Archive | January 2014

The Outdoors Has Become The Factory

ImageThe outdoors has become the factory. It has become that inhospitable environment that people were once relieved to clock off from. A few straggling pedestrians are battered by the production-line-motion of road transport noise, violent to the senses; repetitive noises once the preserve of the heavy industries and 20 century-style wars; floodlights that obliterate all vision on poorly lit streets; a ‘get-out-my-way’ speed that keeps the pedestrians obediently on their toes; and warning signs/CCTV cameras (that may or may not have human eyes behind them) instilling into them a need for even more obedience –  “don’t loiter; get on with what you should be doing”(usually consuming).

People, mainly in cars, or zoned out from others on express train commutes with all sensory organs focusing on screens/plugged into machines. The social/The outdoors: a gauntlet, a place to spend minimal possible time in. People so inconvenienced, anxious, exhausted and alone, from living in what Will Self calls ‘the Man-machine Matrix’ (which  requires increasingly more energy, enthusiasm, commitment from them) react to such circumstances by attempting to build private spaces of maximum available satisfaction. Private bunkers proliferate as hasty attempts to close the door of the outdoors in order to cling onto spaces of lonely enjoyment abandon the outdoors to the human waste of noise pollution, light pollution and the frustration from unsatisfactory private bunker moments that overspills into threats of violence on the streets.

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Headphones, that damage the ear drums with ‘chosen’ noise, block out the otherwise inescapable noise of traffic. But the pedestrian can’t escape the horizontal-shower of blinding lights in a wintertime rush hour. Watching a road at rush hour is like a process in a production-line or automated factory. All of us, frustratingly one at a time, in an urge to get to the master private bunker; our home. Everybody is out and moving; moving alone. An army of ants who have all been coaxed and conditioned by the religion of self.

People increasingly stressed and short of time, are constantly fighting against the rising tide of ‘inconveniences’; they are constantly thinking “don’t take away my valued private space for enjoyment; don’t infringe on my little moment of leisure time” and you witness adults kick up a child-like fuss when their private moment “to do what they wish” is subjected to a gate-crashing. (but yet a child-like response is expected from a people who have no collective/or social space, but only their private bunkers).

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The pedestrian’s experience of this noisy and thankless environment is probably more specific to the outer-city road networks and the sprawling sleeping suburbs that bleed off them, than the central zones of the country’s largest city sprawls. Few spaces outside our front doors in the sprawling suburbs are places you’d want to remain static in; constantly experiencing the hasty gust of traffic, whispering “come on, move on, hurry up!” in your ear.

Social space becomes more arid and desert-like under this prevailing viral logic. The seed of ‘market individualism’ planted by ideas under the umbrella of Thatcherism and Reaganism, grew like a tree seed between the bricks of socially-progressive modernism, shattering the old ideas of a better world; it’s branches extending and its roots sinking into more and more aspects of life. But here I wish only to think about one aspect: how the factory-like environment of harsh and relentless noises and sounds, and the violence of disciplinary impositions dealt through surveillance (historically situated in workplaces and prisons) have filled the streets. That they have filled the streets due to our only use for them in the past quarter of a century being ‘rat-runs’ to and from our private bunkers.

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However, there is now a net hemorrhaging of people from the comfort blankets that the private bunker provides, and it just cannot be ignored; the comfort blankets posses people with a sense that it is safer and surer to stay tucked inside this dominant ideological model (as if it was a spaceship promising us safe landing if we stay on board). Without this blanket maybe there will be a changing use of the outdoors again. But it is too soon to say if this will occur, or whether those decreasing few who still feel they have an investment in this system will increasingly make the outdoors look more ghetto-like, as they make fortresses out of their homes and cars, protected by state mechanisms increasingly hostile to the outdoors as the state itself falls deeper into crisis. But this particular blog isn’t the place to discuss this in detail; I’ve already said what I needed to say right now.

Walking through the capital again

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.

Out of Time

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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.

Facebook: My part in its downfall (I wish)

I remember when Facebook was first mentioned to me. I was in my last year of my art degree, using Myspace;  either to promote one of my art projects, the end of degree exhibition, or to apologise for some drunken rant or something at someone the evening before (one of the three anyway). Anyway it was early 2007. My first impressions of it then was that it was a more sophisticated alternative to Myspace, for ‘adult’s. Less ‘pouting’ and lists of favourite bands, and more “so, what are you doing with your life now?….oh me? I’m married now!…” blah blah blah, all that keeping up appearances shit of aspirational adulthood.

Inspite of the depression I suffered from in my early 20’s, my understanding of what was truly going wrong in the world was largely lacking the vocabulary to express the link between the physical and the psychological; it was much more “stop climate change” than “what’s preventing us from stopping climate change?”. This was beginning to appear in my artwork, yes, but overall my frustration over social networking was probably just mere annoyance with it, and the deleting of my Myspace accounts was then only understood by myself as due to depression, not that the depression may be partially triggered by commonly occurring anxieties from using the media form that I was attempting to cut my life from. To be truthful, inspite of my depression, at 23 I still had a lot of ‘young man’s’ hopes and excitements; the particles that combine to make my current life were yet to set and were free-floating, and far more easily pushed to one side when I need ‘a laugh’ (which is noticeable in my large drawings from this time; the subject matter then to now is the same, but it was more chaotic and free-flowing back then – arguably more joyous due to this).

Since then Facebook has gone from being a rival to Myspace to being something so large (over a billion users, more than a seventh of the entire world) that is has surely defined an all new era in our collective story upon the capitalist horrorshow-ride (it could also be called the Network-era, Internet 2.0 era, Broadband era). Myspace has increasingly come to look like some cyberspace graveyard; an eerie (non)place of friends’ profiles, that are like abandoned ships, found again, floating in an ice cold cyberspace, as if it was still 2007/2008. At the same time as this, our collective anxieties, whilst made to look isolated in dominant discourse, have become increasingly more audible as we passed through a seismic financial crash, to find ourselves in the grips of an even more bloody-thirsty capitalism, leaving an expanding carnage of wars and climatic devastation. A new reality; whilst most of the time we’re unaware that it is a new reality. But if we step outside of the world ‘enframed’ by cyberspace social interaction for a minute, even just to catch our breath (like I am currently doing, by ‘politely’ asking their admin team for my profile to be deleted, as if I was a paying customer or something), how is Facebook (especially) affecting our lives? And should we ask the questions: why is it here? Why has it become so big? Is it just ‘progress’, or can progress look different? And, would we prefer a world without it?

Where do you begin when talking about its conception? Prior to the era of social networking, for 70 years, almost an entire century in the US, we have been fed all day everyday with publicity. Publicity, that became the most dominant and omnipresent form of information during this time-period, telling us what we should like, how we should look, act, and what things we should talk about. Utilising genuine human needs, and using them in a way that benefits the publicity-maker, and benefits a system dependent on publicity by keeping the mass of people’s live orientated around trivia. Trivia that is only relevant to the day in hand, or in order to generate small-talk/to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ etc. For well over half a century we have been clay in the hands of the interests that endorse the propagation of publicity. These interests being of ruling sections of western ‘democracies’, as a way of preventing democracy becoming what the word really means – not just the choice between different leaders every 4/5 years, as we experience it now.

The reason social networking can function now is because after half a century of the psychological assault, we are self-assembled publicity. Facebook is an inversion of 20th century publicity. Publicity has been at least somewhat successful during the past 70 or so years in building us into walking publicity, of trivia, obediently learning to enjoy being what a landscape drenched in publicity made us become. We now go onto social networking sites, libidinously-compelled to advertise ourselves. Everyone anxiously-driven to compete, once their eyes set on the waterfall of enforced self-entrepreneurship that is the newsfeed. Yet, whilst we compete against one another, all 1 billion active users, we are all speaking the same language, of publicity, of capitalism. Indeed there is no other language that can be used on Facebook, whatever you post it translates as publicity. When on Facebook the ability to imagine some other sort of human experience is as difficult as can be.

This is possibly the reason why posts critiquing capitalist system, and its matrix of injustices (from climate change to the bedroom tax) are hard-pressed to be of any use but to keep protest virtual and ineffectual. And this doesn’t apply to cyberspace technology across the board, but I am certainly more inclined to argue now that this applies to social networking in nearly all cases. Social networking is a form of communication born from ‘DNA’ taken from the ideological laboratory of publicity, which has the purpose of oiling the wheels of a capitalist world. At this specific moment I am very pessimistic about Facebook becoming a platform for a different mode of communication.

All this doesn’t mean that I think people who use Facebook are just walking advertisements for their atomised lives full stop, just that this is all Facebook seems to allow them to be. But not only does it prevent you from being anything else, it forces you, via feelings of status anxiety, inferiority, of being less than others, to promote what you have been doing/liking/feeling etc. This is incredibly psychologically distressing to many, especially those who feel dependent on Facebook for most social interaction due to having difficulties finding it anywhere else, because everyone else is staring at their screens. I have only been free of Facebook (this time around) for a week, and I’m hoping nothing drags me back on there, having to keep on reminding myself about an awful realisation I had a couple of months back that my quality of life has massively deteriorated since the rise of social networking influence in it, and that I do not believe it to be a coincidence.

So, if the first major factor in this worldwide socio-psychological experiment that allows for Facebook’s dominance is that the near-century assault from publicity has saturated everything so efficiently, then this is a matter of substance; what to things are now made out of. But there has to be another factor at play here that then makes us feel compelled by some invisible force to be adverts for ourselves which then causes so much psychological distress. To get to the roots of this I think we have to look at the direction society was directed towards in 2 of the most culturally and economically influential countries in the world (thus spreading to everywhere else soon after). The late 1970’s/early 1980’s saw ideas under the umbrella of Thatcherism take hold in the UK, and the same thing happen under the umbrella of Reaganism in the US.

If you imagine any given society as a test tube, imagine then Thatcherism/Reaganism as a massive syringe injecting into it market individualism. What could market individualism be described as? It has a double meaning: that business can, and should be allowed to do what it pleases, that everything should be run as a business, from the railways down to toilet facilities, with a belief that market freedom is best way to run things. But, more importantly regarding this post, the enforcement of individualism onto every human being in that society, but a certain type of individualism: that he/she must be an active player within a market-driven system. During the 1980’s social networking, early mobile phones and the like, were the preserve of a small professional class nicknamed the ‘yuppies’, by the 2000’s this was no longer a so-called ‘lifestyle choice, and had trickled down onto all of us until it was “a minimum requirement for mere survival”,  as it was always intended to be. This logical outcome leaves a person finding all their character ‘assets’ overcome by a compulsion to compete, to be constantly advertising themselves.

So, let’s return to the test tube comparison. Imagine that this market individualism, injected into society, took time to fully saturate the test tube. I would argue that it became fully saturated at the time when Facebook became fully ‘viral’, in both meanings of the world viral; (the contemporary usage of the word) it’s all over the Internet, and (the main meaning) that it may as well be circulating through our blood stream like a real virus. Without even beginning to question who gets the chance to go to these Havard school ‘genius’ laboratories in the first place, the fact is that they were/are very fucking clever, as venture capitalists; social networking platforms weren’t just a wild stab in the dark at creating something people might like to use, they are platforms that have been ‘plugged’  right into this ideological DNA’s mains supply, saturated by market individualism. Just at the right time when the technology allowed for social media to be used by (almost) everyone, but whilst the Internet was still a relatively new thing to us, and our guard was down.

The cultural saturation with the logic of self-advertisement has ambushed our thoughts; as Mark Fisher says in his book Capitalist Realism, “when we sleep we dream of capital”. The usage of ourselves as ‘human capital’, even though we’re usually totally unaware of being so, has some, if not most investment in our Facebook posts, whilst as a platform, Facebook translates all language into publicity anyway. Whilst the solution to the financial crash was ‘capitalist realist’, by giving the world an even harsher and more blood-thirsty model of the system that had supposedly just lost all its credibility by failing so fantastically, this has seemingly intensified our haste to self-promote, and thus the rise and rise in social networkers.

The misconception that “it’s just progress”, an inevitability that can’t be halted, and that to criticise it would to be “flogging a dead horse” would tell anybody (from the most revered thinkers throughout history, to the rest of us) who has ever tried to understand the logic from which industrial capitalism sprung that they too are flogging a dead horse. Indeed, maybe we all have been flogging a dead horse, but what choice do we have now when it is clear that this dominant ideology is dragging the world towards civilisational and ecological destruction? If we don’t challenge the dominant cultural logic, then we must resign ourselves to letting any children we produce grow up into a world even less worth living in than the one we currently inhabit.

As things stand I can only see our collective dependency on Facebook increasing. And I am more than certain that out ‘social networking’ dependency is getting more vicious as capitalism also becomes more viscous (both in an rapacious desire to make our character qualities ‘good publicity’, and in the way that people are increasingly turning on each other via social media), and for this reason it will continue to reduce the quality of the lives of many users. The problem here then is its addictiveness; because it has the ability to absorb the entire libidinal fuel reserve of publicity created over the past 70/90 years, it more or less grabs your finger towards ‘the big F’ on an interface (there’s been many times when I have found myself staring at a Facebook screen with literally no memory of opening it up).

I don’t know how to convince people that the quality of one’s life (and, thus, potentially the quality of everything) will decrease the longer they depend on it, but I am sure that attempting to quit isn’t regressive/Luddite in nature (even when you relapse and reactivate the dormant account again). I don’t think cyberspace technology has to be solely used to this effect, it is the platforms that have grown from the dominant idealogical DNA I am referring to. Whether a mass exodus will occur, it certainly won’t as things stand, maybe if the legitimacy of the ruling ideas is damaged beyond credibility during the next decade or so, but nobody can know if that will happen. Yet, I am convinced now that quitting these platforms is the right thing to do if we want to aim for a more bearable future. So, yes, “quit Facebook!”

Sounds that made my 20’s

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.


20 (2004)

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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

04

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


21 (2005)

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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

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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 BunnymenClimbing 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


22 (2006)

The-Cure-Japanese-Whispers-3041402015-12-12-10-10-05-1874442935

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.

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22 (2006)

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.


23 (2007)

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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

Autumn/Winter

index

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
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24 (2008)

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+Wall++high+resolution+png253Kraftwerk-Trans-Europe-Express

 

 

 

 

Summer/Autumn 

“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.


25 (2009)

Kraftwerk_-_Computer_World

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

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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

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26 (2010)

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.

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27 (2011)

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.

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28 (2012)

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.

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29 (2013)

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…”

C.R.E.A.M – Wu Tang Clan, Nae Hair On’t – The Bluetones, Dislocation – John Foxx,  Shadowplay  (live in Manchester) – Joy Division, Da Mystery of Chessboxin – Wu Tang Clan,  Free Robot – John Foxx,

My Creative Output Throughout My 20’s – A Retrospective

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)

P1020923The above painting was an attempt to make a landscape that resembled the experience of being locked under the control mechanisms of eating disorders.

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Mind the drug-the body the victim

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The Grim Reaper Snowman (a character used for my Things To Worry About t-shirts)

Image   Image  No Escape

Image   P1020927The Smog Monsters (character used for Things To Worry About T-shirts)

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Music:

Demons

Head In Hands

In Balance

In Balance written just before my 21st birthday; this recording made in 2007


21 years old (2005)

the mob

Images of my The Last Rainforest piece, possibly the first injection of irony into my work.

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ImageImage self portrait, rooted by worry

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Loosing Bits of Myself As I Get further Back into the Social World

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Everytime I Go Under I Lose More of Myselfeverytime i go under, i loose more of meE

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Images from UltraMarket

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ultra market (buy emotions) 5

Music:

Everything Goes Away

I Wish

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22 years old (2006)

The Phone Sharks (preliminary Tide of Society piece)

Image    Grim Expectations

ImageLike Bullets to the Skin

Image Barnsley After the Sea-levels Rise (Happy Ending)

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Barnsley in Bloom 2020

Image Image Green Graffiti, Junction 38 tree

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Barnsley After the Sea Levels Rise (Unhappy Ending)

Image Britain 2050: the Human Condition

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Music:

The Uniform

Change of Heart

Gotta Get Those Melodies

Red Carpet

Straight Lined 


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23 years old (2007)

Barnsley After the Sea levels Rise (Happy Ending)

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barnsley after the sea levels rise (happy ending) 2

Barnsley With a View of Other Towns

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awd

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Self Portrait in Co-existence with Nature

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Comfortably Blind

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The Underlying Pessimism of The 21st Century

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The Revenge of a Discarded Friend

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House-Hunting 2050house hunting 2050

If You Don’t Get out and Walk

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Music:

Mellow Out

Everybody Needs to Be my Friend

Generation Slut

I Can’t Keep a Secret

World: I’m not Taking This

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24 years old (2008)

Humans In Cages, art project. Drawing title: The Odds That Were Against us

The odds that were against us

Image Humans In Cages, art project. Drawing title: Land of Opportunity

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The Hole in My Stomach Is Making The Hole in The Sky

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This Hole Cannot Be Filled in a Carpark Overspill

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People Factory

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The Sprawl

The Sprawl (1697x2400)

The Sprawl (in situ)

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The Healing Process installation, Hive Gallery exhibition

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Music:

Sound Salvation

My Useless Concern

Kill Me Car

Planet Internet

Blind Eyes

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25 years old (2009)

Central Bombardment

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ImageGlobal Pillage

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The Alpha Forest installation, Emergence exhibition, Barnsley

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We Are Watching Ourselves Sink

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Looking For Truth installation. Part of Truth and Tribute exhibition

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Images of Tunnel Vision to Copenhagen exhibition, Barnsley. Set to coincide with 2009 Copenhagen climate summit

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Books:

Going Nowhere, Writing Letters to Nobody


26 years old (2010)

“I Believe in Capitalism”

Image Installation at The Working Artist exhibition

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The Logic of Neoliberalism

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A Final Acceptance

Image IMG_5083photos from The Tide of Society Exhibition, Sheffield

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Global Ghetto, 2045, Marks the Centenary of The Defeat of Fascism

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Books:

The Tide of Society

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27 years old (2011)

The Index For Child Well-being

Image Ill-Equipped

Image Image from Making a Mark exhibition, Hive Gallery, Barnsley

Image Image from Globalsapiens exhibition, Sheffield

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Image Image from Globalsapiens exhibition, Sheffield

Image of Achieving and Getting Things Done installation from  Globalsapiens exhibition, Sheffield

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ImageImage of Achieving and Getting Things Done installation from  Globalsapiens exhibition, Sheffield

In The City…

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Books:

Inner Workings (writings to accompany exhibitions)

Blogs

The Outer conflict reflects the inner conflict (thoughts/feelings after attending March 26 demo)

A Past returning to haunt and all roads forward blocked

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/2-sides-of-the-same-band-why-primal-screams-screamadelica-and-exterminator-are-the-same-album-just-different-emotions/


28 years old (2012)

Who Would Want To Listen To This?

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The Democratic Umbrella

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Heartbeat Gallery, Exhibition, Sheffield

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Image of Mary Rose: we are sinking installation, from Borderline Ballardian exhibition

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Image of Mary Rose: we are sinking installation, from Borderline Ballardian exhibition

Image of Memory Hole installation, from Borderline Ballardian exhibition

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The Planet’s Mental Illness

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https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/desperation-witnessed-on-a-facebook-wall-and-desperation-on-the-railway-lines-on-our-endless-commutes-going-nowhere/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/ghosts/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/i-wanted-to-know-the-exact-dimensions-of-hell-eating-disorders-are-caused-by-the-totality-of-global-capitalism-not-just-advertising/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/daft-punk-discovery-late-dreams-of-a-capitalist-hyperreal-utopia/


29 years old

The Place of Dead Ends

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Mind Camp

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ImageA Psychic Time-bomb

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West Riding of Yorkshire: A psychogeographical Account installation, at An Unofficial Alumni exhibition

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Books:

West Riding of Yorkshire: A Psychogeographical Account

Blogs:

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/just-where-the-hell-are-we-in-time/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/thinking-along-the-hallam-line-leeds-wakefield-barnsley-meadowhall-and-sheffield/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/our-dark-hearts/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2013/02/07/why-i-couldnt-stay-in-london-and-why-barnsley-may-be-my-beast-of-burden/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/the-blanket-of-malaise-hanging-over-2013-can-it-be-torn-down-in-2014/

The blanket of malaise hanging over 2013. Can it be torn down in 2014?

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It’s been an hard truth to come to terms with, but refusing to discuss it for any longer will delay the thoughts of how it can be torn down. A blanket of malaise has swept over society during the past year and half, and I’m watching people get sicker and sicker. As well as the ‘cutification’ and ‘retrophilia’ becoming more deeply embedded in society, as the world picture becomes more ghastly, so many people seem far more fed up, and exhausted than I have ever known.

For most of the past year I had lost faith in writing things down; a sense that there was no longer anything I could say, or, at least, that I had found face to face dialogue far more feasible in an age where time has collapsed onto us, and there is an overarching compulsion for immediacy (“if it can’t be said in 150 characters via Twitter, then what’s the point?). But this too is a symptom of a wider malaise, of walking a road which has suddenly become steeper and steeper and even steeper on the horizon. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ folks!

There is so much evidence strewn all over, like a ripped up and shredded contract, to show that increased economic hardship is giving many a massive helping push towards their coping limits, with stories of increases in suicides, and suicidal thoughts rife amongst young adults, and rising cases of general psychological distress. Many of us have seen from day to day observations that this was already happening before the statistics at least gave the evidence to back it up. Only an artful dodger of the evidential, would try to argue that a ruthless economic agenda, fortified by a jingoist national agenda nudging towards outright authoritarianism, isn’t shooting many from both sides, with pessimism from one barrel and endemic fear from the other, right now. Yet, the artful dodgers often have the last word, as the majority who do have a sense that somethings gone wrong across the board can rarely articulate this feeling; they are too fractured by the sheer volume of seemingly unrelated shards of information, that rip holes in the mind, to see so clearly; and amnesia creeps into the scars left by this bombardment.

Many thus resort to the blame game, blaming migrants, benefit claimants, unable to focus for long enough on what should be unavoidably obvious: that it’s the monstrously unequal concentration of power in our world that is the cause of this seemingly unstoppable downward spiral we feel trapped within. (Social Geographer Doreen Massey often brings up the important of power; that it is the ability to get things done, and to choose what is to be done in any human collective, big or small. During the past 30 years power has been increasingly concentrated in such a small amount of hands, globally, that it’s created a dystopian situation for the rest of us. Migrants and benefit claimants have no power, so why do we blame them?).

But without focusing in on the current outcome from a specifically economic perspective, I wish to look at our entire cultural edifice/value system, as to why in 2013, at least in the UK, morale has been so low across the board, and already-existing psychological distress, and disorders, have moved many from having lives made problematic by them to having lives pushed to a crisis point by them.

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The cultural values ingrained into us from an day 1 of our lives are now seemingly pushing many of us to the point of nervous breakdown. Those of us in the UK under the age of 35 have been born into a culture bloated to sickness point with aspirationalism. And with this comes an even greater emphasis on social status. Social status has always been woefully present in British culture, but never before has status anxiety, and fear of failure been so present within it.  A politically-engineered violent individualism has attacked every one of us, isolating us from others, whilst making us more fearful of being socially invisible/a non-person to others due to our (lack of) achievements.

If Thatcherism planted the seeds of enforced aspiration (“self-entrepreneurship … a minimum requirement for mere survival [today]” – Steve Shaviro), Blairism, by denying the remaining existence of social classes in society, forced people to choose between enforced aspirationalism (a dictatorship of individualism) and being demoted to social ‘scum’; lazy, no good layabouts. Anyone who didn’t aspire ‘to better themselves’/to forge a career for themselves was an ‘undeserving “chav”‘,  seen as a scourge on society; the poor, the obese, the drug addicts were the people who should be excluded from the newly ‘regenerated’ city centres; new urban living, but only for the desirables, those who looked like what the computer-generated impressions of the ‘regenerated’ areas intended them to look like. All this at a time when opportunity for bettering yourself was becoming increasingly harder for anyone not already born into the right social class.

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Denying the existence of class, the differences in life chances between the classes, all the feelings of inferiority and anxieties that proliferate the further down the economic ladder you go, ingrains into an entire generation the belief that they can succeed just as much as their far more financially and hierarchically-privileged contemporaries. In the meantime whilst incubating a time-bomb growing off feelings of failure, inadequacy, unfulfilled aspirations -a feeling intensified more and more into the 2000’s, mushrooming due to the social networking phenomena – landing an entire generation (and large chunks off other generations) in a dangerously discontent place now these ingrained beliefs are being “crushed like bugs in the ground”.

So, in 2013, five years after the financial crash, and 3 years deep into these war-on-the-poor economic measures, taken with disgustingly sadistic pride (no doubt learned from Public school bullying sessions) by a Tory government in coalition-sheep’s clothing, all factors complicit in this generation-long social-status assault on people has reached a very grim and ugly point. During this year I have witnessed so many people become almost shells of themselves, wondering, as much as I wonder the very same about myself, how they can proceed: how can they move beyond this low point, when everything they have either been told they should be, or encouraged to be by omnipresent persuasions, is close to disintegrating? I suppose I am talking here of a section of this generation who have the safety net of their parents to rely on, and who, humiliatingly enough, increasingly have to rely on it.  Those below, whose lives are beaten and withered by threats of evictions, and reliance on food banks, have been having their aspirations smashed into the day in hand for years. But despite the differences in the immediacy and intensity of the suffering, the emphasis is here on loss of hope I see in peoples’ faces, their postures and their actions, whether they be zero-hour contract service industry workers being propped up by their parents, or those who really are on the breadline.

People’s Smiles are noticeably harder to hold. Many people are also noticeably upset whenever they see a photo of their past selves, or when they are reminded of past endeavours, because they feel something had been drained of life in them since then. It often feels like I’m living in a massive house of ghosts who are painfully daily reminded of the life they once lived. Despite the annoying focus on the completely irrelevant Mayan Domesday prediction for 2012, it did feel like something did end during this year. But if something died it was maybe the cultural belief system; that all remaining faith in it vanished. Yet the beliefs linger on in undead form, because our society remains ‘capitalist realist‘, where no alternative to the capitalist world seems imaginable to us. Neoliberalism, the dominant economic system that has dragged so much of the world into poverty to the benefit of an emergent plutocracy, was allowed to carry on unchallenged, even though it was a dead idea, precisely because of ‘capitalism realism’. But if cultural values are dead, yet we cling to them because we can’t imagine any other, then we are left trying to keep life going in a graveyard. 2013 was an undead year, we were like ghosts going through the motions.

It’s like the conceptual force field ‘capitalist realism’ has around us has fallen in on us, like a net falling around prey, making the endeavours we undertake increasingly more strenuous and less worthwhile, yet endeavours we still must undertake anyway. But it’s not just the death of such values, it is compounded by an inescapable awareness that the world seems to be looking a more frightening place by the day; that what we thought all too dystopian only a decade ago now seems to way of the world in 2013, from severe weather extremes every year, to fascist-like comments from mainstream politicians. “People are just fed up; they’ve had enough”, and amidst the bombardment of bake-off-based, feline-caption-picture-based, vintage-fashion-based, and crumbling-civilisation-based-Miley-Cyrus soundbites, these were words that often surfaced. The collection of examples used there are via Charlie Brooker’s 2013 round-up in the Guardian, but only because his round-up reflected my own experience.

The morale of the art world just below the relatively safe established art circles seems to have become very disheartened especially. Only 4/5 years back, before the coalition came to power, art was springing up in empty shop spaces and was, at least a large part of it, art that questioned/challenged. Fast forward to 2013, and you keep on hearing that everyone making art in the area feels a bit “meh” at the moment, that something has sapped the drive. The ‘keep Calm and Carry on’ Arts and Crafts brigade (who’s main motivation is an financially-anxious – but passed off as a relaxed, Alex James-style country-bumpkin – drive to make a business out their work) has emerged triumphant in the place of more challenging art.

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With total loss of hope surely comes two outcomes: total self-destruction, or destruction of the belief system and all that it privileges. Whilst ever the value system of a capitalist realist culture still holds on in its undead form, the former is the likely outcome. Returning to Charlie Brooker, in the Black Mirror episode he wrote called ’15 Million Credits’, it is clear that the episode’s protagonist is a cipher for Charlie Brooker himself. In ’15 Million Credits’ After the girl of his dreams has her soul destroyed in front of an X-factor-like-show panel (the crucible of the entire society – where the panelists begin to represent the judges in Stalinist-like showtrials) when they crush her hopes of being a singing and more or less force her into a choice between being a hardcore pornstar or having a miserable end to her days, the protagonist gets himself up in front of an entire population of a eerily-familiar dystopian society,  to tell the X-Fact0r-like judges, and the rest of society, that it is all fucked up, and they are all fucked up, and fuck you all, whilst holding a shard of glass to the main vein in his neck. The judges outcome being: “this is surely the most heartfelt performance I’ve seen on here since Hotshot began! [to which to crowd goes wild]” and the protagonist ends up having a weekly televised slot shouting about how everything is fucked up, whilst living quite comfortably. This is obviously how Charlie Brooker sees himself; that his despair, and abjection, tinted with great wit, over the state of society, is destined to be merely another form of entertainment. Black Mirror shows just how intelligent Brooker is.

The thing is, as much as I enjoy and value Charlie Brooker’s contribution to popular culture, there are a hell of a lot of people who feel exactly the same way about society (hence his popularity), who aren’t sitting as comfortably as him; I.e. he’s one of the few of us fortunate enough to make a decent living for himself out his feelings of hopelessness and despair. This isn’t a criticism of him, by any means, it’s just observing that this escape route isn’t an option for the rest of us, and in 2013 it’s increasingly evident on peoples’ faces that their options are running out full stop. As I said at the top, it’s a time-bomb. I can’t see how it can go on for much longer in the way it did in 2013, something surely has to tear through this decaying edifice. Most culture at the moment is playing into the hands of right wing conservative answers; be it the baking, cupcake, domesticity obsession that harks back to a pastiche of the 1940’s, or the obsession with everything British, where nearly every documentary seems to include the words ‘Great British’ in the title. But if this was 2013 culture, it was so far removed from daily experience that there’s no way that it can even slightly appease and satisfy for much longer. As I said above, we are at a crossroads now, where one way promises self-destruction, be it through drug intoxication, psychological surrender to bodies of authority/superstition, or self harm/suicide; the other way will be mean tearing away this dead culture, saying “fuck you, I won’t take this anymore”.

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The Place of Dead Ends (2013, 100X120cm)

The crash landing of one’s life at the end of the year

 

 

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?