i’m sure i used to have black and white fresher socks

I have nine draft blogposts waiting to be published or perished, which is a vast improvement on the 17 drafts I had waiting in February. Apparently I have been thoroughly boring myself with the thinking of my thoughts, and have not wished to inflict them on anyone else. So. Let us begin again.

bearded lady

I think that I have finally figured out what it is about the PhD project that makes me so uncomfortable. A friend of mine said it is because the subject itself is uncomfortable, and it’s sort of that. I worry about the possibility that portraits of facial disfigurements will be viewed by others with the same kind of detached curiosity that side-shows once were, adding to the sense of otherness and difference. I haven’t come to terms with it, and I am not yet convinced that I am up to meeting the challenge with the level of sensitivity needed to do the participants justice.

I read a whole pile of first year assignments about research in the social sciences yesterday, and they made it all sound so very neat and tidy and simple to understand. Bless their little black and white fresher socks.

strange

Washingline Roger Ballen
Washing Line. Silver gelatin print, Roger Ballen.

Sometimes, to get out of a creative rut, I find a word and go googling images and ideas and see where it leads to. Today, the word “strange” led me to photographer Roger Ballen.

Strange, indeed. Also oddly compelling.

it’s been a while since we had a poem

I didn’t sleep well last night, my thoughts were noisily tangling themselves around the seductive forces of heart-ache and worry. The older I get, the messier life seems to become, and the more irredeemable, unsalvageable moments I seem to collect. It’s how it goes. Janet Frame knew.

But perhaps one day I will grow old enough to also know (and not just believe) how infinitely the heart expands to claim this world.

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Monet refuses the operation
by Liesel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no halos
around the streetlights of Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

hazy

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Another day, another dirty mirror, this one in the bathroom that didn’t burn down. It almost burned down, but Warren was in the shower when the faulty light fitting sparked and caught fire, so he had time to yell, and we had time to come running with buckets of water, and the fire didn’t have time to race off into the roof space. So, phew for that. But not phew for the melted plastic burns on Warren’s arm  (he was naked, it could have been a lot worse) and Nathan’s broken toe (ran into a door frame in his hurry), and how I now can’t have my crappy house rebuilt with the insurance money. Warren says that making jokes about insurance money is not very funny, but I say it’s a little bit funny.

(Kerry says that I am rich because I have a big dog, but I also have a crappy house, so the combination means I’m actually middle class).

I am reading the book Precarious Visualities in an attempt to find my way through the hazy, unfocussed fog of thinking I am currently mired inside of. (Did you like the melodrama in that sentence? I thought it particularly well done, though the clanging segue was admittedly appalling). I believe there is something both evocative and challenging that portraiture will bring to my project, but I can’t articulate what that might be except with vague words like, er, identity and, um, some sort of kind of thing maybe around visibility. INSIGHTFUL I KNOW. And I should probably not talk about the book until I’ve read it? But I can offer you this from the introduction (they’re talking about video art, but I think the idea can hold in the more general sense of portraiture as a whole also): … the image becomes a site of representation and interpellation of the self – but a self whose identity is more a question or an open-ended project than a definition or a clear determination.

I’m wondering if the haziness I am feeling is part of the point, if this idea of an image as an open-ended question is the centre to which everything else will need to hold.