Tag Archive | capitalism

Hope of The Nihilized

Hope of The Nihilized (2016, mixed media on paper, 90X125cm)

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This will probably be the last major piece of work I finish in 2016. The drawing attempts to look at the debased spirit of our times. If I were to give such a time a name I’d called it The Zeitgeist of Disbelief.

However, partly due to the sheer willing for a change of heart, for the sake of my and everyone else’s mental health, the piece is one of dark optimism. 21st century cyberspace technology has allowed the capitalist logic to creep into almost every moment of our lives. I believe it corrodes our spirit on a daily basis, leaving us ‘nihilized’ and unable to do anything but pursue dead end pleasures. There has been a severe epidemic of loneliness brought on by these technologies, on a scale never before imagined, never mind witnessed.

Yet these technologies also give us access to an unprecedented awareness about what is happening around the globe, potentially creating an intellectual body unrivalled throughout history. Although the information is often skewed, only consumed in sound-bite form due to the ‘fomo’ (fear of missing out’) effect of a society based on scarcity principles, there still now exists an awareness not only of of global injustices, (things we’d been led to believe were 20 century nightmares), but also an awareness of the fact that most others are suffering in solitude on a nightly basis just like ourselves.

Or so I hope. This piece speculates that although capitalism seems to have made a dead end out of humanity, it is capitalism that will inevitably have to end, hopefully leaving some tools to rebuild from the crushed spirit of the present.

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Fighting for Crumbs, at The World Transformed, Liverpool

I was very pleased to be invited to exhibit at The World Transformed, a 4 day festival hosted by Momentum as The Labour Party held their conference,  and the leadership election results were announced, in the very same city. It felt great to be taking our exhibition project ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) to the Black-E in Liverpool, to have our work in the same location as speeches by many figureheads at the forefront of a movement to push for much needed changes to the way politics is done and society is run.


#TWT2016 is about practising the new politics. We believe in a positive, future oriented approach to changing society. We believe in amplifying unheard, grassroots voices. We believe in broadening the definition of politics to include art, music and spoken word. We believe that politics is a bout more than just PMQs and Westminster. 

With Fighting For Crumbs being somewhat instigated by the ask to do something to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Redshed  (Wakefield Labour Club), we worked with the organisers of The World Transformed find a way of using ‘Redsheds’ to exhibit our work and documentary by Connor Matheson. Here are some photographs of the project.

JD Taylor – Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain

 

I’ve finally finished reading JD Taylor’s brick of a book ‘Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain’ published by Repeater Books. Admittedly I missed most of the section on Scotland, due to a large pen leak defacing most of the section – but there again, being a visual artist, who carries everything he needs even when he makes a short journey means rucksack spillages happen against best intentions. But I read most of this 450 page brick (although it’s probably more fitting to liken it to a piece of sedimentary stone, carbon dated to the British Isles in the second decade of the 21st century), and although it’s a large book, it’s pleasurable reading.

I started following JD Taylor’s blog after taking an interest reading his 2012 book ‘Negative Capitalism’, published by Zero Books. In 2014 I realised he’d been undertaking the sort of project that had become close to my heart in the last few years: assessing the social spirit of the times by traveling the land, and getting close as possible sense of what it feels like to live in the towns and cities of this country. I caught up with the blog literally just after he had posted about traveling through the area from where I was reading the post! And I was intrigued by what he was saying from then onwards.

JD Taylor didn’t go around the Island telling folk what was and wasn’t, he actually listened to what they had to say. Listening isn’t an easy thing to do, and I’m as bad as the next person for making interruptions before somebody has finished a sentence.  I don’t think it’s ever been easy to sit down and let somebody else explain how they see and feel about the world, but certainly not in times where there is an intense social pressure to compete against each other for economic survival. Listening thus requires our want for empathy to win over our gut feelings to get our opinion over before others can. But for those wishing for a future beyond the current inertia, telling rather than listening possibly entrenches the necessary one-upmanship of a social model based around scarcity.

I asked JD Taylor to come speak at a recent art and film project I was involved in undertaking. ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain)’ was somewhat a response to being asked to show my artwork in the Wakefield Labour Club (commonly known as ‘The Redshed’) as part of its 50th anniversary events. I’m not in the habit of carelessly flinging works up on walls, and I was keen to do something that spoke of the political mood and social spirit of these times, to contrast with what my friend, and Redshed stalwart, Sandra Huthinson, said was the spirit of 1966; one of political optimism, in spite of the troubles in the world. Taylor seemed not only to speak for the same generation as my own, but I thought his findings upon the roads of this island were closely in tune with the aims of our project. I’ve never asked a writer to speak at an event before so it was an initially daunting task, but thankfully Taylor seemed more than happy to take part, and it became part of a larger tour promoting his book.

Within the island-round journey taken his book unearths forgotten uprisings to challenge the assumption that our collective story is one of putting up and shutting up. There’s a disconnect between Here and There, that seems to become an Us and Them. As a northerner there’s a tendency think we are the worst treat by the powers that be, with the locus being London. This isn’t an unreasonable feeling, especially when looking at the half-century’s worth of diabolical infrastructural neglect over this region. But it’s not necessarily true, and Taylor’s accounts of Kent, as he comes to the end of his travels, leave me quite moved. As it seems that many of the people populating a county most think of as England’s green and pleasant land are as struggling and confused as anywhere else on the island – possibly even more so due to lacking a strength through identity that still gives many in other regions spoons full of spirit every now and then.

The overall conclusion in Island Story is a sense of confusion but mostly defeat. I think he’s on the pulse when saying “young people are worst affected by the peculiar “nowhereness” of the moment” – I’ve heard this misdirected into a sense of personal failure in many who were traveling through their teens and twenties especially since the financial crash. However, the conclusion is not one of eternal defeat.  Aren’t many of us more punch-drunk optimists than pessimists? One section of his conclusion particularly stirs my damaged optimism. Taylor says that

“this sense of inertia and in-betweeness suggests the accruement of desiring energies around the block. Gathering force yet unable to release, time is slowing into one interminable moment before the extraordinary happens, what few considered possible even a few moments before.”

Whether this is a good sum up of this great book, or more of a means of thanking  JD Taylor for speaking at our Fighting For Crumbs event, I’d strongly recommend this book to both my like-minded friends, and my not-so-like-minded friends – after all, the conclusion I hope the book gives you is that wherever we are we all more or less desire and worry about the same things in life.

 

 

Fighting for Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) – Video Documentary.

This is our video documentary, crafted and produced by Connor Matheson/DEADIDEA Productions. It accompanied our recent exhibition. Please take a look.

Thank you for everybody who contributed to our crowdfunder earlier in the year.

Fighting For Crumbs – a Virtual Tour

We were all really pleased with how the works played off one another;  a coherence of many preoccupations that made up the reasons for having this exhibition which addressed political pessimism, the age of disbelief, austerity and the overlooked areas of the UK.

Whilst John Wilkinson’s paintings addressed the damage done both by once worker-hungry industries, and then their disappearance in a global market economy that then told these workers to become entrepreneurs of themselves, Connor Matheson’s photography documents these very areas a generation on, a landscape with little more opportunity than call-centre dead-end jobs. The Dearne Vallery, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Wakefield.

John Wilkinson’s paintings also deal with the post-colonial nationalism that chokes the UK’s horizons, clouding out a future that would lead us from making the same mistakes and get us out of spiraling destructive cycles. Amidst these paintings is an installation by Corinne Deakin, which, more than anything, I feel looks either like flotsam and Jetsom in-the-making or something in decay that refuses to accept it; a empire built on maritime dominance that refuses to give up its ghosts and in process drags everything else down with it.

I wanted to put works into the show that both addressed the mood of the land and looked at the geography of the area that connects up the Post-industrial Yorkshire towns intrinsic to the Fighting For Crumbs project. First off I wanted to get the poet Jonathan Butcher involved. John’s poetry is subtly political, a gritty realism and focus on the landscape he has seen community disintegration and lost futures from within. I worked with him to make a way of getting his words into an art exhibition. Growing up on Hall Road, in the Handsworth area in the eastern suburbs of Sheffield, I tried in to incorporate some of my memories of seeing the nearby Manor Estate in a state of dereliction, with the fact that the Sheffield Parkway trunk road slices Hall Road in two, to make a place for Jonathan to write his poetry that visualised community/social disintegration.

I made a installation centred around a large memory map of The West Riding of Yorkshire I undertook in 2013, mainly focussing on Barnsley, Wakefield, Leeds and Sheffield that documents the visible impacts of austerity next to feelings of confusion, frustration, alienation. I incorporated a other geographically-focused works that look at the mood of the country through the first ‘season’ of austerity, the run up to the 2015 election, and then the run up to the EU referendum. Always intent on tying together the areas where Fighting For Crumbs is based around, being held at (The exhibition continues 20+ miles north of Sheffield at the Wakefield Labour Club, ‘The Redshed’, on Saturday 13th). And I have installed some of my drawings in the somewhat smaller Redshed venue

Somewhat hidden in the corner is Rebekah Whitlam’s installation ‘Vanitas Britannia’ that talks about how the riots, kettling, protest and upheavals at the turn of the decade have been swept under a ‘handmade’ carpet of a ‘keep calm and carry on’ crafts culture, satirising the tactics of a nation that retreats into its mythical past, by playing on the morbid theme of mortality that occupies the Dutch Vanitas paintings. “As a textile artist…[Rebekah} feels a pressure of balancing a vision of socially inclusive creativity without undercutting [herself] and other artists financially.” Adding that as a craft-skilled artist it is hard not to become part of the problem when “as handmade, locally sourced business cashes in on developing the streets, financial and emotional security remains distant for their neighbours and the divide becomes increasingly widened.”

It connects up with a running narrative in the show about the gentrification of a few ‘hip’ areas in these post industrial towns to the cost of all the surrounding working class communitiess which become invisible in their struggles. The fact the there is no lighting in the room both seems to reflect the dark colours of the Vanitas paintings. and, I felt, becomes a satire on the ‘keep calm carry on’ ‘Blitz-spirit’, austerity = black outs, narrative etc etc. Just make sure the that fact the room is unlit doesn’t make you think it’s not part of the exhibition!

The exhibition doesn’t so much dwell on the past as look at the inertia of the present; the future we have forgotten in favour of ways to guide us through the day in hand. We seem to have forgotten that we need something to believe in. The world appears a place in a downward spiral of cruelty and sadness, but dead-end pleasure-seeking in a depressed landscape doesn’t quite hold its excitement for very long – it just sets in stall a pursuit of even more extreme pleasure seeking later on. Fighting for Crumbs somewhat tries to visualise a country that wake from a defeatist slumber that it perhaps doesn’t even recognise as being in.

 

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‘Development Opportunity’ and ‘We’re all in it Together’ – John Wilkinson

 

 

 

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Installation by Corinne Deakin in front of ‘Draped in Faded Glory’ by John Wilkinson

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(Right to Left) A Man hesitantly looks at Thermal Socks for Sale in Barnsley – Connor Matheson, ‘Keep Calm and Keep Shopping’ – John Wilkinson

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Corinne Deakin’s installation in front of ‘The Imposition of Conformity’ by John Wilkinson

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Youth Riding a Small Motorbike – Shirecliffe

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Broken Slates – installation piece – Jonathan Butcher and John Ledger

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Poppies (For Jonathan Butcher) – a painting John Wilkinson produced for the show in response to one of Jonathan’s poems.

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Installation by John Ledger

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West Riding of Yorkshire: A Pyschogeographical account

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<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/144591777″>Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user18137640″>john Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Vanitas Britannia – Rebekah Whitlam

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At the Redshed, Wakefield on Saturday, 1pm onwards, we will be showing our Fighting For Crumbs documentary, which will look at all the artist involved. We will be showing the brilliant documentary Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain, and JD Taylor will be giving a talk. JD Taylor is the Author of Negative Capitalism: Cynicism in The Neoliberal Era, and Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain

Images of Redshed show

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12.08.2016. Performance and poetry@Fighting For Crumbs

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On Friday 12 Aug from 6:30pm on-wards we’ll be having a performance and poetry event, alongside a last chance to see The Fighting For Crumbs exhibition

Nick Kilby

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Artist Nick Kilby will be breaking his two year performance fast to put something together for the Fighting For Crumbs event on August 12th at the Gage Gallery in Sheffield, located inside KIAC, Sheffield, S3 8DB. 6:30 – 9pm

‘”To the 330’ is a noise/aktion blood hex against an occupying administration. Be fun to see some of y’all. There will be no milk x”

 

Jeff Jethro Platts

Jeff is a singer with Parson’s Lot and CAMBODiA, a writer, performer, activist, campaigner, ex miner, ex many things.

 

follow our events page on facebook to keep up to date. https://www.facebook.com/events/1766943633588740/permalink/1777196522563451

6:30-9pm, Gage Gallery. The Lions Works, 40 Ball St, Sheffield S3 8DB

 

 

Fighting For Crumbs…

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I’ve been involved in setting this project up for the best part of a year…

Over the past few years or so I have found a few people who were agreeing with my growing sentiment:

That the mood and spirit of this society (global too) was in a deep depression, and that this had to be addressed before there could ever be a popular movement that would well and truly galvanise the daily-downtrodden’s into believing in something so much that they were prepared to fight for it.

(Let’s be honest. I’m a daily-downtrodden myself. I’m no freedom fighter.)

Trying to hold a belief that another world is possible up to the light of a new day in UK2015 was like holding a flower up to a nuclear blast – it withered and recoiled before the toothpaste was on the toothbrush. Before you know it the old depressive-pleasure-seeking kicks in: cider after cider, angry self destructive acts, a spree of undecipherable text messages  – enough to write another day off until a new dawn fades.

Art has been my backbone in a world which seems bent on being cold and meaningless in equal measure. Without it I’m a mollusc looking for the nearest dark spot to dwell in For “there are brighter sides to life and I should know, because I’ve seen them, but not very often”. And I always recoil to my work as an antidote-maker.

I’m bored of expressing this. Deeply bored.

I…..

Another world….

…a better world

Isn’t there a plant in the desert that only flowers once a generation? Is that not a perfect analogy for English optimism?

The week that followed from May 8 2015 was actually a special week for me, for it felt like I was sharing something with others. What I felt I shared was a despair and fear now that the Tories and the media were taking their gloves off for some sadist pleasures. And I felt this sharing of despair beginning to jolt people into a sort of action most of us hadn’t engaged in before. But it didn’t last…

Rotten Soil….

…A couple of months later I discovered the Sleaford Mods. Their channeling of the rotten soil of nowhereland sank into hole where a soul, a love of life should’ve been. An Antidote. Later that year I was surprised to find that a film called Invisible Britain, that followed the band, was following them on a tour of the Ingored-lands. The Ignored-lands I meandered within and wrote about: mainly Barnsley and Wakefield.

I felt an idea coming along..

This idea was given one leg to stand on when I was asked by friends to put on an exhibition at the Wakefield Labour club (Aka The Redshed).

2016 marks the 50th birthday of The Redshed, also known as The Labour club. Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire city of Wakefield, the place is somewhat unique, and has defiantly resisted the capitalist forces that have penetrated nearly everything else around it. A year-long line-up of events are now marking this anniversary.

Sandra Hutchinson, a lifelong supporter of the club, spoke of how The Redshed began at the height of the social and political changes happening in the 1960’s. In-spite of the seismic troubles around the world, it was an age of political optimism, and there was a strong belief that things could be and would be changed.

I needed to put something on that spoke of the disbelief that has penetrated the years I’ve been an adult.

Artist Corinne Deakin coincidentally came up to me thinking of doing something very similar. Looking at the way the arts were being pushed out of the reach of many people due to 5 years of needless austerity, low wages and high living costs. I must’ve said the words ‘fighting for crumbs’, in one of my waffles that I never remember, and Corinne remembered it and said that we need to call our project this.

And then it just seem to fall into place. I’d worked with the artist John Wilkinson the year before, and knew his work and thoughts were ideal for our project. And during conversations with friends Rebekah Whitlam and poet Jonathan Butcher I realised how appropriate their work was to addressing the cultural mood of this secretly unhappy Island. Corinne knew a photographer from Barnsley called Connor Matheson, who was just that little bit younger than my own town centre social circles for me to have know him prior to the this project, but I think I’d already seen his photographs and thought they would work well alongside our works, especially John Wilkinson’s paintings. In a way that is sort of Inspired by Invisible Britain, I thought it would be great to make a talking head documentary for this project – the Fighting for Crumbs documentary will be on show at the Redshed event, and hopefully all way through the Gage Event. Anyway, here’s a link to all that. https://www.facebook.com/events/1766943633588740/

Here are a few lines from each artist. All I can say is that I hope whoever reads this can make it to at least one of the events that we are putting on:

John Wilkinson (B 1962 – Sheffield based)

 

The price of coal

The Price of Coal

Austerity, the ugly reality of post-war Britain and the backdrop to the founding of the welfare state has come back to haunt us once again. Trying to invoke that spirit that enabled us to survive and rebuild the last time, David Cameron famously said ‘We’re all in it together’ but the truth is that we’re not, and it isn’t the same. A North decimated by industrial decline and unemployment is not the same as the manufacturing centres that provided the growth and foreign trade that led us to economic revival in the 50’s. A class abandoned because the education bar has become too costly to climb over is no longer the motor of the economy, and so the economic benefits of whatever financial services revival they paid for never reach them. Instead of building the State that supported growth we are dismantling Health, Education, Housing and Welfare, and replacing all but the cheapest labour with technology that frees us from work and with it income. As an artist, my work is a response to the world I live in – a mirror that reflects reality, and what it might become. Through it I express my compassion for a people who built the foundations of our world, and will be left to rot in its basements until we can see what is happening, and ask for better. Then I’ll paint pretty landscapes.

Corinne Deakin (B 1988)

Corinne Deakin

During the past 5 years, or perhaps longer, we have seen old architecture and independent business give way to gentrification and cuts that effect the working class. Education is being stifled and the youth of Britain are entrenched in large debts they may never be able to pay off, with suggestions of unfair consequences. The idea of community is disintegrating, as we are encouraged to evolve into self absorbed, cutthroat individuals where its constant networking and making a career for yourself is based more and more on who you know, not what you know- and it never hurts if you’re born into wealth. Glorifying low paid internships and getting very little in return. This is the ideology that’s being sold to aspiring artists; the dark introduction of how to make it as a successful artist today.

Jonathan Butcher (poet, B 1978, Sheffield)

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Over the last 40 years the structures that should constitute a society have been eaten away by ideals which have been instigated by the few, with the intention to pollute the many. Ideals that strive to restrict us and attempt reduce human expression to the level of the banal and the superfluous; achievements considered wasteful,and without worth. We have been left empty, yet we are expected to remain grateful for the meager gains we have scraped together; gains which when pursued only through shear necessity, place money above time and psychical and mental strain above thought and basic fulfillment. Slivers of hope are offered, but are usually temporary, and for the large part conducted by those just as driven by this machinery as those they purport to despise. This now continual scenario enforced upon us attempts to define us. It claims to speak on our behalf, without offering a single answer to this problem or a solution to our fate.

John Ledger (B 1984, From Barnsley, works in Wakefield)

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There has arisen a deep disbelief in the abilities of the human race, without much shared understanding of how we came to feel this way. Maybe it comes from the fact that with what we now know (regarding climate change, the impacts of social inequality, living memories of 20th century horrors), there’s a sense that we SHOULD be in the process of building a far better world to live in. But NO: in 2016 we are within a state of affairs that is making us scrap amongst ourselves for pieces of barely anything. Are we surprised if nervous breakdowns and spells of aimless rage are commonplace amidst this deeply absurd situation?”

Rebekah Whitlam, Sheffield, 1984

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Vanitas Britannia.

Since the recession there has been a pseudo-nostalgia of post-war Britain. Kettling, rioting, and protests were swiftly detracted from by weddings, jubilees, and cake on the BBC. The “keep calm and carry on” craft trend has escalated; beer, baking, and bunting have become synonymous with community togetherness.

Whilst we crave authenticity in ourselves and our society, empty slogans are sold back to us. The commodities of craft offer us promises of a community, but leave us all the more alienated. As handmade, locally sourced businesses cash in on redeveloping the streets, financial and emotional security remains distant for their neighbours and the divide becomes increasingly widened.

As a textile artist I feel a pressure of balancing a vision of socially inclusive creativity without undercutting myself and other artists financially. The lapping of cushions, cards, and craft is at my feet, but how do I not become part of the problem?

Austerity strains us economically and is having a detrimental effect on personal integrity and creative freedom.

Connor Matheson (B 1992 Barnsley)

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The works I am showing in Fighting For Crumbs explore the everyday lives of normal people in the Post-Thatcher era, with particular focus on themes such as family relationships, the local economy and drinking culture. With a specific focus on the north of England, this project is an accurate representation of working class culture, depicting the everyday lives of people who are often vilified in the mainstream press as “scroungers” or “yobs”. The work shows the effects of government economic policy yet also shows the human element, relationships and humour in life and celebrates the diversity of people and the character of areas.


Gage Gallery, Ball Street, Sheffield, S3 8DB

Monday 8 August: Opening night. 6:30 – 9pm
Friday 12 August. Music and poetry night. 6:30 – 9 pm
11-4pm

The Redshed, 18 Vicarage St S, Wakefield WF1 1QX

Saturday 13 August. 1Pm onwards. Film-viewing, and talk by JD Taylor
Normal gallery opening times: 8 August – 13 August, 7-11pm (call 01924215626 to check room is not in use)

 

 

 

 

A Grief That’s Been Gagged and Buried (2016)

A Grief That’s Been Gagged and Buried (2016, mixed media on A3)

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I don’t know when you could say such a time began (maybe at some point during the past decade or even earlier?), but I sense we are overdue some grieving time. And that’s because our civilisation (specifically our faith in a capitalist model – one based on exponential growth – to bring well-being and prosperity) has died. Grief is a natural process in order that we can rehabilitate so as to move on to the next stage of life, but it has been emphatically denied us. Its existence has been denied, and the denial has been played out in a turbo-charging forwards with the persistence of now-dead beliefs. And look at the pain that it is causing; to be forced to work harder for something deep down we know is not only going nowhere, but is in a process of perpetual deterioration. It has made knowing-zombies out us, an anxious-undead, clutching our Iphones, trying to climb out of the daily dread. But it has to give-way at some point. More and more of us are suffering under the psychological strain of knowing we will have to work harder and harder for diminishing returns from a dead/dying system, and all around you can see people cracking up. Nobody knows what this outcome will finally lead to, but there is potential for a rebuilding, not so much physically, but culturally. However, right now we are in need of an healing process.

This work will feature in the Wakefield Redshed section of Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain

Fighting For Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is a group of artists from Yorkshire working amidst the after-effects of Austerity Britain 2.0.

The project was inspired by the film ‘Invisible Britain’ (based on the work of Sleaford Mods) that looks at overlooked UK towns and cities, and motivated by a request to contribute to the 50th anniversary celebrations of ‘The RedShed’ (Wakefield Labour Club). The event is based in Sheffield and Wakefield and explores the position of art, and artists, in a period when we are all being pressured to ‘strive’ for crumbs – a time when wages are low, and the market dictates creativity

Gage Gallery, Ball Street, Sheffield, S3 8DB

Monday 8 August: Opening night. 6:30 – 9pm
Friday 12 August. Music and poetry night. 6:30 – 9 pm
11-4pm

The Redshed, 18 Vicarage St S, Wakefield WF1 1QX

Saturday 13 August. 1Pm onwards. Film-viewing, and talk by JD Taylor
Normal gallery opening times: 8 August – 13 August, 7-11pm (call 01924215626 to check room is not in use).

A Visit To ‘Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter’ Exhibition, and a Whole Lot More…

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So today I walked into Sheffield Central library, and in the remaining 30 minutes before the exhibition ‘Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter‘ closed, I found myself facing a certain series of reality prospects that had been somewhat buried under an half-decade of an unwanted montage of self-consumed anxieties, based on age-based frustration, the unending demands for identity (re)construction in our ‘always on’ [no]times, and the entrenched sense of competition in life caused by this phony-austerity agenda.

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Nuclear War?! There Goes My Career! – Mark Vallen

“Under the general weight of it all.”… and trying to maintain a sense of dignity (the Self[ie] under siege!], I have literally thrown myself into my art-making. And it’s stronger than it’s been for years. But I’m not quite sure why I’m doing this; because I don’t think I have it as ‘career’ in my mind (I can’t picture a beyond point) it’s more of a final push; a “fierce last stand of all I am”, to quote a line from a track by The Smiths. I often wonder if it has become pure drive.

I’ve somewhat lost my way; adrift, with no idea how to get out, and it’s been like this for a good few years, whilst social pressures seem become claustrophobically close.

“Give it all you’ve got now”

I daren’t be too open about my doubts over the reasons behind why I make work in this way, when ‘selling oneself’ is so mandatory to contemporary life, which ‘could result in a damaged reputation for my product’ {type bollox]. Creative expression is crucial to my very being, it finds a way out whether I plan it or not, but my way of working on things thereon-after has been so caught up in a destructive cycle that’s spun like a hula hoop around my adult body, that often I just want to be able to relax, not be so PUMPED UP, but, then I get stuck: “relax into what, exactly?”

How to be at ease in this world has always evaded me. But today I have looked back to when I began an introspection into why. I somewhat want to get back to that future.

But it was only a fantasy
The wall was too high as you can see
No matter how he tried he could not break free
And the worms ate into his brain.

So the day after I put on an exhibition, I hit a comedown, and I recoiled and slumped into the thoughts and feelings of my 24 year old self. Waiting for a train in Wakefield, I began listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and with Grayson Perry’s great documentary All Man about the impact of masculinity on individuals and society alike on my mind, I began thinking about what path The Wall partly guided me onto back in autumn 2008.

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Untitled, 2009

Not only did I think it was time to understand why I’d been such an emotionally bottled up/screwed up young man until that point, but I wanted to [try to] understand the world I was living in –  after all, the financial crash was an event still fresh from the oven, and it occurred to me that I needed to know a little more about the structures of this world especially if life was going to get tougher.

I buried myself into books, defying the self-told-story-thus-far about me not being able to read properly. So, imagine The Wall helping me deconstruct why a prison wall was emotionally starving me, whilst reading James Lovelock’s Doomed-Gaia hypotheses, and then, erm, doing my back in, staying in over Christmas and watching Threads – the film based on a possible nuclear attack on Sheffield/South Yorkshire amidst a 1980’s tension point in the Cold War…

You only need to watch Threads once. If you’re sensitive enough to the realism of it, or from a nearby area and literally know the streets the terror is played out on, it is artistic shock value taken to its logical extreme: it’s traumatising.

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Taking from South Yorkshire and Nuclear War – Information For The Public in South Yorkshire. (a book which advocated the sharing of its text/imagery

Threads hit me so hard I literally smiled when I visited Sheffield a week later, realising it was still there and standing. And foolishly misleading as emotions are: as anything so big would’ve taken out where I live in an instant too, as this story based on a likely scenario if Sheffield was hit by a nuclear blast explains –  chillingly so, if you are closely affiliated with the former mining area-cum-sleepy dormitory suburb that is Darton, or home.

“Jim is in his farmyard near Darton, Barnsley. Suddenly a brilliant flash of light temporarily blinds him. A wave of heat from the explosion scorches his face. Seconds later, he hears the explosion. Windows crack and tiles fall from the roof. Numb with shock he feels his way back into the kitchen….The house provides little protection from fallout. Like four out of five people in the Barnsley area, Jim dies.”

The above text and the accompanying diagrams were taken from the documents on display that made up the one day event Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter. I didn’t get to absorb that much, but in 30 minutes left I was sobered out enough to realise how increasingly streamed out I am from becoming more and more tied to my ‘Always on’ (or Wi Fi-seeker!) devices, and how my core being (or core sense of what it is to be fucking human or something) demands I COME UP FOR AIR!

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“There is no pain you are receiving. … your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying!

It seems that Pink Floyd’s The Wall follows me when I think about such things. Perhaps it’s the quintessential Cold War-period album? Perhaps The Wall, like Grayson Perry argues in All Man, is about how damaging masculinity can be on an individual and geopolitical level, when it becomes a used for emotional repression in a society.

It seemed that I was able to reflect on both these things today, for the first time in ages.

There’s nothing like ‘a near miss’ of a potential apocalypse in global affairs, centred on the annihilation the place you’ve seen the world from, to momentarily drag you out of the stream/our never ending cyberspace commutes, to take a look at something we don’t usually feel is real enough to care about.

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This is because the nuclear threat usually doesn’t feel real anymore. Not only have we been misguided into thinking all those threats died away when the main adversary to USA-centered power, the Soviet Union, collapsed in the early 1990s, but I think the ‘disappearance’ of the big threats is mainly down to the type of world that was just emerging from the Cold War and Post War settlements like some freak creation.

In the early 1980’s the neoliberal project, which forces our 21st century ‘online’ selves into being endless entrepreneurs of ourselves, was in its infancy in the UK. The technologies that push us into committing to self promotion (in whatever form it takes) 24/7 in 2016 were years away, and the social bonds, communities that gave the otherwise politically disfranchised ‘the capacity to care’ hadn’t yet been fully desecrated by neoliberal policies.

In 2016, we are equally bored and anxious – although we are a pains to openly admit this ‘public secret’.  Internet memes and lifestyle gurus promote the wonders of the world – exciting tastes, views, diets, experience -whilst the language is one of community, friendship and good times. Yet what we have been more or less pushed towards in the past 15 years is a way of life that makes us anxious and bored in equal measure. Anxious because life is becoming tighter, more brutal, competitive between one  another, just for crumbs. Boring, because we are glued to devices that stream pics and texts into us at such speed that everything becomes insignificant. Much of the content itself has the potential to really make an impact on our perceptions, but under digital rain, nothing new can enter – you have to consciously push yourself to find anything significant that doesn’t directly concern your lonely, cyber-commuting-self.

The compounding sense I, at least, have had during the past 6 years, when cyberspace dependency has skyrocketed, is one of being in an eternal now. It’s not that I don’t feel like I‘m getting older, or anything; on the contrary, it possibly impounds a sense of ageing, as digital dependency, and increased competition seem to spill out onto the street as the world begins to look like a landlocked Baywatch scene, where a mass of “keep and young beautiful” people hustle between job, gym and grocery as self-perfection becomes a mandatory for market individualism. And as my naturally anxious figure cuts between them, feeling like some 1990’s flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shorelines at the end of history, I am also aware other parts of our towns and cities are beginning to resemble Rustbelt America, or even perhaps the 3rd world. Yet the ‘always on’ cyber-commute way of life we have, creates the sensation of being stuck in a loop, forever.

And how can anything beyond the immediate seem a physical actuality anymore. Even Climate Change feels like it isn’t real, even as nearby floods are showing it most clearly is. This hit home most strikingly when I was jolted out of the post-night-out numbness of my particular ‘loop’ one night, when trouble was flaring up in the Ukraine 2 years back.

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“Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now…” (2014)

“Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now…”  was a response to the this feeling of pervading unreality to geopolitical and climate change events, whilst in the cyber-commute loop. A cold shiver whilst lying in bed, as I suddenly CAME UP FOR AIR, and realised just how real the threat of nuclear war still is.

I’m the sort of person who doesn’t want to live in a dream world, but I’ve found I’ve been doing more of this over the past few years. Perhaps this was due to an initial meltdown due to the amount I used to threat about the future of humans on this planet under capitalism. It didn’t do me any good, but I hate living like an avatar. And Im glad I came to to the Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter exhibition today, because it made me come up for air.

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‘Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle’

Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle is a no holds barred, explosive feature length documentary exploring the decline and deception behind the social housing crisis in Britain. It will be directed by Paul Sng, maker of the acclaimed cinema release Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain (2015) and the award winning film & television director Lee Skelly (BBC, Channel Four).

I have donated an original print of a new work I have made after filmmaker Paul Sng asked me if I’d like to be involved in helping support the crowdfunder for this project.  This will be an A3 print of my latest work Rot_in_Silence_2016.

https://www.indiegogo.com/project/dispossession-the-great-social-housing-swindle–3/embedded/13528122

Rot_in_Silence_2016

I am also donating a print of a drawing I did almost one year ago, in the wake of the Tory general election victory, as part of a perk for the crowdfunder that includes a selection of postcards featuring different artists supporting the project. The drawing in question is possibly one of my most pivotal to what I’ve been working on during the past year.

As part of a collective, I have embarked on a Crowdfunder project myself, in order to raise funds for an art show and documentary called ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) (Please read more about it here). Very much inspired and informed by Paul Sng’s last film ‘Invisible Britain’, Paul has been very supportive in helping our project get off the ground.

Thanks: John