Sunday, 29 November 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 12 - Ongoing Dissertation Determination, Walking, Not Doing Enough Doing, Joy of Doing, Poster Meltdown and Lumen-Ness

this weeks post it note - looking a lot fuller than last weeks - got a bit more blog mojo back

Mapp 'helping' with my research - she told me she too was fascinated with Secure The Shadow by Jay Ruby  - the name comes from a daguerreotype photographers advertising slogan 'secure the shadow, ere the substance fade, let nature imitate, what nature made'
a nice bit of doing - a lumen print made using very old photographic paper indeed - Agfa Type W Brovira Crystal normal white lustre and a card sent to me by a chum a while back which I thought would make a nice 'negative' as it's a cut out. This is a photo of the print - I have also scanned it, might try and fix it too but not sure yet. Did a couple of others using acetates I'd initially made to make cyanotypes with - well chuffed with the results. 

I was getting slightly better at maintaining a balance between doing and thinking (which for the purposes of this blog also includes writing and reading - by doing I means hands on image creation of some kind)  but the last couple of weeks that went right out of the window as all the concentration has been on what has become known as 'the bastard dissertation'.

It's also thanks to the 'bastard dissertation' that I am writing this on a Sunday afternoon (which is normally reserved for proper 70's Columbo watching) for the third week running when I normally do it on a Monday but deadlines are fast approaching and as this blog functions as my research journal and also needs handing in for assessment I need to keep up with it and if I do it today it means I have more time to concentrate on said 'bastard dissertation'...

I had been getting more disciplined at going for a walk before settling down in front of the computer but that too had got a bit lost in the midst of bad weather and the bed being so much warmer than the cold outside. But I must remember that I feel *so* much better for doing some doing and going a for a walk too.

I did try last week though to follow my husbands suggestion of going for a walk around lunchtime as opposed to earlier in the day but then it didn't happen as I was stuck in midst of bastard dissertation arguments and didn't want to lose my thread plus the weather was really horrid and so I stayed in front of the computer instead. On balance I think it would have been better if I'd gone for a stroll.

Very glad though that I went for a walk today and also that I went when I did - ie before the weather became really wet and storm force windy or else there was a real risk I'd have ended up in either Kansas or Atlantis. Didn't really do much thinking on the walk though, was too busy enjoying squishing through mud and big puddles in my wellies..andf hoping that the wind didn't blow down any trees or blow the pilot light out on the boiler.

But I forwent the temporary loveliness of the weather on Wednesday morning for a go at doing some lumen prints instead using some very very old photographic paper given to us by a chum. I also used the safe light they gave us too - made poking about in the dark so much easier. We don't have a darkroom but we do have very heavy bedroom curtains lined with black out material so in that room at least I can block out the bulk of the light. There is still a bit of light that comes in over the top of the curtains which I can't block out and a bit at the bottom of the curtains which I can by flattening the curtains against the radiator so although not completely light tight it is light tight enough to set up cyanotypes and lumens - providing I get the bulk of it done beforehand - ie deciding which acetate to use, getting the clip frames ready and the red safe light saves a lot of extra fumbling about on my part.

Can't find a manufacture date for the paper but it must be decades old - it looks like Agfa started manufacturing Brovira in the 1940's and the packaging on the stuff I've got looks quite 60's-70's. I love that it has none of the browny purpley tones I've got with lumen prints before and instead is a quite gentle shade of original paper and blue. I left them in the bright wintery watery sunshine for about an hour - I really must get better at timing things and making a note of what time I put things in the sunshine, but think it was about an hour - it was long enough for me to do some washing up, hoovering, tidying round and some washing and also to check email and so have a mini meltdown over an email informing me that the academic poster I'd sent through for a conference in York wasn't the right size.


I am a bear of little brain when it comes to computery things at the best of times and I googled for how to resize it, asked on Facebook for advice and got some but still wasn't able to do it myself as in spite of following the instructions and getting partial success I couldn't do it....but a knight in shining armour (well a chum in a very nice new winter coat) came over and helped sort it out for me in return for dinner (lincolnshire sausages, mashed spuds and sprouts) and I am enormously indebted to him. Not just because he helped me sort it out - turned out to be quite a simple fix (setting image size in powerpoint before you even start) but also because his saying that he would come round after work and help me fix it (he is a photoshop wiz and one of the sites I'd looked at suggested using photoshop) meant I could stop trying to fix it and getting nowhere and concentrate upon bastard dissertation instead in the meantime.

I am very lucky indeed to have such clever, technically able and generous friends.

What else - well the week before I went to a lecture at Thackray Medical Museum which was partly about the use of puppets in theatre and featured the story of a woman called Anne Green who in 1650 was sentenced to death and dissection for infanticide (it was a crime then to not reveal if you were pregnant and you then miscarried - if this happened you were considered to have brought about the miscarriage on purpose) but who revived on the dissection table and whose first words when she properly came round were 'behold god's providence'. She was helped in this coming round-ness by one of her would be dissectors ordering one of his maids to get under the covers with her and warm her up.

You can see an image here  of the woodcut contained in a pamphlet called Wonder of Wonders which was published the following year.
It was fascinating - both from a seeing how a puppet can become so lifelike that even though we know and can see it is a puppet we still believe it is real and from a history point of view too and from a wow - just how misogynistic a culture and legislature we have had (and in lots of ways still do) and also I am really glad I am not anyone's maid and can't be ordered to do things like that.

But aside from computer wobbles, not going for a walk (as I typed the word 'walk' The Cure song of the same name came on - I am experimenting with working to music at the moment again and have got some kind of 80's compilation on media player, not sure what it was called as when I ripped it, it didn't transfer over the names or titles so it's been a fantastic meander down memory lane so far with wonderful gems from Landscape, Haysi Fantayzee, Associates, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Soft Cell and Japan to name but a few...) I have also done some gazing this week.

I gazed at the buildings being demolished on Headingley Lane - a huge crane like machine with a jaw on the end was twisting and tearing down girders - fascinating to see the skeletal insides of a building - the layers of bricks, plasterboard and insulation as well as watching the jaws almost play with the girders the same way a cat does with a spider - that is tapping and gently holding before applying the killer blow. I was utterly mesmerised by it and spent a good few minutes just watching it and wishing I'd had a good quality video camera on me to record it....

The other gazing I did was at the big screen - the big screen of the ever fantastic Hyde Park Picture House to see a documentary called Star*Men which was part documentary, part road trip and part memoir of a group of british mathematicians, astronomers and physicists who literally changed the way we view the world or rather the sky. Donald Lynden- Bell, Wal Sargent, Nick Woolf and Roger Griffin met at Cal Tech in the early 60's and one of them helped develop the spectrascope, one changed the way telescope mirrors were made and the film followed their reunion, the recreation of a long road trip to an american national monument called Rainbow Bridge interspersed with head shots whilst they talked about their respective childhoods and beliefs and of course amazing shots of the night sky which thanks to light pollution we so rarely get to see.

Apparently to make mirrors suitable for use in modern telescopes takes 2 days to bake the silica in the oven, 2-3 mths to cool it down and then 2-3 years to polish it!!! - clearly not a job for someone as impatient as me which does make me wonder why I love the comparative slowness of film when I could have the speed of digital...I occupy some kind of liminal space inbetween the two photographic disciplines though my heart belongs to film really.

It was that fantastic mix of thought provoking, poignant and just gobsmackingly beautiful to look at and it made me want to learn more of the stars (I can only reliably spot the Plough) and learn a bit more about astrophysics too. I saw a bit more - I know feck all of astrophysics so some would be a more accurate word to use. One thing that stood out for me (partly because it's one of the things I look at in my dissertation) was Wal Sargents assertion that it was hearing Fred Hoyle's voice on the radio - not just what he was talking about but that he had a yorkshire accent which made him realise that he (Wal) as a working class man could also learn of these things and go to university and how that Britain was and is such a class ridden society. The others in the film came from much more middle class backgrounds where university was more of a matter of course than a rarity. Anyways you can see a trailer for it here  - see it if you can for it is aces...especially the bit where Roger Griffin explains that though it might look to others as if he was in a sulk - actually he was in a misery.

The other word on my post it note is Locarno - when I was little my folks used to talk about the Locarno all the time, which was initially the local swimming pool and then converted into a dance hall and then sometime in the late 60's it was converted into the form it has now - a bingo hall. I didn't know then that Locarno was in Switzerland but I knew that it was some kind of exotic place where all sorts of shenanigans had gone on - girl and boyfriends met. It just reminded me of the way places might change but that the names for them stay the same for some and is all part of the differences of language and how people might ostensibly be speaking the same language but might mean or understand very different things....

It's making me want to visit it - not the part of Switzerland but the Locarno as was via time machine in its dance hall prime.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 11 - Dissertation Determination, Caffeine Intolerance, Reading Comments on the Internet and John Betjeman

slightly fuller post it note this week and examples of artwork I'm trying to focus on dissertation-wise

This last week has again most been taken up with dissertation and I'm doing this on Sunday evening as opposed to my usual Monday daytime so I can (hopefully) properly concentrate on dissertation stuff tomorrow - have just emailed the Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery regarding the signage for the piece 'Sign For Art' (which you can see in the above pic on the left,) and hopefully they'll get back to me pretty quickly and I can crack on with it that bit of it at least. I am painfully aware of the ever decreasing amount of time I've got to get it finished in. EEK and that also I also need to do nothing at times as well just to recharge my somewhat depleted batteries so yesterday I watched a Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes and very marvellous it was too. A bit of old school black and whiteness in which he fights the Nazis is good for the soul.

What else - well the rather gorgeous yet more disturbing the more you look at it 'Courtship On The Beach' by Charles Wynne Nicholls which I had a discussion about this week. It's also taking up a lot of my thoughts. I will be forever in debt to Scarborough Art Gallery and the wording they have next to this painting which states that the book the woman is reading is Lady Audley's Secret - which I am still absolutely in love with...and I have just bought what I hope will turn out to be another victorian era gem - The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins.

Though as much as I love the fashions of the era, the mourning customs, the literature, the paintings - I wouldn't want to live in that time as I am far too much a fan of the right to vote, the NHS, modern medicine and John Waters to even contemplate a lifetime swap. Plus as a woman I would have very few of the legal rights I have today. Though I would kill to be a fly on the wall though - especially say at a time of funeral organising just to see exactly the motivations behind some of the customs being enacted and I'd also like to be a fly on the wall of a very rich person's house, a not so rich person's house and a not rich at all person's house just to get a more rounded view of what was actually going on across social strata rather than just one affluent section.

I wish I had made a note of the Guardian article in which I saw the following comment 'leave the narrative moralising to the victorian throwbacks' as opposed to just the comment though. Bah to my currently rubbish memory....

Walking is not a part of my practice as such - though I do walk round St George's Field a lot and invariably notice something I haven't noticed before each time I visit but I am trying to make time each day for a good 45 minutes walk - partly for health reasons but also because I find going for a walk helps me clear my head and formulate my thoughts. Something I am finding increasingly hard to do at the moment.

But in amongst the downpours I have been out in the sun - and then immediately thought that instead of using this sunshine to warm me up and give me some vitamin d I should be using it instead to develop cyanotypes - not made one of those in ages. That side of things all feels a bit on hold at the moment though - partly on hold because the weather hasn't been too brilliant, partly because been feeling too sad due to recent events and partly because of my trying to focus on my dissertation. I really must take some more photos soon though and develop some cyanotypes - I have been doing a bit of relaxing knitting though.

The first note at the top of the post it note is the phrase 'stations of the cross' - a thing which I've been told is one of the distinguishing physical characteristics of catholic churches in particular as anglican churches don't have them. The reason I made a note was because a chum posted a picture on Facebook of some oak carved stations of the cross headers he'd bought in an antique shop - 14 cross almost maltese cross shaped carvings with roman numerals from I - XIV on them. They were beautiful but had none of the images of the stations associated with them. I'm afraid I didn't pay enough attention when I was little as to which number goes with  which but I was always taken by the one featuring Veronica giving Jesus a cloth to wipe his face with - which retains the image of his face which the tinternet now tells me is number 6 in the traditional version. They were paintings in the church next to my primary school, kind of brass relief modern sculptures in the chapel that was part of my secondary convent school. I'd love to see them again but don't want to go back to school - might have to email them though and see if they have any images of them.

My favourite ones though are the ones in the church on Baxtergate in Whitby - St Ninions which is an anglican catholic one apparently and you can read about it here which is a beautiful hidden gem that smells of frankincense and myrhh. They are black and white framed photographs which on first glance appear to be of people posing as Jesus, Simon, Veronica etc but are in fact exquisite alabaster statues. My next favourite ones are the ones in the hidden gem church in Manchester aka St Mary's on Brazzennose Street which are very colourful semi abstract figurative ones which shout out against the otherwise very traditional white stone walls - it's like someone put acid in the communion wine and something trippy in the incense.

There is also a very wonderful german film called Stations Of The Cross from 2014 by Dietrich and Anna Brugermann which is bitterly poignant but also darkly funny if like me you were brought up a roman. I thought there were 14 stations but I had to look it up to check and in doing so I also leant that they are also known as The Way of Sorrows or Via Dolorosa. A phrase I often heard as a child but had no idea what the adults were referring to - and now I do.

Words are very prominent in my thoughts at the moment or rather the way we use them to communicate but also the other languages we use for communication - like visual language and gesture and I also had cause this week to look up some sign language and thanks to the tinternet there is an online version of the British Sign Language dictionary which you can see here - it's times like this that I really really love the tinternet.

The other joy of the tinternet this week was finding and watching John Betjemen - A Poet Goes North on youtube - you can see it here - a film in which he goes around Leeds in 1968 - some bits utterly unrecognisable and some bits delightfully the same. Best of all though he goes to St George's Field still in the middle of its desecrational transformation into its present form and it is also wonderful to see some of the famous buildings of Leeds - still black with when they had character, when there was still some individuality as opposed to the arseboring and depressing conformity of cities today when all high streets have a similar ring to them of corporate uniform chain stores and all the buses look the bloody same too.

The other thing that struck me this week was while listening to a programme about grave digging on Radio 4, that graveyards are actually full of love not just sadness and maybe it's just recent events that I was concentrating on the sadness associated with them and the pain of loss but it's true - they are also full of love. And you can hear the programme here.

Right best sign off, my dinner is going cold....

Sunday, 15 November 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 10 Ongoing Blog Slog, Caligari's Cabinet, Funerals and Concentration

Not much on the post it note this week - taken against the backdrop of an essay I'm trying to read and make sense of - husband likes it though as he said it looks like one of those pictures within a picture within a picture

It's a very thinly filled in post it note this week - not surprising really as most of the last week has been taken up with either trying to concentrate on dissertation writing or helping my husband finalise the preparations for his youngest sisters funeral which was held on Thursday.

All funerals are sad occasions (unless you really disliked the deceased I suppose or had no deep emotional relationship with them) and this funeral was especially sad for various reasons. I also find that each funeral you go to reminds you of all the other funerals you've been to,  so there is an accumulative kind of sadness too. As well as the certain and depressing knowledge that you will end up in the same situation again - either as the deceased yourself though you'll likely have no awareness of that or as the heartbroken bereaved as more of your relatives and close friends die and the fervent hope that either of those circumstances are a very long way off indeed.

Again it's really brought home to me that the victorian graveyard and victorian mourning customs aesthetic that I love so much is also born in and of heartache and I think I need to think a bit more about this and the ethics of using it for my own artwork - I use images of gravestones of people so long dead that they have no living relatives so as not to offend, but even so is it right that I am using personal grief and sadness made public as inspiration? Is it more or less ethical to use someone else's as opposed to my own grief? Like I said more thinking needed about this.

I must be honest I did find myself looking at the flower displays at the crematorium and the dress of the undertakers and thinking of their historical and social origins and I also noted the overt christian symbolism within the chapel which was removable - unlike the cross shape in bricks on the crematorium chimney and then thought I was being disrespectful thinking about such things as really I should have been concentrating on my sister-in law, one thing is for definite though I will never again hear Karma Chameleon by Culture Club again without immediately thinking of her.  

I think that's why the quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet struck me as her death is the latest in what feels like a long and sad list of illnesses and losses. I  read it on an Archers related discussion group - I have long listened to the Archers, ever since I left home and became addicted to Radio 4 as the sound of voices made me feel less lonely. At the moment there is a character Rob who is a grade a twunt - misogynistic, controlling, gaslighting and he basically makes my skin crawl. I can't bear to listen to it when he is on and the sooner he comes to a sad and sorry end on the end of some sharp farm machinery or a bulls horn the happier I'll be. By the way I do know it is fictional - but this fiction is uncomfortably true to life and so I often don't listen to it anymore but instead find out what has happened via the discussion group.

Anyway that is a very roundabout way of saying where I heard the quote 'when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions'. And thanks to the tinternet age I can just type it into a search engine and be told where it comes from - as opposed to ploughing my way through each of Shakespeare's plays until I found it. The tinternet tells me it is from Hamlet and is spoken by Claudius to Getrude.
This in turn reminds me of the other ways I've found things which have gone on to be inspirational, comforting, interesting or a source to be further researched - I wouldn't have got into Magritte if Gary Numan hadn't used one of his paintings The Pleasure Principle (Portrait of Edward James) from 1937  as both the inspiration for the title and cover image for his 1979 album The Pleasure Principle (which I still have on very crackly vinyl and very marvellous it is too) - you can see a version of the painting and a copy of the album cover side by side here and I wouldn't have found out about the life of Leon Trotsky if it hadn't been for hearing about him in the Stranglers song Heroes and you can hear a version of that song from 1977 here though of course when I found out more about both of those things by looking them up in the encyclopedias held in the school library rather than typing the details into a search engine.

Which is another roundabout way of saying that my opening quote for my dissertation (which deals with my relationship with the use of language around art) doesn't come from an artist or a book about art but a writer - my beloved Joyce Carol Oates. And I got into her work by coming across a copy of her incredible book My Sister My Love from 2008 in a charity shop. It is a reimagining of the Jon Benet Ramsey case but with ice skating as opposed to beauty pageants as the background. It is incredibly difficult and painful reading but very wonderful too and if you haven't read it - I would urge you too, or anything by her really as her work is incredible - powerful, thought provoking, clever, insightful, disturbing, and just wonderful.

The dissertation is another reason why the post it note is so empty compared to usual - as in the time that hasn't been taken up with funeral prep and travelling to and from (it involved an overnight stay) has been mostly taken up with it. But I am finding it much harder than this blog aka my research journal and each word is torturous to write. But I have at least drafted the introduction, decided on my source material and key texts....just got to finish the thing now - but given everything that's going on at the moment - really struggling to concentrate on it.

Which is where the 'working late' note comes in on the post it note - as that's what I've been having to do to make any kind of noticeable progress, but other thigs which I have done this week are:
finishing and mailing off academic poster to York University for a conference next month.
contacting the researchers suggested by York University as being useful to speak to as their research is in similar fields to mine.
contacting the Gothic Studies group at Sheffield University for the same reasons.

The note gallery manners refers to a meeting that was cancelled at very short notice for the third time - am reminded of Oscar Wilde's maxim 'to loose one parent looks like carelessness and to lose both looks like carelessness' and it's tricky. It's a local gallery and one day I'd like to have work on show there - so am reluctant to name them - but equally if this is how they treat prospective clients of their gallery then do I really want to be involved with them? Anyway I'm going to take a chickeny approach and so won't name them publicly on here - but will name them if you ask me in person.

There was something nice in the week though - even if my concentration drifted at times whilst watching it and listening to the wonderful sound of the accompanying organ and that was the screening of the Cabinet of Dr Caligari at Leeds Town Hall as part of the film festival. The only film festival screening I've been to this year - some years we've done the get 6 tickets for the price of five (carefully researching each film on the tinternet first - a lesson learnt after we saw a film called Heretic which was potentially a really good story let down by v poor camera technique - so swimmy was the handheld camera that it made me feel sick at oner point and someone asked in the Q+A afterwards - why didn't they a tripod and the acting was a bit sixth formy too) and one year we went for broke and got passes. At one point I saw 6 films in one day. And by the end was almost begging my husband to let me stay at home and not make me go to the cinema - words which normally never issue from my lips as watching films is one of my very favourite things to do.

I'd not seen the Cabinet of Dr Caligari in one go all the way through before and it was a treat and it was also a treat to see just how influential it was in terms of set design on one of my very favourite films - Son of Frankenstein from 1939 which features so many of my favourite actors - Bela Lugosi (who this blog and my twitter is named after) Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone (my favourite Sherlock Holmes to watch though John Moffat is my favourite Sherlock to listen to) and Lionel Atwill. If you haven't seen it - then do as you're in for a treat - the relationship between the Creature and Ygor is glorious as is the set design.

And in other film news - very glad to have spread the love of Douglas Sirk films to my tutor, I heard of Douglas Sirk through reading about John Waters film Polyester - which is his (Waters) homage to Sirk. If you haven't seen a Sirk film then you must - the colour and sets are utterly sumptuous, and whilst they may appear a bit hammy and schmaltzy and superficial they are actually insightful and quite devastating critiques of the social hierarchy of 1950's America.  And Rock Hudson has never looked more beautiful than he does in All That Heaven Allows.

She did ask me if I'd thought of doing a phd on John Waters but I;d be afraid too - in case I got sick of him and could no longer enjoy his work or worse - found something out about him that meant I could no longer idolise him.

Well that got longer than I thought it would seeing as I've not really done much course stuff this week - this gives me hope for the next round of dissertation wrangling.....


Monday, 9 November 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 9 Blog Slog, Making and Doing, Dissertation Determination and Joyce Carol Oates.

notebook I bought from a high street chain and added a skull sticker - also bought from a high street chain - this kind of juvenile wordplay and object changing makes me chuckle - chuckles are in short supply at the moment so anything like this helps

collection of petals from each bunch of flowers I've had since the start of the course - am saving them for use in artworks

work in progress - using small frame (which I have painted red)  with an inch worth's of depth to make a vitrine-esque object using some of the flowers from the orchid which my husband gave me the night we got married - at the back is a picture of the two of us reflected in a shop window in Bridlington - think I'll move the piece of gauze to the back though and let the petals come right to the fore

this weeks post it notes - surrounded by notes for dissertation

Really struggling with energy levels this week - a mix I think of the change in the weather, ongoing sadness given recent events and just general under the weatherness.  I've been trying to combat that with trying to go for a decent walk each day and doing some physical making of things as opposed to just reading and writing. But even the reading and writing hasn't been so much this week - I'm finding it very difficult to sit and concentrate on anything for any length of time.

Though I did get the skeletal outline of my dissertation fleshed out a bit more this week - but only by forcing myself to sit at the computer and not allowing myself to leave the room until I had written at least 500 words. It was like pulling teeth though and in between those 500 words there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth and checking of social media and other distraction.

And some of that distraction was also very fruitful as I now have the draft of my academic poster ready to send to York University for the forthcoming Death Conference.  Just need to save it as a PDF and send it through - it wasn't difficult to decide which of my images to include but it was difficult to write the text to accompany them - writing about yourself in the third person is something I find tricky at the best of times and trying to distil the essence of your work and research in to as few words as possible is hard. But for writing to work  as I read this week - the intent of the author needs to match the intent of the reader too.

It's also complicated by the fact that my work and research is interdisciplinary as it comprises detailed historical research as well as art making but so far my academic outings (What Lies Beneath Conference and this forthcoming one in York) are not art events as such and so to explain what I'm doing I have to include words as well as images. Not that words should or can be excluded from art work but that they are far more of a primary focus in the two conferences so far.

It was nice though to bump into the head of the MA Programme at the Art College in the corridor and for her to tell me how proud she was of the work I'd been doing outside the college and how she'd followed it on the day on Twitter. It gave a proper fillip to my day in what otherwise feels like a long not very rewarding slog.

But it was when reading the bits I have written so far outloud to Mapp (who just listens bless her and carries on with her usual feline disdain for anything I do unless it involves food) and then explaining my argument to my husband that I had a bit of a breakthrough argument-wise and realised the narrowing down and specific examples I needed to properly flesh it out - though at the moment it's still a bit like the creature in Frankenstein's lab floating in the tank and it still needs a lightning bolt of energy to bring it to life.

And by that analogy I'm referring to the tank in Hammers 1957 adaptation of Mary Shelley's wondrous tale which is my favourite version as Peter Cushing is beyond wonderful as Victor Frankenstein in it and not the execrable 1994 version by Kenneth Branagh - though of course to stretch the analogy I really hope my dissertation has more luck than Christopher Lee's Creature....and let's just gloss over the fact that a tank is never mentioned in Mary's original tale and is entirely the invention of set designers, adapters and directors.

So as I am calling the writing of this blog slog - in turn I am calling the writing of the dissertation - dissertation determination and something tells me I am going to have to summon up a lot of it from somewhere over the next couple of weeks.

But I have been doing some physical doing (though of course it could be argued that writing is just as physical and something I think Joyce Carol Oates would be in agreement with) too and I am quite pleased with what I've made so far - a victorian inspired vitrine -esque piece. Need to work on it though - and also want to make bigger ones but for a practice work in progress - am pretty pleased with it. Plus the act of physical doing as in painting a frame, or pressing the shutter and taking a picture is satisfying - and also a welcome distraction from mental anguish at the moment.
One of the phrases on my post it note was 'document slattern' and I'm not sure where that came from now - perhaps it was the auto correct function on the ipad thingy - which drives me mad!!! But wherever it came from I like it - and it also sums up nicely the state of the left hand side of my desk as it is currently a hodge podge of notes, bits of paper and books... and quite slatternly though I have finally got round to taking off the chipped nail polish I was sporting. Chipped nail varnish being according to my mother - the sign of a slattern - along with drinking any liquid straight out of the bottle...

I finally got round to listening to the Halloween special that John Waters and Iggy Pop did for BBC6 and you can listen to it here and very wonderful it was too - wonderful songs and wonderful chat including John Waters revealing that the way to curse someone you don't like is to lick their furniture when they're out of the room. They played some wonderful tunes - including Bobby Boris Pickett and The Crypt Kickers Monster Mash, Tarantula by Jody Reynolds and Ruthless \bitch by Taiirie B which I had never heard before.

So I've learnt some new music this week, some new words - including 'gerund' which means a noun made from a verb by adding 'ing' eg reading and there are lots of new ones - some of which I hate like 'medalling'. But than that could also be because like John Waters - I hate sports.

I've also learnt how to add watermarks to pictures using photoshop (is it just me or is photoshop not very user friendly? I just about managed it with a lot of swearing thanks to an online tutorial but I need to practice with it and refine it as it's not the best watermark - but I only wanted it so I could protect my work)  as I sent off a couple of pictures to be considered for a book cover. They were't taken specifically to fit the brief  which was something that captures the horror of Thatcher and Reagan's legacy - abandoned factories, urban blight, disenfranchised youth but I'm not surprised as I was picking photos I had already taken with a different view in mind. I've asked when the deadline is as if I get chance I might try to take some pics with that brief in mind but not if it's within the next few days as am too busy with other stuff at the moment.

Well am very glad I have finished writing this as I really didn't think I'd be able to find the energy to do it this evening but I have - so that's another thing I can tick off my to do list. Phew!!!


Monday, 2 November 2015

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 1 Week 8 - Death, Dissertation, Discomfort, Donkey Work, Delight of Dismal Weather

Ongoing experiments with trying to extract pigment from flowers - not very successful in terms of colour but am liking the stains left by the petals and stalks and have painted them with matte gloss this time to fix them.

this weeks post it note and notes including a quote from a quote from a character in Murder She Wrote -a clearly inspired by Tenessee Williams alcoholic southern writer who said 'it's art, Jessica, it has to end badly'.  

Image from a pre Halloween shoot at Temple Works using my favourite prop -the many skulled silvery skull I got from TK Maxx many moons ago and how I wish I'd bought the other one at the time and one of those changing light sabre toys that were being sold at Light Night - it changes colour and is really good for making light paintings - not quite as bright as sparklers or burning wire wool but with much less of a fire risk and different colours too.

My work is mostly inspired by death - either in terms of the images that I like and inspire me (skulls are a recurring motif) but I am also a massive fan of old graves and graveyards, victorian mourning culture, anatomical drawings - especially the work of Andreas Vesalius whose allegorical posing of skin stripped figures I adore. These are just a few of the things that I love to look at and read about.  But I am aware that this is not everyone's cup of tea and that some people are actually frightened by it. But as it what I surround myself by I am inured to the symbols of it - I even wear a silver coffin on a chain around my neck which opens to reveal a little skeleton and a lot of the jewellery I wear has skulls on it too.

But to quote a famous line 'in the midst of life we are in death' - which I thought was from the Bible and was also almost used by Morrissey in a Smiths song (Sweet and Tender Hooligan has the line 'in the midst of life we are in debt...etc')but tinternet searching tells me it actually comes from the anglican Book of Common Prayer and never has it felt truer than in the last few months and years. The latest untimely and heartbreaking death is that of my youngest sister in law. And it brings home painfully to me that what I use as artistic inspiration and subject matter - especially from the victorian era - was also likely to be the source of someone else's heartbreak and distress.

Wonderful books like JS Curls The Victorian Celebration of Death, or J Morleys Death, Heaven and The Victorians focus almost exclusively on the aesthetic,fashions and their origins, the growth of the funeral industry but the pain of loss, the grieving process (if it can be called a process as process makes it sound clean and clinical and controllable and it is none of those things) are left out. Of all the books I've read so far on the memorialisation and commemoration of the dead only one explicitly look at this in connection with the monuments left behind - Bereavement and Commemoration: An Archaeology of Mortality by Sarah Tarlow mentions the pain and distress too and how not only were monuments indicative of the wealth and culture and technology of the society they lived in - but also an expression of love and admiration by their loved ones too.

Also on my reading list is The Secret Cemetery by Doris Francis, Leonis Kellaher and Georgina Neophytou but that is a book less about the aesthetic and more about the behaviour. It does have an especially beautiful picture of a memorial on its cover - a kneeling supplicant woman on rocks next to what looks like a carved verse from the bible under a draped cross. It's a memorial in Abney Park according to the cover - really makes me want to go and visit it.

I must also learn to read dates carefully - I think I've said this before but I am a bit rubbish with numbers which is part of the reason I struggle with the more technical discussions of photography as 'sunny 16' is about as technical as I can grasp - and I misread the dates and info on one of my favourite graves at St George's Field - that of gentleman Francis Henry Vant whose death is 'deeply regretted' - he died on August 28th 1875 and I misread that as he died aged 28. He didn't he was 56 when he died but I somehow transposed the numbers. Thankfully no-one noticed my mistake when I talked about his grave at What Lies Beneath - but I need to get someone else to check my maths if it comes to actually publishing these papers. My substantive point re his memorial still stands but I don't want to get caught out by making mistakes like that.

I asked my husband if he wanted me to hide all the stuff that references death that is around the house, and not to talk about the work I'm doing or the stuff I'm involved with in case it further upsets him, he said no. But I will bear it in mind more closely over the next few weeks as my going 'wow' at an especially impressive monument or exclaiming my delight in learning a new post mortem fact might be insensitive.

When a good friend died unexpectedly a couple of years ago I remember another friend saying that at our age this is what we have to look forward to - the loss of loved ones. It made me wince - I am lucky that I still have both my parents around and all my siblings but it does make me feel like stamping my feet like a teenager and saying 'it's not fair' and retreating to my room and playing music very loudly. The advance of years makes me look back on my teenage and early twentied self and think 'yep' - there were problems at the time but here is how to deal with them and I would swap those problems for the heartbreak of recent times in an instant.

I used to collect grave poetry and I still do - but now I make a note of the person whose grave it has come from - it seems only manners to make a note of their name and details when I might use the poem dedication as inspiration for something of my own. I feel a little bad that two of the images I have used the most - an angel from a grave in Cleethorpes I didn't make a note of the names, though the other image was an anonymous bunch of daffodils secured to a bench in St Marys Churchyard Whitby. In the same way that I  need to acknowledge references and sources in my dissertation - I need to do the same with my photographic work too. Sometimes the statues I picture have a name of the artist/worker who created them but not always but it should be possible to work out as most cemeteries have an attached stonemason that you have to use so even if I cannot credit the individual worker I could credit the firm.

And speaking of dissertations - had a meeting with one of my tutors on it last week and got some useful feedback and pointers on how to take it forward but I am finding it a hard slog at the moment - same as this blog (a condition I refer to as blog slog) and I am going to have to apply the same determination to get it done as I do to this blog...but right now I'm struggling with finding that determination and an advancing deadline isn't helping either as it is still too far away to make me really panic...but annoyingly it is near enough to make me anxious. Especially if I want to keep up my score when it comes to marking...

I have done some reading and planning and come up with a sort of title and chapter headings but I have yet to put fingertip to keyboard - though I have put pen to paper. I really must transfer those notes into legible typed sentences soon though. Especially as my days are full over the next few days with other stuff and it'll be a while til I can fully concentrate on it again.

The discomfort in the title isn't related to my subject matter as such but to my feet and suffering for my art earlier this week when taking advantage of the mist and murk and taking photos in both St Matthews Cemetery in Chapel Allerton and St George's Fields. I set off in my pink fake DM's forgetting that they are only fit to last for one winter before cracking and letting in water and after half an hour of tromping about on the wet grass I had feet that could best be described as 'swampy' but it was worth it though as I got some pics I am well chuffed with - used 35mm b+w film - one roll was the stuff packaged and sold by First Call Photographic and the other was Ilford Pan 400. Took pictures of my favourite graves and views and am looking forward to getting some of them printed up. Especially as it's looking like I might be having a solo exhibition in the New Year and so feel the need for new images - watch this space for further details.

I will have to get another pair of winterproof boots...

Donekywork is how that side of things feels a bit at the moment - ie repetitive and not very rewarding unlike taking pictures - which I am enjoying doing. Have taken lots over the last couple of weeks. Am enjoying using the crap kids digital as well as the canon I got for a fiver from the charity shop and I got my husband a lovely old bakelite camera which takes 127 film last week. Not that being bought an old camera would take away the pain of losing his sister but  because I thought it would bring a smile to his face temporarily and he could have fun using it in the future so it would be worth it.

I don't like weather like this (ie foggy as fuck)  when it causes accidents or interferes with people's travel plans but I do love it when it comes to taking photographs - as it makes everything look so creepy and murky - I finished off a roll of film this morning whilst on a mist infused walk round the bridlepath but as I took those on poundshop colour film I'll have to wait to get them developed to see them.

Earlier this week the computer decided to have one of its hissy fits and in spite of the green light flashing on the tinternet booster signal thingy that sits on top of one of the speakers (if it's flashing it means the tinternet is working) and the tinternet working on the tablet thingy it insisted that the tinternet was down. And so I couldn't do what I normally do which is have social media channels open at the same time as I sit at the computer working and so I had to completely concentrate upon the tasks in hand as opposed to flitting from one site to another when I get bored. Instead I had to concentrate on what I was doing - namely some dissertation prep and catching up with updating my bibliography and lists of films watched and books read. So much so I'm almost completely up to date with it - just got the wonderful Tiger Lillies performance to add. Saw them on Halloween at the Howard Assembly Rooms. And very marvellous they were too.

I'd never seen them before but had heard of them and got tickets because a) I'd heard chums speak highly of them and b)  they were doing the songs of Cole Porter and I love Cole Porter songs. They made wonderful versions of them - they had an electric double bass, a theremin, a piano accordion, a home made banjo, a grand piano and best of all a saw and a vocalist whose strange strong falsetto was entrancing to listen to. I absolutely adore the sound of the saw and their versions of Love For Sale, Anything Goes highlighted the seedier more depressing aspects of those songs. Utterly enchanting mix of pathos, filth and humour and we got a cd afterwards (I'm not a download type person) - and the Tiger Lillies signed it too. I really like being able to buy work direct from the artist. Going to go and listen to it now.