Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I was invited to respond visually to the concept of value in the context of a special issue of the London International Law Review devoted to the topic.

I felt compelled to start at the most basic question: what is the relationship between the concept of value and any collection? I started with a hunt for visual clues in that most prolific of London international collections, the British Museum, and I never fully left (although I did experiment with playmobile for a time)

Key influences in the form and content of the final piece were John Berger's documentary series and book (1972, especially as seen through the eyes of Michael Rock in 2011) both entitled Ways of SeeingAnother significant influence was a quote from designer Jan Van Toorn:
'Museums should relate to the public as a partner in dialogue not as a teacher.'
(Quoted in Poyner 2008, p. 38).  
Below are some images from my initial visit to the British Museum that did not make it into the final version, as well as some other experimentation, and an early draft layout. The final version is accessible via the volume 4:1 of the London International Law Review.


Gift giving exposes/creates value of the gift and receiver
Valuing continuity and change
Valuing humans as property through insurance
Value in quantity 
value evidenced in repair
A possible visual language for value
Experimenting with other formats

Berger, J. (1972) Ways of Seeing Penguin
Poynor, R. (2008) Jan Van Toorn: Critical Practice 010 Publishers

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As part of my MA in Graphic Media Design at London College of Communication I was asked to explore how 'we formulate a critique and articulate a position through design' using the unfamiliar form of a visual essay, specifically by responding to one of three 'source materials' (articles). I chose Max Bruinsma's contribution, entitled 'Watching Formerly Reading', to the ireadwhereiam project.

We used visual tools to analyse the piece as a group. This lead us to focus on Bruinsma’s insight about growing overlap and flattening of hierarchy between watching/reading, and between oversight/insight.

Later I cut up the article, revealing further insights:
We read differently. We process more text. Image has become text.

This linked me back to earlier (2014) ideas I expressed in an article on 'The Case for a visualised economic sociology of legal development' about the fact that we need to explore images/objects, as well as text, if we are to understand econo-legal life. 

Meanwhile I faced Jan Van Toorn’s compelling demand that design ought be content-based, open and dialogic, establishing a conversation into which the audience is empowered to insert itself. So I began a dialogue with academic colleagues, asking them to send me their non-text sources. 

I experimented with them, trying visually to express ‘reading differently’ and ‘processing text’, and to practice semiotic techniques introduced in a lecture by Vanessa Price at London College of Communication. 

This highlighted that crucial marker of worthwhile reading/watching: critical engagement. I found this idea reflected in Bruinsma’s final words: ‘If you really want to fathom something, you will have to watch.’ 

Following a brief, total, loss of direction, I read and watched John Berger (1972/2008) on looking (p.9) and collecting (p. 30), and realised could better ‘fathom’ images I had consciously collected. I settled on images from my research into econo-legal aspects of Cyprus as a British protectorate (1878-1914), colony (1914-1960) and contemporary postcolony, conducted at and around the Centre for Visual Research and Arts (Nicosia).

I experimented with  i' format (circular slideshow with sound). It was too closed to be dialogic.  A photo of Nicosia's ‘walk the walled city’ graphic provided the centre for a solution: I set type to reflect its circular path, other images fold out from it, each layout loosely organised by topic (e.g. occupation, development) and visual content. A dialogue opened between walker/reader and images.

The folded format allowed progressive disclosure and low-level interactive dialogue. But the Paris Salon/Warburg-style (Johnson, Undated) layouts were too closed.

My project was rescued when I followed advice to closely read visual relationships between my sources. I eventually fully integrated images within each layout. My visual language (layering, interlocking, echoing) hinted at possible connections and their inherent fragility, and was inspired by the commitment of the Association for Historic Dialogue and Research (Cyprus) to ‘dialogue and multiperspectivity’ in history.

I chose heavy, tactile paper-stock and bolted binding to evoke the impermanence of apparently rigid structures/perspectives. I aimed for Lee’s (2014) calm tone using quiet palette and generous white space. The typeface (Traveling_Typewriter, Carl Krull) echoes British Government papers.

Some elements of the final output are too small/faint, and I am in two minds about whether the images are still (differently) closed.

I plan to produce visual essays in future legal research despite hurdles of copyright costs and inflexible publisher guidelines. The first, 'Valuing collections/Collecting value' appears in the London International Law Review.

Critical statements on all of the projects produced in response to this brief, together with comments on them, can be found on the course blog.

Berger, J. (2008, 1972) Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin
Johnson, C. (Undated) Mnemosyne: Meanderings Through Aby Warburg’s Atlas (1924-1929) Available at (Accessed 15 December 2015)
Lee, D. (2014) ‘I can't give you an answer as matters stand’ Available at (Accessed 15 December 2015)
Perry-Kessaris, A. (2014) ‘The case for a visualized economic sociology of legal development’ 67 Current Legal Problems 169-98
Van Toorn, J. (2015) ‘Staging the Message’. Lecture. London College of Communication 25 November 2015

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Preview: Mercury Award nominee Sam Lee performs 'Goodbye My Darling' on his doorstep. The audio appeared in our final publication on Ridley Road at 11:00 on 11.11.15
As part of my MA in Graphic Media Design at London College of Communication I was asked to consider how one might use 'narrative as a tool to provoke a meaningful reading' of a 'chosen site/subjects to a specific audience.' The location was Ridley Road Market in Dalston.

Choosing a tool
Our first task was to choose a observational tool (film, audio, camera, bag...) I chose a pencil and paper and tried to find unusual uses for them.

model making
paper as bag
Field trip
Our field trip began in a church with a talk by Dutch artist Yeb Weirsma during which she shared an astonishing range of resources and ideas on the topic of observation, including a gem of a film, the Girl Chewing Gum, which emphasised the power of the observer to shape narrative.
We had a stunning intermezzo outside the home of Sam Lee who sang Goodbye My Darling, the video of which was recorded in part at Ridley Road market. The song is about transportation to Australia and US. Sam accompanied himself on a Sruthi (taken by British to India, adapted, brought back to England, used by Gypsies with Indian origins who created the song). The last section of the song was done using ‘overtone’ in which the harmonics internal to all voices are exposed. A rich rhythmic, growling, humming sound; overlaid by a light clear tune; both in different patterns. The whole experience included an element of observer/observed as we watched/listened to him singing about the lives of others.
We then moved the market, where we experimented individually with various observational strategies (still and moving, detached and engaged) and tools.

Watching films

using paper to capture building heights 
body movements
sounds, equipment moving, stall patterns
dialogue, chickens, building profiles


Analysis, contextualisation and narrative
Back at the studio, our next task was to pool and experiment with our findings in small groups to try to establish a narrative. Looking back at the sounds, images and experiences we had collected we were drawn to the fact that many people in the market, and in London, have moved here from elsewhere. This lead us to explore sociological ideas of individuality, community and urbanism. Our attention focused on the fact that moving to the city can make you anonymous, part of the landscape, and your daily interactions can become shallower.

grouping photo by theme
randomly attaching dialogue to images
The final narrative, published on site at Ridley Road, was as follows:
  • When we leave, we feel excited but nervous. We captured this in sound by combining (with his permission) Sam Lee’s spontaneous live rendition of 'Goodbye My Darling' with multi-lingual versions of the phrase ‘I’m excited to move to the city, but nervous because I don’t know anyone’. 
  • When we arrive we feel anonymous and lonely, but determined. We captured this in a set of stamps and postcards. 
  • If we want to settle, we need to become better connected. We experimented with ways of improving urban interactions. We realised we cannot control communications between others. We can only improve our own communications and encourage others to do the same. So we created and tested a set of 'social currencies' which might be used to deepen social relations (for example, stickers which can be personalised and added to tips).
  • We produced a document summarising these ideas and distributed it on site and online.
All of the responses to the project brief, together with critical reviews of those projects, can be found on the course blog
listening to Goodbye My darling on site
    social currency
    deployed in a restaurant

publication reverse
our publication read onsite
publication front

EXCHANGE from Amanda Perry-Kessaris on Vimeo.

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