This blog will comprise a collection of ephemera, mess and miscellaneous artifacts reflecting on the writer's life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A fresh pair of eyes

Seeing differently, or through different eyes, seems to be a theme of many blog posts.
Dr Joolz writes about the way photography has helped her see differently.
Steve (the guy holding the video camera in the picture) talked today about how in his work with schools, a fresh pair of eyes really helps children and teachers understand and appreciate what they are doing.
In a way, research is simply a fresh pair of eyes.
In my work here, I am coming in as an outsider, and learning about the processes and practices that have taken place.
And some of those processes and practices involve seeing things differently, like using viewfinders to look at everyday objects, such as dooors and windows, or through the branches of a tree.
In a way, blogs help you see differently.
Dr Joolz put up a pair of bicycle chains recently.
What do you think this is?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dream spaces

I have been reading this book as part of my glass cabinets project and it describes the experience of visiting a museum as a movement through three overlapping symbolic spaces: cognitive, pragmatic (or social) and dream.
The dream space,energizes both our imaginations and our memories. It illuminates feelings. Anarchic and unpredictable, through the dream space we can arrive at all sorts of possibilities not considered by those who make museum exhibitions. In dream space, many things might tumble through our minds: bits of songs, half-written shopping lists, things left unsaid.
(Kavanagh 2000:3).

I like this idea of the dream space and its potential for analysing museum visiting.
It reminded me also of Kevin Leander's work on on-line spaces, and of James Gee's work on affinity spaces, and Julia Davies' work on heterotopias, not to mention Elizabeth Moje's work on third space...
It also reminded me of this poem, which I used to read on the Underground as I went to work:

Here we are all, by day: by night we're hurled
By dreams, each one, into a several world.

Robert Herrick.

And the Miami people haven't yet woken up yet and are still dreaming as I write this.

Monday, November 28, 2005

A machine for making authenticity OR identity and culture III

Thanks to David for this wonderful diagram.
It sorts everyone out and obviously I place myself in the totally useless and fake fourth quadrant.
Dr Joolz, being of the anti-BBC television series of the classics camp, also could happily sit in the low culture bit.
It reminds me of Basil Bernstein's work, especially the lavatories section of Class, Codes and Control which describes four kinds of lavatory from the totally tidy (strong classification) to the very messy (weak classification).
You can see again where I stand on this one.
Rumour has it that these were actually based on real North London colleagues' lavatories.
Here is a helpful description of ways of dividing things up using semiotics.
Also the wonderful grid and group work of Mary Douglas in Natural Symbols.
However, I gave up with Bernstein and Douglas in the end as it did my head in.
I hope Michaela and Marianne can make sense of this grid.
Anyway, I have to get back now to doing my two entries for this encyclopedia.
How do I know it is authentic?
Because all the people I admire and respect are the editors, that's why.
This is called Kate's machine for authenticity and one day I will draw you a diagram but not today.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

identity and culture II

Yesterday we went to see this film with nine eight year olds.
Some of them loved it, and they started dancing in the aisles of the cinema as they watched Indigo group from the Public High School in Lower Manhatten storm to the ballroom dancing finals
(I won't spoilt the ending for you).
I loved it. I loved it for its wonderful street scenes of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Lower Manhatten, which reminded me of some of Dr Joolz' New York photos.
Also I loved the celebration of the children and their cultural spaces. This reminded me of the wonderful work of Luis Moll and Funds of Knowledge, and also Ana Celia Zentella who I met in Barcelona when I was there and she has just published this book, which I intend to buy, celebrating Hispanic culture in the US.
It made me also feel positive about the United States, something I very rarely do, because of the energy and enthusiasm and the passion of the New York ballroom dancing teachers and the amazing dancing of the children.
This post is about the US because absolutely everyone I know is there right now in Miami.
I hope they have a lovely time networking without me.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Identity and culture

Here is a guessing game for you.
Who is this man?
Why is he doing this?
Answers to the blog please.

Friday, November 25, 2005

the space between

My friend Christian, who I wrote about here, who knows alot about mime, is writing a book about space.
She believes that we all suffer because we do not allow spaces between things but hurtle from one activity to the next.
For example, when my daughter comes in from school, she needs some vacant time just aimlessly doing nothing much, before she does the next thing.

This seems obvious to me, as I love mooching about and being aimless.
(Blogging is a wonderfully aimless thing to do)
When he was my supervisor, Brian was encouraging about the sitting in on the bus style of Phd writing and I thought this was very important.
Space as a category, has been written about here and also in this book, which I adore.
We are back to the wonders of the French intellectual.
They gave us Descartes, existentialism, Bourdieu, Bachelard, Kristeva and Irigaray.
What more can one want?
Ah yes, I forgot one vital person
Lacan. How could I have forgot?
PS Christian said that while she was writing her book, it is now too cold to write a book so she is resuming it in the Spring.
Meanwhile she will steam.
I might do the same with the blog unless it gets warmer.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

stoves and ice

I have decided my angst was to do with being cold.
Here is a lovely warm site to browse amongst.
Makes you feel warm just looking at it.
Descartes thought up
I think therefore I am
sitting on a stove in central Europe.
I am not surprised no wonder he felt cosy and therefore thought ah yes, I can think too.
My friend Jeff is a big Descartes fan too and we discussed Descartes and Heidegger while I was doing this talk for him.
Anyway, this post is also about Ice Queens and more specifically about the White Witch who is ofcourse the wonderful Tilda Swinton who I adore.
She was in lots of Derek Jarman's films and then a brilliant Orlando in Sally Potter's film (note the Virgina Woolf reference creeping in here) and she lay for ever like the sleeping beauty in a glass box in the Serpentine Gallery.
But the best ever thing about Tilda is her clothes.
Oh yes, she loves fashion.
This is such a relief and keeps all us arty fashiony academics cheerful.
Banish the blues!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

existential angst

Today I have existential angst (yesterday we had commodity fetishism and tomorrow we have... well never mind).
I think it is something to do with the long dark nights closing in.
At least I am not living in the Arctic where from now on it is dark.
Hamlet ofcourse had it and his to be or not to be speech is a prime example, as did Virgina Woolf.
In Between the Acts, her last book, she reduces life to orts and fragments.
I like the idea of an ort. I might research them.
But maybe it is just my inability to get up in the morning that is inducing gloom.
Yes! I have got it. I will go and play the blues.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

commodity fetishism

This is one of my favourite bits of Marx.
I used it for my dissertation on fetishism and objects in Dickens and how objects turned into people and people into objects (you know about this so I won't bore you with the details).
But at this time of year, commodity fetishism really kicks in. See here and here and here.
This always induces me furious rage that I cannot beautifully gift wrap perfect presents for my beloved relatives, also a massive simultaneous need for stuff like this and this.
Many regular readers, such as Dr Rob will point out, rightly, that this is all a capitalist plot to make us spend more and obviously I agree with him.
Dr Joolz has found a very good site here which also deconstructs the notion of advertising.
But Marx was making a more subtle point.
Some objects have more value than others, and fetishism, as Freud also observed, is about identity, the unconscious and desire.
Watch this space.

Monday, November 21, 2005

starting out

Because I have no museum exerience and am doing this AHRC grant from a totally different space from that of a museum curator I have bought this book and this one and this one.
This is always my mentality when I feel nervous and is why I have multiple copies of Raymond Williams'
The Long Revolution
as I think that if you buy lots of copies of the right book, it will seep in.
I am not sure this is the right approach but we shall see.
The web is much better. I will definitely read this,and consult this site although it seems to be over.
All this makes me feel very tired and I might end up here.
If you do one thing, go to this site as it will make you laugh.
Anyway if I get stuck I can always consult my friend Tim at the Science Museum.
He knows everything.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

blog surfing

Today I went blog surfing.
Here are some blogs I like...
this one is great - packed with ideas and quirky thoughts.
We love it.
I might link her.
She has a link to Banksy, who is one of Dr Joolz' favourites.

This one has an intriguing occupation - but he is not David Buckingham I have concluded. He has only just started.
One of the interesting things to find out about is what words bring up interesting blogs.
I like the lot under procrastination although they are very young I think.
Small items has a small but select group, as does new literacies.
Some words are more easily transportable and global, such as art.
Thank-you to Ilana for this site which I will revisit.
You never know where you are going to end up when you go blog surfing.


or here:

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hair and pencils

I thought that you should see my pencil trick.

Dr Joolz has done one too. I like hers better.

I learned this from Joanna, who is a dab hand with a pencil.
A question.
Should I dye my hair?
it is growing grey but I have a probably misplaced view that it looks distinguished and stops me being the inevitably silly person I actually am.
Maybe I should take a pill as advised here.
What do you think?

Friday, November 18, 2005

bad language

Once on this site you will never leave.
Vic found it. Here is what I am doing
mac guyver'd

to make something useful out of a multitude of completely useless things.
Vic also found this.
She is so clever and it is to cheer you up after all these bad things.
I was interested that much of the ephemera on Flickr involved old printed matter.
I wonder why?
PS Thanks to Dr Joolz for this site.
I just looked at it. She is right. It is lovely.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

memory sticks and boxes

This post is inspired by Anya who was so worried that her memory stick would get wet when (or if) her plane crashed in the sea she thought she should wrap it in plastic.
I would be just like that but being a bit arty I can only manage CDRoms but I carry these around everywhere along with my old fashioned Walkman.
I love the way the word memory stick is so powerful and evocative.
It is interesting that while sticks are mostly high-tech (sticks and stones) boxes are very crafty like these here.
The concept of the memory box is very powerful. This site has some interesting ideas.
Dr Joolz would adore these earrings here. I might get them for her for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

every object tells a story

Thanks to Marianne for this link. It is a brilliant site.
I put a story in and I wonder if you can find it. The clue is in this picture.

In my work I distinguished between oft-told stories, the Hymes' narrratives, which linked to everyday life and were intergenerational.

To me, the timescale of the object and the story, is important, and I have written about it in this post.
Some narratives span generations, others relate to shorter time frames.
PS This story has a HAPPY ending. This blog is now going to go ballistic with JOY.
I HAVE GOT THE AHRC GRANT Inside and Outside glass cabinets!!!!
And you are the first to know.
Thanks to David, Dr Joolz, Anya and everyone who made this possible (this is like an Oscar speech I could go on)
However, this blog will get even more arty.
You have been warned.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

bad art

Thanks to David for this site.
It has really cheered me up.
This site is even better and could even inspire me to some Bad Art of my own.
Flickr is full of bad art. Go and look at it here.
Anway, we continue to plumb the depths. This is pretty bad.

Monday, November 14, 2005

box doodling

Thanks to Vic for this site. It is so inspiring.
I have been thinking about collections of stuff on the internet.
Flick has masses of collections under the label 'tags'. It is hard to deal with so much stuff. Tag ephemera and you get all that.
See what I mean?
Discarded is one of my favourite categories, but you have to sift through.
Collections is a great tag though.
Is it the same as when you look through endless objects in a museum and then feel exhausted and have to go and eat crisps on the back of the bus to recover?
Or being on-line is the process different there being no bus and no crisps?
Maybe Michaela would know.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


I love this idea. Go and see.
I especially love the idea that you get other people's regrets back.
I ate too much this weekend.
What were yours?
PS the answer is The Woman in White.
What is this? the clue is in the picture:
spot my name

Saturday, November 12, 2005

it is a rhinoceros

You have to inspect the feet. but I didn't give you the top so its not your fault. Well done Dr Joolz for her inspired suggestion.
The thing about this, is that it is demonstrating the affordances of the medium of China finishing, and the makers of this particular brand wanted to show the full range of options to their customers. But they decided to put rhinoceros' feet on it so it then became a rhino.
This reminds me of Dickens' characters who are often described as rhinoceri:
Both as to his dress and to himself, he was of an
overlapping rhinoceros build, with folds in his cheeks, and his
forehead, and his eyelids, and his lips, and his ears; but with
bright, eager, childishly-inquiring, grey eyes, under his ragged
eyebrows, and broad-brimmed hat.

I also like the way that this china piece (to be found in the Clifton park museum at Rotherham) is about affordance rather than its content, but then the meaning is not what you think.
There is an element of the rhinceros china object and the description of the person in Dickens' Our Mutual Friend which is uncanny, or unheimlich - things are not what they seem.
This comes from Freud's essay on The Uncanny and Vic Carrington has written about it with respect to computer games and digital literacies.

The Great Exhibition was another place where things were exhibited with animal-like tendencies.

Here is another puzzle for you.

There is a clue in this post.

being Jewish

I have a secret longing to be Jewish like my friend Cheryl
(I am about 1 1/6th Jewish but I'd like it to be more)
here is a very Jewish mother poem for you:

Eve, in the morning

So God created man (sic) in his (sic) own image?
'Male and female he created them' Gensis 1:27

it was only a tree, for God's sake
a nice tree
nice shade, green, leaves
an apple

You eat one apple and they remember you forever;you
only want to be left in peace, make chutney, compote, dried apple rings
on a string

a snake? don't be silly
knowledge? you read too many Good books
naked? so I like the sun. I tan easy.

Hava. Eve. Me

Sarah, Abraham's wife, the mother of Israel?
Well, let me tell you
couldn't tell
my chicken soup
from hers

you work your ribs to the bone
setting up the human race
and do you get any thanks?
a nachtige tug you get thanks
for freezing in
a goddam garden

I was glad we had to move, get
a decent place
those ants everywhere
and I mean everywhere

well, I've got a lot of grandchildren now
a little too much begetting, maybe
but as long as they've got their health and strength

I was always a good mother
no-one can say I wasn't
a good mother.

Michelene Wandor

Friday, November 11, 2005

the relationship between fragment, sequence and narrative

This quote come from the work of Michaela and Marianne who I met on Tuesday.
Go and have a look at their website as it is wonderful.
I have realised that artists are kind of 'fast academics' in that they generate ideas twice as fast as us academics, who have to do the research project first.
I loved the way in which their work reflects the ideas they have, and the generative thinking they do.
Marianne's work records stanzas of conversations overheard alongside isolated objects from the built environment to map the influence of everyday reality upon the artist and her practice.
Michaela explores the links between collecting, categorisation and ways of knowing.
I love their collaborative thinking about the interaction between the artist and everyday life, and the relationship between talk and objects.
Here is a generative task for you.
What is this?
Answers tomorrow.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

useless objects

Thanks to Steve for this link.
It is full of wonderfully useless information.
I was a little appalled when David wanted to put most of these lovely objects in a skip but maybe he has a point.

What is their point?
Are they any use at all?
What do you think?

PS. Guy has a marvellous post on collections of objects. Go and see.
PPS Digigran is also overwhelmed with stuff here. What should she do?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

ceramics collections

I have been to Cannon Hall, Barnsley, here and here, viewing massive collections of miscellaenous objects. It was all very exhausting, however, I found much to admire, particularly the ceramics collections.
I like the very fine china, but also these pots which were displayed high up.

I realised I had the same display in my house.

I also liked these axe heads

and thought I could display an axe head found on my grandfather's farm.

I was pleased that this furby was displayed, and wondered where ours was.

Particularly good were the stuffed toys here and I am happy to say we have lots of those.

Everywhere we went people gave us nice food and tea and were very welcoming.
I ended up thinking that my home was like a museum and also their musuems were really homes (they were, in two cases).
In which case, why don't I charge a small fee to cover upkeep and let people in?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

spontaneous combustion

My favourite bit in Bleak House is when Krook does this:
Here is a small burnt patch of flooring; here is the tinder from a little bundle of burnt paper, but not so light as usual, seeming to be steeped in something; and here is — is it the cinder of a small charred and broken log of wood sprinkled with white ashes, or is it coal? O Horror, he IS here! and this, from which we run away, striking out the light and overturning one another into the street, is all that represents him.

It is one of the scariest bits in Dickens, and also it kind of out does Guy Fawkes and the burning of the Guy.
I am interested in the way objects turned into people and people into objects in Dickens.
Think of the Veneerings:
Mr and Mrs Veneering were bran-new people in a bran-new house
in a bran-new quarter of London. Everything about the Veneerings
was spick and span new. All their furniture was new, all their
friends were new, all their servants were new, their plate was new,
their carriage was new, their harness was new, their horses were
new, their pictures were new, they themselves were new, they were
as newly married as was lawfully compatible with their having a
bran-new baby, and if they had set up a great-grandfather, he
would have come home in matting from the Pantechnicon, without
a scratch upon him, French polished to the crown of his head.

For, in the Veneering establishment, from the hall-chairs with the
new coat of arms, to the grand pianoforte with the new action, and
upstairs again to the new fire-escape, all things were in a state of
high varnish and polish. And what was observable in the
furniture, was observable in the Veneerings--the surface smelt a
little too much of the workshop and was a trifle sticky.

There was an innocent piece of dinner-furniture that went upon
easy castors and was kept over a livery stable-yard in Duke Street,
Saint James's, when not in use, to whom the Veneerings were a
source of blind confusion. The name of this article was Twemlow.
Love it.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

keeping you up to date

When I was at Brian's this weekend he was reading two books I have been waiting for for a long time. One was this book, by David Barton and Karin Tusting, from the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre (Dr Joolz is giving a talk there in a few weeks time watch this space). It has marvellous chapters by lots of brilliant people including Maria Clara Keating, who I met in Barcelona, who writes about the literacy practices of the Portuguese community in London.
The other book is this one by our very own wonderful Jackie Marsh, and Joanne Larson. It looks fantastic and I can't wait to read it.
I am off now to the Amazon website now to order those books, and also this book for my frend Diana, by my favourite writer, Kathleen Jamie, who also wrote this.
Read it for her descriptions of the Kashmiri Pakistani communities on the North West Frontier and think of them now. The snows are coming in and they are still having huge difficulties with food. Heartbreaking.
In Brighton I also bought this on Dr Joolz' recommendation.
Now I am off to Barnsley to do research on ways in which this organisation has been working with parents and children and have created a culture of creativity. Wonderful.
I will be back!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

more information

We thought you should also see some artifacts from Brighton by the sea so here they are.

being in Brighton

Now I am in Brighton with Martin and Brian and we are discussing fiction. But Brian is disappointed that we don't have a picture of Brighton to match the one of Venice
so here's the view from Brian's window.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Dr Joolz is in Venice

This is a photo I took when I was in Venice in 1999.
It saved my life going to Venice
(I was recovering from a Burst Appendix. This did not stop me from going to MaxMara oh no) and I hope Dr Joolz has a lovely time.
The amazing thing about Venice is that there are no roads, only canals and I could not believe this until I got there.
It is also a city of students, a revolutionaries and wonderful books have been written about it.

Meanwhile I more prosaically am going here for the weekend. I am going to meet Brian, who, strangely enough is going to go and meet Dr Joolz, Guy and Anya in Miami.
The global nomads move on.
I will be back!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The spaces of multilingualism

To celebrate the end of Ramadam and Eid, this post considers the spaces of multilingualism.
I love the work of Jan Blommaert and colleagues in that they theorise the relationship between spaces, culture and identities. Jan has just moved here.
When I went to Barcelona to present a paper on literacies, gender and minority languages, I loved hearing Monica Heller's thoughts on language and identity.
She said that literacy is an artifact of socio-historical processes, which is very interesting.
Jan also said that he thought that the bird, or Kus which I describe here, is itself language as artifact.
This is also to tell you that I am learning Turkish, and also to celebrate our identities as global nomads.
On that note, we can think of Dr Joolz here.
She is so lucky.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

boxes and penguins

I loved the ordinary reviews of Rachel Whiteread's white cardboard boxes here. Check out the popular culture link with the March of the Penguins which is a suprise box office hit.
What I really like about these comments is they domestrate how space is culturally constructed.
To some children, the white blocks looked like boxes of baby penguins.
To other people they represented:
Memories, space, emptiness, family, landscape, order, chaos - its all there for me.

So the shape of the boxes is not just about its shape, its what that shape represents to people.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

small objects

I was intrigued by this website which celebrates small objects.
Go and check it out.
I am also interested in art which celebrates the microscopic, as here.
I also like books about small things like this one and this one.

I spend my life surrounded by small miscellaneous objects as here.
These objects are continually on our kitchen table.
Can you spot what they are?
They mostly belong to Molly.
Molly likes small animals from this shop and they have colonized our living space.
Gunther Kress would say that we are sharing our space with child aliens who think differently from us.

This is a picture she took of her Sylvanians in their caravan.
Can you spot any unusual objects?
(this is a bit like those children's puzzles where there are two pictures and you have to spot which are different)

Perhaps I should start a cult.