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Archive for February 2012

Wicked Problems!

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Assemblage No. 8, Paper Collage, 8″ X 10.5″, 2011

“Wicked Problems” is the title of a series of collage works I created in 2011-2012.  The works utilize images from retail merchandise catalogs that have been deconstructed and re-assembled into abstract images.  I relied on a personal sense of design to formulate the abstract images, which prompted me to research ways design is applied in a variety of fields such as advertising, engineering and manufacturing.  That led me to come across a theory in design thinking called “wicked problems”, first described by theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin M. Webber in 1973.  Wicked problems represent problems difficult or impossible to solve due to incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize.

Assemblage No. 9 (Icct Hedral), Paper Collage, 8″ X 10.5″, 2011

By human design, consumerism occupies an integral place in our society. It’s natural that people need to consume in order to survive; we require food, clothing, shelter and other material things to make our way through life.  Consumerism exploits these basic life needs and exerts ever greater coercion over people to acquire things that go far beyond their primary needs.  Excessive levels of consumption around the world are contributing to serious threats to the future of our species through global warming.  Today’s levels of consumption is made possible by horrendous exploitation of labor around the world.  Despite these incontrovertible externalities and consequences, the idea of human consumption is a to many a virtue in our society.  It reflects social status, influences our social relations, and can even go so far as to significantly contribute to the formation of one’s identity. 

Assemblage No. 11 (Estuary Diagram Flaw), Paper Collage, 8″ X 10.5″, 2011

My goal with these works was not to be particularly condemning towards consumerism and marketing (although I do have a negative view of that culture), but rather to appropriate the materials from that world and employ them towards a more compelling aesthetic pursuit.  There is a sense of freedom and theft involved in this creative act.  The retail catalogs were originally meant to drive human behavior (shopping, consumption).  With these works I am diverging from the recommended behavior, co-opting the manufacturer’s materials (produced at the manufacturer’s great expense) and applying them toward the creation of abstract imagery focussed on structuring pictorial space in a unique way.  The entire set of the “Wicked Problems” collages can be viewed here.

Assemblage No. 15 (Wicked Problems), Paper Collage, 8″ X 10.5″, 2012


Written by Wes Freese

February 3, 2012 at 3:58 am

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