This week has challenged my faith and confidence in my artistic and creative ability. Firstly there was the Nam June Paik exhibition, in which I felt confused and out of my depth, and then I visited the London Group Open exhibition.
I went to the London Group Open so that I could see an exhibit by Beverley Duckworth, who creates mesmerising pieces using dust, hair and human skin. She explores feminism, expectations upon wonen, beauty, disgust and the discarded. I’m in awe of her talent.
The rest of the exhibition was powerful, and I connected to some of the art more deeply than others. One of the pieces, Leave or Remain by Maya Ramsay was the charred remains of a shipwrecked boat used by migrants. A powerful question about what happened to those migrants, and commentary upon the current Western political state of affairs with the rise right wing nationalism.
Leave or Remain – Maya Ramsay
Tarantalla by Phillip Tunstill appealed to me as well. I liked the colours, geometry and space. It made me ponder upon my need for routine, and partitions in my mind that, when structured so, leaves me with a sense of order, space and safety. It’s like I need to structure so I can live freely in the space.
Tarantalla by Philip Tunstill
There were many other examples of cleverly conceived and created art. However, following on from my Nam June Paik exhibition it added to my sense of inadequacy as an artist.
Today has been a turning point for me. I subscribe to Curator Space, which has many opportunities and open calls for artists, and I saw an exhibit that I felt that I could contribute to.
I selected four of my pieces of work, and wrote my bio and description and submitted them. The process was magical, I am pleased with the works which I chose, and they represent some of my skills, ability and talent as a conceptual artist and photographer. It was such a joy to think “Bloody hell, I have something to say as an artist.” A refreshing end to what had been a challenging week.
Standard: When You Take Away My Voice by Richard Keys
Got to be honest here and say that I really struggled with the Nam June Paik exhibition. My childhood was such that I went to sporting events and airshows, and have had no experience of exhibitions until recently. I think the lack of artistic culture in my formative years has left me with a lack of expertise when viewing art at exhibitions. I’m going to make a point of reading “How to read a painting” by the National Gallery.
On the whole I found the Paik exhibition to be confusing, bewildering and overwhelming. There was a cacophony of sound and light, and other exhibits that I felt little connection to. Whilst trying to connect with what the artist was trying to communicate I found my mind was left blank. I didn’t connect with his art at all. I feel almost tearful at my inadequacy when it comes to reading art, especially of this discordant and abstract nature.
However, there were two exhibits that I connected with. The first of these were a selection of artefacts from Paik’s studio.
I may not understand what Paik is conveying, but I appreciate how ideas formulate and concepts develop, and I find the creative process to be fascinating. Ideas emerge in the space between the minutiae, little seeds germinate and creativity branches forth. Some of these will die along the way, but they still remain valuable to the branches which produce fruit.
The second exhibit that I connected with was a projected, blank, 16mm film.
￼Zen for Film (1964)
The accompanying text states that the film represents “emptiness, boredom and random interference… events such as the shadows cast by the spectators, became part of the work.”
Bev, Johnathan and I enjoyed became part of this transient piece of art. It highlighted to me that the meaning of art changes dependant upon the setting and the viewer.
Interactive art then became the theme for the rest of the day with the Olafur Eliasson, In Real Life, exhibition.
Wow. What an experience.
Welcome to a new world Richard.
In Real Life is not an exhibition to watch and read, it was a fully immersive experience in which one interacts mentally, emotionally, physically and, dare I say, spiritually.
Big Din blinde passage
“Big Din blinde passage” was 39 meters of sensory deprivation. The passage is full of fog created by food additives. I could barely see in front of myself, so much so that at one point I almost tripped over a woman with a buggy. I couldn’t see either the floor or the walls, and my sense of hearing increased. What made the experience so joyful for me was the laughter of children walking along with their parents. Sensory deprivation made the laughter so pleasurable. The taste of the fog was rather pleasant as well. When I left the tunnel I couldn’t stop smiling. The experience left me awestruck and lifted my mood so much, which was needed after the drop in my self esteem from viewing the Paik exhibition.
Most of the rest of the exhibition was enthrallingly interactive, and I very much became a part of the exhibit. I particularly like the viewing windows, in which the glass had been cut and shaped into hexagons. Each had been cut at an angle which reflected and reflected the view back as if one was looking through a kaleidoscope. Regrettably I did not record the name of these installations.
I also enjoyed the room with the mirrored ceiling. So many people were laying on the floor and looking up at the view.
The whole exhibition felt like play time. I will endeavour to return before the exhibition closes. Never have I found art to be so fun and inspiring.
What the experts say
Nam June Paik
“I always thought of Nam June Paik as a livewire avant-garde figure from long ago but for decades my experience of him has been as a permanent Art Biennale fixture whose work acted as an instant soporific.
Represented by piles of TVs showing mass-media random information with no particular meaning, the sight of his name on a wall label usually sends me straight into a coma.” (Collings; 2010)
“In 1963, artist Nam June Paik had his first solo exhibition. The show took place in a three-storey villa in Wuppertal, Germany and among the works was a room packed with 13 manipulated television sets. It was the first time an artist had used television as a medium for their art.
For five decades, Paik built upon these TV experiments and continually bridged the gap between art and technology in a way no other artist had done before.” (Fulleylove; 2019)
“My works demand the visitors’ engagement; they are dependent on viewers to co-produce them,” he explains. “Many of my works are not only about the visitor’s encounter with the work, but the visitors’ encounters with one another. This is endlessly fascinating.
“I do not mind if people are moved by my work without knowing, or even caring, about any of the theories behind it. I think the art world often treats people patronisingly: take guided audio tours in museums, for example. I enjoy watching people interact without any of this guidance, without the instructions.” (Eliasson; in Alderson; 2015)
A recent health event has meant I’ve had to reconsider the direction of my life on all fronts.
I have a heart condition, which has suddenly deteriorated, and I’ve made the decision not to have surgery. It was diagnosed several years ago, and I have known that I would need to make a decision regarding surgery for a long time. Generally the condition gets worse gradually, and mine was following the usual path until last month. After a routine scan I was held back and the registrar asked to speak to me. I wasn’t expecting the news at this stage, so it has been a shock. Creating the space to speak with my nearest and dearest has been my priority.
My spiritual beliefs have been the bedrock of my decision to allow my life to follow its natural course. I feel a deep sense of peace with my decision.
What I want right now is to have the best possible quality of life for as long as possible. When I consider my future a few things are important to me. My friends and family, photography and study. I had planned to move on to studying for a degree in photography, but I no longer think that this is appropriate for my health and wellbeing, so I have decided to alter my direction.
Naturally I will still make photography and continue with personal projects, but I’ve decided to study for an Open Foundation in Creative Writing with the Open College of the Arts. I like to write, and I combine photography with my writing, especially when producing photo-essays. Converting to creative writing will minimise the stress, and it also means that during those times when I’m less able to be physically active, I will still be able to be meaningfully occupied.
Quality of life is the most important thing whilst I allow the cycle of life to play out. Daily I ask myself “What can I do today that will bring meaning to my life, and give me the opportunity to create value and culture?”
On Friday afternoon I took myself off to Lewisham Arthouse for an exhibition called Why Do It Together When You Can Do It Alone, followed by a talk Getting There, The Highs And Lows Of The Journey.
The talk was predominantly aimed at post grads, but I attended because I felt I would benefit from hearing what practicing artists had to share of their own experience. I’d like to make a career out of my photography and art, and the more exhibitions and talks I attend, the more I will learn and develop.
The discussion were by Effie Paleologou (artist and educator), Sunil Shah (artist, curator and writer), and Jack Lewdjaw & Karanjit Panesar (artists, co-directors of east bristol contemporary).
Points of note from the discussion
Maintain critique groups, continuous critique can be the difference between success and failure
Work with others, whether this be traditional collaboration, lighting, make-up or friends
Ideas can flow and develop with external ideas
Find your own voice
Think about how the quiet voice can find a space
If a resource is lacking in your community then make it happen yourself
Answer open calls
Money will be tight, is there a way to work alongside others
Collectives aren’t for everyone, but ask yourself is there a group relevant to your practice
Points of not from A Rumour Reached the Village
A Rumour Reached Thhe Village was one of three collaborative pieces by different groups of artists. I chose to focus on this exhibit for three reasons. The artists had pulled together a cohesive piece of work which stood apart from the other two, because Sarah-Jane field, an artist and OCA degree student was one of the artists, and time constraints.
My initial impressions
Packing crate used as platform, circular nature represents, earth, nature, community, inclusion
Creates packing stamps signify humanities impact upon nature
Perspex sheets partially cover some of the work – what we present outwardly v what we keep hidden
Organic and man made items – village/rural/cottage industry
Use of technology reminded me of remote cultures where tech becomes a source of information and connection – links back to rumour
Rumours can bring hope, excitement, interest and suspicion
Opon first viewing the objects, photographs and text appeared disparate in nature, but stillness and consideration brought me a sense of cohesion. I began to imagine a small African village in which different roles and activities were played out for the overall good of the community. One home may be making pottery, another sourcing the plants used for medicine, the bottles could have a medical use. One of the homes may have a TV or computer in which everyone gathers around. A community forms in which each of the members have a role.
“A Rumour Reached the village is a collective enquiry that began with a role-playing game set in an imagined community riven with accusations of witchcraft. Over three months, six artists exchanged challenges and responses, out of which common themes emerged: loops and circles, colonies and growth, architecture and story telling. The culminating installation is a settlement of images, objects, moving image and living cultures, questioning the stories and materials on which communities are built. ” (Why do it together when you can do it alone? p2)
Collaborating with other artists is something that I would like to do more of. It was one of my goals for the year ahead, and I have achieved it in a small but significant way. Collaborative working forces me to step out of my creative comfort zone, I’m forced to think outside of my self-created box. I’d really like to collaborate with other artists more frequently.
A Rumour Reached the Village was created by Sarah-Jane Field, Michael a Lahat, Rowan Lear, Eva Louis Jonas, Joshua Phillips and Christel Piikaer Thompson
The world-wide Autumn Uprising protests by Extinction Rebellion began on October the 7th. Extinction Rebellion state “We are facing an unprecedented global emergency. Life on Earth is in crisis: scientists agree we have entered a period of abrupt climate breakdown, and we are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making.” (1)
This essay will explore some of the scientific evidence, state the three demands of Extinction Rebellion and express some of the reasons that members of the public have decided to protest in London with Extinction Rebellion.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Environmental Programme’s Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) back up what Extinction Rebellion state. Joyce Msuya, the Acting Executive Director, UN Environment, writes “In this drive towards a green economy, greater sustainability and the hope that we can thrive rather than survive, there has never been a more critical moment than now. The science and the data are crystal clear on the multitude of challenges that we face, but also the small window of opportunity we have to turn things around.” (2) The report goes on to say “The warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as evidenced by observations of increases in global temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and increased environmental degradation.” (3)
Scientists, world leaders, the media and the public have known about global warming and climate change for many years, but over the past six to twelve months the terminology has changed. Instead of hearing about global warming and climate change, the message has altered to climate emergency and global heating.
Anon (photo above) says “I remember in the 1970’s, when I was a teenager, hearing somebody on some talk show, speak about global warming, and I remember as a kid thinking ‘what is this all about’, and here we are almost 40 years later, and now it’s a reality.”
In 1992 the Union of Concerned Scientists wrote” The Worlds Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” (written by Henry Kendal and signed by over 1,700 scientists). It highlighted and warned about the irreversible damage that human beings are causing the natural world. The report states “Our massive tampering with the world’s interdependent web of life—coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change—could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand. Uncertainty over the extent of these effects cannot excuse complacency or delay in facing the threats.” (4)
Almost every day the media has a new report based upon a recently released piece of scientific research, often declaring that the state of the ecology is more precarious than previous models had shown. A recent study by Eric Rignot found that “Antarctica now sends six times more ice plunging into the sea each year than it did in 1979.” (5)
The rate of climate change has even evoked fears within the scientific community. Professor Sir David King stated as much to the BBC recently and his fears were supported by other climate scientists. (6)
Marlowe Hood wrote an article which was titled “Earth warming more quickly than thought, new climate models show.” Hood explains how continued burning of fossil fuels are warming the environment at an alarming rate, and that global heating will happen at a higher rate than expected, and to reach the Paris Agreement global warming cap of less than 2 degrees Celsius is increasingly unlikely, and unless urgent action is taken to reduce carbon emissions, then global warming could reach 7 degrees higher than pre-industrial levels by 2100. Hood notes that “With only one degree Celsius of warming so far, the world is coping with increasingly deadly heat waves, droughts, floods and tropical cyclones made more destructive by rising seas.” (7)
Mike, who had travelled from Cornwall to be with Extinction Rebellion for one week said “The rate of change is rapidly accelerating, crisis is closer than most would realise.”
Evidence of the climate emergency are seen in global temperature rises, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, glacial retreats, decreasing snow cover, sea level rise, declining artic sea ice, extreme events (wildfires, tornados, rainfall, heatwaves, blizzards, ice storms, dust storms, droughts (8)) and ocean acidification (9)
The evidence is becoming clearer each day. It would be unfair to say that governments are not acting, but it also shows that the action taken is minimal, and not in line with what is required to limit global CO2 emissions quickly enough to prevent a planetary catastrophe. These actions have also only decreased the United Kingdom’s CO2 consumption by 10% (CO2 emissions have reportedly been cut by 42%. CO2 emissions are the amount of CO2 by national industrial activity and consumer usage, whereas CO2 consumption includes the CO2 produced elsewhere for goods and utilities that are imported). (10)
It is the lack of credible action by the UK Government, along with the failure of the Government and the media, which have fuelled Extinction Rebellion’s Protests around the world, and in London in April and October 2019. The failure to take appropriate action is why Extinction Rebellion feel that civil disobedience is the only course which could push the Government into adopting suitable climate policies.
Willy, an environmental scientist with Extinction Rebellion believes the Government is fully aware of the action they need to take, but are only paying lip service too. He says “There is a disconnect from what we know and how we act, civil disobedience seems to be the only way we can deal with the urgent crisis.”
Extinction Rebellion declare “We believe the government has failed to understand the severity of this crisis. We believe that we must now take radical action to reduce the very worst effects of climate breakdown and, in doing so, reform and extend our broken democracy. We therefore have three key demands: 1/ the government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change. 2/ the government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to net zero by 2025. 3/ the government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.” (11)
The protests in London have been mass, non-violent civil disobedience and have had a diverse following. Protestors have included scientists, ecologists, MP’s, the medical profession, and people from all generations, races and socio-economic backgrounds. Doctors for Extinction Rebellion marched from Lambeth to Trafalgar Square on Saturday. Jo from Doctors for Extinction Rebellion explained that their March was in relation to air pollution in the UK. She stated that “Over 40,000 people per year, in the UK, die as a result of the air pollution which is way beyond legal levels.”
David Boyd, the UN’s special representative on human rights and the environment “criticised the UK government for ‘failing its citizens by producing air quality plans so weak that they breached its legal duty’.” (12)
It is of note that respected medical professionals who have flourishing careers are willing to be arrested because of their concern about the lack of urgent action by the government. This highlights the seriousness of the climate emergency, and demonstrates that the crisis is not in some distant future. People around the world, and in the UK are dying now.
The civil disobedience by the protesters in London has seen people block major roads around London including Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Millbank and outside of The Bank of England.
Marjorie expressed her views on civil disobedience, stating “We’ve been writing letters, talking to our MP’s for decades, nothing has changed. We’ve got to do something to make them act.” Marjorie’s views are precisely the reason Extinction Rebellion has chosen the civil disobedience method. This is a technique inspired by the action and writing of Henry David Thoreau, and most was most notably evidenced by Martin Luther King, and Gandhi. (13)
Extinction Rebellion state “We have to be clear. Conventional campaigning does not work. Sending emails, giving money to NGO’s, going on A-to-B marches. Many wonderful people have dedicated years of their lives to all this, but it’s time to be honest. Conventional campaigning has failed to bring about the necessary change. Emissions have increased by 60 per cent since 1990 and they are still going up, increasing by 2.7 per cent in 2018. Looking at that thirty years of appalling failure, the reason is clear. The rich and powerful are making too much money from our present suicidal course. You cannot overcome such entrenched power by persuasion and information. You can only do it by disruption.” (14)
Non-violent civil disobedience does interrupt the normal ebb and flow of life in a city. It has an impact upon people’s livelihoods, businesses and has an impact upon the economy. It is believed that this kind of action will make life so uncomfortable for the government that they will be forced into taking substantive action on the climate emergency.
Dave, a member of the public and not linked to Extinction Rebellion, and who wasn’t protesting had a positive view of the protests. He said “It’s a good way to promote change. Change doesn’t necessarily happen without some kind of moving force. It’s got to be done I think. The fact that people are willing to be arrested shows that serious change is needed, if it means that much to people.”
The level of policing is another interesting facet of this March. If we cast our minds back to the Poll Tax riots in 1990, we note that despite the protests being violent there were only around 400 arrests. This was despite the police noting that around 3,000 of the 200,000 protesters had committed acts of violence. (15) Extinction Rebellions Autumn Uprising has seen over 1,750 arrests. It’s hard to get one’s head around why a non-violent and peaceful protest has led to this disproportionate level of arrests. Anon, quoted earlier in this essay, went on to say “it’s a good sign actually, for these kind of movements, when that starts to happen, it sucks but it’s a good sign. It means it’s starting to ruffle the right kind of feathers.”
Despite the argument that it is too expensive to immediately take action to achieve the Paris Agreement figure of 2 degrees C, the reality is that, worldwide, there would be a saving of around double what was spent. Climate change is expensive in terms of human suffering, sickness and death, these have major impacts upon the economy, as do intervening in and clearing up after wildfires, droughts and other climate disasters, not to mention the civil collapse, civil war, displacement, supporting refugees and managing immigration. The Co-Chairs message in GEO 6 states that “The health benefits from reduced air pollution of achieving the 2 degrees Celsius target could be 1.4 – 2.5 times the cost of mitigation, the higher figure involving benefits of $US 54.1 trillion for a global expenditure of $US 22.1 trillion. (16)
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney expressed similar concerns this week during an interview with the Guardian, saying that “Companies and industries that are not moving towards zero-carbon emissions will be punished by investors and go bankrupt, the governor of the Bank of England has warned.” The same article went onto state “The Bank of England has said up to $20tn (£16tn) of assets could be wiped out if the climate emergency is not addressed effectively.” (17)
The scientific eveidence is clear. We must sieze this small window of opportunity to take the drastic action required. If we do not, then we are walking face first into an irriversible ecological catastraphe, which will make it impossible for humans to survive on this planet.
It is clear that we are now in the middle of a climate emergency. People and animals are dying, ice sheets are melting and fires are burning. We are walking towards mass extinction and causing irreversible harm to our only home planet. If we do not act now then it will be too late.
Last night the met police used a section 14 order banning all protests in relation to extinction rebellions autumn uprising.
Despite this, Extinction Rebellion planted a caravan outside of Mi5 on Millbank this morning. Two UK doctors glued themselves to the caravan in protests at the Government’s failure to act on air pollution. The police are on the scene en mass, and they are stopping and searching people entering the area.
I have to say that I am experiencing that wonderful warm glow of having tried something new. Look, it was messy, I have no interview technique. Listening and hearing some while, whilst considering future questions is bloody hard work. I don’t know how people do it.
But the point is, I’ve just done it. Extinction Rebellion are a group whom I believe in their sound, rational philosophy. If we don’t act now then it will be top late. Armed with my OMD EM 10 MK III and the Mzuiko 14-42 lens, I went to Trafalgar Square and have interviewed two people and taking their portraits. Over the next few days I will repeat the process, and then write up my report forThe Sociological Mail
The report will be written in the style of my photo-essay’s, but will also include quotes from those who I have interviewed. It’s the interviewing that gets me excited. It’s been a joy to interview Mike and Willy today.
Photographically, photo-journalism has not been a genre that I’ve felt an affinity for, but I can see how it dances around with the kind of photography of which I’m passionate, but I can now see potential.
Face-to-face support for those who no longer feel life is worth living
The Listening Place is a London based charity who provide face to face support for those who feel life is no longer worth living. I do not believe that I would be alive if it hadn’t been for the support of The Listening Place.
My initial contact was a self referral over the telephone, followed by a face to face assessment at Meade Mews. It felt more like an informal chat about my current difficulties.
The next step was recieving a phone call to confirm that I was being offered support, and a date for the first session. Sessions are once a fortnight, same day, same time and with the same volunteer. After six sessions there is a review to see whether support is still required.
It’s OK to arrive early and sit in the small but beautiful gardens, and I’ve needed time after a session to sit in the peace and collect my thoughts before getting on with the rest of the day.