Zen modelling

PhD, writing

Last Monday I imprisoned myself. I took a bus from Helsinki to Turku and then another bus to the surroundings of Mynämäki in the Finnish countryside. The location is not random. Here you can find the amazing Saari Residence, an old manor  bought by the Kone Foundation in 2006 that has been receiving artists and researchers since 2008. As I started writing my thesis I realized it really needed a push and this just fitted the romantic idea about writing I’ve had since I was a kid: a heartbreakingly beautiful isolated place where the priority is on creativity and creation. The experience lasts two months and includes cohabiting with 9 talented artists.

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Finnish sunlight at the Saari Residence

Since I arrived I have been gravitating around the computer 24/7. I know writing 24/7 is not possible, at least it is not for me, but I’ve managed to gravitate around writing, which has yielded a much higher productivity rate than whatever I had in Helsinki. However, on the 7th day, after intensive gravitation, I started to reach a sort of ceiling. I could work mechanically but I felt my thinking was starting to be affected and I started to stress. Basic PhD stuff. Thing improved after some jogging and some sauna but the day had for me a hidden mood-changing task: I was asked to model for a painting by talented painter Hodhayfa Salih.

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Fast portrait by Hodayfah Salih (Oil on paper; Size A3; Mynämäki 2017)

I can’t be clear enough about how cool is to be surrounded by artists and creators, every encounter has sparked some interesting conversation. But to be able ot participate or collaborate one step beyond that was a great experience and, apparently, it fixed my annoying block. Posing turned out to be a quasi-zen experience, like weirdly self-aware meditation. After self-pressuring for a week to work and be efficient, knowing that I was now not allowed to do that but only to sit and be still, gave me the peace of mind that I needed.

Well, you find tools for productivity in the least expected places.

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A blog in a state of redefinition

writing

When I was thinking what my first post in this blog should be I became aware for my 1000th time of the difficulties of starting to create content: text, music, visuals, anything, need of a spark that lights the process. This page was born of the will to communicate ideas, to present myself to the world as an academic, but without leaving behind other identities that often entangle. Therefore, I thought that, even though I do this a bit in the About section of the site, I thought it would be of interest to digress briefly about what does it mean to write academically, what does it mean to write an academic blog (they do not count as publication so, are they actually out of the academic?) and what does it mean to try to create an online hybrid content register where academia is the excuse, but not the final aim (if there is one at all).

More and more I think of how these different identities are connected but difficult to reconcile. There is, first of all, an issue of language and linguistic conventions. Poetry, music and academia are usually constrained to their own codes. One of the things that has kept me away from blogs for a long time has been an internal need for coherence. The fear of not being able to deliver that has been a tall wall difficult to knock down. I think that now, this blog, is my main weapon to knock that wall down. To do this, I think of it as a multilinguistic, multicode repository where things that connect do not need to share the same language or code, they do not need to be translated. I choose not to translate, to let tensions exist and say things. The connections between a priori incommensurable are as much as the nodes the surrround them.

Such fractality (Haraway, 1991) might include references, like the one I just threw in there, might include commentaries, might include cryptical writing, might include embedded music and video players,  might include pictures. The list is finite but extensive.What I want, and need, is a space for possibility, a space where constrains do not come from genre but from the context itself, able to be in a constant state of redefinition.

References

Haraway, D.J., 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. Routledge, New York.