When you’re on the brink, you don’t think about how far you’ve come, only how far you’re about to fall. A lifetime of sweat and hard work doesn’t mean a thing if the bailiffs show up tomorrow. Nor do thousands of years of history when in just a couple of generations, they could all go up in smoke. We started the Radical Art Review in 2017, before a global pandemic seemed plausible, or climate change felt so present. We believed that engaging with art shouldn’t be neutral or aesthetic, but positive, political, and powerful. Today, that feeling is even more urgent. As our civilisation teeters on the brink, cultural institutions are still found side by side with the criminals in power. In this issue, we expose the connection between oil, industry, art, conservation and censorship, as a global movement of activists prepare a final stand. Yet art is not simply a battleground for the grand narratives of our time. It can be a powerful, viral means of communication for the most marginalised in society. For our eighth issue, we bring you artists from the PRECIPICE: those fighting apartheid in Palestine, homophobia on the streets of Belfast, or eviction in Tanzania. We are also privileged to be showcasing inspirational artists breaking the stigma of homelessness and disability through their work. They remind us that art at its best creates belonging, even in the darkest isolation. The traditional institutions have failed us, and it’s time to build new organisations and ecosystems, free from corporate control and capable of taking us back from the brink. As a team of volunteers, we couldn’t have made this magazine without the support and collaboration of our partner organisations. Throughout this issue you’ll notice a number of full-page artworks, from the Periodic Table of Feasible Utopia to the Right To Roam campaign. Tear them out and stick them up. If we must have walls, make them beautiful.
Editorial Team Co-Editors: Niall Walker and Ciarán Daly | Visual Director & Environment Editor: Georgia Preece | Film Editor: Georgina Allan | Literature Editors: Jessie Jones and Matthew Magill | Gaming Editor: John Rogers| Craft Editor: Charlotte Russell Original issue layout by Georgia Preece @gapinthelens and Georgia Pedley @georgiapedleydesign Contributing Writers: Hannah Green, Milly Allinson, Ellen O’Donohue, Danielle Krikorian, Rameeza Ahmad, Billie Walker, Julian Holt, Grace Higgins Brown Steve Topple, Oliver Walkden, Gaia Lamperti, Marijam Didžgalvytė, David Goldblatt, Federico Pastoris, Joe McGuffog, Yanis Iqbal FUNDING & PARTNERS: This issue was funded in partnership with:
© RAR PUBLISHING LTD 2021 This magazine is brought to you by RAR Publishing Ltd, a UK-based not-for-profit company registered in England and Wales No.13530554. Printed in the UK on 100% recycled paper by Sharman & Co. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is strictly prohibited. We abide by the NUJ Editor’s Code of Conduct. More info: nuj.org.uk
Radical Art Review PRECIPICE Issue #8 | 2021
4 - 5
Thirty Years A Junglist
6 - 9
STATE OF THE ARTS
K-Pop Revived My Love Of Urdu
10 Years Of Artbox
7 - 9
Flatten the Scene
30 - 31
10 - 16
Lino Print Your Protest
The Art of The Anthropocene
How to Plant An
12 - 13
How Conservation Groups
32 - 33
The Art of Activism
Life on the Edge: Chaos
The New Pastoral
and Community In
Eating the Copper Apple
Signs Of The Sojourner
18 - 19
ART AGAINST APARTHEID
Not So Wholesome
The Struggle for Palestine
Ask Teenage Stepdad
22 - 25
FILM AND TV
36 - 38
POETRY AND LIT
Queer Communities in Film
The Rural Left
When the Egg Cracks
In Conversation With
“This is Dangerous”: Archiving
The AIDS Crisis
Food Banks And Streaming
How Surrealism Grew Up
ABOUT RADICAL ART REVIEW Founded in 2017, Radical Art Review is a volunteer-run magazine and web platform where art meets activism. Now in our eighth issue, PRECIPICE, we’re an independent media outlet dedicated to fostering creative, political counterculture in a fractured, collapsing world. We’re always accepting written, visual, and audio pitches for both our print and online platforms.
Get involved! Scan this code with your smartphone to follow our website, social media, or become a supporter.
MEET THE COVER ARTIST Jono Ganz makes weird drawings and moving pictures in his home in London. He is currently working on his first picture book and dreams of developing an adaptation of The Wicker Man for children. @jonoganz 3
COMMUNITY CALLING! The Whitechapel Centre is the leading homeless and housing charity in the Liverpool region. New Beginnings, a pathway within Whitechapel, provides formal and informal learning from photography and creative writing to upcycling and restoring furniture. The aim of New Beginnings is to allow members to use their time, in shelters and across the different Whitechapel residencies, to learn and develop meaningful skills and knowledge.
Independent Media is fighting back. Earlier this year, we partnered with Bywire News, a platform which brings high-class journalism from the New Internationalist, Declassified UK, Byline Times, ourselves and many more together in a single app. It is the world’s first news platform powered by blockchain technology. But this isn’t a libertarian fantasy: the blockchain ensures content is fully transparent, with a timestamp of when edits have been made and who by, and a reward system for readers flagging inaccuracies and fake news.
The mural below was created by residents of the Aigburth Drive hostel including photographs by several residents during their time working with Tony Mallon.
That’s right: you earn as you read. And through the apps Wirebit cryptocurrency, you can microtip writers and publishers you like without putting money into the pockets of corporations or billionaire donors.
On our website, we interview and feature more of the Whitechapel artists, and discover how creativity can offer community and confidence to those without a home.
This is a radical, democratic fightback against a corrupt media establishment, where you the reader are active in setting the agenda and ensuring the truth gets out. Subscribe at Bywire.News, and download the app
Libraries are still the coolest and most criminally under-utilised public resource since water fountains. Human Libraries is an artist-led programme of workshops, projects, and events breathing new life into community libraries in Bootle and Crosby offering new experiences, meeting points, and new reasons to gather. Check out their collaborative press archive or attend one of their library-cooked feasts.
The podcast section of our website is always growing, and hosts a veritable smorgasbord of independent podcasts exploring some of the hottest political issues today through art, music, film and gaming.
After 18 months of isolation, it’s critical that dissenting voices come together to strategise, debate, and skill up for the struggle ahead. Catch us at The World Transformed in Brighton this Autumn, where we’ll be exploring what cultural democracy means after lockdown and the role the arts can play in raising political consciousness.
Abolish Detention is a group of concerned individuals and organisations local to Durham who oppose the opening of the Hassockfield ‘Immigration Removal’ detention centre which is set to replace 100 local homes. The activists claim that the detention centre will segregate families in horrific, prison-like conditions. It is worth remembering that the only difference between you and a refugee is luck.
Visit humanlibraries.co.uk Successive lockdowns saw renewed interest in electronic music and old tech. This Museum Is (Not) Obsolete in Ramsgate celebrates obsolete and experimental scientific and musical technology through its series of exhibits. Visit this-museum-is-notobsolete.com The Museum of Neoliberalism was created by Darren Cullen of ‘Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives’ and Gavin Grindon after they were commissioned by The World Transformed to build a temporary version in Brighton in 2019 Expect to see a breakdown of neoliberalism’s origins, artefacts of our epic consumerism and a now infamous Amazon display complete with a genuine bottle of employees’ urine. Reopens 3rd of September Visit museumofneoliberalism.com
Head online to check out our resident video games podcast, Gaming In The Wild, or tune into Love Is The Message for a radical history of dance music. Or you can subscribe to our email newsletter and get new shows straight to your inbox. We also offer free syndication to independent art, culture, and politics podcasts. If you’re an indie podcaster and you’d like your show to be considered for the page and receive free monthly distribution to our readers, hit us up. There’s honestly no catch. We love film of all stripes here at RAR. One of the biggest supporters of our film section has been myDylarama, a radical film podcast and web publication run by our formidable friend Abla Kandalaft of the Independent Media Association. The podcast looks at films / TV series / screenrelated matters in relation to social, racial and economic issues - as well as personal anecdotes. Meanwhile, the website hosts regular watchlists to get you past your Netflix doomscroll. Visit mydylarama.org.uk
Runs 25th - 28th September Visit theworldtransformed.org Every other year, the world’s largest arms fair comes to London so British companies can sell weapons to some of the most harmful regimes in the world. The creative renegades at Art The Arms Fair make sure to show up too and use art, comedy, and music to expose the arms industry. Runs 14 - 17 September Visit artthearmsfair.com The UK’s longest running annual Arab arts and cultural festival, Liverpool Arab Arts Festival showcases powerful artist-led responses to some of the biggest issues facing the Middle East and North Africa today. Check out their site to find out more about some of their digital and live events - or turn to pg.13 to find out more. Ends 14 November Visit arabartsfestival.com -
The Cube Microplex in Bristol is the perfect community space in which to re-engage with cinema post-lockdown. Not only do they host regular film screenings but also live music events, performance art and online streams. It’s got a cracking bar as well. Top lush.
Best Girl Grip is a podcast featuring interviews with women working behind the scenes in cinema about working conditions and how they navigate life in the industry. Created and hosted by Nicole Davis, interviewees have ranged from critics, producers, collectives and filmmakers such as most recently Prano BaileyBond, director of ‘Censor’ (2021).
Open City Doc Fest will return in September to showcase some of the best non-fiction cinema. Based at UCL, this year will feature an in-person and online programme as well as Q&A’s, panels and workshops. They have already released the full programme which will include world premieres such as Icarus (after Amelia) by Margaret Salmon and Inner Outer Space by Laida Lertxund.
Visit linktr.ee/ abolishdetentionhassockfield The volunteers of the RNLI attracted a ton of heat a few months back when ‘Arch-Tw*t Farage’ criticised them for saving the lives of asylum seekers crossing the Channel. Guess what, the sea levels are rising, we all live on an island, nobody is illegal, and we might all need lifeboats one day. Drop them a few quid. Visit rnli.org pink peacock ( )עווַאּפ עוועזָאר ידis a queer, Yiddish, anarchist vegan community space opening in Glasgow’s Southside. They aim to create a safe space for the queer community with a pay-whatyou-can café based on strong, simple values: ‘do no harm, take no bullshit’. Having already faced backlash from police and locals, they need donations and support. Visit pinkpeacock.gay or donate to patreon.com/pinkpeacock Freedom From Torture is a UKbased charity that supports those escaping torture, including refugees and asylum seekers. They provide specialist psychological help, activity groups, as well as practical support, health assessments, and advocacy work for survivors of torture. Visit freedomfromtorture.org
STATE OF TH E ARTS
A CULTURE OF FEAR By Niall Walker
February 2021 The chair of the Royal Greenwich Museums Group, Sir Charles Dunstone, resigns after ministers block the reappointment of Aminul Hoque, an academic who advocates decolonising the curriculum. 14th April The government vetoes the reappointment of two women to Channel 4’s board of directors, against the recommendations of Ofcom and Channel 4 themselves. It is a move widely seen as motivated by the womens’ political positions. 27th May Ministers scrap the recruitment process for a new Director of Ofcom after the Prime Minister’s favoured candidate - former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre - is rejected by an interview board. A new process begins, allowing Dacre to reapply. 7th June As England begin their Euro 2020 campaign, Boris Johnson refuses to condemn fans for booing the players taking the knee before kick off. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, supports fans’ right to boo ‘gesture politics’. 15th July An art installation in Essex about the UK’s first atomic bomb by Gabriella Hirst is removed after intense pressure from Conservative councillors The culture war is the dominant policy of the British Government. It is no longer led by the party of neoliberalism, having taken millions onto the public payroll during the pandemic. Nor does it represent family values any longer: after all, at its helm is a man who doesn’t know how many children he has.
Instead, a flag-waving crusade on ‘wokeness’, and hostility to any form of alternative culture, is the defining feature of their policy and rhetoric. At times, it has been enforced through violence. On 25th June, police raided the art studios of Antepavillion in East London and arrested everyone in the building. On the mistaken pretext of the studio being connected to Extinction Rebellion, they also arrested the building owner, Russell Gray, and raided another of his properties. “I wasn’t best pleased” Gray recalls sardonically, “but that’s what authoritarian governments do. They intimidate the hell out of anyone who dares to keep friends with their political enemies.” The need to stand up for an equal society, and a democratic and inclusive culture is growing increasingly urgent. The Conservatives, as of writing, enjoy a 12% average poll lead over Labour. We aren’t yet two years past an election where the Conservatives won 43.9% of the vote - the highest for any party since 1979. But as the shadow of a new election grows ever hotter, we have to expect the imagined enemies of culture to grow larger, more threatening and more targeted. “It’s getting scary”, says Gray. “‘But if this raises awareness of the importance of human rights, freedom of expression and civil liberties then some good comes of it.” To support the legal case of Antepavilion, visit antepavilion.org or write to Hackney Council.
Image: police raid headdquarters of Antepavillion, East London Credit: Antepavilion
STATE OF TH E ARTS
HOW COLLECTIVES ARE BUILDING A NEW ART WORLD By Charlotte Russell and Hannah Green Art collectives are thriving at the moment. From Belfast to Bristol, communities are emerging from lockdown with a desire to find solidarity in art. They are gaining impressive exposure: the Turner Prize shortlist contains five collectives up for this year’s award. However, their presence also reflects a darker reality to the UK’s art scene. Talking to the collectives in this feature there appears to be a common understanding. Hostility towards the arts, spiralling cuts and political pressure means that more and more artists are seeking support from peers than they are from institutions and/or the government. Their work may have positive outcomes, but their existence comes from a lack of infrastructure and investment in the arts to begin with, tainting the otherwise romantic outlook of these shared, democratic artistic communities. In this issue, we investigate how they are supporting communities fighting issues from gentrification to homophobia. While their existence reveals a lot about our current cultural landscape, these groups are also changing the way we perceive and consume art.
Images courtesy of Gabriel Turner, Jon Beer, and ZEST 7
STATE OF TH E ARTS
“We’re making art with the community, for the community, in the community”
Southampton’s Old Northam Road - a once thriving street that housed Southampton’s antiques quarter, was in its heyday compared to London’s Portobello Road. The introduction of a bypass in the 80s saw this creative quarter disintegrate -yet today it is the home of ZEST Collective (Instagram: @zestartscollective). Their recent collaboration ‘Signs of the Times’, an exhibit running until 30 September on Old Northam Road, is a direct response to the area’s rich cultural past. Working with their local community, they have recreated the signs that once would have been seen on this road, rejecting the often unwelcoming nature of the White Cube by displaying art in a democratic setting: “We’re making art with the community, for the community, in the community, [that’s] actually displayed in the community as well,” explains Zest member Ellen Gillet.
While Southampton isn’t known as an artistic hub, Ellen lists the many burgeoning creative endeavours that the city has to offer, and reminds us that Southampton’s absence of cultural recognition is partly due to ‘a lack of funding’: “These communities aren’t being supported and so in a way away, yeah... [artists have] got to kind of pick up the slack for that.” As artists are caught between vying for institutional recognition or applying for highly competitive Arts Council bids (where there is currently only a 30% success rate), collectives provide a crash mat for those who lack the support of the institution. ZEST exists as a place for artists to come together and work independently while sharing a common goal. By forming collectives, artists are kind of creating their own autonomy.
In 2021, we have been running a State of the Arts investigation online, exploring what impact lockdown has had on culture communities, how art institutions have failed in their responsibility to protect workers and projects which offer hope coming into a new world. In “263 streams a Dollar”, we meet the new music union organising a global boycott of Spotify. We spoke to the poets leading the spoken word boom since lockdown began in “How Poetry Stayed Afloat” And in organising the Arts sector, we feature a comprehensive range of arts workers refusing the revised conditions forced on them by their employers. 8
STATE OF TH E ARTS
Turning Abandoned Spaces into Art For years, the patch of disused land on Cherry Lane lay untouched, filled only with straggling saplings and dusty rubble, the crunch of needles audible underfoot. It was here that Bristol-based arts collective SHiiKu (@shiiku._) chose to host their first open-air art exhibition, ’Clean Your Wounds’, last summer. Spending days working together to clean out the neglected lot, the collective presented an eclectic mix of paintings, textile art, video projections, live music, spoken word poetry and projection mapping video art. Mo, a poet, textile artist and one of SHiiKu’s founding members, tells me. ‘With SHiiKu, we want to encourage and give a space to everyone, with no restrictions or requirements of experience - some of the members have an art degree, others are musicians and poets. It’s the opposite of exclusive.’ After the success of ‘Clean Your Wounds’, SHiiKu hosted another open air exhibition, ‘PANIC’, organised just days before the government’s ‘rule of six’ was reinforced in early September. It was a last-ditch attempt to bring art to the masses before yet another period of isolation.
Protest and Party in Northern Ireland
Forming in 2016 from members of Belfast’s small artistic community, Array (@arraystudios) are a direct product of their local community. Growing up in an environment where orthodox religious conservativism still has a strong grip on daily life and politics, Array’s work directly responds to LGBTQ+ issues, abortion rights and gentrification. Or in other words, those who the system ignores.
“There’s a certain gallows humour we have and it’s definitely a coping mechanism,” says Array member Emma. As a collective of individual artists, Array often make bodies of work together, situating these pieces within protests and gatherings - muddying the boundary between protest and art. In 2019 they created a flurry of characters both shaped by Northern Irish folklore and contemporary politics, and placed
these performances within Belfast Pride and outside Westminster. Whilst their carnivalesque work teeters on the boundary between pleasure and discomfort, it importantly reminds us of the power gleaned from the collective joy found in a body of people who are all fighting for the same cause. Following their 2021 Turner Prize nomination, they received a slew of negativity from both art collectors and the right wing press, who to them, see art as an investment. “How you can invest in Array I don’t know,” says Emma, who, like fellow member Stephen, was delighted with the feedback from these particular press outlets. “I am absolutely thrilled by the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator. [...] I would never buy it, but I nearly bought it just to have it.” It’s plain to see that Array are clearly pissing off the right people.
As the warmer weather arrived and restrictions eased, Shiiku found the site of their previous exhibitions had been fenced off. The collective moved to another open area: Redcliffe Wharf, near Bristol’s harbourside where they were able to present ‘Release’. “We’re all doing it because we really like creating, but it’s also very relaxed and open,” says Mo. “We’re serious about art, but we’re not taking it too seriously.”
THE ART OF THE ANTHROPOCENE By Georgia Preece Time tumbles from within our grasp, over the heads of governments who stand and pose atop Cornish plinths, under sunlit skies, as elsewhere the water levels rise. Anticipation of COP26 builds, where the UK will lead global powers by example, showing how little we have done, the backward steps we have taken as a nation, ploughing down ancient woodland for high speed rail, prioritising expansion over climate mitigation. Many of us will cite the 2019 IPCC report as the wakeup call that we needed. But the 2021 report presents us with the heart-breaking reminder that we cannot act alone, that the last two years of protests have not been enough, and will never be enough when global powers refuse to act with the urgency that climate breakdown demands. As we plea for climate mitigation our government clings to stolen artifacts and arms deals, and continues to push aside the needs of marginalised communities. Activist groups like BP or Not BP and WTF WWF puzzle together the links between colonialism, the arms trade, ecocide and climate breakdown. In doing so, they bring into focus the systematic issues underlying the environmental precipice we face today. Staring into the sublime, the godly skies of tomorrow appear stormier than ever. When no amount of cultural escapism can distract us from the reality of the situation we are facing, both art and activism offer us a space for empathy, and imagination, to build potentials and alternative tomorrows that we can hope to strive towards.
David Ellingsen is a Canadian photographer creating images that speak to the relationship between humans and the natural world. He works on longterm, cumulative projects with a focus on climate, biodiversity and deforestation. Follow him on Instagram: @davidellingsenphoto 11 11
How Conservation Groups Became Colonial
ENVI RON M ENT
By Federico Pastoris Since their inception, WWF and other big conservation organisations have driven and participated in the evictions of millions of Indigenous peoples from their ancestral homelands, for purposes of “conservation”. Atrocities have been committed in the belief that humans must be separate from nature, and only Western scientists can “manage” the land. In Tanzania, the devastating role of these ‘conservation’ groups is keenly felt. In April 2021 the Tanzanian government announced new eviction plans to relocate over 80,000 residents, mostly indigenous Maasai, from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). The eviction was part of the government’s new Multiple Land Use Management (MLUM) and resettlement plan, designed in consultation with UNESCO World Heritage Center, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, (IUCN) and the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). The displacement has emerged following a mission report published by these three organizations in March 2019. It urged the Tanzanian government to control population growth in Ngorongoro, which it claimed was directly responsible for the area’s environmental degradation. It is a common refrain in conservation: that the growth of Indigenous communities is damaging the land they live on. As recently as 2020, the IUCN described the increase in the resident
population alongside their livestock and the socio-cultural changes as the greatest threat to the ecosystems of the NCA. The plan, which will divide the NCA into four zones, would greatly reduce the area within the NCA where Maasai are allowed to live and use for livestock grazing and crop cultivation. It will force entire communities to relocate into areas that, according to Maasai leaders, cannot sustain their traditional livelihoods. Yet concerns about population growth aren’t the sole focus of the eviction. A recent report by the Oakland Institute found that the plan “envisions that the ‘protection’ of the NCA will boost the area’s appeal for international wildlife tourism — UNESCO has in the past even advocated for evicting all inhabitants of the NCA while preserving the bomas, structures that the Maasai have traditionally built as housing and cattle enclosures, for their tourist value. As the MLUM explicitly acknowledges, by ‘maintaining the status quo or leaving the NCA to Indigenous pastoralists the government would lose 50 percent of expected revenue by 2038’”. As one of our Maasai partners, Samwel Nangiria, said: “The government intends to divide up Ngorongoro and create a no-go zone, depriving Maasai access to important grazing areas, natural salt leaks and sacred sites. At the same time, the government is allowing trophy hunting in conservation areas. The task force that produced the report involved only one Maasai representative; yet if this eviction goes through, it
will cause irreparable socio-economic and environmental damages to the Maasai community, including losing our homeland.” While UNESCO, the IUCN, and the ICOMOS have been the main organizations advising and supporting the resettlement plan, WWF is also complicit. WWF has a significant presence in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, since the area lies within a WWF Global 200 Freshwater Eco-Region. For years, WWF has been organizing safari tours in Ngorongoro. They have played a role in supporting various governmentled conservation initiatives and funding the militarization and policing of the conservation area. This long-lasting support for fortress-style conservation is directly responsible for the violence and abuse that Maasai communities are experiencing, as NCA authorities continue restricting access to areas key to their livelihood and cultural practices. What is happening in Tanzania is nothing new. Indigenous people and local communities around the world could be affected on a massive scale if, in October, world leaders agree to the 30x30 initiative at the Convention on Biological Diversity summit. The initiative aims to turn 30% of the Earth into “Protected Areas” by 2030. Indigenous groups, alongside the Oakland Institute have rightly warned that this model of ‘fortress conservation’ would constitute the biggest landgrab in history.
Pictured: Samwel Nangiria (Image: insightshare) 13
ENVI RON M ENT
‘Museums and galleries are not just places to display objects: they are spaces for conversation” By Georgia Preece BP Or Not BP? Are we really still asking this question? The stain of oil sponsorship deals within the cultural sector remains. However, one activist group aims to unpick the facade of legitimacy that arts institutions give the industry, raising awareness of colonialism, class struggle and repatriation amidst climate breakdown. “BP Or Not BP was founded in 2012, when BP was sponsoring the Royal Shakespeare Company.” says Danny, one of the original members of the movement. “We would jump on stage and do a performance in a Shakespearean style, in costume, drawing together the themes of the play that was happening, but making it all about BP and climate change.” In 2019, the RSC ended its relationship with BP after the youth strikers joined during the campaign. But the RSC isn’t alone: when a Culture Unsustained investigation revealed a gagging clause within the Science Museum’s sponsorship deal with Shell pledging not to “damage the goodwill or reputation” of the oil brand, they were met by fierce opposition from activist groups. Through their creative protest style they utilise storytelling as a tool for world building, and for facilitating societal change. As opposition increases, however, climate justice movements are having to confront the intersectionality of climate justice with repatriation and colonialism. And in one institution above all, it is being laid bare. “Something we really want to highlight is the links between the British Museum, colonialism and oil extraction.” Explains Andrea, another member of BP or Not BP, on a major target of the group. The group have been running stolen goods tours of the Museum to raise public awareness of the colonial heritage on display. “We’re standing in solidarity with communities most affected by climate change, BP pipelines, and the British Empire, as well as having had artefacts stolen from their communities.” At home, as well, there is an importance of putting those most affected at the forefront of the movement. “I’ve been working in the cultural sector for five years now.” says Bayryam, who joined the group while working as front of house staff at Tate. “I knew that I loved working in museums, but the inside influence I had was very limited. All sponsored institutions, museums and galleries are not just places to display objects, they are spaces for conversation.” The need for climate action is urgent. However, a movement which doesn’t consider the overlaying connections between ecology, gender violence, class struggle, human rights and colonialism risks extending, rather than solving, the problem. By representing a web of injustices, BP or Not BP avoids being a single issue campaign group. “As an immigrant myself, I never felt pressured into doing an action, or not to do an action”, says Bayryam. “Organising can take a big emotional toll, but there’s always this conversation about what each person can bring to the table and how we can best support people with their own creative ideas and their own capabilities”. Credit: Amy Scaife 14
Image: Ron Fassbender
Through their creative protest style, BP or not BP are utilising storytelling as a tool for world building, and for facilitating societal change.
THE NEW PASTORAL: A CATALYST FOR COLLECTIVE ACTION
ENVI RON M ENT
By Grace Higgins Brown
I want to speculate that we’re facing the dawn of a new cultural trend: the “New Pastoral”. This is taking the “Old Pastoral” as a Romantic-era rebuttal to the Enlightenment’s obsession with reason and rationality; retaliating against the rationalisation of the body, work, and environment, through advances in science, industry, and medicine. Much like then, today we are seeing major anxiety regarding vaccine development, lockdown, the economy, and the climate crisis resulting in a longing for green space, the beautiful escape and “the good life”. As we exit a period where the realm of science and medicine has come to dominate the civic sphere and our daily lives, could the New Pastoral help us overcome conspiracies, conservatism and individualism? Today we are seeing almost selfdefensive individualism in response to public safety measures - such as in the anti-lockdown and antivax movements. This is akin to the Romantics’ resistance towards the medical rationalisation of the body. There is a parallel anxiety here, one which yearns for the safety of “the good ol’ days”. This kind of idealised nostalgia can often conceal deeply conservative and reactionary values. We can also posit the “New Pastoral” in relation to the Romantic movements’ investment in nationalism; platforming a nation’s particular folk culture, racial theories, and land claims. With arguments for devolution and rises in nationalism pivotal to our contemporary zeitgeist, we are again at a key moment: a crossroads of protectionism vs. collectivism. Just look at socalled “vaccine apartheid” for a contemporary example of this. COVID anxiety has also provided
an increased justification for nationalism, xenophobia, and racism — for hard borders, literally and symbolically. For these reasons I’m very anxious about all the talk around “returning to normal” post-pandemic. Instead of returning to normal, it is time to imagine alternatives. All this talk of escaping the city, retreating to the countryside, without acknowledging the realities of rural life is dismissive and results in intensified stratification and inflation of land value in these areas. The pastoral, in this sense, is a bid for an idealistic notion of rural life, just as the Romantics’ grand notions of ‘the wilderness’ were driven by the colonially fetishistic “grand tours”. In this way, I am suspicious of sheer glorification of the pastoral; the caveat to simply return to a false nostalgia is usually code for the most privileged in society to once again legally thrive in some kind of feudal superiority. However, if the New Pastoral is presented as a reimagining of green space, the pastoral could be utilised as a collective exercise of an idealised future rather than past. In allowing climate anxiety to take precedence in depictions and discussions of the pastoral, and aligning with scientific development, the “New Pastoral” could be used to express awe in nature with the urgency needed to preserve it. In this sense, it may engage the Romantic movement’s love of catastrophe (think Gothic Horror, Sturm und Drang) rather than lounging in Cottagecore idyll, to provide necessary, unsettling projections, as opposed to glossy reimagining of bucolic narrative. After a year spent so prominently on screens, the “New Pastoral” might again borrow from the Romantics in a desire to move away from the digital. However it’s important to acknowledge
the value of connection to each other. With increased experiences of isolation we have seen a reliance on technology and digital developments as key to our social lives, creative collaboration, and collective action. Technological and scientific progress can be embraced into a movement of interconnectedness. The “New Pastoral” could see isolation as the catalyst for collective action rather than individualist idealism. In this way, we could expand our relationship with the natural world as something to be safeguarded, not commodified.
CALL TO ACTION Radical Art Review aims to platform writers, artists and activists whose work focuses on the complexities of navigating our current ecological epoch. We are always searching for new creatives to showcase. If you, or an environmental group you are part of, want to promote the work you are doing get in touch with us at email@example.com
More on the website Visit radicalartreview.org to read: Humans Aren’t The Virus, We’re The Vaccine: EcoFascism In The Age Of Pandemic by Annie Bocock To find out more about BP Or Not BP, and to get involved in their campaigns follow them on twitter at @drop_BP and check out their website at bpor-not-bp.org Want to get involved? Donate to the fundraiser to support Maasai-led conservation at chuffed.org/ project/palce or get in touch at: Twitter: @wtfwwf1 Insta + FB wtfwwf1 www.wtfwwf.org
Dispatches from Displacement
A review of lisa luxx’s ‘Eating the Copper Apple
By Joe McGuffog Eating the Copper Apple is a performance art piece by uncompromisingly wise lisa luxx. Her life is told through a series of visual, audio and spoken word pieces that explore the struggles of her dual Syrian and British heritage. Displacement, the feeling of not belonging somewhere, for some of us is one of our deepest and most privately held emotions. Everyone has a desire for a home; somewhere to put their own perspective into context. What happens though when you have two ‘homes’? Two cultures to call your own? “It was less about not feeling ‘in-place’ and more about feeling incomplete for me,” explains luxx. After seeing no representation of Arab people beyond 9/11 and the Syrian civil war in 2011, four years ago she began to spend most of her time in the Middle East, “in order to feel more whole, and to wash the UK’s portrayal of my rootlands from my eyes.” An orphan of Syrian heritage Eating the Copper Apple begins with a love story to her blood and history, as luxx’s father takes a flight over the crescent moon, from Damascus to the Jazz clubs of 1980’s Leeds. ‘Plucked’ by the state at birth, her thick Yorkshire accent might throw you at first. It rumbles, growls. You feel the struggle for her identity slipping out, all to an ethereal score composed by Lebanese sound designer Nour Sokhon. When the score is low, luxx compliments the harmonies with her poetic percussion. When she sings and the score rises, it carries the melody, drawing us in like a true middle eastern storyteller. You can feel the kilometers travelled, woven into her words. It’s not until we learn about her stint in foster care that the pieces of her life begin to come together. Subsequently, under the guardianship of Renel, a West Indian woman living in Bradford, her longing for a home becomes apparent. ‘So, I’m West Indian now’ is maybe the most heartbreaking and simultaneously heart-warming line in the whole performance. Renel is caring. She looks after little lisa but she is not allowed to be called Mum. The only picture she has left of Renel is of her torso, sidestepped away in a crushing display of personal boundaries - a theme that runs throughout the performance. Being exposed to that kind of rejection at such a young age is hard to comprehend, even though she is eventually adopted by a Lebanese man and woman from Leeds. Reunited with her sister, she has a longing to know who she is - and who she was. “Since school I remember feeling a part of me must be such a secret - a taboo - that it was even hidden from me” says luxx. To see the tree from which she was plucked, the famed copper mirrors of Arabia her ancestors brushed into. Each stroke revealed in the mirror’s reflection is a tiny detail of her performance: a brush showing us who lisa luxx is. She takes us through thoughts, conversations, soundbites, perfectly executed fourth wall breaks that layer to create a copper apple, a reflection of everything she is.
The Co om ‘Eating red: A still fr
By the time she arrives in Lebanon, Syria is in turmoil - she feels she must reach Damascus. The language comes easy - she falls in love. Hiding her kisses from the police, because homosexuality is still illegal, just adds to the frantic struggle to get over the border. I don’t want to spoil Pictur ed: lis the ending. It truly a luxx is a fantastic body of work, not only for those who also have two cultural identities, two countries beneath their skin, but for those who want to understand the struggle of immigrants, their children, and the wider impact of displacement because of war, poverty but also love. “Bombs are not normal anywhere in the world.” lisa tells me. “Warfare, obliteration of heritage, and threatening military public presence should not be normalized anywhere. The UK and US governments, and therefore the taxpayers of those countries, are the cogs of the war machine. If your country has blood on its hands, it is your duty to do your research because resistance from Western citizens is profoundly valuable; economic resistance being the most powerful”. It is important that those of mixed heritage tell these stories, share their culture unashamedly, and be free to explore and experiment with who they are, free from persecution. Though unique, lisa’s is a story made up of the same parts as millions of other mixed heritage people. The honest ferocity she tells hers with makes her show essential viewing. Eating the Copper Apple will tour again in 2022., and catch lisa on a book tour of her novel, Fetch Your Mother’s Heart, in Autumn. Follow her on Instagram via @luxxy_luxx 17
ART AGAINST APARTHEID
How Does History, Art, Culture and Activism Fight The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians?
“The resounding echo of Palestinians raising their voices is more than a legacy of loss. It is the dream of a people of rights, homeland, and peace.”
By Danielle Krikorian
In May 2021, the Israeli regime illegally attempted to displace 38 Palestinian families from their homes in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. It escalated when the army attacked worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque during Eid El Fitr. As Palestinians from all over Israel, the West-Bank and occupied territories rose in solidarity, Hamas responded by firing into Israel. For eleven days, Israel sent countless rockets into Gaza, tearing down media towers, and killing more than 248 people. Many cultural organizations and activists were targeted. Dar Yusuf Nasri Jacir for Art and Research in Bethlehem was raided by the IDF and destroyed during the airstrikes. Amidst this despair, Palestinian voices and cultural institutions have risen demanding freedom and equal rights. How does history, art, culture and activism fight the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians? In her work, Palestinian artist Juliana Seraphim (1934-2005) used dreamscapes and fantasy to delve into memories of her intimate and inner world. Seraphim was fourteen when her native city, Jaffa was attacked, after which her family was forced to flee to Lebanon. She drew her imagery from memories of her grandfather’s house in Jerusalem, whose ceiling had colourful frescos. Ismail Shammout (1930-2006) employed a pictorial language that would represent the Palestinian refugee experience. Where to? (1953) displays the Lydda Death March in July 1948 (during the Nakba) and the heartbreak and pain of exile. Malak Mattar’s (2001-) paintings depict Palestinian aesthetics and the harrowing violence inflicted on them. The oil painting The Flower is a tribute 18
to Iyad Al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old autistic man who attended school to learn how to plant trees, cook and protect the environment. He was killed by the Israeli police when they suspected he was armed. The hugging gesture of the plant is an intimate and heartbreaking moment that represents love and loss of the homeland. It further symbolized the innocence of Hallaq and his dire situation. Juxtaposed photographs General strike in Palestine Jerusalem 1929/ General strike in Palestine 2021 comes from Instagram account @DocumentingPalestine. The ‘eternal-present’ struggle is jarring. It showcases that archival documents, art and photography are essential in understanding the stories of the Palestinian people. According to DocumentingPalestine, “The Zionist narrative is very fragile, and it relies heavily on censorship to strengthen its impact. The more Palestine is made visible, the more that people are exposed and become inquisitive about the cause.
Image: Juliana Seraphim. ‘Untitled’ (1980)
Courtesy of Ramzi & Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation
For Palestinians all over the globe and within Palestine, this shared history and culture is a method of communication. It unites them in a world where they are deprived of being re-united in a Palestinian state. The performance of Palestinian culture is a symbol of solidarity and unity against a world that denies their rights and existence. The fight against apartheid and ethnic cleansing is ongoing. Palestinians and cultural institutions continue to raise their voices. The resounding echo is more than a legacy of loss. It is the dream of a people of rights, homeland, and peace. The echo will never fade. Their voices won’t be silenced.
Image: Malak Mattar. ‘The Flower’ (2020) Courtesy of Ramzi & Saeda Dalloul Art Foundation
ART AGAINST APARTHEID
THE STRUGGLE FOR PALESTINE By Yanis Iqbal
Image: Ismail Shammout. ‘Where To?’ (1953)
Cobwebs of longing, maps of homeland He was again meandering in the valleys of memories. Paths were threaded with swallows of grief, Unknowingly extending into trenches of barbed-wires. Gravel and sand (mottled with the blood of martyrs) Scent the wisps of sky with gashes of grief. Jordan River, wit ness to the cultivation of colonized corpses, Is wrinkled with tears of indignation. Fern-covered bricks of demolished houses Have sucked the evening’s embers to repletion, Leaving only the violet hue of a tired fire. Glaciated gates to Palestine stand still, Buried in the tear-stained envelopes of people Who wanted to carve a beautiful home From the serrated edges of struggle. Yanis Iqbal is an independent researcher and freelance writer based in Aligarh, India.
Pictured: Deserted spice markets during a Palestinian general strike, 1929. Courtesy of DocumentingPalestine
Did you know? There are more than 6 million Palestinians worldwide. The UN RWA estimates that over 5 million are now refugees.
If you’d like to learn more about the role art plays in resistance to settler occupation, head to our website and check out our investigative feature, ‘A Lifetime of Lockdown: Art From Kashmir’
‘How can you create a queer identity when spaces are closed off?’
The queer thriller can capture communities on the precipice between life and death. Knife + Heart (2018) and Stranger by the Lake (2013) are films in which killers stalk queer communities. In both films, the characters are aware of the threat, but most continue to live their lives, choosing to value touch and physical intimacy, despite the danger. These films allow these characters safe spaces where outside threatening forces can be thwarted and the community can thrive. When hatred and homophobia is something faced daily, the need for physical proximity is greater. Characters such as Franck in ‘Stranger by the Lake’ choose to pursue danger, enagaging in a sexual relationship with the murderer of his queer community. Similarly, Anne in ‘Knife + Heart’ becomes obsessed with the killer who is tormenting her friends. Their choice to ignore these deadly threats seems to come from an internalised hatred that society has enforced, but it could also be viewed as a reiteration of the lack of value they hold in the eyes of police and the state. The police are nonplussed about the killings in ‘Knife + Heart’, and choose to interrogate the queer porn community the film focuses on, rather than keeping them safe. Someone who ‘gets off on killing fags’ is of low priority to find. The police sneer at the sex workers, looking down at the pornography as exploitation cinema. The dismissal by police is paralleled in governments across the world during the 1980s AIDs crisis, as the lives of queer people were not considered a loss by those in charge. The COVID-19 measures introduced by governments and the media’s selective coverage determining which lives were to be considered worthy, has reopened old wounds and questions around the AIDs crisis. How many lives could have been saved if the bureaucracy had acted faster? The comparison between the rapid vaccine creation for COVID-19 and the slow pace of research and medical advancement for HIV and AIDs carriers is also stark. To the privileged few who feel welcome in all spaces, it may only 22
be since lockdown that they came to hold certain spaces in high regard. For those living in fear of hatred and judgement, a safe space is sacrosanct. In ‘Knife + Heart’ it is a bar where the queer sex workers come to relax and bicker over the moral superiority of their craft: pornography vs. solicitation. The bar is a place for open discussion and the possibility for queer frivolity, one in which to live to the fullest, albeit awaiting another death.
Spaces between Life and Death By Billie Walker
While safeguarding queer spaces is imperative, they are not the only spaces queer bodies have the right to inhabit. Both films feature scenes of queer joy and community in the natural world, and often by a body of water. In Stranger By The Lake, the men congregate by the picturesque lakeside. These hidden spots are where one can swim, laugh and relax without strangers’ eyes passing judgement over bodies or queer touch. In London, other than queer clubs and bars (many of which are still waiting to open their doors), these spots are rarer. Hampstead Heath ladies’ ponds maybe be a haven for cis women, but its gates are not open to trans people. How can one create a queer identity, or reinforce your authentic self when spaces are closed off? There is a necessity for spaces which offer support and respect especially during times when threats are surrounding us. During the pandemic, online events served this purpose but the police and state are still threatening the queer communities livelihoods. As we see in these films, safe spaces must continue to be ours and ours alone, despite the many dangers pushing us to the brink.
Top and bottom stills: Knife + Heart (2018, CG Cinema). Middle: Stranger By The Lake (2013, Les films du losange)
Still: Girls Lost (Pöjkana) (2015, Göta Films)
“When we turn into boys, it is not the same for us as it is for you.”
WHEN THE EGG CRACKS A Trans narrative in ‘Girls Lost’ By Julian Holt ‘Girls Lost’ (2015, dir. AlexandraTherese Keining) is a surreal, Swedish, coming-of-age film about the exploration of gender and sexuality. Three high-school girls – Kim, Momo and Bella – experience daily homophobic bullying and harassment. They fantasise about becoming boys and having the power to fight back against their attackers. One day their wish is answered when they discover a magic plant, the nectar of which temporarily transforms them into boys. For Momo and Bella, this is an opportunity for them to have fun performing as male before returning to normal, and applying this newfound confidence to their daily life. For Kim, the experience reveals a yearning that was lying dormant within her all along. “Sometimes it feels like I have a zipper somewhere. If I’m brave enough to pull it, there’s a different body underneath that’s the real me. I can’t explain it. It just doesn’t feel right.”
Kim’s epiphany about his gender identity is foreshadowed alongside the discovery of the plant and its power. The plant acts as a catalyst for his precipitous freefall, but Kim had been skirting along the cliff edge of discovery for a while. In the transgender community (and by extension, the LGBTQ+ community), there is an analogy of an egg to refer to a person who doesn’t realise they’re trans yet. Over time, cracks start to appear in the shell, and once the egg is hatched, the pieces can never be put together again. Once you know the truth, you can’t unknow it. “If you are blind to what is different, this story is not for you. But if your eyes are open, you will see.” The cracks in Kim’s gender identity are already apparent, appearing distressed when presenting as female and burdened by this indescribable feeling of inner discomfort, later associated with gender dysphoria. But the arrival of the mysterious plant propels him in a new direction. He is eager
to try something new and to leap blindly into the unknown, whereas the other two are more cautious. It is this openness to new possibilities and simultaneous fatigue of his current circumstances that open up this new path. There, he discovers feelings of joy and peace previously unknown to him, shattering his egg once and for all. “When I’m with him, I feel like I’m drunk.” In a physical form that presents as male, we begin to see Kim experience gender euphoria. Where he previously described himself as having a hidden person zipped up inside him, he says he doesn’t feel that anymore, “now it just feels… right.” Emboldened by his new appearance, Kim pursues his love interest, a troubled boy named Tony, who involves Kim in his wild world of criminal activity and underground parties. Momo asks Kim if he likes Tony or wants to be like him. Kim replies that he likes Tony because “he doesn’t know who he is, either.” The exhilaration Kim experiences as male is seen akin to addiction; the disappointment every morning when he returns to female is palpably unbearable. His desperation alienates Momo and Bella as he wrings more nectar out of the dying plant to revive his male persona over and over again.
“I do not know who I am, do you not get that? I fell into the abyss.” Kim’s splintering relationships come to a head when Tony violently rejects Kim when he tries to kiss him and when Momo burns down the greenhouse containing the plant after Kim rejects her in turn. Kim, feeling like he has nowhere left to turn, flees driving to the margins of society and pauses on a country road in the middle of the forest, appearing to contemplate suicide as he toys with a gun. For trans people, when they realise who they are, it seems as though they are faced with two paths: to pursue transition and become who they were always meant to be, or not. Kim has realised that there is no meaningful future for him if he cannot live as his authentic self. ‘Girls Lost’ is a film about hidden truths that were already there, and once you plunge into their depths, there is no coming back. As we sail along the horizon of a post-pandemic world, emerging unrecognisable to the world we knew before, we observe a plethora of uncomfortable truths that have floated to the surface. We find ourselves asking if we can ever return to what we used to perceive as ‘normal’ when we know what we know about the world we live in. 23
“THIS IS DANGEROUS”
In Conversation with Topher Campbell By Matthew Magill
Topher Campbell is not just a filmmaker, writer, and artist. He’s also the co-founder of rukus!, the Black LGBT archive, which aims to build a ‘living history’ of the UK’s Black LGBTQ community by exhibiting the work of marginalised activists, artists, DJs, and even club promoters over the years. Matthew Magill caught up with Topher to discuss his new short film, ENCOUNTERS; the state of queer arts in the UK; the challenges of building the rukus! archive; as well as the danger surrounding his work. How did rukus! get started and what does it mean to you today? rukus! was named after two things: causing a ruckus, which in Jamaica means to make noise, and also the Black porn star Rukus with a 10-inch dick. Then because I’m a Trekkie and wanted to emulate the futurists, we called it a Federation. It really came out of a friendship between myself and the photographer John Wax. We wanted to create a space for
conversations of play and discovery and creative expression. So that’s what we did with rukus! Federation at the ICA in 2000 - the first Black LGBTQ takeover of an established arts venue anywhere in the UK. After three or four years, we had all this perishable material in a basement, and eventually the London Metropolitan Archives offered us a very small deposit to become the new home of the ruckus! archive. Anybody who wants to know about Black UK queer history and culture should go and check it out because it is phenomenal. What are you working on right now? I’m officially working on a documentary project which I can’t really talk about right now, which is going to be on UK Black, queer culture. I’m also working on a project for the charity Visual Aids in New York. That’s a project around HIV, stigma, and desire, that’s a very personal project. I’ve also been writing a memoir of some kind called ‘Battyman’. I’m not a writer. But this particular book I do want to write. The mission though is always trying to find a way to bear witness to the existence of other people as marginals and on centring on stories of others who are Black and queer, especially those of us who are in Europe and the UK.
Pictured: Topher Campbell 24
What led you into creative work? When I was living as a teenager in Coventry there wasn’t really much to do. We would be sniffing glue, drinking, hanging out, or getting in trouble. So I felt that theatre, basketball, and English were the
things at school that really kept me going and sort of saved my life. From there, I went to university and I joined the drama society where I caught the bug for directing. That’s how I got into it really. I kind of had an instinct as a queer person then that basically, there wasn’t a space for a Black gay actor in the 90s. I felt that directing was my way in. How do you see the current queer arts and culture climate? The arts generally in the UK have become a very corporatized, right-wing project. I think this is no fault of individuals - it’s just very focused on justifying how money is spent. It’s not a space for agendas, defiance, resistance, surprise, messiness… it’s a space for convention. However, there are other kinds of spaces that are popping up. So you can talk about Queer Circle and Queer Resistance. The collective BBZ, the ADA Magazine, Batty Mama, rukus!, Black & Gay Back In The Day, and Evidence to Exist. There’s things happening in Manchester and Birmingham we’re creating - the Homotopia fest and the Fringe Queer Festival. The space that intersects between Black and queer is always very disruptive, because Black and queer interrupts the nice, smooth narratives of respectability within mainstream circles. But creating really honest, disruptive work from a Black perspective is dangerous. I mean, actually dangerous. You have to be very careful about the ways in which you position the work and who you work with. We are in Brexit Britain and Brexit Britain is a right-wing project - and it is winning at the moment. What advice would you give to
Credit: Mae Kabore
queer or Black artists trying to break into the creative sphere? DIY. Do the work and do it any way you can. That’s the hardest step in terms of cultural production. It is very difficult if you have come from the Black and brown global majority, or are queer, trans, or a person of colour. You’re trying to create work which doesn’t naturally have a home or isn’t naturally going to be encouraged or received. I say to everybody, all of you out there, who’s made a piece of work, finished a book, written an essay, created a play, made a film, created an event or an exhibition: that is a real major achievement. It encourages you to keep going because making it happen makes a difference. Someone’s watching; it makes a difference to somebody. So that’s my biggest thing: persevere and do the work. It will embolden you, and embolden others. Check out Topher’s new short film ENCOUNTERS, which explores the stigma of living with HIV. Visit encountersshortfilm.com
FOOD BANKS AND STREAMING
COMMUNITY CINEMA IN AND OUT OF LOCKDOWN By Georgina Allan
Cinemas have unsurprisingly been in a bind for the last 18 months. The repeated closures, last minute changes and fear of gathering with strangers has meant empty cinema seats for extended periods. Many of the UK’s cinema chains leant on staff redundancies to recoup losses, while profit-led businesses, such as The Secret Group (responsible for Secret Cinema) were given the largest sums from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. There are currently 1500 community run cinemas in the UK. Some have regular screenings and a venue whereas others are occasional film nights or small festivals. The aim of community cinema is not only to provide screenings of films to a small group, but also to provide community driven support. The size of community cinemas means they are run mainly by volunteers and not-for-profit, and therefore provide diverse films or one-off screenings.
Lockdown When Covid hit, many of these groups set screenings aside and focused on the community. “We saw food drives, DVD drop-off schemes, seed swaps, NHS fundraisers and more” said Jaq Shell of Cinema For All, the lead organisation supporting and developing community cinema in the UK, which has been running for 75 years. The Lexi, a social enterprise cinema, did just this. “We were closed throughout covid, but opened our doors for a couple of days a week for food bank deliveries (half a ton of food was donated)’ says Lexi founder Sally Wilton. The Lexi were also able to transfer screenings online, curating a roster of films to watch from home as well as online discussions on them afterwards. The Cube in Bristol is a not-for-profit co-operative who were able to host a huge amount of online events, and even created and hand-delivered their own zine. By going online, there were many possibilities, as Libby Miller told me, one of the 80 plus volunteers currently working for The Cube. “The cinema’s regular event Bluescreen became Bluestream and continued throughout. We also held free and ticketed online events, exploring our archived videos, and held films and Q&As in collaboration with local group Cables and Cameras”. While there has been a wealth of inventive output and outreach by these groups, the financial and administrative struggles throughout the year have been tough. The Rio Cinema in Dalston, a Grade II listed institution of a place, created a GoFundMe to get through the closure. Deptford Cinema in South London, a non-hierarchical, volunteer-run cinema for community programming, is in limbo as the group voted to vacate their current venue. ‘Deptford Cinema has always aimed to balance sustainability with affordability to audiences. Images: Libby Miller
With a limited number of seats, and lessthan-ideal ventilation at the venue, it is
extremely difficult for us to continue to operate with a fair ticket price’ an official statement on their website explained.
Reopening For many of these spaces, the lack of clear guidance and last minute changes by the government threatened reopening, as did the difficulty in achieving funding from the Arts Council or the Culture Recovery Fund. “We found the process, forms, finances and website really confusing and we really struggled without having dedicated people to work on them” says Libby. However, The BFI, local councils and Film Hub networks have stepped up to the mark, providing funding which has been integral to the groups, even to the venues’ very structures. While cinemas have now been allowed to reopen and the public has rushed to see films in person, community cinemas are still erring on the side of caution. “Many are holding off on events till September”, says Jaq. With surging infection rates and lower levels of the second jab, “it’s understandable for groups to wait for more stability before they dive back in”. Libby reiterates this uncertainy, but The Cube are “trying to remain as flexible as we can, and use the situation as an opportunity for more strange experiments.” As you wonder whether to go back to the movies, community cinema continues to have the edge over chains. The average ticket cost at a community cinema is £6; The Cube’s are currently £3 and other community cinemas are free. The cooperative venues can help with accessibility and adapt seating for covid safety. The range of films is also vast. The Lexi has screened artists’ videos such as Lawrence Abu Hamdan’s Walled Unwalled Light Work while The Cube programme ranges from experimental shorts to Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse. One of the central reasons to go is to support places that are run by passionate volunteers and have the community in mind. Sally of the Lexi says they have a tangible “role to play in helping to rebuild community links and to showcase films that help build empathy and understanding between communities”. Similarly they can be places to meet people and share the love of film in its most organic form. “People need connections with each other – and film has the power to bring people together like no other medium” says Jaq. During this period it has been the community cinemas’ resilience that makes them magic. The hope is they continue to survive and thrive whatever is thrown at them next.
You can find your nearest community cinema by visiting mycommunitycinema.org.uk
Scan the QR code on the contents pageto listen to Steven's roots playlist
The revival of Marley’s musical legacy By Steven Topple The legendary Bob Marley died 40 years ago. And while his influence and spirit live on, what of the music he helped pioneer? Has Reggae lost its way? Has society lost it? Or is it seeing a revival? Marley was famous for Roots Reggae. “Roots” emerged in Jamaica the late 1960s. It was partly derived from older genres, and grew with the rise of the Rastafari faith. It takes various musical forms: from Soul-influenced, to Rock-heavy via stripped back Rub-a-Dub. Think Marley’s Redemption Song and Buffalo Soldier as examples. But it’s actually less about the music and more about the message. Because Roots is almost always conscious; that is, filled with messages of faith, spirituality, love, and politics. Just this year, the release of the late Vaughn Benjamin’s posthumous album Polarities exemplified a music dealing with a multitude of subjects: theoretical physics, anthropology, social media, Friedmanite economic theory – all weaved together through the Rastafari faith and hope for a better world. But as I recently discussed with German Roots artist Uwe Banton, the key to effective conscious music is not to preach complex messages to the listener. It is to convey inspiring thoughts, pose questions and provide answers.“No one preached to me. It’s something I heard about, and with my own will I started to research it, to learn more about it. And I think this is what I see more my role being.” Once dominated by Roots, more diverse artists are now switching up their conscious game. Dancehall, for example, was once (but not always) the preserve of so-called “slack” (explicit) artists chatting sex, drugs and money. But in recent years, even the hardest of Dancehall stars have begun evolving. The currently incarcerated Vybz Kartel’s most recent album Of Dons and Divas was a good example. Slackness filled some of the tracks. But on others he discussed the prison industrial complex, Jamaica’s
Pictured left to right: Etana (Freemind Music), Uwe Banto, Protoje (Yannick Reid) 26
entrenched poverty, the system’s institutionalised racism and classism, and the importance of supporting your community. Kartel did what a lot of non-Roots artists have been doing: mixing brukout (party) with the conscious in an attempt to get a new audience to hear the latter. Afrobeats artists like Stonebwoy do similar. This isn’t new: even Marley was aware of the need for balance. As he said in a 1978 interview when asked about his musical ‘mellowing’: “We not really singing more love songs, but inviting more people to listen”. Artists who tread that tightrope know the power of music. Grammy nominated Roots/Afrobeats artist Etana, who’s done the same with her latest album Pamoja, summed it up to me well recently: pointing to music having the ability to affect change. The role of music in South Africa’s ending of apartheid is one such prominent example; Marley is of course another. Yet what if people don’t hear the music and its positive messages in the first place? Roots hasn’t made a global impact since the days of Marley in the early 1980s. There was a resurgence in the 1990s for Reggae music, and later in the noughties for chart-friendly Dancehall. But in both cases, the majority of what was successful was not message music; more, it was about love, sex or ‘brukking out’. Not many artists have solved the puzzle of getting their much-needed conscious music to the masses. Part of the reason is structural racism in music and the media. Another element is that the messages in the music are too subversive for the system. But that now appears to be shifting. Artists like Kartel, Benjamin and Etana clock up hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, of streams. Others like Protoje, Sevana and Lila Iké recently signed record deals with Sony Music. There’s also Grammywinning Koffee who is a major breakthrough artist. Sony also signed her. Her songs have charted in the UK and she was an opening act for Harry Styles. Interestingly, so far this hasn’t been at the expense of the music’s message. Grammy nominee Protoje previously told me that “The challenge has always been making the music… very palatable for the youth. Going mainstream is definitely possible, and [artists like Koffee] show that people will listen to this type of music, given the chance”. African and Caribbean music has always had a message. From early Mento and Calypso, Ska and Rocksteady, to eventually Roots Reggae and Dancehall via Afrobeats – the struggles of the many along with their hopes have always been represented culturally. Now it’s getting that message to the masses which is at the ‘root’ of this pioneering musical and spiritual movement.
By Oliver Walkden The late Mark Fisher, who co-founded Repeater Books with Tariq Goddard in 2014, was enthralled by jungle. It “sounded like the future rushing in”, propelled at frenetic speed by mercurial breakbeats instead of house’s hackneyed 4/4 metric. That’s not to say it offered a linear chronology; it scrambled matters with perplexing transmutations of rhythm and bass, abducting the listener’s mind into “temporal delirium”. In doing so, it challenged the times in which it was made, picking up the baton from dub-reggae to violently reject Babylon’s (post)colonial power system of racism, capitalism, and surveillance. It was the soundtrack to the more chaotic and crazed parts of Fisher’s intellect - the Tasmanian devil to pop music’s Bugs Bunny. Despite consisting of 60s soul samples like the famous Amen Break, and now being a nostalgic, “retro” genre of its own, jungle still complements Repeater’s dedication to “the creation of a new reality”. Its head-splitting beats and foundation-fucking subs live on through artists such as Sherrelle, Fauzia, Tim Reaper and DJRUM, who mix the original style with new-school productions and US imports such as footwork and juke. But it also lives on in the written word, in the subterranean narratives of Black British literature. “Drum and bass was not about trying to lose yourself on the weekend and erase the memories of the week. You were just really excited to go and dance to the music”, says Andrew Green, aka Two Fingas, who co-authored the novel Junglist with drum and bass photographer Eddie Otchere in the ‘90s. “And we didn’t just save it for the weekend. We listened to it constantly.” The book, newly reissued by Repeater, captures the genre’s fiery genesis in mid-90s South London. It was originally published as part of Jake Lingwood’s cult series of pulp novels, Backstreets, which commissioned active party-goers to splurge streams of (sub)consciousness onto paper. The city it describes is a wilderness, humid with police presence and poverty, but elevated by the joyfulness of Black sounds. For the novel’s teen narrators, militant jungle music is not a Lethean tonic for a painful life. It hardens them to the struggle in a flat, concrete world, giving them feeling and resonance. “What’s interesting is that the book was written with no irony whatsoever. It was heartfelt. We just wrote about what we loved, whereas modern society seems to be based on being ironic and not loving anything.” More than anything, Junglist is a coming of age novel that fizzes and swells with teenage desire. One narrator seeks steamy confluence with the music and women in his life and, in a particularly racy chapter, he practically makes love to a vinyl record. His world is painfully “throbbing with the sound”, trapped in puberty’s fleshy maze. (Imagine Catcher In The Rye set in the 1990s Brixton rave scene). During our Zoom chat, Andrew’s infant boy joins him on his lap. How will this young lad’s coming of age compare to that of the Junglist’s? And what will be the soundtrack to his youth? “Part of the joy of being Black in the UK is that music is everywhere”, says Green, “and there’s always going to be a music of choice for people entering teenagedom.” “Jungle couldn’t have come from anywhere else”, says Green. “House and techno had been black music, but it got co-opted and taken over. For me, jungle was the point where Black people in the UK came together and rose into prominence. Black culture was taking its true place.” Green is slowly working on more writing, but is primarily focused on his day job as a short film and commercial director. A few years above him in a West London college was another director, Steve McQueen. His recent BBC series, Small Axe, prefigures jungle, particularly with its “blues” parties. Green was raised going to these events: “It would just be darkness, speakers, a DJ and a heaving mass of people. As an immigrant culture, lots of places suitable Pictured: 2 Fingas aka Andrew Green. for parties wouldn’t have us, so we just used the spaces we had.” Credit: Leo Williams
Pictured: Eddie Otchere 27
“It took me 25 years and becoming part of the BTS ARMY to get back to my mother tongue.”
was fine. Better than fine. My English was great. So who cared, really?
By Rameeza Ahmad My mother recalls her maternal grandmother. She did not have a lot of formal education, but according to my mom, when she spoke, it sounded like poetry. I grew up in a middle class Urdu speaking family in Pakistan, and my mother herself is an Urdu teacher. Coming from a tradition of people who prided themselves over their command of the language, something must have gone really wrong to cause me to grow an aversion to it. Today, a lot of Pakistanis confuse a mastery of English with being ‘welleducated’. My family made a point to send us to English medium schools. In fact, the school was so focused on English, that for O’levels, it offered us Urdu as a second language. Not only was Urdu as a subject not given any importance, it was largely discouraged. Sometimes when the school would be in a particular episode of ‘anti-Urdu’ frenzy they would go as far as penalizing students for speaking the language.
My mother recalls with amusement the ‘celebration’ after my O’levels exams that I would never have to read Urdu again. In university, my Urdu was so bad it would take me a full minute even to read the most basic sentence. But this did not bother me because my English
In 2019, this all changed. On the request of a BTS fan, I listened to a few of their songs with translations. And I became obsessed. I found Korean incredibly beautiful. I soon found myself signing up for Korean classes to understand them better. When I started to learn the language, I saw the similarities it had with Urdu. The alphabets had similar sounds and the sentences were structured in the same way! And it hit me: why had I never found Urdu beautiful? I decided to start working on my Urdu as well. I started writing captions on social media in the language. I began reading Urdu novels, even calling my (rather shocked) grandparents for recommendations. Korean director Bong Joon-Ho’s comment at the 2020 Oscars about the barrier of translations really struck a chord with a lot of non-native English speakers. The Western media’s hegemony in this digital age is being challenged by artists and content creators in other parts of the world. As the world becomes more of a global village, we are hopefully at the dawn of the realization that fluency in English is not the barometer for greatness. And I hope we find a collective cure for this post-colonial hangover soon. And until then, I will be translating BTS songs from Korean to Urdu as my contribution to the cure.
Image: Aimee Turton Instagram: @uomanko
ART & ABILITY: CELEBRATING 10 YEARS OF ARTBOX By Georgina Allan ARTBOX is a charity that runs art workshops, exhibitions and sales opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism. Growing from a one- off workshop to a permanent studio space holding workshops 5 days a week, ARTBOX mark their 10th anniversary this year. The organisation sells the artists’ work online and to commercial spaces and galleries, generating income for the artists as well as the charity itself. The workshops themselves are a social space for the artists to build their confidence and skill. Through lockdown, they ran online, and artists’ work continued to be sold. In-person workshops recently began again and the artists profiled produced much of their work shown here in them.
HISBA Hisba was one of the first artists to take part in ARTBOX. She is influenced by abstract art, geometric work and artists from the Bauhaus movement. One of her favourite artists is Jackson Pollock who she says has had the biggest impact on her work. Having made art for a decade, she has been able to deliver a talk at the Royal Academy, have work displayed in galleries and host workshops herself at ARTBOX.
‘Crooked Church’ by Hisba
‘Hot Bird in Cold Climate’ by Lee
Radical Art Review is always looking for charitable creative organisations to showcase. Please get in touch if you would like us to showcase visual art from artists who may not normally get a platform. In our last issue, SOLITUDE, we focused on three organisations that platform the work of incarcerated artists. Justice Arts Coalition is a US-based nonprofit and network of activists and incarcerated artists. Koestler Arts runs art classes, public performance, and exhibitions by incarcerated artists. The Koestler Awards run every year with over 50 categories. Minutes Before Six was first a blog set up in 2007 by Thomas Whitaker, who served 12 years on Death Row before being granted clemency. The website now hosts hundreds of contributions from inmates across the US. minutesbeforesix.com/ We’re proud to be able to showcase a huge array of visual work especially from artists who would not usually be platformed. If you know of an organisation or artist we can support, get in touch with us at info@ radicalartreview.org
HERALD Herald is passionate about black history and the influential figures he shows through his work. He primarily works in felt tips, oil pastels with vivid colours and expressive backgrounds. He is also interested in musicians such as Jackie Wilson, Jimmy Ruffin and has a love of pattern and flags.
LEE Lee has been fascinated by Egyptian art since he was young and is influenced by culture, animals and places. While his earlier work was inspired by Ancient Egypt, he has turned to birds and modes of transport in newer pieces of work. He enjoys attending workshops for the social element and community atmosphere.
‘Portrait’ by Herald
T I O D F L E S R U YO HOW TO MAKE A BOMB Below is the opening section of a pamphlet from Gabriella Hirst, Warren Harper and designer Samantha Whetton titled How to Make a Bomb: a guide to civilian horticultural agency which is available from The Old Waterworks website. Created in 1953 in the midst of the Cold War by botanist Reimar Kordes, the Rosa floribunda “Atom Bomb”, is a reminder not only of humanity’s tragic nuclear legacy, but of our continuing proliferation of nuclear warheads. While over 13, 400 bombs continue to exist, however, their botanical counterpart has been driven to near-extinction. Hirst and Harper are aiming to reverse this by propagating and distributing them through a series of workshops, exhibitions, guerilla gardening and community-led initiatives. In May, “Atom Bomb” roses were planted in Gunners Park, Essex, in an installation titled ‘An English Garden’. However, the flowers were removed on the 23rd June following pressure from local Conservative councillors, who saw them as a “direct far left wing attack on our History, our People and our Democratically Elected Government”. Their censorship highlights the political power of the roses, and the potential for their propagation to subtly force Britain to face its colonial nuclear heritage. To find out more about the work of Gabriella Hirst, catch our interview with her online, and to find out where to get rose material, head to her website.
LINO PRINTING YOUR WAY TO PROTEST WHAT YOU’LL NEED Lino cutter Water soluble paint Paint roller (this could realistically be substituted for a large paintbrush) Cartridge/sketchbook paper Tracing paper Lino block. These can be bought in packs for pretty cheap in art shops. Alternatively you can work with a kitchen knife and a potato!
INSTRUCTIONS 1. Transfer an image that you would like to print onto tracing paper. The image has to be inverted onto the stamp so that it can appear the right way up when finished. (Bare this in mind especially if you are printing letters or words!) 2. Turn the the tracing paper over and transfer your traced image onto your lino block (or potato). 3. Once the tracing has worked, begin carving. You want to create a stamp, so cut away at the negative space (or the parts that you wish to be blank in the end). Remember to cut AWAY from yourself or risk shaving your hand. 4. Voila! You have a stamp, ready to print and re-use again and again. 5. Grab your paper and run it under some water. Then blot it with some kitchen roll. You want it to have some water on it but not be dripping wet as your print will bleed (I find this is the hardest part - as you need to find the right balance). 6. Squeeze a substantial amount of paint onto a palette, coat your roller in it so that the ink is covering the roller but isnt too thick, and transfer the paint onto your stamp. 7. Then once it is covered, turn it over and stamp! Press on it for a while, maybe place a book on it or a heavy plant pot or just use your own strength. And then slowly reveal! 31 31
LIFE ON THE EDGE: Chaos and Community in Signs of the Sojourner presents an alternative vision GAM I NG
of our climate future By John Rogers
In mainstream video games, the future of humanity is a dark place. Painstakingly detailed visions of broken, post-societal cities are ubiquitous, complete with overgrown tower blocks and decimated landmarks. In these ravaged landscapes, violent factions war over resources, and the player takes the role of a precariat loner surviving by whatever means necessary. Such scenarios often feature a sudden cataclysm that overwhelms society, like an asteroid strike, or nuclear war. But as we sit in our front row seats to climate change, we’ve become aware that an all-too-real threat to civilisation is bearing down on us. And it isn’t sudden and dramatic, but relentlessly incremental.
political discourse. Some characters speak in diamonds (representing creative and industrious traits) and squares (direct and forceful), whereas other dialects feature circles (empathic and observant) and triangles (logical and diplomatic). Only by learning new shapes – often through ostensibly failed conversations – can accord be reached.
This realisation has given rise to a new climate-aware brand of science fiction, sometimes referred to as “cli-fi”. Signs of the Sojourner is a welcome video game addition to the burgeoning genre. In the game, the player takes a road trip through a climate-ravaged landscape, trading and talking via a cardmatching conversation mechanic. Sympathetic characters live in precarious communities, farming hardy crops to make dried and fermented foods. There are no marauding, leatherclad road gangs – instead, people are working together to carve out a living and make the best of what they have left. It’s a kinder take on our possible climate future.
“We started development a couple of years ago, so it wasn’t intentional, but this past year has definitely highlighted the themes we were talking about,” says Dyala. “In some ways, I think the game puts too negative a spin on the inability to connect with everyone. But we wanted it to reflect the difficulty of trying. Finding that balance meant that you couldn’t connect with everyone all the time. But for most people, misunderstandings happen because you’re coming from different perspectives, rather than it being a head-to-head battle.”
Branching timelines Dyala Kattan-Wright is the founder of the Echodog studio, and the game’s director. “We are inundated with bleak future visions,” she says, “especially when we think about big problems like climate, that feel impossible. How are we going to manage that, and what’s going to happen? I don’t have the answers, but I do love the idea of people tackling these problems together, and supporting each other through them.” The game features an unnamed protagonist who inherits her mother’s shop in the desert village of Bartow. She must traverse treacherous deteriorated roads between various towns, making connections and trading for supplies to keep Bartow alive. Some settlements are lively and colourful, like the artist commune of Pachenco and the market towns of Aldhurst and Clifton. Others, like the crumbling city of Anka and the fading gas stop of Bukam Boro, are barely clinging on. “Many of these communities are suffering,” says Dyala. “Communication has broken down, and travel is difficult. But as much as there are bittersweet and melancholic moments, we wanted the overall feeling of the game to be optimistic. We wanted to acknowledge that there are these big problems, but if people work together we can get through them.” Make friends and influence people
The conversational card game at the heart of Signs of the Sojourner also resonates with our contemporary
Society moves on Each town in the game is facing different issues relating to climate. A tea maker in Bukam Boro worries about the groundwater running dry; the city of Old Morae is flooded, and in the midst of an uprising against some local oligarchs. “When we sat down to build the places you’re visiting, we wanted to explore modern day problems, without spreading it too thin,” says Dyala. “So we designed each town to have it’s own issues, but within the overarching theme of travel and personal growth. We wanted to avoid labelling the game as post-apocalyptic. In this game, society has moved on, and it’s starting to come back together. Societal breakdown doesn’t necessarily mean everyone turning into violent monsters. No matter how bad things get, people go on with their lives, supporting each other, and getting on as best they can.” Signs of the Sojourner is out now for Nintendo Switch, Playstation, Xbox, Windows, and Mac. Learn more at echodoggames.com Follow John’s gaming exploits or catch his podcast on Twitter via @gaminginthewild
Images: Echodog Studio
NOT SO WHOLESOME
“Is surrounding ourselves with pleasing avatars only plastering a gaping wound?”
GAM I NG
By Marijam Didžgalvytė The Wholesome Gaming movement provides an alternative to the grisly, unwholesome mainstream; something palatable, pleasant and romantic to cling onto in our ongoing crisis of capitalist alienation. But do Wholesome Games Provide Escapism, or a Reproduction of the Status Quo? Marijam Didzgalvyte explores... Thanks to the snobbery-inclined habits of fine art criticism, calling something kitsch implies a level of contempt, marking a cultural artefact as sub-par to ‘high art’. The videogames industry is not quite there, but a growing genre called Wholesome Games certainly resembles what could be considered kitsch. Wholesome Direct, an online showcase of video games from this burgeoning movement, gathered tens of thousands of views a few weeks ago, and stirred an active discussion online as to the ambitions and limitations of this artistic practice.
Here we see a rainy afternoon, lofi soundtrack accompanying Bob Ross-style paintings (Behind The Frame); or a girl running around a gorgeous pixelated world doing her chores (Yokai Inn). They are quirky without being controversial, sentimental, cute with their aesthetics. There’s even a game in which all a player does is take pictures of cute dogs (Pupperazzi)! Who doesn’t like that? Wholesome Games are an entirely justified reaction to and resistance against mainstream gaming, where products are still predominantly marketed to adolescent white men interested in violence and competition. The fact that there are now thriving new spaces for game developers interested in different audiences, aesthetics and mechanics is to be celebrated. After all, how many more exhausting post-apocalypses do we really have the capacity for?
However, those anxious about the growth of wholesome games are justified. In existences defined by material anxieties, and with outside pressures increasingly limiting our every freedom - is surrounding ourselves with pleasing avatars only plastering a gaping wound? Or could it be part of the problem. The stark contradiction of this ‘games for good’ inclination in Wholesome Games comes into sharp focus half-way through the Wholesome Direct stream, when the presenters introduce their appeal to donate to the International Rescue Committee. The main mission of the IRC is to help victims of the humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The region, of course, is mostly shattered by conflicts rooted in the aggressive mining of minerals necessary for the creation of the hardware used in games consoles.
It is the embracing, or at least admittance to these conditions, that the Wholesome Games movement sorely lacks. Gaming is now bigger than the music and film industries combined, standing at the forefront of culture and holding the power to sway generations of individuals into action. But games potentially cause irreversible harm for the planet, and as it burns, escapism will not hold the front for much longer. We can absolutely utilise games for mindless fun, for alleviating the pressures of our everyday lives. But the real ambition should be to create infrastructures for building solidarity and affinity; to learn and be willing to fight, so that one day all our lives may be just a little bit more wholesome. Follow Marijam for gaming coverage via marijamdid.com
REDISCOVER YOUR FAVOURITES
America’s favourite meme artist answers YOUR questions Finding artistic inspiration in a crumbling civilisation and a collapsing ecosystem isn’t easy. But thanks to skyrocketing inequality, plummeting living standards, and a little thing called the Internet, inspiration is everywhere. Here to help you find it is Teenage Stepdad - the host of Seize The Memes, cyberspace’s best and most recent digital art instruction series. He inspires viewers to throw off the shackles of the corporate media, drop out of design school, and make some fucking art. Over on Instagram, he toys with classic design and the haywire politics of our accelerationist age to create digital graffiti with revolutionary potential. “Dear Teenage Stepdad, I was born after 9/11. But I love how you showcase design from the 1980s. What draws you to this era?” Back in the 80s, a lot of VHS tapes and film posters weren’t designed by corporate designers, but workaday designers in the print houses. Design from that era is so great because often these designers were working with a schlocky product and had one shot at differentiating themselves in a crowded market. The designs were really more about grabbing people’s attention. Not just a Photoshopped celebrity, but a bloody meat hook, or really cool laser text. It’s also a time in my life when I experienced a crazy loss. I think in some ways that stunted me as a person in that period around 1989, when everything made more sense. I have never gotten away from gravitating towards that era.
“Dear Teenage Stepdad, You have so many Instagram followers. Can you tell me how to go viral so I can get more likes?”
“Dear Teenage Stepdad, I saw a communist symbol in one of your memes. Are you a communist? Is communism bad?” Well, I don’t know. When I was growing up, communism and Russia were as bad as you could get, and was just presented as the Ultimate Evil and the opposite of the USA. But as I grew older, I realised that this, like everything else they told me, was bullshit. And as a designer, that stuff looks fucking cool as shit. Funnily enough, the art deco style from that era is exactly what the Rockefeller Center in New York City looks like. The symbolism of power and God-like inevitability is universal, whether it’s made by the Soviets or the capitalists. “Dear Teenage Stepdad, I want to be a meme artist just like you. Should I turn my art into a career?” When I was 15, I made a conscious decision to separate making a living from my creativity so that I could remain pure and free. My artistic fulfilment now would not exist if I hadn’t made that decision. Artistic fulfilment is the only thing that matters. If you’re broke, but you’re artistically fulfilled, it’s a very good trade-off because it makes you feel alive. For a guy who can be very glib and kind of cynical a lot of the time, this is really something I want to spread in a very sincere way to people that encounter my work. Once you have enough people looking at what you do, you have to fucking say something - don’t just take up space. The most important thing I have to say is that art is important - it’s important for personal reasons and for reasons much bigger than yourself. Art saves my life every single day, and it has my entire life.
Making a viral image is definitely not something that I set out to do. I mean, I think I know enough tricks that I could do that sort of stuff. But with my process, I don’t generally sit down and know what I’m going to make. It seems like the posts that do really well come from a real place of anger and frustration. People are generally really angry and frustrated, so when they see somebody else express that they respond to it. What I can say is that the algorithm is fucking horseshit. It really shouldn’t exist. When it was just chronological, that was really what people wanted - they want to follow what they want to follow and see what that. Somehow, these fucking geniuses in Silicon Valley have decided that is their job to manipulate that and manipulate people in the process to sell more advertising. “Once you have enough people looking at what you do, you have to fucking say something - don’t just take up space.” 34 34
Follow Teenage Stepdad on Instagram (@teenagestepdad).
Entertainment for the 99%
TEAR HERE V
POETRY AN D LIT
LET THE FLOOD IN:
Lessons from a Rural Leftist By Milly Allinson
Can the left remain progressive, intersectional and socialist in rural areas...and win? Milly Allinson explores the tensions of her hometown in Lincolnshire with a little help from George Eliot.
‘manufactured consent’ stemming from poor education, lack of local funding, and tabloid propaganda.
Maggie Tulliver, the protagonist of George Eliot’s 1860 novel The Mill on the Floss, is torn. On the one hand, she loves her lower middle-class family and the mill they run in rural Lincolnshire. On the other, she is independent and intelligent, and wishes to pursue her own happiness. To her family, this is selfishness. Her relationship with the equally intelligent - but already taken - Stephen Guest requires the destruction of her ties to family and friends, particularly with her beloved, but conservative brother, Tom.
no worse than a bad flu season’.
Meanwhile, class reductionists claim that to regain working class trust, the left must jettison intersectionality. Trans struggles for healthcare, job opportunities and self-actualisation are callously disparaged as ‘trans toilet debates’. Turning away from marginalised groups to score ‘woke points’ with right-wing voters is not only morally repugnant - it doesn’t work.
If Maggie stays with her family, she loses her true inner self; if she leaves them, she loses her emotional bonds. Torn between equal, opposing claims, her situation is impossible. Try as she might, Maggie cannot reconcile her inner progressive values with her conservative family and community. This is where the rural left enters the stage.
It’s important not to misrepresent the issue. The rural working class is not a hivemind. Within my community, I have met intersectional radicals - from the outspoken black working class Corbyn supporter to the retired long distance lorry-driver who professed his interest in state Communism. I am situated firmly within their community. I continue to love the communities I grew up in.
Earlier this year, I was disturbed to find out the Heritage party was running for local council in my constituency. In their ‘manifesto for social conservatism’, the party stated they stood against police ‘kneel[ing] before Marxists’, ‘transgender propaganda’ in schools, and ‘draconian coronavirus laws [...] for a disease 36
Fortunately, they didn’t win the election, but the dominance of the Conservative party within the rural county was strengthened. Of Lincolnshire’s 7 constituencies, only 4 non-Conservative candidates have been elected since 1983. All our MPs are now Conservative, as are 54 of our 70 county council seats. In the recent local council elections, Labour received approx ⅕ of the vote of the Conservative candidates in certain areas.
The issue of rural conservatism is responded to with kneejerk reactions from the left. Some advocate for cutting off these areas and their ‘boomer’ residents as a lost cause. This ignores the fact that conservative-voting workers are living within systemic networks of
From comments about clamping down on ‘anti-social behaviour’ to statements against the ‘defund the police’ stance of BLM, Keir Starmer has distanced himself from the intersectional left at any opportunity. His reward? A polling lower than both Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. So, how can we, as rural leftists, reconcile our equal opposing claims? By the end of The Mill on the Floss, it seems that Maggie will never be able to resolve the conflict with her stubborn brother. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a flood rises. Maggie singlehandedly powers her friend’s boat to go and rescue Tom. He finally recognises his sister’s true nature. Finally, the pair are reunited... and then both drown.
Compared to the strict realism of the rest of the novel, the magical (and depressing) ending seemed ludicrous. Then I realised: that was the entire point. George Eliot was a dialectical novelist who faithfully depicted the conflicts that arise between individuals and their socio-economic circumstances. Maggie can’t change her intelligent nature, nor Victorian’s England’s patriarchal social structure. So, if her struggle is impossible to resolve, why not make the impossible possible? The fantastical ending implies that a change of biblical proportions is needed to sweep the characters’ differences away. From that perspective, the ending becomes a prophecy of what is to come. Without widespread support, leftist movements cannot progress. But if we lose our intersectional socialist values, there’s no reason to keep fighting. Perhaps Maggie suggests we’re looking at the problem all wrong. Our conflict cannot be solved by trying to appease one side at the expense of the other. To create a widely-supported intersectional leftist movement, we have to let the flood in and rebuild our world.
IN CONVERSATION WITH ANTHONY ANAXAGOROU By Gaia Lamperti
Anthony Anaxagorou’s poetry has been widely acclaimed. He has published four books over seven years – with an upcoming one in 2023 – and his work appears in major outlets like the BBC, Sky, Vice and The Poetry Review. Influenced by great thinkers like Antonio Gramsci and Miguel Hernandez, Anthony’s poetry explores the history of migration, discrimination within society and the abyss of the ego. Is this the precipice? Have we fallen off yet? I don’t know if it’s a precipice. I think you have ups and downs like nooks and crannies in hills. But I think that’s a positive. I’m passionate and sensitive to race relations around the world, particularly from a perspective of empire and white supremacy. What we’re seeing now is a global push against the status quo. We’re seeing black people, white people, brown people, everyone coming together. That is the silver lining, but then again, at whose expense? Like when we say that women are disproportionately raped and abused by men and most of those men are their partners. So we make documentaries, give lectures, write books, but meanwhile, women are still being raped, hurt and violated. At whose expense? What I’m saying is that sometimes you need immediate action. How does contemporary poetry tackle that? Well, I think poetry does nothing. I don’t believe it has the power to change things at a political level. And I don’t think that’s its job. How I think about poetry is like a paramedic. The job of the paramedic is to keep people alive and get them into hospital. Poets are paramedics in the way they see something and respond to it. Everything else comes later. People want to feel and they go into poetry to be moved, to be compelled, to be confused because that’s what the world is. The world is not straight.
POETRY AN D LIT
The world is not readable. The world is not logical. Tell us about your latest collection of poetry, After the formalities, and how these formalities shape, or harm, society. I look at formalities as being this kind of modus operandi, the dominant paradigm, how things are supposedly done. Subverting and challenging them is what I was really interested in. I did it through a fusion of academic theory and anecdotes, sequences of lived experiences that take place within somebody’s life. The poem ‘After the formalities’ in particular, looks at the history of race as a construct, at the ways in which racial thinking has impacted people’s lived experience. So, my intention with the poem was to show these formalities, which are essentially the way race is thought about and the way that evolved over the last 700 years. While tracking that progression, I used each formality as a point of departure to explore my family’s history of migration and otherness coming from Cyprus, as people who were part of the British Empire, and how they integrated into life in the UK.
EXCERPT ‘AFTER THE FORMALITIES’ by Anthony Anaxagorou In 1481 the word ‘race’ first appears in Jacques de Brézé’s poem ‘The Hunt’. De Brézé uses the word to distinguish between different groups of dogs. In that hard year grandparents arrived on a boat with a war behind them and a set of dog leads. Bullet holes in the sofa. Burst pillows. Split rabbits. Passports bound in fresh newspapers. Bomber planes. A dissenting priest. A moneybag sucking worry. On the boat grandmother anticipated England’s winters with the others. Black snow on gold streets. Grandfather grieved two dogs he’d left. Pedigrees. Bluebottles decaying at the base of their bowls. The dogs of England were different. The water though. Fine to drink. In 1606 French diplomat Jean Nicot added the word ‘race’ to the dictionary drawing distinctions between different groups of people. Nicotine is named after him. In London grandparents lived with only a radio. A lamp favouring the wall’s best side. Curtains drawn round. Byzantine icons placed on paraffin heaters. Arguing through whispers. Not wanting to expose tongues. Stories circulating. What neighbours do if they catch you saying “I’m afraid” in a language that sounds like charred furniture being dragged across a copper floor. Grandfather. Always. Blew smoke out the lip of his window. So too did his neighbour. Colourless plumes merging amorphous. The way it’s impossible to discern the brand of cigarette a single pile of ash derives from.
This poem was written before Covid. How do you approach the same issue in the aftermath of the pandemic? Did Covid expose inequalities even more or fuel change? I think the pandemic has opened up people’s awareness, a global consciousness that the way we live is not sustainable. I think people are acutely aware that we are not impervious now. It has shown an arrogance in human beings thinking they are above: that they have got the technology, they have got the billionaires, the banks, the corporations but still, the pandemic happened. I guess now many people are aware that we are not as bulletproof as we think we are. Photo: Julian Knxx
“Blindboy hosts a podcast where he reads surrealist poems, fictitiously composed by C-list celebrities, alongside his “hot takes” – socialist conspiracy theories that he admits are invention.” The judge nods.
By Ellen O’Donohue-Oddy The judge waggles four fingers, beckoning me to begin. I smooth down my pencil skirt and make eye contact with a bug crawling across the floor. I step forward and crush it beneath my vegan alligator pumps. “I present: Blindboy Boatclub.” Blindboy enters, carrying his podcast mic and a can of Żubr. When he arrives at the stand, he shoves the mic under his armpit and opens the can. It fizzes and the judge leaps as if it might get on his suit. I wave their attention over to me.
Still: ‘Broad City’ (2014; Comedy Central)
Still: ‘Sorry To Bother You’ (2018; dir. Boots Riley)
“Blindboy also writes avant-garde music in response to a video game, via livestream – think online gaming meets automatic writing. From the same studio, with his silly plastic bag on his head, he speaks on RTÉ advocating for better mental health services in Ireland. He doesn’t simply teeter on the precipice of “apolitical” surrealism, but makes a case for surrealism as an inroad to social change – an alternative to the suited and booted solemnity of public officials, which Blindboy labels a ‘surface level performance of seriousness’” (1). The judge holds up his hand as if to say, enough. I look over to the stand, but Blindboy must have slipped out, because all that is left is an empty can and a tatty receipt from JC’s in Dublin. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer enter Hull Magistrates Court, and I lean over to the person in the defence box and hiss “who exactly is on trial here?” She shrugs and eats another hard boiled egg, leaving chalky crumbs of yolk scattered across her slogan t-shirt that reads ‘you are no longer a trembling, carcass’ (2). Ilana does headstand splits and reveals a cartoon vulva drawn in felt tip, labia rippling up to her knees. The boiled egg lady laughs and applauds. “Georgia O’Keeffe?” Ilana winks approvingly. I clear my throat. “In the TV series Broad City, Abbi and Ilana navigate the neoliberal cyborgs of NYC, including a 100-year-old woman working in an abandoned delivery office, a lost tourist trying to buy wine in bakeries, and a realtor with permanent whiplash who makes dolls out of human hair. It is surrealist and a socialist critique of the modern world.” The judge takes notes, and I whistle at the women to step down. Boots Riley was never going to make it this side of the Humber, but I appreciate who he sent instead. Unfortunately, the judge did not. “Why the long face?” I giggle, opening a packet of polos and feeding them through the window.
“The film Sorry To Bother You is a surrealist dystopia that critiques modern-day slavery, late capitalism and white supremacy. I don’t want to ruin it for you,” I shut the window, “but I’ll tell you about one element: I Got the Shit Kicked Out of Me is a gameshow where people get the shit kicked out of them. If surrealism came out of the horror of industrialised warfare during World War One, which made violence abstract, then, through satire, Riley makes literal the violence that was obscured. So, what does this all tell you?” The judge looks at me, blankly. “The surrealist bubble that holds every wildness of the mind, but never foregrounds a political point?” The judge nods. “Someone’s taken a pin to that bubble, my man.” The judge raises his eyebrows and I can’t tell if this is because he’s impressed by my argument, or because no-one’s ever called him “my man” before. “In contemporary art and culture, surrealism and critique have become one and the same, pushing art over the edge of what Jacques Vaché named ‘theatrical uselessness’ and into the centrefold of mass action” (3). I hear a loud cough. Paul Beatty has taken the stand and is looking at me furiously. Thinking about it, this whole scenario has been a poor man’s version of The Sellout. “Great artists steal” I mouth to him. “White artists steal,” he mouths back. He presents his novel, which opens with the protagonist sparking up a blunt in The Supreme Court, on trial for reinstating slavery and segregation as an act of liberation through the negative. The judges look at the blunt – some with fury, some with desire. That’s in Paul Beatty’s pretend court scene, not in my pretend court scene. In my pretend court scene, everyone looks at themselves terrifyingly as they start to vaporise, and Paul Beatty throws his head back in joyous laughter.
Based in Kingston-Upon Hull, Michael Barnes-Wynters is an audio visual artist, mentorist, mischief maker and instigator. Originally from Bristol of Jamaican parentage, his long-term artist collaborations broadcast at the intersections of immersive experiential film installations and provocative durational actions/ performances. Michael's collaborative arts activities eloquently asks blunt, relevant and meaningful questions that tackle human suffrage, racism, gender exploitation, injustice, control and the hyper normalisation of humanity.