Monday, 29 February 2016

Ma-Ness Term 2 Week 9 Lord Buckethead, Haunted Hotel, RIP USB Skeletal Man, Presentations and Snot.

This weeks post it note, some finished reading and RIP USB Skeltal Stick Man....

Am struggling to concentrate on this and I doubt it will be a very long post as I have annoyingly succumbed to some kind of cough/cold/flu lurgy and I am annoyed because a) I hate feeling like this and b) I've had to cancel some things I was really looking forward to (Show and Tell at Leeds Library, talk on Victorain Underworld at Kirkstall Museum to name but two) but I don't feel it's fair to cough and splutter over other attendees plus I feel really ropey.

So the gists of this weeks image and post it note are:

Finished reading The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins and what a rattling good page turning yarn it is - it features women as prominent characters and is full of mentions of class and what Collins was reflecting on as the appropriate behaviour in the Victorian era for each class and gender and a bit of murder, revenge and dismemberment along the way.

I also enjoyed the mentions of photography in the novel - from page 112 of the Vintage 2015 edition of a story first published in 1889  ' The next day he wrote home, enclosing in his letter a photograph of Miss Haldane. Before the end of the week , Sir Theodore and Lady Barville arrived at Lord Montbarry's and formed their own judgement of the fidelity of the portrait' and on page 194 after a gruesome discovery in the hotel ' I answered that it was to be privately buried, after photographs of it had first been taken' and page 213 ' the scene changes to the Courier's room, and shows the poor wretch with a photographic portrait of his wife in his hand, crying.'.

I'm intrigued by use of the word photograph itself - I need to refresh my memory of its origins and use. Photography as such is a Victorian era invention and it is lovely to read a book that it is not just set within that time but written in that time. I treated myself to another three books on Friday after college - two from the same era - The Nether World by George Gissing also from 1889 but dealing with inner city London and people at the opposite end of the social scale, and another one by Collins - Dead Secret from 1857. Dead Secret according to the blurb on the back is a novel of unrelenting suspense, romance and gothic drama. Ooof can't wait....and the final book I purchased was The Italian by Anne Radcliffe from 1797 which deals with a shadowy world where religion and crime intermingle.

Another book I got this week was Nigel Llewellyn's Art of Death from 1991 which arrived through the post. I love secondhand books and even more so if they contain the previous owners to do list (though the best I ever found was a photograph of a rhino in front of a concrete enclosure) or shopping list, this edition has notes in pencil on the side of some of the chapters but in the back was a torn out page from a diary from the beginning of March 2006 and a note to email a conference paper to an academic at Sussex University. I looked them up and they share similar research interests to myself and I might email them to say hello as they may be useful as a potential external examiner if my practice led phd plans come together they way I want them to. 

I'm hoping that although I'm feeling ropey I'll at least be able to get some reading done...alas I couldn't get the digital printing I had planned to do last week (note to self in future  upload stuff to be printed to googledrive as well as putting it on a memory stick) as alas my lovely skeletal usb man had after months of faithful service to and from the college computers corrupted and failed. The error message was quite unhelpful - 'USB has drained all the power' or something and in spite of the best efforts of the chaps in IT to fix it there was no retrieving the information from it and I had to buy a new one...which is nowhere near as cute to look at. Arse.

Just as well I had saved multiple copies of what I was going to print and had also backed up copy of my presentation for Friday too, which went okay. It was really interesting to see and hear what other folks on the course are up to and got some useful suggestions on how to develop some lumen prints I've made (they can't be fixed as it will likely make them paler and they are already very pale and they can't be shown as they are as they will completely degrade in any kind of light - I can display however the scans and photographs I took of them)and it was also a good task for me to put it together as it focused for me what I have been up to and where I am hoping to go next. But it was surprisingly tiring how listening attentively to other people talk about their work is. I was completely knacked and ended up in bed fairly early on Friday - after watching the choice for Eurovision. Which was a kitsch load of nonsense and I've got money on us already having lost.... 

But I'm wandering off track - and need to get back on it so I can get this finished and not feel like it is hanging over me unfinished....

Lord Buckethead was a repesentative of the Gremloids Party in the 1980's. I have no idea what they stood for - other than fortunately we live in a country whose electoral system whilst unfair in lots of ways does allow for people with no hope of winning to stand on what appear to be ridiculous platforms. Like I said I have no idea what Lord Buckethead actually advocated but he wore black and covered his face with a very long kind of stovepipe hat. He stood in Finchley alongside Margaret Thatcher and it was a joy to watch him and his in comparison pitiful results being read out alongside her and with the same serious intonation from the returning officer. I was reminded of him as I went to a research cluster meeting and have offered to do an experiment with words that also involves buckets.

Well the snot has become all too much so I think it's best I go and take some kind of cold remedy before I collapse at the screen in a pile of used tissues... and fingers crossed I'll be back to full fighting strength again soon - there's pictures out there need taking and printing.... 

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

MA-Ness Term 2 Week 8 Presentation Writing, Light Box Using, MIni Studio-Ness, Abstracts, Practice and Below Parr

This weeks post it note and some failed instant pictures but I'm intrigued by the half Mapp which appears in one of the images, was given a Fuji Instant camera by a chum having a big photographic clear out and the camera had been in a box under the bed, then out in a family members garage for a very long time so no surprise that the film didn't work out a couple have almost entirely come out so I think it's a problem with old film not being kept in optimum conditions as opposed to something being wrong with the camera itself. Will get some more instant film and have another go soon.

My habit of getting back into writing this on a Monday has gone out of the window again this week, because instead I spent this Monday using the big light table at college to take photographs of images I'd had printed on tracing paper. I'm experimenting with layering them over one another to make new patterns and images following on from useful feedback from the silent crit a couple of weeks back.

I'd started experimenting last week at home using the small light box I have at home but I needed a bigger one plus the one at college also has additional lights at each side as well as the one underneath. Am really chuffed with some of the new images so hoping to get them printed but lessons learnt -
trim off the borders before layering
the lights are quite hot and the heat makes the tracing paper curl up a bit at the edges - so need to work out a way to stick them down that isn't visible under the bright light....

I then met a chum for lunch and then bought some magnets (to experiment with using them to display my work) and grave candles from the big shop that is like a soft furnishings free version of Ikea on the Headrow and then came home and worked on a presentation I have to give later this week.

College has asked us to do a 5 minute presentation on what we're up to. It's quite timely really as I'm increasingly thinking about how to categorise what it is I do. I can describe it fairly easily but seeing where it fits/how it fits in with other disciplines is something I'm finding more difficult...partly like I said last time it's a mix of navel gazing and worrying I'm a mistress of all trades and Jill of none... 

So what exactly is my practice? what is my work about? I make images primarily using analogue methods. I take pictures on film sometimes of objects I've collected and posed, sometimes of existing spaces. I often  make cyanotypes and sometimes anthotypes of the images I make but I most often print the images I make digitally on tracing paper. Print making in the darkroom other than cyanotype prepping doesn't make my heart sing. And how much a process makes my heart sing is the basis on which I judge how much I want to do something. 

The subject matter is often inspired by Victorian mourning culture which means I spend a lot of time reading about the period and its customs, reading literature from the period - currently reading The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins which I am absolutely loving. According to a quote from The Times on the back of the book it is 'a pleasingly nasty affair' and I'm about halfway through and I am in agreement with the Times summation. Plus I am loving Collins description of the difference between the classes, servants and 'people of quality' in particular as well as the feisty plot involving inheritances, marriages, death, revenge and of course a wonderfully described Haunted Hotel.

I also spend a lot of time taking photographs of Victorian monuments in graveyards or of Victorian cemeteries and looking at burial records, mourning ephemera and such like in archives. I find looking at original items from the period very inspirational plus it makes the historian part of my heart sing too. Another thing I've been thinking about is whether or not this blog is part of my practice too, it is definitely a tool for this course as I am using it as my research journal for assessment and I wonder if I will keep it up in the same way when I finish this course....

Anyway I also like using different kinds of camera - I have a number of film SLR's which I use if I want to take 'proper' pictures and a number of fun cameras if I want to experiment and take less 'proper' as opposed to 'improper' pictures. I never take improper pictures - I don't even take someone else's picture unless I've asked them first and got their permission.

My 'improper' pics at the moment are most often taken on the 'crap kids digital camera' with its warped lens and inability to capture colour remotely correctly. I love its lomo crapness though. This week I also had great fun using a lomo fish eye lens camera and lessons learnt from using that particular camera - you can never get too close really with that kind of lens, and the resultant images look even more striking when they've been greyscaled. It's an F8 lens and you have no control over the length of exposure so to get best results you need to use it in bright light with high ISO film.

I took advantage of the bright sunshine and used a colour ISO 800 film to take pictures of all my favourite bits of St George's Field earlier this week. I then got them developed at my usual place - The Photo Shop in Headingley who as always did a speedy and professional job of developing them.

I had loaded the film in the comparative darkness of the toilets at college but hadn't quite put the film rewinding bit down far enough so it wasn't turning - leading me to wonder about 16 pictures on if I had wound the film on properly. It felt like it had as there was tension winding the film on after each exposure but as I once took a whole roll without actually taking any pictures at all (but at least the film wasn't wasted and I could use it again when I had actually wound it on properly) I wasn't entirely sure. As soon as I noticed I made sure it was down properly and it did go round. In the case where the film never ran out - I only realised what I'd done when I got to the 36th picture on what was a roll of 24, but in this case the film got to 36 and then ran out so I was fairly hopeful there'd be something on it and there was thankfully. Am reet chuffed with some of them and going to get them printed.
But note to self - check camera through thoroughly before starting to take pictures. It's just as well I'm not an event photographer at a blink and you miss it type event as it's quite likely to have finished by the time I've got my arse in gear properly and realised what I'm doing....

So there's been a lot of playing - partly with new cameras but also with new toys as I have also been playing with the present my lovely ever supportive husband got me for our recent wedding anniversary - namely a mini studio. It works best for photographing very small things like pieces of jewellery but I have got some lovely images of flowerheads that I've been collecting in a big plastic pot. I decided to collect all the flowers I've been given or bought since I started the course as I knew I wanted to use them in pictures. Plus I have a bit of a thing for dead and dying flowers anyway.

It's a portable easily put up and down white plastic box that fixes together with magnets and has interchangeable different colour backdrops and two strips of led lights that you can control the brightness of. It's ACE and I am loving using it. Though I was defeated by how to attach the backdrop, I was struggling with how to attach it for ages - even thinking I might have to use blu-tack to attach it, until I had the bright idea of looking at the instructions when all became clear. Note to self - reading the instructions before you use something is a really good idea...

I also spent quite a bit of time last week cleaning and tidying - not my workroom so much as the rest of the house which meant I felt better about spending so much time playing and experimenting with filmy stuff.

I also went to two art things last week - a lecture by Nigel Llewellyn at the Henry Moore Institute on the Art of Death and the latest photographs by Martin Parr at the Hepworth featuring Yorkshire grown rhubarb.

The lecture was wonderful - Nigel told us of the inspiration behind the book he wrote on the subject and the exhibition he curated at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1991, or rather 1992 as due to the starting of the first Gulf War and the worries of the trustees that patrons would be offended by such an exhibition at a time of war its opening time was rescheduled. It was a fascinating glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes at big museums, a look at some of the artefacts in the exhibition and it was very engagingly delivered. It made me want to read his book and my lovely husband has ordered me a secondhand copy off an internet site that sells more than books and doesn't pay much tax.

I was quite disappointed by the new Parr pics though - a chum has described them as 'being phoned in' and I agree, they just didn't grab me in the way that his other work has. The colour seemed kind of off to me - not full on glorious technicolour but a kind of garish faded (if you can have such a thing) plus the method of display didn't add to them for me. It's a huge high ceiling space in which one wall is taken up with some from the Consumer series which look beautifully garish in comparison. The new images are not framed but printed in different sizes and attached to the wall by magnets, some have buckled and are no longer flush to the wall. (A problem I know only too well from hanging my own work and it reacting to the changes in temperature and humidity in the room) and it looks kind of amateur for an organisation like the Hepworth which I'm guessing has a lot more money for displaying work than I do. One way of minimising the buckling is to leave the paper in the same atmosphere for a good 24-48 hours prior to hanging it or to put it two or three magnets width from the wall in the first place. I did love seeing my old favourites of his again though - especially some from the Last Resort series.

Last week I was writing about putting together and sending in a proposal for an academic conference and I was pleased to get back a reply to say my proposal had been accepted. I say pleased but I am also a little bit scared too - as I'll be amongst Victorian specialists - but then as a chum pointed out I am a Victorian specialist too. And I am - but I am a bit concerned that I'm not quite specialist enough....see above re mistress/Jill feelings.

I have also hopefully scored a trip round a coffin factory too - I emailed to ask if they had any coffin linings offcuts I could have to print on and they asked me to phone them to discuss it so I put on my best telephone voice, took a deep breath and rang.

Exciting but also a teeny bit scarey times....and fingers crossed I'll be back in my usual Monday blogging habit again.   

Monday, 15 February 2016

MA-Ness Term 2 Week 7 - Cyanotyping Rescue, Dissecting a Heart, Making Stuff Out of Cast Offs Prevarication and Words....

this weeks post it note - along with papers I'm trying to work on but am actually putting off looking at, the most magnificent gift of an old coverless book from one of my fellow MA-ers who rescued it from a skip, some paint, and a bookmark made out of some acetate leftover with some skeleton stickers and my photocopying experiments using multiple copies of acetate negatives overlaid and reinverted on the photocopier.

overdone cyanotype in the wash - think I left it in the sun too long, got distracted with my time keeping...
and in the wash again after a rescue with a bit of a soak in a bleach solution, not brilliant but slightly better as in you can at least see some of the image on it - an image of the subscription graves down the side of the chapel at St George's Field 

lumen prints in progress resting on the towel rail in the bathroom as that gets the best sun first thing in the morning - using  very old Agfa Brovira paper both gloss and matte given to me by friends, not sure how old it is except it is at least 30, maybe even 40 years old. Those on the bigger pieces of matte paper worked better than those on the smaller gloss paper  
having fun at Thackray Medical Museum at their Anti Valentine's Event - I was living my wannabe Viktor Frankenstein fantasies by dissecting a sheeps heart, I could do this as a) it had already been taken from the sheeps body by a butcher b) I had gloves on c) it didn't smell and wasn't significantly decomposed d) it wasn't given to me with a face and e) I wasn't expected to kill it.  I have nothing but awe/admiration and a massive feeling of eeww and revulsion at the 18th and 19th century anatomists who did this without latex between them and their subject and without the benefit of refrigeration either, I also cannot cannot help but admire and feel revulsed by their ability to go against the perceived moral teaching of their age ie stealing bodies, preventing lawful burial, etc....
Photo taken by my ever supportive husband
end result of one of the lumens - need to try and fix it with uv resistant gloss spray and see if that works but as the spray is potentially toxic am going to keep it in the dark and wait until it is a little bit warmer and spray it outside, and in the meantime have scanned it and taken a digital photograph of it and boosted the levels digitally to get more of a contrast.

Lots of pictures in this weeks post - back to its usual Monday posting now anniversary related gallivanting has ended. As you can see from the above pics I've been up to heart dissecting for Valentines Day, lumen printing and cyanotyping over the last couple of days and it's somewhat ironic that this post is so full of pictures as what I'd actually been mostly thinking about last week was words.

Last Friday's seminar was given over entirely to words, and we were set tasks like writing about our work without using the words we usually use. For me this meant phrases like 'being inspired death culture in general and victorian death culture in particular were out as were practically descriptive phrases like 'analogue photographic processes' or 'gothic photographic artist'.

I found it quite difficult and my friends description of me as an historian is making me think even more about what it is I actually do and what it is I am most interested in - not just out of navel gazing reasons but also out of possible phd applications. Anyway what I came up with was:

Eclectic re-image-ing of years gone by, hoping to evoke in the reader/viewer a wish to accompany me on my journey ferreting out the stories of the past that run alongside the present.

Distortion, fading, fixing fading memories, writing up the contrast

Am I really a writer? I'm definitely a reader.

Feelings/Fears of not being taken seriously if I call myself a writer as well or am I actually a historian?

Re-enactments of personal/impersonal histories

Words spoken and forgotten, details lost/blurred but feelings remain extant.


Are you sitting comfortably?    
Then I'll begin.

I found it really interesting to listen to other peoples descriptions of their work and quite scarey having to read what I'd written out after hearing the eloquence of the others in the seminar as well as very thought provoking to think about questions like 'who do you write for?' and 'do you show courtesy to your audience?'. I use this blog as my research journal so it is both a record of what I've been up to and so a document for assessment for the research journal assessment part of the course but I make it public so it is also a broadcast platform. A broadcast platform for me to in some ways brag about what I've been up to - eg heart dissection as well as to question/record what's going on coursewise and what I'm thinking back to the navel gazing point except at least it is navel gazing with an end in sight (ie a Masters qualification) as opposed to just navel gazing...hopefully.

The conversation turned also to why we do the work we do in the first place and questions like - is it important if people like it or not, does it matter if it is understood, is it automatically a bad thing to be misunderstood or misrepresented? What happens in the space between the image maker and the receiver? And my first thoughts are - yes it is important if people like it partly from an ego stroking point of view, partly from a practical point of view as in people aren't likely to hand over cash/time for something they don't like or at the very least appreciate in some way, and I don't like being misunderstood or misrepresented....though in some ways you might never know if this is happening and in others it's all too evident but you might not be able to do anything about it.

Hmm as ever lots of food for thought - as were the opening exercises in which we had to write our signatures in different ways but only after swapping pens with the person next to us. I went from using a wooden pencil to using a rollerball type pen. Until I had to loan my pencil to the person sitting next to me I hadn't realised how much I was enjoying the feel of its wooden-ness as opposed to the plastic casing of the rollerball pen. We had to sign our names using the hand we don't normally write with - I am lefthanded and my righthanded signature wasn't so a signature as a squiggle seemingly made during an earthquake. It went very small and not making much of an indent on the page when I was trying to disappear and quite bold and flowery when I was trying to be a celebrity. I did suffer somewhat from 'blank page anxiety' - which is the same anxiety I feel when starting a new notebook or trying to decide which notebook to use for which purpose. Choosing a new diary/journal is something that always takes me an age - currently using one I bought from John Rylands Library which looks like an old fashioned library card, but I haven't written in it since December 30th 2015. It's on my list of things to do update though...and when I do write in it it will be in black ink - from one of those disposable fountain pens. I've written my diary using one of those for a long time now and whilst I don't like the throwaway nature of them I find they suit my lefthandedness best.

The eagle eyed amongst you might have noticed some of my reusing rather than just throwing away tendencies by my making of a bookmark using some leftover acetate from making a cyanotype negative and some stickers in the top image on this post.

Along with lots of thinking about words I'm also thinking a lot about opposites and how they can't exist without one another - negative/positive, absence/presence,permanence/impermanence and how it is the spaces and gaps between words that help them make sense, without them it would just be a constant stream of letters. 

What else? well chuffed with some of the film pics I took in Morecambe so now looking over them deciding which ones I want to print/get printed, happily playing on the photocopiers at college with overlaying negative copies, acetates and copies of copies and watching how images degrade and evolve, also having lots of fun looking at and re-watching films like the 1935 Hitchcock directed version of The 39 Steps, Young Frankenstein - the Putting On The Ritz dance scene with the Creature is one of my all times faves and snuggling up with Mapp who is being very snuggly at the moment and lovely company when you're watching such beautiful monochrome goodness.

I also spent a very chilly hour in the garage aka pop up meth lab yesterday afternoon developing some black and white 120 film I took on an Ensign Full Vue from the 1950's back when St George's Field was partially snow covered in January. There isn't much room so it's just as well that me and Mr Pops get on so well as we quite often had to swap places - I was mostly in charge of the thermometer and mixing the chemicals and getting them to the right temperature, pouring them in and agitating the tank, he was in charge of threading the film onto the spool (something I find fiendishly difficult unless I can begin to spool it in/on in the light - though I have managed it in the complete dark on occasion, I find that easier than sweating it out using a darkbag) and fetching a big water carrier. And it seems to have worked - as in there are very definitely images on the film and I just need to scan them in - which is my next task, not that I'm putting off working on my abstract submission....oh no....not that the thought of it being rejected or accepted is giving me pause....



Thursday, 11 February 2016

MA-Ness Term 2 Week 6 - Anniversary-ness, Motivation, Art-Speak and Inspiration

Cameras used this week - including crap kids digital with added security of black insulation tape over battery compartment, bit of torn notebook and coaster with seahorse design from the Midland Hotel In Morecambe 
View from Midland Hotel dining room over breakfast on crap kids digital - you can just about see the building on the end of the Stone Jetty which was the railway terminus for the line which took you to get the ferry to Ireland or Scotland in the 1850's..which lead to me wondering how many women had come over on the ferry from Ireland to look for work/service in the Victorian era and how much homesickness and heartache there was - and how much excitement at starting a new life...
Pic of Midland Hotel in Morecambe taken on crap kids digital (I love the lo-mo blur and right hand side lens distortion, it is its own other worldly filter) earlier this week - me and my husband got engaged here in 2008 just after it reopened after its refurbishment after falling in love with it when we saw it in a very sad and decrepit state in 2001. It seemed appropriate somehow to spend our 7th wedding anniversary here amidst its restored art deco splendour - plus Morecambe also has Brucciano Ice Cream Parlour with beautiful wooden art deco pannelling and the best Knickerbocker Glories outside of Pacittos in Scarborough. Fact. It also has a terrifyingly cramped secondhand bookshop and  bits of old fairground rides - tatty, sad but also very beautiful too but it is somewhat sad and scarey that the public toilets on the front each have a sharps disposal bin - admirable in terms of minimising harm but sad that it is needed in the first place.

The eagle eyed regular readers of this blog will also notice that the words aren't many and not written on a post it note either but a folded over bit of torn out notebook paper, that's because I've been in Morecambe and so far away from my desk and post it notes and so notebook had to suffice. This is also why this is being written up on a Thursday as opposed to my usual Monday - as Monday I was braving strong winds, heavy squally showers trampsing about the sea front taking pictures (also fitted in a trip to a cemetery but alas it wasn't Victorian like the lady in tourist information said it was but Edwardian and it was really interesting in places not least because it has a plot devoted to workers from the Cinematograph Industry ) before heading back to the hotel for a lovely hot bath in a bath so big I could almost have done lengths in it (except I can't really swim) and then lovely fish and chips in the Midland Rotunda Bar whilst listening to the building hum in the strong wind - the Midland is semi circular so it kind of sets up its own resonance in the wind - I thought it would stop me from getting to sleep but it was actually quite comforting (plus gin makes me sleepy too..and I'd had quite a bit in a celebratory way.) The rain was also lashing against the windows and watching the waves crash up and down the beach and see quite how terrifyingly quick the tide comes in reminded us both of the sad story of the cockle pickers who drowned in 2004.

So what have I been up to apart from picture taking at the seaside and basking in full on beautifully restored 1930's art deco splendour and imagining I was one of the minor non murdered characters in an Agatha Christie - you know the ladies who have silk pyjamas, an allowance and beautifully painted red lips and nails. Well laughing when my husband pointed out that I looked rather more like a Crowleyite loving bright young thing (technically 1920's but hey ho - I don't mind a bit of historical inaccuracy in the cause of paying me a compliment) due to the fact that I was wearing a necklace made of red plastic lots of picture taking, lots of imagining, bit more reading of Silent As The Grave by Deanna Raybourn (a murder mystery set in the victorian period which is very enjoyable period detail accurate hokum) and mulling over the feedback on work in progress from a silent crit last Friday and an email from a chum in which he said ' You're a historian. Proper. You may not like it, but it's plain for all to see. Your use of primary source material always gave you away'.  This is making me think am I an artist, a historian or a writer or some kind of hybrid of all three. Though this feeds into my 'jill of all trades, mistress of none' fear....though my tutor did point out that my writing - either about my work on my blog or for academic papers is just as much a part of my practice as my visual image making....

The feedback from the silent crit was very useful and also very edifying, I showed images I'd taken of St George's Field (no surprise there then eh? ) in the recent snow. I'd been experimenting with printing them in colour and in black and white on my usual favourite medium - lovely, translucent, cheap tracing paper and then superimposing them one of top of the other but slightly out of sync with each other so there is a slight tremor in the image. I think it makes it look quite sinister. I put them up against the window as it is such a useful and free lightbox. As it was a silent crit I couldn't explain what they were about until the others in the group had finished discussing them but I did put up a label 'Time Slippage, Work In Progress'.  One person said the words 'gothic and reminiscent of Wilkie Collins' - high praise indeed to my Victorian era gothic fiction obsessed ears. Other words used were' quiet and atmospheric'. ' slightly underexposed but that adds to the atmosphere of them'.

I hope to refine the images further by chopping off the borders and layering them one upon the other - either with a gap between each sheet with the colour versions at the back and the black and white ones at the front, or by layering them out of sync but directly on top of one another or in direct opposition to one another and taking a picture of the resultant image on a light table and so making a new image altogether - this looked especially sinister with the broken angel. It really motivated me to want to make more out of them.

Motivation was something I've been sorely lacking in today though - I sat down at the computer to write this about 11am this morning but it's took me til late afternoon to get properly started on it. I have done a lot of filling and planned my diary a bit though and sent some emails so it's not entirely been clicking refresh on Farcebook (deliberate misspelling) but I could have done a bit less of that and more of this instead....ho hum. At least I'm doing it now - plus I'll need to be a bit more organised next week as it's the deadline for calls for papers for a couple of academic conferences I'm interested in. I think I'm putting down my lack of motivation down to being back amongst my comparatively really tatty sadly no original features left cluttered late 1940's semi after the glamour and splendour of the Noel Coward patronised Midland and to being somewhat in awe of Katrina Palmer after being at her Uncoupling performance at the Henry Moore Institute last night.  I really enjoyed the piece and I adore her Necropolitan Line which makes me smile - especially at the line 'a handful of lingering goths'. I hope to use similar lightbox lighting for my images. It's an immersive piece - using lighting, physical objests, images, soundtrack - verbal and musical and I'm slightly in awe of it. Plus I had a slight wobble as she is also working on St George's Field but then I realised that shouldn't really be a cause for concern on my part as our approaches and resultant work though similar in some ways are different in more.

Mmm as ever lots of food for thought there. Also providing food for thought are the exhibitions I went to at the South Square Gallery in Thornton last week. You can see what's on here  - I especially enjoyed Madeleine Piri's cyanotypes and liquid photo emulsion images of life in a russian village - the potatoes look so real and vibrant that you feel you could pick them put of the picture (she is also the lady who taught me how to cyanotype) and Mariel Borst Pauwels transferred images on wood and paintings. Both had a thematic consistency - a phrase I used when discussing which of my images to take in for the silent crit with my husband. He suggested some images which weren't part of the St George's Field sequence and I said 'but there's no thematic consistency' than paused and howled 'shoot me now '- I'm being slowly but surely subsumed into using and speak 'artspeak'....which is a mix of both 'argh' and 'yay' on my part.

Other things which are making me think are end of year show - had my first look at the space (Studio 24) on Mabgate last week and bits of it would be perfect for the burial plot sized hangings I'm hoping to make and I also wondered about its history and what was made there. I know a little of the history of the area - well specifically the Quarry Hill disinternment case of the early 1840's and it was nice to be able to tell the gallery owners what Mab means and the unfounded but persistent rumours of tunnels between Leeds Parish Church and Mabgate so the priests could visit the Mabs (it's slang for prostitute) without being seen en route by their parishioners.  I like it as a space but am concerned about how our work is going to look together in that space as we all have very practices and approaches but maybe some thematic continuity will become apparent as the time comes nearer....

 So that's where I've been and where I'm to go and eat some food now and think about stuff some more over dinner.


Wednesday, 3 February 2016

MA-Ness Term 2 Week 5 - Distinctive Relief, Dark Room Adventures, Real Bone Folders, Cyanotyping, Getting Cross At The Television, Diary Organisation...

this weeks post it note and notes from Julien Little's English Way Of Death

cyanotype washing using repurposed litter tray

Normally Monday is blog day - it's a habit I got into at the start of the course and it has stood me in really good stead when it comes to research journal hand in time. I had blog write up on my list of things to do on Monday but I got sidetracked by housework and then had a training session ( I am loving boxercise though I am not sure my joints are as fond of it as I am as they are creaking and protesting somewhat more than usual today) and then when I sat at my desk ready to start writing I saw the email with my latest module results - for both research journal and what became known as 'the bastard dissertation'. The actual title of it is: The Possibility, Impossibility, Wonder, Insight and Potential Obfuscationality of Language as Used in the Art World or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Start Using Some Of It.

Anyway to my delight and relief I got the kind of marks I wanted and had (in the case of the bastard dissertation) sweated blood for and so my first reaction was to burst into tears, then I shook for a bit, grinned like the cheshire cat, emailed my husband, phoned my Mum and then burst into tears again when I got a reply email from my husband telling me how proud he was of me. We celebrated with champagne and fishfinger sandwiches because we are reet classy.

The champagne was bought before xmas (when it was on special offer in the supermarket) and at the time I said I wanted to keep it for results day - we would drink it in celebration  if my marks were good enough (or of course drown our sorrows if I wasn't pleased with them)  So in spite of temptation to drink it we had to spite of my no longer following the superstitions I was brought up with I am reluctant to tempt fate and if I'd really wanted fizz in the meantime I would have had to go out and buy a different bottle. But aside from this not wanting to tempt fate quirk I no longer feel the need to salute magpies, I can see knives crossed on a table without fretting, I can put umbrellas up inside, walk under ladders if I want and I can put new shoes on the table all without fear for my immortal soul. All of which events and actions would have had my Nana in connuptions, crossing herself and muttering prayers. I am fascinated by superstitions and associated behaviours though - the folklore from various cultures around reflections and water fascinate me the most.

It's not just relief though - it's also affirmation of what I'm doing and what I'm capable of so I feel I can further my potential plans for studying for a phd , it's not just pie in the sky day dreamy thinking on my part. Looking at options is on my to do list. I think the hardest thing is going to be coming up with a research proposal that I will not get sick to the back teeth of (so something victorian and death related most likely - bet you're surprised to read that, not...) but also that is attractive/supervisable to and by other academics and institutions and of course potentially fundable.  I still have doubts though about the amount of words involved and how mad it will make me go writing them - so as ever lots to think about there. Plus unexpected and unhappy events in non academic life like bereavement or illness  and how they can be coped with also need to be thought about too.

So lots of being very giddy indeed on Monday, hence writing this today - whilst also in an ungothlike manner wallowing in the sunshine and taking advantage of it to do some cyanotyping. Have done 6 in total this morning - a couple I'm really pleased with, one will be salvageable if photocopied, a couple have worked a bit but not quite enough and reminded me that a) I need to photocopy onto acetate at the highest density setting and b) although a negative version of a cyanotype can look good - it suits some subjects better than others and that doesn't include figures atop of graves so I need to to make some new inverted properly dense acetate negatives.

One has barely worked at all - even with a bit of bleach solution assistance - but never mind* - it's all a learning experience and I have made improvements in my technique by taping the paper and acetate to the board before putting the glass on (I use the glass from clip frames so it's not very heavy and can shift about and so disturb the paper and negative underneath it - even when clipped) but I did forget to shut the bathroom door whilst rinsing them to keep Mapp out. Just as well she is currently addicted to her old washing basket bed by the is firmly shut now though.

Best of all I've really enjoyed doing them - as I enjoyed the dark room refresher I did last week - which included using a fully manual camera to take around 10 pictures with in and around Millennium Square, then develop and print from. I find loading film onto a spindle prior to putting it into the developing tank fiendishly difficult - hence I usually offer to make tea whilst my lovely ever supportive husband does this. He also usually stands in the cold dank garage (aka pop up meth lab) and does the necessary agitating. Bless him.

There was the Dee like-thrill of alchemical magic when after the application of chemical solutions and a lot of wrist action and then washing - you take the film out of the tank and hurrah - there are images on it..correctly focused and exposed ones too.

I was pretty chuffed with a couple of the shots I took but getting a decent print was harder and less rewarding. I love looking at the results of other people's hard print making work. But as a process - despite its alchemical magic it doesn't make my heart sing in the way that cyanotyping does.

The unintuitive maths/numbers/counting involved coupled with the difficulties I have seeing what I'm doing thanks to my poor eyesight make it a process that I struggle with. I think I'd find it less difficult if I had full dark room printing facilities at home - I find it difficult to focus (no pun intended) if there are lots of people about plus it's extremely frustrating when folks (in spite of being told umpteen times not to and explained the reason why you shouldn't) continue to dip tongs from one batch of chemicals in to the next batch thus contaminating and decreasing their efficiency. The darkroom staff have the patience of saints as well as great insight and constructive advice as to how to develop (again no pun intended) your work further. There are short courses starting again soon - you can find details about them here - I did a short course in black and white photography the summer before last and learnt lots.

So I think I'll venture out into the garage to develop film a bit more often as opposed to just handing it over in return for my tea making abilities but I don't think I'll be doing much print making - though I might arrange a time to go in when it's quiet and have another go.

Along with cyanotyping I have been doing lots of digital printing (£8.90's worth yesterday) - mostly on my beloved translucent and cheap tracing paper but also on some hand made paper I bought a while ago from Paperchase. I've also used the same paper for cyanotyping, have used it all up now so I shall have to get some more. It has a lovely texture to it - which on one of the images I use most - a bench from St Mary's Churchyard in Whitby has really brought out the rain droplets on the beach.  I'm also experimenting with printing the same image in monochrome and colour and then placing one on top of the other - slightly out of sync as it makes a kind of slightly blurred jarring effect - almost as if looking at it in a nightmare. Need to work more on this...

One coffin manufacturer has got back to me in my quest to find scraps of coffin lining material to print on to say they've got my request and will get back to me, will chase them up if I haven't heard more by next week. I also need to make an appointment in the fabric printing room to press ahead with those printing plans too - and to get things properly costed up for my hoped for burial plot size hangings.

They also have some new paper to print on in the digital print room which when held up to the light has a kind of skin like texture - this really appeals to me so when I next go back I shall get some images printed on there and see what they look like.

I have some new equipment to play with - a bone folder made of actual bone for bookmaking/cardmaking, I already have a plastic one but ghoul that I am - I wanted one made of bone too. It has a nicer weight to it and it feels better in my hand too - though of course I doubt the animal it came from would agree with that sentiment.

I also have a new mini pop up studio which my lovely thoughtful husband has bought for me as wedding anniversary present** - it all fits together with magnets and has led lighting and different colour backdrops. It's ace. Haven't used it for picture taking yet but have already got planned what work I want to do in it - namely the loved one and their objects series which I've been thinking about for some time. One of the objects that makes me think of my Nana is green shield stamps and I found an almost complete book of them in a junk shop a while back - also need some Elnett Hairpsray and some Hermestas and her picture will be good to go.

My obsession with all things victorian continues apace and a couple of weeks ago I watched 'even more hidden killers in the victorian home' on the Yesterday channel. I saw the first lot of hidden killers on the BBC a while back (arsenic in wallpapers and green dyes, unregulated gas supplies, uncleanable baby bottles) and part two featured food adulterants, steep staircases for servants, baths heated by gas flames underneath the bath itself but I found myself tutting at the television with its partial telling of the truth as the section about symptoms of strychnine poisoning which was illustrated with an unattributed painting by Charles Bell of Tetanus (you can see it here and the original is held at the Royal College of Surgeons Museum in Edinburgh) which the wanting everything to be correct pedant in me says is incorrect - even if the symptoms look similar plus as Charles died at the age of 67 in 1842 does he really count as a victorian when Victoria has only been on the throne for 5 years - surely he is georgian...

The other bit which had me tutting was when they told the tale of the case of the poisoned sweets in Bradford in 1858 which they attributed to a chemist selling adulterated sweets...which again is kind of true but the fuller story of the case is the sweets were sold by Humbug Billy (William Hardaker who is buried in Undercliffe Cemetery along with some of his victims no doubt..) who made his living selling sweets from a stall. He didn't make the sweets but bought them from a chap called Joseph Neal who did. Sugar was expensive so it was cut with 'daff' which was the name for powdered gympsum (also known as multum or flash) to keep costs down and profits up. Neal's assistant went to the chemist to get some daff, the chemists assistant mistook the barrel of arsenic (used as poison for rodents as well as getting rid of relatives in a Mary Ann Cotton stylee) for the barrel of daff and sweets were made with it. They looked and tasted a bit different so William and Neal sold them a bit cheaper and 21 people died and an unknown number suffered but recovered. It was one of the incidents that paved the way for the Pharmacy Act of 1868.

Anyway all of that is a roundabout way of saying... yes in some ways a chemist contributed to the selling of adulterated sweets... but it makes me think about other documentaries I've watched where I've just accepted what I'm being told without thinking about it because it seems true and without bothering to find out more. I only know about the incomplete/incorrect picture with regards to the above as I've seen some of Charles Bells incredible paintings (the medical textbook illustration of their day) in the flesh as it were, and was told the full story of Humbug Billy on a tour of Undercliffe.

So I am becoming increasingly nit picky when watching television ( my husband will attest to this when watching programmes about things I know something about - like the history of anatomy or the victorian period) but also getting increasingly precise and nitpicky when I'm talking/writing about things...maybe an academic life is the one for me after all....

The other thing I've been working on have been trying to organise my diary and deciding what I want to as there are lots of things on in the next six months and I want to go to all of them but I can't - partly for date clash reasons and partly for finance reasons so I need to decide which is most important and what I'd get most out of going to. So as ever - lots to think about and to do but best go and check on my latest batch of cyanotypes as they must be dry by now......

*edited to add - it has worked better than I thought, HURRAH!!! note to self don't rush to make a judgement until prints are completely dry....

** I have bought him non photographic he might faint with shock on opening them as a result...