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)
The Index For Child Well-being (2011, mixed media on paper, 100X100cm)
I Want None of This (2011, mixed media on paper, 180X105cm)
A Psychic Timebomb (2013, mixed media on paper)
Achieving and getting Things Done (Installation, Sheffield 2011)
In The City… (2011, ballpoint pen on paper, 115X100cm)
Just The Noise… (2014 exhibition flyer)
The Planet’s Mental Illness (2012, ballpoint pen on paper, 105X150cm)
…Coils Tightening (2014, mixed media on paper, 100X125cm)
A Cognitive Austerity (2015, ink on paper, A4)
Untitled (2014, ink on paper, A4)
Mind Camp (2013, mixed media on paper, 105x155cm)
Disintegration (2013, A4, mixed media on paper)
Feverish (2014, ballpoint pen on paper, 135x95cm)
Untitled (2013, ink on paper, A4)
Not Humanly Possible (2015, ink on paper, A4)
The Place of Dead Ends (2013, mixed media on paper, 100x125cm)
Hyper-Malaise (2014, ink on paper)
Global Ghetto, 2045, Marks The Centenary of The Defeat of Fascism (2010/11, 105X140, ballpoint pen on paper)
Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now... (2014, mixed media on paper, 95X125cm)
The Mary Celeste Project [The Scene of The Crash] (2014, video)
Stolen Dog – Burial
Steel Your Girl – Neon Neon
Street Halo – Burial
Ruby Tuesday – Franco Battiatio
With Every Heartbeat (at Ghosts of My Life tempo) – Robyn with Kleerup
Nae Hair On’t – The Bluetones
Seconds – The Human League
Shadowplay (live in Manchester) – Joy Division
C.R.E.A.M – The Wu-Tang Clan
Dislocation – John Foxx
Mind Camp (2013, biro and collage on paper)
The title of Mind Camp is taken from a very ignorant error I made when I was somewhat younger; believing it to be the English translation of Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler’s notorious book. Of course, Hitler’s book is actually translated as ‘My Struggle’, and the remaining connection here is that which I always thought my interpretation of the title referred to: the occupation of the human mind by ideas, doctrines, logic, as a means of making them socially compatible with a system of power; that is, power that doesn’t only (or doesn’t even need to) insert its influence externally, to make sure we are compatible entities within a system, but internally (what I would later understand as what philosopher Michel Foucault termed Biopower).
The theorist Franco ‘bifo’ Berardi refers to the current stage of capitalism as ‘semiocapitalism’: a system no longer driven by mass industrial production, but by signs/communication, which is all the more evident now human life is almost completely orientated around digital communications. Berardi writes that “semiocapitalism puts [our] neurophysical energies to work, and submits them to the speed of electronic machinery. It compels our cognition, our emotional hardware to follow the rhythm of net-productivity” Capital has synchronised itself with our conscious and subconscious. It is proliferated by the “digital web…” which “…spreads and expands by progressively reducing more and more elements to a format, a standard and code that makes different segments compatible”. In such a world, brands/logos have a seemingly unlimited reach over the imagination – as we can now see all too well. , Precisely because it is internalised, Capitalism is so culturally extensive and intensive that it is hard to consider that anything may be outside of it, so that “when we sleep, we even dream of capital” (Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism).
But this means new styles of exploitation for a new organisation of power. Franco Berardi believes it is important to see the global worker no longer a proletariat but a cognitariat, as capital puts more and more of our neurophysical energies to work. Michel Foucault’s reference to the Panopticon (an architectural structure built to allow total surveillance over the ‘inmate’s to maintain order and control) as a analogy for a whole form of maintaining obedience to a power structure, is still alive and well, but perhaps need only now be used in certain circumstances, when the internalisation of power fails to work. Most of us are now governed internally, a biolpolitical intrusion of all the flows and anxieties of the political economy, depolitising us in the process, as we become the guard in the watchtower of our own lives.
Franco Berardi describes the Life of the cognitariat: “labor has become fractalised. With the end of large industrial monopolies, new workers, now delocalized in the global peripheries, start resembling computer terminals, cells in the circulation of the commodity-sign”. The worker is condemned to be a component in the constant production and consumption of signs/information.”Each individual is a cell put in constant productive connection with others by the web, which ensures a deterritorialized fractal, and fluid sociality. The cellular is the new assembly line, deprived of any carnal sociality”.
Precisely because total competition is the name of the game, social mobility has actually become harder in societies more saturated by neoliberalism, and the more we partake in our ‘daily races’ against one another, the more we exacerbate the dynamics of an every-man-for-himself system where the winners have already taken all. Yet, because of the “non-stop inertia” caused as the cognitariat’s libidinal energies are constantly wired/re-wired into the digital matrix, the anxiety of this enforced competitive state of being makes it sometimes feel impossible for us to withdaw from these dynamics; indeed Berardi speculates that only when we crash (depression/mental exhaustion) do we withdraw our libidinal energies from the reproduction of semiocapitalism. Alone together, protesting through inactivity.
Within the drawing I wanted to try to visualise mechanisms that function by appropriating these ‘neurophysical’ energies from the cognitariat, but then merely dumps them once the required labour process is over, as the wealth accumulated by semiocapital becomes the preserve of a small section within the social system, who own the rights to the sign language as “intellectual property”. The ‘cognitariat’ is in a state of constant becoming; once their mental energies have been used, they drop (perhaps mentally exhausted, in what Berardi describes as a state of depressive withdrawal), only to find themselves reattached to the constant and futile ‘career-climb’ (the prospect of falling out of reach is often unthinkable as the welfare systems there to protect the financially vulnerable becomes less and less existent).
It often seems the case that the more one sends cell phone texts, posts images/links on their Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter wall, in the aid of becoming more (more financially, socially, and identity secure), the more one actually dissapears/becomes less, as they invest mental energies in an infinitely expanding information web, whose increase in size means increasing fragmentation of identity and of communitiy, as media wedges itself between more pockets of time/space; also this expansion not only engenders further exploitation of our psychic resources, but of our material conditions, as an increase in connectivity for the financial plutocracy means a greater reduction in labour costs for profit maximisation.
As the system refines its mechanisms in this so-called recession (the global 1% highest earners have seen their profits surge during this ‘recession’ period), jobs become so scarce to the extent that more mandatory, low paid jobs are absorbed more and more into the competitive, ‘careerist’, ‘life-as-a-CV’ job market, which was initially only the reality of those who were willing the work the career treadmill in the hope of a top salary. You stand still in a world of unrestrained ruthless capitalism and the fear is that one will be wiped from the game. It is evidential that we are witnessing a race to the bottom for (to use the now-common terminology) the 99% of us, as the concentration of wealth/power becomes more refined, with a logical conclusion that renders the fiction of films such as the recent Hunger Games imaginable.
The bulwark of information that is disseminated from the concentrated power is structurally designed to divide and confuse the population it relies on to utilise mental and physical energy from. This is the the only source that passes from the top to the bottom within this piece of work. The mechanism appear almost like pinball games levers, knocking all that is below back down, whilst only allowing these ‘media bombs’ to drop downwards. Sometimes I find the mechanisms visualised in games, especially early computer games, useful metaphors for the procession of power relations in the world, especially in the digital age.
Within the brain-like part of the work (which also attempts to refer to something inflated, and still inflating; a bubble of the logos of semiocapital) all signs, all logos, all companies, all sections of capitalist reproduction are shown to be connected/dependent on each others’ existence. Just as no individual is exempt, no sign/no commonly-seen logo is exempt from a network of images that descends into the darkest networks of reproduction; some brands seem to float like little fluffy clouds in a guilt-free cyberspace, but they are just as much as part of the system as the most destructive corporations wreaking havoc to the social/environmental, and also the darkests forms of image production from violent pornography to the filming of murder.
It’s an uncomfortable truth that the language of our times that often seems innocent on face-value is part of the same logic that allows the most brutal forms of exploitation in the world. Within this drawing there is no solution, I admit this (although there is cracks appearing in the super structure). But, to quote Franco Berardi again, because I largely agree with his opinion here, “The task of the thinker [to which, in my understanding of art, would include the artist] – if thinking has a task – is not to breathe hope into hearts, but to help in understanding reality, because only understanding can bring forth new possibilities”.
This year was always going to be one of re-building/coming to terms with falling back into a place that I felt I had to escape (believing it to be now or never) and realising it wasn’t the end of the world after all. This requires one to put things into perspective, not by comparing oneself to those less fortunate (not that they should be ignored) but in realising that nothing matters more and than obtaining that next inhalation of oxygen.
This has been a strange time, where initially the outside world fell away, to the extent that my life felt like it was in a momentary suspension from them, haunted by the (friendly-than-usual) ghosts of my past, and future. Almost felt like I was a actually a ghost hearing the sound of my life passing through the house where I have spent most of it. (The most appropriate musical soundtrack being Kate Bush, who’s music is quintessentially dream-like; but a certain type of dream, a dream where you wake up feeling you have left something behind in it; an haunting from the past, future and an unreachable present. The most apt song being Watching You Without Me (Hounds of Love): “there’s a ghost in our hall just watching you”. Her music may be so powerful to this situation because her earlier music is certainly one of my earliest memories of music, and it was also the music I was listening to in a rather similar situation 10 years ago when I tried and failed to do a course in Manchester. It’s phenomenologically important here.).
To cut all this short, it was a perspective that gave me reason to see the falling apart of the plans engraved into 2012 as anything but a mistake made; that now I could resume my creation of art, without feeling the pressure than I somehow ought to be more. But the rebuilding needs to be slow, like a physical healing process – just because you think you are fully healed it doesn’t mean you are. To go back out into the world too soon, well, this results in stumbling over obstacles that you’d have been floating safely over if you’d left it long enough.
I tried to understand what made me make think I was ready prematurely.
Social media has encroached so far into our lives that its omnipresence has made us blind to our total loss of privacy. The philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote of ‘falling into the world’, losing our ability to be philosophical, being unable to listen to our Being through the din made by society’s asks of us. Heidegger never lived to see the coming on the information-technology age. In this age (the ‘Facebook-age’- such naming of an era may yet prove to be not satirical and ironic at all) it is now almost impossible to refrain from ‘falling into the world’ in our very spaces of privacy.
Marc Augé wrote about this inversion in his book Non-Places, mapping the cultural logic that has landed us in the Facebook age, Augé Writes that the “[t]he individual, finally, is decentred in a sense from himself. He has instruments that place him in constant contact with the remotest parts of the outside world. Portable telephones are also cameras, able to capture still or moving images; they are also televisions and computers. The individual can thus live rather oddly in an intellectual, musical, or visual environment that is wholly independent of his immediate physical surroundings” One is surrounded by communication in the places they retreat to, and I now find myself going outside into the street to be alone with my thoughts. Finding it hard to tune out of the social media world, within a couple of weeks I have found my mind running on overtime. I didn’t have time to ground myself in a philosophically stable place, and my mind was ‘falling into the world’ with tonnes of stored-up energy that should have released at a much slower rate.
The past, present, and future that were previously in an harmless form, began to do immense damage to my well-being again. I don’t think anybody who finds themselves analysing 2013 can feel in a good mental state afterwards, it’s like the fruits of madness, all aging at different rates, all seem to have come to ripen in this year; there’s something uncanny about 2013. Almost as if we have hit a certain gage in our civilisation: now it isn’t a case of having to be unwell to function in an unwell society, you have to be utterly mad to function in society. Nothing looks different at first, but then walking the streets something hits you, the look on faces of utter confusion. Streets filling with the homeless, whilst others look at each other on phone screens. Pastiche and retro to such a saturation-extent that it’s like the entire history of man has been thrown into the same arena. More scandal in the political/media/corporate establishment that we can cope with; we’ve lost all faith in everything but still go through the motions not knowing what else do to. What’s the difference between a dystopia and an insane society? Or is the insanity the infliction that stops us realising it’s a dystopia? Utter confusion; necessary blindness. Just count your blessings that nobody really has the time to notice the moments when you yourself crack.
So I wait and expect social breakdown, but it’s likely that it won’t happen, and the breakdown is merely that my past seems to have collapsed in on my present, and I can’t figure out where next. Perhaps I am the one dummy at the end of history whilst everyone else just potters around until the transition occurs? I’m 29 now, and it feels like my 20’s were just a single year, but yet not for everyone around, who appears to have somehow merged into a walk of life. I’m still locked in these years not knowing where to go next. After the calm start to the last year of my 20’s I’ve suddenly found myself locked into a lifestyle which feels like I’m trying to finish the business of the entirety of my 20’s – not really knowing what that business is, just that some conclusion needs to arrived at. The conclusion was probably being arrived at until I fell into the omnipresent world, unable to escape social media. It certainy feels that some grasp on normality (a relationship with someone for example) would serve as an immense anesthetising tool, stop me staring too much into the uncanny, frightening 2013, but would it?
Looking at the world teaches you to be cold, emotionless, when you can’t help feeling that the future will be dark, you shut down your senses to prepare for it. It surprises people how honest I can be about my life, whilst also being so unemotional about it, as if I’m not speaking of my past but a record collection. It really doesn’t bother me at all, but I often fear I scare friends with what I say, but I can’t see it, because my emotions are now merely references for conversation to prove my points. I can speak of emotion but I can’t act on it; I could easily inform you if I was having a massive breakdown whilst calmly asking you to pass me the salt. Of course I don’t want to be like this, but like with everything else, re-learning takes time – I struggle to find this time, when the superhighways are flying past my eyes and ears.