Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further.
The previous section of Stories from Forgotten Space can be found here: https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/stories-from-forgotten-space-january/
6 March 2015
“Passing through the Thornes area of Wakefield. Leafy, inner-city suburbia, with sun shining on rooftops. Like many things from a surface level inspection, it should all feel right/OK. But it just doesn’t.”
“Sat in a cafe made almost entirely of windows, in the 4 year old, yet seemingly still brand new, Trinity Walk shopping Complex [Wakefield]. A shopping plaza that after all this time still prompts the gut-reaction-word ‘Americanized’ within a UK citizen. The windows help give perspective, pause for contemplation. Sat here I can see as clear as possible the contradictions of the current state of affairs (and my own immobility within it), yet I am as perplexed as ever as to how this state of affairs could be transcended. Two women from the Baby Boomer generation chatter away on the table behind me. For all us 35 years and younger, largely services workers, locked into communicative capitalism, we are probably the most articulate, linguistically-competent generation ever. Yet we were sold down the line, by the ‘Blairites’ more than anyone else. We now perpetually fight the feeling of being ‘surplus to requirements’.”
“With my guard down more than usual, within a fleeting hope within a sunny midday point, I create a fleeting fondness for the young woman shop attendant giving me assistance with the damaged phone I possess. But how can it be anything more than a fleeting dream? For an emotionally-detached person, who lacks the ability to find ‘tastes’, ‘preferences’ and ‘hobbies’ to fill those in-between points in life, I’m more up against it than ever in a lonelier, more cynical world, where Internet dating takes precedence.”
“A young woman, clearly a victim of Anorexia, is caught in a moment of indecision over what food products to buy in central Wakefield’s 2nd Sainsburys superstore. Personal memory prompts me to envisage the anorexic subject as a perpetual prisoner to these palaces of excess choice. “Trapped between life and death” by paraphrase a Manic Street Preachers song on the same subject.”
“The train stops in the hinterland of Holbeck/Wortley whilst waiting for room in Leeds train station. Sun light in the window creates a false wall on the landscape. I think about this thing I just don’t seem to be able to get around: an invisible wall that, in turn, makes all alternatives to the place I’m stuck in invisible. But they must be there; I’ve seen glimmers of them throughout my life.”
“Leaving the Waterstones bookstore, the eyes of Audrey Hepburn gleam back at me from a photograph calendar. ‘The Dead won’t go away’. At the other side of the room, the smiling faces of celebrity chefs rebound back from production-line lifestyle cookery books. To me, this all wishes to end itself now.”
“Staring up the river [Aire] at a now gentrified landscape, yet consisting of appealing redbrick buildings all the same. However, the Bridgewater tower, hangs over the buildings like a giant upturned N64 or Internet hub system. It is a monstrous imposition, mainly because of the Dubai-like world it suggests. Serving as a constant reminder of the criminally-unequal logic of neoliberal capitalism that potentially still lays in store for this country. I run out of words whilst staring at the reflections on the night-time river; trying to look for clues – a way out.”
7 March 2015
“Haigh. On one side of the road there remains a slightly derelict red brick wall, which must have been something to do with the mine that once stood here. On the other side of the road, two bungalows are being built on waste ground. Private property – the only thing that seems to be built these days.”
“The adrenalin from running, mixed with that fact that I’m now within my most consistently melancholic period I can recall, makes everything from here on this vantage point ridge-way over South and West Yorks somewhat tragically symbolic. This sense of loss, of dysfunction feels so environing that it cannot simply be specific to my own subjectivity. And even if it is, my current inability to get out if this predicament, necessitates my need to write about the external as if it is so. There is a great view of the dark grey figure of Emley Moor Mast from here. It specifically seems symbolic of something missing, as if their aura can only be felt in a melancholic sense.”
“On Wilthorpe Road a middle aged man is clearly struggling with the weight of his rucksack. Regardless of his actual circumstances, thoughts on the forced-acceptance of low pay work, and general country-wide hardship abounds. Low pay enslaves us to work, making us more obedient, and leaving the top down conservative attitude towards work ringing in our ears all day.”
“In the sunlight of a midday that promises springtime, the town [Barnsley] suddenly feels rich with promise. Expansive. It is as perplexing as it is dispiriting how this changes into its opposite as the day drags on and the streets are slowly engulfed under a desperate search for some kind of stimulus/titillation before the new day.”
“As I stare at a poster advertising for male models, for an establishment specialising in styling male facial hair, in a ‘retro/vintage’ fashion. I realise that whatever it is I’m looking for, I won’t find it within this ‘cultural centre’ situated around Division Street. I’m generalising when I begin to wonder of in today’s world there is only space for two subjects: the hipster and the melancholic.”
“Especially in cities like Sheffield, I seem to be in an endless quest for something. But it never materialises. Or it is forever displaced. I walk over the hill, from West Street down to Solly Street.”
“5 years-worth of fading anti-austerity posters cling to boards covering up disused land next to Sheffield bus station.”
“As the train heads into the tunnel at Chapletown, the text on my laptop screen doubles up, reflected into the dark outside. I am reading George Monbiot’s 2014 article on our Age of Loneliness, which seems to me one of the most relevant pieces of writing around at the moment.”
12 March 2015
“From the bus window I can see into a living room in a mid 20th century, endless-suburbia-style, semi-detached house. There is a large abstract painting hung in the space, the kind you’d expect in a ‘homely’ environment that is used to build a future for your family. Expansion rather than contraction.”
“I almost choke on the smell of Ammonia emanating from the floor next to what was once the Royal Hotel [ central Barnsley]. I initially mistake it for the smell of vomit, but nothing so strong and un-shifting could emanate from a single person. I wonder, wildly, whether it is actually an ‘anti-social-behaviour’ deterrent tactic. The town centre has an incredibly high concentration of youths in a perpetually aimless state, which the authorities are always trying to disperse. The ammonia smell is still in my nostrils as I enter into the turquoise-coloured transport interchange; they go awfully together.”
“On the express train to Sheffield. My attempts to hide the drawing I’m working on from the gaze of other passengers fails as a man who I’m sat across from, who looks to be in his 60’s, brings it up in an unending-paragraphs way of speaking, that quickly moves over to his admiration for the “one off” talent of street artist Banksy. My initial thoughts about pretending to exit the train a stop prematurely (at Meadowhall) and then sneaking to the other carriage fills me with guilt, as I’d just be spreading this ruthless (anti)social virus of loneliness, that each generation suffers from, but some just can’t adjust to. If I’d have been reared in a less individualistic atmosphere, I probably now wouldn’t feel physically seized with the urge to try to escape what feels like incarceration (communication). Perhaps it’s also the realisation that in 30 years I could be this man, socially-stranded, and desperate to speak to other human beings in an age that secretly wishes that old faces would just disappear and stopping getting in the way of the ‘bright young things’. In truth he has a decent well-verse life story which isn’t too hard on my work-tired brain.”
“The woman I notice sat talking as I walk past the window of a bar seems to possess an essence of the city [Sheffield] that now seems forever displaced on the actual streets; something about the way she carries off her leather jacket look, conjures a working class confidence, and an inventive popular culture that followed its lead. The city of The Human League an Pulp that now seems no longer present. At least not in the centre.”
‘He’s not setting out to hurt people. He’s got a lot of love in him …He actually, I think, wants to do the right thing. So its more a question of, will power and self discipline and circumstances.’ The sample from the track Etched Headplate by Burial (a song that literally haunted my dreaming in 2014) is so timely as it comes on my Ipod, in how it encapsulates my endless-evening struggle with keeping my frustration with these circumstances at bay. I want to do good. I want to be civil. But there’s a destructive element that sets in many a eve.”
“Semi-Surbuban streets of ex-mining settlements at night – walked them so many times. I feel so faded and old, as if the perfume of youth has finally worn off. Always thought I’d had found my own ground (so to speak) before this inevitable point found me.”
13 March 2015
“The train stops in the usual hinterland just outside Leeds railways station. The majority of the buildings still derelict, sort of waiting in line for the infrastructural developments (especially the southern entrance into Leeds station); for the channels that allow the flow of ‘sparkling financial dust’ to spread virally, and turn it into the late capitalist blend of unending work-consumption, that greets you just north of the river Aire. As I stare at the dirty old railways bridges I realise we have left behind the first hour of the afternoon. From 2pm onwards the looming anticipation of the evening’s depressive lassitude hangs over ever thought/action. The 1pm hour is usually the one I find easiest out of all 24, upon the pivot of the see-saw that each day is.”
“Walking up a pretty tiring steep incline into Burley Park. The hard faces, heavy brows, weight-on-shoulders-look of the poor, which is so so hard to disguise from a world that offers no leg up to those who cannot hide these scars.”
“Overly familiar style of suburbia, and redbrick terraces further down, that possible only remain used due to our characterless, placeless present holding on to character and place from times that have gone. For all that quintessential Leeds-feel, the row upon row of warren-like terraces are certainly not an environment I feel has many positive impacts on your state of mind. A labyrinth-like nature which I’m probably more sensitive to at present due to being drained-tired and stressed from taking the wrong turn from Headingley train station. I mistook the size of these parts of the city, they go and on – a Victorian metropolis.”
“Drained-tired, I decide to stop walking when seeing a young woman at a bus stop makes me trust in frequent buses back to the centre. As I wait, 2 men who have the appearance of one made hard by life, look drunk, punch-drunk and passively-frustrated as they attempt the road. I mistake one of the mens’ decision to return back to the pavement I’m on as him coming up to confront me due to him seeing me looking at him. Despite this not being the case, this gets me feeling aggressively self-defensive. My accent hardens due to this, making the young woman find me undecipherable when I ask her about the next bus.”
“Sitting over a coffee now, I can almost feel the violence, fear, schizophrenia of the city drain out of me and fall from my shoulders, helped by the soft white noise of machinery within the otherwise quiet cafe. My discontent has, for all my post-grad years, largely centred on having an un-fading desire to have the social freedoms of the city at my beckoning, and my repeated failure in being unable to cope in such an environment.”
“Find myself in a brief cocoon of comfort within the ‘retromaniac’, pop-cultural bar, Jam in Wakefield. Refuge feels like the right word – against the anxious and desperate landscape that envelopes you outside if you find yourself looking at it for too long. This artifice of yesteryear is comforting. Champagne Supernova is playing on the jukebox; a now-20 year old song by Oasis, who seem more spectrally present in ‘indie bars’ the further we move from 1995. Yet again, it is one of those moments that you can imagine being on repeat forever.”
“Far too drunk, forget all else…”
15 March 2015
“With the Starbucks drive-thru (next to junction 29 of the M1) opening into the evening on a Sunday, it really does stick out within a UK landscape where such a sight should actually be far normal to us than it is. Despite any ethical reservations towards chain cafe drive-thru’s, the sight of it feeds off the conversation I’m having in the car about the immiserating unacknowledged social constraints with, specifically, evening-time UK pleasure-pursuings. In contrast to Europe, where pubs (which always contain the potential for frustration to be acted out) aren’t the only places dominating the town centres in the evening.”
“Something close to a physical confrontation appears to be brewing outside this Premier Inn-incorporated pub/eatery [in Barnsley] on this dry Sunday evening. Due to its location (within a ‘commuterist’ inn) it is both a non-place and of non-place-people – which makes the territorial behaviour that comes with drunken confrontations all the more banal.”
“The feeling of being stuck. That – despite what I know, think, see – I feel embedded in a rut that surely encompasses more than myself (yet is left to be dealt with individually). It envelopes all conversation to the extent that I become fixed on the surrounding environment, which when I think about it makes sense; due to looking for ways out. I am currently staring out the windows of the Glasshouse chain pub/eatery, over the terraces the cluster around the south of Barnsley centre. From here. they look like a tightly-packed labyrinth, forcing your eyes to look for exits. the conversation follows suit, and sometimes the landscape helps me think about, and explain the wider predicament so clearly – but it never alters the [my] general scheme of things.”
“Large bungalow off Cockerham Lane [Barnsley] that has that far-off feel, in that it looks like the ever-dwindling American Dream realised. Albeit in the UK.”
“From the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a middle aged man watching TV in the living room of a type of house that was initially deemed unfit to be anything more than emergency housing in the wake of WW11 and the consequential slum clearances. The TV has the sickly-coloured imagery for intro-credits to one of those X-Factor-style programs (The Voice…?). There is something almost porno-like about the colours and graphics of the presentation (one must be influencing the other, but not sure which way around). Regarding the whole picture I saw as I glanced over; the unsatisfactory quality of the dwellings and the unsatisfactory cultural products fuse to leave my feeling slightly disturbed.”
“Nearing central New Lodge/Athersley, just as the ‘peak-90’s’ club track Let Me be Your Fantasy [Baby D] comes onto my Ipod. This merges with the appearance of two lone males walking their dogs in front of me. Both look to be late 30’s-pushing 40’s. Both look disheveled from hardship, making the baseball caps they wear look like class scars rather than fashion items. Their drained look, prompts me to imagine their draining to have occurred somewhat in unison with the age of this club track, and its consequential genuine-feel-good alienness to the genuine-depression of our current period. That in the mid 90’s both these men and this track possessed a vitality that has since been slowly sucked out.”
“Kingsway, Mapplewell – largely a road consisting of post-war sheltered accommodation. I walk past a telephone box that now looks terribly stranded in an age of ubiquitous cell-phone communication. I remember in the mid 1990’s when an elderly man died of an heart attack in this phone box calling 999, due to being taunted by youths. I was half-shocked as a young teenager at the apparent joy in the malevolence shown to vulnerable adults in this particular conglomerate of villages. I have often wondered whether it was borne out of inescapable boredom, perhaps more acutely felt around this area due to nearly every space being swallowed up by property developers.”
“The bright light from a bus shelter I have probably frequented more than any other, which is probably personally a symbolic spot for all the failings, hopes. existential boredom and frustrations of my teenage-to-adult existence. Yet, in a couple of weeks I will likely rarely use it ever again.”
‘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.
The Sad but necessary demolition of some older pieces of work.
Although I wouldn’t really call these pieces of work sculpture – they were more accompaniments to my drawings, mounds rising up to slightly obscure the pieces I was showcasing/like a weight on a stressed chest that won’t go away (guilt of being part of/wedded into the trappings of a destructively consumptive society) – they certainly shared the demand for storage space that sculpture demands. Unfortunately for most of us, such space just isn’t available (I genuinely believe the main difference between sculptors and painters/drawing-based artists, is that access to ample of space to expand into to is a necessity before you even begin to contemplate being a sculptor).
These pieces of work were made in 2008, and became crammed into a shed with other works. The began to get damaged, but they were beginning to damage other, less damaged works. So, to save those works, I decided that these works would have to be demolished. They were originally part of an installation called ‘The Healing Process’ which I exhibited in the fall of 2008 (healing, as a coming to terms with things, a gradual greening over of scars on the landscape I grew up in, reflecting a hope for a gradual healing over of psychological scars I’d carried with me for some years). Yet I made them from waste and fly-tipped material (largely non-recyclable, except for the newspaper used for Papier-Mache) in the summer of 2008, before it became aware to everybody that we were amidst a huge financial crisis.
Largely because I am overly concerned with the notion that time as become (even further) out of joint since then I was quite keen to document all that stuff that hasn’t seen light of day since summer 2008. The pre 2008-crash point feels like another epoch whilst it still only seems like yesterday, amidst the austerity-age logic, and superstitiously-embedded faith that things will ‘return to normal’, our experience of time is spinning on a stuck broken record. This meant that it felt weirdly like uncovering relics to a world only 5 minutes past.
Demolishing them, kind of also felt like knocking down old buildings with the interior of somewhere once lived-in in full sight. Truth be told, the items, even the shards of newspaper stories bear no real difference to what they would look like now, it isn’t as if the world of seeming permanent austerity looks that different – yet something is different, and opening up these soon to be destroyed pieces of work made me think of this difference.
The Retro bar at the end of the Universe
Ceremony – New Order
Unite – Burial
The Glorious Land – PJ Harvey
One of These Days – Pink Floyd
Born To End – Manic Street Preachers
Dog Shelter – Burial
21st Century Schizoid Man – King Crimson
Novelty (1st Transmission Session, Central Sound Studios July 1979)- Joy Division
Temptation – Heaven 17
I had to trawl through all the old household photo collection to find what I wanted; you know, photos from a time when they actually meant something, before images of everybody from every place at every time where splattered upon the social networking sites; you know, the times when it took a couple of weeks before you’d see the photos – not just the next morning when you check your online accounts to finds photos of your drunken self from only 6 hours previous.
These are images of Woolley Colliery in the 1990’s – before it was demolished and whilst it was being demolished. (apologies for their poor quality).
(Woolley Colliery – in the background – in the middle of being demolished by explosives, in 1993)
(Woolley colliery – the left of the picture – before it was demolished and before the factories were built in the foreground)
Within the valley (upper Dearne valley) I grew up in, these were the last traces of a landscape and meaning of the place I was born into disappearing and making way for something else. I’ve been interested in my family tree a little more of late also. It seems sensible enough to assume that I do this at times when I do not see much of a future, and if one takes into consideration the full scale of the ancestry websites, making money out of people also looking up their family roots, then one can see that as a society we don’t seem to be able to see much of a future at present.
For me, personally the expectation of already irreversible (to some degree) environmental problems is what drags a landslip over a doorway to a future which I once expected to walk into. But for many it may be a realisation that the liberal-democratic order has failed us, after it wiped out any suggestion that there may be another way to build a better life for us all. Whatever may be the case, there is most certainly a lot less optimism than there was even 8 or 9 years previous. Something has to change.
The landscape in which these photographs are situated is an interesting one to point to especially: as the old coal mining towns/villages themselves suffered incredibly from the destruction of the sole meaning for their existence in the first place, the landscape improved and greened over massively during that same period, and although much is being leveled off for housing developments, it is still a much greener place than it used to be. Now, I do not for one moment intend to suggest that this is compensation for the heartless economic decisions made which destroyed so many peoples’ way of life, but it is a good in its own right – if it stays that way, that is, and developers do not run amok (which seems likely under the ultra neoliberal capitalism the current government are bringing through).
However, more than anything, I am making NO real point here at all – I’d be lying to pretend that I have any over-positive thoughts up my sleeve to finish this blog off with, so I will just idly try to relive the past like everybody else seems to be doing.