Contextual Media Studies

Surrealism; a 20th-century avant-garde movement in art and literature that sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images.

Dadaism; Dada (/ˈdɑːdɑː/) or Dadaism was an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century. Dada in Zürich, Switzerland, began in 1916 at Cabaret Voltaire, spreading to Berlin shortly thereafter, but the height of New York Dada was the year before, in 1915. Dada or Dadaism was a form of artistic anarchy born out of disgust for the social, political and cultural values of the time. It embraced elements of art, music, poetry, theatre, dance and politics.

Within our first lesson of contextual studies we started to look at surrealism within art and film. The above film was created by was a prominent, Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain – Salvador Dali. Myself including my class had no idea what this video included and got told to not try and interpret it as interpreting it is very hard – until you think further in-depth. Once we had watched the video we were then asked to note down the ‘dream elements’ and bizarre ‘filming techniques’.

Dream Elements within the video; Random things happening, nothing quite making sense, talking within the video but no voices heard, irregular hard to judge facial expressions, bugs ‘eating you alive’ like within nightmares, irregular perception of time, dream like freeze – knowing you can do something and should do something but physically can’t (last second get away scenes).

Film ‘ending’ techniques; light fading out slowly darker (vignette) like a cliche movie ending, circular view which went from large to small, ended up focusing on the butterfly and the movie didn’t actually end, camera angles chopping from cuts making the scenes confusing as the irrelevancy of them, music alterations within the video gathering a false sense of direction as to when the ending will be.

Surrealism art within film started happening during the 1920’s, this gives the classic surrealistic films prominence concerning the black and white colour scheme, which can also add to the curiosity which the films individually create. Considering that the technological world and world around us in general has had huge advancements and changes – some of the surrealist films like the one shown above, can make the viewer squint even with the modern squeamish footage that’s available today. The surrealism avant-garde movement has majorly been influenced upon and effected all art and film that we watch/see today within contemporary society.

The start of surrealism within film was maybe to not only engage the audience/viewers attention via captivating visual imagery, which is aesthetically pleasing to watch. But to also stimulate the viewers mind and thought processes whilst watching – which has proved to become another means of entertainment. Surrealism within movies today has no specific genre as it effects all areas of film.

Within Dada art, surrealism is included usually shocking or outraging the viewer, we had a look at exquisite corpse examples and within the class we all screwed our creative heads on started drawing different segments of the body (head/middle/legs) and passing pieces of paper round adding to the sketch the previous person did (which you couldn’t see) Below were the outcomes;


Homework; Look at a contemporary surrealist film, what was the producers vision? how was it created? sound/lighting-production techniques?

The definition of surrealism focuses on releasing the creative potential of the unconscious mind. The film Donnie Darko was probably the best film I’ve seen within 2016. Richard Kelly is the writer and director of this great film, he has made a handful of other films which are vastly different concerning setting and characters but the majority of the films he has help made/or made share common themes shared such as time travel, existentialism and spirituality. People in this world that have unique mind blowing concepts/philosophies can influence so many people just by sharing their thoughts opinions through media like Richard Kelly has done. The film really makes you think in depth, well for me it did – concerning the world we live in, existence/life wider than our universe and what our role is on this planet as humans. Which I think is awesome that a film that you watched can stimulate your so brain so much after understanding the concepts within it.

The lighting techniques used throughout Donnie Darko are very reflective and cleverly linked to the story line – I picked up that with each encounter Donnie had with Frank the lighting used was obviously dark to convey the negative environment but seemed to get more engulfed by the darkness as the film went on, which can also relate to the darkness Donnie was progressively getting swallowed by (eg Frank) throughout the film. Also Donnie’s face throughout the film was masked by different tones of shade even when everything surrounding and making up the background was light, this could’ve been used to discretely communicate to the viewer the fact that Donnie had deeper worries/struggles within society than the average Joe. Although he still had positive and en lighting aspects within his ‘dream’ such as  Gretchen as a whole. Camera Angles and shots where cleverly exploited to create the effect of time travel, such as when Donnie got off the school bus the camera angle was sideways and creates a dreamy kind of confusing effect, which does also help to keep the viewers eye and attention throughout the film. Low and high camera angles was another effect I picked up on which helped portray power within different scenes of Donnie’s encounter with Frank.

Turner Prize;

Since it was set up in 1984, the Turner Prize has become one of the best-known visual arts prizes. Each year, four artists are shortlisted, and the prize awarded for an outstanding exhibition or other presentation in the preceding year.

The Turner Prize 2016 exhibition showcases the work of the four nominees: Michael DeanAnthea HamiltonHelen Marten and Josephine Pryde.

Encourages a  wider interest in contemporary art.Given to a British artist (those who work or lived in Britain) Independent pannel of judges each year judging. named after W J Turner,the prize turns 30 this year.

Grace and Perry- channel4? how to be a man? masculinity?

Helen Marten;

‘Nominated for projects including presentation at the 56th Venice Biennale & the solo exhibition ‘Eucalypyus, Let Us In at Greene Naftali, New York’

Before: Very vague artist statement, referencing to algorithm, and problem solving linked operations. She talks of the idea which covers breaking down concepts into possibilities of what they actually mean, and how people perceive them. Interesting abstract shapes within her turner prize art pieces which seem very interesting – excited to have a look when I’m at the Tate.

After: viewing the image I captured below was a great experience, and one piece of work shown at the Turner Prize that really intrigued me and stuck with me. The surreal and aesthetic visuals guided the eye and stimulated the brain with possible various outlooks of interpretation. I gathered a sense of different dimensions or possible journeys available within the work shown below. The bed seems to be made to represent a rocket ship with various items placed on it to stretch the individual imagination of what it could be conveying, this also intertwined with the space setting shown on the boards, with the different brains within the sky maybe being seen as planets, linking to various pathways we get to choose in life. Made me think of Donnie Darko relating to the ‘dreamworld’ and the un-answered answers. Another aspect I liked within this piece of work is the strangely but very well composited pieces (linking to the possible various dimensions) and the use of very few vibrant colours which gave prominence.


Anthea Hamilton;

‘Nominated for her solo exhibition ‘Lichen! Libido! Chastity! at SculptureCenter, New York’

Before: It is very hard to actually understand what she is trying to achieve within her short explanation/interview for the turner prize and also vague and nothing specifically pin pointed. Also her heavily influenced work below from Gaetano Pesce’s work, in my view is basically plagiarism in a sense, just set out differently without the foreground/background objects. She mentioned that she created the piece of work from her own understanding, which is open to however other people choose to understand it… she could say it means literally anything and it be classed as acceptable and good, when anyone could literally make any interpretation they wanted.. leaving her work successful either way even if she doesn’t even fully understand it?! Yet I am excited to see her work within the exhibition.

After: A lot larger and impressive, yet hard to analyse once stood in front of it which I guess is her aim for people to have this ‘ambiguity’.. yet any art work can be ambiguous, though to me, this particular image below seems like a get out of jail free card to manipulate someone else’s stolen ‘influenced’ idea. Which irritated me slightly.. Although she still has obviously great creative skills and desire to interact with her audience, and was still interesting to interpret – but honestly I still can’t 100% understand her work which was shown at the turner prize.



Josephine Pryde;

‘Nominated for her solo exhibition lapses in Thinking By the person I Am at CCA Wattis, San Francisco’

Before: Yet again it’s down to how we interpret it, within our ‘minds eye’ and self or own opinion, freedom of speech and thinking. Aspect of movement could be correlated within the miniature train or the 8 boards, just visible to the left of the image below with the abstract shapes, or even the individual images of different places which are surrounding the walls which can actually be related to her aspect of ‘movement’.. which is a positive – relative work actually correlating with her explanation……….

After: The train was the main piece of work by Pryde which grasped my attention, although it’s an easy idea to do, literally anyone could think of shrinking an object but it was relevant to the short brief talk she gave about the ‘movement’ and the fact movement should not be a matter of look, as it’s ‘an ancient common right for people to be able to move’ – again she talks about it being the viewers self or own opinion, which I actually gathered an interpretation of the miniature train piece, which is that relating to what she said about movement being a human right and portraying that anyone should be able to move in any sense, maybe linking to social class (graffiti on the train) having equality of movement and diverse shapes being able to move as well as diverse people (linking with the strange shaped train). The movement aspect within Pryde’s work also made me think of the transition from childhood, with the train being so much smaller, almost like resembling a lego sculpture or a toy train.





Audience Theory:

  1. Why do audiences choose to consume certain texts
  2. How do they consume these texts? (advertisements/TV/word of mouth/Radio/magazine/CD)
  3. What happens when they consume texts? (Snowball effect, your interest and social circle, family, close friends, connected interests – we choose to ingest media)


Media audiences; can be defined in terms of location, consumption, size and subjectivity.

Location – the domestic (home) consumption of media output raises questions about regulation and control.

Consumption – Audiences are defined by what they consume. E.g an audience of a particular genre.

Size – There is a need to distinguish between mass audiences and niche audiences.

Subjectivity – The impact that membership of pre-existing groups will have on audience members, E.g gender, nationally, race, religion.

There are 3 theories of audience that we can apply to help us come to a better understanding about the relationship between texts and audiences.

  1. The Effects Model also called (or) The Hypodermic Model
  2. The Uses and Gratifications Model
  3. Reception Theory

The Effects Model

  • The consumption of media texts has an effect or influence upon the audience.
  • It is normally considered that this effect is negative.
  • Audiences are passive and powerless to prevent the influence.
  • The power lies with the message of the text.

The Hypodermic Model

  • Here, the messages in media texts are injected into the audience by the powerful, syringe-like media.
  • The audience is powerless to resist.
  • Therefore, the media works like a drug and is drugged, addicted, doped or duped.

The above theory supported by Albert Bandura’s Bobo Doll Experiment in which 88% of the children imitated the violent behavior that they had earlier viewed. 8 months later 40% of the children reproduced the same violent behavior. (child’s play)#

The Uses and Gratifications Model

  • Opposite of the Effects Model.
  • The audience is active.
  • The audience uses the text and is NOT used by it.
  • The audience uses the text for it’s own gratification or pleasure.
  • Here, power lies with the audience NOT the producers
  • This theory emphasises what audiences do with media texts – how and why they use them.
  • Far from being duped by the media, the audience is free to reject, use or play with the media meanings as they see fit.
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943)
  • The audience is in control and consumption of the media helps people with issues such as; Learning, Emotional satisfaction, Relaxation, Help with issues of Personal identity/Social identity, Aggression and violence.


  • Controversially the theory suggests the consumption of violent images can be helpful rather than harmful.
  • The theory suggests that audiences act out their violent impulses through the consumption of media violence (GTA)
  • The audience’s inclination towards violence is therefore sublimated, and they are less likely to commit violent acts.

Reception Theory

  • Given that the Effects model and the Uses and Gratifications have their problems and limitations, a different approach to audiences was developed by the academic Stuart Hall at Birmingham University in the 1970’s
  • This considered how texts were encoded with meaning by producers and then decoded (understood) by audiences.
  • The theory suggests that when a producer constructs a text it is encoded with a meaning or message that the producer wishes to convey to the audience.
  • In some instances, audiences will correctly decode the message or meaning and understand what the producer was trying to convey.
  • In some instances, the audience will either reject or fail to correctly understand the message.
  • Stuart Hall identified three types of audience readings (or decoding) of the text:
  1. Dominant or preferred – Where the audience decodes the message as the producer wants them to do and broadly agrees with it… e.g Watching a political speach and agreeing with it.
  2. Negotiated – Where the audience accepts, rejects or refines elements of the text in light of previously held views..e.g Neither agreeing or disagreeing with the political speech or being disinterested.
  3. Oppositional – Where the dominant meaning is recognised but rejected for cultural, political or ideological reasons…e.g Total rejection of the political speech and active opposition.

Audience Theory comparison with music video;

The song I am creating visuals/graphics for applying to Unit 10 is Neopolitan Dreams, which from what I have gathered is about a girl who has recently let someone leave her life for whatever reason. In the first line you can gather this as it’s quite precise; You go, i’ll be okay’ you can also gather an interpretation that it is very indie/alternate evocative/relationship orientated/girl-boy problems due to the subtle, soft dreamy music from the start- mainly  conveyed through the xylophone and soft acoustic guitar, as these instruments are used to back up the genre of the song being a mix of; Alternative/Indie – Indie Pop- Folk.

The second line of the song includes; ‘I can dream the rest away’ which I think could be correlated with the Uses and Gratifications model as it gives the audience the option to perceive it differently, or the way the song is maybe trying to convey the text. The music video consists of her walking through a forest which has a dreamy/dazy effect overlay over the top – making it look dreamlike, which is then left to the audience to interpret whether she’s actually in her dream, or it’s just the setting.

As the genre and audience are already figured concerning Lisa Mitchell’s work, the music video is on the internet available for anyone to view, if they wish so – which I suppose is relevant to all videos and all audiences. The scenes within the music video do relate to the lyrics throughout the majority of this video, so I suppose it’s trying to put out a direct message and show representations/meanings within the words through the visuals – which I guess consumes the Hypodermic Model/Effects Model also, as a direct message/messages throughout are being ‘injected’ into the audience.

I have found that the song and audience related to Lisa Mitchell in general have this nostalgic, independent, chill vibe and attitude which can relate to the Uses and Gratifications model as people who chose to watch this genre and feel of music all have linked characteristics and understanding which builds social cults and solidarity within these cults, building personal and social identity.

Homework – Find own audience theory, compare and contrast audience theories.

connect theory relating to project. Music video, relate audience theory to music video, don’t have to look at effects theory  (hypodermic theory – passive) Uses and gratifications – choice) Reception theory (dominant opposition).

Photography Genre’s

  • Architectural photography
  • Candid photography
  • Documentary photography
  • Fashion photography
  • Food photography
  • Landscape photography
  • Night-long exposure photography
  • Conceptual/ fine art photography
  • Portraiture photography
  • Sports photography
  • Street photography
  • War photography
  • Wildlife Photography

Landscape photography shows spaces within the world, sometimes vast and unending, but other times microscopic. Landscape photographs typically capture the presence of nature but can also focus on motography an-made features or disturbances of landscapes.

Nature photography refers to a wide range of photography taken outdoors and devoted to displaying natural elements such as landscapes, wildlife, plants, and close-ups of natural scenes and textures.

I think landscape/nature photography would have to be the most appealing genre of photography for me, in general – maybe due to living on the Isle of Man, providing beautiful scenery to be explored and exploited concerning this photography genre. This style of genre is also very relevant to my music video and the Neopolitan Dreams music video relating to the visuals I have created – giving a chilled, nostalgic feel towards my video.

Nature and Landscape photography is very good for getting a reaction from the audience in the sense of emotionally captivating them, as the style can be seen as surreal and fantasy like in some cases. They are also very good for creating the correct environment for certain stories; like in my case with graphic animated visuals, text and sound – the actual video footage in the style of landscape and nature can play a massive part in helping to convey a mood or story – mine being quite sad, yet evoking the imagination with a nostalgic and dreamy like characteristic/style, like I’ve already mentioned.

These two photographic genres are also specifically relevant to the images I am using in my vinyl cover and magazine spread graphics, In fact, I am using one of my landscape shots that I have shown above; being –




Other photographs within my specified genre – potential use in vinyl/magazine spread –

Adam Burton;


Both of these striking images by Burton have vibrant, eye capturing colours a long with aesthetic compositions which allow the eye to observe thoroughly and wonder. The two images are categorized as landscape, but obviously cross over the genre of ‘nature’ as landscape images are heavily nature based. I am not entirely sure weather there are specific filters used within these two pieces, but within landscape photography; this isn’t strange or abnormal to see within this genre.

Wider angled lenses are also generally used as this allows having a wider view of the desired subject, this can also add greater depth of field which is another aspect taken advantage of with this style of photography. This also links to me having tested different lenses whilst shooting my music video, to give me varied outcomes. I have tried to play with the depth of field within the vinyl cover above; I managed this by taking two photos of the same subject, with one shot having the foreground in focus, another the other having the background in focus and vice versa, giving it a sort of dreamlike effect, which is what I’m aiming for.

Within my music video I have experimented with different time lapses and tried to capture interesting colours; which linked and draws me to the image above including the exquisite sky and the other images I have looked at which are shown further above.


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