“That of the benefactor – of an ideological patron – an impossible place” – Walter Benjamin, The Author as Producer.
The abuse of power comes as no surprise.
May 6th 2010. It’s election night in the UK.
Indeed, my first general election vote revealed to be a 1st for many who were turned away at polling stations, as the organization wasn’t prepared for such a big turn out. The images of people attempting to stop ballot boxes leaving polling stations because they weren’t given the opportunity to exercise their civil right to vote stood out for me. This image encapsulates my art practice.
It could be described as Anti-establishmentarianism. Wikipedia defines anti-establismentarianism as a term that: “views a nation’s power structure as corrupt, repressive, or exploitive.” In this instance, I would like to substitute “nation” for “institution”. And by institution I am referring to systems such as the artworld, education (university/artschool), to governmental agencies such as immigration. In short: the effects of neo-liberalism on criticality and spatial cultural identity.
I now draw-write fictional satire based on loose facts about the systems that surrounds us. My piece for the Greyout MArt degree show exhibition is a drawing examining institutional critique in art institutions whilst examining the insider/outsider position, revealing contemporary debates such as utopian ideals, governmental funding structures and geo-politics in the artworld. I do this by fictionalizing art institutions as the mafia in a humorous manner – linking it with the historical gangs of Sheffield from 1920 onwards as a way of looking at different visual representations of neo-liberal capitalism. This inspiration comes from Margaret Thatcher famous speech about market liberalisation stating that ‘there is no alternative’. The piece asks what imagery this economic system bequeaths to us from postmodern architecture to the problems with jumping class barriers in systems that seem inaccessible.
There is a conscious decision to use a paranoid voice in the narrative as a way of pushing the edge of a rigorous criticality moving the narrative forward. This paranoia allows the audience to see the playfulness of the subject matter and so SCAF have no viable way to sue my ass.
There is a weight of art history hording the viewer as it questions what it means to be an emerging artist within the current system? Questionnaires in the piece represent the managerial beurocracy that lines neo-liberal capitalism methods, allowing its ‘customers’ to believe that they have a say in the system.
My practice has always been concerned on some level with this democracy of information, allowing us to depict the disadvantages and injustices that lay in the foundations of the systems that surround us from regeneration, educational, government to artworld structures.
In talking about the processes of my practice, I think of the text the ‘Artist as Ethnographer’, and think of my practice as totally research led. It’s interdisciplinary. In an illustrative way I often borrow research strategies from the social sciences (covert participant observation as a gallery assistant in NYC, working with the community making publications, interviews etc.) and working from social & local history. All of which inform the art-object. I also do this through a kind of role-playing as the forms my work takes on are deliberate contrasts to authoritative and didactic modes of presentation (such as comic-like illustrations) with non-establishment techniques (such as those that relate to street art subcultures like my fly-postering fake advertising posters). This is also reflected in the lecture performances I have made, such as Research Excellence Feedback.
With neo-liberalist capitalism, there is a belief that institutions have become highly bureaucratic in ways that are counter-productive. In this piece Antiestablishmentarianism is a means of reclaiming creativity, collective group organization, and individuality from the confining structure of the institution.
Working with AREA Chicago and looking at projects such as Joanna Spitzner’s project; Art School in the Artschool have initiated questions within my practice such as:
How do bureaucratic forms impede collective intentions?
How do we re-envision? Re-form? Re-construct institutions?
Are there good institutions? How do they work? How do we re-claim the (re-)structure of the collective from the format of the institution?
Such questions allow the offer of real-world alternatives that have always run throughout my work, such as alternative spaces, collaborative projects concerned with the periphery and architectural interventions.
These are carefully placed to help us analyze the relationship between what we perceive, and what we assume is plausible. We only have to think the Giorgio Agamben’s State of Exception where Agamben asserts that the state of exception he describes is no longer a temporary state in times of war or siege, but that it “tends to increasingly appear as the dominant paradigm of government in contemporary politics”. The power structures that governments employ in supposed times of crisis are what Agamben refers to as the ‘state of exception’. These increased extensions of power waiver the questions of citizenship and individual rights can be diminished, superseded and rejected in the process of claiming this extension of power by a government.