Tuesday, 28 October 2014

MA-Ness Weeks 7 and 8

Me and numbers are not the closest of friends -in fact wherever possible we have as long a distance relationship as I can get away with as I'm not that keen on them at all. Any kind of maths recalls the anxiety and dread of maths lessons though I did have one teacher who had no eyebrows who magically made maths much clearer for me for the year she taught me. I wish I could still call on her. But hey ho - I just had to look back at previous blog posts and count on my fingers to work out that though I am in week 8 I am writing about week 7.

I felt like I didn't do much MA-wise last week as two days of it were taken up with the Love Arts Festival Love Arts Conversation which was about the links between mental health and creativity and I had been asked to speak at it. Two years ago I'd have laughed in your face if you'd told me I'd say yes to something like that. But things can change a lot in two years and I said yes - partly because I'm much more about stepping outside my comfort zones these days plus I wanted to give something back to an organisation that has given me so much - if it wasn't for Arts and Minds I wouldn't have taken part in Place and Memory and if it wasn't for Place for Memory I wouldn't be at Leeds College of Art now - and of course the others who I must thank for helping me get there include my lovely patient supportive husband and the lovely Jon Eland ex Exposure Leeds and numerous lovely supportive friends who have helped me too.

It was very interesting and I met some fab people and had some very thought provoking conversations (including the ethics of someone wanting to donate their ribcage to me for use in my artwork which then led to me emailing the Human Tissue Authority and I'm still awaiting their reply) and I also helped put up a tippee, saw some wonderful dance and the presentation re portrayals of mental ill health in films by Michael Flexer was v v good indeed - participatory and revelatory and also very funny.

But I digress - something I am very good at, though it does feel like my brain is like a search engine or tinternet provider with anything from 10 to 20 pages open at any one time.... I did plan to go to the library earlier this week as I could do with some of the peace and quiet and learning vibe of the Brotherton Library but I got distracted by shopping for new camera lenses (got a super wide angle one now) and I ended up using the college MAC suite instead but now you see I'm talking about week 8 when I should be writing about week 7......so in order to solve that issue as I suspect I'll be too busy next week to post again if I make the title weeks 7 and 8 it doesn't matter - bingo!!

So big chunks of week 7 were taken up with writing my speech which I managed to read out in front of about 90 people at Leeds Museum whilst images of my artwork and the others from the Place and Memory exhibition from Trinity Church played across the screens above my head and though I felt like the nerves twitching in my right knee might make me look as if I had St Vitus Dance and my voice did wobble a couple of times I got through it and got cheers and a big round of applause. And afterwards both the head of Leeds Mind and the head of Leeds and York NHS Partnership Trust told me how inspiring they'd found my speech. My goth armour of very very big boots indeed and blood red lipstick held firm.....here's hoping they will do the same for me this week when I have to give my first (thankfully formative as opposed to actual hand in mark assessment type) presentation. The fact that I have to do it on Halloween I'm taking as a good omen as Halloween is my favourite time of year - the shops are full of wondrous skull emblazoned tat and this makes me very happy indeed.

So at times last week I was feeling not quite on top of things homewise let alone collegewise so I set Saturday aside to do things like shopping and washing and tidying and Sunday I started work on the presentation and thanks to both a bit of input from a tutor and a chum I think I've just about got to grips with this powerpoint malarkey, and thankfully the Leeds Uni website has a good clear how to harvard reference page and as I'd been thinking about it on the back burner all the time it kind of came together fairly smoothly - though of course whether or not it makes sense and is what they're after I won't know til I deliver it on Friday.  It's about professional context so I have been researching 'gothic' (it's really rather wonderful timing that the Gothic Season on BBC4 is on now) and 'neo gothic' artists and the ethics of my work. Lots and lots of thinking and lots and lots of 'mmm which images to pick to go in it'....

And before I forget I have booked a time to talk to morticians re changes in funeral practices over the last few years and what if any hark back to victorian times (which in turn harked back to the glorious spectacle of medieval aristocratic funerals) and how many 'paupers' funerals are done today and what they feel about photography at funerals......I'm still not sure how I feel about that beyond my initial gut reaction of 'NO'..... I had to chase them up about interviewing them and I felt a bit bad about doing that - they are busy people doing a very important job not flibberty gibbet artist types so I did feel a little guilty and almost silly interrupting them and I know it might sound daft but I had to take a deep breath before I dialled the number but they were lovely and their first words were - 'oh we're so sorry we forgot to call you back - right when would you like to come in?' PHEW!! plus I'm so glad I haven't lost my tenacity or badgering skills.....

I also got my first inter library loan - Death and the Victorian Family by Pat Jelland has come to me via the wonder of the British Library and I intend to make good headroads into it over the next few days, I also made time to go to St George's Field prior to lectures on Friday and took lots of photographs. It made me feel good to be 'doing' as opposed to 'thinking about doing' plus as I was using a digital camera as these were more research shots I could see what I was doing as I went along (once I'd got back out of the habit of raising the camera to my eye to look through the non existent view finder) and so move into different positions better but I've yet to look at the pics I took on computer screen as I've been too busy doing other stuff to properly look at them.....

Time eh? but this week (again I'm getting my weeks mixed up but never mind) I'm feeling a bit more on top of things again - research plan coming along nicely, presentation done ahead of hand in as opposed to working right up to deadline and pulling an all nighter and I've planned food-wise so I can eat a bit more healthily and once that pile of ironing is done and I've tidied my notes up I'll feel a bit better plus I made time to go to the gym last night and that has made me feel better too.

And apropos of nothing other than it makes me smile every time I see it - here is a phone camera picture of a picture of a sand sculpture of a Blue Peter dog from a sand sculpture place in Weymouth. It in turn makes me think of the That's Life badly taxidermied cat and that always makes me chuckle. I have a print of it on the wall above my desk, along with a Man Ray portrait of Lee Miller, a couple of Atkinson Grimshaws - well 3 actually but one is partially obscured and a picture of Whitby - my spiritual home.

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