workshop collage.jpg

A couple of random shots from a photography workshop I attended a couple of weekends ago. We were supposed to be finding and photographing reflections, and also I framed things with trees. I tore a ligament about 2 minutes in but managed to hobble around Auckland for 5 hours anyway, because my daughter was with me and also I’m a bit thick.

pracratinaton matte

Then I took a week off and practiced faces and knit things and tore a different tendon off a muscle (because 5 hours hobbling on a weak leg…).

Now back to work and I have lost absolute confidence in pretty much everything I do, in all the ways, but we just keep putting one (lame) foot in front of the other anyway, eh?


almost made it

mess and me collage

On the left we have my view for the last 12,812,810,947,857 days; computer screen showing painfully slow PhD writing, piles of notes and books and more notes, and the eternally unfolded washing and unused vacuum cleaner sitting forlornly in the background. I may never housework again. I may decide I am completely against  housework.

I meet with the supervisors tomorrow (hi Kerry! hi Veronica!) and I have had a big and clever plan for weeks to show up with the best article in the history of all articles in my hot little hands, all finished and clever and referenced and finished.

But it’s not finished. It’s hard work, this easy-reading writing. Weaving in all the threads so it looks natural and obvious and so simple that perhaps anyone could have thrown it together over the weekend, it just takes a really long time. I probably edit every sentence a dozen times, then delete half of it and start again. Etc. It’s … it’s like trying to choreograph a 3D jigsaw puzzle on one leg to music that you then also have to compose, while rubbing your stomach with your left hand in time to other music. It’s possible this is a slight exaggeration, but I don’t think so. I have been breaking my own rule of going to bed before midnight and not working on weekends trying to get it done, and last night at 2am, having written just one paragraph in three hours, I had to admit defeat and go to bed.

It’s a bloody brilliant piece of writing. I am so proud of it. I even get to use the word ‘palimpsest’, and name three kinds of demons! But, alas, it’s also not (yet, but really very nearly) finished.

This morning, instead of frantically trying to throw together those last few pages, I took my tired self to the hairdresser instead and told her I wanted a change. I feel changed. Maybe not changed, maybe just more sure-footed. The pain has been (and is) a shit, no doubt, but the confused and confusing mental fog I lost myself under was so much worse. I didn’t know if it would ever lift; I forgot it even could. Now that it has, I’ll be damned if I take my poor wee brain for granted again. I’ll be damned if I wreck it with not enough sleep, and I’ll be damned if I don’t appreciate all the things it can do. It’s unique and it’s mine and I’m so very glad to have it home again.

If that’s not worth new pink hair, I just don’t know what is.

not another post where i moan about how indecisive i am

mastersBecause I’m a Master now, and Masters are in control of things. The dictionary says so. I told my children they can all be my servants if they want, but it turns out that they very strongly don’t want.

I was watching my fellow graduates and graduands walk across the stage as I was waiting my turn, and thought how, in a physical sense, we’re all kind of bundled around the mean. Ordinary height, ordinary looks, ordinary weight.

But every now and then there was a particularly tall, or particularly short, or particularly beautiful human walk across the stage, and their very difference changed my ‘gaze’ of observation.  I could see them more easily as individuals, for instance, rather than a blur among the many. And there was an underlying sense of curiosity too – what must it be like to be so tall/short/beautiful? I can remember others with unusual features, such as pink hair, but that was more about the hair than the person behind the hair.

None of these had that sense of discomfort, however, as looking at, or trying not to look at, those with a noticeable disfigurement might have, and it’s that gaze of discomfort that is becoming central to my burgeoning PhD project.  The Gaze, Disfigurement, Portraits. I have books on all three reserved at the library, a new notebook to take notes on the same, and, now I have officially laid the last ceremonial process of my Master’s degree to rest, a renewed sense of commitment to this next academic stage.

So it begins.


yes floral

yes is a world
& in this world of yes live
(skillfully curled)
all worlds

e.e. cummings

I memorised these lines from e.e. cummings poem many years ago, as a lyrical spell to ward against my rather self-destructive habit of fear-based procrastination. It hasn’t helped much, I’ve been doing it more than ever lately (but I’ll suck! They’ll hate me! And my mother dresses me funny!) so I made a large floral ‘yes’ for the wall above my office desk to boost the effects.

Sometimes my misspent youth as a craft blogger comes in very handy.

It’s not yes to all the things, that would be a life spent as a foolish doormat, no thank you very much. It is a yes to doing the things I value, even if I’ll suck and they’ll hate me and my mother dresses me funny.

It was also, you’ll notice, another pretty way to waste even more time…


I had an idea on self-portraits. One of the aspects of the lived experience of facial disfigurement that I am interested in investigating is the ‘outside’ view, that of the person doing the looking as opposed to the person being looked at. I am thinking a series of performance portraits where I am the stand-in for all those looking, and portraying the different personas of the same from the point of view of how the participants feel being looked at. Does that make sense outside my head? I think it could be quite a powerful set of portraits, particularly when seen in contrast to the portraits of those being looked at.

(Not a self-portrait like that one, for what it’s worth.)

im bloody clever

My friend Janet sent me this badge when the results for my Master’s thesis came though. I picked it up again the day I got word that I had been granted a doctoral scholarship. I’ve never actually worn it, but I do like to stare wistfully.

margins of freedom

When Kerry and Veronica advised doing my Ph.D. via published articles instead of a thesis proper, I believed them that it was (is) the best way to do it if I want an academic career. I was also a little disappointed. Disappointed because I had always wanted to write a non-academic book as part of the research product, and this seemed to exclude that, or make it more difficult. Perhaps it doesn’t, perhaps I have no idea what I’m talking about, perhaps Elvis still lives. But after the Master’s thesis was rejected for publication I thought that there are still some useful ideas in there that I would like to share, most particularly some ideas around the margins of freedom, or the small freedoms as I have called them. There’s a lot more there than I was able to go into with the Master’s thesis, and as an idea it has never really left me. So, I’m going to write that book anyway (alongside PhD’ing and marking and parenting and arting and photographing and walking giant dog), and I will blog the progress here alongside the PhD progress, because it’s all related. All I’ve ever wanted to do is find out about interesting things and then tell about them.

Yes is a world.



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.