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‘Will The Last Person To Leave The 20 Century Please Turn out The Lights?’

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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 isn’t even Ballard’s ‘Glorified Lifeboat’ (Writings From HMS Brexit)

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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.

We can feel it sucking our blood when we are commanded to improve ourselves within this void.
The 2016 EU referendum was an accidental hand grenade given to those aggrieved by economic injustice for so long that they’d forgotten its source. Of course they were going to throw it, but it blew the limbs off all sides.
As limbless creatures, we we bite and bark at each other, unable to reach out and see our pain is one another’s.
The workplace is a microcosm/node in a explosion of rhizomes of exhaustion and despair. But the explosion implodes in us.  After hating everybody else, we end up hating ourselves.
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It was the same today.
The anguish of collapse is so violently played out because the Other is now merely a competitor (essentially an enemy).
My own mood is so compressed by workaday landscapes under clouds of Brexit and other breakdowns that I know my essence is soaked in a negative aura as I beat about the nearby towns in the early evenings in search of exits for my imprisoned emotions.
Like dogs that pick up on fear, others react badly. The very fact that I’m acutely aware of the expanding army of homeless means that my gaze makes a b-line to their desperate asks. As I walked down the main alleyway for frustrated begging and hipster-bar-bunkers in Sheffield, one begging man shouts “you fucking ignorant arsehole” at me – although I was totally oblivious to any earlier calls he made.

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.



These days I feel anything can make me flare up.
Its because I want to be able to give up.
…tired of pretending it’s all OK..
But as sick as I feel, I can’t see a way out of this life of ventriloquised labour for a world I no longer believe in.
Knowing this is shared-despair sparks a lone candle flicker. But we’ve all caught the rabies after this 40 years-hate-your-neighbour, and speak through barks and bites.
Yet my despair is often disallowed such unity, such wider interpretation, by the passive-aggressive put-downs of a certain brand of hippy. They prey on my written-down honesty, and use it as a way of one-upmanship under the guise of peace.
Their smugness that implies I refuse ‘to evolve’ and that ‘they are the change we want to see’ sees people like myself as a disease that needs to be cleansed from this planet.
I don’t fit under their sunshine, and basically the underside of this sunshine is the assertion I should kill myself.
But isn’t the suicide of the ‘misfit’ what we all want on HMS Brexit?  The Troll to the Poster? The Xenophobe to the Migrant Boater? the Leftie to the Xenophobe? the Remainer to the Leaver? the Progressive to the Conservative? The Work-drained to the Work-less?

“Kill yourself and let me endure this hell all by myself!!”

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I’m scared about how nasty all this is going to get.

I’m scared for me.
I’m in battles I never knew could be fought; cages I never knew could exist.
I end up in Retrobars, where nobody speaks to anyone they haven’t already agreed to speak to, earlier on, via their smartphones.
No shit, I swear Brexit was an emotional demand for an exit to all of this.
Theresa May is no doubt the zombie of Thatcher, who, after swimming through the body of Blair, has been spat out of the mouth of Cameron. Waiting for Article 50 has become an intensifying locus for a larger sense of dread we feel above our heads.
So why didn’t we have the courage to examine this emotional demand? We should have broken down and wept collectively last June. But undead lurchings of Empire barged their way to the podium.
We now need help from another world.

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In Wakefield centre I’m approached by a woman who has reopened bloody wounds as a tool to justify her plea for legal tender. None of that which would shock me half a decade back shocks me anymore.
Is it normal to be asked for money on every town centre street?
The scenes have strayed into unfamiliar sights we seem blind to on overly familiar streets.
Hms Brexit is the blind sinking.
Brassband music blurts out into the sparse night from a surreal mock-up of picturesque Yorkshire in a pit of a subway in a station that is struggling to escape a bleak essence caused by its abandoned outpost-like nature, exposed on the eastern rim, where the centre meets the hinterland.
The music makes no sense in a land that’s lost all narrative.
The train arrives and so too do fleeting hopes of escaping loneliness by meeting a lover on this moving carriage.
A weary and knowing smile succeeds as the usual happens on The Lonely Lifeboat. And I just site facing the back of a plastic seat. The FEED feels like your friend in such points, but I’m back to looking at a pen and notepad.
I feel momentarily relieved.

Stories From Time-Locked Space 3.

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
(Originally posted in November 2016) Free-fall in Stasis (Barnsley, The First Week of Winter, 2016) Walking back to the suburbs through an M1 junction-hinterland in the dark of a new winter. But nothing feels new. It’s late 2016. To Ride The Fine Line…

Ends (Stories From HMS Brexit)

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
ENDS (Stories From Time-locked Space) (March evenings , 2017) For nearly 2 years one of the gateways into the centre has been shadowed by a broken bridge. But although it may not hang waiting on Brutalist Death Row for much longer, what it…

20th International Contemporary Artists’ Book Fair 2017

The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe will be displaying and selling copies of its first publication at this years’ Leeds International Contemporary Artists’ Book Fair, held at the city’s The Tetley.

Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th March. 10 – 5pm

http://www.leedsartbookfair.com/portfolio/the-retro-bar-at-the-end-of-the-universe

We are an art collective operating with an interdisciplinary methodology. The collective primarily aims to critique and subvert the state of play in contemporary society. Forged together through working in the museums and galleries sector, the collective manifested through a series of dialogues and shared interests into the profound state of precarity and ‘stuckness’ which we experience within contemporary life. A new book, The Retro Bar at the End of The Universe, a collective work, co-curated by each member, consists of and edit and compilation of selected artworks, interventions and blog features from the conception of the collective to the present. The concept for this came about through a discussion referring to metaphorical ‘wedge’ to ‘crack’ open and separate the state of inertia within contemporary society. We will also be exhibiting Drunk Equations, by D S Jarvis, in the form of beer and drink mats.

Alongside this publication, we will also be displaying my book Rebuilding The Flattened (2014), and Stories From Forgotten Space (2015)

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Stories From Time-Locked Space 5.

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
January 2017 Giving up The Ghost “I nearly didn’t make this train, becoming 33 was so lonely it became messy, and I’m so lacklustre I fail to leave the slow train at Wakefield that connects all the nodes along this longing line that can’t…

Final Day – 2016

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December 30 2016. I sit in The Retro Bar at The End of The Universe, this time in Sheffield.- it’s focal point the kind of jukebox that gives you performance anxiety (nobody dare choose the ‘wrong song’ at the end of known world). Iconic rave-era track Voodoo Ray plays out, followed by The Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen in Love. Apparitions of a sunshine, of a world alive, in the deep autumn of our social reality, our civilisation…our world.

2017 looms like a year that threatens to make us remember it. After all, the consistency of 2016 has been akin to a pea soup (a liquid mush aided by smart-tech dependency) with no taste left to it at all. Yet it was the only meal left on the menu.

2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, and who could argue that this moment hasn’t shaped and scarred all imagine futures more than any other? If you can still dream whilst a 20th century deja vu affect haunts every move you make, then you may well be able to help us out of this mess.”

“For if it’s the end of history. It’s frozen and still. There is no other pill to take……”.

After the slow unravelling of the symbolic structure in 2016, will 2017 see a violent regurgitation of the pill ‘….that made us ill’?

I actually smirked when George Michael died. Not a ‘lol’, but a wankerish and smug ‘I told you so’ kind of grin. And before an emotional cyber-lynch mob hunt me down, let me stress that the smirk over his Xmas day death wasn’t because a human being had died, but was due to the fact that this day is usually one for ignoring the pain of the present and indulging in a day that is supposed to remain immune from history – acting out of time. Yet this year there was too much to remind us of the permanent ebb of the present.

And it’s not coming back…

As harsh as this will sound, maybe what is really upsetting us isn’t that too many celebrities have died in 2016, but that too few celebrities died? We want to end this terminal illness that defines these times, and maybe that can only happen when all the remaining figureheads of our 100 year old love affair with the consumer spectacle die? Perhaps we subconsciously want queen Elizabeth to pop her cloggs before the year is out; for Ringo and Paul to go, leaving no more heartbeats in the Beatles?

Or if that is an overly audacious expectation/wish (a wish for all to be longing for an end point to this decaying culture),  I wonder whether we at some level are surprised that the figureheads we lost in 2016 were still actually bloody alive in this body-wastage-stage of late capitalism! As we seem to have noted their passing in the way we would note the dying out of a family lineage, surprised that some old relative is still alive. And this is for good reason.

A recent article by George Monbiot talks about how celebrity serves as the familiar human face to an impersonal and rapacious machine. These familiar famous faces both distract us from our deep-seated alienation, and lessen the pain it causes. Now, these postwar icons may have been a challenge to the paradigms of the status quo’s of yesteryear, but they were still always components of the ideological superstructure. This isn’t to discredit their art,  and the shimmers of potential futures that may have laid within it, but is to basically say that you can’t be both famous and remain outside the consumer spectacle.

But they are not being replaced!

Monbiot I sense, had in mind more the present day figureheads. All the ‘new’ celebrities are not new at all; they are so flat that they may as well be holograms of those from the 20th century. Perhaps the dying off of the iconic figurehads is so sore because we are losing any trace of the familiar beyond our own online avitars, and nothing to alleviate the effects of deep-seated alienation.

Left with nothing but our own reflections

We lost our MEMES this year!” reads a text message, sent from John Wright, jestfully summing up the year that’s been.

Sat in the pub, I am joined by friends Bek and Ben. We discuss MEMES. Partly because we ask ourselves what is funny in 2016? Ben talks of how comedy has actually been replaced by the MEMES that crop up on feeds we access in loneliness. Their focus on the situational, Ben suggests, give us a connection point with other people seeing them in loneliness. We ‘lol’ due to thinking others are ‘lolling’ at the same time – as MEMES aren’t really that funny at all.

The meme quotes are so 21st-century-everyday that we can all relate to them. They largely use imagery from film and TV from another time. Most important is that memes are dead objects – all we have for comedy and icons is dead objects. The evident break up of global political certainty, and the continuation of dreadful situations around the Middle East and the Mediterranean, is felt more sorely because all we have is the past. Perhaps within the passing of these figureheads, we feel the anguish of lacking the tools to act on the present.

I repeat that, within the symbolic power of the death of icons that represented a century, there may appear the space for something new. But although we have nothing to lose from the dead world, the potential nightmares that may well be unfolding onto it threaten to make life unbearable.

But when the figureheads abandon us to a godless barbarism of a capitalism doing its best to survive by any means, how much longer can we inhale the air of a zeitgeist of disbelief  (a term I came up with to describe a present day that was brilliantly pieced tougether in Adam Curtis’s recent documentary Hypernormalisation)? My depressed idealism scours the landscape for signs that a social spirit, so dejected and broken up, reacts violently against that process.

Violence being the important word, as I don’t want to imagine that a major revolt can only occur when the economic and political circumstances become that desperate for the majority they no longer have a choice but for violent revolt – as history has shown us that such circumstances usually create oppressors our of the liberators.

But history is now the important word. As the sheer bulk of historical awareness, even if in soundbite form, that rests on today’s hyperconnected generations, does sometimes appear to be not only what is making us feel so “stuck”, but is also making us unwilling to undertake acts that could ape the acts of historical violence that many of us are reminded of daily on our news feeds.

Enough people are already suffering (the army of homeless is proliferating on the streets of the cities of this so-called ‘developed’ country). enough people lack any clear idea of a future, and, although all are connected, enough people are mentally sick of the state of affairs that there is surely still room for optimism for imminent forces for change? Maybe there is room for optimism, even under Trump’s cock waving nuclear threats, that a transition can be made to something beyond the capitalist scarcity model, without a decimated global population? History in the 21st century has locked us in a depressive view of ‘human nature’ but it has also made us acutely aware of that which we should never let happen again. But what we still lack is what to do next…

 

Now That’s what I Call Capitalism 2016

(A writing for the Retro Bar at The End of The Universe Collective)

Apparently Generation Y arrived in January 1984. This means my sense of stuckness could be down being born in a generational hinterland.

Actually no: we are all stuck, stuck in the deep mud between the end of something and something….something else, that needs to be longed into existence promptly.

This year has been one of free-fall in stasis. No wonder the word of the year hasn’t been Trump or Brexit, but post-truth. How could our experience of the world feel to be both frozen and falling to bits at the same time, except in an age when our ability to function in daily life isn’t even affected by an era-defining loss of trust in all beyond our immediate lives?

The freeze and free-fall are no doubt effects that have mushroomed in motion with our hyperspace dependency. To begin with, let’s look no further than the big documentary of the year; Adam Curtis’s Hypernormalisation. In a condensed interview for BBC 6 Music he spoke of how The Internet is one magnificent engineering feat, but one that we have mistaken for the future. It is a means to an end, but has become the end in itself.

But whilst we’ve been caught in this quagmire we have also found ourselves subjected to far more stimulatory information than we were ever equipped to deal with. We have become stuck in a search for an endless series of tasks, which we multitask until the sun goes down (and back up again), from social media, information from all angles, dating, job-searching, house-hunting and more bad news than the TV channels could ever imagine delivering to us. If the Internet was engineered to deliver things, what it has actually engineered is a huge mental health time-bomb, from which no recent global event could said to be immune. A toxification not just of the soil and sea, but also the psyche.

To add to this, economist and thinkers such as Paul Mason and Peter Frase have shown us this year, through information abundance and automation, that computers are actually bringing an end to capitalism. Although it is an end that currently has no end in sight.

..well, it doesn’t if you’re a depressed but stubborn utopianist, adamant that capitalism’s death means fully automated communism.

…rather than Barbarism.

But…  wait for it….!


The Ultimate Roast Potato!! (Sorry Jamie, it’s nothing personal)

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“It can’t go any further, it’s already reached the end” says DS Jarvis, in a sweeping but justifiable assessment of culture under late capitalism, as he drives us down the hill from Grange Moor Roundabout towards the built up beginnings of Huddersfield.

Onetime Cool Britannia-late-comer Jamie Oliver is the locus of today’s said assessment. His Xmas cooking program offers to show us how to cook ‘the ultimate Roast Potato’, leaving DS with no option but rage.

“I wouldnt mind… I wouldn’t fucking mind, but he’s already put a disclaimer in his program saying he’s already shown us how to make the BEST roast potato, but no, that wasn’t enough, NOW he’s showing us how to make ‘the ultimate roast potato’“.

The conversation weaves in and out of how outrunning and inevitably then lacking the New, capitalism is pulping culture, and creating pointless tokens of luxury in order to keep selling shit, and we reach the old mills of Huddersfield before DS adds “I wonder if he [Jamie) even realises what ultimate actually MEANS?  It means final, or ending. After this he may as well just fucking kill himself, I mean what left is there for him to do now he’s created ‘the ultimate roast potato?’. I wonder after a hard days baking, if he sits down and thinks ‘Christ, I’m dead inside’ ?”.

Jamie Oliver arrived in our world on a mopehead in the complacent dying days of the 20th century, adding a flavour of Britpop-lite to high quality food our newly-middle-classed bellies had now come to expect. The problem is, we weren’t so middle class after all. And to Jamie’s horror, he discovered there was lots of people who hadn’t ‘got on their mopehead and looked for Britpop-lite in the 90’s’, and were still eating bad bad bad food. He even cried. This was Jamie’s 9/11 moment.

We drive down past DS’s favourite (and most-hated) building in the town; the incinerator. “John, it’s that fucking big, that it actually dominates the town; the town’s main feature is a place where you go to destroy all the shit that you didn’t even want in the first place”. We’ve been to the Costa coffee next to it before, and marvelled at how both it (with its atypical simulacra of Mediterranean life) and a Travel Lodge could only exist in so close proximity to an incinerator in a time where the idea of a place has so utterly eclipsed the reality of a place, to the extent that people can’t see that the biggest chimney in Huddersfield isn’t some now-romanticised chimney, which once pumped dark smoke into the sky over this former mill town, but this white monument to the unspoken failure of consumerism to fill the void.

The Huddersfield of the mind is still brass bands, satanic-but-reassuring mills and Fred Dibner-ites. On the congested ring road DS goes on about how Dibner called Huddersfield a rat-race in the 1970’s. “Fred, you should come look at it now” he says. “You would lose your fucking mind!”.

Into the town itself now, and under the influence (thank fuck). We meet John W. John W looks around the pub. “You see, the Xmas fever usually over-rides the depressed and troubled spirit of the year that’s been. But I’m not seeing it this year. I feel that this year’s events and forebodings have been so hard for us to switch off from that not even ‘santa can deliver the goods’. We are well and truly experiencing something different.”

I must admit my whole idea of purpose has been wrong-footed now that the concerns I felt lonely in thinking about seem to be concerns for all of us to think about in loneliness. I used to think that exercises in the exhaustion of the sugary lie of ideology would be enough to make people reject it like an under-cooked Wetherspoons meal and vomit it out. But a zeitgeist of disbelief is what currently prevails, and who can see that changing in 2017 right now?

As we leave, DS turns and says “I will be following Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the ‘ultimate roast potato’ on Xmas day. I mean, what choice do I have?  After all it is ‘the ultimate roast potato’!. But I wonder what is left in this world for DS, and for all us for that matter, after the ultimate roast potato has been eaten?

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Stories From Time-Locked Space. 4

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
In Another Country… … … December 2016 “7:10am. That very point where you sense an internal fist-fight with dread. It occurs about 5 minutes after you wake, when  ‘The Everyday’ slaps you in the face with a post-nuclear protestant work ethic gone zombie.…

Stories From Time-locked Space. 3

Free-fall in Stasis (Barnsley, The First Week of Winter, 2016) Walking back to the suburbs through an M1 junction-hinterland in the dark of a new winter. But nothing feels new. It’s late 2016…

Source: Stories From Time-locked Space. 3