Research Diary: studio, field-trip and David Bate

It is Friday morning now, and man does it feel like time is just flying by. But let's go back to the beginning of the week.

On Monday I picked up some new books from the library even though I'm still in the middle of reading Georges Didi-Huberman's The Invention of Hysteria and Andrew Scull's Hysteria: The Disturbing History (and Hannibal but that's not course related, fortunately). I wanted to find out what has been written about women's mental illness in books that are not exclusively about hysteria. So I chose the following three, none of which have I had time to start reading yet.

The following day I started with a three-hour long photoshoot in one our amazing studios on campus. And that's me right there doing un-project-related posing for the camera.

What I actually worked on was a series of images created in the mental ward of the Salpêtrière Hospital in the late 19th century. The neurologist running the institution had come to conclude that hysterics experiencing an attack went through certain predetermined stages which manifested themselves through certain kinds of movements. He drew charts of these phases, and also had his patients acting them out in front of a camera. So that's what I did too; the camera part, not the drawing.

The above is a screenshot of how my Adobe Bridge looked like as I started editing my material. Just click the image too see it bigger.
As you notice it looks pretty much like a series of dance movements; consequently so does the original. And to prove that I'm not making this up, here's the photo set that I used as reference.

Augustine who was everybody's fave in Salpêtrière
What I thought about during my studio session:

1) Augustine was pretty flexible
2) I need a sofa
3) ...or a bed
4) ... or anything soft really because my bones hurt
5) I wonder how long she had to hold each pose
6) these knickers are too bright and shiny white, I need to get a better outfit
7) my back hurts
8) should I use models?
9) ...and a medium format camera?

Then I went to Photoshop and produced this:

And it's like exclusive material - no one except for myself has yet had the honour of seeing it so you should feel special. I have a group seminar next week where I'm going to be discussing this and other things that I've been up to, and will hopefully figure out what I'm going to do next. I have some ideas though but let's see what my peers and tutors think.

 Moving on, the following day we went to Bristol for the whole day to see some exhibitions and meet a few people. This trip was primarily arranged for the first-years but since they had a couple of places left in the coach, a bunch of us third-years tagged along. I personally really enjoy getting to hang out with our tutors outside lectures because they are in such friendly terms with us students.

So, our first stop was at the Bristol Observatory where they had a not-so-impressive camera obscura, and some caves that were frankly lame. Then, after lunch, the coach took us to Spike Island which is this awesome art centre by the riverfront. They had a big show featuring a lot of recent art graduates, called New Contemporaries. It's an annual event that goes to a different venue each year. For me the absolute highlight was finally getting to see Jo Sowden's (graduate from my course in 2012), The Lilies of the Field, which is an absolutely amazing video piece, and a great source of inspiration for me.
You can visit Jo's website here. She was meant to come and meet us at the gallery but unfortunately she couldn't.

A terrible iPhone photo from the exhibition
There was also another former Newport graduate associated with the exhibition - a technician whose name I can't recall. He talked about his job at Spike: art handling, AV stuff, building plinths, putting up art shows etc. He also told us how he got there after graduation, and now I got interested in doing a volunteer placement in a tech job at some point.
Spike Island also has studio spaces for about 100 artists on its top-floor. Two of our tutors actually have their own rooms up there so we got to go and see what a real art studio looks like, which make me want to have one of my own.

Next we stopped by Hello Blue, a printing/mounting company who consequently fabricated my prints last spring for our exhibition. They are truly awesome those two guys, and I hope I get to work with them again.
And on we went, to see a portrait show, and then a solo show of one of our tutors, which was great by the way.

Finally, I'll just briefly mention yesterday's lecture by David Bate, who's a senior lecturer in the University of Westminster, a well-known photography theorist and a practicing artist.
His talk was pretty much the same he gave last year in an event we had at our uni, but since he is such a brilliant speaker I didn't mind at all.
He mostly talked about his own art practice but what I found most valuable personally was his introduction to the talk where he explained a few terms used in the context of looking at different types of art images. It really gave me a few ideas for my dissertation, and I'll probably end up reading the book in which he'd picked up the model was talking about.

It has such a pretty cover too

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