Monday, 13 August 2018

PhD-Ness Part 2 in weekly series - Thinking, Reading, Writing and Doing and sentences that make you stop and think

things I've been working on this week - pictures are two of the images I was working on last week. One has been  put into a larger hoop and finished with black bias binding  and felt on the back - looks neater but also doesn't allow any light through, the second has had the excess material at the back of the hoop sewn and pulled together the same way as you do when making a 'suffolk puff'* which lets light through but on this example isn't very neat as I didn't start out with a piece of muslin at least twice the diameter of the finished piece. The third hoop (not pictured) I finished with grey bias binding and just trimmed the excess material at the back - lets light through beautifully, looks neat BUT makes it extremely difficult to re-tighten the material in the hoop to make the image flat as possible. Also pictured are my new highlighter pens cunningly disguised as nail varnishes, my note pad (packed to the drawstrings with handy comments**)  my trusty reading glasses (none of your modern varifocals for me) and a copy of Sebalds Rings Of Saturn which has been on my 'books to read list' for months but which as yet remains unread - 
one of my goals for this week is to have at least read the first chapter by Friday.
I am properly back at 'study/work' even though it still seems like the summer holidays in lots of ways......

Programmes/Films Watched
I've been to the ever lovely Hyde Park Picture House twice this past week - to see the restored 4 k (whatever that means) version of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) and Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker (1953). Vertigo was in colour - in fact colour plays an important part in the film - the vivid green highlighting characters jealousy in places and the costumes designed by Edith Head are utterly wonderful. I've not seen Vertigo as many times as I've seen other Hitchcock films and in places as in all his films it's an uncomfortable watch. I know his films are meant to be - murder, obsessive jealousy and tension aren't  meant to be fun but I mean uncomfortable to watch by my feminist standards as Hitchcocks treatment of female characters can be especially horrible and so uncomfortable and difficult to watch. The way Scotty (played so wonderfully by the incomparable James Stewart) pressures Judy Barton (played so excellently by the wonderful Kim Novak) into looking like the woman of his obsession is horrible, they way the worker at the beauty salon reassures him that they can make her look exactly the way he wants and her desperate asking if he will love her if she does makes me squirm.  Those misgivings aside I absolutely loved it and it was a real treat to see it on the big screen.

The Hitch-Hiker was also uncomfortable to watch - it tells a fictionalised and slightly less grim version of the true story of Billy Cook who murdered six people whilst hitch-hiking in 1950-1951. The character based on him - Emmet Myers only(!) killed three, as films made in America at the time were still subject to the Production Code and the number of deaths had to be reduced or else it wouldn't be released. This film was in monochrome and was made by Ida Lupino who started life as an actress but also worked as a writer and a director. There aren't many female directors today and there were even less in Lupino's day. She was a groundbreaker both in terms of the work she did and the subject matter she made films about.

The film is strangely claustrophobic given that much of it is set in the vast outdoors though this is always out of reach of the two kidnapped men, visible only through the cars windows or around them as Myers keeps them under constant watch and has a gun. They have lied to their wives about where they are going for the weekend and so it takes time for the combined police forces of North and South America to catch up with them thanks to a tip from cousin of a bar owner and rescue them from Myer's clutches. In spite of Myer's laughing at them and pointing out that one of them could get away leaving the other to his fate, they continue to support one another. 

Flowers C Kendall T (producers) 2018, 11 August  Sylvia Plath - Inside The Bell Jar [television broadcast] BBC LondonA mix of vox pops from some of her surviving high school and college friends as well as her daughter Freida and readings from poems and passages of The Bell Jar. A book I re-read recently. It was powerful and moving and the photos of her holding a flower - the prop she was given when she said she wanted to be a writer were especially poignant and beautiful.

As you can probably tell I'm still finding this reference malarkey difficult, partly because it's still not second nature but also because I find it difficult deciding sometimes between what is a reference and what is an in text citation when it comes to films/programmes as I'm not quoting them like I am a book but just describing them. Anyway here's hoping that at some point it will become second nature and stops making my brain hurt and put off doing things....

Books Read
Maybe I need to split these into two categories - books read for study purposes and those read purely for pleasure - though often the two categories overlap considerably.  Entirely for pleasure I've just started reading Gaudy Nights by  Dorothy L Sayers - my edition dates from 1939 (it was first published in 1935)  and it was bought from a charity shop in Carnforth and is delightfully aged spotted and the red cloth binding has cracked. It smells of 'old' and I am 35 pages in and I have enjoyed her descriptions of formal academia for women so far.

Also entirely for pleasure I read 'How Not To Be A Boy' by Robert Webb (2018) - bought from a charity shop in Barnsley. I read this over a couple of days as I found it bittersweet, poignant and laugh out loud funny in places. I enjoyed it so much I've made my husband read it too - he's up to the not taking clothing advice from Mr Shitty Legs section and also laughing out loud as well as feeling lots of empathetic recognition.

I finished The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris and then read the introduction, the opening chapter and chapter 'Vile Bodies' from 'Dirty Old London, The Victorian Fight Against Filth' by Lee Jackson which was very interesting indeed. I am reading books like this to get a more rounded kind of every day knowledge of what conditions were like in Victorian Britain.  Plus they are easier to read and understand on first reading than some of the more specialist philosophical texts I need to read too.

I was particularly taken with this quote from a report on the contents of graveyards from 1838 'mephitical effluvia of death' on page 116 (mephitical means foul smelling) and the concluding paragraph of the chapter Vile Bodies which concentrates upon cemeteries and disposal of the dead for me especially resonated with me 'Yet, despite the ravages of time, changing customs, vicissitudes of fashion, the Victorian garden cemetery still survives in its various forms, one of the great legacies of the nineteenth century.'

I also read McQueen - The Illustrated History of a Fashion Icon - written by Tom Rammussen and illustrated by R. Song This was a birthday present to me bought from Magma on Oldham Street in Manchester and it's gorgeous. A big brand new hardback with red edged pages and it smells of new paper. An overview of McQueen's life, education and career in fashion and art, it featured two passages that really stood out for me from page 47 when describing his graduate collection 'Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims' 1992 as 'each piece had a lock of McQueen's hair bonded between two pieces of acrylic on the inside:representing the old tradition of giving hair to a lover as a token, often purchased from prostitutes rather than cut from their own hair' and on page 169 ' McQueen was a master at marrying unlikely references - often the historic with the contemporary'

The locks of hair mention made me think I still have lots of research to do on the use of hair in Victorian mourning jewellery and practice in trying to make versions of them using acrylic hair and patterns from 1875. I've just asked a chum if she can send me some horsehair for padding out the hair and making it stiffer and easier to work with. This was one of the tips from that book by Mark Campbell. I don't think I am a master (or a mistress - why are the words we use to denote skill/knowledge gendered at all?) at marrying the historic and contemporary though it is also one of the things I hope to achieve with the work I make.

William Henry Fox Talbot Dawn of the Photograph - Russell Roberts and Greg Hobson - (2016) Scala Arts and Heritage Publishers - the exhibition catalogue from the exhibition that I failed to go and see in person. It made me think again of the relationship between art and science in photography and how close and inter-dependant that relationship was in the early days and how a photograph can be both a picture and a document. And the role of light in photography and how it both helps create the image and then causes it to fade too.   

Pictures taken/Artwork made or worked onHoops - see above
Still haven't taken any pictures - got an almost finished roll of 36 in my lomo fish eye lens camera and am still only halfway through a roll of 36 in my very much not lomo Canon but I've not had much of a picture taking unless it's for straightforward recording purposes mojo. Something I shall have to kickstart and make myself do I think - in the same way that I make myself sit and write this.

Exhibitions Attended  
None this week - which is a bit shameful really, and something I hope to remedy this week.
But I did forget to mention the rather wonderful drawing of a skull I saw in the recreation of David Hockney's studio in Cartwright Hall in Lister Park, Bradford. The other thing I absolutely loved in the Hockney Gallery there were the recreations of his photo albums with pictures of his family - pictured in all their under and over exposed glory in 'snaps' and it was so wonderful to see pictures that had the shape of sent away to be developed snaps ie square-ish with slightly rounded edges or square with white edges all the way round and that hadn't been automatically exposed/image stabilised/taken using a phone. They gave me an almost proustian rush, but alas I have very few old family photographs to meander down memory lane with - I mostly have memories of photographs instead.

I also haven't mentioned til now the exhibition launch I went to at Dean Clough a few weeks ago - an exhibition by Charlie Goldthorpe which I am immensely pleased and proud to have been involved with. I was one of the people who supplied her with stories about objects and people and how I remember that person through particular objects. Namely my Nana through a toilet roll holder dolly she made and gave me many years ago. It's one of the few objects I would choose to save if the house were to burn down. I am in awe of the skillful, beautiful and respectful way Charlie used that to make the work on show. You can read about and see some images of it here .

Other work/applications/miscellaneous
I put together a very last minute application to The Tetley to be one of the artists for their mentoring programme and sent it in a full twelve hours before the deadline. I applied late because I have fallen into a bad habit of not checking the Curator Space site itself regularly instead relying on the email to tell me about opportunities but that only tells me of new ones and ones about to close - as the Tetley one was. It wasn't too difficult to put together as I had already put together things like a CV and that just needed updating but I'm afraid it wasn't as tailored as it could and should have been to ensure success but there's still some time til they said they'd be in touch so you never know. Note to self - check Curator Space at least once a week!!

I've also had a book review published and you can read it here and I'm especially chuffed with it as I a)got a copy of the book to review and b) it's a review in a proper peer reviewed academic journal.

I have been experimenting with different ways of working too - some days I have switched the computer on in the morning to check email and then switched it back off again so I could read without getting distracted by social media. It worked well until I came across words I didn't understand and which weren't in the Little Oxford Dictionary I was given for my 11th birthday just before I started secondary school and so had to look them up online. I also made more of an effort to move about more during the day rather than being sedentary which was better in terms of feeling less stiff the day after weight-training sessions (I have a new goal of being able to deadlift 80kg by the end of the year and so far I have deadlifted 57kg) but also meant that I got sidetracked from what I was doing and I felt like I hadn't worked all day. Hmm this work and day planning malarkey still needs work....

I also wrote my presentation for PhD In The Pub - fingers crossed it goes okay....

Jackson, L (2014) Dirty Old London, The Victorian Fight Against Filth  London Yale University Press 
Rammusen, T & Song R (2018) McQueen The Illustrated History of a Fashion Icon Melbourne Australia Smith Street Books 
* for instructions on how to make a suffolk puff see here 
** prizes given (well not really) to the person who spots which comedian and sketch I am almost-quoting here - clue she also wrote about an antique shop in Manchesterford  

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