Right place, right time: Bleaklow by The Stranger

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Most of my musically discoveries are made on YouTube. I don’t have any streaming subscriptions and found there to be a pretty good selection of weird tracks posted on YouTube by artists and their fans. It was in the “up next ” sidebar I first spotted An Empty Bliss Beyond This World, an album by The Cartaker a.k.a. Leyland Kirby. I was drawn in by the sleave art by Ivan Seal (his disturbing paintings always capture the tone and character of Kirby’s music perfectly) and those first few reverb-ed brassy notes of All You’re Going To Want To Do Is Get back There.

Around the same time and through conversations with members of The Retro Bar I was also introduced to Mark Fisher’s books on cultural theory and was particularly captivated by The Weird and The Eerie and Ghosts of My Life (for reasons I’ll cover in a future post). This is a Weird coincidence as Fisher and Kirby were clearly very interested in one another’s work, Kirby released a charity track in 2017 in Fisher’s memory a year on from this death. The Quietus, who have long been tracking Leyland’s rising career wrote this article analysing the conditions of “Take care. It’s a desert out there…”

In an interview with The Caretaker for the June 2009 edition of The Wire magazine, Fisher rightly hails the musical genius of Bleaklow, an album created by Kirby under the alias The Stranger. Much of what The Caretaker composes is hauntological, being concerned with memory loss, recall and foregone cultural moments which echo endlessly into the present. Bleaklow however, is more concerned with place– specifically the moors around Bleaklow in North Derbyshire, a 30 minute drive from my front door in Sheffield.

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I made this discovery late last week and began toying with the idea of buying Bleaklow and listening to it for the first time in the landscape that inspired it– Bleaklow itself. Yesterday as I was voicing this idea, I decided to pick an auspicious day in which to perform this walk on the moors. It was then I realised that tomorrow (i.e. today, 9th April 2018) would be 10 years to the day that Bleaklow was released on Bandcamp by The Stranger. An utterly Weird coincidence.

Driving by Lady Bower Lake and through Snake’s Pass we turned on the radio adapter and began the album so that the low, spectral moans of “Something to do with death” wafted out the car speakers. We parked up and began our walk, listening to “Exposure” on headphones as the rythmic thuds and airy, spacious drones danced on the dead heather in time with our steps. The rest of the album is equally spell-binding however we only made it so far before succumbing to hunger and doubling back in search of a pub lunch. Nonetheless it was a totally engrossing way to appreciate this accomplished musical work for the first time: Walking on and on, seemingly forever, occasionally punctuated by stops to appreciate the ectoplasmic frogspawn bobbing in the ferrous-red streams or the ghostly snow-mounds stuffed like shadows into the corners of the moor.

 

 

 

 

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The Mental Health Strike 22nd January 2018

The Mental Health Strike is part of a project I am building as part of the Retro Bar at the End of the Universe collective. The project is based on actions and moments that deposit social and political actions within the contemporary cultural landscape that would be seen as impossible asks, as if they are apparitions from near-futures where a completely different set of tools and demands are available to build a 21st century world where collective mental well-being is at crucible of social organisation.

half finished mental health strike map

The Mental Health Strike, which was set for the date of January 22 2018 (supposed to be the most depressing day of the year)  is neither a case of ‘what if’, nor is it an actual strike that has been organised. It exists in the in-between, where it could become real. 

The week before Jan 22 these placards were placed around specific areas in Leeds city centre. I chose the places the Jehovah’s Witnesses usually have their stands on a weekday; speculating that they had located the areas within each city which are the epicentres of spiritual neediness, the places where the most negative emotions prevalent in late capitalist life are felt on the street.

full map (compressed)

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The above flyers were distributed on the night of the exhibition where I exhibited the audio-piece ‘(M.H.S) Sunscreen ’18’, an audio work put together for the project by myself and collective member Benjamin Parker.

Untitled

Neoliberal Me (The Exorcism of)

Map of Sheffield in the year 2011

sheffield 2011

I have begun mapping years around a certain place. Certain places that embody a certain impression I got in that year, of the present and the future. This is the beginnings of a larger project that will be titled ‘Neoliberal Me (The Exorcism of)’. 

A potentially strange, even self-indulgent-sounding project, ‘Neoliberal Me (An Exorcism of)’ places its conception at a festival organising the political organisation Plan C. In a Q&A at the end of a talk about the late Mark Fisher’s unfinished book ‘Acid Communism‘ , a man piped up saying how he loves acid (man!), but how would probably advise most people alive today not to do it due to the consequences of having to deal with of own ‘capitalist realisms’.

Now to possibly make the power of this seemingly marginal comment stand out, first of all its important to talk about not just how ‘capitalist realism’ was the term Mark Fisher used to describe a culture that is trapped in a belief that capitalism is the only possible reality, but how he later began to re-think this condition as one better described as ‘consciousness deflation‘: “where consciousness-raising pointed to impersonal and collective structures – structures that capitalist and patriarchal ideology obscures – neoliberalism sees only individuals, choices and personal responsibility”.

If we are to talk of a ‘capitalist realism’ we have to speak of the neoliberal project. Violently installed (through coercion as much as force in Western countries), this anti-ideology ideology’s aim was not only to destroy the social democracies that grew up in the Post-war moment, but to destroy the idea of that any else was ever possible.

An anti-ideological ideology inevitably requires a shutdown of any sort of consciousness-raising whether top down or bottom up, and perhaps Phillip Mirowski’s insights in to the hatred of ‘educating the masses’ at the heart of the genesis of the neoliberal vision is a good place to see clearly just how bitter and twisted its origins were.

However, despite how well known it is which prime minister instigated Britain’s ‘neoliberal journey’, my own project begins at a point where I felt a shift into a reality of locked-down horizons with only ensuing depression in the near distance. Within the ‘New Labour moment’, between 1996 and 1999, I sensed a splitting of something, and a sense of a naturalisation of a state of general nothingness, of being hermeneutically sealed in a dead space. If 1979 to 1990 was a slash and burn moment; the 1990’s onwards was the building of the neoliberal superstructure.

The split could have been within me; it could’ve been the ghetto-ising of the ‘aspirational’ and ‘educated’ remnants of the defeated working classes from those who were ‘undeserving’ soon-to-be ‘chavs’. But what has ensued was a painful sense of disappointment as the promises of the 1990’s turned horribly sour.

Yet as much as I’ve come to recognise my ‘personality disorders’ since this point as much a result of enduring a social construct as anything, it’s taken me until now (regrettably) to want to positively change myself. For a long time I felt hurt by the language of self-help gurus, because it seemed devoid of any social and political explanations for my experience of life. However, there is much argument to suggest that within a neoliberal reality where everything is either personal or it doesn’t exist, it is hard to shake self-identifying as being ‘depressed’ (etc.) because it’s the only positive identity that has ever been constructed for you, (Johann Hari’s interview with Aaron Mate for his latest book ‘Lost Connections’ discusses this in further detail).

To understand that the way you feel is not necessarily your fault is one thing, but if anything you have to keep fighting to be optimistic, because, yes the social reality is bleak, but to allow this to control your identity is to allow the sense of defeat to be self-fulfilling.

‘Neoliberal Me (An Exorcism of)’ is an attempt to do this dual exorcising of the spectre of defeat from within and around me. As things stand, all the visual art I have been making for the best part of 15 years has been brought to a point of closure; it’s too wrapped up in the aforementioned ego that needs putting to rest. And, yes, the premise of the project is essentially impossible, but it’s the intent that always matters.

Map, Darton Area 1996

Darton 1996

 

 

 

Last Resort To Forgotten Fun

I have been re-working this text and image work I made late last year in a sound/image piece. Last Resort To Forgotten Fun was part of a series of works called ‘Stories From Time-locked Space’, which we included in our first publication, published earlier this year.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/248603349″>Last Resort To Forgotten Fun (Stories From Time-locked Space)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user60125733″>John Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Meeting at Blackwell’s 05/12/2017 and the Showroom 09/12/2017

This meeting saw Ben, myself and John gathering in the Costa Coffee within Blackwell’s bookshop near the University of Leeds. This was a rapid meeting on the fly and it occurred in three parts,  later that week in Sheffield between Bek and John and then with Dave. The first section of the discussion, in Leeds, resulted in a brisk walk in the ever increasingly cold weather! This walk became  journey down the hill towards the inner ring road and Woodhouse car park. The ultra functional 1960’s brutalism of this, highly specific, section of Leeds is the result of a convergence point. This convergence of city centre, to what used to be terrace housing, with the addition of an ever increasing university architectural splurge. Its a borderland and John discussed its nodal properties and ‘uncanny’ nature after dark.

Main Conversation points.

-Ben’s moments of clarity, Ben was thinking about recording and ‘mapping’ different languages and speech-acts through composed scores. This would be performative, we will think about what space and place would be most suitable. Ben then came up with ‘Half the conversation is going of in my head’! the idea of disconnection of language to thought that happens and how the systems seem to be exaggerating this disconnect.

-We talked about the very real movements towards Post-humanism regarding Sophia and Facebook/Google AI. The un-restrained race to embrace what could be a risk to our humanity but equally is possibly its only hope against ecological disaster.

-The problem of language and consciousness.

– We agreed that January would be excellent for both the mental health strike and the canal walk.

Mental Health is what we all have in common

Meet up with Bek, try to explain why I’m late, trying to get out an incredibly busy train station (Sheffield station has really small walkover), only attached with xmas song ear-wasps in the foyer. Bek talks about how angry her bus journey seemed.

I talk about how difficult it is to critique xmas. Bek says how people only pick up on certain words when you bring up discontents revolving around it, which results in them either calling you a ‘scrooge’, or actually joining in as if all it was was festive grumble-along.

When, in fact, you see so much unnecessary stress around this period, what you really want to communicate is that THIS ISN’T WORKING FOR THE GOOD OF US. And I guess this sense of health and general well-being is what starts the conversation off.

I’m meeting my friends for drinks in Manchester later and stress I’m in no real rush, because I can’t really do day-drinking any more. Bek Says she only had 3 pints last night, but yet feels quite ill. She said she had to stay at her friends and sleep on the ….”ceiling?”, I interjected for some reason. Giving us this idea that Lionel Richie may no longer be dancing, but he’s still on the ceiling….and he’s not coming down!

The rest of the talk is on the audio file ‘mental health is what we all have in common’….

These recordings are part of the same conversation just in different places at different times. These parts are between Dave, Bek and John Ledger.

Click here for Dave and John

Click here for Bek and John

 

Meeting at The Social – 16/11/2017

This meeting consisted of member Dave Hooppell, John Ledger, Rebekah Whitlem and myself. The main focus of this meeting was to consolidate the meta-mapping thematic which had taken hold on the collective. We agreed to form a series of events/happenings/ exhibitions over an unspecified length of time. This would be as organic as possible without putting false time limits upon everything.

John mentioned that he and Ben would be compiling the videos and documentation from Baildon into an ‘afterlife’ installation for the Saltaire Arts Trail. The concept would be that ‘nobody’ turned up to visit the show because of its geographical problematics. This video would perhaps put a close to that part of the project.

Bek positioned some thoughts stemming from her recent enrolment on an MA Arts and Cultural Management in Sheffield. Looking at projects of ‘gentrification’ wrapped up in ‘the social good’. Bek is proposing a mock heritage trail of the city which highlights all the failed prestige projects which have just created a set of ‘nowhere’ and ‘anywhere’ places which are increasing the state of alienation which we are experiencing in late capitalism.

I am currently working on a mapping project of collectives working in Leeds. It is tied into my reseach for my phd along with these notes and posts from our meetings. I am linking them to plotted meeting on Google My Maps and hopefully open street maps for the project.

We decided collectively to plan a canal walk which part of the data gathering for Dave’s mapping idea. The parameters could possibly be the LS postcode and could take on other cities and villages along the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

 

Meeting at the Duck and Drake – 02/11/2017

It was a brisk November evening as, John Ledger, myself, Dave Hooppell and Ben Parker arrived to enter into discussion about the direction of The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe collective. We gathered with our beverages onto the rear fare end table of the pub in order to not disturb the other customers. There were several elephants in the room (so to speak) to discuss as events had transpired within global discourse in the preceding weeks. The Harvey Weinstein scandal had broken and Brexit was yet again reaching new levels of absurdity. The government’s position looked increasingly precarious and Boris Johnson had made a monumental mistake in diplomatic relations over the journalist Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Main Points:
-We discussed the overall meta-project of ‘The Map’ which we had collectively decided to begin.

-We discussed the scarcity model collapsing and the emergence of populist politics.

-What would happen when the Queen eventually passes away?

-The languages of the now are incredibly dynamic and they are exceeding the structures with which we have in place to govern. This friction is coursing the immense upheaval we see in the western world with the crisis of capital.

Here is an extended edit from the discussion, installation photographs taken from The Baildon intervention. Click here

 

 

NOW THIS…

…Is where working with a collective, side by side with people/friends better at understanding statistics and spotting mathematical inaccuracies, and knowing which places already possess such data, can help me bring to fruition some of these mapping ideas I have.

Another early bird for the forthcoming projects….  but, surely, it’s onto something…?

 

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