Tag Archive | consumerism

‘Another Lonely Night. Stare at TV Screen’

Relatively recent BBC4 documentaries regarding popular music from the 1970’s to the early 1980’s have once again got me fixated on that I would call the pivotal moment in leaving a world that believed in the future into becoming one that is incredibly despondent, yet whilst being lit-up with an end-of-the-world-selfishness to paper over the melancholia and sickness that prevails. If this sounds like an over-dramatic interpretation of our current predicament, I’ll try my best to explain why I increasingly feel this way, especially in my blog I’m writing regarding the recent showing of the Joy Division documentary on BBC4. However, this blog deals with Kraftwerk, specifically the 5 landmark albums they released in a row from 1974 to 1981 (Autobahn, Radioactivity, Trans Europe Express, The Man Machine and Computer World).

One really interesting thing I find about Kraftwerk, something talked about in David Cunningham‘s essay Kraftwerk and The Image of the Modern,  (featured in Kraftwerk: Music Non Stop) is that they, along with many other German musicians/artists growing up in post-war Germany (I should say, West Germany), sought out something that was their own cultural identity, not the the Anglo-Saxon rock ‘n roll scene at the time of their inception. And in doing so, looked ‘back to the future‘, bypassing the black hole of Nazism to look back to the modernism of early 20th century Germany (such as the Bauhaus movement and the early Frankfurt School). But rather than looking back in a retro-fetish sense, a tendency dominating contemporary music, Cunningham writes that “[T]hey [Kraftwerk] gain their meaning as modern from their dynamic relation to past works [my own italics], through a determinate negation of what precedes them…” and whilst their immediate past was “…the increasingly stagnant conventions of a dominantly Anglo-rock or popular music of the late 1960’s … Kraftwerk’s own articulation of [] modernity, at the level of its accompanying image…is more often the than not dependent upon a certain non-synchronous reactivation of those stranded [by the horrors of Nazism?] objects made up of past visual and conceptual motifs drawn from a specifically 1920’s European Culture.” (2011)

Regardless of its quirks, I’ve never really been interested in listening to very early Kraftwerk, when they had long hair, and played guitar, because somehow it doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t conjure the futuristic, the grand modernist impulse that their 74-81 group of albums do –  an aura that simultaneously remains  exciting to this day to anyone still ‘accidentally’ infected with the desires of a modernism, whilst gut-wrenchingly melancholic due to the conspicuous absence of that aura in our current (non)times.

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Why Does the Future Still Feel Analogue?

The first 4 of these aforementioned albums were all released in the 70’s, in an era that I’d argue was still modernist in nature (if we are to talk about the idea of it being an uneven, disjointed, yet somehow still collective grand project looking forwards). And I’d argue that all 4 of these albums, even when they deal with the dark issues looming over the post-war period (Radioactivity, etc), have a real Utopianist essence to them – certainly taking from the early 20th century spirit. But I believe the reason Kraftwerk worked is because it was still possible to be Utopianist in the mid 70’s.

If you listen to Autobahn or Trans-Europe Express on a bright midday moment, when the private-profit social-infrastructure (especially in the UK) is functioning as it is supposed to, you can almost momentarily shirk the gut feeling that the future has disappeared, stolen maybe. Whereas the machines-are-singing-back-to-us Ohm Sweet Ohm, the final moment on 1975’s Radioactivity, can almost be emotionally overwhelming in the way that it conjures the feeling of an almost magical aura, mainly due to its conspicuous absence in these (non)times. (If magical seems like an overly powerful world, I mean that beyond the fog of the aspirational hyperbole of contemporary life, the emptiness seems so engulfing that the likes of me, born halfway into what Franco Berardi called ‘the slow cancellation of the future’, become convinced that the void within contemporary life wasn’t always so hard to avoid.)

The 5th album, however, Computer World, has a crucially different feel to it. Basically it is the end of the modern: Computer World is a postmodern world. I associate the beginnings of postmodernity, with the incoming Margaret Thatcher/Ronald Reagan(1979/81) agenda of “there is no alternative (to capitalism)” (aka ‘no future’), and the increasing individuation which, if anything allowed the creeping digitisation/computerisation of life a much easier penetration of our (increasingly) personal affairs. This only really started to kick in the at the end of the 1970’s and the beginning of the 1980’s, a point when we began to see ‘the slow cancellation of the future’ to (quote both Franco Berardi and Mark Fisher). Computer world was released in 1981, within the crucible of this seismic change, but at which point The New in culture was still possible and still felt “to be infinitely available. [Whilst now] the 21st century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion” (Fisher, 2014).

Mark Fisher puts arguments forward at the beginning of his book Ghosts of My Life as to why theorist Fredric Jameson‘s argument that “the postmodern ‘waning of historicity’ is synonymous with “the cultural logic of late capitalism” is a truth. For me it is already a given. And although I’m leaving this as a given with in this blog, I’m saying so as much as I feel that Computer World documents their synonymous relationship, which is why the album sounds more like contemporary life every day, whilst the previous 4 albums both sound like the before and after of this ‘eternal present’ of a computerised quagmire.

Is Computer World the first postmodern album? Maybe not exactly. Many people would say mid-70’s punk, even the Velvet Underground in the late 60’s, were postmodern in their deconstruction of pop music. But for me, Kraftwerk, with these 5 albums really showed that they had their radars fully tuned to the seismic cultural shifts, and, whilst they showed that modernism was still very much a living thing in 70’s,  I’d argue that Computer World was the first album to document the postmodern world we’d all come to recognise – more than anything due to the way that we still see the previous 4 Kraftwerk albums as futuristic.

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“Business, money, numbers, people”

The words on the tracks Computer World and Numbers are spoken in a very punctuated manner that evokes the pressing of buttons. It all sounds so eerily familiar when we feel lost, powerless, lonely, and insignificant in a post-millennial broadband world, where the information overload fills us with disbelief and a desensitisation to the world, whilst addicting us to the pursuit of contact with others. The loneliness is crucial here; one song on the album evokes the human being sinking further into a cyberspacial abyss, but desperate to be pulled back out of it ...by someone.

“I don’t know what to do, I need a rendezvous”

The track Computer Love is a tragic track in our sad times where it rings so true. It isn’t a song you’d instantly think of when thinking of tear-jerking tracks, but it really does depict our escalating epidemic of loneliness, so movingly written about in 2014 in an article by George Monbiot. A friend once argued that Computer Love was an upbeat track, but for me, hearing it at the back end of 2008, it is a ode to the fate that would fall befall our species. Computer Love not only sounds more relevant today, it seems to depict a potential descent that knows no end. The omnipresence of computerisation enables corporate state interference and profit-motive social media platforms to make us increasingly slave-like to behavioural patterns the increase physical isolation.

Computer Love is far sadder than even Nick Drake’s (for example) odes to the pain of loneliness, because music such as Nick Drake’s evokes a idyll that cyberspacial communications may as well have obliterated due to the way to it disconnects us from each other whilst purporting to do the opposite (who could anymore imagine the world described by Drake existing, without the constant interruptions from cyberspace or our itching desires to be reconnected to it?). Despite people I know finding true companionship via Online Dating, for me it is a symptom of ‘Our Age of Loneliness‘ (Monbiot) and is, like all social media platforms, saturated with the imperatives of a marketised form of individualism, with the obnoxiously elitist dating sites being at the extreme end of this. Online Dating seems to me to now be a ‘When in Rome’ situation: although people do find love/happiness etc, the reason people go onto it is because we’ve become so lonely as a species that meeting people in any other way can seem impossible.

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Kraftwerk  – After the Future

After The Future is the title of a Franco Berardi book that examines how this slow cancellation of the future from the late 70’s onwards occurred. With Autobahn (1974), Radioactivity (1975), Trans Europe Exrpess (1977), The Man Machine (1978),  Kraftwerk entice us with visions of ‘tomorrow’s world’. However, once they had produced Computer World (1981), which “might well be Kraftwerk’s greatest achievement…” with “…its turn to the increasingly abstract spaces of  the global rather than the European…” (Cunningham), was there a future left for Kraftwerk to articulate? David Cunningham seems to suggest that the group lost their way after this album, with in a air of inevitability due to the wider context, with “the return of vague invocations of a European avante garde coffee-shop culture on Electric Cafe (1986), seeming unconvincing and unfocused.”

The fact that The BBC broadcast the Kraftwerk,  Joy Division, and Synth Britannia documentaries all within the space of a month inevitability touched upon something. They had an air of difference from music documentaries focusing on the 60’s or post-89 music documentaries. But what made them different, and why show them all now?  Although all documentaries were intelligible and sensitive to the changes to how we live, and lived in the 70’s/80’s, they were finally frustrating in how they failed to recognise why (I believe) they were even being shown now; not just the high demand for nostalgia for (a time that believed in) the future, but melancholia that constitutes the hipster-less moments of wanting a future again. The Joy Division documentary (for example) articulated the creeping social, political and existential misery that the band channeled with uncanny brilliance, but then completely failed to pick up on/or even acknowledge that the reason such documentaries are being made now is due to the undead presence of these feelings, oozing from the cracks between the hyperbolic lies of the late capitalist pleasure sphere; I am convinced that the reason Joy Division T-shirts are being worn by people born after 1990’s ‘Britpop’ isn’t down to the fashionable nature of ‘dark things’, but is actually because they speak a truth, denied mainstream articulation, that an increasing majority of us connect with.

The Kraftwerk documentary used the Utopianist track Neon Lights to soundtrack a sped-up drive through central London, with no sense of irony. Yes, on a superficial level Postmodern London gels with the essence of Neon Lights, but having spent hours on end aimlessly strolling the totalised-urban-space of the centre, I am left feeling tomorrow’s world was hijacked, gutted, and yet left as a undead body in which to inhabit. I experience elements of Kraftwerk’s post-millennium tours, upon which this documentary rested, and focussed on as its foreground, like I would a much-liked device that has now been unplugged from the mains that initially supplied it with so much inventiveness. With the accompanying blocky computerised imagery inaccessable as anything but 80’s-computer-pastiche to anyone living now, I experience the comeback tours as Kraftwerk being subsumed into commodity fetish. Yet the documentary seems as oblivious to this as the Joy Division documentary seemed oblivious to the ridged-persistence of the pain the band evoked.

To me, their post-millennial comeback tours seem as tragic as the initially-intuitive documentaries uncritical response the usage of the Computer Love melody by post-millennial consumer-emotions-band Coldplay. Now, as far as sugary enjoyment goes, there’s a couple of tracks from the early Coldplay albums I do like; but an uncritical response to a band like Coldplay borrowing a melody from something-much-more-than-a-band that helped us imagine another type of world seems mildly criminal to the likes of someone who, no matter what, can never come to terms with the narrowed idea of life and civilisation that we’re sold every day. This is an entrenched feeling, borne out of daily reactions to life today, and I won’t suddenly envisage a better future by someone telling me “there’s decent contemporary [musical] artists out there...if only you’d try to look for them.”

Facebook: My part in its downfall (I wish)

I remember when Facebook was first mentioned to me. I was in my last year of my art degree, using Myspace;  either to promote one of my art projects, the end of degree exhibition, or to apologise for some drunken rant or something at someone the evening before (one of the three anyway). Anyway it was early 2007. My first impressions of it then was that it was a more sophisticated alternative to Myspace, for ‘adult’s. Less ‘pouting’ and lists of favourite bands, and more “so, what are you doing with your life now?….oh me? I’m married now!…” blah blah blah, all that keeping up appearances shit of aspirational adulthood.

Inspite of the depression I suffered from in my early 20’s, my understanding of what was truly going wrong in the world was largely lacking the vocabulary to express the link between the physical and the psychological; it was much more “stop climate change” than “what’s preventing us from stopping climate change?”. This was beginning to appear in my artwork, yes, but overall my frustration over social networking was probably just mere annoyance with it, and the deleting of my Myspace accounts was then only understood by myself as due to depression, not that the depression may be partially triggered by commonly occurring anxieties from using the media form that I was attempting to cut my life from. To be truthful, inspite of my depression, at 23 I still had a lot of ‘young man’s’ hopes and excitements; the particles that combine to make my current life were yet to set and were free-floating, and far more easily pushed to one side when I need ‘a laugh’ (which is noticeable in my large drawings from this time; the subject matter then to now is the same, but it was more chaotic and free-flowing back then – arguably more joyous due to this).

Since then Facebook has gone from being a rival to Myspace to being something so large (over a billion users, more than a seventh of the entire world) that is has surely defined an all new era in our collective story upon the capitalist horrorshow-ride (it could also be called the Network-era, Internet 2.0 era, Broadband era). Myspace has increasingly come to look like some cyberspace graveyard; an eerie (non)place of friends’ profiles, that are like abandoned ships, found again, floating in an ice cold cyberspace, as if it was still 2007/2008. At the same time as this, our collective anxieties, whilst made to look isolated in dominant discourse, have become increasingly more audible as we passed through a seismic financial crash, to find ourselves in the grips of an even more bloody-thirsty capitalism, leaving an expanding carnage of wars and climatic devastation. A new reality; whilst most of the time we’re unaware that it is a new reality. But if we step outside of the world ‘enframed’ by cyberspace social interaction for a minute, even just to catch our breath (like I am currently doing, by ‘politely’ asking their admin team for my profile to be deleted, as if I was a paying customer or something), how is Facebook (especially) affecting our lives? And should we ask the questions: why is it here? Why has it become so big? Is it just ‘progress’, or can progress look different? And, would we prefer a world without it?

Where do you begin when talking about its conception? Prior to the era of social networking, for 70 years, almost an entire century in the US, we have been fed all day everyday with publicity. Publicity, that became the most dominant and omnipresent form of information during this time-period, telling us what we should like, how we should look, act, and what things we should talk about. Utilising genuine human needs, and using them in a way that benefits the publicity-maker, and benefits a system dependent on publicity by keeping the mass of people’s live orientated around trivia. Trivia that is only relevant to the day in hand, or in order to generate small-talk/to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ etc. For well over half a century we have been clay in the hands of the interests that endorse the propagation of publicity. These interests being of ruling sections of western ‘democracies’, as a way of preventing democracy becoming what the word really means – not just the choice between different leaders every 4/5 years, as we experience it now.

The reason social networking can function now is because after half a century of the psychological assault, we are self-assembled publicity. Facebook is an inversion of 20th century publicity. Publicity has been at least somewhat successful during the past 70 or so years in building us into walking publicity, of trivia, obediently learning to enjoy being what a landscape drenched in publicity made us become. We now go onto social networking sites, libidinously-compelled to advertise ourselves. Everyone anxiously-driven to compete, once their eyes set on the waterfall of enforced self-entrepreneurship that is the newsfeed. Yet, whilst we compete against one another, all 1 billion active users, we are all speaking the same language, of publicity, of capitalism. Indeed there is no other language that can be used on Facebook, whatever you post it translates as publicity. When on Facebook the ability to imagine some other sort of human experience is as difficult as can be.

This is possibly the reason why posts critiquing capitalist system, and its matrix of injustices (from climate change to the bedroom tax) are hard-pressed to be of any use but to keep protest virtual and ineffectual. And this doesn’t apply to cyberspace technology across the board, but I am certainly more inclined to argue now that this applies to social networking in nearly all cases. Social networking is a form of communication born from ‘DNA’ taken from the ideological laboratory of publicity, which has the purpose of oiling the wheels of a capitalist world. At this specific moment I am very pessimistic about Facebook becoming a platform for a different mode of communication.

All this doesn’t mean that I think people who use Facebook are just walking advertisements for their atomised lives full stop, just that this is all Facebook seems to allow them to be. But not only does it prevent you from being anything else, it forces you, via feelings of status anxiety, inferiority, of being less than others, to promote what you have been doing/liking/feeling etc. This is incredibly psychologically distressing to many, especially those who feel dependent on Facebook for most social interaction due to having difficulties finding it anywhere else, because everyone else is staring at their screens. I have only been free of Facebook (this time around) for a week, and I’m hoping nothing drags me back on there, having to keep on reminding myself about an awful realisation I had a couple of months back that my quality of life has massively deteriorated since the rise of social networking influence in it, and that I do not believe it to be a coincidence.

So, if the first major factor in this worldwide socio-psychological experiment that allows for Facebook’s dominance is that the near-century assault from publicity has saturated everything so efficiently, then this is a matter of substance; what to things are now made out of. But there has to be another factor at play here that then makes us feel compelled by some invisible force to be adverts for ourselves which then causes so much psychological distress. To get to the roots of this I think we have to look at the direction society was directed towards in 2 of the most culturally and economically influential countries in the world (thus spreading to everywhere else soon after). The late 1970’s/early 1980’s saw ideas under the umbrella of Thatcherism take hold in the UK, and the same thing happen under the umbrella of Reaganism in the US.

If you imagine any given society as a test tube, imagine then Thatcherism/Reaganism as a massive syringe injecting into it market individualism. What could market individualism be described as? It has a double meaning: that business can, and should be allowed to do what it pleases, that everything should be run as a business, from the railways down to toilet facilities, with a belief that market freedom is best way to run things. But, more importantly regarding this post, the enforcement of individualism onto every human being in that society, but a certain type of individualism: that he/she must be an active player within a market-driven system. During the 1980’s social networking, early mobile phones and the like, were the preserve of a small professional class nicknamed the ‘yuppies’, by the 2000’s this was no longer a so-called ‘lifestyle choice, and had trickled down onto all of us until it was “a minimum requirement for mere survival”,  as it was always intended to be. This logical outcome leaves a person finding all their character ‘assets’ overcome by a compulsion to compete, to be constantly advertising themselves.

So, let’s return to the test tube comparison. Imagine that this market individualism, injected into society, took time to fully saturate the test tube. I would argue that it became fully saturated at the time when Facebook became fully ‘viral’, in both meanings of the world viral; (the contemporary usage of the word) it’s all over the Internet, and (the main meaning) that it may as well be circulating through our blood stream like a real virus. Without even beginning to question who gets the chance to go to these Havard school ‘genius’ laboratories in the first place, the fact is that they were/are very fucking clever, as venture capitalists; social networking platforms weren’t just a wild stab in the dark at creating something people might like to use, they are platforms that have been ‘plugged’  right into this ideological DNA’s mains supply, saturated by market individualism. Just at the right time when the technology allowed for social media to be used by (almost) everyone, but whilst the Internet was still a relatively new thing to us, and our guard was down.

The cultural saturation with the logic of self-advertisement has ambushed our thoughts; as Mark Fisher says in his book Capitalist Realism, “when we sleep we dream of capital”. The usage of ourselves as ‘human capital’, even though we’re usually totally unaware of being so, has some, if not most investment in our Facebook posts, whilst as a platform, Facebook translates all language into publicity anyway. Whilst the solution to the financial crash was ‘capitalist realist’, by giving the world an even harsher and more blood-thirsty model of the system that had supposedly just lost all its credibility by failing so fantastically, this has seemingly intensified our haste to self-promote, and thus the rise and rise in social networkers.

The misconception that “it’s just progress”, an inevitability that can’t be halted, and that to criticise it would to be “flogging a dead horse” would tell anybody (from the most revered thinkers throughout history, to the rest of us) who has ever tried to understand the logic from which industrial capitalism sprung that they too are flogging a dead horse. Indeed, maybe we all have been flogging a dead horse, but what choice do we have now when it is clear that this dominant ideology is dragging the world towards civilisational and ecological destruction? If we don’t challenge the dominant cultural logic, then we must resign ourselves to letting any children we produce grow up into a world even less worth living in than the one we currently inhabit.

As things stand I can only see our collective dependency on Facebook increasing. And I am more than certain that out ‘social networking’ dependency is getting more vicious as capitalism also becomes more viscous (both in an rapacious desire to make our character qualities ‘good publicity’, and in the way that people are increasingly turning on each other via social media), and for this reason it will continue to reduce the quality of the lives of many users. The problem here then is its addictiveness; because it has the ability to absorb the entire libidinal fuel reserve of publicity created over the past 70/90 years, it more or less grabs your finger towards ‘the big F’ on an interface (there’s been many times when I have found myself staring at a Facebook screen with literally no memory of opening it up).

I don’t know how to convince people that the quality of one’s life (and, thus, potentially the quality of everything) will decrease the longer they depend on it, but I am sure that attempting to quit isn’t regressive/Luddite in nature (even when you relapse and reactivate the dormant account again). I don’t think cyberspace technology has to be solely used to this effect, it is the platforms that have grown from the dominant idealogical DNA I am referring to. Whether a mass exodus will occur, it certainly won’t as things stand, maybe if the legitimacy of the ruling ideas is damaged beyond credibility during the next decade or so, but nobody can know if that will happen. Yet, I am convinced now that quitting these platforms is the right thing to do if we want to aim for a more bearable future. So, yes, “quit Facebook!”

Thinking along the Hallam Line (Leeds, Wakefield, Barnsley, Meadowhall and Sheffield)

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Leeds

Along with the Engineering of Leeds (my 4th town) into a (relative) economic powerhouse, there seems to have followed an almost identi-kit pasting of all the traits usually found in the big financial centres like the City of London, yet in a much smaller area circling the railway station (after which it begins again to look more like a typical post-heavy industry northern city, and a Yorkshire town).

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The swankiness; a desert to all retailers except the most upmarket of independent and chain stores. The speed of life in this colony-island of the global finance empire is much much faster than ten minutes walk either way. There is an expectation to be met with tuts if you take your time; you have to run across the street after actually casually stepping out, because a car, that in normal circumstances is a safe distance away, advances towards you with the speed of a motorway slip-road acceleration. Maintenance; you get on the train in your local town feeling pretty well dressed and tidy only to feel like a medieval peasant in contrast to those rushing back and forth from the train station. Homelessness; the homelessness in Leeds, in comparison with its size (irrespective of the wider urban area now dependent on it), is apallingly bad. You do wonder where they could have all possibly come from, as it looks too extreme – without forgetting the suffering such a existence must create, it does often look like a stage-set of a typical city scene, almost hyperreal, which could explain why people find it so easy to be indifferent to others’ suffering in such areas.

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Leeds is often seen as the capital of Yorkshire, and this is very true – certainly regarding the West Yorkshire Urban sprawl, as Leeds has increasingly become the only hub of this 2 million-plus area, as other large towns (especially Bradford) have seen gradual decline since their demise as industrial bases.

Wakefield

This may not include Wakefield (my 2nd town, living 8 miles from the centre), which does often seem to have something going for it now, quite possibly down to the needless construction of the outdoor shopping centre Trinity Walk and two international sculpture galleries (The Hepworth and Yorkshire Sculpture Park),which surely do deserve their place here with two of the most accredited sculptors of the 20th century originating from the borough.

But Wakefield, or the half of Wakefield mentioned so far, is if anything a suburb of Leeds, that seems to owe its ascendancy to what Leeds has become. This seems to be in an almost identical manner to the relationship towns such as St Albans, Reading, Stevenage have to London. This could well be because Wakefield is the only stop the mainline train line from London (which is so important in the ‘commuter-age’- which shrieks at the sight of snow on the tracks) makes in West Yorkshire on its way to Leeds.

In fact what has become more evident, since the observant eyes of the Southerner Owen Hatherley pointed it out in his book The New Ruins of Great Britain, is that Wakefield feels “like a southern city” (for which he did instantly offer his apologies for saying). But if you look at all the towns served by the East Coast Railway from London to Leeds, they all have a similar feel to them; all commuter towns, and they reek of modern industry, which to inhabitants of the old industrial areas of the north looks like the south (If you were that way inclined you could certainly feel a little bit of treachery, when seeing the a large London Underground map at the visitor service desk in Wakefield Westgate station).

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But there again, this beating organ dependent on the beating heart that is Leeds is only really one half of Wakefield. Wakefield really does seem to be two towns stitched together. One half of the city is the aforementioned town, served by the suits-and-ties-populated Wakefield Westgate station; the other half  is the remnants of a former mining town (culturally closer to Barnsley and Castleford than the other half of the town), served by the incredibly neglected Wakefield Kirkgate station, in a side of town that is full of sad sights, especially once the night draws in.

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This is the problem with Leeds in general, it is the hub of a larger Yorkshire urban area (which Hatherley suggested is a Supercity which possibly doesn’t know that it is), yet much of the urban area is neglected/ignored for the sake of Leeds, which itself is now nothing but a colony of the financial world-city. But there again, could the same not be said for Canary Wharf and its surroundings?

At one point Bradford was probably as big as Leeds, and Leeds would not have the gravitational pull it has without being less than 10 miles away from another large urban settlement. If West Yorkshire was recognised as the metropolis it more-or-less is, one would maybe begin to see a more reciprocal relationship between these already conjoined towns. What you get instead is each town (and this applies for all of England expect London) maintaining a provincial small-town mindedness, which results in London absorbing the lion’s share of (what remains of) alternative culture.

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(Emley Moor Mast, from the former Woolley Colliery pit site, between Wakefield and Barnsley)

I have always had a bit of a longing for West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire to be re-merged to reform the old West Riding of Yorkshire, which stretched from the Yorkshire Dales, down to Sheffield and Right across to York where it ended. It would mean an end to the ridiculous train fare hikes once you cross the South/West Yorkshire border to a town not 10 miles away. This has helped create a divide, with everything in West Yorkshire being Leeds-orientated and everything in South Yorkshire Sheffield-orientated. This is maybe a personal frustation due to being raised in an area right at the top of South Yorkshire, just a mile from West Yorkshire.

Because this area will always be what I call homeland I never really differientated between South and West Yorkshire. Yet there is certainly a gap in the continuity of human settlements around here, which does seperate the South Yorkshire mining-village-conurbation – which begins in Barnsley, heading down the Dearne Valley to join Rotherham, at which point becoming the Sheffield urban-area – from the West Yorkshire urban-area, which begins with Wakefield, Dewsbury and Huddersfield, just over a series of hills.

Barnsley

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There’s just enough of this gap in continuity to give the town of Barnsley (my nearest town) a more isolated location than the other (former) West Riding towns. Barnsley is a strange place. Defiant, proud, but confused about what it is actually defiant and proud about. It certainly has a sense of self (under of the banner of ‘tarn ‘n’ prard – meaning ‘town and proud’) big enough to match that of the much larger urban settlements around here. And I would argue that what has elavated this sense of self in recent years is that it is relatively more isolated and hasn’t become a suburb of the bigger cities, which is evidentially the case with towns such as Wakefield and Rotherham.

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But I would also argue that it stems from its identification as being the centre of the South Yorkshire Coalfield, possibly with more right to claim the east side of Wakefield, the mining villages within its borough, and the Dearne Valley than the actual townships these mining areas resided in. Despite the pomposity of the size of the construction at the time of its erection, perhaps the reasons for the construction of Barnsley town hall, upon a hill looking across the landscape, were for it be a beacon to all of the mining villages under its far-reaching gaze, like a benevolent Mordor overlooking its coal-ming empire(the clock at the top even looks like an eye). However, since a neoliberal agenda replaced the damaged and scarred physical landscape with a more invisible damaged and scarred mental landscape, the idea of what Barnsley is, and how it is still important has been shaken to the core.

The result of this has been an ever-more defiant sense of self with fewer and fewer decent sources with which to proclaim this sense of self; a culture obsessed with past because no real alternative identity has been found. ‘Professional Yorkshiremen’ such as Dickie Bird and Ian Macmillan have capitalised on this huge sense of self, magnified by the ridicule the rest of country deals the place, to the benefit of their careers, but unfortunately (I would argue – although not to completely slag them off, just that I observe this to be the case) it is to the detriment of the town – because by playing this parody back to the rest of the nation, they give it what it wants, which is beneficial to them no doubt, but unfortunately seems to have helped culturally stunt a borough that contains a quarter of a million people; a place where countless people have thrown energy into trying to help the place develop, but to no avail.

The culture of the area is difficult to build on however because of the lay-out of ex-coal mining areas. Barnsley, the town, probably only has 70,000 residents, but the wider borough (not even including the mining villages which are under town halls all-seeing-eye, but not in the town’s borough) has over 220,000 residents. But this village-after-village layout creates a village-culture that dominates the entire town. A village culture is very damaging to a town centre that still sees itself so central to these 220,00 plus residents. For this reason I did have some sympathy for architect Will Alsop’s idea for the town (not the one about having a giant Halo of light over the town, making it look like the class-clown of the north) to rehouse a greater number of the population within the town centre. True, the reality of this would be massively different, but I liked the idea on the grounds that I wish for something to generate life back here, even although the sell-by date for these Blair-year grand schemes has long passed.

The F.E. students, who populate the centre during term-time give some life to the place, and as much as Barnsley College has shrunken from what it was at the turn of the millennium (largely due to financial difficulties caused by corruption at management level) it still attracts many students from all over South Yorkshire, and parts of West Yorkshire. But they leave. Or merely give up on their dreams (not necessarily careerist ones, but also dreams of a different way of life) and return to their respective village quagmires, leaving an age gulf in the town’s culture; a gap that seems to begin at 18+ and end with 40 year olds. Most young people who don’t give up on their wish for something different, and have the (all important) means to do so, leave Barnsley, usually for Sheffield, but also Leeds, Manchester and London.

There is a new museum opening, and as much as museums are obviously about the past, that past doesn’t seem to have anything now to enhance the future of the place. Especially the romantacising of it. Of course there is plenty of unfinished business; the poverty left from the demise of the coal-mining industry and the police brutality dealt out in the strikes. But the centre of an empire of coal mining it isn’t now, unfortunately.

That centre was moved, perhaps with tactical intentions.

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Meadowhall

As much as Barnsley constructed its large Portland Stone town hall in the 1930’s seeing itself at the centre of the greater Yorkshire coal-mining area, this centre has been moved since the demise of the industry. The centre of South Yorkshire (specifically) is (and has been for 20 years) the Meadowhall Shopping complex.  Sheffield is a city with much to offer, and the only place that can really offer decent (again, what remains of) alternative lifestyles to the one just mentioned in Barnsley, but it is not the centre of South Yorkshire, it is more of an alternative within it; the centre is Meadowhall.

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This consumer paradise/hell on the north-east edge of the city is where all of what remains of the railways in South Yorkshire connect; it’s the hub that brings together all the scattered ex mining villages, and steel towns. It is the nearest connection the railway has with the M1 Motorway, and it is where all the coaches for Sheffield pull up. It certainly takes those villages away from towns like Barnsley, and one could certainly speculate that there were political means behind the locating of such a huge shopping centre here. South Yorkshire was once referred to as the Socialist Republic, as after the war it was the home of strong unions and home to a lot of very socialist-orientated housing schemes. It was surely a statement to the New Capitalism being drilled into us at the time to bury the epicentre of all of what South Yorkshire was under a palace devoted to consumerism/commodities (and just a few years after the defeat of the National Union of Miners in a battle at Orgreave just one motorway junction down from Meadowhall).

If you want to see the dominant culture of South Yorkshire, don’t go to Sheffield go to Meadowhall via the interchange. See the masses leaving the trains to walk the aisles (sometimes not even shopping, just going there because it’s where to meet people), people who have had all meaning ripped from under their feet, not future granted to them, save one of acquiring more and more consumer goods. The sight of all these people flocking here is far sadder than the sight of the characterlessness of such shopping complexes.

Sheffield

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The Majority of people in South Yorkshire don’t even get as far as Sheffield (my 3rd town), one finds the train completely empty for the final leg of the journey on the Hallam Line from Meadowhall to Sheffield.

Sheffield is certainly a far more attractive city centre than Leeds. Although apparently the opposite was true in the 1930’s when George Orwell visited it during the great depression. The centre is certainly my favourite urban area in the old West Riding, and is where I wish to relocate if I get the chance. The hillyness of it, and thus the areas of it unsuitable for development make it a relatively green and attractive city; the train station layout is incredibly attractive, being greeted with pleasant water features and walkways, the opposite of the grey,hustle and bustle outside Leeds station. The city has always seemed to be an important place for street art, and compulsive taggers; I like this, as for me, it almost seems to be an embodiment of the aforementioned unfinished business, and makes me imagine that an alternative to capitalism lies dormant in the rolling hills of South Yorkshire. The Supertram system, as it goes up and down the steep hills, has something really positive about it, just to see it, perhaps it feeds into the potentiality of the city to be something different from the others, looking more like a European city.

The city itself is as big as it’s more money-minded brother Leeds, but the wider urban area dependent on it is quite a bit smaller, and the Meadowhall shopping complex prevents it from having the level of consumerism seen on Leeds’ streets. Which, all in all, is definitely a good thing. Meadowhall largely takes the landscape of shopping bags and legs away from Sheffield, and as much as this has shrunk the city, it has opened up opportunities for the creation of many small independent art/music venues, something Leeds may have, but always seems pushed out of reach by the big money in the centre. Not to say that Sheffield hasn’t got all of these things mentioned here, and that Leeds hasn’t got alternatives to its finance, but they are both far less prominent features.

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But one thing that can easily go unnoticed, unless a concerned local tells you, is that the poorer residents of Sheffield have been by and large turfed out of the centre of the city into estates on the outskirts. One of these estates is Gleadless, which is a peculiar looking low-rise estate. Obviously real thought was originally gone into the layout; the buildings weave in and out of the steep green hillsides, and the views are quite leafy, and apparently architects from all over Europe came to view it when it was completed. But now it is a sad place to be. With exhibiting my work quite often in places in the centre (the city’s receptiveness to artist is one of the reasons I’ve warmed to it more than Leeds, for example) I was picking up something from a house down there one day. I just felt sorry for the residents, and realised that many of them are as abandoned and isolated within this city as people in the deprived mining villages are further out in South Yorkshire.

I will always have some kind adoration for the 1960’s brutalist Park Hill housing development next to the train station (whether is a morbid and more positive fascination, depends on my attitude towards the past and present), and I actually would have liked it if they have kept the other similar ones (Kelvin, and Hyde Park) that were demolished in the 1990’s, because the steep rise of the hills around there makes the buildings look so much more profound. But Park Hill is now nothing but a shell, much like the way that New Labour were nothing but a shell of the old Labour party. The original inhabitants of the then-run down estate were relocated, and then the regeneration company Urban Splash turned them into luxury pads for city workers/Young professionals, going for £95,000 each.

But in many ways the reason I do have more positives to say about Sheffield, is because it always makes me think of what Barnsley could be, and is often in dreams (sleeping dreams not daydreams) what it is (as Sheffield’s proximity to the Peak District, Woodland, and then almost immediately high rise, and factories, has an almost collage-like nature to it, usually found in dreams). One just wishes there was something that connected all these towns up better, and didn’t leave them to be the provincial small-town fortresses they seem to end up wanting to be.

In The City….

The completed ‘In The City…’ piece, and beginning my new work ‘Who Would Want To Listen To This?’IMG_6715 IMG_6714

The Social Media Fat-Face application – a real cultural low point

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So, yet again I find myself in a personal battle to abstain from the technological dictation of communication. Caught in a dilemma, knowing full-well that abstaining from the social networking sites will sever many social contacts but also never ever forgetting the miserable state of mind I sink into whilst scrolling up and down my profile page (although this blog title is assertive the real me sways like a Silver Birch in a strong wind). However, a recent Facebook FAD has reviled me to the extent where I simply didn’t want to have any presence on the site full stop. To many this revulsion may offend, as it is all too clear that most see this application as nothing but harmless fun, but I sense a massive underlying sinisterism.
I am talking about the ‘Fat-Face’ application which allows Facebook members to manipulate photographic images of their faces to see what they would look like if they were considerably more overweight than they actually are. Thus, people post these pictures on their walls, for digi-friends to hoot and howl at how they’d look if they were 7-8 stone heavier. What nobody seems to mention is that, because the program’s manipulations are convincing, it actually makes the enlarged faces look like real people in existence – you know, people who may actually be on facebook, like? friends of yours, like? On Facebook to try to make a better social life for themselves, like?
As a former anorexic I take a severe dislike to this new FAD. Anorexia, you see, is a fear of being fat, in fact it’s more than that – its a terror of being fat. And this kick-starts an obbsessive disorder in a drive to become what society informs us is perfect; ultra-skinny. I wasn’t born seeing fatness as the worst thing possible, it was learnt behaviour which I became fully concious of in my teenage years. To be fat, although it is never stated in such a clear-cut way, is the worst thing to be in this advanced consumer society (the explosion of eating disorders no doubt runs side by side with the beginnings of Neoliberal Capitalism in the early 1980’s).
I never knew until recently that the anorexia-causation-model-Barr-none Kate Moss actually once said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. If one couples this quote with lyrics from pop-culture’s polar-opposite, The Manic Street Preachers “I am Twiggy and I can’t see the horror that surrounds me” (late lyricist Richie Edwards suffered from anorexia) you can easily see how when one is really skinny in a mass consumer society, it basically lets you off the hook – “you’ve no need to feel guilt, shame etc”. To be fat in a mass consumer society is to expected to feel like a nobody, a dis-likable blot on the landscape of desirable’s (even now, when I wake up feeling fat, I feel irredeemably depressed for most of the day).
So, if you then go back and observe the jokes and hoots at the fat versions of people, you can see that it speaks as a mass denunciation and humiliation of overweight people. And I know that most people who have made a fat-face picture of themselves will be offended by this, but I’m not here saying that you intended for it to be an attack on the very overweight. Nevertheless, this is what your collective fat-faced images convey. I’m sorry, but when you’ve studied the societal hounding of physical imperfection for years due to the very fear of being hunted down, this is the conclusion that one arrives at.
During my flitting on a off Facebook during that past 4 years it has, at times, appeared to be more of a Facebully. Its programs, add-ons often encourage users to attack those who society sees as the undesirables, those too ‘ugly’, too unpopular to be able post pictures of themselves on the site – an older application named ‘Compare your friends’ was equally as bad, as visuals appeared documenting the disparity between those who nobody cares for and those who everybody adores.
Obesity is as much a symptom of late-capitalism as anorexia is; the incidences of each rising simultaneously almost in a sadistic compliment of each other as the system’s jaws open wider to unveil the dystopic beast. One of my favorite ever sayings is “it is no measure of good health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society” and when the desirables who light up the aspirations of the population include people like Kate Moss and Pete Doherty this saying becomes ever-more pressing.
If anybody with a Fat-Face App image of themselves on their Facebook account is reading this, try not to dismiss this post as an overblown reaction (I am in fact calmer than usual as I write this). Likewise, don’t dismiss it as an attack on you personally for your decision to use this application. All I’m saying is that the bigger picture of all the Facebook Fat-Faces, amongst the even bigger picture of society’s denunciation of all people without the perfect face and body (and personality, if you want to complete this picture) is one of a mass undetected discrimination. Thus, all I’m asking is for you to find fun and humour amongst yourselves without using this program, as it is a signifier of downward discrimination, which, because it has become a normal thing to do in society, few realise they are partaking in.

Plastic Grass – the denial of living on a fragile planet

After just being shown a ‘top tip’ in a gossip magazine for plastic grass (a despair-in-humanity inducing page, even by gossip mag standards) ironically labeled as a ‘Brainwave’ it has been made clear that, although it is one of the worst examples I have seen, it is just an element of a trend which cannot be simply labelled as ‘for stupid people’: it’s an element of a trend in humanity to flee further from the reality they are facing by bolstering up their denials.

The ‘top tip’ was to have plastic grass in your garden instead of real grass because you don’t have to cut it (unfortunately, however, I do not have access to the original article. This is because all gossip magazine titles, no matter how colourful they are, translate into just one word in my head: shit). To anyone who doesn’t immerse themselves in gossip magazines to the extent where they take this tip on board, this is an utter absurdity which one would only expect to be used by residents of streets where the Christmas lights can be seen 5 miles away, who will all soon be homeless because they can’t pay the electricity bills. But these banal and destructive suggestions have a reason for being: they highlight a human tendency to bolster up their denials of looming problems of environmental destruction by living in a more plasticised and nature-less world. The more plasticised their lives become, the less the natural world interferes, the more real the illusion of unlimited resources – that things can go on for ever like this – becomes.

Of course, let’s not forget that the gossip magazines, perhaps more than any other kind of magazine, are hardwired into the system of consumerism. Although many who read them take them with a pinch of salt, I would say that they appeal to a collective who are almost entirely submerged in consumer culture. But blindly conforming to the tide of society in this way isn’t as clear cut as to say that these people don’t even know about the huge environmental and political problems facing us in this century. It is impossible not to know!, it is impossible not to sense that there is something seriously wrong with the way we live under this system. I just believe that those who are completely submerged in consumer culture are in hyper-denial: where their denial fills in for reality, so that one can carry on building a life and future for themselves in a type of world which is coming to an end.

I am notoriously poor at ‘blotting out’ the bigger picture than others (I am constantly told that this is detrimental to my well-being by people who don’t think about it most of the time, and I’ll be honest in saying that at times I would like to blot it out almost entirely also as, from an outside view, it does look to make life a lot easier to get through. But I am not like that, and all I can attempt to do is to turn it into a strength) But blotting out looming threats is a usual human tendency. A diet of the gossip mags, The X Factor, Vampire trilogies, retail shopping outlets and new cars (oh come one! I don’t think I’m generalising!) blots out the ’empty spaces’ where you’d probably have chance to gasp and think “oh fuck, we are totally screwed!”

This means that as the opportunities to prevent climatic catastrophes from happening fade and fade (and they are fading fast, I am talking about a few years not decades before the affects are irreversible) the need to build the illusion that it isn’t happening expands (although the ability to do this will be more costly, which seems plausible enough as those few with any money at all in the future will likely have it all, as the power of the corporation swells in the global ghetto). Thus, the idea of having plastic grass in ones garden instead of real grass (with real living creatures) becomes a plausible idea in society.
Of course if we all didn’t initially feel so powerless to so something about environmental destruction this farcical scenario would not need to exist. A society founded on togetherness, community and equality would be fit to challenge this problem. Likewise, green movements have to be left-leaning; you can’t bargain with capitalism on sustainability. Not only has capitalism directly caused the collapse of the natural environment it also creates a mental environment of self-centralism which exacerbates a problem at just a mention of the troubles it would bring, as it profiteers on peoples need to escape the truth, either by selling ‘green goods’ which create the illusion that the world can be saved simply by adopting a less toxic consumerism, or by simply by profiteering on a complete denial of our fragile 21st century existence.

The advertisement of Plastic grass to replace your garden’s real grass isn’t just just an indicator of how terrible gossip magazines are, it is an indicator of how terrible the times are.

See No Evil?

Capitalism would be a fascinating spectacle to watch from afar, if I wasn’t living in it. This is why the criticism put upon the system I read in books seems so less harsh than when I re-iterate the same words whilst walkingdown a town centre street: reading it in a book is like reading about a far off world, especially when you’re sat snug in your chosen space for relaxing contemplation. However, as soon as I take a step into the real world I realise that I am partaking in interpassivity: the words I am reading are performing my anti-capitalism for me; so I need not feel shame whilst I sit a chain cafe (so generic that a branch in one city plays the exact same compilation CD, with the pretence of random songs, as a branch in another city 30 miles away) partaking in one of the newer consumer phenomena’s, of drinking in continental-themed cafes. I walk outside. I’ve soaked up my anti-capitalism from the book like the kid who soaks up his thick milkshake in the, now unfashionable, downtown eatery McDonald’s, and now I will calmly put in my earphones and listen to some ‘guilt-free’ non heavy-going 1990’s indie music and wait another day until my discontent grows back like a 5 o’clock shadow from at which point I am ready to do everything the same way again tomorrow.

I couldn’t help thinking about the idea of interpassivity after reading a section about the functional purpose of the Walt Disney Film Wall-E in Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism. The term Interpassivity, named so by Robert Pfaller – who I’ll make no pretence about knowing anything about – has stuck with me more so because it seems to have named the raging-doubts I sometimes have about my morals in relation to my artwork. I have often been really annoyed with myself about why I am so inept in actually tackling concerns, internal and external, whilst continuously reeling out works which confront these concerns, and now it seems likely that I let my creative juices perform my protests, demands, beliefs for me, seen as I do really feel really less troubled by my actions within the real world, after exorcising my major concerns on a piece of paper. Of course, I believe in the necessity of art and in the necessity for me to be making it, but this concern doesn’t cease because the problems around (too large to singularly do anything about, or ones that do appear to be in my grasp) don’t cease either. And it all boils down to a questioning of what is a good person and what is a bad person.

Is a good person someone who is, whilst being loving and caring and generous towards friends and family and all in his/her vision, working for a business that is indirectly contributing to the suffering of many people in far off countries? And this is a crude example as we all have blood on our hands if one takes into account the omni-potent presence the mega corporations have in all our lives. Is what makes him/her bad simply that they are partaking in a life which is causing bones and logs to pile in other parts of the world and know that they are, feel bad about it, but refuse to do anything different and carry on?

If someone has no knowledge of the effects their lifestyle might be contributing to, they see no evil, feel no wrong, surely then they cannot be judged as being a bad person? But when one grows up, sees all the evil, but carries on soaking up the consumer-laden lifestyle they were building and expecting whilst younger and doing nothing to change once they see the destructiveness’ linked to this lifestyle, are they a bad person? Or is it because, despite what anybody might see/be aware of, the brightest lights flashing before our eyes, the loudest voices all seemingly shouting in unison, assure then convince us that living this way is OK “don’t worry about it” ?

Of course, those issuing these ‘re-assuring’ words don’t actually think all is OK. However, we all just keep bolstering the mainstream even if we doubt it severely underneath due to conventional manners in which we communicate with each other (and when someone does “tell it like it is” one is liable to leave their company for the more cosy-speak from others), and we can all partake in interpassivity like I do (At least Fear that I do).

Whether we experience the effects of peak oil, climate extremes or the boot of an increasingly more authoritarian government (which is likely anyway if either of the first 2 occur) the life we are living, the democracies that working peoples have battle hard to win (no matter how mock-democratic they are at present), will be forced to change/contract massively. If we carry on accepting that Capitalism is the only way, and that all we are able to do is to try our best for ourselves and family within its confines, then the majority of us (in the west also) are going to find life very bleak, in comparison with today (even if today is blighted by apathy and anxiety for tomorrow’s world), perhaps as bleak as it was for our great grandparents and their parents, grandparents.

Just listening to stories about my own grandparents’ struggles in pre-welfare Britain cannot help but make me massively concerned, and half expectant of struggles of an equal measure for own generation’s children’s’ future’s, especially as massive slashes to public spending, and the ideological extremity of capitalist thinking appear to have won over as the choice of method to get the machine running again to deliver the world out of this current global recession.
Yet, as much as I know that a new way of living is needed, and needed fast (a new way which can probably only start from grass-roots upwards), I do very little to get involved, in trying to begin this about. I feel meekly unnerved when I see protests from pressure groups in the street, not because I don’t agree with them, but that them being there simply confirms the reality of my concern, and my instinct is to flee the vicinity. As much as my domestication’s, habits etc, cause me profound discontent and worry, a mixture of sources have installed so much fear into me that I feel – what Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism called – reflexive impotence, and all thought becomes negative from which the only outlet for it is more art, or the kind of rant I am making here; more drawings and writings which few will see, and fewer still will be seriously moved by.
Yet the last thing I would want to do here is spread apathy. I wish, eventually, to be partaking in some form in a movement which can show people that capitalism isn’t the only way, and that a change doesn’t have to be a change to something worse.

The Tide of Society – Virtual exhibition tour

The Tide Of Society (2010)

The Tide of Society

The Tide of Society is an exhibition of works central to the battle to retain a sense of true self amidst the mental bombardment from mass persuasion and systematically imposed duties. Trying to swim upstream is the only option for one who is subjected to this, if they wish to retain a true sense of self.

Although I created some ideas and imagery based around a tide of society whilst I was still a student, the majority of these ideas have been prompted by an unavoidable (due to position) 9-5 working life undertaken afterwards. The looming domestications, brought on by these duties and expectations of one, team up with the (already present) pressures of living in a consumer society. Indeed, for the first time I am beginning to understand my subjection to both ends of Capitalism: pushed into a job to become a wage slave, and pushed into the shopping aisles to become a participative consumer (“amusement under late capitalism is the prolongation of work” – The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception). Work and leisure time, alike, are confronted with the fact that “it’s much easier if you don’t think about these things too much” and so comes the lure to consent and conform to all that seems to be being suggested to you.

But where is this tide dragging society towards anyway? The ultimate compulsion within my work is to link every issue tackled to an ultimate concern: that of our predicament upon this planet in the 21st century. This fear has always engulfed and incorporated all other fears. We are pressured to increasingly consume more on a planet of drying-up resources; pressured into seeing that continuous growth is “the only way” on a planet which cannot afford our species much more growth; and then we are pressured to live our lives through digital devices, prompting ever-more isolation, hence more need to satiate ourselves via consumer outlets, whilst also becoming more separated from the ‘terra firma’ on which we depend.

The list of ways in which the tide of society is flowing to a place from which the earth can longer give us what we require goes on and on. This exhibition is mesh of global, social, and personal concerns, as we leave the first decade of the 21st century behind us: a fear of a possible ‘shared downfall’ of my own life, humanity and nature.

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TV TALK
(see also – http://johnledgertvtalk.blogspot.com/)

The isolated human figures with television boxes over their heads are named TV talks. They document moments when I have reiterated society’s directions/persuasions as pure reaction (my own TV Talk moments). I’ve used them to depict lonely, entrapped figures, eternally subjected to an indifferent larger power’s directions and diversions, rendering them into walking televisions sets: the self has been compromised for the rhetoric pushed along by the tide of society. They utter the social anxieties of a people reared to be self-obsessed and ‘bleakly’ individual; indifferent, and too self-concerned to pay attention to the collapsing world around them.

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The Sprawl

The Sprawl is incorporated around the shape of half of my bedroom, colonising all workable surfaces in the manner of the ever-expanding city. It is an expression of a how the city has become one giant super organism (although separate and hazardous towards the Earth’s working life systems). To realise that we (humans) have become like termites – economic slaves, acting for the benefit of this super organism, which is a completely unnatural way for humans to exist – is a necessity when one is finding modern life stressful and pointless, yet cannot figure out why.

The Sprawl is closely related to my obsession with maps. I have always been transfixed by the urban environment, perhaps down to an unwanted feeling of detachment from the rest of the human race. I am also transfixed by dates, the importance of dates which have shaped my perception of what is going on around me, and also the melancholy musing over what we are always losing as time passes. It seems highly probable that we will all become embedded in sprawling mega-cities, and amidst the life it dictates, as urban areas continue to expand.

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 the sprawl

THE HEALING PROCESS

These mounds have an unwanted and heavy presence, and even slightly obscure my drawings. The sculptures are piles of man-made rubbish, the guilt of an artist in a consumer climate that is piling up to obscure the things he feels most proud of (his framed drawings). The fossil-like traces of man-made objects are like the traces of a species now extinct. I realised the mounds took on an almost pyramid shape and they started to look like monuments to a species that had died out. They have both a positive and a negative suggestion: the positive being the individual appeasement I find from using at least some of the junk material made by the society I am bound up in, and the negative being the extinction of our species and natures resilience in regaining a ‘firm-footing’, leaving only traces of our species, which no other species can even acknowledge.

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A FINAL ACCEPTANCE

The implications of living in such a commercially driven society are that one’s personality is chopped, diced, and edited, until it is able to fit in to the slots created by a society that has become more and more homogeneous as commerce prospers in a global community, where the means to distribute information are owned by so few: the pressures to conform to a whole manner of conventions are immense. My capacity for developing, re-learning and growing is massively constricted as the domestication into a system-friendly, ‘able and flexible’ adult, takes up more of the free mental spaces which allow my development as a human. The intensity caused by trying to resist a barrage of pressures causes a mental debilitation, which ‘hammers one down’ weakening them into submission. A final acceptance, in order to stem mental debilitation, seems like the safest option.

(8x4FT, Mixed media on board)

A Final Acceptance

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Title names:

A Final Acceptance: mixed media (2010)

TV Talk: biro and cable (2010)

The Tide of Society: book (2010)

Central Bombardment: biro on paper (2009)

The Sprawl: biro on paper (2008)

The Healing Process: mixed media (2008)

This Hole Cannot Be Filled in a Car-Park overspill: biro on paper (2008)

Tomorrow I will do the same as I did today: biro on paper (2008)

The hole in my stomach is making the hole in the sky: mixed media (2008)

exhibition details as follows:

August 23 at 10:00am – September 19 at 4:00pm

  Four Thirty Three

Thanks to anyone who has been down to the show, or is planning on going.

The book I made which accompanied this show can be previewed here

We Are Watching Ourselves Sink

We are watching ourselves sink (2009)

Biro on Paper, 110X80cm

 

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