Tuesday, 11 September 2018

PhD-Ness Part 6 in weekly ongoing series - thinking, looking, doing, lifting, failing/falling.....

A much fuller post it note this week - though that is also because it was so empty at the end of the previous week I decided to continue writing on it underneath to save paper.

Am feeling really tired today though - in part thanks to a training session (am on track to reach my goal of being able to deadlift 80kg by the end of the year*) but mostly in part thanks to a really broken nights sleep which is in danger of becoming a habit again...but it's a habit I really want to break.

So what have I been up to over the last seven days - well lots of things including:

Being a Victorian era death customs expert for a chum who is researching the lives of some of the men involved with the Franklin expedition (the ill-fated voyage of artic exploration led by John Franklin in 1847 on the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror) she had questions re burial practices that I was able to help with, along with the prominent role that organised religion be it conformist or non conformist played in everyday life then.

Buying materials - got some more matte medium, some new graphite sticks in different hardnesses and some Halloween pom poms as it's my favourite time of year when the shops are filled with all manner of skull emblazoned goodness and other assorted goodness. The man working on the till in M+S at the station asked me if I was getting ready for Halloween when he saw my bodypart emblazoned bag, skull bracelets and coffin ring to which my reply was 'it's Halloween all year round for me' and he smiled.

Taking work for my Once and Now show at Kapow 15 Thortons Arcade from the beginning of October to be framed. I've never had any of my two dimensional work professionally framed before, I've always done it myself with cheap frames from either Wilkos or Ikea. They looked okay and were all I could afford at the time and the plain wooden deep frames from Wilko I'll continue to use as I can paint those the colour I want (black) and fill with collected fallen petals or whatever else fauna-wise I find at the graveyard. It was especially exciting though to try different coloured backing papers for the images I've selected to frame which are mostly greyscale on either tracing paper or acetate. I was initially thinking white but then there are many different shades of white to choose from and in the end I opted for a deep cream backing. A colour which really adds to the images and makes them even more oldy worldy than just being in greyscale does. Am really excited about seeing the end result.

Speaking of graveyard finds - pictured above is the piece of wood I found (minus the woodlice which I left behind after scraping them off with a stick) yesterday whilst I was mooching round St George's Field taking pictures and trying and failing to make some kinetic drawings. I have completely fallen in love with its animal skull like shape. I left behind the broken bit of stone that I think had come off a nearby tombstone that had been shorn of its ivy. Part of me really wanted to take it but I wouldn't as that seems really disrespectful to both the person whose memorial it was from (regardless of how long they have been dead) and the people who paid for it to be erected to/for their loved one. If I'm being 100% honest there is also a teeny part of me that has seen and read far too many horror stories involving people taking away things from places that they shouldn't...most notably the short stories by M R James 'A Warning To The Curious' and 'Whistle And I'll Come To You'.

I hadn't been back to St George's Field since my birthday gathering at the end of July and a lot of vegetation along what I call Obelisk Avenue had been cut back (re- revealing one of my favourite tombs which has BE YEA ALSO READY carved on it alongside two rather beautiful heavenly figures) and the subscription stones which have been laid flat around the chapel have been blasted clean. This has revealed their original pale yellowy stone colour and leaving aside my preference for their previous grey colour I also worry about what kind of potential damage is done when cleaning stone as it can make it more porous and prone to chipping.

Anyway I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the piece of wood I found but I did take some pictures of it in situ around the graveyard - using 35mm Ilford XP2 film and my trusty go to Canon SLR. I don't know how they have worked as I've not finished the roll yet (ah the delayed gratification of film) but the kinetic drawings I did didn't work out well at all. I put tracing paper in a drinks bottle (one with a wide neck) along with a couple of pieces of charcoal and then laid it flat at the bottom of my rucksack. The idea being that as you move the pieces of charcoal make marks. I walked along Obelisk Avenue along to the other side to see what was happening around Anne Buttery's grave - I also went to pay my respects at Ann Carr's grave but failed to make much of an impression. Next visit I shall try a narrower tube (a kitchen roll one sealed with masking tape and a different kind of mark marker - maybe chalk, or crayon or graphite marker or pastels and see if that works any better.

Speaking of Ann Carr I spent last Thursday holed up amongst the splendour and peace of the Family and History Library reading about her. I had previously scoured the card catalogue for mentions of her and thanks to the as always helpful librarians they brought me all the things I wanted to see. Things like reports from the Temperance Society reports from the 1830's whose title page included 'We whose names are subscribed, do voluntarily agree to abstain entirely from the use of distilled spirits, except for medicinal purposes, and although the moderate use of other liquors is not excluded, yet as the promotion of Temperance in ever form is the specific design of the Society, it is understood that excess in these, necessarily excludes from membership'.  And each title page also included the following verse from Isiah 5. 22 ' woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink'.  I didn't find any mention of her in their reports but I did discover that Edward Baines Senior (one of the founders of St George's Field) was a regular donor to the Temperance Society of the then comparatively huge sum of £1 a year. An online inflation checker transcribes this to be the equivalent of approximately £120 a year now. I wonder where Edward Baines Senior made his money to begin with.

Looking through the collected notes and queries columns from the Leeds Mercury compiled in 1893 (a beautiful red fabric bound book with a handwritten index and very neatly pasted in pages with no bits coming adrift) I learned more of Ann's funeral as well as looking upon gems querying the authorship of Wuthering Heights, and the 'old' practice of putting an extinguished candle in a coffin which the book just fell open at as I was browsing through it. I love that kind of serendipitous action.

However the gem was a copy originally from Dewsbury Library of Memoirs of the Life and Character of Ann Carr (of Leylands Leeds) Containing An Account Of Her Conversion To God, Her Devoted Labours and Her Happy Death by Martha Williams. Written shortly after Ann's death in January 1841 it contains Martha's memories of Ann as well as some of the people she used to say with in Hull when preaching as well as an appendix containing the Reverend J Rawsons funeral address for her. His funeral oration includes the sentence ' We are gathered round the cold remains of a friend and a sister in Christ.'  Not the kind of phrase you'd expect to hear in a modern funeral service. The Reverend Rawson meets a shameful end though as he is sacked for drunkenness on the job.Drunkenness on duty in what was originally a graveyard full of Temperance advocates is beyond the pale. 

I also attended the first day of the third Fourth World Psychogeography Conference at Huddersfield Uni. It was a fun and thought provoking day. The opening presentations by Dr Anna Davison and artist Lesley Eleanor Wood really made me think about my methodological approach to my studies as well as giving me pointers towards further reading and techniques - it's thanks to Lesley who I had the privilege to meet and get to know as she was on the MA course with me that I am experimenting with kinetic drawing techniques. Anna is making me think about the invisible forces behind places - eg although I know where the money came from for the creation of St George's Field  that is shareholders putting up the cash - where did those shareholders get their cash?

As ever lots of food for thought......

Programmes/Films Watched Morrison B (director) 2016 Dawson City Frozen Time USA Picture Place Pictures
Incredible film which was a documentary about the discovery and reclamation of loads of silent films from the 1920’s/1930’s from a filled in pool and bank vault where they had been put as ballast essentially or just left – because the place they were in Dawson City – the furthest north bit of the Yukon valley of gold rush infamy was too far for the film companies to pay for them to be returned plus as it took them almost two years sometimes to get that far north in the first place.

Really detailed overview of creation of film – hadn’t really realised it was essentially an explosive as it was thanks to gun cotton. It also covered the history of the Yukon gold rush, the displacement of indigenous peoples and the cultural assimilation of some and of course Dawson City itself in all its wooden regularly needing to rebuilt because of fires glory – all interspersed with restored clips from the films found in the ground. Apparently something like only 25% of silent films still exist. Also sad moments like the description of the death of mostly women and children in wooden cinema fire, and moment when glass plate negatives by Hegg were found in walls of cabin and new owner asked what was best way to get emulsion off so they could be used to make a greenhouse!! Thankfully the person they asked saw/knew value of the images and they gave them brand new glass. Hegg was main photographer in Dawson City. It was also a bit of a love story as the discoverer and museum archivist met and fell in love and got married.

Beautifully mesmerising soundtrack too by Alex Somers – who also works with Sigor Ross. But did find it difficult to stay awake at times – and it was also the first film of the autumn where I went to the cinema in broad daylight and left two hours later in the dark - definitely worth a rewatch.

Books Read
Still ploughing my way through Sebald's Rings of Saturn and absolutely loving it,am loving the style of writing but am finding some of the description of slaughter, war, exploitation and holocaust harrowing to read. If you compare the amount of post it notes in the picture above compared to last weeks you'll see the progress I'm making.

Exhibitions Attended
none - but got plenty lined up to go and see including this one .

* I really like the definiteness of weightlifting - as opposed to the indefiniteness of academia and artmaking at times...and I lifted 65kg from the block this morning so am on target for reaching my goal of being able to deadlift 80kg by the end of the year. 

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