Monday, 19 January 2015

MA-Ness Week 2 (determined to keep proper count this term) Ways of Working and Theory...

The back bedroom is now my studio and workspace - to anyone who saw it before and after this change in purpose it probably doesn't look much different but to me it is and it has definitely taken on the air of 'this is where I work'. I might think of ideas whilst I'm walking somewhere - not in a Dickensian fashion though as the most I do during the week is the 3 miles or so to college and then the 3 miles back - he used to walk 10 miles a day. I'm never without a notebook and pen to write them down in or a phone to write them in though so wherever I am I can make a note. I rarely take pictures here that end up in or as the final pieces of work though I have done some. I usually go elsewhere to actually take the photographs or do the interviews or sit with a bit of embroidery or knitting downstairs but the bulk of the actual thinking and almost all of the research part of the work takes place here. 

Instead of the bookcase to my left being full of any old books like it used to - it is now full of books that I'm using either as inspiration or as reference texts ( at lest 6 have 'gothic' emblazoned on their spines and the rest feature all manner of unpleasant victorian history - anatomy act, dissection practices and that kind of thing) notebooks, folders and some fairy lights in the shape of skulls and skeletons which I haven't put up yet. 

Next to me on the desk are a pile of notebooks  - all labelled in a rare fit of organisation so a quick look at the cover tells me which book is noted within, and I must continue this habit when it comes to photographs so I'm not searching through memory cards or folders of scanned but not labelled negatives and pots with pens in - black fountain pen for writing in my proper old school private paper journal, pencils, biros - mostly black but a couple of red ones and a purple one which I especially like as the ball on it is broad and I like a fat rather than thin version of my handwriting on a page, sellotape, ruler, paintbrushes, emery boards and scissors.   

To my right along with my current choice of nail varnish - it's easier to paint my nails whilst reading something online, is a box of books which I have borrowed from the Art School Library - including such delights as Death Becomes Her, The Photograph and a history of Horror Cinema in Britain. In the middle is the computer on an old desk which used to be my husbands - it has two drawers full of old cables, parcel tape, staplers, birthday cards waiting to be picked for the right participant and batteries. The sofa bed behind me has room on it for a cat that likes curling up next to a pile of books - mostly Lucia as Mapp prefers a lair she has built for herself  under the bed.

It's probably not the best use of space but it's working for me - this added to my new found resolution of 'do not switch laptop or computer on til dressed and housework done' means I am feeling more productive and on top of things - though I do also feel an amount of 'argh, so much more to do/read/find out about but so little time'...

This morning however I thought I'd try and work downstairs on the laptop - in front of the television and see what it was like. Well it was okay for tinternet fecking and catching up with chums on Twitter and Farcebook and sending letter like emails to chums - I  miss proper paper letters and I am lucky that some of my chums still indulge in this old analogue habit but it does lead to problems of a) post being so bloody expensive these days b) post not being as reliable or immediate as a text or as easily referred to as an email and c) what to do with all those pieces of paper and d) what historian or biographer of the future is going to have the patience to wade through someone's twitter feed when at least 99% of it will be to do with cats.....

Whilst it wasn't massively productive it did also give me the wonderful opportunity to watch 3 of my favourite actors in one of my favourite films in the background - namely Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Henry Daniell in Val Lewton's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's short story 'The Body Snatcher'. This was the real reason for the experiment as it was on the somewhat bizarrely named and misspelt Movies4Men channel. 

I think I first saw this fabulously grim film on my trusty portable b+w telly you tuned in a by a dial and it is wonderful - as are all of Val Lewton's 'horror' films that he made for RKO. I Walked With A Zombie is a special favourite of mine. I have this film on dvd too but it would have felt too unlike work to put it on and try and work with it - but it did feel okay to give it a go whilst it was on in the background.

I also watched Strangers On A Train last night - the british version of Hitchcock's classic from 1951 which was in turn based on Patricia Highsmith's novel of the same name. Watching it confirmed for me that I am ever so slightly in love with Farley Granger and completely in love with Hitchcock's work - he and his wife Alma made some of the finest films ever. And looking at his black and white films in particular with their fantastic reflections and images within images makes me realise just how much of a subconscious influence they have had upon my own work.

Which is a roundabout way of catching up with my thoughts on week 2 - which comprised of a very interesting and dynamic presentation by Amber Smith about her work with printing and the Leeds Print Festival (full details of the festival you can find  here) and then a look at the theoretical perspectives which inform artists work. We looked primarily at feminist theory and the work of Mary Kelley which was very interesting and thought provoking (my first thought being I wonder if that is her real name or an assumed name as the name Mary Kelley makes me think immediately of her being the last known/presumed victim of Jack the Ripper and the fabulous song by the Scary Bitches which you can listen to here) and other artists like Judy Chicago, Lyn Malcolm, Barbara Kruger and the marvellously named Gueriila Girls.

We've been asked to think of what theoretical perspectives inform our work. I have quite a bit of research to do on this but my first thoughts are:
my work is feminist - because I am a feminist and I make it. So consciously or subconsciously those values inform my work. As an aside I HATE how feminist seems to have become a perjorative insult though. 

Then I had a very productive and thought provoking tutorial - got to read me lots about object theory, consumer culture, collecting and that kind of thing. Wish me luck as that's the kind of thing that can make my brain bleed....

I also need to narrow down my work plans for the next few weeks as this term is about handing in pieces of work - they don't have to be finished but that means my memorial pieces need to be a bit more started than they are but I do have a couple of things that are already started on which I need to do more on...but in the meantime it's far too cold to go out and I have lots of lovely books I can sit inside in the warm and read whilst sipping a cup of tea.

I must also get to work on my next piece for the Unofficial Britain website who I was asked to write for - my first piece is a reworked post about my love of Sooty and Sweep or rather Sweep as Sooty gets on my nerves, and imagine my delight when on Friday morning I discovered that the Official Sooty and Sweep on Twitter had retweeted it to their 3,907 followers - this cheered me enormously as it means I am clearly not the only person that loves them!!! plus I feel it has been given the official Sooty and Sweep stamp of approval and that makes me feel good. You can read the article here

The other thing making me feel good is the thought that one of the girl guides I gave a talk before xmas about victorian funeral customs is still saying how much she enjoyed it and I'm going to do a reading list for her - spreading the love of victorian death culture makes me very happy indeed :-) 

Other things making me feel good are the Leeds Roller Dolls exhibition at Inkwell (details here) which I went to the opening of on Friday night. I really enjoyed it as Inkwell has much more of a welcoming atmosphere than some art spaces and it was a delight to see actual drawings done directly on the walls behind some smaller drawings as well as paintings, videos and embroidered pieces. Roller Derby seems like such a vibrant, strong, empowering scene and this came across well in the artwork. I especially liked the drawing directly on the walls - not just because I liked the images but also because it seemed so delightfully transgressive somehow - to draw on walls, an admonition not to being the cry of most parents in the land.  
But before I forget I must write this quote from Tama Janowitz's Slaves Of New York  1986 UK Picador page 26:
The place was fantastic, it held the sediment of many lives: 

This screamed out at me as it just sums up for me why I love history, historical research, secondhand things and old places. She's actually describing an apartment which is available for rent and when she goes back to rent it - all of the gilt ceilings, mouldings, layers of paint and puzzle parquet floor have been ripped out!! I shared the characters feeling of being gutted - I'm no fan of that kind of thing and it's just as well as the house is slowly but surely turning into a museum as though sadly it no longer has its original 1940's doors and mouldings - it still has its 1970's polystyrene ceiling tiles, kitchen and bathroom and they'll be worthy of a museum soon. 

Plus the book itself is browned and musty with age - I borrowed it some many years ago from the ex partner of the person who originally bought the book and whose name and date of purchase is in the front. It has been chewed a bit round the edges by the dog they had at the time who has been dead for a good few years -  you just don't get that kind of history or backstory with an e-book do you? or do you - I rarely download books so I don't know. I'd be happy if you were to tell me otherwise :-)


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