Monday, 17 November 2014

Work as Big as Houses

I was really pleased to have images of my work in a projection show on Norfolk Street in Sheffield as part of the Wealthy Weekend event going on in the city over 12/16 November.
WEALTHY WEEKEND takes place on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year, the University of Sheffield and the Guild of St George present a weekend of talks, visual projections, artworks and activities to re-define wealth that matters, inspired by John Ruskin’s belief that ‘THERE IS NO WEALTH BUT LIFE’.
Apologies for the poor quality imagery.
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Friday, 14 November 2014

Image featured in publication for ‘In The City’ project

The Image Dead Dreams from my video-piece the Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of The Crash) will feature in the In The City limited edition publication
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The publication is part of the In The City Project, hosted by Hanover Project at the University of Central Lancashire
Conference: Harris Building Room 155, Friday 21/11/14, 10:30am – 3pm
Exhibition Preview: Friday 21/11/14, 3 – 5pm
Exhibition Open: 20/11/14 – 10/12/14, Weekdays 10 – 5pm
The purpose of this exhibition is to explore perceptions of the city on a global scale. Artists are invited to reflect current cultural, social and political subjects through engagements with the built environment in which they live and / or work. The exhibition is the result of an open call for submissions, and works have been received from artists working in Ireland, Sweden, UK, Portugal, Lithuania, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, USA, Austria, Israel, Romania, Germany, and Qatar. A conference will take place alongside the exhibition at Hanover Project, where speakers will present themes central to the exhibition concept.
Travelling is an odd experience in the 21st Century. As one steps off a plane and heads towards a city, one is confronted with a familiar scene. There are a few relics from a distant culture, a few touristy spots for the ‘selfies’. But increasingly present are the generic office tower blocks and shopping malls – McDonalds, H&M, Lidl – the same lattes, fashion trends and boutiques. In cities such as Berlin, you cannot ignore the word gentrification as old buildings and autonomous establishments disappear to make way for more shopping malls, flash apartments and expensive bars.Globally, urbanity is changing radically. In the UK, traditional and historic markets are being turned into expensive artisan trade fairs and unique independent shops are being replaced with generic chain stores. The city is increasingly a playground for the wealthy, yet economically the West inparticular is in global financial turmoil. As late capitalism persists and growth continues beyond its means, individuals are increasingly suffering through job and service cuts alongside an increase in living costs.
All of these issues are imprinted onto the city through increasing evidence of affluence and depravity, and in the signage, buildings, bureaucracy, people, history, moments and actions that surround us. In this exhibition, works will collectively capture the impact of globalization as reoccurring themes are unearthed, whilst providing engaging dialogues between differing
viewpoints.
Unsight SIMON LE RUEZ, SHEFFIELD, UK. (web)

Hanover Project, c/o Victoria Lucas, Hanover Building, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE

2014 mapmaking (part 7)

This is the 7th post in a series that 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 1st post can be found here.

The 2nd here
The 3rd here

The 4th here

The 5th here

The 6th here

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.
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7 Nov 2014

“The Mary Celeste structure [overlooking Barnsley's inner ring road] is darkened by the downpour. And in turn it seems to be a metaphor for the early dark turn of the conversational subject matter, once I reassert the uneasy truth that this structure has been in this state for over 6 years – yet it is a largely ignored fact. It provokes an intensification in our wrangling conversation over ‘just what the hell is going on?’ “.

” Hemmed in’ plantation woodlands [Flouch roundabout] mark the roadway to the moors. Two bleak landscapes that compliment each other. Both man-made, so to speak., but both important (I believe) to (initially) the Northern Industrial psyche, and (currently) the always-on, hyper-connected psyche. [They act] as a physical reflection of the [empty feeling this speed causes [in us].”
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7 November 2014

“In a charity shop [in Congleton]. The playing of 50-year-old pop songs from the “good times” of popular culture induces in me a nauseating ‘dispiration’ for our ‘stuck record’ present.”

“In the Wetherspoons on West Street [Sheffield]. In the toilets two homeless males clean themselves up and stock up on toilet paper.This is [something I've never seen in this city before], highlighting how critical the homeless situation in the city has become.”
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11 November 2014

“[Nottingham city centre]. Walking past recruitment centre. People of all ages sat facing computer screens, and people stood outside [the centre] waiting at the bus stop. I feel for them; what an incredibly rigged game it is when you’re at the bottom [and you're trying to get a break]. I get the lyrics to [Pulp's] Common People running through my thoughts: “yeah and the chip stains and grease will come out in the bath”, because there’s no way of disguising your poverty, it really does cling to you. Everyone can see it, no matter how you try to hide it. Look over [the road] at massive concrete hotel. Now highly unfashionable. Built in a different era; with a different social reality.”

“Find myself incredibly hungry, with well over 2 hours until I get the train back. [My mind starts running down old and unhelpful psychological warrens, and when it's irrational thoughts VS illogical thoughts - one has to win over]. I lie to myself, convincing myself that the meandering that follows is for my ‘projects’. The hidden motive being the ‘eating disordered’ mental[ity] that returns when I’m low, lonely, tired and in an urban centre surrounded by (seemingly) infinitesimal choices. My thoughts pace back and forth between getting ‘food involving a drink’ in a pub, but I relapse [ever-so-slightly] into the late teenage me, who spent hours in supermarkets in a decision-making paralysis, due to all the choices on offer. the anorexic control mechanisms still try to get out of their cage from time to time; [the urge to have it back at the reigns is still very seductive].”
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11 November 2014

“Large open-cast mining area; [this area is still] generally industrial-looking. A landscape you could mistakenly think was of the past, coming from Yorkshire. Sometimes feels as if Yorkshire has been made into one tourist attraction, as in covering up the truth (as all tourism does); greened over spoil heaps, and severe poverty hidden by lush ravines in Sheffield. As if Derbyshire’s ‘secondary’ position in contrast to Yorkshire’s (increasingly annoying) self-indentit[ification] has kept it more real.”
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12 November 2014

“Unused grassland/wasteland area between railway track and disused viaduct [just outside Leeds Centre]. About 10-15 police officers walk together [through the grass] in a line, looking for evidence. A serious crime has obviously been committed here, in [an] area that will no doubt be swept under the glitter of ‘regeneration’ once the south Entrance to Leeds [railway] station is [completed]. But, as it stands, it looks like a ‘ideal crime scene location’ – as if this wasn’t real at all, but actually film set for the crime drama A Touch of Frost, which was actually filmed in this area.”

“As I head for the exit at Darton station I noticed stickers all around where the train doors are: English Defence League and Britain First stickers vowing to ‘protect us’ from ‘muslim pedophiles’. A sickly and medievalstyle to the stickers, and far right party logos. [It] makes my heart sink: “this can only get worse”, it feels to me. ‘The diseased isle’ to [paraphrase] Carl Neville. I wish I knew a solution; as far as I see much anti-fascist protesting isn’t quelling such views. And it’s so bad around here – alienating me from “my own turf”, so-to-speak. Only yesterday I saw a poster on a road sign near Cawthorne saying “Halal Fox”. Stupid/idiotic coupling of presumed ‘lefty’ things, but also dangerously striking subconscious chords – I’m sure.”

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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Strange Death of Grown-up Britain

Talking to a friend last week, he described personal experience of what had been on the tip of my tongue as we passed through the first week of ‘Firework Month (previously Bonfire Night). He talked of how he felt adults are becoming increasingly infantilised both in their attitudes and their leisure pursuits. Adults wanting toys, and wanting to talk about toys – in this instance.

The sentence that stuck in my head from our re-converging conversational subject was related to TV documentaries that deal with technology: “in the 1980’s we had Tomorrow’s World. Today, we have The Gadget Show.”Despite Tomorrow’s World being know for not always being a great documentary, it was very indicative of its time, and couldn’t conceivably exist in our current world, outside Silicon Valley-venture-capitalist-orientated lectures, and certainly not as prime-time television viewing. Tomorrow’s World eagerly anticipated possible futures we’d all be involved in, whilst its contemporary equivalents offer us nothing but novelties to play with, in place of a future. What happened?

As a population we have been disenfranchised almost entirely by the triumph of neoliberal economics. A slow all-encompassing triumph that, as Paul Verhaeghe shows in his book What About Me?, has (over the past 35 years) transformed the nature of society, but only by also transforming individuals, altering how they see themselves and their relationship with the world. It reduces us to a player in a “market-driven society”, making us compete against each other in a way that dissolves the very social safety nets/institutions that offered relief to inevitable ‘losers’ in an inherently rigged game.

Verhaeghe’s book really gets going when he begins to discuss how we live in an ‘Enron Society':named after an infamous US corporation whose Rank and Yank model of a grand lauding for high performers and humiliating sackings for low performers, ended up leading to mass performance-fixing, bringing the corporation down, but not before totally doing away with any sort of adult agency, reducing workers to powerless infants.

This ‘new identity’ feels powerless to change anything beyond his/her own performance in such a structure: someone/something else is thus always to blame (scroungers, cheats, politicians, extremists, immigrants). And because of the lack of trust and sense of social responsibility of the neoliberalised worldly-outlook, the state ends up intervening with incredibly infantilising measures; “you can’t do that”, “you can’t have that here”(ironic how my local train stations have begun to use an actual child’s voice over the tannoy to issue out such incredibly patronising rules/regulations). Who’s want to think about the social? Better to entertain ourselves in our ‘private bunkers’.

No future, just high-tech toys. What future there is certainly isn’t public property. The future’s for the winners, and because there’s only a few of them, you should just take what you can, and enjoy what you can.

Whether neoliberal capital coincided with the triumph of digital technology, or whether the ‘postmodernising’ affect of digital life was actually realised by what theorist Fredric Jameson speculated postmodernism is anyway – the cultural logic of late capitalism – that fact remains they have equally extended into our external and internal landscape, as one seamless thing, making the idea of a another social reality unimaginable.
Being hooked up to what Will Self calls ‘the Man-Machine Matrix’, our long-view becomes a ‘damaged receptor’, as we descend into an eternal now. Together, yet alone (even increasingly relaint on the cold-calculative digital sphere for love) where a long-view and an adult agency may once have been, we find we have what Mark Fisher (Capitalist Realism) calls ‘reflexive impotence’, and are in a state of what he called ‘depressive ahedonia’, as in the inability to do anything but pursue pleasure.

Pleasure becomes the only thing we can pursue. In out hypermediated landscape, the promise of immediate pleasures is all around us; it is the only language being spoken to us, alongside its counterpart of terror and uncertainty via rolling news media, that makes us recoil from the outside world further, into a state that craves childlike security.

So it seems worthwhile adding that as well as new gadgets there is of course the obsession with vintage gadgets, which certainly correlate with the inability to picture a future, but are also symbolic of adults’ (at least the fortunate adults’) genuine childhoods, of general stability and protection from uncertainties – the state we wish to remain in as adults, now we experience a lack of agency in the face of this berserk and cruel outside the (hyper)media presents to us.

But as culture begins to mould around there being nothing but pleasure/’the good times’, it inevitably becomes an implicit order. If we aren’t enjoying ourselves then something must surely be wrong, with the place we are in/people we are with, or, more likely, we feel that something must be wrong with ourselves. The pursuit of pleasure becomes more prominent a feature of contemporary life than pleasure itself. In fact, what separates so-called binge-drinking culture, for example, from the age-old drinking habits of an island on the edge of Northern Europe, is this implicit rule that something is wrong if there aren’t ‘the good times’ all the time.
All this gets me onto why I felt incensed to write all this whilst fireworks that sound like rocks being thrown at the windows are going off evening after evening. I have often felt that the social reality we are amidst could quite easily be called “40 years hate-your-neighbour”, as one in overcome by inner rage over what feels like an horizon made of “inconsiderate people(!)”, as on mass they pursue their leisure fixes at all costs, not least in the suburbs and provincial town centres on a week.

The ‘Anti-Scrooge Brigade’ are soon on your case once you critique nationally instituted festive occasions, such as Bonfire Night or Christmas. But once the noise level of “somebody having a good time” becomes a form of harassment to others, as it permeates their ‘private bunkers – their only refuge from the hostile outside environment – you begin to wonder why we need to behave like this just to have fun. From hooliganist chanting and whooping noises, whilst walking from bar to bar, to letting off the loudest firework, enjoyment can no longer separated from the need to show the world that you are having enjoyment. The most energy is devote to making a statement, saying “fun is being had”.

If this social reality’s equivalent of Tomorrow’s World is the Gadget Show then the TV show that most perfectly ‘symptomises’ man-child’s “having fun at all costs”, it is the appropriately socially-offensive Top Gear, fronted by South Yorkshire’s 2nd worst export after William Hague; Jeremy Clarkson. But I believe that what people really hate so much about Jeremy Clarkson is that on a unconscious level they realise that getting rid of him (from the limelight) wouldn’t get rid of the “having my fun at all costs” individualism of which he is the figurehead.

But we hate it as much as we recreate it. What I gathered for Verhaeghe’s analysis of what neoliberalism has done to our identities is that it makes us into inherently contradictory forces; equally victims and perpetrators of the social reality. I, for one, am guilty of what Verhaeghe terms “depressive pleasure-seeking” an awareness of my long-view being a ‘damage receptor’ having no alteration to this state, as my civic, political responsibility crumbles bi-weekly into a need to be drunk. And, regarding festive occasions, as much as I loathe them, part of the reason for this is because I know that I will be (yet again) overcome by Fisher’s ‘depressive ahedonia’ during their periodical grip over culture. I await falling into pretty low places due a power surge of emotion telling me there’s something wrong because I’m not perpetually experience the ‘good times’. As I constantly keep reminding people, I am Entombed in Self-Centredness.

But before I designate a potential open goal for skim-reading-opinionist-OneUpManship, the most easy open goal is “how are you designating a society infantile when you still often have to rely on your parents to get by?” Yes, I haven’t managed to find a way of earning enough to be truly independent, and, no, you have completely missed the point of what I am referring to by infantilism. I mean infantilism in the sense of adults both resorting to a small, well-decorated bunker-world of boys toys and twee, which has hit a googoo gaga-level of hysteria in our post recession ‘keep calm carry on’ moment, and the culturally-imposed powerless position where all we are able to do is find pleasure.

My point isn’t that I know a solution – I wouldn’t include my own self-loathing admissions if I thought I did – it’s that I feel it crucial we all identify that there is a problem in the first place. We have an entire cultural response to anyone who shows unease at the demand to have fun, and this is what I mean by the Anti-Scrooge Brigade – it disguises the gulf between the commandment to have fun and genuine enjoyment.
It is when I find myself in Leeds city centre early Saturday evening (as an International city, by week, folds back into a provincial English town by weekend), or bombarded by relentless deafening fireworks, that it feels important not to let this all be seen as ‘folk having fun; let it be’, because it is a statement of fun, hiding the fact that genuine meaning to an adult existence has been thoroughly castrated. Regarding the conversation with my friend that this blog-post begun with, perhaps it is fitting to add that the consistent conclusion of our exhaustive debate, was that the only thing we felt we could do was to be critically expressive, through art, writing, and more thinking.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

2014 mapmaking (part 7)

This is the 5th post in a series that 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 1st post can be found here.

The 2nd here

The 3rd here

The 4th here

The 5th here

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.

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29 October 2014

“Perhaps due to lack of significant change in my [cassette] walkman-cum-CD-walkman-cum-mp3 player-cum Ipod, it still often occurs that music specific to certain haunts replays itself when I return to the haunts. Looking towards the landscape break [between] the rolling hills of Barnsley and the barren-Pennine hills, I remember how this landscape break functioned as an analogy for a break off occurring in my life, when I frequented this route, often by pushbike, aged 18. The song evoking this powerful feeling of [seemingly uncalled-for] loss is ‘Politik’ by Coldplay (one of the only tracks I hold dear by a band I largely associate as the main audio backdrop to [the] socially-cleansed ‘Bland Britain’ [that the 2000’s became].) Looking up at the green hills towards the (seemingly) always broody enclosure of Penistone, the song gives me a gut-wrenching feeling that I feel powerless to finally put to bed now. It is the break off of one reality to the general reality I occupy now. I see my 18 year old self with a sense of innocence, not really understanding where exactly he was leading his thoughts to the rest of this young adulthood.”
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“Looking over to Burngreave’s cluster of row-rise flats that cover the sharp, hilly, incline. Remember being surprised to find out that there was once a large estate [Woodside], including tower blocks, just over the other side of this small hill, but is now long-gone. Although the flats may have fallen into decline, as a South Yorkshire resident I get a sense of deep injustice over the de-metropolising and de-futurising of Sheffield, inflicted on it from Thatcher onwards.”

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 “Young man, clearly homeless, sits outside the Division Street Sainsbury’s [store], on an evening where the temperature has noticeably dropped. Perhaps because I’m a little more beaten by things today, I haven’t got my ‘rat-race’ [need-to-get-things-done] mentality’ on, I feel genuine empathy for him – something I think we [generally] do our utmost to avoid [doing]. But I can’t avoid [doing so] because he has a relatively similar physical appearance to me, which makes the prospect of homelessness far more imaginable.”

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30 October 2014
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“Hill feels harder to climb today. Possibly due to the many headlights from cars, continuously blinding me and making it feel like a sensory bombardment. Look back over the M1 motorway – just a constant flow of lights, like little digits moving up to make one big picture. This predicament is not freedom .”
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“Young [woman] stands in the middle of the generally depopulated (post 6pm) town centre with a charity bucket – the name of which I am unsure. I hear a male voice speaking to her, as a walk past [and onwards], in a strong working class London accent, saying “your security is also my priority, darling”. Something just doesn’t look right about it [all]. It seems like heresy to suggest that a charity [may be] dodgy, but it certainly strikes me as being this way. After all, surely in an age where everybody [is having to] scramble for every last penny. surely someone’s going to try it?”
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31 October and 1 November 2014
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“Initially strange sight as we pass the Vets for Pets [business] on Wilthorpe Road. One of those times when what you think is a group of people playing about, turns out to be a couple of teenage males taunting a lone individual. This individual looks in a state, to say the least; wrecked by life, to be appropriate. Hooded and hunched, he swings his shopping bags in a furious yet drunken manner at these two teenage males, who are clearly taking delight in mocking this ‘weaker’ subject. It’s ‘lols’ all round for them. This incident brings us onto the awfulness of bullying in general. It also brings us onto the issue of Jeremy Clarkson, a popular figure who applauds [the] ridicule of those [he deems] ‘weaker’ than him.”
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 3 November 2014
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“Deep black heaps of coal lay in large car-park at The Old Post Office pub (next to motorway junction). The coal is being loaded onto large lorries. I think about how in our so-called ‘post-industrial’ times, we easily forget [due to its disappearance - at least in raw form - from our immediate horizons] that such [resources] still fuel the world we inhabit.”
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“Walking under viaduct. orange bleaching by night lights. Craving for permanent urban meandering, free of hunger, expectation, responsibility …tomorrow morning.”
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 4 November 2014
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” Windy lane next to ‘traditional’ Yorkshire scenes. I know that part of the reason I walk so fast is to, at least momentarily, con myself over my growing sense of immobility.”

“After miles of walking through clearly definable landscape I am finally upon an interspace container – a city to city train. Feel at ease, don’t even care if I look worn and ragged to the commuters that surround. I’ve exhausted the need for worry, care – just a human drone, in awe of the bright lights in the train as I stare up. And why shouldn’t I be? Sometimes I [crave] to be in these interspaces.
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“As soon as I get into the city I notice individuals carrying rucksacks, who [certainly look to be] ‘of no fixed-abode’. You can’t hide it [no matter how hard you try]. [because] the smartly-dressed office workers who pass them by are visibly not condemned to where those clothes all the time. [Such a predicament clings to you].”

“Walking down Bond Street. Odd layout. Hoardings, barring entrance to something, and bakeries and a [small] bus station that look ill-placed now that the 9-5 stage of Leeds day is over. Something feels missing in a much wider sense though; a real sense of an absence of something.”

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