Wednesday, 17 December 2014

MA-Ness - Term Overview and Actual Last Week Of Term.....

It was very odd on Monday this week - for the first week in ages I wasn't sat at my desk reading or writing or poking about in a darkroom or a library and instead of that I was poking about the kitchen cupboards with a damp cloth, bleach, a bin bag and just generally giving it a proper top to bottom pre xmas clean. And frankly it felt a bit odd - I'm taking it as a good sign though as it's proof I am really enjoying what I am doing but it is already making me think about how I'm going to fill my time post MA.....Phd perhaps? I'd quite like to be a doctor of something......not sure what though....

But anyway last Monday and Tuesday I'd been sat at my desk writing the first academic essay with footnotes and Harvard references I'd written in 25 years. And my how things have changed in that time - back in the day it was handwritten in biro (with occasional use of tippex) and left in a tutors pigeonhole, the sides slightly curled up such was the furious pressure of my handwriting. These days it's all written on computer, printed out, and signed for and time stamped - here's hoping my essay is okay. It seems much more official somehow.

A chum of mine read it when I'd finished it and said it made sense so that at least is was on professional context, had to be 2,000 words long (word count is *so* much easier with computer software as opposed to doing an average of handwritten words per line and then working out how many pages it needed to be) and it took me two days to write. Well two days of sitting in front of the computer - the first day I kept thinking I'd never be able to get it finished as I just couldn't seem to get it to coalesce plus I spent most of the morning writing up the bibliography for my research journal aka this blog and doing some last minute bits of research before finally getting the opening paragraph and the bare bones of it on a page. It made me feel quite overwhelmed and stupid at times too - like 'argh I'll never be able to get this finished/done/ and then alternately when I found a good quote to support my argument 'oh this is okay/I can do this/it might not be brilliant but it won't be completely dreadful' and the next day I just ploughed my way through it, then I had it checked by a chum, checked a couple of things with my tutor about how to put quotes in it, had help from a lovely chap in IT who I later rewarded with some flapjack to convert this blog into a PDF as that also needed to be handed in and then I went back to the essay and polished it off on the Thursday and printed it off ready to be handed in on the Friday.  

I still can't quite believe that as a postgraduate I gave myself lots of time to do this and wasn't at all like my undergraduate self who if the deadline was midday on a Friday would either stay up into the early hours of Friday morning to get it done or get up really early Friday morning to write it then....but I'm glad I did as it meant I had breathing space to sleep on it, refine certain points, come back to it with fresh eyes and just generally not be a coffee and adrenaline addicted stresshead about it. Here's hoping I can maintain this approach through the rest of the course.......

Oh and the stuff I've handed in is okay too - but I won't find that out until the end of January.....and in the meantime my personal tutor has said very complimentary things about my research work so far this term so fingers crossed I'll at least be in the right ball park so to speak......

I'm also glad that I got into a fairly good habit of writing up each week what I'd been up to as that made the research journal side of things easier to catch up with, I did do a couple of extra posts of pics of my desk and notebooks but otherwise this didn't take too much extra effort aside from the pdf and printing bit of it - the eco-part of me thinks that is a waste of paper but that's how I was asked to do it so I have - plus I wrapped it up with some recycled pink(!!) ribbon so it wasn't too wasteful.

So what have I learnt this term? 
  • I adore pootling about in libraries - but I already knew that....
  • some powerpoint basics - essential really, especially as I have a couple of talks and teaching things lined up for 2015 already (this is both exciting and scarey)
  • lots more re victorian death practices 
  • possibilities re my own work - liquid light for instance
  • that I need to make time for 'doing' as well as researching and getting to college early for a pootle round St George's Fields or having my sandwich in there is a good way of doing this - it recharges my creative batteries so to speak
  • if I get into a habit of harvard referencing it'll become ore second nature......hopefully......
  • lots more re other artists who also use death a lot in their work - namely Joel Peter Witkins, Sally Mann
  • more about local and national possibilities of showing my work
  • that although I might feel like I'm dying with nervousness when public speaking - I am not dying and I have had good feedback about this aspect of my work 

What do I want to do/learn next term

  • get in the dark room more
  • create more images
  • do some embroidering
  • work on projects - details will be revealed once they are a bit more formalised
  • try out some cyanotypes - including making some of my own so I can have more control over the size of the paper
  • make more time for exercise - walking to and from college (about 3 miles each way) is good but am missing the gym (never thought I would write words like that)
  • not be afraid to try new things
  • stay in habit of writing this blog - even if I don't have to do it for research journal handing in purposes anymore 
  • make more local collaborations and connections
  • feel less like an imposter and not let Capt Paranoia (who to quote Rik 'is a bastard and votes Conservative) get the better of me and work on my self confidence
  • enjoy it just as much as I have this term

So not sure if I'll write another one of these before the 25th of December or not so if I don't - Happy Xmas and all the best for 2015 and thank you for reading :-)

I'm going to give myself a well deserved rest though I might do a bit of reading too.....


Monday, 8 December 2014

MA-Ness Last Week Of Term....

Desk looks like this 

 Brain feels a bit less organised......

But look at these gorgeous mourning clothes which have been lent to me by a colleague - keep looking at them and thinking who wore these, where they wore them, what they did while they were wearing them, were they comfortable to wear, did they resent having to wear them, who made the repairs to them, exactly how old are they, where were they made, did they cry each time they put them on and goodness me they were *so* tiny.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

MA-Ness Week 15 or is it 16? Really should learn to count properly one day.....overview and this weeks musings

This week I have been slightly panicking re handing stuff in - I have to hand in a 2,000 word essay on professional context and my research journal - which is mostly this blog along with an explanatory piece about it - namely why and how I use it. It's mostly a reflective journal as I look back over the events of the week and think about what I've learnt, seen, thought about, or what I want to see or learn about. It has changed from being a general purpose one - I set it up in 2012 and at first wrote mostly about things which interested me (usually oldy worldy postcards and seaside stuff) then it became more about the history of St George's Fields when I became part of the Place and Memory Project in the summer of 2013 and since September this year it has exclusively been to do with the MA in Creative Practice - either directly about what I've learnt on the course or my ongoing research into death culture in general and victorian death culture in particular.

As I already had a blog set up and blogs were an acceptable format in which to submit your research journal and after a chat with my personal tutor I decided to keep it as it is and use this format as a kind of overview of what I've been up to - not least because it gives me time to think things over but also because I doubt my tutors could read (or would even want or be able to) or make sense of the handwritten scrawlings in my various notebooks.

So this week I have also been watching other people's on the course presentations which was really interesting - not least because I only saw half of them last presentation time as I missed the second half due to being poorly and I have also been:

  • thinking about accessibility - especially with regard to academic guidelines and protocols, audiences in general and how to engage their interest,
  • the practicalities of making cyanotypes in winter when the sun isn't very strong (going to experiment with a lightbox and see if this works as ours is uv light at full on sunshine strength) 
  • being grateful to a lovely course colleague who has lent me a couple of victorian mourning blouses - gosh the women who wore these were *so* tiny, 
  • the general reverence of people when looking at art - see also what another colleague described as 'the sanctity of the gallery space' 
  • and also what format my work is going to take 

and I have also been finishing one of the most absorbing books I have read in a while - Viv Albertine's autobiography Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys (Albertine,V,2014 Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, England Faber & Faber)  (as an aside I have to use the Harvard Referencing system in order to meet the course rules but I wonder if it aids or decreases accessibility - on the one hand it means people know exactly what book I'm talking about and so can find it themselves but I wonder if it makes look too 'academicky' and so makes it feel exclusive.........mmm will continue to mull over this....) anyway one section in particular really struck a chord with me - she's writing about 1983-1988 when she gets a place on the film making course at London College of Printing:

'Over the next three years I learn a lot of new words and expressions...and read texts...I learn to deconstruct. I'm out of my depth, but so is everyone else on the course. I'm daunted by the essay writing but get a great piece of advice from Laura Mulvey: 'Think what you want to say and then say it as clearly as possible.'. I work hard, I never miss a lecture. I try and overachieve, like all mature students. People given a second chance know the value of their reprieve.'  (p261-262) 

I feel like I'm in quite a similar headspace......

So what else this week - one of the tutors kindly showed me how to convert these musings into a pdf which hopefully I'll be able to remember how to do it when I'm next in college as sadly we don't have the neccessary software at home - I had hoped we might do as my husband is a software engineer and so we have all sorts of software but annoyingly not that one.

Earlier today I got my arse in gear and went to see the Grayson Perry exhibition at Temple Newsam, I was in two minds about it as I had initially boycotted it as it was being held in an inaccessible building (some chums set up a rival exhibition at Inkwell as a response (details here) and I still feel a little bit bad that I have taken advantage of the fact that I can access such a place - both physically and financially but I did and here are my initial thoughts on it:

The tapestries are sumptuous and so much more impressive in the flesh so to speak as opposed to seeing them on a screen or as a postcard. They have a solidity about them which just isn't conveyed in flat 2d representation of them. The vivid colours are wonderful. I especially enjoyed the mug with Class Traitor by Chip E Prole in The Annunciation of the Virgin Deal and the meat raffle in The Agony In The Car Park.

I found them darkly funny and satirical plus I am a fan of Hogarth too and it was also lovely to see The Rake's Progress prints on the busily wallpapered walls of Temple Newsam Hall - so much patterning!!! and it struck me whilst we were there - would they look as impressive or even be overpowering in a more traditional white gallery space? but in amongst the general chintziness and semi aristocratic clutter of Temple Newsam Hall they do look amazing. I also loved their nod to various religious paintings too - in fact the quasi religious-ness of the whole experience struck me - there was an air of reverence and quiet awe as people shuffled through with the exhibition leaflet held firmly in their hands like a prayer book and how they stood in front of them in quiet contemplation and the ushers spoke in awed tones of the methods used to make them and how you couldn't touch them (which is fair enough as they are easily damageable objects) but all in all it reminded me of benediction services when I was little and we all had to stand around and look at the consecrated host as the priest processed it through the candle lit church.

Maybe galleries/exhibition spaces are spiritual spaces in our increasingly secular lives. It made me feel slightly uncomfortable though....... plus Temple Newsam Hall is full of the overblown sentimental religious type paintings that I contrarily love - I completely fell in love with one from the spanish school of Saint Sebastiane being nursed back to health by nuns after being pierced with swords (only for him to then be beaten to death and thrown into a sewer) which was in the corner opposite the first of Grayson's tapestries. I might have to go back for another wander round the house when it isn't so full of head bowed before Grayson acoyltes and have a look solely at the paintings - there were some stunners, but the irony of having to pay (£4.50) to see amazing luxurious objects which whilst lovely in themselves in turn remind you of your comparatively lowly status and inability to ever afford such luxurious items (4 metre high queen anne bed draped in red velvet anyone?) is not lost on me.

What else? conscious of the fact that I've doing a lot of thinking about doing and not much actual doing I took my camera out with me today (though photographs are not allowed to be taken inside Temple Newsam House but I may or may not have sneaked a snap of the written details of some of the paintings on my camera phone so I can investigate them further....) loaded with *whispers* colour film. I am an avowed monochromist* who believes colour is a distraction so this is a bit of an experiment for me really - well more of an experiment than my usual picture taking is. It was ISO 200 Kodak Colour Plus which was a present from the chap in Headingley who develops most of our colour films (we can do them in the garage in our pop up film developers aka meth lab if you talk to the neighbours but chap in Headingley - his shop is opposite what was the Lounge Cinema on North Lane does them much better) so I shall take it back to him when I have finished the roll - I concentrated upon dead and dying flowers today and might make them black and white when they've been developed - that along with cropping/adjusting balance and brightness is the extent of my post processing as I feel if I have to do more than that then I didn't take a good enough picture in the first place.....

I'm starting to ramble so think it's best I finished this for now - but it'll be back to work for me tomorrow as bibliographies and 2,000 word essays sadly don't write themselves..........

*but as I always say I have never claimed to be consistent.....

Monday, 1 December 2014

Ma-Ness Week 14 (possibly - am really not good at counting) Presentation Blues........

I'm still getting to grips with this presentation malarkey - it was a steep learning curve for me powerpoint-wise but I've now got to grips with resizing images and keeping the size of the overall presentation down so it is easy to email through as it is without having to resort to the horror (for me anyway) that is googledocs it's not so bad - at least in terms of actually putting it together on a slide.

Contents wise this one didn't include any images of my own but appropriately appropriated ones from the tinternet - including stills of Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, Baron Frankenstein and Sherlock Holmes and Christopher Lee as Dracula meeting a sticky end on the end of some stakes in Dracula AD 1972 (one of my favourites from the Hammer Dracula series even if in many ways it is execrable) and a still of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes too - I did say that other Sherlock Holmes were available but that those were the best or rather my favourites. 

I didn't start off too nervous but as I was about halfway through I could feel nervousness rising in my throat....but that didn't show apparently. I have spent a lot of the weekend though thinking over it and my learning points from it are: if you want to do as well as possible academic hoop jumping-wise then keep the learning outcomes next to you as you write it and tick each outcome off as you cover it and maybe do that in each one - instead of a different emphasis in each one. For instance I did mention ethics in this one but only in passing (as in when taking inspiration from facebook conversations around the role of photographs in peoples everyday lives asking permission of those involved in the conversation to save it and quote from it and the legal requirements to be upheld when getting permission from a chum to use their bones in artwork after their death) whereas I went into a lot more depth on the ethics of my work on the first presentation but that was seen by different I hadn't quite grasped that we were being marked on each one and had in my mind that the bulk of this module's marks were going on the essay. I suspect this is just as well though or else I'd have been even more nervous plus I was reassured that it isn't so much a straight pass or fail and you can re-submit if necessary though your marks are capped.

But I did get lovely feedback from my peers who said it was great and one said he really enjoyed it and he likes the conversational tone/approach I have when speaking. Oh well it's all a learning curve.......

This week I need to concentrate upon the research methods essay and try and get my head round this topic properly. I think part of the reason I struggle with this is partly because I spend so much time researching - reading, thinking, experiencing spaces, questioning and so far this term this hasn't translated as yet into much making but it will do. I guess I have to decide what kind of methodology my approach fits best into and then write about it. I am trying not to flap too much re this essay and I am very pleased I got into the habit of writing up each week what I'd been up to coursewise as I'll (hopefully) just have to do a kind of overview and say which post deals with which aspect....I did think about moving all the posts onto another blog but then decided not to - I shall keep it here instead.

I've been in touch with West Yorkshire Archive and have got an appointment to go and look at the Leeds Photographic Society (the oldest photographic society in the country) setting up books and archive from the 1850's onwards and the John Rylands Library and the Thoresby Society so I'll be visiting them in the New Year.

What else - went to a craft fair at Inkwell on Saturday and caught up with lots of lovely chums, bought a couple of xmas presents, really enjoyed myself at the Brudenell Centre on Friday night watching The Fall. A band I've seen many times since I first saw them way back in the midsts of time in 1987 at Leeds Poly (as it was then) and yesterday I went to see Mr Turner at the Cottage Road. I enjoyed it - partly because I love his paintings, partly because I wanted to see how Mike Leigh would portray victorian society and I especially enjoyed Mr Turner having his daguerreotype taken and lamenting that painters would be replaced by a box and Queen Victoria casting scorn on one of his paintings and describing it as a 'yellow mess'. Wonderful stuff.

And here's some pics of my desks at the moment:

So onwards and upwards - essay here I come.......