Desperation witnessed on a Facebook wall and desperation on the railway lines, on our endless commutes – going nowhere
“Out of my way, it’s a busy day, and I’ve got things on my mind” Us And Them, Pink Floyd
Whilst in London in December, I was told by two different people of their witnessing/second hand witnessing of a suicide on the tube tracks or the aftermath of one (blood stains on the sides of the tunnel were visible from the windows of a tube train carriage). I would find witnessing such a thing unbelievably difficult to deal with (as I suspect they did); in the space of one week I experienced 2 delays to train journeys in the Yorkshire area due to there being ‘a fatality on the line/somebody being hit by a train’ (as said by the automated tannoy voice) and the mere news of this left me with such an empty and despairing feeling that I had to go for a drink to become a little more numb, to stop me thinking “there’s certainly an increase on these occurrences”. I find stories of suicides on train tracks more awful than suicides committed in bedrooms, alleyways or woodlands; there is something about them that states that they will happen again and again, and nothing will be done.
A couple of days ago I got a text from a Friend who lives in London, expressing discontent with commuter behaviour on the tube. He said “these rush hour commuters are like those in cars. Cars being the embodiment of Thatcherite individualism and selfishness” and that “everybody looks away if you look at them, so no eye contact with people”. The way we collectively use public transport (although much more beneficial to society than using a car) reflects the Thatcherite rhetoric of there is ‘no such thing as society’ just in the same way as the increasing usage of the car has done in the past 30 years. This friend was one of the 2 friends who told me about a suicide they witnessed on the tube. He sent that text one day after the M1 motorway was closed near to where I live, causing traffic congestion on the nearby road, due an individual threatening to throw themselves off one of the bridges over the motorway. Also, it was on the same day that I came across a Facebook post that expressed acute desperation.
The fulfillment of the ‘no such thing as society’ rhetoric means that we are atomised and forced into a selfish bubble-like existence even when we are out of our cars and our sleeping/eating cells (the physical bubbles); our jobs (that creep into every aspect of our lives via email/cell phone) make for perpetual financial strain, which puts strain on relationships, and becomes all consuming, and couple this with the effect that the sheer bulk of advertising we absorb (thus, the status anxiety it causes) has on us, living in a neoliberal (free market) economy; and we (to use a quote from Mark Fishers’ Capitalist Realism) “wall ourselves up against The Social” by putting our Ipod/Mp3 players on to soothe ourselves with musical sugary stimulus – we feel we need it to keep our mood levels up. But when capitalism’s so-called ‘accidents’ actually reinforce its legitimacy, as recession pushes the pitch-fork of financial anxiety further into our backsides (thus, forcing us to be even more selfish and competitive) what can we do but become more self-orientated, perpetuating the problem?
When trying to escape The Social all the time, a suicide, or the threat of a suicide, is both too bleak to contemplate and also a massive inconvenience to us (due to the delays it brings to our ‘daily races’). And the wish not to dwell on it, to just get on with focusing on our own journey through this world, engenders the inconvenience that the delays these incidents become, which engenders a selfishness in all of us, which in turn, engenders a society of more atomised people where, because this is a positive feedback loop of affect and causation, means increasing numbers of people will become alienated, depressed and will attempt/commit suicide.
I suppose the aforementioned greater bleakness of killing oneself in such a way relates to my own past experiences when I can remember feeling low enough to be contemplating committing this ultimate gesture (although not involving railway lines, personally): knowing nobody has the time to even give it a thought, and that your death will be brushed under the carpet, out of mind out of sight, like the train wheels would do to your body, because it’s also too inconvenient to dwell on, being in a society where we are informed to ‘forget’ about these external incidents, as we should try to get on with our own lives, making sure we don’t become the next person ready to throw ourselves under moving vehicles. This attitude, which we all ascribe to, or try to (because it is the most convenient attitude to have in a society where mental illness has been individualised, thus separated from its socio-political causation’s) is what ensures that it will keep happening again; it ensures the perpetuation of alienation; the perpetuation of this ‘no such thing as society’ where we all feel that we have no choice but to look out for number 1, with the cost being that we may one day be this person jumping in front of a train/threatening to jump from a motorway bridge.
“So” you think “Is this what happens? People just look the other way, put in their headphones, and occupy their mind with filling out that Job application, for a job they are unlikely to get because 100 other people have applied for that very post? And hope that they never reach such a lowly stage themselves?” You can hear us all muttering the lyrics from Us And Them by Pink Floyd again; “down and out, it can’t be helped that there’s a lot of it about”.
You get home. Try to forget the thoughts that the bleak tannoy announcements conjured up, and if you can’t you can always see if anyone wants to join you for a little bit of alcoholic anesthetizing in town. But you do that too much, and although it feels to be leading somewhere at the time, it’s the same every time. The thing is it feels like an arrival, or at least the finishing off of something, a conclusion to an otherwise empty day that feels incomplete and unfulfilled. You miss the drink for today, but still need to feel secure, heard; that you’re building something that will make you safe from ever being ‘down and out’; pathways towards arriving. The seemingly easiest way to contact people now is via the Internet, so that’s what you attempt.
But as soon as you log into the place where everybody goes (Facebook) you feel like you are going nowhere again; nobody seems to be hearing what you say; it feels like you’ve only just set off on a tiresome journey, after only just finishing one in the physical world; you just can’t land. So you shout louder, AND LOUDER! Listen to me!!, just me!! Oh dear.
And so the attitude we share as commuters is continued in both the reason why social networking sites have become so popular, and in the way we collectively use them. One will occasionally stumble across Facebook wall posts an individual has put up, saying how desperately unhappy and lonely he/she is, worded in a way that suggests that he/she is contemplating attempting suicide. Regardless of whether the suggestion of doing so is false, or is just a cry for help (which, should be seen as just that, and not attention seeking; people don’t make up depression, it is endemic in our society), how do we react to this? I’d argue in the same way as we react to the situation of a man threatening to throw himself from a bridge onto a road we desire to travel on/the same way as we’d react if a dead body was blocking our rail journey: although empathy is lacking in such a society, we still do all possess enough to feel some short burst of sadness for the person in question, but the feeling is overwhelmed by our anxieties about our own life. We are so self-orientated, so overly concerned about getting from our A to B (our intentions/goals/needs from facebook) that it becomes much more of an inconvenience. More than that, it reveals the uncomfortable truths about our fragility that we are constantly having to run from.
But can we ever arrive, in a sense, if this journey perpetually never ends, when social networking sites and cell phones extend this endless commute into our houses, the one place where we are supposed to have arrived at? We commute on the net like we commute in our endless physical races in the heat of the day; trying to push ourselves forward, but going nowhere, going nowhere
The fast lane, high speed rail, high speed broadband, but never actually arriving (“Perhaps we should resolve Britain’s railway network into a single orbital system, so that we can all remain in constant circulation. Then we’ll know we’re getting somewhere.” this cutting and humorous observation about the high speed rail plans by George Monbiot in Fast Train to Nowhere, May 17 2010, seems to touch upon the whole of the eternal commute.)
“You only actually arrive when you switch it off”, a friend said to me yesterday, regarding the effect of trying to find meaning through communication on Facebook. But he also acknowledged how hard it is to do so, because of how it persuades you that the opposite is true. Social networking sites are forced communication-as-self-promotion, forced Yuppiedom, passed off as choice, just as commuting longer and longer distances to work, which was forced onto us by social restructuring, and a deliberate shifting of capital, was passed off as an individuals freedom to work wherever he/she may choose; both do the opposite of what they promote; they create an environment of self-preservation at all costs and selfishness as necessity, as if we were still fighting for food in the wild. If this isn’t further evidence that systemic alterations engender how technology advances, and how it is used by people, then I don’t know what is.
Facebook is awful, but it is not an anomaly, or even a massive societal shift; it is a logical extension of the culture that has been created. Which is why, when you’re thinking clearly enough (and not excited by the prospect of lots of little red numbers appearing in the top left corner of your profile page) it is the saddest of thoughts that tonight the only way you will attempt to talk to people is through it, because nobody will be really listening to you, because they need to be listened to. self-promotion lapses into self-preservation every time. But some people, in the physical and virtual world, cannot survive this world-made-cold.
Globalsapiens: an introduction to Parallel Paranoia, Humans In Cages and Silently Chained – the respective alternate names for artistic collective Mikk Murray, John Ledger and Jade Morris. Each artist has, at some point in life, stumbled across these titles and found them poetically fitting descriptions of their own predicament as young adults in the 21st century: tied to lifestyles that they know are destructive to the planet and most often self-destructive; struggling forwards from this, trying to find cracks in a hegemonic social landscape that drags humans toward an ultimate battle with nature that we are certain to lose.
Thus this show cannot be a means to an end for Globalsapiens: it has to be the start not the end; one of many ‘atoms for peace’, clustering together, always growing never standing still, until their shout is big enough to make one final stand against a world ruled by money. This exhibition aims to resonate with all those who care but feel trapped and helpless to make a change, and possibly then inspire them to believe that they need not feel trapped and helpless.
As a society, our actions, our expressions, our reactions, all show signs that we are aware of living in end times. Make no bones about it; no matter how much we talk about getting married, getting a house, settling down, we reek of a dying civilisation.
This exhaustion of everything in our merry-go-round swap between being the exploiter to the exploited has to end. Nobody can predict what ‘end’ we can expect, but we can guess what the prolongation of this current manmade nightmare will lead to. But we can also guess and hope; to hope that “surely this can’t be the end of the human story just yet…!” Grim resignation is dangerous; hope generates possibilities – but hope is sometimes hard for one to maintain.
Globalsapiens are artist’s who are desperately trying to find a way forward into a future worth living in. Our instinct is to express – we may not be the most pragmatic/practical people, but our contribution is a desperate attempt to realise a new way of living for the sake of the human race (sound self righteous? No: all species battle to maintain their existence). The time is right. Artists have no future in this old world, they must end their post idealist malaise/capitulation to the business mentality and join the cause to act now to make a future worth living in.
We felt aligned by a feeling that our artwork seems too driven, and too realmerely to be for exhibitions only – which often seem to just castrate it and make it nothing but mere consumer spectacle. This is a pressing concern that is played out within the show: we know that this is all our works may be, but we are still often driven by a powerful dream-boat of blind optimism that refers to the opposite, and seems to be generated by the ideological coding of the very system we are trying to help unwire. We want to help pave a way out of this bleak place our species (and the planet it has dragged down with it) has stumbled into, but we too often get too trapped in our minds to be/or do anything but what the system would happily have us be/doing – what keeps it thriving off human day-dreams and desires.
Nobody is in any place to preach. To resonate with others to generate in others. To alienate is to disintegrate. Let’s take the No Them, Only Us belief seriously again.
Human beings offer fundamentally special qualities to life on planet earth, and wherever else life may flourish. However, we are not better than the rest of life; if we were better we wouldn’t need it; but strip the life away from under our feet and we’d be dead before you could say the words ‘Easter Island’. Nevertheless, this is what out species is currently doing. But to say that we are a species of existential contradictions is to give up without even trying, and to let the idea of perpetual profiteering drag our eyes to the grey floor, where we watch our feet take one step at a time, in a potentially lethal small-world view. This exhibition wishes to contribute to the voices of reason in this time of collective insanity.
Inside Humans In Cages’ isolated cell
“Humans In Cages is feeling a little trapped, and without a vision of the future at present.”“The weekly ASDA shop likes this”
“The capitalist system still advances across the face of the planet, destroying the world that we depend on to survive, and pressing the boot further and further into our faces, as freedom/democracy become obstacles stood in the way which must also be destroyed. But here I languish; informed but passive; not knowing which foot to put in front of the other; so letting faint hopes of something better do the walking for me.
Here in my cell there will constantly remain the doubt that my artworks/artist shows may end up as nothing more than self-profiling within the capitalist dictatorship of individualism; the fetishisation of the self in the forced-competition of status advancement, based on the ultimatum of prosperity and a terror of failure. Thus, everything I have done within my isolated little world sometimes feels so counterproductive: that the truth may be that I am simply bolstering the realism of a system my work fundamentally opposes in its messages, by seeking recognition, and respect from it, for my individual endeavours.
I’ll do my best, but it’s hard trying to stop an exhibition become a means to an end from whereworking towards one final goal, (as anyone who as put on a major show will resonate with) leads to anti-climax, depression and a defeated-slump straight back into the realism of capitalism – to start right back at the beginning, but with less time than before.”
Achieving And Getting Things Done (installation)
Inside Silently Chained’s isolated cell
They all smiled gingerly and meekly.
Had they simply forgotten, or had they never known anyway? I guess it is neither.
They’re neither alive nor gone.
Not until the hour of the moon crosses the path of the sun.
Then they will know, and they will realise, what they had known all along.
But for now, it is too late. Too late. Too late?
Inside Parallel Paranoia’s isolated cell
This painting (above) is from a series of works called Where have all the bees gone? Where a parallel universe was created to highlight the importance of bees to the ecosystem and our food supply. Without the bees that pollinate roughly a third of our food crops there would be less food around. The chain reaction could be devastating to the human race and all life on Earth. The disappearance and death of bees or Colony Collapse Dissorder (CCD) as it is somethimes known is puzzling scientists and researchers still with mites and pesticides being the main concerns.
In the parallel universe the bees have been lured into a lab by a mad scientist and experiments have taken place. For some reason the scientist becomes psychically connect to the bees and finds they will do as he wishes. The scientist sets about creating his own Utopian vision. Using the soldier bees to hold the planet under siege and turn things around. Food, shelter and equality for all. Harmony with all living creatures and the landscape the ultimate goal. Organic produce, waste reduction, ocean cleanups, knowledge and wisdom passed on to all. The trouble was the scientist did such a great job that he became some sort of a celebrity. A leader and ultimately was devoured by power and greed. Alan is a dog and he spends most of his time walking around in his horse suit. Alan is the mad scientist’s best friend. The horse suit is an extension of Alan and his status/power and also the scientist’s eccentricity. The portrait of Alan was painted by Mikk for the Scientist in 2027. “I didn’t have a choice!” he said.
Many of our endeavours are maintained by reliance on oil. Many of our endeavours are purely narcissistic – taught by the system to be so. Reflecting on this can sometimes make one see their own ‘achievements’ in a very different light. And is it really that precious? (this piece was once used in a Seawhite Of Brighton arts suppliers brochure, not black gooey paint, with a look of oil about it, drips down it).
Parallel Paranioa is in the process of filling up a paddling pool with needless consumer plastic waste. In another water filled area (The Pacific Ocean) a floating island of plastic trash twice the size of Texas is currently existing.
Pandemic-Sheffield! Plague breaks out!!!
Note from self outside the cell to self inside the cell…
In the summer of 1944 delegates from 44 countries met in the midst of World War 2 to reshape the world’s financial system. The location of the meeting – in rural Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, USA – was designed to ensure that the delegates would have no distractions, and no pressure from lobbyists or congressmen, as they worked on their plans for post-war reconstruction. The New Hampshire Bretton Woods is part of a land grant made in 1772 by royal governor John Wentworth, which he named after his ancestral home (West) Bretton, in Yorkshire, England.
In the summer of 2011, Globalsapiens met in the midst of a global meltdown (financially, environmentally and socially) to throw around their own ideas of making a better world, with changes being needed now more than ever – A HUGE ALTERATION IS NEEDED. The location of the meeting – In rural Bretton woods in West Bretton, Yorkshire, England – is a symbolic gesture: the USA Bretton woods conference reshaped the world after the war, to prevent the problems (financial crisis’s for example) which led to the war; shaping the world for the past 60+ years, and beginning global capitalism as we know it today.
We need a Bretton woods conference now! Not to reinstate capitalism but to figure out how we can move beyond it. The sources of power whom we would usually assign these tasks to have gone insane; a systemic press-ganging on anything which tries to halt the forces of big business – which leaves this conference to people assumed-powerless like us (Globalsapiens). In this mock-version of an all-important conference, we will speak about, and demand a better world; suggesting, through the thoughts and words they never speak, both what these all-important meetings should really be about, and also emphasising what is more important; assigning the decision making to the assumed-powerless.
Watching the 1980’s film Threads generated a strikingly similar shock and awe affect on me as witnessing the 9/11 televised events did, at the beginning of this decade. I have only just managed to confirm this in my head whilst in the middle of reading Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, realising what shock and awe do to the seeming stability and security of everything we see around us.
The reaction I had to Threads had in no way the kind of affect on me as witnessing the televised 9/11 events did in my late teens, as this spectacle completely shattered all that I had grown up knowing to be stable and ‘true’. Although in the following 8 years I have learned a lot more about why this happened, and why the changes in society which followed were allowed to happen, this can in no way undermine the impact it had on me and the way in which I would go on to see life.
However, the manner in which I responded to both Threads and the events of 9/11 did have remarkable similarities. I felt disorientated by what I had seen. It was like a thorn had been pushed into my mind, making me compelled to insert the subject into every conversation I had (which wasn’t many in my shy late-teen state), in the hope that someone or something might put an anchor down to calm my disorientation.
If anybody hasn’t seen Threads I am still eager to try and describe it. The film is set in early 1980’s Sheffield, less than 20 miles from where I live. It was produced in a period of history when the Cold War was still at its height. But in this film the Cold War escalates in hot war. Sheffield is a prime target because of its steel industry, the then nearby airbase at Doncaster, and the fact that it is situated in the very centre of the UK. The Soviets (The capitalist West’s enemy in the Cold War) wait until the American President is most likely to be getting some sleep, which is noon time in the UK, to drop Nuclear bombs on the nearest target – The UK.
Two bombs are dropped on Sheffield, with the terrifying scene of utter panic on The Moor (a shopping street I am very familiar with) resulting in the strangely uncomfortably-realist scene of a woman pissing herself as she looks up at a mushroom cloud rising above the city – I would describe this scene (although fictional) similar in its shock and awe factor to the very real TV footage of a man jumping from one of the burning World Trade Centre towers on September 11 2001. It’s close-to-home nature certainly made it more frightening; South Yorkshire accents screaming at the sight of the mushroom cloud is chilling to say the least.
The film then shows the utterly catastrophic outcome of the nuclear destruction, as society and law and order collapse in the most grimly-imagined way; over-time reducing the UK to a land of less than 11 million people, more like dark ages Britain than today’s. It is a truly shocking film – whether it is of any benefit to be seen is another story. Bringing the message home in this manner certainly gets the point across.
Of course, ‘bringing the message home’ is precisely what 9/11 did. the effects (as explained in The Shock Doctrine), although vastly exaggerated by Western governments and the media for their own gain, sent a message to every seemingly comfortable western nation saying ‘you aren’t safe – there are people who want to destroy you, your families and the places where you live’ (I remember that, around the time of immediate aftermath, my dad talked of a recurring dream a tankers full of explosives being driven into buildings in an unknown city centre).
Of course, this message was used by our government to eventually increase the amount of control the corporate state had over citizens, i.e more CCTV cameras, more security paranoia etc. We inhabitants of the post 9/11 world we forced to accept greater state interference and further restrictions to our liberties as a compromise against the perceived greater threat of ‘you’ or ‘your loved ones’ being killed by terrorism.
9/11 certainly shattered so many of my foundations at the beginning of this decade – it certainly erased my childhood sentiments. I was only 17 at the time. This event would eventually prove to profoundly shape the person I have become. Now, as the decade comes to an end, and these earlier events have helped make me who I am, I feel that everything is beginning to come full circle, as I come to realise that the disaster capitalists (Milton Friedman for example) wanted these feelings of disorientation to happen to people like myself. Along with other events in my life I have slowly begun to realise who/what has done the most damage to my person.