Posts Tagged ‘art’

Barcode Man

This is a piece that I am currently exhibiting at Arts Hub 47 on Lark Lane as part of Not Just Collective’s new show. The name of the show is ‘Practitioners of the City’ and features work inspired by the experience of urban living. I had previously exhibited video art with the group and this is my first sculpture, although I have always made things…

15241209_10153831565171735_1131450318289429216_nIn my teens I has a phase of making heads out of papier mache and recently went back to the practice, for no particular reason. This rather primitive human-like head was lying around my flat unpainted for a couple of years until this new show came along and I decided to do something with it.

For a while now I have been paying more attention to a spiritual essence that has become obscured by our obsessions with technology and consumerism. I have always been fascinated by evolution and early human relics – just when did we start being human?

15350458_10153831563891735_8096096447571652291_nIt occurred to me to make something that would reflect the impacts upon the human psyche of capitalism. These days, especially as we brand ourselves on social media, there is a tension between a kind of tamed, commodified self that we want to present to the world almost like a product, and a freer, more implusive, ancient human essence that we have almost forgotten.

The ‘hair’ on the sculpture is made of bar codes which I collected from products in my home and the base is a domestic cleaner bottle. The eyes are reflective plastic from teabag packaging – you can see yourself reflected if you get close enough.

I titled it ‘Something Deeper’.




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To many, they are the scapegoats of the age, the visible minority it’s ok to hate. Not gypsies, junkies or chavs but HIPSTERS.

hipsterhipster-headdresshipster-pasteHere they come with their beards and bobble hats, on rusty racers and skateboards, to take over derelict buildings, open coffee shops and artists’ studios. Uniformly non-conformist, they are the 21st century bohos for whom life is an never-ending gap year, a middle-class bubble of ‘style over content’.

Since their tribe was written about by The New York Times and others around 2000, hipsters have been accused of taking over urban neighbourhoods across the Western world with a vacuous culture of self-conscious ‘otherness’.


Take your typical hipster couple. He is an ‘illustrator’ (he draws like a four-year-old on acid) with a beard you could lose a skateboard in, she flounces about in a native American head-dress and makes teapots out of old crash helmets. Ok, it’s easy to take the piss, but did you spot the deliberate mistake? There is no typical hipster couple.

“Those 18-to-34-year-olds called hipsters have defanged, skinned and consumed the fringe movements of the postwar era—Beat, hippie, punk, even grunge. Hungry for more, and sick with the anxiety of influence, they feed as well from the trough of the uncool, turning white trash chic, and gouging the husks of long-expired subcultures—vaudeville, burlesque, cowboys and pirates.” – Christian Lorentzen*

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Back in the day, young peoples’ dress codes and tastes would signify an entire philosophy – a pair of DMs or an album by Bob Dylan would speak of a distinct belief system and values, but hipsterism raids the ragbag of twentieth-century style with no concern for meaning. Nothing is sacred; maybe that’s where the hatred comes from.

The irony of this supposedly ubiquitous subculture is that no-one will admit to being one. Call someone a hipster and they will invariably deny it, and likely throw the same accusation back at you – it’s always someone else. But if no-one will endorse the movement, can it really be said to exist?

Some argue that hipster is merely a marketing term created by media, lifestyle and clothing brands. Certainly it’s emergence as a subculture concept seems to have gone hand-in-hand with it’s commodification, as exemplified by the clothing chain American Apparel’s strong identification with hipster style.


Google “I hate hipsters” and over six million pages will flash up in half a second. That’s a whole lot of loathing. But what the hipster-haters will never admit is that hipsterism is just a logical extension of contemporary culture.

Almost everyone is drawn to the past. We like old, weird things found in suitcases at junk shops; we treasure our old childhood toys, we gravitate to old characters and ideas, but these days we reference things so glibly.
As we upload our old photos to flickr, as we share the wise sayings of old authors on facebook without bothering to read their books, we are treating the past as a cultural pick-and-mix of limited nutritional value.

These days, when everything is available at the click of a mouse, we feel the cheapening of culture. When every designer, record producer or video director is looking for sources of ‘authenticity’ to inspire and fuel their product, nothing can remain obscure and special any more. In this post-modern atmosphere hipsters serve as a focus for our anxieties about the debasement of cultural meanings, in which we ourselves are complicit.

By slagging off the hipster we reaffirm our belief in our own sense of taste, depth and authenticity in a world where all three are vanishing faster than the Amazon.

It’s ironic that this much-maligned movement was actually named after an earlier, much more substantial subculture.


Painter and musician Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, poet Gregory Corso (back of head to camera), musician David Amram, and Allen Ginsberg

The original hipsters were jazz fans in the American cities of the 40s. Also devotees of avant-garde poetry and drugs, they embraced the jazz musicians’ concept of ‘hipness’ – a semi-mystic sense of collective understanding, with an emphasis on spontaneity, individuality and freedom. The hipster mentality went on to inspire the ‘beat poets’ of the 50’s who took literature in a new direction.

Interestingly, if you look at photos of Kerouac, Ginsberg and the beats, aside from being a little scruffy, there is little in the way of a dress style in evidence. Impoverished poets who rode freight trains across America required little more than hard-wearing, functional clothes. Their true outsider culture stands in marked contrast to the modern tendency for style-over-content; that’s why the original hipsters have proved hard to commodify – what a dissapointment for American Apparel.

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not just

With revolution erupting in Ukraine, and Putin’s thugs whipping members of Pussy Riot at the Sochi games, an art show themed on protest could not have  had a more fitting backdrop.

Seventy people squeezed into Arena Gallery’s bijou central Liverpool space for the private view of “Objections”, the latest show by Not Just Collective, an art group (of whom I’m a member) that came together 18 months ago.

We kicked off proceedings with a protest-themed spoken word session, during which I performed a brand-new rant about Putin, appealing for people to “Shame the Games” and stop watching the Winter Olympics. 

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The work of the twelve exhibitors in our show ranged from Winston Ludd’s sinister tableau of murky police “evidence gatherers” with their backs turned, to Nicky Roscoe-Calvert’s fabric panels interpreting a poem by the eighteenth-century slavery abolitionist William Roscoe.

Photography featured strongly in the show, with Liriya Lee and Ulysse Di Meglio both exhibiting photographs of mass demonstrations. 

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Liriya presented some dramatic black and white depictions of a recent street protest in Istanbul, while Ulysse’s work shows a deceptively calming scene as sunlight floods through a crowd of smoke smoke-shrouded demonstrators. 

My video piece is a series of interviews with Liverpool protestors, including Gina and Julie, who took part in the peace camp at Greenham Common, a US air base in the 80’s. The exhibition is open until the 2nd March from 11am – 5pm.

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