Commodity Fetishism – Systems & Production of ‘Value’

Evaluative Reflections…

Evaluation Considerations/Criteria from Module Handbook:

The evaluations are 2,000 and 2,500 word theoretical and critical commentaries on your project. Make explicit reference to your reading and research and include a bibliography. They should cover:

• Reflection on the theoretical and conceptual approach of your project.

• The theories that were useful to the development of your project.

• How those theories and your reading impacted on your project.

• How the development of the project and your experience of producing affected how you have understood the theory you have been engaged in.

• The initial conceptual basis of the project.

• How this has changed through the process of production.

• Why you made design choices embodied in your piece.

• How you decided what to leave out and what to include.

• What you learnt about the grammar of your chosen medium.

• What you learnt about yourself as a media producer.

• Your critical commentary should not be simply a chronological account of the project – the best commentaries will evidence a high degree of reflexivity in that they will show your ability to reflect intelligently about the process rather than simply reproduce it. The evaluation must contain a bibliography to pass.

Definitions of Waste…

Summary of Proposal Intentions:

  • My intentions were to create a set of images that made visible the effects/implications of capitalist consumption through the convergence between commercialized and artistic representations of everyday waste through the study of objects and their lifespan.


  • I intend to broadly explore the concepts and systems of ‘Value’ within capitalist regimes through the representation of everyday waste in a discarded and abandoned state.

Here are the Systems of Value…

‘Recapturing & Reimagining Commodity Disposal’ 

  • Items that are used and are permanent, not considered as disposable (e.g. Furniture, kettles)
  • Items that are single use and are recyclable… (e.g. cans, cardboard)
  • Items that are single use and are not recyclable thus having no value…. (E.g. Toothpaste, Pill packets, Condoms)

What have I done so far?

  • Broadly explored both notions of both Public and Private waste practices/behaviors within contemporary culture.


  • Explored object-based narratives, investigating and photographically documenting the lifespan’s of everyday commodities; examining their uses, disposal and ultimately their demise.


  • Confronting the notions of “What is out of sight, is out of mind”, directly challenging the invisible nature of discarded trash; questioning what happens to items when they are thrown away… Why do these become invisible when they are discarded? Making visible the hidden implications of consumption.

Theoretical Research / Critical Practice:

[What works well with each artist/practice, how have I incorporated this into my work?]

[Unpick why the sound is important, how does sound work to provoke visceral reactions?…]

[DO NOT DESCRIBE list WHY| Why Vs What? ]

Vanitas Paintings – Still Life 
  • Death, Material symbolism | Waste objects are symbolic of humanities impeding demise of humanity and the materials in which they have created
Commercial Aesthetics & Research
  • Combination of both Commercial and artistic values |  Adopted and incorporated several commercial techniques in artistic ways that work to raise awareness to capitalist modes of consumption and waste.
Laurie Frankel & Diane Gatterdam
  • Modern Day Still-Life | Merges both historical and contemporary art forms and techniques such as still-life composition, whilst taking the grotesque waste and trash and representing it as something of muse and beauty; by taking vernacular and mundane object/waste and representing it in such as historical and recognized artform, they have successfully created a contemporary piece of art that invites prolonged contemplation and reflection. I will adopt a similar technique in initially adopting a still-life-esque construction that contrastingly, presents singular objects, against a void-like black background that invites deep contemplation.
Photomedia Reader 2016-2017
  • Still-life and Photographic conceptualization | Initially introduced me to critical theories such as still-life and symbolic truth, I used this as a foundation-like starting point in which I build and conceived this project around.
Plastic Bags, Guy Hawkins
  • Waste circulation, management, and flows | Provided a critical framework in which explores the methods and techniques available for managing and critically questioning waste management within contemporary culture. I came across this text in my first year and this inspired my initial interest in reflecting and investigating waste practices and behaviors within contemporary culture. Explored the circulation, behaviors, and implications of waste that directly results from capitalist and commercialized consumption, alongside the monumentus rise in the use of packaging. This provided a basis in which I built by media project around. (Although my focus here is predominately centered around the medium of Photography, whilst also utilizing audio and video-based media.)
Irving Penn, Cigarettes Still Life
  • Cigarettes, visual dissection | Irving Penn created a photographic series that depicts used cigarettes in single profile format that draws the viewers attention to focus directly and solely on the cigarette itself alongside the intricacies and textures that are present on its surface. Penn inspired my initial interest in examining waste items in s single profile that works to reveal texture, surface details, and intricate defects.
Cindy Sherman
  • Tensions between Abject Beauty | C. Sherman has been a fundamental influence on my work and practice over the last few years, I am particularly interested in how she utilizes juxtaposition as a key technique within her work. Sherman takes explicitly grotesque and abject material (including vomit, acne, dirt, hair, filth etc.) but contrastingly, she presents these images as high definition, tonal, high gloss images that are large format and visually engrossing; simultaneously, both attracting and repelling its viewers. Within my project, I have adopted a similar method, in the sense that I am creating HD photography that will be presented as large format and high gloss prints that depict the grotesque and taboo nature of everyday waste whilst also playfully recreating and depicting systems of value within capitalist cultures.
Richard Kiely / Khung Nguyen / Vladimir Tatarevic 
  • These were all commercial style photographers that gave me an adequate and in-depth knowledge of commercial style photography that outlines its many characteristics and aesthetics. Allowing me to adapt visually enticing images that successfully reappropriate commercial photography, that work successfully to represent vernacular waste as an object of visual consumption, and critical reflection on consumption and waste practices that result from capitalism. Representing the Grotesque and taboo as beautiful and important.
“Let’s Call it Love” (2001) by Brenda Beban
“Surviving New Land” (2009) By Marjoijn Dijkmang 
  • I wanted to create an initial sense of rhythm, building a sense of pace and narrative that gradually builds and intensifies and then peaks off. I like the idea of using the act of looping and repetition as a way of disrupting the flow and building tension and unease.
  • I particularly liked “Surviving on New Land” as it incorporates elements of visual non-contingency and montage, this clip takes extracts that are remotely linked to the content on the screen, incorporating recognizable and iconic extracts from well known-movie titles. This worked in a way that engages and confuses the viewer as they are trapped in a cycle of attempting to remember what each extract is from. In this instance, I also like Dijkmang’s approach as this also invites the viewer not only to reflect on what they are hearing but also what they were doing/where they were when they first saw that clip; thus, creating a somewhat engaging and personalized experience that is subjective and dynamic. I intend to create a similar effect by taking popular and recognizable adverts, brands and extracts, and reconstructing them in a sort of audio-montage as to invite engagement, attention and personal reflection. [i.e. What was I doing when I first heard the ‘Cilit Bang’ advert?]



  • Successfully adopted and merged both commercialized and artistic styles that converged to create dramatic and visually enticing images that fetishized vary commodity forms at the end of their lifespans.


  • I am re-generating a sense of value and visual importance. As these discarded waste, items have become an artistic representation and critique of capitalist modes of consumption and waste.


  • Shooting on a black background has allowed me to successfully isolate each object, drawing the viewer’s attention and focus to the dirty, imperfect and tatty nature of each item, highlighting and accentuating surface textures and intricate details.


  • In adopting both visual and technical methodologies that are commercialized, I have also successfully (Black-background, Studio setting, Backlighting etc.) raised awareness to commercial/capitalist marketing strategies.
  • A mixture of Audio/Visual media has incorporated a media advert mix-up that is jumbled, unsettling and disorientating, a mix and layering of existing adverts masked simultaneously overlapping… creates a disorientating and settling experience that provokes contemplation or reflection whilst also raising awareness to the pervasiveness and over-saturation of capitalist advertising within contemporary culture.


  • Incorporate the actual items breaks the fetishization… Thus emphasizing commercial techniques that sell us commodities…


  • The juxtaposition between visually enticing sharp detail and high-resolution colors that depicts the grotesque characteristics of waste/post-consumption that invites contemplation and critical reflection upon consumption and waste practices within the context of the everyday.


  • Utilizes a juxtaposition/blurred the boundaries between the birth of the commodity form (becoming a fetishized object of desire) which is contrasted by the death of an object as it returns to material substance (void from value or usage, merely material essence remains)
  • Incorporated a multi-media/multi-disciplinary approach within this project, simultaneously incorporating video both audio/visual stimulation that engages many senses. This project predominantly centers around the medium of photography, whilst also being supplemented by audio and video media; all mediums converge to immerse the viewers within a sensory overload that invites critical reflection upon everyday waste/consumption.
  • The video/audio mixup will raise concerns around capitalist modes of consumption whilst also be paying direct attention to the oversaturation of advertising that has exploded into every day over the last century. Whilst also raising awareness to the extent in which advertising and marketing techniques have developed and changed with time (e.g. In contrast, nowadays, advertising has become more subtle with a direct focus on situating products within a narrative; thus creating relatability amongst consumers).  This piece will center around the notion of time, experimenting with remixing and creating micro-narratives within small snippets of the clip with sound and audio working together to complement the entire installation.
  • This edit has cut, chopped and spliced secondary clips (taken from advertising), and they have been sped up, slowed down and reversed, which ultimately all work together to embody a sense of visual overload as the viewer becomes embodied within the chaotic realm of capitalist propaganda.
  • Within my video piece, I did initially face some eventualities that centered around issues of video resolution and quality. However, I managed to overcome and re-appropriate this eventuality and turn this into a positive within my project as the apparent disparity between video resolution has actually worked to accentuate and highlight the developments within adverting over the last century. With all media disciplines (namely; Photography, Video and Audio) has become an integral part of this project. Photographic Mugshots! / Tableux.


Faced several minor setbacks from start to finish, initially facing issues such as…

  • Finding adequate space in which to shoot and control my lighting conditions; representing a space in which I won’t be disturbed or disrupted


  • Faced difficulties in finding material objects that appeared to have a particular state of disrepair or visually prominent evident of aging or dirt.  Wast is quite well regulated so getting hold of unusual items that visually appeared discarded and tainted by use and or neglect… It is surprisingly difficult to get hold of discarded or visibly damaged items that move away from typical street waste. It is mostly the case nowadays that (if good enough!) are given on, or sold or donated to charities or other causes or… in bleak contrast, are simply discarded and thrown out or put into landfill.


  • Faced some difficulties with studio shooting, some shots were more successful than others, due to the form and appearance of some of my objects, they were difficult to light (e.g. cigarette buttes and flattened cans) Also, faced some issues with shooting dark objects against a dark background however, I was still able to achieve some really successful images.


Other Points to consider…

Abstraction | Play of light on a surface blurred the object into the black background

Indexicality |  The trace of light touching an object

Critical Grammar | How I am using Photography, Video and Audio, why are these appropriate to my project? Both artistic and commercial techniques that invite artistic / cult value, Problematization of representation… My project is representing waste as an art form of visual importance and thus crucial and intellectual reflection.

Texture & Sensation | My project and photographs depict texture and are concerned with sensory stimulation, My project also incorporates and features many different textures/layers (Visual/Photographic | Audio/Touch –> Different readings, perceptions and interpretations available, each person has a different experience.

  • Visual Overload | 5-10 mins user experience, screen installation w/ headphones…

Annotated Bibliography…

Linder, C. and Meissner, M. (2015) Global Garbage: Urban Imaginaries of Waste, Excess and Abandonment. [Online] 1st ed. London: Routledge. [Accessed 19th October 2017]


  • Provides an in-depth discussion of contemporary issues into waste and consumption practices within Western Cultures…


  • Shed’s light on some of the implications and effects that are resulting from waste. Discusses how waste is circulated, distributed and processed globally. Also discusses some approaches that may allow for more efficient management. Discusses the circulation, flow, and value of waste and how the commodity form never actually loses its ‘value’ but rather retains material value…


  • Gave critical information on which to base, my reflections and project around, providing insight into the dynamics, value, and circulation of waste and consumption.

Hawkins, G. (2005) ‘Plastic Bags’ in the Ethics of Waste: How We Relate To Rubbish. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, pp. 24 – 35

  • Discussing waste management and circulation within contemporary culture. Discusses waste within a historic and vernacular context listing historical development of consumption and the rise of packaging and how this led to overconsumption and waste within commodity relations. Discusses practices of waste in relation to personal identity and individual identities in relation to self-discipline and regulation.


  • Explores the habits and behaviors attached to capitalist consumption, whilst also examining the rise of disposable culture and consumption practices, thus shedding light on why we dispose and consume massive amounts of man-made materials.

Goddard, B. and Wilson, S. (2016) Photomedia Module Reader 2016 – 2017. Bristol: Carbon Neutral.

  • Picks up on crucial concepts such as Still-life, and Estrangement…
    • Still-Life – The symbolic construction of a scene that adopted and incorporates material objects that work to overshadow and connotate and act as metaphors for issues such as death, status, importance, and empathy. Still-life art/photography adopts a readable and recognizable media language that is easily understood and critically/historically important.
    • Estrangement – The way banal things become strange or unfamiliar, although indirectly;  I am adopting elements of estrangement in the sense that I am using everyday objects as a portal to critically reflect on more taboo cultural practices in a way that makes these objects/practices seem strange by inviting an unusually crucial mode of thinking. By thinking of a vernacular object or behaviors in such an in-depth way, it now seems strange and unfamiliar.

Peres, R. (2013) The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. [Online] 4th ed. Burlington: Focal Press. [Accessed 15th March 2017]

  • Discusses still-life in term, outlines the characteristics and elements of still-life photography arrangements, discusses the use of lighting, shadow and form; consequently, giving me an idea of the cricial and practical approaches of how to shoor and photograph my subject/objects. Also discussed compositon and historical developments of photography…

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