treading water

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new research project: ‘treading water’. Photo by Simon Green.

So I took this workshop in the library organised by the SGR – School of Graduate Research – called ‘Finding the Authority of your Academic Voice’ or something like that and it was very good. Very useful, I mean. And it got me thinking about authority and voice and choreography and cartography and the position one takes irregardless of the speculative nature of being and making art. And, I’ve joined this philosophy reading group – otherwise I never will read philosophy – and we’re reading 20 pages of ‘Phenomenology of Perception’ by Maurice Merleu-Ponty every week, gathering together in Dr. Mammad Aidani’s tiny office in the old quadrangle of Melbourne University and discussing  existence of being every week, often to the bells which toll upon the hour. I feel transported to Italy, as it was in E.M Forster’s ‘Room with a View’ i.e. the classical civilisation.

Tip to finding authority i: avoid using too many ands in a paragraph.

Last night on the train I was reading ‘100 Artists Manifestos’ and I was shocked, delighted and energised by the authority in the writing. Instructions, lists, manifestos – I’m wondering if my entire PhD could just consist of one long list. Last night on TV, Jamie Oliver was cooking his 15 minute meal – kedigree – and I noticed his casual authority. Clearly this man knows how to use a knife. But he’s so carefree with it. Is this his success?

Tip to finding authority ii: know when to be speculative and ask questions – it covers your academic back and makes you sound less pompous.

Coming into relation with authority is a process. I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by colleagues and supervisors who don’t pull rank and wave their doctorates around like magic wands. But I do remember when I graduated – the ritual of graduation – the ceremony began with a procession of academics, and I saw my supervisors/lecturers/friends/colleagues walk up in various academic robes, medals and hats and I was taken aback by the authority of costume as well as overwhelmed that I was surrounded by people, mainly women, who had achieved so much. The weight of their learning and teaching and embodied knowledge knocked me for a six.

Tip to finding authority iii: use more nouns than verbs.

Reading Tim Ingold (why is academia obsessed with this man?) writing about wayfaring I was very aware of authority. He writes with great charge and ascendancy about being lost.

I have to say I’m not entirely convinced by notions of authority. I understand that authority makes people comfortable – ‘oh she knows what she’s doing’ – and when you’re claiming new knowledge what else can you be? And, on the other hand I’ve heard people (at conferences) speak with great authority and it only takes a few scratches of the surface to think – ‘well you do have a great vocabulary but what the hell are you a talking about?’

The Emperor’s new clothes comes to mind.

What a beautiful story that is.

Did you know it was originally Danish and it’s been translated to over a hundred languages?

In the old tarot deck there the card 0 is The Fool. Otherwise known as “the jester”, “the beggar”, “the madman”, “the vagabond”. He is barefoot, he carries a stick to which is attached a bundle, filled with his worldly belongings. He whistles a merry tune. He is a wayfarer.

The Fool is the highest trump. He is the Ace. The jester’s trick can beat The King. He is an excuse. A wild card i.e. he fills the missing gap.

He represents unlimited potential. The reason he is 0 in the deck is because he lives only in the present and therefore needs no number. enters the mysteries of life. He makes mistakes. He trusts and is deceived but trusts again. He is without fear.

Tip to finding authority iv: Convince your readers by leading them through the most convincing ordering of your ideas.

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