Marcel Craven > STILL ILL
STILL ILL – AN OPENING OF SORTS
Part practice and part research this series of work explores the ‘human condition’ within and without the confines and parameters of state space and time.
The work uses the ‘begging door’ at St. Mary’s the Virgin Lowgate as an ‘opening of sorts’, the door acts as a ‘Cabinet of display’ and as a ‘Cabinet of voices’ that informs the work in its various formats.
The work uses the artistic devices of assemblage(s) to discuss and explore the concept of sociological assemblage of modern life. Desires/Needs, Beliefs/Myths and Value/Worth are some of the topics that form the subtexts for the work.
Follow the project online from August 11th @marcelcraven.com
Look out for developmental events, happenings, publications and exhibitions relating to this work.
Waiting for a bus, letting full ones go by because you want a bit of space and breathing room, so you wait and wait and your late, and it’s raining and one comes-semi full so you get it in haste- then three or four turn up at once is an analogy I will use to express the past three weeks…waiting for a narrative to materialize, to introduce this body of work.
Lack of preparation or research or even motivation cannot be blamed, although apathy creeps and knocks at the door often, nor can I blame the over complexity of the work as a reason for this ‘logjam’. This ‘project’, to use a term, is as simplistic and economic in means as ‘the economy of line’ and ‘say it as you see it’ work from late last year and early this year respectively and is meant to be so, therefore lack of substance or gravitas cannot be blamed either.
I can only relay this hiatus in terms of acceptance and honesty by me of the relevance of this work, and of my placement and both connection and disconnection with the issues of its make-up.
So back to the ‘metaphorical buses’:
The ‘full buses’ I let pass me by over the past few weeks were the research and practice of my work, not just of now but of work left and work ongoing, they were life-full and packed to breaking, standing room only. Waiting and running late I embark on one that has a soupcon of space…others follow,
So I’m sat in the garden of St. Mary’s, contemplating the meaning of everything and the point of everything…I have swept the leaves, cleared the graves and the paths between-a very Sisyphean task, an amalgam of archaic tradition and modern posture…so now I’m sat drinking a coffee and smoking a cigarette surrounded by the frameworks of state space and time-both physical, the garden being surrounded on three sides by solicitors offices and modern law- the fourth side of this ‘square’ being that of St. Mary’s exterior, and the meta-physical…
“GIZ A CIG”, “LEND US A FAG”, “BORROW US A SMOKE MATE”…
And this is the narrative, like the three libation bearers at Agamemnon’s grave; the three voices in ‘choral unison’ make an unsolemn request that has become a very modern and daily trait. As with ‘the bearers’ they have been sent on a ‘mission’ bearing someone else’s tragedy, it is not of their making nor do they fully understand their ‘quest’, or do they?
The three requests needed responses, and the dialogue that ensued will be the ‘opening’ for this, it encompasses much of what the work examines. Tragedy is at play here on many levels, and as in the aforementioned example revenge is central, not a given right bestowed by ancient Gods but a modern revenge of self over others, a trait that has been steeped into modern life over the past five decades at least.
The myth of ancient times is as relevant to this enquiry as the myth of the ‘locos’ and the more modern myths that feed everyday life, and these will become apparent as the work evolves.
The aforementioned dialogue, the narrative, I will briefly transcribe now and extrapolate on as the work grows and gathers momentum.
The three ‘requests/demands’ form the dilemma(s), there had been many more of the same that preceded these, and this today formed my rationale in my negation to them.
If I give to all then I will have none, my circumstance(s) is/are little better than your own, similarly if I give to you now I will feel guilty for not giving earlier. This was today’s response, and I will add my standard reply, on other days I may be more curt, on other days I may be more courteous, today it was the standard.
And in my mind, due to my upbringing and my education and experience in social reaction this reply should have sufficed, and closed this ‘opening act’, it wasn’t to be and therefore it didn’t end that way.
The scene is set, a kitchen in a post-war semi-detached dwelling in the suburbs of ‘ull, though those who live in this area will refer to it as Willerby-staunchly.
It is 1971, a small boy stands next to his Grandmother in the aforementioned kitchen, his eyes are fixed firmly upon a lemon sponge cake bought that morning, and its surface is lightly dusted with snow white icing sugar-waiting to be licked. Suddenly the words fall out of the boys mouth and hang in the air like a threat:
‘That cake looks so nice nana!’
The reply comes slow and measured:
‘Yes it does, if you want a piece ask properly, you get nothing in this life without asking!’
The small boy’s response is quick and hopeful:
‘Can I have a piece of cake please nana?’
The Grandmothers reply is quick and accompanied by a sharp cuff to the back of the small boys head:
‘You shouldn’t ask for things, you should wait to be offered!’
This is an outtake from my childhood, and the lesson-for want of a better term-seemed to be a predicate of that era.
I was seven when this episode occurred; there were other formidable ones-some like the example above within the nurturing realm of family, some within the broader social framework that was opening up to a growing child.
This almost schizophrenic method of ‘teaching’ became a day to day routine when, at the age of nine, I began attendance at my junior school-as they were called back then.
This period, between the ages of 9 and 13 taught me much about life and the world, the lesson I have mentioned and others formed a sort of prequel to this main event. The school was an all-boys school, the teachers were all male and ex-serviceman to-highly polished-boot, and corporal punishment was the order of the day-whether deserved or not.
I recently produced a piece of work for an event organised by a group called SEARCH, which highlighted this period in my life, and the regime and practice of this established order. (This piece and the event will be covered later.)
There was a deep cultural and social divide evident in the ‘duality’ of this period, from the austerity of the 1950’s through the boom of the 1960’s and then back again. And these differences are important in the nurturing of the next generation, the lack of certainty that prevailed after the Second World War-the erosion of certain long held beliefs and adopted stances, at play with the new modern trends led to a period of indistinct clarity for all.
And these are just some of the complexities that form the layers of social assemblage, and these issues are in effect the ingredients that inform this research/practice body of work.
‘Let’s go back to the ‘PLAYGROUND…’
‘Go on mate, you’ve got loads there, don’t be tight’, ‘Call yourself a good Christian…’, ‘Come on we only want three cigs…’
This extended dialogue, or subtext, was followed by a small drama that involved two of the three arguing amongst themselves whilst the third took a seat beside me and tried to ‘lift’ my tobacco pouch into a new location-his pocket.
This drama reminded me of Alan Bennett’s piece on feeling cheated by ‘beggars’, his reasoning for not giving was that they did nothing for the money they were requesting, it was a ‘one way street, that left one feeling duped or used.’
Well here I received a notable performance for my non-giving, and after removing my tobacco from its new position I rather non-politely requested that the three to go away, reminding the protagonists that they had tried a similar feat the week before, that performance involved a dog, a young girl and two of the three that were gathered here today, the ‘desired objects’ then were a glasses case, tobacco and a mobile phone.
They went on their way amidst a torrent of abuse, my reply was a suggestion that they ‘polish their act and perhaps get some new material, preferably their own.’
Tragedy, a strong word, apt though, this ‘opening’ is tragic/comedy at its most basest level, and incorporates all the elements of where we are as human beings today and bears very real comparisons to where we have already been historically.
Throughout this ‘project’ I will position myself in various placements within the framework(s) of ‘state space and time’, this may be purposeful or accidental but will provide a broad and educated overview of the issues involved-I avoid using the term ‘fair and balanced’ as I feel there is little fairness involved and only varying levels of imbalance.
Within the opening ‘act’ my response or lack of, may have instigated the proliferation of dialogue and events. Indeed my apparent non-caring attitude may seem to some, representative of what is wrong with society as that of ‘the libation bearers’ and this is a valid point and highlights the need for this shifting perspective of enquiry.
The opening ‘act’ provides the option for consideration of self and others within the frameworks that exist, this project is as much an exploration of self as it is of society, it is my belief that we are all beggars, how and in what form this manifests itself is the question, and this project has only questions, not answers.
SO- IT’S ONLY A GAME SHOW- UP
The works first manifestation, under the title 19,15,21,16…
A collection of symbols/signs and images, 27 in all, nestling within the apertures of ‘the begging door’, these cards are representative of modern life in all its varying guises, manifestations of physical and meta-physical engagements and interactions with society.
They form half a standard deck of playing cards, 26 and 1 joker, the other half will be placed or dealt later. For now explore the symbols/signs and images and see how and what you relate to them. You can also ‘value’ the cards as you see their worth-as with normal playing cards from ace through to king. And which is the joker to you?
You can also do the same with the title cards; a clue has already been given! If you wish you can send me your findings/discoveries.
IT IS ALL IN THE GAME
‘What does game playing become after the innocence of childhood imagination? We are often confronted with playing games subconsciously as the controller or the player whereby we have our own rules, routines and rituals.’
Game is defined as adopting goals, rules, challenges and interactions but as the philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein claims, games can be a misconstrued meaning of language and the mind. Because we misunderstand language, we use indirect communication, thought experiments and mind games to get a sense of one-upmanship to empower or demoralize. What extremes can we go to for feeling recognition, wanting, acceptance and achievement?
So back to the opening, and the other half of the deck-the next 27 cards, two suits and a joker again for consideration-have a look and decide, give relative worth and value to the cards as you see them.
EXCERPT FROM COMPARATIVE VALUE/WORTH – DIVIDES
Words of ‘Po-tatoes and Power cans…’
The location is in the kitchen of a semi-detached council house in ‘ull, though the residents of this estate will staunchly proclaim it is ‘west ‘ull’.
An elderly woman is unpacking her shopping from the upright four wheeled trolley, she has just arrived back from the ‘bank’ as it is called and has been for many years and by many generations-this clipped, abbreviated nomenclature has crept into the old woman’s vocabulary of late, she is from a different age completely and a pedant to times gone by-the abbreviated term on par perhaps with the clipped choice of shops the ‘bank’ has to offer and the new vendors-this may be a reason for this allowance by her.
The dialogue is opened by her son who is standing eagerly by the old woman…she is eighty; he is over half her age and resides there-always.
(For the purpose of this piece I will split the dialogue into monologues-his/hers).
Thanks pet, they’re fuckin’ warm, I don’t know why they’re never cold, they’re the favourite round ‘ere, yeah…well even when all the others put their prices up by ten pence cos they aint supposed to sell 9% ers for a quid- they said they wouldn’t, and cos we’re such valued customers even when they did we could still get them for a quid, and that’s a big difference cos then you can get 5 instead of 4-if you by four from the others that’s nearly a full can difference, and when the others run out they can always get ‘em, even on a weekend when they shouldn’t, that’s where you get your cheap fags from or where I have to get you ‘em, no more though, I aint giving them anything, not if I can’t do what I wanna do (opens fridge and re-arranges) I’ll put those bits there then I can get these on the shelf, I can’t drink ‘em warm unless I have to-I’ll take this one through there with me now and the others can cool down, I don’t know why they’re never cold…
Yes well they don’t have fridges they’re stood on the floor, I got some potatoes from there surprisingly, I refuse to buy them from Tesco, the last lot I got from there were rotten in the middle-I had to throw half of them away, that’s a meal in the bin, when the greengrocers were there you could pick your own, get how many you wanted and they were ‘mucky’, you could tell which were good and which were bad-not pre-packed while still wet, and they’re smaller-no, not new potatoes-old ones, these don’t look bad surprisingly-even if they are in polythene, they look a decent size, they were under a pound and we’ll get two meals from them, I’ll get some others from Asda at the weekend if they’re any better than Tesco’s, probably not-they were under a pound a bag last week-the week before they were one pound fifty…these though look ok surprisingly…don’t squash things up, that’s for tea, I didn’t say that did I-there’s no need to shout I’m stood right here, Asda aren’t as bad though-the bags are bigger, these though look as good as you can get round here…surprisingly…
The ‘bank’ has become over the past ten years a melting pot of ethnicity, it became a settling point for the first influx of Kurdish immigrants, there was no transition period for either the indigenous population or the new arrivals, in many ways the area became ‘ghettoised’ on both fronts. Helped by European and local funding the new arrivals attained a lifestyle that many indigenous people felt was unfair, there seemed no level playing field and this created tension-integration on both sides was minimal and to some unnecessary.
The area now has a multi ethnic population, Polish, Russian, Turkish, Lithuanian and Kurdistani, Nigerian and other African state representatives, Indian, Pakistani as well as the indigenous British.
The shop were the power cans and potatoes were purchased was a Polish minimart, the old women vowing never to use one of the many Kurdish shops after an event which occurred when one of the establishments first opened-stood waiting to be served the vendor whilst chatting to his friends muttered ‘hang on while I serve this white pig…’, the old woman put down her basket and left the shop. I will state here this is a descriptive moment used in context within the piece, these moments occur on both sides!
The ‘bank’ conjures up in name memories and visions of bisection, of disjuncture and split, people partitioned by physical and meta-physical barriers, some of which are as ancient and integral as humankind itself, and its social interactions.
So, let’s go back to the cards and back to the game…or another game…
IS THIS ASSOCIATION – (BY LIFE)?
How do we value or give worth to something? Is it by association-in some way-to us or others, or by our involvement and interaction with?
Does our process of evaluation begin with a positive or negative bias? If so, where does this bias come from-indeed are our choices really our own?
Are our choices of positivity and negativity a balanced view, or are they predetermined by social interaction and engagement?
The signs/symbols and images on the cards have to be given a value for them to be used as a ‘normal deck’. But how can you value or give a value to an apparently random set of images and signs? The tradition has to be challenged here; we are used to the number scale of 2-10 and the hierarchy of the ‘face’ or ‘court’ cards, and dependent on the game the ‘ace’ is high or low. Starting from scratch where do we begin?
And this is your choice, how you relate to the image/symbol will be a determining factor, the aforementioned positive/negative bias will be another.
There is no predetermined correct valuation process of the cards, it is wholly down to self and the choices you make as to which card is an ‘ace’ and which card is a 2 etc.
The process of evaluation however depends on deciphering the ‘meaning’ of the cards; again this requires a total break with tradition and learning, for there are no given values only our own determinations.
This evaluation of meaning will also have a positive/negative bias, at face value the symbols/ images are just that-some may appear to be easily decipherable, straightforward even-however all are laden with historical, traditional and social information.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
INCLUDING AN EXCERPT FROM ‘BEGGING TO BE SMART-wiki link’
Where: A = MEANING, B = POSITIVE, C = NEGATIVE
In 1690 the philosopher and physician John Locke published ‘An Essay Concerning Human Understanding’, he used the term sem(e)iotike to explain how science may be divided into three parts.
‘All that can fall within the compass of human understanding, being either, first, the nature of things, as they are in themselves, their relations, and their manner of operation: or, secondly, that which man himself ought to do, as a rational and voluntary agent, for the attainment of any end, especially happiness: or, thirdly, the ways and means whereby the knowledge of both the one and the other of these is attained and communicated; I think science may be divided properly into these three sorts’.
The term semiotics is derived from the Greek word sēmeiōtikos, meaning “observant of signs”, and has become a core of study that for many has been seen as having important anthropological layers or dimensions.
Semiotics also called semiotic studies is the study of meaning-making, the study of sign processes and meaningful communication. Semiotics itself can be split into three defining areas:
Semantics: relation between signs and the things to which they refer; their signified denotata, or meaning
Syntactics: relations among or between signs in formal structures
Pragmatics: relation between signs and sign-using agents or interpreters
One exponent of semiotics was Ferdinand de Saussure who defined his tradition as ‘semiology’ which is a part of semiotics; he founded his study within the realm of social sciences:
‘It is… possible to conceive of a science which studies the role of signs as part of social life. It would form part of social psychology, and hence of general psychology. We shall call it semiology (from the Greek semeîon, ‘sign’). It would investigate the nature of signs and the laws governing them. Since it does not yet exist, one cannot say for certain that it will exist. But it has a right to exist, a place ready for it in advance. Linguistics is only one branch of this general science. The laws which semiology will discover will be laws applicable in linguistics, and linguistics will thus be assigned to a clearly defined place in the field of human knowledge’. (Ferdinand de Saussure, 1891)
While the Saussurean semiotic is dyadic (sign/syntax, signal/semantics), the Peircean semiotic is triadic (sign, object, interpretant), being conceived of as philosophical logic studied in terms of signs that are not always linguistic or artificial. The Peircean semiotic addresses not only the external communication mechanism, as per Saussure, but the internal representation machine, investigating not just sign processes, or modes of inference, but the whole inquiry process in general. Peircean semiotics further subdivides each of the three triadic elements into three sub-types. For example, signs can be icons, indices and symbols.
“A sign, or representamen, is something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign. That sign which it creates I call the interpretant of the first sign. The sign stands for something, its object not in all respects, but in reference to a sort of idea.” Peirce called the sign a representamen, in order to bring out the fact that a sign is something that “represents” something else in order to suggest it (that is, “re-present” it) in some way. (Charles Sanders Pierce, 1897)
Semiotics includes the study of signs and sign processes (semiosis), indication, designation, likeness, analogy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics is closely related to the field of linguistics, which, for its part, studies the structure and meaning of language more specifically. The Semiotic Tradition explores the study of signs and symbols as a significant part of communications. As different from linguistics, however, semiotics also studies non-linguistic sign systems.
There have been many notable semioticians some who have used this study and its processes to examine and discuss art; Umberto Eco proposes that every cultural phenomenon may be studied as communication! How we view, communicate and interact with the world has become heavily laden with interpretational choices, many of which-if examined more closely-appear to be not as free as we may perceive.
Enough of the science-social or otherwise- and enough of ‘wiki’, whether helpful, informative or misleading its use has become widespread as a first point of call in knowledge dissemination.
That said the information above is relevant in this understanding of what we are presented with in today’s world, more and more we use ‘smart’ technology to decipher and interact with the frameworks of state space/time and with each other-if we have the ability to do so.
Okay, are you bored yet? Or frustrated? Or confused? These are all valid reasons for choice as well, we often find ourselves in a position where we are ‘overladen’ with information or we are ‘torn’ between two or more choices, we then opt out or opt for the apparent choice of relevance.
So, evaluate away!