‘The past is another world’. Indeed it is, full of lost what-might-have-beens. I cannot even begin to estimate how many calories and hours were put into making these works that were heading in a more-painterly/sculptural direction, nor the lost might-have-beens that may have constituted an alternative usage of that time. Dating from the bright-eyed-dawn of the perceived-shirking-of-tangled-up-teenage-trials of my very early 20’s in 2004, to works made in the infancy of the long night that proceeded from the 2008 crash, these works now seem to me like surfaces of an (un)realised planet.
Due to this they just don’t fit anymore, like architecture that has lost its aesthetic function within the light of a new kind of world, the demolishing of them was the last necessary act. Reality has changed, and they are worth more to me now as documentation of an excavation of that past reality that I cannot go back to (all a poetics perhaps [?] devised to acclimatize myself to the truth: that I had no longer have storage space for works that were becoming increasingly smashed to pieces in narrower and narrower confines).
However, perhaps what surprised me the most, and possibly came close to preventing me smashing up any more of the works, was that the paint was still wet on the inside of one of the pieces from 2007. The smell of gloss and oils momentarily taking me back to 2007…even the music I listen to from such times seems lost as if submerged under a mudslide.
Sometimes it feels that the malaise, the feeling of having been cheated, is because the ghosts of my forefathers embody me, disillusioned with the repetition of ordeals we thought were their past, not ours – after all that glorious future their Dickensian-stricken aging bodies believed they were handing down to us (no wonder the 1970’s seems more like a future than it does the past). I do not specifically mean by forefathers my genetic line, but also the people at large who came before us. I also believe many more my age and ten years either side feel this, even if they don’t think this.
And this feeling is certainly no jingoist rain dance! It’s more of a feeling that the future was stolen. A future in which the jingoist impulse would have been buried 6 miles deep (the depth at which they should have buried Thatcher).
The plight of those before me informs us that we are part of a defeated generation. Yet this truth remains an undetected feeling that almost never registers as a thought; drowned out by the white-noise of the capitalism 2.0’s con-work. The noise of competitive individualism, positive psychology and it’s flip-side, the draconian threats to work harder and harder for less. It turns the brain in an inflexible type of wood, then it sends in the wood worm to fuck you over twice.
“Here are the young men the weight on their shoulders … The sorrows we suffered and never were free” Decades, Joy Division
Yet my 200 year old glare knows it’s a con when it catches itself in a train window or the mirror in a pub. 200 years of hardship rest behind them (if nowhere else on my body), overriding me with a sensation of ‘not again’. Ghosts accumulated behind your eyes because the future they should have been laid to rest in never arrived – accumulated from a future denied.
This is a piece of writing I wrote to accompany of a photograph (image above) of screwed up job-centre print-outs (never worth the paper they’re printed on), when I was briefly claiming dole before returning to the very same job I had been doing prior to my unemployment:
“It’s like we all know the world wants us to go through the same ordeals that we already know the grim/empty outcome of, over again, and we’re telepathically communicating a message that roughly translates as “look we’ve [our civilisation has] come this far, look at what we’ve been through, we at least expect something a little better than this”. It is a feeling that haunts the first countries to go through the ‘modernisation’ process’ more than anywhere else; haunted by those ordeals of our forefathers – the first to be subjected to capitalist exploitation”.
I belong to the unemployed even whilst I work day in day out. I belong here because in my heart I don’t have it in me to accept life as a repeat of the grim ordeals of the past, after all con-men told us that this would never happen again. Thus don’t be surprised if as a 30 year old I remain somewhat in a peter-pan state, where am I to go? I’m not the only one. A culture of so-called ‘shirkers’ is actually a society of lost souls, but empathy for others is not something we do well (if we ever did).
But I can hear it already, “what gives you the right to think you don’t to do a hard day’s work?”, “you need to grow up mate and accept what life throws at you”. Which is completely missing the point, and also roughly translates as “How dare you challenge the work ethic so ingrained in our culture that we’re prepared to destroy the planet and go to war in the process of defending it?” Well, there was a time not so long ago when the idea of a coming-world where we worked less, stressed less, envied less, needed to drown our sorrows less, was anticipated. And I believe this world was far from being an unrealistic goal – until the tide of politics changed that was.
Oh, and if you do misread all of this as me being what you’d likely call ‘bone idle’, I do actually work hard. And, although apart from the day job it is not really/directly towards a better career, or a better-looking C.V, and may be work that actually diverts from securing a more financially-stable future for myself (as if I even thought that likely now!) I work fucking hard. But ask me to go to interviews? To start upon the road of bones and C.V’s towards a ‘dream job’? You will see in my eyes that I have already gone. It’s too late for me to believe. It’s a unnecessary repetition of our fore-fathers’ past, and it will only end badly. My 200 year old eyes can’t bear another lap on this grueling track.
Stolen Dog – Burial
Steel Your Girl – Neon Neon
Street Halo – Burial
Ruby Tuesday – Franco Battiatio
With Every Heartbeat (at Ghosts of My Life tempo) – Robyn with Kleerup
Nae Hair On’t – The Bluetones
Seconds – The Human League
Shadowplay (live in Manchester) – Joy Division
C.R.E.A.M – The Wu-Tang Clan
Dislocation – John Foxx