Archive | October 2012

Brought down by the storm

From personal experience, an understanding of a mental illness epidemic specific to our times demands that we see it having a correlation with our knowledge of impending climate breakdown. Even if one does not associate it directly with their own problems with suffering from depression, the impossibility of being unaware of such a potentially historically-seismic happening means that it always acts as a clamp on our thought processes. This is unless one has mastered the art of denial and proceed to rejoice in their delusions.Oh yes, I’ve met people like this, who, because of the inconvenience it presents, deny that humankind is rapidly altering the systems that it depends on for civility and functioning. They tell me, whilst possessing gleaming smiles that convinces themselves they are in the right, that I too ought not to be concerned, that I should enjoy the now. Failing to acknowledge the effect that an inability to perceive a future worth living has on the ability for an individual ,who’s primary instinct is survival, to be able to relax and enjoy anything but anaesthetisation.

Of course depression is caused when the mind can only process thoughts that lead to dead ends. Perhaps these dead ends are the result of internal matters that build up, or perhaps they are a result of larger external matters that are out of ones control, yet have the capacity to determine ones life. But, most likely, the internal and external matters are so intertwined that trying to distinguish them for more than a few minutes each day becomes seemingly impossible.

Under capitalism, we are (analogically speaking) trapped in a house, from which no outside is conceivable. We have been told that this what life will always be like from now until eternity. The room is full of dead items, items that no longer have any meaning. This is the so called ‘end of history’. Perhaps it would be right to revise my argument that climate change causes depression; the depression is already to be found possessing the inhabitants roaming this dead space, where any kind of meaning or genuine emotion cannot be tracked down. The dead items are turning to tindersticks and the entire house is very vulnerable. Climate breakdown is, as of yet, a small fire which has broken out in this house, but it is spreading very rapidly. What can we do? All the things that make up this house merely make the fire grow bigger. It suddenly becomes apparent that the only way to stop this rapidly spreading fire can only be outside the house, in a place we cannot see nor reach. Already depressed inside the house, the fire now adds a sense of panic to the depression, where we don’t just see dead ends anymore, but now they seem to be moving rapidly towards us. Any hope that one may find a little bit of refuge within the house, where they can drink to forget, is squashed by the doom that is closing in. Depression via climate change becomes an increasingly powerful gravity on the mind. (the idea of the room with no windows is a take on John Holloway’s analogy of capitalism, in his book Crack Capitalism.)

I wrote this upon hearing of the mega storm ‘Sandy’ heading for the eastern coast of the USA. It seems obvious to me that inaction on attempting to deal with climate change/and (neoliberal) ‘business as usual’ won’t just put the planet of the brink of physical collapse, but will also put the human race on the brink of mental collapse. On a personal level, currently my (mental) levees are feeling a little overwhelmed at present despite of this (referring to the above analogy: the fear of climate breakdown just intensified this). These levees have been been sufficienty maintaining the rising tides due to the life I have lived for the past 5 years being a beta-blocker; not just knocking out the highs, but the lows too. Now, however, the game has been totally changed, but the player possibly isn’t as good at adaptating as he thought himself to be. Released from the safety net, taking a so-called ‘leap of faith’ can be liberating, for sure. But one should never stop listening to their own thoughts completely (mistaking pragmatism for pessimism) for the more positive tones of those around them. As well as being liberating, detatching oneself from a safety net can result in a freefall. Oh aye, and ‘am not  t’compenent bloke thi al thowt a woh.

Touching on the symbolic; visiting a place to try to help put a closure on a stage of my life

My recent move to London was much needed for disparate reasons, but more than any, because the course my life has taken during the past 10-12 years has served its time, and has run out of energy. As I say in the previous post, life is just a series of shimmies away from the pits/total dead ends, and it seemed to be reaching that point on the previous course. Obviously there is an element of wishful thinking to all of this, yet if I stick it out down here it is a change that must surely force difference and paths away from any dead ends in the narration of life that one must make. However, it was certainly wishful thinking to convince myself that my past wouldn’t follow me down here, and it did, exercising many of the issues I talk about in this blog http://johnledger.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/past-returning-to-haunt-and-all-roads.html.
Once in a depressive spell, it is pointless to convince oneself (and certainly for others to convince you!) to see sense because it saturates everything, creating an objective despair. It is like one has dropped into their own underworld, where everything is the same, yet seems utterly different to how it did on their surface world. As a concept, to move to a metropolis, where everything that I write and make art about is literally on my doorstep, seems amazing. The reality of it can be so, yes, but when everything is happening all of time, a sample of everything from the world (positive and negative) is seemingly on the street outside, it can eventually be so much that everything begins to have a sense of meaningless to it, especially when you’re new to a place, haven’t got many friends yet, so have no anchor of familiarity from it all. So I had to return north. At the time, my mind, in its underworld, said it was for good. But as soon as I would be out of it I knew I would have to return south.
Whilst I was up in the north I felt that I needed to head to an area that I hadn’t had chance to before I came to London. This area is the Pennine hills to the west of my home town. Not so much the moors, but the spacious and bleak roads and hills that separate the moorland heath from the more lush and green areas further down the hills towards town. I wouldn’t regard myself as somebody who’s life is mapped out by the symbolic, but perhaps I am, or perhaps I need to be. The founding issue of all that has been in the past 10-12 years has been the loss of narrative, a feeling of emptiness, yet despair that nothing seems to be accountable or be able to stop (what I saw as) the immense suffering of the human race unfolding before my eyes in the 21st century. This concoction also gave a leg up for dormant personal disorders in order for them to become active, as they did.
This area became a important locus in the mind map, and narrative that I developed inspite of the larger sense of the loss of narrative; a self-defensive narrative. During this period, after walking up to these hills to the point that my anxieties about the world down there were drained of care, the emptiness of these hills seemed to resonate and give landscape to how I was feeling about life in general. The few objects on these hills, because of their loneliness, become powerfully present in the mind, have a monolithic presence (most notably, the cluster of wind turbines, which already embody some kind of hope for the future). They absorb the meaning which is generated by this wider landscape as one finds it resonates with their feelings of meaningless/emptiness generated from the world at large. Thus they fix themselves in my mind, especially when I listen to the music that soundtracks this past decade and a bit.
I felt that I needed to visit this place to try to help put a closure on a stage of my life. It may not work, may never work, but yet I feel an oath to visit this landscape whenever there is at least a glimpse of a departure from a part of my life which (despite of all the good points – mostly that the art I have made during this period is perhaps what I am most pleased with in my life) I do desire to leave now.
  
  

Trying to understand the city: small writings of move to London

If my blogpage hit some kind of Timequake (to borrow the title of a Kurt Vonnegut novel) and this post was read by myself from any ‘blogging’ year other than 2012 I would be perplexed as to how I ended up in Britain’s only mega-city, London. As much as I have always been drawn to cities due their informing of my expressive output, this fascination is if anything one laden with scrutiny, thereby generally morbid; now and again the intensity of the city could prove to be too much. And this wasn’t just cities the size of London, but cities like Manchester and Leeds.As well as this, the last five years since I graduated from my art degree have been spent between a somewhat softened and elongated experience of seeing no clear future for myself – ‘being between a rock and a hard place’ – with the production of art/writing (and, in the past, music) serving as the only kind of guidance, which in turn was massively informed by the circumstances which were making me feel so dead end, around people who (appeared to) had their whole future’s mapped out; circumstances (such as the threat of climate breakdown, obsessive disorders, and the inability to find enjoyment in all around that was offered to me as the ‘goodness of life’) that would eventually make me want to return to study something that would allow me to understand what makes the capitalist society that I so struggle to accept.Usually the idea of returning to ‘school’ hasn’t appealed to me at all. But my position between this so-called ‘rock and a hard place’ was getting more dreary and stale by the month, whereas I used to be able to say “pushed into a corner, my creative output is my only method of retaliation” (taken from my ‘artist statement’) with confidence and energy to keep on doing so. The whole predicament was beginning to smother the only endeavours that have given me a purpose to segregate the alcohol endeavours; I found I was barely able to think creatively any more. Thus I have found myself able to do a little bit of manoeuvring around this ‘grey mist’ I see for a future, and just about manage to land myself one of the best places in the world to observe the intense flows of capitalism, whilst studying this: London; still one of the world’s financial capitals, and capital of the world’s first industrially capitalist nation, and possibly the largest human settlement until Moscow to the east and New York to the west. I don’t expect a ‘career’ out of this expedition, but I do feel it is essential I gain a more sound understanding of my critical interests, and circumstances may not keep on granting me this, in this age of certain uncertainties. I am beginning to learn that life is just one series of shimmies away from the pits/total dead ends, and I think this describes what I am doing here (although the intensification of uncertainty under global capitalism requires more shimmying of us). I don’t see opportunity, I see slight openings appearing in dead ends.

So here are the thoughts of one who is not yet accustomed with mega-city dwelling, as much as I still believe modern communications technology makes us all (virtual) urban dwellers. –
– (http://johnledger.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/momentarily-feeling-need-to-stand-my.html)

Updates promised/Delays expected

  • From the window of the landing I used to be able to see the hospital where I was born, now I can see Canary Wharf, one of the epicentres of the flows of forces that have probably had more control over my life than I have. I have spent the best part of a decade situating such all-powerful skyscrapers in art work that was trying to visual the world as it is: now I can see the little flashing lights on their roof with my own eyes.
  • From the window in my new room I can see the top of the new tallest building in Europe: ‘the Shard’. It is a spike-shaped building (to describe it to anybody who hasn’t been exposed to the Londonification of the media in preparation for the 2012 Olympics) or like a piece of flint sticking upwards, and monolithic to match that description. A city seemingly destined to be overlooked by such archaic blocks, begun with ‘the Gerkin’, if only to be symbolic of the archaic shift to a city of kings (in ‘Shardish’ penthouses) and lowly serfs. I expressed surprise at being able to see it from my window, but the surprise was short-lived due to learning that nearly everybody else in the city can see it from their windows too. Yes, this building almost appears to be intentionally conspicuous: a utopia in the sky for the very rich, when life is becoming more dystopian for those below by the month. Once utopia was planned for the people down the road in social housing, who are now slowly being turfed out as the area becomes gentrified (being a newcomer, such thoughts have been informed, on and off, by blogs such as The Elephant’s Backside and Random Blowe), now they are told be ‘realistic’ and that there is no other option but that of being pushed further into the mire. The Shard is symbolic of the unfairness of the system, which is now being shamelessly laid bare for all to see. Quite in contrast to the architectural gestures of the previous Blair government, who tried to hide the unfairness and exclusivity behind a smokescreen of inclusivity. At least it’s easier to see we’re being conned now. The Shard intentionally pierces the sky, yet (maybe because it hasn’t been fully completed yet) appears to open up at the tip, as if it letting the heavens in, yet whilst being symbolic of the trampling on dreams.
  • Still finding strange and slightly unnerving the tannoy announcement on the London underground that tells you how well the services are running at that time. The announcement is delivered in a calm, everyday manner, yet this is what makes it so strange and slightly unnerving to hear: its normalising of the underground part of London life, a setting still so unreal(subreal) to anyone not acclimatized to it (a scene of  hundreds and thousands of bodies walking and running toward each other like particles in a collider), that it almost has the resonance of a hourly forecast given to inhabitants of a city caught between a massive war, or a forecast given in an age where, what is thus far, unimaginable weather extremes have become the norm. Such a setting is only 100 years old, it is still a relatively new experience. Those not accustomed to the city who find these experiences new and frightening shouldn’t be dismissed; they may well be able to express sensations that most have become numb to.
  • Sat on a hill overlooking the city. Every five minutes a plane passes overhead, as if on a production line. Occasionally glance up, with instinctual surprise at being able to see the landscape of a massive city. The buildings are giants, and giants of giants, spread amongst a landscape. They are the rulers of that landscape; communicating the language of that which they rule by. Whereas the ancient forest or ancient mountain-range would have a huge impact, and gain the utmost respect from the human inhabitants of their landscape – with each giant tree/mountain being attributed anthropomorphic characteristics –  becoming representatives of the power of Earth/God, the giants, and giants of giants, of this landscape are the representatives to the power of money. Like how every church was built so that it was visible to another, and so forth, these buildings appear to be speaking to each other; the taller buildings having the most important place in the conversation; like the churches in the age when they were built, they are speaking the language of dominance. This is why one big skyscraper alone in a much smaller town seems to speak to nothing in its physical locality, and seems to communicate with far off buildings in the globally scattered financial epicentres. Like the king’s barons, allocated a patch of conquered land, the buildings bring the new world order to a conquered town. Yet, in the larger city, one sees a landscape of kings/rulers. Such a presence, like the cathedrals before them, has a huge impact on the citizens that scurry around below them. We owe so much to the nearby hills, as they allow us to get some perspective on the extent of the impact on ourselves down in the place where we scurry around.
  • From being an early riser from sleep in my home town, I now seriously struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I am convinced that having what seems like the whole world outside my window is what is causing this morning-malaise. Before, the world was still out there, but there was space and room for somebody in the fragile state of awaking from sleep to gather themselves before they went out to face the world. This even made it all seem more attractive, and made it seem like some kind of meaningfulness was outside, over there somewhere. Now everything feels like it is already being done; the planes are been flown, the trains are being driven, crimes are being committed; life is already fully alive, exerting all the energy it has got before you have even got out of bed. As everything is already going on, swirling around right above the bed, getting out of ones cocoon can seem incredibly daunting. At that time in the morning, what (to somebody used to hearing only a distance drone of a motorway and the odd dog bark) from his open bedroom window seems like the whole world outside their window and it seems too much to take on. Every muscle in your body convinces you to lie there, in silence.
  • On Embankment, waiting for a friend. I’m not sure whether it’s bemusement or sadness I have when I see public sculpture in the heart of a city, which was created and situated in its current location in an historically-seen-as more benevolent and socially progressive period. These are sculptures by the likes of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore (very famous 20th century sculptors). As well as taking into consideration the effect of having to work in a gallery with works from such sculptors for 5 years, my inability to gain feeling from them, for me, suggests more than anything that any potentialities they may have had have been smothered by the direction in which society has gone since then. When these sculptures were placed in the heart of the large cities up and down the country, these cities were undergoing mass redevelopment, large social projects and mass slum clearing, which, although these developments left a lot to be desired to say the least, were still plugged in to the notion of improving the lot of the society on a whole. There was more of an idea of a contract, and that things were generally going to improve. Now, I’m sure these sculptors would have had thoughts that once one world takes another’s place as time rolls on, their sculptures would become static lumps watching it all pass. Yet, as with the statues in every town in the country built to remember those who died in wars which are now grounded in another time/world where the very crimes of warfare are being shamelessly replayed on other battlefields, these sculptures look like a setting in concrete of a promise to build a better world for all, that has now been cheated out of existence, left to stand there as fossilised remnants of something now extinct. In a city where the source of so much of the illness of our age can be traced to certain locations of transactions, the sculptors look almost pathetic, like the burnt out tanks that remain of an army that was trounced by the victor. The emotional landscape of the postwar period, with all the good intentions and high hopes that a better world could be built after the wars (no matter how flawed and laden with hypocrisy) could not be more opposite to the world these sculptures now find themselves in, when society is fed a bitter pill, and it knows it is bitter, but is told that it must swallow it anyway, because, no matter how terrible it all is, “there is no other way”.

will add more soon