art theory

Perhaps it is because my role in our postgraduate curating project is that of creative writer that I feel all of a sudden that a million thoughts are frantically screaming to be released from my head like a dozen angry bulls trapped behind an iron gate.

Yeah. It’s like that.

First of all, I am finally coming to terms with what effort I need to put forth for this project- what amount of research and writing I need to do to for our exhibition. I have this chance to unleash my creativity and make the words I create into works of art. Because that’s how I see writing- not as words to be read on a page, but as if each word was a chance to imagine something beautifully visual. Visual art makes the decision for you but words let YOU imagine what visions are behind them. This astounds me.

Perhaps my tiny journal nearly full with lecture notes, stories, lists, quotes and meeting minutes from the past month and a half has inspired me. I flip through it during awkward silent times when I am too early for class or waiting for someone in a public space by myself, and when I squint my eyes each handwritten letter appears to me like a piece of art. Collectively, all of the letters form my mnemosyne atlas, my cultural memory.

Aby Warburg's Mnemosyne Atlas (http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/mnemosyne/)

The words on the journal pages and in my head are little bits of my personal archaeology. And for some reason, in the past couple of days I’ve realized how much I’ve been fighting to change my own narrative. Trying to create for myself a new heritage, a new style, new likes/dislikes- in order to make the most of my life, to try new things. But as I’ve come to realize, even trying new things and setting new goals can lead you in a circle right back to where you started, right back to a  point where God says “Hey-ya, remember me?

It’s only when I stop fighting who I am that I start to see how wonderful all those things are that I was trying to reinvent. My tights will never be pants. My pants will always be a little bit too baggy and drag on the ground. My eyeliner will never be European enough and my taste in music will always be a little bit reminiscent of my senior year of high school and Austin City Limits festivals. I may never understand contemporary art, despite my masters degree in the theoretical study of it. I like to anti-socially hide behind my ipod earbuds and escape into my own musical soundtrack when I walk absolutely anywhere. I will never get tired of watching Amelie. Regardless of how cliché it is to have Amelie as your favorite movie.

It’s hard work ignoring your own personal narrative. Mine consists of me being an American in Europe. I accept this. My mnemosyne atlas, my collection of artifacts, is beautiful. So I think I’ll start allowing myself to stick out.



I don’t think I’ve told you yet about my mornings. I’m absolutely in love with them. So here’s my routine:

I wake up. Switch on the radiator without even thinking about it as soon as my feet hit the floor. Stumble into my airplane-sized bathroom to wash my face. Pick out some embarassingly American outfit to wear from my wardrobe. Put on my makeup and attempt to somewhat tame the wild Bob Dylan morning hair. Trudge out into the hallway to the kitchen and put on the kettle for hot water, pour some porridge into a bowl and stick some oolong in my tea strainer. A careful balancing act is then carried out to open the kitchen door with perhaps the pinky of my right hand so that I can carry my breakfast cargo back to my room all in one, effective trip. Sometimes some tea escapes my cup onto the floor, but it gets wiped up by my sock.

The curtains are opened, the lamp switched on, the computer gets woken up, quickly check my email, and then I flick on some la blogotheque. I sit, with my porridge and tea, and watch whatever band is roaming the streets of Paris. The watching is usually done carelessly and the music is really just in the background as I’m most likely simply staring out my window. Sometimes it is sunny with a few white clouds, sometimes it is lightly snowing, sometimes (on mornings like today) it looks as if the sky has disappeared and there are no clouds (or the sky is one big cloud- I can’t tell) and I know that it will most likely rain. But it doesn’t matter. It’s morning. The day hasn’t really started yet. People are still waking up or still sleeping and whatever mistakes that will be made today haven’t been made yet and whatever goals that will be unreached today haven’t been unreached yet. It’s morning, so I can pour half that bottle of honey on my porridge because I’ve got a whole day to walk off all the sugar. Usually, I go to bed at night hoping I’ll fall asleep fast so that I can wake up in the morning. As I sit here and finish my tea, time has frozen, or slowed down to an almost unconscious speed. It doesn’t really, that’s a lie, but it’s just this alternative present that exists until I have to get up, brush my teeth and leave the safety of the morningtime at my desk. 

 My surrogate boyfriend Claire came to Edinburgh to spend a chocolate-filled Valentine’s Day with me.

We spent the morning in Leith, the setting for the film Trainspotting, admiring the trash in the water and looking out for heroin addicts.

Yes. Edinburgh has a beach.

Portobello Beach


Claire fell in love with chocolate soup…


HALLELUJAH! Scotland’s version of Chipotle. perfect.

Illegal Jack's Southwest Grill. Louisiana hot sauce provided.

birthday weekend

Stirling, Scotland

our Stirling castle tour guide (aka our adopted Scottish grandpa)

Saturday was birthday number 23. I decided to spend my day at a castle. Why not.
A whole day in Stirling, and then a whole night out celebrating with Claire’s classmates… celebrating Valencian Alejandro’s birthday, but also coincidentally, mine. 3 large pizzas, 3 cupcakes, and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s later, the birthday weekend concluded with a gorgeous day in Glasgow, a confusing John Cusack film and a spontaneous series of short naps. POY-fect.

Claire and me

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

cove park.

4 days. 10 students. 1 neil mulholland.

we ate veggie curries, drank box wine, and discussed curating exhibitions in a building overlooking loch long.

slept in pods with grass-covered roofs.

walked along loch shores.

and consumed fish and chips and pints of beer in an old hotel until midnight.

(more pictures on my flickr page)

wait- can’t forget the theme song of the week:

Citylink bus 900

I rode home from Glasgow tonight, iPod earbuds in place, knees up and pushed against the seat in front of me, slouched down and gazing out the window at the blurry silhouettes of trees against the white snow in front of a red-tinted night sky, and I felt both contemplatively sad and comfortably safe at the same time. It’s the same feeling as being on a road trip, but not being the one driving, so I’m free to let my mind wander and let my thoughts mold to whatever music I’m listening to. Oddly enough, even though I’m thousands of miles away from any country Texas highway I’ve taken roadtrips on in the past, it feels the same. I feel safe, knowing (or rather, trusting) the bus driver will get me back to Edinburgh safely, and it’s familiar now where I’m coming from (spending time with Claire, a decade-long friendship that feels like home) and where I’m going (a city with streets that are second nature to me now and a cozy room with plenty of heat coming out of my radiator ). I always look forward to this bus ride, and yet I always seem to choose the most haunting music to listen to for the journey, which makes me feel at peace, but also have this melancholy loneliness that comes with staring out into an uninhabited darkness of trees and snowy hills.


for auld lang syne


Katie and Elizabeth came to visit me for Hogmanay– the following is a list of highlights from the week:


-traipsing through the snow in The Meadows
-proof of Scotland’s unnecessary obsession with fire

Torchlight Procession down Princes Street

firework finale on Calton Hill


-plugging in Eliza’s American hairdryer and killing the electricity in our entire flat for an hour


-seeing more evidence of Scotland’s paganistic fire fetish…

fire installation on the Royal Mile

… and how wind and hail mixed with fire installations can quickly feel like the apocolypse is happening 



-clever Scottish vandals 

today's special: freshly prepared men

-a snow-covered day in the Royal Botanic Gardens 


 -singing/dancing to “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” with thousands of drunk Scots at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party 



-waiting for hours in the freezing cold to see that damn robot man hatch out of a giant egg and blink very creepily at us 




-double-decker bus ride to the Modern Art galleries 


-chai tea in the most comfortable Indian restaurant on Earth 


-snowball fights in fresh snow 


-being pelted with snowballs by teenage boys walking past us yelling ‘Happy New Year!’ (a phrase that makes anything you do alright in the end.)

beans on toast.

Walking home tonight, I had an entertaining discussion with Scottish Navin about the British staple of Beans on Toast. He found it quite hilarious that I was devastatingly disappointed by how anti-climatic my first experience with the dish was. I honestly expected some miraculous, indescribable burst of flavors that would be produced when the forces of these two ingredients combined… but alas, it is just beans. on toast. Apparently everyone in the UK already knew this. He nearly weed himself when I told him I’d actually Google’d a recipe for how to make beans on toast. But I did. And oh yes, there are recipes.

 Baked Beans on Toast

Serves 1


-2 slices bread, toasted

-1 (200g) can vegetarian baked beans, in tomato sauce


1. toast your bread

2. butter if you like butter.

3. cut into 2 big diagonal triangles.

4. heat baked beans.

5. pour over toast.

6. serve. 


the moon above our house

I just had a weekend so life-altering, I can’t find any adjectives to describe it. I decided to go on a monastic retreat. Maybe it was the visit to the Pannonhalma monastery in Hungary or the short-lived Gregorian chant radio channel in College Station that got me interested in the monastic life, I dunno. But when I was given a coupon for ScotRail to use before December 13, I booked a train ticket to Pluscarden Abbey. Here. I expected a four-day escape where I could be alone in the Scottish countryside and solve some internal dilemmas that have been haunting me lately. But from the moment I arrived, my expectations, thoughts, struggles, everything, just kind of froze and dimmed inside my head. I got to the women’s house on Friday afternoon and was taken in by two Irish women, Sandra and Maggie, who had arrived the night before and were also there for some escape. Not one of us was Catholic and we were all ignorant of how a Benedictine abbey worked. We spent three days hiking up the hills behind the abbey, listening to sheep noises and stopping every so often to take in this

sunset during our friday hike

 beautiful place. Sandra’s phrase she repeated over and over throughout the weekend was “Aren’t we just so lucky… to be here?” We went to every service at the abbey… all eight. (Although sadly, I never made it to the one at 4:45 in the morning.) We lived on bread that Brother Thomas gave us… and that was pretty much it. Bread and honey. Bread and butter. Bread and peanut butter. Bread and hummous. We didn’t shower, mostly because of the painful extreme hot/cold plumbing problem going on there. We stayed up late and I listened to their hilarious travel/hitchhiking stories from when they traveled around Europe together in the 70’s. We laughed at how much we loved Brother Thomas’s stylish denim outdoor work cloak, and how we were worried he might drop our loaves of bread he was coming to deliver when he caught the man stealing holly from the holly bushes outside our window. Sunday we took a vow of silence from the first morning service until the last evening one. (In theory, this would have been a good idea… had it not been for the 2 new women arriving to stay at the house and the sudden appearance of some chatty monks.) When we all left together in the taxi this morning for the train station, I realized not once in the past 3 days had I contemplated any aspect of my life. Sure, this monastic way of living is supposed to be the contemplative life, but I’m thankful that’s not how my weekend turned out after all. Actually, for the entire three days my mind was quiet. I didn’t think about all the crap in my head and I didn’t even pray that much. I looked and I listened, and that’s it. I looked at the scenery around me, at the inside of the abbey, at the rituals, and listened to the monk chants and the silence on the walks back to the women’s house. But I did thank God over and over for these two new friends. I would have had a very different, and probably horribly depressing weekend had I been on my own like I expected. God put these women with me to keep me company, to make me countless cups of tea, to skip down the road with back to our house from

Maggie skipping

 the abbey. Literally. Maggie convinced us to skip. And then I proceeded to teach her the running man dance. Getting to the train station this morning I knew that if I got nothing else out of this weekend, I got to experience God’s love for me. He knew I didn’t need to handle being alone this weekend, and he sent me friends to keep my mind on Him and to remind me of how much he loves me and is looking after me.

Maggie and Sandra and the abbey

But then that just wasn’t enough. Waiting for the train to Aberdeen, a young man came up to us who had been on the monastric retreat as well, whom we’d seen at all the services at the abbey but never talked to. He was going to Aberdeen as well, and then… on to Edinburgh. When we got on the train it was quite full, and he and I were separated from Sandra and Maggie, which I was quite sad about. (They had dark chocolate kit-kats and mars bars they were going to break out…) During the 90 minute train ride, George and I talked about the Catholic church. He seemed to know so much for someone so young, that I asked him how he got to be so interested in it all… The train reached Aberdeen, I hugged my new Irish friends goodbye (2 times) and after grabbing sandwiches, George and I settled on the Edinburgh train. And then I just listened. I listened to his story, his indescribably amazing story. Along the way I asked him questions about things I didn’t understand about the Bible and miraculously, he answered every one of them and his answers all made perfect sense. And he didn’t give me all-knowing, intellectual answers. He told me Bible verse. That’s it. No interpretation or anything. Straight words. It was all so simple, and right there in that book I keep on my shelf the entire time. The train ride flew by, overflowing with intense conversation and the view of the Scottish coastline from the window beyond George’s head. We talked for another hour outside the station before his train to England departed, and when the time came for him to leave, he told me he had seen me this weekend in the abbey and had prayed for me. I asked him why and he just smiled and said ‘that’s just what I do’. He said God had told him to go meet me, and at this point, I was on the verge of tears. God not only sent me two Irish friends, but also this British man, George, who clarified more for me in the 5 short hours I spent with him than in the countless hours I have spent fighting God trying to figure it all out on my own. I hugged him, walked home in a fog, dropped my things on the floor and cried. This weekend, I experienced how much God loves me in a way I’ve never experienced before, and that was more than I could have ever asked for out of this retreat. All from a stupid Sainsbury’s ScotRail discount voucher.

st. andrews day

Hi. My name is Sarah Morris and I am an expert finder of free things to do in Edinburgh. Yesterday, I convinced Ali to become a tourist with me and go see the Bagpipes and Drums procession down the Royal Mile up to the Castle. There were 5 or 6 different groups of bagpipers and drummers that went up the Mile in waves, and after the last wave the whole crowd of onlookers followed the procession up to the Castle where all the groups ended with a rowdy rendition of Scotland the Brave. Mmmm I still haven’t gotten sick of that song yet. Then we perused the Christmas markets again… I think we should play a game to see who can find the tackiest hat. It’s obviously a game the Scots set up for us to play. Ali found this one. Any hat that looks like a monkey is eating your face is a must-have I think.

 St. Andrews Day did aid quite a bit as the free activity provider. It’s really the ideal holiday for students at university because we either don’t have class or can skip it and everyone else has to go to work/school while we go off and do free things all day. This morning, I made Ali wake up at the buttcrack of dawn (literally, sunrise is at 8:30 or something ridiculous like that) and she in turn made her flatmates wake up early as well and we all took the bus down to Edinburgh Zoo. ‘Cause it was free today!

 This is at the wolverine cage as we all looked for Hugh Jackman.

We did end up seeing some animals actually. Of course, the penguins…  always a crowd-pleaser. And hands down our favorite bit were the baboons. Look at the wee baby one!  

Later on, Ali and I kept the spirit of free going as we toured Edinburgh Castle. Normally, admission’s like £12, which is absolutley horrendous. We got there towards nightfall so it was really pretty with all the lights down below on Princes Street. We saw the Royal Crown Jewels of Scotland (ooohhh shiny things.), a really old chapel (like 12th century old), and the room where King James VI of Scotland was born. Literally. This was the spot where Queen Mary popped him out of her uterus on June 19, 1566.  Well, we guess. There was a stain, we guessed that was the spot. 

Finally, we ended the night with a fireworks show from the castle. Uh-maze-zing. Waayyy better than those dinky Guy Fawkes Day fireworks.

Oh man, I am so ready for New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh…