February 8, 2016
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Places with the English – Scottish border running through them.
January 27, 2016
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The region where I’m from in the northeast of England was once full of coal mines. Just in the valley where I live, in an area of about 20 square miles, there were once 15 coal mines employing 9000-10000 ‘men and boys’. The last mine in the valley closed in 1983.
I’ve finally spent some time learning about this place. Even though I’ve never seen a working miner, or even a working mine, so much of the landscape I grew up in has been shaped by that history. The people, the houses, the villages, the forests, the paths, the waste grounds where we rode our bikes and motorbikes and even the hollows where we made our dens. Here are some rough scans:
January 5, 2016
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Obviously for anyone working in such fields getting the work published or shown in some way is one of the key objectives. After all of those years of work, all of that personal investment of time and money is rewarded in some small sense. It’s a chance to open the dialogue up and to start the conversation on the topics and the issues you’ve been so engrossed in for such a long time. However, it’s only a moment, and there’s so much to say with very little room to say it.
I have a core belief, and that is we are products of our circumstances. Everything within our societies grows as part of our societies not apart from it. We do have a certain amount of agency over our lives, and we can certainly make decisions about their direction. But the economic, political and historical structures that shape the context we are born into are completely beyond our control. These bear down on us powerfully and they continue to shape our lives as we grow.
While producing this work I’ve seen the power of individual agency as people make active decisions about their lives. I’ve seen these have both positive and negative outcomes depending on the choice that was made. It’s incredible to see the power of a positive choice. However, I’ve also seen the power external structures have on people’s existence. The way both national and international economies are structured alongside their overriding objectives. The nature of a political culture, shaping and shaped by the primary aims of the politicians that operate within it, and the way this structures the impact politics has on a population and the lives of the ordinary people within it. The intimate intertwining of history with our contemporary reality, and how this plays on our perceptions of issues such as race and class, what is considered good and what is considered bad, what is viewed with suspicion and what is deemed trustworthy. The height of the hurdles we have to jump and the number we have to get over, change significantly depending on the luck of our starting position.
Ultimately would a country like Mexico have suffered such problems, if it didn’t have such high levels of inequality and poverty? Would it be different, if it hadn’t developed in a world where those with European heritage were seen to be superior than those with Indigenous heritage? Would it be in such a position if one of the pillars of its economy did not demand such a large unskilled and uneducated workforce, and that one of its main competitive advantages was not its ability to keep people’s wages lower than those paid in China? How would it be different, if the primary objective of the political class had consistently been the greatest well being for the greatest number of people, rather than the greatest possible accumulation of personal wealth and power? And what would happen, if The West stopped demanding the cheapest possible product? Products that are normally produced by The Rest, competing with each other in a race to the bottom.
I believe all of these questions, and so many more, are so relevant when considering the circumstances these young men grow up in and the lives that they lead. How to fit it all into a picture and a few hundred words?
Link to work on CNN
Link to my website
September 11, 2015
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Work from a project between MARCO museum, myself, and young offenders in Mexico being projected in the Learning Galleries at the TATE Modern as part of the exhibition Reach Out. More info on The Tate’s website.