First Year Experience: Six Degrees of Separation

This first year Communication Design student shares how she used our GSA Student Registers to invent and create lives for new characters! To see more of what our first year students got up to as part of their “Being Human” project, see a short video by Martin Clark here.

At the archive, there was a big book of previous GSA students, a registry book, and I just started off by going in and looking for people with the same surname as me. I found three people, and I don’t know anyone else with it so I thought that was quite cool. My surname is Torrance, it’s not that unusual but there’s just not many people from around her that have it. So I thought that was quite cool that they’d also been to GSA and here I am now. So I was just wondering who they were and whether I am related to them.  

GSA Alphabetical Student Register (GSAA/REG/2)

I started doing research into the Torrance name. After a tutorial, one of my tutors had mentioned this theory called “six degrees of separation” and how everyone knows each other in 6 or less steps. So after lots of research into this and into names, I created six fictional people with the surname Torrance and they all know each other in some way – they might be related, they might not be, they might have been at school, they might work together.  

Some of the names that I made up were names from the Torrance’s I found in the archive, for example Jessie A. Torrance. My dad is called Tommy, so Tommy was one. If I was a boy, I would’ve been called Christopher so I made that into a person. There was also Jack Torrance from the Shining and I was researching what I wanted all these characters to be like, so for example my Dad’s character – did I want him to be like my Dad or like someone else?  

The way that I ended up doing this was by portraying the character through objects, in a similar way to how artist Jamie Shovlin created a character called Naomi V. Jelish, who doesn’t exist, but he spent three years making notes about this fictional girl. So I was looking at what he did, for example he produced drawings that this girl supposedly did and got someone else to produce homework from her as the character which he then marked and wrote diary entries. This lead me to get into objects. I was also inspired by another artist called Jordon Bolton who does film and TV posters using objects where you get an idea of the story based on what objects are there. So that’s what I did. One of my characters for example was an 11-year-old boy, and I had things in his poster like toy cars and football medals and stereotypical things, but then I’d add in a magnet that said “Missing You” so that it made the viewer think about who gave him that and who is missing him. I had little objects like these in each of my posters to get the viewer to think about the connections between these characters and how they all knew each other.  

Images courtesy of Stephen Keane – many thanks Stephen!

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