Friday, 16 August 2013

Utopia/Dystopia: Critical Review and Analysis

Personal reflections

Utopia/Dystopia was an extremely challenging project for me. It is important for me to understand why, in order to continue to develop my practice as I move beyond my MA. There were several points throughout the entire process when it was not clear to me that I would be able to complete the project within the allotted deadline; that I have managed to achieve this has only been because of extremely hard work, concentrated into an uncomfortably short period that has had a negative impact on my personal life and relationships, not to mention my mental health. This is not good practice; certainly it is not sustainable practice. These problems also impacted my work; I fell out of good habits (such as the keeping of a regular blog) that I had developed through Vectis, thus leaving this portion of the unit underdeveloped. Once I had reached a certain point, time-wise, I felt unable to even think about this blog whilst the book itself remained unfinished. This problem of time management arose from my inability to get to grips with the project in a timely enough fashion. After the intense work, and the success, of Vectis, I found myself in a position where I was, basically, suffering from writer's (or artist's) block. The subject I had chosen was rich, but it was also incredibly vast; I had difficulty finding my entry point, or in deciding on a structure that I could use to organise the work. With Vectis, I had been able to, relatively early on, make the key decision that the work would be structured after the solar year; once this overall structure was in place, the rest of the book developed organically; although the quantity of the work that I had to undertake was daunting, I knew, from a fairly early stage, precisely what that work was to be, and was thus able to plug away at it with a good degree of vigor. With Utopia/Dystopia, I found myself, essentially, paralysed by a lack of organisational structure. I found myself making a number of false starts, some of which can be found on this blog, which sucked away time. The empty pages of the book became, not an inviting prospect for work, but instead an intimidating blankness. The more research I undertook, the more I read and thought about the subject, the more I developed my various thoughts, the more things seemed to fall apart. That I was able to rescue the project and complete the book from this state is a personal achievement of which I feel proud, though to avoid such a state in the future would be the most ideal outcome.

One aspect that I have to consider is the simple problem of the incompatibility of my working methods with the structure of a degree. This has plagued me throughout my career in higher education, though throughout the third year of my BA and during my MA I have managed to overcome this incompatibility, mostly through hard work. My main problem is that I have a tendency to work constantly, but sporadically when considered from the viewpoint of a single project. I like to work intensively for a while on one thing, then switch to another thing, then come back to the previous thing with fresh eyes for a while, then move on to a third thing for a bit, and so on. This is a consequence both of my personality and the breadth of my practice, and I am constantly unsure as to whether it actually represents a problem, or whether it is simply something that, in my future career, I will have to take care to manage. It was definitely a problem during Utopia/Dystopia; I had a brief spurt at the beginning of the project, then for a long time, whilst I was reading around the subject, I wanted to do almost anything else but work on Utopia/Dystopia, and generally found it extremely difficult to make any inroads. Almost all of the material that actually appears in the finished book was created in three months of intense work, and I do not consider it 100% perfect. This is true of all my work to date so far, however.

Since I have been so unforgivably neglectful in properly documenting the process through which Utopia/Dystopia was created, I will use the next few entries in this blog to detail the thinking behind some of the decisions that I have made, both about the book and about the presentation of it in the degree show, Denouement. This post will serve as a contents list, and will be postdated to be at the top of the blog once everything has finished being posted; originally I was intending all this to be in a single entry, but it is extremely long, and I thought it best to break it up.

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