Sunday, 2 August 2015

The Self [ie] Under Seige (2015, mixed media on paper)

 

Monday, 20 July 2015

This Is Not a Top Song List: My Life Through Joy Division Tracks

They keep calling me”
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Amidst the pretty stark turbulence I experienced as 2015 began I became obsessed with trying to write something about Joy Division’s eternal-presence in my life. But I never got anywhere, convincing myself it needed to be a project of  a sizable, I-know-everything-about-Joy-Division, quality due to the task of writing about one of those bands guarded with pitchforked-opinions by musos. But it felt crucial for me to write something both for myself, and for the reason brilliantly articulated in Mark Fisher’s Ghosts of My Life: “If Joy Division matter now more than ever, it’s because they capture the depressed spirit of our times. Listen to Joy Division now and you have the inescapable impression that the group were catatonically channeling our present, their future. From the start their work was overshadowed by a deep foreboding , a sense of a future foreclosed, all certainties dissolved , only growing gloom ahead.” (Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life, 2014)
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Ben Hewitt’s article Joy Division: 10 of The Best, in the guardian this week, gave me an motivational template: I’d use a selection their songs to expand on all this stuff about the band that I have been driven to tell people in pubs for the past 3 years. But I don’t have any desire to write about a fave song list per se: the album tracks I reference gain a great deal of their significance when listened to within the context of the entire album (this should seem obvious, but in the Ipod age, the ‘shuffle’ features heavily in the way we listen to music). I also wanted to use individual tracks to explain how the din of their resonance seems to get louder and louder the further we (in UK terms) descend further into the Thatcherite experiment that may finally be coming to end… “this dream it takes too long”. And although I found only managed to write about 7 songs, they were more than sufficient. Thus I have proceeded in writing the blog I’ve been wishing to write all these years.
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In the past few years it seems overwhelmingly the case that we are looking back to a certain time for answers to a present day inertia. Yet we don’t seem to realise that this is what we’re doing, and so just continue doing it blindly. Cultural artifacts from the 70’s into the early eighties seem to be constantly at hand for reference on all media platforms. For example, Ben Hewitt’s article: although I think it’s brilliantly written in its own right (far more imaginative use of language than I could ever achieve), and it creatively touches upon material that relates to their ‘channeling of the present’, it also seems oblivious to it. When he writes of Dead Souls that “…Curtis sounds like he’s being pulled by ghostly apparitions, trapped in a place “where figures from the past stand tall / And mocking voices ring the halls”…” isn’t the most ghostly aspect of all in how this perfectly describes our relationship to Joy Division in the 21st century? Such articles and documentaries don’t seem to understand the motive behind their accumulative coming-into-being 35 years after Ian Curtis killed himself.
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Of the 7 Joy Division songs I have picked, I have tried, when possible to introduce them in relation to personal experiences,

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1. Disorder

“Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?”
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It must have been 2010; in that murky moment between something bad (New Labour) and something worse (all-out-Tory Class War-disguised as ‘the coalition’). Up until now Joy Division had been off my succession of cheap mp3 players for a few years – having told myself that the obsession I had with them in my early 20’s, some five years back into the thick of Blair’s Britain, had been a sign of immaturity, and that they’re subsequent increasing popularity was no more than a Topshop accessory. As the fall of 2010 arrived with the threat of immobilising snow storms entrenching a deeper existential inertia, it all reversed, and I found myself hurtling back towards some kind of early 20’s point.
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We were drinking at a friend’s flat in the back-end of Barnsley- one of those new-build apartment complexes, squeezed in amidst unhappy-looking Victorian terraces still stained by the soot of a vanquished industry. A few cans downed and then it was time to head into town, myself regrettably still hooked the mirages of fulfilled hopes and dreams that coated the shell of the so-called Blair-year Party-times. But this was now descending into its zombie stage.
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We came to an agreement that we needed a ‘going out song’, and we chose Disorder. The throbbing beat of the bass drum kicked in, and the trance-like state took over for the first time in years. This wasn’t a flashback, as I was back there again. The way my slightly inebriated friends were moving around the room, getting seduced into the whirlpool-like nature of Disorder when played at volume, made me realise that this wasn’t some “Lets all dance to Joy Division” indie-cool trend: this was real. My early twenties-daily dependency on Unknown Pleasures didn’t seem so weird any more. My friends may or may not have been depressed, but they existed, like me, in secretly-depressed times. At that point, despite differences in opinion of the severity the global and social issues outside the window, Joy Division felt like understanding of life that we all shared.
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The insightful left-wing group Plan C convincingly argue, in their essay We are all Very Anxious that anxiety is the dominant ‘public secret’ of this current stage of capitalism (which doesn’t mean to say that other negative emotions have disappeared, just that this is the definitive one of our age). By ‘public secretit is meant that it is “…something that everyone knows, but nobody admits, or talks about. …[W]hen discussed at all, they are understood as individual psychological problems, often blamed on faulty thought patterns or poor adaptation”.
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I would add that there are two public secrets; the anxiety we endure being the first, and the second being that we exist in ‘depressed times’, and many of us spend much of our lives rocking painfully back and forth from anxiety to depression. But what is incredibly important here is that Joy Division share the public secret with us, ‘catatonically channeling our present’ as Mark Fisher says. What makes Disorder so [Unknown]pleasurable is that it shares that publicly hidden anxiety with us. It speaks about something we normally have to hide. The guitar riff between verses is so riddled with panic it is intoxicating, it recognises the pain that is otherwise barred an outlet.
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From 2010 onwards I remembered what this music did for me. How it’s darkness was often a life-saver. Perhaps a necessity as I stared down the barrel of a nastier, more Tory reality. As the drums continue to smash out in a death-drive whilst the rest of song exhausts itself into finitude, Disorder becomes an introduction to a record that makes no emotional compromises; doesn’t pretend things are OK; makes no effort to pretend it sees a bright side to life. And this is why from this point onwards it resumed it’s place as a make-shift prescription tablet ‘day in day out’, from 2010 onwards.
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2. Insight

“I’ve lost the will to want more, but I remember when were young”
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The mid years of New Labour were a weird time for those of us in our late teens and early twenties. So many people I thought were sorted were actually in a real mess, trapped between small-town college courses they had no interest in and bleak job prospects, propped up by bi-weekly drug or drink intake. I never put 2 and 2 together at the time. One friend from back then spoke of his recent depressive spell: “It’s like somebody flicks a switch, and I’m gone for days on end.”
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The minute-long opening to the track Insight has something of the uncanny about it. The soundscape of lift-shafts moving and doors locking is so close to epitomising the nausea-like continual-return of depression it’s almost an unreal sensation as the shivers go down your back and you think “fuck me, that’s exactly how it is!”.

I was pleased Ben Hewitt included it in his list of songs, although it’s with tracks like Insight that I come to realise that listing album songs merely for their individual qualities is somewhat lacking. Insight’s intro is the seminal moment in Unknown Pleasures. Even after the self-destruction of Disorder, and building terror in The Day of Lords, there is still potentially room for another world, another way. But Unknown Pleasures is the world of the depressive; once that door locks the depression sufferer knows all-too-wll what world we’re in; he/she knows that feeling of that ‘locked door’, once you’re inside “gone for days on end”. Insight plays the pivotal role in signifying that this is no ordinary record; you’re entering a specific world, at which point sufferers of repetitive bouts of depression have a moment of strength due to being able to invite others into it. It has much the same relationship as Heart and Soul does on their second album ‘Closer’ – the position of the sorcerer’s hand, dictating the overall direction of the record. Their producer Martin Hannett was clearly quite unique, his ability to conjure the soundscape around Joy Division’s tracks is so fitting the only word you could use in hindsight of what Joy Division became is ‘perfection’. It now almost seems like he was electronically connected to Ian Curtis’s emotional state, forcing him to be the cypher for our present day cyberspacially-fucked subjectivities.
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Insight makes sense of what has been and what is to come from the viewpoint of clinical depression. But if we are to conclude that we live in a secretly-depressed time, then that sense seems far more wide-spread than merely being down to personal shortcomings. Insight really does channel something. The world they and their post-punk contemporaries saw/foresaw, one where social democracy was crumbling under a return of more powerful and relentless capitalism, where industry no longer needed them, no longer of value to society, well all that never went away. All that happened was that it was buried under the incessant command to be positive and proactive in the market fundamentalist economy that requires us to be market individuals, where opting out of the game is all but impossible without dying as it seeps into all potential waking (sleeping) moments due to computer technologies. This sense of having “no future” actually intensified, but was barred an expressive outlet amidst an intensifying downpour of aspirational dogma. I think this is why these days we so often find ourselves praising certain artists from the Post-Punk-New Wave crossover of the late 70’s to early 80’s, because that period seemed to be a ‘breathing space’ for raw emotional response to the early days of the Thatcherite transformation, before it became so entrenched that raw expression became so much harder to articulate; a ‘reflexive impotence’ (Fisher) that not only affects our ability for political engagement but also our emotional expression – “smile or die”.
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I have previously written about this uncanny-like-relationship music from this period has with our contemporary situation. It’s like what happened from then onwards was some sort of icing over, and that we now stare at these voices as if they have been frozen in time, floating underneath the ice. I wrote previously of Kate Bush and Joy Division in particular. I think of the music video to Kate Bush’s Breathing (based on nuclear war – another issue that, although as relevant today, seems frozen into a 70’s/80’s time-pocket), and the images of her trapped behind the see-through skin of the bubble she is encased in seems to pretty-much visualise what I mean here. Perhaps the drive towards retrospection in this current moment is due to a slow-awaking to the horrifying future-less reality we actually exist in, finding ourselves with no choice but to push away all the hyperbole that disguised this truth to us from its onset there-on-after?
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3. Novelty

“You’re on your own now, don’t you think that is a shame, but you’re the only one responsible to take the blame…so what you gonner do when the novelty is gone, ?”
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A sense of loss. Novelty was actually one of the first Joy Division songs I ever listened to. Aged 18 (2002), it was a cassette featuring a Joy Division compilation on the one side, and Television’s Marquee Moon on the other. It signaled the end of teenage life. I was experiencing my first ‘They Live’ moment (where he puts on the sunglasses and sees the Real), when the comforts and sugary surface of the social construction fell away, leaving me shit-scared of a world my nervous system has no way of coming to terms with. It resurfaced into 2012 when my messy inability to adjust to a Masters course in 21st century London made me face the truth that I my youth had now come to an end, with no progression to another stage of life on the horizon.
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I reference these two points because I think it is arguably most tragic of their songs, because it seems to document the point of loss – that point where a little something of you dies inside, from which ‘New Life’ proves impossible for many. Mark Fisher in his 2005 Kpunk blog The Nihil Rebound (published in Ghosts of My Life, and probably the strongest piece on Joy Division I know of) writes that “what separated Joy Division from any of their predecessors” was that their “bleakness was without any specific cause… …crossed the line from the blue of sadness into the black of depression, passing into the ‘desert and wastelands’ where nothing brings either joy or sorrow…Curtis sang ‘I’ve lost the will to want more’ on ‘Insight’ but there was no sense that there had been any such will in the first place”.
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Yet I don’t think Novelty does this: it is even more tragic in that it evokes the act of loss. For me Novelty shares the same emotional space as The Smiths’ This Night Has Opened My Eyes (“and I will never sleep again”), the result of which Morissey sang he neither “happy or sad”, just numb. The songs evokes a point of departure. The Smiths, hailing from the same city, would (in my opinion) not make a song that came as close to the point of bleakness as this, whilst for Joy Division it signals the point of departure to “a bleakness without any cause”.
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4. Digital

“Feel it closing in. Day in Day out”

As 2005 got messier and messier, I briefly entered a wider social group including of a group of lads from the incredibly-deprived former pit villages of the Dearne Valley (Thurnscoe to be exact), and a group from former mining communities straggling between Wakefield, Barnsley and Hemsworth. All of the places somewhat left abandoned after the pit closures, and which saw our area of South/West Yorks (Darton) as posh – a consequence of us getting the M1, and it becoming a split community of tepidly-affluent commuter houses at one side and council houses built for coal miners at the other. Sections of this wider group would end up fighting and momentarily-despising each other (mainly over women), and each constituting a more-or-less ‘with it’ group leader and many emotional or physical wrecks. The Dearne valley lot had no time for Joy Division’s near-death finale Closer, but were obsessed with Unknown Pleasures (and the album tracks most akin the Unknown Pleasures sound), even wearing the album-sleeve t-shirt. I would’ve thought it a fashion accessory back then, until I realised how much of a ‘fucked up’ generation I belonged to, and why such music may just appeal to these people.
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“Let’s All Dance to Joy Division” was a track by a then in-vogue indie-cool outfit The Wombats (to which you WON’T find a link on here). It seemed to treat their surging popularity as something with a comical tint to it, as if we were all easy-come easy-go hipsters unaffected by REAL shit. But I saw no joke in what these tracks meant to me, at a very turbulent point, and even 25 years after they ceased to be. Before the death of small town student nights, the customary dingy indie night club would play non-album-track Digital for us every Wednesday, demanded as necessity and eventually granted.
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If it weren’t so minimal the message would be lost. The song is like a drill piece, which, like the outro solo to Shadowplay, is violently unwilling to divert from it’s acceleration towards a dead end. It is 3 minutes of medicinal joy, an energy-release from the general continuity of mild-distress. “I feel it closing in”. If one sensation is necessarily put to the back of the minds of those who hit their twenties in the post 9/11/post Iraq invasion world of increasing cyberspace-interpenetration, it is one of being on borrowed time; where the future has imploded and is hurtling back towards us. ‘Stay young – what else is there anyway?’. With our hands perpetually hovering over our panic buttons, and our feet walking a tightrope above depressive dysfunction, Joy Division’s chaotic hell begins to arrange the look of the world in a way we can deal with. A way we could deal with, back then, when I for one most certainly relied on their music for survival at the most unstable of points. And yes, we did dance to Joy Division.
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5. Decades

“Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders”
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Decades, the final song on their second (and last album) begins with a soundscape the feels like entering some sort of bone-yard-remnant of unquantifiable suffering- but a suffering being undertaken with total indifference. Again, Hannet’s soundscaping seems, in hindsight, so close to a putting the seal of inevitability over Curtis’s then-imminent suicide, that you often wonder if he truly was a man caught in the wrong place at the wrong time: a tortured pop artist, radical to the cause, caught in the crusher of one huge transformation paving the way for the a much worse world: one lacking a future. The chilling intro conjures to mind a scenario similar to the raising of the skeletal dead from a parched graveyard on one of the most unnerving stop-frame-motion scenes in the 1962 film production of Jason and the Argonauts.
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Decades doesn’t just seem to drag behind it the weight on the shoulders of the punk/post-punk generation, it seems to drag the ghosts of all previous proletarian generations, embodying the destruction of all that the working classes had worked for/fought for. Not only do Curtis’s vocals sound like the voices of the dead accidentally picked up on a tape recorder, but it is as if our forefathers are raised, bent and buckled by two centuries of exploitation, to see the future they believed they were building for their grandchildren crumbling into wasteland.
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“I guessed they died some time ago” (Interzone, Unknown Pleasures)
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Joy Division were beyond a cause, and weren’t political, even when Curtis sang of the worst excesses of unaccountable power. But without meaning to or not, they remain a cypher for the collapse of a humanist future, the swansong of a post-punk movement that woke up to the depressive reality of the no-such-thing-as society-nihilism that was Punk’s rallying call; the ‘spirit of ’45’ had been buried and a new nastier phase was on the cards. Curtis’s own political leanings and obsessions were more collateral damage than anything, conveying a sense of despondency with the course being taken by humanity, who seemed too far gone to be able to threat any longer over rights and wrongs. As I said before, this despondency articulated by post-punk never went away, but has been largely denied a contemporary articulation due to appropriation of any idea of individual expression into ‘market individualism’. Consequently their legacy grows larger and larger.
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Collateral damage indeed. Ten years later The La’s, a Liverpudlian band, fronted by Lee Mavers, who was hell-bent in trying to make the best pop album in years, closed their only album with two tracks that seem to be living through Post-Punk’s anticipated breakdown, in a city smashed by the Tories, Failure and Looking Glass. After the defeat of working class solidarity by Thatcherism in the 80’s, The La’s’ self-titled album now seems to make more sense in 2015 than it’s more lauded ‘Madchester’ contemporaries whose energies were far more easily subsumed into a more omnipotent capitalism’s demand that we enjoy our servitude. Although stylistically following the late ’80’s guitar-band tendency of looking back to the 60’s for solace, the lyrics to the La’s’ FailureSo you open the door with the look on your face. Your hands in your pocket and your family to face, and you go down stairs and you sit in your place” could easily have found a fitting place within Decades. But the incessant demand to ‘dance, dance, dance to our servitudeof neoliberal capitalism is wearing thinner and thinner by the day. I think the increasing popularity of Joy Division with young people is a sign of this, even if there little self awareness of the motive.

Which just leads me to….
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6/7 Love Will Tear us Apart and Ceremony

“there’s a taste in my mouth as desperation takes hold/heaven knows it’s got to be this time …..avenues all lined with trees.”
It’s early 2002. I’m a anti-social 18 year old, plugged into his cassette tapes, still capable of day-dreaming in the college learning centre. A tune comes back into my head from some early childhood point. This was a few years before the days where a tune could be found in just a matter of seconds after remembering it. If this could be classed as memory at all: as memories for me seem more akin to the pre-digital-tech cassette player, in how the original pitch of a track always seems to be lost in translation; a memory/cassette-tape error that allows for a unique relationship with a tune. This only really became apparent after I recently re-watched the film Donni Darko; Love Will Tear us Apart features on the film, and I am convinced that it plays at an higher pitch, which incidentally makes it sound like a cassette tape version.
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The tune I remembered in 2002 was Love Will Tear us Apart. But it took me until the summer to actually manage to listen to it again. Thereon-after, as my teenage inertia was superseded by a young adult inertia (based around what I would come to see as ‘Depressive Pleasure-seeking’.), Love Will Tear Us Apart became an staple in The Retro Bar at The End of Universe – former bars would be replaced by future former bars, with their only continuity being the ‘stuck record’ of the ‘Indie Disco’. The hair-raising synth and drum outro feels like it could stretch out into eternity, due to perpetual dependency placed upon music that was new when capitalism’s ‘slow cancellation of the future’ was only just beginning. The ‘eternal present’ of our capitalist reality has to come to an end, in some form. But the end cannot be seen from within. But, my god, it is longed for.
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As with Atmosphere and These days (written at a similar point) Love Will Tear us Apart and Ceremony (although properly recorded as New Order, after Curtis had died) share the same sense of painful longing for something that never materialises – “this dream it takes too long” as Curtis sings in 24 Hours. Ian Curtis’s lyrics may have been most directly attributable to the specificities of his collapsing personal life, but it is clear that there’s a longing here for something that stretches far beyond these confines, towards a promised world, perhaps?  the dreams of postwar optimism, now falling into tatters in front of the atomised, lonely type of Utopia offered by Thatcherism. It is inconsequential whether Curtis voted rightward or not, he was caught in the headlights of a pivotal moment in history and expressed an anguish an increasingly proportion of us identify with.
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I listen to Love Will Tear us Apart and Ceremony with that sense of longing that other Joy Division’s songs do not allow for: the social world I long for, not the one being blown into atomized, lonely pieces by the end-game of neoliberal (market fundamentalist) political economy. It’s an in-the-making conclusion that I never thought I’d come close to making when listening to Joy Division; that there is a longing in some of their final songs that looks for an escape route from certain-demise, a last gasp of life.  Ceremony’s “Heaven knows it’s got to be this time”, is a plea: that ‘I want another chance to live!’. “Avenues all lined with trees”, a social world of vitality, for our families, that we once saw as a guarantee. For me, in this past year, these lyrics have served as a mute wish I carry around with me to supersede this awful stage in something I have no embarrassment in calling ‘the human project’. You see, with all these documentaries, and articles, we are looking back to Joy Division to trace our steps back towards a future that was stolen. We want it back.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Everybody’s Fracking

Massively relieved to get this bxstxrd of a piece finished. Sums up just about everything I have ended up agreeing about with just about everybody I am able reach agreements with for just about every day during the past 2 years. I have found the process of fracking to be such an apt metaphor for  the broader predicament of a culture saturated to breaking point by a hyper-capitalism.

Everybody’s Fracking (2015, mixed media on paper, 95X130cm)
Everybody's Fracking

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Non-Stop Inertia @ Left Bank by The (Un) realised Project


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Non-Stop Inertia @ Left Bank by The (Un) realised Project. 

Wednesday 15th/Thursday 16th July, 6PM @Left Bank, Cardigan Rd, Burley Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS6 1LJ
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The (Un) realised Project is an umbrella for discussion, events and exhibitions that has come about through an ongoing dialogue between Leeds-based artist-curator John Wright (1989), South/West Yorkshire-based artist John Ledger (1984) and more recently Huddersfield-based artist D S Jarvis (1976).
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Non-Stop Inertia is a performative piece that serves as an investigation into the profound state of precarity and ‘stuckness’ which we experience within contemporary life. Named after a book by Ivor Southwood. Southwood takes a comprehensive look into the situation of the “deep paralysis of thought and action” caused by the “ideologically constructed” landscape of precarity. This affects mainly the younger generation of workers, but it is increasingly dragging even more people into a role, which economist Guy Standing suggests is the ‘Precariat’, replacing the older term for the working class, the proletariat.
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This interventional work consists of an attempt to install an artwork in the Space & Place exhibition. The performative intervention will be filmed in a documentary style, with the aim of capturing an often unobserved element of the exhibition process. In essence, there is a failure to ‘get the job done’ because the team faces constant interruptions. The interruptions are generated both mechanically (through the beep noise), physically (the geometry of the space) and psychologically (through conversation with the people in the space). Interruptions are welcome.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Stories From Forgotten Space (new book published)


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I seem to be a point of bringing quite a few important works to a point of closure. I and have Finally made my blog series,  Stories From Forgotten Space,  into physical book form. Despite a few frustrating errors made by Blurb’s book publishing program, the minor imperfections can’t take away the central position this book takes alongside my video The Mary Celeste Project [The Scene of The Crash] in my more recent body of work: I see the book as a work of art in its own right, and intend to exhibit it in my upcoming 2015 shows.  However, although I can’t get it done cheaply (unless I find a willing publisher soonish) it can be bought from there http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/6306069-stories-from-forgotten-space

Predominately set in the former industrial heartlands of the areas constituting the former West Riding of Yorkshire, it extends into many other areas within the present day landscape of England. It takes a look at this country through the year leading up to the 2015 General Election

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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Friday, 3 July 2015

‘Bells From The Deep’, The Hundred Years Gallery

I will be showing my more smallish drawings ‘Hyper-Malaise’, ‘A Cognitive Austerity’ and ‘Five MORE Years…’ in ‘Bells From The Deep’ at The Hundred Years gallery, Pearson Street, Hoxton, London, E2 8JD




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A Cognitive Austerity


The ‘Bells from the Deep’ exhibition is the outcome of our latest Open Call for Drawing and Hand Made Prints. Hundred Years Gallery opens its space to over sixty artists of all ages, those who may have never had the opportunity of exhibiting their work, those who perhaps never dare to show them in public, and those who just want to feel free of judgement from arts panels. As well as practicing artists and print makers we have encouraged all of our neighbours from the York Row Council Estate to participate as part of our arts community
Thursday 2nd July 7:30-10:00pm

The Exhibition runs from 2nd to 22nd of July 2015
Wednesday to Friday, 10am-6pm.
Saturday, 4-11pm.
Sunday, 12-7pm.

Monday, 22 June 2015

London walks, and anti-austerity-weekend musings

A collection of thoughts whilst moving around the capital on the weekend 250,000 people came out against the government’s further assaults on social welfare and social life. It is related to a large blog project called Stories From Forgotten Space (using landscape as a platform for quasi-fictional storytelling based on genuine experiences, feelings) which I am currently compiling into a book..
Friday 19 June 2015

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“Walking towards Shoreditch, nearly an hour into walking in the city. The self-conscious me is always looking for things to porcupine-myself-up with in a place of such beautiful cyber-people. Sometimes it seems like everyone looks like a more toned, more Photoshopped edit of a pop-culture figure from yesteryear. I pass somebody who looks like a ‘better model’ of The La’s’ frontman Lee Mavers; more like Lee Mavers than Lee Mavers.”

“The proximity of the DLR train to the crucible-cluster of deemed-important buildings in Canary Wharf forces their importance on you as you begin to instinctively stare up at them in wonder (only to refrain from doing so to hide from public their impact on you). I look up at 1 Canada Square (HSBC building). I give a powerless, punchdrunk smile as my eyes sink from the fluffy-cloud-skyline to the gentrified docklands below. Sometimes it all makes sense to me, and I then spend my time trying to explain my reasons that respond to this sense, only that it all fucks up when things inevitably conspires to undo that sense-making. And it is at these points that ‘the idiot’ appears.”
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“Greenwich Park. Hot weather. Grass going all orangey/brown – like 95/96. Don’t think I’ve sat down on the grass since I was 12 – not properly anyway. Firestarter, The Prodigy [spring 96] is playing in my personal bubble. Feel 12 again. Want to cause shit/havoc (“Bad bad, bad bad behaviour”). All those “old school” shit-causers; they’re all knackered now, evaded swiftly by others in this anxiously aspirational age; ranting at people eating their tourist-orientated food, who no longer need headphones to be zoned-out to such a physical proximity. Head down the congested road on Blackheath; city traffic passing through summer fields. If I crop out Canary Wharf it all takes me back, somewhere. But just now I don’t need to crop it out, with rucksack on shoulder, ideas momentarily electrified, I feel Danny-Champion of Past and Present. But such a surge of self-belief is spurred on by the very thing that crushes it; the ruthlessly ambivalent city. It’ll get me, for sure it will, it always does. It doesn’t let me stand tall for too long. But right now, as I text myself these thoughts, it hasn’t.”
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Saturday 20 June 2015
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“Walking through the refuge of a wooded-park in the centre of Muswell Hill, after staring down at the horizon-reaching cityscape commenting on how only 100 years back New York was just beginning to take over London as being the biggest city the world had even seen. Still slightly drunk from the night before, and, thus, having  a slightly-guilty sensation in an age of “keep young and beautiful; it’s your duty…”. Especially in an area like this where the “everybody’s middle class now” 1990’s rhetoric doesn’t seem to have become like a cruel joke. They run for reproduction, perpetual vitality rather than exhaustion – no sunken faces around here. These woodlands look ancient, even as the noise from the continuous stream of London buses penetrates them. They may just be ancient; this land certainly hasn’t been dug up for coal at any point like most woods have nearer to home. The failure of the 90’s/00’s freshly-veneered/total immersion-capitalism seems to have never happened here. Or so it seems. London-based TV series’s from the politically-passive late 90’s/early 00’s, like Spaced, feel like they could be in their 10th series around here.”
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“The demonstration’s on The Strand now. One of those iconic London streets that I have only just located after a few years of frequenting the city more than before. This is a big demo. Surely too big to be bypassed by the media’s gaze…? It’s as big as the March 2011 one, to which it was preemptively compared. But the feeling is noticeably different. My lasting memory of March 2011 was of hearing a succession of bangs, which I initially thought were some sort of explosive, only to realise that a group named the ‘Black Block’ were smashing the windows of big banks and tax-dodging corporations 200 yards ahead of us in the march. Moments after the bangs a masked young woman cut through the march procession, only to have her arm grabbed in anger by a middle-aged woman in a Unison t-shirt, who shouted “cowards! why don’t you show yourself?”. Although I had mixed feelings on what was the correct approach to counter the much rawer anticipation of systemic wounding, in hindsight I realised the angry response from the then-seemingly-more ‘pedestrian’ protest-approach, was due to the possibility that many who said they were in the Black Block were actually Agent Provocateurs, working in order to allow an aggressive police response, and to whip up hostile sentiment towards the wider demonstrations. And it worked. Only five hours later, on the train back to Wakefield/Leeds a thuggish male, part of a group of football fans on their way back home, had his hands around the neck of a blatantly-peaceful protestor, due to an argument between them, largely sparked by the football fans accusing him of complicity in “the smashing up of the windows of Topshop”, which resulted in the police boarding the train at Doncaster. I, for one, was emotionally exhausted as the tinderstick summer of 2011 drew to a close, prepared for a new world where one would be forced to take sides. The tide of society would consequently dampen this energy, and leave many of us feeling like self-aware-zombies in 2013, 2014. But perhaps the clear lack of noticeable ‘trouble’ on this comparable 2015 march isn’t a negative? Maybe something has changed, tactically; a different collective response is afoot, more based on duration?”

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“The only negatives we receive are perhaps to be expected, due to being received as the march reaches the tourism/consumerism zenith of the capital. First off, we are subjected to a barrage of slurs from a man-woman-man-woman quartet of weekend ‘leisure-seekers’, with one of the women repeatedly shouting “get a life!” as they cut through the march to the opposite side of the road, with bottles of unopened rose wine in their hands. The fact that they clearly deemed it urgent to utter this to us seemed more telling than any general disagreement with the causes being marched for; beyond the initial feelings of “why didn’t I say something back to them?” was a realisation that the demo clearly caused them great discomfort. I think I can see why: when life is narrowed down to a singular romance focused in on the weekend ‘leisure-pursuit’ and all the promises of happiness, meaning, love it has appropriated, protests begin to be representative of possible huge ruptures to that shop-a-day reality. And I say this as somebody who has had this very anxiety about ruptures to those routines-of-least-pain we pave ourselves in the narrowness of the late capitalist world.

Further on, as we near Downing Street, we sense an hostility from groups of muscular young men in t-shirts. But their gesture (which seems to be one of showing solidarity with the coppers by standing in a line with arms folded in front of buildings in this zenith of nationalist value within the capital) looks almost comical, and the absurdity has not gone unnoticed by everybody I spoke to in the march. Everyone was just thinking ‘what the hell are they doing?”

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“My friends head back for their respective coaches back North and rooms in London. I aim for some reflective wandering of the city until my train back later this evening (bad memories of Megabus coach journeys back from my failed attempts to study in London still haunt me). After 30 minutes trying to find somewhere to piss, I end up in Waterloo Station wishing to write expletives on the toilet walls over the lack of public toilets – my biggest pet hate of life in the over-commercialised and privatised UK city. However, due to there being a fault on the pay-in barrier and the migrant-worker toilet attendant politely letting us use them for free, I would’ve have felt bad giving him any extra cleaning up work to do. I head back out into South London, and look for the river. I always feel I need to see the river. The helicopters monitoring the protest are still hovering above. The rain begins to pelt down, but it’s the first time in my life I am carrying a waterproof jacket – a sign of age maybe? If my mood sinks now, and we’ve reached the afternoon it isn’t so alarming, it’s bearable. The Thames splashes against the walls as the rain falls. At least we/I have the river, the murky holder on plenty of secrets, that can’t quite be gentrified – it’s ours whether we are from Bermondsey or Barnsley. I have swallowed the world today; it’s the comforting calm before the potential storm caused by surrender to it all.”
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“I have walked full-circle, all way down the South Bank and back toward the Bank of England from where the demo initially gathered. The rain that teemed down as the official demo petered out in Parliament Square has all but gone. Yet, this dampened, largely-depopulated area (it’s normal for it to be eerily quiet on a weekend) gives it an unwanted feeling of the aftermath of a party. After all, one common utterance the stands out about this 2015 demo is to not let it be a mere catharsis amidst the carnage. Fading momentum is a huge concern for all of us as we stare down the barrel of deterioration. However, like my weary, now semi-stumbling self, acquiring a slightly macho-self-defensive gate as I slowly begin to see the tailored shirts, suits and bow ties reemerge, as if they were hiding in burrows whilst the protest was ongoing (“it’s safe to come out and play now!”), there is no resignation, not just yet. I walk just that bit further towards the Barbican.”
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“Caledonian Street – the very name alludes to a once-felt physical connection of London to the rest of this Land-mass. Unlike today, where by crossing the M25 you almost feel that you’re in a different reality where everything you’ve come to know from your stunted Yorkshire towns/cities seems to has been given the green light to proliferate, uncontrollably. Which makes it all the more strange when I hear a Barnsley/Wakefield accent (very distinct the closer you get to them, very hard to differentiate the further away you are, geographically) coming from a man on a phone outside a takeaway, across the road. The utter weariness caused by the past 2 days (emotional as much as physical) means I literally stumble into the nearest bar that looks accommodating for a man who currently looks that scruffy that going into a more ‘aspirational’ bar would be to surely give my weary self a hard time. But my stumbling attracts the attention of four men with shaved heads, one of who’s glare is not friendly as I order a drink in a red t-shirt with a sketchbook in my hand. Once I sit down, unable to avoid overhearing snippets of their conversation, it is beyond a doubt that they are part of some far-right, ultra-nationalist organisation. There’s one, big hard-looking Ray-Winston-type-cockney (who evokes an image of more physically violent UK cities, the only aspect I don’t long for in the wake of gentrifying cleansing). Then I realise that two of the blokes are Barnsley lads. Oh yes, it’s beyond a doubt; that’s definitely my mother-tongue the one in the baseball cap uses as he drunkenly slides into chanting a bloody-thirsty appraisal of St George. And on a day like this!? A day when I wanted to feel comradeship with folk from my mother-terrain, and beyond, against capitalist onslaught. But I find myself hiding my face in case  it turns out they recognise it from town. As today, there was (by all accounts) a far-right demonstration planned for Barnsley town centre, preceding a town pubs-based music festival, which seems to pull together folks of left/left-of-centre sentiment in the town better than anything else since the mines closed. I wonder whether there was thus a consequential poor turn out for the far-right, and they decided to head down to London instead? Anyway, I drink up fast, as I’m reminded of how the threat of real physical violence can still quite quickly rear its head in pubs, even in an age where we are more likely to yell in solitude into our cell phones. I head back towards Kings Cross station. Bland but less chance of aggro.”

Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy by S. M. Amadae



I am very happy that my work The Logic of Neoliberalism will feature on the cover of S.M. Amadae's upcoming (Cambridge University Press) release Prisoners of Reason: Game Theory and Neoliberal Political Economy.

The book is expected to be available from November this year, but a preview is available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1107671191/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_n-BGvb1PTGW4K

Pain is Barred an Outlet

Pain is Barred an Outlet (2015, ink on paper, A4)

This drawing is closely related to my blog ‘Share The Pain’ posted last year
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The 1990’s: they look so old, but feel like yesterday

"It [ ] can’t be old can it? surely?” – nearly everybody

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Due to the family home, a home that used to feel like the eternal return-to-base (for good and for worse), no longer being so, I have stumbled upon old photographs from the 1990’s. They are old. They’re as old as photographs of the previous generation of family members enjoying the then-blossoming popular culture of the mid 20th century looked when the 1990’s felt all new and shiny.

The 1990’s still feel new and shiny, but they aren’t. The VHS’s and TV in this photograph look archaic – they look as close to the 70’s as they were. Yet the 70’s do feel old, the 90’s don’t. 1990’s shopping centres, like the nearby Meadowhall shopping complex, still seem like intrusions of a new brash consumerism onto UK shores, but they look as knackered as cheaply-veneered 25 year old buildings should do.
I’d feel less certain that there wasn’t something unique at play here, if it was just my own attachment to that age, due to feeling like I lost an important part of myself in the last year of that decade that prevents me from developing as an adult. But even people born in the 1990’s keep on looking at me gobsmacked when I put a date on a well-known film like Jurassic Park [1993].

This photograph was taken in January 1995; 4 years before the hyperbole of the 90’s seemed to simmer into millennial malaise, a slow let down by the smoke and mirrors of Britpop, New Labour and ‘end of history’ jubilance. Two technological shifts (I think it’s disputable to see them as advances) seem to have made time feel so out of joint, not merely for their existence, but due to their creeping dominance. Digitalisation of sound and vision, and the Broadband takeover of communication.

Digitalisation seemed to creep in around 1999, to the extent that when I am subjected to music videos from that point through the ever-same visual of contemporary television [She’s The One, Robbie Williams – an unfortunate subjection to say the least) it looks like it was made yesterday. Television, before this point, seems far easier to date; it seems like there’s a difference to image quality from 1998 to 1992 for example. But thereon after it gets harder and harder to spot the difference.

I noticed the impact of Broadband in late 2004 (which seems symonious with the rise and rise of addicting social media sites). As every year passed, especially after the financial crash, social life seemed more and more orientated (and bogged-down) in cyberspace. It makes the ‘telepresent’ of the media-penetration of our lives in the late 20th century seem blissfully un-interfering.

Time no longer seems to move forward. And this is evident in our culture; nothing truly new seems imaginable and what stands as culture has become even more commercialised, consumerist in response to former counter cultural styles that no longer put up any opposition to commercial forces increasingly pulping them into a ‘shop-a-day’ reality. The market-driven imperative on ‘the new’ in a time where nothing is given enough breathing-space to create it means that we’re left scraping the barrel for novelty, dis-invested and in disbelief. Would space technologies really be harnessed merely to make the first sexual encounter in space happen for a porn movie in any other period than this one?

Time seems in a loop. For many older than I am, it seems like the 1990’s already felt like the ‘end of the future’. But growing up then, it didn’t feel that way, certainly in light what it has felt like for the last decade and half [my final true futuristic vision that springs to mind was conjured listening to ‘climatize’ by the Prodigy, from one of the last true popular-yet-landmark albums ‘The Fat of The Land’, whilst driving past the outer-high-rises of Birmingham on the Motorway in the family car in summer 1997) To quote a friend (who I’m working on projects with) the experience of Now is akin to a Tyre spinning furiously in mud, but getting nowhere. It seems likely that this experience has obliterated continuity in the past decade or so, and so the 1990’s remain as yesterday. Even as the smoke and mirrors of that naively optimist age are proven to be what they are, they remain seductive (I still smile and sing a long to moronic Britpop when drunk). I feel this ‘yesterday’ will seem more and more appealing until some sort of closure is sought on the ‘stuck record’ experience of contemporary life. Fundamentally, it requires an unanimous acceptance that the elephant smashing up the room we’re in is capitalism. I can’t see away around this elephant. We need to agree on this point before anything else.

Art Donation For Save Devonshire Street Campaign

I’ve donated a large print of my drawing ‘I Want None of This’ to ‘Going Once, Going Twice, Gone!’, a fundraising event in aid of the Save Devonshire Street Campaign.
When Sheffield Council approved demolition of 162-170 Devonshire Street, home to three of our most prized independent businesses, it didn’t follow the proper planning processes.  We’re raising funds for a judicial review which would overturn the planning decision – http://savedevstreet.org.uk/
There will be a selection of artworks from a large number of artists who wish to help the cause. The works can be bid on in aide of fundraising for the campaign. The event will be held at Moor Theatre Delicatessen, The Moor, Sheffield. Friday 26th June. 7pm. Eventbrite tickets are available here https://www.facebook.com/events/388205214700948/



I Want None of This (close up 1) (2121x3000)I Want None of This (2147x4000)

Friday, 5 June 2015

3 Days of Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record in London (a Complete Summary)

I am very happy to state that myself and John Wright have now put together a comprehensive summary of the performing of our piece Non-Stop Inertia (named after an amazing book by Ivor Southwood, which examines  the “deep paralysis of thought and action” caused by the “ideologically constructed” landscape of precarity). We undertook this performance at the Espacio Gallery, in Shoreditch in January, as part of The Anti-Gallery show.
There are 3 sections to this summary:

First: the sound files and video footage of the performance, inventively merged together by John Wright; made into 3 seperate episodes.

Second: a recording of our subsequent walk around Greenwich, using  ‘Greenwich degree zero’ (what the artist Rod Dickinson called his incredibly though-provoking installation) as a cradle for reflections, not just on the performance, but extending to the entirety of contemporary life, and OUR lives.

Third: (a blog I wrote in January in response to the 3 days spent in London) Reflections gathered from our performance in the Anti-Gallery Show, weekend 16,17,18, January 2015.
We hope diagnostic and remedial value of the current cultural conditions can be found from the project we have undertaken.













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This text is a reflection on the performing of Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record – inspired by Ivor Southwood’s book Non-Stop Inertia. Part of a wider collaborative project between myself and Leeds-based artist/curator John Wright, Non-Stop Inertia was played intermittently over a 3 day period as part of the Anti-Gallery Show, at The Espacio Gallery in Shoreditch, London. As this text deals purely with reflections during and after these 3 days, the explanation for the motives behind this ongoing work can be found here: https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/non-stop-inertia-a-stuck-record-the-anti-gallery-show/ . However, the writing uses other points within the 3 day period in London to talk about a larger project, in which Non-Stop Inertia is just one part.
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A Psychological Experiment…

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That I am in a well-and-truly-spent state the day after our Non-Stop-Inertia piece means that if it was as much a psychological experiment as it was a piece of artwork then the experiment was successful. The carefully-chosen texts we chose to read out were so fitting, but fitting within the eternal-now, ‘in the loop’ of the performance. Because the gravity of their content could as easily fall from mind as it could be put back there once there performance resumed. The content itself became looped; there was no further level of understanding. It was the poetry of a ghost trapped in the machine.

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No Evolution

And ghosts trapped in the machine we became. Neuro-psychically electrocuted by the randomly occurring door-alarm signal, I for one can testify to the physical effect (in my manic body movements) that such internalising of the constant expectation of random interruptions can have. Certain lines read out from our texts would land in unison on the pulse-line of the subjectivation, at which point we’d look to each other as if to confer “yes, that’s what this is, exactly!”, but cognitively building on what was being said/read felt impossible due to this anticipation of interruptions. How can you build on things if you are in a perpetual state of siege?

The door alarm noise signaling our ‘calling’ to disseminate emotionally-laboured welcoming-spiel (language absent of life aimed at an absent customer) was, of course, implemented in a random-fashion by our own design. But the intention was to show how this unending anticipation of unpredictable interruptions of our thoughts is a constitutive part of contemporary life, which (we believe) is intrinsic to the inability of individuals and societies alike formulate, or even imagine, a way out of the current global cultural situation that consumes the hopes, desires and visions of alternatives with the same level of ferocity that it consumes the people and resources needed to constitute a future world full stop.

We came away from this performance with no answers to this, but this was the intention: to give poetic form to the very structures preventing us from finding the answers to the current situation. We believe that if the structures permeating contemporary life are dismissed as irrelevant to the task of building towards an alternative, then any kind of positive alternative is impossible.

No Desire to Converse

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Whilst in London, myself and John Wright frequently discussed the difference between desire and drive: that, in an ‘always on’, no-future, hyper-competitive, hyper-capitalist world, desire is both short-circuited and disemboweled from drive. This leaves us trapped in a ‘nothing-left-but…’  state, where we often feel a zombie-like-entrapment to the motions of tasks, duties and habits and especially the end-game pursuit of sugary, narcotic, or sexual stimulus; that can often feel like being in a state of seizure due to inconceivability of there being anything else we can do “but pursue pleasure”. (an overly referenced section of Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism book, which I attempted to read out as part of the performance).

As well as the resulting post-performance-state leaving us in a state of incomprehension of what we could possibly do except going and getting alcoholically intoxicated in the city, the performance itself also functioned through pure signal-actioned drive. The words were spoken out of drive, rather than desire. This is why others who attempted to engage in the dialogue, and who weren’t used to the nature of the represented job-type to an extent that they could ‘go through the motions’ like we could, very quickly became frustrated (as was partly the intention). One of the participating artists in the Anti Gallery Show said he couldn’t see the point in trying to make conversation. What was the point of him trying to gain something from a conversation if he was to be constantly sent back to square one by the interruptions?

If we are correct in viewing this predicament as endemic in contemporary life, could it not be said that the breaking down of thought and communication to a sound bite-form isn’t merely the result of a reduction of our attention-spans caused by our immersion in cyberspace, but is actually caused by the lack of desire to engage in conversation due to the anticipation of interruptions slicing through it? We also argued that the increasingly competitive nature of contemporary life further reduces the room for conversation, because the constant sense of the self-under-siege within such a competitive world makes it seem an immediate necessity to get our point heard rather than allow the time for other points to be heard (I, for one, am very guilty of this). Indeed, what was left of our broken up conversations was used to discuss the breaking up of dialogue intrinsic to one of the largest social media platforms: Twitter.

All in all Non-Stop Inertia: A Stuck Record was successful – too successful perhaps; afterwards, the necessary walk (climb) back to Kings Cross station seemed almost daunting.

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The (Un)realised Project

This inability to transcend, to get beyond the “this is so relevant!” point whilst we were reading the texts/debating perhaps makes Non-Stop Inertia:A Stuck Record pivotal to a wider sensation myself and John Wright are investigating. That, as numerically-measured time pushes onwards, and one’s skin slowly sags downwards, somehow one hasn’t merely become ‘stuck in a moment’, but that the moment has terraformed, re-landscaped the horizon so that the next step beyond this ‘stuck moment’ seems to have never even existed, and that the places that proclaim to have movement are merely just full of frenetic ghost-like actions, speeding up but going nowhere. The unending nature of the sentence I have just written embodies a unending struggle to put to sleep the ghosts that haunt me. After countless debates around this matter, myself and John Wright began an investigation, of intertwined stories (personal to me) and wider post-millennial cultural moments, that we aim to turn into a solid body of work under the umbrella title The (Un)realised Project.

Thus far it has been agreed on that one specific work, The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash), will take centre stage within this body of work. The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The crash), completed in 2014, uses my own turf (post industrial areas stretching along the foothills of the Yorkshire Pennines) to examine near pasts, lost futures and dead dreams to understand the wider contemporary social condition. Focusing on two lost futures and the un-locatable present, the condition of which is largely caused by the loss of the previous, and their haunting presence. The first lost future is that of popular modernism, which died in the latter quarter of the 20th century. The second lost future being the naively optimistic early to mid-1990’s, and its utopian gaze toward the coming new millennium. The un-locatable present here refers to a specific intensification of life under digital capitalism, looking at a severe disconnection to the passing of time since the 2008 financial crisis. The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash) is crucially inspired by my sense of a loss of narrative and of being out of time, amidst a feverishly neoliberal reality. But certain locations I spent time in prior to the beginnings of this project were crucial to reasons behind making of it.

Ground-Zero Greenwich

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It is clear then that specific geographical spaces are very important to this whole investigation. Thus, with the rarity of two people from northern England planning to embark on the south at the same point, it was essential we had to go another very symbolically important location: Greenwich.

So what makes Greenwich so important? We’d arrived in darkness, and the specifically-threatening-looking silver Met police cars guarding the gates put us off trying to find a way in, so we circumvented Greenwich Park wall right down to the river. One point of agreement on that walk was pivotal to the whole text I’ll write thereon after: my ‘stuck in a moment’ fixation with a 3 month (yet 3 year-long-feeling) time spent in London, unsuccessfully trying to complete an MA in Cultural Studies just down the road in New Cross, prompted John Wright to say to me (in a supportive manner, of course) that I really ought to have done the MA in Leeds (I had considered doing the MA at the University of Leeds, the institution John had recently been awarded an MA qualification at), but we both instantaneously and almost simultaneously responded by agreeing that I had to go to London; that there was something much larger and important at play.


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I’ve written way too much already about the mental state I found myself in down London that forced me to leave, and the time leading up going and the time afterwards is far more crucial to the project and the reasons for the usage of my experiences within Greenwich. However, there is one crucial line explaining my state down there that activated this entire project: I believed I’d reached a total dead end, that there was nothing beyond this spell in London.

During this 3-year-disguised-as-3-month-spell, I found myself at Greenwich quite a few times (even ending up with a part time job there, just a week before finding myself back in bed in the north), finding the momentary ease under the autumnal ‘avenues all lined with trees’ an embodier of the wish for a granting of indefinite residence in a place I never really wanted to leave – “I like it here can I stay?” as the lyrics from The Smiths’ Half A Person that weaved through all other thoughts within my room in nearby New Cross.

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Something had occurred here to a degree that I was finding it incredibly hard to get out of bed in morning after 15 years of habitually getting up at 7am. The years preceding had seen a building up of both foreboding and understanding of the global cultural situation, to which 2011 felt like the zenith; a clicking into place of a new reality from which we couldn’t go back. And now I was here, in the last 3rd of 2012, and it truly felt like the eye of the storm; the “that’s exactly it!” masters course (that I wanted to last forever, not 1 year of pressurised performance); the financial epicentres seen from my windows; the potential of meeting the world in a world-city; THE HEART OF DARKNESS – as it really did feel like I’d finally found it in as if in an inversion of Joseph Conrad’s novel – because, as comical as it sounds, the plentiful Megabus trips down there looking for a home were symbolic of a wider feeling of being worn right right right down into a man in search of a resting place. And, after the year 2011, there appeared to be no way of going back. And at that initial point before it all went wrong it didn’t matter that there was no way forward.

But as the London-endeavour lead on it became unavoidably clear that there was a dead end rapidly approaching. Throughout the preceding years there had been so much effort to show how entangled my inability to perceive a future for myself was with the dead end that was the endgame of the course the world was taking, to the point where I was exhausted just as it all seemed to come to a head. But as I walked around Greenwich, a place arguably unsurpassed in symbolic importance to creation of the world as we know it, to the extent that it often feels like the meridian was the first line ever laid, it became very clear to me for the first time how our ‘always on’ global capitalist culture was trapped by the past.

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Greenwich is a place symbolically laden with traces of ghosts from other eras that refuse to die; a fusion of what-might-have-been’s (lost futures) and unshifting-has-been’s’ (archaic tombs that won’t close up). One that caught my attention was the Queen Elizabeth Oak, an important tree for the Tudor dynasty (a crucial period in the formation of Imperial expansion and modernity). Yet the tree is 100+ years-dead, and has laid on the floor like a wooden carcass for some years now too. Trapped under the weight of the past, with no future to speak of, the speed of life/the ‘always on’ endless labouring within the infinitely accelarating capitalist technosphere, traps us in a frenetic eternal-now epitomised by the Non Stop Inertia project. But in such a Stuck Record state, the present is also a void without a perceivable future in its wake, meaning the past, especially the near past, seeps into the void left by the unlocatable present (think of how traces of the optimistic 1990’s seem to cling to everything); impounding the pressure between the new reality demanded in the wake of 2011 and the lack of ability to be able to even think beyond the current moment. This is well and truly an hauntological state, and through my endeavouring after abandoning London to engage on a cognitive level with the South/West Yorkshire landscape I lapsed back into, these past 2 two years have been profoundly hauntological; all that has followed as felt unrealised…undead.

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Connections….Always Looking for Connections…

Of course if we didn’t deem all this crucial to some wider situation we wouldn’t have embarked on the (un)realised projects investigation, nor would we have bothered taking the bus to Greenwich on a cold, dark night. The very fact that I also ‘sound like a stuck record’ on this blog now is more to do with my emotional energies smashing against 4 walls, looking for a way out, than the indulgences of dwelling in the past. Or at least this is what I tell myself. I have to tell myself this, because I am profoundly sick with the way things are, and the conviction that I am not alone means that the current direction of my work is as much as political act as the works I made in my early 20’s that dealt specifically with the threat of climate change.
The closed brackets around the ‘un’ in unrealised, was John Wright’s idea, positing it as the hope that all that is hanging around in a ghostly form will one day be realised. Using Jacques Derrida’s differentiation between an Ending of something and a Closure of something, John and I discussed how this dead-end feeling doesn’t have to be (or at least shouldn’t have to be) the end in itself, but a closure of something that allows the beginnings of another. Of course, our usage of specific geographical locations was a way of simultaneously commenting on this as both a deeply personal and deeply global cultural state. Perhaps using landscape is one of the strongest methods or articulating the fusion of two issues that would appear very distinct on a surface level?
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The Utopian Never Truly Dies

As much as we felt it necessary to travel to Greenwich after our performance on the Saturday, after our final, most exhaustive, performance on the Sunday, we deemed it necessary to spend time in the Barbican complex before we set off back for the train.

There is something truly special about this place, which gets beyond the facts of why it remained like this whilst other Brutalist utopian residential schemes failed drastically; that this estate was designed for the well off, the cultural elite, and thus corners weren’t cut in its construction (nor was it fucked up socially by mass job losses), is a seperate matter to to truth of the place which is that it exists as a realisation of the utopianist society that truly could have been.  This place doesn’t even seem to have been bothered by the onslaught of Thatcherism; neoliberalism seems to have been kept at the gates of this fort-like-structure, and you can imagine the same being true in long night of fascistic, repressive governance if we don’t find a way of changing the course we are on. It may be a place of the communal/the shared for those who already have their fair share, but in that it actualises elements of the ideal, it shows that they could, and should exist elsewhere.

What I like about this place is what makes me realise that as undead as I often feel, as emotionally-turned-to-stone as I regularly feel, I am still deeply utopian. Utopian is different from a Utopia; arguably Utopia can never exist, but to be Utopian is to be an idealist in life, not to accept any given reality as ‘the way it is’ – such fatalism is dangerous, and has arguably made the situation we are in profoundly worse to deal with.
The Barbican reveals traces of the utopian in the past that was left behind when neoliberal economic theory and postmodernism galvanised the TINA (there is no alternative to capitalism) reality. We sat in the canteen (the only place I know of in contemporary life where the word canteen isn’t associated undesirable eateries), and just sat, without the need for more pleasure-seeking, drink, etc – just sat.  As we moved on toward the station, making a closure on this situation still felt as far off as it did before the performance, in the Barbican we did at least get a glimpse of elements of a place that could exist beyond this stuck point. This point has to be moved on from; personally speaking, I cannot stay here any longer.

“Hardworking Taxpayers, Inconvenienced!”

“Hardworking Taxpayers, Inconvenienced!” (2015, A4, ink on paper)