August 26, 2017

Yesterday. Throughout the day I finalised inputs and auxiliary connections to the mixer. The cassette tape recorders’ outputs are, now, each routed through two contrasting effectors in series prior to entering the mixer. There’s as much flexibility in the system as can be managed in a live performance scenario. And that is the measure of both its sufficiency and efficiency:

These are the elements of the work; the technology, source material, conceptual underpinning, strategy and method, craft and artistry, imagination, context of performance, performer, and audience. They are mutually dependent and reciprocally interactive. Thus, a change in one can affect a change in all. Therefore, no one element is resolved until the others are too.

In the evening, I picked up where I left off reviewing the thesis yesterday. My bedside book for this last week is John Berger’s Understanding a Photograph (2013). This provides a broader framework in which to think about ideas that resonate with the submission’s approach to the topic, and an authorial voice in my head other than that of the examined student and my own.

Today. 8.00 am: A rumination on the day that’s been. 9.00 am: On with my external review before my own students’ final final PhD drafts fall into my inbox once again. By 12.30 pm, I’d hit the Bibliography. Next week, I’ll return to the beginning of the thesis and read it as such.

For various reasons, the thesis has thrown me back on my own writing and practice. Part of me wishes that I’d pursued a singular track through my career. Granted, my interests and themes have been entirely consistent, integrated, and focussed. (I’ve been nothing if not persistent.) However, the modes through which they’ve been explored and made manifest have been diverse: books, chapters, articles, and conference papers; curated, solo, and group exhibitions; painting, drawing, collage, and digital printing; sound and music composition and performance; and CDs and streamable data. I’ve addressed Welsh history, social history, cultural history, and religious history; art, visual culture, and sound culture (and their history and theory); biblical studies and theology; art practice and sound practice through creative work, scholarly study, teaching, and examining. It’s possible to lose sight one of oneself amid all of this.

I cannot commend this approach to cultural participation. But it was born of necessity. When I began my teaching at the School of Art, you had to be ‘all things to all [people]’ There was (and still is) only a small team of staff who taught across the board of both fine art and art history. It was a circus troupe of a department. If the lion tamer was sick, you trained the lions; if the trapeze artist broke an ankle, you swung instead:

Painting class, Art Department, University College of Wales,
Llanbadarn Road, Aberystwyth (1993)

If I was beginning my career as an academic today, I would concentrate either on art history or fine art, not both. The pressures of research assessment and the teaching load alone would preclude a dual profile.

5.10 pm: Cease! An evening with my family.

 

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