Archive | May 2015

‘I am Here’ (a lost work from 2009)

Six years ago nearly all time spent neither at work, or traveling to the studio I held, was spent working on a piece of work called The Alpha Forest, then with the aim of showcasing it in a empty-shop art-initiative in Barnsley centre called ‘Emergence’. In 2009 before the exhaustion(s) of austerity politics, these initiatives really caught the imagination of many artists including myself.

In the gaps between making this 10 foot long drawing, mainly on trains and in cafes, I was reading like I had never read before, developing an understanding of the way the world worked that was so raw that it had a gravitational pull dragging all conversations into a friendship-damaging whirlpool concentrated on the two ‘C’s’; capitalism and climate change. During this time of the rawness of a developing worldview I made a illustration/story-piece called ‘I am Here’.

I was pretty obsessed with the idea of walls during this period. Mainly invisible ones, psychological ones; ones made using (what I came to know as) ‘soft power’. This trajectory formed the second seminal piece of MY 2009, called Looking For Truth. I was mentally-fucking drained at the end of this year, and an inevitable softening of that initial rawness slowly ensued.

I am Here never ended up being shown in the Emergence exhibition, I don’t remember the reasons (and I can’t remember whether I showed it anywhere to be honest). The work is very direct, to the point where when I showed it to a friend, mildly drunk, outside the Polish Club in Barnsley he said “fuck me, Ledge! Have you turned into Kim Jong Il?”  – I’d like to think time has proven that not to be the case! Yet, even if I wouldn’t make a storyboard so direct in its message today, I still feel the same. In fact I feel it would probably have more of a receptive audience in 2015. So here it is:

I am Here (2009)

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This Film Needs Watching: Still The Enemy Within

http://the-enemy-within.org.uk/

https://twitter.com/EnemyWithin1984

www.strike84.co.uk

I really felt the need to write a few thoughts on finally getting around to watching the 2014 film Still the Enemy Within. An Owen Gower documentary that tells the story of the Miners’ Strike from the perspective of the miners. Something that you suddenly realise is criminally lacking. How can one ever again swallow another BBC standard-issue ‘Remember-The-80’s’ sort of program after watching this? Their so-called neutrality is exposed for what it is: the winner’s attempts at ‘reality management’.

The former striking miner from Frickley (a village on the South/West Yorkshire border) was far from wrong when he said that if the Miners had won the world would have been better for everybody today – the conclusive moment of the film. But even if it was more-than-likely that the capitalist class would have found another way of crushing worker solidarity, the fact remains that this was an obstacle to the implementation of market fundamentalism (usually called ‘neoliberalism’) across the globe. The footage of events both fire me up and make me equally sad: thousands and thousands of unhappy aspects that make up our current age, only ever describable in broken up trains of thought, become self-evident in the fact that something, something more than what can be explained, has been smothered in the silent-sickness of the times we now inhabit. An energy, visible in that footage that saddens us, moves us, scares us, but now always seems to evade us.

Born in 1984, in an area of Yorkshire very much caught up in the conflict, something is certainly stirred in me; maybe it’s the voices passionately crying out for justice in my mother tongue whilst enduring state-sanctioned brutality, whilst the Orwellian doublespeak of Thatcher in her interviews, claiming to be on the side of democracy and decency (in 2015, how could anybody argue that the market fundamentalism she helped brutally impose is on the side of democracy and decency?); or maybe it’s that these places I know too well, are so unfamiliar to me in the context of world where people still believed they could fight for a better world? (something that also captivated me in David Peace’s fact/fiction novel GB84). People often ‘condescend’ Barnsley (for example) by saying “everyone looks to have given up, I find it a depressing place”. There is truth in this, but they’ve come at from an angle skewed by an age of ‘capitalist realism’; the 1984 footage shows very homely places fighting for a world that has now been made to look impossible. Through the cobwebs of malaise and depressive episodes of the last few years, the recent Tory victory should be a call to arms to challenge the idea that there is no alternative to this utterly shit and shitter social reality.

What else is their left for me to say? One thing’s for sure: I’m convinced that the more people who are encouraged to watch this film, the more people there will be up and down the Country, standing up to these 21-century-cyberprick-Tories, and their  current assaults on democracy and living standards. I think it is possibly even more important to us right now that Ken Loach’s The Spirit of ’45.

“They’re putting me away, but I’ll be back someday”

(Blog title: lyrics from The Fall’s Put Away)

A collection of thoughts swilling in my head in the wake of the 2015 UK election outcome

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“I see the world moving in a certain direction, and if NOTHING changes there will be a catastrophe” Slavoj Zizek

“[I]f they think Ed was Red, wait until they see the coming Red Swarm. Outer England has been sedated, but it is waking from its long slumber, carrying new weapons.”  Mark Fisher

Solidarity in Defeat

Amidst the dog-eat-dog ‘Psychic Timebomb‘ that is contemporary late capitalist life, I don’t think I’ve felt as part of something, or had a sense of whom my real ‘comrades’ (oooh, dirty word!) were in this world, as I did within realisation of the election outcome. Yeah, much of this activity was avataristic, the Self as Spectacle, via social media, but it was one of a few rare occasions when pulses of something closer to tangible interaction (action?) infected the millions of lonely slaves-to-self-promotion of a miserable fucking X-Factor society; a time when the 40-years-hate-your-neighbour project falls away, and we find ourselves genuinely ‘sharing’ something (maybe those worst infected by ‘40-years-hate-your-neighbour’, ‘trollers-cum-epic-fail-hunters’, can tell me it was my own little delusion, but I’m not prepared to listen to you until you are prepared to listen to the words spewing out of your own heads onto ‘comments’ boxes).

It already feels like it is fading again. Yet, as stated by a speaker at last Saturday’s anti-austerity demo in Sheffield, the speed at which protests against this elected government have emerged is notably much more rapid in comparison with 5 years ago. And although what we anticipated from the then-coalition government was very different from what we anticipate now, we shouldn’t be afraid to suggest that this time around the ‘slow suicide’ of a ‘keep calm and carry on’, over-worked existence won’t keep us passive, bored, and depressed Netflix-hovel-occupiers any longer. I’m not afraid to risk being wrong by speculating that our silently-shared depressive spell is over; although I expect a further spike in suicides and breakdowns in and out of work places, the fact that we ‘we can’t take it anymore’ means that it will no longer be silent, and energy will emerge from many souls that were too immiserated to respond during the past 5 years.

Losing Isn’t an Option

Just because we lost the battle of democratic reform, of parliamentary legitimacy, it doesn’t mean any momentum has been lost for a growing left movement. Nobody knows what a forceful movement for social, political and environmental justice capable of beating down the memes of late capitalist ideology would look like, but there again, how could we? We only know what they looked like in the past because they have been captured by a history that is technologically-enabled to be at our sides telling us ‘how the west was won’ more and more by the day, overburdening our minds with the failures of opposing ideologies, creating an air-tight impression that no future movement is possible. Capitalist relations were such a game-changer regarding all other prior social forms, that to suggest socialist social systems have failed because the Soviet experiment has proven them to lead to corruption and misery is to be totally naive to just how determined by capitalist reality these systems were; it is matter of fact, and not opinion, that a genuinely different system has not managed to supersede capitalism yet.

But losing isn’t an option now. Maybe these words are only vibrating in my ears in the wake of seeing a triumphalist right wing victors gleefully promise to be as cruel and as environmentally destructive as possible (how mind-fucked with malevolence does one have to be able to accept these born-to-rule creatures as our best governors?!) But if we believe our species’ own little story about our ability to adapt to any given situation, and that it doesn’t just mean a winner takes all in the ‘rule of the jungle’, then we’d come to see that our species has to respond to a system that really cannot now be be seen as anything but a crash course in the annihilation of life of this planet. The privatisation of health, the Auschwitz-like dogma about the virtuousness of work; the unrelenting hatred of the weak and poor – it is as one of my Facebook friends said, ‘a slow motion holocaust’. And let’s not even begin to talk about Fracking; a deranged warlord sweeping the Asiatic continent looking for fixes for his fucked-up addictions would even pause and consider the sanity of such a measure…but in our times it is presented as the most ‘pragmatic’ measure to take. And what does that tell you…?

It’s the end of the line. But this could prove to be a blessing in disguise. It could… The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.

Self Interest

“The Conservatives have figured [how to get votes whatever the situation]…appealing to the population in the following way…’vote for me…and I will protect YOU, and I’m gonner take it out on THEM’.” Richard D Wolff, Global Capitalism May 2015 lecture

What really constitutes self interest? If the politicians winning over voters are those appealing most effectively to self interest, then I’ll look at what I know constitutes my self interest. My self interest benefits from an optimally-bearable environment; upon not seeing poverty left blinded to its causation; aimless passive violence, always threatening to be more than passive, and the far-right graffiti stickers on lampposts making spaces instantly more threatening; and an expanding homeless population requiring constantly-updated blinkers and dancier Ipod numbers to pretend it isn’t really happening. My self interest benefits from a general trust of those I catch the eye of walking down half-empty streets, not an environment where you are warned of either CCTV watching your ‘for your own safety’ or potential ‘criminals’ spying on you as you enter your pin code. It doesn’t benefit from the ecological downsides of a miserably self-concerned society; such as congested roads, filled up like icy rivers with the distrust and screaming-competitiveness feeding into our every moment (the past five years have proven that forced-belt-tightening hasn’t reduced traffic on roads, but the anxieties intensified over those years have made us less likely to think about less tangible environmental costs, and more likely to use our cars to get to and fro our ‘unknown pleasures’ as quick as we can). Life becomes harder for the pedestrians, whose self-interest becomes more focused on their lonely TV-repeats-dominated-hovels that they’re returning to than the motorists, due to the hostile road-choked environments convincing them that they aren’t wanted anywhere else.

In a nutshell, my self interest depends upon the self interest of others as much as they can possibly enhance each other. At the moment our self-interests are far from benefiting each other; the ‘40-years-hate-your-neighbour’ has made us sick individuals, prone to bi-monthly breakdowns, yet unable to see that it may be down to the society we’ve built rather than it being a case of certain emotions that we haven’t quite ‘mastered’ yet (“I must try harder, I know!!). If only we could see through the atomising propaganda surrounding our goldfish bowl-like lives.

Has anyone ever noticed how you never see any signs of public joy, affection, street celebration (even if proven to be misguided – think 1997) in the wake of Tory victory? Miserable, atomised, self interest doesn’t really go hand in hand with the sharing I guess. This is not a victory where many who even voted for the Tories were happy, but a victory for fear.

Not that I expected too much to have changed if the Labour government had got in, still, as it is, in the process of being pulled to the seabed by the tentacles of New Labour. But, whilst being unfortunate enough to land my eyes on the [even more] right wing press championing THEIR Tory victory, in a shop on Saturday, I was shocked to find myself with a strong sensation that we were a people under enemy occupation. “Know your enemy”. But I didn’t feel “Let down and hanging around, crushed like a bug in the ground”,  but energised. Energised by a realisation that fighting back is now not a task but a compulsion that many of us will no doubt find ourselves partaking in without much realisation of how we got here. After spending the last years of the coalition under a zombie-state, unhealthily-melancholic and obsessed with what was lost, there’s no way of repeating this growing sickness, that has already shown signs of being unbearable. May I be so unusually brave as walk out onto the tightrope above contemporary life to suggest that some kind of new approach to life is on its way, I can feel it…….? If nothing changes, everything is lost anyway. There is no way back. I have to be brave. We all do.

Maybe life how I once remembered it could still be around the corner….

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“While There’s Still a World to Win, My Red Dream Means Everything” – RED SLEEPING BEAUTY, MCCARTHY

Five MORE Years…

Five MORE Years... (A4, ink on paper)

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Stories from Forgotten Space (Lost Bus Routes and Pre-election Reflections)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further. It is fact and fiction, clear analysis and emotional garbage, destructive and constructive thinking, but what it is is my truth, recollected through maps made of journeys I make. This section of Stories From Forgotten Space uses lost bus routes and thoughts prior to the UK general election to use spaces to look at what has half-vanished, and what I long for coming into being. Using mapmaking to discuss the fabric of contemporary life may not be ‘everybody’s cup of tea’ (as if that is what everything needs to boil down to?!), but I have always had a love for maps and their potential.

The previous section of Stories from Forgotten Space can be found here:

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/stories-from-forgotten-space-january/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/stories-from-forgotten-space-march/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/stories-from-forgotten-space-marchapril/

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21 April 2015

93“Home town-changing. Didn’t expect it to happen so soon; the demolition of the Metropolitan Buildings in Barnsley. The entire side of the centre that greets those entering by train is bordered up, including the Grogger’s Rest – a pub built into the concrete block facing the interchange, once named The Yorkshireman, and deemed ‘grotty’ for as long as I can remember. I didn’t realise it was being demolished too. The late 60’s/early 70’s-built Metropolitan Buildings have always been scorned by people and sources within the town whose opinions are deemed of worth. But I am still unsure whether I like them or not; whether they were inherently condemned to be a scourge on the urban fabric. In a more optimistic, naive stage of art-making, with graduation just around the corner, I made up a set of what-would-it-be-like-to-live-here-if computer edited photographs, where I coated the pre-existing townscape in images of trees and foliage – making it more Babylon than Barnsley. These simplistic edits of the landscape momentarily convinced me that the pre-existing townscape could improve vastly whilst remaining much as it is, if the little things around it all vastly improved.”

9495“Young man sits in cafe in Barnsley town at 6:30pm, facing the window looking out onto the now depopulated main shopping street. An aspiring young professional, if not a young professional already – you can just tell, sometimes appearances do tell the truth. On his laptop. Not reading, just checking emails. That’s all we do these days – keep on top of things, forever. His phone rings. His conversational tone is clear-cut, man-to-man; that passive/aggressive tone all too familiar in this time of communicative capitalism, where words shared become quasi-transactions. “If he has something to say tell him to come speak to me” (he doesn’t look much over 20). Definitely a work-related call. But everything is business these days, right?”

97 98

“Bump into drinking-companion from a more alive, pre-recession Barnsley night-life. He liked that specific vibe so much, he left a nearby town to move here. He tells me he is now thinking of leaving – nothing here for him anymore. You wouldn’t think that much had changed, but something’s very different from 10 years back. It isn’t a time I wish to relive, yet at least it didn’t quite feel like the permanent contraction of now. We stare all around Peel Square – expecting it to throw up a preferable answer. “Don’t drop litter, John” he suddenly adds as he butts his cigarette out on the bin, adding “I got fined £70 pound last week for dropping a cigarette butt as I was about to enter GT News [newsagent]. She [the enforcement officer] watched and waited until I’d come back out to accost me. I apologised, but she said it was too late and sprung the fine on me”. I’ve already heard these stories from cousins; “they sat in a car out of view, watching a waiting to see if I dropped the cigarette butt, and when I did they came and sprung the fine on me”. Already aware that this is a company, thus a profit-searcher, sub-contracted by the council authorities, I know full-well that the usage of ‘given’s’ such as “litter is bad”, “protecting environment”, “anti-social behaviour” is a icing-paper-thin veil over the profit-making-scheme-partnership between authority and company, which ends up punishing those who are already likely to be suffering most from the council-services-spending-cuts, which no doubt are the motive for these half-baked schemes in the first place.”

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23 April 2015

99

“It still manages to surprise/confuse me when I can arrive, unaided by public transport into one of the designated urban hubs [central Leeds] of the UK with such ease [having cycled here]. I wonder whether it may feel amiss with my preconceived, due to urban centres still remaining as signifiers for all that I feel I want, and need, in life, no matter how much this sense gets displaced like particles scattering once I am in these spaces. This sense of displacement feels especially acute after a long day in London. Deep down I can’t admit that what I am looking for doesn’t exist; at least not in way I keep on imagining it, nor in constraints of our current social reality.”

100“15X15 foot Advertisement board for the upcoming Victoria Gate upmarket shopping complex. An alien imposition. A silent yet strangely noticeable assault on one’s sense of self, that beams down from Nowhere, asking “Are you up to scratch? Are you one of the beautiful people around here, permitted to frequent here once it opens?'”

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“On the train back to Wakefield, sat behind a middle aged man and woman passing comment on the current horror-show in the Mediterranean (the hundreds who have died trying to migrate from Africa into Europe). The conversational tone is one of mild anger and resent, but, incomprehensibly, it isn’t out of the injustice of these desperate human beings dying horribly, trying to escape desperate conditions; it is mild anger and resent at the idea of these people trying to get into this country, because “the NHS is already at bursting point” [as if migrants were the cause of this]. Who would have thought that such suffering would actually do more to eradicate empathy?”

10124 April 2015

102“Erring (as per usual) trying to get from A to B within the commuter-houses-maze of Woolley Grange. But nobody is even there to see me take this pride-sapping uturn. In fact I’m unsure I’ve ever seen a single person whilst passing through this estate built on a former spoil heap. The odd parked car, but never a resident. It often fools you into imagining that it has never been more than a show/model village. An eerie feeling that would make sense if it was derelict, but it isn’t; it’s a new-build aspirational residential area.”

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“Whilst waiting in line at a cash machine on the main thoroughfare near the [Huddersfield] station, at tall man (who could be anything from mid 20’s to early 40’s) starts talking loudly in an odd manner to a fed-up-looking off-duty postman, who stands in the queue behind me (very few postmen/women look how we’d imagine them to be when we contemplate how nice a job it would be). The tall man says something a long the lines of “ya go something to say now mate!? Eh? Hey?”. The off-duty postman, more or less bullied into responding, sayings “no mate” in a very submissive downtrodden manner. The man, now with an attitude of having won a conflict, says “good, coz there’ll be trouble next time”. My assumptions are that the postman lost his rag with somebody who made his working environment (the public environment) less pleasurable during the day (I know this from once fearing my job position, after telling a group of taunting teenagers to “piss off” whilst working as a postman 11 years back). But no matter what said in this probable heat of the moment situation, I hate to see signs of the vulnerability of all non-alpha males (such as myself) in a bully-boy culture.”

103

“A middle-aged woman gazes for some time at the homeless man sat in underneath a shop window one of the main shopping streets [Huddersfield], probably due to him not yet having the drained and disheveled look of somebody accustomed to such a life. He’s obviously new to this life, he still has the look of household domestication to him.”

104 105

“A placard encouraging people to vote Tory in the upcoming general election hangs from a lamp post leading to busy boundary-forming roads that circulate Huddersfield centre. It will never cease to strike me as perplexing as to how the Conservative Party could appeal to anybody who dwells in the urban environment, rich or poor, unless they are (a) working in the town and and leaving to the commuterised outskirts on a daily basis, or (b) their conditions of living afford them a comforting cut off from all that is.”

10627 April 2015

107

“The board at the entrance to the Cedar Court complex [next to Junction 39, Wakefield South] promotes it’s ‘conference and function suites, for weddings, meetings, conferences, leisure’ etc, etc – all the preconceived notions of work/leisure under corporate-captivity. It’s a world already made for us; fun, taste, memories, opportunities already laid out. Nothing beyond the prescribed. Small, powerless in the face of big (“this is how it is!”) signs, I silently shout “surely there’s more than this?!”‘

“The roads cutting through the fields between Wakefield, Barnsley and Huddersfield are so saturated with ‘Vote Conservative’ placards for the upcoming election, that (A) I feel ashamed of my lowly posture to be walking amongst them, and (B) undeniably relieved to see that one of them has been pulled up and placed face-down. “Not all cap-doffers ’round here!” Whatever the outcome may be come May 8, the moral humiliation of a Tory victory could prove too much to bear.”

“Travelling through a wooded area that runs through the neither suburban-nor-rural mill-town-cum-commuter-village clusters, Clayton West, Scissett, Denby Dale and Kitchenroyd. As somebody who goes out running a few times a week I have to accept my complicity in this, but me and Dave can’t help but agree, as we observe every jogger, in this post-work period, that they are somewhat the new zombie subject of our times. They have replaced the older passive consumer-mall zombie of a previous stage of capitalism. Financial speed re-channeled as undead-anxiety running through our veins. Driven, yet simultaneously passive. Going through the mechanical motions as if the levers and cogs of the long lost factories merely spilled out onto the streets after their closure.”

108109 1111 May 2015

112“Looking over to the Beeston area [Leeds]. Always trying to find the core of place. But they’re just houses, or spaces in shops or pubs. Just space occupied like anywhere else. Get thinking about Paul Sykes, a Barnsley “self-made” millionaire, who is now apparently lonely and miserable in his North Yorkshire mansion. It’s never at anywhere if you’re empty. Behind me two ‘bright young thing’ males exchange information of their culturally-exciting, upwardly mobile ‘where it’s at’ lives, spent between London and Leeds. Do I feel on the defensive? I course I fucking do. 6.3ft BBC-cum-highended-student accented males, who look right through a 5.7ft, suddenly-indelibly-localized denizen (myself). Judgmental or not, I can’t help thinking ‘cyberpricks’.”

“Everybody just looks so successful-looking in Leeds station right now, as I wait for the connection train at 11:30am. Maybe their faces look different at 5:30pm, and their Lego haircuts wane a bit. But I doubt it. It doesn’t reek of Conservatism, but provokes an helpless feeling within of the Tories not only winning this upcoming election, but also the battle of ideas.”

113 114“False tranquility within the Vale of York. I catch white specs up on the hills to my left: the giant golf-balls, listening devices for the US-military-occupied Menwith Hill surveillance base. Green and pleasant England, a silent, invisible collaborator in global warfare.”

“North Yorkshire. Viking places names. Norman-cum-Tory playground since 1066.”

115 116

“[Leaving on train at Newcastle] Can’t admit I’m very human. I am currently hemorrhaging the year 2005.”

“I feel happy, but it’s wavering (has the repeated sight of Edinburgh Waverley on notice boards put that word into my mouth?). 10 years since I was last in Newcastle. Listening to The The’s emotion-bomb Soul Mining, which first became part of me all those 10 years ago. What I’d give for the rawness, that part of my being that would consequently commit suicide within months of  May 2005. Look into reflection in window of homebound train, with an aging face. Don’t want to die this way. Flashbacks to when this occurred, listening to this album, walking down disused rail-track to the west of Barnsley.”

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1 May 2005

117

“[In Newcastle station] looking for toilets, I notice the words ‘help the homeless’ scrawled in either permanent marker or crayon on the sandstone walls of this station. It’s the mark of a heat of the moment act, potentially desperation borne out of hopelessness. Straight off, it makes me wonder if this city’s homeless problem is even worse than the other UK cities.”

118 (1)

118 (3)“Trying to find a toilet in a city infected by market fundamentalism is like trying to find 3 different varieties of ketchup in a old Soviet Bloc city.”

“Walk into a large city-based shopping centre [Newcastle centre] in search of a toilet that I don’t have to pay to use. The big monument I passed earlier appears again, this time appropriated into a virtual-impression draped on cladding for some upcoming aspirational consumer/leisure complex. Always an incorporation of something deemed of place and character into a non-place development that seeks to attract a generic-yet-culturally-powerful aspirational quasi-intellectual clientele, who, themselves, have no real place or character to them, when I think about it.”

118 (4) 118 (5)“An homeless half sits/half lays in his sleeping bag on steps just metres from the Baltic [Gateshead], a former flour mill now an internationally-recognised art gallery. All art gallery staff, who also look the same no matter where (including myself) walk straight past him. Can I blame them if it’s a daily experience? What can they do? I don’t have anything but 20 pence in loose change on me. Feel embarrassed, but I give him it anyway. In a strong North East accent he musters up cheer to say “Every little helps, bud”. I walk back down the river towards the bridges back over to Newcastle. The landscape either side of these two closely-knitted urban centres dips down in a way that resembles much less urbanised coastal settlements.”

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7 May 2015

Lost bus routes. Crofton

119 (2)

P1030483“The road into Crofton provokes many memories for Michael. A perfectly sized-rape seed-covered hill that became terrain for (old skool)Doctor Who-provoked  nightmare-scenarios; catching a bus all the way to Leeds; a ten pence bus ride to Wakefield centre; memories of growing up here. We pass by a series of ‘Vote Labour’  placards, in contrast to the more countrified nearby village of West Bretton that is drenched in big, no- doubt costly, ‘Vote Conservative’ placards. I am worried that size sometimes makes a difference.”

“1960’s (70’s?) small shopping/flats complex [a similar complex in nearby Outwood], now part-derelict, and facing fenced off wasteland where a pub used to stand. Such complex’s intrigue me, evoking an urbanity of a Lost British City, introduced into these proletarian outcrops sticking out of farmland – known as former mining communities.”

“Cutting through large playing fields around the back of a council estate, a familiar experience to people born into the 2nd half of the 20th century all around the UK. Massive Gardens. One of the gardens is fenceless, merging with the field, something once quite common but now almost unthinkable. The smell of freshly cut grass, young people hanging out on a warmish Spring evening. It brings back memories of another life; a mixture of my own memories and no doubt those of my parents’ generation. This memory of council estates is far from an unpleasant one, and is far from being in line with the contemporary narrative of them. Fond memories, of world that seems to have only half-vanished do much to counter the negative, and (of course) ‘undesirable’ ‘un-aspirational’ press that council estates get. Which makes me realise that this story isn’t time immemorial. We walk towards some newer, yet never-finished, private, aspirational hovels –  no doubt casualties of 2008. They remind Michael that he hasn’t stepped foot down here for gone 30 years.”

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“As I catch my breath walking up an unusually steep suburban street [Wakefield is by and large ‘flatter’ than other West Riding towns], a long-lost vitality seems to be knocking loudly at the inner walls of the half dead person I have become. I know why this is. Yeah, this election doesn’t really offer much; but the unusually-high level of uncertainty regarding the outcome has conjured an emotional fidelity to the chance of a different kind of society, one where I can look to the future again. This feeling of vitality, like a plant that only flowers once a generation, is checking the atmosphere to see if it could become suitable. In this moment I recognise just how closely tied my chances of a better life are linked to the chances of there being a better world. It was certainly not planned, but emotional stakes place on the election result seem to have grown higher over the course of this day.”P1030500Between the villages of Ryhill and Cold Hiendley, on these windy old lanes that link up all these former mining communities. Why, after 20+ years since all the spoil heaps and slurry pits greened over, hiding the near past, do many of us still feel the urge to say “this landscape’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Maybe it constantly feels like it needs to be restated due to the nature of mining communities; they are unique amongst other former working class strongholds, because they are a proletarianised workforce cut off in the middle of fields, whilst the politics and ownership of the ‘green and pleasant’ ocean they are lumbered in hasn’t really changed since feudal times. This became all the more absurd once the pits went, making the mining communities look like somebody had literally taken a knife and sliced a few rows of houses out of the city of Manchester and chucked it into a field. The opposing interests in close proximity around here has become all the more apparent again since the political placards appeared.”

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Lost Bus Routes. Mapplewell, Darton, Kexbrough. 7 May

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“Memories of May 2000, on the day we left school. Walking through this pathway of gnarled Oak trees, towards an old quarry nicknamed ‘the plantings’, which mimics a mountain top’s rocky outcrop vantage point over the surrounding landscape. All of these things, alongside painted graffiti-covering of the rocks, some of which date back at least to the early 1970’s (full name tags, as if fallen from a raggy old school text book, and ‘Bay City Rollers’ testify to this), well, all of these things are that which the social conditioning of high school, which we were all secretly desperate to escape by then, had blinkered-me-through-fear from even contemplating, never mind discussing, on these obligatory school ending piss-ups that took place up here. Caught between schooled uniformity and anxieties that were too much in their infancy to realise their causation, I vividly remember throwing a full crate of Fosters lager, can by can, into the bushes when my friends were not looking, whilst walking down this very path. Today it would have been the opposite. Maybe I knew my psychological limits better back then…”

P1030514 P1030515

“New Road, Staincross. The long-gone 235 and 391 Yorkshire Traction buses taking me back from college in the infant years of a new millennium too young figure what it was yet. Fond memories of getting time on this slightly route homewards to let new music saturate a still-maintained-happy-ending-outlook as I waded through cassettes, zoned out from the social world, in the days before we were all lost to our Ipods. A calm point before the storms. I’m speaking of late 2001 here, and if the world momentarily stopped in the wake of 9/11, so too did my anxieties in a brief moment of art college-enabled reflection.”

I lead us towards Valley Road [Mapplewell] for a very specific reason. My most lasting memory of the 1997 New Labour general election landslide plays itself out on this road. Aged 13, myself and my school friends took advantage of the general election-instigated inset day to go on a bike ride up to nearby Woolley on what I recall as a gloriously sunny Spring day. Having just purchased plentiful icepops from the now ‘all-propertied-up’ corner shop, we laughed at the seeming absurdity of somebody driving around in car shouting ‘vote Labour’ from a megaphone, when the election had been decided last night. Today, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem so absurd, looking back on what can now be seen as ‘the mood of the mid-nineties’, which New Labour rode. Utterly different what was really happening back then, was the feverish spirit; a conviction that these were ‘good times’. After catching the back end of the Britpop virus, I was far too unclued-up and optimistic not to be swept a long. What, with Oasis, The Prodigy, Pulp, and later The Verve, it truly felt like the working class were back in charge, after what seemed like an awful 80’s. How bitterly wrong this sense of things proved to be. The mood on Valley Road is different now. A huge Union Jack moves in the very calm air, in the garden in a housing block of ‘good intentions’, built in the 1930’s to move people from the slums, betrayed by the past few decades. Will there be cause for celebration tomorrow? It’s funny how you never see any joy or celebration when the Tories win power.”

P1030516P1030521

“In once-called ‘Darton West’ we get out the car and walk up towards the recreation ground, which is across from the 1970’s-built cul-de-sac, the only place I still know as ‘home’. Yet on returning it doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. Yet I do feel quite emotional as we approach the first block of council houses to go up in Kexbrough for the miners in the 1930’s. It’s different now, as when I lived here I left and entered the place with ASAP-speed, with the notion of home then being too caught up with my fears of falling into dangerously depressive states. But now I see it as I remember it before all that shit; as a child. The rows of 30’s/40’s houses, they are still here; they exist. They exist in their own right just as much as any yuppie tower block are doing right now in some place elsewhere.”

“Michael picks up on the clear divide that constitutes the area I grew up in. One road literally slices Kexbrough/Darton into 2 separate places; one of council houses built for workers in the long-gone industries, the other a more aspirational, commuter estate, built up after the opening of the M1 that slices through here. The two sides of the village have never really interacted. Yet there’s a divide even in the commuter-built area; between large detached houses with sandstone fronts (for managers, lawyers, doctors, headteachers?) with the oddly-named Roman Road area, where smaller brick-fronted detached houses cluster slightly more heavily. I can’t explain why it is called Roman Road, but it has changed much since I was young. Like everywhere really. There was a bus that came along here, an hair salon called Caesars, now just another house, and many children playing out on the street. Now there is nothing but passing cars, straggling dog walkers [the only acceptable walker in a car-dominated and paranoid estates], and us, looking weird now the sun is going down.”

P1030522“As we head back north we drive past the large door making factory at the bottom of the hill, where a pit yard once was. Acknowledging it in my vision produces a knot in my stomach, and a poker-faced defiance against a slow sliding down toward even worse work and pay conditions, for those (like myself) caught in the headlights between 40hr-working-week dependency, and a sheer lack of job-hunting guile. “I hear […this factory] treats its staff like utter shit”. Michael responds by talking about stories of fist-fights on the factory floor borne out of misdirected misery and frustration. We don’t even need to confirm to each other our sheer disagreement with working conditions having to be this way.”

Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Reflections

Lost bus routes.

Crofton

119 (2)

P1030483“We drive down from Wakefield centre towards Crofton on a pleasant Thursday teatime, the time of the optimist if ever there is such a time. The road into Crofton provokes many memories for Michael. A perfectly sized-rape seed-covered hill that became terrain for (old skool)Doctor Who-provoked nightmare-scenarios; catching a bus all the way to Leeds; a ten pence bus ride to Wakefield centre. Memories of growing up here. We pass by a series of ‘Vote Labour’  placards, in contrast to the more countrified nearby village of West Bretton that is drenched in big, and no-doubt costly, ‘Vote Conservative’ placards. I am worried that size sometimes makes a difference.”

“1960’s (70’s?) small shopping/flats complex [a similar complex in nearby Outwood]. It is now part-derelict, and facing fenced off wasteland where a pub used to stand. Such complex’s intrigue me, evoking an urbanity of a Lost British City, introduced into these proletarian outcrops sticking out of farmland – known as former mining communities.”

“Cutting through large playing fields around the back of a council estate, a familiar experience to people born into the 2nd half of the 20th century all around the UK. Massive Gardens. One of the gardens is fenceless, merging with the field, something once quite common but now almost unthinkable. The smell of freshly cut grass, young people hanging out on a warmish Spring evening. It brings back memories of another life; a mixture of my own memories and no doubt those of my parents’ generation. This memory of council estates is far from an unpleasant one, and is far from being in line with the contemporary narrative of them. Fond memories, of world that seems to have only half-vanished do much to counter the negative, and (of course) ‘undesirable’ ‘un-aspirational’ press that council estates get. Which makes me realise that this story isn’t time immemorial. We walk towards some newer, yet never-finished, private, aspirational hovels –  no doubt casualties of 2008. They remind Michael that he hasn’t stepped foot down here for gone 30 years.”

P1030491 P1030494

“As I catch my breath walking up an unusually steep suburban street [Wakefield is by and large ‘flatter’ than other West Riding towns], a long-lost vitality seems to be knocking loudly at the inner walls of the half dead person I have become. I know why this is. Yeah, this election doesn’t really offer much; but the unusually-high level of uncertainty regarding the outcome has conjured an emotional fidelity to the chance of a different kind of society, one where I can look to the future again. This feeling of vitality, like a plant that only flowers once a generation, is checking the atmosphere to see if it could become suitable. In this moment I recognise just how closely tied my chances of a better life are linked to the chances of there being a better world. It was certainly not planned, but emotional stakes place on the election result seem to have grown higher over the course of this day.”P1030500“After about an hour, we get back into the car and travel towards similar villages on the South and West Yorkshire border. Between the villages of Ryhill and Cold Hiendley, on these windy old lanes that link up all these former mining communities. Why, after 20+ years since all the spoil heaps and slurry pits greened over, hiding the near past, do many of us still feel the urge to say “this landscape’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Maybe it constantly feels like it needs to be restated due to the nature of mining communities; they are unique amongst other former working class strongholds, because they are a proletarianised workforce cut off in the middle of fields, whilst the politics and ownership of the ‘green and pleasant’ ocean they are lumbered in hasn’t really changed since feudal times. This became all the more absurd once the pits went, making the mining communities look like somebody had literally taken a knife and sliced a few rows of houses out of the city of Manchester and chucked it into a field. The opposing interests in close proximity around here has become all the more apparent again since the political placards appeared.”

P1030507

Lost Bus Routes. Mapplewell, Darton, Kexbrough. 7 May

SKMBT_C45215051319080[1]-page-001

“This Thursday evening still feels young as we arrive in Staincross, still under daylight. Memories of May 2000, on the day we left school. Walking through this pathway of gnarled Oak trees, towards an old quarry nicknamed ‘the plantings’, which mimics a mountain top’s rocky outcrop vantage point over the surrounding landscape. All of these things, alongside painted graffiti-covering of the rocks, some of which date back at least to the early 1970’s , well, all of these things are that which the social conditioning of high school, which we were all secretly desperate to escape by then, had blinkered-me-through-fear from even contemplating, never mind discussing, on these obligatory school ending piss-ups that took place up here. Caught between schooled uniformity and anxieties that were too much in their infancy to realise their causation, I vividly remember throwing a full crate of Fosters lager, can by can, into the bushes when my friends were not looking, whilst walking down this very path. Today it would have been the opposite. Maybe I knew my psychological limits better back then…”

P1030514 P1030515

“We walk back down the hill towards New Road, still in Staincross. Recollections of the long-gone 235 and 391 Yorkshire Traction buses taking me back from college in the infant years of a new millennium too young figure what it was yet. Fond memories of getting time on this somewhat longer journey homewards to let new music saturate a still-maintained-happy-ending-outlook. As I waded through cassettes, zoned out from the social world, in the days before we were all lost to our Ipods. A calm point before the storms. I’m speaking of late 2001 here, and if the world momentarily stopped in the wake of 9/11, so too did my anxieties in a brief moment of art college-enabled reflection.”

I lead us towards Valley Road [Mapplewell] for a very specific reason. My most lasting memory of the 1997 New Labour general election landslide plays itself out on this road. Aged 13, myself and my school friends took advantage of the general election-instigated inset day to go on a bike ride up to nearby area of Woolley on what I recall as a gloriously sunny Spring day. Having just purchased plentiful icepops from the now ‘all-propertied-up’ corner shop, we laughed at the seeming absurdity of somebody driving around in car shouting ‘vote Labour’ from a megaphone, when the election had been decided last night. Today, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem so absurd, looking back on what can now be seen as ‘the mood of the mid-nineties’, which New Labour rode. Utterly different to what was really happening back then, was this feverish spirit; a conviction that these were ‘good times’. After catching the back end of the Britpop virus, I was far too unclued-up and optimistic not to be swept a long. What, with Oasis, The Prodigy, Pulp, and later The Verve, it truly felt like the working class were back in charge, after what seemed like an awful 80’s. How bitterly wrong this sense of things proved to be. The mood on Valley Road is different now. A huge Union Jack moves in the very calm air, in the garden in a housing block of ‘good intentions’, built in the 1930’s to move people from the slums, betrayed by the past few decades. Will there be cause for celebration tomorrow? It’s funny how you never see any joy or celebration when the Tories win power.”

P1030516P1030521

“We park up in an area that used to be called ‘Darton West’, get out and walk up towards the recreation ground in Kexborough, which is across from the 1970’s-built cul-de-sac – the only place I still know as ‘home’. Yet on returning it doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. Yet I do feel quite emotional as we approach the first block of council houses to go up in Kexbrough for the miners in the 1930’s. It’s different now, as when I lived here I left and entered the place with ASAP-speed, with the notion of home then being too caught up with my fears of falling into dangerously depressive states. But now I see it as I remember it before all that shit; as it felt when I was a child. The rows of 1930’s/1940’s houses, they are still here; they exist. They exist in their own right just as much as any yuppie tower blocks are doing right now in some place elsewhere.”

“Michael picks up on the clear divide that constitutes the area I grew up in. One road literally slices the Kexbrough/Darton area into 2 separate places; one of council houses built for workers in the long-gone industries, the other a more aspirational, commuter estate, built up after the opening of the M1 motorway that slices through here. The two sides of the village have never really interacted. Yet there’s a divide even in the commuter-built area; between large detached houses with sandstone fronts (for managers, lawyers, doctors, headteachers?) and the oddly-named Roman Road area, where smaller brick-fronted detached houses cluster slightly more heavily. I can’t explain why it is called Roman Road, but it has changed much since I was young. Like everywhere really. There was the 391 Yorkshire Traction bus that came along here, an hair salon called Caesars, now just another house, and many children playing out on the street. Now there is nothing but passing cars, straggling dog walkers [the only acceptable walker in a car-dominated and paranoid estates], and us, looking weird now the sun is going down.”

P1030522“As we head back north towards West Yorkshire we drive past the large door making factory at the bottom of this hill, where a pit yard once was. Acknowledging it in my vision produces a knot in my stomach, and a poker-faced defiance against a slow sliding down toward even worse work and pay conditions, for those (like myself) caught in the headlights between 40hr-working-week dependency, and a sheer lack of job-hunting guile. “I hear […this factory] treats its staff like utter shit”. Michael responds by talking about stories of fist-fights on the factory floor borne out of misdirected misery and frustration. We don’t even need to confirm to each other our sheer disagreement with working conditions having to be this way.”

“The mood of earlier has certainly dissipated, and there is a shared silence confirming that this day is done for as we part company in Wakefield centre.  The updates about early signs of a Tory election victory begin to come through, there’s no hiding from it.”

5 Years of Art under ConDem Rule

Am I currently working on a drawing called The long Night of a Needless Storm which I wanted to be ready to show now, but it isn’t and I don’t like showing incomplete works, so here is the rest of the psycho-bile-build-up from the past 5 years. I for one cannot endure another 5 years like this.

“…GIVE ME A BREAK!?!!..”

.

A Privatised Implosion (2014, A4, Ink on paper)

A Privatised Implosion (2014)

The Index For Child Well-being (2011, mixed media on paper, 100X100cm)

John Ledger - The Index For Child Wellbeing

I Want None of This (2011, mixed media on paper, 180X105cm)

I Want None of This (2147x4000)

I Want None of This - Copy

A Psychic Timebomb (2013, mixed media on paper)

A Psychic Timebomb (2013)

Achieving and getting Things Done (Installation, Sheffield 2011)

IMG_6097

40fa2-img_6107

In The City… (2011, ballpoint pen on paper, 115X100cm)

Just The Noise… (2014 exhibition flyer)

just-the-noise-1425x2000

The Planet’s Mental Illness (2012, ballpoint pen on paper, 105X150cm)

The Planet's Mental Illness (for whitewall) (1512x2000)

…Coils Tightening (2014, mixed media on paper, 100X125cm)

...Coils Tightening (2014) (1280x1034)P1010009

A Cognitive Austerity (2015, ink on paper, A4)

A Cognitive Austerity

Untitled (2014, ink on paper, A4)

01.09.20142

Mind Camp (2013, mixed media on paper, 105x155cm)

Mind Camp for prints (2061x3000)

Mind Camp (3435x5000) (2)

Disintegration (2013, A4, mixed media on paper)

Disintegration

Feverish (2014, ballpoint pen on paper, 135x95cm)

Feverishclose 1

Untitled (2013, ink on paper, A4)

July 2013

Not Humanly Possible (2015, ink on paper, A4)

IMG_20150302_0001 (978x1400)

The Place of Dead Ends (2013, mixed media on paper, 100x125cm)

The Place of Dead Ends (2013)the (3)

Hyper-Malaise (2014, ink on paper)

hyper_mailaise__2014__by_johnledger

Global Ghetto, 2045, Marks The Centenary of The Defeat of Fascism (2010/11, 105X140, ballpoint pen on paper)

Global Ghetto, 2045, Marks The Centenary of The Defeat of Fascism (2000x1403)

Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now... (2014, mixed media on paper, 95X125cm)

Whilst We Were In The Eternal Now...

The Mary Celeste Project [The Scene of The Crash] (2014, video)

The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash) from john Ledger on Vimeo.

The Parasites of Pessimism 2015

I wrote this over a year back, but I have re-posted it as I feel it’s the most sufficient thing I have on me to try to persuade people away from allowing their misery-filled hearts to guide them into reelecting the Tories. I beg you to watch this entire film tonight before you go to the voting booth tomorrow.

index

Due to recent thoughts I felt the need to both reference and praise the artist/documentary-maker Patrick Keiller’s 1994 film London; a filmed about a journey through London, which forms a beautiful protest and desire for Justice in a time of loss of belief in a future

Patrick Keiller’s London

Although it should be a suggested alternative watch to Mind The Gap: London vs The Rest, the ‘documentary I criticised on here a week back, I am referring to it here largely due to recent concerns I have been sharing with friends that the Tories may somehow be reelected. This current government [the coalition by name, an unelected Tory coup by nature) thrive off apathy, our sense that there’s nothing we can do.The more apathetic we become, the more powerful they. They are parasites of pessimism.

I reject the idea that I am a pessimist: I am incensed with the injustice in the world/forced to look at what is happening to the world because I cannot stop caring. Pessimism is when you don’t care any more. I may focus on the what’s going wrong, rather than how things could be better, but this isn’t because I don’t care or desire for things to be better. My heart often feels like it is slowly turning to stone, but yet there still remains a Utopianism within me.

Of those I’ve been speaking to we know our society well enough to understand why it may support something that can only maintain/enhance the silent miseries and frustrations; a resignation to all outside our family units and a bizarre fearful distrust in anything that could promise to make life better for us. Yet it remains baffling and relatively impossible to articulate why this happens. Yet this film uses a journey through London to almost map out a diagnosis of the illness stunting society. The real-felt consequences of the re-election of the Conservatives is well illustrated by the worried anticipations of the narrator and Robinson (whose life the art-documentary is based around) on the days surrounding the 1992 Tory reelection. Furthermore, I feel this description  that I have used below must be familiar to most of us in contemporary Britain, if we are honest with ourselves, regardless of how 2014 compares to 1992.

[pre-election] “I expected the [Tory] government would be narrowly defeated, but Robinson did not trust the opinion polls, which were in any case showing a last minute drift away from Labour…[post election]. It seemed there was no longer anything a Conservative government could do to vote it out of office. …[T]he middle class in England had continued to vote Conservative because in their miserable hearts they still believed it was in there interest to do so.”

[The expected consequences] “His [Robinson’s] flat would continue to deteriorate, and his rent increase; he would be intimidated by vandalism and petty crime; the bus service would get worse; there would be more traffic and noise pollution, and an increased risk in getting knocked down crossing the road; there would be more drunks, pissing in the street when he looked out of the window, and more children taking drugs on the stairs as he came home at night; his job we be at risk, and subjected to interference; his income would decrease; he would drink more, and less well; he would be ill more often; HE WOULD DIE SOONER” (London, Patrick Keiller, 1994)

I’m no defender of New Labour (I hate the small-minded arguments that try to pit the two parties together as being the full scope of possibilities of how our society could function), but I have definitely noticed many changes since 2010 (since the Tories got back into power), in the news, in the street, in my friends’ lives, in my life, that chime with the description above. The increase in cars on the road – as if somehow the increased psychological pressure of a more harsh, unforgiving, yet deliberately imposed reality onto people, has pushed us into using the form of transport most naturally at home with self-centredness – a pessimism reinforcing itself; as we no longer even dare contemplate the environmental consequences of this anymore. I am always expecting violence, self-inflicted and aimed at others; the nearby city of Sheffield seems to have had an increase of both homeless individuals; in my home town Barnsley, individuals evidentially being crushed by this imposed reality, due to the often-seen inability for rage to be controlled, whether it is aimed at others, or at themselves. I sometimes wonder whether we are a society of taught masochists wanting pain from the public school boy sadist-rulers. But there again, anybody who hasn’t become the ideal-functioning man-capital, must be wondering how much more they can hide from, and whether they will be in-front of the crusher sometime soon. How much can a “miserable heart” take, before it retaliates?