February 19, 2020

‘Let me be the interpreter of the room.’ (Heard in a dream, 5.30 am+, February 19, 2020)

8.15 am: A communion. 8.30 am: I left the house as the painter and decorator entered. Today, I’d built periods for admin into the PhD teaching schedule. 9.00 am: An undergraduate dissertation tutorial with, possibly, one of my last tutees on this module. We talked about ‘spooks’, automatism, and art, curiously. I was hooked; I hope they were too. 9.30 am: Admin 1. First, some easy stuff (and equipment sourcing) and forward planning. There’s movement in the background of my life; certainties are beginning to solidify. A plan in action has now assumed the identity of a fixed point of departure. All happy and good. I sense that I’m now working to a known end. But I won’t presume upon the outcome, quite yet.

10.00 am: The first of today’s batch of PhD fine art tutorials:

We discussed chance procedures (which also touch upon my own work, presently), criteria for assessing the worth of work made by this means, and whether one can talk about the concept of a ‘masterpiece’ in this context. Integrity, quality, and beauty, we agreed, must be evident across of the threefold domains of: 1. Ideation; 2. Method; and 3. Outcome. 11.00 am: A face-to-face tutorial followed, which involved singing and guitar playing, poetry recital, and discussion. 12.15 pm: Admin 2. A deluge of irksome emails had been deposited in my inbox during my time away from the desk. Higher Education takes its own pulse obsessively, these days. I feel as though I’m permanently attached to a vital-signs monitor. Even my own monitoring is being monitored. I required a self-portrait to send to Goldsmiths for inclusion in the April symposium’s catalogue. I hate doing this. Smiling, to any degree, makes me appear as though I’m smirking disdainfully. A straight-face, as though I’m disapproving. ‘Do I really look like this? Grief!’ How odd that one’s internal image of the external self should be so at variance with reality:

12.50 pm: Home for lunch. The wind was up once again. The landscape feels cursed and blighted. 1.40 pm: Admin 3. Back at my office, I began to hack away at my inbox like a demented tree surgeon. There are two types of admin: one that facilitates and the another that complicates. The School’s galleries have the painters and decorators in too, this week. Every once and a while the walls need a thorough repair and a pristine new surface:

3.00 pm: The third PhD tutorial, via FaceTime:

How hard it is to undertake a PhD. It’s hard; very hard. And so it should be. 4.20 pm: The final PhD tutorial of the afternoon:

‘We wrestle not with flesh and blood’, as the Apostle wrote. The battle is, rather, with spiritual, theological, metaphysical, or philosophical ideas and ideals. We’re up against the unknowing, the unknowable, the unknown. We’re up against ourselves, too. Study is an odyssey upon a dark ocean on a starless night, made in uncertainty; for there may not be even land enough ahead to provide a port for disembarkation. The PhD is hard.

7.45 pm: In the background: a plumber struggles to fix the dripping taps in the downstairs’ toilet. In the foreground: I finalised the abstract and other information for the Goldsmith’s presentation.

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