Saturday, 8 May 2010

Abandonded asylums and discovering the 'real' Foucault

Until my application is processed and I get full library access (at the moment I just have alumni membership) I'm just tinkering around the edges research-wise. But a couple of things caught my eye this week.

First up, the Christopher Payne asylum photography series, featured in the current Big Issue (awesome mag, if you've never bought it, you should). Opening up the page and seeing the abandoned ward, peeling blue-green paint, huge ceilings and red chair abandoned in the corner; the image was striking in its beauty, not normally the reaction you expect to have from a photograph of a place that would have seen its fair share of trauma. The rest of Payne's photo series shown in the mag were equally beautiful and quirky. His book, Asylum, is high on my to-buy list. I'm really intrigued by the idea of an abandoned asylum, or any abandoned buildings, as a setting, or even as a place that acts as a 'character' within fiction.

Also this week, I started reading a book my supervisor gave me: Creativity by Melbourne author Kevin Brophy. In his opening chapter he writes about 'What is a Foucault?' where he discusses the notion of authorship. When a Foucault lecture is transcribed and then translated and transformed into an essay, how much of the finished work is original Foucault and how much is the work of the editors and translators, he asks. In chapter 2 Brophy includes a short story of his own that explores the notion of creation and creativity through the character of a slightly psychotic art gallery attendant. Interesting stuff but not sure what it will add to my PhD research apart from convincing me not to read Foucault because I probably wouldn't be reading the real Foucault anyway (if only I'd kept studying French at school...).

So, asylums and Foucault. An interesting combination for the unofficial week 1, I think. I wonder what if I'll have anything to say about them by week 151.