Tag Archive | Fredric Jameson

2014 mapmaking (part 6)

This is the 6th post in a series that I still call psychogeographical maps (or cognitive mapping). Quoting certain sections and using a selection of photographs to widen the project, which at its core still has the intention to be a Cognitive Mapping of Now – aiming to be useful for locating the current socio-political mood, and the psychological impacts of it.

The 1st post can be found here.

The 2nd here

The 3rd here

The 4th here

The 5th here

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.

29 October 2014

“Perhaps due to lack of significant change in my [cassette] walkman-cum-CD-walkman-cum-mp3 player-cum Ipod, it still often occurs that music specific to certain haunts replays itself when I return to the haunts. Looking towards the landscape break [between] the rolling hills of Barnsley and the barren-Pennine hills, I remember how this landscape break functioned as an analogy for a break off occurring in my life, when I frequented this route, often by pushbike, aged 18. The song evoking this powerful feeling of [seemingly uncalled-for] loss is ‘Politik’ by Coldplay (one of the only tracks I hold dear by a band I largely associate as the main audio backdrop to [the] socially-cleansed ‘Bland Britain’ [that the 2000’s became].) Looking up at the green hills towards the (seemingly) always broody enclosure of Penistone, the song gives me a gut-wrenching feeling that I feel powerless to finally put to bed now. It is the break off of one reality to the general reality I occupy now. I see my 18 year old self with a sense of innocence, not really understanding where exactly he was leading his thoughts to the rest of this young adulthood.”

“Looking over to Burngreave’s cluster of row-rise flats that cover the sharp, hilly, incline. Remember being surprised to find out that there was once a large estate [Woodside], including tower blocks, just over the other side of this small hill, but is now long-gone. Although the flats may have fallen into decline, as a South Yorkshire resident I get a sense of deep injustice over the de-metropolising and de-futurising of Sheffield, inflicted on it from Thatcher onwards.”

115. 29.10.2014 116 117 118“Young man, clearly homeless, sits outside the Division Street Sainsbury’s [store], on an evening where the temperature has noticeably dropped. Perhaps because I’m a little more beaten by things today, I haven’t got my ‘rat-race’ [need-to-get-things-done] mentality’ on, I feel genuine empathy for him – something I think we [generally] do our utmost to avoid [doing]. But I can’t avoid [doing so] because he has a relatively similar physical appearance to me, which makes the prospect of homelessness far more imaginable.”

119 29.10.20141 120 121

30 October 2014

“Hill feels harder to climb today. Possibly due to the many headlights from cars, continuously blinding me and making it feel like a sensory bombardment. Look back over the M1 motorway – just a constant flow of lights, like little digits moving up to make one big picture. This predicament is not freedom .”

“Young [woman] stands in the middle of the generally depopulated (post 6pm) town centre with a charity bucket – the name of which I am unsure. I hear a male voice speaking to her, as a walk past [and onwards], in a strong working class London accent, saying “your security is also my priority, darling”. Something just doesn’t look right about it [all]. It seems like heresy to suggest that a charity [may be] dodgy, but it certainly strikes me as being this way. After all, surely in an age where everybody [is having to] scramble for every last penny. surely someone’s going to try it?”

122. 30.10.2014 123 (1) 12431 October and 1 November 2014

“Initially strange sight as we pass the Vets for Pets [business] on Wilthorpe Road. One of those times when what you think is a group of people playing about, turns out to be a couple of teenage males taunting a lone individual. This individual looks in a state, to say the least; wrecked by life, to be appropriate. Hooded and hunched, he swings his shopping bags in a furious yet drunken manner at these two teenage males, who are clearly taking delight in mocking this ‘weaker’ subject. It’s ‘lols’ all round for them. This incident brings us onto the awfulness of bullying in general. It also brings us onto the issue of Jeremy Clarkson, a popular figure who applauds [the] ridicule of those [he deems] ‘weaker’ than him.”

1253 November 2014

“Deep black heaps of coal lay in large car-park at The Old Post Office pub (next to motorway junction). The coal is being loaded onto large lorries. I think about how in our so-called ‘post-industrial’ times, we easily forget [due to its disappearance – at least in raw form – from our immediate horizons] that such [resources] still fuel the world we inhabit.”

“Walking under viaduct. orange bleaching by night lights. Craving for permanent urban meandering, free of hunger, expectation, responsibility …tomorrow morning.”

126 127 128 1294 November 2014

” Windy lane next to ‘traditional’ Yorkshire scenes. I know that part of the reason I walk so fast is to, at least momentarily, con myself over my growing sense of immobility.”

“After miles of walking through clearly definable landscape I am finally upon an interspace container – a city to city train. Feel at ease, don’t even care if I look worn and ragged to the commuters that surround. I’ve exhausted the need for worry, care – just a human drone, in awe of the bright lights in the train as I stare up. And why shouldn’t I be? Sometimes I [crave] to be in these interspaces.

130 131 132  133134

“As soon as I get into the city I notice individuals carrying rucksacks, who [certainly look to be] ‘of no fixed-abode’. You can’t hide it [no matter how hard you try]. [because] the smartly-dressed office workers who pass them by are visibly not condemned to where those clothes all the time. [Such a predicament clings to you].”

“Walking down Bond Street. Odd layout. Hoardings, barring entrance to something, and bakeries and a [small] bus station that look ill-placed now that the 9-5 stage of Leeds day is over. Something feels missing in a much wider sense though; a real sense of an absence of something.”

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The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash) – Art Video


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/195082910″>The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user60125733″>John Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

This video work takes my previous video-work The West Riding of Yorkshire: A Psychogeographical Account and makes it more concise whilst taking certain aspects of the video further.

Using (overly) familiar places, components in an eclectic and discontinuous urban area spanning the old West Riding county.

Using this landscape to examine near pasts, lost futures and dead dreams to understand the wider contemporary social condition.

The work focus’s on two lost futures and the un-locatable present, the condition of the which is largely caused by the loss of the previous, and their haunting presence. The first lost future is that of popular modernism, which died in the latter quarter of the 20th century. The second lost future being the naively optimistic early to mid 1990’s, and its utopianist gaze at the (then) coming new millennium. The un-locatable present, here refers to a specific intensification of life under digital capitalism, looking at the severe disorientation of the passing of time since the 2008 financial crisis.

The video-work and wider, ongoing project has been inspired by the beautifully calm,yet highly politicised films of Patrick Keiller; Mark Fisher’s writings on Hauntology, and Fredric Jameson’s essay on Cognitive mapping. They have also be inspired by my own feelings of loss of narrative and of being out of time, amidst a feverishly neoliberal reality. Indeed the growing weight of this sense of being ‘out of time’ is what differs the original West Riding-based video-work with The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crime).

The title of this video refers to an iconic ‘blip’ on the skyline of Barnsley town centre: a building that was abandoned half-way through completion due to the 2008 financial crash, as if the constructors had simply been zapped out of existence, and now exists as a ghost ship upon the inner ring road – haunting us with faded the utopianism of the 1989-2008 exuberant new capitalism. But the title refers to the entire subject of the film; that of a sense of a future that has vanished, leaving an empty shell of itself.

Dead dreams

At Home with Utopia

“I’ve seen what people are capable of when they’re in desperate situations. Are we really so far from that point already?” – Philip Carvel, Utopia, episode 6

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I won’t dispute that the recent second series of Channel 4’s Utopia ( Dennis Kelly) was gripping. Nor will I dispute the fact that what made it more gripping was its use of overly homely locations around Barnsley and Wakefield in the final episode – fusing two of my obsessive pre-occupations: place, and our collective future in this century (the crucial issue within the drama). After all, I have a clear memory of reading Slavoj Žižek’s Living in The End Times in the very of bus aisle used for the beginning scene of the final episode.

Yet, Žižek’s approach to ‘the end times’ is in itself a critique of a cultural infliction that I argue is critically played out in Utopia’s ‘end times’. Žižek’s book deals with the civilisational dead end we have found ourselves at. That although a capitalist reality can only deepen the problems we face in the 21st century, we are incapable thus far of imagining an alternative reality. He, like many other take heed, and deepen the assertion from the famous quote made by theorist Fredric Jameson that “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is the end of capitalism”. A cultural infliction that theorist Mark Fisher calls ‘capitalist realism‘ prevents a civilisation from imagining a way out of the mess it has found itself in.

s2e6-terrence

Utopia’s artful web of conspiracy ideas, all set up within the drama to enable a secret sterilizing-causing-vaccine called Janus to greatly reduce the human population, is greatly imaginative within the narrow realms of what is currently imaginable, but it goes no further. Whereas a film such as The Children of Men (set in the aftermath of mass sterilisation) dealt with the fallout of the inability to overcome a dead end, Utopia provides only capitalist realist solutions to it. Nowhere within the drama’s message is there room for contemplation that a more equal distribution of resources, and a more democratically planned growing and using of foods and fuels could perhaps be a solution, because this is far harder to imagine ever happening than the end of the world. Thus, the only option in such a reality is to greatly reduce the population.

BudrXjJCYAEyGsM.jpg large(Wakefield’s Hepworth gallery, one nearby location used in Utopia)

The remark I expect to get of “can’t you just see it as a form of entertainment?” isn’t satisfactory when the subject of a drama deals with very real and imminent threats to our survival as a species. You come away thinking that there’s no alternative to a mass sterilising or culling of our species. This ‘no alternative’ can’t be of said apocalyptic dramas from the past. For example, Threads: with the terrifyingly real depiction of a nuclear holocaust set in nearby (to me) Sheffield, it was never a foregone conclusion – there was always an underlying message of “we don’t have to let this happen”.

Utopia graphically shows to us what we already know is unfolding around the world due to the fucked-up-ness unravelling from being psychologically-trapped in a reality of exploitation at all costs: psychotic violence, by state and by individual to reach the only ends given. Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi said  “If capitalism is to go on in the history of mankind, then the history of mankind must become the place of total violence, because only the violence of competition can decide the value of time”  and aren’t we seeing such measures being exerted in both non-physical and physical ways to reach these ends/means? When another gruesome act occurs in Utopia, although it shocks us and gets the blood racing, isn’t it what we kind of expected to happen anyway though? That in our narrow Real that’s the only extreme-result we can imagine?

Utopia was a great series, but due to its ‘capitalist realism’ it gives us a deadly solution to the threat to survival we all try to forget about (hoping it will go away). But the problem with picking and choosing in an already vastly unequal and selfish reality could result in the most ghastly ethnic/class-cleansing imaginable. But nobody watches Utopia thinking they’d be the unlucky ‘chosen ones’ in such a scenario. The infliction of ‘capitalist realism’, in pitting all against one another, intensifies our subconscious belief that we are more equal than others, an instinct that less reckless societies throughout time have realised needs to be tamed for our good. Utopia does a great job of showing what human beings are capable of doing to each other, but I find it severely problematic that it just leaves it at that – a foregone conclusion.

Full marks for entertainment value, acting, and the plot, for sure. Just no marks for feeding our imaginations with a reality that often was indistinguishable from the brutal world we see unfolding when we switch channels to see blood almost dripping from the TV set on Russia Today and Al Jazeera.

Rebuilding The Flattened – new art book

Rebuilding The Flattened

Trawling Back all the tweets

http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/5122312-rebuilding-the-flattened

Image ‘Pancake People’

“…today, I see within us all (myself included) the replacement of complex inner density with a new kind of self evolving under the pressure of information overload and the technology of the “instantly available”. A new self that needs to contain less and less of an inner repertory of dense cultural inheritance — as we all become “pancake people” — spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button. Will this produce a new kind of enlightenment or “super-consciousness”? Sometimes I am seduced by those proclaiming so — and sometimes I shrink back in horror at a world that seems to have lost the thick and multi-textured density of deeply evolved personality.” 1 – Richard Foreman

Over the past ten years, the speed of information and the amount of it flowing around, and in and out of us has increased dramatically, and it shows no sign of slowing down. In agreement with Richard Foreman, sometimes I am excited by this new reality, but just as often it gives me a sense of cold “horror”. The dominant belief in our culture is that the more we find out, the more of an understanding we have of our things that matter to make a safer, democratic world. But is this happening with the current way we receive information, where our points of contact with the big issues around the world become mixed up with the points of contact with friends, employers, titillating-trivia and everything else imaginable, until what matters and what doesn’t can often seem undistinguishable in what can feel like living under a waterfall of information?

Rebuilding The Flattened, deals specifically with Twitter. It reels in everything I have ‘Tweeted’ as John Ledger since I joined in March 2012. The aim is to re-imburst them with substance, by bringing all the sentences together and placing them in a space where text isn’t constantly in flux;  to reinvigorate them with memory that has a continuity to it; and if it merely reads a pocket-sized riot of random sentences strung-together to other people, it certainly tells a story to me, reminding me of things I was feeling, and things that were concerning me, that would have otherwise remained forgotten in a cyberspace graveyard.

For me, the prospect of a society of ‘pancake people’ poses an overtly political dilemma: how can we make sense of things, and get keep hold of an understanding of what is the root cause of the problems in the world when, as Franco (Bifo) Berardi says “Subjected to the infinite acceleration of the info-stimuli, the mind reacts with either panic of desensitisation”? 2. Can we really act collectively to counter anti-democratic forces, extreme economic injustices, and climate change whilst we are subjected to this? The problem here is that disconnecting ourselves from cyberspace is neither the solution nor achievable for for most people.

Thus, there is certainly a political motivation behind making this book. A ‘cognitive mapping’3 (Fredric Jameson) of an info-drenched landscape that pulls us all into points of panic and delirium, with the intention of constructing a larger picture of these past years. In many ways this desire is what also motivates my large scale drawings, a way of working which  also more or less spans social media age also. A consistent hope that artistic endeavours contribute to helping us transcend the huge deadlocks civilisation has come up against in the 21st century.

http://www.blurb.co.uk/books/5122312-rebuilding-the-flattened

john

The Place of Dead Ends

The Place of Dead Ends (2013, biro and collage on paper, 120X100cm)

“In the last three decades of the [twentieth century] the utopian imagination was slowly overturned. and has been replaced by a Dystopian imagination” Franco Berardi (Bifo) – After the Future (2010)

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For some years now I’ve had this feeling that things cannot carry on in the manner in which they have been doing. Furthermore: that we are watching the slow collapse of our civilisation. The feeling is closer year by year. It’s a broad-reaching feeling that dampens/taints the appearance of the world. I cannot switch this feeling off; there are traces of it in every thought. The only world (reality) we know seems to have reached a dead end. And because it cannot allow us to move forward, the past (or rather its past) takes control; it’s darkest ghosts re-emerge as a reaction to the huge problems we face; the dead come to rule the living. We run to the past for protection from the darkeness unfolding in the 21st century – right into the arms of the archaic forces that rise amidst such confusion and threaten to drag everything down back down with them.

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The idea for The Place of Dead Ends fixed itself together whilst I was walking around the park-lands of Greenwich, London (a place saturated with popular history), in the autumn of 2012. I stumbled across the Queen Elizabeth [the 1st] Oak, a tree that the Tudor queen is said to have often taken refreshment under. Queen Elizabeth the 1st reigned over an historical period that played a crucial part in the formation of the British Empire, and (of course) the modern industrial world.

What I didn’t realise until then was that this tree had actually been dead for well over 100 years old. Yet the tree trunk remained; laying heavy upon the ground. Always having the gravity of the 21st century stalking my thoughts, I couldn’t help but see this dead relic as a metaphor for a world which is being ruled to ruin by ideas and beliefs that belong in the past; a result of a civilisation that is unable to look to the future.

In the past 5 years we have seen the massive failure of the neoliberal economic system (or global financial system);  yet, because we are unable to picture an alternative/unable to picture a future past the ‘end of history’ announced with the inauguration of global capitalism, ever-more extreme neoliberalism is being enforced onto the world. Neoliberalism is dead as a idea, nobody believes in it, yet it rules in an almost zombie-like manner (using thoughts expressed by Mark Fisher in his Visual Futures lecture). This bad medicine is being inflicted by a global elite structure whose dominance is beginning to be dangerously similar to the archaic feudal rule the kings and lords once had over the population. At the same time as this, we are made witness to scandal after scandal amidst the ranks of those  people, institutions and companies we used to see as the pillars of society,. The entire belief system has failed, but still governs us; we are ruled by the dead.

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In the drawing the pillars of (a) civilisation have fallen across the route, like dead trees blocking the path. In this landscape protests are being made by many who desperately want to change the world into a better, more just place, but these pillars have landed on the protests, trapping them, making them unable to move – unable to make a difference (the most well-know example of this would be the 2003 protests against the US/UK imperial war on Iraq, where millions filled the streets world-wide, and were utterly ignored by the decision makers). On the rotting of the tree-like pillars grows all the forces that feed off the death of a future; runaway finance with no grounding in theory, and jingoist patriotism that feeds off the fears of global uncertainty.

The rest of this blocked route is occupied by people who have given up on the belief of a better future, and have given up fighting ; they live in a never ending avoidance of truth and empty feeling, condemned to the pursuit of immediate pleasures (drugs, alcohol, sex), only to spend much time in stupors of dissatisfaction and depression. I am not excluded from such a scene; I am both the protester and the individual drunken and frustrated roaming the evening streets, trying to forget reality. Every figure is interchangeable in my drawings; no individual is solely to blame and yet everybody is complicit.

Place of deads ends_close (854x1280)Each side of the road are the barriers one faces when they try to think of a way out: the violence of the nation state, which becomes more ruthless and repressive the more it is threatened; and at the other side one faces the even worse plight of the poorer parts of the world, and the parts of the world already suffering greatly from changes to the global climate brought on by this governing system. There seems to be no way out. Clouds envelope preventing us from imagining another kind of world; they are both the very real human-made pollution we are failing to tackle, and the blotting out of imagining ourselves somewhere different; the clouds are full of the faces of ‘dead stars’, the icons of 20th century capitalism, who died and became immortalised in our collective hearts, having an ever greater ghostly presence that seeps onto the skins of us as we run backwards from the current world, in search of better times.

Drawing, for me is as much as a controlling (or management) of my darkest thoughts in which everything seems out of control. Yet, I hope my work can reveal the modern world to viewers in a way that is constructive to a collective demand for a better world. As much as I struggle to picture something more hopeful, the dead end is not the end of the world; only the end of a world, a world humanity surely must transcend in the 21st century else it may well be the end full stop.

ImageThe Place of Dead Ends (2) copy (3729x4500) - Copy

Mind maps. Recounting experience of walk, by mapping out the route.

To follow up yesterday’s post, regarding leaving London and having to return to my home town, an incredibly less busy and noisy place, I have posted two maps I drew of routes I have walked, in order to show my thoughts and experience of that area whilst walking through it. One map is of a walk from Shoreditch to New Cross in London, and one is from the Mapplewell to Darton, in my home town, Barnsley.My intention was to show that the thoughts in ones mind whilst walking through an area and experiencing it, can make interesting documentation wherever one happens to be; that whether one is in the heart of a metropolis or in scattered former mining villages, the internal running commentary that accompanies that walk can be just as revealing and conscious-awaking of our real material conditions.

This all related to the Mapping Capitalism course I began, but couldn’t complete, in London, and in particular theorist Fredric Jameson’s notion of cognitive mapping, as a modern means to class conciousness and awareness of our real material conditions, in the disorientating world under late capitalism. Informed by both the philosopher Althusser and the urbanist/town planner who used psychogeographical ideas to create better living environments, Kevin Lynch, Jameson argued that the “mental map of a city explored by Lynch can be extrapolated to that of the social and global totality we carry around in our heads in various garbled forms”

These maps are just the beginning of many I wish to make. I do lots of walking, but not so much leisurely walking (in the sense of a country side stroll), more like walking to town to town, village to village. I have attempted to draw these maps right afterwards, visually the area as I draw the route I walked, in order to remember my emotions and things I saw whilst walking.

If not to anyone else, I find this deeply informative to myself. It’s like when I look back on what I have written the landscape reveals its true identity to me; something an A-Z or Google map could never do. It also made me realise that there is something to be gained conceptually from any walk. Not just a walk through the most tourist-friendly spots on earth.

Map 1. Sunday 7th October 2012

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Map 2. Thursday 7th February, 2013

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