Drawing as insider research

I have taken up two new activities this year, with the intention of keeping mind and body in working order.

Re the body, I have joined the village circuit training group for an hour two nights a week. This is challenging – but my competitive days are over, so I just do what I can do.

The brain activity is drawing. Hopefully this will balance the left-brained activity which I seem to spend most of my time on. For the next nine weeks I will spend Monday afternoons in life drawing classes. I joined the class this week and I loved it. The first two hour class is Developing Life Drawing; the second is Experimental Life Class.

Both classes started with gesture drawing. This involved 10 different poses in 10 minutes, i.e. one minute to capture each pose. I found this very liberating. The focus was on observation. We had been asked to take a roll of lining wallpaper to draw on, so there were no expectations of the outcomes. We were told that we should ‘look’ for more than 90% of the time and when we were drawing, our eyes should be continually moving from the paper to the model and back.

Most interesting for me was that I was told to try not to line draw, to try not start on the outer edges and work inwards, but instead to start in the middle and work outwards and in particular to avoid lines and instead scribble. We were shown drawings by Maggie Hambling and Henry Moore to illustrate this.

Maggie Hambling:  Source of image




Henry Moore: Source of image

I can see the parallels between this approach and insider research. The idea that the form/figure will emerge from the scribble resonated with me, particularly since when doing this we were asked to tape our pencils to a long garden cane, so whilst scribbling from the middle, we were at the same time standing at some distance from the paper. This seems to me the same challenge as presented by insider research.

March 2015 – A month of considerable learning

At the beginning of March we had an amazing fall of snow.

Snow March 1 2015 2

In the space of half an hour we had about four inches. A village friend said to me later that he had never seen snowflakes so big – he described them as being the shape and size of feathers – and this is from someone who has lived in this village for eons. The flakes certainly were bigger than any I have ever seen, and they were the shape of feathers, those downy feathers you get from chickens and ducks, and in no time at all the hill that I can see from my study window was covered with people sledging.

Snow March 1 2015

It was just as well that they took advantage of it, because within a few hours (unlike the incredible pictures that I have seen from the east coast of America and Canada this year), the snow was all gone. But it was quite magical while it lasted and also quite magical because it didn’t last.

Like February, March has been a month of sunshine and shade, both in terms of the weather and in terms of my life, although the month has definitely ended on a high.

The darker side of this month has been around my experience of and thinking about the meaning of ‘open’ in the online environment. I have always had reservations about how ‘open’ to be online, and this month’s happenings confirmed for me that ‘less is more’. I received some very good advice from a friend who said ‘…. everybody gets to have an opinion or ask a question, but they aren’t automatically entitled to a response’. I have remembered that many times this month, but I am also saddened by the increasing number of people who seem to be subject to online abuse. When I first started to work online, more than a decade ago, we always used to say to the students – ‘Remember that there is a human being on the end of your post and always believe, at least initially, in their best intentions’.

But of course every cloud has a silver lining, or some clouds have silver linings, i.e. along with the dark side comes the sunshine and this experience of having difficulties with ‘openness’ online is now feeding into three research papers, all with people I really respect and enjoy working with.

Also this month I have, with my friend and research colleague, Frances Bell, had a presentation proposal  accepted for Liverpool John Moore’s Teaching and Learning Conference in June. I expect we will be blogging about this nearer the time. I am really pleased about this, not least because Ron Barnett, who I have long admired, will be speaking on the second day of the conference.

But the highlight of this month has been the four-day course about the Divided Brain featuring Iain McGilchrist, that I attended this month in the Cotswolds, UK. I have written a series of blog posts about this. This was a wonderful course. I had already read McGilchrist’s book (some parts very slowly word for word, other parts more lightly), but the seminars over four days made it all fall into place. I could see many, many connections between Iain’s work and my own life, work and recent thinking. I am amazed that when I look back through this blog many of the posts relate to some of the ideas discussed in Iain’s seminars. It was really good for me, this month, to hear someone of Iain McGilchrist’s standing reaffirm my understanding that we need both dark and light experiences to have a full, rich and embodied view of the world. As I have written before on this blog, ‘dark’ experience is needed to clearly see the ‘light’. The overall message from the course was one of optimism. Iain McGilchrist was optimistic, feeling that despite our apparent increasing tendency to allow the left hemisphere to dominate our view of the world, (a manipulative, decontextualised, inanimate, abstract and static view), mankind has, in history, overcome this before and will again, allowing a more empathetic, understanding, holistic, open and embodied view of the world to come into being.

I too am feeling more optimistic as we move into April.

February 2015. Light and Shade.

February arrived in light and went out in shade. We had gloriously crisp cold sunny days for the first half of February in North West England and wet, windy, stormy weather for the second half. It’s ironic that this should also reflect the light and shade around my working life and research practice.

At the beginning of February our first research paper about learner experiences in the Rhizomatic Learning: The Community is the Curriculum MOOC (Rhizo14) which took place at this time last year, was published.

Mackness, J. & Bell, F. (2015). Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade. Open Praxis. 7(1), p. 25-38

In the spirit of openness, and because we were grateful to all those who participated in the research, we published this in an open journal, Open Praxis, and then on publication sought feedback in various locations, such as Facebook, Twitter, on our blogs and Google+. This has been both a light and shade experience, reflecting the light and shade experiences that we reported on in our research.

I’m not sure why light and shade have been perceived by some to be oppositional to each other. My perspective is that they need each other to be able to see each other more clearly. We learn from both. But the paper seems, for some readers, to have further polarized discussion about the learning experience in Rhizo14, making the light and shade even more obvious and oppositional than it was before. An emerging light for me is that some of the issues that were raised by the paper are being discussed, which is surely a better outcome than the paper being ignored.

Other aspects of shade dotted through the month have been continuing concerns about the effects of ageing, not on me personally, but on those around me. I now find myself sending 80th birthday cards more than I have ever done in the past. With respect to dementia, I have learned this month that many people with dementia become grazers in their eating habits and that the best way to deal with this is to leave small bowls of chopped fruit, vegetables, nuts, chocolate and so on around the house. This piece of information has been comforting.

Two highlights this month have again been around art exhibitions. The first was seeing a film about David Hockney, his life and work which prompted me to think about his recommendation that we try and see the wider picture.  February has been all about trying to see the wider picture and reading Iain McGilchrist who writes that there are two ways of being in the world: in one (the way of the right hemisphere) we ‘experience’ the world, in the other (the way of the left hemisphere) we experience our experience, that is a re-presented version. The right hemisphere sees the whole. The left hemisphere sees the detail. What is new must first be present in the right hemisphere before it can come into focus in the left hemisphere (the new versus the known). The left hemisphere then returns the known to the right hemisphere for further experience. These are not McGilchrist’s words, but my understanding of his words. It seems to me that they might have something to say about experience, interpretation and practice in research. I am still thinking about this.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 14.44.43

The other highlight on the last day of February was a visit to Liverpool to see a fantastic production of Educating Rita at the Liverpool Playhouse, a play that asks us to consider what we understand by ‘education’ and shows us the light and shade that can occur in the process of education. What could be a more fitting play for me to see this month? 🙂

Tate Liverpool

And this was followed by a visit to Liverpool’s Tate Gallery and the free Constellations Exhibition on the first floor, which explored connections between major contemporary works of art. There was a lot here that resonated with my learning this month, so I’ll finish off this post with a few images and observations, thoughts that struck me as I walked round, whilst still thinking about the meaning of education and the light and shade of the learning experience.

IMG_0426Robert Adams. Space with a Spiral 1950. (Steel Wire and Wood)

‘The spiral enables the incorporation of space into an art work as an       architectural element, bringing the surrounding space into an active relation with the physical volume of the sculpture.’

My attention was drawn to this sculpture and the role of space in its construction because of the discussion about our research paper (mentioned above), where the question was raised as to whether a participant who was not active and did not contribute openly in the course had the right to fill in the survey and feedback on the course. This sculpture reminds me of the value of not ignoring the invisible and not assuming that it does not have a role to play. In this sculpture the nodes and connecting wires are as much dependent on the space for their definition as the space is on them.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 15.16.59

Henri Matisse 1919. The Inattentive Reader. (Oil on canvas)

I have sometimes wondered in the past month and in reading the comments that have been made about our published paper (mentioned above), at some of the interpretations. Alternative perspectives are welcome and differences of interpretation are inevitable. As with any published writing, benefit from these alternative perspectives and interpretations can only come from close attention to the ideas presented in the text and a dispassionate attempt to discuss and understand them. What exactly did the authors say? Emotional responses might be inevitable, but might also be a distraction from focused attention, as for Matisse’s ‘Inattentive Reader’.


Mary Martin 1966. Inversion. (Aluminium, oil paint and wood)

Of this work Mary Martin wrote: ‘Establishment of the surface is a primary move, since the parting from and clinging to a surface is the essence of the relief. Then that space which lies between the surface and the highest point becomes a sphere of play, or conflict, between opposites, representing the desire to break away and the inability to leave the norm.’

In her work she recognizes the tensions and conflict that can arise when trying to interpret and/or break away from norms. For me it is interesting how this work fragments the reflected images, emphasizing that everything can be seen from multiple perspectives and as multiples.

Finally this photograph caught my attention.


Claude Cahun. I Extend My Arms. 1931 or 1932. (Photograph, black and white, on paper)

‘I extend my arms shows a dramatically gesturing pair of arms apparently emerging from inside a stone monolith of similar dimensions to a human body. Cahun’s photograph is a staged self-portrait in which her face and torso are replaced by inanimate stone, shielding her identity from the viewer.’

My reflections this month on light and shade have reinforced for me that our identities can be fragile and learners in ‘the open’ are vulnerable. The extended arms in this photo show a willingness to reach out, but the stone shield also suggests to me that we might need to protect our identities from open space. Open environments are spaces of both light and shade.

 Update: 06-03-15

In a comment on this post Simon Ensor has posted a link to a post he has made on his blog to which he has given the title – In a tangle. This made me think of another sculpture that I saw and thought about on my visit to the Liverpool Tate. Here is a photo of the sculpture with the artist’s name and details of the work.


Leon Ferrari (1963)

Tower of Babel

Steel, copper wire, bronze, tin and lead

New structures (MOOCs) demand new ethics?

Following the recent publication of our paper Frances Bell and I are grateful to the number of people who have taken the time to send us some feedback, on Twitter, in the Rhizo14 Facebook group and on Frances’ blog. 

Mackness, J. & Bell, F. (2015). Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade. Open Praxis. 7(1), p. 25-38

Easy access for all to a recent paper is one of the benefits of publishing in the open and we have Open Praxis to thank not only for providing an open platform, but also for their quick turn around time (see previous blog post ), so that the paper was published before our thinking has moved on.

The most spontaneous and fun feedback session we have had so far was on Twitter, when Laura Gogia decided to tweet whilst she was reading the paper. I am still smiling at the memory and at the time I laughed out loud, as well as finding the discussion interesting and helpful.

But the point I would like to pick up here is in response to a comment made by Keith Hamon on Frances’ blog. Keith focussed on a reference we made in the article to Marshall’s work on ethics in MOOCs.

Marshall, S. (2014). Exploring the ethical implications of MOOCs. Distance Education, 35(2), 250–262.

I should say here that our paper was about learner experiences in the Rhzio14 MOOC. An emergent outcome of our research was that ethics is an area worthy of more attention in MOOCs, particularly MOOCs which take a very experimental approach to pedagogy. But ethics was only one emergent issue. In our next two papers we will pick up on others. A paper about the rhizome metaphor has been submitted and we are working on a paper about community formation in MOOCs.

But to return to Keith’s comment – ‘New structures demand new ethics’. On reading this, I immediately wondered whether this is true, so I had a bit of a hunt round to see what else has been written about this. I explained to Keith, on Frances’ blog that I cannot claim to be an expert about ethics – in the sense that I have limited experience of reading/writing about it. I have been reading Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Master and his Emissary and on p.429, he points out that expertise is actually what makes an expert and comes from the Latin word ‘expertus’, meaning ‘one who is experienced’.

On my search I found that, as you might expect, one of the professions (apart from philosophy) that has thought a lot about ethics is medicine. I wouldn’t be surprised by an alignment of some sort between medical ethics and educational ethics, since both professions are concerned with the care of people.

In a 2004 article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, KC Calman wrote about evolutionary ethics and questioned whether values can change. Here is the Abstract for the article:

The hypothesis that values change and evolve is examined by this paper. The discussion is based on a series of examples where, over a period of a few decades, new ethical issues have arisen and values have changed. From this analysis it is suggested that there are a series of core values around which most people would agree. These are unlikely to change over long time periods. There are then a series of secondary or derived values around which there is much more controversy and within which differences of view occur. Such changes need to be documented if we are to understand the process involved in the evolution of differences in ethical views

Calman, K.C. (2004). Teaching and Learning Ethics. Evolutionary ethics: can values change. J Med Ethics: 30:366–370. doi: 10.1136/jme.2002.003582. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1733900/pdf/v030p00366.pdf

A similar perspective, i.e. that whilst values might change leading to new ethical issues, some core principles remain unchanged, has been reported more recently on The New Ethics of Journalism blog.

In this article the core principles are thought to be truth, independence and minimizing harm, which are similar to Calman’s list in his article on p. 369: where he wrote that core values which have not altered in medicine are:

  • doing no harm (non-maleficence);
  • a wish to do good (beneficence);
  • the desire to be fair (justice),
  • and a respect for the individual (autonomy).

The ‘‘Golden Rule’’, ‘‘Do unto others as they would do to you’’, ‘‘Love thy neighbour’’ or even the ‘‘My mother principle’’ (if it was your mother what would you do?) express in a different ways some of these sentiments.

ethics sign

Source of image

I did not come across these articles before we wrote our paper, but the core values listed in both journalism and medicine articles are very similar to the list sent us by one of our interview respondents, who we quoted on p.9 of our paper:

  • Do no harm
  • The expectation is that interactions will be mutually respectful
  • Provide and allow space for reflection
  • Ad hominem attacks should not be permitted as a method of discussion
  • There should be a duty of care or necessarily emotional labour on the part of those calling together/convening/organizing/providing these amorphous spaces
  • All cMOOC participants have a duty of care and nurture and responsibility toward others or for themselves, mitigating the need or desire to externalize (blame) their learning and experience on others.

So do new structures demand new ethics? Certainly we need to be vigilant in keeping our understanding of educational change and educational values up to date and with that, as in the journalism article, consider whether there are new ethical issues. But my brief hunt around the literature, and my own gut feeling, suggests that there are core principles such as ‘Do no harm’ which will never change and can always be an expectation.

As Iain McGilchrist writes on p.443 of his book The Master and his Emissary:

We can’t remake our values at will. …. Societies may dispute what is to be considered good, but they cannot do away with the concept. What is more the concept is remarkably stable over time. Exactly what is to be considered good may shift around the edges, but the core remains unchanged.

Update 23-02-15: Pat Thomson has just written a post about ethics in research in which there is a line which exactly says what I have been struggling to say

Ethics seems to me to be to be about a sensibility, a way of being in the world as a researcher.

For me this would apply not just to researchers. These are the words I was trying to find when talking about core principles.

Inconsistent experiences of journal article publication

So far this year, I have been fortunate to have two journal articles published. It is always exciting after months of work to finally see papers in print. The first paper to come out in January was

Williams, R., Gumtau, S. & Mackness, J. (2015).  Synesthesia: from cross-modal to modality-free learning and knowledge.  Leonardo Journal 

The second came out this month

Mackness, J. & Bell, F. (2015). Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade. Open Praxis. 7(1), p. 25-38

The history behind the publication of these two papers couldn’t be more different. Read on and then decide which history you would prefer. Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 18.08.52 The Leonardo paper which I worked on with Roy Williams and Simone Gumtau is published in Leonardo Journal. This was quite a coup for us; on the ranking of visual arts journals released by Google Scholar it came in fourth. If I worked for a University, like Simone does, this would be important not just for me, but also for the University’s Research Excellence Framework’s (REF) ranking . Looking back in my folders and files, this is the history I find:

Jan 2012 Started work on the Synesthesia article
March 2012 First draft of the paper was completed
End of July 2012 Submitted to Leonardo Journal
Nov 2012 Received comprehensive reviewers comments
Jan 2013 Resubmitted and paper accepted for publication in Jan 2014
Jan 2015 Paper published

Following acceptance it seemed to take for ever to get permission for the images we wanted to include and meet the image quality requirements of Leonardo Journal. Roy did a huge amount of work on this. Ultimately the paper was not published until Jan 2015. The quality of the publication in terms of the work of the publishers in preparing this paper is very high. It looks great Leonardo is a closed journal with very strict copyright regulations. We cannot share the paper (for example on Research Gate) for another 6 months. Despite this we have had quite a few requests for this paper.

 Time from start to finish = 3 years 

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 18.10.30 The Open Praxis paper was published on Feb 14th this month. The history of this paper is as follows:

Feb 2014 Frances Bell and I started discussing the ethical framework and possible approaches for the research
March to Sept 2014 Collection and analysis of data
July 2014 Presentation about research in progress to ALTMOOCSIG at UCL 
Sept/Oct 2014 Literature review and writing
10th Nov 2014 Submitted
13th Jan 2015 Accepted with no required changes. Feedback from reviewers. Made some minor edits
14th Feb 2015 Published

The process was very smooth with great attention to detail by the Editor and a good looking publication as an outcome. All communication with the Editor was courteous and helpful. In addition Open Praxis is an open journal and there were no issues with our coloured Table. We have been able to blog and tweet about this publication and are already receiving positive feedback.

Total time from start to finish = 1 year

Update: Just as I finish writing this post, Open Praxis tweets a brief report on Open Praxis figures and data (2013-2014) which is very interesting and reports an increasing impact as a journal.

Academic Writing as a ‘Desire to Relate’

A couple of days ago, Nancy White posted this video on Facebook (thank you for sharing it Nancy)

David Gregson : A Desire To Relate from Creative Matters on Vimeo.

The video, of the western Australian artist, David Gregson, tries to capture how he uses his art to communicate and his desire to relate. Quoting from the text under the video:

In the year 2000, the late Western Australian artist, David Gregson (1934 – 2002) allowed students from Curtin University of Technology (Perth, Australia) to access his Kellerberrin studio to film him as he worked. David, still recovering from recent surgery, completed the painting ‘Provence Window’ over a period of four days.

A highly prodigious visual artist, whose career spanned over 50 years, David Gregson is one of Western Australia’s most highly regarded figurative painters. His dedication to opening our eyes to the communicative power of art, and his virtuosic talent with a paintbrush, strongly informed his art and continues to influence many an aspiring and established artist.

At the same time as being introduced to this video and David Gregson’s work, I have been following Pat Thomson’s blog in which she is sharing how she is running her 8-day writing course in Iceland . Patter is a wonderful blog and I always look forward to Pat’s posts. I like the initial questions that Pat posed:

  • What is the contribution your paper will make?
  • Why is this important?
  • What will connect your readers with this topic?
  • How will you create the niche for your work?

These are questions that I have been asking myself in some recent writing I have been doing, although they have been implicit concerns rather than articulated. Pat’s next post was all about the writing the Introduction for a paper – and again, all very good advice. Since then she has written about the Literature  and Methods sections of a thesis or paper.

How does all this relate to the David Gregson video? Well, when I watched the David Gregson video I immediately recognised the way of working, whereas when reading Pat’s posts, I had to admit to myself that that is not the way I work. For example, in the most recent writing I have been doing, the introduction was the last section I wrote, I only had a very vague idea of where I was going at the start and I was waiting for ideas to emerge, for ‘Ah Ha’ moments.

On watching the video some of the things that David Gregson said resonated very strongly with me. On starting his painting he says:

‘You may think that I am dithering. I am not really. I am trying to get into character of what it is that I am going to paint’.

Gregson painted his picture ‘Provence Window’ over four days. The video doesn’t tell us how long he ‘dithered’ for, but in my most recent writing that I have been doing with Frances Bell about the rhizome as a metaphor for teaching and learning, I dithered for weeks and weeks. It has taken almost a year to get to the final draft.

Gregson says that in your work you are the performer, but you have to remember that standing behind you, looking over your shoulder, is the past, the present, the critic and the director. In other words, the act of painting, or in my case writing, is a multi-faceted conversation and you have to prepare yourself in your daily work by first calming down. He talks of becoming re-familiar with your materials each day in this calming preparation phase, saying ‘hello’ again, cruising around the painting surface, becoming as one with it – ‘there’s a little courtship about it’.

This is not dithering. This is becoming immersed in the process. It is not following a plan. It is allowing the process to ‘speak to you’. I find it comforting to think that what might be perceived as dithering is actually a necessary part of the process.

Gregson then talks of introducing the characters and says that it is worthwhile introducing some extremes initially so that you have an intuitive scale from which to work. ‘If you kick off on a high key it will keep you there’, but if you introduce a major dark area you get a tangible meaningful contrast to the light. That makes sense to me. As he says, you can always rub out ‘the bum notes’. If you are immersed in the process, sensitive to the areas which need attention and let the process (writing or painting) speak to you, you will know what you’ve got to get rid of, although in my own case, I have to say that this can take months rather than days.

I agree with Gregson when he says that we need to sustain a mood and be open to ‘happy accidents’. The beginning and the middle of the process can all be very suggestive and vague, but the sense, the meaning, slowly emerges. I can recognise this too. I have to consciously be ‘open’ and patient, because at times, it can all feel so extraordinarily messy.

Gregson’s commentary on his painting relates closely to my recent thinking and reading around Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome and the nomad. Nomadic thought encourages an avoidance of boundaries and free wandering. Rhizomatic thought encourages taking lines of flight and breaking free of traditional, hierarchical thinking – a deterritorialisation of thought. Ultimately though, there is reterritorialisation such that in the case of David Gregson he finally produced his painting ‘Provence Window’. That was a reified outcome, which satisfied the requirements of the art world. Similarly, academic writers ultimately reify their written communications in the format required to satisfy the requirements of the audience for which the writing is intended. Currently many journals, if not most, require authors to write in very traditional ways, almost to a template. This is difficult to escape, for academics who want to be published – but perhaps the process of writing, before the final drafts, can benefit from lines of flight and deterritorialisation – a bit of free wandering rather than following a plan. Does this lead to more creative, communicative academic writing that fulfils a desire to relate, or does it just lead to a messy incoherence?

Gertrude Stein: lessons for research

2014 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of Gertrude Stein’s masterpiece TENDER BUTTONS. and this week Modern and Contemporary American Poetry course (ModPo) participants have been studying the work of Stein as well as other modernist poets.

In the introduction to Stein on the ModPo site – the course leaders have written:

The difficulty of deriving any sort of conventional semantic meaning from the short prose-poems that comprise Tender Buttons turns out to be, for many readers, a helpful inducement to read for other kinds of signifying. As we hope you’ll see from the video discussions in this section, such difficulty need not excuse us from close reading. Stein’s poems really can be interpreted. They might eschew representation, but by no means do they turn away from reference.

I, with many others, recognise the difficulty of understanding Stein’s work. I have decided not to agonise too much. My experience tells me, that whilst the value of hard work cannot be disputed, there also needs to be a readiness for learning.  As Charles Bernstein said at the end of the special live webcast broadcast to celebrate the 100th anniversary…

‘The key is not to puzzle it out, but to let the figurative plenitude of each work play out. This work is not invested in pre-determining structure or in precluding or abstracting meaning.

Tender Buttons does not resist figuration but entices it and the work is rife with linguistic and philosophical and philosophical investigation as well as an uncannily acute self-awareness of its own process.’


In this video, nine poets each talked briefly about Tender Buttons:  Laynie Browne, Lee Ann Brown, Angela Carr, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Ryan Eckes, Jason Mitchell, Juliette Lee and Charles Bernstein.

It was fascinating to hear how they each approached the difficult task of reading and interpreting Gertrude Stein’s work. Three of these poets, in particular, caught my attention.

Lee Ann Brown read Glazed Glitter with such a lively passion and love of words that it was contagious. If you want a lesson on how to close read and glean multiple interpretations, her reading starts at 11.40 in the video.

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 13.05.15


Juliette Lee read just one sentence from Rooms in Stein’s Tender Buttons.

Star-light, what is star-light, star-light is a little light that is not always mentioned with the sun, it is mentioned with the moon and the sun, it is mixed up with the rest of the time.

Juliette starts talking about about 46.30 in the video.

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 13.06.34

She related this sentence from Tender Buttons to a passage from Gaston Bachelard’s book The Poetics of Space .

Space that has been seized upon by the imagination cannot remain indifferent space subject to the measures and estimates of the surveyor. It has been lived in, not in its positivity, but with all the partiality of the imagination. Particularly, it nearly always exercises an attraction. For it concentrates being within limits that protect.  Gaston Bachelard (1994, p. xxxvi)

Juliette questioned what constitutes rooms and space and suggested that space invites authorship. Her interpretation of Stein was a personal one related to her own search for understanding, and her questions about ‘space’ resonated with my ongoing search to understand space in relation to learning.

Charles Bernstein. I, who know very little about Gertrude Stein’s work, would have found it helpful to listen to him first. He starts speaking at about 51.00 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 13.08.07

Charles explained that Tender Buttons is ‘the touchstone work of radical modernist poetry, the fullest realization of the turn to language and the most perfect realization of ‘wordness,’ where word and object are merged.’

‘It is a work of textual autonomy…. Words do not represent something outside of the context in which they are performed. The meanings are made in and through composition. Meaning is not something to be extracted or deciphered but something to be responded to…. The more readers can associate with the multiple vectors of each word or phrase meaning, the more fully they can feast on the unfolding semantic banquet of this work.’

At the time of listening to this webcast, I am steeped in my own research, analysing data and searching for meaning. These discussions about Stein’s work have made me realise that essentially she was a researcher too, a researcher into the origin and influence of words – the influence of words on words, as well as the influence of words on us.

Perhaps all researchers need to be aware of the influence of words, the multiple interpretations and narratives that can be told and that they can hold, and the potential for divorcing words from their meaning.

Lots to think about here. I am still miles off being able to understand Gertrude Stein’s work but I feel that I am one step forward from last year when I wrote about what I was learning about learning from Gertrude Stein. So that’s progress!