On the eve of last year’s UK General Election (May 7 2015, to be specific), I embarked on a reflective ramble through the villages myself and my rambling companion, Michael Hill, grew up in. I guess, in a sense, to reflect on lost dreams, lost ways, and lost futures, with an acceptably small sprinkle of nostalgia inevitably chucked in.
It was, in some sense, like testing the atmosphere. On this uncertain eve, we were using the landscapes of our childhood as a terrain to ponder upon; to think of what could be, and what might very well be, the next day – unsure if the election results would make any real difference anyway
…But they did.
This specific ramble, more than any other I’d recorded, was paying massive homage to Patrick Keiller’s London, a beautiful lament through the capital of a Tory-ruled country in the spring of 1992.
I sort of based it on the same theme, as the pivotal point in Patrick Keiller’s London is the 1992 General Election outcome. One in which the Tories were expected to lose to Labour, but one in which the narrator was force to conclude that:
It seemed there was no longer anything a Conservative government could do to vote itself 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.”
As we headed towards early night time on the kind of spring day that initially sprinkles optimism onto your horizons, a sinking feeling set in, and I knew, even before one of my mates starting messaging me a series of texts, all beginning with “fucking hell”, that, yet again, the politics of pessimism had won over.
I was recently speaking to a friend about the mood on the street on Friday 8 May, and she described it as akin to a funeral procession. Nobody celebrates a Conservative victory apart from the party itself – or so it seemed, as straight away you could sense their joy in the sadism they could now systemically inflict now they’d shook the Lib Dems off their back.
The above drawing is called Five MORE Years…, and despite it behind significantly smaller than most my other works, it is one of my most cherished. I set upon it within a day or two of the 2015 General Election outcome. Never before, and not since, have I felt my work strike such an emotional chord with those around me. I almost felt part of something, as if, through the dysphoria of the following couple of weeks, common ground appeared between far more people than I expected, making our political differences seem tiny.
It occurred to me how much a political change would have to rely on a mood in society, its spirit even, for people to get involved en mass. Because in the ‘miserable old man of Europe’ (Britain), every now and then there’s a sense that it doesn’t have to be so miserable here.
I have been caught within a depressed framing of the world for most of my adult life, and although I accept that changing is something only I can do, the times when it has felt truly possible to leave this framing behind are when I’ve sensed the opening for the possibility of a social change, a two-way-process so-to-speak. I described it in Lost Bus Routes and Pre-General Election Rambles like a plant in a desert that only flowers once a generation. After a rather turbulent beginning to 2015, I found this feeling on on the early eve of May 7.
I just hope it doesn’t take a generation to find it again…
The above link is for the current exhibition I am involved in making happen. Fighting For Crumbs (Art in Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is an attempt of artists to take an honest look at the depressed spirit of Britain. It has been informed by life in 2015, the glimmers of a different type of world, and the dampening of many of those glimmers. I guess we are looking at how the spirit could be changed, before it gets too late.
Please take a moment to check it out.
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.
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
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?