Tag Archive | social commentary

Fighting For Crumbs…

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I’ve been involved in setting this project up for the best part of a year…

Over the past few years or so I have found a few people who were agreeing with my growing sentiment:

That the mood and spirit of this society (global too) was in a deep depression, and that this had to be addressed before there could ever be a popular movement that would well and truly galvanise the daily-downtrodden’s into believing in something so much that they were prepared to fight for it.

(Let’s be honest. I’m a daily-downtrodden myself. I’m no freedom fighter.)

Trying to hold a belief that another world is possible up to the light of a new day in UK2015 was like holding a flower up to a nuclear blast – it withered and recoiled before the toothpaste was on the toothbrush. Before you know it the old depressive-pleasure-seeking kicks in: cider after cider, angry self destructive acts, a spree of undecipherable text messages  – enough to write another day off until a new dawn fades.

Art has been my backbone in a world which seems bent on being cold and meaningless in equal measure. Without it I’m a mollusc looking for the nearest dark spot to dwell in For “there are brighter sides to life and I should know, because I’ve seen them, but not very often”. And I always recoil to my work as an antidote-maker.

I’m bored of expressing this. Deeply bored.

I…..

Another world….

…a better world

Isn’t there a plant in the desert that only flowers once a generation? Is that not a perfect analogy for English optimism?

The week that followed from May 8 2015 was actually a special week for me, for it felt like I was sharing something with others. What I felt I shared was a despair and fear now that the Tories and the media were taking their gloves off for some sadist pleasures. And I felt this sharing of despair beginning to jolt people into a sort of action most of us hadn’t engaged in before. But it didn’t last…

Rotten Soil….

…A couple of months later I discovered the Sleaford Mods. Their channeling of the rotten soil of nowhereland sank into hole where a soul, a love of life should’ve been. An Antidote. Later that year I was surprised to find that a film called Invisible Britain, that followed the band, was following them on a tour of the Ingored-lands. The Ignored-lands I meandered within and wrote about: mainly Barnsley and Wakefield.

I felt an idea coming along..

This idea was given one leg to stand on when I was asked by friends to put on an exhibition at the Wakefield Labour club (Aka The Redshed).

2016 marks the 50th birthday of The Redshed, also known as The Labour club. Situated in the heart of the Yorkshire city of Wakefield, the place is somewhat unique, and has defiantly resisted the capitalist forces that have penetrated nearly everything else around it. A year-long line-up of events are now marking this anniversary.

Sandra Hutchinson, a lifelong supporter of the club, spoke of how The Redshed began at the height of the social and political changes happening in the 1960’s. In-spite of the seismic troubles around the world, it was an age of political optimism, and there was a strong belief that things could be and would be changed.

I needed to put something on that spoke of the disbelief that has penetrated the years I’ve been an adult.

Artist Corinne Deakin coincidentally came up to me thinking of doing something very similar. Looking at the way the arts were being pushed out of the reach of many people due to 5 years of needless austerity, low wages and high living costs. I must’ve said the words ‘fighting for crumbs’, in one of my waffles that I never remember, and Corinne remembered it and said that we need to call our project this.

And then it just seem to fall into place. I’d worked with the artist John Wilkinson the year before, and knew his work and thoughts were ideal for our project. And during conversations with friends Rebekah Whitlam and poet Jonathan Butcher I realised how appropriate their work was to addressing the cultural mood of this secretly unhappy Island. Corinne knew a photographer from Barnsley called Connor Matheson, who was just that little bit younger than my own town centre social circles for me to have know him prior to the this project, but I think I’d already seen his photographs and thought they would work well alongside our works, especially John Wilkinson’s paintings. In a way that is sort of Inspired by Invisible Britain, I thought it would be great to make a talking head documentary for this project – the Fighting for Crumbs documentary will be on show at the Redshed event, and hopefully all way through the Gage Event. Anyway, here’s a link to all that. https://www.facebook.com/events/1766943633588740/

Here are a few lines from each artist. All I can say is that I hope whoever reads this can make it to at least one of the events that we are putting on:

John Wilkinson (B 1962 – Sheffield based)

 

The price of coal

The Price of Coal

Austerity, the ugly reality of post-war Britain and the backdrop to the founding of the welfare state has come back to haunt us once again. Trying to invoke that spirit that enabled us to survive and rebuild the last time, David Cameron famously said ‘We’re all in it together’ but the truth is that we’re not, and it isn’t the same. A North decimated by industrial decline and unemployment is not the same as the manufacturing centres that provided the growth and foreign trade that led us to economic revival in the 50’s. A class abandoned because the education bar has become too costly to climb over is no longer the motor of the economy, and so the economic benefits of whatever financial services revival they paid for never reach them. Instead of building the State that supported growth we are dismantling Health, Education, Housing and Welfare, and replacing all but the cheapest labour with technology that frees us from work and with it income. As an artist, my work is a response to the world I live in – a mirror that reflects reality, and what it might become. Through it I express my compassion for a people who built the foundations of our world, and will be left to rot in its basements until we can see what is happening, and ask for better. Then I’ll paint pretty landscapes.

Corinne Deakin (B 1988)

Corinne Deakin

During the past 5 years, or perhaps longer, we have seen old architecture and independent business give way to gentrification and cuts that effect the working class. Education is being stifled and the youth of Britain are entrenched in large debts they may never be able to pay off, with suggestions of unfair consequences. The idea of community is disintegrating, as we are encouraged to evolve into self absorbed, cutthroat individuals where its constant networking and making a career for yourself is based more and more on who you know, not what you know- and it never hurts if you’re born into wealth. Glorifying low paid internships and getting very little in return. This is the ideology that’s being sold to aspiring artists; the dark introduction of how to make it as a successful artist today.

Jonathan Butcher (poet, B 1978, Sheffield)

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Over the last 40 years the structures that should constitute a society have been eaten away by ideals which have been instigated by the few, with the intention to pollute the many. Ideals that strive to restrict us and attempt reduce human expression to the level of the banal and the superfluous; achievements considered wasteful,and without worth. We have been left empty, yet we are expected to remain grateful for the meager gains we have scraped together; gains which when pursued only through shear necessity, place money above time and psychical and mental strain above thought and basic fulfillment. Slivers of hope are offered, but are usually temporary, and for the large part conducted by those just as driven by this machinery as those they purport to despise. This now continual scenario enforced upon us attempts to define us. It claims to speak on our behalf, without offering a single answer to this problem or a solution to our fate.

John Ledger (B 1984, From Barnsley, works in Wakefield)

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There has arisen a deep disbelief in the abilities of the human race, without much shared understanding of how we came to feel this way. Maybe it comes from the fact that with what we now know (regarding climate change, the impacts of social inequality, living memories of 20th century horrors), there’s a sense that we SHOULD be in the process of building a far better world to live in. But NO: in 2016 we are within a state of affairs that is making us scrap amongst ourselves for pieces of barely anything. Are we surprised if nervous breakdowns and spells of aimless rage are commonplace amidst this deeply absurd situation?”

Rebekah Whitlam, Sheffield, 1984

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Vanitas Britannia.

Since the recession there has been a pseudo-nostalgia of post-war Britain. Kettling, rioting, and protests were swiftly detracted from by weddings, jubilees, and cake on the BBC. The “keep calm and carry on” craft trend has escalated; beer, baking, and bunting have become synonymous with community togetherness.

Whilst we crave authenticity in ourselves and our society, empty slogans are sold back to us. The commodities of craft offer us promises of a community, but leave us all the more alienated. As handmade, locally sourced businesses cash in on redeveloping the streets, financial and emotional security remains distant for their neighbours and the divide becomes increasingly widened.

As a textile artist I feel a pressure of balancing a vision of socially inclusive creativity without undercutting myself and other artists financially. The lapping of cushions, cards, and craft is at my feet, but how do I not become part of the problem?

Austerity strains us economically and is having a detrimental effect on personal integrity and creative freedom.

Connor Matheson (B 1992 Barnsley)

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The works I am showing in Fighting For Crumbs explore the everyday lives of normal people in the Post-Thatcher era, with particular focus on themes such as family relationships, the local economy and drinking culture. With a specific focus on the north of England, this project is an accurate representation of working class culture, depicting the everyday lives of people who are often vilified in the mainstream press as “scroungers” or “yobs”. The work shows the effects of government economic policy yet also shows the human element, relationships and humour in life and celebrates the diversity of people and the character of areas.


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)

 

 

 

 

Tired of Life (“I Want To Leave Myself”)

Tired of Life (“I Want To Leave Myself”) 2016, ink on paper

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All I need to add about this drawing is that the title isn’t necessarily referring to me, and my state of mind. It refers also to a general mood in an age where I believe our increasing dependency on the ‘matrix’ is nihilizing us, daily; draining any colour from the world, and its eroding all mystery. These are the qualities things which make our time spent in this world more than a the knowing dead-end of unit-shifting pleasure-seeking.

Recent Mapmaking (2014 so far) part 2

This is the second post in a series what 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 first post can be found here. A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here).

19 August 2014

“The smell of ‘Americanness’ emanating from Wakefield’s expansive retail park, from a very doughnutty smell.Yet [I am] at lest 200 yards away at the moment. I say ‘Americanness’ because it’s a distinctive smell from childhood, largely due to it’s lack of presence in it, except when I was with other [children’s’] parents. I think it is fair to say my dad was highly critical of large swathes of American culture – mainly that which forms around the likes of Disney and Macdonalds. Thus we rarely indulged in them, and more often had fish and chip takeaways.

42. 19.08.2014

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43. P1010298

“The trains are far more advanced than the clunky ones [the commuters of] lower-West and South Yorkshire get. It certainly does feel commuters from some areas are treat as a higher class of citizens than commuters from other areas. There is certainly an unacknowledged hierarchy and snobbery relating to commuter transport in this country.”

44. 19.08.2014 (2)

45. P1010300

46. P1010301

20 August 2014

“Low-seating on Northern Rail means that I can’t help but see what everyone is doing/reading on the train. [A] Girl/young woman sits in front of me. She looks like a student [do to student badge hung around her neck]. I notice that the book she is reading is called ‘Overcoming Anorexia’ [and] it is now clear to me why. I feel really sorry for her, she’s obviously so ashamed of it, as she has covered up the book cover with white paper. It also deeply saddens me, coming home from Manchester, slightly more sentimental than usual due to alcohol intake. Manchester will always be [a place] connected with my own anorexic spell, due to having to leave [a course I was studying in] the city due to it. As she reads a chapter on the damages it does to relationships, I am reminded how I never truly overcame it, I just channeled the obsessive behaviour into other things. But it’s still there, only skin-deep. The young woman probably has parents going prematurely white-haired due to this thing that has inflicted their daughter in this violent world”.

47. 20.08.2014 (2)

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27 August 2014

“Bus stop outside district hospital. [I always feel there is] a lot of really unwell-looking people within our borough. Across the road are posters for last Monday’s Jarrow-inspired march to save the NHS (from privatisation). In some ways it is one of the [only] visible signs of class politics within a town of this size”.

51. 27.08.2014 (2)

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2 September 2014

“Sat in cafe [close] to the cathedral. Two males sit in front of me. [They are] loud, and aggressive in tone – especially the one who’s back is facing me. After being audibly subjected to it, it is apparent that they are capitalist gangsters – no doubt about it. Discussing dark deals. The man doing most talking is of Asian ethnicity, but with strong West Yorkshire accent; the other is an obese white man, with terrible skin on his face. I feel offended by the money amounts they are talking about, and intimidated by the main-speaking-man’s warnings to the other man that he will get himself killed if he isn’t careful, and that he himself is prepared to kill for business”.

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4 September 2014

“On Trans-Pennine train, I sit facing a young man of near-Asian ethnicity – wearing sunglasses and white earphones. Despite his ‘westernisation’ and my general blaming of Western forces for the rise in extreme militancy in the [Islamic] group ISIS, I can’t avoid the irrational fear brewed in everyone’s mind by the thought-masher that is the mainstream media. “What if he cut my head off on the train?” my reptilian brain-part asked my other brain-part. I felt so bad for having these thoughts. He got off at Huddersfield. I just fear that the [mainstream] media’s making everyone’s minds harbour such thoughts – it can only make the world a nastier place if so”.

57. 04.09.2014

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Want to get out of tourist area on the docklands as soon as I find myself there. Just have no interest in the gimmickry of it. Union Jacks and Beatles’ memorabilia; a mixture of things associated with Britain/Liverpool re-appropriated into the conservatism of making everything into a tourist spot. Isn’t it odd how many sites of former industrial/political strife have since been ‘re-developed’ into meccas from tourism and consumerism?”

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“I realise we have taken a different rail route back into Manchester, due to unfamiliar look of route. Settlements begin unexpectedly quick [again, after exiting Liverpool]. Due to this, I almost fool myself into thinking that maybe there’s an urban sprawl/city between the Manchester/Liverpool sprawls that I’ve somehow managed to erase from my memory”.

64. 04.09.20141

Recent mapmaking. (2014 so far, through maps)

I’ve begun including a few photographs within my (what I still reluctantly call -as I’ve not found a better word for them yet) psychogeographical maps.

13th May 2012

“Street Art-clad entrance into Victorian storm tunnels, before they descend under central Leeds. Perhaps the element of urban decay is what prompts us to talk about the rise of capital flight from urban areas in the future, alongside the rise of ‘disaster capitalism.”

6. Leeds May

6. may 13

17th June 2014

“Waiting to cross the road and notice man stumbling down Huddersfield Road. He looks severely distressed. Can’t tell if it’s emotional, pyshical or both. He looks extremely impoverished, possible addiction problems. He stumbles onto road, rush hour traffic has to stop, and he stumbles onto the next road. I turn around dreading I’m going to see him run over. It’s as if he’s lost the will to care. Can’t help feeling that I’m seeing many individual tragedies of neoliberalism’s race to the bottom.”

7. map 17 june

24 June 2014

“Passing homeless person on Division Street. Dave says there was a program on TV recently confirming what I have thought: that [cases of] homelessness has exploded in Sheffield. I never used to notice it 4 years ago. Now it feels like a city close to a social time-bomb.

9. 24 June

30 June 2014

“Large juxtaposition between aspirational, digitally-utopianised imagery, whilst old men sit and watch the demolition [going on] beyond the imagery. Is there really enough people in this area [who can afford to shop at extortionate upmarket shops] to justify this total gentrification of Leeds?”

11. map 30 june1                                 12. june 30 (3)        13. june 30

8 July 2014

“Trees growing from disused railway line momentarily give me impression of a city abandoned by humans, and lush plant life taking over”

15. map 8 july16. 8 July

12 July 2014

Pro-Scottish independence sticker of gas/electric meter (?) at bottom of Victoria Road. It says ‘End London Rule!’ My first thought it “we’re all [as in the rest of England] with you on that!” I’ve noticed a lot of pro-Scottish Independence stickers posted around this end [north] of Barnsley – a Scottish/Yorkshire link trying to be harnessed maybe?”

17. map 12 july1

                             19. P1010156       18. july 12

15 July 2014

“Aspirational poster of good-looking couple pillow-fighting next to private apartments. I always find this advert offensive, even as its believability fades as it gets bleached by the sun.”

20. map 15 july

21. 15 July

22. 15 July (2)

19 July 2014

“Can’t ignore rolling news bulletins flying past on big screen in Wetherspoons. It’s all about responses from nations regarding the Malaysian passenger plane being brought down by a missile in Eastern Ukraine. It starts to make me feel unwell – the unending possibilities of consequences that can crush your well-being.”

24. 19 july

1 August 2014

“6 Chimneys Wetherspoons, Wakefield. The only place I found to sit and have a coffee. Sit across from young man, wearing vest, on his laptop. [See him] trawling his Facebook and Hotmail accounts, no doubt feeling the need to keep up to date with things and search for opportunities. It is something an increasing number of us are familiar with, including myself; the low-paid, precarious, or unemployment mass all trying to better their predicament through the network – an endless, relentless searching and (virtual)door-knocking.”

25. 01.08.2014

5 August 2014

“Listening to the Louder Than Bombs compilation, The Smiths, in roads/landscapes akin to the ones I used to walk/cycle through whilst I was in my early adulthood. It reminds me of how, despite it being a difficult time, I still had hope for life/the future.”

27. map  5 August

28. 5 August

11 August 2014

“Head to Baby Jupiter, a pub [I frequented] often in the early recession days. Near-past friendship groups. There’s a little glass jar on the bar; “help us from going bust”. This is the most ‘Retromania’ bar I can ever imagine. Yet, right now it feels like a comfort blanket, immune from time”

30. map 11  August

12 August 2014

“The long urban walk begins to [blend together] with my long urban walks in South East London. I think about how Manchester is portrayed as ‘Coronation Street’, but is experientially very akin to gritty South London.”

33. map 12  August35 36   37

16 August 2014

“Suddenly notice cars, and realise the seeming ‘place of safety’ is within grasp. Forests, especially dark, near impassable ones, warp [your] sense of time and distance. My wrong turn [within] it has felt like an hour, when in reality it’s only be 25 minutes. I have sweat dripping from my forehead.”

39. 16.08.2014 (3)

17 August 2014

“Two very tall policemen surround a poor-looking, possibly malnourished teenage male, outside [the train] station. Whatever he’s done, he now looks noticeably scared. A nearby person says “haven’t they got anything better to do than to pick on a boy?”

39. 17.08.2014 (2)

18 August 2014

“Barnsley library now literally one big heap of rubble. What a waste. It almost looks like a dark monolithic construction. From here [viewed on Shambles street] it is placed right in front of the town hall – it almost looks like an attempt to rebuild Barnsley’s past landscape of spoil heaps.”

40. 18.08.201441. 18.08.2014

(New Book) A Walk Down The Hallam Line: a personal account of the West Riding of Yorkshire

A Walk Down The Hallam Line@Blurb.com

This account has culminated from years of wandering and musing around an area loosely centered around Leeds, Wakefield, Barnsley and Sheffield. It has been displayed in an arrangement of photographs taken between 2008 and 2014, that roughly span the time that the thoughts that make this personal account came together. Yet, always being somewhat concerned with the notion of place – what is urban, what is rural, what is home, what isn’t – it is probably more accurate to say these thoughts have grown over 30 years.

This ‘walk’ through 4 districts that span the old West Riding of Yorkshire is foremost a personal account, yet it also aims to serve as a psychogeographical account. I know psychogeography is a term that is often said to be thrown around carelessly. So, to my make my use of it more clear, I see it as a means of mapping ones experience of a place. I’m trying to show what inhabiting these places/walking through a human landscape feels like, because I believe doing so has much-overlooked potential for understanding a 21st century world that few would argue is working for the majority of us. Thus the accompanying photos aren’t the type to make pretty wall-hangings; all too often I find reality is massively cropped to take the more picturesque. I have chosen this area because it is a landscape I know better than any other. My time remaining on this earth as John Ledger will be indelibly-coloured by this area, whether I am in Barcelona or still in Barnsley.

http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/5273100-a-walk-down-the-hallam-line-a-personal-account-of