Burnt out {That’s how it is}

On the pressures of consumerism and the pressures of surviving in the neo-feudal capitalist paradigm as a member of the squeezed middle and the burden of existential angst and serious depression caused by the phenomena of cognitive dissonance.
This red banner is very much an experimental piece that I took a risk with due to the methods of “drawing” I employed using soldering/burnishing iron, heat gun, plumbers gas torch and destroying the paper fibres’ surface with a wet wipe.

The texture of the burnt and scorched surface is important to me with this piece and I’ve been encouraging viewers to touch the scorched figures, which have the texture of immolated skin, like pork crackling.

The banner (a discarded Welsh Development Agency marketing pop up) contained images of stones inside a circular section, initially to me it seemed to be emanating a force field.

I played with the root of fear as in “petrify” the latin root meaning turn to stone, from here I thought of the figures in Pompeii turned to stone. I created the Pompeii image in photoshop and transferred it using my silicone sealant image transfer method that I’ve developed over the last two years.

Another of the images, nicknamed Voldermort, was an experiment I tried with “drawing” with a wet wipe by using silicone sealant and rubbing away the paper fibres very carefully.

The other image is of a 3,000 year old mummy, which I manipulated in photoshop, that appears to be screaming in agonised damnation.

Philosophical inspiration:

comes from a diet reading amongst others Friedrich Nietzsche, Noam Chomsky, Walter Benjamin, Herbert Marcuse, Deleuze and Guatarri, Lacan’s description of Lack or la manqué , Carl Jung specifically Jungian archetypes and many other influences. And linked via a marxist definition of commodity fetishism.

The word Fetish has it’s root in Portuguese meaning Spell. I wanted to use the sort of emanation from the circular patterns that I call the “force field” surrounding the petrified figures as that Spell. Commodity fetishism could be described as the spell of the desired object? The philosopher Lacan is famous for his writings on the subject of Lack or la manqué and it’s direct link to Desire in the psyche. My contorted human figures could be said to be symbolising the cognitive dissonance, the angst, the dis-ease brought about be lack resulting from the emanating spell of commodity fetishism and the incredible external pressures of modern capitalist consumerist society.

One of the reasons for the extraordinary pressure of consumerism is the recognition by the business world that unless it atomizes people, unless it drives them to what it calls the “superficial things of life, such as fashionable consumption,” the population may turn on them. Right now, for example, about 80% of the U.S. population believes that the country is, in their words, run by “a few big interests looking out for themselves,” not for the benefit of the population. About 95% of the population thinks that the government ought to pay regular attention to public opinion. The degree of alienation from institutions is enormous. As long as people are atomized, worried about maxing out their credit cards, separated from one another, and don’t hear serious critical discussion, the ideas can be controlled.

Noam Chomsky


In today’s turbo-charged and austerity-ravaged economy, anxiety and insecurity have become the new normal. How did this happen — and how do we fight back?

About six months ago (Nov 2013), Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern for Bank of America Merrill Lynch in London, died after working for 72 hours straight without sleep. Journalists found a strange bravado among City workers, reflected in their tributes to a value-system of drive, resilience and regularly ‘pulling an all-nighter’ beyond all normal measures of exhaustion. That’s nothing.

As one said, “On average, I get four hours’ sleep about 70% of the time … [but] there are also days with eight hours of sleep. … Work-life balance is bad. We all know this going on. I guess that’s the deal with most entry-level jobs these days.”

Coupled to ambitions to succeed in careers scarcely worth the reward is a fatalism about expecting any change. “That’s how it is”.


Further research:

Reported rates of workplace stress, depression, and anxiety correlate to worsening personal debt and public health problems like obesity and alcohol dependency.

Though research remains undeveloped in this area (after all, what multinational or western government would fund such politically explosive material?), evidence from the World Health Organization (WHO), the US National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation together indicate clear links between poverty and clusters of mental and physical health problems.

This is not to suggest that mental health or suicides have only an economic cause (a recent series of suicides by high-profile ‘burnt-out’ French workers would challenge this), but the poorest have fewer forms of social and economic support in difficult times, and less opportunities to change their circumstances, than those with university educations, more extensive social circles or affluent relatives.

Obesity, diabetes, ‘toxic stress’, and many forms of cancer have such a clear link to poverty that these ought not to be considered as diseases of affluence, but conditions of poverty in the same way that rickets, tuberculosis and infant malnutrition were to the deprived and exploited labouring classes of the 19th century. (Source: http://roarmag.org/2014/03/neoliberal-capitalism-anxiety-depression-insecurity/)