H is for…

…in a word house. I’m waiting for the keys to my house and the exchange date keeps on changing. Somewhat frustrating…especially around christmas time…”house” can also stand for a lot more at the moment…home, origins, location, support, security, barriers up or down, metaphorical walls, insularity, open doors, individuality, relief, familiarity, loss and love, change and ultimately the beginning of something…the excitement of something…the happiness of something…the gratitude for something…

Yesterdays Pg Cert session was by far the best one held so far, this is largely just due to the interaction, dialogues and responses that occurred by a very dynamic and verbal group. We like to talk, to laugh and share. We kinda have no fear about that, which is very trusting. It was a very open session, used more to provoke us to ask questions whilst pushing our own boundaries. Darren Newbury started the afternoon by looking into the VIVA experience at the end of your PhD, which, to be honest, is so far away in my eyes I cannot even begin to think about it as it is currently all about the Pg Cert deadlines. However, it was good to get a feel of what could and may happen, and to start thinking about those oh so literal questions – “So, what is your PhD about?” Really? It’s changing every week at the moment. Hopefully by then it will be a little more concrete. We watched a short and rather awkwardly staged VIVA experience DVD from De Montfort University, and the whole process was actually really short. I thought it would take longer for all the years work you put in. Evidently not. Major amendments, minor amendments and well maybe we’ll give you an MPhil instead as it didn’t quite cut it…all the possible outcomes, because there is no way my PhD will be perfect…

Darren also appeared with a past students recently completed and bound thesis in two volumes. I was more interested in the actual book-binding process than the content but it did raise some important questions for my own study. Is it appropriate to get my thesis produced in two different languages – English and Mandarin (Chinese)? Or is it only fundamental for sections to be translated? This then also brings in issues as to the examination process and whether there is someone to check its viability and accuracy, otherwise how would they know that what I had written (or more to the point got translated) says anything of worth?

“Binge writing”, do you, like me do this? I like this phrasing too. I know full well I do this far to often, but I believe it’s the pressure that breeds creativity sometimes, and creativity can’t be forced can it? Otherwise it’s like writer’s block. Darren mentioned this when we were discussing the write-up phase of the PhD, again so far away…or is it? I suppose the literature is the beginning, so in fact perhaps I’ve already started, binge writing that is. Ummm should I even admit to that?

Following the first section of the afternoon was a talk and discussion around the notion of the “research artist” with a Senior Researcher at BIAD, BCU, David Prytherch. This was a playground for conceptual thought, of ideas, notions, views and words literally flying round the room. I think we all gained a real insight into each other that day. David looked into the term “artist” and the idea of scientists as artists. Also how terminology between science and art can be a contentious issue. An artist may use relationship, or connection, whereas a scientist prefers interactions as this implies more of a literal exchange or dialogue. As his own research is regarding haptics, he informed us of how butterflies in your tummy is a haptic perceptive experience, called synesthesia – how one cognitive pathway from the brain can lead to an involuntary experience. It’s good to know how it happens. The way your brain is wired is what makes you individual. No one else can think or “see” the same way, for example, how the colour green in my mind, might be your colour purple, and we’ll never know. And how people can taste music, I loved this idea! I think some music would taste amazing, like eating a whole 3-course dinner all at once. He then spoke again of artists thinking in hypermedia, non-linear methods, spatial and visual networks, whereas scientists think more logically and in a linear format or network. The next point then became the most interesting part of the session to me as it made me realise my own spatial thinking pattern…he saw text as LINEAR. Errr can I stop you there. In my mind it isn’t at all. It is part of my own non-linear construct of visual and spatial thought. When an object is said to you, like a green bottle, how do you visualise it? As an image of the object? The colour GREEN? Visually and spatially? I realised I see more in words, literally in text, font, typographic language, like the letters are typed out in front of me…how it is spelt, how the letters look, I see the double ‘t’ formation of bottle in view, whilst discreetly seeing the object in the background. Thus, it can be said (as Anne pointed out) that the text becomes image, a picture in itself. Now to some this might not make sense…but this is how my head works. So do I network illogical, non-linear thoughts and ideas through linear text? Quite a paradox…which I’d like to come up with a title or term for. It also linked directly to my PhD as to what I am trying to define, and also as to how I am learning Mandarin. Now, as a language, Mandarin has characters and pinyin, which are both written languages. However, the characters are seen more as signs, pictograms, drawings or images and I’m finding these easier to learn. Thus, here stands another paradox…a dichotomy…do I ultimately change text into an image, into a pictogram, just like in Xu Bing‘s 2007 ongoing project Book from the Ground?

David was a real inspiration, and made me realise a lot about myself and as a methodological practice as a researcher, ultimately what makes me ME, which doesn’t happen very often… so do I call myself an artist researcher? or research practitioner? It always comes back to terminologies in use…and their definitions. Which leads me onto a fantastic visual tool I came across the other day, a visual thesaurus. This links in quite directly with the conversation held in the latter part of the Pg Cert session. It is like seeing how my brain works sometimes, linking words in some crazed network.

After playing around with this for a while, I decided to enter the word “chinese” and this introduced me to the adjective “sinitic” – of or relating to the Chinese people or their language or culture. This is a term that I have occasionally come across, but at the same time I feel it perhaps should be more prominent within the literature I am reading, although maybe this is because it is more of a traditional term. Don’t you just love the way these mappings look though? And I’m sure once I’ve implemented this kind of methodology for my PhD it will suddenly make things make a lot of sense!

I also had a very brief response from the Arts Council about my recent funding application which I submitted for \”home\” at the Airspace Gallery for 2010. Surprise, surprise, I got the budget wrong. It was swiftly corrected, acknowledged as ready for consideration and is now part of the waiting game. I’ll keep you posted on its progress. This post has taken me all day to write on and off…inbetween what I call “Rach” admin. Many parcels and letters have been sent both for work and for Christmas, phone calls made, letters signed and things crossed of a very big list, finally.

One last thought, my Mom came in after an afternoon stroll around a local Gardens and she said she had seen the curator there. Now for some reason this had never occurred to me…gardens and parks have curators, and apparently zoos do too. This didn’t sit with me very well. I couldn’t fathom its relevance in that domain. I can see it in a post-living sense, such as in an archival purpose, but not of living beings or creatures. Curating animals? Where the polar bears must go in relation to the chimpanzees…hmmmm…on that thought…

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