Monday, 4 January 2016

MA-Ness Year 2 Term 2 Week 1 - Getting Back Into Swing Of Things, Ruminations, Overview and Stuff....

blank but wonderful funeral/memorial card from victorian era held at Kirkstall Museum Archive - this was quite large, not quite a4 but not far off - should have put something next to it for scale. Most of the other ones I looked at were postcard size and filled in. 
the last months post it note - a mix of proper notes, argh-ness and need to get back into proper habit of filling it in
I absolutely adore Sweep and this is the back of the calendar a lovely chum has sent me which has really made me smile - currently avoiding urge to only put it on May as Sweep looks so fantastic as Superdog or October where he is doing a wonderful kind of werebear with inverted fangs and Soo a rather marvellous Bride of Frankenstein - not really relevant to my studies but as it makes me smile I'm hoping it does you too

Plastic hollow skull of loveliness - bought it in poundshop full of marshmallowy sweetie goodness a couple of years ago and in which I now put pieces of paper filled with lovely things that have happened over the year so I can look at them every so often and be reminded of nice things - especially useful in times of sadness and stress and I have emptied it ready for this year - and first thing in it so far this year is description of above calendar gift.  

I last updated this blog/research journal on 9th December and it feels like a very long time ago indeed - much longer than the calendar month it almost is. Since then I have completed my dissertation, and I am trying to ignore the headweasels who are telling me that it isn't very good and now I need to patiently await the marks and feedback for it. I'm still having trouble deciding whether I found it really stressful because it is in itself a stressful thing to do or whether I found it so hard given everything else that was going on/is going on outside of college life. It's definitely making me think whether or not my phd hopes are worth pursuing as if 8024 words causes me that amount of grief would 30-40,000 be proportionally more stressful......something to discuss at my next tutorial I think.

This is why the top of the post it note says THIS PAGE IS LEFT INTENTIONALLY BLANK SO EMPHATICALLY - as that's exactly what I felt like by the time I'd finished writing what became known as 'the bastard dissertation'....but of course some things found their way onto the piece of paper - one of them being the stress of trying to work on a semi-broken computer which kept freezing and locking up - never has control alt and delete been pressed so vigorously or so often... and nor has a complete meltdown been so nearly achieved when I thought it had lost all the work I'd done - even though I had backed it up and sent it to myself and saved it on a memory stick - but it was my misreading of the last version date due to no doubt being stressed about the bloody thing in the first place that caused that. As ever massive thanks are due to my ever lovely supportive and clever husband who got the computer working more smoothly by uninstalling stuff we no longer use, and he also did a lot of proofreading and feeding me during the last few days of putting it together too. I would be utterly lost without him.

But it's looking like we're going to have to get a new computer as this one is reaching the time of its built in obsolescence - a concept I find both annoying and depressing but as we live in a capitalist society in which the one of the loudest and most insistent messages is consume, consume, update, update not surprising. It'll mean upgrading to a new version of windows though....which means we'll no longer have microsoft viewer which I find the easiest picture editing software to use - I mostly edit photos on the computer by two ways - cropping and contrast and I find viewer the quickest and simplest way to do this, it cannot invert images or boost levels though so I do use photoshop for that. Oh and cropping out modern fecking bins from otherwise victorian era avenues of graves or of course cat hairs....but otherwise if I have to do more than that then I didn't take a good enough photograph in the first place. My enjoyment comes from taking the image I want as far as possible in camera and then  making a cyanotype or print of it...not fecking about with it for hours on the computer afterwards....that to me is no fun at all.

No idea what I meant by 'abundance of caution' in pencil but I am reminded of some other quotes which leapt out at me from one of my all time favourite writers and much mentioned on this blog - Joyce Carol Oates whose book Mudwoman (4thestate 2012 edition) I finished over xmas - it's the disturbing tale of an abandoned and rescued child who is adopted by quaker parents and becomes chancellor of a university. Creepy and unsettling in places I wouldn't recommend it if you wanted instant upliftment but would if you want something absorbing and thought provoking.

This sentence on page 202 really jumped out at me when the lead character M R is in conversation with a film maker and says:
'Documentary films. To change people's minds, you have to touch their emotions. Only the arts have that capacity - to touch emotions'.

and when she is remembering her mother who was a librarian talking about books:
'When you read a book you are inside it - and you are safe there' italics as in the text.

Lots of food for thought there....

At the top of this post is an image of a blank funeral/memorial card held in the archives of Kirkstall Museum, which I was fortunate to be able to visit just before xmas. I owe massive thanks to Nicola - one of the curators there who showed me all the funeral related ephemera the museum holds - cards, letters, clippings, and most wonderfully of all - a book of verses to choose from to put on a gravestone or in a newspaper announcement. I was incredibly giddy and pleased to see one of these as they are often mentioned in some of my favourite books about the growth of the funeral trade and the formalisation of the undertaking process but this was the first time I'd seen one in the flesh as it were. Amazing and lots of future inspiration for work there.

And of course a reminder that a lot of archives are open to anyone - you just need to get in touch and make an appointment. For some you have to be a student or affiliated to an academic institution but for lots you need nothing more than to ask and if they can help they will - Leeds Museums Archive is one such place as is the Special Collections part of Leeds University and it doesn't cost anything to you as the researcher either - other than time and space on your memory card that is. Though each of the archives I've visited has very different policies when it comes to photograph taking. And as Nicola said - the whole point of archives is that they are there for people to look at - otherwise what is the point of keeping them?

One thing I did make a note of though was the Harryhausen documentary I saw over the festive period - I am a huge fan of his work, I am completely in love with the skeletal armies he made to fight with Sinbad and have been lucky enough to see one in the flesh as it were at an exhibition held at the Media Museum in Bradford a while back....except of course it couldn't have been one of the skeletons fighting Sinbad as it was far too small....

There was lots of footage in the documentary of him talking about the way he worked and in turn the people like Nick Park (maker of Wallace and Gromit and many other plasticine marvels)  who he (Harryhausen) inspired, Park spoke of the tactility of using actual armatured sculptures and what real puppets as opposed to digital effects have on the audience watching them and the relationship they have with the film - that is how people are more likely to believe in them whereas now people are more likely to think 'oh that's not an army of thousands, that's just CGI'. It made me hanker to watch all sorts of films again - not just Harryhausen and Park gems but Busby Berkeley Musicals which involve the coordinating of so many real dancers.

Aside from making sure all was finished as it could be in terms of work to hand in for assessment and tidying my work room - (though anyone who saw it maybe for forgiven for thinking the opposite if they saw it) I've purposefully avoided looking at college related stuff over the festive period in a deliberate attempt to destress and recharge batteries ready for this term. I have been out and about taking pictures though - but as they are all on colour film (it captures winter greyness better than black and white does) I've not seen them yet but am hoping to get them developed soon...and fingers crossed amongst them will be images I can make into cyanotypes. I'm not one for making resolutions as such but one thing I want to do this term is spend more time in the dark room and I have some lovely material I want to paint with cyanotype solution too.....

I'm also hoping that the death I deal with this year is of the academic to be researched kind and not the personally devastating kind and of course last but not least all the very best for 2016 for all those reading this blog too.


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