A Cassette Tape #GE18


The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe – A Manifesto

On the 23rd of June 2016 the world held its breath to see what would unfold during the UK vote to remain or leave the European Union. The markets had been momentarily inflated, in the hours leading up to the beginning of the result. Sterling had risen to 1.4883 against USD, as trading closed on the evening of 23rd of June 2016.[1] The markets had been buoyed by polling data which suggested a slim majority to the Remain campaign.[2] As the voting closed and the first results trickled commentators began to suggest that the result may have shifted to the leave campaign. This situation was compounded by Sunderland’s majority decision to leave during the early results.[3]

As the picture became clear and the magnitude of the result struck the nation. The aftermath began! The markets plummeted to a record low, an estimated $2 trillion wiped of the stock markets and Japan momentarily stopped trading with the UK.[4] This event not only had economic reverb around the world but it began to affect the political and social spheres. As the Prime Minister, David Cameron resigned on the morning of the 24th of June 2016 the political infighting became public and the ugliness ensued.

It is this level of uncertainty spreading throughout Europe, which is threatening to completely destabilise the global outlook. To highlight all the complexities leading to this situation is not possible within this manifesto, as one would be here for an age. However, what is apparent is the referendum, with binary opposition of in or out, has manifest as a Super Massive Event.

Super massive events, such as the EU referendum, can be traced throughout history akin to nodes or junction boxes. These discursive events can result in cultural ‘ripples’ which exert a force upon the interconnections between; cultural spheres, subjects and fields.  Dr Gillian Rose is a pioneer of the human social geography which aims to discover the often ‘hidden’ spatial components to social phenomena. In her book, Feminism & Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge, Rose argues one such hidden aspect is identity or more precisely how one positions oneself to one another.  Rose forwards, ‘that identity is relational’. [5] Further she suggests that identity is dependent upon how one perceives oneself to be similar to someone else or how they may differ. Social Geography’s account of the space within society and in particular how human agency can distinguish one space from another, along with creating different spaces, is an important theoretical structure for analysing super massive events, in particular by focusing in on the space in which they immediately occupy, or the locale (ground zero).

When considering the primary cultural space with which the referendum occupies, one must focus on the binary nature of the event simultaneously sparks an overt level of division and then deconstructs itself. Argument and counterargument begin to unravel as one can discern positives within negatives and vice versa. One example of this is both ‘sides’ agree there is a need for some kind of reform within the way power is distributed. The Remain campaign wants to reform laws and the UK’s relationship within the EU. Similarly, the Leave campaign is not happy with the status quo and wants to change its relationship by severing the UK from the Union. Ultimately, this is about control they both want the same end, it is just the method which differs.

These binary oppositions and complexities amass under the surface, they constitute the event. They are partly the reason why social media, traditional media outlets and broadcasters have been able to ‘market’ and ‘promote’ the event to such a wide audience. On the surface the debate seemed simplistic, a simple in or out. As a result, the referendum went viral on a global scale and a Super Massive Event developed.

It is socio-political discourse, or perhaps deeper a shift on an epistemological level, which has sparked the cultural conditions of which we now find ourselves a collective. This collective entitled The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe (TRBEU) aims to impress its agency upon this state of play.[6]

This Project is part of a research-led investigation into the ‘state of play’. The investigation consists primarily of a dialogue between artist-curator John Wright (I), artist John Ledger and more recently D S Jarvis. This dialogue has come to fruition under the umbrella title The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe. It is an investigation into the profound state of precarity and ‘stuckness’ which we experience within contemporary life. This is articulated by Ivor Southwood. Southwood takes a comprehensive look into the situation of the “deep paralysis of thought and action” caused by the “ideologically constructed” landscape of precarity.[7] This affects mainly the younger generation of workers, but it is increasingly dragging even more people into a role, which economist Guy Standing suggests is the ‘Precariat‘, replacing the older term for the working class, the proletariat.[8]

The aim of the project is to create a space where artists and creatives feel comfortable and can come together in collaboration to realise projects which often become pushed out of mind for multiple reasons: financial, need of space or lack of curatorial help. The aim is to open a dialogue to help realise and foster their ideas and conceptual longings.

Super Massive Events become part of TRBEU’s subject matter; the referendum beyond, the binaries of negative or positive, maybe the closure of a particular historical discourse which doesn’t suggest an ‘end’ but a movement to a different cultural space.




[1] Pound Sterling live, Historical Rates for the GBP/USD currency conversion on 23 June 2016 (23/06/2016). <https://www.poundsterlinglive.com/best-exchange-rates/british-pound-to-us-dollar-exchange-rate-on-2016-06-23> [accessed 22/07/2016].

[2] BBC, Referendum Poll Tracker <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36271589> [accessed 22/07/2016].

[3] The Independent, EU Referendum Sunderland Result < http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/eu-referendum-sunderland-result-vote-brexit-leave-live-latest-remain>   [accessed 22/07/2016].

[4]  Wearden, G; Fletcher, N, The Guardian, Brexit panic wipes $2 trillion off world markets – as it happened   <https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2016/jun/24/global-markets-ftse-pound-uk-leave-eu-brexit-live-updates > [accessed 22/07/2016].

[5] Gillian, Rose, Feminism & Geography: The Limits of Geographical Knowledge (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2013). p.5.

[6] The Retro Bar at the End of the Universe (TRBEU) – The title is homage to Douglas Adam’s, Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, in the series a restaurant is located at the end of the Universe. The retro bar, in this case replaces the restaurant. The absurdity, of this entity is a metaphor for the current age.

[7] Ivor, Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia (Oxon : John Hunt Publishing (0-Books), 2011), p.4.

[8] Guy, Standing, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2011).