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....



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