My end of uni ‘to be read’ pile.

Last week I handed in my final assignment for my undergraduate degree, which is absolutely terrifying.

At the weekend I removed most of the books from my shelves and I am now left with a select few pleasure reads I have been impatiently waiting to get my hands on. I thought I would share that list.

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.


I have already read 200 pages. Since reading War and Peace last year, I have been dying to read Anna Karenina. When Vintage brought out their new Russian classics collection, I had to get this edition and it has been sitting on my shelf since February.

Anna Karenina is a story about a married socialite woman and her affair with Count Vronsky. Vronsky instantly falls in love with Anna when he meets her and attempts to pursue her whenever she is out in society and wants her to leave her senior government official husband.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky described the novel as “flawless as a work of art” and from what I have read his statement is very true. I had watched the 2012 film when it was released but it took quite some time to get to the beginning of the film’s events in the novel. However, the chapters leading up to meeting Anna make sense to the story as multiple characters weave in and out of the novel to create a rich plot line like a grand tapestry.

2. Ross Poldark by Winston Graham.


I love the BBC series Poldark and my housemate was kind enough to buy me the books for Christmas. It feels like forever since I have read a series of books and I now have 12 Poldark books so it seems like a perfect time to make a start on the series. I am still debating whether to read ahead of the television series or watch the series first then the books they are based on because I have loved the surprises when watching the series and I am worried I will not like the series as much after reading the books.

The novel is set in Cornwall from 1783-1787. Ross Poldark returns from fighting in America to find his family life turned upside down and the woman he loves engaged to his cousin.

After studying the 18th century at university, I am really excited to read this and think about the historical context surrounding the novel’s events.

3. Golden Years by Ali Eskandarian.


I noticed this on the new fiction table in my local Waterstones and later picked it up during a student lock-in in February. The quote from the Observer says: ‘A scorching story powered by both politics and poetry, and seething with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.’ Sounds like a great book.

The description on the back of the book is even more interesting as it reads:

In Brooklyn, New York, during November 2013, Ali Eskandarian was murdered alongside two members of his band, the Yellow Dogs.

I tried to do some research on this book and came back with very little. Excuse my ignorance, but from what I gather this is a true story with possible fictionalised aspects. If anyone has read it, please correct me. I’m looking forward to reviewing this as it was an impulse buy and I know little about it.

4. Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali.


I saw this book in hardback last year and was intrigued. This year it was released in paperback and every time I was in a bookshop I would pick it up and sadly put it down. However, last month I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book from Penguin as a thank you for completing a survey and I am so happy it is finally in my hands.

All I know is that the novel is about a Turkish man who falls in love with an artist in 1920s Berlin. 

I misread this to be a modern historical novel which put me off but then I found out this has only recently been translated into English. Translated fiction, the 1920s, the art scene … I’m in.

5. Tarantula by Bob Dylan.


I listened to a lot of Bob Dylan when writing my dissertation and I was so happy to see him win the Noble Prize for Literature.

I was so happy to find this discounted in one of my favourite local bookshops as Tarantula has an interesting history.

The publication for Tarantula was constantly delayed and for years only bookleg copies were available. Written in 1966, Dylan captures the turbulent times of the decade in a mixture of poems and prose.

6. The Call of the Weird by Louis Theroux.


I would like to use this platform to thank Louis Theroux for getting me through third year of university. Happy? Watch a Louis Theroux documentary. Sad? Watch a Louis Theroux documentary. Procrastinating but want to feel like you are learning something? Watch a Louis Theroux documentary.

Weird Weekends is my favourite Louis Theroux series and in this book Louis returns to some of the people he met in the series and dedicates a chapter to them. I’m just excited; it is going to be great.
And that’s all the books I have with me in my university room. I’m not sure if I’ll get through them all before I leave because Anna Karenina is nearly 1000 pages long but I hope to read a few of them. My collection is not very diverse considering half of the books are set in America but I will be able to read a wider range of books when I am reunited with my books at home.

After Anna Karenina, I think I will read Louis Theroux’s book for a bit of nonfiction. If you have read any of these books, or think I should read one sooner, please let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Visual Journals.

About a month ago, Ariel Bissett uploaded a video about micro journaling. Here’s the video:

I completely agree with Ariel that I struggle to keep a diary and I think her method of journal is amazing and I think I will try it out. I have tried to journal since I was very young. Over the years I have tried to write in diaries and write blogs, but I have never managed to successfully maintain any form of journaling. I cringe at my writing and I have to delete or throw away my writing because I dismiss my thoughts as being silly. I blame American teenage dramas for my fear of someone finding my diary and reading it out to the world – despite the fact I have nothing to hide. It’s such an irrational fear.

Instead, I have found an alternative method of documenting my life without writing anything. Since 2011 I have created visual journals and I have never looked back. By collecting images instead of words, I can create a collage of feelings and experiences on the page.

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The picture above shows two of my visual journals. It is not clear on the photo, but the book on the right is my complete journal and the notebook on the left is my current one.

I really like collecting photos, clippings from magazines, postcards, etc. so this is a good place to store them. However, my visual journal is different to a scrapbook (I am making this more complex than it should be). My scrapbook has photos of me with my friends and family, but my visual journal is mainly for pictures I have found in magazines and online.

Here’s some examples of the pages in my journal:

 

There’s a mixture of pictures I have found online, pictures from magazines, old gig/club wristbands, poems.

I love creating moodboards; they really help me map out ideas. Before I started my dissertation, I created a moodboard of influential people, monuments and photographs from the time period I was looking at to help me get in the zone.

Creating these kind of collages on paper help me map my thoughts and feelings for project, or even just a brief time frame in my life. Although there are few words on each page, opening up the journal and looking at the pictures I can remember what I was feeling during the time period I was creating these moodboards. Comparing parts of my journal to older pages allows me to see how much I’ve grown and changed over the years.

Tips for starting a visual journal:

  • Anything goes! – Cut up a magazine, write a poem, draw, make a list, print some photos out you like, collect tags from items you have bought. It can be anything.
  • There is no time limit – There is no structure to this method of journaling, which I think is really useful because there is a certain pressure to creating certain content for other methods of documenting your thoughts. I like the fact that I can leave my journal for months and not feel guilty, whereas I feel the pressure to write everyday in a diary.
  • Cut up magazines – I always forget to throw magazines out and end up with a massive pile hidden in my wardrobe. Cutting them up and putting them in your journal is a good way to keep the pieces you want and to free up space in your room.
  • Use pinterest or tumblr as inspiration – I always go through my tumblr account and create a moodboard of my favourite pictures that month and print them for my journal. Having an account of these websites has made it easier for me to document my inspirations, but it is not a necessity. For years I would just browse these websites and other blogging platforms for inspiration without making an account.

Ultimately I think this is a really fun thing to do as a hobby. As an English Literature student, I spend a lot of time writing so it is fun to create a journal through pictures as an alternative to writing a diary.

I hope people find this somewhat useful and have fun making their own journals!

Rekindling my love for music.

Since the age of twelve I’ve always identified as a music lover. I struggled with the transition from primary school to secondary school and the thing that got me through it was discovering music. My favourite past time was reading music magazines to discover new bands.

Two days after my fourteenth birthday I went to my first concert. A couple of months ago I went to watch a band at the venue of my first ever gig and it filled me with so much nostalgia. I went to a lot of gigs as a teenager and saw a lot of bands I admired at the time.

At seventeen I landed a volunteering job at a music venue and by eighteen I was attending at least one gig a week. Listening to my local music scene expanded my musical horizons (and also got me really weirdly into psychedelic rock) and I felt like music defined me. People knew me as that girl who went to gigs, worked at a music venue, and knew a lot about bands.

For various reasons – mainly my poor work-life balance – I stopped making the effort to search for new bands. In college I listened to a few artists who I didn’t really love but felt like I had to like more than what I did. I still have CDs I bought when in 2013 of people who I know I was never fully ‘digged’. Some of those bands I’ve have learned to love, for example after seeing Swim Deep support Wolf Alice in 2016 I decided to dust off their debut album.

It soon got to the point where I stopped giving bands the chance and was overly critical. I would think ‘yeah, but they just sound like Arctic Monkeys’ or ‘they sound like five other bands on the scene right now’. In reality this has always been the case no matter what time period we are talking about, but for some reason I was allowing that to be a valid excuse not to listen to new music. I was so bored and this mindset has taken me three years to get out of.

Last year I watched a documentary about Andy Warhol and an entire section of it was dedicated to The Velvet Underground. I had listened to The Velvet Underground before but for some reason the beginning of ‘Venus in Furs’ enchanted me and I felt like a door had been opened. For months I would only listen to Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, The Kinks, The Beatles – basically any revolutionary artist of the 1960s/1970s. I was reading rock memoirs and rediscovered my love for 90s grunge and delved into the world of Riot Grrrl. Part of the reason I am writing my dissertation on Allen Ginsberg and Patti Smith (besides them being incredible) is because of this epiphany. I’ve even shocked myself by not writing on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, but when picking my dissertation topic I knew I needed something to inspire me the way The Velvet Underground did. As cheesy as it sounds, there has not been a moment during the writing of my dissertation where I have no been excited. A nod to the music scene Ginsberg and Smith were involved with kinda runs throughout my dissertation. I had already found myself in literature thanks to Dorian Gray, but I was still trying to relocate myself in music and Ginsberg and Smith have become my mentors.

It’s all well and good listening to the greats of the twentieth century, but what about the up and coming artists? I still wasn’t there. I managed to come back to the first decade of the twenty-first century. I am always going to embrace my emo roots and scream the lyrics of Taking Back Sunday, Panic at the Disco, and Weezer at the top of my lungs. Teenage Dirtbag is still my jam at £1 a pint on Saturdays. I’m nostalgic for Phantom Planet and Motion City Soundtrack like I’m in a 2005 time warp. I proudly wear my indie band t-shirts pretty much every day and have a classic 2000-2008 indie playlist on Spotify. The Vaccines, Two Door Cinema Club, Foster the People and my absolute loves The Black Keys are the soundtrack to 2012 and leaving school. Peace, Swim Deep, and Tame Impala made the cut to document my college days. Wolf Alice were the only ‘new’ band I listened to during my first year of uni.

Discovering The Big Moon almost a year ago has really helped me discover new music. I am obsessed with them and cannot wait for their debut album to be released in April. Here’s a sample of their music:

For the first time in years I was really excited about new music. I have bought every single they have released, which is something I never used to do.

Listening to The Big Moon motivated me to check out more bands. I started to listen to the bands the musicians I liked where listening to. If I saw a celebrity I like on Instagram (usually someone from Alexa Chung’s circle because in my head it is still 2011) was at a gig, I would check that band out online.

So, getting to the point of this post, I think I’m cured and out of my rut. I can say I love music again! For ages I have felt like an impostor of my own identity because I didn’t really live up to the title of ‘liking music enough’. It pained me hearing people ask me why I wasn’t as interested in listening to new music like I used to be. Taking a step backwards and going to the roots of bands that inspired me when I was 14 perpetuated me forward to find my favourite bands of 2017.

There was absolutely no point to this blog post but I haven’t posted in a while and wanted to document the return of my enthusiasm. I am currently drafting a post about journaling and how to journal which should have more of a purpose.

 

Self-care and education.

This is my fourth draft of this post. Let’s see if I publish it.

When I hit certain points during my time as a student I panic and think I have to do all the things. I did just that in my final year of college by doing two casual jobs and several volunteering jobs alongside my education. It’s crazy, I know. I said I’m never doing that much again because it was draining and my grades and happiness suffered. I juggled too many tasks just to feel like I was ‘enough’.

During my first year of university I decided to never do that again and just focus on my education and work during my long breaks off. That worked for two years. Now it’s third year and I am doing the thing I said I should stop doing – overworking. Maybe it’s a fear of not doing enough with my time and a fear of regretting not saying yes to opportunities. Maybe I do not want to look back on my time as a student and think “I wish I was involved in more extra curricular activities”.

I carefully planned my summer to try and make third year as stress free as possible. I moved back home and worked at my old job. I organised my research for my dissertation and read the books I was studying for the upcoming semester. I was incredibly lucky and volunteered in the Lake District at an organisation relevant to my degree. Surely that is more than enough, right? Apparently not.

As soon as September arrived I was applying for every job I saw advertised and applying for volunteering jobs. I freaked out and decided I needed to do everything this year. I knew this was a silly idea but I justified it by saying I would only work for a short period of time then I can chill in semester two and just focus on my studies and applying for postgraduate courses. It’s semester two and that has not happened. I have managed to burn out before my classes have even started and it is inevitable it will happen again at some point during the semester.

I think writing all of this down will help as a reminder to stop overworking and prioritise what is important to me, which at the moment is my degree.

This is what I want to do:

  • Take breaks. It sounds really simple but I actually struggle to do this. This year I am not allowing myself to eat and work. If I am eating my lunch or my tea, I have to stop working.
  • Only work between certain times of the day. This is something I will have to work on and I know I cannot always stick to it if I have a lot of deadlines. I want to try and work during reasonable hours and after a certain point stop and leave work for the day. I have a bad habit of working long hours when I do not need to and it does not benefit me in any way. Although I finish the day thinking I can relax more the next day, I still do the same amount of work the next day regardless. Setting my self a time frame might help me complete tasks quicker and more efficiently.
  • Do a few things well rather than many things poorly. Another one I really need to work on. This year I need to prioritise what matters the most and what makes me happy. Basically, I need to be brave and say no to opportunities I know I do not have the time to do.
  • Stay Organised. I’m pretty good at this and want to keep it up. I bought an hour-by-hour journal to organise my days and it is really helpful. I dedicate certain times for certain tasks, for example one afternoon I will only work on my dissertation and another I will only work on the seminar prep for one of my modules. This has stopped me from being overwhelmed by all the things I have to do.
  • Write a list of my achievements that day. I always feel guilty if I haven’t been productive. I want to write lists of what I have done to stop me feeling guilty when I try to relax. Even if it is just cleaning the house or sending an email, I am still being productive.

I know a lot of people worry about trying to get enough work done during the day and I hope this list can be a reminder not to burn out. I think it’s easy to convince yourself to try and complete every task at once but it is not realistic. It is important to manage your time and make room for relaxation.

 

 

 

Reading goals for 2017.

I thought I would start the year off with planning out my reading habits for 2017. I normally write a small list in my journal of the books I want to read in the year, but this year my list is planned out in a slightly different way. Last year I made a list of 14 books but I purposefully did not complete the list. I can be a bit of a perfectionist so I made the effort not to read everything on my list so I could learn to deal with not completing a task. The list I have created this year may be slightly ambitious because I am about to enter my final semester of my undergraduate degree and (hopefully!!!) start a MA at the end of the year. However, I hope I do not tick everything off this list this year because I want to work on being less of a perfectionist.

Last year I read more poetry, memoirs, and Russian literature which I was really pleased with. I also read a lot of large books (500+ pages) which I am really proud of because the average book I would read would usually be about 280 pages. I also used audiobooks more and borrowed from the local library.

This year, along with my other goals, I want to use the university library more for pleasure read books. I wouldn’t say I am a person who buys lots of books, but I want to make sure I limit my spending when it comes to book buying. Unless it is a book I really want to own, I am going to use the library instead. Anyway, here are my reading resolutions:

1. Read three Shakespeare plays.

The last time Shakespeare play I read was The Tempest when I was in college. I did have to read it again for my first year at university, but I cheated and didn’t because I know the text backwards.

Considering I am a literature student, I am embarrassed to say I haven’t read many Shakespeare plays and I want to change that. This year I want to read one Shakespearean comedy, one tragedy, and one historical play.

2. Read five new plays.

The only play I read in 2016 was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child so this year I want to try harder and read five plays. I have already read A Streetcar Named Desire this year, but I am not counting that because I want to try some plays I have not read before. If any one has any recommendations, that would be great!

3. Read 2/3 of the books I own but have not read.

Over Christmas I counted the books I own but have not read and thankfully the number wasn’t ridiculous. Since moving to university and living in a city with amazing secondhand bookshops, I have acquired quite a number of books because they are cheap so I buy them before I never see them again. There are some books on my shelf I really want to read this year, such as: The Little Friend by Donna Tartt, Persuasion by Jane Austen, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, and I, Claudius by Robert Graves because I have owned those books for a couple of years and have not read them. I also own Richard Ellmann’s biography of Oscar Wilde which I want to finally get to this year. I have written all the books down in my notebook and hopefully I will cross a lot off this year.

4. Read a Dickens novel.

I have only read A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and I really wasn’t a fan. I remember downloading Great Expectations on a reading app on my phone when I was 15 and it took me a year to read because I really did not enjoy it and I would stop reading it to do other things. I was resilient and eventually finished the novel but I decided I did not like Dickens. At the time I was new to classics and wasn’t used to the writing style of nineteenth-century novels. Now with a broader insight to literature, maybe my opinion will change. I think I might Oliver Twist or Hard Times. 

5. Read more ancient classics.

I’ve wanted to do this for some time. When I was little I loved Greek mythology but over the years I have forgotten most of it. One of the first texts I read at university was Ovid’s Metamorphoses and I loved it. I want to try and read more Greek and Roman myths so I can understand references in more modern books. This goal could tie in with my aim to read more plays this year, but I do want to read a diverse range of plays and not just several from one literary movement. Again, any suggestions of what to read would be most welcome!

6. Read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

Every year since I was 15 I said I would read this book and every year I fail to do so. I will read this in 2017. This is the one goal I must complete because it has been nearly six years since I said I will read it. I read War and Peace last summer so I am hyped and I am going to do this. I’m going to find myself a copy with a readable font and a good translation and hopefully that will encourage me to finally read it.

I will stop my list there. I feel like a lot of the stuff on my list are things I should have already read so this year I want to tick some off. With saying that, I do not want to restrict myself just to this list. Last year I gained an interest in late twentieth-century American fiction so I read a lot from that time period so I strayed away from my list.

Currently I am reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and re-reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. After A Little Life I am going to concentrate on my course books and then hopefully find some time in the semester to tick off some of my reading goals!

 

My Top 5 Books of 2016.

If you asked me at the beginning of the year what my 10 favourite books are, I could only rank 3 in definite order (for the record they are: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Brighton Rock, and Submarine). Any book after third place was just randomly placed on the list with little thought put into why it was in said place. This year I have read several books that have really struck a chord with me and now hold firm positions in my top 10 list. In this post I have selected five highlights of 2016.

1. The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov.

 

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This is my book of the year and has knocked Brighton Rock from second place (sorry, Graham Greene). It would probably make more sense to put this at the bottom of the list and build up anticipation but I didn’t do that because I did not plan this at all.

The Master and Margarita is set in Soviet Moscow, where God is not present but the Devil very much walks the streets. Without saying too much, Ivan Ponyryov (Bezdomny) is an aspiring poet and witnesses a horrific event which leads him to meet the Master. Bezdomny hears the Master’s story of his interactions with the devil and his relationship with Margarita.

The novel is full of magic and is completely surreal. At times I wasn’t sure if what I was reading was actually happening to the characters or an illusion. As there are a couple of different story lines happening at once, it does take a couple of chapters to get used to the changing scenes and characters but it makes perfect sense when you can see the connections between plots. It is a piece of magic realism, to an extent, and that made it memorable. The witches, the religious imagery, the intertwining of narratives – I was immersed in this world. I think this is a book everyone should read.

2. Perfume – Patrick Süskind.20161223_135641

After finishing this novel I had to put it down and contemplate what on earth I had just read. This book is so ridiculously twisted and messed up and weird. The last chapter is so strange but amazing.

Set in eighteenth-century France, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with the exceptional sense of smell. He becomes a perfumer and is on the search for the perfect scent. On his quest for the ultimate perfume, Grenouille goes on a murder spree. The narrative is poetic and absolutely beautiful.

I would recommend not eating when reading this, because it did make me feel slightly sick, but it is brilliant.

3. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy.

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Okay, so when I was 17 I remember saying I would never read War & Peace. After watching the most recent BBC series of War & Peace I was disappointed that I had not read it sooner. I’ve always known a very basic outline of the plot, but I didn’t realise how interesting it was. After watching the series I instantly bought the book.
I think I have read it at the right time with the series still fresh in my memory because it has made it easier for me to visualise characters. I love Pierre with all my heart and the characters are so complex and gripping. They take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions as you follow their stories through the years. Watching Natasha grow from a 13 year old girl to a young woman makes you feel like a proud mother.
What put me off this book before (besides the size of it) was the great sections of war narrative but I actually quite enjoyed those parts.
The ending was a little bit off. I have heard how people have said ignore the epilogue. I liked part one of the epilogue because it rounded everything off but part two took a philosophical turn as Tolstoy writes critically about history and historical events. Although I understand why he wrote it, I think it would’ve been better as a sort of afterword or appendix separate to the epilogue.
Anyway, I’m glad I read it. Everyone should read it. If you enjoyed an adaptation, read it! You will love the book!

4. A Brief History of Seven Killings – Marlon James.

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I did not want this book to end. In my head this was like a multi-million dollar, decade long, award winning HBO show which would bring every one together to discuss. It is amazing.

Taking place over several decades, James takes us from the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976 to New York in the 1980s to Jamaica in the 1990s. Before the novel begins, like War and Peace, there is a character list and throughout the novel different narrative voices interweave with each other to create a bigger picture. The narrative was haunting and I came away from this novel learning something new. I did not know much about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley or the politics of Jamaica but I couldn’t help but research alongside reading the book and wanting to know more.

Marlon James definitely deserved the Man Booker Prize for this because this novel is a masterpiece. I know this is quite a big statement to make, but I do think this is one of the greatest novels of the twenty-first century so far.

5. Moby Dick – Herman Melville.

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Who knew whales could be so interesting? Like War and Peace, I thought I would never read Moby Dick. My friend Rachel read this book and absolutely loved it so I thought I would give it a try and it was a roller coaster ride. Ishmael’s narrative voice is really engaging and I now want to live a life at sea.

Melville’s writing is an absolute work of art. The plot is incredible and I loved the chapters on whales in art and literature. I was originally cautious of reading Moby Dick because I thought it would be boring but nope I’m invested. It’s a book I want to read again and again.

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Other books I loved this year were: Just Kids by Patti Smith, The Outsider by Albert Camus, Stoner by John Williams, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, to name a few more. I hope I find even more amazing books to read in 2017!

In 2017 I want to read all my unread books on my bookshelf. Excluding the books for my university modules, I have 23 books to read which I think I can do. I’ve owned I, Claudius and Howards End for too long and not read them it’s embarrassing.

The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics.

When is the body no longer human, but a machine? The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds exhibited artist works of prosthetics from the nineteenth-century to present-day.henry-moore

My favourite piece in the exhibition is Yael Bartana’s ‘Degenerate Art Lives’ (2010). Bartana’s short film is incredibly unnerving and thought-provoking. The grotesque, disturbing illustrations of soldiers slowly creeping along the screen elongates the feeling of time spent watching the animation. Upon inspection the soldiers look as though they are pieced together like a mosaic. As their limbs move, a mechanical sound can be heard with each movement. Complemented by the sound of the film reel behind the audience, the machine imagery intensifies. The same four characters are replicated hundreds of times and, therefore, lose any form of identity they could possess. This was the last piece I saw in the gallery and I think the build-up of the other pieces made ‘Degenerate Art Lives’ even more powerful. Viewing Horace Nicholls’ photography and Stuart Brisley’s ‘Louise Bourgeois’ Leg’ first built up my understanding of prosthetic work as an art work and Bartana’s work applied what I gained from the previous art pieces I viewed.

The collision between art and science creates an unsettling viewing and has left me deep in thought long after my visit to the institute. Prosthetic work serves as a reminder of World War One and experimentation in a post-Frankenstein world. It is not just art or science, it is history. Prosthetics not only allow us to be more than human, but to feel human again.

The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics was on until 23rd October 2016 at Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.