Monday, 15 October 2018

Phd-ness Part 11, Year 2, Doing, Reading, Doing.



Some instant pictures of St George's Field taken yesterday in the rain, my post it note for this week, an old photo taken of me (can't remember who by though) in 1987 in what I think must be St Marks Churchyard which I found whilst sorting out old boxes of stuff, and aside from the fact that I am much more likely to hide from the camera and be behind the lens taking the picture these days and the fact that I have eaten a lot of pies between then and now I don't look all that different really as in same hair colour, similar clothes, similar jewellery and load of bracelets on right arm, same love of grave monuments - though my appreciation of them these days is different and I don't think I would lean against one in such a blase manner these days.

Also pictured is one of the necklaces I made yesterday out of 'doll parts' available from Poundland as part of their Halloween range and some ribbon and silver beads I already had in. My friend and fellow artist Hayley Mills-Styles has a necklace she made out of a porcelain dolls head and that inspired me to make a dolls part necklace for myself. I painted the red nail varnish on the dolls fingers with a fine red permanent marker before threading them onto black ribbon using a darning needle.
It's been a week of tidying and sorting - hence my finding that photograph and some others also featuring me in St Marks Churchyard. I lived in Woodhouse when I was a student and used to cut through the churchyard to get to lectures and loved it as a space but purely on an aesthetic level then. I had no idea or appreciation of the wider history or practice of Victorian mourning culture then. I don't think the graveyard space is accessible anymore though, the last couple of times I've been there it has been cordoned off with metal fencing and signs saying it isn't safe.

Back in the nineteenth century there was great rivalry between the respective reverends of St Marks and St George's Field, they disagreed with regard as to who provided the best burial services as well as on religious grounds. St Marks was a Church of England site and the people who were behind St George's Field were Non Conformists. 

It's also been a week of rummaging about in libraries - namely the collection of maps and trade directories from the nineteenth century held in the Local and Family History section of Leeds Central Library. I know have a better idea of the size and location of the Leylands, exactly where Ann Carr lived and worked (I thought it was at the back of the Reliance but it was actually nearer down towards Regent Street) and it was a thrill to see her name and address and Martha Williams (her partner in Christ) in the trade directories along with the times of the services at the Female Revivalists Chapel.  10.30am, 2.30pm and 6.30pm on a Sunday and 7pm on a Monday evening apparently. Sadly though I am no wiser as to the age of the cobbles aka setts on Lower Brunswick Street and whether or not they were contemporaneous to Ann but I've still learnt a lot more about where she and Martha lived so I'm happy about that.

Along with rummaging about in libraries and breathing in that delicious smell of old musty books (which apparently is actually the smell of the paper decaying) I also attended a very excellent talk on the history of Central Library, a performance of Frankenstein at Leeds Library which was great - and unusual in that you as the audience followed a silent but expressive Viktor around the library whilst listening to an excellent adaptation on headphones and I went back to St George's Field after not having been for a while in the rain yesterday and took some pictures using my Instax mini 70 and a colour film disposable camera I got a long time ago. I'm not one hundred percent certain where it came from but I think it might have been from a seaside tat shop in Cleethorpes and it has a 'develop before 03-2014' stamped on the bottom. It has flash as well and amazingly that bit of it still worked - I used it because I wanted to take pictures in the rain and for the flash to reflect off the raindrops. I still have 9 pictures to take before I get it developed. I don't know what film speed it is as it is just labelled 'high speed'.

I also collected some leaves whilst I was there, some of the yellow ones I left as offerings on Ann Carr's grave and some I brought home and experimented with/on using black printers ink and this was the result. I'm quite pleased with it and husband really likes it. Part of the reasoning behind this kind of experimentation is I'm trying to capture something of the actual physical essence of the place, something a little bit more than site specific. Think I have a lot more experimentation to do before I find a way I'm happy with. I might try watered down acrylic paint next time instead.


I've also been doing some experimenting with kinetic drawing/mark making (where you line a tube with paper and enclose it with chalk or soft pastel) and I have made some progress with that as I've got a new container to put the paper in and thanks to doing more sorting and tidying workroom wise I've found some thin paper it will work better on. It's a pad of Daler A3 layout paper which is 45gsm and some 20gsm lighter than the 75gsm printer paper I had been using. I plan to do different walks around St George's Field with the paper and pastel in their tube at the bottom of my bag.

One of the things I've been thinking about this week and especially after catching five minutes of Coronation Street (a programme I have been conscious of since being in my mothers womb as she has been a fan and avid watcher since it started) is memorialisation. The character Jim McDonald was looking at an old photo album looking wistful and Liz McDonald pointed out to him that it's only the good memories that get put in albums. Leaving aside that this is a soap family and so had more than their fair share of traumatic events I think the point still stands.

So as ever - lots to think about, lots still to do. Maybe I need to be more like my beloved John Waters who in an interview I saw this week writes everything he need to do in a day on an index card and crosses it off as he does it. Referenced in his artwork '308 Days' currently on show in his retrospective Indecent Exposure at Baltimore Museum of Art. My to do lists remain frustratingly mostly uncrossed off....but I did write and get the slides ready for the talk I'm giving about my work on Friday 19th October at 6pm upstairs at Kapow and I also did quite a bit of reading.

Programmes/films watched

various promotional interviews with John Waters for his retrospective Indecent Exposure.

Books Read
see previous entry

Exhibitions visited 
none

Films Watched
Lenz H (director) 2018 Kusama Infinity UK Magnolia Pictures
Utterly gorgeous, uplifting and thought provoking film about the life and work of Yayoi Kusama. Featuring a mix of footage of her works,exhibitions and happenings, interviews with her and gallery owners, friends and critics. Also interesting in terms of the relationship between mental health and creativity and how being creative stops her from killing herself and the obstacles she battles with in terms of being a Japanese woman in the western art world.

Monday, 8 October 2018

PhD-ness Part 10 Year 2 Doing, Showing, Listening, Study Level Differences, Brain Weasels and Potential Collaborations

View of my show 'Once and Now - part of the Love Arts Festival, on until November 3rd upstairs at Kapow 15 Thorntons Arcade Leeds 

some of the things I use to make work on a day to day basis - now thanks to workroom reorganising, bookcase buying and wardrobe wrangling all on their own shelf and easily located and used  

Some of the books I'm wading my way through on the new shelves 



this weeks post it note with the programme from the exhibition, and two of the books I bought this week - the Lee Miller one is from the now closed Lee Miller and British Surrealism that was on at the Hepworth which I visited this weekend and was very marvellous indeed and a book on modern photography I bought from the John Ryland library when I went over to Manchester to listen to Royal Photographic Society member Gilly Read talk about early Victorian photography at the Cross Street Chapel - a different building to the Cross Street Chapel Elizabeth Gaskell went to (that one was destroyed by a bomb in 1940 and it has been rebuilt twice since then) but in the same location. The books full title is 'Why it does not have to be in focus' by  Jackie Higgins and published by Thames and Hudson and I am finding it really interesting as it's a list of different modern photographers, with an image, a brief outline of their work, some quotes, similar pieces to look up, the kind of equipment they use. I am finding it very useful and I wish there was a companion volume called 'why it does not have to be pretty' which I could give to my Mum as her usual response to the work of mine that she has seen is 'oh that's nice' and then on closer inspection 'oh no it isn't!! why can't you do something pretty??'. 

So as you might be able to tell from the above images last week was a particularly busy one - I spent a day in Manchester listening to an interesting talk by Gilly Read on early Victorian photography and some of the photographers working in Manchester, I spent a day in Huddersfield doing some printing and attending some PGR Informed Researcher Lectures - the series this year is looking especially useful from a practice based/practice led PhD point of view. I'm really pleased about this and hopefully it will still be in time to help me with my studies. There was some training and lectures last year (ie in my first year) but there were initial issues over location of the lectures and the lectures as a whole felt much more slanted towards and more relevant for traditional style PhDs.

The lectures last week were especially thought provoking and interesting to the point where it led into a spiral of thoughts along the lines of  'I'm not clever enough for this' and 'how am I ever going to get my head around this?' and 'oh how am I ever going to get this sorted?'. To compound those feelings there was sadness on the way home as the trains were delayed because of someone killing themselves on the tracks described as 'emergency services having to deal with an incident'. This made me feel especially sad - that someone should have felt so sad and desperate that they chose to do this and the terrible effect it can have on the train driver, passengers on that particular train and the emergency service personnel who are called in.

It took me some time to regain my equilibrium the following day and to feel more positive and on top of things again, or to at least have a plan to feel more on top of things again. I am still working on my research plan alongside continuing to do the more straightforward archive delving for information on some of the women buried in St George's Field. Last week I paid someone else to do the delving for Ann Carr's will at the Borthwick Institute at York University and in return they sent me a colour A3 photocopy of that remarkable document. Written in October 1840 just three months before her death Ann leaves more or less everything to her 'sister in Christ' Martha Williams, who according to the document is actually a Quaker. By then Ann was seriously ill and fading.

I need to read it again and write it out so that it is easier to read. The faded to brown ink is mostly legible but bits are only legible by slowly and painfully making out each word or by getting the gist of the sentence so that the bit you can't read either suddenly makes sense or narrows it down to a few words it could be until you hit on the right one. It also has the signature of Ann - faint compared to the rest of the document, and the signature of Martha Williams and the witnesses bold in comparison. I am going to make an appointment to go and see it in person now, it is an amazing document and fills me with awe and wonder that I will be able to see and maybe even touch albeit with gloved hand a piece of paper they both touched.

This to me is magic, that such a thing has survived. I don't literally believe in magic but there is a tiny part of me that hopes there is some kind of apotropaic quality to seeing and touching such a document, not in an evil averting kind of way but in a good luck bringing kind of way. I think the power of touch or actually being in the place where someone from the past and long dead is really important even if it can't cure scrofula*. I think it's part of the reason that tourism is still thriving in an age when you can do virtual tours of almost everywhere and anywhere. I think it's a very human thing that wherever possible we need to see and touch things for ourselves. Although understandable and something I abide by it always seems sad when there is a sign saying 'please do not touch' next to what appears to be a fantastically tactile object in an art gallery.

Along with the excitement of seeing Ann Carr's signature albeit in facsimile form, I also had the excitement of hearing about early photographic methods and photographers based in Manchester at the talk by Gilly Read at Cross Street Chapel. Not only did I learn a little more about the early photographic pioneers and why the cleaning of daguerreotypes should only be left to professionals with experience on how to clean them but I got to learn that information in the space that Elizabeth Gaskell worshipped in and where her husband was minister over 100 years ago. In the wall of the building is the remains of the fulsome headstone her husband Reverend William Gaskell had had erected for her. Damaged during the bombing raid in 1940 it is missing its bottom left hand corner but is otherwise readily legible.

Along with this excitement there was also the thrill (for me anyway) of the official launch of my show 'Once and Now' (title taken from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell) upstairs at Kapow in Thorntons Arcade on Thursday. I should have taken a clicker counter and so properly counted everyone who came but I did make a list as soon as I got home and I could remember 31 and not all of the visitors were friends though the majority were. I was very nervous but it went well - something I should perhaps ascribe to the halloween themed sweets I was handing out to visitors. Their positive response and asking of questions about the images and the stories of the people named on the stone sin the images also helped me feel more on track again. A couple of artist friends who came along have also asked me if I'd be interested in working with them on collaborative pieces and I would. That would be a whole new world of excitement and learning.

So I didn't do much doing last week, in fact the matte medium transfers I started making the week before are still waiting for the paper to be rubbed away with tepid water and I haven't taken any new pictures for a while, despite having a couple of new to me cameras to play with, but I have been doing a lot of listening and a lot of showing and a lot of thinking and a bit of reading.

One of the things I've been thinking about is the differences between MA and PhD levels of study and how you evidence it. Both require commitment and self direction, the PhD even more self direction is required as unlike the MA I did it is not taught. The postgraduate lecture series I attend is not subject specific but general PhD process specific. I am absolutely loving the picture making and ferreting about in archives side of things but finding remembering the books and articles I've read more difficult - in spire of making notes about them and am unsure on how best to reference them in this blog. I'm also unsure as to the purpose of this blog and who it is for. It is a way of advertising my work on the internet and a good way for me to get my head around what it is I've been doing but am not sure it serves the same research journal purpose it did when I was doing my MA and whether or not that way I write on here is suitable for PhD inclusion.

So as ever much food for thought.....

Programmes/Films Watched
I accessed a documentary through the kanopy website of films through my membership of Huddersfield Uni library for my husband to watch about space, it didn't have a narrator as such as it was made of clips of footage shot at the time either on the training programme or in Mission Control. I didn't really pay it any attention other than being fascinated by the man who was smoking a pipe at his desk in Mission Control and the differences between hairstyles of those who appeared to be from a military background and those who didn't. There were no women in the footage at all, despite there being women who worked for NASA at the time, neither did there appear to be anyone from a minority ethnic background when there were ethic minority employees. 

Books Read
Higgins,J (2013) Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus UK Thames and Hudson
Clayton,E.(Eds.).(2018) Lee Miller and Surrealism in Britain UK Lund Humphries in Association with the Hepworth Wakefield


Exhibitions Attended

Miller, l. (2018). Leed Miller and Surrealism in Britain. [visual art ] Exhibited at the Hepworth, Wakefield , 22 June 2018- 7 Oct 2018 .I have long been a fan of surrealist art, I fell in love with the work of Rene Magritte on seeing the homage to his painting The Pleasure Principle on the cover of The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan. So it was exciting for me to see a Magritte cloud painted face of Napoleon's death mask high up on the wall. There were works from a range of artists and publications in various formats - prints, recreations of objects - most notably for me the bracelet around a mannequins forearm made of little false teeth set in pink resin by originally made by Miller, as well as the lobster topped telephone in white, a typewriter with nails glued to the keys, and the recreation of the metronome by Man Ray with the eye of Lee Miller atop it. There was also a painting by Leonara Carrington called Pastoral which portrayed delightfully spectral beings. There also many photographs by Lee Miller ranging from ones of her fellow surrealists including Carrington, her partner Roland Penrose, and one of her most infamous photographs where she is bathing in Hitlers bath shortly after his defeat.

I think this is where I struggle most with writing this blog - do I keep it in what I hope is an accessible un-academic jargon free format or do I write about what I've seen in a way that is more properly academic but also a way that I feel is a more inaccessible more academic art english kind of way with in text citations and references? I don't know....

But here are some of the quotes and notes I made in my notebook as I was walking around the Hepworth.

The writer William Plomer (1903-1973) said in an article in the London Bulletin after an exhibition opened just after the evacuation from Dunkirk 'culture foreshadows events,sustains hopes and invigorates the human heart'

The painter Ithell Calquhoun (1906-1988) was expelled form surrealist circles because of her interest in the occult.

Max Ernst's sculptural bird was called Loplop.

Stephen Gill photographer buried some of his work where he took the pictures so that 'maybe the spirit of the place can also make its mark' which I find both intriguing and inspiring. I am going to have to find out more about him and his work.

Perhaps the most disturbing and powerful piece though was Millers photographs of a cancerous breast removed from a patient and photographed upon a plate with cutlery placed next to the plate and on a napkin.   



* in years gone by it was believed that the touch of a royal personage either by you touching them or them touching you could cure disease most notably that of scrofula aka tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis.

Monday, 1 October 2018

PhD-Ness Part 9 Year 2 - Making, Doing, Changing Place of Working, Feeling Bit Overfaced, Show Preparation

this weeks post it note and things I've been making

Preview of Once and Now - part of the Love Arts Festival - upstairs at Kapow Coffee Thorntons Arcade Leeds - official launch Thursday 4th October 5pm - 7pm 

It's been a busy week - even if the post it note is only filled from two thirds of the way down - I've been doing a bit of painting of Halloween goodies I've bought from Hobbycraft. I think I might still add some features to the coffins (handles made with silver pen) and then use them as jewellery boxes. I might glue a skull on one of them - I've made some of the skulls into brooches thanks to brooch backs and UHU glue. I'm quite messy though when it comes to glue but at least they haven't fallen off as yet...

I've also been doing some more matte medium transfers - this time in colour as well as black and white and pictured are two I completely finished last week, the ones I've been working this week are on canvas and still at the stage where the paper is on them - I haven't photographed them as until the paper is wet and rubbed away they just look like paper. The images underneath the paper are in colour.

I've been doing some doing as I've been struggling to read/write and formulate some thoughts on my working methods and how best to co-ordinate my research plan. I've made some progress but not as much progress as I would like but after reading and re-reading 'Ere the substance fade: photography and hair jewellery' by Geoffrey Batchen (his chapter in Photographs Objects Histories - On The Materiality of Images by Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart 2004)  and struggling to make sense of it or rather failing to take in all the points I think he was trying to make in it, I decided to take it to a local cafe (Tandem in Meanwood) and try and make sense of it there.

I'm not sure whether it was because I'd read it before or if my brain was in better shape that day or if it was the change of location so I didn't get distracted by the tinternet but it suddenly began to make better sense to me. He's talking about the absence of jewellery that contains images of loved ones in the histories of photography though they have been written about in material culture terms. He then talks about their physical characteristics, how they are photography in motion and a physical trace of the people in the photographs - especially when hair is included in the jewellery along with the photograph and become talismanic in some way. Fascinating.

I think I am going to try the tactic of moving away from my desk when I am stuck with something - when it's something I can do away from my desk. Reading and thinking I don't need to be at my desk I could do that in another room in the house. I usually use commuting time to do reading.

But I think the biggest thing I've been doing this week is getting everything ready for my show Once and Now which opens officially upstairs at Kapow Coffee Thorntons Arcade this Thursday from 5pm-7pm and will be on til the end of the month. It was lovely to be able to afford to get them properly framed - and I am really pleased with the job North Leeds Framing did for me. I wanted them to be reminiscent of Victorian era mourning cards and have thick black borders and after advice and testing of various backing card colours I decided on the cream. Cream isn't normally a colour I'd consider as I am very wedded to black, white, grey, purple and shades thereof (the colours most associated with Victorian mourning customs) but I am very glad I was persuaded to try it as it really brought something to the prints - the bulk of them are printed on transparent medium either tracing paper or acetate so the colour of the backing paper really makes or breaks them.

I've been trying to write this post for most of this afternoon, along with some details to go with the the images in Kapow and I've really struggled compared to last week when it just seemed to flow much better. Though part of the reason last weeks post seemed so much easier to write was because I missed off the programmes/films watched/books read/exhibitions attended section.

Oh well - here's hoping the words and the comprehension flows more easily this week.

Programmes Films Watched:
 

Cousins M (writer,director,producer) 2018 Eyes of Orson Welles UK Dogwoof
An amazing film which more than once made me go ‘wow’ as the images contained in it were so stunning – it was the story of a man who knew Welles film work really well and who wanted to see through Orson's eyes by looking at his paintings and drawings. Split into different sections it covered aspects of his professional life – onscreen, onstage, on radio and his personal life interspersed with clips from his films and interviews. His daughter now in her 60’s also features along with views of his paintings/drawings of places and what they look like now. The soundtrack was a mix of traffic noise, Welles himself speaking, narrator speaking, conversation, or the sound and sight of an ink pen scratching on the surface of a piece of paper, some of the drawings/images were somehow animated to see how they were put together – some monochrome, some alive with colour but all expressive, revealing and joyous. Wonderful to watch. Really must watch his version of Macbeth that has been on the tellybox for ages.

 
Varda A, JR (directors) 2017 Faces/Places France Cine Tamaris

Absolutely enchanting and beautiful film which follows Adnes and JR deciding on a plan of driving around villages in his large format printing seaside van gogh studio style van, taking pictures of ordinary people and pasting them on walls – including a woman who is the last in a row of cottages lived in by miners with stories of their fathers hard and dangerous work in the mine,then onto a woman posing with a parasol saying how she found it difficult afterwards because she is a shy person and so many people came to see her photo pasted on a wall, farmers – arable with machines who does it all on his own proudly emblazoned on the side of his barn, chemical process workers in a big chemical plant – glorious to see fish pasted large on the side of the water tower (fish Agnes had taken pics of directed by JR as she has problems with her eyesight – the scene of the injection into her eyeball made me proper wince/flinch) chatting easily to people gathering for a picnic/photo session in an abandoned before being finished village, a picture of Agnes old now dead friend on a bunker abandoned on the beach, pics of her eyes and feet on the side of trains, goat farmers – one who burns off the horns of the goat and one who doesn’t – the one who doesn’t was better and favoured, an utterly glorious romp around the Louvre with JR pushing her in a wheelchair – a nod to a scene of one of her films, a pilgrimage to Cartier Bressons grave and 3 women upon the sides of shipping containers. Devoid of complicated art- just a really beautiful connection between Agnes, JR and the people they photographed and worked with – including between JR and his team. Completely feel good – asked why they did it, why not? And also to see where their imagination could take them.
Enchanting.  It was also a kind of friendship love story between her and him – especially when let down by Godard who also wore sunglasses all the time when he reveals his eyes to Agnes only and we see them blurred – same as her. Really heartwarming - left the cinema with a big smile on my face.

Books:
Elizabeth,E.,& Hart, J. (2004). Photographs Objects Histories on the Materiality of Images London:Routledge 

Slowly but surely slogging through this...see above

Exhibitions attended:
none


Monday, 24 September 2018

PhD-Ness Part 8 Year 2 in a weekly ongoing series - sticking and gluing, experimenting, re-drafting, reading and writing






More image heavy post this week showing bits of what I've been up to - the top picture shows a matte medium image transfer in progress. I'd printed the 35mm image I'd taken of St George's Field on ordinary printer paper, cut it out and also cut a circle of cream muslin and put it in an embroidery hoop. The hoop keeps the material nice and taught. Then I paint a layer of matte medium on the material, then on the cut out image and then put the image on top of the material and smooth it as flat as possible to ensure minimal creases or bubbles. I leave it to dry overnight and then using tepid water make it all damp and then slowly and carefully with my left index finger start to rub away the paper in a circular motion - thereby hopefully leaving the print from the image caught in the layers of matte medium.

The second image is also a matte medium image transfer in progress - this time a colour 35mm image I'd taken of Ann Carr's grave on what would have been her 235th birthday when I left a yellow rose on her gravestone as a tribute to her and her work with so called 'fallen' women. Women who had children outside of wedlock were often made to wear yellow in the workhouse as a way of marking them out from other workhouse residents. I have not read of the fathers of these children being made to wear something similar to mark them out.

3rd image is of the same image when the paper has been rubbed off for the second time - it usually takes a couple of goes to get as much of it off as possible - all the while trying not to rub so hard that you rub off the image too. Sometimes though the bond between image and material underneath isn't that good - especially around the edges. I am especially careful on those bits but sometimes to no effect. Sometimes it really annoys me when the edge lifts up but other times I think it adds to the image as it a)shows the human touch in the process and b)imitates/recalls the way glass plate negatives can look - either the person painting it missed the edges in the darkroom or it has become damaged over time.

Ways round the edges coming up include: only using muslin to transfer images onto as that seemed to grip the image best or making the border of the transferred image a half inch wider and then cutting it out with a neat solid edge...

The third image also shows some of the experimenting I've doing with kinetic drawing/mark making on paper which involves putting paper in a tube along with a marking medium, in this case chalk, pastel and crayon. The tube is then sealed and placed at the bottom of my rucksack - these are the results of a walk to Meanwood and back but it's not made much of an impression on any of the papers. So I'm going to ask an artist friend of mine who does these for any tips she might have in the hope of making something more definite - maybe I just need to do it for longer or make the ends of the chalk/pastel/crayon more pointed.

The last image shows the finished image transfers - I've rubbed off as much of the paper fibres as possible and added a layer of gloss medium to finish them off. Without it the images can still look quite flat and a little bit fibrous. It also shows this weeks post it note - which as you can see isn't over full but it has been a busy week with quite a lot of reading and doing and listening and seeing and watching.

The reading has mostly been of the psychogeographic variety as I have made a start on On Walking by Phil Smith - especially useful as he references The Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald which I (finally) finished last week. Huzzah. I also re read the introduction of  Photographs Objects Images edited by Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart and I have ploughed a bit more of the way through Adam Bede by George Eliot. I also picked up a copy of  Walking Inside Out by Tina Richardson.

Part of my rationale for reading these is part recommendation by tutors but also part methodology writing as to write mine up is part of my homework from last weeks supervision along with a redrafted research plan for year 2.

It was also the launch of the festival brochure for the Love Arts Festival last week at which I chatted and caught up with folks. I also made a collage which was great fun. It's been a while since I've made something with just the joy of making something in mind as in I wasn't consciously trying hard to create a particular effect or feeling or end result. It felt good. You can find out about all the events, exhibitions and happenings of the festival here  including my contribution Once and Now at Kapow Coffee 15 Thornton's Arcade and fingers crossed the framer will have finished framing them by then so that I'll be able to put them up at the end of the week.

So lots of doing of all kinds and I'd best get cracking on with my to do list for this week but first off I need to get something to eat, and to tidy my workroom a bit.

Monday, 17 September 2018

PhD-ness Part 7 in weekly ongoing series - seeing, moving, dead earnings, will requesting, Whitby, help and Giants in Sheffield


Quite a full post it note this week, as well as the big brain dump list I was making in an attempt to make more effective plans for the forthcoming weeks workwise, notes from the Giants of Victorian Photography exhibition I went to see in Sheffield yesterday, a wood effect but plastic hoop given to me on Saturday by Hayley Mills-Styles whilst we were at the launch of her very excellent exhibition Archive and Other Stories at Whitby Museum in Pannett Park, it's on til 18th November so go and see it if you can - it's heartfelt, beautiful, thought provoking and engaging series of textiles exploring her relationship with the museum, her grandparents,and stitching. Also pictured are the sampler guides I bought from the museum - all three include rather exquisite grave poetry.

Last week before attending a fascinating talk given by Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce at 1 Oxford Place (soon to be reworked into a fancy hotel apparently) I did some work in Leeds Central Library. I went to the art library section on the first floor and aside from someone with the most appalling cough banging big hardback books about for the first 15 minutes I was there - it was mercifully quiet, other than the noise filtering up from outside so a little bit of chatter, traffic and the sound of sirens. I took advantage of this by writing in my journal - just gathering my thoughts really. I keep a day to day diary for appointments and brief details of what I've been up to but my journal I write as and when I'm moved to or have the time. I am a bit ritualistic when it comes to writing it though as it has to be in black ink via fountain pen and I only write on one side of the paper. I used to use a big spiral backed notebook but more recently I've been using smaller more exercise style notebooks as they are easier to fit into my bag, lighter to carry round and quicker to fill.

Anyway once I'd finished that I then made a start on what it is I need to be concentrating on this term and what my next steps need to be. I'm very aware it's the start of the new academic year, the autumn term and I am just trying to get geared up for that really. My workroom is still full to bursting but the new bookcases are coming along nicely and once the little room is sorted I'll then be able to move the wardrobe out of my room, put up the new bookcases in its place and then hopefully move the books from the sofa bed (which has been acting as a temporary bookcase for far too long now) and generally rejig my workroom so it's more ergonomic and comfortable to work in and my materials will be easier to access as they'll be visible on the shelves as opposed to hidden at the bottom of various piles. Amazingly though I haven't bought any new stationery for this term - am using some of what I've already got stockpiled. I have however been indulging in halloween tat, I can always find room for another skull.

I also found an amazing book called The Memory of Time by Sandra Greenough and Andrea Nelson which concentrates on the work of the contributors to the exhibition of the same name held in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 2015. It was one of those serendipitous occasions when the book just stood out to me on the shelf as I was passing. I hadn't intended to read anything other than the book I had taken with me - Sebald's Rings of Saturn which I am still ploughing through. But this book almost called out to me and I am really glad I picked it up and started reading as the themes it covers are very pertinent to my work, I am now working my way through it...as well as still ploughing through Sebald...

I also picked up a copy of Capturing The Light by Roger Watson and Helen Rappaport which according to the blurb on the cover is 'a true story of genius, rivalry and the birth of photography' which I am also planning to read over the next few days. I know a little about the invention of photography but I'd like to know more, especially it's such a Victorian era invention. I'm also interested in what role women had in its invention and use.

The talk by Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce was the last in the summer talks hosted by the Leeds Bereavement Network and it was about celebrity dead and the way people interact with them and it also made me think of the Stranglers song 'Everybody Loves You When You're Dead'. I was fascinated to learn that Forbes not only have a rich list of live people but they also have a list of dead as in deceased rich people which Michael Jackson has been top of for the last few years. I understood that dead people could pass on their royalties but it seems there are also agencies who represent dead people after buying their persona and then use those dead people to advertise things. Mind well and truly boggled but then again not really - in a capitalist society EVERYTHING is a commodity that can be bought and sold - including the personalities of dead people.

This along with just wanting to see actual Victorian era photographs was why I went to see the Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography at the Millenium Gallery in Sheffield yesterday. It had a basic overview of the wet plate collodion process way to take and make pictures, mostly it focused on some of the surviving works by Lewis Carroll, Oscar Rejlander, Julia Margaret Cameron and Clemetina Hawarden. I was most interested in the work by Rejlander and Hawarden as I have seen images made by Carroll and Cameron before. There were quite a few portraits by Rejlander as well as a copy of one of his most famous combination images (in the days before photoshop images were manually compiled out of individual negatives) Two Ways of Life (1857) which was first exhibited at the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester.

I had never seen this image before and was slightly surprised by the amount of nudity in it given the time it was made and the fact that it is a photograph and not a painting. It shows a man deciding which of two paths to take - the one consumed with vice and the one leading to virtue. Apparently Price Albert loved it so much after being given a copy by Queen Victoria that he bought three copies of his own. It was very contraversial when it was first shown, it was alleged that the naked women in the photograph were prostitutes plus it was a photograph positioning itself in the same league as painted art. A debate that still goes on today in some quarters. It was lovely to see it in the flesh so to speak - or rather a copy of it. You can see it (or rather another copy of it) for yourself here.

Having recently read becoming: The Photographs of Clementina Hawarden by Carol Mavor, I was especially interested in seeing her work in all its torn out of an album glory and sure enough all bar one of the edges of her work were rough and torn, only one piece looked as if it had been taken out using either scissors or a scapel, but I didn't see anywhere in the exhibition a mention of this or the possible reasons why.

I realised that the images and photographs I was looking at were rarely black and white but sepia, I also loved the signs on them of human intervention - either still visible brush strokes in the collodion or the silver nitrate or in the case of Hawarden the torn edges - though I'm not entirely sure who did the tearing. I wasn't entirely comfortable looking at some of the images - namely some of the ones that Lewis Carroll had taken of children and the wording next to some of the images I found lacking or slightly misleading, for example one which was of Julia's maid talked of the long relationship between Julia and her maid and how they must have understood one another. There was no mention of the impact that being boss and servant might have had on their relationship and no wonder her maid looks so amenable in the photographs - I would too if in case I didn't had a knock on effect on my keeping wages and the roof over my head. Most notable for me on some of Julia's images were the handwritten words 'from life' and 'copyright and then her name - am guessing it was her signature.   

The exhibition also included personal captions by Kate Windsor (aka Duchess of Cambridge and that is how she is referred to throughout the exhibition) but they didn't add any particular insight or new ideas to research. Instead there was mention of how hard Clementina and Julia must have found it to fit in their photographic work alongside their household running and the fact that they were mothers. I don't doubt they did find it difficult at times but it must have been made easier by having staff whose job it was to do the cooking, cleaning and the looking after children. The only useful thing she added was the explanation that exposures took a much longer time then than they do now as a way of explaining how wonderful the capture of fleeting facial expressions were in some of the photographs and why people look so stern in so many of them.

I've been continuing my research into St George's Field and its inhabitants - in part thanks to a perusal on the paperwork available online at the Universitys website, in part thanks to a chum who has a subscription to find my past. I was amazed to discover there used to be a greenhouse at the back of the Chapel in St George's Field. It's detailed on the map from 1967 though so am guessing it must have been built by the university to grow plants for the rest of the campus. I'm hoping that the Borthwick Institute at York University will get back to me soon as to how much it's going to be to have a copy of Ann Carr's will which I'm hoping they still have tucked away safely in a box somewhere.

It's been a while since I've written and submitted an abstract for a conference - this one was for the Death and the Sacred conference at Manchester Met at the end of November. I won't hear back though until the end of the month. Fingers crossed I shall be successful.


Programmes/Films watched 
Mulvey Laura, Woolen Peter writer/directors 1977 Riddles of the Sphinx UK BFI
A feminist film made by a feminist film maker which is a mix of following a woman trying to negociate food making, caring for her daughter, leaving her male partner, getting a job, childcare – all filmed in 360 degree 16mm – constantly slowly revolving around the scene as opposed to the male gaze of the close up – split into different sections all labelled at the beginning and eacvh starting with a bit of text, sometimes with a section about the Sphinx and close ups of photos of it to a soundtrack of really mesmerising electronic music by Mike Ratledge who used to be in Soft Machine. Also featured a section with a woman juggling, doing acrobatics on a rope, and a long section of someone trying to do one of those hand held puzzles but instead of trying to put a ball through a maze it was a drop of what appeared to be yellow mercury – so difficult and frustrating to watch.
A really interesting film.

Books Read
Sebald - Rings of Saturn - ongoing
also finished the book I was reading for leisure - The Future Won't Be Long by Jarett Kobek which I really enjoyed. According to the Wall Street Journal 'it's a brilliant recreation of a disappeared New York...' and I have no idea how accurate it is as I have never been there nor was I ever a Club Kid but I enjoyed its two person narrative and descriptions. 


Exhibitions Attended:
Archives and Other Stories by Hayley Mills-Styles Whitby Museum
Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography - Millenium Gallery Sheffield -
see above for descriptions 

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

PhD-Ness Part 6 in weekly ongoing series - thinking, looking, doing, lifting, failing/falling.....


A much fuller post it note this week - though that is also because it was so empty at the end of the previous week I decided to continue writing on it underneath to save paper.

Am feeling really tired today though - in part thanks to a training session (am on track to reach my goal of being able to deadlift 80kg by the end of the year*) but mostly in part thanks to a really broken nights sleep which is in danger of becoming a habit again...but it's a habit I really want to break.

So what have I been up to over the last seven days - well lots of things including:

Being a Victorian era death customs expert for a chum who is researching the lives of some of the men involved with the Franklin expedition (the ill-fated voyage of artic exploration led by John Franklin in 1847 on the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) she had questions re burial practices that I was able to help with, along with the prominent role that organised religion be it conformist or non conformist played in everyday life then.

Buying materials - got some more matte medium, some new graphite sticks in different hardnesses and some Halloween pom poms as it's my favourite time of year when the shops are filled with all manner of skull emblazoned goodness and other assorted goodness. The man working on the till in M+S at the station asked me if I was getting ready for Halloween when he saw my bodypart emblazoned bag, skull bracelets and coffin ring to which my reply was 'it's Halloween all year round for me' and he smiled.

Taking work for my Once and Now show at Kapow 15 Thortons Arcade from the beginning of October to be framed. I've never had any of my two dimensional work professionally framed before, I've always done it myself with cheap frames from either Wilkos or Ikea. They looked okay and were all I could afford at the time and the plain wooden deep frames from Wilko I'll continue to use as I can paint those the colour I want (black) and fill with collected fallen petals or whatever else fauna-wise I find at the graveyard. It was especially exciting though to try different coloured backing papers for the images I've selected to frame which are mostly greyscale on either tracing paper or acetate. I was initially thinking white but then there are many different shades of white to choose from and in the end I opted for a deep cream backing. A colour which really adds to the images and makes them even more oldy worldy than just being in greyscale does. Am really excited about seeing the end result.

Speaking of graveyard finds - pictured above is the piece of wood I found (minus the woodlice which I left behind after scraping them off with a stick) yesterday whilst I was mooching round St George's Field taking pictures and trying and failing to make some kinetic drawings. I have completely fallen in love with its animal skull like shape. I left behind the broken bit of stone that I think had come off a nearby tombstone that had been shorn of its ivy. Part of me really wanted to take it but I wouldn't as that seems really disrespectful to both the person whose memorial it was from (regardless of how long they have been dead) and the people who paid for it to be erected to/for their loved one. If I'm being 100% honest there is also a teeny part of me that has seen and read far too many horror stories involving people taking away things from places that they shouldn't...most notably the short stories by M R James 'A Warning To The Curious' and 'Whistle And I'll Come To You'.

I hadn't been back to St George's Field since my birthday gathering at the end of July and a lot of vegetation along what I call Obelisk Avenue had been cut back (re- revealing one of my favourite tombs which has BE YEA ALSO READY carved on it alongside two rather beautiful heavenly figures) and the subscription stones which have been laid flat around the chapel have been blasted clean. This has revealed their original pale yellowy stone colour and leaving aside my preference for their previous grey colour I also worry about what kind of potential damage is done when cleaning stone as it can make it more porous and prone to chipping.

Anyway I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the piece of wood I found but I did take some pictures of it in situ around the graveyard - using 35mm Ilford XP2 film and my trusty go to Canon SLR. I don't know how they have worked as I've not finished the roll yet (ah the delayed gratification of film) but the kinetic drawings I did didn't work out well at all. I put tracing paper in a drinks bottle (one with a wide neck) along with a couple of pieces of charcoal and then laid it flat at the bottom of my rucksack. The idea being that as you move the pieces of charcoal make marks. I walked along Obelisk Avenue along to the other side to see what was happening around Anne Buttery's grave - I also went to pay my respects at Ann Carr's grave but failed to make much of an impression. Next visit I shall try a narrower tube (a kitchen roll one sealed with masking tape and a different kind of mark marker - maybe chalk, or crayon or graphite marker or pastels and see if that works any better.

Speaking of Ann Carr I spent last Thursday holed up amongst the splendour and peace of the Family and History Library reading about her. I had previously scoured the card catalogue for mentions of her and thanks to the as always helpful librarians they brought me all the things I wanted to see. Things like reports from the Temperance Society reports from the 1830's whose title page included 'We whose names are subscribed, do voluntarily agree to abstain entirely from the use of distilled spirits, except for medicinal purposes, and although the moderate use of other liquors is not excluded, yet as the promotion of Temperance in ever form is the specific design of the Society, it is understood that excess in these, necessarily excludes from membership'.  And each title page also included the following verse from Isiah 5. 22 ' woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink'.  I didn't find any mention of her in their reports but I did discover that Edward Baines Senior (one of the founders of St George's Field) was a regular donor to the Temperance Society of the then comparatively huge sum of £1 a year. An online inflation checker transcribes this to be the equivalent of approximately £120 a year now. I wonder where Edward Baines Senior made his money to begin with.

Looking through the collected notes and queries columns from the Leeds Mercury compiled in 1893 (a beautiful red fabric bound book with a handwritten index and very neatly pasted in pages with no bits coming adrift) I learned more of Ann's funeral as well as looking upon gems querying the authorship of Wuthering Heights, and the 'old' practice of putting an extinguished candle in a coffin which the book just fell open at as I was browsing through it. I love that kind of serendipitous action.

However the gem was a copy originally from Dewsbury Library of Memoirs of the Life and Character of Ann Carr (of Leylands Leeds) Containing An Account Of Her Conversion To God, Her Devoted Labours and Her Happy Death by Martha Williams. Written shortly after Ann's death in January 1841 it contains Martha's memories of Ann as well as some of the people she used to say with in Hull when preaching as well as an appendix containing the Reverend J Rawsons funeral address for her. His funeral oration includes the sentence ' We are gathered round the cold remains of a friend and a sister in Christ.'  Not the kind of phrase you'd expect to hear in a modern funeral service. The Reverend Rawson meets a shameful end though as he is sacked for drunkenness on the job.Drunkenness on duty in what was originally a graveyard full of Temperance advocates is beyond the pale. 

I also attended the first day of the third Fourth World Psychogeography Conference at Huddersfield Uni. It was a fun and thought provoking day. The opening presentations by Dr Anna Davison and artist Lesley Eleanor Wood really made me think about my methodological approach to my studies as well as giving me pointers towards further reading and techniques - it's thanks to Lesley who I had the privilege to meet and get to know as she was on the MA course with me that I am experimenting with kinetic drawing techniques. Anna is making me think about the invisible forces behind places - eg although I know where the money came from for the creation of St George's Field  that is shareholders putting up the cash - where did those shareholders get their cash?

As ever lots of food for thought......

Programmes/Films Watched Morrison B (director) 2016 Dawson City Frozen Time USA Picture Place Pictures
Incredible film which was a documentary about the discovery and reclamation of loads of silent films from the 1920’s/1930’s from a filled in pool and bank vault where they had been put as ballast essentially or just left – because the place they were in Dawson City – the furthest north bit of the Yukon valley of gold rush infamy was too far for the film companies to pay for them to be returned plus as it took them almost two years sometimes to get that far north in the first place.

Really detailed overview of creation of film – hadn’t really realised it was essentially an explosive as it was thanks to gun cotton. It also covered the history of the Yukon gold rush, the displacement of indigenous peoples and the cultural assimilation of some and of course Dawson City itself in all its wooden regularly needing to rebuilt because of fires glory – all interspersed with restored clips from the films found in the ground. Apparently something like only 25% of silent films still exist. Also sad moments like the description of the death of mostly women and children in wooden cinema fire, and moment when glass plate negatives by Hegg were found in walls of cabin and new owner asked what was best way to get emulsion off so they could be used to make a greenhouse!! Thankfully the person they asked saw/knew value of the images and they gave them brand new glass. Hegg was main photographer in Dawson City. It was also a bit of a love story as the discoverer and museum archivist met and fell in love and got married.

Beautifully mesmerising soundtrack too by Alex Somers – who also works with Sigor Ross. But did find it difficult to stay awake at times – and it was also the first film of the autumn where I went to the cinema in broad daylight and left two hours later in the dark - definitely worth a rewatch.


Books Read
Still ploughing my way through Sebald's Rings of Saturn and absolutely loving it,am loving the style of writing but am finding some of the description of slaughter, war, exploitation and holocaust harrowing to read. If you compare the amount of post it notes in the picture above compared to last weeks you'll see the progress I'm making.


Exhibitions Attended
none - but got plenty lined up to go and see including this one .


* I really like the definiteness of weightlifting - as opposed to the indefiniteness of academia and artmaking at times...and I lifted 65kg from the block this morning so am on target for reaching my goal of being able to deadlift 80kg by the end of the year. 

Monday, 3 September 2018

PhD-Ness Part 5 in a weekly series - thinking, sorting, doing, deadlifting



Todays picture shows a fairly empty post it note thing on top of work I'm in the process of sorting and taking to the framers so that it can be ready for my Once and Now exhibition at Kapow Coffee House Thorntons Arcade starting at the beginning of October. It's part of the Love Arts Festival and you can find out details about all the things that are part of the festival here - there are all sorts of lovely things on including performances, poetry and pictures.

It's interesting sorting through the images I've made in and of St George's Field, some of them I'm really pleased with as I have managed to capture exactly what it was I was trying to, some of them make me think of Roy Walker as in 'good, but not right' and some make me think 'plan and take the right equipment next time' or 'if I'd only stood a little more to the left' or 'a slightly longer exposure and I've have got it...' my plan is to review the space they're going in again this week, sort through the images again but this time with the helpful and more objective eye of my ever supportive husband and then decide which ones to have framed and show. 

I last updated this blog only 4 days ago so not much time to have done stuff but as I am trying to get back into a weekly habit of academic reflexive writing I decided to write it again today. Plus writing it on a Monday helps me both reflect on the previous week as well as prepare for the forthcoming one.

My note somewhat predictably contains the words 'difficulty concentrating' - twas ever thus and maybe I just need to accept that rather than difficulty concentrating I just have a kind of flitting brain and as long as the task gets finished does it matter if I do it in snatches of concentration rather than one big long tranche. Plus as I write this on the computer it's incredibly easy to get distracted, especially if I have to look something up.

Anyways on with the note - one of the things it says is 'horsehair in the post'. One of the things I am really interested in and hoping to make a version of my own is mourning jewellery that includes hair. Thanks to an international inter library loan I was able to read the very wonderful The Art of Hair Work Book by Mark Campbell which consists of patterns and tips on how to make them. One of the tips is that as human hair can be very fine it can be padded out with horsehair which is much stiffer and coarser and so easier to work with. I am lucky to have a chum who has a horse so I asked her to save me hair from each grooming session with her horse and a lovely packet of it arrived through the post last week. I hope to start working with it soon.

My favourite seasons are (and in this order) autumn, spring, winter - I'm not really a fan of summer as though I like the extra strong sunlight from a developing cyanotypes and anthotypes point of view, I do not like the heat. Nor do I like having to slather myself in factor 50 and so feel like a chip each time I leave the house. Autumn brings cosy nights when as the light fades you can close the curtains and light candles and read ghost stories without feeling out of place. Plus I love the half light of Autumn - especially when it is gloomily misty and atmospheric. Plus Autumn has Halloween - my very favourite time of year.

Plus as autumn is also the start of a new academic year it also fills me with excitement (as well as slight trepidation) as who knows what the new term will bring? apart from a very good excuse to buy new stationery - obviously.  I've not had any emails yet from the university outlining what if any the new enrolment arrangements are - will contact them by the end of the week if I still haven't heard anything and in the meantime slowly but surely plod on with my reading list. I've read a bit more of the Rings of Saturn (Sebald) and am still loving it and making all sorts of notes on the text.

This reading and writing malarkey is mostly sedentary though so I'm still having deadlifting sessions twice a week as it is helping me with my goals of not being quite so sedentary, getting fitter and increasing my stamina. Plus it is a very definite thing to do in lots of ways when compared to my academic pursuits and I was pleased last week to be that bit nearer to my goal of being able to deadlift 80kg by the end of the year by deadlifting 60kg. I am most decidedly knackered though.

Yesterday I went to see a film about Andy Goldsworthy and it was very good indeed but rather than talk about it here -I shall put it in the next section:

Programmes/Films Watched
Reidelshimer T (director) 2018 Leaning Into The Wind UK Filmpunkt Skyline Productions
A film which followed Andy Goldsworthy making work with his daughter Holly as his assistant, talking about his influences, researching and showing images of his work around the world, either in situ or in progress. It's many years since I saw an exhibition of his work at Leeds Art Gallery and fell in awe of it. IIRC it was the shapes made out of dried leaves held together with thorns which most impressed and intrigued me, as well as the use of brightly coloured natural leaves in situ in the landscape. This film also showed his pieces within a city setting too - think it was in Edinburgh, including his beautiful temporary pieces where he lies down on the floor as it begins to rain, waits til the ground surrounding him has changed colour with the rain and then stands up - leaving a splayed limbs human shape behind which quickly becomes spotted and disappears. Beautiful, simple, evocative, poignant and fun.

He talked about how for him being an artist meant he could ask the question - can you walk by something or through something as he was making his way through hedges - not from front to back but from one end to the other in a way that looked very uncomfortable and potentially dangerous should you fall. He did say that learning to fall is very important for an artist. He also talked of how his favourite kind of day is an overcast grey calm one as that gives him time to stop and that's a relief.

It also showed him revisiting the coffins carved into the cliff above Morecambe Bay in Heysham and the Sleeping Stones they've inspired him to make around the world. This made me especially happy as I went there in July and laid in one of them. How much time and weather changes things - in the film they were full of rainwater, when I saw them they were full of dust. Which also reminds me of the scene in Brazil where he was throwing and sweeping dust into the beam of light from a hole in the roof in an otherwise abandoned cottage. I also found the covering of a hand in thick black mud and washing it off under a waterfall very moving as it made me think of loss and the transience of all things though it could also be thought of as a revealing too.

As ever lots of food for thought and I really enjoyed the way he described his work and the motivations behind it. It did also make me wonder about health and safety as there was an awful lot of climbing, stone carving with power tools and being alone in the landscape and physical discomfort at a level I wouldn't be at all comfortable with. In my eyes - he really does suffer for his art.

Books Read
Ongoing reading of Rings of Saturn and Gaudy Night
the unread pile of books that I need to read continues to nag at me......

Exhibitions Attended
None - but definite plans have been made to visit the Victorian Giants of Photography at the Millenium Gallery in Sheffield later this month. 

Thursday, 30 August 2018

PhD-Ness part 4 in weekly series - reading, listening, pomodoring, Sebald and Infest


slightly emptier notepad this week, another matte medium image transfer - this time onto canvas using a two week old black and white photocopy and finally(!!) started reading Sebald and the blue post it note stickers indicate places in the text where there's something I need to look up, something I want to think about a bit more, something I want to quote or some mention of death/funereal custom - I'm not sure where I got the copy from though, I usually remember where I get books from but can't remember with this one and it doesn't have a charity shop mark I recognise in it.

So finally started reading some Sebald - Rings of Saturn 2002 edition and so far I am absolutely loving it, in a similar way to the way I completely fell in love with Barthes Camera Lucida because it is so immediately emotional and personal plus he is writing about things I love - the past, bones, burial and fascinating recounts of individuals histories. There are also stark shocking figures about the bombing raids during the 1939-1945 war which originated in East Anglia. So far I'm up to the silent housekeeper and her inheritance - I am looking forward to reading more and thinking about the themes of the book and the way it is constructed and written.

Along with looking up some of the references in Sebald's book I also need to do some investigating into the life and work of Elizabeth Fulhame who published a book called An Essay on Combustion with a View to a New Art of Dying and Painting in 1794. She is credited with discovering photoreduction - which is to do with light dependant reactions and the concept of catalysis -  which is to do with what chemicals can be added to others to alter the speed of chemical reactions to give a desired outcome. I think. I'm not really au fait with chemical terms and so I can forsee a lot of dictionary checking and asking questions of my chums who are chemically literate in my future.

I had never heard of Elizabeth Fulhame before last week when she was talked about by Irfan Shah during his very excellent Measure of the Moon talk at Leeds central Library last week. He talked about the connections between photographic and film experimentations and Leeds. It was fascinating to hear him trace the threads and leads between the invention of the micrometer, calotypes, daguerreotypes (am especially pleased because that's the first time I've been able to spell that word correctly without having to look it up!!) and the creation of moving images by Louis Le Prince. Much more investigation needed on my part to find out more about Elizabeth and also to hopefully read her book and ideally be able to understand it....

I'm interested in her work - partly because she was a woman but also because of my work transferring images onto material and to see whwther or not she uses any techniques I could learn from or copy.

As ever I've been really struggling with concentration, flitting from one thought to another or one website and another so am going to make a concerted effort to do one thing at a time, either until that particular task is finished or for a set amount of time before swapping to something else - essentially the pomodoro technique. Sometimes though it is the chance finding of seeing another potentially useful source whilst looking up or working on something that is most fruitful but also potentially most distracting. This most often happens when I am having to look a word or a reference up which either leads me down another path or down the siren path of social media. Must be a bit more disciplined though and make productive use of as much of my time as possible eg like reading more Sebald whilst on the bus earlier this week, whilst waiting for a chum and whilst waiting to be called in the health centre waiting room.

This also makes me think about procrastination, it was a real light bulb moment when I read about procrastination often being a mask for fear of failing the task you're putting off. A feeling I can all too readily identify with, though sometimes my procrastination is also useful as it means I'm mostly on top of the non scarey more routine tasks and life admin type stuff. Though in spite of checking my diary almost every day - I still often forget to get birthday cards in the post in time for folks.

The Tetley run an artists associate programme and I applied for it through the very marvellous Curator Space a couple of weeks ago. It was a bit of a last minute application as I'd not checked Curator Space properly and so was only aware of the opportunity thanks to the email reminder of last chance opportunities. I've had an email to say I haven't been successful which I'm not surprised about partly because last minute applications are not as well thought through and put together as ones done well in advance and also because I'm not sure the kind of work/subject matter/approach is what they're looking for but I've asked for feedback on my application so I'll see what they say.

Last week was very busy in terms of lots of lovely things too - namely Infest which is an annual goth, dark wave, industrial, synth pop festival in Bradford. It's usually three nights but this time it was four as it was the twentieth anniversary. As there were other family things going on we only went for the Thursday night which was also the evening that our friends Zeitgeist Zero were playing and they were brilliant and so were Peter Hook and the Light. There was also the Gravediggers Union and Empirion but I didn't watch those as my attention was all for Zeitgeist Zero and Peter Hook and the Light.

Peter Hook was one of the founding members of Joy Division who became New Order after the death of Ian Curtis in 1980. I've kind of grown up with Joy Division and New Order - coming from Manchester you'd be hard pressed not to have heard of them, even if you're not a fan of the music they made. So it was amazing to hear such wonderful iconic songs that have meant a lot to me and so many others over the years played live with such passion. A friend writes with much more eloquence about the performance and its link to the goth scene here

It was also especially lovely to hear, dance and sing along to those versions without the usual annoyances of having to watch it through other people's phone screens or being forced to listen to other people's inane conversations. That's not to say that those things weren't happening but they were few and far between and easily avoided. It was also a lovely opportunity to get properly gothed up, wear lots of make up and see lots of friends in real life as opposed to chatting to them via social media. Social media is exactly that - social but it's also a media as opposed to a direct physical immediate experience and whilst it is a good way of keeping in touch with people it's so much lovelier to see them in real life. In the same way that I'm all about the analogue when it comes to images - in real life I'm all about the real as opposed to the virtual simulacrum.

Programmes/films watched
Nothing of note except for yet another rewatch of Jacques Tourners Night of the Demon (1957) its monochrome gorgeousness is just enchanting, especially the corridor Caligari-esque scenes and the scenes in the wood (it's in the trees, it's coming!!') with the lights in the distance has given me an idea for a photo sequence I want to try using dusk, torchlights....and maybe even a smoke machine.

Books read
(finally) started Rings of Saturn by WG Sebald
still reading Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayer and am struck by the arguments around women and work, careers, marriage are still being had today - some of the archaic language being used aside. Given that the novel was first published over 80 years ago and we have had things like The Equal Pay Act in place for 40 years makes me feel that Sayers was a prescient and still relevant novelist and depressed that not more progress has been made.

Exhibitions Attended
No art ones but did go to Yorkshire Air Museum last week. My brother was up for a visit and it was his choice to go there as he is a bit of an aircraft nerd. I've been there a few times now and there were quite a few new planes and others were at more advanced stages of restoration than when we'd last seen them but the thing that struck me this time was the lack of context around some of the things on display. There is lots of technical information around dates of use, size of engine etc and displays around the development of aircraft and the use of aircraft in the 1939-1945 war in particular.

However the object that to me was without much context and that I found especially horrifying and depressing was a cluster bomb, on display with half of the cover removed so the smaller bombs it contains with technical details next to it, but nothing about who designed it, who makes it, who sells it, who profits from it, where it has been used and that kind of information.  I also had my usual cognitive disconnect/does not compute on visiting the Chapel, my reading of the new testament was a long time ago but I am fairly sure Christ wasn't reported as saying many pro-war/fighting things if at all.

So a busy week of doing a bit of reading, some photo editing - did a lot of flipping of images ready to print them for matte medium image transferring, some dressing up, some dancing and some socialising - all of which are good for my soul.



    

Monday, 20 August 2018

PhD-Ness Part 3 in weekly series - Speaking, Coughing, Snotting, Reading....


In this weeks picture - the plastic skull I fill with notes about nice things that have happened, a book I bought from a lovely independent bookshop called Forum Books in Corbridge earlier this year, my new bookmarks/page markers - I put one of these or a coloured post it note on the page where I've read something that is particularly interesting/apposite, the last weeks notes and my talk which I delivered on Wednesday evening for the PhD In The Pub Leeds - before then coming down with a bad cough and cold which left me unable to do much other than cough, splutter and watch repeats of Columbo and Law and Order for the past few days.

So in the same way that rain stops play in cricket, snot stopped me from doing much last week, I'd felt a bit sore throaty prior to the PhD In The Pub in Leeds on Wednesday evening (held at Slocken on Call Lane - never been there before but they do a very nice gin and tonic) and I was feeling okay for talking about my research and the talk and questions and answers bit went well but my throat was very scratchy by the time I got home and by the following morning I was just a sneezing snot monster and fit for little other than lying on the sofa trying to read but even that without much success as I couldn't concentrate for long or I couldn't stay awake.

Feeling a bit better today (have only had to use my inhaler once so far today so that's a definite improvement) and just trying to gather my thoughts about what I got up to or didn't last week. I've already mentioned the PhD In The Pub talk and it is just talk as they don't have anything other than a flip chart so there is no accompanying powerpoint presentation. I did take along some of the pieces I've been working on recently though - the lightbox image of Ann Carr's tombstone and a couple of embroidery hoops. I thought it'd be in a small room with about 10-15 people but it was in the upstairs floor of the bar and there were actually about 60 people there, including two women who love cemeteries and had seen it advertised on Twitter and came along especially to hear me talk about St George's Field, and a chap I met at the Curator Space meeting I spoke at in Wakefield last month, who then came to the talk I did at Leeds Central Library and who brought along two of his friends to hear me. This is especially flattering as it makes me think I can't be that bad a public speaker and my subject matter is interesting if someone comes to hear you more than once and brings their mates along.

Delivering the talk was the main thing I did last week, though I also did another bigger matte medium image transfer onto canvas (not pictured) which I was pleased with in terms of technique but not so pleased when I realised that the image was the wrong way round and the f**king modern bin that gets in the way of the Victorian era I am trying to evoke was on the wrong side of the Chapel steps - I had forgotten to flip the image. I feel such a dolt as a result. Hence the highlighted 'NEED TO FLIP IMAGES' on my notes. One of my jobs this week is to 'flip' the images I want to make matte medium image transfers of.

The other thing I made a note of was check image ownership before retweeting - as the image that the organisers used for my talk wasn't an image of mine but one of Dr Tina Richardson's from her Particulations blog. I knew it wasn't one of mine because it was in colour but I presumed it was one the organisers had taken or had permission to use but after chatting with Tina on Facebook it transpired they hadn't. Which was a bit cheeky on their part - if they'd asked me I could have given them one of mine to use.  I then retweeted their tweet with the correct image accreditation. This taking of images from the internet without asking permission or giving credit is why increasingly I don't put images I've made or taken online.

Programmes/Films Watched
Nothing of note other than Columbo or Law and Order repeats, they along with The Goldbergs are my comfort viewing of choice. I did start watching Jacque Tourners magnificent Night of the Demon (1957) which is one of my very favourite horror films but by then the Nightnurse had kicked in and I fell asleep not long after Karswell summoned the storm at the childrens party.

Books Read 
I really struggled with concentration the past week - having to stop every few minutes to blow your nose or cough doesn't make for easy reading. But I did make headway with my book being read purely for pleasure: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L Sayers, my edition was printed in 1939 and I am now about halfway through one of my birthday presents - the very marvellous Death A Graveside Companion (2017) edited by Joanna Ebenstein which is split into different chapters all focusing on different aspects of death with essays and illustrations. I especially enjoyed the essay by Karen Bachmann entitled 'The Power of Hair As Human Relic in Mourning Jewellery' which included thought provoking lines like ' the hair represents a private communion between the wearer and the deceased' and that it is only when the hair is cut that it makes its transition from 'natural artefact to cultural relic'.  The copious accompanying illustrations are gorgeous too but the text is quite difficult to read as it is shiny gold print on brown paper and I have to be sat under a very bright light in order to make it easily visible.

I've also been dipping in and out of 'Why Are We Artists? 100 World Art Manifestos' selected by Jennifer Lack and published by Penguin Modern Classics in 2017. Again this is the proof of the power of a sentence to me - as these two have given me much food for thought:
From Adam Pendleton's piece Black Dada (2008) a poetic repetitive manifesto which includes the line:
'these buildings don't uncover a single truth, so which truth do you want to tell?'
The other manifesto which has given me much food for thought and one which I need to do more research on is that of Deep Lez by Allyson Mitchell.
I shall continue to dip in and out of that book.
 
I have however completely failed to ready any of Sebalds's The Rings of Saturn - something I must remedy this week.

Exhibitions Attended
None

So all in all not a very productive week - unless you count . I am little bit worried that I am in danger of falling behind a bit with my reading plan in particular but once I've properly got my concentration span back and under control I'm hoping I can get back on top of it. I might have to do it in pomodoro style chunks though to make sure I finish it.

Monday, 13 August 2018

PhD-Ness Part 2 in weekly series - Thinking, Reading, Writing and Doing and sentences that make you stop and think

things I've been working on this week - pictures are two of the images I was working on last week. One has been  put into a larger hoop and finished with black bias binding  and felt on the back - looks neater but also doesn't allow any light through, the second has had the excess material at the back of the hoop sewn and pulled together the same way as you do when making a 'suffolk puff'* which lets light through but on this example isn't very neat as I didn't start out with a piece of muslin at least twice the diameter of the finished piece. The third hoop (not pictured) I finished with grey bias binding and just trimmed the excess material at the back - lets light through beautifully, looks neat BUT makes it extremely difficult to re-tighten the material in the hoop to make the image flat as possible. Also pictured are my new highlighter pens cunningly disguised as nail varnishes, my note pad (packed to the drawstrings with handy comments**)  my trusty reading glasses (none of your modern varifocals for me) and a copy of Sebalds Rings Of Saturn which has been on my 'books to read list' for months but which as yet remains unread - 
one of my goals for this week is to have at least read the first chapter by Friday.
I am properly back at 'study/work' even though it still seems like the summer holidays in lots of ways......


Programmes/Films Watched
I've been to the ever lovely Hyde Park Picture House twice this past week - to see the restored 4 k (whatever that means) version of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) and Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker (1953). Vertigo was in colour - in fact colour plays an important part in the film - the vivid green highlighting characters jealousy in places and the costumes designed by Edith Head are utterly wonderful. I've not seen Vertigo as many times as I've seen other Hitchcock films and in places as in all his films it's an uncomfortable watch. I know his films are meant to be - murder, obsessive jealousy and tension aren't  meant to be fun but I mean uncomfortable to watch by my feminist standards as Hitchcocks treatment of female characters can be especially horrible and so uncomfortable and difficult to watch. The way Scotty (played so wonderfully by the incomparable James Stewart) pressures Judy Barton (played so excellently by the wonderful Kim Novak) into looking like the woman of his obsession is horrible, they way the worker at the beauty salon reassures him that they can make her look exactly the way he wants and her desperate asking if he will love her if she does makes me squirm.  Those misgivings aside I absolutely loved it and it was a real treat to see it on the big screen.

The Hitch-Hiker was also uncomfortable to watch - it tells a fictionalised and slightly less grim version of the true story of Billy Cook who murdered six people whilst hitch-hiking in 1950-1951. The character based on him - Emmet Myers only(!) killed three, as films made in America at the time were still subject to the Production Code and the number of deaths had to be reduced or else it wouldn't be released. This film was in monochrome and was made by Ida Lupino who started life as an actress but also worked as a writer and a director. There aren't many female directors today and there were even less in Lupino's day. She was a groundbreaker both in terms of the work she did and the subject matter she made films about.

The film is strangely claustrophobic given that much of it is set in the vast outdoors though this is always out of reach of the two kidnapped men, visible only through the cars windows or around them as Myers keeps them under constant watch and has a gun. They have lied to their wives about where they are going for the weekend and so it takes time for the combined police forces of North and South America to catch up with them thanks to a tip from cousin of a bar owner and rescue them from Myer's clutches. In spite of Myer's laughing at them and pointing out that one of them could get away leaving the other to his fate, they continue to support one another. 

Flowers C Kendall T (producers) 2018, 11 August  Sylvia Plath - Inside The Bell Jar [television broadcast] BBC LondonA mix of vox pops from some of her surviving high school and college friends as well as her daughter Freida and readings from poems and passages of The Bell Jar. A book I re-read recently. It was powerful and moving and the photos of her holding a flower - the prop she was given when she said she wanted to be a writer were especially poignant and beautiful.

As you can probably tell I'm still finding this reference malarkey difficult, partly because it's still not second nature but also because I find it difficult deciding sometimes between what is a reference and what is an in text citation when it comes to films/programmes as I'm not quoting them like I am a book but just describing them. Anyway here's hoping that at some point it will become second nature and stops making my brain hurt and put off doing things....

Books Read
Maybe I need to split these into two categories - books read for study purposes and those read purely for pleasure - though often the two categories overlap considerably.  Entirely for pleasure I've just started reading Gaudy Nights by  Dorothy L Sayers - my edition dates from 1939 (it was first published in 1935)  and it was bought from a charity shop in Carnforth and is delightfully aged spotted and the red cloth binding has cracked. It smells of 'old' and I am 35 pages in and I have enjoyed her descriptions of formal academia for women so far.

Also entirely for pleasure I read 'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb (2018) - bought from a charity shop in Barnsley. I read this over a couple of days as I found it bittersweet, poignant and laugh out loud funny in places. I enjoyed it so much I've made my husband read it too - he's up to the not taking clothing advice from Mr Shitty Legs section and also laughing out loud as well as feeling lots of empathetic recognition.

I finished The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris and then read the introduction, the opening chapter and chapter 'Vile Bodies' from 'Dirty Old London, The Victorian Fight Against Filth' by Lee Jackson which was very interesting indeed. I am reading books like this to get a more rounded kind of every day knowledge of what conditions were like in Victorian Britain.  Plus they are easier to read and understand on first reading than some of the more specialist philosophical texts I need to read too.

I was particularly taken with this quote from a report on the contents of graveyards from 1838 'mephitical effluvia of death' on page 116 (mephitical means foul smelling) and the concluding paragraph of the chapter Vile Bodies which concentrates upon cemeteries and disposal of the dead for me especially resonated with me 'Yet, despite the ravages of time, changing customs, vicissitudes of fashion, the Victorian garden cemetery still survives in its various forms, one of the great legacies of the nineteenth century.'

I also read McQueen - The Illustrated History of a Fashion Icon - written by Tom Rammussen and illustrated by R. Song This was a birthday present to me bought from Magma on Oldham Street in Manchester and it's gorgeous. A big brand new hardback with red edged pages and it smells of new paper. An overview of McQueen's life, education and career in fashion and art, it featured two passages that really stood out for me from page 47 when describing his graduate collection 'Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims' 1992 as 'each piece had a lock of McQueen's hair bonded between two pieces of acrylic on the inside:representing the old tradition of giving hair to a lover as a token, often purchased from prostitutes rather than cut from their own hair' and on page 169 ' McQueen was a master at marrying unlikely references - often the historic with the contemporary'

The locks of hair mention made me think I still have lots of research to do on the use of hair in Victorian mourning jewellery and practice in trying to make versions of them using acrylic hair and patterns from 1875. I've just asked a chum if she can send me some horsehair for padding out the hair and making it stiffer and easier to work with. This was one of the tips from that book by Mark Campbell. I don't think I am a master (or a mistress - why are the words we use to denote skill/knowledge gendered at all?) at marrying the historic and contemporary though it is also one of the things I hope to achieve with the work I make.

William Henry Fox Talbot Dawn of the Photograph - Russell Roberts and Greg Hobson - (2016) Scala Arts and Heritage Publishers - the exhibition catalogue from the exhibition that I failed to go and see in person. It made me think again of the relationship between art and science in photography and how close and inter-dependant that relationship was in the early days and how a photograph can be both a picture and a document. And the role of light in photography and how it both helps create the image and then causes it to fade too.   

Pictures taken/Artwork made or worked onHoops - see above
Still haven't taken any pictures - got an almost finished roll of 36 in my lomo fish eye lens camera and am still only halfway through a roll of 36 in my very much not lomo Canon but I've not had much of a picture taking unless it's for straightforward recording purposes mojo. Something I shall have to kickstart and make myself do I think - in the same way that I make myself sit and write this.

Exhibitions Attended  
None this week - which is a bit shameful really, and something I hope to remedy this week.
But I did forget to mention the rather wonderful drawing of a skull I saw in the recreation of David Hockney's studio in Cartwright Hall in Lister Park, Bradford. The other thing I absolutely loved in the Hockney Gallery there were the recreations of his photo albums with pictures of his family - pictured in all their under and over exposed glory in 'snaps' and it was so wonderful to see pictures that had the shape of sent away to be developed snaps ie square-ish with slightly rounded edges or square with white edges all the way round and that hadn't been automatically exposed/image stabilised/taken using a phone. They gave me an almost proustian rush, but alas I have very few old family photographs to meander down memory lane with - I mostly have memories of photographs instead.

I also haven't mentioned til now the exhibition launch I went to at Dean Clough a few weeks ago - an exhibition by Charlie Goldthorpe which I am immensely pleased and proud to have been involved with. I was one of the people who supplied her with stories about objects and people and how I remember that person through particular objects. Namely my Nana through a toilet roll holder dolly she made and gave me many years ago. It's one of the few objects I would choose to save if the house were to burn down. I am in awe of the skillful, beautiful and respectful way Charlie used that to make the work on show. You can read about and see some images of it here .

Other work/applications/miscellaneous
I put together a very last minute application to The Tetley to be one of the artists for their mentoring programme and sent it in a full twelve hours before the deadline. I applied late because I have fallen into a bad habit of not checking the Curator Space site itself regularly instead relying on the email to tell me about opportunities but that only tells me of new ones and ones about to close - as the Tetley one was. It wasn't too difficult to put together as I had already put together things like a CV and that just needed updating but I'm afraid it wasn't as tailored as it could and should have been to ensure success but there's still some time til they said they'd be in touch so you never know. Note to self - check Curator Space at least once a week!!

I've also had a book review published and you can read it here and I'm especially chuffed with it as I a)got a copy of the book to review and b) it's a review in a proper peer reviewed academic journal.

I have been experimenting with different ways of working too - some days I have switched the computer on in the morning to check email and then switched it back off again so I could read without getting distracted by social media. It worked well until I came across words I didn't understand and which weren't in the Little Oxford Dictionary I was given for my 11th birthday just before I started secondary school and so had to look them up online. I also made more of an effort to move about more during the day rather than being sedentary which was better in terms of feeling less stiff the day after weight-training sessions (I have a new goal of being able to deadlift 80kg by the end of the year and so far I have deadlifted 57kg) but also meant that I got sidetracked from what I was doing and I felt like I hadn't worked all day. Hmm this work and day planning malarkey still needs work....

I also wrote my presentation for PhD In The Pub - fingers crossed it goes okay....


References:
Jackson, L (2014) Dirty Old London, The Victorian Fight Against Filth  London Yale University Press 
Rammusen, T & Song R (2018) McQueen The Illustrated History of a Fashion Icon Melbourne Australia Smith Street Books 
* for instructions on how to make a suffolk puff see here 
** prizes given (well not really) to the person who spots which comedian and sketch I am almost-quoting here - clue she also wrote about an antique shop in Manchesterford