honoured

Keeping track of a lofty man enamoured with life

Category: Images

The last 14 days

So the game plan didn’t really work out. Unfortunately it got to Wednesday and Adrian had not seen my conclusion and the project section was still very rough. I therefore applied for a week extension to buy me some time to polish off those last two sections, compile and format the exegesis so that it looks aesthetically pleasing.

This is how the last 14 days panned out:

I went out to the Bend of Islands on the Sunday to get the last consent form signed and pick up some shots of Tserin to include in the third documentary Becoming the Bend. Didn’t take too long. Steve had generously loaned his car to me so I could get out and back in a short period of time. So I ended up dropping the car back to him in Footscray before heading into the Honours lab for some more writing. Turned out to be an epic day, waking at 6:30 and getting back from the lab by 10:30-11pm.

A couple of weeks before submission Neal Haslem ran us (the Honours 2013 cohort) through the InDesign template Miek Dunbar has constructed for a short cut design solution in order to make our exegesis/thesis look like they have been designed to a professional standard. I found the design not to my liking, and already had an idea of what would work for my exegesis layout. I was inspired by Adrian Lawson’s exegesis from the 2012 Honours cohort, that was set out with two columns of text. I liked this idea as it related to my list-making (my research methodology) and how Korsakow operates by contrasting/comparing one category of things with another. I decided to use Dunbar’s design as a starting point by utilising his font and paragraph styles. I created a separate master spread sheet in order to reposition the columns into a new margin and set a new uniform design aesthetic for the entire document. There would be thumbnail images listed down one side of the main body of text, and a list of things that are loosely related to the Bend of Islands or the project down the other side. Thankfully I had the help of Biccy and a family friend to help me set a system up that would make the process flow efficiently.

After successfully obtaining an extension, I spent my time over the 24th and 25th of October reshuffling my project discussion around. The section required a thorough re-working so I printed the section off, cut it into paragraph long strips, and shuffled it around into some loosely coherent structure. I colour-coded it into the major themes I needed to cover in each documentary (Interface, natural soundscape, interview soundtrack, clip content, clip duration, and the keywords used) and structured it into a loose essay format with a general introduction to the entire project Placing the Bend before discussing each documentary individually. I soon discovered where the holes were lying and scanning the entire collection found what colour/themes was lacking and what was in abundance. Stepping away from the computer on occasion is tremendously helpful to gain perspective about the flow of the piece and what it consists of.

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As you can also see in the above image, “to-do lists” were incredibly important during the last few weeks of exegetical work. Without my lists I would have been lost. It is a good way to communicate to yourself what needs to be done as well as to maintain sanity. The less reoccurring information going around in your head about what you need to do the better. Allows more energy and space to troubleshoot what is needing to be done in the present.

One of the major things I have learned throughout this intense year of study is to allow time to clock off and relax. Without doing so you’ll surely burn yourself out. I work obsessively, for I always have this feeling of being inadequate among my peers and believing I can do better (perfectionism – it’s a killer). Being among other high-achievers in Honours this year has made this feature of my personality especially obvious and in need of address. Balance is the key. Spending time with family and friends, catching up on chores around the house, reading the newspaper, taking a walk or going for a jog, are all useful distractions from study. These activities do not interfere with your study unless they begin to eat up all of your time. Then you are clearly procrastinating. In moderation they are incredibly helpful. They allow your brain to change gears for a bit, relax so that ideas can flow more freely. So I found I needed time away from study the closer the deadline became. In order to be a truly productive and efficient human being one must have enough sleep, food and exercise.

Some points that needed addressing in my conclusion:

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Bibliography check (read through to ensure all references/citations would be listed in the Bibliography):

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I was holding off from giving Adrian my conclusion until I could print the whole formatted exegesis off as a draft. I thought it would have saved him some time but it turned out that this lapse in judgement rushed the night before printing and the print morning as I had only given him a copy the afternoon before. A big ask to achieve a full reading before 11am, when I hoped to have had it at the printers. There were some hurried text messages in the morning, me trying to work out whether I was right to take it to the printers by 11am, whilst Adrian expressing that he was not happy with its quality and therefore would not sign off on my submission. I had no choice but to wait.

When Adrian turned up I quickly added his changes to the exegesis before speeding off to the printers. My bibliography was wrong, the images not flush with the margin, the appendices needed to be cut, and one paragraph was ambiguous. Plus, the conclusion needed a full work over. I didn’t get a chance to change the ambiguous paragraph, but everything else I was able to rush through.

Once I’d handed my USB over to the printers I found myself heading back to the lab in a haze. I felt a flutter of relief, but was mainly quite flat. I think I had flatlined from all of the adrenaline that had coursed through my system leading up to the deadline. I felt a similar sensation when I finally submitted the three copies of the exegesis to Adrian last Friday. I felt empty. Numb. Like the journey is still not over. And it isn’t still – until I get the marks back I guess.

The following day, the 31st of October, I indulged in an hour sleep in before heading back into the lab to tackle my documentaries/K-films. With the new footage of Tserin and the confirmation in spelling Rodrigo’s surname in the credits (a JPEG super of the credits that pops up at the head of Assembling the Bend and Round the Bend, and throughout Becoming the Bend), some work needed to happen to mainly Becoming the Bend (the third iteration).

The monthly Korsakow Group meeting had occurred on the 28th of October, allowing me the opportunity to show each doco to the group to see whether I needed to make some corrections. Overall, the feedback was positive. Although, Adrian suggested changing the lives of the clips in Becoming the Bend so that the far shots of things would die out, leaving the near shots of the natural landscape to directly correspond with the near shots of the interviewees. This made sense, but unfortunately required an overhaul of the K-films design. I needed to change the far clips with the near human clips to act as the connector between all clips. I then needed to increase the lives of each near clip, weight the far clips to show up first, before petering out to exhibit just the near clips. During this development I noticed that some of the sequenced clips (the clips with variable durations, sometimes offering a montage of several vids in the one clip) were still synced with audio. So I needed to remove the individual audio from each of the sequenced clips as well. The entire process took much longer than I intended.

This change of connector made sense though. Having the near human clips as the central connector reflected the phenomenological research investigation I was conducting much more than the far clips. Becoming the Bend is much more about the human connection with place than Assembling the Bend or Round the Bend areThe interviewees are featured sonically as well as visually throughout the K-film, drawing upon the similarities and contrasts between each “part” of the Bend of Islands as a place.

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Thankfully the printers produced mine and fellow Honours compatriot Jess‘ exegeses by 12pm on Friday so we could have the afternoon free to touch up our K-films. It was interesting to see each others K-films in the Korsakow Group meet, as we have approached documentary filmmaking in such vastly different ways. Her K-film is a collection of auto-ethnographic works, detailing particular aspects of her life by visually recording it and narrating it in voice over in a series of 30secs-1min clips. The doco has a great tone to it, as it reflects Jess’ sense of humour and curiosity. Placing the Bend, on the other hand, is observational in a different way. It is much more “artistic” in the composition of each shot and the nonlinear structure of the interview soundtrack.

Anyway, there were some last minute dramas before submitting the exegeses to Adrian as the OS X 10.9 Mavericks operating system had unsandboxed Flash player, so Safari and Chrome would not play the exported Korsakow Index files. It would only play the audio without the video clips. It took Adrian some troubleshooting to find a solution for Safari by:

Going into the web browser settings/preferences>into the security tab>manage website settings>adobe flash player>local documents>run in unsafe mode>trust.

I had to whip up a last minute erratum to explain how to step through this process to watch the documentaries locally, or view them online with this link:

http://vogmae.net.au/works/2013/ptb/

After submission I tidied up the remaining copies of my exegesis so that I can give them to key contributors to the project. Then Steve, Jess and I decided to debrief over a couple of lagers in the sunshine.

I have one final assessment to hand in before completely finishing Honours in Media and Communication at RMIT University. This is a reflective essay, answering some questions about the Honours experience and what I have gained from it. I almost feel like it is cruel and unusual punishment to have an assessment after submitting my exegesis. You would hope to have completely finished the program of study upon submitting your major research project. But alas, one assessment still hangs over your head. Sigh. Perhaps it will be a therapeutic exercise, a cathartic way to debrief on how intense this year of study has been.

 

 

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Fragmentation

What a surreal feeling. I have just finished breaking my exegesis into paragraphs in Scrivener (using the command+K short key when you select where you want to break the document) and exported (or “compiled”, using Scrivener speak) it as a PDF that I have now sent to Adrian to have a go at reassembling into a thematic order. We will reconvene tomorrow to see what holes need filling in and where new connections need to be woven in.

After the last edit the draft is still very much in fragments. I am not certain as to there being much quality within the document any more. I feel the sense has been blasted out of it. There is much work ahead of me over the weekend. I would like to have my exegesis at the printers on Tuesday but it is now looking like Wednesday.

I doubt I will have time to source images from Dylan, who produced the Bend of Islands Land Management Plan (which has some great lists and images of flora and fauna), or take more footage from around the Bend before sending it to the printers. Formatting it into InDesign will take a while – and I do not even know what i will be formatting into InDesign!

So much uncertainty plagues the nerves at what seems to be the final hour before submission.

This last week I have felt like Adrian’s lab rat, desperately running in a wheel of drafting, editing and redrafting. I have gotten to the stage of being on autopilot when I meet up with Adrian as it is easier to agree than it is to argue my point. There is no time to argue my point. I need to get my writing to a standard that he is happy with in order to be submitted. So why argue with the gatekeeper? At this stage, all I want is to be let in so I can get on with the rest of my life.

 

Here are some research diary scribblings:

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Starting to think about the design of my exegesis. A cover that resembles the Placing the Bend interface is what I am aiming for.

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Naming the three versions of Placing the Bend and brainstorming some of the pros and cons of each to trigger some writing to the project.

I have not started on my conclusion yet, and still feel each version of Placing the Bend needs some polishing. So I am not without work this afternoon. Feeling like I require a night off though. Feeling exhausted after a week of early starts and late finishes. It has been relentless and my body is feeling the ramifications of such determination; lethargy, hot flushes, pimples, aching bones, fatigued muscles, and a fuzzy head. If doing a doctorate is ten times harder than Honours, count me out! (for the time being. Perhaps, over time I will have forgotten the effort needed for Honours and think I am up for the challenge of post-grad study).

I have been reflecting upon how I would have commenced this year differently in order to make for a smoother journey. I was not aware of how theoretical Honours would be. Coming from a tech background (having studied filmmaking at TAFE), I did not have the prior experience of working with theory as many of my peers have seemed to have had. I also did not fully realise how much course work would distract me from my major research project in first semester. It could be argued that these assessments helped hone my field of research, but I feel it was more of a distraction than a benefit.

Anyway, I’ll get into the nitty gritties after submission, with the final assessment, which happens to be a reflective essay!

Draft K-films online

Adrian has just uploaded the draft versions of my Placing the Bend interactive documentary series onto his domain to see how they function.

http://vogmae.net.au/works/2013/ed/

Either the network or the site takes a long time to load the each documentary up, which is slightly concerning. I’ll definitely be including a thumb drive with my exegesis for my examiners to watch each documentary on their local drive instead of letting them experience a delayed, glitchy version of the project.

This means more money to spend towards the project, purchasing usb drives as well as costs for printing my exegesis. I figure it is the least I can do to honour the work I have put into this project.

Yesterday I brainstormed with Simon and Steve about naming each interactive documentary in order to specifically discuss how I have developed and refined the research. I am still a little dissatisfied with the second name, but we’ll see whether it grows on me.

Here are some screen grabs of the three main interfaces I have decided to stick to:

Round the Bend

Screen Shot 2013-10-16 at 4.43.08 PM

 

Assembling the Bend

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Becoming the Bend

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Mapping the themes

 

Good news is I figured out how to batch remove audio from each of my SNU clips today. Through Media Encoder I just changed the presets to exclude the sound and bang, presto, it automatically re-exported my clips without the sound.

I have now started to SNU’ify them in PTB02 (Placing the Bend version 2) with the new keywords Adrian has suggested: Near, Far, People, and the one that acts as connector, water. There are many clips I need to SNU’ify yet as I have been focusing on trying to finish draft two to submit to Adrian tomorrow.

I have been continuing to map out the themes/terms and have finished my first pass of the main body. Now I need to go over it again and tie together these themes throughout the piece, ensuring I have discussed each theoretical point that is relevant to my project. I have marked the points that I have touched upon already with a green highlighter below:

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The chronological map of themes/terms is as follows (the green highlighted sections are what needs to be added – building on the interactive doco section):

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The word count is now closer to 11,000, which is a huge improvement from my last draft. There is still much to cut out though, and I am hoping that Adrian will be able to guide me as to what points I should expand on and which one’s I need to extract completely. The orange highlighted parts are what I intend to cut out before submission tomorrow. I have also found links between points that I plan to address.

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I was hoping to have a rough intro and conclusion done by today but unfortunately this will need to wait. I feel the body of my exegesis still requires a great deal of work to provide clearer continuity and concise discussions.

2nd draft

Headache = a continuous pain in the head (Dictionary, version 2.2.1, Apple inc.)

I am trying to listen to my body to gauge the rhythm of my concentration levels to be the most productive researcher I can be. Adrian commented on this in the Media Objects Lab yesterday; write in the morning, work on your project in the afternoon/evening. Understanding my own rhythms of productivity is crucial at this stage of semester where we are two weeks out from submission. I need to be the most productive writer and filmmaker I can be.

I set myself the goal to complete the second draft of the body of my exegesis today but have not been able to. I was hoping I would be able to leave myself a day to edit before submitting the draft to Adrian on Friday but this will not happen now. I am disappointed in myself but at the same time trying to cut myself some slack as I have been working non-stop on my exegesis for over a week now. I am finding it difficult to maintain continuity in such a long piece of writing. I have started making a list of the terminology I introduce in the hope of using it throughout the entire piece.

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I’ve gotten to the stage where I begin to discuss the similarities between music and k-films. Unfortunately I think I’ll have to kiss that section goodbye as I feel it is yet another foreign theoretical framework I have introduced in order to talk about my project. It’s not necessary. But at the same time it is a great way to explain how k-films work – AARRGGHHH!!

Tomorrow will have to be an incredibly productive day as I hope to complete the body of my exegesis, write the intro and conclusion and also troubleshoot batch exporting multiple clips from a Premiere sequence. It’s going to be a busy day. Thankfully I have Simon and Steve to keep me company throughout.

Reconfiguring my theoretical framework

After Adrian made it clear my interpretation of  ontography being a phenomenological practice was decidedly wrong, I have spent the day slashing my first draft and trying to piece it together again. Instead of trying to let the theory dictate the structure of my exegesis, I have changed my tact to let my project instigate the discussion of the theory. I have held off from discussing my project in detail because I felt it was still coming together. It still is. But at least I have a rough idea as to what it will become – each k-film in the triptych. The first one is pretty much complete, I just need to swap the soundtrack over. The second one will be close to completion once I change the keywords and see what pattern it makes.

The next logical step was trying to work out my discussion points in regards to the theory I have learned. I felt frustrated by trying to see the entire exegesis in Scrivener so I drafted up a table briefly outlining each theorist I intend on using and how their particular theories relate to my k-films.

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I now need to write to this, starting with how my project has become a product of the methodology I have chosen and how it represents (or fails to represent) the theories I have been investigating. I feel inclined to start from scratch but do not have the time to do so. I’ll salvage what I can from my first draft as it provides the raw building blocks to construct my claims with.

I know it is a long bow to draw, but I feel there is still some connection between phenomenology and ontography in the context of Seamon’s phenomenological approach. Seamon speaks of understanding place by viewing it through it’s own eyes, an empathetic approach to investigating placemaking. I argue that a true empathetic approach involves the extraction of our phenomenological and anthropocentric predisposition by applying an ontographic exploration of place. Ontography aspires to view the world from the perspective of the things that populate it. This includes both the material and immaterial aspects of existence, or the coming together of the two, as is the case with placemaking. To understand what the BOI is I am using an ontographic machine (Korsakow) to view the world through its eyes. Listing the various relationships that enables its existence, I am viewing it in both an empathetic manner (“kindly seeing”) described by Seamon, and an anti-phenomenologist way described by Bogost.

2 weeks until submission

Despite having submitted my first draft to Adrian a week ago, I am still unhappy with the shape that it is taking. With large pieces of writing I find it hard to put the entire piece in perspective. Working off the word counts that I tally up for each chapter hardly shows the visual and rhythmic flow of the piece as a whole. Writing my feature screenplay last year – that went to roughly 120 pages – was easier as I knew there was no chance I would repeat myself in each scene. Even though the narrative was nonlinear in structure, it was still built on causality, and therefore easier to get my head around.

With my exegesis, as the topic of placemaking is so convoluted and complex, I continuously find myself repeating key points throughout the entire document. It is hard to orientate myself in such a messy, sprawling discussion of placemaking. I am hoping by including images relating to the Bend of Islands a system of markers will guide me into the relevant topics rather than just relying on subheadings.

In my meeting with Adrian yesterday he advised me that I should really focus upon my exegetical writing as opposed to continuing to work on my creative project. If I do not manage to go through at least two edits of my exegesis before submission, I will be decreasing the likelihood of a pass in Honours. This was definitely an alarm bell that has steered me into putting more of my time and effort into reworking my first draft. I am desperately trying to find a shape to my argument and discussion.

I’m finding it hard to let go of working on my project as I have already put so much time and effort into it already. I also feel a responsibility to the Bend of Islands community (the Benders) to get the project to a particular standard as they have sacrificed their own time to take part in it. This is the frustrating thing about institutions, their strict criteria and deadlines does not factor in polishing an industry standard product. I share the blame in this situation also, as my time management with sorting out the Ethics Application was not as effective as I’d hoped. Nevertheless, tertiary programs privilege “the process” over the product in order to emphasise the importance of how we go about creating things – not the quality of the things themselves.

I still have a great deal to do in order to lift my k-film triptych to a publishable quality:

  • Sequence the new batch of Vines in Premiere to create differing length SNU’s
  • Convert .mov files to MPEG4’s to use as 480×480 square Vine ratio’s (unfortunately I mixed the formats when shooting some of the footage – namely the video portraits and wildlife shots – out of necessity. Now I am faced with the challenge of converting the footage into a useable format)
  • Cut down .mov clips to 6 second duration
  • Strip sound from the Vine clips
  • Add audio transitions to the interview track
  • Switch the prototype soundtrack with the new footsteps track I have put together
  • Change keywords from near, medium and far to water/river, man/artificial, near and far for the plants (trees, orchids). This hopefully will signify the intimacy the Benders experience with their environment, where their growing awareness of the place shifts their focus to concentrate on the details as much as the natural environment as a whole. The river is what binds the place together; the geology, plants, animals, and people.

I have set myself the deadline to submit my next draft to Adrian by Friday (11th Oct). This will allow me to have a little less than two weeks to go through two edits before submission. I’m definitely cutting it fine but I have no other choice.

Working so intensely will involve early mornings and late nights at the lab. I still need to push my exercise regime as my brain doesn’t operate too well when the rest of my body is feeling lethargic. If I encounter writing blocks I will swerve around them and continue to soldier on – I cannot afford time spent fretting over one particular problem. I can always circle back to the problem, it is more important to keep the flow of words coming out rather than not producing anything.

Currently I have roughly 14,000 words down. It is optimistic to say that a third of these words are useable. Most of this word count comes from discussing a disparate array of topics related to placemaking and interactive documentaries. I need to hone in on the topics I feel are most relevant to my piece – this means killing some of my darlings.

The topics I feel are most pertinent are:

  • hybridity
  • assemblage
  • becoming (“chora”)
  • routes/flows
  • ontography
  • Korsakow/interactive documentaries
  • musicality

Adrian pulled me up on not backing up particular claims I am making as well as not constructing a sound argument. I think this is more to do with how I am framing the particular claims that I am making rather than the claims themselves. If I introduce them in the context of my research (e.g. From interviewing members of the Bend of Islands community, I have found that their idea of placemaking hinges upon either qualitative or quantitative interactions with their environment) rather than dropping them in flippantly or dogmatically (e.g. The bond we form between the facets in a place stem from either the qualitative or quantitative interactions we have with them), the research becomes much more explicit and evidence-based as opposed to speculative or coming purely from my own experiences.

Another point that was brought up was that if I am using Massey’s theories, I need to be cautious to not delve into her political extrapolation (i.e. the political flows and hierarchies apparent in any given event/place). Many of the theorists I am using have rich, extensive bodies of work that I am merely plucking a morsel from. It is difficult considering the morsel only makes sense in the context of the rest of the theoretical discussions, so I’ll need to outline this context briefly before proceeding onto how it factors into my own research. “Outline” being the operative word, I cannot “detail” this connecting body of work as I simply do not have time or room to fit it into my exegesis.

I am slightly disheartened by being pulled up (yet again) by Adrian about a theoretical connection I thought was solid. I thought that ontography was a phenomenological practice as it relies upon our subjective perspective when list-making. Adrian advised me that it is actually anti-phenomenological as it is a practice that steps us away from our own subjectivity; a way to think from the perspective of a “thing” rather than a human. Which complicates my methodology as it involves phenomenology (humanist geography) as well as ontography (ontological hybridity).

Here’s a rough keyword map Adrian sketched out and notes I have since jotted down to remind me when I get the chance to change the keywords for version two of Placing the Bend.

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Trocadero

I went to an exhibition opening the other day to support my fellow Honours compadre Steve at Trocadero Art Space in Footscray. He was exhibiting his Tea series, exploring his kinship relations through portraiture, which was set aside from the main group exhibition that was about appropriating found materials into a new art form.

 

One artist stood out in particular, Larissa MacFarlane, who explored placemaking through the signs we see every day scribbled and painted upon our roads and footpaths. It was a video-based art piece that follows a sped-up hand scribbling various signs on asphalt pavement to the sound of a Benny Hill’esque theme song.

I loved the intensity of it, and its simplicity. The idea definitely resonates with me. And I liked how Larissa (the hand scribbling) would incorporate the shapes of the environment in her scribbling (i.e. tracing the outlines of leaves, cracks in the pavement, etc.). This reminds me of what Mick Woiwod was telling me in our interview, how the geology of the land dictates how we use it (i.e. if it is hilly and rocky we’re not going to be able to play cricket on it).

I chatted with Larissa briefly about her work. It apparently came about from her ritualistic practice of doing handstands at different places in order to “make them safe.” The handstand, for her, was the ultimate vulnerable position to be in and therefore signifies that a place is safe to be in. She would sometimes trace here hands with a crown or piece of chalk to mark out this practice on the landscape. It all seemed to come about after she experienced some trauma in her life, and felt the necessity to practice a particular behaviour in order to validate her feelings about the place as well as transform those feelings into one’s of security.

Larissa’s practice reminds me of David Seamon’s place-ballet schema, whereby the rituals we act out on a day-to-day basis establishes and strengthens our bond with a place.

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Splice an’ dice

Cutting the interviews together has been quite a long process. I have had two sweeps of the material already, each pass trimming down the information to it’s most essential components. First I trimmed back each interview to useable sentences and points, listing the information in a chronological manner. I then mapped out each individual interview with the three common themes that I found wove through everyone’s discussion about the Bend: Community, Flora and Fauna.

I colour coded each interview to see how much I had of each area. Thankfully I found Fauna wasn’t as prolific as I thought it may have been. I am still concerned that I have no footage of fauna around the Bend due to not having a telephoto lens to spot wildlife from afar.

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And how it grows…

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My next step was to map out a topic-matrix that will allow me to hone in on particular topics that everyone has spoken about. My idea is to trim back each of these conglomerations to see what are the strongest points; where the quality and quantity of information is clearest and most evidentiary.

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I feel like I am going about this the long way but must continue to roll with it because changing my system now will knock me back a couple of steps.

Day eleven to thirteen

As my time at the Bend comes to a close I sneak in another walk and three more interviews.

11

I trekked into RMIT today to meet with Adrian. I felt great trepidation about fronting up to our meeting without anything to show him but was surprised to find him hand-balling the responsibility of my project to me. And rightly so. After all, it is my project and I should be the one pushing myself to perform rather than my supervisor. That’s not his job. If I am not performing to the degree I believe i should be then I am the one to blame, and I should hold myself accountable rather than Adrian guilt-tripping me or creating anxiety around deadlines.

Adrian asked me about when he should expect some written material and to see my k-film. I set myself the goal to have a rough cut of my k-film done by the next korsakow group meet-up (Monday), and at least one chapter for Adrian to look at for our next meeting. I am already feeling like I will not make either deadlines but will keep my head down over the weekend in order to try to meet them.

I experienced a mini-break-through checking my emails more thoroughly at the Honours lab. I found that David Seamon had posted a new article about the phenomenological aspect of diary-keeping when recording our understanding and strengthening sense of place. This is exactly the tact I was hoping to take when piecing together my exegesis. A more informal approach to understanding the major concepts behind placemaking.

Whilst I was in at RMIT I went to the equipment loans department in building 9 to ask them to charge one of the battery packs for the marantz kit I have on loan. Out of nowhere I copped attitude from one of the techies for bringing the kit back late. I explained I had it on loan until the next day. He checked and found I was correct. No apology was given.

I then asked whether I could grab a new battery pack from him as the kits do not come with a battery charger. He refused to give me a fresh pack as he believed he already had done me a favour in letting me loan the kit for a whole week. Sigh. I don’t know what was up with this guy, but it seemed like he’d woken up on the wrong side of the bed. To explain, he wasn’t really “doing me a favour” by letting me loan the marantz kit for an entire week as it is one of the old kits that is hardly used any more. Plus, I gave him the option to call me up at any time and I would be happy to return it. He seemed fine with that deal when I originally loaned it from him.

Anyway, before he got on a roll again to guilt-trip me I stopped him and asked whether he would charge my battery or not. He finally agreed to and I said I would be back to pick it up.

I shopped on the way back out to the Bend as I was expecting friends for dinner. To prevent a Shining happening, I needed some kind of social interaction that was different from interviewing people about my project. So I am incredibly grateful for my friend Richie and his wife Erin who rocked up for dinner.

heres_johnny_

During dinner I received a phone call from my brothers in-laws who have gotten back from the family holiday early; Ross and Cric live in the house next door to my brothers so they were checking in with me to see whether I was doing alright out here in the sticks – which is nice. I arranged to have a chat with them on Friday morning for them to take part in Placing the Bend.

12

I decided to set aside this day to compile my interview material. I already had done 11 interviews so the material I needed to sift through was enormous. Thankfully the weather was awful outside, gusts of bone-chilling wind, rain and even hail whipped through the canopy. Wasn’t the most welcoming weather to take a stroll and capture some of the environment.

When you scroll through material you have recorded, you start to understand where you have gone wrong and what is useable. I found particular keywords that I used in my questions backfired in the answers given. For example, asking Tom about whether he or his family are (or were) apprehensive about their water use considering all of their drinking water is self-collected tank water, I used the word “consumption.” Listening back, Tom uses the same word in his answer without any context around it (i.e. “So I don’t really have any concerns about consumption”). This could mean ANYTHING! Consumption of food or liquids, even consumption in regards to tuberculosis! I was pretty annoyed when I listened back to that rookie mistake. Should’ve known better.

I also found it interesting listening to my interview with Rodrigo. At the time I found it was a little strange that his partner and child in the kitchen next to us would hush down whenever I spoke and then continued banging pots and pans when he spoke. This was a funny realisation that I had, it seemed they were more interested in my questions rather than Rodrigo’s answers as I presume they felt they already knew what he would say. Plus, I guess listening to what I asked gave his partner the heads up about the project and what I could potentially ask her.

In the process of listening back to the interviews I was trying to map out common themes and topics that may act as consistent threads through the voice over. I was searching for patterns – still am. And this may also help with figuring out the keywords I should use in creating my k-film.

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I got to a stage where I was starting to lose my mind so I decided to take a walk. Especially having not exercised all day I felt a bit edgy.  I decided to walk the trail Liz and Pete recommended I take last weekend. The weather had cleared up by this stage so I wasn’t too concerned by that – although the sun quickly sinking behind the ridge was reason to set a cracking pace.

Walking down Gongflers and Catani I found plenty of debris on the roads from the wind and snapped trees that had taken out numerous other surrounding plants in it’s wake.

I soon found myself in the back yard of Liz and Pete’s facing the river. I could see what resembled a trail through the bush so decided I’d give it a red hot go.

The trail threads through the back of the lower Catani properties along the river bank to finish at Henley Road. As there is (i think) a 30 metre belt of land from the river that is Crown owned (Common land), anyone can walk within it without technically trespassing through private property. This did not remedy the anxieties I felt strolling through the back of people’s properties though!

There are some absolutely stunning blocks of property down there though. I also came across wallabies, wombats, ducks, cockatoos and all manner of insects.

It started to become dark so I cut back into lower Catani and walked back to Gongflers along the road.

13

I made my way over to Ross and Cric’s place first thing. Setting up my equipment I discovered the batteries were flat and the batteries I thought the techy charged were also flat(!). Felt very unprofessional. Thankfully I was in the company of family who sorted me out with some spare AA batteries.

I first interviewed Cric about the Bend. What was it like in the early days when they arrived in the Bend? They arrived a little shy of the time the McCallums turned up (36’ish years opposed to 40), purchasing their block of land in a strategic move to help BICA set up a perimeter around what has later become the Neil Douglas Reserve.

Cric spoke of her love of and for the natural environment around the Bend. How she finds untouched indigenous environments aesthetically beautiful and peaceful to be around. I unsuccessfully tried to fish out her understanding of the different ecological systems that she has come to know around the Bend and how they differ from other places. Or more simply, how they work. What are they made up of, etc. Considering she is a landscape architect I was interested to hear about her relationship with the flora of the Bend.

By the end of the interview I felt I hadn’t gotten anywhere speaking with Cric, but this may be due to the fragmented nature of the interview (technical problems with the batteries and picking up phone reception). I hope to find some gems when I listen back to the material.

Next was Ross. Being one of the most prolific architects of the area I started my questions focusing upon his various constructions. I first inquired “why mud brick?” Many (if not most) of the houses in the Bend are made of mud brick and I have only heard a couple of reasons why. I was interested to hear what Ross had to say. He explained that during the time of the new influx of ownership in the Bend in the 1970’s and early 1980’s mud brick housing was all the rage. It was a particular movement established by local architects and patronised by the local bourgeois (writers, artists, filmmakers). It also included scrounging around for recycled timbers and concrete that could be utilised in the construction of a new house. The Bend has always had a sense of do-it-yourself mentality.

I then captured a video portrait of them both before walking to Mia’s in the hope of interviewing her about her experience of living in the Bend. I thought I aligned it well with her daughters midday nap time but unfortunately Mia was having a bit of a hard time getting her to sleep. I also sensed some hesitation about being a part of the documentary so I shied away from setting any finite dates and times, assuring her I would be in touch.

On my walk back to my brothers I came across an echidna. I tried stalking it (ala Frank style) but it curled up into a ball and burrowed it’s way into the ground for protection. I waited for about half an hour, silent and motionless in the one spot to watch it slowly check whether the coast was clear. They are quite incredible animals. Unfortunately the footage I managed to get wasn’t that good due to the iphone having too wide a lens and the dappled forest shadows making it hard to distinguish where the echidna was.

After a spot of lunch I once again drove out to the co-op, this time to properly interview Janet. Turned out to be another epic interview that lasted over an hour and a half (like Franks and Micks). She showed me images of the ribbon being cut when the Bend officially became an ELZ in 1982. Also many newspaper clippings of Neil Douglas and the Bend in the limelight.

The interview itself ranged from clarifying BICA, Co-op and ELZ information as well as charting territory specifically related to placemaking in the Bend. Fortunately Janet was somewhat familiar with the humanist geography slant to placemaking, so we could cut-to-the-chase in some respects. I filled her in about my research revolving around the two ideas of place – the social (widely held beliefs – BOI is a patch of indigenous bush, schlerophyll forest, etc.) and biographical/personal (the subjective/phenomenological experiences that you have of a place) – in a hope to generate discussion around the juncture between the two or personal anecdotes related to either of them. She still found it hard to put into words the feeling she experiences when encountering these places around the Bend.

During these interviews, I feel at times like guiding the interviewees through a guided visualisation of each place. Have them close their eyes and “place” themselves in that environment. What does it smell like? What does it look like? What does it sound like? Go through the sensory experience of a place in this manner.

I’d imagine that would be a bit airy-fairy for many people though.

After the interview Frank offered to show me around the co-op. He drove me down A and B tracks before parking the car to show me some orchids along A track ridge. Found some fantastic orchids (spider orchids, rabbit eared orchid, green hooded orchids) and came across some areas where the CFA have conducted cool burns to minimise the “fuel” for bush fires.

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The slender green hood orchid.

Tomorrow my house-sitting duration expires and I return to inner city Melbourne. I’ll no doubt have to come out to the Bend over the coming weeks to build on my k-film as I feel the material I have captured may not present a strong enough pattern. It has been wonderful being out here for this length of time though, and I look forward to returning every now and then to fill my lungs of oxygen before returning to the big smoke.