‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20 Century Please Turn out The Lights?’

Retro bar promo2 final

 

First and foremost for anybody who has never heard of Baildon (mainly people south of Wakefield), just think ‘2 miles north of the World Heritage Site, Saltaire.

I’m really looking forward to this event. To be honest it’s our first proper outing as a collective. The Artists’ Bookfair at The Tetley Gallery in Leeds earlier this year was sort of leading up to this. In light of the series of events that have unfolded in the past month (for better and worse) the title of the event, ‘will the last person to leave the 20 century please turn out the light?’, really does seem loaded. No longer does it merely seem to be a ironic nod towards the serious structural inertia that has dominated culture and political thought for what feels like an eternity, but it now seem to on the point of potentially being seriously responded to.  Indeed, the post The End of The Long 90’s on the blog Flip Chart Fairy Tales, really puts into focus the unavoidable proposition that recent events will change British politics for good – that maybe the “Summer of ’17 really will be the end of the Long 90s”. I’m excited to say Rick from Flip Chart Fairy Tales has allowed us to use the blog in an introductory installation to the exhibition part of the event.

We have to be cautious, and what is still clear is that the apparatus that foster cultural inertia and negative realism are still in the driving seat, even if it’s now clear the vehicle has no idea how to navigate the new roads. However, with trepeditity, and paraphrasing the words of Juliet Jacques’ recent post for Repeater Books, ‘For the first time in [adult] my life, I don’t feel like [I’m stalked by depression]’. It may be a flash in pan, a hysteria brought about by the heatwave and the flurry of events discrediting Neoliberal agenda’s freezing of social life into billboard graphic impressions of public space. But I’m feeling more than ever that this negative realism can be fought against, both in my art and life.

Comewhatmay, we have a series of artists, writers and academics parttaking on some level in this exhibition. I’m sure the outcome will be a fruitful one!

As well as the collective (which currently revolves around myself, artist Rebekah Whitlam, Artist-Curator John Wright, and composer Benjamin Parker, – ghosted by DS Jarvis), we have invited contributions from DS Jarvis, photographer Steve Schofield, writers Merepseud and JD Taylor, the poet Jonathan Butcher, the blog Flip Chart Fair Tales, and potentially the engineer David Hooppell. All in all it is looking like

 

 

How Did I Get So Old? (pre-GE2017 musings)

I really wanted to make more of this project before election day, but the things I had been documenting spread into a project I felt I couldn’t reasonably complete in the time space left. I had been making narrated maps and compiling photographs from the 7th May onwards, but to post all of that right now would just be the equivalent of showing the teacher all the ‘hard work’ I’d been doing in the past month in the hope that I could pass the GE2017 exam, so not to face the tidal wave of bickering sounds that’s building.

I begin with the series of maps I made during the last month, and conclude with a short piece of writing I have cobbled together within the last week, as I tried to make sense of the chaotic month, year, century leading up to now.

 

In a Barnsley Wetherspoons the ‘Love Manchester’ event that plays out from a screen usually emitting rolling news anxiety, prompts at least 10 drunk men to loudly and proudly sing along. If the Manchester brand of the past 20 years was borne from the far less deranged and nihilistic IRA bomb attack of 1996, the Oasis hit ’Don’t Look Back in Anger’ released in that very same year, has resurfaced to become the anthem for a Manchester hyper-branded through social media in a matter of days. It evokes a pleasant memory of spring in 1996; the entire of our year 7 class singing along to it on a cumbersome ghetto blaster in the school’s music department.

 

But that was 1996 – how did we all get so old?

I’m distracted towards the living rooms of the houses I walk back past, as the screens are noticeably showing the music event. The exhibited middle-aged white singer could be Liam Gallagher, Chris Martin, Damon Albarn or Robbie Williams. They all look the same; ageing men under the spotlights of an ageing spectacle. I start to see this gig not as a triumph of enjoyment over terror but as a send off to Britain. A gig to mark the sinking of ‘HMS Brexit’. It’s beyond doubt that something is ending… And I’m wondering if we are actually singing something altogether different, something that would spook the reality consensus of this 200 years-industrialised nation if we could hear it played back (perhaps through that old ghetto blaster?). Don’t Look Back in Anger, tragically, sentimentally and pathetically, has become this anthem.

P1060837

How did we get so old?

Back in West Yorks I meet with Michael and we make our way out of the centre of a town that nobody is willing to admit is the heart of a dysmorphic, discontinuous, yet larger UK sprawl. This late spring heatwave has helped unveil the strangeness of the West Yorkshire mash-up of landscapes, now covered in a deep greenness. Rather than seemingly seasonally premature, it appears to spring up around us like a Jurassic landscape rising from a deep sleep that’s encouraged by the excessive carbon emissions we currently seem seized into emitting as the exorcism of the fossil fuel age heads hysterically to its death.

The sun’s heat just keeps on rising as we return from a walk that followed the Calder and Hebble Navigation. Once an essential artery for one of the capital machine’s long-gone dead skins it is now an extension of a leisure park for a post-historical England that was never successfully achieved. We marvel at excavations by hands, many hands, by a once disliked immigrant population now totally saturated in sediments of Englishness that seem to perpetually suffocate its potential. It’s such a familiar story, and like the immaculately engineered bridge we pass under, a mile down the tow-path, it feels like a painful reminder of how long in the tooth this game is here in England. And with the heat beaming down, it’s all too much. I’m massively relieved Michael suggests a pint at a nearby pub.

 

Later, we sit in Michael’s back garden in Ossett. Sandwiched between the multi-ethnic communities of Dewsbury and Wakefield, Michael talks in dismay about how this town is possessed by proactive wishes to remain miserably white-middle-class in preparation for the gathering storm clouds. The most severe indication of this was the line of union flags we observed along an ugly bypass past a new housing development where surely nobody with a sound mind in a sounder time would want to live. All seems bleak, but as his teenage children come and go, I just can’t envisage their generation finding a platform from which to practice such pessimist social philosophies. It just seems inevitable that all this has to fold into a brighter horizon.

But how did I get so old? This back garden reminds me of my grandparent’s on the periphery of the Darton settlement. Was it an interwar or postwar estate? I’m not sure, because both are longer ago than I feel I am willing to accept. I’m 33; biologically of grandparenthood if circumstances had been different. As I look at the garden of a man not much older than myself I have a sensation of having awoken from a deep and long sleep. But in the company of certain friends I don’t feel as fearful of this knowledge as when I wake up at 4am in cold dread over my stunted adulthood. From as long as I can remember my spirit found itself to be so vulnerable that my mind began draining its desire to live on daily basis ironically trying to work out life-living formulas to the digit. Formulas that confident pro-active behaviour would not give a second thought.

 

But that which causes regret and bitterness is for another time. “Don’t give up, man” I tell myself “optimism is the only way right now”. The forthcoming election requires a fight against depression, to wager on the ‘what ifs?’. And if all I think I’m seeing (?) on this streets of post-importance has some reality to it, perhaps we should look at post-industrial Britain in 2017 as being a patient half-way through psychotherapy treatment?

We are at a crossroads point in the therapy process. You realise you have a problem, yet the alternative is frightening, because it is the unknown. That past of downer-driven motivations seems easier, because you’ve learnt to numb yourself from the worst excesses of the misery and pain of it through a self-medication that numbs you to even the most horrific post 9/11 news stories; it’s a day to day battle with no future, but the alternative isn’t tangible and seems somehow far more frightening. And the most audible negative voices can anyhow reassure you that all this so-called alternative can muster is a return to the 1970’s. “And who would want to go back to the 1970’s?!?”. Their calls to your depression aim to convince you that everything has been done before. ‘There’s nowt tha can do, pal!’.

But, maybe this is just societal senility. Maybe, just maybe, everything hasn’t been tried before?

 

Trying to stop the memory mountain foreclose the future is hard. Even after the Tory party’s campaign blunders during the election run up, and sore memories of 40 years of social decay and financial anarchy, if their calling voices successfully manage to echo our depressive doubts about the world we live in, they will win cheer-led by the riotous and smug victory declarations of the Right Wing press, like In May 2015.

It does us no good to see ourselves as selfish and privileged 1st worlders who can’t get a grip; the consumerist addiction, and anger at small things is part of a depression that a culture that encourages atomisation and distrust encourages. To continue our punishment is to send out a toxic message about the way to distribute the wealth of life in a rich country. HMS Brexit: a ship of self-enslavement; enacting the sinking of the Mary Rose with seeming total complicity from those on-board.

If the vote goes the wrong way on Friday; I’m dumbfounded to think what new movements could grow in a country that has decided to stick to its depression.

But just now, we haven’t reached that conclusion.

P1060875

Michael later texts me in disbelief over seeing the Tory campaign advert the owners of Barnsley local newspaper have decided was wise to cover it with. But the local rag’s lazy lock-down might have misjudged the nerves currently communicating on seemingly sleeper streets, like cable wires. Maybe, just maybe the meme hit a dead vein? As I’m travelling back through an obsessively familiar landscape that reminds me of the lines below my eyes more than a mirror, I realise that my eyes look forward from a time I don’t even remember; that the bags under my eyes seem to correspond to things seen in the decade before I was born; the 1970’s.

I don’t think I am alone, as many of my contemporaries felt aggrieved that they hadn’t been old enough to have physical presence at ‘the rave’ as if a curse had cruelly planted them in a time for which they couldn’t locate a pulse. For those who reached puberty in the mid to late 1990’s, a drink-fueled comedown-culture took over all that appeared to suggest that it could’ve been more.

It’s hard to imagine the only grown up ‘me’ I’ve been at a rave. The depressed and anxious vibes this post-pubescent body has emitted would have only sought sleepy cider sedation at a rave. But this body only ever knew the reality of the drink-fueled comedown-culture; the need to ignore the pain of losing that what we could have had.

And this is why a vote that could, at least in spirit, signal the end of the neoliberal clampdown consensus is actually fucking scary. But maybe I wouldn’t be alone in anticipation of a beckoning nervous breakdown; my god, we’d wake up and, maybe, just maybe, we would realise we could leave our shields at home. That would be so strange, and why would we need the drink at the end of the day, if we haven’t been holding them shields?

I’m sorry. How dare me, but Ive lost myself in idealism. I do apologise. But it’s better than idly saying ‘we’re fucked, whichever way it goes’.

Because I really do sense that something does indeed beckon.

Jeremy Corbyn has been a channeling force for the collective dysphoria borne in the wake of May 8 2015 (an election result reality nobody really prepared for). He is a head upon a ‘momentum’ that, if found disembodied this Friday, will gravitate towards a more extra-parliamentary form. And those who think Corbyn represents an ideological extreme should really prepare themselves now. At least from an English perspective, perhaps we will see extra pressure placed on the distressed and distracted collective conscious that burgeons on our times; it bleeds as a slow rain of individual meltdowns on a knife-edge between the impossible and the inevitable, but surely will be forced into the inevitable as the forces driving what currently registers as our annihilation engender its stage presence?

Short of nuclear war, the impossible future is the inevitable future.

21st Century Limbo-id Men

21st Century Limbo-id Men (2017, mixed media on paper)

21ST Century Limbo-id Men

 

In Respect

I probably woke up this morning to last night’s events that occurred 30 miles across the pennines with the same sense of disbelief as everyone. I imagine we are all awash with a mixture of feelings, but I sense that the main feeling is compassion, not only for the victims, but with all those who woke up to the news like ourselves. And it is always heartening to see that most people feel the urge to bond, rather than to rush into an ‘who dunnit?’ hysteria.

It is deeply appropriate that all political parties have agreed to put their campaigning on hold.

But please remember this moment of genuine heartfelt solidarity we are communicating today, when the divisive politics of fear seeps into political campaigning tomorrow. Social media sites show ample evidence that today most of us are wanting more than ever to break out of our modern cages of loneliness, to share the emotions and values we wished were dominant every day. But tomorrow a silent attempt to hijack this will begin, as it has before.

I’m not saying by whom, but we all know what sort of politics benefits most from divide and rule tactics. I’d like to ask us all to remember that the bonds we feel today in our collective mourning (whether it’s via the internet or not), will be replaced by fearful and hollow loneliness if those who’s aim it is to divide and conquer succeed.

Corny as it is, certain songs rekindle my faith in the collective good at times of lonely thoughts about the gravity of the challenges all face. In light of this, I’ve attached this song from the Hope of The States’ 2004 album The Lost Riots.

Teresa Mayday (Writings From HMS Brexit)

This cut of HMS Brexit is a montage of considerations and conversations held in urban Yorkshire around Teresa May Day, 2017.

The election promise of more bank holidays is perhaps the most worryingly feeble soundbite the Labour Party have pitted against May’s iron-agenda of “a vision of a man chipping ice off his windscreen and going to a job he hates, forever” (a comment the late Mark Fisher made in the aftermath of the 2015 Tory victory). Short of a general reduction of the working week, bank holidays are merely showcases of just how burnt-out our cultural obsession with work has made us. Bank holidays are like a warm maddening gust of monoculture seeping into every receptive pore, yelling “hey, you enjoying it yet!?”.

Last year, during a late afternoon September walk upon Marsden Moor, in the simmering aftermath of yet another 2 day race to try to sweep up as much leisure as is possible from the limited time/energy left from the 5 day race, we spoke of being ‘landlocked on an island’. It was a throwaway remark that nonetheless stuck in our thoughts.

Bank holiday weekends are landlocks on an Island, or at least its lockdown, where the extension of the normal weekend-feeling intensifies the seizure of space into a mentally exhausted hunt for fun.

There’s no escaping it – it’s like a workday commute in reverse, where we pathetically and unimaginatively try to push back the time taken from us.

Some breaths are taken are little more slowly and deeply than others.

…but there’s no winners.

The right wing victors have made sure life is a game all about winners and losers. But I see a society where everybody is living from fix to fix – whether it’s from the more privileged vantage of a status car in a traffic jam, or the ‘loser’, straddling the narrow pavements with cans of cider in his bag. I see a society where everybody is losing.

On the train to Sheffield, I had the nauseating everyday-performance anxiety of finding myself alienated from, seemingly, it all. ‘Lads on tour’ made me remember it was a bank holiday Sunday, and I should be drinking, or thinking of drinking. It’s all we know do to with the gaps of freedom granted from our nothing-jobs, when not ‘gymming it’ – which is surely an extension of work? But drinking too is an extension of work, not just in how it recharges us for Monday by puking up our frustration built up from the week gone, but in how our drinking seems like the cultural response to losing. Resigned as we’ve long-been to losing to the capital machine, and accepting workaday for eternity

Maybe the election promise of more bank holidays is because the idea of a reduced working week would seem like heresy in a time where the ghost of work drives society into a state of overworked exhaustion that produces barely anything we savour.
“We’ve never had it so good”, a famous quip by the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in the midst of much Postwar optimism, has since been internally re-digested to mean “we should never have had it so good”. We’ve come to accept so much less, and I don’t think we’ve even realised. Whilst we may cling to the Disney of theme-weddings, flash cars and country homes, we feel dirty for even dreaming of not burning ourselves out each week doing something we despise – even as the machines threaten (or promise) to do all our ‘dirty’ work for us.

P1060496


There are stickers currently posted all over the transport terminals of South Yorkshire – preventing us forgetting the grave injustices dealt by the Tories on the National Union of Mineworkers in 1984. But they alone will struggle to remind us of the once-held belief that we shouldn’t have to live and die as worker-bees who feel that queen bee has spoiled us with an extra bank holiday to fuck up. We are now the self-inflicted undeserving poor, and, thus, it doesn’t take much to whip up hatred of the non-working poor when, essentially, it is ourselves we hate.


P1060533


Tied like weary beasts to the 1990’s, its stagflated children have nothing to replace its neoliberal ‘teenage kicks’. 20 years ago to the month, after 17 years of Tory rule, New Labour were elected to govern a country that felt very different, if wearily similar. As John Harris’s article on ‘Cool Britannia’ states in this weeks’ prescient edition of the Newstatesman that I picked up in Leeds Railways Station, “the Western world was still locked in to the decade-long spell of carefree optimism that had begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall and would end with events of 11 September 2001”. This, I can personally vouch for, being young, and easily influenced by the hype of a decadent music culture fused with a then-new-look politics that looked like it would lead us into an exciting new century.
We all know how sour things went, but I think John Harris only mildly humours the answer to the question ‘where did it all go wrong?’.
It’s not just a question of being fooled by a political party who felt they’d found a new formula that could splice market fundamentalism with a strong, sharing society. It’s not a question of feeling fooled by a backwards-looking culture that was heading for burnout before it began. It’s not even a question about wanting to turn back the clocks to before ‘always on’ connection and the 9/11 terror attacks.
It’s all of things, but I’d like to suggest it was maybe more to do with the mirage that there was then a shared-sense of a positive projection into the future. It led us to take it as a given, when, in fact, from about the early 2000’s onwards there was a growing sense of betrayal, and hurt, at the bitter persistence, and intensification of the nastiness and distrust of each other injected into society most notably by the party, and leader (Margaret Thatcher), whom Blair sought to eclipse with his ‘new’ vision. As he tries to resurrect his political life as I write, like some demonic creature time-locked by the last century, maybe we should consider that the period that he was a cipher for led a lot of (especially young, and politically naive) people into a false sense of togetherness, the slow-betrayal of which they possibly never fully recovered from.
P1060535 (994x1280)

Passage taken from ‘Abandon Hope’ (Summer is Coming), the late Mark Fisher’s brilliant piece written days after the 2015 election result


UK 2017 – a general election for the Unhappy Ilse
But we’re not talking about Bertrand Russell’s notion of the ‘happy miserable’. What we have here is more it’s ‘the selfish-miserable’.

Maybe we shouldn’t avoid Brexit talk, and stress that it’s really now more about whether you want to wager on a man, who, however unfit he is for The Age of Ads, is probably earnest about injecting compassion and empathy into a dying social body, or if you’ve totally given up on our wider environment, and willing to ignore that evidence is mounting to show how this is abandonment is killing us by misery.


P1060528


But what right does a land of people who have raped the earth have to happiness anyway?

The Jamaican-born Stuart Hall, was right to point out that “Euro-scepticism and Little Englander nationalism could barely survive if people understood whose sugar flowed through English blood and rotted English Teeth”, but severed from its source it serves as a shard of violent words, for the vicious verbal in(ternet)fighting that now constitutes much of our lives.

Yes, the selfish-miserable has policed the waves and plundered the land for sugary satisfactions for centuries, it’s part of a sediment of suffering that probably dates back to the terrifying castles the Normans built as a statement of superiority all over England. It spread across the world, but no place like home did it have so much time to sink its teeth in.

P1060509

I’m actually convinced that a lack of foreign-sugar in our blood stream is not something we would miss if we as a nation accepted and challenged the toxicity of our interrelations. It creates a sickness that makes a slow-suicide through sugar desirable. Be it through comfort food or alcohol; this is self-medication against the accumulation of minute emotional wounds we, and the infrastructures we’ve built, inflict on each other throughout every given day.

June 2017


P1060531

words from Patrick Keiller’s London (1994, BFI)


The fraught distrust that hugs our shared spaces, more pungent than the toilety smell of toilets on crowded Virgin Crosscountry trains, is a worrying indication that it will be a victory for Teresa’s May’s padlocked-pessimism this June. The party is the preserve of cowardice, and will happily feast on the carcass of the social body if we willingly lay it down to die.

I hope I’m wrong. Surely enough’s enough? And I mean this on a much deeper and broader field than the one on which Teresa May bullies politicians who have the courage – when courage is viewed as stupidity – to believe in a better world.


P1060511


I think I’m writing this because I want to address what I feel this nation is suffering from most after 40 years of the most extremely atomising stage of capitalism; a process that has severed so many means to our necessary need to bond and feel belonging.
I can never get out how severe I feel the severance is. Maybe this is because the barriers have already damaged our ability to communicate, even on paper; maybe it’s because we are so exposed to how alone we are due to the explosion of avenues for communication; Maybe this explosion is so painful, so immiserating, because it’s demanding a leap; a leap in collective consciousness that we may or may not be capable of.
The damaging, and most common, response is to use this explosion of avenues of communication to fight each other in a form of verbal violence that spreads the social disease of all Vs all like wildfire. This is why I try my best to refrain from finger-pointing on Facebook (for example), because I know how painful it can feel when those disembodied words fire at you – after all, we’re all capable of ‘getting it wrong’ due to the mental exhaustion caused by the chaos, confusion and competition of it all.

I think any form of argument that sees itself as constructive, yet relies on these forms of identity attack, amidst this white noise-moment for language, is set to intensify the destructive human behaviour we wish to end.


P1060532

I was thinking out loud today about environmental articles, and posts that I feel resort to these tactics. Because the more we fall for the circular thinking that blames our inherent stupidity and foolishness for ecological collapse (despite it being a human made phenomenon) – lamenting our ‘idiocy’ and ‘dumbness’ as we pass by a fly-tip or river next to a supermarket – the more we hate each other, and, consequently, lose our way on a path towards survival.

I guess, this is just one example. Yet if we are here saying the main issue is around ‘getting our act together’, this example is the biggest issue.

Technological leaps in a capitalist society have always frustrated and hindered the very opportunities they open up. But this has never been so critical as it is now with the explosion of communicative potentials that are testing the limits of our psyche.

It is currently all about limits. And I guess it is difficult to stick with the problem (and it is a problem) of this island, when discussing so global a game-changer. But how do we leave this out of Teresa Mayday? Because I believe that capitalism’s nature to aggravate the itch that cannot be scratched has reached its bearable limits.

And if it is bearable for you, as I guess it’s bearable for me in comparison with many, is ‘bearable’ what we’re set on now? If so, fine, let Teresa May have her day. All I’m saying is that it just seems like ‘bearable’, as things stand, is equivalent to a house just that little bit further in-land from the ones currently being eroded by a tide that is permanently coming in.

And “I’m just about coping, Jack” is a pathetic excuse of a civilisation on any landmass at any time, ever.

Dead Ethics Hysteria

Dead Ethics Hysteria (2017, 125X95cm, mixed media on paper)

The driving force behind the direction of works like Dead Ethics Hysteria has its roots in a cold winter almost 7 years back.

I remember my anticipations of the ‘austere age’ as we entered the winter of 2010. Back then my head was lead-lined with heavy expectations of imminent ecological collapse, peak oil, and freak weather patterns as a pending normality. The freezing snowstorms of that winter were close to confirming these expectations as if we were, at that point, breaking into a new horizon.

But it never really felt like we broke into that horizon. Of course I’m fully aware of the growing evidence to show how human-made climate change is upon us. But what I’m saying is that it seemed like from thereon-after nobody physically had the time to care, and not only that, but that this constrained capacity is linked to what I misunderstood about what this ‘austere age’ would entail.

I expected a social landscape of less. And, certainly, there is less for the spiraling number of those without homes, those dependent on food handouts, and for regional councils with less to spend on infrastructure and services. But I expected less shopping, less cars on the roads, less costly fads, less frenetic energy pushing us along, whereas the exact opposite occurred. A preoccupation with ecological limits meant I foolishly mistook this sort of reality for what the reality of ‘austerity’ would be: a more, not less-capitalist society.

close up 1 (1900x1386)

Such anticipations are evidence that I’d already arrived at a realisation that the dynamics of capitalist relations were leading humanity down a dead end. But perhaps I hadn’t quite understood what this world would look like when the shit started to slowly disperse into the air from the direction of the fan.

As I found out, the belt-tightening we were made to do for this austerity program was actually more so that our trousers wouldn’t fall down whilst in full-flight. Whilst the cost of living rose, the bar for what were the mandatory social standards was raised, and we were forced to run faster and more frequently, as the sense of being in an all-v-all competition bit at nearly every breath we took. The space for empathy, reflection, and actions developed out of that, seems to have been significantly squeezed (as is evident in the general loss of concern about the biggest threat to our survival on this planet). But why? Surely the vested interests of the 1% alone cannot fully account for this hysterical, and masochistic sort of self-preservation?

close up 3 (1500x1165)

Many economists talk of how capitalism as we think we know it died in the 1970’s, but the writer Carl Neville explores the cultural implications of this in his essay-book No More Heroes. He suggests that the whole of Western Culture from, say, the mid 1970’s until 2008 was sort of keeping itself in suspense from its natural demise through artificial stimulants, as the extraterrestrial rationality of finance capital was mirrored in a culture of steroid-pumped superstardom (Neville uses Arnold Schwarzenegger has the ultimate embodiment of the entire neoliberal countrevolution) and a stimulant-fueled culture in general. 

This leaves you to wonder where the hell we ended up in the wake of 2008 financial crash? The system, and the values upon which it feeds, have long since run out of time, and only seem able to survive by trapping the whole of civilisation in a hyperspace artificially negated from organic time. It needs to go, but what do we replace it with? I think that we all secretly wish that we could stop now. But we can’t; a huge itch inside our skins seems to be keeping us running, faster and faster.

Running is a word worth staying with when the streets of northern English towns now seem to more like a ‘California without the sunshine’ (to paraphrase Mark Fisher), as thousands of us, certainly including myself, pour onto the streets, alone together in our IPod races against only ourselves. It’s probably no coincidence that the music of the last, maybe final (?) counter-cultural moment is what I’d wager most of us choose to listen to on our loops around the block.

In many ways, rave, as a generational movement, stood for a people on the hinterland of becoming something Other; perhaps post-people (perhaps becoming-cyborg?). But their horizon never arrived. What arrived was a knee-jerk civilisational refusal to give up the ghost; the ghost of capital, the ghost of wage labour, the ghost of a system of ethics that no longer corresponded to a world we were now beginning to endure rather than enjoy.  In fact rave, ecstasy culture etc. is now a strange sort of self-medication used to wed us to our slavery to the capital machine, in this weird situation where body perfection is a control mechanism self-employed to ensure maximum functionality and assimilation into the work/work-leisure sphere.

The whole thing can often begin to look like one of those contemporary sort of zombie films, where the undead are closer to Olympic athletes than mall sloths, as they chase the last humans past abandoned Starbucks cafes (another subject brought up by Carl Neville in his book Classless).

But I wouldn’t make these drawings if I felt this dead end of capitalist reality has to be a dead end full stop, and it can often be darkly spiriting to consider that this slowly unfolding giant nervous breakdown may break us into a new horizon that doesn’t have to be one solely of climate change catastrophe, but one of potential abundance over scarcity.

Which brings us to an number of theorists, and economists, most notably Paul Mason, who talk of postcapitalism has an inevitability. In his book, titled Postcapitalism, Mason lays out evidence to show how the current technological revolution, the information revolution, and computerization of the workplace, is not feeding capital’s fire like the tech-revolutions that came before it, and is in fact significantly contributing to the terminal downfall of its modes of production.

As things stand our relationship with these technologies looks pretty-much the antithesis of a postcapitalist world. Born into a culture ruled by the scarcity logic it is creating a right old toxic mess of the social body, our private lives and well-being. But, perversely, this too may be contributing to the demise of the system that engenders this reality.

In comparison to most, Paul Mason is very optimistic about our future together on this planet. But isn’t it worth working with the likelihood that he may be right, what have we to lose?

As things stand there are clearly too many vested interests in keeping the whole damn thing going, to the bitterest of ends. But I wonder where the ends and beginnings of those who really do have vested interests in this thing really do rest. I don’t see many signs of mental well-being from bottom to top. Trump (to use a seldom-used example from the top) seems so psychologically unfit that he often appears on-screen like a nauseous genie, conjured by a legion of collective neuroses from a diseased social body.

From top to bottom, I think most are intoxicated by a religion of work and the logic of scarcity. It often annoys people fighting for the most exploited to suggest that the global rich may not actually be a happy bunch. But short of killing them off, what do we expect to happen to them in way of the system-transition we need? Because such a transition is crying out to occur, and will occur for good or for bloody awful, because burnout is imminent. The Laws of gravity are tugging at this botched-attempt at cosmetic surgery for an entire civilisation.

close up 5 (1500x1181)

“Defying The Terrorists…”

“Defying The Terrorists…” (2017, mixed media on paper)

This isn’t even Ballard’s ‘Glorified Lifeboat’ (Writings From HMS Brexit)

P1060416

 

This voyage, perhaps even whole flat earth that it navigates, has reached an end point.

This is an epochal moment – yet we duck, dive, and talk about following our forefathers’ impossible footsteps into yesterdays’ jobs, homes and families, where hair goes grey and skin wrinkles with the pride of purpose.

These footsteps lurch over the void – momentarily held in suspense by a binge on artificial enhancers (or Zombie economics).

We are led over this cliff by the bloated reign of the Baby Boomers.

They don’t mean harm, but they are.

They are ghosts trapped in a machine. A shit machine, but one of full employment, affordable housing, and visions of a future that isn’t our present. Dictating all down below down a road that doesn’t even exist.

No wonder we are lost. Clambering for any clarity. Doing anything to cleanse our bodies of workaday anxieties.

On HMS Brexit ‘work’ doesn’t make sense, because we have lost all direction. Work was the only meaning we had, but as it dies it lives on like a zombie.

We can feel it sucking our blood when we are commanded to improve ourselves within this void.
The 2016 EU referendum was an accidental hand grenade given to those aggrieved by economic injustice for so long that they’d forgotten its source. Of course they were going to throw it, but it blew the limbs off all sides.
As limbless creatures, we we bite and bark at each other, unable to reach out and see our pain is one another’s.
The workplace is a microcosm/node in a explosion of rhizomes of exhaustion and despair. But the explosion implodes in us.  After hating everybody else, we end up hating ourselves.
.
P1060396

 

It was the same today.
The anguish of collapse is so violently played out because the Other is now merely a competitor (essentially an enemy).
My own mood is so compressed by workaday landscapes under clouds of Brexit and other breakdowns that I know my essence is soaked in a negative aura as I beat about the nearby towns in the early evenings in search of exits for my imprisoned emotions.
Like dogs that pick up on fear, others react badly. The very fact that I’m acutely aware of the expanding army of homeless means that my gaze makes a b-line to their desperate asks. As I walked down the main alleyway for frustrated begging and hipster-bar-bunkers in Sheffield, one begging man shouts “you fucking ignorant arsehole” at me – although I was totally oblivious to any earlier calls he made.

He caught me when I was already at a pressure point. I found myself yelling “fuck you” at him. Two drinks later the rage has gone. But my head was melting with an urge to inflict pain on somebody already in pain’s main firing line.



These days I feel anything can make me flare up.
Its because I want to be able to give up.
…tired of pretending it’s all OK..
But as sick as I feel, I can’t see a way out of this life of ventriloquised labour for a world I no longer believe in.
Knowing this is shared-despair sparks a lone candle flicker. But we’ve all caught the rabies after this 40 years-hate-your-neighbour, and speak through barks and bites.
Yet my despair is often disallowed such unity, such wider interpretation, by the passive-aggressive put-downs of a certain brand of hippy. They prey on my written-down honesty, and use it as a way of one-upmanship under the guise of peace.
Their smugness that implies I refuse ‘to evolve’ and that ‘they are the change we want to see’ sees people like myself as a disease that needs to be cleansed from this planet.
I don’t fit under their sunshine, and basically the underside of this sunshine is the assertion I should kill myself.
But isn’t the suicide of the ‘misfit’ what we all want on HMS Brexit?  The Troll to the Poster? The Xenophobe to the Migrant Boater? the Leftie to the Xenophobe? the Remainer to the Leaver? the Progressive to the Conservative? The Work-drained to the Work-less?

“Kill yourself and let me endure this hell all by myself!!”

P1060403

I’m scared about how nasty all this is going to get.

I’m scared for me.
I’m in battles I never knew could be fought; cages I never knew could exist.
I end up in Retrobars, where nobody speaks to anyone they haven’t already agreed to speak to, earlier on, via their smartphones.
No shit, I swear Brexit was an emotional demand for an exit to all of this.
Theresa May is no doubt the zombie of Thatcher, who, after swimming through the body of Blair, has been spat out of the mouth of Cameron. Waiting for Article 50 has become an intensifying locus for a larger sense of dread we feel above our heads.
So why didn’t we have the courage to examine this emotional demand? We should have broken down and wept collectively last June. But undead lurchings of Empire barged their way to the podium.
We now need help from another world.

P1060417

In Wakefield centre I’m approached by a woman who has reopened bloody wounds as a tool to justify her plea for legal tender. None of that which would shock me half a decade back shocks me anymore.
Is it normal to be asked for money on every town centre street?
The scenes have strayed into unfamiliar sights we seem blind to on overly familiar streets.
Hms Brexit is the blind sinking.
Brassband music blurts out into the sparse night from a surreal mock-up of picturesque Yorkshire in a pit of a subway in a station that is struggling to escape a bleak essence caused by its abandoned outpost-like nature, exposed on the eastern rim, where the centre meets the hinterland.
The music makes no sense in a land that’s lost all narrative.
The train arrives and so too do fleeting hopes of escaping loneliness by meeting a lover on this moving carriage.
A weary and knowing smile succeeds as the usual happens on The Lonely Lifeboat. And I just site facing the back of a plastic seat. The FEED feels like your friend in such points, but I’m back to looking at a pen and notepad.
I feel momentarily relieved.

Stories From Time-Locked Space 3.

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe:
(Originally posted in November 2016) Free-fall in Stasis (Barnsley, The First Week of Winter, 2016) Walking back to the suburbs through an M1 junction-hinterland in the dark of a new winter. But nothing feels new. It’s late 2016. To Ride The Fine Line…

Saturation Point

Saturation Point (2017, ink on paper)

Saturation Point