£$[We]€$[Can’t]$£[Take]£€[Any]$€[More!!]$£ (2016, mixed media on paper)
The Place of Dead Ends (2013, biro and collage on paper, 120X100cm)
“In the last three decades of the [twentieth century] the utopian imagination was slowly overturned. and has been replaced by a Dystopian imagination” Franco Berardi (Bifo) – After the Future (2010)
For some years now I’ve had this feeling that things cannot carry on in the manner in which they have been doing. Furthermore: that we are watching the slow collapse of our civilisation. The feeling is closer year by year. It’s a broad-reaching feeling that dampens/taints the appearance of the world. I cannot switch this feeling off; there are traces of it in every thought. The only world (reality) we know seems to have reached a dead end. And because it cannot allow us to move forward, the past (or rather its past) takes control; it’s darkest ghosts re-emerge as a reaction to the huge problems we face; the dead come to rule the living. We run to the past for protection from the darkeness unfolding in the 21st century – right into the arms of the archaic forces that rise amidst such confusion and threaten to drag everything down back down with them.
The idea for The Place of Dead Ends fixed itself together whilst I was walking around the park-lands of Greenwich, London (a place saturated with popular history), in the autumn of 2012. I stumbled across the Queen Elizabeth [the 1st] Oak, a tree that the Tudor queen is said to have often taken refreshment under. Queen Elizabeth the 1st reigned over an historical period that played a crucial part in the formation of the British Empire, and (of course) the modern industrial world.
What I didn’t realise until then was that this tree had actually been dead for well over 100 years old. Yet the tree trunk remained; laying heavy upon the ground. Always having the gravity of the 21st century stalking my thoughts, I couldn’t help but see this dead relic as a metaphor for a world which is being ruled to ruin by ideas and beliefs that belong in the past; a result of a civilisation that is unable to look to the future.
In the past 5 years we have seen the massive failure of the neoliberal economic system (or global financial system); yet, because we are unable to picture an alternative/unable to picture a future past the ‘end of history’ announced with the inauguration of global capitalism, ever-more extreme neoliberalism is being enforced onto the world. Neoliberalism is dead as a idea, nobody believes in it, yet it rules in an almost zombie-like manner (using thoughts expressed by Mark Fisher in his Visual Futures lecture). This bad medicine is being inflicted by a global elite structure whose dominance is beginning to be dangerously similar to the archaic feudal rule the kings and lords once had over the population. At the same time as this, we are made witness to scandal after scandal amidst the ranks of those people, institutions and companies we used to see as the pillars of society,. The entire belief system has failed, but still governs us; we are ruled by the dead.
In the drawing the pillars of (a) civilisation have fallen across the route, like dead trees blocking the path. In this landscape protests are being made by many who desperately want to change the world into a better, more just place, but these pillars have landed on the protests, trapping them, making them unable to move – unable to make a difference (the most well-know example of this would be the 2003 protests against the US/UK imperial war on Iraq, where millions filled the streets world-wide, and were utterly ignored by the decision makers). On the rotting of the tree-like pillars grows all the forces that feed off the death of a future; runaway finance with no grounding in theory, and jingoist patriotism that feeds off the fears of global uncertainty.
The rest of this blocked route is occupied by people who have given up on the belief of a better future, and have given up fighting ; they live in a never ending avoidance of truth and empty feeling, condemned to the pursuit of immediate pleasures (drugs, alcohol, sex), only to spend much time in stupors of dissatisfaction and depression. I am not excluded from such a scene; I am both the protester and the individual drunken and frustrated roaming the evening streets, trying to forget reality. Every figure is interchangeable in my drawings; no individual is solely to blame and yet everybody is complicit.
Each side of the road are the barriers one faces when they try to think of a way out: the violence of the nation state, which becomes more ruthless and repressive the more it is threatened; and at the other side one faces the even worse plight of the poorer parts of the world, and the parts of the world already suffering greatly from changes to the global climate brought on by this governing system. There seems to be no way out. Clouds envelope preventing us from imagining another kind of world; they are both the very real human-made pollution we are failing to tackle, and the blotting out of imagining ourselves somewhere different; the clouds are full of the faces of ‘dead stars’, the icons of 20th century capitalism, who died and became immortalised in our collective hearts, having an ever greater ghostly presence that seeps onto the skins of us as we run backwards from the current world, in search of better times.
Drawing, for me is as much as a controlling (or management) of my darkest thoughts in which everything seems out of control. Yet, I hope my work can reveal the modern world to viewers in a way that is constructive to a collective demand for a better world. As much as I struggle to picture something more hopeful, the dead end is not the end of the world; only the end of a world, a world humanity surely must transcend in the 21st century else it may well be the end full stop.
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By Nick BirkheadI suggest that Ledger’s work owes something to the fantastical Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). Specifically, the Garden of Earthly Delights comes to mind, with its lush depiction of organic sin. The world famous and brilliant forerunner of surrealism was, in his day, unique and radically different. Today Bosch’s work could not be more relevant, taxing and fascinating, revealing the folly and hypocracy of man. Bosch was born during the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, in the Duchy of Brabant [Netherlands]. Why are his paintings so powerful and why do I think there is a common thread between them and Ledger’s more dour pictures?
Bosch places visionary images in a hostile world full of mysticism, with the conviction that the human being, due to its own stupidity and sinfulness has become prey to the devil himself. He holds a mirror to the world with his cerebral irony and magical symbolism, sparing no one. He aims his mocking arrows equally well at the hypocrisy of the clergy as the extravagance of the nobility and the immorality of the people. Hieronymus Bosch’s style arises from the tradition of the book illuminations (manuscript illustrations from the Middle Ages). The caricatural representation of evil tones down its terrifying implications, but also serves as a defiant warning with a theological basis.
|John Ledger | Ill Equipped|
The echos of these powerful works struck me immediately on viewing Ledger’s work. They were of a dark world in turmoil. Bodies and abandoned buildings were strew across the landscapes, which were more often than not cities; cities which had seen the apocalypse. These were pictures of a decaying world, where redemption was impossible. The doom presented itself as an all consuming and deadly force. There was a cruelty and even a vindictiveness which was apparent, and undeniable. Is this what Ledger thinks our world will be if we all continue on our selfish and consumptive ways? Or a portrait of the present state of affairs. To be honest, I don’t think there is much in it. If the date of his work, 2045, is anything to go by, I do not think much will change in the next thirty years..
|John Ledger | The Index Of Child Well-being|
From afar, these drawings are remote and almost picturesque; only upon intimate inspection do they reveal the tremendous horror of the truths they reveal. The macabre and the ironic and the droll all seem to be competing. Even more interesting is the methodology behind them. The fact that Ledger has chosen a biro as his instrument for these works is significant. If the biro is a symbol of anything it is transience. The throw-away nature of the pen indicates Ledger’s choice of atmosphere for his work; as if commenting on the idea that humans, like the tool he has chosen to depict, are useful but not permanent. As if the state employs us for a time, and then discards when we are empty. Such a picture of the world is not a pretty one. One which is filled with vices and death and decay. Physically, the pictures are very striking and the tone which is set by the biro creates great contrasts within the works. They are evidently a labour of love, and as I stood in front of them, entranced and appalled, I thought just how long and how much pain-staking effort it cost to produce such mesmerising effects. What on the surface may seem to owe something to the colourful and cheerful design of the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine is in fact a violent indictment of the corruption which we encourage with our lifestyles.
|John Ledger | In The City…|
The piece is called ‘Who would want listen to this?’ because such big threats of an ecological collapse which would cause unimaginable disruption and destruction are often too frightening for us to think about (only previously seen by our eyes on cinema screens), so instead we pretend that ‘someone will sort it for us when push comes to shove’ or we even coax ourselves into believing that it can’t actually be happening (I’ve heard people, who once agreed that climate change was being caused by humans, go back on themselves saying ‘how can one species do so much damage to such a big planet?’ – comforting lies). We would rather not listen to it when a friend in our company starts talking about it, or when it is on the TV.
But we are not to blame for feeling so powerless to do anything.
As well as causing this problem, the human system of capitalism makes it seem impossible for us to do anything to stop climate change. It relies on competition between the most powerful nations in the world, rather than cooperation. And these nations are sewn together with the biggest corporations in the world; and corporations, by and large, don’t want us thinking that things such as climate change are happening, because to take any action to stop it would be bad for their business. And being the richest most powerful in the world, they get their way. As things stand THEY are in control of the direction the human world takes.
So we feel powerless, and try to focus on smaller thing instead, we try to forget. Climate change just adds more and more weight to the feeling that everything is out of control and feelings of powerlessness to do anything about it, which is the reality of living under the global capitalist system. So focussing on smaller things, focussing on how to get through life, day to day, in the most bearable way is what most of us find is the only thing we can do.
In the drawing every figure is wearing headphones. This relates to trying to block out the sound of things that are upsetting to us. It also relates a lot to the living in a time where we have access to so much technology to keep us entertained, or distracted, from the real world. I have mixed feelings about technology; I think what the internet offers to us as a species is amazing, and it could be said to be one of the greatest inventions ever. Yet accessories such as mobile phones, Facebook can throw us into a continuous detachment from what’s really happening in the world around us, distracting us, as we are constantly in trying to get other people to speak to us and like us through them, as the popularity of these accessories means people are increasingly alone, communicating from box rooms and lonely bus rides, and lonely people feel insecure and continually seek company. These figures, who are blocking their eyes to the problems around them, aren’t bad people, but are finding themselves more and more consumed in a technological world, that promises so much but never really fulfils.
The people behind the speaking booth-like things are the political/capitalist class. They are equally wired up, with head phones, communicating through cyberspace. They believe in the fantasy that capitalist ‘growth’ can go on forever, and they chase growth like addicts, smiling with Cheshire cat grins when they say the word ‘growth’. They are ‘supposed’ to be the people to lead the citizens to safety and better lives, but they are desperately clinging on to hopes that become more impossible every day. Feeling powerless, we leave it to leaders of governments and capitalism to guide us, but they are even more detached from the real world than everybody else, and they guide us towards a dangerous future. The need for distraction and denial of the truth keeps growing.
I wanted the entire landscape to look like a rock in an empty space, a bit like planet earth in space. But I want this rock to look to have a similarity to a human hand; a human hand that is veering into the dark, into a void, into non-existence. The closer one gets to the fingertips of the hand, the more the landscape is being destroyed, being torn to pieces. This represents two different moments in time; the moment which are at now, when it is the poorest people in the world who suffer the most from the effects of climate change, largely caused by the richest parts of the world (and the most power institutions which come from these places), and a future moment when this becomes the reality for all of humanity, if we don’t change course – direct the human hand away from its route into non-existence.
“I Want None Of This” biro and collage on paper
The Index For Child Well-being (biro and collage on paper)