Art project revived

June 2020

This piece is now more relevant than ever. It illustrates how a vulnerable person could have been feeling in 2020 - trapped in a claustrophobic environment - having had to live mostly indoors in social isolation for a long time while shielding themselves from the Coronavirus pandemic, a potential danger to life, and not yet feeling reassured that anything is over. The comment about having enough butter isn’t a joke about the oversized butter dish in the dolls house any more. What happens when you can’t pop out and buy food for yourself - or possibly can’t afford the luxury of butter as well as the bread. It should be a caring question now about the basic need for your bread and butter. The room behind the window on the profile picture is prison-like with the inmate being a cause for concern.

illustration about isolation and claustrophobia

Social media has proved extremely useful for keeping in touch with those who are living fairly isolated lives - never more so than when a country is in lockdown. It’s seen by many as lifesaving for mental health, helping users to feel part of a community and to cheer each other up. However, I produced this digital collage a couple of years ago for discussion on the good or bad power of social media and it was intended to be a comment about the Facebook challenge, which can easily encourage users to become addicted to constantly posting every detail of their lives on the app while regularly checking for friend responses online instead of venturing outside.

I took photographs of a dolls house room and breakfast table and substituted the view through the window to the real outside world with a Facebook Home page. The occupant of the house has shared the detail of what they are having for breakfast on the internet to make it more important and less of a lonely experience. They have posted a picture of the breakfast, recording it as an online event rather than just writing down a note in a diary that possibly nobody else will ever see (as people used to do throughout history). They have liked their own post.

It might only be toast but the photograph makes the breakfast look bright and quite posh and you wouldn’t necessarily expect the picture to have been taken in a depressing environment. The room is claustrophobic and a mirror on the wall reflects this enclosed world back on itself. The Facebook user could be coming across as narcissistic - showing off a lifestyle rather than being extremely lonely or worryingly obsessed with the media. 

The profile picture with the wooden Eric Horne doll (the same style of doll featured in stop frame animation for ’Tottie the story of a dolls house’ years ago), is a friend replying jokingly about the size of the butter dish. The fact that a friend is there and has replied is instant reassurance. The Facebook wall can be controlled to a large extent. Replies and feeds can be deleted if they are not welcome. Any value in finding reliable information totally depends on the combination of pages that the user follows, and the beliefs and opinions of their list of friends. It allows the user to design a comfort zone and possibly be manipulated by the media when the algorithms automatically pick up on likes and dislikes. In the newspaper, now on the floor - the reality being discarded by the user, the generic headline shows that world affairs can't be controlled.

The process of creating a miniature dolls house environment to make a statement with an image could be said to be a similar form of insular obsession and escapism - and if this is then posted on social media the circle is complete - artwork about posting what I’ve been doing being posted as an online event about what I’ve been doing. It still could be, but I prefer to think of it all as feeling empathy and communicating an issue as a graphic designer rather than displaying some dolls house photographs and Photoshop collage work I've done.

Do get in touch if you would like me to come up with more of this type of illustration. Please use the contact email address etc, or contact me through the Twitter feed  @workspacetweets