Posts Tagged ‘Photo-Op’

Essay Subject

The Capitalist paradigm (a neo-feudal culture derived from advanced capitalism) and mass schizophrenia.

Introduction (just some highlights)

The proposed contextual study will relate to my praxis and the links between the capitalist paradigm (a neo-feudal culture derived from advanced western capitalism) and mass schizophrenia or, dualistic version of reality. This is expanded upon in Chapter 2.

I have chosen three contemporary works of art to discuss by Marcus Harvey (b. Leeds, England, 1963-) and, the collaboration kennardphillipps consisting Peter Kennard (b. London, 1949-) and Cat Picton-Phillipps (b. Scotland, 1972-).Each artist creates very different artworks to one another but observed together they reflect a response to the controversy surrounding social manipulation by corporate media and also portray iconic figures of British society of the late twentieth century. The artist’s responses are executed through large-scale reproductions of appropriated images and attempt to provoke political impact, strong emotions, or outrage in the viewer and to get the viewer to think about corporate and media power over society and advanced capitalist culture.

In the 2013 budget speech, Chancellor George Osbourne (b. England, 1971) repeatedly used the phrase aspiration nation. This idea comes from the conviction politics, economics and social policy of Thatcherism and is a pivotal ideology of Conservative politics.

This aspiration nation is a society that values and fetishizes commodities above all else, as predicted by Karl Marx (b. German, 1818 – 1883, Das Kapital Vol.1, 1867). I expand upon this in Chapter 1.

I chose Myra (fig.2., 1995), as an example of a shocking subject matter that for some has become blasé, for others has become an iconic image to be fetishized and for others still, it holds the power to provoke violent reaction and shock. Harvey produced Myra as a commentary and a means of provoking the obsessive nature of British tabloid media as he thought that the photograph was used irresponsibly. Harvey said, “I would actually like it to fuck their day up.” (Hattenstone S., The Guardian, Saturday 21 February 2009 (see Appendix 1, Appendix 6 and fig.6.).

My third chosen artwork also features Tony Blair and also relates back to twentieth century British politics, culture, history and identity. Photo-Op (fig.3., 2006) is a digital photomontage by kennardphillipps that combines a picture of the grinning former Prime Minister Tony Blair taking a self-portrait on a mobile phone, originally from the 2005 general election campaign, with a separate image of a blazing oilfield during the Iraq war in 2003. The satire of this image works because it juxtaposes the shock and awe of the second invasion of Iraq in 2003 with the modern cultural selfie phenomena. Shock and awe (technically known as rapid dominance) is a military doctrine based on the use of overwhelming power and spectacular displays of force to destroy and paralyze an adversary’s will to fight. The doctrine was devised in 1996 by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade and is a product of the United States National Defense University.

Photo-Op (fig.3., 2006) has previously been exhibited at Tate Britain and was recently described by The Guardian (Jones, October 2013) as “the definitive work of art about the Iraq war”. It is currently shown at The Imperial War Museum (IWM) in Manchester in Catalyst: Contemporary Art and War exhibition (2013) where two exhibition corporate sponsors controversially withdrew it as the main publicity image. This action by CBS OUTDOOR links into my proposition concerning neo-feudalism and is argued in Chapter 3.

Another key aspect of this essay is the use of art as a weapon for activism, influenced by artist George Grosz (b. German, 1893 – 1959) of the 1920s Neue Sachlichkeit and German Dadaist art movements. Grosz said:

I consider any art pointless if it did not put itself at the disposal of political struggle […] my art was to be my gun and my sword. Pens without purpose are empty straws! (Gayford, 1997, Spectator, 45 (

As an example of Grosz’s work I have chosen Pillars of Society (fig.4., 1926) because I find the artist’s statement very powerful. Grosz was known for his acidic caricatures of political figures featuring priests, politicians, lawyers and soldiers (a paradigm of the powerful) of the 1920s German Weimar republic and he was pressurised and threatened with death by the Nazis (Zeller, Grove Art Online, Oxford University Press, 2009). The historical root of both Maggie (fig.1., 2009) and Photo-Op (fig.3., 2006) may be traced to the use of acidic political caricatures. Grosz’s statement also links to “the visual arm of protest” and the support of the use of art for activism by kennardphillipps. Maggie itself became a centre of a scandal because of, among other reasons, the Harvey’s use of casts of dildos that are meant to symbolise “the cocks that surrounded her” (Hattenstone, 2009).

Maggie (fig.1., 2009) visualizes the morbid fetishism of contemporary iconography. It reveals itself in two stages – at a distance and up close, when it literally reveals new dimensions. The dildos become reminiscent of cruise missiles. The artwork becomes a sexualised, machine-like, totem of the surreal power of libido.

This contextual study also links the findings of philosophers, sociologists and psychologists who have written about advanced capitalist culture effecting mental health.

Carefully researched passages from Das Kapital Vol.1 (Marx, 1876) are a basis of this essay, along with the books; Walter Benjamin (b. German, 1892 – 1940) The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1934), Herbert Marcuse (b. German, 1898 – 1979), Eros and Civilisation: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (1955) and, Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society (1964).

I have further referred to pages dealing The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, from the final chapter of the book co-written by Theodor Adorno, (b. German, 1903-69) and Max Horkheimer (b. German, 1895–1973) in Dialectic of Enlightenment (2002). References to other literature have emerged during research for my practice that include; the notion of the commodity trap by Guy Debord (b. France, 1931-94) in The Society of the Spectacle (1967) and, the explanation of contemporaneity (see Chapter 2) inJean Baudrillard’s (b. France, 1929 – 2007) book Simulacra and Simulation (Simulacres et Simulation, 1994).

I have chosen all of these texts to inform my overview of Marxism and social history of art in the period. They work as references to my introductory statement that advanced western capitalism is a neo-feudal economic pyramid, whose policies and ideologies have lead to a form of mass schizophrenia (see Chapter 2) within society. Western culture is dominated by mass production and subsequent fetishism of commodities Marx (1876). I will describe commodity fetishism and it’s origins next in Chapter 1.



“capitalism” – newspeak/double talk for neo feudalism. there is no free market..

I recently wrote an essay with a chapter that dealt with the subject of neo-feudalism, commodity fetishism and the mass schizophrenia / cognitive dissonance found in advanced western society. And how my selected artists dealt with this.

neo feudal pyramid

neo feudal pyramid

In 1958, Harvard social commentator John K. Galbraith (b. Canada 1908 – 2006), wrote The Affluent Society. He was one of the first authors to use the term neo-feudalism.

It challenged traditional attitudes towards western economics, and for that it was hated and shunned by wealthy conservatives. (Johnson G., May 2010, Huffington Post).

Briefly, neo-feudalism is; “a concept in which political policies are designed to systematically increase the wealth gap between rich and poor, simultaneously increasing the power of the rich over the poor.” (Johnson, 2010)

Those policies can be seen today by the fact that earned income is taxed at a higher rate than unearned income, and the reduction of inheritance tax and higher rate tax. Other examples are difficult to measure but no less visible, such as white-collar, financial criminals receiving a slap on the wrist, while the poor proletariat feel the full force of law.

Western political leaders such as Tony Blair, have taken their countries to wars, for example in Iraq, on the premise of threats from weapons of mass destruction that have been uncovered as completely false and were used to enforce regime change in foreign lands and take resources such as oil and gas fields by force and these political leaders have escaped any punishment or reprimand.

Tony Blair has gone on to amass great personal wealth and his business interests around the world are booming (Mendick R., The Telegraph, 4th January, 2013).

The advanced capitalist culture is a system with two sets of rules, one for the very rich; another one for the rest of us, and that is the definition of neo-feudalism.

The reaction of CBS Outdoor to kennardphillipps’ Photo-Op (2006) demonstrates the power of a foreign corporate sponsor over a British establishment such as the Imperial War Museum (IWM).

It demonstrates the power of a neo-feudal economic pyramid, whose globalist economic policies and ideologies have lead to a form of cognitive dissonance effecting modern western culture. Shortly before the show opened, IWM informed the artists that the companies who own the advertising space, CBS Outdoor and JCDecaux, were refusing to allow the IWM to use the artwork in the advertising on any of their sites. (kennardphillipps, New Statesman online, 22 October 2013). As the corporate advertisers own the majority of advertising sites in Manchester – a government report from 2011 cited 50-70 per cent of all British outdoor advertising sites – the IWM were forced to scrap the entire campaign along with lead image Photo-Op (2006) and choose an image more to the corporate sponsors’ liking.

The reason CBS Outdoor gave to the IWM was that; “they will not run anything deemed to be political nor involving explosions on public transport media” (kennardphillipps, 2013).

However, during this period, CBS Outdoor were running an advertising campaign in the London Underground, where all advertising space is licensed to this company, of a poster for Frederick Forsyth’s latest book, Kill List, which blatantly depicts a drone, an unmanned armed aircraft, flying out of a fiery explosion, firing missiles in the viewers’ direction. The image runs with the strapline: “IDENTIFY. LOCATE. DESTROY.”

A plane, excuse the pun, example then of corporate double standards and deliberate deceptiveness.