Tag Archive | NEOLIBERALISM

Now That’s what I Call Capitalism 2016

(A writing for the Retro Bar at The End of The Universe Collective)

Apparently Generation Y arrived in January 1984. This means my sense of stuckness could be down being born in a generational hinterland.

Actually no: we are all stuck, stuck in the deep mud between the end of something and something….something else, that needs to be longed into existence promptly.

This year has been one of free-fall in stasis. No wonder the word of the year hasn’t been Trump or Brexit, but post-truth. How could our experience of the world feel to be both frozen and falling to bits at the same time, except in an age when our ability to function in daily life isn’t even affected by an era-defining loss of trust in all beyond our immediate lives?

The freeze and free-fall are no doubt effects that have mushroomed in motion with our hyperspace dependency. To begin with, let’s look no further than the big documentary of the year; Adam Curtis’s Hypernormalisation. In a condensed interview for BBC 6 Music he spoke of how The Internet is one magnificent engineering feat, but one that we have mistaken for the future. It is a means to an end, but has become the end in itself.

But whilst we’ve been caught in this quagmire we have also found ourselves subjected to far more stimulatory information than we were ever equipped to deal with. We have become stuck in a search for an endless series of tasks, which we multitask until the sun goes down (and back up again), from social media, information from all angles, dating, job-searching, house-hunting and more bad news than the TV channels could ever imagine delivering to us. If the Internet was engineered to deliver things, what it has actually engineered is a huge mental health time-bomb, from which no recent global event could said to be immune. A toxification not just of the soil and sea, but also the psyche.

To add to this, economist and thinkers such as Paul Mason and Peter Frase have shown us this year, through information abundance and automation, that computers are actually bringing an end to capitalism. Although it is an end that currently has no end in sight.

..well, it doesn’t if you’re a depressed but stubborn utopianist, adamant that capitalism’s death means fully automated communism.

…rather than Barbarism.

But…  wait for it….!


The Ultimate Roast Potato!! (Sorry Jamie, it’s nothing personal)

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“It can’t go any further, it’s already reached the end” says DS Jarvis, in a sweeping but justifiable assessment of culture under late capitalism, as he drives us down the hill from Grange Moor Roundabout towards the built up beginnings of Huddersfield.

Onetime Cool Britannia-late-comer Jamie Oliver is the locus of today’s said assessment. His Xmas cooking program offers to show us how to cook ‘the ultimate Roast Potato’, leaving DS with no option but rage.

“I wouldnt mind… I wouldn’t fucking mind, but he’s already put a disclaimer in his program saying he’s already shown us how to make the BEST roast potato, but no, that wasn’t enough, NOW he’s showing us how to make ‘the ultimate roast potato’“.

The conversation weaves in and out of how outrunning and inevitably then lacking the New, capitalism is pulping culture, and creating pointless tokens of luxury in order to keep selling shit, and we reach the old mills of Huddersfield before DS adds “I wonder if he [Jamie) even realises what ultimate actually MEANS?  It means final, or ending. After this he may as well just fucking kill himself, I mean what left is there for him to do now he’s created ‘the ultimate roast potato?’. I wonder after a hard days baking, if he sits down and thinks ‘Christ, I’m dead inside’ ?”.

Jamie Oliver arrived in our world on a mopehead in the complacent dying days of the 20th century, adding a flavour of Britpop-lite to high quality food our newly-middle-classed bellies had now come to expect. The problem is, we weren’t so middle class after all. And to Jamie’s horror, he discovered there was lots of people who hadn’t ‘got on their mopehead and looked for Britpop-lite in the 90’s’, and were still eating bad bad bad food. He even cried. This was Jamie’s 9/11 moment.

We drive down past DS’s favourite (and most-hated) building in the town; the incinerator. “John, it’s that fucking big, that it actually dominates the town; the town’s main feature is a place where you go to destroy all the shit that you didn’t even want in the first place”. We’ve been to the Costa coffee next to it before, and marvelled at how both it (with its atypical simulacra of Mediterranean life) and a Travel Lodge could only exist in so close proximity to an incinerator in a time where the idea of a place has so utterly eclipsed the reality of a place, to the extent that people can’t see that the biggest chimney in Huddersfield isn’t some now-romanticised chimney, which once pumped dark smoke into the sky over this former mill town, but this white monument to the unspoken failure of consumerism to fill the void.

The Huddersfield of the mind is still brass bands, satanic-but-reassuring mills and Fred Dibner-ites. On the congested ring road DS goes on about how Dibner called Huddersfield a rat-race in the 1970’s. “Fred, you should come look at it now” he says. “You would lose your fucking mind!”.

Into the town itself now, and under the influence (thank fuck). We meet John W. John W looks around the pub. “You see, the Xmas fever usually over-rides the depressed and troubled spirit of the year that’s been. But I’m not seeing it this year. I feel that this year’s events and forebodings have been so hard for us to switch off from that not even ‘santa can deliver the goods’. We are well and truly experiencing something different.”

I must admit my whole idea of purpose has been wrong-footed now that the concerns I felt lonely in thinking about seem to be concerns for all of us to think about in loneliness. I used to think that exercises in the exhaustion of the sugary lie of ideology would be enough to make people reject it like an under-cooked Wetherspoons meal and vomit it out. But a zeitgeist of disbelief is what currently prevails, and who can see that changing in 2017 right now?

As we leave, DS turns and says “I will be following Jamie Oliver’s recipe for the ‘ultimate roast potato’ on Xmas day. I mean, what choice do I have?  After all it is ‘the ultimate roast potato’!. But I wonder what is left in this world for DS, and for all us for that matter, after the ultimate roast potato has been eaten?

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Hope of The Nihilized

Hope of The Nihilized (2016, mixed media on paper, 90X125cm)

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This will probably be the last major piece of work I finish in 2016. The drawing attempts to look at the debased spirit of our times. If I were to give such a time a name I’d called it The Zeitgeist of Disbelief.

However, partly due to the sheer willing for a change of heart, for the sake of my and everyone else’s mental health, the piece is one of dark optimism. 21st century cyberspace technology has allowed the capitalist logic to creep into almost every moment of our lives. I believe it corrodes our spirit on a daily basis, leaving us ‘nihilized’ and unable to do anything but pursue dead end pleasures. There has been a severe epidemic of loneliness brought on by these technologies, on a scale never before imagined, never mind witnessed.

Yet these technologies also give us access to an unprecedented awareness about what is happening around the globe, potentially creating an intellectual body unrivalled throughout history. Although the information is often skewed, only consumed in sound-bite form due to the ‘fomo’ (fear of missing out’) effect of a society based on scarcity principles, there still now exists an awareness not only of of global injustices, (things we’d been led to believe were 20 century nightmares), but also an awareness of the fact that most others are suffering in solitude on a nightly basis just like ourselves.

Or so I hope. This piece speculates that although capitalism seems to have made a dead end out of humanity, it is capitalism that will inevitably have to end, hopefully leaving some tools to rebuild from the crushed spirit of the present.

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Fighting for Crumbs, at The World Transformed, Liverpool

I was very pleased to be invited to exhibit at The World Transformed, a 4 day festival hosted by Momentum as The Labour Party held their conference,  and the leadership election results were announced, in the very same city. It felt great to be taking our exhibition project ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) to the Black-E in Liverpool, to have our work in the same location as speeches by many figureheads at the forefront of a movement to push for much needed changes to the way politics is done and society is run.


#TWT2016 is about practising the new politics. We believe in a positive, future oriented approach to changing society. We believe in amplifying unheard, grassroots voices. We believe in broadening the definition of politics to include art, music and spoken word. We believe that politics is a bout more than just PMQs and Westminster. 

With Fighting For Crumbs being somewhat instigated by the ask to do something to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Redshed  (Wakefield Labour Club), we worked with the organisers of The World Transformed find a way of using ‘Redsheds’ to exhibit our work and documentary by Connor Matheson. Here are some photographs of the project.

JD Taylor – Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain

 

I’ve finally finished reading JD Taylor’s brick of a book ‘Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain’ published by Repeater Books. Admittedly I missed most of the section on Scotland, due to a large pen leak defacing most of the section – but there again, being a visual artist, who carries everything he needs even when he makes a short journey means rucksack spillages happen against best intentions. But I read most of this 450 page brick (although it’s probably more fitting to liken it to a piece of sedimentary stone, carbon dated to the British Isles in the second decade of the 21st century), and although it’s a large book, it’s pleasurable reading.

I started following JD Taylor’s blog after taking an interest reading his 2012 book ‘Negative Capitalism’, published by Zero Books. In 2014 I realised he’d been undertaking the sort of project that had become close to my heart in the last few years: assessing the social spirit of the times by traveling the land, and getting close as possible sense of what it feels like to live in the towns and cities of this country. I caught up with the blog literally just after he had posted about traveling through the area from where I was reading the post! And I was intrigued by what he was saying from then onwards.

JD Taylor didn’t go around the Island telling folk what was and wasn’t, he actually listened to what they had to say. Listening isn’t an easy thing to do, and I’m as bad as the next person for making interruptions before somebody has finished a sentence.  I don’t think it’s ever been easy to sit down and let somebody else explain how they see and feel about the world, but certainly not in times where there is an intense social pressure to compete against each other for economic survival. Listening thus requires our want for empathy to win over our gut feelings to get our opinion over before others can. But for those wishing for a future beyond the current inertia, telling rather than listening possibly entrenches the necessary one-upmanship of a social model based around scarcity.

I asked JD Taylor to come speak at a recent art and film project I was involved in undertaking. ‘Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain)’ was somewhat a response to being asked to show my artwork in the Wakefield Labour Club (commonly known as ‘The Redshed’) as part of its 50th anniversary events. I’m not in the habit of carelessly flinging works up on walls, and I was keen to do something that spoke of the political mood and social spirit of these times, to contrast with what my friend, and Redshed stalwart, Sandra Huthinson, said was the spirit of 1966; one of political optimism, in spite of the troubles in the world. Taylor seemed not only to speak for the same generation as my own, but I thought his findings upon the roads of this island were closely in tune with the aims of our project. I’ve never asked a writer to speak at an event before so it was an initially daunting task, but thankfully Taylor seemed more than happy to take part, and it became part of a larger tour promoting his book.

Within the island-round journey taken his book unearths forgotten uprisings to challenge the assumption that our collective story is one of putting up and shutting up. There’s a disconnect between Here and There, that seems to become an Us and Them. As a northerner there’s a tendency think we are the worst treat by the powers that be, with the locus being London. This isn’t an unreasonable feeling, especially when looking at the half-century’s worth of diabolical infrastructural neglect over this region. But it’s not necessarily true, and Taylor’s accounts of Kent, as he comes to the end of his travels, leave me quite moved. As it seems that many of the people populating a county most think of as England’s green and pleasant land are as struggling and confused as anywhere else on the island – possibly even more so due to lacking a strength through identity that still gives many in other regions spoons full of spirit every now and then.

The overall conclusion in Island Story is a sense of confusion but mostly defeat. I think he’s on the pulse when saying “young people are worst affected by the peculiar “nowhereness” of the moment” – I’ve heard this misdirected into a sense of personal failure in many who were traveling through their teens and twenties especially since the financial crash. However, the conclusion is not one of eternal defeat.  Aren’t many of us more punch-drunk optimists than pessimists? One section of his conclusion particularly stirs my damaged optimism. Taylor says that

“this sense of inertia and in-betweeness suggests the accruement of desiring energies around the block. Gathering force yet unable to release, time is slowing into one interminable moment before the extraordinary happens, what few considered possible even a few moments before.”

Whether this is a good sum up of this great book, or more of a means of thanking  JD Taylor for speaking at our Fighting For Crumbs event, I’d strongly recommend this book to both my like-minded friends, and my not-so-like-minded friends – after all, the conclusion I hope the book gives you is that wherever we are we all more or less desire and worry about the same things in life.

 

 

Fighting for Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) – Video Documentary.

This is our video documentary, crafted and produced by Connor Matheson/DEADIDEA Productions. It accompanied our recent exhibition. Please take a look.

Thank you for everybody who contributed to our crowdfunder earlier in the year.

Fighting For Crumbs – a Virtual Tour

We were all really pleased with how the works played off one another;  a coherence of many preoccupations that made up the reasons for having this exhibition which addressed political pessimism, the age of disbelief, austerity and the overlooked areas of the UK.

Whilst John Wilkinson’s paintings addressed the damage done both by once worker-hungry industries, and then their disappearance in a global market economy that then told these workers to become entrepreneurs of themselves, Connor Matheson’s photography documents these very areas a generation on, a landscape with little more opportunity than call-centre dead-end jobs. The Dearne Vallery, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley, Wakefield.

John Wilkinson’s paintings also deal with the post-colonial nationalism that chokes the UK’s horizons, clouding out a future that would lead us from making the same mistakes and get us out of spiraling destructive cycles. Amidst these paintings is an installation by Corinne Deakin, which, more than anything, I feel looks either like flotsam and Jetsom in-the-making or something in decay that refuses to accept it; a empire built on maritime dominance that refuses to give up its ghosts and in process drags everything else down with it.

I wanted to put works into the show that both addressed the mood of the land and looked at the geography of the area that connects up the Post-industrial Yorkshire towns intrinsic to the Fighting For Crumbs project. First off I wanted to get the poet Jonathan Butcher involved. John’s poetry is subtly political, a gritty realism and focus on the landscape he has seen community disintegration and lost futures from within. I worked with him to make a way of getting his words into an art exhibition. Growing up on Hall Road, in the Handsworth area in the eastern suburbs of Sheffield, I tried in to incorporate some of my memories of seeing the nearby Manor Estate in a state of dereliction, with the fact that the Sheffield Parkway trunk road slices Hall Road in two, to make a place for Jonathan to write his poetry that visualised community/social disintegration.

I made a installation centred around a large memory map of The West Riding of Yorkshire I undertook in 2013, mainly focussing on Barnsley, Wakefield, Leeds and Sheffield that documents the visible impacts of austerity next to feelings of confusion, frustration, alienation. I incorporated a other geographically-focused works that look at the mood of the country through the first ‘season’ of austerity, the run up to the 2015 election, and then the run up to the EU referendum. Always intent on tying together the areas where Fighting For Crumbs is based around, being held at (The exhibition continues 20+ miles north of Sheffield at the Wakefield Labour Club, ‘The Redshed’, on Saturday 13th). And I have installed some of my drawings in the somewhat smaller Redshed venue

Somewhat hidden in the corner is Rebekah Whitlam’s installation ‘Vanitas Britannia’ that talks about how the riots, kettling, protest and upheavals at the turn of the decade have been swept under a ‘handmade’ carpet of a ‘keep calm and carry on’ crafts culture, satirising the tactics of a nation that retreats into its mythical past, by playing on the morbid theme of mortality that occupies the Dutch Vanitas paintings. “As a textile artist…[Rebekah} feels a pressure of balancing a vision of socially inclusive creativity without undercutting [herself] and other artists financially.” Adding that as a craft-skilled artist it is hard not to become part of the problem when “as handmade, locally sourced business cashes in on developing the streets, financial and emotional security remains distant for their neighbours and the divide becomes increasingly widened.”

It connects up with a running narrative in the show about the gentrification of a few ‘hip’ areas in these post industrial towns to the cost of all the surrounding working class communitiess which become invisible in their struggles. The fact the there is no lighting in the room both seems to reflect the dark colours of the Vanitas paintings. and, I felt, becomes a satire on the ‘keep calm carry on’ ‘Blitz-spirit’, austerity = black outs, narrative etc etc. Just make sure the that fact the room is unlit doesn’t make you think it’s not part of the exhibition!

The exhibition doesn’t so much dwell on the past as look at the inertia of the present; the future we have forgotten in favour of ways to guide us through the day in hand. We seem to have forgotten that we need something to believe in. The world appears a place in a downward spiral of cruelty and sadness, but dead-end pleasure-seeking in a depressed landscape doesn’t quite hold its excitement for very long – it just sets in stall a pursuit of even more extreme pleasure seeking later on. Fighting for Crumbs somewhat tries to visualise a country that wake from a defeatist slumber that it perhaps doesn’t even recognise as being in.

 

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‘Development Opportunity’ and ‘We’re all in it Together’ – John Wilkinson

 

 

 

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Installation by Corinne Deakin in front of ‘Draped in Faded Glory’ by John Wilkinson

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(Right to Left) A Man hesitantly looks at Thermal Socks for Sale in Barnsley – Connor Matheson, ‘Keep Calm and Keep Shopping’ – John Wilkinson

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Corinne Deakin’s installation in front of ‘The Imposition of Conformity’ by John Wilkinson

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Youth Riding a Small Motorbike – Shirecliffe

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Broken Slates – installation piece – Jonathan Butcher and John Ledger

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Poppies (For Jonathan Butcher) – a painting John Wilkinson produced for the show in response to one of Jonathan’s poems.

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Installation by John Ledger

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West Riding of Yorkshire: A Pyschogeographical account

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<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/144591777″>Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user18137640″>john Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Vanitas Britannia – Rebekah Whitlam

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At the Redshed, Wakefield on Saturday, 1pm onwards, we will be showing our Fighting For Crumbs documentary, which will look at all the artist involved. We will be showing the brilliant documentary Sleaford Mods – Invisible Britain, and JD Taylor will be giving a talk. JD Taylor is the Author of Negative Capitalism: Cynicism in The Neoliberal Era, and Island Story: Journeys Through Unfamiliar Britain

Images of Redshed show

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12.08.2016. Performance and poetry@Fighting For Crumbs

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On Friday 12 Aug from 6:30pm on-wards we’ll be having a performance and poetry event, alongside a last chance to see The Fighting For Crumbs exhibition

Nick Kilby

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Artist Nick Kilby will be breaking his two year performance fast to put something together for the Fighting For Crumbs event on August 12th at the Gage Gallery in Sheffield, located inside KIAC, Sheffield, S3 8DB. 6:30 – 9pm

‘”To the 330’ is a noise/aktion blood hex against an occupying administration. Be fun to see some of y’all. There will be no milk x”

 

Jeff Jethro Platts

Jeff is a singer with Parson’s Lot and CAMBODiA, a writer, performer, activist, campaigner, ex miner, ex many things.

 

follow our events page on facebook to keep up to date. https://www.facebook.com/events/1766943633588740/permalink/1777196522563451

6:30-9pm, Gage Gallery. The Lions Works, 40 Ball St, Sheffield S3 8DB

 

 

A Grief That’s Been Gagged and Buried (2016)

A Grief That’s Been Gagged and Buried (2016, mixed media on A3)

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I don’t know when you could say such a time began (maybe at some point during the past decade or even earlier?), but I sense we are overdue some grieving time. And that’s because our civilisation (specifically our faith in a capitalist model – one based on exponential growth – to bring well-being and prosperity) has died. Grief is a natural process in order that we can rehabilitate so as to move on to the next stage of life, but it has been emphatically denied us. Its existence has been denied, and the denial has been played out in a turbo-charging forwards with the persistence of now-dead beliefs. And look at the pain that it is causing; to be forced to work harder for something deep down we know is not only going nowhere, but is in a process of perpetual deterioration. It has made knowing-zombies out us, an anxious-undead, clutching our Iphones, trying to climb out of the daily dread. But it has to give-way at some point. More and more of us are suffering under the psychological strain of knowing we will have to work harder and harder for diminishing returns from a dead/dying system, and all around you can see people cracking up. Nobody knows what this outcome will finally lead to, but there is potential for a rebuilding, not so much physically, but culturally. However, right now we are in need of an healing process.

This work will feature in the Wakefield Redshed section of Fighting For Crumbs (Art in The Shadow of Neoliberal Britain

Fighting For Crumbs (Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain) is a group of artists from Yorkshire working amidst the after-effects of Austerity Britain 2.0.

The project was inspired by the film ‘Invisible Britain’ (based on the work of Sleaford Mods) that looks at overlooked UK towns and cities, and motivated by a request to contribute to the 50th anniversary celebrations of ‘The RedShed’ (Wakefield Labour Club). The event is based in Sheffield and Wakefield and explores the position of art, and artists, in a period when we are all being pressured to ‘strive’ for crumbs – a time when wages are low, and the market dictates creativity

Gage Gallery, Ball Street, Sheffield, S3 8DB

Monday 8 August: Opening night. 6:30 – 9pm
Friday 12 August. Music and poetry night. 6:30 – 9 pm
11-4pm

The Redshed, 18 Vicarage St S, Wakefield WF1 1QX

Saturday 13 August. 1Pm onwards. Film-viewing, and talk by JD Taylor
Normal gallery opening times: 8 August – 13 August, 7-11pm (call 01924215626 to check room is not in use).

A Visit To ‘Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter’ Exhibition, and a Whole Lot More…

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So today I walked into Sheffield Central library, and in the remaining 30 minutes before the exhibition ‘Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter‘ closed, I found myself facing a certain series of reality prospects that had been somewhat buried under an half-decade of an unwanted montage of self-consumed anxieties, based on age-based frustration, the unending demands for identity (re)construction in our ‘always on’ [no]times, and the entrenched sense of competition in life caused by this phony-austerity agenda.

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Nuclear War?! There Goes My Career! – Mark Vallen

“Under the general weight of it all.”… and trying to maintain a sense of dignity (the Self[ie] under siege!], I have literally thrown myself into my art-making. And it’s stronger than it’s been for years. But I’m not quite sure why I’m doing this; because I don’t think I have it as ‘career’ in my mind (I can’t picture a beyond point) it’s more of a final push; a “fierce last stand of all I am”, to quote a line from a track by The Smiths. I often wonder if it has become pure drive.

I’ve somewhat lost my way; adrift, with no idea how to get out, and it’s been like this for a good few years, whilst social pressures seem become claustrophobically close.

“Give it all you’ve got now”

I daren’t be too open about my doubts over the reasons behind why I make work in this way, when ‘selling oneself’ is so mandatory to contemporary life, which ‘could result in a damaged reputation for my product’ {type bollox]. Creative expression is crucial to my very being, it finds a way out whether I plan it or not, but my way of working on things thereon-after has been so caught up in a destructive cycle that’s spun like a hula hoop around my adult body, that often I just want to be able to relax, not be so PUMPED UP, but, then I get stuck: “relax into what, exactly?”

How to be at ease in this world has always evaded me. But today I have looked back to when I began an introspection into why. I somewhat want to get back to that future.

But it was only a fantasy
The wall was too high as you can see
No matter how he tried he could not break free
And the worms ate into his brain.

So the day after I put on an exhibition, I hit a comedown, and I recoiled and slumped into the thoughts and feelings of my 24 year old self. Waiting for a train in Wakefield, I began listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and with Grayson Perry’s great documentary All Man about the impact of masculinity on individuals and society alike on my mind, I began thinking about what path The Wall partly guided me onto back in autumn 2008.

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Untitled, 2009

Not only did I think it was time to understand why I’d been such an emotionally bottled up/screwed up young man until that point, but I wanted to [try to] understand the world I was living in –  after all, the financial crash was an event still fresh from the oven, and it occurred to me that I needed to know a little more about the structures of this world especially if life was going to get tougher.

I buried myself into books, defying the self-told-story-thus-far about me not being able to read properly. So, imagine The Wall helping me deconstruct why a prison wall was emotionally starving me, whilst reading James Lovelock’s Doomed-Gaia hypotheses, and then, erm, doing my back in, staying in over Christmas and watching Threads – the film based on a possible nuclear attack on Sheffield/South Yorkshire amidst a 1980’s tension point in the Cold War…

You only need to watch Threads once. If you’re sensitive enough to the realism of it, or from a nearby area and literally know the streets the terror is played out on, it is artistic shock value taken to its logical extreme: it’s traumatising.

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Taking from South Yorkshire and Nuclear War – Information For The Public in South Yorkshire. (a book which advocated the sharing of its text/imagery

Threads hit me so hard I literally smiled when I visited Sheffield a week later, realising it was still there and standing. And foolishly misleading as emotions are: as anything so big would’ve taken out where I live in an instant too, as this story based on a likely scenario if Sheffield was hit by a nuclear blast explains –  chillingly so, if you are closely affiliated with the former mining area-cum-sleepy dormitory suburb that is Darton, or home.

“Jim is in his farmyard near Darton, Barnsley. Suddenly a brilliant flash of light temporarily blinds him. A wave of heat from the explosion scorches his face. Seconds later, he hears the explosion. Windows crack and tiles fall from the roof. Numb with shock he feels his way back into the kitchen….The house provides little protection from fallout. Like four out of five people in the Barnsley area, Jim dies.”

The above text and the accompanying diagrams were taken from the documents on display that made up the one day event Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter. I didn’t get to absorb that much, but in 30 minutes left I was sobered out enough to realise how increasingly streamed out I am from becoming more and more tied to my ‘Always on’ (or Wi Fi-seeker!) devices, and how my core being (or core sense of what it is to be fucking human or something) demands I COME UP FOR AIR!

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“There is no pain you are receiving. … your lips move but I can’t hear what you’re saying!

It seems that Pink Floyd’s The Wall follows me when I think about such things. Perhaps it’s the quintessential Cold War-period album? Perhaps The Wall, like Grayson Perry argues in All Man, is about how damaging masculinity can be on an individual and geopolitical level, when it becomes a used for emotional repression in a society.

It seemed that I was able to reflect on both these things today, for the first time in ages.

There’s nothing like ‘a near miss’ of a potential apocalypse in global affairs, centred on the annihilation the place you’ve seen the world from, to momentarily drag you out of the stream/our never ending cyberspace commutes, to take a look at something we don’t usually feel is real enough to care about.

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This is because the nuclear threat usually doesn’t feel real anymore. Not only have we been misguided into thinking all those threats died away when the main adversary to USA-centered power, the Soviet Union, collapsed in the early 1990s, but I think the ‘disappearance’ of the big threats is mainly down to the type of world that was just emerging from the Cold War and Post War settlements like some freak creation.

In the early 1980’s the neoliberal project, which forces our 21st century ‘online’ selves into being endless entrepreneurs of ourselves, was in its infancy in the UK. The technologies that push us into committing to self promotion (in whatever form it takes) 24/7 in 2016 were years away, and the social bonds, communities that gave the otherwise politically disfranchised ‘the capacity to care’ hadn’t yet been fully desecrated by neoliberal policies.

In 2016, we are equally bored and anxious – although we are a pains to openly admit this ‘public secret’.  Internet memes and lifestyle gurus promote the wonders of the world – exciting tastes, views, diets, experience -whilst the language is one of community, friendship and good times. Yet what we have been more or less pushed towards in the past 15 years is a way of life that makes us anxious and bored in equal measure. Anxious because life is becoming tighter, more brutal, competitive between one  another, just for crumbs. Boring, because we are glued to devices that stream pics and texts into us at such speed that everything becomes insignificant. Much of the content itself has the potential to really make an impact on our perceptions, but under digital rain, nothing new can enter – you have to consciously push yourself to find anything significant that doesn’t directly concern your lonely, cyber-commuting-self.

The compounding sense I, at least, have had during the past 6 years, when cyberspace dependency has skyrocketed, is one of being in an eternal now. It’s not that I don’t feel like I‘m getting older, or anything; on the contrary, it possibly impounds a sense of ageing, as digital dependency, and increased competition seem to spill out onto the street as the world begins to look like a landlocked Baywatch scene, where a mass of “keep and young beautiful” people hustle between job, gym and grocery as self-perfection becomes a mandatory for market individualism. And as my naturally anxious figure cuts between them, feeling like some 1990’s flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shorelines at the end of history, I am also aware other parts of our towns and cities are beginning to resemble Rustbelt America, or even perhaps the 3rd world. Yet the ‘always on’ cyber-commute way of life we have, creates the sensation of being stuck in a loop, forever.

And how can anything beyond the immediate seem a physical actuality anymore. Even Climate Change feels like it isn’t real, even as nearby floods are showing it most clearly is. This hit home most strikingly when I was jolted out of the post-night-out numbness of my particular ‘loop’ one night, when trouble was flaring up in the Ukraine 2 years back.

Whilst We Were In The Eternal Now...

“Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now…” (2014)

“Whilst We Were in The Eternal Now…”  was a response to the this feeling of pervading unreality to geopolitical and climate change events, whilst in the cyber-commute loop. A cold shiver whilst lying in bed, as I suddenly CAME UP FOR AIR, and realised just how real the threat of nuclear war still is.

I’m the sort of person who doesn’t want to live in a dream world, but I’ve found I’ve been doing more of this over the past few years. Perhaps this was due to an initial meltdown due to the amount I used to threat about the future of humans on this planet under capitalism. It didn’t do me any good, but I hate living like an avatar. And Im glad I came to to the Sheffield and The Nuclear Winter exhibition today, because it made me come up for air.

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The World Wide OneUpmanship

The World Wide One Upmanship (2016, 8x4FT mixed media on paper and card)

This is a piece I made in response to being asked to make a site specific piece when in the initial stages of planning my current show at Bowery Gallery. The work is called The World Wide One Upmanship, and brings together a lot of thoughts and visual ideas I’ve been playing with for the past half year. I worked these ideas into the shape of the building, by making the ‘epic fail’ detritus, the fallen, surplus-to-requirements, pile of cruel type of society, fit the shape of a fire place, with the wall being part of an old chimney.

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