Threnody of Empathy {You’re A Slave To Money Then You Die}

Why call this “Threnody Of Empathy”?

A threnody is a song, hymn or poem of mourning composed or performed as a memorial to a dead person. When I mentioned this in a tutorial presentation I had nothing but blank stares… Senior lecturers included. (I’d appreciate feedback – Diolch!) The rhythm of the title of this artwork I’ve created reminds me, and I suppose is an homage to, the song Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve from the album A Northern Soul, which got me through one of the roughest patches of my life thus far.

The ground for the artwork is a found object I rescued from the skips of a Cardiff reprographics company which produces marketing pop ups for customers such as University’s recruiting campaigns and Welsh government departments, now defunct or re-branded.
I have reused this banner after using it as a development artwork which I named “Recovery Position” or “Recovery from My Perspective”.
I have retained part of my development stage artwork as a shadow or silhouette behind the main image.
The main theme of this fits in with my meta-narrative that I have used from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation study on modern anxiety and the perception of modern everyday evils / societal ills and Corporate Greed, and the creed of the city and financial hedge-funder, the city banker.

Given the subject matter I intentionally wanted to imbue the artwork with a theatrical and wry humour.

Some Background:

A recent study showed that 4/5ths of UK GDP comes from ‘financial services’. The service sector dominates the UK economy, contributing around 78% of GDP, with the financial services industry particularly important. London is the world’s largest financial centre and has the largest city GDP in Europe. The financial services industry of the United Kingdom contributed a gross value of £86,145 million to the UK economy in 2004 alone. The industry employed around 1.2 million people in the third quarter of 2012 (around 4% of the British workforce). The estimated amount of total taxes paid by the Financial Services Sector in the year to 31 March 2012 is £63bn, 11.6% of the total UK government tax receipts.

“Everything’s not awesome…”

Too big to fail? Too big to jail – In December 2012 the British bank HSBC was fined $1.9 billion by US regulators for laundering hundreds of $billions worth of drug money for Mexican cartels, deliberately bypassing US sanctions on countries like Libya, Iran, Sudan and Burma and conducting business with institutions with links to terrorism.

RBS bank lost £46,000, 000,000,000 but awarded a fund of £570,000,000 in bonuses this year! How is giving people millions of pounds in bonuses to LOSE OUR money fair? In any other business, in any other job, you’d be fired.

Visual Inspiration:

My inspiration came from taking my youngest son to see the recent Lego: The Movie and being nagged and pestered to take him to the McD*n*ld’s on the way home (this kills me, anyone who knows me well knows how handing money over to this particular franchise kills me!).

My cultural inspiration:

The Lego character mask came readymade from the burger franchise movie tie-in, I embellished it to look almost Dr Who-Cyberman-like with gold spectacles on a chain and a loo-blue for the helmet. The image of the man is intentionally drawn in perspective to make it appear taller. I used acrylics and iridescent acrylic… and coffee.

My artistic inspiration:

comes from artists Robert Longo and Andreas Ruthi. Robert Longo (1953) is an American painter and sculptor. His “Men in the Cities” is a series depicting sharply dressed men and women writhing in contorted emotion. They were used in album covers, as a subject for New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” music video shot by Longo himself, and even displayed in the apartment of fictional character “Patrick Bateman” in the film American Psycho – this was the break that gave the artist the status of a popular icon in the early 80′s, though he progressively lost his way as a visual artist by the mid 80′s. The idea for this series came to Longo originally in 1975 after looking at a still image in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film The American Soldier. After four years the artist began photographing his friends lurching backward, collapsing forward or sprawled on invisible pavement. He then enlarged the pictures through a projector and, with the aid of his assistants, drew them with graphite clay in sizes ranging from three-quarter scale to larger than life-size. 60 drawings were produced between 1979 and 1982, one of which appeared in the cover of Glenn Branca‘s album “The Ascension“. Andreas Ruthi is one of my visiting tutors. A well known artist in his own right.

I have also been heavily influenced by Kennardphillipps aka Cat Phillipps and Peter Kennard – Fuck The Markets. For the 2013 exhibition entitled Blue Murder; the show investigates the decline of the welfare state in the UK, a rather topical subject in our current climate.

My Evaluation

Perhaps this artwork is really about the deeper debts we owe to one another?
a deeper bankruptcy: an insolvency of character, spirit, ethic, purpose, and above all, wisdom.

Our best chance to heal our broken world might just be a series of revolutions — economic, industrial, social, political… each starts with tiny awakenings — personal, professional, ethical, intellectual.

Creating a better future is going to take what it’s always taken. And that’s not political leaders concerned with “winning”, the future isn’t a game…

Value isn’t just denominated in today’s pounds and petro-dollars…
Worth is measured in meaning.