Monday, 26 October 2015

Ma-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 7 - Gothic Manchester, Papers, Picture Taking, Attempts At Reading and that kind of stuff...

this weeks post it note - looking a little emptier than previous ones as been concentrating upon one main task - namely getting paper ready and practising it for Gothic Studies What Lies Beneath Conference - hence rather snazzy wristband - not worn anything like it since going to Infest way back in 2008, also note clear promotional glasses case given away by high street chain of opticians - painted over their logo with black metallic acrylic paint - but I doubt it's very permanent - think the paint used on model kits might have been better (and would certainly smell nicer), then stuck a skull image on it and then covered with gloss medium...way better than walking round as an advert for somewhere I don't especially want to advertise for nothing.
Pic of me in action at What Lies Beneath Conference - very relieved that it went so well and my classic anxiety dreams of losing shoes so being barefoot and because they were high heels too short to reach microphone didn't come to pass - also met lots of lovely peeps, learnt some new stuff, heard of work by two artists I'd not heard of who I need to find out more about, ate amazing necromonicon cake as well as dirty but delicious clown food at lunchtime and took some pictures of reflections in mancunian puddles   

ongoing attempts to capture colour/image from begonia and african violet flowers - not quite the colour I want but liking the marks left on the page anyway, next stage is to varnish these with gloss or matte medium

Last week I was mostly putting the final touches to my first proper grown up academic paper 'That's About The Bones Of It' for the Manchester Metropolitan University Gothic Studies Department Conference. I had written the bulk of it a week last Sunday and so had time to print it out, practice it, and refine it. I decided to take out certain bits - I was on the Sickness and Death panel and it was clearly labelled and described as such in the programme but even so I erred on the side of caution when it came to discussing certain aspects of the death of named individual newborn children in the burial records as I didn't want to unduly upset anyone in the audience - this is because a chum of mine has recently gone through a similar bereavement and I would hate to be unintentionally insensitive. I know that could be applied to any bereavement but the details of these children was so especially heartbreaking I changed my mind about talking about it - I would however be more comfortable about including their details in a paper and might still do so - with a suitable disclaimer that is.

So I took out specifics and talked in generalities instead. Aside from my loving the aesthetic of victorian graveyards - one of the other reasons I love using such spaces as background and inspiration for artwork is whilst there may be descendants there are no living relatives and so my chances of offending anyone is lessened. Plus by using a no longer active as burial ground as a background for my work I am not going to interrupt or disturb any services being held there for the newly bereaved and grieving families.

But even though I had left myself plenty of time to get it finished it still felt quite stressful getting it ready - I think that was mostly because a) I'd not quite done anything like that before  - I mean I had done presentations at college and for WI groups and read work at Headingley Literature festival but in my head this was something bigger and scarier than that as it needed to have 'academic rigour' and b) the self imposed deadline of having it ready a day or two before it was actually needed - as I wanted to email it through - I took a paper copy of my accompanying speech but I wanted the powerpoint slides I'd put together (all 36 of them containing specially resized images - which I'd individually resized using Paint but thanks to a conversation in the Print Room and my moaning that doing it individually had taken for-effing ever, I know now of a way to do images in bulk using Photoshop....) emailed through in advance as that way I knew they'd be available on email - as well as on my little memory stick shaped like a little black rubber skeleton that my lovely ever supportive husband bought me last xmas. I have a horror of technology not working...and this time I didn't spend hours either using exactly the gothic typeface I wanted as last time I did that - it wasn't supported at the other end and so showed in an ordinary font, I took the view that as long as it was legible it would be okay. And it was.

I also wasn't sure how big the audience would be or what the room would be like I would be talking in - in the event there were some 120 tickets sold for the event and it was deep in a former cinema with little stage in the basement of 70 Oxford Road - an address which may be more familiar to some of you as the Cornerhouse. Plus as a member of the panel I had to sit on that stage with the other paper givers until all three of us had delivered our papers and answered questions. I hope I answered the questions I had okay - and I had that uncomfortable contradictory feeling of relief when a question wasn't for me mixed with 'oh,no-one wants to ask me a question'....and then panic when they actually did...

Plus as I am from Manchester - or rather Manchesterford as I prefer to call it, and used to go to 70 Oxford Street when it was known as the Cornerhouse - there was something especially lovely about having my artwork on show in there - even temporarily in a resized format on a screen.

But I must be honest I did reach a point on Thursday evening where after working on it almost solidly for two full days that I was sick of the sight of it - my paper was just over 3,000 words (I was told it could be no more than 20 minutes so I looked at the word count of the timed 10 minute presentations I'd done for college and they were 1500 words so I just doubled it) and perhaps this doesn't bode well when it comes to a) writing my dissertation which has to be around 8,000 words and b) articles to be published - the most obvious opportunity for me are looking for articles that are 5,000 and c) if I do go on to do a practice based phd that's going to need at least 40,000 words along with a solo exhibition...maybe it's just because I was tired and because it's the anniversary of sad occasions and well anyway it's certainly something for me to think about.  I copy and paste each of these blog posts into a word document and print them off - so it can be easily handed in as my research journal and they have got a lot longer each term. The amount of paper they take up seems to be doubling each term - the second term was twice the thickness of the first and the third twice the thickness of the second. Not sure how thick this term is going to be but it is already looking longer again...

It reminded me that this time last year I was doing a similar sort of thing and tearing my hair out trying to email through my first presentation that was going to be assessed - though thankfully I hadn't fully realised that at the time - I had just realised I had a deadline to meet and the presentation which was my first attempt at using powerpoint was too big to be emailed!!  Hence once of my first powerpoint lessons learnt was resize images before inserting them....

I also remembered what a lovely chum from the WI said to me earlier this year that I was the expert on what was I was talking about and that I speak in an engaging manner. And this helped a lot, although I don't think I am *the* expert but I am certainly *an* expert plus I got laughs in the right places - as even though it is a sad miserable subject it also has humour and I got a big round of applause and quite a few people coming up to me afterwards to tell me how much they enjoyed it so I know I must be doing something right.
My slides were a mix of images of my own photographic artwork and copies of pictures I'd taken of original artefacts relating to St George's Field in the Special Collections Unit of the Brotherton Library at Leeds University ( I had their permission to show them in this context but if I plan to publish  this paper with those images then I would need their permission again) - some of the images were from the crap kids digital but the bulk were from the fancy medium format camera I borrowed from college over the summer and a couple of appropriated but credited where from images of All Saints Park and the Sisters of Mercy.

It was fun putting them together to try and make a kind of over arching narrative - my format was bit of why/how I do gothic art, use of graveyards in gothic art, film and fiction with a few examples, specific differences between All Saints Park (also a former cemetery) and St George's Fields - the role of victorian mourning culture within it, class and economics and a brief history of some of its more famous residents - I picked the wife of Pablo Fanqo who was killed in March 1848 at one of their performances when the audience seating collapsed on her head, and Atkinson Grimshaw, a brief overview and analysis of some of the diseases listed as cause of death, the fact that occupations for dead men are listed but not dead women - they are only described in terms of their marital status, and the tombstone and records of Francis Henry Vant whose stone always intrigues me as is has on it 'deeply regretted' and it's not clear if that's his comparatively early death or his actual existence and the in my opinion desecrational relandscaping carried out on behalf of the university in the late 1960's to make it into the park space it is today.

I can't remember if I wrote the words and then found images to match them when I did the ones I had to do for college or if I found images and then wrote the words to match...think I did them in conjunction as opposed to completely finishing the words first and then looking for images to go with them like I did for this one.

I also had some printing done - am absolutely loving the otherworldliness aka shonky focus, warped lens and inability to capture colour correctly that the crap kids digital camera (renamed lo-mo digital camera for the purposes of sounding a bit more professional at the conference) captures - took some more pictures on it today around the woods and I am looking forward to getting them printed too - tracing paper remains my favourite paper to digitally print on. It has such a lovely translucency - as well as being comparatively inexpensive. I really must get those letter written to coffin makers though to see if they have any leftover bits from lining coffins that I could use to print on as well as trying to fins a way to get stuff printed - or rather find the money to get stuff printed on silk/satin in burial plot size pieces.

I took my work down from St Johns Church this week as the Love Arts Festival came to a close - it's so much quicker taking stuff down than it is putting it up and whilst there a couple of things I could have differently - could have rotated one of the skulls through 180 degrees so there could have been one facing one direction and the opposite one facing the other way and scattered them about a bit more randomly too, I was pleased with it overall. It also makes me want in a meglomaniacal way to have a show entirely made up of my own work and fingers crossed there is a possibility of that after xmas so watch this space.

I am in the process of thinking about attempting to combine some of my photography with some embroidery and I was delighted to find some old photos I'd done in the darkroom a while ago that will be just right for this - especially the test prints as I kept those along with the ones that didn't work at all. Plus some of them I am really pleased with as prints - should get them framed really, I'm reminded that it's good to a) not throw things away as they can be repurposed and b) looking at stuff again with fresh eyes is useful as you can see where it might be improved but also where it is good enough after all.

I also went to a couple of things last week that were fun as well as thought provoking - Head by The Monkees complete with introductory talk at the Hyde Park. I had seen the film before but it was interesting to see it again with some new insight - partly provided by the interesting talk given by Peter Mills but also because since doing this masters malarkey my close reading/observing things skills are slowly but surely being honed and Head is an excellent film to closely analyse as well as having a rather wonderful soundtrack - which reminds me I must get a copy of it. It consciously includes familiar set tropes from westerns, horror films, science fiction, romances whilst also making subtle and none too subtle digs at fame, consumerism, pro war tendencies and  it is quite shocking in places - especially the bit where they show the footage of a summary execution by a vietnamese general of a communist fighter (you can see the footage and information about it here) and it is disturbing viewing - not just because you watch a human being get shot for real as opposed to special effects plus the circumstances as to why he is being shot in the first place. I loved the set piece with Davy Jones dancing in black and white and white and black beautiful too. I think I'd like to watch it again and would definitely want to listen to the soundtrack again. The studio related shenanigans to get it made and the choice of actors to be in it was also very interesting.

I also went to see a version of Nosferatu at the Carriageworks by the Proper Job Theatre Company. I enjoyed it on the whole - but I was a bit thrown by the fact it was a musical version of the tale - the claustraphobicness of being enclosed on a ship with something killing off the shipmates was nicely portrayed and there were beautiful visual pieces - where blood appeared to rain down the cabin doors, Orlok's shadow flits across the stage on its own, a blood spattered hand appears at the cabin door, and a face appeared too but it was marred for me by not caring about one of the central characters when there was only 3 (well 4 if count Count Orlok too who you don't really see) - there was the rational captain, the superstitious mate and the fervently christian mate. I didn't care what happened to the superstitious mate and wanted him to fall overboard quite early on, but he didn't. 

My to do list is getting ever longer - and I really must knuckle down and get some quality work and reading done for my dissertation, and I must finish reading Secure The Shadow by Jay Ruby as that is on loan from the British Library and can't be renewed as easily or as often as the other books I have out from the library.

I mentioned last time I had sent off an abstract to a call for papers at a conference in York and I was waiting to hear back, as I hadn't heard from them I emailed to chase it up and was disappointed that my abstract hadn't been picked but then excited as they have offered to pay for an academic poster for me to stand by during the conference and suggested a couple of people to contact about their upcoming conference as they think my research and work will suit it better. So swings and indeed roundabouts.

Think I'd best crack on getting this list written I don't forget everything that is on my mind...


Monday, 19 October 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 6 Blog Slog, Distinctive Difference, Special Collections, Invigilation, List Making and Chores

experimenting with putting flowers between damp pieces of watercolour paper in attempt to extract the colour - mixed results, nothing I'm completely happy with but some I'm happier than others 

run out of space on the edges of the table (left has books working on now and right has books working on soon - hopefully) so had to use end of sofa bed. Some days it's a bit more organised than this and more neatly piled and in less danger of toppling but it also functions as a handy press for attempted colour extraction experiments - see above

this weeks post it note along with pot of paint I've bought to paint a picture frame and make a kind of mini vintrine, some utterly beautiful and rather old black and white photo paper given to us by friends who know we love and use such things and one of the books I've been reading this week - others include purely for pleasure - The Tattooed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates and  Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler...

I found it a right slog last week to sit down and write this - a not too different feeling to today but it is also somewhat compounded by ongoing muscle soreness (at least I hope that's what it is) which got lots better yesterday but seems to have returned again today. Arse. But I am making myself do it - as a) writing it up on a Monday has become a beneficial habit as it makes me collect my thoughts and re-prioritise what I'm doing and why and b) handy record of what I've been up to and c) for the purposes of academic hoop jumping and box ticking this is my research journal which I need to hand in again in December for marking so d) writing it each week, printing it out and putting it in a folder ready to hand in makes it a lot less of a mad scramble ball-ache to do that at the last minute.

But it is a little bit weird knowing that your tutor has recommended reading it to fellow new ma-ers...and I'm not sure why. After all I have chosen so far to make this public so why people reading it makes me feel a little bit weird is odd. The fact that it is public also makes me temper what I say sometimes and most of the time I think that is for the best as it means I've really considered what I'm saying. But sometimes I wonder if the tempering is also a form of self censorship and that the tempering is also a watering down maybe...Mmm not sure. Last time I handed stuff in I did add an additional overview piece that was less tempered regarding a couple of art events I'd been to. Mmm as ever - need to think about this.

And whilst I'm reet chuffed with my academic hoop jumping success so far - am also feeling it's a bit of a millstone now too, as in I've got to keep this level of effort up (which is bloody hard at times) or else my marks will drop and in turn the possibility of doing a phd may also recede. I know that it has to be (bloody) hard work and that in some ways it also has to be a complete mindfuck (in a good way) or else why do it? I could just carry on as I had been doing in terms of taking and showing photographs locally but I know that wouldn't be enough for me anymore as in spite of my moaning about it I am finding the theory side of things - though difficult - also enlightening and challenging and in some instances rewarding....

Plus I think as a result my work changed, evolved and basically got better and if not in terms of content then certainly in terms of technique - though I still couldn't explain depth of field to someone - though I know what it is in practical terms and how to use it to get the image I want. I still struggle with the technical definitions pertaining to photography and I would struggle to explain them to someone else but I think I could *show* someone what I meant and what I was doing - I am still very much a touchy feely atmosphere creating kind of photographer as opposed to a technically competent explainy one.

My husband (also a photographer) and I were at a party on Saturday night and someone asked which of us took the better pictures. I instantly replied I did but I was joking - I might prefer my melancholic black and white output to my husbands more upbeat colourful work but prefering is it not the same as it being better and I think it's those kind of value judgements about any kind of artwork which make it a) so difficult at times as the fear of making something that is not 'good' as opposed to concentrating upon how good it makes you feel to make something in the first place and b) so much fun talking about it. But preferment is not the same as 'better'.

Plus I think our strengths and weaknesses nicely compliment one another - I know I can ask him for help when it comes to using a camera, equally he can ask me for inspiration/approach to subject matter. Plus I make him really lovely builders tea whilst he develops the b+w film in the garage aka pop up methlab which I think is an extremely fair exchange - especially with winter around the corner and the garage being cold and damp... 

Along with the paper that was very kindly given us by our friends was a lot of photographic equipment - measuring jugs, a safe light (can't wait to use this as although we don't have a darkroom as such - it is very difficult to see what I'm doing when I'm making lumen prints and have the room as dark as possible and this lovely red light is going to make things *so* much easier) exposure meters, contact sheet - which will form an interesting lined look to cyanotypes or lumen prints done on it.
It is lovely that people think of us as a home for equipment they no longer use but don't want to throw away or sell - they know it will be cared for and most importantly used by us as opposed to just sitting on a shelf being decorative. I mean I'm all for decoration and think that can be enough on occasion but I am also about using too. When we bought the Cocarette the other week from a charity shop I overheard one of the assistants say to the other as we were leaving 'I love it when that happens, you can tell that camera has gone to a really good home'.

Our camera collection is ever increasing - though alas the space to store it does not so the floor space in my work room is slowly but surely getting smaller as stuff piles up round its edges. It isn't valuable financially as we don't have anything that new,that fancy or that rare but is it beyond quantifying in terms of value - because of the pleasure and potential they give me.

They are immeasurably valuable in terms of the things you can create with them - I remember being asked by someone what filter I had used on an image and they were somewhat gobsmacked when I replied none - other than using a camera from 1956 and black and white film. Immeasurably valuable in terms of the way they look - just looking at their lovely oldfashioned filmyness of another era gives me a warm glow plus lots of them have a backstory - either in terms of remembering where we were when we bought it (lots have come from junk shops we pottered about in when on day trips to the seaside) or where it came from (though I'll give the ones we got from Ebay don't have the romantic backstory and it is sad to think that some will be children selling dead parents camera stuff off that they have no time or use for) or who gave it to us.

Plus every old camera we have always makes me think when I pick it up and use it - I wonder who else has used this camera and what for, where and why? Questions not too dis-similar to the ones we were being asked to ask in college on Friday on object based research. We were given 3 beautiful fabric objects to look at - one was a very tarnished and threadbare devotional cloth with what looks like an embroidered picture of St Jerome - as it was a man with a halo, a lion and a book.  It was beautiful and we were asked to talk about it - I was somewhat suffering from a hangover on Friday as it had been gin cocktail tasting at the WI the night before and said 'isn't gorgeousness enough?' in response to the question what was its value and usefulness. For some things I do think gorgeousness in and of itself is enough. Though of course how you define gorgeousness is another matter and the beautiful stained faded cloth that I described as gorgeous I'm sure my Mum would describe as 'tatty,filthy and only fit for the bin'.

It did also make me think of museum collecting and exhibiting policy - is it the establishment view of what you're supposed to see/remember. Who is it that decides the collecting and (had to take a break there to switch off the radio - whatever was on the afternoon play on R4 was bollocks and I could bear the wailing no longer so now I've switched to Belbury Tales by Belbury Poly which in turn I'm sure some would decry as bollocks) the showing is an interesting question.

I am still putting the radio on - as a matter of habit in the mornings but I have worked in complete silence a couple of times last week - the Special Collections Unit is beautifully quiet as in hardly any sound at all except a distant computer keyboard being clacked, the sound of the library bell, and St Johns Church was quiet but not as quiet (aside from our occasional chattering) as there was the sound of passing buses, people using the church as a cut through (I wonder if they noticed they were walking over graves and gravestones) and the noise of people using the tasty, friendly and reasonable Arch Cafe which supports the work of Age UK. I can thoroughly recommend their soup, hot chocolate and cake.

This picking apart of things is extremely useful on one level but also extremely difficult on another - I'm reminded of the time when I was asked to break down the elements of someone coming into a room and picking up a book, so it could be made into a storyboard and so filmed. You'd think it would be fairly straightforward but actually breaking down into its component parts all the actions and elements involved into 'just going into a room and picking up a book' are extremely involved and involve a lot of subconscious thought, planning and decision making. I think that in turn is why I find some of the theory we're asked to examine so difficult - precisely because it asks us to stop just subconsciously doing and reflect on each one of those tiny component parts. I often find doing much easier than thinking about doing - even though I often use the excuse of thinking about doing something to put off the actual doing.

This in turn though feeds into my fears of not being clever enough or being as my Mum would say 'too clever by half' and 'up myself'. This is along with the fear that I am becoming utterly self absorbed and divorced from every day reality along with the general difficulties of being objective about something that is subjective.  ARGH!!!!!!! you can wind yourself up into some right knots thinking about that kind of thing you know - as well as potentially sounding like a bit of a knob and putting people like my Mum off things - I can remember writing an article for a sixth form magazine a long time ago and asking her what she thought of it - I know it included something about Brecht and didatic techniques and when I asked her what she thought of it - she was very proud I'd been asked to write for the magazine but she couldn't understand a word of it and so wouldn't be showing it to anyone.

Little wonder then that one of my constant preoccupations is with accessibility is it? 

I spent part of last week pouring over burial records of St George's Fields in the Special Collections Unit of the Brotherton Library - I love archives - both in terms of their contents and the quirky differences in terms of using them. They can be a bit intimidating though at first but they exist so people can go and look at the stuff - if no-one's looking then what is their point? (Apart from being repositories of wonderful things that are gorgeous)  and the librarians and curators within are invariably happy to share with others the joys of their collection - perhaps precisely because they control the sharing of it so precisely - be it in terms of temperature controlled rooms, whether or not you have to wear gloves, what you can take into the room with you,  and of course unlike most libraries you absolutely cannot borrow any of the items and you can usually only have one item per time too.

Though last week I was pouring over two handwritten heavy rebound editions of burial records from 1861 to 1863 and 1891-1893. Afraid I cannot share with you the photos I was allowed to take as I will need to get permission from the librarian so the pictures I took were for my own research purposes only.

So you will have to put up with my written descriptions of them - or of course make an appointment to go in and look at them yourself. The Special Collections Unit is open to everyone - not just academics and you just need to make an appointment - you can find out their details here. And it's free at point of use too - it's funded and maintained by the university.

So the books are big and heavy - bound in a kind of sisal coloured cover with green leather/ette corners and spine embossed with gold leaf. They are about 17 inches tall and open to about 30 inches wide and each heavy thick page contains 16 records with details from left to right of:

Number of burial within the cemetery eg 41,633

Plot Number
Date of Death
Date of Interment
Name - in cases of Stillborn they had none other than the family surname and Stillborn written - heartbreaking
Cause of death

Place of Birth
Parents names
Fathers occupation
Name of person registering the death
Name of the minister - again the words no service for still borns was especially moving as they were not considered deserving/needing of one (which must have been especially heartbreaking for the parents - if they were christian believers and worried whether or not their little one would be able to go to heaven if they had not been baptised) and the cost of the funeral would have been born by the parish - I read in JM Strange's wonderful book Death and Poverty in Britain 1870-1914 that there is some evidence to show that midwifes sometimes said that children that had lived up to 4 days were stillborn so as to spare parents the cost.

On one level what an absolute goldmine of information - though not always necessarily 100% accurate or legible but always in black ink and cursive handwriting - apart from the crossings out of information and the phrase 'NOT INTERRED' in red. (How intriguing is that?)  And on another level - heartbreaking as some pages were almost entirely made up of stillborn or children. One plot contained 46 lots of human remains and of those only 4 had made adulthood. The reasons for death made depressing reading too and also made me very grateful for the advances in public sanitation, medical treatment, and health and safety legislation.

On one page for the beginning of February 1861 the causes of death were listed as:


Whooping Cough
General Decay
Disease of the Head

Of the sixteen listed above 4 were adult women, 1 was adult male, 11 were children - 6 female and 5 male. 

The 14,614 person to be buried there in plot 1778 was a 24 year old woman called Mary Elizabeth Hibbert - a cloth dresser from Hunslet whose cause of death was 'found drowned'. I must look her up in the British National Newspapers website - an amazing resource you can access for free if you have a Leeds (council) Library card. I searched it yesterday for details of Atkinson Grimshaw but could find no mention of his death in either the Leeds Intelligencer or the Leeds Mercury - the two local newspapers of the time.
General decay, natural decay, decline, appear often - as does consumption, accident and exhaustion.  Times were in lots of ways definitely harder then.

I found the entry for Atkinson Grimshaw - one of my favourite painters of moonlight, mysterious ladies with umbrellas, park walls and Whitby Harbour. But I only found him thanks to the assistance of the really helpful librarian who googled his details for me -  and  then it took quite a lot of looking for him in the register itself as the dates given on various websites that come up when you google him have him dying on 13th October 1893 but according to the register he died on October 31st 1893 (buried on 4th November and the service was done by A Wekkers at 4.30pm) and of an abcess and not the cancer/consumption listed on various websites.  So he is in the register a good few pages and days after he is supposed to have been if you were just relying on tinternet sources about him.

This makes me wonder about the reliability and 'truthfulness' of information and what does it matter what he actually died of - the man is still dead and his family and friends still grieving. But anyway I'm digressing - as ever....

Along with looking at burial records (my life is non stop rock and roll as you can tell) I also took some more pictures in St George's Field on the crap kids digital camera, had a quick and somewhat cheeky shufty look inside what was the Registrars Lodge then the Fine Art department and is now a prayer facility for Leeds Uni Islamic Society. I felt a bit of an imposter but I took my shoes off and only went in the room marked 'Sisters' which was full of women saying prayers, chatting and checking their smartphones. There were some prayer mats - it looked like you brought your own but other than that and a radiator the room was completely bare. I don't know what the other rooms were like as they were marked 'Brothers' and so I didn't enter. But in the brief moments whilst I was there I did wonder what conversations had been held there and whether or not that was the room that those details in the burial ledgers were entered.

I also invigilated for a day (a very very cold day in spite of my wearing multiple layers, taking a cushion, a hot water bottle and having soup and hot chocolate for lunch) at the Out Of The Shadows exhibition in St Johns Church. I invigilated with a lady called Ruth Steinberg who you can see work by here and it was  really interesting to chat to her about faith (I learnt that space isn't regarded as sacred in the jewish faith the way it is in say the christian faith but that time is instead.) and feminism and we had 15 visitors which for a grey cold day wasn't bad at all and some good feedback about the art too. I managed to read quite a bit more of Ladder of Years by Anne Tyler, made some notes dissertation wise and finished reading (with a trusty highlighter by my side) the essay by Alix Rule and David Levine on International Art English along with some work by cultural theorist Stuart Hall which was very intriguing (which is also my code for found it bit difficult to grasp in places) and will need another reading before I think I've understood it properly.

So in amongst some doing I've managed to do some reading too - but my to do list does feel a bit out of control at times and I struggle with feeling on top of everything - even if most of the time I am practically on top of most things as I've yet to incur a library fine or miss a deadline....the house is a bit dusty in places but the washing and ironing are up to date and I even made proper food a couple of nights last week plus I am standing down from running WI Book Club so that's one less thing to try and balance though I still hope to make it as just an ordinary member.

I still need to work on making sure taking time out gets included too - as I don't want to end up like Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining. Not that I think I'd bust down a door or get trapped in a snowdrift (details are a bit hazy as it is a long time since I've read the book or watched the film adaptation) but the sections where blood pours out of the lift and where she discovers that what he has been typing endlessly is the phrase 'all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy' are still firmly etched in my memory.

I spent most of yesterday putting together the paper I'm delivering for the Gothic Studies What Lies Beneath Conference that is part of the Manchester Gothic Festival next week. Or rather I spent a while faffing about on Farcebook (deliberate sp) as I was battling with those feelings of 'will it be clever enough, oh I'm not clever enough/imposter syndrome' and then I remembered what a lovely WI chum told me as I was about to do a talk and I was saying I was nervous and she said 'remember you are the expert in the room on this'  and yes I am - I am the expert on my work and I am an expert on St George's Fields and its place within victorian death culture and I will be with other experts on other aspects of gothic culture so it's going to be a learning opportunity as well as fun - plus it'll look good on a phd application too.....

I've also sent off another abstract to a death studies conference in York but am waiting to hear back from that one....fingers crossed eh.

The other thing which interested me this week was a programme on the radio I caught in passing or rather the woman talking about it - a lady called Rhiannon Adams who has journeyed to Pitcairns Island - my geography is poor but even I know this is a piece of british territory but it is absolutely nowhere near the landmass of  Britain and is in fact in what I would call 'the arse end of nowhere' but she uses a Polaroid camera. And one of her reasons of using such a (now) difficult to obtain film medium is because of it being so sensitive to its environment and the weather on the day will make a difference to how the resultant picture looks. It is a fragile medium - as is all physical film really though some is more sensitive and fragile than others but it made me think of again the magical unique properties of places and how they can be absorbed/affect work made there and it made me realise that I still haven't realised my aim of making work that is not only about St George's Fields but is of St George's Fields itself.

Best get cracking on with that list again....  and one of the things on it - must be to deliberately destroy some work and see how that makes me a recycling and repurposing hoarder feel.....


Monday, 12 October 2015

MAS-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 5 Muscle Sore-Ness, Stan Laurel, BAS8 Launch Party, Book Symposium, Light Night, Reading, Note Writing and not a lot of photo taking....

this weeks post it notes - as you can see lots of notes in different places - partly because head a bit all over the place and partly because physically been a bit all over the place - hence writing on whatever to hand...
Standing next to work which is part of the Out Of The Shadows exhibition (at St Johns Church until 21st October 2015) which is part of the Love Arts Festival - an official British Art Show 8 fringe event don't ya know

It's been a really busy week - though I haven't done much creating - not even done any knitting. Instead I have been very busy looking, reading, listening and watching. And going ouch a lot as I overdid it at the gym and pulled a muscle in my right arse cheek so in amongst the looking, reading, listening and watching there has been a lot of sharp intakes of breath and applications of hot water bottles. It isn't quite so twingy today so hopefully it is on the mend and I will soon stop such sharp inhalations and mutterings of ouchness and be back to normal.

So in amongst the ouchiness I have been listening to a lot of radio - I usually have R4 on in the background. It's a habit I picked up when I first left home and the sound of the voices made me feel less lonely. Lots of it can be smug (Quote Unquote) and inaccessible (bits of In Our Time)  and arseboring (You and Yours, Moneybox Live) but bits of it are sheer joy - I adore the verbal jousting of Just A Minute and the silliness and filth of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue and R4 was also the first place where I encountered Count Arthur Strong who never fails to make me smile. And I learn lots of stuff from it too - this week there were two programmes which stood out for me.

 A programme about natural history which focused on anemones and talked about the work done by Philip Henry Gosse who was a 19th century naturalist who studied marine biology. He spearheaded the victorian craze for aquaria in the 1850's when he set up the first aquarium at London Zoo. He also wrote the wonderfully titled book The Aquarium - An Unveiling Of The Wonders Of The Deep Sea in 1854. He was building on the work of a lady called Anne Thynne who in 1846 managed to create a marine aquarium and keep alive for more than 3 years out of their natural habitat such creatures as corals and sponges. No mean feat given pumps for use in aquaria weren't invented til a long time later. This led me to a bit of tinternet research and to looking at lovely drawings of victorian ladies looking at things in tanks - like these and the cast iron design of some of these tanks looks like it was an influence on one of my favourite film versions of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - namely the 1954 version which stars two of my all time favourite actors namely Peter Lorre and James Mason. The rest of the programme was a bit too sciency for me and so I zoned out after the words victorian made me prick up my ears but you can listen to it again if you like here.

The other programme which made me stop what was I doing and really listen was the episode of Home Front (the BBC's serial which is a fictional account of life at home in Britain during the First World War told through various characters) bits of it are really gripping and this episode was especially so. It featured Dorothea Winwood wife of the vicar writing a letter to her husband to tell him their baby had died. Harrowing and moving in places but also very interesting for me as it also describes the process of getting the local photographer in (a Mrs Lillian Frost) to take a photograph of the child in his Sunday best - she brings lights and tripods and a lock of his hair is also taken as a keepsake. The rational being given by the woman helping her organise such things as 'you'll be glad of a memory'.

It is always interesting to me when a fictional piece echoes or affirms the historical cultural assertions about the practices and beliefs of the time. I am interested in post mortem photography and hope to try and recreate some of the style of the victorian ones I've seen. It can be hard to find examples of them though. I appreciate that Home Front is a drama and written in the 21st century so not in itself a viable historical source but it is based upon historical research. And it would appear that for some at least the practice most commonly associated with the victorian period mourning customs ie photographing the dead relative and taking a lock of their hair continued into the edwardian period. In some circumstances photographing the dead continues - it's often done in the cases of still born babies or those who die shortly after birth for instance. Having a photograph is believed to help with the grieving process.  

The other instance of fiction matching assertions of historical custom and practice is in the final chapters of Lady Audley's Secret by ME Braddon (am still obsessed with this book and if you haven't read it - you must - for it is wonderful) when Robert Audley is frightened his friend will haunt him as he has not been laid to rest in hallowed ground. I appreciate this is a common fear/feeling/superstition but it was good to read it in a novel which was written in the victorian period when death and burial practices and customs were seemingly so much more uppermost in the every day. There are also wonderful mentions of the child Georgy being popular at funerals and a subtle dig at the way these occasions were held:

'he had attended several infant funerals in the neighbourhood , and was considered valuable as a mourner on account of his interesting appearance. He had come therefore to look upon the ceremony of interment as a solemn festivity; in which cake and wine and a carriage drive were the leading features’.

Also when the author talks of the ways in which women can alter their appearances : 'when the glossy plaits are relics of the dead , rather than the property of the living' - I had heard of women selling their hair when to avoid destitution but not hair being sold from the dead - but then prior to the 1832 Anatomy Act dead bodies were prized for their use as anatomical specimens so it should come as no surprise that hold was sold too. 

Seriously - it is a wonderful, wonderful book so please read it if you can.

Whilst at the launch party for British Art Show 8 (we got an invite thanks to a friend of mine being the sister whose dayjob is assistant curator at Haywards Gallery) I was chatting with a chum about keepsakes and he said that he doesn't like being given things that had been owned by dead relatives - he'd far rather have the relative still alive and the object he's been given as a result of their death feels an encumbrance rather than an useful remembrance of them.

I think I'm the opposite of that (other than being in total agreement with rather having the person still around rather than just bits of their stuff) though as some of my most treasured objects were given to me either by the person or were owned by the person, and for me it is a way of remaining in touch with them somehow - as looking at the object evokes memories of them and the occasions it was used or where it lived in their house.

But I am also getting ahead of myself somewhat as prior to the BSA8 launch I went to see a one man show at the Carriageworks about Stan Laurel. Written as a monologue where Stan is talking to a non verbally responsive Ollie who is lying in bed recovering from a stroke. It was wonderfully acted by Jeffrey Holland and it was very moving. It was also nice to catch up with someone I used to work in the big bad world of corporate-ness and whilst sometimes I miss office camaraderie his descriptions of what it was like to work there now just confirmed the correctness of my decision to leave - some 6 years ago now.

So British Art Show 8 or BAS8 for short - currently on at Leeds Art Gallery  until 10 January 2016 was launched with great fanfare and lots of free prosecco on Thursday evening.

According to their brochure it is:
'a national touring exhibition that provides a vital overview of some of the most exciting contemporary art produced in the UK.'    It features the work of 42 artists 'who have made a significant contribution to art in this country over the last five years'.

It features works that are sculptural, painted, photographs, video, installations and performance.

Thanks to being busy chugging free booze and catching up with chums and spotting familiar faces in the crowds (it was heaving, I've never seen Leeds Art Gallery so busy) I didn't get chance to see that much of the art itself - plus it was both very busy and noisy so it was difficult to see and hear stuff. I heard the start of the speeches by Art Council bods but then they got drowned out by the chatter of those around me so we carried on our own conversations and just clapped when everyone else did.

But I was intrigued by some of the bits I did see (and very relieved that two of my favourite paintings in the victorian room - The Village Funeral by Frank Holl painted in 1872 and The Convent Garden by Francis S Walker painted in 1878 are still there for the time being)  and I am very much looking forward to going back and having a proper considered look at it all  - both as individual pieces and in relationship to each other as part of the group.

But in the meantime I especially liked the seating made from granite gravestones by Alan Kane and I also want to watch the video pieces in their entirety as opposed to tantalising glimpses above somebody's head.  And I also want to look more closely at the work by Linder as on first viewing the carpet piece looks very sumptuous and on first glance I loved the collection of images by Andrea Buttner which is her response to Kant's Critique of the Power of Judgement.

I'm not sure though whether to just look at the work and then look it up in the guide and find out the inspiration/ideas behind it or to read the guide first and then look at the work. Sometimes the way work is written about puts me right off looking at it - if it appears too pretentious or impenetrable or calls upon some arcane knowledge only known or available to the few. But also sometimes it is a way in to make sense of the work or opens up another avenue to investigate....the use of language around art is what I'm hoping to do my dissertation on...and whilst I have made a start - it feels a very little start and it is beginning to prey on my mind that I have not made more progress as yet. But I have to concentrate on the paper I'm doing at the What Lies Beneath Conference first - and that's less than 2 weeks away now. EEK!! But at least for that I have done most of the image resizing ready for them to go into the presentation - a boring mundane job that takes ages.....but enough of the stuff that's on my mind for this week and back to what I was up to last week....

I was quite sensible and grown up though the night of the BSA8 launch as I didn't avail myself of the invite to the aftershow launch party at the Tetley as well as I had a tutorial the following morning at 9am and I wanted to be as bright eyed and bushy tailed as possible for that, plus after my tutorial I was attending a symposium on Small Press Printing and Printing At Leeds in the glorious and gorgeous surroundings of the Special Collections Unit at the Brotherton University Library in Leeds.

I did however have a quick peek before I went home at the latest photographic exhibition at the White Cloth Gallery  which featured all sorts of wonderful pictures taken in Leeds - some were of its people and some were of its places or a specific place - the images of Meanwood Road were particularly interesting. Must go back and have another look...

The symposium at Leeds Uni was very interesting plus the free lunch provided was delicious and streets ahead of any of the free lunches I've had at the Art College. It was lovely to catch up with two of my mentors from the Place and Memory Project too - as well as to hear interesting and thought provoking presentations on the relationships between Ken Smith (who if I can read my notes properly called the Arts Council - the Arse Council) and Jon Silkin - northern poets who set up things like Stand Magazine, it was not always harmonious and one letter written in 1975 began with 'can I have £5?' - a not inconsiderate amount to  ask for then.

There was discussion of the relationship between the machines used to make the publications and how that altered the way they could be distributed, whether they were printed or copied, is there such a things as a definitive text?, and that with small press editions there isn't just the labour of writing the contents but also the editing, the setting of typeface, sewing it together, posting it out, selling it, distributing it, as well as sorting out the storage of the unsold copies.

There was also discussion of the materiality of print, its sacramental nature, can a book be imbued with essence of a place if it it left there, or can you make it of a place ie in effect setting up a small library in a corner of a field as that is the only place you can go to read a particular piece of work, when we ask the question 'what's the best book you'ever read?' what we usually mean is 'what's the best reading of a book you've had?' or 'what's the best text you've read?' and how you can widen the definition of a book to include pages in an envelope or play with way you can show poetry - little poems on card slipped into little plastic bags, or folded concertina like into printed matchboxes or printed (unwittingly) with the help of corporate sponsors who left paper and printer stocks unguarded so they could be pressed into the service of poetry.

It was fascinating thought provoking stuff - (and nobody read out their slides) plus there were lots of physical books to look at - both in the library and brought along by the speakers, some of which had seemingly magical price tags on like 2 and 1/2 p or 2/6 and which were delicate, ephemeral and tactile - unlike digital versions of things. 

And then it was Light Night....and thankfully assuaging the fear that my crap kids digital camera was broken by realising it was the batteries that had somehow run out - in spite of not being fresh and it showing 3 full bars early in the morning. I'm hoping it was because they were a duff batch and not a problem with the camera itself - I know it's rubbish but I am having so much fun using it. I'll be heartbroken if anything happens to it - which I'm sure it will as it is so badly made it cannot last forever or even for very long at all. Unlike the very wonderful Zeis Ikon Cocarette I got last week which is almost a hundred years old and still in good physical shape.....

Anyway Light Night - didn't see that much of it to be honest as there were big queues for the stuff we would have liked to have seen and I wasn't that desperate to  see it to stand in a queue for ages. There was one thing at Leeds Uni where there was a queue but it was for something medieval in inspiration and I decided that I could have been bothered if it had been victorian in inspiration but not if it was medieval (apologies to my medievalist chums). I would have made a very poor pre-raphaelite with that kind of attitude but by then I'd been out of the house since 8am and I wanted to keep moving and not stand still..unless it was for something amazing.

We did go and see Out Of The Shadows - not just because my work is in it but also because I wanted to see the other artists work in situ too - as I had left before the other artists had finished putting theirs up. Disappointingly I think the cold has affected the paper I've printed on as it was absolutely flush to the material when I put it up but it has gaped a little bit in places now. I look forward to being able to frame some of this work in not so easily weather influenced frames and hang it somewhere else too.

But we did get to see the rather hypnotic projection and live drawing on the side of the Art College, the rather wonderful exhibition work by Arts and Minds Members in the Light with such varied and arresting subject matter, we also bought a light sabre thing that flashes different colours which hopefully is going to be really effective for writing words in long exposure photographs, battled against the crowds to pick up a Film Festival Brochure from the Town Hall which we've been pouring over this weekend deciding which films are must -sees, and we also had delicious pulled pork sandwiches at the Arch Cafe next door to St Johns Church and have an impromptu catch up with some lovely chums.

But the crowds and the queues were too much for me - and even though I had relatively high heels on, I couldn't see a lot of what was on show as my view on the Headrow was blocked by so many people. If it's going to be that popular that year and I hope it is as in spite of my dislike of crowds it was fab to see so many people out and about seeing stuff - especially home grown work in non traditional gallery settings, I hope they introduce some kind of better way to move people round. Getting up and down the Town Hall steps was perilous as part of it was cordoned off as a viewing platform and there was no formal up/down system on the other steps making it a bit of a scrum and free for all which was a bit scarey at times as I couldn't see where I was going. So we called it a night and came home to wine and part 2 of a documentary on BBC4 about Indie Music.

It was very interesting in places and wonderful to see footage of Morrissey in his prime as opposed to the petulant whining bore he has become (my 18 year old self could never have imagined me writing a sentence like that as I worshipped him then) as well as interviews with folks like Bill Drummond who invariably makes me chuckle. But I think it was Alexis Petridis who said that 'nostalgia is a form of curation, you cut out the bits that you don't like'. And it also struck me that you simplify the past to make a good story too.

I think that's about it for this weeks review of last week....really must crack on with to do list for this week now - starting with paper for gothic conference..I did wake up with introductory words in my head though yesterday and as I keep a pencil and paper by the bed at least I was able to scribble them down (see top pic though doubt you'll be able to read my writing) before they disappeared again amidst my busy but sleepy synapses....




Monday, 5 October 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 4: 'it's the most wonderful time of the year..', crap kids digital, making an exhibition of yourself, coimetromania, returned unsold work, words and lovely old cameras.

this weeks post it notes with spoils from last weeks trip to Manchesterford

home made work carrier - didn't fancy struggling with A2 folder on bus but A3 just bit too small so made one out of carrier bag and chopped down cardboard - did the job and much easier to manoeuvere   
laying prints out on bed - as only space in house that was nearly same size as exhibition space but beware perils of cat jumping on it....
sneak preview of work at St Johns Church - background looks much redder in real life...

I found it quite difficult to get into the groove writing this last week for some reason and I had to force myself to sit there and finish it - hence my writing MUST FINISH BLOG POST BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ELSE' and I think I'm going to have to be equally strict with myself over the next few weeks as I'll have to balance doings things I'm not especially keen on (like starting to write dissertation, ironing, washing up) with things I am keen on like taking and making pictures as well as making sure I take some time out to do things which aren't housework or coursework related.

Plus this is in a context of being very busy indeed - and even though the bulk of the things I am busy with are delightful, it doesn't make them any less tiring and I need to remember that too. This week is full of lovely things like festival launches, cinema and theatre trips, exhibition launches and tutorials and so is the following week but then it calms down a little before the Gothic Studies Conference (part of the Gothic Manchester Festival) so whilst last week my priorities were:

  1. exhibition
  2. paper
  3. dissertation 
this week they are:
  1. paper - have drafted outline of what I want to say but need to flesh it out now and write it down so I'm hopefully not umming and erring as I speak on the day. I did spend an afternoon last week sorting out the images I want to use and resizing them. A boring task - well the resizing bit is but a necessary one as it makes things so much easier to email and sort out and at least that time consuming bit is done now.
  2. dissertation - at least I know what my topic is and what I want to say and I have done some reading on it but I need to do quite a bit more before I sit down and actually start writing the thing. Plus I need to stop thinking about Paul Calf (as created and played so brilliantly by Steve Coogan) talking about 'stewdents' with utter contempt and 'dissitations'...
I like to do as much stuff as I can in advance as possible as I hate rushing round at the last minute feeling panicked and stressed. Partly because I hate feeling like that anyway but also because that in turn makes me make mistakes more readily. So fingers crossed I can fit in some reading and writing in amongst the gadding about this week. I'm also hoping to get into a habit of putting into a word document a list of all the things I'm reading and watching in a Harvard Reference style so that job is done too...instead of scrabbling about when it comes to hand in time and I'm panicking trying to find the information...

There was a really interesting programme on C5 last week (and part 2 is tomorrow night - Tuesday 6th October that is at 9pm) and unlike a lot of their so-called documentary output, this was well considered and thought through. It was called Body Donors and featured interviews with people suffering from terminal illnesses who wanted to donate their bodies to science, their families, and the technicians and teachers who then prepare and use their bodies. You can see the details about it here. It was accompanied by a warning that the programme would include 'graphic views of dead bodies' but there was no warning that it would also include heartfelt and harrowing emotional scenes that would make you cry. Not that you should be warned about that as such - but why we as a society are worried about the effects of seeing dead bodies as opposed to talking about the process that leads to that and what emotions are involved struck me as incongruous to say the least.

And that got me to thinking about how skewed as a society our values are - there are rarely warnings that there are going to be graphic scenes of (albeit fake) dissection in programmes like CSI (though there might be one re violent scenes) and that murder is such a run of the mill topic for entertainment.

I'm not complaining about that as most of my tv programme watching for entertainment is murder related and I have often only half joked that if a programme doesn't contain an autopsy then I'm not interested in watching it. I love Columbo - but it has to be proper 70's Columbo with huge angular cars and wonderful 70's fashions. Murder She Wrote - but again the 80's ones though to be fair I watch that more to spot wigs (it has some shockers) and the repeated use of cliches and tropes within it and for the end shot which invariably features Jessica Fletcher grinning inanely. CSI (but not CSI Miami as I find that too much of an insult to intelligence)  Law and Order, Law and Order Criminal Intent (I am ever so slightly in love with Detective Goren) and Law and Order Special Victims Unit. Morse, Lewis....and rarely have any of these programmes carried a warning and most were made to be broadcast and watched in the days before on demand viewing pre-watershed.

The interviews in Body Donor appeared sensitively done and it was quite heartbreaking to see those with the terminal illness and their loved ones talking - not so much about the donation itself - they viewed that as a way of making sense and taking some control back from the illness they were suffering from (cancer and luekemia) but hearing them talk about how it was affecting their loved ones and then listening to those loved ones talk about how they were going to cope without them made tears come to my eyes. Though maybe that's also because various friends of mine have been either dealing with this issue themselves recently or been bereaved and of course it reminded me of all the people and creatures I'm missing too.

It's a world removed from the way bodies were procured for dissection in the 18th and 19th century  with no consent from or respect for the donors - though it would appear that those societies were more open to discussing death. Perhaps because they were more surrounded by it then and it was more of an everyday and less medicalised process. The pain of bereavement was I'm sure no less though - even if you believed that your loved one had gone to a better place (as most of the poetry I've read on tombstones would suggest) and that you would be reunited when you too died, it wouldn't stop the heart rending pain of bereavement and you missing them like hell in the meantime.

Jay Ruby talks about this disconnect far more eloquently that I have in his book from 1995 called Secure The Shadow which is primarily about the practice of non medical post mortem photography in America but it is also about so much more. He talks of how we rarely see a real death in everyday life though we do occasionally see them in news stories (often with a warning that we find it distressing) and yet we  are confronted with hundreds of them in entertainment settings. Plus there was a time when cemeteries used to be designed as not just body disposal sites but also recreational sites - whereas now to most they seem to be places to be actively avoided.

It will come as no surprise that reading more of this book is on my to do list for this week. Plus it also ties in nicely to one of the new words I met this week and is in the title of this post COIMETROMANIA which means an 'abnormal attraction to and desire to visit cemeteries'. It is nice to have a diagnosis at last.....

I've been using my crap kids digital again this week - technically it's one of the worst cameras ever. Fixed focus, no zoom, no internal memory (I've added black insulation tape to the the battery cover so as to avoid a repeat of the batteries becoming dislodged when you take it out of your pocket/bag and so losing my pics of St George's Field in the gloom) warped lens, inability to capture colour properly, room for only 24 pictures if you want them at anything even vaguely approaching a reasonable resolution but ---- it's also the one of the most fun I've ever used even if I can't really see much on the stamp sized screen on the back and it's light and small. Plus I love the slightly warped off colour pics it produces - they have an other worldly quality to them that I really like.

I bought another camera this week - the one pictured above. It is a Zeiss Ikon Cocarette which according to Camerapedia was made between 1926 and 1930 - making this a Weimar Republic Era camera (I also have an AGFA Billy Clack from the mid 1930's making it a Nazi Era camera) I spotted this in a charity shop on my way home on from college on Friday and went back the following day to have a closer look at it with my much more knowledgeable about the technical side of things when it comes to cameras husband. It goes without saying of course that we decided to buy it. Mostly because it looks in really good nick and usuable (it takes 120 film which is still readily available and developable)  but also because it came with handwritten on german notepaper instructions. I wonder who wrote those, when and why? The leather case is in really good condition too - the purple velvety inside is still vivid and threadful. It is stamped with the sellers details Photo-Porst Nurnberg - a photographic suppliers chain which is still going and was founded in 1919. I cannot wait to use this camera but am going to wait til the weather is at it's brightest as previous experience tells me this will work best in 'sunny 16' conditions.   I am also wondering what pictures have been taken on this camera, who looked at what through it's viewfinder and how it ended up here in it was nice to overhear one of the sales assistants say to the other when we were leaving that the camera was clearly going to a good home and would be used as well as looked after and how she liked when that happened.

A couple of other things caught my attention this week - namely phrases like 'vectors of infection' though I'm not sure where that was from now, and thinking about the social purpose of pictures - portraits in particular after watching Simon Schama's programme about portrait paintings. It's on BBC2 on Wednesdays at 9pm  and you can read about it here.

Last weeks episode concentrated upon paintings of the powerful - Churchill, Elizabeth 1st, Charles II and Victoria amongst others. He talked about the role photography had in promulgating Victoria's image and ideals but there were a couple of points when I found myself tutting at the television (and not just at the usual unnecessary hagiographic reverence used for the members of the House of Windsor) - he said something about Victoria understanding that she needed to be visible by her subjects. I appreciate that it was a programme primarily about portraiture and you cannot fit everything about a subject into an hours long programme but one of the problems with Victoria during her reign was the fact that after Albert's death she didn't go out in public for a long time - Albert dies in 1861 and she isn't publicly seen again until 1866, in spite of the clamouring of some of her subjects and the attempts of prime ministers to persuade her that she needed to. So it is a bit disingenuous to say she that she understood she needed to be visible by her subjects - she did, but she ignored it for a long time and it was only after a lot of cajoling and badgering and seeing the albeit shortlived success of the Paris Commune in 1871 which boosted republican sentiment that she went out and about again.

I find myself shouting and tutting a lot at the television these days - a bit more in depth knowledge and more rounded view than is being shown or explained in the programme is a difficult thing (and anything that deals with the victorian period, bodysnatching, photography are those kinds of programmes for me as those areas are of such interest to me and central to my own research) and it makes me wonder how much has been missed out of programmes that I've watched and thought had taught me something when in actual fact they've probably barely skimmed the surface and as a result I'm nowhere near as well informed about a subject as I thought I was....

The other thing you can see in big capital letters on the post it note are PERILS OF NOT HAVING A BIG FLOOR SPACE AND USING BED - CAT! which refers to my trying to get the images ready I had made for the Out of the Shadows exhibition at St Johns Church (full details of all the Love Arts Festival happenings available here and Out of the Shadows is on page 23 of the brochure) or rather deciding where abouts in relation to each other I wanted to put them. Me and a fellow exhibitor had measured the boards we could use and the only comparable space that was nearly big enough for me at home was the double bed. So I decided to use that and started laying them out and making a plan of what I wanted where when Mapp jumped up on them and put her back paw through one of them - something I hopefully unobviously fixed with black marker pen and invisible tape. It's the perils of not having a dedicated studio space - and not closing the door but as she normally stears well clear I didn't think it necessary. Oh well lesson learnt for future.

The other lesson I learnt was - check the double sided tape you buy in advance and think you're being all organised with by attaching it to the edges of the images you want to use, because if it's like the tape Wilko's sell as double sided it won't work. It will instead have you tutting and swearing and pulling at it trying to see where the backing tape is - but theirs has no backing tape and is instantly sticky both sides (WHY?) and so there is no point attaching it in advance to the images as then they'd only stick to themselves. Cue getting to college the following morning as soon as library and shop opens and buying double sided tape there which does have backing tape so it can be affixed to image and then taken to where you want to to stick it without mishap...I took advantage of the tables in the library to cut the tape to fix to the images but by then I was getting a bit flapped as I felt like I was running out of time - even though I wasn't really but after the previous weeks key related confusion I didn't want to be the last person at St Johns Church. So it's not always as straight as I would like but as it's mostly invisible - hopefully you'll won't be able to see where I went a bit wonky with it.

Believe it or not - I did use a spirit level to attach the pictures to the board but as the board wasn't entirely level this became a bit of a moot point so I ended up doing things more by my probably just as wonky eye. Oh well. It's not perfect but overall I am pleased with it and that is the main thing plus as a chum said people have different expectations of art in spaces that are not like todays traditional white cube gallery space and the difference too between those exhibitions which are well funded and those that are done on a comparative shoestring. So now I just have the nervousness of whether or not people will go look at it and what they think of it and whether or not I'll get to hear of those thoughts....

But it did make me think of how in come circles curating has become somewhat of a pejorative term - I heard someone say 'oh you can curate a paper bag these days' - showing no understanding of how difficult it is to put things together in a way which works - either in a way to help bring out what the artist is trying to get across, or to highlight the connections between objects or illustrate a narrative.

To say nothing of the practical skill of trying to ensure things are level, visible, and exhibited in such a way as to show them at their best - for this exhibition we weren't allowed to attach things directly to the existing information boards in the church but to material that has been hung over the boards.

Initially I thought I would attach them to the material by way of pins, black ribbon (in a nod to victorian mourning customs) and bulldog clips but then I realised that whilst this would not only be fiddly - it would also detract from the clean-ness of the images I was using.

I still want to use that as a hanging arrangement but in a space where the images would be hanging like that in mid air from the ceiling so that their see-through-ness would also be visible rather than use it to hold them directly against something. So in this instance I went for double sided tape as it was a cleaner and less fussy way to present the image. The ribbon bulldog clip arrangement would add in other circumstances but detract in this one I fear.  

The title of this post begins 'it's the most wonderful time of the year' - a line from a xmas song. Well bah humbug to xmas (though there are aspects of it that I am very fond of) I am of course referring to Halloween and the shops are full of wondrous skully goodness at the moment which I may have purchased bits of over the last few days. Coco Chanel said a woman could never be too rich or too thin - I say you can never have enough skulls.    

I got my unsold work back (all 3 pieces of it) from Woodend gallery in Scarborough this weekend. I'm a little bit disappointed but not surprised as I don't think they were especially commercial in the grand scheme of things - though some of the most commercial of my work. It's kind of nice to have them back though really as I can put them in something else now. And it's nice to know that they have been on show in one of my favourite seaside towns.  

I'm sure there was something else I wanted to write about but I have forgotten what it was and I have ticked off all the things on my post it note and draft post plan so that's it for now. And so will begin this next weeks thoughts....oh no actually I've remembered - it's almost the happy accident/serendipitous* nature of my studies at times - like thinking 'oh I'll just have a rummage through the books the library are chucking out and finding a quote from someone's diary in which they talk about putting black ribbon through their underwear, or like today when my work is in an exhibition called Out Of The Shadows when the book I'm reading (after finishing The Help last night for WI Bookclub - a thought provoking and interesting read) The Tattoed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates has a character in it who has written a book called The Shadows....

*though for some reason I hate the word serendipity as it has too many hippie connotations for me..