Archive | July 2012

The Mary Rose: we are sinking (installation)

 “The (Diamond) jubilee has made the union jack more unavoidable than perhaps any time since the war” Owen Hatherley
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This installation was for the exhibition Borderline Ballardian, at Creative Arts Development Space, Sheffield.
When thinking about the proximity of dystopian forewarnings to the present tense the visuals of fabricated national pride featured very frequently, as a kind of showy coating over the top of a society that is potentially falling into dark times. As George Monbiot points out in his article ‘Dark Hearts’ (The Guardian, 23.4.2012), about how the ‘British have a peculiar ability to blot out (their) colonial history’ …’even when the documentation of (its) great crimes is abundant, it is not denied but simply ignored’. Through excessive mainstream focus on other stories, stories which direct to thoughts of Britain past and present as being a more benevolent Imperial force, a collective amnesia ensues, which in turn cannot help but evoke ideas on memory control thought up in 20th century novels about societies of totalitarian control (an issue touch upon again in Borderline Ballardian in the work Memory Hole). A collage of images of welfare-state culture, decent chaps standing up to the Nazis, and the ‘swinging Sixties’ is what we seen when we are told it’s time to start waving the flag again.
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But what made me feel an immediate need to lay more emphasis on this worrying national self-identification with ‘goodness’ and freedom being naturally occurring tendencies under flags such as the Union Jack (whilst keeping in the exhibition’s narrative of fictional dystopias looking increasingly akin to the real we inhabit) was because of big national events this year which seem to be engineered in ways that suffocate criticism and even the right to protest. I feel shivers of anxiety when I imagine the damaged done to society through the manufacturing of mass approval to the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the London Olympics, whilst simultaneously we are threatened by possibly the most ruthless ever attacks on our welfare, democratic rights, dignity and our environment in order to keep the capitalist system going.
The omnipresent flags drape seemingly every enterprise/institution on the island, speaking the language of the ‘keep carry, carry on’ posters: “be quiet will you?”: “learn to love the country, and get on with your own business!” Has here every been a period in the history of the nation state where subsumption to the smiles-feast drone-like stance of flag waving has even been more dangerous?
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When creating a mental picture for the exhibition, I thought of how I would like union jack flags to spread out like strands of a web from sources representing their most trusty servants for welding them to our thoughts; the televised and newspaper media. I imagined the web spreading to provide an unwanted ceiling haloing the critical matters expressed in the art pieces. I thought that a net over the work would resemble the anti-boarding netting so crucial in the fate of the Mary Rose warship. The Mary Rose sank just south of Portsmouth when England’s empire was in its infancy. The anti-boarding netting, covering the deck, prevented most of the ship’s crew from surviving the sinking.

 

These visuals seemed to fit well with the idea of nation state’s patriotic ‘wrapping’ getting tighter and tighter over our democratic rights (a curtailing of rights that has marked the arrival of the Olympics in London more than any other matter) the more the nation feels under threat, as it tries to protect capitalist interests from the people it claims to protect.
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Borderline Ballardian (by Globalsapiens): Virtual Tour

 

 

 

Borderline Ballardian 

Group art exhibition

Curated by Globalsapiens

@

C.A.D.S. – 7 Smithfield, Sheffield

Date: Friday 6th July – 18th July 2012

“It is the psychological effects of technological, social and environmental developments I am interested in.”  JG Ballard
To question the environment around us, to take a step back and create reality in a world ruled by fictions. Is this the artist’s true role?
Bordeline Ballardian is an exhibition of works that questions and observes British society and the psychological effects of technological, social and environmental developments.
The word ‘Ballardian’ originates from the works of British novelist, James Graham Ballard and is defined as resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in Ballard’s novels and stories, especially a dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects mentioned above.
Ballard’s novels, classed as science fiction are now seeming to resemble the real more than ever, as our 21st century lives hurtle towards huge environmental and psychological uncertainties.
Reckless industrial growth is slowly killing the planet, as air and Water is polluted and littered, food is grown chemically and unsustainably, and oceans are turned into acid pools. What little democratic rights we have are being shaken to their core by the intertwined forces of runaway capitalism and the nation state, which require nothing more of us than alienated consumers. We are stolen and then sold back as make up and fashion.
All this certainly Sounds like a Ballard novel to me… But do we ever ask ourselves the question, in all seriousness “could the world I’m living in now be rightly classed as dystopian?” It can be hard to the see the world for what it truly is whilst you’re in the midst of it.
The exhibition aims to take a step back, observe and inform.

Artists Involved:
 
Mary rose: we are sinking (large exhibition installation)
 
“The (Diamond) jubilee has made the union jack more unavoidable than perhaps any time since the war” Owen Hatherley
When thinking about the proximity of dystopian forewarnings to the present tense the visuals of fabricated national pride featured very frequently, as a kind of showy coating over the top of a society that is potentially falling into dark times. As George Monbiot points out in his article ‘Dark Hearts’ (The Guardian, 23.4.2012), about how the ‘British have a peculiar ability to blot out (their) colonial history’ …’even when the documentation of (its) great crimes is abundant, it is not denied but simply ignored’. Through excessive mainstream focus on other stories, stories which direct to thoughts of Britain past and present as being a more benevolent Imperial force, a collective amnesia ensues, which in turn cannot help but evoke ideas on memory control thought up in 20th century novels about societies of totalitarian control (an issue touch upon again in Borderline Ballardian in the work Memory Hole). A collage of images of welfare-state culture, decent chaps standing up to the Nazis, and the ‘swinging Sixties’ is what we seen when we are told it’s time to start waving the flag again.
But what made me feel an immediate need to lay more emphasis on this worrying national self-identification with ‘goodness’ and freedom being naturally occurring tendencies under flags such as the Union Jack (whilst keeping in the exhibition’s narrative of fictional dystopias looking increasingly akin to the real we inhabit) was because of big national events this year which seem to be engineered in ways that suffocate criticism and even the right to protest. I feel shivers of anxiety when I imagine the damaged done to society through the manufacturing of mass approval to the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the London Olympics, whilst simultaneously we are threatened by possibly the most ruthless ever attacks on our welfare, democratic rights, dignity and our environment in order to keep the capitalist system going.
The omnipresent flags drape seemingly every enterprise/institution on the island, speaking the language of the ‘keep carry, carry on’ posters: “be quiet will you?”: “learn to love the country, and get on with your own business!” Has here every been a period in the history of the nation state where subsumption to the smiles-feast drone-like stance of flag waving has even been more dangerous?

When creating a mental picture for the exhibition, I thought of how I would like union jack flags to spread out like strands of a web from sources representing their most trusty servants for welding them to our thoughts; the televised and newspaper media.

I imagined the web spreading to provide an unwanted ceiling haloing the critical matters expressed in the art pieces. I thought that a net over the work would resemble the anti-boarding netting so crucial in the fate of the Mary Rose warship. The Mary Rose sank just south of Portsmouth when England’s empire was in its infancy. The anti-boarding netting, covering the deck, prevented most of the ship’s crew from surviving the sinking.

These visuals seemed to fit well with the idea of nation state’s patriotic ‘wrapping’ getting tighter and tighter over our democratic rights (a curtailing of rights that has marked the arrival of the Olympics in London more than any other matter) the more the nation feels under threat, as it tries to protect capitalist interests from the people it claims to protect.
 

 

Kim Thompson (Manchester)
‘DONE WITH THE OUTDOORS’ 2012
Acrylic on canvas
 
Ryan Vodden (Barnsley)
 
 Everyday I peel off my face
Ryan Vodden
Ink on Paper

 
 The Great Outdoors (2010)
 Stuart Alexander
 
The Great Outdoors

I wanted to document all of the physical injuries I got over a one-year period due to my interest in how the body reacts to the outside world
in the form of cuts, bruises blisters etc. After a while waiting consciously and eagerly to start the project I realised that my instincts, which quite sensibly stop me hurting myself, hindered my ability to make the work and were ultimately counter productive in the creation of it. So to forge them was the only way to make them. The injuries were created as opposed to being the product of destruction or damage and with the creation of them I have achieved the same result.
The outdoors is instinctually seen as dirty, chaotic and dangerous and the interior as clean, controlled, and safe.  The negative connotations of the exterior or chaos relate to the pain or damage it may cause us and ultimately its threat to our survival. Shelter has enabled us to control our environment and privacy in order to reduce the fear of the harm that the outside world can do to us physically and psychologically.  Injuries are a way of the body recording the experience of braving the “elements”, of interacting with the exterior “chaos”, when conquering the great outdoors. To control the outdoors’ interaction with myself is a way of controlling chaos.
The theory of Hegemonic Masculinity is the belief in a “normal” ideal of male behaviour where males dominate other males and subordinate females by use of exaggerated aggressiveness, strength, drive, ambition, stamina and self-reliance.
These traits are often instinctually desirable to females as they make the likelihood of the survival of their offspring higher. In Western society which has advanced healthcare and a more controlled environment men rely less on these characteristics for survival and thus, to secure a mate. Men lacking in these traits have less testosterone so are desirable in Western society due to their reliability as they are not as likely to seek adventure or other mates.
In many African countries “macho” men are more widely sought after as life expectancy, medicine and hygiene is less advanced. When a woman in Western Society who is usually attracted to the “reliable” male is ovulating, instinctually, she will often find the strong, aggressive man attractive due to the “macho” traits he will pass onto her offspring.
If injuries are often the result of risk taking, to record my injuries and display them publicly is a way of showing that I am a risk taker and therefore proves that I am strong, brave and manly. In faking them I have gained the “positive” image of machismo through fakery. To fake injuries is mocking the need to be seen as heroic. It devalues it as it has been achieved by underhand means. It suggests that these injuries were acquired in a “heroic” way when in fact, that they are fraudulent devalues the respect and meaning of bravery affiliated with the conquering of the great outdoors.
*all make up very kindly created by Nia Vernon who can be contacted at niavernon@yahoo.com and who can do all sorts of things. http://www.facebook.com/#!/album.php?aid=323059&id=877485393

 
 ‘Gay’ (2010)
 Stuart Alexander

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/7087928″>Gay</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user2312305″>Stuart Alexander</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I made these films in the early mornings over the last year with a hidden camera and without the subject’s knowing or consent. Some films were made by chance depending on a suitable person choosing to sit opposite me and how they chose to sit and some were the result of where I chose to sit based on the same dependant factors. All films were made on the London underground exclusively on the Northern Line.
As the subjects are faceless it makes it easier for the audience to relate to them leading to the question, does the male audience relate and feel uncomfortable at me speculatively putting them into this context of “prey” or object of homosexual desire? Are they offended? Do they now question their own sexuality? Or my morality? Or both?
Does being forced into staring at the crotches of other men make them feel uncomfortable? If so why? Did I get away with not being punched because men don’t expect to be preyed upon in this way? Does this idea that men don’t expect to be preyed upon relate to their homophobia? That unless they are the subject of this objectification they do not find it offensive? Is this because they cannot empathise with those who are sexually preyed upon, i.e: women? Is this why the conviction rates in rape cases are so low? Or why when they are objectified by a gay man often they lash out in fear?
From a woman’s perspective, does a female viewer feel uncomfortable being forced to look? Do they feel more comfortable in doing so as it does not offend their machismo pride? Or more uncomfortable because women are not used to being so predatory? Because they’re used to being submissive to men, whereas most men are not?
Does the audience feel as though they will be judged by those around them (the other viewers) for watching these films? Or does the fact that they are watching the films with others reassure them, like Sartre’s bad faith?
The film makes men powerless, like they make the viewer powerless as it forces both into a situation where they are to be judged and to feel uncomfortable.
The film depicts men with their legs publicly wide open. To spread ones legs is submissive if one is female, but in a social masculine context it is a display of power. A display of the size and virility of their manhood. They are in effect, inviting me to look. How much of this body language is conscious? How much does it reflect on their personalities? To turn the subject from this into a powerless, submissive object of male homosexuality has the potential to be very disturbing to a male viewer.
Alternatively, women are taught to sit with their legs closed. The very word Vagina often makes women and men uncomfortable to utter out loud. It is a “hidden” organ to be protected and possessed and is a symbol of the woman and her suppressed history.
How about if these films were of women’s crotches? Would the work be seen as more controversial? I think so, as the person filming them is male and predatory, and due to society’s sexist obsession with protecting women and the vulnerability of women in general. For example, if a woman is murdered the press will generally cover the story for a longer period as opposed to when a man is murdered.
If I was female making these films how would the reaction to them differ? To a man, men are predominantly predatory historically and sexually so if a woman was making these films do they pose a threat to a man’s masculinity? These films would put men into a role submissive to a woman. To a woman these films may be seen as more humorous in that “diet Coke” kind of male objectification which does not seem as offensive as a man objectifying a woman.
Much like a feminine man being labelled as homosexual or the general assumption that most cross dressers are gay, if the male assumes a feminine, submissive role or feminine characteristic i.e. wearing makeup, wearing women’s clothes or being sexually submissive to another man they are labelled as weak, not a real man or a “poofter” by other more “manly” men.
Would a woman be more objective to “Gay” because it does not directly involve her gender? Or do they relate to the film by putting themselves into the familiar feminine role of being objectified and find the works equally as shocking? Is a man’s fearful/angry reaction to these films seen as a come-uppance by a woman? Or is “Gay” just an example of another disturbing objectification that women have to deal with everyday? Some women see male homosexuality as offensive and wrong, which comes from to the male’s dominance in influence throughout history of societal norms and thus on the female opinion, so therefore some women may find these films just as offensive as men do.
Also if these films HAD been made by a woman would some men and women feel the opposite? Would they feel arousal? And would this arousal relate to the voyeuristic risk taken or the reversal of gender roles?
In various points in history homosexuality has been labelled as perversion with gay men being imprisoned due to its illegality. To highlight that these films are a gay or “perverted” obsession adds to the intrusiveness and violation of the subjects.
To place ourselves into the public eye leaves us open to, and submissive to, a certain amount of scrutiny and objectification through the other’s judgement of us. So the objectification in these films of the subject in a public place is hardly surprising as we cannot control what others think of us. We can conform to a pre packaged “norm” in order to stand out less and leave less to be judged for, to blend in, but we will always be objectified by others as they do not know our complexities and so we are reduced down to categories and labels.
The fact that the film is made up of many smaller films of many different crotches related to the idea that repetition offers proof, much like in the context of a scientific experiment. Or does this repetition desensitise the audience to being offended by homosexuality and perversion and voyeurism?
There is a humorous aspect to “Gay” in that it deals with taboos and in the audacity and causality that I have made them in public with threat of reprimand and possibly violence. Do the audience wonder how I got away with making these films?
This also projects onto the viewer in that not only are they being put into the position of the film maker but are encouraged to stare and, in effect, use their imagination in the same contemplative and perverse way.
Ultimately, as the films are shot in an everyday situation and depict real people the audience will be able to relate to the subjects. As well as this, in comparison to the audience being confronted with images of actual nudity, they have to use their imagination as to why the films are perverse and the imaginative input on their part involves them in the violation. Does it make them exactly the same as the “pervert” behind the camera?
‘Henry’ (The Methods of Ethics)
Golau Glau (Leeds)

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/27343978″>Golau Glau – Trailer for ‘HENRY (The Methods Of Ethics 2011)’ BEACONS festival</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/golauglau”>Golau Glau</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

‘Ring ring, Ring ring’ (2012)
Clinton Kirkpatrick
Oil on canvas
 
Memory Hole (exhibition installation, part 2)
 
“Well I used to remember
Now it’s all gone
World War something
We were somebody’s sons”
Underpass, John Foxx
Memory Hole is an attempt to visualise unease over how quickly information on critical issues slips from our memory in this digital age where information, generally, is shared thicker and faster than at any other point in history.
 It often seems that thought control within our social system, through the manipulation of history, occurs in a reverse manner to the famous example of deliberate eradication of the past down the Memory Hole is George Orwell’s novel 1984: we appear to suffer a cultural memory loss from there being too much information not too little; that Today’s information blocks out the memory of Yesterday’s.
 I have mainly used examples of interesting debate between myself and friends, via text messages, Facebook and Twitter; conversations that I had an urge to salvage from being pushed into the dark by the non-stop waterfall of newerinformation that one either feels they ought to consume, or they have no real choice in the matter anyway (which, itself, is already illustrated perfectly by the constantly descending Facebook news feed).
 The fact that I had this urge to salvage such information is a clue to the way thought is ‘managed’ in our society, and reveals the dystopian quality of a culture that cannot keep up with the past. Information about many critical issues simply cannot stick in our thoughts because of the sheer volume of information which trains thought towards the hegemonic stance; information which, to put it in a clumsy manner, tells us not to question the order of things; to accept our position in a social structure presented as ‘natural’.
 So much that is important in weighing up our own liberty, and the condition of the contemporary world is simply forgotten by us, except at rare moments where things are revealed and we feel nausea, only for us to slip back out of consciousness.
“It was a slippery, slippery, slippery slope
I felt me slipping in and out of consciousness”
Harrowdown Hill, Thom Yorke
The internet offers us information on critical issues which simply wasn’t available beforehand, but it often feels like one’s own memory disk has wiped a particular piece of information as soon as one has read it, due to there being so much more information demanding to be consumed. It always slips under a bulk of information which intentionally and unintentionally distracts in favour of the hegemonic. You try to catch up, but once you do this you are already playing a losing game, where the more you chase clarification on the world, the more you forget that world. I have attempted here to visualise a slight malfunctioning of this ‘Memory Hole’ where conversations I valued yet couldn’t help forget have reappeared, salvaged from disappearing into cyberspace/into nothingness.
 
 
image courtesey of Sheffield Art Forge
 
A Frog in Warming Water (Just a Myth) 2008, Biro on paper
John Ledger
 
Who Would Want To Listen To This? (2011/12)
Biro on paper
John Ledger

‘Polarised’ 

oil on canvas

Mikk Murray

 
 
Murder and Birds
Jade Morris
 
Open Your Eyes/Silent Kiss
Jade Morris

Out To Play
Jonathan Butcher

 Spare Time
Jonathan Butcher
 
Barnsley Town Hall (2011/12)
Mixed Media
Gary Steadman (Barnsley)
 
 Image courtesey of Sheffield Art Forge
 
A Final Acceptance (2010)
Mixed Media on board
John Ledger
 

The implications of living in such a commercially driven society are that one’s personality is chopped, diced, and edited, until it is able to fit in to the slots created by a society that has become more and more homogenous as commerce prospers in a global community, where the means to distribute information are owned by so few: the pressures to conform to a whole manner of conventions are immense. My capacity for developing, re-learning and growing is massively constricted as the domestication into a system-friendly, ‘able and flexible’ adult, takes up more of the free mental spaces which allow my development as a human. The intensity caused by trying to resist a barrage of pressures causes a mental debilitation, which ‘hammers one down’ weakening them into submission. A Final Acceptance, in order to stem mental debilitation, seems like the safest option.

(this piece is a clumbersome thing, but it had to be made this way)

Robert Norbury
Photographer (Holmfirth)
The pictures are from a project of mine called ‘Dysforest’ which is about Honley Woods described as “Privately owned ancient semi-natural woodland, with public access”. Which is part of, The White Rose Forest
 
 
Nancy Richardson (Sheffield-based)
Time Hog (live)
image courtesey of Sheffield Art Forge
 
  
Time Hog, Nancy Richardson
I was born into a time-hog culture
Squealing like a pig at the birth of agriculture
Now I have to upkeep the cities for the sake of it
Dedicate my life to being seen to be anything but a failure
Success will be measured by my civilised endeavoursI daren’t throw it all away
Because it’s what my ancestors worked so hard for
To pass on the baton
Of maintaining all the trappings of our domestication
So I in turn can pass on the baton
Of maintaining all the trappings of our domestication
Bow down to the glory that is civilisationAnd you daren’t abandon it all
Because you might get eaten alive by wolves
Or held captive by bad men with guns
Who’d kill you, all your daughters and sons

That would be the end of your genetic legacy
You should have stayed in with safe ‘Sex and the City’
Behind plaster board, closed doors, carpet,
Brick walls, borders, and police patrols

Behind the fence, kept at arm’s length
From the lifestyle that had been lived by your own species
For a whole 2,500,000 years
Not the last puny 10,000

I’ve seen photographs of the wilderness
It looks like it goes on and on forever
But there’s nowhere left for me to hunt and gather
Because I am a suburbanite, a citizen
Locked into the misery and politics of maintenance

Time Hog snuffles and puffles
Indifferent to my indignance
It’s got minerals to mine
Precious metals to mould
Hospital equipment and eye phones to be sold

Just put it out of your mind
The wilderness is brutally, unforgivingly violent
As if the violence of civilisation is any more gentle
You can stay here on concrete if you like
But I’m going this is all mental.

by Nancy Richardson

 
 De-Occupy 
Nancy Richardson

Image courtesey of Sheffield Art Forge