I suspect I have made the classic mistake of not securing my own oxygen mask before interfering with other people’s. Whilst I have been busily organising various support groups on Zoom, my studying has fallen into limbo as I have not had the mental bandwidth or the right emotional disposition to focus on anything beyond getting through each day. One at a time. Meanwhile I am feeling guilty and anxious about not making tangible progress with BoW or CS.
If I was stuck like this with an issue related to my day job, I would use diagnostic tools to strategise my way forward so here’s a good old-fashioned SWOT analysis of the current situation.
My 366 project (photo a day, come what may) is like life at the moment. I cannot believe I can keep going with all the weirdness that is happening across the world. I cannot believe that there is a visually appealing inch of my property that I have not already photographed and then every day – because I HAVE to – I find something. I still have the anxiety every day that nothing will be right but something happens and a few of the results have actually been good enough to share on Instagram. Some are utter crap, of course.
I have been engaging successfully with other students. With one of the other founders of the OCA London group, I set up a ‘Keeping up Momentum’ group which, as well as being a positive thing for some other students, has resulted in some interesting collaborations and has helped me to explore another possible pivot for my BoW.
I am very lucky. We have a garden. I have a job. I get to be with Matt all day every day. We are as safe as we possibly can be. People are looking out for us. We have the technology to connect with people all around the world. Those people say that art is really helping them right now.
The theme of hauntology is more relevant than ever right now. It is almost spooky.
I am ridiculously busy. My job is more demanding than ever and keeping in touch properly with loved ones and being as supportive as possible is proving to be very time-consuming.
We are not allowed to leave the flat for another 12 weeks as Matt is considered to be ‘extremely vulnerable’.
I have not been good at keeping my BoW and CS ideas and musings in a manageable format. I capture everything – usually – but am such a magpie that the sheer volume of scribbles and things to research further becomes overwhelming rapidly. It is hard to know where to start now and what is the best use of the limited time I have available.
I am really struggling with Derrida. The Specters of Marx text is key if I am going to continue with the investigation into Hauntology but I am worried it will never really be comprehensible for me. And I don’t know if that is a dealbreaker or not.
I feel like I am still grieving for the loss of the Nomadic Community Gardens. I’ve only just been able to bring myself to look at the images I took in early March after the site had been bulldozed. And reviewing the images from last year still causes me massive heartache which I don’t feel like I can handle at the moment.
Use the source material I have from the NCG. There is a chance, if I found the right strategy, that this could help me with my sense of bereavement – learning to live better with the loss. There are lots of possible ways forward here: bricolage, collage, overpainting, Photoshop to merge/layer, juxtaposing the images with other new images etc.
Using some of the images from the gardens with newer images to explore the themes of melancholy, nostalgia and hauntology. This has been my default thinking for the last month or so but I feel hamstrung by not being able to leave the flat for the next three months. Is there enough in my garden to make up the rest of a series of images worthy of submission? Whilst I am reluctant to abandon all of the work I made in the NCG, this feels like it could be a bit of a fudge. When does the natural development of ideas and cross-fertilisation become a jury-rigged solution?
A complete change of theme and subject. From Wendy: “Remember it is still possible to revise your BoW idea at this stage.” If I am going to do it, now is the time. The idea of ‘Uncharted’ has been muddling around my brain for a while and works well with my love of abstracting ordinary things shot at close range to create intriguing (to me anyway) visuals. I shared some of these with the Keeping up Momentum group. There was no time for feedback but it felt good to at least release these initial ideas into the wild.
A deterioration of my mental health. I don’t think this is going to happen unless a close family member or friends get ill. We have adapted pretty well to life in quarantine and there are lots of aspects that I actually really enjoy. The lack of focus and bubbling anxiety is a problem but there are things I can do to help overcome these things.
Time. I am currently three months behind where I should be and that is time I could not afford to lose. I have contacted the OCA to find out if there are options to extend deadlines which would be a good starting point to formulate a new schedule for complete in CS.
Existential dread and nihilism. I just need to get better at closing those thoughts down and quick.Next steps
I need to work harder to not engage with anxious or negative thoughts. Immersing myself in study will be calming.
It is absolutely key to carve out time to read, research and experiment to develop all these mad ideas I have.
Once I have explored each of the three possible options above, I can a proposal to Wendy and get her feedback on the best way to proceed.
I will feel less overwhelmed if I can make time for study and to synthesise ideas. As my good friend Rob would say, reframe. If I can view studying as being essential for my mental well-being and a coping strategy in itself, it might be easier for me to tackle the difficult reading and to find the head space to make important decisions about my work.