Monday, 14 September 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Week 1 Re-enrolment, Victorian Fabulousness, Cyanotyping, Clumsiness+Forgetfulness, Post It Notes and Joyce Carol Oates

Book marks made out of 120 film backing paper and leftover sticky back plastic

end results of yesterdays cyanotyping drying above the litter trays used for bleach baths and washes
 top row far left and second row from bottom also had additional post development dip in bleach solution  and top row right I forgot to put the negative the right way round - doh!! and the coffin shaped one should have had an image of a dancing skeleton on it but it didn't work - as all the others did I suspect it was because a mix of not being in strong sunshine for long enough and the acetate negative not being contrasty enough/clamped tight enough to paper under the glass.
The images are (starting top left hand side)
reflection of branches in Birmingham Cathedral in digital camera lens taken on crap kids digital camera
dancing skeletons that worked
back to front skeletons warning that death to will come to you the viewer - both images taken from images in textbook but can't remember which one...
pylon near nature reserve in Castleford (aka Cas Vegas) taken on crap kids digital camera
close up of grave details Scarborough Cemetery - taken on b+w 35mm film
as above
coffin shape that sadly didn't terms of taking an image but at least it works as a coffin shape
steps near Scarborough Art Gallery taken on 35mm b+w film
close up on angel on grave in Scarborough Cemetery taken on 35mm b+w film.
All need trimming and framing.

experiments with trying to extract colour from geranium leaves - wetting watercolour paper both sides and clamping leaves in plastic wallet beneath piles of partially read and unread books, so far getting best results with dying semi dried up geranium leaves, fresh ones don't seem to work but do leave an interesting stain which I have (hopefully) preserved by coating with gloss medium. Difficult to do without further dislodging petals - need to work on both technique and maybe get better brushes or use a sponge.

So these are some of the results of what I've been up to this week, there are also some 36 b+w film pics from the tour of Beckett Street Cemetery (part of the Heritage Weekend) which I scanned in yesterday. After my ever lovely and supportive husband did his Breaking Bad impression in the garage and developed them for me in return for tea. Though this was after I had to re-dry them as in my clumsiness and difficulty to reach them down from the shower rail I dropped them in the cyanotype washing bath (a repurposed litter tray) ARGH!! And I am hoping to get the best of them printed this week on tracing paper. I am still absolutely loving the translucency and cheapness of tracing paper - I also need to see if it is available in widths of 1.06 metres so I can realise my plan to print images the same size as the burial plots that were available at St George's Fields....

I'm glad I made the most of the sunshine yesterday and got so many done - though I am also cheered by the news that the darkroom at college now has a UV bed specifically for developing cyanotypes in a comparative blink of an eye (about 3 minutes) as opposed to 30-60-90 minutes. But the luddite part of me likes the time and awkwardness involved in developing them in sunlight in various points around the house and washing them in the bath. Plus whilst I'm waiting for them to develop I can do things like the washing up or make the dinner.

Though the back ache I get from bending over the bath awkwardly to wash them out is a pain  - at least it's more easily reachable in terms of height in the darkroom and I might be able to better see what I am doing in the darkroom when putting the acetate negatives on top of the cyanotype solution painted paper, as opposed to somewhat flailing about in the near darkness of my workroom with the curtains closed....If we had the money I'd have the garage rebuilt to house a proper little darkroom.

I was a bit rusty and distracted yesterday though I think - hence my getting something backwards, dropping stuff and most of all forgetting that I could tone them as well as bleach them. But by the time I remembered I wasn't in the mood for making tea and then letting it go cold. But it was a massive relief when some images did appear and I'm pleased with most of them but especially chuffed with the pylon taken on the crap kids digital camera and the reflection of trees in a lens. I want to use both of those negative acetates again and this time tone them with tea too.

My other massive mistake yesterday was forgetting that I had taken the b+w film out of the canon slr I got for a fiver from the charity shop and had it developed. I had then reloaded it with poundshop Agfa Colour as I had thought about going to take more pics at St Matthews Cemetery in Chapel Allerton  - when you load this camera it winds the film on so you count down from 24 or 36 and it tells you how many you have left - as opposed to all the other film cameras I have which don't wind it on other than to the first frame and tell you how many you have taken so far. At least I haven't lost/fogged any pictures already taken but I may have fogged the film for any future pictures I might take on it. DOUBLE DOH!!!

It goes against the grain for me to just throw stuff away  (hence my using backing paper and leftover sticky back plastic to make bookmarks) so I am tempted to take some pics on it and see how they come out - pics I could easily recreate that is rather than unrepeatable/unrecreateable ones. Plus I realised as soon as I opened it and it was late last night in electric light in the living room and I didn't have either the 'big light' or my craft light on - I was trying to plan my days for this week so thought I was getting it out ready to drop off to be developed and I closed it as soon as I realised. But equally it was only a pound (it came from the poundshop) and it wasn't special film so I don't know...think I will use it and see what I can get from it - you never know it might end up being one of those happy accidents I'm so fond of.

The other thing I noticed yesterday though was not being to find anything - even though I knew it was there or I'd just put it down - the usual suspects that went missing even though they were there were sellotape (I'd put the dispenser back in it's usual place but backwards so I couldn't see the tape in the gloom) and scissors. I'm sure scissors have a will of their own - I have 3 pairs in my workroom - one pair is one of my all time prize possessions LEFTHANDED FABRIC SCISSORS which I bought over 20 years ago and are labelled with a note that says 'DON'T USE THESE ON PAIN OF DEATH OR WORSE' and a black ribbon so that they can't be confused with the other two pairs - my husband knows they are never to be used on paper or anything other than fabric. They were expensive and are wonderful and would be one of the things I would consider fighting flames for to rescue should we ever have a fire. The other two are just inexpensive ambidextrous stationery scissors and both are in the pen pot where they normally live...but both kept disappearing yesterday - note to self when using scissors put them back in the pot as opposed to just putting them down as I'll be picking them up again in a minute as that isn't a timesaver as I then can't find the bloody things....

Friday was re-enrolment in person and it was exciting to see all the new faces (a couple of whom I already know) signing up - they have the next couple of weeks as induction before lectures proper start again - some of which I may revisit. And it was a massive relief that the struggles I had logging in to the online part of the enrolment system had worked and my details were correct. It took 5 goes to get into the system - and that was after I had emailed them to reset my password from 12 months ago...but it's done now - hurrah!!

Plus it was also lovely to see my fellow ma-ers too and catch up with what they've been doing over the summer and plan a bit for the next few months like where to have our final show and doing our own crits. Hopefully we'll get back what we handed in for assessment in August back so I can show physical items rather than this blog. Plus we found out that we all passed - hurrah but I'm still very keen to know my mark seeing as I am a) a girly swot and b) am enjoying jumping academic hoops and c) am thinking of doing a practice led phd and high marks may make that process easier.

What hasn't been easy has been my reading the last couple of weeks - well some of it was easier than others and some of it was pleasure but some of it was and is very painful indeed. The easiest and most pleasurable in terms of feeding my obsession with all things victorian (well not all things - not keen on rickets, workhouse system though am beginning to wonder if it was in some ways preferable than current benefit sanctions in at least you got some food and some physical shelter, lack of antibiotics, lack of effective accessible contraception, position of women in society, disenfranchisement of a huge swathe of society, living conditions, imperialism, jingoism, colonialism ....) was the book Jeremy Paxman wrote (or rather had big chunks of written for him) to accompany his series from a while back - The Victorians: Britain Through The Paintings Of The Age (BBC Books 2009) which is an interesting overview of the period as well as a collection of some of the most wonderful paintings.  It is thanks to a painting by Charles Wynne Nichols that I saw in Scarborough Art Gallery and promptly feel in love with - and which you can see here along with others by him that I started reading Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.(Oxford University Press edition from 1987 but it was originally published in installments in Robin Goodfellow magazine in 1861)  I also persuaded WI Book Club to read it too and I am absolutely loving it  - the writing is exquisite plus it is written both in and of it's time and by a woman. 

Plus I have used the chapter titles as titles for some of my pieces of work - including the image I submitted through Curator Space for consideration to be included in the 'Imaginary Museum, Mapping Memory' piece. And I am slowly getting into the habit of writing page numbers down as I make quotes and using post it notes to mark places when there has been something especially quoteworthy.

The other book that has been pleasantly difficult but wonderful too has been The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates published by Fourth Estate in 2013 - it's long, has many characters, an overall narrator that stresses their qualities as a historian but then tells the story from different points of view of the characters involved and in different ways of telling - some are as an apparent observer, some are said to be journals or letters. But it is also utterly entrancing and disturbing - like many of her works - Zombie made me reach for pictures of kittens every few pages just to restore my equilibrium. The Accursed is set in Princeton in 1905-6 and centres on the curse visited upon the Slade and Wilson family. But there were some passages that absolutely stood out for me:

from page 132
Though it is the rare historian who will speak candidly of such matters, all of us who are engaged in the rendering of the past – by way of amassing, selection, and distillation of a multitude of pertinent facts – are commonly beset by two dilemmas: the phenomenon of simultaneity of event and the phenomenon of the authenticity of evidence.

from page 180 Postscript: The Historians Dilemma
‘perhaps it is the historians dilemma: we can record, we can assemble facts meticulousy and faithfully, but only to a degree can we interpret. And we cannot create.’  

And from page 669 in the Acknowledgements section
The truths of Fiction reside in metaphor, but metaphor here is  generated by History.

But the most difficult book I'm reading at the moment is Art and Death by Chris Townsend published by IB Taurus in 2008. Difficult because of it's dense text, presumed familiarity with philosophical concepts and works by Derrida, Barthes, Foucault and words that I do not know and so have given me RSI as I have had to continually reach for the dictionary.  But I can now add the following to my vocabulary:
sedulous = persevering. diligent
meretricious (which I thought meant something to do with lying) but in fact means showily attractive or flashy 
ludic = playful
aporia = irresolvable internal contradiction eg a liar declares all liars are liars...
prosopopeia = figure of speech in which an abstract thing is personified

Frankly it made my brain bleed - both in a good and a bad way and has given me much thought for my own work and an analysis of others too. Plus it feeds nicely into what I want to do my dissertation on - namely the use of language around/in/about art. I've got a rough plan which I hope to go through and flesh out a bit with my tutor this week.

Along with dissertation (in which I need to learn to cite things in the correct Harvard academic fashion) plus I also need to work on the work I want to include in the Out Of The Shadows exhibition that is going to be part of the Love Arts Festival which opens in October plus I also need to work on the paper I'm going to present as part of the What Lies Beneath conference too.

So as ever - lots to do so I'd best crack on with where is the dictionary and my notebook?... 

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