Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Secret Hell of Wooden Spoon Girl

Deadlines fast approaching so posts may be a bit thin on the ground for a few days. I had been working on a piece using wooden spoons, text and photos but I have all but given up on the wooden spoon idea for the moment - it just doesn't seem to be working. Inanimate objects sometimes just won't cooperate. The lazertran is too fragile once applied to the wood and flakes off at the edges - and I also haven't come up with a satisfactory way of displaying them. I like the ones with the text on them though - But I feel like they are not enough on their own the ones with pictures on would have pulled the whole thing together.

I have also been struggling with my critical appraisals, firstly I am not sure if I am doing them right and secondly 500 words just doesn't seem enough - I keep on editing and my first one is still 670 words.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Fine Art Of Procrastination

I admit it - I am a procrastinator, I can't help myself. I did however manage to do some work today, just not as much as I hoped that I would.

Let's start at the beginning, there I was earlier this week, innocently believing that I had two to three weeks before all my work was due in. I was feeling pretty good - it was all under control. On Tuesday we had a group tutorial and it was then that the horrible truth dawned on me - I have just over a week to finish everything - help! So much work and so little time.

Today was the first day that I knew i could actually get a day at home without any interruptions. I was good - I only played one game of online scabble. I wrote most of a critical appraisal for my visual practice portfolio - now I just have to type it up. It is well over the 500 words though! I made two bowls out of newspaper and polycell (which don't seem to want to dry). I cut out loads of bits for collage. But that's it really - I suppose I did manage to spend two hours looking at printers on the net. Mine is definitely on its last legs. It has had new cartridges, two head cleans, realignment of the print heads and it is still printing liny pictures.

Deciding which printer to buy is a tough call. I have always had epsons and have been happy with them. They do a wide range of prices. I want one that is good for photos so not just the basic model and I think that I will get one that scans as well. These are a little more pricey and I have already ruled out one as it has six colour cartridges instead of four - that would be great for art work but raises print costs considerably.

Surfing the net though is not the best use of time, what I really need to be doing is producing a great work of art - I wish!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Tough Art

For once I am feeling like I am on track with my writing - until my fiction tutorial tomorrow of course, which could change everything. Today though it is my visual practice that I am struggling with. I have lots of ideas which I have been following up on - but none of them are quite working in the way that I want them too. That is all part and parcel of the process with art I know, but I have two week until my deadline and I feel like I haven't done a strong enough piece of work yet. It's very frustrating, I had hoped that I would be able to produce something that I was at least marginally happy with. I want my work to be meaningful and aesthetically pleasing but I feel like I have veered of at a tangent, gone off track.

I started by looking at the layers within society and family, starting with the self and fanning out - self, immediate family, wider family, community, area, country, world. I decided to focus on the family, especially the dysfunctional family, I have mad two and three dimensional collage and had started putting image and text onto household objects using lazertran and letracet. I wanted to use comforting and famiiar crockery to convey a deeper message using family pictures and darker text that normally would not go with them. That led me to look at the way certain household objects are used in a less desirable way. For instance wooden spoons are generally used for coooking and baking but it is amazing how many people have said to me that one or other used them for administering corporal punishment. This gave me the idea of putting text onto the spoons and pictures - unfortunately though the pictures don't quite seem to work. I also need a way to display them. I thought that I would hang them up but haven't been able to come up with the right thing to hang them on. Any ideas ir thoughts gratefully received!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Joys of Editing and Tense

I have just spent a blissful (?) hour in the college refrectory editing a piece of writing. This particular piece is now on its third or fourth edit. I had felt ok with it so I posted it onto the college bulletin board and was a left a list of things that didn't quite work. Not that I am complaining - it's good to have constructive criticism, but the downside is that if I have to edit evey two pages this much I will be ninety before I ever produce a novel!

I used to just write but now I am thinking about points of view, tense and who is narrating. I can't decide whteher I should have some bits written in the voice of one of the charcters (the first person) and some in written about them (third person). I have looked at lots of novels and they are rarely written entirely in the third person as this somehow makes the writing less accessible to the reader. I don't think that all of my story works in the first person though. It seems weird to switch narrators too often, so I thought maybe to just have one or two characters write in the first person and write the rest in the third person. Confused? I am too.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Behind Pink Floyd's Wall

Yesterday we happened to stray into a branch of HMV. I wasn't intending to buy anything, in fact I was adamant that I wouldn't. I just went in to keep Hunchermuncher company and to have a look. But of course the down side to window shopping is that it puts temptation in your way and I was tempted. So tempted in fact that half an hour later I emerged from the shop feeling somewhat sheepish and clutching a bag containing two DVDs; Westway to the World - a documentary about the Clash and The Wall (the 1982 Pink Floyd film). I had to buy them they were absolute bargains The Wall very rarely sells for less than £19 and there was a special edition version on sale for a measly £10.

So last night we watched the Wall. I first saw The Wall when it came out in 1982. In fact I saw it twice (possibly three times) and on both occasions I had to pretend to be older because it was an 18 and I was only 16. Watching it now I can see how of its time it is as a piece of art. Although it has a kind of story running through it (about a pop star called Pink Floyd who is having a braekdown) it also has many cultural references to what was going on it Britain at the time - riots, the National Front, hedonism etc. It also draws parallels with the second world war and flicks between the present, the war, Pink's childhood memories and the weird visions that Pink is having during his depression. Somwhere along the line reality becomes blurred and towards the end of the film it becomes difficult for the viewer to know whether what is happening is real or a dream. Add to this Pink Floyd's highly evocative music and it's enough to blow your mind.

Well almost. It didn't quite this time but I could see why it did on the massive cinema screen in the eighties. At the time the imagery must have been seen as being controversial and shocking. What I did find interesting is that the films rating has been downgraded to a 15, although after watching it I can see why it was an 18. Some of the images are very disturbing - especially some of Gerald Scarfe's animation sequences. It left me wondering who makes the decision to downgrade an age rating. I think I would have left it at an 18. Are we now so hardened to violent and disturbing imagery that kids can now see films that we weren't allowed to view until we were adults?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Liberal Use of Adjectives

Adjectives are my old friends , I overload my writing with them and it is a very hard habit to break. A creative writing tutor once said to me something like "don't just write hair, write wavy black hair. Describe what you are writing about." I took that advice to heart. Now, however on my creative writing degree people keep saying to me that what I have written is good but I ought to lose lose some of the adjectives. I know in my heart they are right. Too many adjectives can be tiresome, especially in poetry. But it's in my fiction writing that I am struggling with it the most. Hillock doesn't seem adequate enough when I can say "mossy green hillock" it's a dilemma. Do I lose both adjectives or just one of them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Poetic Inspiration - Lorca, Yevtushenko and Other Great Poets

It's funny just this morning I was thinking that I might write a post about my favourite poets. Later on I was looking at The Provocative Cynic's Blog and realised that she had just done one on the same subject. Great minds obviously think alike.

While I was waiting for my poetry tutorial this morning I was rereading "Poem of the Deep Song" by Fedeico Garcia Lorca. I can only dream that one day I will be able to write in such a powerful and fresh way as Lorca. I love the sparsity and simplicty of his poems yet in their spareness they are more alive and evocative of time/place and the senses than almost any other poet I have read.

Another poet that I have been revisiting this week is Yevgeny Yevtushenko, I have an extremely ancient copy of his collection "Stolen Apples". Yevtushenko is not a poet that I have seen in British bookshops recently, which is a great shame as I believe him to be one of the greatest international poets of the last century and he was certainly an important voice in the former Soviet Union.

I suppose if I was pushed my other favourites would be Louis MacNeice, Pablo Neruda, Alfred Lord Tenyson, W.H. Auden, Selima Hill, Thomas Hardy, Bob Dylan and Louise Erdrich (not forgetting George Szirtes of course!).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Trials and Tribulations of a Visual Artist

Today I am feeling a little fed up - I bought a product called lazertran which you are supposed to be able to photocopy onto and then you can transfer the image onto any surface. I wanted to use it for my visual studies project transferring text and image onto crockery. But alas so I have been thwarted - the photocopier intensely disliked the lazertran - it disliked it so much in fact, that it chewed it up and jammed its mechanism up! What a waste of money - and it was not cheap.

I do have another pack of lazertran that is suitable for ink jet printers and I hope that I will have a bit more success with that. I may just have to splash out on a scanner after all!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Villanous Villanelle

I am feeling slightly bereft without a poetry task this week. I know that I could set myself one but it just isn't the same - although that is probably just laziness on my part! I liked the challenge of having a set task - although I did struggle a little with the sestina. Maybe I should try and write a villanelle - that seems even tougher to me than the sestina. In theory it should be easier as you are repeating whole lines instead of just words. The sestina is a bit like a mathematical formula which is tricky but with the villanelle I think the important (and difficult) thing is to find lines thatb are powerful enough to be repeated without sounding silly or losing their power...no one does this as well as Dylan Thomas...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Multi Layered Personality

This week I have been thinking in the context of my visual practice about the layers within society. At each of our centres there is of course, our inner self and our internal thoughts and feelings, beyond that is our immediate family - whoever we live with - partners, children, parents etc. Beyond that is our family, the community/neighbourhood we live in, our work place/schoool/college, social groups, then our region, our country, our continent, then the planet and beyond. Then of course there is our physical surroundings. It's like we are each a little nucleus in the centre of a many layered cell sending out ripples that effect the layers around us. Some of us are only able to send out little ripples; whilst others send out ripples that reach right to the outside of their cell.

I believe we are also many layered beings. We each have different layers within us that we show at different times. Like different faces or different outfits that we put on.
I have the responsible face, the mother and up until a year or so ago the pre school teacher. I felt like I had grown into that sensible outfit until it became fused with my skin and that was what I was. But beneath that sensible, responsible, mumsy exterior are lots of other layers to my personality that I generally keep hidden and well locked away. The naughty girl, the joker, the lifelong Clash fan, the girl who lived in a hippy commune, the girl who secretly likes to listen to Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin really loudly and jump around the room playing air guitar, the woman who is scared of being hurt.

We all have faces or layers that we present to the world. I don't know why we somehow seem to get saddled with a particular face without really meaning to. Maybe it is societal expectation, the criticism or disapproval of those around us or fear - who knows. Sometimes I look around me on the bus or in the street or cafe and wonder what the secret layers are to the people around me....

Monday, November 06, 2006

Song Lyrics as Poetry

I have been hearing a bit recently about how people just don't read poetry much anymore and I am wondering just how true this is. Yes most people don't read poetry books thes days, but how many people really did in the recent past. My parents were wide readers and they only had two or three poetry books in their large book collection and at least two of those were compilations.

I wonder if song lyrics haven't taken the place of more formal poetry in popular culture. I know there are a huge amount of lightweight and nonsensical lyrics out there but there is also some powerful imagery and meaningful messages. As a teenager I read a lot of lyrics and one of my favourite lyricists was Bob Dylan, my mum had a book of Dylan lyrics that were written in the form of poetry and I found myself coming back to it again and again, long before I really engaged with his music.

Last night I was watching a programme about Paul Weller on tv and was struck by the power and poetry of some of his lyrics. Wasn't early poetry in the form of song? Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that song is a ancient and accessable medium for conveying message and should be just as valid in a literary sense as a collection of poems. i think in years to come we will find that some of the great lyrics of the 20th and 21st centuries are preserved in poetic form and one of those writers will definitely be Bob Dylan.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Sestinas, Villanelles and Other Poetic Games

This week I have two big literary challenges. The first was to write a piece of prose using a set structure given to us by the lecturer. We were to make a list of animals or creatures, choose one of them and base our piece of writing on it starting with a partial sentence that was given to us. We also have to incorporate other partial sentence into the piece in the order given. The phrases were such inspining things as: "When I see a..." and "and this in turn reminds me of..." - not phrases that I would choose to use.

I thought that I would really struggle with this, in fact I would go so far as to say that I was dreading it. I thought that the writing would end up sounding boring and stilted. Yesterday evening, however, I thought i would have a go and I found that once I began writing that I had a sudden flash of inspiration. I wrote the piece in about half an hour and I am very pleased with it.

The second challenge of the week is one that I haven't tackled yet. I feel that this task is even tougher than the first one. The brief is to write a poem in the form of a villanelle or a sestina, I won't try and explain what these are her as it is too complicated but if you click on the links you will find a relatively easy explanation. Both forms include repetitions but in a set form. The sestina repaeats words at the end of lines whereas the villanelle repeats entire lines.

I just can't get to grips the villanelle, I have looked at lots of definitions but it just feels like such an alien and contrived style of writing. There is little room for artistic freedom in such a form. The sestina is a little better but it is still a restricting and contrived form of creating poetry. We do have a third choice, which is to write a poem in the form of the rules of a game - in a similar style to the poems of Vasko Popa from a collection called Games.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Finding Your Place in the World

A friend of mine has a teenager that is going through a tricky patch at the moment and this has led me to reflect on how we try and find our place in the world. As an alienated teenager coming from a somewhat dysfunctional family I was constantly trying to find a place to fit in. I suppose what I was really looking for was a replacement for my family, somewhere that felt like home.

It is true that most teenagers look for a way to fit into the world. They want to find their identity outside of their role in the family and often want to be a part of something bigger, to make connections in the world. Many teens go through phases some short some long, I went through a few myself: punk; mod; biker/rocker; hippy. I was trying on all the clothes until I found an outfit that fit. For most people the final outfit is probably a mix of the elements from all the outfits that they have tried.

When something is wrong in your homelife you look to these outside groups to provide that missing validation that you are not getting anywhere else. I think that is why some people take on what might have been a phase as a lifestyle choice and that is how some of us end up getting into drink and drugs (I am talking past tense here!).

As a teen I had a few false starts in finding my surrogate family. I spent a while hanging out with a group of young christians, my friend and I nearly left town with a bunch of hells angels ((I always thank my lucky stars for that narrow escape). There was a community of sorts in the pub I used to frequent. They were a rag tag bunch - a mix of bikers, punks, hippies and us underage drinkers. It felt great for a while, everyone knew each other but I sadly mistook lifestyle collusion for for real family. One day I had a revelation, if someone decided to clean up their act - stop the drinking and drugs, better themselves - the family quickly closed ranks against them. They were a family only as long as you colluded with the common behaviour, kept within their comfort zone. I knew that I wanted more than that and when I realised that I decided that I would have to leave my homme town - I was 16!

My next foray was a little more successful. I went to live in a hippy commune. Surely this was the ideal place to find what I was so desperately looking for. And yes in theory it was - IN THEORY! In reality a community is made up of a group of individuals united (or not!) by a common aim or creed. These people are individuals, they have their own ideas, personalities and motivations. Unless you find a community with a strong religious or motivational focus, you quiclky find that factions form, people fall out etc etc.

The commune worked well for a while. When I first moved in we had a common goal of rebuilding the house, which had been partially destroyed by fire. We put all our money and energy into this project - it was the glue that held us together. There was no room for slackers. When the end of the work was in sight though, things changed. People's interests diversified and broadened and a more hedonistic faction began to emerge. It no longer felt like my spiritual home. I was coming up to my mid twenties by then and I knew I didn't want to be around drink and drugs again - it was time to move on.

I think it was at that point that I pretty much gave up on the quest for finding the perfect family. I turned more insular, focusing more on individual relationships and my relationship with myself. I do think as human beings we somehow always retain a hankering to be in some kind of a tribe. Most of want to feel like we belong, whether it is to our family, our community, our culture whatever. And there is an inherent attraction to being part of something bigger - isn't that why we have religion, football matches, rock concerts?

Sadly in modern western society we are increasingly seperated and alienated from one another. This is liberating in a way as many of the old constraints are gone but for many people so is a sense of belonging.