Viva la Domestic Soundscape!

Yesterday was my perfect kind of day. It started out with an installment of Reading brick-watching* and knit-dreaming. (Don’t all these brickwork patterns just scream “FAIRISLE” at you?)

Chequered brickwork.

Re-done brickwork wall.

TAM-PATTERN brickwork. Wouldn’t it be the most amazing TAM?

Brickwork with fine tea urn.

Brickwork with ageing shop signage.

Brickwork doorway leading to Brick Narnia, AKA the big old redbrick school on the way into town, beside the canal.

Brickwork tam pattern in context.

I want to knit all the brickwork patterns! ALL of them!

The brick-watching preceded a smooth journey by rail to Oxford and a pleasant wander through the streets there, where I indulged in further brick-spotting.

I dropped into the O3 gallery to leave some Sonic Tuck Shop artist books for sale in the shop, and to admire the accompanying Editions of You exhibition in which the Sonic Tuck Shop book and the SOUNDWALK stationery feature. I was delighted to walk in and see my work on the wall, amongst many other amazing artist editions relating to sound. Lisa Busby and the staff at the O3 gallery have done a superb job of putting this together and I can’t wait to take a closer look/listen!

The Sonic Tuck Shop book at Editions of You.

SOUNDWALK stationery at Editions of You.

After this, I my walk took me over the Magdalen Bridge and up through St Clements, past a small patch of gorgeous spring flowers – including this snakeshead fritillary.

Heading onwards to Brookes I saw ladybirds and further evidence of the current political climate.



Had yesterday not been the diary date that it was – a date requiring a weekend of preparation and reading/listening – I would have been out marching on Saturday, protesting about the spending cuts.

So what was in the diary for 28th March that was so important that it kept me from expressing my opinions in Trafalgar Square over the weekend? Well, yesterday was my PhD Viva date.

After the brickwork fun, the ladybird spotting, the rail journey and the lovely flowers, it was time to sit down and re-read my thesis for the eleventy-billionth time, and to steel myself for a rigorous discussion of my work over the past three years. I felt intrepid as I waited to enter the room, and as the “exam in progress” sign was affixed to the door. Everyone had told me to enjoy the process, but I really wasn’t sure that I would, or that I could.

In the weeks when I was writing up my thesis I had recurring nightmares that I was opening it up to find that I had scribbled pages of utter nonsense; or that I was driving up a hill and that my car engine was failing. It was an intense learning period, and involved a level of self-scrutiny that I have not experienced before. I would be a terrible artist if I never felt self-doubt; it is an integral and important element of the creative process and without self-doubt and the ability to be self-critical, I couldn’t easily refine or critique my ideas. But when I was assembling the PhD I questioned myself to the nth degree. It was exhausting in some respects, and yet I also enjoyed the effort of attempting to forge my ideas into a coherent discussion, and there were key ideas or elements which I did (and still do) feel sure of and which I really wanted to articulate and defend. I think that a core passion and conviction are essential to have when writing one’s thesis; without some ironlike solidity at the centre of one’s arguments, the level of rigorous self-questioning that is required in order to feel you have truly made “an original contribution to knowledge” would be, I feel, difficult to bear.

But yesterday I was glad for my period of self-questioning and for the intense analysis of my work that accompanied my writing about it last Autumn. I talked with my examiners for two hours and the questions were not simple or easy to answer… what is the relationship between maintenance and life’s dreams? Does work about domestic space always have to be feminist? Where do I position myself in relation to “soundart”? etc. I found I had plenty to say on these topics, and – luckily – my views did not come out as nonsense, and my car – metaphorically speaking – did not fail me on top of my hill. In fact, I found to my surprise that I really did enjoy the Viva. I was deeply struck by the level of care and respect which my examiners showed for my work, and for the insightful nature of their questions.

I passed the Viva with minor ammendments. This means I have six months to make some small changes to my thesis; to expand some elements of my discussion and to write differently in some areas of the discussion. The order and navigation of the thesis also needs some work. It will amuse long-term readers of this blog who have trawled through many of my longer and more rambling posts to learn that I was also asked to reconsider how necessary it was to include all the appendices, and to think about the quantity and meaning of all the images I included in my submission.**

I was so happy to receive practical and detailed feedback on my thesis and submitted works; and I was deeply grateful for an opportunity to thoroughly discuss my PhD with two knowledgeable and experienced academics. It was a very positive experience which has left me feeling relieved and galvanised to further creative action.

Best of all, I still want to keep making art… I still am making art… and I am still writing here.


*You all must know by now that this is my new Favourite Thing.
**The most straightforward piece of knowledge that I gained from writing my thesis is that I need an editor!

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