The now legendary GS513, a compulsory two-part module for new Hardiman Scholars, is better known as ‘The Burren Trip’ and ‘The Burren Trip again’. Code GS513 involves being whisked off to Co. Clare under cover of darkness, on a stomach churning bus ride to a mysterious destination. Well, okay, we had all probably googled Ballyvaughan but there was still an air of mystery about the whole thing.
I was pretty excited about the trips. As the mother of a small child, a night away from home, with the associated full night’s sleep, is always something to get excited about (so excited that sometimes I cannot sleep, ironically). Not only that, but the trips promised some ‘engagement with visual art’ and I was looking forward to getting messy with charcoal again.
The course, led by Timothy Emlyn Jones and Martin Hawkes, turned out to be quite intensive and comprised a mixture of discussions, workshops and lectures, dealing with topics such as creativity theory, divergent thinking, problem solving and personality type. There was a large amount of group discussion and, sometimes, probing questions. In this I was doomed by my overly expressive face, which apparently suggests I always have something to say, a fact seized upon regularly by Martin. ‘You look like you have something to say’ he would nudge if he felt the verbal contributions drying up. And of course, unfortunately, I always did.
One of my favourite parts of the course was meditating on a rocky hillside (where I could not say anything revealing by accident) followed by creative expression through 2D or 3D media. This felt very liberating in some way and the range of imagery produced by everyone really showed creative difference in action. The first time, I painted a charming cow’s head in a vortex. I wasn’t happy with this at all. The second time, I splashed out a much more dramatic image of a ship floating above a cliff with some cryptic words stolen from nineteenth-century journals. Much better.
Meditation: A chance to stop talking about myself.
It was strange to see how the many components of the course were greeted with varying levels of dismay or delight from the varied crowd of scholars. A documentary film recording facial expressions as each new ‘challenge’ was announced would make interesting viewing. Particularly when the nude model appeared for the life drawing session. I heard there were a few startled faces. I myself was too busy staring at the standard issue teeny tiny sketchpad and large crayon. How would I create my masterpiece with these?
No post about the trip would be complete without mentioning The Enneagram. The best thing about the enneagram is that it bonded the group. After all, what better glue is there than a common enemy? The worst thing about the enneagram is that it broke everyone’s personality down to a number. Like a cylon, I thought. And PhD students do not like to be numbers, no, we definitely do not. Worst of all, a representative of each number had to be ‘interviewed’ about his or her personality type. I was the only one who admitted to being a Seven so there was no hiding. I tried to protest that I was a One and a Four (and secretly maybe a Two with a hint of a Nine) so I wasn’t really a Seven at all. But apparently, this is classic Seven behaviour. I did learn that Twos are very nice, if you have a problem go to a Two. And luckily I now know where to find them.
Overall, the course was a great opportunity to do something different, to get the chance to chat to fellow first-year PhD students across a range of disciplines, and to learn about how to apply creative theory in an academic context. All that remains now is the execution of my brilliantly crafted personal project and submission of a 3000 word report. Should be interesting.
And yes, I did get that sleep.