A place to put things




I am a multi disciplined artist working primarily in a 2d visual format. Here are some things I've done; a little peek at the swirling, ceaseless, ideas maelstrom. If you will.

You are cordially invited to take a look.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Part 4 Getting Paid Paying You're Way; engagement, DING DONG THE RICH ARE NOT DEAD!


On a previous post I was supposed to talk about sketchbooks but ended up talking about the political situation in Mali. It was related ( the sketches were drawn in Mali) but the urgency to talk about what was happening there (still is) was more pressing than the need to talk about sketching. In this vain I will talk about Thatcherism as this is the issue of the day and does relate to my proposed talk about engagement in culture; engagement is democracy.

Thatcher championed the free market economy whereby there is no control or protection in the market, promoting growth or in other words allowing aggressive strategies and big business to win out. She achieved this by lowering taxes, privatizing state industries and increasing restraints on trade unionism at the expense of small businesses, industry and communities (most famously with the miners) and ultimately individuals. Profit over people. Large companies paid less taxes while the poor suffered, the gap between rich and poor grew considerably (and is still growing at a rate never before witnessed) and public sector industries were sold off . From heating your house to getting you from a to b it all became about making money rather than the issue at hand. In the case of the Hatfield train disaster privatisation led to negligence on a large and tragic scale (Ian Jack; The Crash That Stopped Britain, is a small novella on the subject).

You could say she helped pave the way for a ruthless, money orientated world with her, as the sycophantic media puts it, “robust policies”.

Disenfranchised from the state the most important thing is making money for a strong economy. Worry about yourself, forget you're community. Think about the proliferation of Tesco's locals, what's local about such a large national empire? What's local about having the same shop on every corner, of every street, across the country? They have profited form us by dominating the high street and destroying the competition. One pound in seven spent on the high street goes to Tesco's yet you or I don't see any of their profits. So why don't they foot some of the national bill and prevent some of the cuts?

Small shops cannot compete with the buying power and reach of the supermarkets in the same way that artisans cannot compete with cheaply mass produced products, or local musicians can't compete with big money music industries. Should we loose the local high street ( sorry it's gone), loose our crafts people, traditions and cultures. Just let one gigantic mono culture consume us all? Maybe we should except that money drives and distorts our culture to its own ends?

Thatcher is not responsible for everything that is wrong in our world but she is an Icon of conservatism, free market economics, and its global cousin neoliberalism. Which is why it is important to mark her passing with a symbol of discontent.

Think of the world trade centre, nearly 3000 people died that day, yet since then over 300,000 have died in resultant wars on terrorism (a conservative estimate that doesn't take in the true destruction levied on Iraq and Afghanistan). The fall out to the event has been far, far, greater than the event itself but its the event that will stick in people minds and remain throughout history as a defining image of our times. Its said ad nauseam that “the world changed since 9/11”, it works as a brilliant sick piece of propaganda and marketing for a global agenda but if you get beneath the surface gloss, are we not waging much the same pointless wars as we have been for thousands of years?

Symbolism has always been important but in a global visual world its impact is instant and far reaching. Despite the sickening eulogies to Thatcher in the mainstream media people took to the streets to celebrate and the Wizard of Oz song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead, is set to reach number one!

There is a strong message being declared by the general public, stating that we do not want the likes of Thatcher, Thatcherism or any of the current conservative attacks on the welfare state and the poor in general. No amount of spin and media cover up will dispel the notion that she and her ideas were damaging. If she could be written into history as being a tough but necessary force that strengthened Britain, then we face a continuation of these policies. The same blurring of leaders legacies has been attempted with Mao in China and Reagan in America. To be clear these people were not great, they were bad. Very bad.

Right now the BBC is struggling with the issue of trying not to look like they are censoring the playing of Ding Dong, whilst actually, really wanting to censor it. As a cultural event, its a clearly felt political, public expression, a piece of cultural engagement or quite simply democracy in action. They have said that they will play 5 seconds of it, as it may be offensive to some or be seen in bad taste. I would say war is much more offensive to right minded sensibilities but it is the job of the media to report it. We were going to inform you what is happening in the world but have decided it is far to upsetting, so for your own sake here is a clip of kittens playing.

This is a battlefield for our collective truth, the opponents are the government, associated media and establishment/rich on one side and the governed/oppressed poor on the other. The prize is the cultural record or agreed version of history from which we will inform our decisions for the future.

The democracy of the information age has its strength in mass communication that is not dependent on a less than impartial mass media.

We are competing as people with the interests of the banks, big business and a government infrastructure that supports this “good ole boys club” . Look at the damage the banks have done and the corruption of the bosses and yet the banks are still here! They are still receiving large bonuses at our expense!. The more money you have, the more influence, regardless of whether you aid or degrade society.

We face a common challenge to safe guard what we feel is important against the damaging effects of self serving industries, yet on the surface shop keepers losing their business, musicians unable to support themselves or nurses fighting the cuts, may not see much in common with each other. The chance for a collective voice or impact to be made is lost.

Perhaps social media and the internet are great platforms to educate inform and collaborate both locally, nationally and globally. But is that enough? Sometimes signing an online petition just feels like too much of a disembodied gesture. I think the point where virtual action meets actual action is the most potent and useful. Engage on the internet but also look at your local culture be it shops and local produce or local music and art scenes, how can we bring these together and perhaps creatively support say, nurses and people working in the rapidly disappearing public sector.

Anyway the old bag kicked the bucket, her life and death as an individual (dare I say human being? Perhaps not) is not important but the camaraderie in nationwide condemnation of her actions and what she stood for has brought joy in bringing us together against a common enemy. Much like the community spirit during the 2nd world war when the enemy was the Nazis, only now the enemy is the rich. So raise a glass, have a laugh but take a moment to think what comes next...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Part 3 of getting paid, paying youre way: So what the £$£$ should we do about it?

Who is responsible; us or them?

Like lost children; they squabbled with each other, distrustful and overwhelmed with their own interests, too busy, to see the hungry wolves picking them off, one, by, one...

I do digress. So, is it the government that's responsible or us? Responsible for the neglect of the undervalued/underpaid in the arts world and to a larger extent across the whole working world? Should it not also be the responsibility of all of us, day to day, as individuals and in our communities?

Can we rely on the government to manage these things for us or do we become uninformed, disenfranchised and lazy if we don't actively engage with our culture in a conscious way? Rather than passively consuming, should we actively seek out the things that we feel are important and valuable and then support those elements? But where do we start?

One way people, as individuals, try to actively engage with and support their interests, is through buying power. People buy fair trade products and boycott companies and businesses that they feel do not behave responsibly or are damaging to the things they care about; big supper markets destroy local businesses so we try to shop at the green grocers instead. But what impact can you have? And how do you support the things you care about whilst surviving day to day economically? Many of us want to travel and are also concerned about the environment, yet when faced with a £30 plane ticket or hundreds of pounds and a few days travel by boat and train, who can say they can afford to pay into what they believe in?

In France they value art to a greater degree than we do in the UK. There is some provision in government whereby they reward and support artists in acknowledgement of this, the intermittents du spectacle is a special benefit system for artists, actors and the like. It is designed to protect them between jobs and in doing so support creative industries, where work is often intermittent.

However right now there are plans to cut this benefit as the French face the same assult on the people through cuts as we do. Fortunately past attempts have been met with colourful and spirited protests, as you would expect from a creative bunch! In one such case protesting by over 135,000 freelance performing arts, film and television professionals managed to shut down France's most prestigious theatre festival at Avignon, causing the sacking of the culture minister. For good measure they then threatened to shut down the Cannes film festival!

There may be some value in being aware of where/who your pound, euro or dollar goes to but little impact unless we spend collectivley. This means communicating, a culture of sharing information to direct our actions; the art of protecting through dissent. And as our French friends have shown, nothing says action like, action.

This I feel is a lesson in active engagement from the rowdy, protesting, French, who have a strong culture of protecting their culture. Perhaps elements of the government can look after the interests of creative people and industries after all. Though it would seem not without the diligent efforts of an often outraged public to keep them in check.

Next week how do we achieve achieve engagement in shaping our culture; the outward expression of our lives? Demcracy is engagement; get involved! Part 4 of: Getting paid, paying youre way.