Remember, Christina Rossetti

In among all of the academic reading I don’t have much time for fiction at the moment, as the dissertation deadline fast approaches. Poetry, however, is nice to dip in and out of. One of my all time favourites is Remember by Christina Rosseti. I discovered it years ago, I think when I was about fourteen or so, and it has remained precious to me ever since. It took on new significance when I read it at a funeral last year.

Not only is it a beautiful piece of poetry prose with a perfect sonnet structure, but it also has a tragically meaningful story behind it. Towards the end of her life Rosetti suffered from a thyroid disorder. Knowing the disease would be detrimental to her lifespan, she wrote this poem for her partner.

Remember, Christina Rossetti

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

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Antoni Gaudi

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Architecture is a field I know very little about, mainly due to the fact I instead dedicate my time to art. I do however greatly enjoy visually absorbing the architecture of a city – one of the reasons I love living in Edinburgh so much! Everywhere you look there is an interesting element within the urban landscape. Whether it’s squatted gargoyles and intricate statues, or William Henry Playfair’s beautiful neo-classical designs; it’s an incredibly visual city. The same can be said for many of the others I have visited. Oman in the Middle East and various parts of India – both are incredibly unique with their architectural shapes, religious buildings and mosaic patterns. I spent several years in Oman, so it was lovely visiting Whitechapel in London a few months ago; as amid the city high-rises was a sprouting mosque – absolutely beautiful and such an interesting contrast to the rest of the city’s architecture.

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Seeing the work of architect Antoni Gaudi has long since been a dream of mine, and was one of the main motives for my recent trip to Barcelona. His famous works include the Guell park, the Guell house and of course, the Sagrada Familia – all of which fall within the design umbrella of Catalan Modernism. Highly embellished and brightly coloured, even for the architectural novice like myself they are a sight to behold. Drawing on both organic and Gothic influences, Gaudi’s work is a unique blend.

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Without his friend and patron, the entrepreneur Eusebi Güell i Bacigalupi’s support, many of Gaudi’s works would not have been realised. Gaudi in fact designed the crypt for the Guel family; a church which encompassed all elements of Gaudi’s experimental design techniques. This I did not see on my visit given our time limitations, however it is a site i will bear in mind for my return to Barcelona.

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Public/Private

 

20213861_288816651524137_2451059444084113408_nMy recent research is forcing me to think a lot about technology and its affects – it’s incredibly interesting, as it’s full of contradictions. On the one hand, technology brings us closer together; we can communicate instantly with anyone on a global scale and expect a reply within hours, if not minutes. We can conduct long distance relationships more easily, with the support of Skype and WhatsApp. We can even call our friend who’s running late to check how much longer they’ll be! Yet, in a sense, we are also distancing ourselves from one another. People can be sat together at dinner in a restaurant, not speaking for some time, but instead with the attention on their phones. The demands of cyberspace, have in some social situations come to outweigh the demands of reality. Our need to document our private lives online, again in some incidents takes precedence over simply enjoying the moment.

Considering this in relation to Hannah Arendt’s reflections  has been interesting. Her book, The Human Condition, was published in 1958 and reflects on human behaviours throughout Western history. An extract I found particularly poignant:

To live an entirely private life means about all to be deprived of things essential to a truly human life: to be deprived of the reality that comes from being seen and heard by others’ p.58

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Is our impulse to connect, be seen and heard virtually, simply an expression of our most basic human desire? Throughout Arendt’s discussion, she delves deep into the histories of public and private life; the public and private domain, as well as private ownership and how these entities affect our modes of thought. Through this she asks why ‘it has always been the bodily part of human existence that needed to be hidden in privacy, all things connected with the necessity of the life process itself’? (p.72) Why is it that activities such as breastfeeding one’s child, a vital component to life, are taboo? Is our impulsive need to document life in the digital era simply a component to moving beyond such taboos?

As more and more of our lives are uploaded online, our private spheres are rapidly diminishing. What was historically hidden, chores and hidden labour of  the domestic – have now come to light. People proudly wear an apron and washing up gloves as they smile for the camera, the ironing is laid out, washing up bubbles fill our phone screens as we scroll. Is our need to share more than simply a demonstration of production? Are we in fact, embracing life and human instinct; throwing away outdated notions of what is deemed publicly acceptable?

#today’swashingcombo

#windowcleaning

#queenofclean

Reflections on recent reading

22/07/17

Last week I participated in Collective Gallery’s annual Summer School, which was an incredibly rich learning experience. Not only given the range of speakers in discussion, but also due to the mix of participants who created an interesting and dynamic workshop environment. It was a great week to ease me back into thinking critically following my holiday in Spain. Collective are a contemporary visual arts organisation in Edinburgh which support new and emerging artists who are at a pivotal point in their career. Collective Gallery employ collaborative working methods, often producing new commissions for exhibitions. The Summer School they hosted last week had a selection of speakers and given her relevance to my current dissertation research, most notable to me was Angela McRobbie; a feminist cultural theorist and Professor at Goldsmiths. In her workshop, themes discussed included the gender of Post-Fordism [1], the artist as human capital, neoliberal enterprise, precarious labour and project-based work. Through my dissertation, I have exploring ideas of labour uncertainty and precarity, paying close attention to the temporal dimensions of these facets.

In contemporary society and within the economic framework, work and leisure boundaries are blurring. Work no longer sits exclusively within the 9-5pm paradigm, but instead all forms of slippages occur, most noticeably through technological communication in the form of Google calendar notifications and constant email exchange. We have become increasingly programmed to think not only in physical, but also in virtual time. As well as trying to balance work, domestic and social life, we are now forced into constant interconnectivity and network awareness. How many Facebook messages require replies? Have you checked the latest uploads from your friend’s holiday? Have you replied to their tag of you in a funny video? Technology is putting an increasing amount of demand on our lives – to the point that it is beginning to massively affect our sleeping patterns as well as our waking hours. According to Jonathan Crary, there are individuals these days who wake themselves up in the middle of the night for the sole purpose of checking their phones. Even in the sanctity of sleep therefore, we are still switched on to working life. There is no escape. We are no longer certain of when we are or are not working.

This is particularly evident in the creative industries, a field awash with neoliberal enterprise in the form of blogs and Etsy shops. Within the creative economy, working is increasingly flexible, freelance, uncertain and project-based, with little protection or welfare for workers. Angela McRobbie charts this in her book, Be Creative; a study examining the creative economy in the post-Blair years. In her discussion she also proposes ‘project-based’ models for future work, which are more considerate of such precarious labour. Further to this, I have also been reading Isabell Lorey’s State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious, a very interesting and comprehensive read which draws primarily on Michel Foucault’s notions of biopolitics [2]. Throughout her analysis Lorey examines various dimensions of precarious labour, paying close attention to ideas of protection and inequality.

Tying these ideas to the work of the performance collective Eastern Surf [3] who I am studying for my dissertation has been very interesting and helpful. Through explorations of performance works such as ‘ilovemyjob‘, which examines the boundaries of working life, paying close attention to the domestic realm in which ‘hidden’ labour is carried out, I have been able to greatly refine my ideas from my broader readings (listed at the end of this post) and apply them within an artistic context.

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[1] Post-Fordism is the theory that modern industrial production should change from the large-scale mass-production methods pioneered by Henry Ford towards the use of small flexible manufacturing units.

[2] Biopolitics can be understood as a political rationality which takes the administration of life and populations as its subject. According to Foucault: ‘[A] power that exerts a positive influence on life, that endeavours to administer, optimize, and multiply it, subjecting it to precise controls and comprehensive regulations.’ (Foucault, The Will to Knowledge: The History of Sexuality Volume 1, 1976)

[3] See: http://easternsurf.net 

Recent reading:

Be Creative, Angela McRobbie, 2016

State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious, Isabell Lorey, 2015

24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep, Jonathan Crary, 2013

Graffiti Diary, Madrid & Barcelona 2017

Recently I went on holiday to Madrid and Barcelona. What has developed into a natural impulse for me is documenting the graffiti in foreign cities. I never realised how much I liked graffiti until I went through photos on my camera and phone, only to find I am slowly gathering a personal archive of street art. I was in Berlin last summer and absolutely fell in love with the street art there, with the streets and pavements filled with vibrant colour and beautiful art. A lot of people have mixed feelings about graffiti; some thing it is defacing the urban landscape, others think it brings life to the streets. I am of the latter opinion, as I believe creativity should flourish in the most unexpected places. I particularly love chalked graffiti on the pavement, as the transience adds a melancholy to the experience of viewing. I also feel art is an integral part of life, so what better way for it to be integrated into our lives than through the streets?

Since reading John Berger’s ‘Ways of Seeing‘ (2008) a couple of years ago, I have become an advocate for what he terms the ‘visual essay’. Dispersed throughout the essays in this book are images collected and formulated into essays themselves. Devoid of text, yet united thematically, the visual essays force you to look and think for yourself. They allow you to reflect on the content of Berger’s essay and then apply visuals to his discussion. I find this way of looking and reading incredibly inspiring, so below is my visual essay of graffiti found whilst in Madrid and Barcelona.

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