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  




Monday, 6 August 2018

PhD-Ness Part 1 - as in a new hopefully weekly series of posts - Supervision-Ness, Experimenting and Reflexive Academic Writing...

Works in progress balanced on top of a light box - matte medium image transfers of 35mm film image of the Chapel at St George;s Field taken with a lomo fish eye lens camera  - trying out different materials (from l-r off white muslin, white muslin, light grey poly cotton) to see which takes and shows off the image best - am currently leaning towards the off white muslin as I like the air of 'oldy worldy' it gives off. I also asked chums on Farcebook and the Twitter and of those who replied most agreed with me - one said it was because it makes the sun shining through the columns look more sunshine-like.  I plan next to try making these again either on material soaked in graveyard dirt or with a wash of graveyard dirt or dried powdered flowers. I also want to make bigger versions - these are only 10 centimetres across. 

No post it note this time as the one I have just says 'getting back to work' and nothing else. I haven't been working very much as I a) needed a considerable rest after my viva and b) I have also been stretching out the celebrations of a significant birthday with a zero. The celebrations have included all manner of loveliness ranging from going to see Dusty Springfield The Musical at The Lowry - I really enjoyed it and have had a bit of a Dusty earworm since, staying at Lindeth Tower where my beloved Elizabeth Gaskell used to holiday and write (see previous blog post) and amongst many lovely gifts being given a wonderful medium format camera by my husband, it's the kind with a viewfinder you hold up to your eye as opposed to look down into and I am really looking forward to loading it up and taking some pictures with it.

I did go back to work a bit last week - I went over to Huddersfield for a meeting with my tutor in which we discussed the feedback from the external examiners at my viva and what steps to take next - in terms of reading and in terms of writing. One of the things she suggested was to work on reflexive academic writing and one way to do that is by updating this blog at least once if not twice a week and properly referencing it as I go along. I'm definitely keen to do this as at the moment referencing in particular is not an automatic habit and I have to write with the uni leaflet 'a quick guide to referencing' by my side. So I'm definitely going to try and do that. I'm not sure if I will keep these more frequent posts public though, I might do private ones and just one public one a month instead. I haven't decided that yet though. I find I write differently about things depending on whether something is public or private. The aim of this more regular writing is twofold - increase my skill as a reflexive academic writer and to see if any patterns start emerging.

But one thing I might do is to try and write things in a more standard way each time - with the same headings. Throughout my Masters I used my blog as my research journal and I wrote it once a week (usually on a Monday) using the notes/reflections/ideas I'd jotted on a pad kept in front of the computer in my workroom. That was a good habit at the time but I think I need to refine it with categories/subheadings - and maybe ones like these:
Programmes/Films Watched
Books Read
Pictures Taken/Pieces of Artwork Made
Exhibitions Attended
I'm open to suggestions for others....

Programmes/Films watched: in the last week it's been - Before Stonewall, Schiller (1985) - a documentary made in the USA which interviewed lesbians and gay men about what life was like for them before the Stonewall Riot in New York which lasted from June 28th 1969-July 1st 1969. It was a mix of people talking about their experiences as well as news footage from the time. Almost all the contributors mentioned how being in the military during WW2 had enabled them to feel less lonely as they met other people like themselves, some mentioned books and how they had realised they weren't the only one as characters in books were also feeling the same way. I found it heartening and fascinating but I was also struggling to stay awake to watch it because I was really tired and the heat in the Hyde Park Picture House was making me really drowsy. I could do with seeing it again really.

I've also seen Psycho, Hitchcock (1960) which was a real treat to see on the big screen at the air conditioned Pictureville in Bradford. I've watched Psycho a few times but this was the first time on a big screen and with a proper big sound system, which made me realise that it isn't just the wonder of Bernard Hermann's intense score that make it such a powerful film but also other elements of the soundtrack like the sound of water - which is used not just in the shower sequence but also the rain preceeding it which leads her to the Bates Motel in the first place but also the sound of the swamp as it swallows up her car. I am also rather fond of Anthony Perkins so it was especially lovely to see him on a big screen. Then for some light relief we watched The Producers, Brooks (1967) another film I have seen before but not on a big screen. It was a delight to see Gene Wilder's face writ large as he evolves from honest accountant into drunk swindler and theatre impressario.

Books Read
I must be honest I've been struggling to concentrate because of the heat and also because my attention span is of a wandering kind unless I get completely absorbed by what I'm reading. I found the biography of Alexander McQueen by Andrew Wilson 'Blood Beneath The Skin' (2015) really interesting, as well as saddening. It was very much a reportage of what people had said to about McQueen in interviews with the author or from interviews as opposed to in depth analysis of either the clothes he made or the runway shows he created but nevertheless I found it engrossing. I am very much on a McQueen kick at the moment, having seen the recent  documentary McQueen(Ettedgui 2018) about him and his work at the Hyde Park. I found the film very powerful and moving as well as inspirational in terms of his designs. I treated myself to a book about his designs for my birthday and it's next on my reading list.

I did try reading an extract from Foucaults 'We 'other Victorians' which I came across in the Cultural Studies Reader (Munns and Rajan 1995) I picked up secondhand for a quid from Brodsworth Hall the other week but I just couldn't get into it, the words either swam on the page or made individual sense but didn't as sentences and after a while instead of forcing myself to continue with it I thought I'd read something I could make sense of so I started The Butchering Art (2018) by Dr Lindsay Fitzharris (a birthday present from my brother) which with its extremely graphic descriptions of bladder stones which made me feel rather faint and very glad to live in age of pain relief,antiseptics, and antibiotics. I asked for that as I thought I'd find it interesting but its subtitle 'Joseph Lister's Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine' also tells you that is at least related to my studies too. As is the 'Who Do You Think You Are? tie in to the tv series book I picked up from Oxfam in Huddersfield on my way back to Leeds. I'm not especially interested in the stories of celebrities families covered in the book but the tips about how to get the best out of official record sources like birth and death registers are excellent and will come in very handy as I try to trace more details of some of the otherwise unrecorded women buried in St George's Field.

I came back somewhat laden with books from Huddersfield last week, as I also picked up copies of some of the reading suggestions made for me after my viva. I have an awful lot of reading to do over the next few weeks and I've still to get the balance right between reading,doing and writing. I am also very glad that I am continuing with my weight training sessions or else I would not have had the strength to carry home the mighty tomes I picked up. I did feel very stiff the following day though.

One other thing that is going through my mind and fermenting are the concepts of authenticity and proximity. As in why is it so important for people (myself included) to go to or see wherever possible the actual or original place where someone lived or died, or the original piece of work someone made rather than a copy. Mmm lots to think about there - as ever......


Bibliography
Schiller G, Rosenberg R (directors) (1985) Before Stonewall (film documentary) USA First Run Features
Hitchcock A (producer/director) (1960) Psycho (film) USA Shamley Productions
Brooks M (producer/writer) (1967) The Producers (film) USA Embassy Pictures
Wilson A (2015) Alexander McQueen Blood Beneath The Skin UK Simon and Schuster
Munns J, Rajan G (1995) A Cultural Studies Reader - History, Theory Practice UK Longman
Fitzharris L (2018) The Butchering Art London Allen Lane
Waddell D (2004) Who Do You Think You Are? London BBC Books  


Friday, 20 July 2018

PhD-Nes Part 11 Reading, Doing, Talking, Having A Break and Beginning Again....

Phone pic of Lindeth Tower - utterly incredible place to stay - not least because it was the favourite holiday home of Elizabeth Gaskell and where she wrote Ruth - possibly her most radical novel. 
here is this months note, along with notes of book to read which feature cemeteries almost as characters in their own right (as heard on the book programme on R4)  a card of a watercolour painting by Janice McGloine of Lindeth Tower Silverdale - where I have had the immense privilege of staying as a pre significant birthday with a zero treat and one of the things I have been making recently - a repurposed supercheap lightbox from Home Bargains filled with a 35mm image printed on acetate of Ann Carr's grave taken on what would have been her 235th birthday.



Am writing this - partly as a way of getting my thoughts together but also as a way to ease myself back into some writing as I've had a few very welcome and much needed days off since my upgrade viva on July 4th. Which frankly seems like a lifetime ago now but was only a couple of weeks ago. I feel like I had been preparing for it for months - which I had but it also seemed like a very long winded way of assessing whether or not the work I had been doing was of a good enough standard to become a proper full on PhD research project. I first started writing the upgrade report back in March and it went through many drafts, rewrites, reformats and much metaphorical tearing out of hair before I finally handed it in for assessment on 17th June electronically and then in paper form on 18th June. I then had a mock viva with my tutor and then rejigged my presentation based on her feedback before the official one on July 4th.

It felt like an impossible, insurmountable, never ending task at times which seemed to dominate my every waking hour - as it was/is a really important milestone. There were three possible outcomes:
a)No - it's not PhD standard - try for an M Phil instead
b) Mmm - it could be good enough but it isn't yet - take on board these points and we'll go through this assessment process again in 6 weeks and we'll see if it's improved enough by then.
c)Yes - that's okay, you need to think about x,y,z but it's basically okay and you can proceed.

I was quietly confident that it wouldn't be a) as I had done loads of work plus bottom line - they want my fees for the next two years, my ideal outcome was c) and I am still both very glad and very relieved that that was the outcome I got - along with some really useful feedback and pointers for moving it forward. So I am now officially a doctoral candidate and all set for the second year of my research and studies and then all being well - the third....

Except I haven't really done much studying or research since then - instead I have been having the occasional lie in, I have been to the pictures - seen Yellow Submarine (1967) which I enjoyed but was a bit too sick of its hippy message by the end and so wanted to go on a metaphorical killing spree, That Summer (2017) which was an interesting but also slightly disturbing documentary about a well to do woman and daughter living in comparative squalor in the Hamptons, and on tv - Cash on Demand (1961) which was a taut thriller with Andre Morrell and Peter Cushing at the height of their fantastic acting powers - I absolutely loved that and want to watch it again. 

I have caught up with some chums, I have properly cleaned and tidied the house (it needs doing again now though - oh how I wish bathroom tiles stayed scrubbed once you've done them) and I have mooched around charity shops. I have lain on the sofa and read books bought from said charity shops, books read entirely for pleasure -  the wonderful Diary of a Provincial Lady (first published 1930) by EM Delafield which transported me to a different time and social class and made me chuckle, the gritty and transporting in a different way Johnny Come Home (2006) by Jake Arnott and the thought provoking and wonderful Grayson Perry - Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl (2006) by Wendy Jones which if I'm honest does have some passages that have made me think about my own artwork making processes.  But at some point soon I really need to get back in a thinking/working way of behaving, I'm still going to take things relatively easy until my birthday is out of the way though but then it's back to the grindstone in earnest. No mean feat in this horrible soul sapping energy dampening heat though. I am (almost) literally praying for rain.

I celebrated the evening of the viva by going to the Wimpy in Huddersfield - they still have the Wimpy and whilst it is not quite the Wimpy I remember from my childhood (when it was a very special treat to have one of their big frothy strawberry milkshakes in a glass and I was told off for either blowing back down the straw in order to make more bubbles or slurping up the last of it loudly) it still has waitress service, Benders and carbon copy order pads. It was delicious in the way that fast not very good nutritionally food is and that was followed by lots of fizz when we got home. I avoided any and all world cup games because that kind of organised sport gets on my last nerve. I did a talk on my work for Curator Space at the Art House in Wakefield which went well and then we went to Silverdale - via a quick stop off at Blackpool Tower where I steeled myself to walk on the glass floor about 350 feet up before escaping to the relative quiet of the upper more open to fresh air but still meshed in floors.

Silverdale was amazing - peaceful, quiet and picturesque and it was so amazing to be staying in what had also been Elizabeth Gaskell's holiday home (part of me wonders if there as many terrifying 'DANGER QUICKSAND' notices in her day on the shoreline - so there was no paddling but there was a fair amount of walking along the rocky bits of the shoreline along Jenny Browns Point) though it was also quite hard work as the staircases in the Tower were steep and high. They were not the things to tackle if under a heavy influence of gin so drinking was kept to a minimum or non existent until the steepest of the stairs had been conquered for the night. Plus the loo was on the ground floor. It was absolutely gorgeous though and we really want to go back again. Re-reading Ruth (1853) which she wrote there was a special treat, as was writing my diary with my trusty fountain pen looking out of the window that Gaskell herself would have done when writing. The bats which swooped round the Tower at night were also wonderful - but being bitten by midges was not. 

Along with a bit of mooching along the shore we also had an enjoyable afternoon in Carnforth - replete with visit to the railway station where bits of Brief Encounter (1945) were filmed. I am ever so slightly in love with Trevor Howard (though I love him best in The Third Man (1949) and Stanley Holloway and there was much quoting of Joyce Carey's delightful cafe owners '..all over me banburys'.

There was also the most glorious secondhand bookshop - 14 rooms of gorgeous old books spread over two floors and I got a copy of Winifred Gerin's book on Gaskell from 1976 for just £2.50. So far I have only looked in the index and read the sections which featured Silverdale but I hope to read it properly soon - be interesting to see how it compares to Jenny Uglow's more recent longer work. As you can tell - my love of Gaskell shows no sign  of diminishing. Gaskell, Collins, Braddon, the Brontes and Eliot remain my main nineteenth century literary heroes and inspirations.

I was straight back to work in a way though the day after we got back as I gave a talk on the history of St George's Field at Leeds Central Library which thankfully I had prepared and practised before we went away. Despite the heat and the climb to the top floor around thirty came along and it went well. I still feel nervous when I'm talking in front of a group of people like that - but I have lost the tremble in my knee and in my voice thankfully. I love my subject and I love sharing it with others and I think that comes across and I hope I never lose that love for it. 

So I've still got loads to do but for the moment at least it feels like the pressure is off - I don't have any tours or talks booked in for a few weeks, so I feel like I can stop whatever I'm doing without worry in the early evening and watch comedy on E4 - I'm still enjoying black-ish, Young Sheldon (I love his Meemaw) and The Goldbergs. Regular gym trips are also helping me keep a better work life balance plus I don't think I'd have had the strength for the many stairs of Silverdale without having been a regular for the last few months and building up some much needed stamina. I want to be able to keep this feeling of being more relaxed up though - I need to get a better work/life balance for the rest of the summer and the new term.