|ongoing attempts to capture colour/image from begonia and african violet flowers - not quite the colour I want but liking the marks left on the page anyway, next stage is to varnish these with gloss or matte medium|
Last week I was mostly putting the final touches to my first proper grown up academic paper 'That's About The Bones Of It' for the Manchester Metropolitan University Gothic Studies Department Conference. I had written the bulk of it a week last Sunday and so had time to print it out, practice it, and refine it. I decided to take out certain bits - I was on the Sickness and Death panel and it was clearly labelled and described as such in the programme but even so I erred on the side of caution when it came to discussing certain aspects of the death of named individual newborn children in the burial records as I didn't want to unduly upset anyone in the audience - this is because a chum of mine has recently gone through a similar bereavement and I would hate to be unintentionally insensitive. I know that could be applied to any bereavement but the details of these children was so especially heartbreaking I changed my mind about talking about it - I would however be more comfortable about including their details in a paper and might still do so - with a suitable disclaimer that is.
So I took out specifics and talked in generalities instead. Aside from my loving the aesthetic of victorian graveyards - one of the other reasons I love using such spaces as background and inspiration for artwork is whilst there may be descendants there are no living relatives and so my chances of offending anyone is lessened. Plus by using a no longer active as burial ground as a background for my work I am not going to interrupt or disturb any services being held there for the newly bereaved and grieving families.
But even though I had left myself plenty of time to get it finished it still felt quite stressful getting it ready - I think that was mostly because a) I'd not quite done anything like that before - I mean I had done presentations at college and for WI groups and read work at Headingley Literature festival but in my head this was something bigger and scarier than that as it needed to have 'academic rigour' and b) the self imposed deadline of having it ready a day or two before it was actually needed - as I wanted to email it through - I took a paper copy of my accompanying speech but I wanted the powerpoint slides I'd put together (all 36 of them containing specially resized images - which I'd individually resized using Paint but thanks to a conversation in the Print Room and my moaning that doing it individually had taken for-effing ever, I know now of a way to do images in bulk using Photoshop....) emailed through in advance as that way I knew they'd be available on email - as well as on my little memory stick shaped like a little black rubber skeleton that my lovely ever supportive husband bought me last xmas. I have a horror of technology not working...and this time I didn't spend hours either using exactly the gothic typeface I wanted as last time I did that - it wasn't supported at the other end and so showed in an ordinary font, I took the view that as long as it was legible it would be okay. And it was.
I also wasn't sure how big the audience would be or what the room would be like I would be talking in - in the event there were some 120 tickets sold for the event and it was deep in a former cinema with little stage in the basement of 70 Oxford Road - an address which may be more familiar to some of you as the Cornerhouse. Plus as a member of the panel I had to sit on that stage with the other paper givers until all three of us had delivered our papers and answered questions. I hope I answered the questions I had okay - and I had that uncomfortable contradictory feeling of relief when a question wasn't for me mixed with 'oh,no-one wants to ask me a question'....and then panic when they actually did...
Plus as I am from Manchester - or rather Manchesterford as I prefer to call it, and used to go to 70 Oxford Street when it was known as the Cornerhouse - there was something especially lovely about having my artwork on show in there - even temporarily in a resized format on a screen.
But I must be honest I did reach a point on Thursday evening where after working on it almost solidly for two full days that I was sick of the sight of it - my paper was just over 3,000 words (I was told it could be no more than 20 minutes so I looked at the word count of the timed 10 minute presentations I'd done for college and they were 1500 words so I just doubled it) and perhaps this doesn't bode well when it comes to a) writing my dissertation which has to be around 8,000 words and b) articles to be published - the most obvious opportunity for me are looking for articles that are 5,000 and c) if I do go on to do a practice based phd that's going to need at least 40,000 words along with a solo exhibition...maybe it's just because I was tired and because it's the anniversary of sad occasions and well anyway it's certainly something for me to think about. I copy and paste each of these blog posts into a word document and print them off - so it can be easily handed in as my research journal and they have got a lot longer each term. The amount of paper they take up seems to be doubling each term - the second term was twice the thickness of the first and the third twice the thickness of the second. Not sure how thick this term is going to be but it is already looking longer again...
It reminded me that this time last year I was doing a similar sort of thing and tearing my hair out trying to email through my first presentation that was going to be assessed - though thankfully I hadn't fully realised that at the time - I had just realised I had a deadline to meet and the presentation which was my first attempt at using powerpoint was too big to be emailed!! Hence once of my first powerpoint lessons learnt was resize images before inserting them....
I also remembered what a lovely chum from the WI said to me earlier this year that I was the expert on what was I was talking about and that I speak in an engaging manner. And this helped a lot, although I don't think I am *the* expert but I am certainly *an* expert plus I got laughs in the right places - as even though it is a sad miserable subject it also has humour and I got a big round of applause and quite a few people coming up to me afterwards to tell me how much they enjoyed it so I know I must be doing something right.
My slides were a mix of images of my own photographic artwork and copies of pictures I'd taken of original artefacts relating to St George's Field in the Special Collections Unit of the Brotherton Library at Leeds University ( I had their permission to show them in this context but if I plan to publish this paper with those images then I would need their permission again) - some of the images were from the crap kids digital but the bulk were from the fancy medium format camera I borrowed from college over the summer and a couple of appropriated but credited where from images of All Saints Park and the Sisters of Mercy.
It was fun putting them together to try and make a kind of over arching narrative - my format was bit of why/how I do gothic art, use of graveyards in gothic art, film and fiction with a few examples, specific differences between All Saints Park (also a former cemetery) and St George's Fields - the role of victorian mourning culture within it, class and economics and a brief history of some of its more famous residents - I picked the wife of Pablo Fanqo who was killed in March 1848 at one of their performances when the audience seating collapsed on her head, and Atkinson Grimshaw, a brief overview and analysis of some of the diseases listed as cause of death, the fact that occupations for dead men are listed but not dead women - they are only described in terms of their marital status, and the tombstone and records of Francis Henry Vant whose stone always intrigues me as is has on it 'deeply regretted' and it's not clear if that's his comparatively early death or his actual existence and the in my opinion desecrational relandscaping carried out on behalf of the university in the late 1960's to make it into the park space it is today.
I can't remember if I wrote the words and then found images to match them when I did the ones I had to do for college or if I found images and then wrote the words to match...think I did them in conjunction as opposed to completely finishing the words first and then looking for images to go with them like I did for this one.
I took my work down from St Johns Church this week as the Love Arts Festival came to a close - it's so much quicker taking stuff down than it is putting it up and whilst there a couple of things I could have differently - could have rotated one of the skulls through 180 degrees so there could have been one facing one direction and the opposite one facing the other way and scattered them about a bit more randomly too, I was pleased with it overall. It also makes me want in a meglomaniacal way to have a show entirely made up of my own work and fingers crossed there is a possibility of that after xmas so watch this space.
I am in the process of thinking about attempting to combine some of my photography with some embroidery and I was delighted to find some old photos I'd done in the darkroom a while ago that will be just right for this - especially the test prints as I kept those along with the ones that didn't work at all. Plus some of them I am really pleased with as prints - should get them framed really, I'm reminded that it's good to a) not throw things away as they can be repurposed and b) looking at stuff again with fresh eyes is useful as you can see where it might be improved but also where it is good enough after all.
I also went to a couple of things last week that were fun as well as thought provoking - Head by The Monkees complete with introductory talk at the Hyde Park. I had seen the film before but it was interesting to see it again with some new insight - partly provided by the interesting talk given by Peter Mills but also because since doing this masters malarkey my close reading/observing things skills are slowly but surely being honed and Head is an excellent film to closely analyse as well as having a rather wonderful soundtrack - which reminds me I must get a copy of it. It consciously includes familiar set tropes from westerns, horror films, science fiction, romances whilst also making subtle and none too subtle digs at fame, consumerism, pro war tendencies and it is quite shocking in places - especially the bit where they show the footage of a summary execution by a vietnamese general of a communist fighter (you can see the footage and information about it here) and it is disturbing viewing - not just because you watch a human being get shot for real as opposed to special effects plus the circumstances as to why he is being shot in the first place. I loved the set piece with Davy Jones dancing in black and white and white and black beautiful too. I think I'd like to watch it again and would definitely want to listen to the soundtrack again. The studio related shenanigans to get it made and the choice of actors to be in it was also very interesting.
I also went to see a version of Nosferatu at the Carriageworks by the Proper Job Theatre Company. I enjoyed it on the whole - but I was a bit thrown by the fact it was a musical version of the tale - the claustraphobicness of being enclosed on a ship with something killing off the shipmates was nicely portrayed and there were beautiful visual pieces - where blood appeared to rain down the cabin doors, Orlok's shadow flits across the stage on its own, a blood spattered hand appears at the cabin door, and a face appeared too but it was marred for me by not caring about one of the central characters when there was only 3 (well 4 if count Count Orlok too who you don't really see) - there was the rational captain, the superstitious mate and the fervently christian mate. I didn't care what happened to the superstitious mate and wanted him to fall overboard quite early on, but he didn't.
My to do list is getting ever longer - and I really must knuckle down and get some quality work and reading done for my dissertation, and I must finish reading Secure The Shadow by Jay Ruby as that is on loan from the British Library and can't be renewed as easily or as often as the other books I have out from the library.
I mentioned last time I had sent off an abstract to a call for papers at a conference in York and I was waiting to hear back, as I hadn't heard from them I emailed to chase it up and was disappointed that my abstract hadn't been picked but then excited as they have offered to pay for an academic poster for me to stand by during the conference and suggested a couple of people to contact about their upcoming conference as they think my research and work will suit it better. So swings and indeed roundabouts.
Think I'd best crack on getting this list written too.....so I don't forget everything that is on my mind...