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Imposter syndrome: a brief history of sadness in ‘the cult of self’

Below is a small text I wish to give as a presentation during the Fine Art Masters Degree I am currently undertaking

….Or ‘Wall, i’


A paper that keeps becoming art/art that keeps becoming a paper


I’m here to make a presentation about my ‘practice’.

But what if this practice keeps on becoming something other than a study focus, or skill base? Where the boundaries of disciplines become criss-crossed as everything gets dragged into an ongoing negotiation at the border of a self that is perpetually straining to get beyond this self, because the self always becomes the only reference point?

With a cyclical nature to this negotiation, any academic skill-set that is reasonably applicable beyond it, continually feels re-disembodied.  Every day the body in question must be re-applied for. “You’re still not quite ‘it’ – not yet”. An audacious attempt to ‘do my own thing’ succumbs to the fears of dismissal or ridicule from what appears to be numerous superego structures,  from whom one confusedly, but necessarily, asks for a body. Give me a body for this, ‘your‘ world.

This is important, because I wish to frame my work within this very proposition of a paper that keeps becoming art, or art that keeps becoming a paper – never having its own body.

Yet I argue that this is a dilemma concerning what a body is, and should be for, in the Modern industrial age. In his book Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault saw the conjunction of the development of the scientific discoveries, especially relating to the anatomy, and the technological advancements that led to industrialisation, evolving a use of bodies specific for the Modern age; what he called ‘docile bodies’, would be trained in the school, the factory, the prison, the military camp, to be of use to the machinery of the industrial processes.

Pink Floyd

Yet, after the processes of the past 40 years this feels somewhat antiquated.

40 years ago Pink Floyd released ‘The Wall’ a work about the trauma,  sadness, violence and hatred, born from what we can call the alienating affects on the body under this Modern experience.

Yet 40 years ago is when Margaret Thatcher was elected as UK prime minister, promising liberation from that world of factories and discipline, for individualism over collectivism.


30 years ago the Berlin Wall collapsed, bringing a symbolic end to a faltering communist experiment in collectivity and equality; simultaneously Western countries saw the end of a traumatic decade of de-industrialisation; Francis Fukuyama would tell us it was the end of history; global capitalism was the best system to offer us individual liberty, and, despite its problems, was our arrival in the best possible world.

‘So go forth and be yourself. The big decisions are all done with. It is your personal destiny that matters.


But 10 years ago I embarked on a conceptual work that tried to link the then 30th anniversary of ‘The Wall’ with looking for socio-political causes for anxiety, depression, disorders, and the inability to enjoy, when I’d grown up around so much positive encouragement to choose my own destiny. If the project was to change this it failed; the search for the answers became a work of superstition, in the sense of the philosopher Spinoza; overcome by feeling a lack of personal power to change, I laboured as if labouring for divine intervention.

In 2019, I try again, within the context of Masters Degree, and a different kind of future.

‘Wall, i’ is a playful re-employment of important themes in Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, for the generation that grew up after the fall of the Berlin Wall, amidst what I call the ‘teenage kicks’ of neoliberalism (the 1990s); a semi-fictional amalgamation of personal experiences and those of my piers.

If Wall, I could be said to mark out a practice, then it is an auto-ethnographical one; a self-reflective practice, seeing ones experiences as part of a larger group, who are defined by certain common experiences, throughout the last 30 years.

It was a time of the ‘cult of self’, leaving behind the factories and armies of Discipline and Punish, but only to find ourselves in Gilles Deleuze’s ‘Control Society’, where “[Each time one is supposed to start [again] from zero…” No longer bodies subjected to power, but bodies arriving into a void of a guaranteed function, only gaining a body role by proving their superior individuality.

Suggesting ‘imposter syndrome’ is a phenomena that corresponds to how ‘being yourself’ often means the opposite of enjoyment, as enjoyment may occur beyond the parameters of such a ‘designated identity’, Wall, I only has addictive sad pleasures to feel any kind of connection, and justifies it through a vengeance-ridden conception of his circumstances. His, ‘i’ for Individual, IS THE WALL!

Addmittedly, although Wall, I could be a confident bodying of a skill set, it could also be a panicky releasing of distress signals to every superego that could grant me a body. As a highly collaborative work of animation, drama, film and music, it promises to bring to life flattened gestures, and abstracted goals, embodying the very thing in question in a way that suggests overcoming it. Equally, ‘Wall, I” is, for me, my perfect gesture for the past 30 years; a gesture on symbolic breaks with the past from the personal to social level. Yet they reveal a weakness for placing meaning in signs, the superstition of divine intervention.

Regardless, I  speculate that overpowering what I call my ‘designated identity’, will allow an overcoming of ‘imposter syndrome’ when the chance of overpowering an inhibiting identity reveals itself.

However, I conclude, that what Wall, I says about individuals and this brief history of sadness, is vital to understanding a lot of what is fuelling the reactionary identity politics in the social media engagement with the world through what the late Mark Fisher called our ‘mandatory individualism’. Heavily inspired by the philosopher Spinoza’s conceptions that it is related to the body in its positive encounters that we truly to get to know ourselves, I take heed from Fisher’s latter thoughts, suggesting that what is causing the hurt and hatred is very much connected to being stuck in our identities, stuck in an idea of what we are, and that overcoming our ‘designated identity’ may not only alleviate the pain of taking everything personal, but could allow for joyful ‘consciousness raising’ ideas that are a potential antidote to today’s miserable political inertia

Songs For My Punch-drunk Idealism (cassette no2)


Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about not only the pitfalls of mistaking moments of symbolic catharsis with real changes, but also (speaking as somebody who makes art, projects, events) in the real emotional dangers of putting all your hopes for change, to be changed, in such symbolic gestures – relying solely on great moments of external validation to align the internal and external disorder of things.

Yet, I don’t believe that ‘Songs for my punch-drunk idealism’ is merely containable in such a category. Firstly, it was a cassette tape for a ‘beautiful day’; the ‘what if’ General Election of Governing Emotions (or ‘#GE18’). More-so, it was a project that not only tried to ask participants which songs pick them up and give them fighting spirit, but put out there the proposition that we all have songs that evoke a distant horizon of a just and peaceful world/life; a proposition explored within this #GE18 project, that, albeit on many different frequencies, we all have Utopian desire.

What is Utopian? Well, it isn’t ‘Utopia’. To be Utopian is the longing for the aforementioned; justice, peace, fully-realised social and individual potential, all across our known-world. Utopian is a pathos, a pathos that refuses to accept a shut-down, emotionally closed up landscape of ‘miserable Monday mornings’, forever in debt to the entropic givens of historical tragedy as an inevitable. It is in defiance against “the idea that life is essentially drudgery”.

Anyways, ‘Songs for my punch-drunk idealism’ is those songs that are maybe more than a ‘pick me up” – a mixture of potential songs that form the inner interplay between being pulled out of despair, and (re)believing in the very best of humanity once again. And with those last sentences in mind, I felt I had to make another cassette sleeve full of songs I’ve come to hold dear for these reasons.

A potential critique of this could be an open goal for those who wish to score an easy goal. The reason I’m writing these blogs is that I’m trying to reconcile things that may in turn be shown to be incompatible with one another. Yet I’ve found myself at the bottom end of a road I’ve been walking for years – unwittingly, I’d say (others may dispute this…), and I’m either at an existential dead end or about to find new pathways. I’m not seeking sympathy, I’m reaching out on the wager that I’m not at a dead end.

I have no idea how to seek well-being in the present. I can only defer dealing with this by indulging in sad ‘torporous’ pleasures that entertain the ghosts of my out-of-date day-dreams. Certain songs arrive me visions of some future moment of ‘rightening’, for the ends of justice, peace, and collective joy. These familiarized songs repeat a sense of mounting momentum driving towards a space where this burning hollowness no longer has to justify itself to the cruel judge of dead time; 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34 – the moment still feels pending.

The inability to enjoy the Now. A deep longing to do so, but a genuine inability to shirk what always seems frozen into the horizon – an horizon that captivates due to its sense-making of the disorder of things.

Only in that frozen horizon am I the person who isn’t anxious, dismissive, negative when in contact with the people, groups and moments I have utmost longing to share collective joy with; a joy that would come from within and spreads outwards.

I know I have developed cognitive foundations that are cemented in an alienated understanding of life, but it isn’t completely fucked up, I’m sure of it. My perpetually frozen horizon refuses to accept a life-plan that sees a gravitational pull of life’s potentiality towards a naturalisation of miserable life-jobs, poverty, crime, finger-pointing justice systems, and finger pointing warfare.

I often feel cognitively paralysed by the dominance of a ordering of things I see as fundamentally negative; can’t help feeling in a competition I don’t want, nor can succeed in.

The songs (the 2nd list of songs!) I have submitted here are at least a refusal to accept the depression I so often struggle to beat away. I often listen to these songs in the morning, when I’m out jogging, And although my jogging is very much part of a control routine, listening to these songs keeps alive my spirit for inner and outer good.

The ‘Cassette 2’ playlist can be listened to here…



The Public Secret exhibition: a virtual presentation

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
photograph taken by Thanos Andronikos The Public Secret is by far the largest project undertaken by the collective to date. Quite literally: this disused warehouse is more expansive than many of the nearby major established galleries. The work that culminated in our last…

Our next major event…

The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe


For any further details don’t hesitate to contact us on

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The Public Secret (Dispatches no1)

The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe


“We don’t need another Hiroshima, because it is happening in our heads”

I wrote the above sentence for the purpose of describing the ‘dark optimism’ behind my last major drawing projects. I feel I need to explain, in detail, what I mean, because I feel it is a good place to begin my understanding of the projects based on shared experiences and radical care that The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe is currently undertaking under the title of ‘The Public Secret’.

When I can’t help expressing my distress about my experience of this world, a few people have pulled me up and pointed me towards the work of the scientist/author Steven Pinker: his works on how our world is on average less violent and more safe than it has ever been. Begrudgingly accepting of this truth (although I’ve never read his book), I had to figure…

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Can symbolic acts manifest themselves into lived experience?

Originally posted on The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe:
2018 was the year when I had to ask the question the above title poses… Neoliberal Me (An Exorcism of) and #GE18 (The General Election of Governing Emotions) 2008 to 2009 – I learnt a harsh lesson: devoting a year to mapping one’s…

#GE18 (The General Election of Governing Emotions)

Over the course of the year, I’ve had to ask myself a lot of questions, for numerous reasons. Part of the outcome is that I largely class the work I do as part of the collective I am part of (

Here is the first event I am putting on since this deep point of reevaluation…


#GE18 (The General Election of Governing Emotions) is an event occurring at two locations in Leeds on the Longest day of the year!
130 Vicar Lane from 5-7pm and…
Art Hostel, (83 Kirkgate) from 6:30-9pm.
Born out of intense debates around the global political crises, the mental health epidemic, and the online factionalisation of opinion, #GE18 asks to us to engage in a ‘what if’ general election where we get to vote for emotions rather than through them.
How would we ideally like to feel and behave in life? How would we really like the world to feel and behave like? Well come along to The General Election of Governing Emotion on June 21st and let us know…as well as seeing #GE18 art prints, cassette sleeves for a collaborative project called ‘Songs For My Punchdrunk Idealism’, and engaging in non-combative conversation!

The Mental Health Strike 22nd January 2018

The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe

The Mental Health Strike is part of a project I am building as part of the Retro Bar at the End of the Universe collective. The project is based on actions and moments that deposit social and political actions within the contemporary cultural landscape that would be seen as impossible asks, as if they are apparitions from near-futures where a completely different set of tools and demands are available to build a 21st century world where collective mental well-being is at crucible of social organisation.

half finished mental health strike map

The Mental Health Strike, which was set for the date of January 22 2018 (supposed to be the most depressing day of the year)  is neither a case of ‘what if’, nor is it an actual strike that has been organised. It exists in the in-between, where it could become real. 

The week before Jan 22 these placards were placed around specific areas in Leeds…

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Last Resort To Forgotten Fun

The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe

I have been re-working this text and image work I made late last year in a sound/image piece. Last Resort To Forgotten Funwas part of a series of works called ‘Stories From Time-locked Space’, which we included in our first publication, published earlier this year.

<p><a href=”″>Last Resort To Forgotten Fun (Stories From Time-locked Space)</a> from <a href=”″>John Ledger</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a>.</p>

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