Monday, 25 May 2015

MA-Ness Term3 Week 6 Power of Words, Taking Pictures, Economy of Film, Undercliffe and Competitions....

this weeks post it note, a list and end of a roll of developed film I'll use as a bookmark

I'm writing this on the evening of Bank Holiday Monday as I don't want to leave it any longer plus as I had a really long lie in it still feels like early afternoon to me but this might be a slightly shorter post than usual or I might ramble on like I usually do - who knows....

The big capitals in pink on the post it note:


are there because they are increasingly cropping up in discussions at college and whilst I am fairly sure I understand what they mean in an everyday way I'm not so sure I  fully understand them when they are used in an art related conversation so part of my work this week is to investigate them in that context and see if I can come to a better and more comfortable understanding of them. But the use of language around art in turn makes me think of the bit of the Alan Moore interview I saw the other week in which he talked about the relationship between words and magic and how words are also spells and also the conversation between John Waters and Bruce Haines in Art A Sex Book (|Thames and Hudson USA 2003) in which (my beloved) John Waters says:

'the art world is a secret club with a secret language. What business doesn't have a secret language?..People learn the language if they are interested enough....I like elitism: it's part of the fun of the contemporary artworld - having to learn enough so that you can come into the club and understand it'.

And whilst I understand and to a certain degree agree with this it also makes me slightly uncomfortable as I think it then makes art more inaccessible than it already is. My struggle with this is something that been ongoing since the start of the course (and as we come towards the end of the third term I'm increasingly thinking about what I have learnt and how my work has changed since I started the course back in September) and part of me is also thinking if that might be a good starting point for my dissertation...
Other things I'm thinking about are the differences between film and digital - I LOVE my film cameras and to paraphrase Charlton Heston (though he was talking about something unpleasant) you will prise my film cameras out of my cold dead hands I love the faff and ritual of film - as well as the end result but I am increasingly using my lo-mo 3.2 mega pixel camera phone which can just about zoom in but not by very much and it doesn't have a flash or anything fancy on it at all. Unlike the camera on my husbands smart phone which is very fancy indeed and takes lovely pictures.

I am enjoying the phones lightness to carry as well as its image capturing limitations plus it is virtually free to use compared to my film camera (though in order to do a truly comparable comparison I'd have to work out how much it costs per charge and how much per transfer of images from its micro sd card to the main computer) but in terms of actual cash outlay the 93 (!!!!) pictures I took on my way home last week of patterns in the decay of the stonework which caught my eye were effectively free when the same amount of pictures taken on my beloved Minolta 7000 would have meant 2 rolls of 36 and a roll of 24 35mm films and the cost of their development...Mmm.....but the film pictures I did take of Undercliffe Cemetery do look so much lovelier - there's a depth to them that is preferable. Anyway it took me a long time to get a phone with a camera on it and I am beginning to love using it. 

I did some more cyanotype prep this week - and I got to watch the magical potentially poisonous solution being mixed too which was very exciting. One day I will have my own darkroom in which I'll be able to do the same but for now I will continue to enjoy the advantages of the college darkroom, anyway this week I prepped red, grey and cream paper and I hope the red paper in particular comes out a lovely purpley colour when exposed to sunlight. I am reading The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins at the moment and it is wonderful. Published in 1860 it was the first of the victorian sensation novels and there is brief mention of 'sun pictures' being made in it - the uncle wants all of his collection of drawings and coins taken. Part of me is wondering exactly what kind of sun pictures they were - were they cyanotypes? I shall have to research my photographic processes history to see what is most likely they would have been using...

I've still been struggling with energy levels though - think the lurgy I had took more out of me than I realised really as I was really flagging during the week - so much so I didn't go to see the Susan Sontag documentary at the Hyde Park and it takes a lot for me not to go to the pictures (especially at the Hyde Park as it is one of my all time favourite places to go) but I was just too tired plus I checked online and I can watch it there - I want to see it as part of me is hoping that if I see the documentary they'll be less for me to read of the pile of books next to my desk from the college library which I keep renewing but don't get any nearer to finishing and in some cases starting....

But aside from The Woman In White which I am absolutely loving I am also absolutely loving Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes which is just gorgeous - sad, thoughtful, thought provoking, just really wonderful writing and his descriptions of photographs and the memories they contain or rather fail to is still percolating through my brain - it makes me think of the way I look at old family photographs, photographs of times I have no direct experience or memory of, and in turn it then makes me think of how much people take photographs today - the constant clicking (albeit electronically) of shutters and what happens to those images? Because to me photograph doesn't just mean image - it means a physical format of some kind, a print. Do any of the images destined for Twitter or Facebook ever get printed out? Ever made into a physical thing that doesn't just sit on a timeline and server? 

I was also reminded this week of the potential differences between how I see my work and how others may see it - I took pictures on a pinhole camera (on 35mm film)  and showed the scanned negative of one of my results to a college professional. I'm not that keen on the picture (it's a 2 second exposure of Whitby Abbey) but she loved it and thought it was really good. Alas I did not take it on 26th April which was World Pinhole Camera Day so I didn't upload that one to the site but the one I took in the pub which you can see here which I did take on the Sunday. 

I have also entered one of my pics in the Museum of the Year Photography Exhibition - details here, I doubt very much I'll win as the pictures I took when I was at the wonderful Whitworth were more for my own personal research on my trusty lo-mo camera phone but you never know....

I used my big Fuji instant camera and my Minolta when I went to Undercliffe Cemetery on Wednesday for a tour and launch of the latest photographic book by Mark Davis - it was lovely pootling about the cemetery at night taking pictures in the twilight whilst hearing a bit about its history. I especially enjoyed using my instant camera:

This week is hopefully going to consist of energy levels starting to feel fully back to normal as well as lots of printing, a studio tour, a meeting about potential plans for Light Night and a pop up cinema. it's exciting having lots on and to think about but there is also part of me that feels a bit tired just looking at my diary for this week.....

Monday, 18 May 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 5 Lurgy, Walking and Talking, Cathedrals and Scribbling Notes On Bits Of Paper

this weeks post it notes and extra bit of paper hurriedly scribbled on downstairs whilst watching telly
This last week feels like it has been a bit disjointed too and I feel like I've not got much done - this is partly thanks to the resurgence of lurgy though and when I check my diary and the notes I've made I realise that I did manage to do most though not all of the things I had scheduled - I had an interesting tutorial with my personal tutor, a good albeit brief meeting with my fellow MA-ers that I'm collaborating with on a project for the Love Arts Festival in October, a brief catch up with one of my mentors from the Place and Memory Project and you can read about her and her work here, a very wonderful evening listening to Stewart Lee who never fails to make me laugh - and the phrase 'sugary renaissance death mask'  will stay with me for some time....a walk and talk I researched and delivered for Buns and Roses WI and a really interesting day at college listening to Morgan Quaintance talking about his work.

So all in all not bad but sadly due to lurgy resurgence I missed a feminist conversation that I'd been very much looking forward to and a friends birthday barbecue that I'd also been looking forward to and a couple of WI meetings but I realised that I needed rest more and also that it wouldn't be fair to go somewhere and be sneezing over everyone and potentially passing on lurgy.

So rationally although I feel like I'm falling behind with stuff - I'm not in reality, it just feels like it. Hopefully this week which although is busy will end with me feeling like I'm more on top of stuff again and if I can keep ticking things off my to do list that's all to the good.

So after running round like a blue arsed fly for the last couple of weeks I completely rested this weekend and I spent it either dozing or watching Hitchcock wonderfulness on BBC2 - first up was a programme featuring clips of him talking about his work as well as critics analysing it and clips. He talked of how he was the cinema equivalent of a switchback railway operator which is a rollercoaster in todays modern parlance and how films were better in some ways in the silent days and how he preferred making films then but it always a balance of shock and tension - for instance if you show a bomb going off under a table in a meeting room full of people then it's a shock - but if you show the audience beforehand a picture of the bomb under the table with the timer ticking away then you have tension too.

I realised then that so many of his films have long purely visual sequences with hardly any dialogue - he described noise in films needing to be absolutely necessary and be part of the story as otherwise they are just a series of photographs with noise. Though of course the other marvellous thing about so many of Hitchcock's film are the wonderful scores by Bernard Hermann. The films shown were Rope - one of my favourites as I love both James Stewart and Farley Granger and just love the flirting between the James Stewart character and the housekeeper played so wonderfully by Edith Evanson. And that was followed by a programme about James Mason which sadly I nodded off through but I was awake enough to see him being calmly vicious in North By Northwest afterwards. I adore James Mason...his voice is just beyond wonderful.

I think Rope is possibly one of my favourite Hitchcock films - with Psycho and Strangers On A Train, The Lady Vanishes and the 39 Steps a very close second and of course Vertigo too and Rear Window and The you can probably tell I am a bit of a Hitchcock fan.....

The other programme I watched which made me think a lot was Grayson Perry's Dream House shown on Channel 4 last night - his homage to the fictional (but many parallels with his own life) Julie from Essex who was married twice, became a social worker and died when run over by a pizza delivery person on a moped.

 This was a mix of visual joy - the tiles and textual representations of Julie were wonderful as was the footage of Grayson working on them and his description of himself as a not very exact artist struggling with the fact that for this project he had to be exact as the 20,000 tiles had to fit together perfectly and also it was lovely to see a programme about an art project which didn't wrap itself up in jargon and so was easily accessible - his leading of women also called Julie on a tour round Essex before ending up at her Taj Mahal was both interesting and moving.

I was especially struck by the language he used to describe the work  eg temple, altar, ceremonial, bless - words you'd more usually find in a religious context. As someone who was brought up in a strict catholic setting but who now no longer believes or observes (and hasn't done for the bulk of my life) I'm always struck by how prominent religion still is in my thoughts - even if that is more its absence in my everyday life. And when I hear language more usually associated with religion it stands out for me. I'm currently working on some pictures featuring some stone carved angels from the 19th century - I wonder if someone who doesn't know me and my atheist beliefs were to look at them and think I was being venerative of them as actual angels....mmm as ever much food for thought. As ever the definition of art is the intention behind it - not just the end product....

The other mention of religion I heard was on R4 when various people including Grayson Perry and the drummer from Radiohead were invited to go into a soundproof chamber and record their thoughts. The drummer talked about the peace and quiet of the chamber and how it reminded him of cathedrals and churches where the space appears to have absorbed some of the visitors attempts to both absorb and attain peace and quiet.  This in turn made me think about my working practices and how they might change if I put music on instead of the radio whilst I worked. Think I've got some experimenting to do there - I normally have R4 on all the time but it would be no great loss if I switched off You and Yours in fact it would probably be a bonus and put some music on instead.  

Food for thought was the order of the day when we treated to a talk by Morgan Quaintance - he talked about his current preoccupations and it was both interesting and thought provoking - partly from a more artists to look up and read about kind of way, book suggestions and again the idea of a white gallery space being used as a place to think as well as look at art as it's one of the few places (corporate sponsorship aside) where we are not assailed by advertising (same can be said of a church too I suppose) and also the predominantly carribean mourning practice of nine nights (need to do some more research into this) but it was a delight to hear an artist Billy Childish being described as 'Tracey Emin's boyfriend (as so often it is women who are successful in their own right being described as .....'s girlfriend) but it was also a shame to hear of women artists still being asked questions as to whether or not having children has changed their practice. Not that it shouldn't or that we should be surprised if it does but why does it seem to be only women artists asked questions with regard to their reproductive status - I wouldn't mind if men were asked the same or treated in the same way as women are with regard to wombs.

What else? well I spent the bulk of the week I wasn't coughing and spluttering preparing the Photo Walk and Talk I delivered for Buns and Roses WI on Thursday. I put together the slides last Sunday in somewhat of a hurry as the power supply is still not resolved though thankfully we have had less powercuts since last week - I am waiting to hear from the power company as to when it's going to be fixed properly though. The slides were quite basic - an image of part of mine and my husbands film camera collection, and then examples of my work and then I spent the bulk of my time either researching less salubrious bits of Leeds history (mostly on a college computer as that was less subject to powercuts and you cannot access facebook during lesson time so less distraction - in fact since then I've made a conscious decision to switch social media (aside from email) off whilst working and so have got a bit more done) and then writing up my notes. I wrote a 10 minute introduction which I tested on my cats and husband before I let it loose on my fellow WI-ers.

I also included suggestions as to how to broaden your picture taking by either looking up or down or changing the level at which you take pictures - dropping to your knees often produces a much more interesting angle if you ask me...and then I led them on a tour round Leeds with bits of history along the way - a bit about the cholera epidemics in Leeds in the 19th centuries, the growth of cemeteries,  victorian mourning practices, the medieval bits of Leeds and last but not least the story of Mary Bateman the Yorkshire With who was executed in York in 1809 for murder (it seems one too many of her love potions contained poison and alas her fortune telling chicken couldn't save her...) her body was dissected in Leeds and her corpse flayed and the skin was tanned and cut up and sold as charms to ward off evil spirits. Her partial skeletal remains are on view in Thackray Medical Museum today.

I was very nervous re doing the talk but the bulk of my fears proved unfounded as the electrics worked fine and there was no problem getting the projector to work, and the timings of the walk worked out okay too and we were back at the beginning just as the light was starting to fade slightly but still good enough to take pics without flash by. I took them on a circular tour pointing out where the biggest mourning house in Leeds Forsters had premises on Lower Briggate, Trinity Church, Leeds Library, Kirkgate and back to the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

I wish I could have enjoyed it more though and hadn't been quite so anxious. I hardly took any pics myself - though I more than made up for that on the way home from college by taking pics of all sorts of naturally occurring surface patterns on the worn stones that line the the route home. Not sure what if anything I'll do with them yet but I enjoyed taking them on my very lo-mo camera phone. I'm increasingly enjoying restricting what I use - eg when we went to Whitby for the goth festival I took my 35mm slr and my 50mm lens and left all the other lenses behind as I wanted to a)travel light and b) make the most of what I had and a 50mm is as good as nay place to start as it's fairly good in most circumstances...

The other thing on my mind at the moment is what to pick as a dissertation topic - I might pick John Waters way of working and see what I can learn from him (he is very disciplined) and I'm also very much enjoying the book he wrote with Bruce Hainley  called Art A Sex Book and maybe a response to that too... the dissertation needs to be a piece of reflexive writing underpinned with theorists and context of practice and my tutor made the useful and practical suggestion of my mind mapping each of the possibilities and see which appeals to me the most.

I've got til December to hand it in but I'd like to get as much forethought as possible done on it so it'll be easier writing it up.....there is still a huge pile of books sitting to the right of me reminding me that I haven't read them yet and I really must get them finished and in some cases started soon, just getting them renewed at the college library each month isn't helping get them read....

There was also talk of the word curate and curatorial and how that has become both more commonplace but has it also become cheapened as a result - apparently Stanford University have banned its use but that seems a tad harsh, I'm not sure what my thoughts on it are, I'm not a fan of jargon or of words somehow becoming verbs eg 'let's workshop that idea' which makes me want to respond 'okay, let's angle grind your face then' but that's possibly an extreme reaction but I do totes hate text speak ;-) and I find myself using emoticons all the time......

I wonder if you can use them in the dissertation......

Right next thing to do is make up list of possible dissertation subjects and add Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure to list of films I've seen on dvd this year - it really made me smile and I don't want to forget that and by writing it down hopefully I won't. 


Monday, 11 May 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Week 4 Being A Creature of Habit, Religious Experiences In A Secular World and Lumen-Ness

this weeks post it notes, a blank back page of a book I wrote on and tore out (I don't normally do this but I had nothing else to hand plus it was a trashy escapist novel and it was completely blank so no-one is missing anything if they buy this from the charity shop I'll be taking it too) and my new library card...
I am largely a creature of habit - happy to try new things and approaches but that is providing I can retreat to my usual habits and lair at the end of the day but the last few days have been especially trying - partly because I have come down with some kind of cough/cold/flu lurgy which has left me at times breathless (and not in a good way) and partly despair at the election result and partly because there is an intermittent electrical fault locally which means the power keeps going off (not for longer than 12 hours though which is when compensation would kick in) and so burglar alarms go off, the lights go out and of course computers stop working....and it has meant my having to use the laptop as opposed to desktop and sleep in my workroom which is not ideal...

I am not a smartphone lover - I do use my husbands kindle fire thingy and whilst that is a v handy device for social media checking I couldn't imagine writing anything on it of length or great import plus I hate the way it makes you use your fingers in a swipey dabby kind of  way, I'm much happier with a real not touchscreen keyboard. But of course the desktop computer (which i consider to be my 'work' computer as that is where I keep my electronic folders and digital version of pictures but as it's at the back of the house it's marginally less subject to the noise of burglar alarms going off when the power fails) though of course using it is subject to the power staying on.....
I did put together a presentation yesterday afternoon on the main work computer and emailed it so at least that is done but it all felt v hurried and rushed and there was a lot of pressing the save button but even if it is not lost thanks to my frantic saving, there is no guarantee when the power will come back on so it all feels a bit wrong and unsettled at the moment.

We do have a laptop and I have now installed that in the workroom as it wouldn't feel right to write my blog anywhere else - this is where the pictures and books I am using are and although I may not be able to upload this if there is a power fail as the router would go down - at least I could copy and paste it into notepad so hopefully not all will be lost....but I hope the power company get their arse in gear and fix this fault - we've had almost a week on intermittent power now and frankly it's crap. It was especially galling when it went off during BBC2's screening of Vertigo on Saturday, I don't care that I've seen that film lots before when I sit down especially to watch it I want to see Kim Novak and James Stewart in all their glorious Hitchcock wranglings uninterrupted.

I do realise these are comparatively trivial moans in the grand scheme of things and I am fortunate not to be reliant upon electrically powered medical equipment to keep me alive but it's a pain in the bloody arse and I want it sorted soon.

So onto what I've actually been doing (aside from coughing and moaning about bloody privatised power companies) - one of the things on my post it note is the palaver and cost of film and why use it? prompted by my (fellow film fan)husband as he was taking pictures with comparative ease on one of the digitals we have (though if their battery runs out and we can't charge them they won't be much use then...)  and it made me think well why do I use it? I like the palaver of it - from ripping open the cardboard box, the smell and flick of the plastic lid, the feel of the film as you pull it across the back of the camera locking it into place on the sprockets, the sound of it winding on,the wait to get it back and in the meantime not knowing whether or not it has worked, the despair of the not quite right framed pic that you can't go back and retake,the can do better next time of a shot you can retake, the joy of capturing exactly what you wanted or the joy of an unexpected result, the rustle of the negative holders, the contact prints - so much more romance in that than a memory card plus I like the fact that it is now considered to be an old fashioned process - and long may that continue. And whilst I don't have the words to technically describe what I mean - there is something about the look and feel of film that I just prefer.

There's also the question does writing this blog help - a chum of mine says she likes reading it as it's accessible and creates a relationship in which she wants to read it to find out what I've been up to and that it's useful in terms of building an audience - an audience who will then (hopefully) want to come to my shows and buy my work. I don't know if it does do this but I find it useful as a way of collecting my thoughts, reporting on progresses and failures and for helping me get my head round things and also most of all when it comes to course submission times as I can print it out and hand it in as evidence of the work I've been doing.

I don't know what inter/exter means though - power cuts are self explanatory and so onto lumen prints - am so enjoying making these now I have got the method a bit more sorted...I keep my box of photo paper (generously donated by a chum who had no use for it anymore) in my zip up portfolio so it's very definitely kept in the dark, I then decide on what bits I've collected from the various places I've been visiting I'm going to use - arrange them on the glass and then close the bedroom curtains and door and get the box of paper out under a kind of tent I make out of a throw over the top of the bed and then open the photographic paper box, make sure I've got the paper the right way round - shiny side towards the glass and put the back of the frame down (I use cheap A4 frames that I've taped round the edge of the glass with electrical tape and bulldog clips from Wilkos) and then fasten it down and then put it in the sunlight downstairs - much to Mapp's displeasure as I have to move her beanbag so it can get maximum sunlight exposure. I check it every 30 minutes or so by setting an alarm on my phone and it seems to take about 2 to 2 and a half hours to get the exposure I want,  I then take a digital colour picture of it to capture it as it was then I cover it with paper and put it in a plastic wallet in my portfolio folder to stop it either fading or developing further - though I do love the fact that without chemical fixing it continues to change and nothing stays the same for ever - no matter how much you want it too.

I've also been experimenting with manipulating the images in photoshop so they end up looking like an x-ray of themselves...I hope to do some more soon - so far I've done successful site specific ones of Ilkley Moor and the back garden and one made of the decaying bits of an easter decoration.

I haven't made any cyanotypes for a while yet either but I have lots of acetates waiting to be used as negatives for those - and will be prepping for those in a couple of weeks. I also have some solarfast which apparently works best on fabric and a chum has given me some curtain lining fabric she doesn't have use for anymore - which I hope to make into image printed patches that I can then sew onto things....

Other things I want to experiment with are the way I hang the tracing paper prints of my work - the default is a mix of fishing wire and bulldog clips but maybe it's time to think of other ways......

I half watched (til the power went and hopefully the rest of the recording of it is undamaged) the Nick Cave film that was on Film 4 recently - I did mean to go and see it at the cinema but didn't get my arse in gear to do so and whilst I found it a bit slow in places I was struck by a couple of things he said - namely that 'places choose you' and that 'memory is what we are' and his use of the words narrative, retelling and mythologising plus it was lovely to see his notebooks - especially as I am still reading Derek Jarman's Sketchbook - plus it's always fascinating to see how other artists work. For visual artistry though Jarman's sketchbooks are streets ahead...

Before lurgy fully took hold I had a busy time over in Manchester at the John Ryland Archive - via a quick trip to the 'Hidden Gem' aka St Marys. I had often heard of that church but had never visited and I thought I'd just pop in and have a quick peek. And I'm really glad I did - it's a beautiful space, I felt slightly uncomfortable though as I was brought up catholic and went to a very strict convent school and I've long since rejected all of that (other than the core message of be done as you would be done by which is my central moral tenet really)partly for fear of being labelled a hypocrite and partly for an ill-placed fear of being sucked back in....

But it was a lovely quiet space in an otherwise busy and conflicted and conflicting city centre - as prior to my popping in I'd been to Central Library (and joined as anyone from anywhere can join online and then in person with some ID and you get a card and access to all their online information - see library card in pic) but it was in the midst of an increasingly fraught and desperate conversation between homeless people and security companies and police over their access to the librarys facilities. I hope the homelss people currently living outside the library are able to continue using it without being stopped by security guards though - libraries should be for everyone - whether they're reading the books or just having a few minutes in a warm quiet place out of the rain....

Maybe it was because I'd just been in a church but I was struck by the similarities between churches and archives when I was in the Rylands Library Collection - the general air of reverence for the objects, the quiet, the careful unwrapping of treasures, the 'snakes' aka the weighted string of beads you use to keep the pages of a book open share a haptic similarity with rosary beads, the pillows and foam cushioning you rest the books on look like the lecturn bibles rests. But I was fortunate not only to be able to look at a book which looked like a family bible but was in fact a collection of cartes des visites in the upstairs reading room but also to be taken behind the scenes into one of the strong rooms to look at gems of the collection like exquisite victorian mourning jewellery, a lock of Proust's hair (a strand of which Cornelia Parker has taken to use in her work - with permission obviously), relics of Walt Whitman (including the flowers from his room when he died) courtesy of his appreciation society in Bolton and exquisite photographs by Roger Fenton - the mounts slightly mildewed with age but all the more beautiful for it.

I took lots of photographs (digital ones without flash) but they were very clear that those photographs could only be used for my own research and inspiration as opposed to them being published so alas I cannot share any of them with you - suffice to say it was both very inspiring and wonderful and many thanks to the staff of the John Ryalnds for making it such an incredible afternoon of wonder - and I hope to go back again soon for more inspiration and wonder.

What else? well I neglected to add I'd joined the Creative Timebank a couple of weeks ago - and you can read about who they are and what they do here and I am very much looking forward to both benefitting from it and hopefully in turn benefitting someone else plus it seems an excellent way to learn and build connections too.

This week is hopefully going to include my ceasing to cough in a way that suggests I have been smoking 100 capstan full strength since birth, a way forward with a collaborative project, a successful presentation, a tutorial, and our power supply being properly restored and things computer and workroom wise back to normal.


Monday, 4 May 2015

MA-Ness Term 3 Weeks 2+3 A Used Parker Pen, Gallery-Ness, Whitby, Pinholing and Stuff....

this fortnights post it notes

Am still a bit all over the place and trying to get back into a good blogging habit - this time last week I was in Whitby having travelled there for the 21st Goth Festival straight after the very wonderful Marc Almond gig at Leeds Town Hall on Friday night and in some ways I'm still catching up with myself after what have been a couple of very busy weeks.

So instead of catching up all my thoughts of the past week like I usually try and do on a Monday this time last week I was giggling at the tat off challenge I'd taken part in and was about to eat very delicious lasagne in Moutreys....then we got back from Whitby via Kirkham Priory on Wednesday and then was waylaid somewhat by a migraine on Thursday, back into college for tutorials and portfolio results (both tremendously happy and relieved that I am both academically hoop jumping correctly and producing work both me and my tutors are happy with - which is making me feel much less of an wannabe imposter and much more of a bona fide* artist ) and then off to Birmingham early Saturday morning for a Gothic Day School which was very good indeed so that's my explanation for only getting round to writing this up today. I did have good intentions of doing it on Thursday but the best laid plans came adrift in a sea of visual disturbance, nausea and a temporary aversion to screens.

So what was I up to the previous week - represented my WI at the Regional WI Annual Meeting, did a lot of pinholing prep including loading a canon body with film, which was converted to a pinhole camera by drilling a hole in the body cap and making a lens out of black felt tip lined tin foil. However I forgot to take it with me (cue much much angsting and feeling both very stupid and inadequate and worse fearing for my memory on my part as I later forgot to take home the two pinhole cameras I made using cardboard, black electrical tape, blu- tack and photographic paper - FFS!!) and so made a couple of cardboard box ones instead. I really like pinhole pics - the longer exposure times lead to people looking ghostly and I had 8 goes, 3 came out okay, 2 might salvageable with a bit of photoshop trickery but 3 were completely burnt out.

I love the idea and reality that you can make a camera out of almost anything, plus I love that it is a long winded fairly contemplative process, let alone the alchemical magic as the picture (hopefully) starts to appear when you place the paper carefully in the developer but I have learnt a couple of practical things for next time - I work best in the darkroom when it isn't busy, if there are lots of other people I find myself forgetting to look at the clock for developer, stop bath and fixer timings in a way I don't if there's only a couple of us using the developer trays and also my mobile phone stopwatch/countdown facility is unwieldly as you have to press at least 3 buttons to make it start counting down before it actually does and last but not least you really need to work the blu tack to make it pliable enough as a lens cap.

But forgetting cameras aside it was aces plus it was nice to meet other students from different courses in the college and see their work too - and as ever massive thanks to the lovely Madeleine who teaches with patience, enthusiasm and insight. I did some more pinholing in Whitby - including a 13 minute 13 second exposure during the drag bingo in the Little Angel - there was maths and light readings to try and work out what exposure time was needed which came up with the answer 13 minutes and I added the extra 13 seconds just for the hell of it and a nod to my heroes The Munsters who lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane and with such a long exposure an extra 13 seconds isn't going to make that much difference.

So after the pinholing came a trip to Manchester (or Manchesterford as it's usually referred to as I am also a massive Victoria Wood fan) and I got my lovely pre-raphaelite fix in the City Art Gallery. I fell in love with pre-raphaelite paintings and painters many moons ago - partly because of the subject matter, partly because of the ill fated romance (though exhuming a corpse to get back the book of poems you buried with them is a step too far - even for me)  of so many of the members and partly because of the skill with brushwork and oils. Then after I'd had my fix of painting gorgeousness, I treated myself to a slice of cake in the cafe and became transfixed by the shadows cast by the salt and pepper set on my table. I took a pic on my lo-mo camera phone which I hope will become the centrepiece of my response to John Waters seminal piece 12 Assholes And A Dirty Foot. This is a work in progress and I will report back on it when it is completed.

Then it was the very wonderful Cornnelia Parker's lecture at the Whitworth. Witty, warm, accessible and approachable - like her work in fact. One of the most interesting things she said was that she finds talking to people who aren't artists more inspirational than people who are - eg talking to the members of the British Army who helped in the creation of Cold Dark Matter by blowing the shed up, because they think about things in a different way, plus you get really good conversations with people who have opposite views to you. She was very lovely indeed and afterwards the friend who I had gone with asked if she could send her (Cornelia) details of a climate change protest book a friend is trying to get kickstarted (she had been very explicit about her fears that we as a planet are sleepwalking towards our doom if we don't do something to try and arrest the damage we have already caused) and she used my pen to write down the details. I haven't used it since and as soon as I got home I put in a sealed plastic bag and labelled it - I don't really believe objects have apotropaic qualities or transferable power but part of me but part of me is prepared to do a kind of pascals wager about it so although I rationally know this pen has no magical qualities - part of me secretly hopes it does.


Then it was back to Leeds after a meal of cheesy chips in a greasy-ish spoon and very delicious there were too (never had them before) and then off to Whitby as soon as Marc Almond was finished - he was utterly wonderful and it was wonderful to hear him explain some of the inspirations behind his latest album 'The Velvet Trail' which included a description of his grandfather taking him for walks along the sand at Southport and holding his hand and singing to him 'take my hand, we are strangers in paradise'. The backdrop of video footage, animations and images was wonderful too - but alas the people we had the misfortune to be sat next too were not - shouting 'play some fucking tunes' when Marc was explaining about the inspiration for the songs, arguing with other audience members over using phones and it marred what was otherwise a truly magical performance. If I ruled the world there would be a special circle of hell and punishment in this world for selfish twunts like that (see also twunts who talk/text at the cinema).

So then it was Whitby and I took lots of photographs (took 12 rolls of film to be developed to the lovely Mark in The Photo Shop on North Lane in Headingley) and they were all on (gasp) colour film - well at £1 a roll for ISO 200 Agfa Colour from the poundshop it would be rude not too, but I did also use some Velvia which is really lovely stuff, and in addition to my usual beloved Minolta 700D I also used the converted canon pinhole though that didn't work at times - replaced the battery and it started working again but then seized again so not sure what it wrong with it - hope it is nothing terminal as it is a lovely camera, and a plastic clockwork camera which takes 4 pics per shot over a second on a clockwork mechanism - not particularly good definition but fun to use and I really like this self portrait I took with it in an abandoned door with mirror near the pound shop in Whitby.

Whilst in Whitby (like I had done when in Ilkley) I also collected detritus on walks so I can make site specific lumen prints with them when I get some time to do them, I have 5 plastic bags of leaves, bark, flowers, twine, feathers from places like St Georges Fields, Ilkley Moor, the cliffs between Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay, Larpool Cemetery - which we went to after seeing it from the top of the bus on the way back to Whitby from Robin Hoods Bay and somewhere else but not sure where as I forgot to label that particular bag. Doh!!

So then what - well two tutorials on Friday, and a group crit with fellow ma-ers, then much celebrating of portfolio results with fizz which led to some difficulty getting up for a train at a godforsaken hour on Saturday morning to go to a Gothic Day School organised by Birmingham City University and held at Birmingham City Library. Had a lovely chat with lady sat next to me on train who has emailed me pics of graveyards near John O'Groats and then had to ask one of the very many policemen for directions to the library on leaving the station. Birmingham New Street was crawling with police officers as they were expecting trouble because of vandalism causing problems with trains to London apparently.  Walking through Birmingham city centre I was struck by the massive amount of roadworks and building work and some really gorgeous victorian and edwardian architecture and some really brutal concrete monstrosities. The Paradise Forum (currently under renovation) has to be the most unaccurately named building ever as anything less like paradise I haven't seen. If anything it looked more like the building at the centre of the action in the 2012 version of Dredd.

But the library - oh wow, escalators and motorised walkways IN A LIBRARY - I may have gone on them far more than I needed to just for the hell of it, I mean escalators in a library? what's not to like? Plus the papers were on the whole very interesting and thought provoking - especially the ones on contemporary gothic british art, the narrative of a dress  - which was a beautiful worn and tattered mauve silk half mourning dress which we allowed to touch!!!! and the history of Gothic Valley WI.  

The dress in particular got me thinking about its history as other than it being obvious it is a mourning dress dating from 1885 there is little else known about it ie who its owner was though likely from an aspirational middle class family as it was made by a dressmaker, but as for who the lady who it was made for - aside from a 26 inch waist we know little about her, who was she mourning? was she really mourning for them? was it more fashion and social custom than sentiment? but this also makes me think how much we can invent about objects as opposed to 'know about them' too and the fun and mischief I could have with this - except honestly that pen was used by Cornelia Parker and I could get my chum to sign an affadavit to that effect....

Yesterday I started reading the book I treated myself to from the Whitworth Gallery Shop (not so many postcards there these days and they have increased in price to 80p as opposed to the 20p they were when I was a frequent visitor when I was doing my A levels) namely Derek Jarman's Sketchbook  Farthing S and Webb-Ingall E Thames And Hudson 2013 London and very sumptuous and gorgeous and revealing it is too - both in terms of the way Jarman worked, and it is providing much food for thought including this quote from Keith Collins on page 89 in which he is talking about the transfer of 8mm and 16mm films to video - Jarman used to project films onto the wall and then video that projection with basic domestic equipment which gave it a particular look but ..'as the technology of telecine and video have progressed, it is impossible to recreate this subtle effect; the quest for fidelity has improved the picture quality but eroded the soul'.

This week is hopefully bringing a return to a more settled and normal service but with a few meetings and an archive visit thrown in for good measure but at least it feels like it's all starting to come together nicely - next stop  getting my route and spiel ready for the photowalk and history talk for Buns and Roses WI I'm doing and then hopefully some lumen prints.........  as well as finalising ideas for the Love Arts Festival,and getting work ready for Kirkstall Arts Trail, so it's all go....... 

* or should that be totally bona fido given my love of Victoria Wood....