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