Notes from 1-2-1 with Wendy McMurdo

 

22nd October 2019

  • Showed some of the alternative prints I’ve been making (Cyanotypes and lumens)
  • Explained that I am making these prints from the dried plants I have collected and pressed, but also from the living research plants where I work. More specifically, those plants that are considered too weedy to continue to be grown, and are no longer useful. (Getting too tall, going to seed – essentially weedy/leggy plants.) So far I have printed from number of pressed specimens, as well as Nicotiana benthamiana (Tobacco), Oryza sativa (Rice), Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress), Senecio squalidus (Oxford Ragwort).
  • Showed some of the experimental cyanotype work, where I added trace elements, tomato fertiliser and yellow sulphur into the sensitiser. Although this lead to some interesting results, more experimentation is definitely required.
  • The aim was to dull or alter the prussian blue colour, and this was successful in some parts.
  • I’ve experimented with herbarium specimen mounting card and genus folders, cartridge paper of different weights, and finally with watercolour paper given to me by my Mum when I was 16 and at art college.
  • Rice didn’t print very well,
  • Been trying out different length exposures.
  • Trying to work out which results I like.

Wendy:

  • Picking up on the idea of experimenting with chemistry – take a look at Stephen Gill’s ‘Best before end’ project and book. (Using energy drinks to make experimental images.)
  • Might be useful when considering how to bring together experimental images together and edit them. (Useful to look at and refer to as part of critical review of practice.)
  • This kind of experimentation is useful and interesting to do, with contextual underpinnings. Using chemistry that helps growth or kills plants even.
  • How this will come together depends on the central overarching project idea itself, but also how the images come together as groupings.
  • You are engaged in this interesting project experimentation and still working your way through that, but ultimately you will pull together a group of images to sit together with your text etc.
  • There will be options in how this comes together, whether it is very coherent e.g. just cyanotypes, due to the distinct look of them (safe option), but you will know more once you look through all of the work together.
  • You are doing all the right things, experimenting widely so that you have a broad selection of images.
  • Next time we meet, show me scans of everything. Start thinking about how they might come together e.g. in a linear hang, or sitting next to text, or as a grid, or in book form. Consider the sequencing and show me some options. (Stephen Gill’s best before end book will help with this.)
  • Going back to the idea of weeds, and thinking again about the name of the project.

Gem:

  • Meeting with Druce Curator Stephen Harris to show him some of the images, and discuss nailing the narrative for the book. Also going to set a date for the talk and the show in the Fielding-Druce Herbarium. (Looking at last two dates in November.)
  • Stephen is happy to write the foreword for the book.
  • The research helped me to identify some of the key woman botanists, so I’ve begun pulling together a few sentences per women.
  • This should then clarify which objects to display as part of the show in the Herbarium.
  • <INSERT IMAGE OF HERBARIUM WORK SURFACES)
  • Likely to be difficult to hang things, so more likely I will lay things out flat.
  • Planning to display my work flat on top of the cabinets on one side and the research on the other.
  • 15 people can comfortably fit in the Herbarium at a time.
  • The event (my talk, book and show) will be on Friday 29th November 2019.

Wendy: 

  • You should be able to get some beautiful installation shots within the Herbarium. (The Herbarium itself, top shots of the cabinets.) Do some diagrammatic planning.
  • Ideas on title – ‘Weeds: the hidden histories of Women in Botany.’ 
  • This kind of title could then bring people to the project with a particular expectation. It’s intriguing, and leads people to think about weeds, and how they fit, perhaps as an analogy – weeds and women having to survive in the interstices or cracks in the pavement. Hinting then at this. You are at a stage where you can concretise the title.
  • Suggest you write a 300-word description of your project to help you get clear on your intention. Keep writing and revising this.
  • The title is very important, it should be something very simple, a title and a subtitle.
  • Think again about your audience. Is it mainly people working in the field? Doesn’t need to be a huge group.
  • Ensure you have something engaging to send out to advertise the event with a teaser image and a description of what you plan to talk about.
  • Focus on presenting this work. I see this as a gateway event to the project’s development. Invite people you might want to work with in the future. Use this opportunity strategically to perhaps create future opportunities, don’t see it as the end point.

Gem:

  • Bookbinding course is on Saturday 2nd November 2019.
  • I will take prints and materials along with me.
  • Stephen Harris (curator) has agreed to write the foreword.
  • Considering whether to use purely cyanotypes or lumen prints, or to separate by chapter. Also how to pair the images.
  • Also deciding what kind of fragment packet to use to conceal the women’s stories. There are a number of ways to fold these.
  • I am considering how many women’s stories to include, number of prints etc.
  • Don’t want the layout to be too repetitive.

Wendy:

  • The folded packets concealing the stories is a really nice idea.
  • Consider how many prints, pairing and folded packets you might use in the book.
  • The workshop will help you with this. Perhaps you don’t want packets throughout, you might want some text typeset. The layout can be broken up potentially by using text.
  • Take some options worked out to take along to the workshop.
  • Look again at Victoria Forrest’s talk, particularly at her discussing edits.
  • Print out images and packets and make some dummy books to see the flow as you flick through. This will help you with the rhythm and sequencing.

Gem:

  • I am considering not fixing the lumens, or washing the more experimental cyanotypes as I have had some really interesting results.

Wendy:

  • Scanning acts as a way to fix the images.
  • The relationship between image and text can be quite abstract.
  • Soon you will need to stop experimenting with the prints and focus on the image and the text, or the text as an image. – How this works together.
  • The thread throughout all of the alternative processes is that you have used weeds and (weedy) research plants.
  • Plants considered not useful anymore, or not worthy of attention is at the conceptual heart of the project, and linking this to the idea of women in botany. So the overlooked, the opposite of something highly evolved like a hybrid orchid for example.

Gem:

  • Showed a print of Arabidopsis thaliana, and explained that the greenhouse technician had explained that this plant was coming to the end of its cycle of being useful. Too tall and leggy, and about to go to seed. So I was given the plants to print with.

Wendy: 

  • Really interesting, and might be useful to write a couple of paras about this image.
  • Make your research evident visually. Think about how to bring the rich research and interest into your final piece of work. Don’t forget this, or assume people will read it – make your intentions clear.
  • Like the graphic, clear look of the cyanotypes on watercolour paper. I can see this looking great alongside one of the folded packets.
  • How you open the book is really important. You could open with the academic introduction, or with something of your own? Perhaps set up in an interesting way, showing an image of a research plant print and explain that this is something that might be discarded or rejected as not considered useful or of value. Really exciting.
  • Get your paper, printer, copier, scissors and sellotape out and start to piece together your narrative and sequencing of images.
  • Didn’t expect environmental shots to be included, I think this project is just about alternative prints.

Gem:

  • Clarified that I plan to use the physical prints in the final book, rather than using prints of the scans.
  • Plan to make a large book using the herbarium genus folders for storing the plant specimens. I will mount the prints into the book, and will use herbarium mounting card, acid-free paper etc to protect the image from the packet scratching the image, for protection.
  • The materiality of the book is important to me, particularly in the context of herbarium and way that specimens and folders are handled and used.
  • Each object in the herbarium collections is unique, so by handling then you are damaging or degrading them. But these objects are there to be used/handled. They are designed to contribute to research, not be locked away gathering dust.
  •  I have been asked whether there will be a limited run of the book I plan to make, but it is my intention that the book will be a one-off, containing the original prints.

Wendy: 

  • A handmade book is great, considering the physical relationship to the object.
  • Make sure you write about this – the relationship of the object you are producing in relation to real specimens. Also your own biographical experience, where you work, the people you work with – which has always been an incredibly important part of your project.
  • Lots of interesting things to pick up on here. This is a great way to resolve the work you have made. Really enjoy it, this is one iteration of what will be an ongoing project, and this is a really nice way to realise it.
  • You could consider a PhD after this, you are a really good researcher. There are lots of opportunities and avenues for you. The end of the MA isn’t the end, this is just the very beginning.
  • Producing your FMP pdf will be really useful for you to show to relevant parties such as botanical curators and other interested parties etc.
  • Wrapping this up, playing around, experimenting etc will all help you focus the mind.

Gem:

  • Plan to have the talk and herbarium show on Friday 29th November
  • I will then book the 2 weeks off afterwards to focus on the remaining writing for the FMP submission.

Wendy:

  • Bear in mind the allocation of marks for each component part of FMP. (Critical review of practice: 20%, CRJ: 20% and the FMP pdf is 60%.)
  • The sequencing of your book and the installation shots at the event are likely to form a large part of your FMP pdf.
  • The description of the project (half to a side of A4) that you will include in your FMP pdf could potentially be lifted from your critical review.
  • Writing the critical review of practice should be fine, you had a solid proposal, and you’ve realised the proposal, but there are things you have developed and worked in which will be missing from your original proposal.
  • Take notes, make some maps and plans, and this should help you pull it all together.
  • Look again at the exemplar FMP submissions for critical review of practice and FMP pdfs.
  • Consider taking some time off work to give you some time and space to nail it, and do justice to the work you’ve done.
  • Make some quick print out A4 paper dummy books, sellotape staples, packets, images and text and start playing with the sequencing. Consider taking along to the bookbinding course.
  • Simplicity is key with the book – people try to put too much in, too much variety, things that aren’t flowing. This needs to be right.

 


REFERENCES

CONNORS, A. (2014). “Best Before End”: Photographing Energy Drinks. [online] The New Yorker. Available at: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/best-end-photographing-energy-drinks [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

GILL, S. (2014). Stephen Gill Best Before End. [online] Stephen Gill. Available at: https://www.nobodybooks.com/product/best-before-end [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s