Tag Archive | society of the spectacle

“Sad, LONELY, Frightened”

“Sad, LONELY, Frightened” (2015, A4, ink on paper)

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It’s not that we now live as if every potential moment could be photographed/filmed, it’s more that we seem to automatically behave as if there were already the case.

There is almost film-like gestures, sound-bite body movements, perhaps a response to the demand not just that life always be entertaining but that we are also continuously part of the entertainment complex.

Like auto-tune programs for digitally rendered sounds and auto-enhancements for images, there seems to auto-enhance for human bodies, and how we say the words that fall from our mouths. Has late capitalism created individualism for the automaton?

The theories surrounding mass culture/The Society of The Spectacle haven’t become irrelevant, but perhaps they are no longer locatable in contemporary life because it is no longer that the individual is subjected to it – the individual now projects it themselves. (Perhaps, an example of this can be made by watching selections of old adverts on Youtube that show us adverts for products that have now become such a naturalised part of reality they no longer need advertising to us)

Everything that registers as a ‘thought’ in our heads is within the the setting of a film-set of our life. How did thought work before the photogenic and film-like reified our imagination? How can we even tell now?

I’m aware I’m even doing this now, to some extent, as I sit in a cafe writing this on my laptop; I can’t help the inverted spectacle making me act as a photogenic ‘muse’, ‘thinker’ – I’ve literally no idea how I would look if was for once possible to imagine myself without it becoming a stage set in my mind (Would I imagine myself at all?).

Of course, this is just standard observations of a late-capitalist (or postmodern culture) – am I just witnessing a higher saturation of it than the Sci Fi writers could have imagined 30 years ago? Not only is integrity gutted and then subsumed, but even ironic self-reflex (thought of as the ultimate postmodern reflex) is also (re)gutted and (re)subsumed into the stratosphere of late capitalism.
Is it also the case that I independently re-spot things, without the once-read thoughts of the likes of Baudrillard, Barthes, Debord doing the terminology for the signs I see? And this annoys me that any comprehensive account of my own is continuously stop-started, and finally exhausted, more than it (probably) annoys an academic who says “yeah, this [writing] says nothing new”.

Yet I still believe there has been a shift, regarding the behavioural patterns specific to this pseudo-essay of mine, in the past 10 years. I don’t think the photogenic, cinematic posturing was so naturalised over ten years ago; I believe it still had to be attempted, to some extent – an ideal way of looking, walking, talking that we had to mimic. Now it no longer needs thought to be mimicked, as individualist automatons.

Obviously the question arises: does it matter? Is it so bad if we all now walk around in auto-enhance, automatically communicating with each other as if it’s for a final cut? It matters only if we believe that there is a common reality base that we all share; that if I punch a wall I will feel pain, and the person I demonstrate this to will agree that that pain is an unquestionable realness.

If life is graceful enough to us, we can accept that nothing may be real, and rejoice in the further abstraction from base reality. But if we do this, then what need is there for any empathy for the sobering suffering spilling out onto our streets more and more as part and parcel of the same late capitalist dynamics that enable abstraction from it? Why care about anything?

We can’t NOT care, eventually, when the things we ignore as relative realities catch up with friends, family, ourselves. Further acceptance of this advance of what Baudrillard called ‘Hyper reality’ will only come back to bite our pain feeling bodies.

Drawing in situ at P A N D E M I C York

I took part in York this weekend just gone.  P A N D E M I C, inspired by the Situationist movement (notably the philosopher Guy Debord, who wrote Society of the Spectacle), invites anybody to come along, to perform, discuss, or whatever they feel they want to do. But it is also an environment of questioning, where preconceived views are challenged – but by everybody, in a none pedagogical environment. It is “a balance between the intellectual and the intuitive: organic evolutionary change via experimentation, deviation and panic is [the aim of  P A N D E M I C]”. I was part of the first P A N D E M I C event in Sheffield 2011, and it had a very positive affect on my own, not just artistic, but philosophical/political ideas.

I, although my work is usually finished before it is seen by other eyes outside my studio/workplace, have always severely missed the interaction of the days of university, when ones work itself was, by the very nature of being in a place of communication, always evolving organically. Bringing the art I have already been working on to an environment of discussion and other art is always something I see of being of great value. The energy (and even the rhythmical movement of making my drawings) can often feel lost once the piece is finished and up on a gallery wall, where, although it looks how I want it look, can sometimes feel like the dead skin shed by the ideas.
Here are some images of my working at  P A N D E M I C York on a (still unfinished!) piece called ‘The Planet’s Mental Illness (or) Plantery Mental Breakdown (not decided which title does the job yet – opinions welcome).
Images courtesey of Iain at http://iggoire.tumblr.com/
Here is some more about P A N D E M I C
adjective – (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.
noun – an outbreak of a pandemic disease.
Origin: -mid 17th century: from Greek pandēmos (from pan ‘all’ + dēmos ‘people’) + -ic

P A N D E M I C, like the great plagues that inspired it, will spread like a disease that does not discriminate. It can and will affect anyone, no matter what superficially constructed group they may identify with, no matter what class, gender, race, sexuality and income level. It is an ever changing vehicle for discussion, ideas and dissent.

During a series of happenings in Sheffield, UK during November 2011, P A N D E M I C incorporated a continuous programme of visual art – along with events every evening for 2 weeks consisting of a combination of experimental music, film, lectures, talks, workshops, readings and performance. We have used several spaces already including gallery spaces, lecture rooms, pubs, car parks and other less conventional spaces.
—some of these inspired by the Situationist International, some just by life itself. We wish to promote the ideas of reclaiming space, and reappropriating images with a D.I.Y ethos in response to the advanced capitalist dystopia we now find ourselves in. We now experience life through an abstraction – in the form of advertising, prescribed gender and social roles and media manipulation which leads to the us living in a substitute for reality instead of living reality itself. Via television documentaries we have armchair tourism, via royal spectacles we have emotional tourism (like the public reaction to the death of Princess Diana), via soap operas we have drama and intrigue, via reality T.V we are given “reality”. We advocate that we: create not consume; question not accept and act not just dream.

The purpose of P A N D E M I C is to inspire as many people as possible, to involve people who are not just the usual already “converted” art types. We want the project to spread to other towns and cities as a continued and evolving social and creative platform. So far we have infected York and London too. P A N D E M I C has evolved in direct opposition to the prescribed and elitist, market driven nature of the artworld, and the government funded stuff which is often only commissioned because it ticks the right agenda boxes. P A N D E M I C exists with no money spent or earned at all.

We are tired of going to the “right” place, at the “right” time and behaving in the “right” way in white-washed, sterile spaces to look at “art” that has been chosen as “significant” by the wealthy and the egotistical. Art is life and it should reflect life’s beauty and it’s misery in all its complexity. Only our everyday lives have meaning, and through them we relate to others, not only this but if art is life, then art should relate to all facets of life and thus should be experienced in all of the places and spaces we inhabit.

P A N D E M I C is in direct opposition to the artworld and art market, for this world is boring and elitist, it consists of a series of cliquey institutionalised in-jokes, and is fundamentally controlled by rich buyers and investors. As well as this we see how the media constantly dumbs down conceptual or experimental art – or mocks it with dismissive comments like “my 5 year old could do that.” And so art is kept this way to a) make said elite feel culturally superior and b) disenfranchise us from sentient culture. The ability to engage with art entails our ability to deconstruct images, this skill can then be used to deconstruct the images in the media that attempt to control us. Most importantly we must learn deconstruct our lives and the problems we face as a species.

We already have many visual artists, writers, activists, lecturers, dancers/performers and musicians involved – and there is always room for more. We remain open to anybody. From you we are looking for support, promotional help, for you and your friends to get involved too – and any other groups that you know of being made aware. Particularly we are looking for spaces to utilise as well as people to take part in whatever form. Our ethos is that anyone can be creative and anyone can relate to and enjoy art if art reflects their own lives – as opposed to art merely reflecting art itself, or the elitist institution and the social status attached to it.

Some minor venting

I haven’t been thinking too clearly of late. This might be a start, looking at examples of distractions that enhance this disorientation

I can hear the spectacle calling me from down stairs. Whooshes and explosions tempt me to be sucked into the dreamscape

When I walk past the television set downstairs around tea-time, as I attempt to quickly get a drink, not wanting to lose momentum from the work I am undertaking up in my room, there is often a film on, set to the typical action movie formula, which my father hasn’t so much decided to watch as become resigned to watching. After I have got that needed liquid, and I make my escape for the stairs back to the room where I’m working, I get caught by the action on the screen as if I’ve accosted.

Most ‘blockbuster’ action films (especially the recent re-makes) have but a skeletal amount of content, but have collosal heaps of spectacle; and it is at these moments that one (re)understands the almost-hypnotic power that spectacle (especially spectacle that has had millions spent on making it) has on people. It just draws you towards it like a light draws in a moth. It is seductive; you’re telling yourself to leave the room, to turn and make a dash, but it’s like the screen has hold of eyes from the sockets and his pulling them into a whirlpool.

Notorious for being empty of new ideas, Hollywood, which is the USA’S foremost propaganda machine (‘diffuse’ propaganda; to use Guy Debord’s word for describing the way that most so-called ‘democratic’ nations’ spectacle works), still shows us why the American way is still the most powerful; it’s seduction.


Facebook: the crowd in your lonely room

What I need to remember when I’ve got Facebook on whilst trying to do other things (things that rejuvenate my sense of self like making art, writing), and struggling to do so, is that Facebook is a crowd, even if it’s a non-physical one. One cannot think clearly when it’s on, when the blue and white rolling news channel of friendship is promising/or threatening (?) to put up the excitement-creating red cubes of communication in the top left corner on the screen. Although the crowd isn’t physical, and many members of the crowd may not even be present at certain moments, the potential of the presence of members of the crowd pulls the crowd mentality over us. Not a crowd mentality in the sense of an unthinking mob, but in the sense of the paranoia and self-consciousness, and the feeling that one should reply to everything said around their Zone/Facebook wall, like one often feels in a busy street or crowded room. This isn’t so great, regarding the places where we usually use Facebook: places like bedrooms, where one would previously have found only their mind at work; a place for reflection and clear thinking being encroached upon? But most of us Facebook users know it is so hard to leave this potential crowd! It makes us feel so lonely if we turn it off, or deactivate our online persona for a few days, even though we probably didn’t have this lonely feeling until it encroached upon our once completely solitary spaces. Its shouts have a spectacular effect, like the aforementioned films do, and they call us to back to the computer screen like the films call us downstairs to be subject to the TV (the dictator of the settee).

Elaboration in this will be needed at some point, I know! But I didn’t want to post it onto the place where 150 words fit more appropriately than this blog where I usually write in more detail: Facebook

We Are Watching Ourselves Sink

We are watching ourselves sink (2009)

Biro on Paper, 110X80cm



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