Sunday

Our friends Human Blues – “A Creator & Distributor of Images”

 

HB Banner

A new and dynamic artistic duo, that have been creating their own brand of dark, visually intriguing work for some time, have just started making a selection of their artworks available to buy. Human Blues have produced an overall appearance within their initial catalogue of images that encapsulates a distinctive foreboding nature and demonstrates a monochromatic flair. They create work in a variety of ways and use a range of media such as inks, painting, drawing, illustration, photography and print making. Their subjects appear to be inspired and are unpredictably different – putting an emphasis on the aesthetic and coupling it with layers of possible meanings and various connotations, which entice one to look further at, and deeper into the origins of their imagery. The eccentricity evident in these images and the overall look of their brand, I feel sets them apart from other image makers working within this vast industry of commercial print making and art reprographics.

 

Ad_still life A recognisable product shot from Human Blues

 

I do concede that a certain level of bias exists, in respect of this venture. As the title here explains, Human Blues are our friends and associates. However, these judgments – which are sincerely made – will simply have to be taken on their merits. Of course all those reading this will individually decide for themselves as to the quality and appeal of this duo’s work. In order to assist with these deliberations however (and because the work ‘visually enriches’ Pipe), we have included some of Human Bluesimages and products here for you to look through and come to your own conclusions about.

 

 

dark days_print

The image for Fine Art Print‘Dark Days’

 

postcard setTheir 3 Postcards from the pack, together

 

the outsider_still lifeThe Gift Card ‘The Outsider’, in ‘situ’

 

Their work can currently be bought in three new, different creations. These groups of artworks are available as gifts cards, packs of postcards and as fine art prints. All products, pricing and shipping details are available on their website & in their Etsy shop.

 

a faint afterglowOne of their photographic works, available as a Fine Art Print

 

In addition, there is also information about how you can contact them on the site. I have been reliably informed that they intend to add more artworks and possibly further products too, in the coming months. If you do have any requests or questions about their work, I am certain them would welcome these inquiries.

.P

 

Tuesday

Pipe’s album recommendations for 2013 (of the popular music variety – whatever that means nowadays?)

 

As the title suggests these are our popular music album recommendations from those released last year. Having been a while since we last wrote, and during December having read a lot of ‘the best albums of 2013’ lists too, we felt we should use this opportunity to let readers know what music we have had on and liked during last year. Our list is not really ‘a best of’ list in that way though (as it is very difficult to judge art I feel). It is simply what we have appreciated hearing, but has no rating attached. We just hope you enjoy reading Pipe’s thoughts on this subject and listening to some of our ‘plugs’. We have included a song from each entry on our list too for you to enjoy – and as ever, all other thoughts, views and comments are thoroughly encouraged.

 

· White FenceCyclops Reaps

white-fence-cyclops reaps

After what was a remarkably busy 2012 – bringing out 3 albums in that calendar year; one of which: Hair, a collaboration with his long time touring mate Ty Segall – 2013 was a more sedate affair, with only the single record released this time around. Nonetheless, in the immortal words of one Rab C. Nesbit: It’s quality that counts though, eh? And this album is positively brimming with these positive attributes. Former Darker My Love co-front man and main writer Tim Presley (Mr White Fence himself) has now unquestionably surpassed all the artistic achievements of his former band – if not the commercial ones. Having seemingly been building up to this record, in the creative sense at least, since his debut self-titled White Fence record was released back in 2010; he has clearly been honing his craft and unbridled talent for writing and producing ‘lo-fi’, psyche, nuggets of pop, which always seem to result in one wanting more. And as a consequence, one invariably returns seeking further, similar punk rock fulfilments. If there is someone making better records, of this ‘variety’, I haven’t heard them and would also love to know who they are. Just for the record too (no pun intended), if there was an order to this, Cyclops Reaps would be my first pick of last year – so there may be a little rating going on here after all. There really is not a bad track on either side. Nonetheless, do check out Chairs in the Dark & New Edinburgh – my particular favourites here.

 

 

· Steve MasonMonkey Minds in Devils Time’s

stevemason-monkeyminds

So, apparently no one is writing protest songs anymore. Well they are. Steve Mason has just written a whole ‘concept’ album, which has protest and anti-war/pro-humanity at its very core. Not only at the centre either, this is an album positively packed with anxieties over our political system and those who govern us. However his angst here is not in the slightest bit morose. No, Monkey Minds in Devil’s Times is plainly a joyous, uplifting record – even if it does contain plenty of anger and reflective moments as well. In my experience most great ‘politically’ originated records invariably do this. In the vein of other classic records with a social message, such as PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake (2011), Lou Reed’s Berlin (1973) or even Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (1971) (and make no mistake, I absolutely think he has created a work wholly comparable to these other great albums); Mason also takes you on a ‘wee’ emotional journey here. This is a trip that allows you to confront some societal truths, through real human emotions. After 2010’s Boys Outside album, another truly superb work, Mason has now, with these last two works proved himself to be without doubt one of the UK’s best songwriters working today – I’m sure not many folk could have written songs such as Oh My Lord or Fire. They already appear to have all the hallmarks of classics from the modern pop song category for me. Subsequently, when the Mercury Music Prize was announced for 2013, I was bemused to see that not only had Monkey Minds in Devil’s Times not won, it hadn’t even been nominated, a very odd decision. In my view no one wrote a better British based album last year, and in turn, this would have been our choice for the prize.

 

 

· Mark Kozelek & Desertshore – (self titled)

Mark Kozelek & Desertshore

An incredibly emotional record, if any one album in our list is going to make you a bit misty eyed then surely it’s this one. The delivery of the lyrics, as is often Kozelek’s style, are made in a sort of stream of consciousness; as if they have come straight off the pages of a journal and expertly crafted together with melodies and musical enunciations, which are in themselves both simultaneously familiar and deceptively ‘other worldly’. These are ‘soundscapes’ that explore the ‘inner’ as well as the exteriority of our human environments. The best allegory I can think of for Mark Kozelek & Desertshore would be that this is kind of, music as cinema. It contains such specifically vivid descriptions, which for me create a strong sense of understanding for these highly personal accounts – he manages to tell us how he “hates Nels Cline” after all, that’s pretty personal. I feel that this is a sort of musical experience equivalent of a John Cassavetes’ film; in its emotional authenticity and expression of raw human feelings. Hey You Bastard I’m Still Here is a track which is incredibly moving and if you hear nothing else from the record (but I definitely recommend listening to the whole thing), hear this. In it Kozelek enables you to imagine every sentiment he articulates – a timeless American musical document.

 

 

· Cate Le BonMug Museum

cate_le_bon_mug_museum

Having recently heard Le Bon singing a quite beautiful cover version of White Fence’s Chairs in The Dark (from the previously sited Cyclops Reaps), I was encouraged to seek out some of her own music. This clearly led me to Mug Museum. Her vocal it seems has certain similar nuanced traits to previous folk and rock ‘alternative’ artists like Nico (the most obvious one) and at times I also hear echoes of Sandy Denny – her of Fairport Convention fame, of which Duke, one of the standout tracks on the album for me, has certain, updated suggestions of Denny’s vocal style. It is very pleasant to hear a songwriter and singer seemingly as influenced by those origins of the British and European folk traditions, as they are from those westward orientated sounds, which as we know are always far more readily heard. A Welsh girl (who writes & performs in Welsh too), Le Bon lets her accent shine through, a feature of her songs that make them even more endearing for me and consequently this allows the listener to invest more faith in the personal descriptions she recites in her songs. Mug Museum is an album written in the aftermath of the artist losing a close family relative and depicts her process of dealing with this lose. The notion of objects as memories – as the title too suggests – and the individual connotations they retain for the owner of them, is a noteworthy aspect of the record. The re-telling of stories and events creates an intrigue I feel, which is supported and enhanced by the beautiful, almost archaic sensations that the songs instil in the listener – Mirror Me is the most profound example of this. This tune is as reminiscent of medieval or classical music sounds as anything post 20th century. An impeccable fusion of psychedelia, the ‘ancient’, European folk and dotted with a little west coast jangling garage rock, all for good measure; Mug Museum is a record subtly delivered but is clearly layered in its conception and creation.

 

 

· PhosphorescentMuchacho De Lujo

Phosphorescent Muchacho 

If the union of the musical genres country/gospel and electronic seems unlikely or even absurd as I’m sure it does to some, then Muchacho is a masterful record that goes a long way (and I would remark, all the way) in refuting this claim. Matthew Houck (the man responsible for Phosphorescent) has generally in the past made what have now come to be known as alt country albums, a popular music genre that one can certainly get blissfully lost in, as I did for many years. On this album however he has expanded his musical range and created a work that includes processed beats, samples, loops, orchestral arrangements, Mexican brass and as much reverb as you can shake a cow bell at; to add to his already accomplished audio artistic range. And this has also all occurred, without any massive break from what he was already doing very successfully on his previous records. This understated, yet often widely undervalued sense of adventure has not affected his core principles for writing and performing great songs; the bedrock of Phosphorescent’s creative past. This chorus filled, uplifting, harmony drenched album – A Charm/A Blade is a fitting example of this – also has many melancholy moments on it – Song for Zulu being one – yet it still has a swagger too – Ride On/Right On – that is in keep with his country roots. Simply, Muchacho De Lujo is a superb amalgamation of ‘the traditional’, merged with various new future sounds of ‘Americana’ – synths and cowboy boots.

 

 

· Bill CallahanDream River

Bill Callahan dreamriver

Callahan, the former protagonist in the musical vehicle Smog, has been quietly going about this business under his own name for many years now. Having already made around 13 records under the Smog title – since reverting to ‘self’, he has since 2006/7, amassed a back catalogue of the most stunning and distinctively delivered music which, if it isn’t already, I believe it will be regarded as one of the key contributions to American popular music over the last 20 to 30 years. I do personally feel though, that even by his own lofty standards, Callahan has reached a sort of zenith in his career, thus far, with last year’s Dream River. Of course just an opinion, as Callahan has created many soul shattering pieces in his now 20 or so years as a recording artist, I just generally get the sense that on this latest release, his slightly more optimistic tone (at times) has led to a further expansion of his well trodden artistic, thematic sources and treatment of subjects. The delicate 70’s flute and percussive influences (reminiscent of Van the man’s Astral Weeks) is again heavily featured. Making the album feel a little like a partner piece to 2011’s Apocalypse – another great work. However the lesser moments on that particular release have been eradicated on Dream River, as Callahan clearly appears to have grown both as a lyrists and even more crucially, a writer and arranger of the most vivid and atmospheric songs. A song like Small Plane, as good a song as I have heard from him, is tantamount to the majesty of his art and the purpose of his creative vision. Is it now safe to say that although very different, and evidently not as commercial/well known, that Callahan is perhaps a kind of modern day equivalent to say, Leonard Cohen for instance? I am not sure if I would be thanked for this comparison or if it is indeed fairly simplistic, but I guess the point I attempt to make is that like a Cohen or Morrison figure in music, why does Callahan not have an audience similar in scale to the likes of the aforementioned? I am sure the reasons are many and complex. However, I hope that this recommendation might go a very small way towards redressing that balance – you can but hope.

 

 

· Nick Cave & The Bad SeedsPush The Sky Away

Nick-Cave-and-the-Bad-Seeds push the sky away

With two recent Grinderman albums behind them, the first one good and the second one not so; the exit of Mick Harvey has now resulted in the current Bad Seeds formation of members mirroring that of their ‘side project’. However this incident hasn’t produced a radical change in the Bad Seeds sound, if their current album is an indication of their musical direction. This is still very much an album which is in keeping with their musical oeuvre and doesn’t now resonant more with the punky, scuzzy, avant-garde(ish) rock made under the ‘banner’ of Grinderman. However there are moments which do have some of the traits of a Cave & Ellis composition (being Warren Ellis of Seeds, Grinder & The Dirty Three); but this album is far more reminiscent of the music they put together for the film scores on The Proposition and The Assassination of Jesse James – for me still two of Cave’s most impressive works to date – than it is of any of their other ventures. The song Water’s Edge is an adequate case in point here I feel. Although a little limited in terms of the overall sound and vocal delivery (a frequent issue for me with much of the Bad Seeds music), Push the Sky Away has an apparent individual, contemporary relevance (heard especially on Finishing Jubilee Street), and a social agenda – this may be unintentional of course – but it still draws one in and produces a greater level of attention. Like most of Cave’s records, I always feel I want to hear how they age. Of course his songs are not in the slightest bit unique here. However, as was the case with their last record Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!, an album which I was totally under whelmed by when it was initially released, it has in someway aged well with me over time and become a record I now appreciate listening to a lot. As to how this current album rates in Cave’s overall career, it is too soon to say for me. Nevertheless, Push the Sky Away is certainly a strong record and one we have enjoyed hearing since its release. 

 

 

· Kurt VileWakin on a Pretty Daze

Kurt Vile Wakin

Of all the records in Pipe’s list I can safely say that this one has by quite a long way been played the most. This of course doesn’t mean that it is the favoured one (I think I have already revealed this anyway), however it does probably indicate that it is the most ‘versatile’ lets say, in terms of how a record can best assimilate with one’s mood. I can’t help thinking that if musicians could still sell ‘x’ millions of an album without the advertising industry telling consumers to ‘buy it’, as was the case pre- the era of digital distribution, then Wakin on a Pretty Daze would almost certainly have been such a musical commodity. This album is quite plainly a bona fide classic and comfortably fits within the cannon of the classic American rock and roll album. Literally everything is faultlessly in place; from the first few bars of the sprawling opening track Wakin on a Pretty Day (not ‘Daze’) that unapologetically oozes Americanicity, through the dreamy swaggering Girl Called Alex and culminating in Goldtone, a track which if you don’t get a few Goosebumps out of perhaps your heart has stopped, and with many more glorious moments in-between. Vile has definitely surpassed himself again here – 2010’s Smoke Ring for my Halo his last full album and is another true gem. A great aspect of Vile – exemplified here and matched by many of his contemporaries too I should add – is that he makes a big nod to the past but doesn’t just copy his rock forefathers. No, he manages to put his own ‘modern’ stamp on what is a well travelled musical terrain. This is fittingly demonstrated on songs like Was All Talk, with its electronic foundations, creative vernacular and novel delivery. An album which I believe is for a huge audience to hear and enjoy, Wakin on a Pretty Daze certainly proves when “they” thought Vile was “all talk”, clearly he wasn’t.

 

 

· My Bloody Valentinembv

my-bloody-valentine-mbv

Whether any album could ever live up to the anticipation of a 22 year wait is likely, particularly when the predecessor was as epic, and subsequently as influential, as Loveless has proved to be for many. Nonetheless mbv is clearly a valiant attempt at satisfying the soaring expectations, which greeted its rather staged release. Its as though the wait was so lengthy that their sound has come back round again in the intervening years and mbv, without this necessarily being a criticism of it, sounds precisely as you’d have expected it to when comparing it to The Valentines’ other historical releases. The 22 years haven’t really changed the output much. For me it is unquestionably the sister (or brother piece) to 1991’s Loveless. Kevin Shield’s still has the distortion, reverb and other hissing guitar effects ‘front of stage’ and as can be heard particularly on the songs Only Tomorrow and Who Sees You he hasn’t bored of creating that distinct cacophony of walled, pedal boarded sound. They do however give your ears a rest on tracks like New You; a pop infused, indie ditty, which is very pleasant indeed and does help break through some of the record’s ‘noise’. I do think that if anything though, they are more ambitious on mbv than before. In Another Way is still quintessentially them, but with a more varied approach. On this track what we have is the formations of something that is much more clinical and which feels as though it is far more ‘progressive’ in nature – there are also perhaps echoes of the ‘Math Rock’ sound, particularly heard on the latter part of the album. Largely what we hoped for and expected. Shields et al. may not be prolific, but what they lack in urgency, they certainly make up for in efficiency.

 

 

· Richard ThompsonElectric

richard-thompson-electric

When talk of the great guitarists is heard, a core group of names generally including Beck, Clapton, Page, Hendrix, Townsend etc. etc., are often heralded as being the frontrunners. However in this category the name of Richard Thompson is generally omitted. For me this chap is as good as all the names that mainly make up such a list, and better than most. The difference with Thompson and a lot of these more virtuoso type players is that his primary concern is always with the song and any notion of musical posturing then comes thereafter. As a result of this approach he has over many years been responsible for some great songs and pretty timeless albums. Last years Electric is, I feel as good as any release of his and is one that best showcases Thompson’s characteristic blend of British traditional folk, blues, rock and roll and country-esque style of musical arrangements. The music, much like the man himself, always seems to have a subtly and even a slight melancholic atmosphere to it. Salford Sunday is a track which best highlights this sort of ambiance and which features harmonises from Alison Krauss, a choice which certainly aids the song’s sober feelings. Although restraint is a facet of the music, within this, anger is still often simmering under the surface and always has been in Thompson’s art. The track My Enemy unquestionably has this angst in abundance. Thompson the travelling mistral continues his journey and Electric is clearly a landmark for him. If this is a sign of things to come, long may he continue.

 

 

This is a very general list of those new records from 2013 that we liked and listened to a fair bit. There were plenty of others too though. Here are another ten that, although we couldn’t write about at length, we still advocate a listen to all the same:

· Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin

· Primal ScreamMore Light

· Mark Kozelek & Jimmy Lavelle Perils From the Sea

· Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold

· Laura MarlinOnce I was an Eagle

· Deer TickNegativity

· Psychic Ills – One Track Mind

· Crystal Stilts Nature Noir

· Crocodiles – Crimes of Passion

· Wooden Shjips – Back to Land

 

Finally, please do let us know which of these, or others we haven’t included here, were your particular favourites of 2013. As ever, we always aim to begin a conversation and gain some insight from other views and opinions. Maybe we can do a reader’s list at some point as well? This would be a real privilege, so please do let us know your thoughts on this interesting subject and we can start this conversation.

Regards,

P.

Wednesday

Something akin to Punk: And the Apathetic Generation: An Afterthought – pt. 2

 

I have sited Hegel’s master–slave dialectic as a critical source in this research, as I feel some of the theoretical implications which are contained within this text suitably act as a basis for an awareness concerning – setting out an approach for action which is aimed at bringing about substantial change in the arts and arts focused higher educational practices. The Hegelian notion of, being-for-self contained within the referenced essay and the realisation of this psychosomatic process by the Slave (or as described by Hegel, “the bondsman”); by considering this account I sense a basic, relevant understanding can be established for this case. He describes this revelation of a new empowerment for the Slave through self-determination, in this way:

In the lord, the being-for-self is an ‘other’ for the bondsman, or is only for him [i.e. is not his own]; in fear, the being-for-self is present in the bondsman himself; in fashioning the thing, he becomes aware that being-for-self belongs to him, that he himself exists essentially and actually in his own right. The shape does not become something other than himself through being made external to him; for it is precisely this shape that is his pure being-for-self, which in this externality is seen by him to be the truth. Through this rediscovery of himself by himself, the bondsman realises that it is precisely in his work wherein he seemed to have only an alienated existence that he acquires a mind of his own. [1]

If one is to consider today’s young artists as a group which very much require such a moment of realisation, in order to allow themselves an opportunity to operate and be educated in a way that suits them, then the idea of a collective being-for-self seems a fitting allegory to me. A specific thought process that encourages a deeper scrutiny of the system itself and how a shared body might challenge these structures, is at present completely absent. An established and endorsed underlining individualism or self-seeking state of mind, as has been encouraged in our society generally and its presence reinforced further within the contemporary structures of our cultural practices, have consequently enabled the idea that one should only consider ‘bettering’ their own position in the hierarchical structures, as an ever prevalent deliberation. Such structures have become the absolute formation and configuration of our recently globalised, capitalist system. In a purely ideological sense, this all encompassing approach is proving to be a detrimental one in my view, and the arts are no different in this regard. Indeed, as the large scale disintegration of our communities take place, much in the way Edgar Davies describes, what we find is that in a time when real resistance is required and the moment(s) for action present themselves, the divided nature of our social and cultural groupings are preventing this from occurring. This is why – particularly when recommending a restructuring for the arts and higher education, and how best this can begin to serve those predominately young folks who are so crucial to its evolution but whom are currently not benefitting from it as an economic agency of ‘opportunity’ or in many instances, even from the work they put in themselves – as a result of this, it is even more imperative that a solidarity is formed and some much needed ideas for action are recommended.

The subject I have intended to engage with, as I and Edgar Davies previously, have been at lengths to focus on, is concerned with the arts generally. However, I can see no substantial reason why these ideas would not be transferable to other sections of society, where young people and those currently being marginalised by similar economic and social problems, are also acutely being felt – much in the same way as those being inflicted on young people within the ‘creative industries’. Nevertheless, I do feel that in this moment we (Pipe & Mr E. Davies) must focus on what is close to one’s own real lived experiences and suitably expand from this point of departure, when and if such opportunities were to arise.

Allied to my initial idea, adapted from Hegel, that we must form a strong bond with one another and reject this much heralded social concept of ‘the individual’ and the divisions this creates, in order to realise the true potential of ‘the majority’ and what transformative power this collective sense of unification could achieve. In this moment, we should then create a bond of realisation, which recognises that there are no definite ‘rules’ or social restrictions preventing a wide scale rejection of the current state controlled operational models which exist in the arts. If any such section of the state could and should hold the established forces to account, then surely the arts and tertiary educational systems, with their traditions and histories, should be it? I evidently believe this to be so. Therefore, from this ideological stance and in direct reference to Davies’s essays – and as there is no reason which I can discern to prevent this from occurring – a simple message should be communicated by today’s new entrances to the arts and those who want to commence some real changes within the industry, that pronounces:

We will now be working our own way and in our own interests.

In order for us to be able to do this and realise it as a fully formed ideological approach, some initial actions must be taken. The subsequent list of steps that I now present, I deem would begin to build a new cohesion around a set of reformative ideas for the arts and how young people are positioned and regarded by the established structures which configure it as an industry.

 

1.) The first and most important step, because of its wider social implications and contemporary relevance, is the matter of ‘the intern’. Davies devises that “from this point onwards no one works for free”. This is a collective response that could and I deem it should form the basis for our opposition to the current operational model in the arts and arts education. There are absolutely much greater issues for us to attempt to address, however I think this is something that, because of its social and symbolic relevance can and would create a bond between those confronting this system and those whom would likely support and feel a sense of solidarity for the cause and be disgusted by the awful matter of ‘the intern’ generally. In doing this though, as Davies has also explained, it is imperative that it is understood in the industrial sense. This has to be a persuasive argument and that everyone affected by it understands the full implications of this action. As a result, the notion of ‘the Scab’ must be left available to us as part of this cause, in order that everyone truly realises how serious this matter is. In a time when fellow citizens are being forced to work for nothing by our government; while directors, CEO’s and other senior members of financial companies are seeing their salaries rise to obscene levels, it is totally irresponsible and even ignorant to work for a company for free - satisfying a much needed role within that organisation, when you should be getting paid (at the very least, the minimum level) for your work - and doing this just because, economically you can. For these reasons, and many others beside, which I don’t have the time to address here, the first step is to end the culture of unpaid labour within the arts.

 

Sometimes, doing nothing is the most violent thing to do. [2]

2.) Another key factor in this struggle, which I suspect will begin to draw the intended furthest reaching attention to these significant social issues, is a type of, I would describe as – an organised non-participation. A lot has been made recently of the self-defeating nature or irresponsibility of simply not taking part in the present democratic system and its customary rituals. Nonetheless, this much overdue act, if structured and organised in the right manner, I pronounce is precisely what must be done by us in the arts. The lack of proper representation by our elective constitution, particularly for young people today (as Davies has already explained) is imposing this system on us with no crucial action being taken to address our ever intensifying plight. As a consequence, it appears to me that continued participation in this habitual democratic charade is actually the most detrimental of all present options available to us – The Un-represented. This participatory act results in ‘propping up’ an all powerful, yet totally damaging and hugely inadequate ideological system; which is in actuality, continually increasing the type of economic and social disparity young people are now faced with. The arts and present higher educational models are too, essentially part of this worrying trend. And at the same time, much of the issues new entrances to the world of employment, the arts ‘industries’ and higher education have to deal with, were imposed on them by their governments and their generational forces - yet these are not concerns which they themselves had to contend with during their first steps into real ‘adulthood’ decades earlier, but are now simply accepted as a necessary socio-economic requirement. No, these are almost all new social factors that have either been introduced because of the bad decisions made by their administrations/governmental figures or are in support of a system which benefits them, primarily at the expense of the vast majority of its other, far less advantaged citizens. Thus, I judge that an organised and adequately prepared non-participation in the established, state supported arts institutional structures is vital at this time. These governing bodies and legislative hierarchical arrangements are those very same organisations which must be held accountable for the social injustices being felt in our society and this move within the arts will also play a small part in highlighting this. Another key aspect to such a planned action is that of exclusion. In order for this to be truly effective, those established cultural, social and political organisations, that we deem to be working against us as a group or whose actions and rhetoric is seen to be ignorant to our cause or suitably damaging, then the resulting measures are, that they must be excluded and held in contempt. Arts organisations whose reputations are damaged in the eyes of organised young people will, I believe, find it very difficult to succeed in their own economic and business affairs generally.

 

3.) The utilisation of new forms of digital apparatuses, computerised ‘tools’ and modes of production, and the phenomena which is our current communicative networks and platforms that enable such ideas to be articulated, will understandably, all be integral to building new forms of engagement with these ideas of reform. This new technological phenomena, that we have at our disposal makes what is being planned more realistically achievable than would ever have been the case ‘pre’ digital age and ‘pre’ the internet. This equipment and modes of communication must be exploited and the vast nature of its possibilities adapted, when possible. As has been touched upon by Will Self and Edgar Davies, today’s young generation are the first to have grown up totally immersed, and having generally taken for granted, the type of digital technology we now have such wide scaled access to. When considering the implementation of this digital ‘age’, one could almost suggest that the youth of today, given their nurturing took place during its emergence; it is them who should really hold the majority of control over its operational mechanisms and networks. Now that these unheralded forms of communication have become fundamental to all areas of our society and its development, why is it then that those who largely control the way it is run and whom benefits the most from it, are still from our previous generations; those principally born, at a push, roughly before 1970? I will let those, like Self, attempt to answer this question; I do have my inclinations though. However, as this is unquestionably the case, I deem that what must be done in the coming years, in aid of this task is to put an emphasis on adapting new ways of using this technology for the arts, in a way that is designed to serve us properly. We must not continue to participate in those structures and systems which are already there and are simply further evidence of the sham which is the arts establishment - sponsored by their state controlled educational institutions. These arrangements, as we know, operate in the name of: arts opportunities for young and emerging practitioners, but are just a way of dividing individuals while making good business sense for these schemes and in support of their harmful doctrines, which benefit only a minute number of people - but always those whom hold power.

 

4.) As I have suggested here, a new approach for young people within the arts must be devised, and one which sits outside the arts establishment, its groupings and their conventions. Therefore in order to do this, the matter of finances (more specifically a lack of, and all the implications that this brings) does become an evident issue. For that reason, what must be done, and as history has often taught us, a process of ‘negotiation’ ought to be formulated in someway. My plan here, is to use all the spaces available to us for exhibiting, shows, ‘happenings’, performances and all available methods of showing work and creations. This also connects with the notion of exclusion and could suitably create a defining position – this will reveal those who do and those do not support this action. As we all know space is expensive and the established institutes within the arts are closed to those who don’t subscribe to their state funded, money driven agenda and operate through their ‘proper’ channels. As a consequence, such agents subscribing to these principles must be rejected by us first and then excluded altogether from having any influence or dialogue with this new generation of artists. In turn, we will use all available spaces, of which there are far more available to us than we would likely consider given our circumstances. New ways of showing work both within living space, rented space, free space, online ‘space’ (an emphasis on the adaptability of this new virtual space must be exploited as much as possible), ‘borrowed’ space, unused space, portable space, adaptable space… – the list is far longer than one would expect and the list should and will I suspect, continue to grow. This will empower the cause as one which is doing things alone and unsupported. As previous generations have shown us, the type of identification, brought about by such actions, and the importance this brings, can be immeasurable to a counter cultural movement. Through this process of identification, I envision we will gain both creative and organisational authority over our work and begin to establish new productive systems of exchange for it.

 

5.) Contrary to how work is chosen by the establishment currently within the arts, operating around scenes and certain thematic trends which then shape and plot a very specific direction for the industry, such considerations will now not knowingly be made by those involved in this cause. The only absolute necessity of work being shown through these channels is that they depict a certain reality. That they are authentic to those who created them and do not simply exist in some vein attempt at ‘relevance’. It is important in fact not to say too much here as an articulation may lead to a design or a suggestion and persuasion of the types of works which might fit into this new vision for the arts. This would be at odds with what should be encouraged, which is that of an absolute openness to themes, approaches, techniques, aesthetic and stylistic characteristics etc. In this new realm of creative expression and arts focused resistance, diversity will be absolutely embraced in all areas of practice; with works being judged only around themes of genuine authentic legitimacy, notions of an inherent truth and social relevance. The notion of being ‘out of step’ is currently regarded within the arts and cultural practices generally, as something that is a grave position to be in as an artist. I think not just being part of a ‘scene’, is actually not only a positive feature of an artist’s work, but should be seen as an obligation to the vital development of their practice. I firmly believe that this needs to be addressed and would be if this new direction for young people in the arts is to be effective. ‘Fads and trends’ rarely play a part in true artistic expression and the creation of genuinely important works. In my view, there must be more meaningful origins or source materials to one’s practice than simply trying to equate your work with someone else’s.

[The four terms which I believe will tackle this problem and give us the best chance of making these five steps a success, are: Solidarity; Organisation; Implementation and Restructuring.]

 

These steps, I hope if structured in a coherent way and then put into some sort of action will assist in creating a network of solidarity around a common cause. Although there will undoubtedly be a diverse range of voices and opinions; approaches, techniques and ways of working, in all areas of both practice and within the structural ideological nature of the cause – this however, should be embraced and allowed to flourish. What will bind the group together is this idea of questioning the way things operate, being ‘difficult’ if you like – especially given our current predicament – this is our right, and in order to make some adequate changes, is also our responsibility. Therefore, as I have tried to propose here, a type of exclusion, although on the face of it seems an extreme act and some may even deem it self-defeating; I feel strongly that a wide reaching rejection of the current model must begin to take hold. If a large enough network can be constructed (and I think this idea of a system of arrangements is at the core of what this resistance needs to be and should be built on), then this group will grow and become its own section of, a relevant facilitating system for the arts.

“No one is in a hurry to say goodbye”, to use the Self comment from Pity the Young. So we as a group must say “goodbye” to them, or risk never being given the opportunity for an introduction. We have to realise that ‘help’ from this system is not forth coming; it will never arrive and as a result, exclusion in all its semblances is the most valuable course of action we have available to us. I feel we are led to believe we need their assistance. The reality is we require this far less than we imagine, and there is an even stronger argument to suggest that we as a group are in fact crucial to their system and an exclusion from it could be hugely harmful to their well ‘trotted out’ concept of, ‘a vibrant arts scene’. Therefore, my final retort to this ‘arts establishment’ is: “thank you but we will now do things without you”.

 

Ex nihilo

 

.P


[1] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in ‘From Phenomenology of Spirit [The Master-Slave Dialectic]’, in The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, General Editor Vincent B. Leitch and others , (USA: W.W. Norton and Company, 2001), p. 635.

[2] Slavoj Zizek, ‘Adagio’, in Violence: Six Sideways Reflections, (London: Profile Books ltd., 2009), p. 183.

Saturday

Something akin to Punk: And the Apathetic Generation: An Afterthought – pt. 1

 

“No one is in a hurry to say goodbye”, Will Self commented when discussing the baby boomers and their immediate descendants, in his recent, Point of View on bbc radio 4. Entitled Pity the Young, the content of Self’s short monologue seemed fittingly apt to me when considering this long overdue Afterthought to Edgar Davies’s series of articles: Something akin to Punk: And the Apathetic Generation, and how best one might culminate his rather broad thesis. I certainly connected with both his (as I had done previously with Davies’s) sentiments; describing how today’s young people have become a sort of ‘fodder’ – culturally and economically – created by a system that, as Davies suggests in his series of texts, is largely working contrary to their interests, wishes and expectations. One of the examples Self gives is how today’s youth are continually being moralised towards; regarding how an unquestioning respect must be held for one’s elders; or specifically, all those more ‘experienced’ individuals who are in positions which one should naturally aspire to attain. These success stories are of course almost always measured by and compared against their paradigmatic system of exchange; an ideological structure devised and promoted by these older generational forces. Their preconceived notions of ‘acceptability’ – by which I mean those certified by the mainstream media, party political systems and the schemes which structure all aspects and forms of our ‘commerce’ – we are expected to believe, are the primary ‘forces for good’ within our society. However as Self alludes to, and which is a matter of particular relevance here, the ‘respect’ that our more ‘fledgling’ generations are expected to have for their far more economically vital ancestors, is not one which is meaningfully reciprocated in anyway. Such a suggestion in itself is also currently viewed at best presumptuous and if pushed to widespread acknowledgment, positively subversive and certainly to the detriment of those making it.

However, as his title too suggests, Self describes in this program how the current youth of our society, should be ‘pitied’. They are being “squatted on”, he suggests by the “giant warty toad” that is the baby boomer generation. In this metaphoric action: “squatting”, what is crucially happening is that they are very successfully controlling and shaping our society and, culturally speaking, devising their preferred nostalgic direction for all aspects of the arts and culture – which Davies is at lengths to describe in his text. Subsequently, I consider if this pity does occur (and incidentally, I can assure those reading this that it won’t), whatever form this sympathy might take, to simply accept and attempt to subserviently work within a system as a sort of misfortunate citizen, truly would be the worst of all possible outcomes for young people situated in these socially unprecedented times. Therefore, by assessing what Davies describes in his 4 previous chapters and from my own experiences, I will seek to present some possible courses of action and proposed political steps that we as a group might take within the arts (as has been the focus here), in order to not allow ourselves to become fully surrendered to this system and its set of ideals which we now acknowledge are not serving us particularly well, and in many instances are in fact working against us as our society’s young people. Consequently, if such ideas are not examined properly and meaningful social shifts devised, I suspect as a group all we can realistically expect is for the type of ‘pity’ Mr Self so eloquently describes.

So the Thatcherite legacy has now unquestionably left us with a truly free market economy (of which we can argue the merits of on another occasion I suspect), more inflated and carrying more influence than ever before. However its strength is fundamentally driven by only a select group of the very largest multi-national companies and organisations. These groups, whose financial scale has enabled them to both hold huge amounts of political power; and as a result, the freedom of their operations and financial/social obligations have become largely voluntary, functioning out with the ‘normal’ state centred tax contributory systems. As this system has grown and developed to where we are at present, it has continually marginalised smaller, perhaps even weaker businesses and business models, until their existences become impossible. I do accept the point that such financial culls have always been common during periods of economic instability, however never have we had such a fiscal model as this (which is gaining more and more economic and political powers all the time) that allows only the biggest global, multi-national sized companies to exist and truly prosper within the system. This vast wealth, we have seen is continually concentrated in and around the same core groups. What this has created within the arts and higher education generally, is a sort of reflection of these economic trends. Of which I mean: as the arts and the university systems have become more and more self supporting, essentially becoming businesses, similar to any other, with the same constraints and pressures related to profit making faced by all global ‘brands’; then in turn, only the most financially stable individuals, which generally also equates to those with the greatest access to the arts, and come from the type of backgrounds where this sort of education is available and can render this accessibility possible – these people are therefore far more able to endure the difficulties that come with this sort of ‘career choice’ and as a result have an overriding presence in this cultural arena. Additionally – and as Davies was at lengths to describe in his earlier examination of this issue – the type of works being produced by much of this new group of young(er) artists seems to understandably contain all the hallmarks of today’s society; orientated around and concentrated on big business and the current capitalistic model. Except in this moment, these elevated artworks are so blatantly lacking in much of the questioning tones, associated in the past with works traditional connected with the tertiary educational system. However, having said all this I do not think this situation is by any means an exclusive one. I frequently observe works by practitioners who do not fit this mould and therefore, in various ways sit apart from this rather self-seeking, confirmative scene. In fact this is a vital detail that I am glad can always be accepted without too much debate about its presence. Whatever Thatcher’s legacy is, or what the current position of the art establishment and higher educational structures are, we can be grateful that there will always be artists and thinkers who do question the systems they operate within (or negotiate) and manage to make works which are not simply a process of ‘being relevant’, but are some kind of singular vision – one which has the power of conviction and the purpose to interrogate and often unsettle the establishment, in all its various forms and semblances. These groups and individuals may well be operating within the margins of the current system, but as the most significant, time honoured/tested cultural episodes have proven, the most important of all events tend to come from the peripheries of society – by their very nature, this is where notions of the ‘real’, or at least authentically relevant accounts of this, are found – and subsequent inspiration is then taken from these prominent cultural episodes. I suspect if any essential changes are to occur, then yet again their origins will originate there, within the shadows of mainstream culture – and in this instance I propose this will occur away from, and contrary to, the multi-national financial elite and our current system so driven by markets, profits and financial power and all their ever increasing influences.

After this process of ‘scene setting’ and in order to briefly comment on Davies’s preceding texts, which I consider have led us up to my basic plan for action and its steps for allowing a new and constructive dialogue to take place, I will now initiate this discussion and following this, will present my considered thoughts on the matter.

Central to any proposed actions relating to this issue; at the outset I deem there should be a fundamental principle at its core. In this case, I have sited and will utilise the Hegelian master–slave dialectic[1] as the foundation to my initial proposal. From my understanding of these ideas I surmise, that in order to enact real substantial transformations within the hierarchical structures that control, position and which form much of mainstream culture and education – as a group, and the key point in this theory: being the overwhelming majority of young individuals and other marginalised groups within our society – the current resigned embracing of this detrimental system by us the majority, must firstly cease to occur. The blind hope that one will become a member of the ‘chosen few’ or that the system will in someway evolve itself into something which begins to work for the majority of it’s citizens (in this context, it’s young citizens), in my view this type of optimism, that which sustains these social structures, history has proven this compliance is plainly futile. All prior ideological shifts and changes, or real counter cultural movements – of which Punk would be one such development – when placed under any form of basic analysis, would never have ‘just happened’ without proper inaction. By allowing current assenting and conservative behaviour to go on festering, will continue to be detrimental to this cause; a cause which can only be tackled through proper substantial actions. Through creating, or simply infusing a certain mindset(s) and a particular non-confirmative outlook within art, culture and higher educational institutions, this could, and I suspect would, spread to other social channels also – as has often proven to be the case in the past when considering important counter cultural progress.

 

A subsequent ‘plan for action’ will be published next Saturday, the 16th of November. This will contain a proposed list of the first basic steps needed in order to stimulate a course for change and will conclude the ‘Afterthought’ to Edgar Davies’s, Something akin to Punk: And the Apathetic Generation.

.P


[1] Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s (1770 – 1831) master-and-slave dialectic (also called lordship and bondage) is a theory taken from his book Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) in which Hegel questions the relationship and struggle (explicitly metaphoric in nature) between the ‘Master’ and the ‘Slave’. This study specifically examines aspects within this social process relating to consciousness, mediation and subordination.

Thursday

Mapping the Exploding Whale:

 

DTEW_limbo_banner_re-sized

 

A Preview of Jessica Sarah Rinland’s Exhibition

‘Dissecting the Exploding Whale’

 

[1]In our present cultural domain (‘artistically’ speaking), one is continually reminded of what Deleuze & Guattari refer to as “tracing”. Within the arts, an apparent forlorn struggle, to create ‘anew’ or fashion artworks from the elevated remnants of post-modernity, is all too familiar. Subsequently, such meaningful forms (limited as they are), leftover or deemed significant enough to have been accepted and in turn promoted by the current institutions of power, are perpetually adapted, borrowed and renewed by artists; and in doing so, this familiar process primarily makes up our skilfully ‘traced’, largely recognisable, cultural surroundings. Nonetheless, my attention is still occasionally triggered by valiant attempts to destabilise commonly held perceptions within the customary art practices. Therefore, switching focus onto a potential, more tangible chosen example and its related framework – an instance of this, could be the construction of a work by an artist(s), which in some way aims at seeking a type of concord between what are generally assumed (correct or otherwise) to be disparate themes, treatments or subjects. By my judgement, an act of this sort would generally merit, at the very least, a preliminary consideration.

One such artist, seeking to develop or simply examine through her creative practice, a ‘stem’ linked with accordance, is Jessica Sarah Rinland. By deploying, the comparatively unhelpful, prevailing arborescent, binary formulated classification of: object/subject; “tree/root” allegories, which are the contemporary arts (gallery intended in this case). Structured by this arrangement, Rinland could, to a large extent be described as a film maker. Nonetheless, her stylistic approach, inquisitiveness and flexibility as a practitioner operating within this realm of creative expression, has allowed her a greater range of inventive scope. Additionally, through her practice, this expressive intrigue has provided an ability to negotiate a sense of individuality, despite the restrictive nature of the intuitionally controlled and formulated structures, which are our established, globalised contemporary arts.

Coming from both a fine art and film producing background, these disciplines, often viewed separately, have been embraced through her creative development and provide a distinctive outlook in the creation of her work. This has allowed her films, writings and other visual ‘pieces’, to adequately subsist equally in the gallery and within more customary cinematic environments.

Her recent practice has culminated in a soon to open exhibition of her work, entitled Dissecting the Exploding Whale; to be held at Limbo in Margate. This work is due to be displayed in two darkened, subdivided spaces. In these areas the work will however, be encouraged to coexist – and to a degree – merge, thematically, visually and poetically inside the space. The artist’s presented creations will be made up of projected film footage (both found archival and original recordings); slide projections, texts and audio. Taking the form of an installation(s), the physical duality of the space is intended to balance with other structural multiplicities: media, treatment, forms, themes etc. As in much of Rinland’s previous work, an intention to examine oppositionals and present plausible unities, or certainly a resolution between them, is planned to feature strongly in this show.

Our shared natural environment will consequently be both adapted, utilised and through this work, our cohabitants (the whale) are properly considered. This process of contemplation will allow the work to be brought into a fine art situation; found inside a contemporary, post-industrial art space.

In this instance, I deem a concept of deconstruction, to be the most satisfactory terminology used in describing what this process of unification might be. Through this perceived approach of a physical/thematic deconstruction of an idea – i.e. a film and its research/source materials – and presenting the resulting work(s) in a manner that suggests the artist is attempting to bring together contrasting subjects and topics – such as fact fiction, human animal, science art – the objective here therefore, is to exhibit this amalgamation in a coherent and engaging way. In doing so, perhaps there might also be parallels drawn between the artist’s own willingness to explore, deconstruct and experiment – and the decision to position her practice in a relatively uncharted situation; presenting the work in a somewhat unfamiliar surrounding? Plus, the need to examine these mysterious, captivating mammals may too be allied to the artist’s own compulsion to dissect her own practice against some of today’s established, categorised forms of artistic expression. In this sense, a type of enigmatic exploration appears to me, to be an ever present aspect of Rinland’s work.

A map has multiple entryways, as opposed to the tracing, which always comes back "to the same."[2]

Returning to Deleuze & Guattari’s rhizomatic formulation which began this text, it is encouraging to witness an attempt through artistic expression to map, and not simply trace a suitable ‘course’. The freedom Rinland may well find on a chosen theoretically generated plateau, operating and positioned along interconnected lines of traverse, is a commendable prospect.

Whether any innovative, creative map is devised will naturally remain to be seen. However I consider the prospect of witnessing these endeavours, in such a potentially intriguing work, worth discovering.

 

 

Jessica Sarah Rinland

Dissecting the Exploding Whale

at

Limbo, 2 Bilton Square, High Street, Margate CT9 1EE

5-27 October 2013

Open Friday – Sunday 12-5pm

Private View 4 Oct 6-9pm

www.limboarts.co.uk

www.jessicarinland.com


[1] This article makes direct reference to, and its source material is largely formulated by, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s text A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. The ‘Introduction: Rhizome’, and their concept the “Rhizome” is of particular interest here.

[2] Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, ‘Introduction: Rhizome’, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis: London, 1987), p. 12.

Something akin to Punk: And the Apathetic Generation - IV

 

[Part Four]

 

IV. Music & Opportunity   

How the Independent popular music scene connects with this enquiry, of whether there has been a recent significant social shift in its formation and development, I find interesting too. These two creative areas of education and commerce, as has been their twentieth century traditions, are indelibly linked, largely through the art school/higher educational systems. A crucial aspect of this is the way in which bands and musicians gather, and form relationships whilst studying. This is either directly so, or through the university social scenes, which is central to most (generally young) people who end up becoming popular music performers. Therefore, these behavioural aspects are fairly obviously connected with the integral matter of opportunities – and again, the increasing lack of them, to whole sways of the country. In recent times, this has resulted in creating a music business that is absolutely saturated with ostensibly similar types of people – socially speaking. Although this issue cannot simply be purely related to class; the problem of social structuring is still a reality one shouldn’t ignore. And although definitely less evident in the arts from the 60’s up until the millennia – primarily due to ideological changes in education and far more effective social equality – yet again however, the gap between ‘the haves’ and ‘the have nots’ has become a significant problem. I consider this is in fact, noticeably more of an issue now, than at any other time in the last three decades. In fundamental terms therefore, the arts and Independent music (which is allied to arts education), has increasingly become the ‘play thing’ of the wealthy and their offspring. Whilst writing this, I am constantly being reminded on a tale I once heard Alex James (him of Blur fame and now celebrity ‘cheese-man’) tell about Florence Welch (her of The Machine Fame). The basic gist of which, consisted of him remembering her from her early teens, being playful and charming, he recalled – as he would often ‘hang-out’ at her parent’s house – in Holland Park, I believe. They were, in some capacity, a part of that 90’s, West London ‘Media-Set’. This may well appear to be a somewhat tenuous link here. However, rest assured, if you want to delve into this subject – of the ‘Influential’ and their privileged, well positioned children – then you will find that such an anecdote could be considered, emblematic of this matter. I feel that what this has created in the music scene (and equally in higher education), is a litany of very comparable bands and performers who are financially able to live in London – the centre of the media and creative industries. Largely, and to put it bluntly, this is due in no small part, to the fact that they have wealthy parents, who have an unwavering support for them. Subsequently, their backgrounds also help them fit in with the media world they wish to inhabit (as our previous story would suggest), and this tale, I believe is an all too common one at present. Therefore, within this environment a sort of (for the most part), factual stereotype has been created, of individuals who predominately come from a privately educated background and fit a certain ‘metropolitanised mould’. Going back to what I mentioned in the previous chapter in relation to the work of the young contemporary artist today, I also find a definite thematic treatment in the music and constructed identity, manufactured by the current popular musician. Firstly, I have observed that there is a sort of new obsession with, what can only be described as mysticism. There are a lot of animal names being adopted or utilised, and the continual reference to a ‘higher’ (totally unrelated to religion), unattainable force. Just like their counterparts from the visual realm, again this brigade of pale, Barbour wearing (second hand of course), creative types, really aren’t at all interested in being tangibles – and I suppose why should they be? I guess one is primarily intrigued by what one knows and has had access to. As a consequence – and in a similar way as the Progressive Rockers did (the approach is of course different) in the late 60’s and 70’s – one finds a new creative scene, primarily based on a subject matter; which mostly focuses on symbolism, phenomena and fantasy. The way in which many of these individuals seem to take themselves so, incredibly seriously, also helps strengthen their connection with the art world. A projected sense of inner turmoil, which they exude, can be startling at times, especially in those whose lives’ have been seemingly so opportune. Nevertheless, this emotive ‘stance’ is exclusively inverted and therefore any real sense of anger is undoubtedly kept under raps. As a result, the shout of “no future” and such like, is currently non-existence here. Before I go on, may I briefly add that I very much like a lot of contemporary music and listen to it regularly (I am not promoting anyone here mind you). However, as is always the case with every good artist, there are constantly many more not so fine, attempting to do the same thing, except not as well. My main argument here is not with the quality of the music being produced today; it is with the current condition of the music scene, which I feel is the result of an ever growing social inequality. This situation is generating an increasing homogeneity in the individuals one sees, and in my view this has been generally detrimental to the works being created.

 

V.Networks’, Illusions & Nostalgia

The kind of cold, uncompromising individualism promoted by Thatcher – which has become absolutely part of the Thatcherite corpus – not only fully lends itself to the type of self-promotion that was at the centre of her politics; but crucially, it also embodies such key components dominant in an arts industry shaped by interactivity and digital expansion. As has proven to be the case within commerce and industry – for me the arts are too following the core philosophies of Thatcherism. These new technologies have been designed and adapted in a way that serves the expectations of powerful individuals and a system committed to and built on capital driven ideals; demonstrating how all these changes are inextricably linked. In this respect, it seems the internet functions in primarily two ways. The duality of this functioning apparatus/network crucially enables, or largely gives the illusion of communication/exchange and in doing so, creates the impression of seemingly, accessible opportunities; most of which, directly or otherwise equates to financial reward for those who have control and influence. If this multifaceted structure is the first operational mode, then the second characteristic of the internet creates the paradigm, which reflects the narcissistic tendencies so extolled in the creation of late 20th century Capitalist ideals. That is, the internet almost exclusively redefines the individual and their relationship with a perceived society or locale. For all it’s ‘wonderment’ (and let me assure you, I agree that it has this in abundance), in practice it seems using the ‘net’ is a relatively solitary act. Yet, as an apparatus used in the implementation of pure Individualism and because of its infinite nature, incalculable characteristics and specifically, all that it appears to promise – I can think of no greater embodiment of global Capitalist ideology. Although one may be given the impression that ‘anything can be achieved as long as one can get online ’, this illusion of a new found liberation through self imposed solitude, is just that. Nonetheless, what these ideas create within people and society as a whole, are of particular interest to me – especially when taking into consideration the arts.

I do concede, the anxieties I have raised, come from my own observations, experiences and interpretations of these matters. As has been attested throughout the last century (and probably in earlier centuries as well), there are always those subjects which are at odds with the general trends. Usually, if these artist’s (et al.) works, touch on real innovative and engaging themes, the work of such practitioners, is often revisited and reappraised, after the ‘dust’ from the prevailing ‘fads and trends’ have settled. Therefore, my central apprehension at this time is less with the quality of the art I see and hear; as there is much to be said for that at present. I would go as far as to say that there is actually more real innovative and intriguing work being produced now, than at any other time in the last few decades. Having said this though, my issues are with what, and why certain works are being given a platform, and what therefore happens to the rest of it. And why art, which in the past has attempted to engage with matters that deal with the plight of our (particularly young) citizens, is either not being made at all, or the task of excluding it from the mainstream creative consciousness, has so far in this period, been a wholly successful one.

Our correlated subjects – the contemporary art and music ‘scenes’ – and from these artistic disciplines, what is being presented as ‘typical’ examples from this period, for me share many of the same issues. One of my main anxieties in this regard, is an apparent and enveloping fixation with nostalgia. At a time when it would be more probable that these new technologies and the embracing of them, should correlate with the ‘majority’s’ attraction towards pioneering works and therefore one would think it more probable that the championing of new, perhaps young ‘creatives’ today, might be expected. To assume that adopting new creative approaches – by those performers whose actions would be more inclined to sweep away those who create works that have origins situated in, or are heavily linked with, earlier eras – would furthermore be another natural progression of this. These assumptions, as one would soon realise from looking at any magazine rack, music festival line-up and to a large extent the mainstream contemporary art world, have not necessarily come to fruition. Deliberating more on such suggestions, it is conceivable that these networks and modes of digital production are essentially an extremely useful way of distracting, and in turn controlling, those who at one time may have forced the prevailing powers into making some difficult choices. Choices one feels, will sooner or later need to be made. Consequently, at the present time, these areas of the creative industries are, to varying degrees, culpable of setting the same gloomy scene – through their dominate organisations and furthest reaching civic channels. This existing ‘setting’, is now filled with endless band reunions, gallery retrospectives and a kind of iconisation of older artists and musicians; some of whom were never all that great the first time round anyway, but in many instances, due to the effects of time, this now appears to have been forgotten. What all this has produced is a hierarchical structure, where if an arts practitioner missed out on the pre-internet ‘boom’, then the consummation of their work is likely to be far more marginalised, or in many instances, will be expected to be distributed either at the expense of the ‘maker’, or largely for free. This, in my opinion has further helped reinforce the view: that which is old and can generate feelings of nostalgia, is deemed as having more importance - and specifically, becomes a much safer option economically, regardless of it’s artistic worth. Subsequently, if we are to look at this situation and think of the new technological tools and systems which young people now have access to, one might rightly assume that what the internet has in actual fact produced, is conformity; perhaps less so in the creative sense, but certainly in a socio-ideological respect.

 

VI. The ‘Intern’, Discrimination, Acceptance & Activism    

The situation new entrants to the arts have currently been left to ponder, to be brutally honest, is bleak. Coupled with the biggest problem the arts as an industry faces today, creative ownership and control over publishing (which will certainly increase further over time) an issue that clearly impacts most on those trying to establish themselves as self-supporting individuals working within this field, we now also have another related injustice. This being, that not only are young art creators struggling to support themselves economically, something which to some extent can usually be expected, but what we now find as being endemic in the arts, is that businesses and organisations are now able to have young (almost always young, ‘graduates’ etc.) people working for them, doing ‘proper’ work and filling much needed roles within their workplaces, but these arts and media companies are being allowed, quite openly, not to pay them. This is what is regularly known as ‘The Intern’. The culture, which surrounds these ‘Interns’, is so blatantly a short sighted financial tactic – systematic and detrimental to the ever increasing problem of youth unemployment (and largely highly educated youths in this regard). Therefore it never fails to amaze me that far greater attention isn’t being paid to tackling this damaging culture. I don’t mean primarily in a governmental sense either. The government and big business are fundamentally the same economic entity now, which is largely, once again, due to greater empowerment given to the free market over the last 30 years. Therefore, as much as any political executive might posture about this, they will always leave enough leeway in order for it to happen, and as we already know, if it is at all possible for businesses to get away with free labour (and let’s face it, that’s what it is) then it will continue. For me the biggest tragedy, which has come out of this new, wide scale exploitation, is a fundamental lack of any meaningful solidarity young aspiring art workers and other potentially new creative administrators seemingly have for one another. It seems patently obvious, that political leaders will not put an end to this system that allows such mistreatment to occur, therefore more than enough time has pasted for those affected to realise that the only way to prevent this from happening further, is for young workers to act. The ‘action’, would simply be to communicate through rhetoric and backed up by implementation; a position that states: from this point onwards, ‘no one works for free’. I believe this would also be fairly easy to implement. It is a simple piece of industrial action, and is the right of all us free citizens. Integral to this however, is the notion of the ‘Scab’, which would certainly have to be applied. One would have to deem this absolutely necessary in order that those privileged enough to work for free, should be shamed or persuaded into not doing so. As has happened in other previous decades, young people have been able to show solidarity towards one another as a way of achieving certain social and political objectives. Therefore, instead of embracing their oppressors, which these days I am aware of constantly, young people must start realising, much in the way Punks, Hippies and others have done before them, that the system is working against their best interests. Ideologically, it appears now, that individuals have never been so alone. Modern Individualism has left young people especially, largely battling one another, in the vain hope that our vastly inadequate system just might start working for them one day. These troubles are evident in all manner of ways and in various ‘walks of life’. However, through their strong connections to higher education, the formation of their economic models and due to their seemingly privileged natures – the arts and music businesses, truly are quite a special case in this regard. The sheer scale of injustices being perpetrated within these industries and the widespread implementation/acceptance of them – has prompted such conclusions as these to be drawn.

Therefore, for the time being, my assessment of the Thatcherite legacy, and how it has manifested itself in our new, and unquestionably pioneering technological advancements, would be that – it is thus far serving the economic powers, of the established minority, infinitely better than those who make up the vast majority of ‘ordinary people’ in this country. Hence, I believe this is now a significant, contributing factor to the ever increasing economic gap between those who have access to opportunities of social advancement and those who, through no fault of their own, do not. But even more crucially than this, these ‘digital apparatuses’ are being implemented, and then reinforced by all of us as users, in a way that enhances the current operational/ideological model. Furthermore, I consider that these networks and computerised devices have supported the idea that society, in the traditional sense, has gone. Firstly, by creating a mass diversion of consciousness through a kind of digitised control and via forms of entertainment; and secondly, by manufacturing new pseudo-social networks, which are in reality, complete illusions to what actual social cohesion really is. What both these two crucial aspects of today’s new global ‘communities’ have produced, and have in common is, solitude – and as a result, an enhanced fear of the ‘unknown’. This has happened I feel, because of an overly developed, false consciousness. I believe therefore, that these factors are two of the most tragic results of late twentieth century, free market capitalism and the ‘digital age’ it created.

In order to draw this preliminary social study to a satisfactory conclusion, I will draw on a recent interview I saw. This exchange involved the writer; broadcaster and celebrity intellectual Will Self, discussing Punk and today’s societal predicaments – and of particular interest to myself here, this dialogue primarily concerned questions relating to young people nowadays. One may view this short interview for themselves, in order to get the full context of it; however there is a point which I would like to briefly mention here. The general view coming from Self is that (and he takes no pleasure in making this point, I may add), young aspiring individuals, presently, unless born into a position of rare opportunity, are fundamentally disadvantaged in this current global system of exchange. This, in the case of the arts, media and ‘design’ etc., has produced relatively little political reaction; resulting in the victims of these structures, simply ‘going with this devastating flow’. Self articulates to the young interviewer at one point, words to this effect: if there is a job going within this media driven industry “they won’t pay you to do it, they’ll pay me”. Such a decision will also not be based upon ability or quality in any way either, he suggests. We are in a position where this current generation, if we are to be honest, are being lost, literally as we speak. They have been undoubtedly dealt a severe economic and political blow, but I must admit they are also allowing these discriminations too simply ‘happen to them’ – without the hint of a fight, or in some instances even a whimper. And as a result, a blind and resigned acceptance that collective change, is not even deemed futile anymore. It is, at this time, not even being considered at all. For a whole variety of complex reasons, the Thatcherite line is being ‘towed’ by young people; without question. The view that ‘one must only ever think of oneself’ and a ruthless drive for financial success should be all that matters – is the consensus which prevails, and is upheld by them. The sad truth is though, that this ethos is not serving them well in the slightest. In fact, it is utterly reinforcing this desperate situation. Possibly, this na├»ve faith or ignorance, which young workers and graduates have in the current system, has contributed to some of this obvious lack of faith that those in power clearly have for the ‘next/current generation’?

 

This sited interview with Will Self, surprisingly profound, touches upon the core subject of the latter part of my paper – the problem of ‘The Overlooked Generation’.    

 

ConclusionFormulating a Solution…

In order to finish this piece on a more positive note, I aim to express the thought that all may not be all lost. As I have alluded to in this chapter, I would firstly propose a course of action for those being subjected to this societal marginality. I believe those most affected, at present, by the issues I have been discussing are those between the ages of 20 and 35 (this is a very rough estimation, and of course all those in favour of meaningful action, or who demonstrate unity with this cause; are victims of these austere, democratically unrepresentative times, would be thoroughly welcomed as part of any political action). Therefore, the first course of action must be based around, and aimed at creating a shared solidarity with those from this same generation – whether directly affected by these problems or not. I consider this key to any proposed movement. Through the creation of networks and groups, which are exclusively run by, and are for, those trying to achieve justice for this generation and a resolution to this crisis; this would be a significant step in developing a much broader consciousness of these issues. This would initially be designed to create some apprehension in the establishment and simply a greater level of attention for this cause. From these new systems, the prevailing message must sound something like this: ‘we will take up this cause ourselves and change our situation accordingly’. Such thoughts are not unheard of. We have seen previous generations, create their own successes from this sort of position and through comparable progressive political attitudes. Then through this much needed process of ideological re-shaping, I firmly believe that creatively and artistically, those same younger adults will be able to fashion movements and make their own unique statements in their work – events that up until now have been lacking. Maybe looking at previous generations for inspiration is not a bad idea? But this must be done in the right context I feel. It is one thought looking for insight into the social, creative and artistic achievements of previous decades – however what we have seen recently is a far more sycophantic approach to this, which I think has been damaging and has produced the opposite change: compliance. No, quite simply those in this complicated social position (of which I am one), must now cease ‘embracing the oppressor’ and start developing a new unity of political and social activism; combined with new artistic and innovative ideas. If such a pioneering engagement does occur, then maybe Punk, as important as it was, will finally turn out to be ‘old news’ after all. And with this, one may well end up saying ‘what did Punk ever do for me?’ To think of previous generations, and their achievements in such a way, I judge would be a sign that we are finally finding the true worth in our own one.

 

There will be an Afterthought written by the editor Pipe, in consultation with the author of ‘Something akin to Punk’, Edgar Davis. The publishing date for this post will be announced soon. Please keep checking Pipe for details of this and other news, thanks.

P.