This is disappointing to read – apparently “there’s no bottom to the rabbit hole.” Gutted. Seriously though, I need to be more disciplined and decisive in closing down Google tabs that aren’t gleaming with nuggets PDQ. One of my lovely fellow OCA students recently said that although she is now retired, Contextual Studies is consuming her days and weeks and months. I suspect, like me, that she is fascinated in her subject and can always find something else to read. We naturally fill the space we have. There is a balance to be reached between taking the time to develop thoughts and ideas and find the connections and being very focused on what is relevant to my practice.
Listening to a podcast on Emily Dickinson this week, I noted there was a big focus on her concerns (which included anatomy, geology and geometry). It reminded me that we shouldn’t be afraid to pursue our interests – however niche – and incorporate them into our work. I sometimes find I keep them in a separate mental compartment, as I often do with my commercial day job, and it is easy to imagine that no one else will be interested but as OCA guru Clive White once said, “If it resonates with you, it will resonate with some other people too.”
My recent frenzied activity as I work towards the submission of a not-entirely-rubbish essay for Assignment One of CS has reminded me very strongly that I need to be reading photographic theory every day if possible. Dipping in and out, with weeks passing in between sessions, is extremely difficult. I wish there was an app based on games theory to help me keep my daily streak like Duolingo. Even a few minutes of daily honing of academic critical thinking will help. A lot of it is still gibberish. This extract, quoted by Richard Dawkins’ in his lampooning essay, Postmodernism Disrobed (1998) did make me chuckle:
If one examines capitalist theory, one is faced with a choice: either reject neotextual materialism or conclude that society has objective value. If dialectic desituationism holds, we have to choose between Habermasian discourse and the subtextual paradigm of context. It could be said that the subject is contextualised into a textual nationalism that includes truth as a reality. In a sense, the premise of the subtextual paradigm of context states that reality comes from the collective unconscious.
I feel like I am in a holding pattern with my BoW at the moment. There are so many ways that I can move forward but am waiting for assignment feedback and input from Wendy before proceeding. It is difficult to get access to the NCG – it is officially closed for the winter – but I feel OK about that as I have plenty of raw material to play with and I would like to experiment much more with some of the imagery I already have. That said, I would like to keep up the momentum with shooting so am hoping to use the winter light and different weather conditions to capture the gardens ‘out of season’.
A few areas to develop further over the coming weeks…
The NCG and mental health. There are clearly lots of positive benefits (reduction of feelings of isolation and alienation, connection with nature, opportunities in practical creativity, the zen aspects of gardening etc) but there are also negatives. Recreational drug-taking has exacerbated the mental health issues of some of the regulars and the intensity of the festival environment can become a bit much at times. Not sure what I want to say about this yet.
The train tracks. Many of the regulars agree that the close proximity of these to the gardens certainly adds to the energy and atmosphere of the space. The sense of people being on a journey, heading home or into the city for business or pleasure adds dynamism and serves as a metaphor for the NCG. I am also intrigued by what the commuters must think as they rattle past. Is this ‘Other’ London to them? As my friend’s 10-year-old child said recently on a visit to the NCG, “This is absolutely nothing like our community gardens in Lewisham!”
Investigating bricolage. Use of materials discarded by East End traders is a big part of the temporary structures in the NCG and is appropriated for public art and sculpture. The street art sub-culture style and creative practices for educational and therapeutic purposes are a huge part of the identity of the gardens and those who self-identify as a Nomadic Community ‘member’. An assemblage response to this aspect of my subject seems like a good fit. I have not tackled this yet as there is a tension with the ‘counter-bricolage’ appropriation by ad agencies and big brands which directly (and controversially) impinges on the gardens at times and I feel needs to be considered carefully.
Human connectivity. The NCG is a site for a mass of human connections and a place of freedom to be whoever one wants to be. The hypnotic pull of a campfire seems quite primal and the bonhomie between strangers there is in stark contrast to the usual head-down self-containment of daily London life. It is a challenge to convey a meaningful sense of this visually but it is at the heart (literally and figuratively) of my grand narrative.
Submitting an application to Rich Mix for an exhibition. Difficult to work out the best timings on this but I suspect, they will have extremely long lead-in times and I definitely don’t want anyone else to steal a march on me.