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. 


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