67. Storms and Tempests

An eventful, hard-working week, piled high with one big university assessment, conducted under the influence of a dripping nose, headaches, coughs and sneezes that mark the invasion of a Winter-Spring cold virus. You continued to soul-search about your current identity crisis, how to seek affordable help, and  whether to continue your Blog.

Several Blog readers and writers contacted you, asking you to continue (you felt a little like James Brown being gathered up after repeatedly falling on stage). The same readers and friends also advised you that ‘a Blog is just a Blog’, i.e. that you shouldn’t attempt serious criticism, literary  experiments, or academic-style thinking with it. A blog – they (you) said- is maybe best when simple and conversational.

This is interesting because, they (you) seem to say – and you are sure they (you) are right- that a Blog should NOT be different, exceptional etc. but kind of ‘ordinary’, albeit in an affirmative not a pejorative sense.

Well, to be honest, that suits you. You were trained and educated only as an artist. You barely had any other education (in e.g.reading, writing, arithmetic etc.) and so you tend to come to everything (in both life and art) in a (modern) arty, questioning and experimental way, a way that, before presuming anything first asks: ‘well what is the current image of this medium, this process, this genre, this phenomenon? What is its material make up, what is its tradition,  what is expected of it? And then, given all of this, how could/should you then challenge, disrupt, extend, confound or contradict it?

You had started to think about the way in which Blog writing grows out of the computer’s relatively short tradition and history and that it may be a kind of ‘light writing’, an effervescent,luminescent, weightless and insubstantial writing, and thus (according to a certain Greenbergian logic) could or should perhaps say very little, almost nothing of ‘weight’ or of endurance, so as to be ‘true to itself’ as a process or medium.

You have experimented a bit here and there over the past 60 or so weeks, but maybe you were ‘barking up the wrong tree’. After all, a Blog is just a Blog and what you should be doing here is Blogging and saving your critical art writing for publication in art journals and your academic writing and thinking for your teaching role, and your experimentation with process and tradition for your practice.

OK, enough already, you are going to try and be more resigned to, and happy with that model. So thanks to readers who helped your wagon get through this puddle.

Also  characteristic of the past week has been your continuing ‘Class’ eruption on social networks etc. Issues of ‘Class’ and debates about ‘Social networks’ need to be dealt with at length and in focus and elsewhere. But suffice to say you are struggling through these issues all over again, after a lifetime of same, probably getting nowhere, but still believing that the crude and candid and barely restrained forum of social networks may nevertheless have some unprecedented part to play in breaking down the veils of secrecy, silence, power, privilege, shame, embarrassment etc. that allow primitive, barbaric, Victorian, nay medieval class hierarchies to persist, perpetuate and proliferate, particularly in such reactionary times as these when entire classes are now being relegated to the revived category of  ‘the poor’ (a term that reappeared suddenly in media following the disastrous 2010 election); or as ‘refugees’; or where whole swathes of London’s city-centre population can be magically disappeared to make way for new private apartments, replete with joggers, miniature dog-breeds, gymnasiums, coffee shops and yes, new art spaces, all servicing salaried balcony dreamers (OK! ranting, paragraph-length, politically motivated sentence over).

J.M.W. Turner

In terms of your own experiences of art this week you managed to glean quite a lot here and there but you want to end this week’s post on a series of fortuitous connections.  Your partner brought home a DVD of ‘Mr Turner‘, directed by Mike Leigh, from the brand new local library. It was both visually glorious and unsatisfyingly reductive, in the way that most historic biopics are irretrievably destined to be.

Norham Castle, Sunrise c.1845 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

Interestingly, socialist and/or British social critic Mike Leigh stressed Turner’s working class credentials (the artist’s father was a barber) and encouraged a reading of Turner  as inherently progressive and anti-academic, despite his contradictory love and respect for the academy and the establishment – who were his customers.

Perhaps this illustrates another anomaly of the British class system wherein (so you have heard at least) the working class and the upper class may actually have more in common than the working class and the middle class (who, presumably, must keep their foot firmly pressed on the throat of the working class in order to define, establish and perpetuate their own territory and identity.)

A few days later, you had the very fortunate experience of attending more carefully and productively than usual to the Turner paintings in the Clore Gallery at Tate Britain, now noticing all kinds of aspects of his paintings that you had never enjoyed or appreciated before.  Many unfinished  paintings on display seemed to allow you deep within his working method, to really witness and appreciate his range of skills, but also to magically empathise with his living character and personality.

The numerous shipwrecks and sea storms in Romantic painting might be said to represent  the turmoil of a rapidly modernising and revolutionary late 18th and early 19th century society. You have your own belief that, despite the fact that ‘Romantic’ is almost a dirty word among contemporary artists (anxious to show themselves as cutting-edge twenty-first-centur-ians) the present times are in so much revolutionary turmoil that a new kind of Romanticism is once again necessary or inevitable, if only as a means by which to honestly reveal and explore the extent of the changes we are currently undergoing, rather than have them dangerously and short-sightedly ‘papered-over’ by career politicians merely massaging statistics and pampering their reliably pension-aged audience of reliable voters.

To close, you finally got to see (£10 ‘Restricted View’) the interior of the reproduction Sam Wannamaker Playhouse Theatre (inside ‘The Globe’ on London’s Southbank). Fittingly for this week, the play was Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest‘ and its unforgettable conclusion hopefully signalled an end to your own recent sequence of interconnected storms.

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This morning you woke, nose still running, head and body still aching, still sneezing and coughing, but to a bright Spring sun shining, feeling some satisfaction that one major assessment at work is almost done and dusted and with the cathartic healing ability of a magnificent Shakespeare play still working its therapeutic effects upon you.

You reached for the remote control that operates your much-loved digital radio, first listening to an ‘Oasis’ session track from 1993 (‘Shaker Maker‘), then switching to a classical station where you first heard an uplifting modern/romantic piece almost literally describing ‘Sunrise Over The Grand Canyon‘ by American composer Ferde Grofé ‘ (1892  -1972). The presenter said: “Grofé  worked as a milkman, truck driver, usher, newsboy, elevator operator, as a helper in a book bindery and as an iron factory worker”. Next he played some Vivaldi but  not before telling you that, Vivaldi’s father, like Turner’s, was also a barber.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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