Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Post MA Show-Ness, What Next? Looking Back - what would I do differently? ....

(Un) Hidden In The Grave IV
burial plot sized lumen print on silk, muslin soaked in solution of graveyard dirt, images printed on coffin lining material in embroidery hoops wrapped in colours of Victorian mourning and dead flowers.

Not so much a post it note but more a list made during a break at the very interesting Heritage and Theory Conference held at Leeds Museum last weekend, some unused photocopies of imagess which might have been transferred to coffin lining material if the ones pictured above hadn't worked - it doesn't always and ticket from one of the films seen at Leeds 30th International Film Festival. Haven't got passes this year but have taken advantage of the 6 tickets for the price of 5 offer instead.

So it seems a bit strange writing this as I've got out of the habit of not writing it every Monday very quickly but it is still roughly once a month and I'd like to keep it at that kind of frequency - providing I can find things to write about that is - might need to reinstate my post it note habit. But habits aside I felt I ought to write up where I'm at now this MA malarky has come to a kind of natural end as the show is over now too and the only formal bit left is the graduation ceremony (at which I have to wear a PALE FRIGGING BLUE gown...I haven't worn pastels since I was able to choose my own clothes and I know it's a very very minor thing in the grand scheme of things but ugh!! pale frigging blue - why can't they be black??? - I mean I know why but my point stands) though I hope to stay in touch with the friends I've made on and through the MA course. One of whom helped me enormously this week when I was mulling over potential PhD plans.

I have been so busy with the show that work on my PhD proposal has gone on the back burner a bit but it remains my goal to do one next. And I have a new way of thinking around my research question thanks to a chum so I have a new focus now which I'll try to mull over the next few days - whilst also trying to declutter, tidy and generally sort out the house too. My Mum is coming for my graduation and it needs sorting out before she gets here. I'm trying to do it one room at a time - but so far my workroom (where she'll be sleeping) isn't finished and it's already taken two days...but it's getting there...albeit slowly plus it'll be in a better state to start again when (all being well) I will be preparing work for next years projects which along with a Phd also include: presenting at a death and disease in Victorian Leeds day, a couple of conferences (need to write abstracts and see if they get accepted) and speaking about my work in the context of dark tourism too.
But in terms of what's immediately next on my agenda : house sort, graduation, PhD proposal, and perhaps most importantly of all rest too. This time last year I was working on my dissertation and struggling with dealing with both the practical and the emotional aspects of bereavement. The last two years have been amazing in terms of what I've learnt, how my work has changed and developed, how my thinking has evolved but it's also been really bloody difficult at times - physical health problems have also been prevalent - a knee injury has severely impaired my mobility at times (as well as being bloody painful) and it is still having a negative impact at times but hopefully it'll continue to improve further and it'll be back to normal soon.

I've been thinking about what I'd do differently if I could go back to September 2014 and there's a few things - first of all I'd hope that the loved ones who died during my time at Leeds College of Art didn't - that goes without saying but as that is also something I cannot control or change so the things I could have controlled and changed include:

  • tried harder to stay in a good exercise habit - not helped by poorly knee either but it had gone by the wayside before then...and it's proving hard to get back into...
  • read more - I read loads but I didn't read as much Barthes as I could/should have done and I got out of the habit of reading just for pleasure. I am kind of getting back into it as in the Victorian era novels I am reading give me enormous pleasure but they are also a research tool - especially when they deal directly with mourning practices (whole section in My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell which I'm on the verge of finishing) and I need more Jackie Collins type nonsense in my life.
  • tried harder to stay in a better eating habit - too many evenings especially when working on my dissertation were given over to the lure and ease of either take away or ready meals which are not healthy. I've been trying a lot harder over the last few days - made a lot of soup for instance but I want to get back in the habit of making things like lasagne, mousakka and trying out new recipes too instead of just tried and tested favourites.
  • spent more time in the library - I took lots of books out of the library but didn't always get through them, maybe I would have if I'd set myself goal of reading them in situ.
  • practiced more in the darkroom and got something decent using liquid light - got lots of cyanotypes I was happy with but liquid light and b+w print making remains something I can do but I find it very tricksy and not second nature - it's not vital that I do this as I prefer making cyanotypes, lumen prints and anthotypes more but I'd like a bit more technical savviness.
  • See also photoshop - aside from using it to invert images to make negative versions of them I still find it hard to use. Mostly use the Windows 10 photo viewing and editing software as I find that much more user friendly.
but things I am really pleased with -
  • I got burial size prints on silk.
  • learnt several new techniques
  • learnt a lot about art theory - as opposed to art history
  • learnt how to speak and understand artspeak better
  • met some lovely people and made good connections with them
  • learnt to jump academic hoops successfully.
    had the privilege of visiting various archives and handling many primary sources
  • wrote and read papers at academic conferences - if you'd told me a couple of years ago that I'd be doing something like that at all, let alone without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack I'd have thought you were on crack. 
  • showed my artwork at academic conferences.
  • had a solo show at Lentos.
  • I kept going even when I didn't especially feel like it.
  • I set myself the goal of getting a distinction and achieved it.

    So all in all (bereavement aside) the last two years have been amazing and I am still incredibly grateful that I had this opportunity and was able to take advantage of it - thanks must go to my ever patient and supportive husband, my lovely tutors, workshop technicians and librarians, Mapp who (ignored) listened to my practicing various talks in return for treats, and my friends who both helped directly with things like references, referencing and who listened to me going on about stuff and who came along to events and shows too. I have some friends in particular who I call my Man Ray friends - see below.

    I'm reminded of the quotes I have on my workroom wall which help me lots and there are some in particular which I keep coming back to again and again:

    'You don't need a huge audience, you only need 5 or 6 people who care and support you, don't worry regardign idealism and practicality. Try to get paid for what you do but don't worry if you don't. Just keep on working, you'll make up for it in time.'
    Man Ray

    'You can use all kinds of obsession. You can use obsession for humour, you can use it for style, you can use it for fashion. Obsession is great if it brings you pleasure and helps make your living doing something you love. It's only bad if you make the same mistake over and over with some obsession that brings you unhappiness'
    John Waters

    'To practice any art, no matter how well or how badly is a way to make your soul grow, so do it.'
    Kurt Vonnegut

    And thanks to you too for reading these posts.

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