I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules… RULE EIGHT

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See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

Another one of my favourites. I am a vocal critic of artists who over-think things. It’s a surefire way to either talk yourself out of doing something at all, or else reducing what you do to an apology, and this explains why so much contemporary fine art looks like a random collection of shit kicked through a gallery door. Some artists are so afraid of not being received well, or seriously, that they reduce their work to a smokescreen of nonsense, supported by the mighty arms of Artspeak

Analysis, critique and review are all important, but give yourself a break and have some fun.

REVEALED: Margaret Thatcher and the Space Monkey LOL


Jim didn’t fix it for me.

I had a brilliant idea. As the UK government saw fit to honour Margaret Thatcher with a minute’s silence on the occasion of her funeral, I would commemorate her legacy in a similar way on August Bank Holiday 2013 as a piece of performance art. This is the day proposed by the swivel-eyed loons of the UK Conservative Party to be renamed Margaret Thatcher Day, and my idea was to observe a minute’s silence for each of the 323 casualties caused by the sinking of the Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano on 2nd May 1982, during The Falklands War.

I told a few people about the idea and received a very mixed bag of responses, some very positive, some apathetic and some extremely negative. Any artist will tell you that negative responses are not necessarily a bad thing. It’s great to be loved, but it’s much better to be hated than ignored, but what dissuaded me in the end was the fog of war.

It’s a highly emotive event and was the cause of much controversy at the time. Much was made of the fact that the cruiser was sailing away from the islands, but I accept the argument that its direction was irrelevant. A warship can change direction at any time and its heading does not mean it was not a threat. However, what remains so controversial is that the rules of engagement of the British Navy were changed specifically in order to allow the submarine HMS Conqueror to attack the ship. Even so, the most fundamental flaw in my own reasoning is that reports now show that the Argentinian navy accept the sinking as a legal engagement, and this is where it all falls apart.

Although the current government of Argentina still likes to accuse the British of aggression and cowardice over the attack, it seems more like politics than ethics and is not something I would want to identify with. Also, by the time I had looked at more references and re-interpreted the mired spin of The Daily Mail and John Pilger amongst others, it did not seem like the iconic war crime that I had thought. This by no means lets Maggie off the hook as I still consider the war to be an unnecessary loss of 907 lives in total and she used it for political purpose.

However, what motivated me most was disgust. Disgust at the London-centric, whitewashed reporting of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) who failed to cover the strength of very negative feeling around the country.

Tony Benn puts it better than I ever could. I first saw this video posted on Facebook a couple of years ago and I thought it was recent because it seemed like he was talking about Cameron’s cabinet. I was puzzled at first because I thought I remembered Tony Benn retiring from parliament “to spend more time on politics” and was also surprised how well he’d worn. However, it’s just another example of history repeating itself and what he says is just as relevant now.

One thing both Tony Benn and Margaret Thatcher would agree about is that some battles need fighting more than once and it is important to remember what a misguided, divisive and ignorant person Margaret Thatcher was. People admire her for being a strong leader as if that in itself is any excuse, but there are many other strong leaders that those same people would not like to be identified with.

She damned herself with her own praise and the most telling act of her own misguided self-confidence was what she said on her first arrival at Downing Street as Prime Minister. We should have seen it coming. With hindsight it’s easy to understand the irony but here is that notorious moment.

Currently showing on BBC television is “Thatcher: The Downing Street Years” where she reinforces this self-beatification by condemning consensual politics as if she was the only politician in history to recognise this and hence justify her autocracy. Thatcher looked in the mirror and mistook herself for an inspired statesman rather than the opinionated philistine that she was.

The only brief moment I saw of the BBC’s multi-hour eulogy that constituted their coverage of her funeral, was her post-PM driver describing her as “entirely humourless”. Channel 4 News did little better, indulging themselves with a bit of poverty tourism involving provoking a predictable response by interviewing a Conservative politician in a working men’s club in Consett of all places.

Whilst I still think the sinking of the General Belgrano was a deplorable and unnecessary act, it was just one of many in the jingoist warmongering that was the Falklands War. But as far as my proposed performance is concerned, I began to question the credibility of my own reasoning and I started to ask myself do I really want to associate myself with this singular and confused act in a much wider sea of prejudice, hypocrisy and misanthropy?

And the answer is not really, so here is a picture of a space monkey. LOL

Space Monkey small

Full story here.

I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules… RULE SEVEN

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See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

At some point in my pre-teens I remember working out how old I would be in the year 2000. Thirty-six seemed ancient to me at that time, and then whoosh! it’s been and gone. At that age, the thought of approaching 50 was just too far in the future to even contemplate, but now it’s imminent.

Despite the terrifying acceleration of the passing of time, there are some fantastic compensations in maturity. Although I can no longer vault a brick wall without risking a hip-replacement, I have the experience and perspective to understand the risks and enjoy the knowledge that I did that kind of thing at the age when I could bounce off the pavement without it leading to a course of physiotherapy.

What I have to my advantage is that I have done a lot of stuff already, but only because I kept working. I am a bit of a hoarder and still have art that I made at primary / elementary school. What is also working in my favour is that I have been alive long enough to know that I have long creative cycles. Sometimes I can be highly productive in one medium or theme for several years, and then it just stops. Again, this can be for several years, but I know it will come back.

Rule seven is probably the most important rule. Everyone has periods of failure or low productivity, but also everyone has periods of high achievement. The most important thing is to keep working, and whoosh! you will have 40 years of work to look back on.

In the meantime, keeping making stuff and jump those walls before it’s too late.

I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules… RULE SIX

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See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

Another of my favourites, both sobering and liberating. Accepting mistakes, confronting failures and moving on is the way to improve your work. It is not literally true as worded, but it is highly productive to accept the limitations of your work and either build upon that work or discard it and move on.

However, the key element to this rule is the “make” because if you don’t make you will neither win nor fail.

I don’t follow anyone’s rules except my own rules… RULE FIVE

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See this post for the intro to this series of posts about rules.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined — this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

My access to the arrogance of youth expired some time ago. However, these days I am qualified to employ a much more subtle pretentiousness, the self-assured superiority of age and experience. This rule is a little quite ambiguous, although I can easily manufacture an interpretation for you. The difference between being disciplined and self-disciplined is the difference between doing as you’re told and choosing to do as you’re told and, hence, employing a little humility.

To accept the guidance a teacher or mentor, either inside or outside a school, is being disciplined and being self-disciplined is taking advice or criticism that does not necessarily agree with your existing world-view.

In my mind this relates very directly to RULE FOUR and can also be applied to the idea of being disciplined by being critical and being self-disciplined by being self-critical. Whereas I am normally quite vocal criticising artists for being hypercritical, having an objective perspective on your own work, particularly in relation to other artists’ work, is very valuable. Also being uncritical, or hypocritical is unhelpful. However, I do try not to be hypercritical about being hypercritical. I hope that makes sense.