Module 2 of my MA is about building on my Module 1 research with practice-based work through targeted exploration and development. I need to develop a ‘minor project’, which is a practical investigation of something that will help underpin my overall practice (at least that’s my understanding anyway). I need to support this with a blog (well, whadda you know…) that contextualises my practical work, outlines how it relates to my research, and to wider research, what I’m doing and why. Blog is there to capture evaluations and a general high level of criticality.
Building on my literature review research, I had a few potential geopoetical avenues to explore for my MA Module 2 minor project. I considered:
- developing more embodied, ethical practices (meditations? drawing in nature? walking? business operations?)
- focusing on teaching/sharing methodologies (developing lesson plans that encourage nature connectedness)
- creating site-specific works (moss works? rope walkways?)
- creative collaborations with the non-human (leaving out artworks? gardening?)
- exploring how to create my own drawing materials from natural, ethically foraged materials (making charcoal? making inks? making drawing implements?)
I need to write a brief for myself (I think?), explaining how my primary work underpins my final study, how what I’m looking at can be applied to the things that will come later. What’s my project gonna be? What am I going to create? How am I going to link this to wider reading?
I’ve been bouncing around some ideas for a while, knowing that this was coming… and what I think I’d like to do is learn how to make my own drawing inks from ethically sourced natural materials.
It relates to Geopoetics, and other elements of my Literature Review research, because:
- it’s a way of materially considering the diverse ways in which to understand and approach place, environment and that which is non-human.
- it’s literal ‘earth-making’
- it’s an expression of, and my understanding of, the Earth
- I’ll be actively trying to avoid a ‘mechanistic’ approach to earth-knowledge, favouring a noetical (from the Greek noēsis/ noētikos, meaning inner wisdom, direct knowing, intuition, or implicit understanding) approach instead. I will however will be adopting Starhawk’s both/and position in blending intuition and science – the intuitive and observation-based process of making inks is almost alchemical
- there are interesting creative-philosophical questions in regards to Whitehead’s panexperientialist Philosophy of Organism – can natural inks share perception with the viewer?, and consciousness-enactment – can plant matter open it’s mind up to me to let me know and understand it? Are the thoughts or intuitive pulls that I experience whilst making inks a result of a Nahavo-esque ‘participatory wind’?
- White argued that it is essential for Geopoets to maintain contact between thought and feeling, idea and sensation, to further underline the importance of imagination rooted in earth-based lived experience. Making natural inks is a sensory, creative, hands-on way of getting to know and learning about nature.
- natural materials, especially plants, have both medicinal and magical properties – making inks could be a way of developing magical and spiritual attunement with those parts of the earth?
- it’s a form of Nature Connectedness
- artistic practice is a disruptive process of generating research that challenges dualistic approaches to knowledge that embraces new ways of thinking
- it’s a sensual process, and this is key to experiencing the ‘landscape from within’
- of the space:time interactions involved with foraging for suitable materials
- through its similarities with herbalism, it’s a way of engaging with Traditional Ecological Knowledges
- as a form of direct contact, it will enhance my own eco-literacy (although I must be mindful to not focus on the instrumental value of the plant, but rather appreciate them for their intrinsic value.
- it could be a part of my own ‘living drawing’ approach… not only is eco-literacy enhanced by drawing in nature, but also foraging in and working with nature to make inks.
- it’s an example of embodied, ethical and sustainable practice.
It’s also is a useful and transferrable skill that I can use across future work, which I intend to do, but it’s also a process that I can teach to others… and hopefully treat it as a way to encourage direct contact with nature. Foraging for ink materials, making the ink, going back out into nature to draw from nature using the ink. The inks of which will eventually go back into the ground. It’s a beautiful and poetic cycle that mirrors the cycle of nature, in it’s own way.
Part of the research for this module would be looking at the most ethical ways to gather and use materials, so not to simply value plants/rocks for their instrumental value? Ethics is important here, I need to explore how to best go about this in the most ethical, sustainable way possible.
In terms of practice though, how am I going to record my investigation, and my findings?
A kind of manual? A cookbook? Influenced by herbologies, of esoterism… I’m thinking of something like my own Voynich manuscript. I would like to investigate the ink making process in a kind of alchemical way, where it’s very sensory and process based, where science is indistinguishable from magic. As I’m cooking my inks, I’d like to record how it smells, how it looks, and (if it’s safe), tastes… I want it to be an embodied process of learning. Perhaps how I’m feeling, freewrite or use tarot to consider what the matter is ‘telling me’, if anything, and supplement my findings with magical, scientific and TEK knowledge. Having a manual like this will give me a tool which to refer back in future – not so that I can get exactly the same ink (I like the unpredictablity of it, really) but to get a general idea of what to expect and base future ‘batches’ from. Quite a valuable resource, actually.
Things to look at to support the making of this:
- common alchemical symbols
- what’s needed in a basic alchemy/chemistry kit?
- magical and medicinal properties of plants and resins
- basic processes in dye making
- basic chemistry processes/knowledge
I need to think about what the basis of my manuscript will be… paper, for sure… but what kind? A sketchbook? Will it be loose leaf? Will I use a premade book or devise my own? I’m leaning towards fairly large sized (A3?) loose leafs, which I can stitch together at the ‘end’ into a book (not before scanning each page individually though). I’ve got some beautiful white(ish) natural-fibre paper, which I think I might use to work on. I think it will soak up ink really well and offer the kind of aesthetic that I’m seeking. Alchemists would have used vellum way back when, but it’s skin… and there’s no way in hell I’m using that, or any synthetic versions.
Other things to consider:
- cook with water, oils or alcohol?
- what of the drawing implements? Can I make my own to use with the inks? Quill making? Wood pens? Twig brushes?
- What am I going to write with, whilst things are cooking? (Leaning towards basic blank inked pens)
- Mixing matter? Mixing inks?
- How to store?
- Probably will need to get hold of some decimal scales – like the ones drug dealers have – so I can record matter:carrier ratios and so on
Quite exciting this actually. I’ve played about with some inks already, to varying degrees of success… but I’m looking forward to properly getting started