Do we produce our own identity, or is it something we’re labelled with? And how long can we manipulate our identity before it succumbs to our surrounding influences, for better or worse?
Editor Nick Thompson email@example.com
It’s in our nature to cultivate an identity that satisfies our own ego more than others. They say, for instance, there is no such thing as a selfless act. Actually I think that was from Friends, but the point’s valid. Anyway, inevitably if left untempered, the ego takes over, destroying the identity it once craved. Then we have a hyper-connected world of social networks where we constantly negotiate massaging our own egos with some reasoned sycophancy. It’s a fascinating playing field that has taken on very different dimensions of late.
Sub Editor Jonathan Bright Fashion Director Sara Darling firstname.lastname@example.org Digital Developer Joe Barbour email@example.com
The heart of our work at 55factory is to study people’s identity. And their egos. So, for issue 5 we delve into identity perceived through creations. Some artists bare all, some distort or recreate their identities, and some avoid displaying any identity at all. Which is an identity in itself. Ouch, headfuck.
Designer Harry Sabine Design Consultant Amy Yuen Art Editor Christopher George
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Music Editor Nick Thompson Writers Kate Lawson Sam Roberts Sam Carter Jonathan Bright Sara Darling Christopher Sims Nick Thompson
Contributing Fashion Editor Shyla Hassan Contributing Music Editor Samuel Smart Technical Consultant Demir Sayiner Marketing Lois Spencer-Tracey Publishing Director Christopher George Digital Publishing Director Joe Barbour Publishing Manager Nick Thompson
Creative Director Christopher George firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover Credits Jenny Maxwell from Strangefruit Photographer - Christopher Sims Makeup - Monika Swiatek Dress - Georgia Hardinge Necklace - Maria Zureta 55factory 55 Holmes Road, Kentish Town London NW5 3AN 020 3286 8558
Interview - Kate Lawson Photo - Christopher Sims Model - Simon @ Established
T-shirt designer, Brian Lichtenberg’s ‘Homies’ may have been riding the fashion wave this year, but another label has landed on Planet Fashion, forging ahead with its slogan and motif tops. Founded by British designer Simeon Farrar, in 2012, Blackscore has become the go-to label for its collection of vests and tees, which champion logo irony with their mash-up of social commentary on popular culture - fusing fashion, music and art. From slogans such as ‘Dior is Dope’, to illustrations like ‘A$AP Pu$$y’, Black Score has captured the fash-pack’s attention and earned itself celebrity followers including number one fan Cara Delevingne, as well as Poppy Delevingne, Rita Ora, Kelly Brooke and US supermodel Jenny Shimizu. Kate Lawson met up with the designer to talk models, misfits and punk yo! So tell us about Black Score. Where did the idea originate? “Black Score is basically a label that comes from the same weird side of my brain that created ‘Kate Mouse’ (the T-shirt from the SS11 Collection). I wanted to start a label that didn’t need to conform to anything. I have all these ideas that aren’t really connected to anything and so don’t fit in with the mainline. Black Score is really a place for these misfit ideas. The aesthetic of the label really started out trying to be reminiscent of DIY punk bands who made their own record sleeves, flyers and t-shirts. That’s why its strictly black and white, like everything’s been done on a photocopier.” What message are you trying to communicate with the label? “It’s making a comment on what’s doing the rounds at the moment. It’s supposed to be a real stream of consciousness type thing, where any idea or opinion that pops up gets put on to a t-shirt. As if we’d invented a machine that automatically made a t-shirt of any idea that came into my head. It’s a bit like the Staypuff Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. Whatever you think of will appear. When you look at our Instagram feed you see that it’s one big bubbling cauldron of seemingly disassociated references and ideas.” Do you think you’ll expand the line into other
garments or accessories?
“At the moment I would say no. I like it being really simple. The more we add to it the slower we can react to things. I think brands tend to expand too quickly and in the process they change the essence of what they were about. We’re still really new so I want to run with this vibe for a while. When you look at a rail of Black Score it really looks like the stream of consciousness that it’s intended to be. I’m thinking of expanding the range into sweatshirts and hats maybe, but not for a while.” The label obviously draws a lot of its influences from music culture - how important is music to you when you’re creating, and what do you listen to? “Music is the backbone of Black Score. It started out full of music and skateboarding references but has evolved into more than that now, but music is still the driving force. Every day on Instagram we do this thing called Black Score Lyrics, which is a drawing of a particular lyric that I like that day. We never say who the song is by, so people have to raid their memory and guess it. I’d love that if I saw it. Music is always playing here in the studio and it’s really varied. A lot of Led Zeppelin, Smiths, Beastie
Models, Misfits and Punks Boys, Sonic Youth, Pearl Jam, Katrina And The Waves, you know, the usual.” Define the importance of fashion, music and art on one another? “Nowadays there’s very little to separate all of them. They define culture. I think it’s a great thing that there’s such a culture for crossover. That’s the way creativity should spread – no boundaries. They all inform each other and have been doing for quite some time. I love the way your music tastes define the clothes you wear. Music has that power like nothing else. But then again, if you can’t keep up with all those three you need Black Score. We provide the world with a round up of what’s hot and what’s not. Public service yo!” blackscore.co.uk kate-lawson.com christophersims.com establishedmodels.com
Interview - Christopher George
DAVID SHILLINGLAW WE MEET UP WITH ARTIST DAVID SHILLINGLAW AT HIS STUDIO IN THE REACHES OF NORTH LONDON’S BARNET. I’M NOT AFRAID TO SAY THAT, THROUGH EXPERIENCE, BARNET HOUSES A CERTAIN STYLE OF CHARACTER AND SHILLINGLAW’S BY NO MEANS LACKING IN THIS CHARM.
It’s been over 10 years since he graduated from Central Saint Martins and his work has been exhibited around the globe from New York to China, Berlin to Istanbul. Returning from Gambia after a second trip, where Shillinglaw has been working creatively in the community with other artists. It seems that a transient life is second nature to him. We are greeted by his cat loitering on the fire escape of a daunting industrial four-storey warehouse block. David’s studio is on the top floor, accessible only by a gated relic of a lift. While he makes some herbal tea I take a nose around the large studio, with several rooms, where he also lives. Miles Davis “A Kind of Blue” plays, and a mixture of images and posters from Bowie to Margaret Thatcher adorn the kitchen wall. I am instantly sure he’s a hoarder, knowing the signs well. A car bonnet is propped against the walls. An old piano sits with its inners missing and empty bottles have been methodically repainted. It’s almost obsessive. The scattering of bones, body parts, stones and other objects dating back years, as the sun blazes through the industrial iron-frame windows, are almost comforting. We were first introduced months earlier and I was charmed and also intrigued by Shillinglaw. He has a great ability to command interest in himself and, at the same time, capture you with an energy, which seems ready to bubble over into some object of oddity at any given moment. With his work so revered in the art world and an infamous persona not far behind this, I wanted to delve more into who David Shillinglaw actually is. A self-proclaimed admirer of Basquiat, Haring and the New York scene, you can see where his style has had seeds of growth; however along with his accommodating personality, there’s a hint of unease keeping the conversation slightly on edge. Is this an influence taken from the ‘80s New York art scene, or is it Shillinglaw himself? Going from line drawing to painted objects, Shillinglaw would say his style is best described as a remix. “I take what I really, really love, put them in a
blender - which is my brain - then hopefully come up with something that’s original.
“I take influence from all around me. Music, especially jazz is a big influence, along with film. I have just been reading about Genghis Khan who wasn’t considered an artist. He was a great guy. Well, he was actually a really bad guy, but he was clever and inventive. There are people in history that really blow my mind because of their eccentricity. I like these big characters in life that were pioneers and inventive.” As I ask him about his work relating to the human condition, he jolts his head to the right and gives me an intense stare as if he is about to re-question me on my motives, disapprove of me or possibly just laugh. I’m not sure if he is actually decided on this himself, and reading from this odd angle I wonder what reaction I’ll enjoy. “Well that’s a very broad term, and I say that to describe what I’m interested in. A lot of art is about the artist – particularly abstract impressionism. The human condition and emotion, the experience we have; the art is an extension of that. Whereas I’m totally influenced by pop art also, which is almost opposite. It’s not about the artist, but about popular culture, the mundane and making it extraordinary. I like to think my work takes the emotion and the struggle and then mixes it with things like Tabasco or a Coca Cola can, get it? “I don’t think my works are just about the human condition, that’s too broad. All these abstract emotions like love that we all feel are also extremely personal, I mix with objects that we all recognise as visual items and not abstract emotions. “I want everyone to get my work, from a 5-year-old child to my 95-year-old Nan. But I also want it to be a mystery that needs to be discovered.” One can see firsthand Shillinglaw’s mix of non-traditional materials and objects employed in innovative combinations, hence the car bonnet propped against the wall just waiting patiently for its stage call. I question him on the objects scattered around the studio. With an almost dismissive manner he informs me some objects have been lying around for years.
“I’ll do something with them one day.” He shows an emotional attachment to the objects he has collected without wanting to make it obvious. With such overflowing energy, almost to the point of distress I ask him about what it is ‘to be alive’ in his eyes. “Um, it’s a combination of problem-solving and pleasure-seeking. On one side you have your bills, receipts, bad back, things weighing you down, and on the other side the things you’re looking forward to. You’ve got to accept the good, the bad and the ugly. Acceptance is halfway to happiness.“ I ask him is working on a lot of projects at the same time a necessity for his happiness? “It’s not really a choice. I have deadlines and I’m over ambitious with my time. I go off on a tangent a lot and I’m learning to use that as a skill rather than something that holds me back. I trust that spontaneous reaction going from A to B and something distracting me that creates something else. Trusting that opportunity is
right. It’s not really a choice, more of a habit I’ve got into. It’s about getting as much into my time as possible.“
But is that more about getting as much as possible into one’s life rather than one’s time? “I believe in having a manifestation of future: if you think about it enough and discuss it outwardly it will eventually happen. I have a list of things to do today, for instance. Six before you arrived and I haven’t done any of them yet. I did do the washing up, however, and I hadn’t planned to do that! I went to bed this morning at 4.30 and set my alarm for 9. I didn’t get up till 11.“ But does he beat himself up about timing? “Constantly! Every night I fire myself and every day I re-hire myself. But ultimately, I love what I do and the job I have created for myself, so I can’t beat myself up too much.” What about having time to yourself? “I’m not good! I went on a holiday last year to Greece just before I had a big show and also a book that was being published. The island had no internet or even cars. In my mind I was thinking: ‘This is going to be great. Just relax.’ Well that just didn’t sit with me. I’m not good at relaxing. So downtime I don’t really do. Never not working is one of my mantras.“ Do you believe in luck or fate? “Is there a difference? I like the word ‘serendipity’ myself. Things lead to other things and often it takes time to lead to goals via chance meetings at, say, a private opening. I believe you make things happen, but there is a lot that can go wrong in between. At university I believed the most important tool you have before paint, or a camera, or a piano, is choice. There’s always you and your choice, and then there’s always the option that it may go right or wrong.“ As I ask him whether he ever detaches himself from David Shillinglaw, he lowers his head and reclines back in the chair. He gives a smirk and an amused sigh. “I saw my brother and his new baby yesterday. That wasn’t about me. I work and live in the same place, so it’s difficult. I try to detach, but I work as myself and that surrounds me. I don’t
work as an alias. Being an artist is a weird job. It is your identity and I can understand why some people want to keep their identity a secret. My real name has become not a million miles away from a brand and that’s something I didn’t think about 10 years ago. If I’m honest, sometimes I wish I could or should detach a little bit more, but I find it hard. Travelling is a detachment for me: different languages and understanding each other, strange locations I’m unaware of. There’s a weird kind of comfort to travelling because often it’s not physically comfortable. But waking up in a new city, with new people and in new environments somehow really relaxes me.” So is Shillinglaw always optimistic with work, or does a pessimistic side push one further as an artist?
“If I’m going to be honest, yes. It’s not pessimistic, but rather a desire to do really well. I try not to be too comfortable. There’s always room for change and pushing something. It’s hard as a painter with what I do. When it fits, it’s just right, but then there’s this constant search for it to click into place. I have a constant negotiation with myself so I don’t say yes to everything I do. Sometimes there are moments when I really hate what I do, but I come back to it the next day and I’m like ‘wow!’ Accidents that have happened back up the choices I make and it’s a constant negotiation. It’s good to have things you hate because it identifies what you love. If you love everything there’s no editing process. A lot of my work is editing, adding and taking away. I’ll spend a week painting something and then I’ll cover it up. I trust in both the love and the hate relationship.”
Interview - Sara Darling Illustration - Achraf Amiri
DESERVEDLY AWARDED AN OBE FOR SERVICES TO FASHION IN THE 2012 QUEEN’S NEW YEAR HONOURS LIST, BARBARA HULANICKI IS RECOGNISED AS A BRITISH FASHION ICON. Her career began in the early 1960s. Working as a freelance fashion illustrator she covered all the important fashion collections for the major publications of the day, including Women’s Wear Daily, British Vogue, The Times, The Observer and The Sunday Times. In 1964, she founded the boutique Biba with her late husband, Stephen Fitz-Simon, launching her into the public eye. I was lucky enough to have a chat to Barbara about Miami, growing up in Brighton, inventing new fashion and keeping a social circle of rock stars, including Ronnie Wood and Island Records boss, Chris Blackwell. Moving from Poland to Brighton as a child, she was keen to begin a career in fashion, and she got her break when she flew the nest and moved to London. After starting in fashion illustration, she was headhunted (if such an expression existed in those days) by Felicity Green from the Mirror, who commissioned her to make a dress for 25 shillings. This was no mean feat: “Have you ever tried to buy more than ten yards of gingham?” Soon, however, she and her husband had made friends with the manufacturers and the designs took off, kick-starting the mail-order phenomenon. Fond memories and lots of sleepless nights followed: “17,000 dresses, one size, one colour: that was everyone’s dream!” Not long after, the infamous Biba store was launched on Kensington High Street. Filled with Barbara’s original designs, it was seen as the first place to buy unique and fast moving creations. There were no such things as stylists in those days. Regular customers rubbed shoulders with celebrities who used to come in and dress themselves. It became a popular hangout for The Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithful and David Bowie. Barbara recalls fondly that there was no such
thing as gifting or freebies then. The store was always full of presenters and pop stars: “especially Cathy McGowan, and all the Ready Steady Go people,” alongside the local fashionistas. They all brought their own make-up and shoes, dolling up before the shows and clubs opened. More than a boutique, Biba was the place to be seen. It was a good job Barbara worked with her husband; the long hours would have taken their marital toll otherwise. The Biba store flourished in London and so the pair took the concept to Brazil, where they exported T-shirts for six years. It was there Barbara bumped into Biba regular, Ronnie Wood. He had bought a building in Miami and wanted to turn it into a club and hotel, and asked Barbara if she would design the interior. She’d had zero training in interior design, but loved a challenge, and thought ‘why not?’ “The idea of going to live in the sun for two years sounded like a great idea! Two years later, we were still there and never left!” With an international perspective on fashion and design and five decades in the business, Barbara’s views on the industry are constantly evolving. Interestingly, she declares her favourite decade is now. Her opinion of designers is different, whether appreciating them for their work or liking them personally, she is a lot more broad-minded working for other people. Notably, Barbara says she’s learnt to let go of her trademark black. Quite the step. Still dutifully designing, she bases herself now between Miami and London. She returns to the UK every six weeks to work on her George at Asda range. She is also developing her own fashion label and it is her aim to build up a mini-store for t-shirts, sarongs, glamorous pyjamas and nightwear - modern stuff, though, not cheesy. She will also start doing men’s t-shirts too – “t-tops” as Barbara puts it – and extra large “Shop till you drop” canvas bags. “I’m terribly into matchy-matchy now. It’s all coming back from the ‘60s!” Well, it was certainly a decade to remember.
Photographer: Christopher Sims Stylist: Shyla Hassan
Cassy Dress - Ruby Rocks Cardigan - Sand Belt - Fiorentini & Baker Shoes - Finsk Socks - Stylists Own James Coat - Kaushal Niraula Cardigan - Levis Strauss Denim Shirt - Replay Trousers - Woolrich Shoes - Hudson Glasses - Cutler & Gross Belt - Collective Noun Oscar Jacket - Ruff & Huddle Jeans - Bench
Makeup: Candy Alderson using Shiesido Hair: Francesca Morris @ The Lounge Producer/Photo Assistant: Nick Thompson Stylist Assistants: Sofia Telles and Magdalena Taborska-Crowther Models: James Kirkpatrick @AMCK, Cassy K @Milk Management and Oscar Post Production: 55factory Title design: Joe Barbour Location thanks to Adam and Daniel
Coat - M Missoni Necklace - Imogen Belfield
James Coat - Billionaire Italian Couture T-shirt - Flying Horse Pants - Calvin Klein Glasses - Cutler & Gross Bracelets - Gina Stewart Cox Boots - Ice Iceberg Socks - Toast
Cassy Cardigan - 2Nd Day Sandals - Pinucci Swim suit - We Are Handsome Brass ring - Love Bullets Necklace - Love Bullets Bracelet - Hannah Warner
Jeans - Levis Jumper - Iro Shoes - Oliver Sweeney
Trousers - Plectrum T-shirt - Euphorik Bracelets - Gina Stewart Cox
Cardigan - Plectrum Pants - Euphorik T-shirt - Black Score Trainers - Converse @ Surfdome
James (opposite) Cardigan- rcld denm by Scotch Trousers - Bike Repair Shop T shirt - Simeon Farrar Brogues - Oliver Sweeney Socks - Toast Belt - Collective Noun
Cassy T shirt - Iro Cardigan - Edwin Jeans - Maison Scotch Shoes - Finsk Necklace - Pranella
Jumper - DAY Birger et Mikkelsen Scarf - Beyond Retro Glasses - Miu Miu
James Jacket - Parka London Trousers - Supremebeing Shoes - Hudson Oscar T shirt - Black Score Womenâ€™s Cardigan - Replay Jeans - Bench
Jumper - Sinstar Watch- STORM
Cassy Rain Coat - Pretaportobello Gold Top- Vita Gottlieb Tights- Oroblu Chain Bracelet- The Great Frog Oscar Pants- His Own
Jumper - Pepe Jeans
Jacket - Ruff & Huddle Jeans - Bench
Dress - Eley Kishimoto 55 Necklace - Enelle London Head Scarf - Beyond Retro
Thomas Raat Interview - Jonathan Bright
THOMAS RAAT IS AN ARTIST. HE JUST DOESN’T GET ALL MUSHY ABOUT IT. “THERE’S AN EMOTIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH ART THAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO HAVE. BUT I DON’T FEEL LIKE THIS CREATIVE INDIVIDUAL MAKING ART. I SEE MYSELF AS MORE AN OBSERVER, AS A JOURNALIST. INSTEAD OF WRITING AN ESSAY, I MAKE SOMETHING VISUAL.” The young conceptual artist was born in the old Dutch university town of Leiden and to say that Raat benefited from his home’s illustrious painting dynasty, which includes Rembrandt in its ranks, is an understatement. The pernicious potency of works he was privy to every day – on display in the museum and even in his painter uncle’s workshop – gave Raat his inherent sense and modus operandi from a very early age. He saw very quickly that art was powerful; a power he felt nevertheless to be artificial. It was eerie and mesmerising, but rather than emotionally attach himself to such power, he found himself desperately wanting to unravel the mystery. Raat explains that as child he was particularly struck by Godfried Schalken’s work, on display in the local museum. Schalken was a 17th century portrait painter, who specialised in recreating the effect of candlelight. “This guy makes super-small miniature paintings. There’s one of a girl holding a candle, for example, very spooky and very real. It fucked me up when I was young. But I try to stand back and realise ‘this is not real’. It’s like the most beautiful thing in the world and it’s an experience I have to unmask, because I don’t believe it. In retrospect, I realise this moment was very important for my art now.” In many ways, it was like wanting to be behind the camera of an affecting horror film. It wasn’t enough to be scared; he needed to know why, and how. He began to study, as he explains, the grammar and the functionality of art. Just how does an image become that powerful? “A couple of months after my graduation in 2001, I decided to stop painting with the idea of a white canvas and me as an artist creating
a new image. I avoided expression into which emotion was put in.
“I developed an interest in the grammar of painting. I flirted with the idea of conceptual artists, imitating the gesture of painting, and I developed an analytical approach to painting functions, not painting words. Instead of trying to make something new I was working with imagery that was already there.” So there’s a lot left open to interpretation? “It’s easy to say that art is only valid when the spectator is completely into what the concept artist’s mood is trying to achieve. There’s a lot of sides to how an image functions and that’s what my work is all about.” This ideal manifests itself boldly in his work, which don’t indulge Raat the person. For example, the exhibitions “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” and “An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth”, which included such stark works as “Corporations in Crisis” (a, quite literally, graphical illustration of the financial crash). These are broad, topical subjects, framed by ying and yang, perhaps the balanced opinion of the independent observer? “I like to think so. I try to unmask certain dogmas. These are social experiences. The titles enable everyday people to get a hold of the moment. There’s a social demographic aspect to it. The titles try to explain the huge issues in life, dealing from mathematics to sociology to psychology, philosophy, that sort of thing. And also the relationship between these things: the big thoughts, the big questions. “The last series I did was based on my research into modernism. I tried to unmask this brief moment that was very influential.” Raat’s inherent appreciation for the power of contemporary art comes from a fascination with modernism. Born of the jubilant, postWorld War I era in the roaring ‘20s, the age of modernism was instrumental in defining the designs and artistic techniques of today. The basis for such decadent revolutions as Art Deco, the ideals of course repeated after World War II. But Raat isn’t interested in the emotion, the joy that set those wheels in motion. Artistically, it was a means to an end. “I don’t try to focus on [modernism’s] origins or icons. I like the idea of its momentum – a
“Exactly. That’s how strange it is.” Raat studies the functionality of art like mechanics do an engine. Aspects like symmetry, mirroring, repetition and geometry are important mechanisms, all ticking over. “I like to flirt with how an image works. One simple trick to make an image exciting is the use of symmetry. I just did a whole show based on mirroring and uses of symmetry, and tried to make a link between the use of ornaments.” With this in mind, the show employed a great deal of African and Far Eastern influences, using geometrically intricate tapestries. “It’s just a simple method to trick the eye to make the image work.” Which perhaps goes right back to the fundamentals of art: that something is made aesthetically pleasing? “Definitely. It’s very deliberate. My work is deliberately nicely painted with the best paint. It’s very important to make the image as convincing as possible. I act as an artist, but I wouldn’t even go that far. I basically flirt. I think people sometimes think it’s a bit self-indulgent.” slipstream movement that came from a flash in the pan of high spirits. “After the Second World War there was this space, a time for artists, especially designers, to apply this new language. It’s not this introverted artistic exploration, it’s actually very visible. What I find very interesting is that something that begins as an experiment becomes a convention.” Perhaps the same could be said today of social media. Twitter was a social experiment borne of the question ‘what if everyone expressed themselves in 140 characters?’ In a world of super-connectivity, the idea defied convention, and then became convention. Now we wouldn’t imagine a world without it and the breadth of Twitter’s power remains a boundary being pushed.
How ironic. “Haha, yeah! It’s because I’m making these nice-looking, super-soft-form images. It’s a trick of the eye. They’re fooled by the aesthetics so it takes a while to find the hidden layers, but that goes back to the original point that there’s not one distinct way of reading my work given the conceptual foundations that I work from. That said, I make visual art and I do shows. If you like it, you like it, if you don’t, you don’t.” In dealing with the mechanisms of art, Raat also delves into where he feels art falters. The raw power of its beauty requires responsible handling, and for that reason, art, religion and politics simply cannot mix. “Well, not in my world. I’m a very deliberate
visual artist. I’m interested in how art functions in the visual sense and how people relate to that on a bigger scale. I’m not interested in the foundation of modernism, or the idea of modernism that art and real life should mix. I’m interested in how it’s actually functioning. “I don’t think you should use art as a tool. If you do, fair enough, but it’s a different world.” Raat is quite clear on his definition of art, and implementation of emotion for him is restrictive. But is this one of art’s fundamental flaws? “No artist ever goes wrong. I’m a very liberal person and I want everybody to be able to do what they want as long as I’m able to do what I want. But apart from that I think you could say the problem with art is – if you can call it a problem – is at the same time the most beautiful thing in the world.” So, what does the future hold for Thomas Raat? “Well I’m looking for a proper studio! At the beginning of this year I was in Africa to do a residency, invited by Meschac Gaba. Yesterday Meschac opened a show at the Tate Modern; he’s a very famous African artist and he’s setting up a residency. I went and set up the last show there – the symmetry thing – using non-Western sculptures and that kind of thing. I came back and was working in these tiny shitty studios, so I’m looking for a big place. Then I’m doing a show in Zurich and I’m doing a project in Moscow where I’m designing furniture for a temporary cafe.” A pop-up café? “Yeah. Er, actually it’s called ‘Pop-Up Café’. I’ll be designing the interior. It’s because this year is a celebration of, don’t ask me how much, but I think a 50-year relationship with
the Netherlands. Russia’s had a lot of cultural exchanges with us.
“Then a friend of mine I’ll be meeting, actually after here, is doing a show at the ANDOR Gallery on Hackney Road. I did a show with him a couple of years ago and we’ll be doing a new show soon. I love East London; it’s amazing. I lived here for a while between 2005 and 2008 and things have changed over the years. This time I’ve just been catching up with friends.” He sips his pint. “Oh, and drinking.” Painting the town red. Functionally.
Interview - Nick Thompson Photos - Christopher Sims Stylist: Lisa Nicolaou
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Yellow jacket: Bench Blue jumper: Ben Sherman Watch: Triwa
How did you get started in music? Is Tropics the first musical endeavour that you’ve had? “Tropics is the name I’ve given the whole time I’ve made music. I’ve been Tropics for the last four years. I only chose it because it looked bold on my Myspace (laughs). I suppose it adapted well to the whole chilled out scene, summery music and good vibes.” Your work seems to draw from many different influences. What’s your background and did you grow up listening to purely electronic music or more of a range? “I have really varied influences. When I was quite young I was obsessed with the Beatles and listened to a lot of rock and metal music. I listened to electronic music in the early to mid-nineties. As I got older and became a teenager I got really into the heavier stuff. I think that’s why after that I decided to counteract it by winding down from the heavier stuff to make quite chilled-out music.” You produce on your own but have a live band when you perform. How did this come about? “That’s been something I’ve been pushing ever since I got talking to labels about releasing my music. I said that I had a vision when I was writing these songs for my first album that I would really like to take on the live show and develop a full band situation on stage. I’ve always loved the power of live drums and to be able to go to a show and zone in on what each person is doing. I thought that if I kept producing my music to work towards this live show that it might translate. It didn’t translate so well at first I don’t think, but the more music I’ve made since I’ve been touring has kind of all intertwined now.” Do you record with live instruments as well? “Yeah! I like mixing it all up nowadays using anything and whatever’s in front of me. I’ll always start stuff out on Logic and love experimenting with weird noises and scratchy, bleepy vinyl sounds and then maybe introducing some live drums, underlying piano and electronic synths to that, which is what I’ve been doing recently. I think there is more room in this type of music today than ten years ago to blend everything.” I think your work is quite hard to label. How would you describe it? “I don’t know. I wouldn’t (laughs).” Do you not like it when people try to pigeon hole it? “I feel like I’ve been involved in the scene now for quite a while and at the minute I feel a bit out of touch with what people want to call it: the genres soundcloud.com/tropics christophersims.com lisanicolaou.com
and sub-genres. The most I can hope for is that people understand it and have an affinity with it and get it as much as I do when I’m making it.” How do you feel about the internet playing a role now in how musicians get their work out to a wider audience? Do you think everything’s becoming a bit oversaturated?
“I think it’s become very saturated, yeah. But I think it might be the only real way of getting discovered as a musician or getting your music to the people that you want to be receiving it. One hand washes the other. The more people that are putting their music online on Soundcloud, the more activity they’re getting, the more people out there scouting for it, listening to new music and seeing what blogs are hyping at the time. I think it’s good. Nowadays, if you’re good at something you’re going to get something out of it, whatever it deserves and whatever you want from it. It’s important to have those platforms. Maybe ten years ago it was very different and maybe people had to upload it and get it featured on the right blogs to get noticed. I think it’s also made fans change and evolve because you can really find exactly what you want. People know what they like down to a tee now and what works for them in music.” How do you see things progressing in the future? “I don’t know; it’s hard to say. People all love music and I think this is just it today: the musicians and labels have had to adapt so that they can continue working in the way the industry has changed since the internet came along. People aren’t relying on selling albums and you have other ways of making your money. Artists are doing a lot more shows. And then you have all your followers. That’s what counts for me, as long as I’m happy with the activity and there’s a lot of love for a track, that means more than anything. The last couple of EPs that I’ve done have been quite market-based and it’s something that I’ve not been that used to. When I made my first album on Planet Mu it was very much ‘just put it out there, put it out with a specific blog’, I didn’t think twice about it. The last two I’ve monitored quite a bit and certain bits had to be released at certain times, etc. The next thing I’d like to do is just put a demo out on my Soundcloud. It feels like ages since I’ve uploaded something when I’ve wanted to, or put a track on YouTube with a weird video to go with it, something a bit more spontaneous.” Do you find that being under the control of a label to a certain extent hinders you in any way? “Sometimes when you get really excited about a song you just want to put it out there, and obviously you can, there’s nothing to stop you. Look at what Death Grips are up to (laughs)! It’s a controversial subject to talk about, I like having the platform, seeing how people are reacting
and commenting on Soundcloud. It’s good to have that direct feedback.” Finally, who are you listening to right now, who do you think is exciting? “There’s a track from a guy and a girl from New York going under the name Lion Babe. It’s great; it’s got a very soulful, childlike, Erykah Badu sort of voice. Also a guy I went to see when I was playing at SXSW festival earlier this year called Jesse Boykins III, who’s getting a lot of hype. I think he’s going to be huge, the male Beyonce, at some point!”
Jacket; Scotch & Soda Jumper: Volcom Watch: Triwa Belt: Evisu Jeans: H&M Shoes: Vans
Photographer: Christopher Sims Fashion Director: Sara Darling
Hair Stylist: Francesca Morris @ The Lounge Make Up: Wai Kan using Cosmetics a La Carte Photography Assistant: Nick Thompson Fashion Assistants: Amy Yuen and Daniela Mercuri Models: Laissa Medeiros and Mollie Newton @ PRM Title design: Joe Barbour Post Production and Studio: 55factory Blue patterned top - Ivana Pilja Rings x 2 - KG & Co Gold cuffs - Lola Rose Earrings - Sorapol
Orange leather skirt - Qulit Multi colour top - Ziggy Denim Silver leather jacket - Tramp in Disguise Beige studded heels - Carvella Green Watch - Ice watches Gold spike necklace - Angelica London Silver crystal (part of harness) Sorapol Black neckpiece (around ankle) Dilara Findikolglu Cuffs(just seen) - Sara Gunn
Crop top - Fam Irvoll Orange leather skirt - Pepe Jeans Earrings - Finchittida Fich Pendant - Lola Rose Gold rings x 2 - Imogen Belfield Leather studded jacket - Nympha Peace cap - Starter Watch - Hip Hop
Mollie (opposite) Top (sarong worn as top) Barbara Hulanicki Shorts - Nympha Leather jacket - Nympha Earrings- Gina Stewart Cox Booties - Bernard Chandran Necklace (part of harness) Sorapol
Earrings - Laura Gravestock Top (Just Seen) - Tramp In Disguise Handbag - Kzeniya
Opposite Page Mollie (Left) Patterned Jacket - Dans La Vie Underwear - Pull In Jeans (Just Seen) - Pepe Pink Earrings - Pranella Turban - Shop Floor Whore Necklaces - The Only Child Laissa Orange Jeans - Andy Warhol For Pepe Black Crop Top - Nympha Fur Body Warmer - My Mink Earrings - Ada Zanditon Orange Necklace - Pranella Belly Chain - Lola Rose ‘A’necklace - Finchittida Fich
Black Leather/Fur Jacket - Pepe Gold Swimsuit - Charles Of London Boots - United Nude Gold Choker - Finchittida Fich Gold Necklace -Pranella Gold Watch - Kenneth Cole Gold Bangles - Lola Rose
Denim Jacket - Nanushka Silver Harness Necklace - Sorapol Cap - Modu Designs for Sick Girl
Yolo beanie- Modu Designs Gold pendant necklaces- KG & Co Crop top- Hiroko Nakajima Warhol jeans- Pepe Jumper (around waist) - An Outfit Cuffs- Sara Gunn Cuff with studs- Lola Rose Wing ring- Crystal Evolution Studded bracelets- The Only Child Gold rose watch - Seiko
Black leather shorts - Prey of London Fur bikini - My Mink Peace and Love hoop earrings - Laura Gravestock Black leather baseball cap - Hardware Black and red bomber jacket - Charles of London Gold watch ring - Toy Watch Red and black boots - Bernard Chandran Silver double finger ring - Ada Zanditon White stone ring - Lola Rose
Interview - Nick Thompson Photos - Christopher Sims
Dress - Georgia Hardinge Necklace - Maria Zureta
They started back in 2008; now three-piece folk and psychedelic rock outfit Strangefruit are finally getting the recognition they deserve and taking London by storm. They released a five-track EP Sea of Fog, recorded at Abbey Road studios, earlier in 2013 to rave reviews and are planning the follow-up album as we speak. The line up consists of the beautiful, soulfully voiced front woman Jenny Maxwell, and the two Perrett brothers Peter and Jamie - formerly of Babyshambles. And unlike what one would expect from Babyshambles, they actually turned up for their photo shoot at the 55factory studio. Mind you, bassist Peter did keep strangely disappearing for long periods of time. The others say they are seriously thinking of renaming the band ‘Waiting for Pete’. They’re a pretty eclectic bunch with a sound that evokes a cross between Jefferson Airplane, PJ Harvey and Gogol Bordello. Asked about their influences, they give a smirk saying that they all come from very different places. Jamie: “People often say that we remind them of Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and other different artists. Especially the vocals, sometimes Jenny hasn’t heard much of them, which I think is quite nice actually.” These perceived comparisons without any direct influence on Maxwell are interesting. One wonders if there’s a natural similarity or that the influences are passed on through the other band members. A fascinating collaboration of late is that Jenny’s outfits are being designed and dressed by super-exciting British designer Georgia Hardinge. Her gorgeous floating, bold print pieces reflect the ambiance of Strangefruit perfectly and the piece that she designed for their appearance at the Secret Garden Party festival this summer was stunning, using metres of flowing material. Strangefruit are fast becoming renowned for their eclectic, dark videos, which fit their varied music extremely well. Their last video for the title track of the EP was especially dark. Filmed in an abandoned church in Peckham, a bald woman lies prostrated on a table top like a suckling pig, as obese, grotesque men around her force food into their gaping mouths. It’s an extremely disturbing and surreal experience, but this is what is beautiful about Strangefruit. Marvellously uncompromising with nothing taken for granted, I for one am extremely excited to hear what the next album has in store.
Interview - Christopher George
WHY DO WE HAVE THIS MACABRE INTEREST IN THE POLICE MUGSHOT? WHO IS THIS FACE CAPTURED AT ITS MOST VULNERABLE, HOLDING A CARD ADORNED WITH STRANGE DIGITS? HOW DID THEY GET TO THIS POINT? WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE? MUGSHOTS: IS IT A FASCINATION OF VOYEURISM, OR ARE WE TAKING THE MORAL LOW GROUND, SEEING OURSELVES IN THAT POSITION? IS THE ATTRACTION LIKE SOME SORT OF ABSTRACT FETISH? THEN AGAIN, WOULDN’T WE ALL SECRETLY LIKE TO HAVE A PORTRAIT TAKEN IN THIS MANNER? SOME OF OUR MOST ADMIRED ARTISTS AND CELEBRITIES HAVE BEEN IN THE CUSTODY OF OUR CRIME-FIGHTING ESTABLISHMENTS AND FOR ONCE ARE SAT COMPLETELY STRIPPED OF THEIR EGOS. IT’S THE CLASSIC MUGSHOT. FRANK SINATRA, ELVIS PRESLEY, JIM MORRISON, MICK JAGGER, DAVID BOWIE, JAMES BROWN, LINDSEY LOHAN, EVEN BILL GATES HAVE ALL HAD THE PLEASURE, REDUCED TO THE STATUS OF MERE MORTAL, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT. AND YET THEY ARE THEN PROJECTED TO A LEVEL WHERE THEY CAN BE WORSHIPPED FURTHER FOR THEIR ILLICIT BEHAVIOUR. REVERED FOR THEIR ‘SINS OF THE FLESH’ WEAKNESSES, THEY ARE HUMANISED AND DEIFIED IN ONE FELL SWOOP. MUGSHOTS ARE A SYSTEMATIC RECORD. COUNTLESS AND NAMELESS OFFICIALS THROUGHOUT COUNTLESS POLICE SYSTEMS REPRODUCING THESE STARK IMAGES COUNTLESS TIMES, BUT THESE ARE NOT EXHIBITIONS, OF COURSE; WE DON’T SEE MUGSHOTS BY PC PLOD: A RETROSPECT OF A POLICEMAN’S CREATIVE LIFE IN CRIME POP UP IN THE TATE MODERN. MIND YOU, THERE’S AN IDEA. WE HAVE A FASCINATION WITH THE SEPARATION OF EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT TO ARTISTIC IMAGERY, THROUGH THE ARTIST’S OWN EMOTIONAL TIES TO THEIR WORKS. INDEED IT’S OFTEN UNATTAINABLE FOR A NON-COMMERCIAL ARTIST NOT TO DO IT. BUT WE DO SEE SOME WHO SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE TO DETACH FROM THEIR OWN IDENTITY. Artist Joanne Arnett’s tapestries serve to take the mugshot away from its hard edge and graphic nature, detaching from any emotional bond. And yet she still makes it wholly about her. The identity of the mugshot is that of crime, corruption and, ultimately, capture. Arnett, however, reproduces these images to take on further manifestations. So what’s the idea? “I’m interested in that sense of being present while also being surreally outside oneself. I imagine having a mugshot taken might be one of those times.” What becomes more surreal with the work is that Arnett isn’t rummaging through eBay collecting mugshot images like a crazed hoarder to reproduce onto the tapestries. Part of the process is that she becomes the sitter. She’s the criminal, the fraudster, the prostitute and the killer. She’s the charged, the convicted, the imprisoned and the acquitted.
How would you describe your interest in mugshots? Is it fascination or obsession? “Fascination. I don’t own any, or lose sleep thinking about them. I can get lost in research, though, and I’ve read every book and article I could find about mugshots and cataloguing criminals, even ones in foreign languages. I can prattle on about the cameras used to take them in different eras and different image dimensions based on the type of film or plate used. If I come across a copy of Crime Times or Busted! I will buy it, and every computer that I work on has mugshot ads that appear in the sidebars. Maybe I’m a little obsessed.” When did you first become interested and what is it about mugshots that fascinate you? “I saw a Busted! paper at a liquor store and couldn’t believe it. It was page after page of people photographed at a low point. I couldn’t stop looking. The pictures were funny at first, but sad by a few pages in. Those were real people with real problems and by plunking down a dollar I was privy to their embarrassing, personal moment. I felt like a voyeur, except the pictures were a public record of an event so technically I wasn’t invading anyone’s privacy. Some of the faces seemed familiar, and once you imagine a face belonging to someone you know it’s just a step away from picturing yourself in such a photograph. So while there was this ‘ha ha’ thing going on there was also a ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ moment too. “When you look at a mugshot you’re just dropped into the middle of a narrative. What occurred before that picture was taken and what was the resolution? We start filling in the blanks on our own. The mix of implied guilt yet presumed innocence is complex. The person pictured knows that this image will be a permanent, public record yet they are denied the opportunity to prepare for the photograph. That awareness makes for a rare moment of being present as a participant and observing oneself at the same time. There is a vulnerability and rawness to mug shots that isn’t present in other portraits.” Why the transferral to woven material? “Life is already ephemeral, I wanted the record of it to be on something more substantial than paper. Instead of printing images I started building them. The materials used for traditionally printed photographs are present albeit in
other forms. Fibre that makes up paper is spun into yarn and metals used in light sensitive emulsions are solid wire. The zeros and ones of a digital image file become a code for the loom: zero/one, black/white, over/under. Weaving the different materials together produces an object that exists only because of the image. Because of the texture and the contrast between matte and shine the image shifts from positive to negative or just completely slips away depending on the angle of view. The weaving functions like a giant brightly coloured daguerreotype, but instead of holding it in your hand you have to walk around the piece to catch the image. So I am able to create a piece the viewer must engage with in a way that would never happen if I just printed images on paper. Weaving allows me to make something where the whole is more than the sum of the parts.” When you’re playing these characters, how is it becoming the fraudster, prostitute, charged, jailed and fined? “I inhabit these people so briefly, only as long as it takes to snap a picture, I don’t get to know them that well. But I don’t think: ‘This person is a prostitute’ or ‘I’m a con artist’. Usually when I take the picture I haven’t figured out why the person has been arrested. I’m responding in character to being hauled in to a police station. There is a piece I’m working on, it isn’t woven yet, where I scared myself with my thoughts when I looked into the camera. I was glad I didn’t have to be that person for longer than the eight seconds it took to push the self-timer and run in front of the lens. But for those eight seconds I allow myself to go wherever the people take me.” Are the characters referenced from actual real life situations, or is it just a creation and fictional identity? “The characters are all spur-ofthe-moment creations. They all begin as a response to a physical characteristic. Sometimes I’ll draw
an eyebrow and go from there. Or, since I have a long neck, I’ll think I want to make my neck look shorter. I’ll lower my head and then what does that do to my posture: to the way I’m looking out at the world? Does it make me look defeated or impish? As soon as the face in the mirror looks believable as a new person I take a picture.” It’s clear that some of the work has a comical feel, but some has a more sinister underlying reality. “That’s good to hear because I’m aiming for an emotional truth; comedy and tragedy are certainly a part of that. I don’t start with the intention of making any of the portraits funny,
but there is an absurdity to life that I think is evident in the work.
“People make decisions based on their own logic. If you’re in a situation where your mugshot is being taken then maybe your reasoning wasn’t so sound, but you never know. There are cases of mistaken identity and the person absolutely shouldn’t be there, or a jerk ex-boyfriend calls the cops when a girl arrives to pick up her belongings. It is absurd. You can’t help but laugh. Or cry. Life’s just so tangled up.”
Photographer - Nick JS Thompson
Photographer - Nick JS Thompson
Words - Sam Carter Illustration - BERT©
The ABC’s of life
The world is meant to be a rather simple beast to work out for those who put in a genuine effort. Follow the correct procedures - those same ladder rungs that all Europeans and the vast majority of those around the world must climb - and you’ll progress up the ladder. Work hard at school, listen, learn and gel with people, at least the ones you need to gel with, move on to college and pursue your direction through university or a trade. Of course, not everyone follows this and there are a myriad other paths which to gaining success, but it’s a fairly tried method. “Look, you’re my best friend, so don’t take this the wrong way. In twenty years, if you’re still livin’ here, comin’ over to my house to watch the Patriots games, still workin’ construction, I’ll fuckin’ kill you. That’s not a threat now, that’s a fact. I’ll fuckin’ kill you.” Good Will Hunting For the majority of those who endeavour to be studious, the A-B-C of School, College and University has always been held up as a staple for future success. Even 10 years ago, walking out of university with a law degree would pretty much ensure gainful employment even if not with a law firm. Just having that piece of paper was enough for most graduate jobs. Sure, there may be a few rocky years on the road to success. Everyone knows interns are basically cheap labour and a convenient vetting system for potential new staff (kind of like youth academies in football - score a few goals and make the right assists and you’re on the team). Apprenticeships, meanwhile, are hard graft, but they will lead to a career one has been aiming towards for some time. Yes, this is another article on the economy. And yes it covers disappointments and disillusion with the tried and tested system that has promised so many rewards. Yet the aggrieved in this story are those that should have been caught by the safety nets: those that should already have their bounty in the job market. In any city, of course, a bar is a great place to earn a quick buck, meet people and an easy line of work to drop in and out of once you’ve learnt the basics. Yet unless you’re a club owner or landlord the prospect of working in a bar post-30 is a pretty daunting proposition. Similarly for a person who’s pursued a career in something as specialised or academic as, say, microbiology, the idea of working at a railway coffee stand instead of a laboratory would
be, it’s safe to say, unfulfilling.
There will be many out there shouting that no job is too good for any one person, but perhaps that isn’t the simple case. If you’re happy waiting tables or pulling beers and are genuinely enjoying life, sleeping well at night, then no one need be able to tell you otherwise. But for those who are dissatisfied with their life role, well, this is for you. Consider Matt Damon’s character in the film Good Will Hunting: a man with fantastic mathematical ability cleaning the corridors of MIT. Unfortunately, nowadays it’s not uncommon for people of considerable qualifications to being in a similar predicament. Of course, any job is better than no job, but these are people who have pushed themselves and chosen a course career that requires years of training and pre-learning. Interestingly, one famous East London nightclub hosts a more diverse work force than one would initially think. Included in its ranks are people with law degrees, civil engineers and teachers, all who moved to London with the hope of bettering their lives and working in jobs more suited to teenagers than post-grads. I spoke with a Parisian who was no doubt clever, switched on and hard working. He’d realised that he needed to improve his English to make him more employable internationally within his field of Civil Engineering. A temporary step and fair enough, it certainly shows determination. There was a young Lithuanian girl who worked within production and media in her home country. The job was hard, but stimulating, and well within her skillset. Unfortunately she became redundant and went from a job that held a lot of responsibility and a decent wage, and couldn’t gain the same level of job in the UK. Incidentally, the nightclub is run by someone very much granted the silver spoon, who gloats of the fact he’d never worked a day in his life and equally enjoys the powers of intimidation and staff mistreatment. Long, arduous hours, not being able to keep your own tips, the possibility of being fired without verbal or written warning and minimum wage: casual worker contracts are the easiest way to keep staff uneasy. You don’t even need to fire workers when you can simply tell staff there aren’t any shifts the following week. And
there probably isn’t much point expanding on the joys of serving gurning clubbers, and drunks for 12-15 hours straight. Mind you, as a temporary job and all-round character builder there isn’t much better. Working under such conditions certainly gives you a reality check, but the whole reason I fell into bar work was through a lack of options. Admittedly with my skillset it wasn’t a complete surprise, but for some of my colleagues it must have been an extremely depressing proposition. Take, for example, AJ. AJ is a 30-year-old Spaniard with a law degree and with previous experience working within his field and other professional level jobs. Spain is the Eurozone’s fourth largest economy and yet in May unemployment stood at a staggering 26.9%. It’s not unheard of for both parents to lose their house and job, and having to relocate a family of five into a one-bed apartment. Particularly scary when you presume that Spain is meant to be a successful and safe European country. Enforced compromise is a pill most of us have to swallow from time to time, but it isn’t the sweetest, that’s for sure. “If you limit your choice only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.” - Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance AJ thought he’d experience living in London and try a less battered job market. “I knew England was in it’s own financial crisis and I may not get my dream job straight away,” says AJ. “But the way I’m living now is worse than when I was in Spain.” AJ works long unsociable hours starting around 4pm and often finishing around 5am. Needless to say, working nights for minimum wage probably wasn’t what he pictured when he moved to London. “I’m in a real crisis. At least back home I could find some kind of office work, be around my friends and family and have more time to myself.” For most, the feeling of powerlessness is through a lack of options in a challenging situation. Be that through having the ability to
affect the outcome of an argument or dispute, or removing oneself from one situation to a more preferable one. This powerlessness is undoubtedly stronger than ever in the under 30s with youth unemployment in Greece and Spain at times pushing 50%. This doesn’t just affect those employed in manual labour and blue-collar work, but those of skilled trades and with degrees. Recently a microbiologist I know from the Norwich Institute of Food Research said he bumped into a former Spanish colleague at a train station coffee shop, where he is now employed. AJ says: “I’m going through a personal crisis. I’m pissed off and growing more despondent at my lack of options. Something’s got to change.”
Once again the spectre of underemployment looms. The effects of the current economic crisis aren’t merely a testament to the failure and recklessness of the current banking system, but to the basic belief of direction-orientated achievement. Why should kids still believe that a university degree in a traditionally high job-yielding subject such as Law or Chemistry is worth a damn when there is no guarantee of a job at the end of 3-5 years of study? Many people would put the smart money on self-employment and the tax benefits it can provide. A good friend of mine recently was taxed a total of £300 for a yearly earning of 18k, and there are many who do a lot better than that. John Bisqwuitz, 26, has a similar story. He’s a little younger than AJ but equally as angered: “I work full time and spend an hour a night applying for jobs. The application form lengths themselves mean I might only get 2/3 done a night. If I’d taken the easy options in life, not attended university, and just got a job out of school aged 16, then I perhaps wouldn’t have expected so much. I’m applying for jobs that I believe I’m over qualified for. Of course, any job is better than no job, but many people can work in a bar, much fewer could teach an English class and even fewer could work on the Large Hadron Collider.” I can see where John’s coming from, there’s a job for everyone, and unfortunately not everyone can gain employment at a cool, fulfilling or even highly paid job; whether that be the Editor of the Times or be part of a team working on curing cancer. Similarly, at the other end of the spectrum some people may struggle gain-
ing a promotion at McDonald’s. The current injustice that has been brought upon us is the gross level of this underemployment. It’s not just working for an annual decrease in wage, but a career change of epic proportions. The matter of mental health issues, not just damaged pride but the depression and festering rot it can instil on the work force is not to be trifled with. A number of the UK work force continues to live and work with depression. Although that, perhaps, is for a different article.
It’s time to for the Government to start giving people realistic expectations in life. The media can be a double-edged sword and should be treated as such. One side is potential and the other creates over-zealous expectation. If the Government is to further increase tuition fees and emphasize education and industry training whilst remaining in the EU, then the jobs need to be waiting for those prepared to pay in. At the moment, the government is effectively offering a savings account with no interest and a non-returnable start-up fee. Here’s hoping that everyone keeps on keeping their heads down and moving forward. “He was justifying his existence, than which life can do no greater; for life achieves its summit when it does to the uttermost that which it was equipped to do.” - Jack London
Words - Samuel Roberts Illustration - Marcin Filip Cybulski
are politicians the new rockstars?
I’ve never really looked into politics. It never seemed to matter and I was always too busy. Lately, though, it has become of greater importance to me. I now care. Some bad things are happening, sure, but more to the point politics has taken the form of a national reality show that strives to throw celebrity, not policy, in our faces. Politicians are acting up as the new rock stars and what’s more they’re getting away with it. In Italy, Bunga Bunga Berlusconi is running around like he owns the place and as Italy’s richest man, he pretty much does. He’s had more than 2,500 court appearances in the last 20 years and he still insists he’s never done anything wrong. With a long list of offences, most notably sex with under-aged prostitute ‘Miss Ruby’ at one of his notorious ‘bunga bunga’ sex parties, like a 70-year-old super-corrupt Jagger he really is living a life of discreditable behaviour. But for these offences there are many Italians who regard him in quasi-religious fervour. He is the sometimes hated, but always celebrated bad-boy of Europe. If these are the stories we see and he remains largely free and powerful, what on earth goes on behind closed doors we can only guess.
their biggest gigs and their most outlandishly depraved moments. Blair is known for little else than his decisions over Iraq, especially with recent turmoil in Syria leading the nation – and indeed Parliament itself – to look back in anger once again.
Staying in the UK, after all that has been done to equalise society we seem to have reverted back in time with a certain boys’ club in charge. I find the skewed socio-economic spread of our current leaders most distasteful. Thirteen of Cameron’s first front bench were educated at Eton, and 56% are millionaires. It is horrible that 14 out of 20 of Cameron’s donors avoid paying tax by having offshore saving accounts. It’s a snob’s gang: a case of the rich caring for the rich. Cameron releases tax breaks that will benefit a greater number of people in higher income brackets than lower ones. It appears they are writing policy like lyrics and they sing only their own songs.
Russia’s Vlademir Putin, meanwhile, seems to have taken a page out of the British empirical history books in the 19th century. Just as Queen Victoria appealed to a conservative society through its lowest common denominator, Putin decided to gain popularity with a little gay-bashing, stolen straight (excuse the pun) from Margaret Thatcher’s infamous Section 28: that no governmental or educational authority should be seen to promote homosexuality.
These reckless selfish scandals across Europe, and at home the very real concern for the NHS, for creativity in schools, and for London rental prices, led me to want to look at how our country is run. But, I faced a problem. When looking at actual issues, the world of politics is a lot larger than these petty headline-grabbing stories would suggest. It’s a huge task and with scandals abound distracting and deflecting from policies, how does one absorb, assimilate and really grasp any understanding? I’m trying out newspapers, stuff online and I’m doing a lot of talking to friends. But it seems very few places delve into the devils in the details. Much of the media, and the politicians themselves, leave policy at a distance. Egotistically, much of the focus is on politicians themselves and one finds that even the scandal-less politicians want to be rock stars. The media, of course, loves a tantalising story; they play off characters in tales to sell newspapers and politicians act up to it to sell themselves. They want us to buy into them with a lot of kissing babies and playing guitar, picking fruit at the markets or pointing at fish. It’s this person versus that person and like a political X-Factor it works.
To be fair, Tony Blair and New Labour introduced a lot of reforms in a subtle and quiet way to help minorities: lowering the age of consent, civil partnership and repealing Section 28, for instance. Guarantees for equal access were all put onto the British statute books. These were all remarkable achievements in their own right, but rock stars are only remembered for
Of course, we shoulder some guilt. On the whole we find this all more interesting than actual policy talks. Politicians welcome that they can be characters in stories, heroes or villains on a stage, and we decide whether we like them or not based on their performances. Being liked is a short cut politicians use to procure our vote and by making us like them it arguably
In Greece, lavish overspending with cronyism and corruption is rife on a massive scale. Former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, and others allegedly making massive tax evasions, forging data, and some supposedly rubbing dodgy relatives off the long awaited list of wrong doers. It seems to paint the picture of a handful of people trashing the place and exploiting the rest of Europe with little done to stop them.
saves a lot of time and energy. All that malarkey of having to explain the tedious details. To be fair, most people just want to pick a person and be comfortable in the knowledge that when the voting comes around they’re doing the right thing. You can see why parties want to leave the details out of the minds of the public. No one likes boring parties. I found a website called voteforpolicies. org.uk, which, using an impartial policy based questionnaire, tells you which party you should back. Of 337,725 completed surveys, the results were 24% for the Green Party, 20.33% for Labour, 17.5% for the Liberal Democrats and 15% for the Conservatives; very different from how our country is being run at the moment. And it seems clear why all but the Green Party would want to put politicians on display than discuss real issues. Can you really blame people for taking the easy option? It is a hard, genuinely taxing topic, often made dry by all the policies and issues to debate. Conversely, it is an effortless and part-unconscious decision to judge a person instead, especially when they are showing off centre stage, trying to sell themselves. Boris Johnson, as much as people think he acts the buffoon, is, even by people who disagree with him, well liked. Perhaps much of that rests on Have I Got News For You. Boris exemplifies the fact that if you are liked, half the game is already won. It could also be argued, for instance, that Nick Clegg’s headline-grabbing perfomances in the televised election debates were a major contirbuting factor to this Government becoming a coalition. Politicians are considered more and more to be icons – by the media and certainly by their own inflated egos. In the UK, politicians who have only ever been in politics have risen in numbers and a lot of it is showmanship. With lifestyles detached from the population and seemingly getting away with atrocious scandals, politicians are suited rock stars performing on stage. Under bright lights they look over the crowd, winning votes, while the real issues are quietly debated backstage.
52 Alongside the shocking rock star wannabes across the continent, celebrities too are drawn into politics. Some might say that they are not qualified. But perhaps because of successful primary careers that mean that they are under no obligation to get involved, there is, therefore, a greater authenticity (if not always correctness) to their views. Eddie Izzard stating his intention to run for Mayor Of London 2020 is exciting. Having seen him brilliantly headline a festival stage as the most sought after and talked about act, he truly epitomises rock star. Celebrities can also be used to liven up debate and grasp the attention of the public. Russell Brand on Question Time recently caused a storm; John Lennon once gave peace a chance; Bob Geldof fed the world and revived his fading career as a rock star; Madonna adopted half of Africa. OK, perhaps that was becoming facetious, but there is a point. A former Mail Online journalist I spoke with suggested: “[Celebrities] engage us, because they understand entertainment in a way that most politicians don’t. Celebrities who dip into politics are more likely to start from a platform of general popularity. People associate stars with enjoyment.” Maybe this is why I seem to trust some celebrity views over politicians, because of a happier association. Look at the successes of Reagan and Arnie and the lesser-known Czechoslovakian Václav Havel. Obama is one politician who understands entertainment; a real rock star of politics, as opposed to Boris’ more pantomime style. The circular relationship between the media and politicians creates a sensational whirl and leaves the real issues detached and alone. There is potential to counter the biases within the media industry through social media, which may reveal hidden scandals and draw attention to things politicians seek to hide. Image is thus harder to control and minority groups have a platform to shout their causes. And it is with this blossoming development I feel that some of the sincerity might return to the political realm. Passionate public debates are now to be found online where clever independent commentary can be heard. These new added pressures can only be positive if it makes people shape up. I feel so much better now I know more about politics, but also in a way a little less happy. If nothing else these scandalous rock star lifestyles may make more people like me start to
look closer at our Government. The saccharine or inspiring celebrity involvement brings politics to the ears of a greater number of our population. This is a good and timely thing. Perhaps through all the rock star behaviour and media parades, a greater number and especially of the youth will take an interest. By
encouraging people to take some time to look beneath the faĂ§ade of the scandal and debauchery, we might just start to find the actual policies worth gossiping over. Iâ€™ve begun, and I intend to continue learning. I have realised that this is important, that it does matter and that I do care.
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