I’ve gone back to study this year. After years of wrangling over whether to go back or not, I finally decided that I had nothing to lose by doing so. Additionally, it has enabled me to have a bit more thinking space, away from working 5 days a week. Because no matter what job you do, I find repetitious work endeavours to corrode the will to be creatively and intellectually engaged with life. Although now in my 30’s, regrettably there are many things I haven’t experienced or engaged with, and in many ways I feel deprived of so much, but partly because of this, I still have much freedom from excessive responsibilities that many don’t, and this has enabled me to break free of 9-5, if only for 2 years.
I’ve still been working on my drawings, but spending much time considering and working on how the other main outlets for my work relate back to my drawings. I’m not a natural illustrator, I spend way too much musing things over than putting pen to paper, so it always feels a little disingenuous to go along with the ‘drawer’ tagline. It gives people the wrong impression about how I work.
It’s quite hard to explain this whilst also explaining how important my drawings are to the ideas and concepts that drive me to make and do. But the drawings are intermittent moments where the cognitive mapping of this chaotic world suddenly seems to come into focus, and make sense, even if this doesn’t seem to be the case for others who view the final outcomes.
Nonetheless, the current works are trying to take on the concepts of ‘dark optimism’ (which I borrowed some time back for my own uses, from ‘The Transition Towns Handbook’, by Rob Hopkins), and (my own) ‘punch-drunk idealism’, largely by pitting the capabilities we have before us, against the evidential mass mental breakdown that our current hysterical accumulation of modernity is causing. There has become within myself and my work an almost religious conviction that this moment, where we are at a saturation point regarding our ability to care and hope, will cause a tipping point where we will be forced to collectively transcend the ‘soul fracking’ of late-stage capitalism. I say religious to be cautious that I may just be fooling myself, but I guess if I didn’t at least have some belief that the future will be live-able the I’d be a nervous wreck.
One of the most important works, for me, was a written work, accompanied by maps, that sadly became an unrealised project. ‘How did I get so old? (Pre GE2017 musings)’ was a response to the then-upcoming snap election called by Teresa May. Although Jeremy Corbyn himself would never pretend he was the ‘golden ticket’ to a post-austerity, potentially post-capitalist society, his unexpected popularity with symbolic of a desire to break out downer-fuelled neoliberalist Britain. And this work was an attempt at reckoning with the potential of choosing to vote to challenge these depressed, foreclosed horizons, alongside trying to come to terms with my own depressed experiences of adulthood, and a willing to change this, also.
I’ve always found the balancing act of these two seemingly separate issues very difficult to communicate, because the language to effectively communicate a notion of a societal depression is inherently flawed, whilst when I veer more towards my own experiences as a better form of explanation, it appears merely pathological, or, at worst, that I’m wallowing in it.
The election, however, did surprise us somewhat, and was probably the last period of collective optimism, before the absurdity of Brexit, and the sex scandals that seemed to hover around it like accumulating flies around its rotting carcass of [the illusion of] neoliberal society, began to overwhelm such capacities for optimism. I guess there’s always next year..
WILL THE LAST PERSON TO LEAVE THE 20TH CENTURY PLEASE TURN OUT THE LIGHTS?
The biggest project was also to be the most spectral.
In 2017 The Retro Bar at The End of the Universe [the collective I am part of) was given the chance to curate a disused pub. The pub, which epitomises the weird and eerie landscape of post-industrial West Yorkshire, was situated on the relentless Otley Road, within the Saltaire/Shipley region. Yet, the building itself contained ghostly remnants of a political and cultural era which the RBATEOU argues is currently coming to an end.
Due to a location made ‘strange’ by our descent into a commuter existence, the event ‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th century Please Turn Out The lights?’ received NO VISITORS. This was an exhibition at the end of the universe, making the collective wonder “are we the last person?”. Perhaps it was meant to be?
We curated both floors of this large building, to create something that actually began to creep us out as a collective, as if we’d uncovered a truth about the era we arguably just leaving that wasn’t comfortable.
Rebekah Whitlam’s ‘Milly Molly Mandy Gets Loaded and Other Stories’, at the dead end of a corridor in the upstairs section, felt like the exorcism of this period. And I would recommend watching the video piece she made afterwards, with the help of sound artist Adam Weikert.
The Eternal Blip (A Mary Celeste Decade)
I have some projects that I am wanting to conceal until the new year, but they will, without doubt, be documented upon here in good time. But perhaps the last point of interest to finish on would be my rookie attempts trying to map an idea of society’s emotional patterns in response to certain political upheavals during the past decade.
Working on ideas put down in 4 years back in ‘The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash)’, The Eternal Blip (A Mary Celeste Decade) basically tracks the past ten years, since the year when the financial crash happened to now, asking if others feel the same way as I do: that with retrospect it feels like a lost decade (?).
Now, I haven’t been forced to rely on food handouts, had to choose between heating and eating, or found myself on the streets (an awful new normality in the past ten years). But in hindsight I feel like it has stunted me, almost caged me in a previous point of my life. I feel like when I shut my eyes and reopen them, I can’t remember the decade, as it has been sucked from under me.
The parallels between a long depression, and the memory loss it can cause are very closely tied, and I can only hope that it isn’t a lone experience, because I want the other aspects of the work to make sense to people, as they are where the optimism lies.
Within this submerged soundscape there are points of emergence that correlate with times within the past decade when I felt ruptures in default reality fabric occurred. For good or for worse, new horizons felt palpable, as was a sense to act. Ultimately the default reality fabric reasserted itself, and, arguably the depression/memory loss resumed.
From the 2011 English riots to Trump, from Corbyn to Brexit, constructive or destructive, the fact is that these ruptures offer(ed) alterior possibilities from the business-as-usual outcome. I don’t know, I just know how I feel /felt in these moments seemed to contain some kernel of something other, that allowed me to imagine myself in relation to the world in a different manner.
Next year is going to be a real challenge on so many levels. But I feel far less of the objectless and hopeless confusion I had in many of the previous years. I’m hoping I, and those I work closely with, are onto some great ideas for 2018…
Rebekah Whitlam’s work ‘Milly-molly-mandy Gets Loaded and Other Stories’. In our recent exhibition Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th Century Please Turn out The Lights? #retrobarattheendoftheuniverse
I don’t remember being given Milly-Molly-Mandy. Just that she was one of three favourite childhood toys (the second being a bear I got for my birthday named Birthday Bear, the other an anomalously stuffed Troll Doll called Huggable). She was named after my favorite character, Milly-Molly-Mandy, the namesake of my favorite childhood book. Milly-Molly-Mandy was a Blyton-esque explorer of the mundane. Her eating a jacket potato becoming an exceptional favourite, which I obsessed over and underwhelmingly dubbed “Milly-Molly-Mandy potatoes”.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/225750903″>Milly-Molly-Mandy gets Loaded and Other Stories</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user68633656″>Rebekah Whitlam</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
I’ve been told that we had “absolutely nothing” when I was born in 1984, my mum admitting she cried when the orange cordial split because we couldn’t afford another one. But my earliest memories are cemented by an unwavering, have-it-all, go-getting spirit of the 90s. I could be whoever, or whatever I wanted to be. “If I…
View original post 356 more words
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/225750903″>Milly-Molly-Mandy gets Loaded and Other Stories</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user68633656″>Rebekah Whitlam</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Video work by Rebekah Whitlam based on her installation for Will the last person to leave the 20th century please turn off the lights? an exhibition staged by our collective The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe
Thanks to Adam Weikert for the soundtrack (and TLC).
A mixed media installation exploring a nations 21st century come down from 20th century neoliberal hedonism. A new generation of adults become petrified in 90s juvenility. Numbers in anxiety, depression, ADHD, and liver disease have doubled over the past 30 years. We’re broke, confused, and desperately scrambling for the exit.
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/223045399″>Dont Look Back in Grandeur (2017)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user60125733″>John Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Don’t Look Back in Grandeur (title by DS Jarvis) was a videowork quickly thought up for the introductory section to the ‘exhibition space’ in ‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th Century Please Turn out The Lights?‘ – an event staged by the collective ‘the Retro Bar at the End of the Universe, in a disused pub within the eerie and unidentified West Yorkshire metropolis.
This introductory space became a quick response to the sense of structural ‘unraveling’ occurring around us in the months of May and June. Across from the videowork is an installation of blog-article ‘The End of The Long 90’s’, posted by Rick of Flipchartfairytales in the week we had a potentially game-changing General Election, and the farcical and despicable tragedy at Grenfell Tower in London.
Obviously in May we had the horrific terror attack in Manchester, and while nobody can (or should want to) argue against showing compassion and trying to create togetherness in the aftermath of such a traumatising act, I couldn’t help thinking that the song that became a unifying singalong, the 1996 Oasis track ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ was beginning to embody the entire state of the nation in 2017.
Because Oasis, and Britpop (the pop music moment they embodied more than any other band), was a decadent and nostalgic movement in music that looked back to more visually recognizable times in British History, it seemed not only doubly odd that it came back strong after 21 years, but doubly fitting for a country that was slowly seeming to unravel after a long period of deep identity crisis, propped up by apparitions of former glories.
“May as well get another round in” for a boozed-up population that lost their culture not to waves of immigrants coming in, but to being coerced into buying into an ideology that cut communities into pieces, and began selling back pieces of the past to us in increasingly absurd forms, with left us with no identity based in the present, save for our own lonely narratives of how we’ll find happiness…eventually.
The video consists of all the prime ministers that have presided over this period, enjoying a boozed up ‘trip down memory lane’.
Writings From HMS Brexit was made for our exhibition ‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th Century Please Turn out The Lights?’
Although this pub conversation only consisted of 4 (absent) speakers, this dissection is approached from very different angles.
Thanks to all involved.
VIEW UPON REQUEST [see below for contact details]
Monday July 3
Tuesday July 4
Wednesday July 5
OPENING EVENING AND INFORMAL SYMPOSIUM
Thursday July 6 | 6pm – 11pm
Our collective The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe is currently staging an event and exhibition titled Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th Century Please Turn out The Lights?
Through the Leeds-based arts group Skippko we have gained access to an eerie old building on the road from Bradford to Otley, last used as a pub. This disused pub, and the remnants of all the pasts, in and outside the doors, met with a disconcerting present of endless volumes of traffic for the now-more affluent side of the Urban West Riding, has to be the most perfect of settings for the first proper exhibition our collective has held.
The pub, and the area embody the all the possible hinterlands that epitomise the weird and eerie West Yorkshire landscape; the visual collision of urban, surburban, post-industrial, picturesque-rural; the hauntingly old, the forgotten, and the upwardly new, the aspirational and materialistic. The only potential downside is that the location is so apt, that it is off the beaten track and difficult to attract people to (I’m hoping ‘ attracting people right now!).
Upstairs, the event’s exhibition begins as we’re met with installation of the recent, but surely prescient, blogpost The End of Long 90s by Flipchartfairytales. The blogpost is accompanied by an appropriate video piece, and forgotten photo frames, showing our perpetually absented collective member.
We move on to a room exhibiting many of my most recent drawings, including Hope of The Nihilized, and Dead Ethics Hysteria, only to become aware of disconcerting sounds from a darkened room opposite; a remix of collective member Benjamin Parker’s composition ‘I Thought I Was Awake’. We reach a dead end, with collective member Rebekka Whitlam’s installation ‘Milly-Mollyy-Mandy Gets Loaded and Other Stories’, which ‘looks at a nation’s 21st century come down from 20th century hedonism’ in the bleakest of ways.
Downstairs in the bar. Events and non-events occur. The one-time resident of nearby Shipley Mere Pseud haunts the room with displays that have run out of time, and now exist like crime scenes for a cancelled future. His Retrospectral Dispatches, a title taken from the words of late theorist Mark Fisher, exhibits residual traces of his formative years, coming of age in the strangest of times when the future began to retreat and arrive us who came after in a place unsure of its time or place.
At the corner of the pub we have an event ,yself, poet Jonathan Butcher, and the writer JD Taylor (author of Island Story: Journeys around unfamiliar Britain) have made spoken word pieces for the event Writings From HMS Brexit to be held this weekend – the blogger Mere Pseud may or may not still be able to make this event.
In this disused pub, looking back over a dislocating time; an erosion of time and place; a vacuum filled by unfulfilled ghosts from the past. Always in homage to the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher, this series of prose speeches is strange due to the absence of the speakers. Only their half-finished endeavors will be visible; half finished pints and coats flung over the seats – as they proceed to dissect a body that has become to be known as ‘Brexit Britain’
If you can’t get thee by car, here is a map telling you how the hell to get there from the train station!
As part of ‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20th Century Please Turn off The Lights?’, The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe presents ‘Writings From HMS Brexit’: a ‘live’ performance.
Myself, poet Jonathan Butcher, and the writer JD Taylor (author of Island Story: Journeys around unfamiliar Britain) have made spoken word pieces for the event to be held this weekend – the voice of Merepseud, hauntological diarist, and former resident of nearby Shipley, may well be heard also.
The location is a disused pub, looking back over a dislocating time; an erosion of time and place; a vacuum filled by unfulfilled ghosts from the past. Always in homage to the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher, this series of prose speeches is strange due to the absence of the speakers. Only their half-finished endeavors will be visible; half finished pints and coats flung over the seats – as they proceed to dissect a body that has become to be known as ‘Brexit Britain’.
The events are on Friday 6-11pm.
Below is a map that shows easy access, via footpath, from the station to our event!!
First and foremost for anybody who has never heard of Baildon (mainly people south of Wakefield), just think ‘2 miles north of the World Heritage Site, Saltaire.
I’m really looking forward to this event. To be honest it’s our first proper outing as a collective. The Artists’ Bookfair at The Tetley Gallery in Leeds earlier this year was sort of leading up to this. In light of the series of events that have unfolded in the past month (for better and worse) the title of the event, ‘will the last person to leave the 20 century please turn out the light?’, really does seem loaded. No longer does it merely seem to be a ironic nod towards the serious structural inertia that has dominated culture and political thought for what feels like an eternity, but it now seem to on the point of potentially being seriously responded to. Indeed, the post The End of The Long 90’s on the blog Flip Chart Fairy Tales, really puts into focus the unavoidable proposition that recent events will change British politics for good – that maybe the “Summer of ’17 really will be the end of the Long 90s”. I’m excited to say Rick from Flip Chart Fairy Tales has allowed us to use the blog in an introductory installation to the exhibition part of the event.
We have to be cautious, and what is still clear is that the apparatus that foster cultural inertia and negative realism are still in the driving seat, even if it’s now clear the vehicle has no idea how to navigate the new roads. However, with trepeditity, and paraphrasing the words of Juliet Jacques’ recent post for Repeater Books, ‘For the first time in [adult] my life, I don’t feel like [I’m stalked by depression]’. It may be a flash in pan, a hysteria brought about by the heatwave and the flurry of events discrediting Neoliberal agenda’s freezing of social life into billboard graphic impressions of public space. But I’m feeling more than ever that this negative realism can be fought against, both in my art and life.
Comewhatmay, we have a series of artists, writers and academics parttaking on some level in this exhibition. I’m sure the outcome will be a fruitful one!
As well as the collective (which currently revolves around myself, artist Rebekah Whitlam, Artist-Curator John Wright, and composer Benjamin Parker, – ghosted by DS Jarvis), we have invited contributions from DS Jarvis, photographer Steve Schofield, writers Merepseud and JD Taylor, the poet Jonathan Butcher, the blog Flip Chart Fair Tales, and potentially the engineer David Hooppell. All in all it is looking like
This voyage, perhaps even whole flat earth that it navigates, has reached an end point.
This is an epochal moment – yet we duck, dive, and talk about following our forefathers’ impossible footsteps into yesterdays’ jobs, homes and families, where hair goes grey and skin wrinkles with the pride of purpose.
These footsteps lurch over the void – momentarily held in suspense by a binge on artificial enhancers (or Zombie economics).
We are led over this cliff by the bloated reign of the Baby Boomers.
They don’t mean harm, but they are.
They are ghosts trapped in a machine. A shit machine, but one of full employment, affordable housing, and visions of a future that isn’t our present. Dictating all down below down a road that doesn’t even exist.
No wonder we are lost. Clambering for any clarity. Doing anything to cleanse our bodies of workaday anxieties.
On HMS Brexit ‘work’ doesn’t make sense, because we have lost all direction. Work was the only meaning we had, but as it dies it lives on like a zombie.
He caught me when I was already at a pressure point. I found myself yelling “fuck you” at him. Two drinks later the rage has gone. But my head was melting with an urge to inflict pain on somebody already in pain’s main firing line.
I’m scared about how nasty all this is going to get.