Monday, 29 March 2010

Manipulating Class.

I’ve been reading “Class, Self, Culture” by Beverley Skeggs. The following is my reaction to what I’ve gained from it in relation to my own artistic practise exploring British society and the class system. Excuse me, if I repeat or reiterate points highlighted by Skeggs. This is partly to organise my own thoughts and reflect on what I have learned.

Class does still exist. It is not talked about as frequently or in the same way as it has historically. It has taken on a different guise. It is now represented by a number of things; location (geographically or for example a local estate within a community), political alignment, culture and lifestyle. It is to be noted however, that this representations are formed not by who they relate to but by other social groups to re-affirm their own self image. Such class identities are constructed to limit mobility. That is to say, the middle-class (authoritative) will enhance their own value by constructing and repeating negative values they assign to the working-class. It must therefore be understand that any negative representation of the working-class is an attempt by the middle-class  to attribute value to themselves. As Skeggs says; “making oneself tasteful by judging others tasteless”. This is done through the authorisation and institutionalisation of class symbols, suiting the middle-class who occupy the positions of political authority within institutions.

The repetition and institutionalisation of the constructed values attributed to the working-class highlight the fragile position of the middle-class and their “authority”. These efforts to keep the working-class in a fixed place can challenged through the critique of the middle-class and the questioning and devaluing of authority.

The creation of classed symbols and class representations acts to maintain class divisions.

As a point separate to Skeggs but in line with current affairs I would like to highlight the proposed Labour policy to allow football fans a greater chance of having a say in the running of their football clubs. Under this plan fans will be allowed a stake of 25% in their club combating the recent worsening feeling of football fans to the owners of their clubs. It will provide fans with the power to prevent takeovers and the purchasing of controlling shares from businessmen who may not fully appreciate the heritage of a club and its meaning to the fans. Examples can be seen now at Manchester United and Liverpool. The Tories have dismissed this as gimmicky and I’d have to agree it is a gimmick. But could it be a gimmick that will work? I don’t expect the Tories to understand football, which has long been the working man’s game. Could this move by Labour to reinforce what would be seen as their core vote potentially work for them? The importance of football is not to be underestimated in Britain and with the timing of the election so close to the World Cup, could the increased interest in football in this country potentially swing some votes Labour’s way. I’m not sure yet what long term effects such a policy would have on the game but it’s safe to say if it gives power to the fans who, of late, have had a raw time of it, then it could just be a stroke of genius. That is to assume that football does have a great enough importance to large sections of society. I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

I hope I don’t sound like a class-warrior. Please get involved and share your opinions.

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Distractions 2.

Okay, I’ve had a shower, a couple of coffees and some breakfast and I’ve got through a bit of work. Time for a break and to continue my earlier post.

Being at home provides so many distractions. Take this morning as an example. Already I’ve done some excessive tweeting, chatted on Facebook (these occur all the time, no matter where I am), I’ve been distracted by my brother’s angry rap music, I’ve been roped into helping my mum with some self-assembly garden furniture, I’ve had to slalom through my own house to avoid childminded kids. It’s endless distractions. It also doesn’t help that my dad likes to set the central heating to “slow cook”. I can feel my body simmering, by the end of the day I’ll tear away from the bone like tender meat. I’m constantly having to open windows wherever I go in the house.

My natural tendency to procrastinate increases when back home. Reading turns into one of the most challenging activities known to man. I’m trying to read up on class, popular culture, “self” and cinema/film theory. It’s difficult when I can’t read more than a paragraph or when I do, I look back over it and realise I haven’t absorbed anything.

I have managed to do some “work”. I’ve printed eleven pages of old blog posts. I did manage to read some pages of a book on popular culture and photocopied some pages to put in my reflective journal. I also got out the highlighter pens and went wild with them on there. Green highlighting and orange asterisks. Fluorescent glory.

I guess that’s enough to deserve this break in which I’m really still working. Today’s been good so far. I just hope I can avoid further distractions. The big one, coming up to around midday, is the lure of raiding the cupboards. I will eat. Just not yet and when I do, not for too long. That’s one of the major problems I face, breaking for too long. The longer I abstain from working the less likely I am to go back to it.

I guess I should sit down and actually read. (And then photocopy and highlight).

I shall do this and then reflect on what I have learned.

I apologise for how disjointed and poorly written this is. It is not planned and is pretty much just a “note to self” kind of monologue spiel. Hopefully I’ll post some more insightful writing later. Sorry.

“Childminded” is highlighted as a spelling mistake on WordPress, with the correct suggestion being “evil-minded”. Oh WordPress you old cynic.


WARNING! This post will take on a different style to my recent posts. This will be very centred around me. I need it to be for my reflective journal university module. And it’s also 7am and I haven’t slept well.

I’m back home. And by home I mean my parents’ house. I’m here for two weeks over Easter and really need to get some work done. I haven’t been able to bring my computer back so writing is about the most intense task I can make my laptop perform. I’ve realised, since starting university, that coming back home isn’t good for my work ethic. I’m trying to put my finger on why. I got in last night and felt so unbelievably relaxed. I was at peace, it was beautiful. Not very conducive for work however.

Being awake at 7am should be quite good but really it just provides me with the time to watch the entire original Star War trilogy or to get some serious Xbox play time in before my brother wakes up. My brothers are a distraction also, whether it’s just spending time talking, or playing Xbox or fighting.

It’s strange being home. Good but strange. I start thinking about having mental, fancy breakfasts.

My minds just drawn a blank. I can’t remember what I was going to write in this post. I’m off to get a shower and do some photocopying. Photocopying is good, it feels and looks like work, gets stuff done but is practically effortless. I’m sure I’ll add to this later but for now, one half-done-job down, a few more to go. Interspersed with Xbox 360 on HDTV obviously. Who could resist that? I’m only human. Don’t judge me.

Friday, 26 March 2010


Today, I’m going to write about nothing. Wish me luck.

Firstly, I have the same problem nearly daily. What to write? I was asking for help when it was suggested that I should write about nothing (because I’m good at that apparently). This idea intrigued me, so here goes.

I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.

- Oscar Wilde
How do you talk about nothing? You can talk about nothing of importance, of trivialities. But there is some, if limited, content to what you are saying. In turn how do you write about nothing? Some may cite social media sites such as twitter or Facebook as masses of meaningless content and drivel. I’m dragging this out, it’s not a difficult question. You can’t. Once you try to talk about nothing, it becomes something. An interesting paradox.

So if you can’t talk or write about nothing, what about negative space then? Negative space isn’t nothing, it is negative space. It is key to compositions in painting and photography allowing the focal point of said composition to be placed in one of the golden areas of focus. Is there a literary equivalent? I’m terrified that having thought of this question I will soon realise it is impossible to answer but it will continue to occupy my mind, eventually sending me mad. But what the hell, let’s have a crack.

I need to take a step back, address what negative space is. It is the space surrounding an object in which nothing resides but allows the viewer’s eye to focus on the intended object. Without it you could not see the intended object.
“A hole can itself have as much shape-meaning as a solid mass.” – Henry Moore
So it is the nothingness in which something can exist. So logically, in literature, it would be the unwritten. The mind of the reader, their suspension of disbelief which allows the written to make sense in their mind and exist in their imagination. In literature the editing process is as important as the writing itself, so it would be safe to assume that the author makes a deliberate effort when chosing what to include in a piece  of writing and what to omit. It is partly these omissions which allow the resulting writing to exist in a more effective and natural form in the same way that a painter may decide not to paint a certain part of a scene to draw more focus to what he deems important. To bring the analogy into the 21st century, how one may use photo editing software to erase parts of a photograph for the benefit of the overall image.

To summarise, whether it be in painting, photography, cinema or literature, what is not is as important as what is. For if there is no darkness, there is no light.

Using this logic, I can happily spend time doing nothing for doing nothing allows something to exist.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Modern Role of the Artist.

I just listened to a BBC Radio 3 programme about art as a means of tackling difficult emotional debates and complex, modern social dilemmas. The programme was presented by Matthew Sweet and featured a lecture by Tom Shakespeare. A lot of the following is reiterating and giving my own views on what was said in the programme.

This is something that strikes me as interesting right away as I can relate it to my own work looking at British society and the class system. Art has long been used to highlight contentious subjects in an impacting way. Art moves people and makes people think at a deep level, it opens our minds. Looking at a piece of art evokes hundreds of emotions and thoughts and these can help us tackle difficult problems in the world and our lives. People can relate to art, they can see it on a number of levels in a way which one can’t with statistics or scientific facts. The emotions evoked through art is what allows us to dwell on difficult subjects in a way which rationality can’t.

One of the points made was that an artist should force people to think. I thought this was obvious, I’ve said this since my school days that good art is something which makes you ask questions. It was suggested that artists should be seen as intellectuals in our societies and I agree. The degree to which artists research and follow various enquiries can be equal to any scientist or philosopher.
Art is difficult, it is a life long commitment to a form of enquiry, it’s research before it’s communication. Artists have a greater responsibility than we can imagine.
Art is a means of communicating and opening a platform for public debate on subjects that affect us all but are often only addressed in specialist scientific jargon. Art can speak to our human condition about complicated social and moral dilemmas, when science can’t reach the average layman. I would like to see a greater responsibility put on artists to challenge and enquire into problematic areas and to communicate their findings. I would also like to see the funding available for artists to do this. It would improve the contemporary art world and result in more work with real social and cultural value and less trite and trivial art made for the market.

I’ve said my little bit, now listen to the programme.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Ignorance isn’t always bliss. Educate yourself you damn heathen!

Ignore the title. It’s an exaggeration of sorts. It’s an exaggeration in that I wouldn’t say it to someone but thoughts of the same effect have crossed my mind when talking to someone who is not part of the art world.
Since the yBas in the 1990s triggered a boom in public interest of the fine art world, it has given a voice to the general masses in which was once a very exclusive and elitist section of culture. This is NOT a bad thing. This is fantastic. Art should be for everyone, everyone should have a voice and an opinion. Whether that person does research and reading into the art world, keeps abreast with current news and trends and gains a knowledge and understanding of the context and history surrounding artists and works or just stands on the sidelines shouting “advice” in a similar way to how I shout at the television when watching football, is up to the individual.

One thing I thought coming to art school would help me with is handling the typical argument of “Joe-I don’t get modern art-Bloggs”. That argument being, “is that art? I could do that. A four year old could do that!” You know the score. “An unmade bed? I’ve got one lying around at home, is that art?” NO IT ISN’T!
The counter argument is simple, taking Tracey Emin’s “My Bed” as an example. Her’s is art because she thought about taking that bed into the context of a gallery space. She took it into the art world, with a concept behind it. The concept in this case being deeply personal. She was taking a step back and looking at her lifestyle, then baring the most personal of her possessions and affectations for all to view and judge, allowing the bed to tell its own story. It highlights the imperfections and insecurities of the artist.

Your bed however, Mr. Bloggs, isn’t art because you didn’t think of it. You’ve thought of it now having seen Emin’s bed.

There was a BBC series last year called “School of Saatchi”. It was essentially an art world X-factor, starring Emin and eternal suck-up Matthew Collings as well as some other art world non-entities as “the panel”. There were also a group of contesants, a mixture of annoyingly cocky, arrogant, eccentric, idiotic and slimey. There were at least a couple of contesants who seemed genuinely talented and had interesting ideas and concepts driving their work. The whole premise of the series was to impress the panel of Saatchi’s minions and to ultimately get Saatchi to purchase or show a contestant’s work. It was annoyingly entertaining in the way that style of programme always is. It was infuriating to watch, but you couldn’t stop.
My main problem with is was that it showed a group of artists who were not representative of the art world, who were making deliberately controversial work to impress Saatchi. Airing to the masses, this did not portray contemporary art in a good light.
How can we argue about the values of true art when rubbish like that is put on a pedestal as examples of contemporary British art?

The next stage of Mr. Bloggs’ argument is; “Okay, I can’t do the bed, how about if I make something new? What if I put my toaster on top of my TV? Is that art?”
Yes Mr. Bloggs, if you can justify your concept behind it and take it into an artistic context (not necessarily a gallery), it is art.

This is the line we must walk, however painful. It must also be highlighted that there is a difference between what is art and what is good art. The individual (and not just monetary) value  of a piece is another argument altogether!

What adds to my infuriation with this argument is that it was won nearly a century ago. Marcel Duchamp and the Dadaists showed that art wasn’t just paintings and sculpture and that other objects, such as Duchamp’s  readymades, could be art when taken into that context. Manzoni did a similar thing later on with much of his work.
Another dimension to this argument is the one surrounding the economics of art. This is often hard to justify and being honest, I don’t always like to, especially in the current economic climate, I believe money needs to be spent wisely. The way I do try to justify it though, is by grouping artists with professional athletes such as footballers and with Hollywood movie stars. People will always pick holes in this and there’s only so much you can do to argue the point. I tend not to.

What does annoy me is the exaggeration or ignorance when it comes to the real value of individual pieces of work. I talked to someone this week who was appalled at the thought that spin paintings made by Damien Hirst and David Dimbleby on the BBCs “Seven Ages of Britain” would sell for “a million each”, for what was thirty seconds of easy work. I’d highly doubt whether these pieces would ever sell, I think Hirst would probably give them to Dimbleby otherwise they would have been destroyed. It’s the belief that artists have a license to sell anything they touch for millions. Yes the prices are high, especially when it comes to the likes of Hirst et al but Mr. Bloggs does have a tendency to exaggerate the prices of individual pieces.
It’s a difficult position to be in, having to justify the work of others in an effort to protect the integrity of what you do. It seems though, that it’s a position we, in the art world, look unlikely to escape from anytime soon.

I looked at every other word when writing that and wondered, “is that a word?” It’s obviously been a while since I’ve written anything of importance.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


Humans are interesting aren’t they? Honestly, could there be a more confusing species? Apart from Tories I mean.
Contradictions in our opinions and personalities is one thing that I think makes us what we are. The biggest selling book of all time is seemingly based around contradictions.
I hope you follow what I mean. If not, let me start with one example that I believe I know quite well. Me.
  • I claim to be a working class northerner. I was actually born in Bristol and go to university in Winchester.
  • I go to art school but get frustrated with art and much prefer football.
  • I’m 5′6″ but work as a doorman.
  • I’m a cynic and a realist (read pessimist) but I can see beauty in the simplest of things.
  • I like to think I’m quite confident in my abilities but do like constant affirmation.
  • I like politics but hate it at the same time.
  • I love Leeds United but my god they don’t half piss me off.
See what I’m getting at? I bet you could make a similar list for yourself and people you know. The human race is a walking, talking contradiction. It’s interesting to me though, especially  with my current work exploring identity and British society. I think most of these contradictions come from our own self-image or how we portray ourselves to others. I think this idea and theme is something I want to try to nail down and highlight in future work. It would make whatever (or whoever) I’m writing or creating feel far more human and less stereotypical or caricatured.

I like to think I’m good at writing but consistently close with the thought “well that was a shambles”.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Bloggity, bloggity.

Bloggity, bloggity, bloggity, blah!
This week (15th-19th March) has been one of the worst so far this year. Where to start? I will dissect it day by day. (Today being; to the best of my knowledge, having not slept, Friday.) 

Something or other occurred on this day. Our exhibition did not due to last minute planning problems. I did something (inconsequential), I think.

9am-11am I was in Chesil multi storey car park for my exhibition. I could not pay for my bay as the pressure pads deemed my weight less than that of a car. (By far and away the best compliment I received all week, not that I'm insecure and in need of constant affirmation.)

In this car park bay was me, four chairs, a couple of other people, a video camera and a tripod. I had a sheet of prompt questions and proceeded to film an interview between me and the others on the subjects of British society and politics. I was quite pleased with the footage I got.

I took this home and started to edit. For five hours. I came upon some difficulties with the wretched Adobe Media Encoder. I took a break to visit some of the other groups' exhibitions, which I will not comment on or review now but would be happy to share my opinions on should anyone ask.

I came home and worked on my footage in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 and Media Encoder for a further six hours. WITH NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT! Inex-fucking-plicable problems mean that Media Encoder decides to NOT WORK! (Excuse the technical jargon.)

I went to bed angry and depressed.

More car park. 11am-1pm today. It was sunny. The car park made me, for some reason, need to wee a lot. Sophie joined me today and I talked to her on and off camera at great length. I got some good footage.

I returned to my cursed bedroom desk to sweat in front of my computer monitor for approximately a decade. 

Oh and I also, sort of, lost my entire hard drive based movie collection. This didn't help. 
I continued to sit at home, trying to wrestle with the son of a bitch Media Encoder, while everyone else went out to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. (I'm not Irish and neither are they but heyho, it's the world we live in.)
By 10pm on the verge of a breakdown, sobbing like a four year old girl, I gave up and went to bed.

 After a twelve hour sleep I awoke feeling more depressed than refreshed. I had my crit at 2pm so had to try and create something from my footage. You can probably guess by now what happened.

Heading out; laptop in bag, in hand, I trudged to uni and set up in my studio. 

I chose, when starting university, to invest in a desktop PC as opposed to any laptop or evil Apple variety. This choice was based on performance and price but as a result leave my mobile computing capabilities with little to be desired. It works fine, it's just old. Like the man working in my local Wetherspoon's. The main problem with my laptop is the poor speaker sound quality, which should be considered quite important when showing a series of short films, but I thought I'd get by, as I do. Wrong. It was a shambles and, having been reluctant to state this in the public domain thus far, resulted in a less than useful crit session. This is of course, no fault (well, maybe limited fault) of the persons partaking in the crit but more down to the inadequacies of Adobe Media Encoder.

Heading home thoroughly dejected I vowed to myself not to do any work for a while. Instead, I prepared myself for real work from 9pm-1am. Fun. It was uneventful; dull some might say.

Thursday-and-a-half (Friday)
I DID NOT SLEEP! Ask me why.
Why you ask?
Because I'm an idiot! I got in, ate, talked to my housemate Jon for 1,2,3... 4 hours. Before deciding enough was enough and going downstairs to play Fifa10. And continue talking to Jon, for another four hours. Using my limited mathematical ability I work this out to be 9am on the next day after the one I just existed through. Now I'm here, writing this, awake, now.

So, where from here?

My first thought is to curl up in the foetal position and hibernate. I may just do that for the rest of today and this weekend.

On Monday and Tuesday evening next week I'm doing a physical intervention course for my doorman work. This requires me to be macho, something I just don't think I can manage at the moment. I'm also missing the Leeds vs Millwall game, possibly about the only thing that could have drawn out that latent macho man, hiding deep down in the darkest caverns of my being.

Next Sunday I go home for Easter. I can't wait.

As for now, I'm hungry so need to work out which meal it is I'm supposed to be eating.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Work Station

My desk at home. Too many hours spent here.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

My short films. *Strong Language*


I've had some mixed responses to these short films. Some blunt dislike but mostly positive. 
People have said they are depressing and seem to think they are personal to me. 
I guess if they're depressing I've sort of done my job but I do NOT believe they are personal. Well anymore personal than any creation is to the creator. The views voiced by the characters in the short films are not necessarily my views. You don't watch a feature film and relate the action or dialogue back to the writer or director. Maybe this means I haven't detached myself enough from them. I may have to look into methods of doing that. Maybe it's because most of the feedback has come from people I know in one capacity or another.
I've been really self conscious about this work (and even considered taking them down from the internet and deleting them yesterday) but I'm going to continue working with ideas and making similar short films. I already have a number of short scripts as well as many more unwritten ideas. I'm going to play around with techniques and styles and keep putting them out there for critique.

All feedback and critique is welcomed and encouraged. Thank you.

Oh and a massive thanks to Mark McKenny who voiced both of the above pieces.

Incoherent, inane, inconsequential drivel.

I have a hell of a lot of reading to do.
I have books on film theory and some more books on film theory.
I have books on popular culture and the media and a hell of a lot of readers from a friends old course. So much to get through. So much knowledge to absorb. It's daunting but really bloody exciting too. I'M LEARNING!

What else do I have to talk about?
Oh yes, films. They're on the way (well two are done and online but I want to write this up first before posting them here.) Having said that I've just looked at the toolbar here, I swear you used to be able to upload videos. Where's the button gone?!

Anywho, I watched the First Time Voters Question Time. A few points on it; Dermot O'Leary isn't actually clinically retarded as I thought he was, it has reinforced where my vote is going at the next general election, I (and hopefully some of the panel) realised that us "young people" or first time voters cannot be thrown under one blanket, like any individuals we have different priorities and agendas. There was one lad on there who wanted to see the BBC privatised. What a tit. The main difference was that some people didn't seem inclined to vote unless pressured or persuaded by images of celebrities telling them to vote. Seems silly to me, shouldn't people have already realised the importance of voting. It was suggested that political parties don't reach out the young people enough and maybe they do need to, but I'd argue any voter should be proactive in researching policies and looking at what parties are saying. I think a balance is needed, a good compromise.
What disappointed me about this Question Time was that it didn't really resolve anything or clear anything up. As much as I have researched policies, I would like to see a platform where parties outline their policies specifically affecting first time voters. I think this would lead to a bigger turnout come May.

As far as platforms like this go, the upcoming Prime Ministerial debates are the closest thing we've had in a long time. It is exciting. The strict rules are interesting as well (I would love to read the full list). They are put in place to stop any bias being conveyed in the coverage, so I think will lead to a really odd, maybe boring, but definitely interesting style of coverage. I'm also not happy about them being shared between BBC, ITV and Sky. They should all be on BBC and ITV. I can't see myself going to the pub to watch the debate on Sky.

Moving on, here's a link to a short film that I found and love. It's given me some great ideas for my pieces. 


I'm sure I had more to write about but I feel like I should leave this post as it is. Kick off is approaching and I think I'll crack out another post with links to my films and a bit of response to them before the football starts. That is what Saturdays were invented for after all. Let's be honest, it matters more than most things doesn't it?

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Time for some reflection. Check me out keeping up to date with this. I'm good aren't I? AREN'T I? TELL ME I'M GOOD! 

I told you I was good.

So I've realised that I write in a similar way to how I paint. In both instances I wrestle with the medium, moulding it and shaping it into what I want and then ending quite abruptly. It's quite frantic and spontaneous and I take an educated guess as to when it's actually finished.

Moving on, I had a seminar today. I was quite nervous but it was quite good in the end. I gave a presentation of slides of my work for about half an hour and was asked questions on my work. I invited criticism on some of my most recent paintings and all the comments were fair. They mostly revolved around the work being a bit confused, specifically about it's agenda and message and that I really need to put my cards on the table with what I'm trying to say.

Having said that, I believe moving onto working in film will allow me to be assertive with my message and give it some focus.

I've been wrestling with the film making and I've tried voice acting some of the monologues myself but it all came out wrong. I don't like using my own voice as I want to detach myself from the writing slightly. As I've written the script, if I was to voice them as well it would feel very insincere and quite self-pittying due to the nature of the scripts. My friend Mark McKenny helped me out today, he voice acted three of the monologues and did a fantastic job. His Liverpudlian accent suits them perfectly. I'm really pleased with them and grateful to him for having a crack at it. I just have to get some more decent footage now and throw them together and experiment. It feel quite promising at the moment and I feel like I've done a hell of a lot of work today. I'm knackered.