15 January 2009 | , , ,

The other day, someone accused me of lack of engagement. This was mainly directed at my online life but also had a bearing in what I do in real life. Lack of engagement is not a good thing when you are trying to study seduction, which needs mindfulness. I was engaged when I took my photographs, I was there 100% and remember every action, every thought related to my fall for the object.

I am writing chapter 2 of my thesis. I have finished the first draft of chapter 1, written bits of chapters 3 and 4 and have chapter 5 in my head, in embryonic form. All this makes me withdraw into myself, even more since what I am trying to tease out with words is something I call self-reflective methodology (don’t ask just yet). It is very much like looking at myself in the mirror, playing a film of certain actions in my head. I have become a character in my own narrative, I have doppelganger but I control the strings. No wonder I am not engaged. It is her that does all the engagement. She has super-powers, much like a second life character and to play her is draining. I have to withdraw, to hide, wearing my camouflage cloak, to look and listen, to predict and to let go. I have to become invisible, transparent, which, of course, does not mean passive. This invisibility, with its champagne bottle effect (it will explode, don’t worry, just not yet) has consequences for my writing here. At the moment, I can only see things within the grand 5 chapter structure I have created. If it doesn’t fit, I find myself at pains to make sense of it. Is this a normal consequence of writing a PhD? Is this what creating new knowledge does to you? I don’t dislike it. I love my topic, but I wonder what would have happened to the world when/if I come out of my stupor. You know what it is like to come from a holiday abroad and look at the news, how little sense they make. This is the extent of my so-perceived lack of engagement. And if in the 18 months I have left of writing we meet, please excuse me looking at your jewellery, your shoes, your accessories, forgive me for perking up when you talk about a moving work of art or even literature or film, make allowances if I seem to wake up at the mention of Freud. That is the language I understand.

Francesca Woodman. Self-portrait

2 thoughts on “Engagement

  1. Fantastic blog Laura- the odd thing is i’ve always thought of you as one of the most engaged people i know…

    I know what you mean about the PhD process..
    I’ve just been having a discussion with a musician about his work – I wanted to know if the songs on his album were deliberately composed to feature different styles of music form different eras. He said no – but that it was probably a result of the influence of the eclectic style of music created in the 1960’s on his work.

    Long story short….it got me thinking. I saw something in his work because of the way i responded to his music. I responded in this way because of the PhD and because of the post doc work that resulted from the research.
    It’s like this weird heightened sense of awareness to certain things – (perhaps a more prominent result in arts research?)

    I hear music visually – i know that sounds odd, but i respond to all music choreographically. I’ve done it since i was little. I just hadn’t noticed before last week when i listened to my friends music!

    I imagine how i would move to the music, and end up sort of attaching movements to the sound. The sensation i feel seems more attached to the movement at times than to the music.

    I don’t think you can go back – not that i would want to of course!

  2. Thank you, Hannah! It is strange how the right PhD because of its necessity to be made explicit can perhaps explain things one has been experience for a long time, like your music story.

    In terms of engagement, I select it greatly, this days because I discovered my energy is not limitless, so that is where the criticism may have come from. I can’t spend long writing here because I have so much to write elsewhere… Same with my work (employment). I used to take meetings seriously but these days I tend to daydream in some of them, or plan my teaching, or think about lunch, shopping, my PhD. Somehow, I think it is more productive!

    No, I would not want to go back either. I do like the path I have taken. Lx

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