Monday, 27 June 2016

MA_Ness Weeks 11 and 12 Post Referendum Shock and Horror, End Times, Fulneck Loveliness, Laminating Fun, Thinking Things Through and History

Two weeks worth of post it notes - one considerably fuller than the other, this can be blamed on pre and post referendum horror and general end of things-ness

Practice digital print on coffin lining material - am still experimenting with transferring images onto this fabric - this is an inverted digital scan of a colour film negative - post processed to black and white and inverted using photoshop - the image is of the Chapel (now a University bookstore) in St George's Field taken using a lomo camera with a fish eye lens.

I think I'm still in a state of shock after the referendum, and sadness too. I am not sad because I voted for leave and am now regretting it like some seem to be doing on seeing what a fuck up that has been so far,  but sad because I voted for Remain and so sad because not enough others can see what wider benefits membership of the EU has had. I am not saying for one minute that the EU is perfect (far from it) but as someone with a reasonable grasp on European history - the more time our respective countries representatives are talking in Brussels the less we are literally fighting one another. Plus the seeming legitimisation it appears to have had of the most repellent and revolting racist views is truly appalling, saddening and maddening. The fact that so many of the people in this country seem to feel so disenchanted and disenfranchised that a Leave vote seemed like a good idea is truly depressing. It is one unholy truly fucked up mess - to say nothing of the hiatus now where the political elite all seem to be floundering with seemingly no clear idea of what to do to sort things out. And along with the revolting racism I'm also uncomfortable with the describing of people who did vote Leave as  'morons, idiots etc' as it seems it's exactly that kind of dismissal and disrespect that has helped create this toxic situation in the first place...even if I might think that the decision reached was a shortsighted and stupid one,  but then again is it kind of understandable given the unfounded and unbelievable claims the Leave campaign were making if we don't teach or encourage critical analytical thinking from school onwards. The anti-immigrant and anti immigration tone of a lot of Leave propoganda though was absolutely disgraceful and there is no excuse for that.

Sweet suffering fuck frankly. Part of me just wants to completely retreat into a world of Victorian sensation fiction, cyanotypes and that kind of malarky as that gives me great comfort and another part just wants to put my head under the covers and not come out til it's all calmed down a bit - though it doesn't seem that it is likely to for a while and I've got a big college deadline coming up - the last one on this course and so I must get my arse in gear to get that done if nothing else - clicking refresh on Twitter and watching News 24 isn't going to help with that.

And as a student of history - I'd far rather be reading about these kinds of upheavals from the comfortable distance of a few years than actually experiencing it. And aside from stopping the name calling and somehow teaching folks to be more analytical and critical of the things politicians and more importantly the media say I'm not sure what to do - but this quote from Toni Harrison is giving me both some hope and some focus:

This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self pity. No place for silence, no need for fear. We speak, we write, we do language - that is how civilisations heal'.

I'm not quite sure how to put it into practice and in the first place it might be by doing something as simple as taking and making some pictures and just making myself feel better. So now I've got that off my chest and fingers crossed all the worst possible outcomes don't actually come to fruition - what have I actually been up to over the last fortnight?

Been to see some inspiring and thought provoking films:
Somewhere to Disappear (2010) - a film by Uyttenhove and Flammarion in which they followed photographer Alec Soth when he was working on a project that involved photographing men (there were no women in the film) who had decided to opt of mainstream society - a mix of hippies, stoners, ex drug addicts/possibly current drug addicts and far right survivalists who live (way) off the grid. It was interesting - a little bit unnerving at times partly because of the people he was talking to and worrying for both his and the film makers physical safety, partly because at least one person he was speaking to I wasn't entirely sure was capable of giving fully informed consent to being filmed and photographed, admiration of his people skills by being able to talk his way into people's lives - something very evident from the exhibition of his work at the Media Museum which accompanied the film. He persuaded people to let him photograph them in very intimate and potentially vulnerable situations but also unease at his people skills and to what end he's using them - especially as he was talking to them from a position of influence and what would appear to be a better education and certainly more financially secure position. He  gets them to open up and pose for a picture, persuades them to let him take some of their personal items (incredibly personal break up letters) and then not return them, plus it seems that as he is not using their picture to advertise a particular product he didn't need to get model release forms signed. Plus it was also unsettling in places because it was shot with a hand held camera and so the picture wobbled a lot in places. I also have questions like - he was using a big 10*8 plate camera so with a camera that size which takes minutes to focus he's not taking pictures in a covert way but how did he develop the plates? Save them up and do them all in one go, or in batches as he went along. He planned what he wanted to get pictures of each day so I wonder if that also included developement plans. The other thing the film brought home is just how big America is - acres and acres and acres of empty plains.  That said though some of the pictures were achingly beautiful and poignant, especially the ones of love stories from in and around Niagra Falls. 

Heart Of A Dog (2015) - a film by Laurie Anderson which was beautiful to look at, was thought provoking and which made me cry as it was about aging, relationships - particularly with pets in this case her dog Lolabelle who she teaches to play piano when she (the dog goes blind) and loss. Laurie Anderson has the kind of voice I could listen to all day - I find it incredibly soothing. Plus it had lots of interesting points about the death beliefs of Buddhism and ancient Tibetan practice which was very thought provoking indeed. Apparently hearing is the last sense to go - even after all other visible signs of life have gone and the Tibetan Book Of The Dead specifically forbids crying as it stops the dead moving on - and they cannot come back anyway. Plus death is seen as a release of love. It was the kind if film that would bear repeated watching and analysis as it covered so much so I think I'll be asking for a copy of the soundtrack if not a dvd of it for my birthday. 

Holding The Man (2015) a film based on the memoir by Timothy Conigrave directed by Neil Armfield which details his falling in love with John whilst teenagers at school and their at times rocky relationship as they navigate being with one another against parental, religious and societal disapproval. Their coming out, being apart, getting back together and becoming ill with HIV and dying. In spite of its sad ending it was an especially life affirming joyous power of love film with a cracking soundtrack even if by the end I was weeping buckets (thank goodness for waterproof mascara) as it reminded me so much of friends of mine who have died and whom I still very much miss.  

Sing Street (2015) a film by John Carney which I saw on Saturday afternoon and which was the perfect antidote to referendum related misery as although it too is very sad in places (the violent bullying that happens in schools - both on the part of the other schoolkids as well as the teachers, the fall out of relationship breakdowns,feeling you have to leave where you grew up for lack of opportunities) it was also very optimistic and joyous. It's the story of a schoolboy who falls in love with a girl and wins her and himself by setting up a band who wear their influences all too obviously on their sleeves (I especially enjoyed their goth phase) and it was just glorious. So much so I might go and see it again.

This along with semi bingewatching season 1 of Bates Motel means that I've been doing an awful lot of listening and watching. But I have been doing some doing too - and some people have been doing some doing on my behalf - namely printing on the coffin lining material. I cut and prepare the material by painting an edge round where the images can be placed with gloss medium (matte medium shows up more for some reason)  as this not only gives a guide for where the image can be placed but also means I can then cut the material without it fraying. And boy does it fray - I'm reading North and South at the moment and each time Bessy complains about getting 'fluff' on her lungs I cough in appreciation as my workroom is full of bits of this material. I am (hopefully) going to be experimenting with using a heat activated method of image transfer this week. Applying heat to this material is something I'm somewhat anxious about though as it is synthetic and potentially liable to melt...but I have been able to put bits of it through my latest acquistion - a laminator.

At one point last week I was laminating almost everything - old amusement arcade tickets (they make v good bookmarks) and the coffin lining material both survives it unscathed and then it can be cut without fraying - result!! I've also experimented with leaves, petals, bits of detritus I've found on the floor whilst walking about. They're not as long term successful as so far I've used pieces I haven't dried first and so the liquid in them has kind of boiled round them in the pouch and the petals have faded. But I reckon it'll work well with the petals I have collected and dried - namely every bunch of flowers I've been given since starting the course. It's kind of nice watching something you've collected further decay under plastic though.

I've also finally thought (why of why has it taken me so frigging long to think of this??) of a way to make making lumen prints a bit less slapdash. Putting them together under a black throw but with a red safelight on underneath the throw with me so I can make sure things are level and exactly where I want them before I expose them to the light. As I don't have a darkroom I've just been doing it in  a darkened room under the throw but that of course means I cannot seen a bloody thing but at least with the safelight I'll be able to see much better what I'm doing. This is in turn part of thinking things through - something which I need (and if reports are to be believed Leave voters) need to do a bit more of - like I have a burial plot size piece of silk printed with the a digitally reinverted lumen print I made of a tombstone in St Matthews and other than hanging it up with fishing wire I hadn't really thought how I was going to attach the fishing wire - doh!! am now thinking with black ribbon adorned bulldog clips of some kind. Black ribbon played a role in Victorian mourning culture and it seems only right to include it somehow in the finished work. So now I'm experimenting with different hanging techniques so i can find the ione which not only works the best but looks the best also.

I've been to another phd open day too - this time at Leeds Beckett University and interesting and useful - both in terms of clarifying my thoughts about what exactly it is I want to do and what it is they have to offer. I am still hoping to do a phd - but still not sure when exactly or where. I'm kind of dreading my studies officially coming to an end at Leeds College of Art as I have had such a good time there - learnt lots, met some interesting and supportively challenging people and I'm really going to miss having regular meetings with my personal tutor who has been a source of insight, suggestion, guidance and support. I'm also going to really miss the library, print rooms and the darkroom not just in terms of facilities but also in terms of the people in them. Oh well - I'd best make sure I make the most of what time I've got left with them then.

I've also been to a burial ground that I've been meaning to go and see for a long time - namely that of the Moravian Settlement at Fulneck, ever since a tutor told me about long ago way back in the days when I was a history undergraduate and doing a module called the Archaeology of Death. He talked about how as refugees fleeing religious persecution in Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic) set up a new settlement in 1744 on the outskirts of Leeds and how their burial ground has monuments flat to the ground as all are equal before God and God's judgement therefore all tombstones must be level to the ground. It was a really interesting, atmospheric and contemplative place - want to go back again when the Museum is open and have a look round that bit too. I can thoroughly recommend the tea rooms though - really lovely.

I've been using photoshop a bit more recently too (I feel dirty even writing that word *grin*) I'd resigned myself to using it to post process images to monochrome, boost levels and invert images and occasionally crop out either a modern bin or unwanted bit of tombstone) but last week I used it to get rid of graffitti around a graffiti skull I found on a building in Leeds, as I wanted to print just the skull on its own.

I've also been thinking a bit more about the role of memory and both music and smell and their role in it. If I hear Alice by the Sisters of Mercy I am instantly transported back in time to being in front of a mirror, choking on hairspray fumes and desperately trying to backcomb freshly dyed black hair into something approximating a sort of Siouxsie Sioux hairdo - but sadly it always went flat. Likewise if I smell Dettol or Savlon I am transported back in time to when I often had grazed knees (playgrounds were made of gravel when I was little) and this week I was transported back in time to a time of not quite sure but at least twenty years ago when I heard Brassneck by The Wedding Present - I had a chum who was mad about them but I was never much of a fan apart from that one song. Though I do have a copy of Bizaaro somewhere on vinyl - that was the only song I ever played on it and I know I didn't buy it when it came out but rather secondhand from somewhere. I hope to incoporate sound and smell into works I'll make in the future.

One of the phrases I have on my post it note is 'pebble in a pool of memory' and I really like it both as a description and as a possible action. Wish I'd written down where I heard/read it though. I have however made a good note of the next quote - it's from the bottom of page 108 of the second book I've read by an ex Fall member - The Big Midweek - Life Inside The Fall by Steve Hanley (bassist) and Olivia Piekarski. Less new agey and more down to earth than Brix Start Smith's I read it over the weekend. I recognised some of the places he talked about and some of the characteristics of growing up in a roman catholic family originally from Dublin. It confirms my belief that as much as I like the end product of Mark E Smith I doubt very much I'd like him in person. It's when Hanley is describing Mark E Smiths performance on a song called Papal Visit in which he tries to play a violin 'it's pushing avant-garde to the threshold of dross'. A phrase I hope no-one will ever ascribe to my work - not least because I don't think it's that avant-garde (lots of people work around death) but mostly because I'd be really sad if someone thought it was dross. 


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