Archive | May 2014

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Social Media wipes your cognitive mapping

A wealth of information doesn’t equate to a wealth of knowledge – this is a given. Yet ‘the race to know’ (not really a competition, more a feeling that you never know enough about the important things we trust affect our lives) makes the quest for more information incredibly seductive.

Throughout the modern age we’ve been bombarded (on lesser scales) by information overload that confuses our attempts to understand, from newspapers, wireless radio to rolling news. It becomes hard, if not impossible to distinguish what does and doesn’t concern our interests. For example, a brutal murder, 100 miles away; despite it being of a very upsetting nature, it really has very little connection with the concerns of the rest of us, unless we begin to ask whether a rise in country-wide homicides correlates to decision-making policies. But ‘news’ rarely goes into the genealogy of incidents, and just leaves us confused by a downpour of seemingly unrelated happenings. It can often seem like it’s all out of control, making us feel powerless (or at least more powerless) than usual.
Take this affect into consideration and times it by ten, and this is the predicament faced by the concerned in the age of social media, where information is distributed far thicker and faster thant at any other time in human history.

3 recent events, and the circumventing shower of sources reporting/commenting on them, have literally put my current feelings of panicky disorientation to their highest point in years. These These 3 events are the rise of the UKIP-spectacle, the situation in the Ukraine and the situation in the Favelas in Brazil in advance of the world cup.

I am without a doubt that beneath the conflicting reports, and the unrealness of it all, the events are genuinely disturbing (quite horrifying in the case of the Ukraine and Brazil), but I’ve been so saturated by internal conflict caused by the social media feed-storm of concerning issues, that I have completely lost the capacity to begin to understand just what is going on, anywhere whatsoever.
Maybe my capacity for keeping a level head is shorter than average, and maybe my habitual scatterbrain, my tendency towards many different info-sources, increases this feeling. But I don’t think I am alone because social media platforms have increasingly come to resemble mad-houses (if I can use such an historically-discriminatory term) at breaking point.

My conclusion, the only damn conclusion I feel equipped to make due to the aforementioned scenario, is that information/opinions/reports are mushrooming due to an increased disorientation fed by hasty-yet-futile attempts by the multiple media-bias’ conflict with the rest of us to find understanding/the truth of the situation(s), which is then further mushroomed by our attempts to capture these sources as they slide down the liquid social media platform, and share an opinion on what we trust could affect us/the common good. An information bomb caused by our desire for understanding confusing it with information.

Right now I feel like I have lost my ability for ‘cognitive mapping’. I feel disorientated, thus utterly powerless in the face of perceived-concerns. I presume this is how most of us feel; I presume this resulting feeling of powerlessness is at the root of this increase in the opposite use of social media; the distribution/sharing of the twee, the cutified and the obsession with the past; all the hallmarks of relinquishing of any responsibility when it feel so insurmountable to take it on; rebuilding our childhood rooms, becoming kids, and letting the ‘adults’ run the show.

I feel ‘cognitive mapping’, the ability to make a mental map “of the social and global totality [one that we] we carry around in our heads in various garbled forms” (Jameson) is crucial, because it allows us at least to be able to begin to understand that the power of capital lies behind all these problems, with its demands on an ever-increasingly damaged ecological and social-sphere for more profit extraction. We locate capitalism in concrete abstractions. If we fail, we locate false concrete abstractions, like conspiracy theories, or more relevantly, we blame immigrants for our economic plight, use the ‘the bad guys versus the goods guys’ binary as an explanation for the wars in the world.

It’s sad to admit that I think the overall affect of the Internet, at least under the dictum of neoliberal-economics-mixed-with-neoconservative-methods of power, has been to make us unlearn, confuse and forget, rather than inform.

Thurlstone Moor, May 2014 (John Ledger, Michael Hill – part of West Riding of Yorkshire: A Psychogeographical Account)

ImageBeaufitul emptiness: our (mild) equivalent to the US deserts, empty, barren, ‘lifeless, open space, where objects take on a monolithic presence. A place of long straight roads that exhaust a mind put into turmoil by the world down below.

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Some of these monolithic objects take on a lunar-like feel. The desert and the moon have a huge connection, both in space stations and being frontiers. There is a frontier feel up here, often. Though we may not register it as being so. Escaping to a barren land, that requires no emotion from, this world below

“Climbing up to The Moon” – Eels – a song from my early 20’s

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Brain Damage (Pink Floyd-style; that is – all of us)

“searching for the world I left behind
A shadow hunting shadows of childhood life
It’s all I want and all I miss but how can I return to a place that don’t exist?” –

Twilight of a Champion, The The

Almost 3 years ago now, parts of urban England (not the whole of Britain, as Mark Fisher pointed out) were engulfed by an unfathomable rage, as riots took hold of certain urban zones. The media-spectacle made it feel like it was on every street in the country. Surely nobody, from the most reactionary Conservatives to the would-be theorists, desperate to understand the reasons, was left unshaken by the media-heightened prospects during the early days of the rioting. In the midst of 2011, I have never felt so compelled and compressed to understand, and to try to be part of something that could change a global society that felt unacceptable. The resulting years I have felt increasingly more abstracted from the reality of this reality (whilst still being subjected to it), and less cognitively-equipped to stay in tune with the really important things, and partly due to this, have felt like an emotionally-damaged zombie going through the motions of caring.

“when I look over
Over my shoulder
I can’t see my past
It seems so far away”

So, it’s part the way the world has gone, and part the world my life has gone, that I rarely feel I am at looking at the world as a living person anymore; scatterbrained, by a compulsion (unconsciously connected to the survivalist fear in an austerity climate) to remain constantly “sociable” via cyberspace, miserably, yet parallelised-drunk on continuous imagery; you’re trying to care, but eventually you just succumb to the “desensitised” rather than the perpetual “panic” (Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi) state, amidst the info-frenzy of cyberspace; the latter becomes an unbearable state, that makes you dysfunctional, and after 2012, I realised that the world “disallowed” the disfunctional, caring me, but accepted the disafffected me. Damaged Beings. Only when I walk the same road to work, a long, boring road, does the feeling of being post-life, post-human, envelope me.
Artwork products still create meaning, the only meaning really. And from that, purpose, drive; an hyperstate, that ices over the feeling of lack of life. But this obviously has to come to an end. And so begins the desperate attempts to find oneself in a mirror. You can have tantrums, seasonly breakdowns, but you’ll only arrive at the same conclusion; that all you have just broken into pieces is what must be eventually fixed back together in order to be able to get into the thick of the world again.
But isn’t that precisely the place your refraining from heading back into? Of course it is, and right now (the moment after a climatic build up of energy put into work that has to end, thus a huge anti-climax) you’ll try to do this very act of abstaining; and 20 minutes into doing so you’ll realise the separation from the info-frenzied, mediatised, precariatised contemporary world is impossible (ignoring the “you can always just switch IT off” because it rarely deserves the attention it gets).
So, within the next few week, what was staring me in the face 6 months ago, will soon be staring me in the face again. Contemporary capitalism does not allow for honest self-reflection; it allows pre-packaged self-realisation, or melodrama, as a desperate attention-seeking to showcase in 3 minute-pop song duration what has been denied (usually via Twitter or Facebook).
Some kind of intuition to a book I couldn’t remember the substance of, yet that bears great relevance to the nature of my thoughts right now, must be at play, as to the reason why before I left my room I picked up Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia (which, I admit, I’ve still only read fragments of), with a subtitle that has become the subtitle of many of my thoughts today: Reflections From A Damaged Life. This following segment from the book’s beginning explains much towards what gets me stuck in this aforementioned existential landslide:
“The occupation with things of the mind has by now itself become “practical,” a business with strict division of labor, departments and restricted entry. The man of independent means who chooses it out of repugnance for the ignominy of earning money will not be disposed to acknowledge the fact. For this he is punished. He … is ranked in the competitive hierarchy as a dilettante no matter how well he knows his subject, and must, if he wants to make a career, show himself even more resolutely blinkered than the most inveterate specialist.”
So, if steady footing is called for right now, and if that means occupying a seat in a chain cafe (ooh naughty me for not frequenting a small independent cafe, so small that the barristas are giving me the body language to say “can you leave now please?” after 25 minutes) where I can find my thoughts with the aim of finding ideas for new “art production” because, sadly, a “specialist” or identity-bust I must be. Home is not, and never will be a place for reflection; tasks mount up around you; the scattered mind parachutes in, and on comes cyberspace and the sound-bite encourages a melodramatic end to an anti-climatic moment, when what is needed is pause/reflection (even if it is in an increasingly diluted dorm, found in private-public spaces in large cafes, large pubs.
(p.s: If you wish to reply, please don’t repy saying “are you ok?”; right now I’m far removed from doing that whole “cry for help”, fruitless endeveour – anyway I’d use Twitter or Facebook for that. I’M EXPLAINING, I’M EXPLAINING, just explaining – that’s all!)

Just The Noise… – a virtual tour

It’s been really good for me to get the main chunk of my work (with the exception of the installations from previous shows) into one big space. But it was especially good to show smaller works next to the larger ones, as I feel doing this helped map out the last 5 years quite well. I did an interview with Alternative Barnsley explaining the motives behind staging this comprehensive account of the past of years of marking work.

The exhibition is on until Thursday @Gage Gallery, KIAC, The Lion Works, 40 Ball Street, Kelham Island, Sheffield, S3 8DB

10-4PM.

im sorry i didnt mean to get in your way

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ImageImage courtesy Mathew Nunns

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The Sk[ull] is falling in

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This table includes all the books I have made during these years, including a the artist book Remedy by Victoria Lucas, for which I wrote a small piece. My books can be found here http://www.blurb.co.uk/user/ledgefromkec

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The Planet's Mental Illness - By John Ledger

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…Coils Tightening (2014)

…Coils Tightening

(2014, ballpoint pen and collage on paper, 80X120cm)

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A lost gem (intelligent constructive criticism of Barnsley)

I’ve finally found out who the narrator of this lost gem was. Ian Douglas Nairn “a British architectural critic and topographer.” Although I come from an art, and ‘that bloke who walks everywhere [in the age of cars]” background, I find a lot similarities with this video and the documentation I’ve been doing of this area 45 years later. Many of the problems are the same, just with different buildings; the urge to tell the people of the town to “wake up”, and demand better is still a common urge. If at times it sounds harsh, it becomes clear it is constructive criticism from something he really wants these places to be more than they are. As for me, being from this area, and still living here, constructive criticism is all one can afford to do – simply slagging a place off does nobody any good.

Within this video, although he has doubts that the plan for the new concrete metropolitan complex (market place, car park) would be satisfactory in reality (and most would probably argue time has proven him right), there is still a evidently massive modernist impulse within his desire for better urban spaces, because he “likes the people [of Barnsley]”, and feels they deserve(d) better. He is a man who believes in progress for the benefit of all, a rare sentiment in our current times where many are fooled into believing archaic ideas would benefit us. Ironically, it seems likely that Nairn’s accounts may actually have influenced New Labour’s regeneration of UK towns/cities, which took modernist ideas on a surface-deep level, largely using them to redevelop cities for the wealthier citizens, to the exclusion of the rest, something Owen Hatherley referred to as ‘pseudo-modernism’ in his highly recommended book ‘A Guide To The New Ruins of Great Britain’. This is certainly evident in Nairn’s account of the then wasteland canal-sides in central Leeds on a documentary he made traveling by canal – as anyone who knows contemporary central Leeds will know, this area has been regenerated into a area of highly expensive city living (posh restaurants, luxury flats, and finance). Regarding Nairn’s account of Barnsley, you can almost see Will Alsop’s overly colourful Blair-years virtual-impressions of an ‘haloed’ Barnsley rising up from the wreckage that he stands amidst (although this isn’t really a criticism of Alsop himself, I do think some of Alsop’s ideas, if separated from the Blair year misuse of modernism/urban regeneration, had much promise).

Also, in the light of the confusion and discontent surrounding our relationship with the rest of Europe, being exploited by parties such as UKIP with worrying results, I find Nairn’s belief that we should look at (the then 1960’s) Europe for possible answers, very refreshing in deed. Nairn concludes by saying “I’m a European person, it’s all one to me”.

My Solo exhibition begins this week…

Just The Noise…

ImageGathering together 5 years’ work centered around large scale pen drawings; landscapes that depict the human condition pitted against the huge environmental, social and existential threats of the 21st century. A noise that fills everything.

Opening night Friday 16 May, 6:30 – 9PM

Saturday 17 May – Thursday 22 May 2014

Gage Gallery, KIAC, The Lion Works, 40 Ball Street, Kelham Island, Sheffield, S3 8DB

Junction 38 tree, after nearly 8 years

ImageJunction 38 tree, just after planting it in December 2006

http://johnledger.blogspot.co.uk/2008/12/guerrilla-tree-planting-in-december.html

In 2006, during the final year of my art degree, I began guerrilla tree planting, under the title ‘Green Graffitti’ in areas overlooked as places in need of trees, or places where trees could be placed in spots geographically important to me, with the intention of them being symbolically important for the ideas I was trying to put forward about a better world and better home area.

I look back at this point in my early twenties, as being a somewhat naive point. Yet, it is a part of me I miss, becoming more in the thick of the sociopolitical reasons for destruction of a human-friendly planet (as with other things) during the following years of my twenties. Hopefully one day I can begin to make plans to grow trees from seed-to sapling in order to plant around again; it was certainly within a more hopeful point of my life.

However, the oak tree I planted on a grassy road island at Junction 38 of the M1, remains firmly in my life, because less than a year after planting it I began a job that would mean me passing it on the West Yorkshire/South Yorkshire border (a special spot between the two counties I have most affinity with) from thereon. I have travelled (usually by foot) past it thousands of times, happy to see that it has been left to grow by the council grass-cutters, and is flourishing. Sure, there is a large part of me that hopes it catches peoples’ eyes, I wouldn’t have called the project ‘Green Graffiti’ way back then if my intentions had been otherwise.

Images of Junction 38 tree now:

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