Two excellent meeting this week, leaving me with lots to think about and mountains of work to do! So much so in fact that I don’t quite know where to start.
Met Jess on Monday – a really encouraging and empowering meeting. She has quite recently jumped through the hoops of writing an autoethnography doctorate, so she is very well placed to advise me about it. She has sent me her thesis so that I can look at bits such as the methodology section, and although she admits that Carolyn Ellis and Art Bochner are her heroes too I expect she’ll have some references that I haven’t found.
Making the MRes work a pilot study for the PhD needs some careful managing, as of course you can’t use any material that has been part of another body of work in the doctorate. I think that’s ok – the MRes work will quite specifically be a pilot, to determine exactly what visual and writing material I will collect for the PhD. With that in mind Jess suggested that I experiment a bit with my writing, not confining myself to prose in the blog, but also trying out poetry (which makes me feel very vulnerable but is a form of writing that I’ve played with over many years), and dialogue, which I have no experience of whatsoever. Dialogue is used quite a bit in some of the autoethnographic writing that I have seen published – I admit that it makes me feel a bit uneasy, somehow seeming even less ‘academic’ than other sorts of autoethnographic writing. It feels as though I am playing into the hands of people who say that it isn’t academic, but if I’m honest I suppose it is just my own inner critic that is saying that.
Anyway, it is a good idea to try out different things. I will then be able to offer a good argument for choosing to focus on one type of writing, or alternatively for choosing a collage of styles.
Yesterday I met Nat. I have very tentatively started to experiment with collage, and we discussed what I have done. Nat is very clear that I now need to do very focused experiments with different approaches. These don’t need to be concerned with compositional aspects, but rather with different techniques, and focussing on what I want to say. He is keen on using my drawings of people – he links them to my ‘bodies’ from my degree work, a link that I am still not really making, although if pushed I would say that they are linked by something of the abject. Certainly I can state that my work remains concerned with exploring the boundaries, the space in between, where one becomes an outsider from the places where one once belonged. I still think of it as Kristeva’s space (although I’m not at all sure that it is what she was writing about). It is a creative place, a place where one is holding the tension between the creativity of exploring what happens when the boundary is stretched, and the madness that lies beyond when boundaries dissolve completely.
As so often, these concepts are very clear in my mind until I try to articulate them, and then they become confused and confusing. I know that text is important, but equally I am clear that the visual may ultimately be a much better vehicle for conveying concepts that lie more in the realm of unknowing than knowing (back to Merton, and the tension between the cataphatic and the apophatic).
So, papier mache, deeper exploration of the text, more consideration of the figure and what it is saying. Attention to every part of technique – do I want to cut collage pieces roughly or meticulously? Each decision is thought through and has purpose. Make each experimental piece to exhibition standard – it is a fragment of a whole that is yet unborn.