politics has never been more boring.
Over the last few months I have found my practice drifting gradually from a formal art focus to a more social and historically focus.
I now find myself creating work that teeters dangerously on the edge of the political commentary cliff. This just so happens to be the worlds most boring cliff, of no interest to geologists or sightseers ,neither picturesque nor rugged. A gentle mud slope of drab brown ,ending in a tepid sea of sluggish grey water.
That’s not to say that politics is boring.Far from it, Political history is a rich source of inspiration and is inseparable from the social and cultural history of Britain. Were one to face the political cliff mere decades ago, one would find a Friedrich-esque monolith of windswept rock rising high above a roiling ocean. So what’s happened? has time merely softened the political landscape, The slow erosion of progress forcing the sublime to give way to the quaint?
Not quite. It seems unarguable to state that Britain has not been as politically and culturally divided as it is now since the civil war. the nation is on it’s knees, The government is paralysed in a crisis of it’s own making, and we’re only one missed marmite delivery from full scale societal breakdown.
Why then do I find the idea of making work directly addressing current state of affairs so boring?
The answer is simple. Because it’s fucking dumb.
it’s impossibly to be truly, deeply passionate about the current political crisis gripping the country because the means by which we arrived at this point are so farcical , so vastly dumb, that one simply cannot take them seriously without losing all will to carry on.
not that political crisis have never been stupid. Far from it. Brutus knifing Caesar was hardly a master stroke of administrative cooperation, and the many negotiations throughout the cold war were less the work of genius statesmen and more the slow process of a series of sociopaths discovering common sense. Even Machiavellis political genius can be boiled down too “they can’t beat you if you kill them first.”
But when looking at political history one can find examples in which key individuals have acted either in principle , Or for the common good, Often against the prevailing political consensus and often to great effect. Often these are the trigger to a series of political developments in which both sides of the argument try to out manoeuvre one another ,and in the process the state of politics shifts .In this way we can imagine political process as being a machine, where whilst two single components may work in opposition, their existence within the framework of the machine allows their opposition to be used as a means of progression.
The current state of british political activity then is less like the workings of a machine or the movement of chess pieces, And more like the slow endless grinding of two rocks , Being clumsily bashed together in the hope that one will break.and the bricks are painted beige.
When triggering the EU referendum, David Cameron sought to gain greater control of his partys hard right backbenchers by humiliating them into compliance. His theory was that by offering an unwinnable referendum on the EU, he could be seen to be in touch with his partys hardliners, pulling support from the then high riding UKIP , and thus strengthening his parliamentary majority in the next election. He thought all along that the referendum would fail , And in doing so , force his hard right backbenchers return to the flock or go hungry as ukips support died out.
No doubt in his head,Cameron thought this was a political master stroke that would see his name added to the list of great prime ministers. He sought to reunite his party, destroy ukip and kill off any anti EU polices for the next decade. The problem of course is that this was a fucking stupid plan , and relied entirely on the world working exactly the way it works within David Camerons head. (a sort of downton abbey muppets hybrid in which the working classes all kowtow to their loving masters and miss piggy works as an executive dominatrix.) In political terms, This plan was the equivalent of telling people they can’t come to your party in the hope that they will beg to be let in, then acting surprised when they all fuck off and have a party without you.
What followed camerons resignation was described as a political bloodbath, in which key members of the tory cabinet vied for control of the country. Again, It might seem that this would be worthy of research and attention, Were it not for the fact that this bloodbath was the most bloodless example of Etonian naval gazing in the history of the Etonian hundred metre naval gaze.
The political class of the country is composed entirely of sharp elbowed etonians with no understanding of the world beyond Whitehall, The kind of busy bodied curtain twitchers that would do anything to get one over their neighbours , and genuinely caring people trying to help their community who are too busy doing their job to get involved with anything beyond their own constituency. This has led to a situation in which the worst most self interested politicians are able to dominate the political stage. A political class so rarefied that they would seemingly dissolve on contact with the public. An elite so socially inbred that , they are forced to choose between breathing and defecating.
this is why I find it difficult to be motivated when my work drifts towards direct political engagement, Because what else can you say? What is there to be said when even the most seemingly important and interesting aspects of the present political gridlock come not from pure ideological passion or as the result of well laid plans, But from the bumbling ineptitude of a handful of idiots. That’s not to say that there weren’t plans or passion. Self interest played a huge part in the decision of Boris Johnson to campaign for leave, and both sides had their ideological stand outs, But the whole thing is clumsier than a 2 legged cat on a treadmill.
there’s nothing clever about what got us to this point. The deep political division brought to light by the referendum is important and needs to be engaged with, but the means by which the rift was opened seem almost arbitrary in comparison.
Whilst the country might be on a political cliff edge, I can’t quite drag my artwork to that same precipice because it’s just so fucking dumb.