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.....


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