘tattooing, multiple piercing, branding, cutting, and scarification are some of the more radical, permanent non-mainstream body modifications in this context’ (Myres, 1992).
The use of the word ‘radical’ suggests that all those listed are seen as violent and not very popular compared to other ways you can modify your body, such as Body Play by Fire which is the people who sun tan as a way of modiying their bodies in a subtle way in comparision to scarification.

‘Modern Primitives’ are said to be for the people who ‘repond to primal urges’ to do ‘something’ with their bodies (Fakir Musafar, 1989:13) which could suggest that it’s for those who are more daring than some and have let loose.

Fakir Musafar was the creator of the interesting term ‘Body Play’ for the modern primitive practise.

Musafar also interpets his practise as ‘worship through the body’ which suggests that it’s something positive about exploring ones self through the ways of modyifying the body. and that you’re exploring your ‘spirituality’.

I’ve only read the first few pages on piercings and I can’t believe I didn’t find this book before when I had to hand my essay in for formative. I had a tutorial with Ashley and my first steps are to read up on piercings, get a few academcis point of view on them, think of a question and also book an appointment to see an academic librarian to help me find good journal and useful resources on MetSearch.



Affordance is the possibility of an action between a person and an object. It is the purpose of objects that we perceive visually and they convey information to us.

An example of affordance in the lecture was a door handle, and how we identify a push or pull handle. This is all down to the design of the door handle. It is supposed to be designed to fit the human hand, this is understood by us through the size and shape of the handle. As we know to push a door that doesn’t have a handle sticking out clearly prompting us to pull down. Sothe design is significant to us when we are going through doors in our everyday  lives.

Thinking about how affordance applies to me, whether or not the design is good, I managed to pick out an umbrella I own that I believe is badly designed. The first thing wrong with it is it’s material is PVC, which is great, as it’s strong and keeps you dry from the rain, however in order to close it fully shut you need to use your hands to squeeze it together, as it doesn’t close naturally when you pull the umbrella down. This goes against an umbrella keeping you dry as this then makes your hand wet. The second thing that isn’t practical is the handle.


From the image above, you can see the handle is round and doesn’t fit comfortablly in the palm of your hand. So when you are holding the umbrella it is difficult to keep control when the rain is coming down heavy as the handle doesn’t allow you to have much grip on it. My hands are also fairly small and this handle still isn’t practical for me. The next time I choose an umbrella I will make sure it has a good design affordance, as this never really occured to me until this lecture.


hɪˈdʒɛməni,hɪˈɡɛməni/: leadership or dominance, especially by one state or social group over others.
/ˈbʌɪnəri/ relating to, composed of, or involving two things
Heteronormativity is the belief that people fall into distinct and complementary genders (male and female) with natural roles in life. It assumes that heterosexuality is the only sexual orientation or only norm, and states that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes.
Above are some Google Definitions on those key words we’ve been looking at during this lecture of ‘the body’. We were looking at gender and how it is the way of identifying people in a systematic way.

Subject & Object

This lecture was about ‘subject’ and ‘object’ and how we make ourselves victims of being an object when posting pictures of our selfies online. We looked at how our bodies and identity can be determined by society. We are subject to having control over what we post and only show half of our identity as the photo isn’t our true self. We are allowing others to see what we want them to see, therefore this is classed as objectifying in the sense that the image of myself above that I have posted on various social media sites doesn’t have its own life as it’s only an image of me and not the real thing.

S U B J E C T:  freedom, and how human beings aren’t tied down to do a particular thing, we can do as we please. Subjects are able to communicate with one another.

O B J E C T:   something that has an owner and cannot communicate. For example, the subject can be a human and the object can be a pen, the human can communicate with the pen and get it to do things, but the pen can’t do anything back. It’s never the owner and it contains information.

The selfie I have taken of myself above was definitely a fourth or maybe fifth attempt of the ‘perfect’ photo, meaning the lighting had to be right, angle of the image, and not forgetting that my hair is in place, so I guess I would say I agree in that social media has a massive impact on how we live our lives and post things for others to see, as we are unlikely to post a picture that isn’t perfect unless someone else does it for us.

The Body

So term two has begun and my second constellation study group is ‘the body’. It appealed to me as it explores attention to the body, examining ways in which the body is used in Art. The way the design approaches the body as well as social instructions to the body and identity. I’ve used ‘the body’ a lot in my previous foundation work as my final major project was on mental health and how it affects the body and others around. Although I was making a statement in that line of work, I’m unsure whether I will do something like that again, however it’s just something I’m interested in general.

The relation between textiles and the body:

The body  is very important part of textiles in two aspects. Fashion being one of them, as it is something that covers the human body, making it socially acceptable to live everyday life and keeping the body comfortable. It seems as though fashion is influenced differently in todays world due to the media and how celebrities are depicted with their fashion statements, which is very lack of clothing in some cases. Focussing on more of the aesthetic than what clothing actually does for the body in a sensible way. Clothing can also make the body look and appear a certain way, and make the person happier about themselves if the clothing on their body makes them look good. Interiors are also related to the body as bodies are always associated with interiors on a day to day basis.

Outcomes of ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’

When told we had to write an essay for our formative assessment I was feeling nervous, but as the weeks went on and the available sessions on essay writing I felt more comfortable as I was gaining plenty of interesting ideas. ‘Smells like teen spirit’ has been a great way for me to gain more knowledge of subcultures, especially ones I’ve paid an interest to in previous years. I loved the hidden meanings of each subculture too. It has also taught me about how everything comes back into fashion, and trends are always relevant and re-occurring and that to gain great ideas it’s okay to borrow to gain your own inspiration. It’s definitely going to help me in the future with my own work.

  • Although things change, they are re-invented in the future and present
  • Colour and materials are key
  • It’s okay to break the rules
  • Influences don’t have to come from a particular place
  • Think of the history and function of fabrics
  • Ripping of materials can portray certain things
  • Questioning traditional values
  • Meanings can change.

‘Acceptable in the 80’s’

Postmodernism and Post subcultural style.

In this lecture we were summarising the developments from the 90’s onwards, looking at Osgerby’s extract from 2004. We came to the realisation that in the 21st century it’s where the most borrowing takes place. Although subcultures are always borrowing, in the 21st century there is a mash up ‘super market of style’ of ideas that come from all subcultures.

In the 20th century subcultures had started on the streets, however the 21st century, goth, for example, was identified by the media industries and influenced by television, magazines and online. You can now go into Topshop and buy a whole subculture look. A quote from Steven Connor saying that ‘authentic ”originality” and commercial ”exploitation” are hard to distinguish’ (Connor,1989:185).

I personally think their aren’t any subcultures in todays world, you hardly ever see ‘punk’ or ‘goth’, even when you do there are small amounts or just one or two in a big group. I have asked a lot of my family and friends and they thought the same! That’s my experience living in Cardiff, it mat be different in other parts of the world.  People don’t stay in a certain look anymore, known as “neo-tribes” instead of subcultures. There isn’t a coherent look, taking from each style to create an individual look.

What can we learn from post modern concepts that can inform our practise?

  • Previous sessions – there are still ‘goths’ ‘punks’ etc – just less of them and more ‘supermarket of style’
  • There is no right or wrong answer as to what materials  you use
  • A mash up can inform my practise as I’ve always been interested in using materials that don’t particularly go together – my foundation year helped me realise that as my final piece was evident of post modern.

Punk Subculture

Punk is a very interesting subculture, I take an interest in the punks as they used ‘DIY design’ a lot, I find this links in with my own practise, especially with textiles as you can spend a lot of time upcycling materials and changing it’s original function. It had originated in the 70’s, and they explicitly challenge style establishment. The design rules were set for them to be followed, but not the punks, their design concept was to most definitely not fit in.

During this lecture we looked at Jamie Reeds design of the Sex Pistols album cover, ‘God Save The Queen’. It was interesting to analyse this image and describe it. We came up with the idea that the eyes and mouth and been erased, replaced with newspaper article style, like a ripped magazine and ransom notes. This automatically links to vandalisation, crime, and going against the queen. Covering her eyes means she is unable to be identified. Maybe that’s what the punks wanted? They were rebels and went against rules and the monarchy. The song was actually banned from the radio, as it was a play on the English national anthem, it was seen to have created new meaning and going against cultural traditions and national identity. The Queen was clearly being visually trashed and violence was shown against her image. The use of ‘bricolage’ (gathering different materials, putting a combination belonged elsewhere together creating a new meaning) and ‘resignification’ is present.

Characteristics of punk style – according to Hebdiges article.

  • chains
  • pins
  • cheap fabrics
  • trash aesthetic
  • cut outs of materials pinned on – safety pins
  • leopard prints
  • toilet chain necklace – changing functions & meaning of jewellery in style
  • tampons as earrings
  • colours that don’t go
  • jet black or hay yellow hair
  • fishnets ‘bondage’ belt strap chains

Vivienne Westwood
Mother of Punk

It is said that Vivienne Westwood was the creator of punk. Her formative style of work established the subcultural fashion and youth movement. Punk was a youthful reaction towards the older generation and through Westwoods work and McLaren, her paterner, their work captured the energy of the movement.

Vivienne Westwood designs.

Concepts, approaches, theories that I’ve learnt from this lecture:

  • Bricolage
  • In revolt
  • Homology
  • Breaking rules
  • Putting elements together
  • Conspicuous consumption

What are we learning about subcultures? What does this caste study have in common with previous?

Every case study has used Bricolage in different ways. Identity is shown in various ways, not just fashion, but visually, orally and behaviour expression. Visually shocking during the period at which they emerge. A sense of breaking rules as always. Exaggeration within the fashion and with their behaviour.

What can be applied in my own practise?

  • Everything can be signified
  • Choice of materials/medium you like has a meaning
  • Put it with something it shouldn’t go with
  • Exaggerate work
  • Address traditions of materials
  • Things have been selected, they aren’t just there
  • Explain creative decisions

Throughout my own career with art, I haven’t really noticed that I’ve used resignification within my own work, I’ve put things together that don’t usually go. For example, in my A-levels, I made a tutu out of material and laminate piece of paper to turn it into a dress. I also made a lino print and printed it onto organza fabric. I didn’t think this would’ve worked but it did.

‘Teenage Kicks’

So we had a key note lecture on Doc Martens, delivered by Cath. I was particularly interested in this key note that’s why I’ve decided to write about it. I felt like I was fully engaged when learning of the cultural approaches to the Doc Marten boot. I hadn’t thought about the history or meaning behind them, as I just always think they’re comfy and something fashionable to wear on your feet!

I learnt the original function of Doc Martens and it kind of made me enjoy wearing them even more. In the 21st century Doc Martens are so popular that you can buy them in a lot of other stores now and have any type of colour and design you want. They weren’t always mainstream fashion though, or even seen as fashionable. The original function was completely different and I was interested by this. They were solely made for work wear, the ‘air wear’ sole was designed for comfort, marketing the public service workers. They were made by a German  company and founded in 1947.

The boots had been a popular choice of footwear among various groups, starting in the British subcultures, turning the boots into iconic footwear. In the 1960’s skinheads started to wear them, they renamed them as “dms” which still remains in the 21st century. By the late 1980s they were popular among punks, some new wave musicians, and members of other youth subcultures.

Doc Martens being adopted by street cultures from 60’s onwards had become some sort of issue. The mods, punks, skinheads were attracted to the anti fashion – of course Doc’s weren’t seen as fashionable back then and had a specific look. The only colours available were oxblood and black. The police had wore the black as they were designed perfectly for their line of work. As a result of the skinheads wearing the Docs, they started to polish over the yellow stitching as they didn’t want to be associated with thug and crime.

To show which group you were a part of you’d do your laces in various ways. There were set rules in each group. I find this really interesting as people who purchase a pair of Doc Martens nowadays probably don’t think of this and how the lace had an impact and gave clues of who you were and what you were about. Doc Marten boots was definitely a starting point of modification, having an object and changing the style to suit your own preference. The street style and customisation of the past has now influenced the new generations as designers  are making the boots look like they’re covered in paint, whereas the punks would just completely wreck their boots and use real paint.

“Stand for something”

We had a reading of a guy who had worn his first pair of doc martens to school “detention…as I insisted on wearing them to school…” (1978) I was fascinated by this as I couldn’t imagine in the 21st century someone getting told of or detention for wearing them to school. As I think now Doc Martens actually cater for school attire. “70’s/80’s police confiscated them”. So, thanks to the skinheads and punks, the Doc Martens actually became fashionable to wear and now mainstream.

After this lecture, it made me think of how an object can have a social life and speak for itself without you even realising. I think that I could take this into my practise with me. As I do textiles, when working on a particular design or surface pattern, I need to think back to this and remember that there is always going to be a customer profile and what meanings my work conveys and who it is going to appeal to the most.