Day 7: The Porosities

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Late Bloomers, Play, Play-writing, Walking, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 21, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo Credit: Peta Murray © 2018

What to say about Day 7? There is a whirlpool of emotion in the room as different kinds of energies move in and out. People bring their own stories with them. Feelings are tapped, memories exchanged. Some listeners receive my words as if they are a personal message. Others respond to subtler forces: impulses to play, to move, to take up sticks of chalk and hit the board.

I am struck by a new thought: what if words themselves are porous things? What if words are somehow perforated so that meaning is something mutable that mingles briefly within them – your meaning, my meaning – then passes through and on?

What was palpable for me yesterday was my sense that this text invites an act of collective memoir-wrighting towards collective meaning-making. So even though I am still not quite at the halfway mark, and the days are passing, there is simply no point in me reading it out on my own. It is only “sensible” (and not always so) when two or more are gathered together.

Writing this blogpost I feel frustrated by the instabilities of words. Their flaky chalkiness. Their chalky flakiness. They are alive, it seems, though brittle, and they do not like to be pinned down. The words I have assembled here, displayed in the order they appear before you, are not necessarily the right words. But they are all I have, and they must do, for today.


Day 6: The Near and Far

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Fun and Games, Grief and Loss, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Late Bloomers, Music, Performers, Play, Play-writing, Technology, Toys, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 20, 2018 by wandalusst

This is a quirky image and may be tricky to interpret at first sight, but what you are looking at is evidence of a Skype-enabled event in which three of us took part yesterday.

To start, Niki read “in” to the reading from her home in NSW. She was assisted in this by my dramaturgical collaborator, Rachel, who was charged with holding the text in the right place in relation to the computer camera, so that Niki could see and follow the words.

You may be wondering why I had not simply emailed her a pdf of the chapter. Well, for some reason it remained critical to me that that thesis’s presence remained present, solid and constant in this exercise, so while I was willing to accommodate a virtual Niki, I felt it would be cheating to issue her with a digital copy of the text. Protocol dictated that she should read from the very same volume that we have all been handling, using, examining and to which we have been giving voice.

Reader, she managed it! Small adjustments to the height and placement of the volume were needed as she tracked from page to page, but she gave us a solid section, and it held its sense. And, as in previous days the contents were all but uncanny in their resonance for the reader herself. Suffice it to say – she knew what she was talking about!

Later, Rachel took over and read to us. Further strange synchronicities were apparent, not only in the subject matter of the section she read, but in the fact that both she and Niki are among a handful of people in the WWW (whole wide world) who have seen the digital story upon which this particular chapter was based. How is it that these pages fell to these readers? I cannot answer, for I have no idea. All I can say is that once more the right people were in the room.

I closed the reading with a chapter of extended musings on memory and the loss – beyond repair – of a favourite shirt. Our heads were pressed together, and we sat in a little triangle, and even though Niki was a Skypely presence, while RB and I were actual (and/or vice verse, depending on one’s nearness or far-ness) there was the same intimacy as if we were all in the one space. I felt a sense of trust and closeness; I think the others did too. What is going on here?

I keep coming back to the phrase “giving voice” and the acts of generosity that are in play when visitors and guests extend themselves to deliver my words back to me. They “lend” me their voices, for a time. Why do we speak of voice like this as something that may be bestowed, or borrowed? What does it mean to think about voice in this way?

For of course, there is a shadow to this. Voice is a commodity to be traded and exchanged. Voice is something that has value. The withholding of some voices. The suppression and silencing of others. The elevation of some voices at the expense of those who are unheard.

It’s nothing new, is it, to ask for a fairer distribution of the airwaves?

Later Rachel and I started to consider what and how we might extract samples from the text to make a brief and performable work that could standalone. What would that look like? How might the invitation to participate as congregant or wit(h)ness be framed? How might the texts be/come lit? The small scale of these reading events conducted at the intersection between performance and something else, is particularly appealing, as is the sonic architecture, through the exchange of voices. One of my first readers left a note in my Visitors Book about the experience as a kind of chorale, which I guess turns the text into a score of some kind.

Maybe I need 8 music stands? More? Maybe this is an orchestral work to be played without any instruments? I just had a vision of people – actual and virtual – near and far – seated at music stands with my book in front of them – and a conductor, somehow, out in front, baton poised, and counting them in.

Day 5: Odorama in camera

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Australian landscape, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Flora & Fauna, Fun and Games, Grief and Loss, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Late Bloomers, Photography, Play, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 19, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo: Peta Murray © 2018

Daphne odora is the botanical name for what most will recognise here as “common” daphne. Ours at home is in full and heady bloom so I was able to nick a branchlet or two without any risk of the shrub looking denuded, and take it with me into the UWH this morning.

Nothing common about Daphne. And I want more such aromas in the house! Not quite sure why. I would like a large and ornate bunch of flowers that collapses slowly in time. I thought, too, of leaving a half-eaten apple on my desk, and seeing what happens to it, in the remaining time as it succumbs to the changing temperatures, the passing days. Something about wanting all my senses met, all possible tactilities. Is that a word? Something about needing these many textures in the space. (Mind you, I could do without eau de cooking oil from the restaurant nearby.) About expanding the theatrical into the sensorium.

Tactilities. Touch. For me writing has always been manual work; the work of the hands. It is about manipulating (mani is of course Latin for hands – manicure etc) matter, materials, being, in my case words, into different arrangements and shapes in quest of certain effect. Or is it affect, I seek? There is a difference.

Anyway, on strength of all this, perhaps it should not surprise that today started with some colouring in. I didn’t feel ready for words, straight up, and this was where we had arrived in the dissertation, an invitation to the examiners to open their pencil cases and get to work. The subject to be coloured was an inflorescence, an image in the form of the flower head of a telopea speciosissima, commonly known as the waratah. My one and only visitor seemed quite content to work away at it with soft and crumbling pencils as I delivered her a True or False Quiz on the botanical curiosities of this glorious late bloomer. (NB: take a sharpener in tomorrow.) She got every question right. Next we read, together, side by side at the lectern, from a little two-hander “authored” chapter, where Buster Loose and Wanda Lusst hold sway. Later still she read to me from a section on case studies of other older women artists tackling essayistic work. We covered perhaps 11 pages in all, but they seemed to be the right pages, in as much as there were tears, and there was laughter and there were nods of deep recognition. I know this reading is for me, but it is also quite striking to me when it is meaningful for others. It does suggest that there is “matter” here that might transcend the confines of the thesis as thesis, and find some other shape, or place, or texture in the world. Tincture de Thesis? Draught de Dissertation?

Essence d’exegesis!!!!

Day 4: And on the fifth day, we rested.

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Grief and Loss, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Late Bloomers, Play, Play-writing, Women Artists, Writing on June 16, 2018 by wandalusst

Friday behind me, and so week one is done and dusted. Two guests joined me yesterday, each somehow timing her arrival to what was about to be read. One reader’s outfit was all but colour-co-ordinated to the wit(h)ness sash. It was startling to see the strip of gold over her bright ensemble as if she’d dressed for the occasion. And when she read what she read, we raised our eyebrows at each other. She knew the “characters” and stories she was reading about, and I knew she knew. Fascinating little webs of connection like these are appearing, pleasing synchronicities, also certain themes coming through. The loss of voice. Its recovery. The tenuousness of that voice.

To be continued.

Day 3: The Play’s the Thing

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Aging, Aging Dis/Gracefully, Arts and Crafts, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Fun and Games, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Photography, Play, Play-writing, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 15, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo by Peta Murray © 2018

Today was quiet. No guests all morning, bar a dear friend with a coffee delivery. I let myself slow down, settle in. Notice stuff. Faint shadows on the desk, around my things, for instance, are pleasing to me. Personal effects have their own personal lighting FX? I hear stuff. The heavy machinery in surrounding streets where earthworks are underway. I get narky next – the noise grows irritating and there seems to be an endless succession of smokers propped in front of the place wafting their fumes my way. Why this street? Why my door? I do my grouchy old lady thing twice, banging on the window glass, scowling, waving them on. The morning passes. I eat some celery soup – home made – for lunch from a heavy pottery bowl. Something about the vessel makes it extra satisfying, somehow heartier – what a wonderful word – and more nourishing than it was moments earlier, in my thermos flask. And then a rest, on the couch, shoes off, under a sheeps’ wool blanket that has travelled all the way from Iceland. Not quite a nanna nap, but luxurious, restorative.

But then, of course, anxiety. What if no-one comes, today, or tomorrow? Next week? What if my run of guests is done, and I’m only at page 79?

Not to worry. For of course, there’s a tap on the glass and in she breezes, my reader for the day. The perfect reader with the improv skills to do what needs to be done, and to interpret and read around the redacted bits – struck out – and changes in tense, and to play the role of me in an extended lecture on my formative relationship with the theatre. We get to page 111 before we call it a day. And I start to see what I have made.

Day 2: Illuminating a Manuscript

Posted in Ageing, Ageing Dis/gracefully, Blogging, Creative Writing, Creativity, Fun and Games, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Performers, Women Artists, Women Writers, Writing on June 14, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo by Peta Murray © 2018

On Day 2 I had two visitors. Both chose to read to me. (I also read a small section of the text aloud to one of them.) When two or more are gathered together, it seems, only then does the reading resume. But when I am left alone I attend to other tasks. This has become a very clear protocol (a.k.a rule) already, and I am enjoying the rhythms of it, the unexpected comings and goings. I don’t want people to pre-book their visits. In the meantimes, as I wait for the next surprise visitation, there is no shortage of things to keep me occupied, emails to answer, new things to try to write.

Other conventions are becoming clearer already. I like to arrive early to prepare the space. This involves music, adjustments to the lighting state. I like to receive my guests as they arrive, so as extend them the hospitality of the house – tea, banana cake – my one and only recipe. I need to find out whether they prefer to read or to be read to, or both. There is paperwork to be done, technology to be wrangled, a range of recording devices to be primed and activated.

Today I had an HDR candidate as my first visitor. She sat opposite me, and read carefully, and with great generosity, attending to every asterix, every footnote, every word, and weaving the collage of texts together into some kind of sense. She also read the chapter called For the Fallen Women, a long and faulty list in alphabetical order (the letter R is missing) of the names of mostly women artists, advocates, activists who died during the period 2013 -2016 when I was conducting the research. It was sad and beautiful to hear their names intoned.

Later, Professor Carlin entered the house, and stepped up to the lectern. (It’s actually my music stand.) Duly robed, he tackled some of the more difficult sections of the early part of the text, notably an extended exchange in a “most bothersome font” – a whole sequence which he delivered in the alternating voices of my docents, as well as performing sound effects and key gestures – “at the sign of the sound of the ∆” and so forth. He threw himself into the performance, with the assistance of some illumination, and, at times a nearby magnifying glass.

I laughed out loud. Am I allowed to laugh? Am I allowed to weep? What are the protocols here when author becomes audience?

Day 1: Something to be Going on With

Posted in Ageing, Creative Writing, Creativity, Diarology, Health and Wellness, Healthy Ageing, Late Bloomers, Play, Writing on June 13, 2018 by wandalusst

Photo: Peta Murray

Yesterday I began a residency that sees me in attendance in a room in the city of Melbourne every weekday between the hours of 10.30am and 3.30pm for The Thesis is Present(ed) – a durational, live art work in the form of a reading. I was going to write “marathon reading event” and it may yet become that, but yesterday was such a gentle start that perhaps it will not be a test of endurance in the ways I have imagined?

The project will see every word of my 400 page doctoral dissertation read out loud. The point is a “re-sounding” in quest of what – if anything – within the tome might merit further attention via other forms of scholarly and popular publication or through different forms of broadcast.

On day one, one of my dear former supervisors donned this yellow sash, sat in this chair, and read the first twenty pages aloud to me. It was a very special experience and one that confirmed that it will not necessarily be my burden to do all the reading. It was a gift to be given my words back, but in someone else’s voice. Anyone who comes to sit with me in the space will be offered this choice – to read or to be read to. Feel free to make contact if you would like to participate.

An extensive archiving of the project is underway, and I have plans to write about and around the process as well as “out of” the thesis itself. (I feel like I am talking about horse breeding now!) Hence this bloggery, which I begin today and plan to continue, in a modest kind of way, for the duration of the research.