Tag Archive | art performance

Non Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record @ The Anti-Gallery Show 2015

AGGs Eflyer with opening times

In January, myself and John Wright will be performing our collaborative piece Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record, as part of The Anti-Gallery Show 2015, at the Espacio Gallery in East London.

Instigated by the Degrees of Freedom artist collective, the Anti Gallery Gallery Show is an experiment in finding ways for artists to change their relationship with each other, their artworks and the public within a traditional gallery space so as to subvert its governing ethos- competitive individualism within a consumerist culture.

Alongide 35 other artists and art groups using the space from 8 to 29 January, we will be performing on the dates 16 to 18 January, at select time during those days. Please feel free to come down.

Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record:

Non Stop Inertia. A Stuck Record (John Wright and John Ledger)

Non-Stop Inertia is a performance piece named after Ivor Southwood’s book of the same name. Southwood’s book takes a comprehensive look into the situation of the “deep paralysis of thought and action” caused by the “ideologically constructed” landscape of precarity. This affects mainly the younger generation of workers, but it is increasingly dragging even more people into a role, which economist Guy Standing suggests is the ‘Precariat‘, replacing the older term for the working class, the proletariat.

As much a psychological as a situational inertia, this “deep paralysis of thought” is basically what anthropologist David Graeber is referring to in his argument, “neoliberalism [the ruling economical dogma of the present reality] is a war against the imagination”. The stop, start and (finally) exhaustive effect of what Jodi Dean calls ‘communicative capitalism’, which in the age of cyberspace communication extends into all realms of waking (and sleeping) life, is arguably the neoliberal model par excellence.

The performance attempts to mirror this ‘paralysis’, to illustrate just how the ability to understand the social reality we are amidst is continuously broken up. But the crucial twist is in how this performance aims to bring this issue into the gallery by mapping the subject most present in all galleries: the gallery worker.

Out of all workers, the predicament of gallery workers appeared to us most appropriate. The gallery is an environment that has evolved over time with the aim of being an ideal space for contemplation by allowing the absorption of different ideas. The gallery worker (who remains there all day) is psychologically ambushed by contemplation; chronic (over)thinking is part of the job. Yet he/she is actually employed to be of constant service to the endless stream of visitors. A spoken introduction, an issuing of guidelines is required to be given out to every visitor who enters the often heaving galleries. The environmentally-enforced contemplation is continuously interrupted and sent back to square one. Indeed, visitors subjected to more than one of spiels given out often say “you sound like a stuck record“. Anybody who’s ever worked in a gallery can’t quite state why they felt so exhausted and defeated at the end of the working (“this job is easy isn’t it?”).

Both participating artists work and have worked as gallery invigilators for many years. We are experienced in the fundamental contradictions of both the gallery space, and the predicament of those who work in it, who are often mistakingly seen as volunteers “doing it for a hobby”, rather than doing it to put bread and beer in front of them.

Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record (performance)

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Interruption encouragement!

Artists intervention at Leeds Art Gallery this Friday (18th July) from 1-2pm. Artist John Wright and I will be performing a philosophical debate. Visitors are encouraged to interrupt.

Here’s a piece of writing I have made regarding my take on the performance Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record:

Non-Stop Inertia is a performance piece named after an Ivor Southwood book of the same name. Southwood’s book takes an comphrensive look into the situation of the “deep paralysis of thought and action” caused by the “ideologically constructed” landscape of precarity. This affects mainly the younger generation of workers, but it is increasingly dragging even more people into a role that the economist Guy Standing calls that of the ‘Precariat‘, replacing the older term for the working class, the proletariat.

But Non-Stop Inertia is also a psychological state as much as an economic one. The “deep paralysis of thought” is basically what anthropologist David Graeber is saying when he argues “neoliberalism [the ruling economical dogma of the present reality] is a war against the imagination”. The stop, start and (finally) exhaustive effect of what Jodi Dean calls ‘communicative capitalism’, that in the age of cyberspace communication extends into all realms of waking (and sleeping) life, is arguably the neoliberal model par excellence.

The little red Facebook notifications, the vibrating phone are more than analogous with violent rashes/itches that produce an inescapable mania over the body. No wonder, as J.D.Taylor shows in her essay ‘Spent: capitalism’s growing problem with anxiety’, that cases of compulsive/anxiety disorders have shown to have spiraled upwards since we entered an intensified stage of neoliberal ‘race to the bottom’ from 2009 onwards. The immensely informative book Alone Together by Psychologist Sherry Turkle, about the predicament and consequences of being “always on” in a world dominated by cyberspace technologies, misses a crucial causal factor in the becoming of this cold turkey-like dependency, and cyberspace’s mushrooming presence in our lives: that the social landscape which has been so ripe for it to flourish in is (at least, in part) ideologically constructed. What Standing and Southwood refer to as the ‘global precariat’ is the necessary 24/7/”always on” agent that makes cyberspace the teaming immaterial beehive that it is.

I [John Ledger] originally undertook this performance as part of an umbrella of artistic events under the name Pandemic, based in Sheffield in the autumn of 2011. Pandemic began just as anti-austerity direct action groups and Occupy movements were asking questions, and demanding accountability in Sheffield around the world. Its aim was to create other spaces for interpreting and expressing a desire for the possibility of ‘another world’, that supported but also provided an alternative to the more direct aforementioned methods. Since then the speed, quantity of information on cyberspace, and our dependency on it, seems to have sped up so much, in just 3 years, alongside the feelings of unpredictability in our lives, that spaces for such contemplation feel ever-more compromised. This makes Non-Stop Inertia, and our performance concept, increasingly relevant.

The performance attempts to mirror this ‘paralysis’, to illustrate just how the ability to understand the social reality we are amidst is continuously broken up. With this performance being in a gallery institution, the predicament of the gallery worker (out of all service industry workers) seemed most appropriate. Compared to many service industry jobs, it is surely a far more pleasant working environment. Yet, because a gallery is an environment that has evolved over time to be a space for contemplation and an absorbing of different ideas, the gallery worker (who remains there all day) is psychologically ambushed by contemplation, (over)thinking. Yet the job requires a standard spiel to be given out to every visitor who enters the gallery. The environmentally-enforced contemplation is continuously interrupted and sent back to square one. Indeed, visitors subjected to more than one of spiels given out often say “you sound like a stuck record“. For such a relaxing environment, one’s head can often feel like a crushed tin can by the end of the day. Due to this I felt this predicament in itself was almost an analogy for the wider state of Non-Stop Inertia.

Below is the sign showing suggested interruptions for visitors to make on Friday:

non-stop inertia