Who Would Want To Listen To This? (2011/2012) Biro on paper, 130X100cm
The piece is called ‘Who would want listen to this?’ because such big threats of an ecological collapse which would cause unimaginable disruption and destruction are often too frightening for us to think about (only previously seen by our eyes on cinema screens), so instead we pretend that ‘someone will sort it for us when push comes to shove’ or we even coax ourselves into believing that it can’t actually be happening (I’ve heard people, who once agreed that climate change was being caused by humans, go back on themselves saying ‘how can one species do so much damage to such a big planet?’ – comforting lies). We would rather not listen to it when a friend in our company starts talking about it, or when it is on the TV.
But we are not to blame for feeling so powerless to do anything.
As well as causing this problem, the human system of capitalism makes it seem impossible for us to do anything to stop climate change. It relies on competition between the most powerful nations in the world, rather than cooperation. And these nations are sewn together with the biggest corporations in the world; and corporations, by and large, don’t want us thinking that things such as climate change are happening, because to take any action to stop it would be bad for their business. And being the richest most powerful in the world, they get their way. As things stand THEY are in control of the direction the human world takes.
So we feel powerless, and try to focus on smaller thing instead, we try to forget. Climate change just adds more and more weight to the feeling that everything is out of control and feelings of powerlessness to do anything about it, which is the reality of living under the global capitalist system. So focussing on smaller things, focussing on how to get through life, day to day, in the most bearable way is what most of us find is the only thing we can do.
In the drawing every figure is wearing headphones. This relates to trying to block out the sound of things that are upsetting to us. It also relates a lot to the living in a time where we have access to so much technology to keep us entertained, or distracted, from the real world. I have mixed feelings about technology; I think what the internet offers to us as a species is amazing, and it could be said to be one of the greatest inventions ever. Yet accessories such as mobile phones, Facebook can throw us into a continuous detachment from what’s really happening in the world around us, distracting us, as we are constantly in trying to get other people to speak to us and like us through them, as the popularity of these accessories means people are increasingly alone, communicating from box rooms and lonely bus rides, and lonely people feel insecure and continually seek company. These figures, who are blocking their eyes to the problems around them, aren’t bad people, but are finding themselves more and more consumed in a technological world, that promises so much but never really fulfils.
The people behind the speaking booth-like things are the political/capitalist class. They are equally wired up, with head phones, communicating through cyberspace. They believe in the fantasy that capitalist ‘growth’ can go on forever, and they chase growth like addicts, smiling with Cheshire cat grins when they say the word ‘growth’. They are ‘supposed’ to be the people to lead the citizens to safety and better lives, but they are desperately clinging on to hopes that become more impossible every day. Feeling powerless, we leave it to leaders of governments and capitalism to guide us, but they are even more detached from the real world than everybody else, and they guide us towards a dangerous future. The need for distraction and denial of the truth keeps growing.
I wanted the entire landscape to look like a rock in an empty space, a bit like planet earth in space. But I want this rock to look to have a similarity to a human hand; a human hand that is veering into the dark, into a void, into non-existence. The closer one gets to the fingertips of the hand, the more the landscape is being destroyed, being torn to pieces. This represents two different moments in time; the moment which are at now, when it is the poorest people in the world who suffer the most from the effects of climate change, largely caused by the richest parts of the world (and the most power institutions which come from these places), and a future moment when this becomes the reality for all of humanity, if we don’t change course – direct the human hand away from its route into non-existence.