Day 14: A Show of Hands

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Blogging, Collections, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Essayesque Dismemoir, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Music, Performers, Photography, Toys, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 30, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo Credit: Peta Murray © 2018

Yesterday I returned to the site of the revels and packed up the house, with Rachel’s help. We went further than packing, in fact, in as much as we found ourselves consciously emptying the space, removing all traces of our presence, clearing and erasing our marks, and restoring our sense of the room as a blank canvas for the next writer-in-residence to make their mark on.

I am still on a bit of a high. The events of the day before have left me in an altered state. They are yet to be properly written up. Or down. Or around. Or behind. There is so much I would like to capture some how, and pin to a page, as a preventative against loss, and time, and my faulty memory. And yet, in so many ways this is a futile exercise. Verily, you had to be there!

And you were. So this is just a quick shout of thanks to all who were a part of what I would like to pronounce, here, a re-sounding success. Thank you to everyone who was present, physically, virtually, as an audience-member or wit(h)ness, as a congregant or a cheer-er-on-erer from near and from afar. You are all a part of this massive work of construction and endurance and resistance and you are now on the record as having been so.

My deepest respect and gratitude to you all.

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Day 13: A Last Hurrah

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Australian landscape, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Fun and Games, Grief and Loss, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Late Bloomers, Music, Performers, Women Artists, Women Writers on June 29, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo Credit: Rachel Burke ©2018

I’m late to the blogface today as I am utterly spent! Yesterday brought The Thesis Is Present(ed) to its thrilling Finishing Line. And what a day we had, full of mystery, coincidence, ceremony and high and low Art with a capital A.

We began, just Rachel and me, pottering, playing, reading, but soon a first guest arrived. She was adventurous, meeting us both for the very first time, yet willing to step up to the lectern to deliver Litanies for the Forgetful as a soloist, and this then segued into an impromptu rendition of Missa Pro Venerabilibus, with me, RB, and our visitor presiding as Eldest, Elder and Youngest respectively, and featuring as many bells and whistles as we could muster. Music, lighting, the works. Two further congregants had arrived just in time to wit(h)ness this and they were pressed into service as lectors at key moments – such sublime readings the first delivered from an anthology of Australian Feminist Poetry, and later from my current read: Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric, by Dr Madison Moore. Could the readings have been any more perfect? Could the readers themselves have been any more suited to the task? I think not.

There was dancing. There was singing. There was Yay Verily Yay. There was tea and cake. It was all utterly – I’ve just looked at that word properly for the first time and must say it again – it was all utterly uplifting.

As this trio moved on, RB and I settled in for some more quiet time and somehow, with Rachel reading the afterwords and in/conclusions from the couch, we found ourselves at the final page of the thesis proper. At this point we put in a speedy Skype call to Dublin, where my artistic twin and doppelgänger, Gina Moxley was standing by. From there, and with technical assistance from Rachel, Gina was able to read as coda the poem, Prayer, by the Australian writer, the late great Judith Wright. This she did, as a sight-reading, with virtuosity and due solemnity. I wept.

As this came to an end the non/fictionLab coordinator entered with glassware and snacks and we had about half an hour to prepare for the guests who were coming to celebrate The End. In they trouped right on time, and after brief speeches and rowdy toasts, four of them sat down, donned white gloves and took up the four actual copies of the thesis that were now present in the room. They (and others) proceeded to give us an hour long philharmonic, polyphonic tag-team styled improvised rendition of the full Reference List and all eight (possibly more) Appendices, followed by the Colophon and Closing Thanks. The vocal dynamics were brilliant; their capacity to listen in to each other and to interweave their voices as they gave us the full weight and texture of all words, all authors, all dates and places of publication and all titles was a re-sounding success, and more than this, a revelation. I am still trying to come to grips with what I experienced.

It was marvellous, indeed, in the full meaning of the word. (See your Dictionary app. I don’t have the energy to do it for you….)

And so the work is delivered. 437 pages in all. Every word uttered. My heartfelt thanks to all who lent time and light and voice and ear to this feat of endurance. I hope to write up at least one further reflection over the coming weekend, but for now, Lo, It Is Finished!

Day 12: The Constant Reader(s)

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Food and Cooking, Fun and Games, Health and Wellness, Music, Performers, Play, Play-writing, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 28, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo Credit: Peta Murray © 2018

Yesterday – the penultimate day of the residency as it turns out – I was run off my feet. Serial guests and visitors (including several I had not met before, but who have heard about the project through one vine or another) arrived in ones and twos and trios and filled the seats. Many of them also helped to serve the text as necessary by stepping up to the lectern. At one point I had a quartet of readers performing an ensemble piece while I sat back and drank it all in. It was a wonderful mix of voices and they hurled themselves into the task and made something of it with vigour and verve.

I am even having some repeat business, with certain readers coming back for more. Depicted here, Associate Dean Associate Professor (and much much more) Francesca Rendle-Short on a second visit lends voice and gesture – not to mention her considerable style and aplomb – to an extremely tricky chapter – one of several (in)conclusions in the text, called Please Supply Own Title.

This is a piece for a virtuoso reader, in as much as it ducks and weaves between the body of the text and its footnotes, and is written in a plethora of voices, while also opening up a range of spaces for interaction with the listener/reader. Francesca gave a funny and full-bodied account – not so much a reading perhaps as a rendition? This interests me. Indeed the distinction interests me so much that, yes, as per, I must reach for my dictionary app and delve into the “wording” to find that in giving a rendition one is performing an act of rendering and that this involves an interpretation, as of a role or pice of music. Etymologically it is somehow connected to ideas of both render and surrender and that amongst many other possibilities, to give a rendition infers that one shall “bring out the meaning of, by performance or execution.”

I am excited by all of this, without yet really knowing what it connotes, or what has been happening in the house over the course of this durational residency but I have made bold that word give, to underscore the acts of reciprocity and generosity that have been a part of the experience at every step of the way. There has been such goodwill and kindness and – what is a synonym for generosity? – amplitude in the room. The sense that there was always enough – more than enough – to be tapped in the range and scope and combined capacities of whoever happened to be present at any given moment.

And so, this morning I got up a bit earlier, to make one last banana walnut cake. (There must always be cake!) I am expecting another steady stream of visitors today, and will also be joined once again by the stellar Rachel Burke, lighting designer and midwife, who has been performing small wonders with an overhead projector, some black foil and some coloured gel. (More on this anon.) We shall resume where we left off, at Litanies for the Forgetful, and then shall sally forth towards the end. At 4pm there is to be a celebration – tea cups will give way to wine glasses – and we will usher/utter the project to The Finishing Line.

Day Eleven: Book marks

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Performers, Play, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 27, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo credit: Peta Murray © 2018.

So, this is where we are. NOR marks the spot.

We are at the end of part one, WRIGHT. About to enter part 2 W/ROTE. With WRIGHT behind us the hardest of the work is done. It was indeed a labour of love. Yesterday Rachel pored over the chapter called SPRING and managed to somehow unearth words there despite the minuscule font and the increasingly pallid typeface. She had to excavate the text, and to do this required all but a miner’s lamp and a pick-axe. It was gruelling work that only someone with her fortitude could tackle, and she later reported that it changed her experience of the ‘real world’ when she re-emerged, blinking, into the daylight.

Once again the right reader was in the room.

Later Francesca joined me for her second tilt at the text and much hilarity ensued as she gave a stellar rendition of the Chapter entitled Please Supply Own Title, reading all the parts, and all the gaps, and all the footnotes, and honouring the spaces for all the interactivity and readerly participation this zany text invites. We were in fits of laughter at times, especially through an extended section about a dog memoir I rue I did NOT write as the centrepiece of my dissertation. (One day, perhaps? There is still time, and it’s true that I now practice a very hybrid set of literary and performing arts….)

Again, it was intense and exhausting, but kind of triumphant too. And it delivered us to the next chunk, a paracademic bouquet, from memory a somewhat dry and turgid section in which I attempt and fail to imitate the kind of writings – and voices – I believe are expected from a fledgling academic. And that is where we will begin things today.

Day Ten: And then there were none.

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Play, Walking, Women Artists, Women Writers on June 25, 2018 by wandalusst

I knew there would be a day like today, so I am determined not to be rattled. But today I had no guests, no visitors, no congregants, no wit(h)nesses. Not a word was read. It’s okay. It’s a Monday. It’s mid-winter. It’s the mid-year break.

I got on with other work, some writing, and some reading I needed to do. I had a minor epiphany about the kind of publication the thesis may, in time become. (And this of course was the point of this exercise.)

I ate cake.

And tomorrow will be another day.

Day Nine: w/rites of wonder – or the thesis is mis/re/present(ed)

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Performers, Play, Play-writing, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 24, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo credit: Peta Murray © 2018.

Such a huge week. At least one visitor each day and sometimes more. By the time we closed the book on things on Friday afternoon we were at the bottom of page 239.

This is what it looked like for my friend and colleague Mattie who bravely sashed up and stepped up, then moved from the lectern to the window, and sat down in the best possible light source she could find, with magnifier rampant, to read this page to me to the best of her ability.

There are four more pages, like this, to follow when we re-open the book on Monday. Beyond this, I cannot tell you. I do not look ahead.

Instead, I wonder who will be next to walk in.

I wonder what they will do when confronted by page 240? I wonder whether I shall read to them, or they to me? I wonder what words will be uttered, and how we will grasp them, in poor light, in micro-font, as they fade to nothing on the page.

I wonder if the chalk will be used again?

I wonder if we will get to the end by the end?

I wonder what alternatives there are if we don’t? Must we really read the reference list and the appendices, or are detours and shortcuts permitted?

I wonder what my guests and readers, my congregants and wit(h)messes* are making of all this? I wonder what we shall make of it together?

This is the nature of the bespoke. We do not know what our collective endeavour will deliver.

And so, as promised, some dictionary delivering. Custom or custom-made, made to order – of goods, and as opposed to ready-made – the word bespoke, according to etymology online website, shares the same sense as an even earlier word, bespoken. This past-participle is connected to the word bespeak in the sense of meaning spoken for, or pre-arranged.

This is an idea that used to be applied to marriage, and more recently to tailored suits, but the word is now in wider and more common usage, to describe handmade or artisanal pieces made in a kind of collaboration-meets-co-creation. For instance, bespoke furniture is made not so much after as through consultation between the fabricant and the future owner. The latter – more than a patron or matron or commissioner – has input into the design process and into the refinement of the design, as well as into the choice and selection of materials to be used. Each brings their ideas and aesthetics to bear on the methods used in the making.

This fascinates me. For a start the process unseats the usual hierarchies of maker as master, and subverts the idea of the artistic genius dispensing her brilliance from somewhere on high to supplicants below. It is predicated upon a side-by-side, to and fro relationship, somehow conducted through speech acts. Ultimately it precludes ownership, the claim that this, or that contribution was mine. The parts merge and metamorphose. When a work is bespoke, it is ours. Perhaps, too, the exchange magnifies creativity so it is no longer the product of additional minds at work, but a more complex algorithm of multiplication and expanding possibilities as minds meet and mingle, playfully and without boundaries. This is how new ideas are born, and new possibilities materialise.

Fifteen actual guests and one virtual visitors have joined me in the space thus far.

I wonder what will happen next?

*This started out as a typo and I was about to fix it, but then I decided to leave it. A bespoke new word, perfectly wrought for the exercise.

 

Day 8: Bespoke

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Fun and Games, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Late Bloomers, Music, Physical Fitness, Play, Play-writing, Walking, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 22, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo Credit: Peta Murray © 2018

Bespoke. Such an interesting word, but no time to do the etymological delving I should like to do this morning. This must follow – will follow – over the weekend perhaps as I pause for breath. It is an all-but-archaic word currently enjoying a renaissance in a variety of contexts – bespoke coffee, anyone? In fact, in glancing at my Dictionary app  the breakdown of possible actions associated with the word in related verb forms – bespeak, bespake – has my eyes out on stalks. I must come back to this; I make that vow to myself, whether you – whoever you may be – are interested or not.

Anyway, this is a word I have been throwing around for a while now. Listening out for too. It’s very much of the moment.

It’s also a rather pleasing word to say, to utter. Say it with me now: Be-sp-oak!

Be-sp-oak! Be-sp-oak!

Why is it so pleasing? Well to start with it is well-disposed with plosive consonants, that heavy voiced ‘b’ to begin, then the unvoiced but also explosive ‘p’ and ‘k’. It is a popper of a word; it has, as wine snobs might say, mouthfeel, substance in its orality. Then we have the delicious sibilant surprise of that sssss, right there in the middle, for a different texture on the ear. Then two neat vowel sounds – a monophthong, I think, upfront, in the ‘e’ (which in my Australian version of English is not sounded like ‘bee’ as in ‘bee’, but in the more abbreviated ‘buh” of the neutral vowel.) Then the longer ‘o’ which is, I think a diphthong, in that it contains two speech notes.

Speech notes. Words as music. There is definitely mutual enjoyment of this experience in the residency space. People – adult people – enjoy reading aloud. They also really enjoy being read to; it is in fact a kind of luxury (right up there with fish kedgeree?) in my book. It is fascinating to watch the kind of catlike contentment that seems to arrive through this encounter, whether one is the reader or the listener. Something pleasing, satisfying happens in the room through the meeting of utterance and audience in this strange kind of song.

What I believe I am making, then, with each guest, is a kind of bespoke sensorium. A place of sound, of visions, of taste, touch, even of smell. Theatre, made to order, in company with another, but very much in the moment.

As I write this it is the morning of Day 9 and the final day of my second week. I am feeling it and will be grateful for the weekend. It’s tiring work, slow and intense. We have passed the half way mark in the thesis but the font is getting smaller and even paler, and we have far to go…. and only one more week to get there. Can we do it? We can but try.