Having got used to handing over king-size portions of your weekly wage to be granted entrance into London in a way that doesn’t destroy the soul (obviously excluding Megabus and any unhappy long wait in a Victoria coach station aisle that oozes the desperation of forgotten people, including me), you almost feel like you’ve somehow typed in a cheat code that teleports you there when you find train tickets that get you there and back for 10 pounds.
The last attempt at getting there by train was thwarted by severe weather, which enhanced the feeling of total ease in getting there this time around. The writer Will Self talks about how one can experience walking from London to LA, by walking to Heathrow and then from the LA airport, as if it is one unbroken ramble, due to the strangeness of the experience of air travel making us feel like we haven’t really traveled at all, but (perhaps for somebody used to using the underfunded, neglected rail system connecting northern English towns) I get some sort of similar feeling traveling by the mega-fast, electricity-run East Coast train (I say Mega-fast, because nothing at HS2-level faster is really needed for the majority of people in the country).
For this reason there felt to be a level of unbrokenness to the walking that made part of my journey to Wakefield Westgate station, and the walking I was doing as I got off the train at King’s Cross. So I decided to carry on walking to my destination, Bermondsey, just south of the river. It really doesn’t take long at all, and once you have a general grasp of the city you can get to more or less the right places without map guidance, even if you don’t find yourself taking the most direct route.
The skyline has changed since I was down last. It’s beginning to look like the thing I increasingly worry international cities are becoming; high rise playgrounds for the super rich, whilst increasing hardship for everyone else. I struggle to find anything positive to say about these novelty-shaped ‘brand buildings’ such as the recently built ‘The Pinnacle’, and I look over to see if I can see the much-preferred brutalist architecture of the Barbican, which I can. The Barbican is almost of stage set of how socially-orientated architecture could have built a better world for us all; a stage set precisely because it’s a playground for far more affluent members of society.
The centre of London has never felt quite real to me anyway, even when I was living down the road for a few months. The Shard is only impressive if I actually remind myself how tall it is, because when it is merely registered in my brain as ‘the Shard’, as I see it for the first time in that day, it merely blends into all the countless photographic images I have seen of it through the past 2-3 years. Nothing supposedly ‘Iconic’ in London ever feels real; what is termed ‘iconic’ or ‘landmark’ has always been hyped up (directly and passively) through the inescapable-everything media, to the point where it becomes hyperreal – the Jean Baudrillard term for objects/places/feelings that become so heavily mediated to us that the original no longer precedes the replica and everything becomes simulcra; and if it is more real than the real, then it is hyperreal. I didn’t see ‘Big Ben’ today, but when I passed it on occasions during my 3 month stay here it always seemed like I was looking at one of the many toy models I had seen of it; it looked like something I would be able to pick up and put in a packet like all the tourist paraphernalia available in the shops across the road from it.
The walk I took from King’s Cross, down to the river, and following the Southbank, roughly corresponds with these two sensations felt above; the hyperreal and tourism. In fact I hate the tourist bits/the views. I can’t imagine anything more cringe-worthy than taking a ‘selfie’ on a bridge looking out onto the Thames,with a cabaret of ‘iconic’ buildings gathering together like best mates in the background. The city is experienced like a selection box of iconic buildings and views, and it is like a ‘very best of…’ album I’ve never wanted to own. I wonder if anything between 200 years ago up until 60 years ago, whether the city was populated with chattering-class voices saying “oh yes…that was once where that happened….and, oh yes, this is the most….”; somehow I can’t imagine it being so. I walk past the reconstruction of the Globe theatre, and, through my modernist leanings, I dare to ask myself (regarding its reconstruction) “why…?”. I desire to see an 8 million plus (12 million plus including the sprawling commuter belt surroundings) human settlement in life in the 21st century. Not as a theme park to all that has been (albeit a theme park that in some means or another must dispel the Dickensian reality for many from the tourist’s and ‘desirables” gaze, whether through measures that result in an economic apartheid, or just through people being so engrossed in taking photographs, and gazing into nice eateries/drinking establishments, as if they have already joined the musuemified dead surroundings in not really being here).
South London, after Southbank, walking southeast seems to give me the most real interpretation of this metropolis as anywhere else possibly could. After all, the south east is where I stayed , and it’s where part of me remained – as it died there. It has a realism that northern cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds have once you’re outside their gentrified centres – albeit on a unsatisfactorily scale (likely down to net north to south migration), for one wishing to come into contact with an environment that makes physical resemblance of the ‘everything all the time’ bombardment we all now experience daily due to cyberspace technologies. Such a feeling is harder to grasp in more hyperreal spaces in the centre.
As I walk to Bermondsey, I begin to tire. I walk such distances in Yorkshire towns all the time, but the amount of information fired into your thought processes and the amount of little decisions you must make due to that, is just far far greater here. Still walking, I begin to make my eyes focus on nothing but a half-metre high wall, and the grass behind it, I need cut my losses in the war the mind has with the information, so as to be as little as possible an exhausted wreck before I meet my friend, and conversation begins. I realise, as I respond to things occurring around me often like others respond to being shocked by an electrode why as little time as possible in this city is possibly beneficial, despite an ingrained assertion that everything that is anything, and everyone who is anyone is in London, still making me feel that I “must” come here from time to time.
The most lasting sensation from my late twenties right up to the early days in my thirties is one of being out of time. Like the gaps in which to pursue all the things that make me Me have been narrowed into very skinny pavements on which to manoeuvre next to a massive, busy and noisy road (the secondary sensation thus being the result of the difficulty of pursuing what makes me Me; a painful sensation of trying to preserve a bit of what I think is me, which usually feels like the front of my face is slipping off my head).
Maybe I always had this sensation, on some level of intensity. The words “it’s getting late”, pasted onto my mind from a P J Harvey song, were very present at the beginning of my 20’s; the way that song lyrics often identify with the dominant sensation you are having, even before you have been able to consciously acknowledge the sensation. Regardless of what the original lyric was referring to within the context of the song, the impacting lyric soon disassembles itself from the song and gravitates towards your own story.
The feeling of it getting late/of not having much time left certainly bares testimony to the first time I truly acknowledged the extent to which we had already made the planet less human-friendly, by carrying on with business-as-usual under the umbrella of short-term-thinking-idiocy. It was indeed getting late, yet I was within the 18-21 age bracket and supposed to have my life ahead of me.
But I believe that the feeling of being out of time isn’t just ecologically concerned. Growing up in a house (and here the notion of ‘house’ is meant to be something that spreads into the wider environment you grow up into) where the music, the focus of documentaries, and the general mood carried was from the decades before I was even born, gave me a feeling (one I only relatively recently began to locate with language) that history had already happened; or, more crucially: that it was more or less on the verge of wrapping itself up. Basically then an emergence of a feeling that I’d better rush out and do what I have to do/ say what I have to say before time is up. Furthermore, much of what had ‘already happened’ was in decades dominated by a culture of youth; the 1960’s, the 1970’s and even (in the counterrevolutionary form of the ‘yuppie’) the 1980’s. You could argue that the counterrevolutionary political economy agenda that came to fruition as the 1980’s began(that has remained dominant since) sent real popular culture back to where it came from, and gave us a bastardized form in its place.
The melancholy predicament I (and possibly others) experienced from our late teens onwards was that of being a spectator of an onslaught of energies and excitement from yesteryear, energies that had been and gone, tried to win, and eventually failed, leaving only their fashion styles, like shedded snake skins for us to mix up in a desperate but futile attempt at something new (to some extent we are all the tragic comedy character Nathan Barley). So, here was a sense that if you were to do anything in life (from finding love, finding success, generally being someone) it has to be whilst young (the unspoken message being revealed through the increasing marginalisation of older people), and it was compounded with a sense that there wasn’t much left anyway because what matters in our culture has already happened!
I’m not really sure though how I can locate the source of my obsession with the passing of time on the doors of these massive players in general cultural experience. There has to be some other reason why I watch the hour glass of my life, and civilisation itself, like a starving man watches food. So what is it? And do others feel it? I have just turned 30, but people have commented on how I discuss my life in a way that suggests that it is already over. Why is it always a feeling of something slipping away, and never of something growing? Is it just the reflection of a negative person, or is this sensation more widespread? An age of widespread negativity, that ‘things are only going to get worse?’ Maybe it’s as simple as somebody who’s constantly-renewing essence is a ‘glass half empty’ one. Am I confusing wider experiences with personal experiences? from what I observe in the world I’d say No, but maybe that’s because all I see in the social landscape is the things that confirm that my sensations are true. But surely they are true! …? I do have a tendency to place the overly positive people in life in either the category of ‘bullshitters’ or ‘the deluded’. But am I right? To quote Slavoj Žižek, surely “we are living the end times” of a 2 millennium old civilisation aren’t we? I crave not to be haunted by the passing of time; I have always envied friends who aren’t so. But I can’t shake the feeling of running out of time. That I, as male human (born to end), am running out of time, within a world (also born to end) which is also running out of time.
What is it that I feel I am running out of time to do? Well, some of my piers/contemporaries would say “to lose the obsession with time and the conventional expectations of having had to do certain things with your life”. I, being me, having to guide me to work every morning, having to eat for me, and find meaning for me; well, I would say I am running out of time to find emotional wellbeing, emotional unison with another(others), and an end to certain discontents that I once thought were the conventional ‘teenage existential difficulties’ until they never ended. And that this time is slipping away faster in a world where billboards/publicity increasingly demand youth or marginalisation, and the economic logic increasingly demands a ruthless career-driven orientation, or destitution.
What is it that I feel we are running out of time to do? “It’s make or break” is a thought that passes through the mind like an alarm clock that goes off every hour. Is it a feeling of running out of time to change the world before it is ‘too late’. 2009; the Copenhagen Summit, “oh no, what the hell are we doing?”; 2010, “voting Conservative will lose us ground on challenging the big problems we need to…..NO NO NO NO NO!”; 2011, The riots, Arab Spring etc, Occupy, all invested in a man knowing that ‘things can’t carry on the way they are’ equated to “something HAS to happen, just HAS to!”; 2012; bad year, too many flag-waving frenzies, so much energy trampled until it was just dust on the ground; 2013, a year of ghosts haunting the present; OUT OF TIME!. And Through all this “just don’t even get me fucking starting on our climate-fucking-up!”
So, a well-meaning friend, may suggest, for my own well-being that I “shouldn’t get hung up on time” that I should “just be”, and I appreciate it. But I am time. I consist of time as much as the Internet consist of porn and photographs of cats. You can’t stop getting hung up when you are the hung up; I hang up the coat I hang up myself too (which is probably why I never get invite to dinner parties). But what matters is whether it is just me who’s life is dominated by this sensation or whether it is a general feeling. And if it is a general feeling, what are we going to do about it? Because I think the supposed-novelty of being able to waltz around in the shedded snake-skin-fashions of any decade we wish has really seen its day as much as the decades have from which they fashions came from.
Here is a jumble of songs that defined by 20’s. In order of the years I have tried to list the ones that super-glued themselves to those times in my mind. Thanks to Lee Garforth for providing probably almost half of the CD’s from which these songs stuck themselves to me. Music has a phenomenological potency; often you find lyrics and sounds creep into your head from certain time periods just because you’ve looked at something totally unrelated that is listed as being from that year. Remembered lyrics cut loose from the original song meaning and begin to mean something to your life at that time and place.
spring/Summer: “Your sun’s coming out”
Orange Crush – R.E.M, Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers, E-Bow The Letter – R.E.M, Stay Together – Suede, These Four Walls- Cast, Babooshka – Kate Bush, Army Dreamers – Kate Bush, Blow Away (for Bill) – Kate Bush, From Safety to Where? – Joy Division, Novelty – Joy Division, Sit Down and Stand Up – Radiohead, Sail to the Moon – Radiohead, Dream Brother – Jeff Buckley, Talk About The Passion – R.E.M, My Descent into Madness – Eels, Spring Healed Jim – Morrisey, Beautiful Mind – The Verve, Molasses – Radiohead, Anywhere – Dubstar, Breathing – Kate Bush, Wow – Kate Bush, Cloudbursting – Kate Bush, Komakino – Joy Division, Flaming – Pink Floyd, Interstellar Overdrive – Pink Floyd, Rabid Dog – Super Furry Animals, Palo Alto – Radiohead
Autumn/Winter: “I’ve been sound asleep for twenty years, If I’m sound asleep a hundred years”
Any Day Now – Elbow, Digital – Joy Division, Oscillate Wildly – The Smiths, Red Sleeping Beauty – Mccarthy, Should The Bible Be Banned? – Mccarthy, Stumble and Fall – Razorlight (I do regret having ‘Tony Blair-Rockstar-Borrell’ in here, but unfortunately this song has attached itself to some rather fond memories), Ommision – John Frusciante, Guiding Light – Television, A Forest – The Cure, Hairy Trees – Goldfrapp, Presuming Ed (Rest Easy) – Elbow, Black Dollar Bills – Hope of The States, Pounding – Doves, Close to Me – The Cure, Cirrus Minor – Pink Floyd, Julia Dream – Pink Floyd
Winter/Spring: “Something always goes wrong when things are going right, you swallowed your pride to quell the pain inside”
“How could anyone know me, when I don’t even know myself?
These Days – Joy Division, The Big Sky – Kate Bush, Watching You Without Me – Kate Bush, The Sound of Music – Joy Division, The Only Mistake – Joy Division, Nehemiah- Hope of The States, Me Ves Y Sufres – Hope of the States, Sick and Tired – The Cardigans, This is the Day – The The, The Sinking Feeling – The The, Charly – The Prodigy, Papa new Guinea – Future Sound of London, Sweet Harmony – Beloved, Almost Forgot Myself – Doves, Frans Hals – Mccarthy, Soul Mining – The The, GIANT – The The, NYC – Interpol
Summer/Autumn: “So I wrote it all in a letter, but I don’t know if it came”
Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down – Interpol, Leif Erikson – Interpol, Spellbound – Siouxie and The Banshees, Into the Light – Siouxsie and The Banshees, Abba Zabba – Captain Beafheart, Out of The Blue (Into The Fire) – The The, Angels of Deception, Prozac Beats – 18 Wheeler, Effil’s God – Eels, Strange Currencies – R.E.M, Slippage – Goldfrapp,Penny Royal Tea – N irvana, Nocturnal Me – Echo and The Bunnymen, Ocean Rain – Echo and The Bunnymen, Climbing up To The Moon – Eels, Sexual Healing – Kate Bush(a cover), You are The Everything – R.E.M, Uncertain Smile (single version) – The The, Perfect – The The, Winter – Tori Amos
Winter/Spring: “This is not really, this is not really happening. But you be your life it is”
Lorelei – Cocteau Twins, Sweet Adelene – Elliot Smith, Pitseleh – Elliot Smith, The Red Telephone – Love, Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale – Love, Deeper Understanding – Kate Bush, This Woman’s Work – Kate Bush, Back of Love – Echo and The Bunnymen, White Devil – Echo and the Bunnymen, The Infant Kiss – Kate Bush, Glosoli – Sigur Ros, Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos, the Upstairs Room – The Cure, Lament – The Cure, Yes – Manic Street Preachers, All We Ever Look For – Kate Bush, I Me You I’m Your – Jim Noir, Tower of Love – Jim Noir.
Summer/Autumn: “I’ve got a ton of great ideas, I’m really worked up, I’m on a good mixture, I don’t want to waste it…..I wait for the click. I wait, but it doesn’t kick in”
“I won’t fuck this over”
Mother. Sister! [Peel Session] – The Fall, Put Away[Peel Session] – The Fall, No Xmas for John Quays[Peel Session] – The Fall, Quiet Man – Jim Noir, The Only Way – Jim Noir, Don’t You Forget about Me – Simple Minds, Mad World – Tears for Fears, The Man Machine[full album] – Kraftwerk, A Friend of Mine – The National, The Hurting – Tears For Fears, Ideas as Opiates – Tears For Fears, Pale Shelter – Tears For Fears, Twilight of a Champion – The The, The Mercy beat- The The, Alcoholiday – Teenage Fanclub, Is This Music? – Teenage Fanclub, City Middle – The National, Mr November – The National, Suffer The Children – Tears For Fears.
Winter/Spring: “If I could go back to where I began, I would Yeah – if only I could. I`d never do no one no harm. Wear a halo So heavenly I`d grow”
There is No Love Between us Anymore – Pop Will Eat itself, Poison to the Mind – Pop Will Eat Itself, Hello I Love You – The Doors, B-line – Lamb, Fly – Lamb, Look! Know! – The Fall, Autobahn [entire album] – Kraftwerk, Air – Talking Heads, Drugs -Talking Heads, Don’t Worry about the Government – Talking Heads, Polyethelene – Radiohead, Sympthony in Blue – Kate Bush, Coffee Homeground – Kate Bush, All Ablaze – Ian Brown, Chicago – Sufjan Stevens, Abel – The National, Armageddon Days – The The
Joga – Bjork, Human Behaviour – Bjork, Wolf at The Door – Radiohead, Soma – Smashing Pumpkins, Good Morning Beautiful – The The, The Violence of Truth – The The, YmweLwyr A Gwrachod – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Magical World – Eels, Suicide Life – Eels, Come on Feel Illinois! – Sufjan Stevens, Jacksonville – Sufjan Stevens, Decatur, Or Round of Applause For your Stepmother – Sufjan Stevens, Ocean of Noise – Arcade Fire, Windowsill – Arcade Fire, No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
Winter/Spring “Do you think there’s someone out there? Do you think that they might know? And if they don’t do you think they should be told? Cos she’s living in a nightmare”
Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens, Body Snatchers – Radiohead, House of Cards – Radiohead, Unravel – Bjork, One Day – Bjork, Friendly Ghost – Eels, The Sprawl – Sonic Youth, Dirge – Death in Vegas, Soul Auctioneer – Death in Vegas, Acrlliyc Afternoons – Pulp, Joy Riders – Pulp, 100 Years of Solitude – The Levellers, The Likes of You and I – The Levellers, Happy Endings – Pulp, Garden – The Levellers, Nothing Left – Orbital, Impact – Orbital
“The artist fell in love with the reflection of himself, and suddenly the picture became distorted”
“But it was only fantasy, the wall was so high as you can see. No matter how he tried he could not break free. And the worms ate into his brain”
Burning Wheel – Primal Scream, Stuka – Primal Scream, Long Life – Primal Scream, Perfect (Original Version) – The The, Hit The Hi Tech Groove – Pop Will Eat Itself, I Think I’m in Love – Spiritualized, Stay With Me – Spiritualized, Come Together – Spiritualized, Kraftwerk – Trans Europe Express [FULL ALBUM], The Wall [FULL ALBUM] – Pink Floyd, John Foxx – Metamatic [FULL ALBUM], Gustav Holst – The Planets, Glimmer – John Foxx, Ohm Sweet Ohm – Kraftwerk, John Foxx – Miles Away, Computer Love – Kraftwerk.
Winter/Spring “They promised me paradise if I fell under their spell….they are many, we are few (is there no way out?)”
Computer World – Kraftwerk, Numbers – Kraftwerk, Me I Disconnect from You – Gary Numan, When The Machines Rock – Gary Numan, Are Friends Electric? – Gary Numan, Well of Loneliness – Mccarthy, Keep an Open Mind Or Else – Mccarthy, I’m Not A Patriot But – Mccarthy, Speed of Life – David Bowie, Sound and Vision – David Bowie, Babasonicos – Ian Brown, Green is The Colour – Pink Floyd, Cymbaline – Pink Floyd
Summer/Autumn “These are the lies they told us, the future’s good as sold”
Julia’s Song [Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Electricity – – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Dark Side of The Moon [full album] – Pink Floyd, Pretending To See [Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Genetic Engineering [Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Of all The Things We’ve Made[Peel Session] – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, Animals [full album] – Pink Floyd, 4st 71b – Manic Street Preachers, Computer Love (again) – Kraftwerk, Let Me In – R.E.M
Winter/Spring “I want you as the dream, not the reality … and I know that this will never be mine”
Never Be Mine – Kate Bush, Deeper Understanding (again) – Kate Bush, All I Need – Radiohead, The Reckoner – Radiohead, Scatterbrain(as Dead as Leaves) – Radiohead, There There – Radiohead, Spinning Plates (live) – Radiohead,
Summer/Autumn “Does Will Smith Lie? Does he ever cave in and cry?”
Everything in it’s Right Place (I might be wrong EP) – Radiohead, Pearly – Radiohead, Presidential Suite – Super Furry Animals, Fragile Happiness – Super Furry Animals, Don’t Fall – The Chameleons, Second Skin – The Chameleons, Thursday’s Child – The Chameleons, Porcupine – Echo and The Bunnymen, Bluer Skies – Echo and The Bunnymen.
Winter/Spring “you have tried your best to please everyone but it just isn’t happening… this is fucked up, fucked up”
High as You Can Go – The Chameleons, Black Swans – Thom Yorke, Failure – The La’s, Looking Glass – The La’s, Harrowdown Hill – Thom Yorke, I Walked – Sufjan Stevens, Atoms For Peace – Thom Yorke, Beverley Hills Cop Theme Song – Axel F (this is due to spending hours working in an exhibition where this was played over and over, Black Dollar Bills (again) – Hope of The States, Motorcycle Emptiness – Manic Street Preachers,
Summer/Autumn “…a powerful feeling that the American system is failing to deal with the real threats to life…”
2 Weeks – Grizzly Bear, Buddy Holly – Weezer, Digital Love – Daft Punk, Crescendols – Daft Punk, Dummy [full album] – Portishead, Going out of My Head – FatBoy Slim, Veridis Quo – Daft Punk, Ce Matin La – Air, One and One – Robert Miles, Let There Be Flutes – Bentley Rhythm Ace, Midlander (There Can Be Only One) – Bentley Rhythm Ace, His and Hers – Pulp, Animal Nitrate – Suede, Insight (Peel sessions) – Joy Division, Fugeela – Fugees, In Your Face – 808 State.
Winter/Spring:”Heaven knows it’s got to be this time, Avenues all lined with trees…”
Ceremony – New Order, In a Lonely Place – New Order, Return to Hot Chicken – Yo La Tengo, Belagusi’s Dead – Bauhaus, Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club, Wordy Rappinghood – Tom Tom Club, The Court of the Crimson King – King Crimson, Born to End – Manic Street Preachers, Love’s Sweet Exile – Manic Street Preachers, All Too Much – The Beatles, Across The Breeze – Sonic Youth, One of These Days – Pink Floyd, Forgive – Burial, Unite – Burial, Private Psychedelic Reel – Chemical Brothers, The Glorious Land – PJ Harvey, In The Dark Places – PJ Harvey,
Summer Autumn: “What you gonner do, what you gonner do when it’s over?”
Raver – Burial, UK – Burial, Dog Shelter – Burial, WitchHunt – Zomby, Natalia’s Song – Zomby, David’s Last Summer – Pulp, Oxygene – Jean Michelle Jarre, 21st Century Schizoid Man – King Crimson, Genetic Engineering – Orchestral Manoeuvres in The Dark, There’s Nothing I Won’t Do – JX, Novelty (transmission session) – Joy Division, Set You Free – Ntrance, A Forest (live 1980) – The Cure, Love Action – The Human League, Take me To The Hospital – The Prodigy, Pandemonium – The Prodigy, Temptation – Heaven 17, Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads.
Winter/Spring: “On a clear day I can see solutions, to all the heavy shit facing revolution…. dry as matt emulsion”
The Trick – The Prodigy, Everything is Borrowed – The Streets, The Irony of it all – The Streets, Wounder – Burial, Fostercare – Burial, The Escapist – The Streets, Stolen Dog – Burial, Raquel – Neon Neon, Aladdin’s Story – Death in Vegas, Trick for Treat – Neon Neon, Steel Your Girl – Neon Neon, Street Halo – Burial, Michael Douglas – Neon Neon, Open Your Heart – The Human League, With Every Heartbeat (at Ghosts of My Life tempo) – Robyn with Kleerup, Seconds – The Human League, Souvenir – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Summer/Autumn: “But as the world turns I learned life is Hell .Living in the world, no different from a cell… I guess that’s the time when I’m not depressed, But I’m still depressed…”
This may well seem a little indulgent. However, being just days from leaving my 20’s behind, my sense of self-worth is considerably less than secure, and I felt ambushed by a feeling of sheer inadequacy earlier today as I waited for a train at possibly one of the most neglected major railway stations in the UK, a feeling I felt I had to shrug. I have tried to shrug this feeling by ignoring what I haven’t done during the past 10 years, and what I have done. So here is a chronicle of things I have made during the past 10 years (some of the stuff I wouldn’t wish to show as my main body of work now, but it isn’t stuff I should try to deny was ever made also).
20 years old (2004)
The Grim Reaper Snowman (a character used for my Things To Worry About t-shirts)
In Balance written just before my 21st birthday; this recording made in 2007
21 years old (2005)
Images of my The Last Rainforest piece, possibly the first injection of irony into my work.
Loosing Bits of Myself As I Get further Back into the Social World
Everytime I Go Under I Lose More of MyselfE
Images from UltraMarket
22 years old (2006)
The Phone Sharks (preliminary Tide of Society piece)
Barnsley in Bloom 2020
Barnsley After the Sea Levels Rise (Unhappy Ending)
23 years old (2007)
Barnsley After the Sea levels Rise (Happy Ending)
Barnsley With a View of Other Towns
Self Portrait in Co-existence with Nature
The Underlying Pessimism of The 21st Century
The Revenge of a Discarded Friend
If You Don’t Get out and Walk
24 years old (2008)
Humans In Cages, art project. Drawing title: The Odds That Were Against us
The Hole in My Stomach Is Making The Hole in The Sky
This Hole Cannot Be Filled in a Carpark Overspill
The Sprawl (in situ)
The Healing Process installation, Hive Gallery exhibition
25 years old (2009)
The Alpha Forest installation, Emergence exhibition, Barnsley
Looking For Truth installation. Part of Truth and Tribute exhibition
Images of Tunnel Vision to Copenhagen exhibition, Barnsley. Set to coincide with 2009 Copenhagen climate summit
26 years old (2010)
“I Believe in Capitalism”
The Logic of Neoliberalism
A Final Acceptance
27 years old (2011)
The Index For Child Well-being
Image of Achieving and Getting Things Done installation from Globalsapiens exhibition, Sheffield
In The City…
28 years old (2012)
Who Would Want To Listen To This?
The Democratic Umbrella
Heartbeat Gallery, Exhibition, Sheffield
Image of Mary Rose: we are sinking installation, from Borderline Ballardian exhibition
Image of Mary Rose: we are sinking installation, from Borderline Ballardian exhibition
Image of Memory Hole installation, from Borderline Ballardian exhibition
The Planet’s Mental Illness
29 years old
The Place of Dead Ends
West Riding of Yorkshire: A psychogeographical Account installation, at An Unofficial Alumni exhibition
With every year that passes I seem to be moving further away from a life defined by certain things (such as age-group, and its associated lifestyle, it’s forms of socialising; dreams, expectations) yet not arriving anywhere, just drifting further away from anything that is anything. I admit to my obsession with time; at the back of my thoughts there always remains an hour glass of days, months, years, all falling away, adding an unnecessary and unrewarding haste to everything I do, and within every space I find myself within. This haste is reducing my ability to be an emotionally developed, sensual human to a zero point. I watch with cold, distant horror as I finally dry up into a husk of a person, as if I was seeing myself through someone else’s eyes.
Those who simply tell you to ‘lighten up’ cannot see these ticking time-bombs that exist within a mind, that envelope and pump their poison ink into every care one has until what is good or bad, what is likely or unlikely become indecipherable, and everything just becomes like a weight that eventually makes one sink into oneself – a long-lasting depression that one learns to deflect the detection of with billboard smiles, hyper-irony, and running around/never standing still. Depression is easily mistaken as selfishness, and an inability to care for others, but it is more accurately an inversion of selfishness; when all that is external becomes so heavy that you literally sink into yourself; you backfire on yourself, ending up many fathoms deep within you. Yet the world still demands a You that isn’t submerged, demanding a increasingly more performative/c.v-friendly You, and this is when the god-awful frictions/arguments, whilst trying to be ‘normal’ whilst many fathoms deep within yourself, occur.
This is always more likely around the super-massive black hole event that is known as Christmas/new year. Anyone who can claim that this hyper-event doesn’t tamper with their every emotive response during December (those who may very likely say “just try to ignore it!”) is a lier. It gets you in headlock and, drags you to the front of the stage, and makes you engage in dialogue with your most destructive tendencies, which most of year (save the bi-monthly blips) you can just about tolerate from afar, at the back of the arena. I feel a growing sense of what the theorist Mark Fisher called ‘reflexive impotence’; lacking the capacity to even consider making a move, choosing between yes or no; and as each year comes and goes I watch everyone move on, coupling up, or finding a new path in life, as I just stare like a person trapped in a busy transport terminal, or worse: a person trapped in front of a Facebook newsfeed of everybody you’ve ever known desperate to tell you how well they are doing (and I am both of these people).
It feels both humiliating and frightening, but I can see no way out; and as soon as I think about the feeling that there is no way out, the more that feeling seems to fill my thoughts, as if my thoughts were arteries that were being clogged up by cholesterol. Desire is no more; too high; too far away; and I can’t even conceptualise the existence of something this far away, not anymore anyway. It needs to be instant, I don’t want it be, but it needs to be. Thus (for example) drinking is no longer that anticipated once-weekly chance for fruition of desires for that young person; but something that is fixturing itself in on as many days a it possibly can as I leave my 20′s behind; no desire only stimulation (perhaps to keep up with the constant nagging of/ the dependency on instant messaging). The world of the Internet 2.0/rolling news anticipating The End in a few seconds/a hyper capitalism that has colonised a future that it’ll have destroyed for us anyway/the anticipation of Google Glasses, and all else that constitutes the tyranny of the immediate; collapsing the world into an ever-present that obliterates desire, leaving us in the hellish void that leaves us with no alternative but to continuously seek immediate stimulation.
Kill off all hope and lingering dreams, and then maybe the pain of what seems increasingly unlikely will go away, so that I am not dragged into hasty, desperate demands for them, triggered by conversations drenched in future plans with colleagues that make me feel compelled to re-convince myself that I “can still sort this” and be the ‘John Ledger’ I told myself I was when I was younger. Maybe it is time to accept that the reasons I have ended up like this may not be down to external social/environmental determinants, not even in the form of the mindfuck-diet served to us under late capitalism, and more genetic; that I may indeed have a syndrome, as I spend an entire decade locked in a brief moment of it, whilst others seemingly glide from one moment of their life to another. Maybe it’s only a syndrome detectable by me being inapplicable to the human capital system that demands us to all to be applicable formats to its computer world, but a syndrome all the same. Yes, self-diagnosis may just be a way to escape all responsibility for the way you are, and evade the long, and potentially futile, road you must take to change yourself, to which to self-assured will now mutter “only you can change your life, john!”. However, such a diagnosis, if it were the case, may just ease the burden of years of battling feelings of social inadequacy, and destructive guilt when I am made aware that I have acted inappropriately in social situations, when the social situation made me feel trapped, forced into certain shape as if I was putty in its hand, and ‘inappropriate’ reaction an inevitable outcome.
But how do you begin to build for a future, and not look to the past, when you’ve looked so much at what is in store for us under this system, that a future with any offer of something more desirable looks impossible? As things stand the future the world offers is akin to the man who sits on on his toilet considering the decoration of his bathroom whilst his house burns down.
oh, and 2013…
Despite being a child born into the postmodern age I still feel like a child of modernism; that the hopes, desires and mores of modernism found a back-door into my mind. Maybe it was because the music played in our house was largely pop music when it was at its most modernist; when it really did believe that singing ‘peace and love’ could stop the human beings from tearing the shit out of each other, and also having vague (but seemingly-building) memories of the (what seemed then) gigantic collieries that looked like something that had crash-landed in a largely green landscape from a distant future, making my past seem more futuristic than our ‘cupcaked’, retrophile present world. Or maybe my injection with the belief that world was moving towards a better more peaceful world was born in the 1990′s; a decade that seemed to bring back into the cultural psyche a feeling that the world would be more glorious and exciting, albeit now completely capitalist and via the utopianism surrounding the early years of cyberspace – that is before it turned all dystopian, and began to feel like it was turning all of life into (un)sweet-nothings, soundbites falling onto our heads like rain serving as the slow collapse of civilisation rematerialising as Miley Cyrus, rape porn, Syrian gas attacks, and an art/music facebook page you must ‘like’ for every human being alive.
The thing that struck me most about satirist commentator Charlie Brooker’s summing-up of 2013 in the Guardian was that he was saying exactly the same as I have been saying all year (albeit in a way that attracts reading and doesn’t find itself compelled to the cybergraveyard of unread plentitude, which is here this is likely heading). My entire adult life has been largely spent trying to understand this world: why it is like it is. This is largely due to losing my way as a teenage and finding myself unable to enjoy things in life for their own sake. As fruitless as this probably is, it seemed compulsive to me – a less self-obsessed outlet for obsessive behavioural patterns.
However, between the spring of 2012 and now, the world shifted a gear, and went beyond the even remotely comprehensible and towards a new plateau of fucked-up. There remains a feeling within me that something gave up and died within this period, yet doesn’t yet realise. Something died within me and within the world, and now we’re merely the walking dead going through the same “keep calm and carry on” motions again and again. Personally I feel spent; my art, my voice, my only voice of defiance has said all it can say. And to keep making the work feels like I’d have to become pastiche of my past self. Yet I have emotionally depleted myself, messed up all other glimmers of chances for something different in my life for sake of my art. Now it feels spent I just feel like a husk of a person staring into the abyss of the present, where the whole world seems to becoming over saturated with a ‘gooey’, cutified child-like manner, becoming more infantilised the more the world looks evermore terrifying and falling apart.
So, where the fuck now? I can’t drape myself in retro bubbles, pretending the present isn’t happening; I can’t seem to settle down, start a family, first off with a ‘doggy-woggy’ or ‘cootie-wootie moggy’ that I can saturate facebook with instagrammed images of, and make the centre of attention at friends parties, just so we don’t have to look at the reality that becomes more grim and closer to our doorstep the more we ignore it. I can’t do any of these things. Yet people are starting to comment that I’m drinking too much, often the same people who find it possible to live these lifestyles I find impossible. Just what then?