Thursday, 29 April 2010

My take on Bigotgate.

I’d like to start by making the point that the Gordon Brown gaffe now being named as “bigotgate” has been blown out of proportion, mainly by the media but also through sites such as twitter.

I’ve seen a number of responses to what has happened, many more sensational than the last. Firstly, there’s the Murdoch angle. I label it the Murdoch angle because The Sun and Sky are doing most of the Tories dirty work when it comes to spinning. It’s no secret that The Sun has changed allegiance to the Conservatives and Murdoch is doing all in his considerable power to see us return to the dark days of Tory government. I haven’t written anything about the Murdoch Press thus far as I was outraged by the reporting of last weeks debate by Sky News. I was so disgusted by their blatant Tory bias that I felt unable to coherently write about what I was witnessing without resorting to expletives or libelous language.

Bigotgate has been a field day for Murdoch industries and I wouldn’t be surprised if there have been tears of Tory joy over Gordon Brown’s gaffe. They certainly have done their part to fuel the incident and blow it out of proportion in an attempt to further smear Brown’s public image. Take for example the gagging of a poll which showed a smidgen of support for Brown.

The opposite angle to this is that in defence of Brown. I’m thinking in particular of an oversensitive article by Milena Popova. People have the right to be offended by whatever has that affect on them and I’m sure Popova has her reasons for being offended but was what Gillian Duffy said really bigoted?

Gillian Duffy raised a point on immigration, in particular the number of Eastern Europeans in Rochdale. Let’s make it clear, it is perfectly acceptable to tackle the issue of immigration. It is a major issue in all policy making. Throughout her discussion with Gordon Brown, Gillian Duffy spoke intelligently with knowledge of party policies and has been let down by the unfortunately comedic sound bite of her saying “Eastern Europeans, where are they coming from?” which it is not fair to judge her on. In her defence I cannot see how anything she said could be considered bigoted. Immigration is there to be tackled and if people are afraid of talking about it then as a society were are entering dangerous territory. Here are some facts on Easter European immigration.

We must remind ourselves that Gillian Duffy is a self professed life long Labour voter, precisely what the Tories are targeting. It is no secret that David Cameron et al want to swing Labours core vote their way. Is it any surprise then that Gordon Brown calling one of his own core voters a bigot was leapt on by the right wing press?

It must also be highlighted that Gordon Brown tried to steer away from the subject of immigration when challenged by Duffy, probably because Labour policy on immigration, while they “recognise people’s legitimate concerns about the impact it can have on communities”, takes a slightly different angle to that of Duffy. There is not much on cutting back on immigration as so much as putting more controls in place. I think our diverse society is something we can be proud of in this country with race relations constantly improving. That is not to say that for people like Gillian Duffy it should not be a concern.

It seems Gordon Brown doesn’t like the subject of immigration being addressed and to me this is a reflection of the uber-politically-correct movement we have seen during this Labour government. To mention immigration or to be concerned by the opportunities available to the British population is to be racist. This is ridiculous. British people have every right to feel aggrieved if job opportunities are being taken by immigrants just as the population of any other country would have the same right. Writing this I am actually wincing at the thought of me coming across very Daily Mail. I think this a result of the overly cautious, easily offended society we have become under this Labour government. It’s about time we were able to tackle issues such as immigration head on and allow people to voice their opinions as they have a right to do.

Also, I’d like to put to bed any notion that Gordon Brown is alone in his dual facades. Do you really think no other politician moans about the public after having met them? I cannot for a second believe that David Cameron says nice things about the “hoodies” he has met once he gets back into his Jaguar. Remember, and I don’t like defending politicians, but we are allowed to say what we like about them but they can’t say what they like about us, but I guess that’s the price they pay for getting into a position where they need our votes.

As a final point I’d like to highlight two more concerns. Firstly, whether he was right to say what he said or not, do we really want a man who will say something that will land him in hot water while wearing a microphone, leading our country? And secondly as the Murdoch machine keeps rolling and getting stronger with every day I just hope the general public are intelligent enough to see through the bias and vote for what is best for them and not what suits Rupert and co. I’m sure we are, aren’t we?

A fairly middle of the road article about a fairly middle of the road story.

Monday, 19 April 2010


Critical Summary.

The following is my critical summary as included at the front of my reflective journal, looking back over the last semester and how my work has developed.
  • In semester one I started exploring British society and in particular the working class. I adopted quite a personal approach and identity in relation to said themes became very important to me. I started creating a number of paintings while looking at photographers such as Martin Parr and Iain Dobie and their scenes of everyday Britain. I realised that the energy in my paintings was coming from my own frustration and insecurities surrounding my own identity, feeling working class but living a traditionally middle class lifestyle. The last painting I created in semester one was a large scale history painting (looking at Jorg Immendorff) and I felt it was quite unsuccessful; it became too bogged down by composition and lost the fluidity and spontaneity that were evident in all my other pieces. This was a difficult point to end on entering a long break and I decided that going in semester two I needed to refresh and try something new.
  • I had been watching a number of British social realist films throughout semester one as research and continued this into semester two with renewed energy. I realised this was an interesting and perhaps the most appropriate medium in which to tackle the themes I had been exploring. Feeling despondent about my painting I decided to start writing short monologues for fictional characters. I felt very self conscious about these pieces, perhaps because in some instances they alluded to person feelings. Being influenced by films by directors such as Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Tony Richardson I decided to incorporate my writing into short films tackling issues of everyday life in Britain, in relation to identity, society, politics and economics. I felt that my writing was a much stronger way of approaching these themes than painting and allowed me to communicate what I was trying to get across. I wanted the short films to be a vessel for my writing and to put the emphasis on the feelings and situation of the character and their life.
  • I decided, as I was using a medium that was new to me, I had to do research so started looking into film theory, in particular narratology, semiotics and methods of story telling. I looked at a number of books (Bordwell (1985) and Stam, Burgoyne, Flitterman-Lewis (1992) in particular) which gave me an insight and better understanding of film theory. I picked up a number of ideas for framing shots, the way I would film certain shots (ie. Point-of-view), as well as semiological references and how I could include certain imagery or signs to influence or guide the viewer. I felt it became difficult to fully understand the large amount of theory I was reading and decided to allow myself to be somewhat intuitive when creating films but then to step back, assess them and pick out key features of my work and then to read the relevant theory and better understand why I had done something and what effect it was resulting in.
  • Aside from film theory I was doing other research into the subject matter of sociology and politics, specifically in regard to class and identity (Skeggs (2004)). I looked into theories of ‘self’ and identity and the evolution of class and its relation to economics and a wider social and political picture. Throughout I felt it necessary to keep up to date with politics and current affairs and became very engaged with this, particular in the run up to the general election, when differences in class were being brought into the media and public debate. I believe this helped me maintain a momentum and drive, staying interested in my work and engaging on a number of levels.
  • Writing became increasingly important throughout my research, partly to reflect and speculate on what I had learned and how I could implement it as well as offering my opinions on political matters. As well as writing reflectively, I was writing in a more involved way with the subject matter, responding to what I had seen, watched, read or learned. The more I immersed myself in political discussion the stronger my own sense of identity and political allegiance grew and this is something that I really want to capture in or allow to influence my work, but up until now have not been able to do. Even though I have not been able to directly include such things in my work, having corresponded with MPs and expressed my opinions on a number of political matters I think my future monologue writing will be far more informed and sincere, something I was concerned with from the beginning.
  • My group exhibition and critique fell in the same week and it was definitely a week that altered my work. Firstly, our exhibition was in a multi storey car park in Winchester and I was struggling for ideas as I felt I had moved on from my painting and didn’t want to show them as they didn’t really capture what I was exploring at the time. I couldn’t show my recent films because of the lack of power in the space. The thought of creating work in the space during the exhibition really intrigued me, as did the space itself. I decided to investigate the themes I’d been exploring on a more personal level so arranged small discussions with a few people at a time on the topics of politics, society, education and class. I filmed these discussions with a view to having them as independent pieces as well as starting points for new fiction films. My work was slowed by technical difficulties, which I hadn’t encountered before, while editing the footage. I was left feeling very frustrated after working for 12 hours a day for no result and with only half of what I wanted to show (along with more technical problems) resulting in a less than useful critique in which it was hard for people to give me feedback when I felt I really needed it. With the Easter break approaching I returned to doing more research and looking in more depth at the works of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh (as well as more contemporary films) and some of their ideas on film making with the hope that it would give me fresh ideas to go back and tackle this process again.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Loach and Leigh.

Apologies for not writing in over a week. My page view graph has flatlined at zero and such objective feedback is hard to take and makes me embarrassed.

I’ve been lazy over the Easter period, I predicted it happening.

I am back into working ways now and have spent the morning reading articles and highlighting relevant points and including them in my reflective journal. I’ve read two lengthy interviews with Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, both of which have been very useful. I would like to find more critical analysis of some of their film, as opposed to simple reviews.

I related what Loach and Leigh said in the interviews to my own work and have come up with some thoughts, I guess, in response to some of the critique of my short films.

Optimism is long term. The characters are in the here and now, living in the moment and I’m giving the viewer a glimpse of that. To portray them with optimism would only seem contrived and fake. Humour and harnessing the amazing human capacity for people down on their luck to be funny is one way to break up the pessimism or realism. It is important this is not perceived as trite or cheap as it’s pivotal to avoiding creating stereotypical characters. An individual reacting with dry humour to bad situations keeps them human and realistic.

I think I need to continue writing and exploring script ideas and ideally try to keep the scripts as loose as possible to allow for improvisation. This feels like it could be difficult as I am not working with professional actors but with friends and people around me. Loach is well known for using people who aren’t actors in his work, though those people are always from the area he is filming and have a lot in common with the characters of his films. It may be difficult to find such characters at an art school, keeping in mind that my disillusionment with art school is partly what’s driven me to create this style of work.

I need to focus on the humour in my writing, not just for comic relief and definitely not to appease the smiley-happy brigade but, as I said before, to maintain a realistic human feel to the characters, to make them more three-dimensional and not stereotypical. In my critique a few weeks ago, the mature German Phd student who leads my group and speaks brilliant English, used the word silhouette instead of stereotype. I liked this as it made me realise I need to ensure my characters are not simply outlines but are fully rounded entities.

This reading of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh has been invaluable on a number of levels. Here are two quotes from each man that I have picked out from the interviews.
"It’s a mark of how much the right wing has triumphed that people just associate strikes with inconvenience."
- Ken Loach
"I do this because my job – and this is what all artists do whatever the medium, because all art is based on improvisation and order – is to start something that grows all over the place and then figure out how to shape it into something that’s coherent."
- Mike Leigh on negotiating with actors as creative collaborators
Not a total disaster for a first post in a while.