On History and Perspective

I enjoy and am rather good at tasks requiring precision and problem solving.

I particularly enjoy precision of language; strict definition, objective and legally enforceable meanings. Moreover, I enjoy analysis that uses precise language, but has a scope that is able to holistically link seemingly disparate subjects. Economics and politics seem to do this a lot of the time.

I like being able to delve into the context of a case study in order to understand it better.

Take, for instance, the planned Queen’s speech for the state opening of parliament tomorrow, the 22nd of June. There are many angles one can approach the event from;

  • You can talk about the history of the relationship between the monarchy and Parliament,  Bad King John, the English Civil War, and the fact that the Prime Minster’s party technically derives its power from the Queen, asking her to form a Government on her behalf if they have a majority in the House of Commons.
  • You can examine the direct political context – the snap elections which shrunk Theresa May’s small majority down to a plurality of 317 (compared to Labour’s 262), just shy of a majority of seats in the House of Commons, which is of course, 650 and how this has forced her to tread much merely carefully
  • You can frame the event as in contrast to former state openings of Parliament, and how much of the Pomp and Ceremony has been suspended, officially because of clashes with other Royal commitments and the suddenness of this event, caused by May’s snap election decision
  • You can talk about the larger political context – how it was David Cameron’s Conservative Government took the gamble of a decision to hold the IN/OUT referendum, partially to put the issue to bed after decades of, mostly, Tory backbench grumblings, and how he expected an easy victory that would embolden his party and him personally as having A) given the people the chance to decide directly and B) he personally having campaigned for the winning Remain side, but in reality it shook the political tectonic plates and created new and deep fault lines
  • You can talk about Northern Irish politics, devolution, the Good Friday Agreement as the culmination of a difficult and drawn out peace process, and the power sharing that has occurred since, etched into the operation of the Northern Irish assembly. Crucially, you can also talk about how Northern Irish MPs from Sinn Fein are elected time and time again, but do not take up their seats in Westminster out of Protest and how this time, this left the DUP, ideologically closes to May’s Conservative party, very much in the driver’s seat and with disproportionate power as any rebellion may cause Government Policy to fail, votes of No Confidence, and perhaps, a fresh election.

It is not vital to have a deep understanding of each of these angles, but it is importance to have a broad understanding – as each allow you to understand the event in a slightly different way, and the culmination is a in-depth understanding underpinned by perspective.

I went to the Central Saint Martins Degree Show, and all it managed to do was solidify my exhaustion with art. 

Perhaps unfairly, but a lot of this exhaustion turned frustration was focused at one particular guy, dressed all in white with a green painted face and red around his eyes. He was singing. Well, he was trying to. 

He was jumping on the I can’t actually fulfill the technical requirements of the medium, but I’m going to throw my energy at it and you’re going to have to watch it and take it seriously because art. 

Fuck. That. 

His antics were that of a rock star, just without the fans, talent, or support of his audience.

Punks couldn’t sing, for the most part, but they stood for something. This guy didn’t do either. 

I have the same criticisms of several of the video pieces – poor sound, no grading, sloppy cuts – lacking of basic technical ability. Again, you can make a successful film or video piece without following the commercial film framework and/or breaking the rules of any particular set of conventions, but God Damn It , have a reason to. Don’t just have shit sound because you didn’t think about it, or you don’t know how to do it well. If you can’t fulfill or find collaborators who can fulfill the technical requirements which underpin the kind of work you want to make in your film, fucking choose another medium. Don’t make a shit film or video piece and rest easy on the stable base that this is art. 

Picasso could paint traditionally competent figurative works, but chose to make an artistic departure. He wasn’t just too lazy to learn how to paint properly and though ah well, fuck it. 


John Hammond and…Guinness?

So here’s the scene;

I’m at work behind the bar at Chelsea. There are several TVs about the room, usually playing various football games, interceded with adverts. The sound is turned off on these TVs.

An advert comes on, shot in budget monochrome, a fast paced narrative of John Hammond, the radio producer who defied the ban on the broadcasting of black artists and black music.

It’s a nifty little sequence, the cuts are good, there’s energy to the piece.
Then, right at the end of the advert, the oh so familiar ‘Guinness – Made of More’ title card comes up.

What in the hell?

I felt very odd about the whole thing – what possible association does Guinness have with John Hammond? And if they have one, what is the context of today which would make them broadcast an advert like that? Essentially, is it crass and audacious as an ad, or meaningful?

Because popular culture, and especially advertising is an expression of our underlying cultural context, I think that this is a question worth asking.

At this point, I want to reiterate that the sound was not playing, so I first came across the ad, and had my first 2 or 3 viewings of it in silence.

Guinness also, as  it turns out, commissioned an interview with Rudimental, ruminating on the cultural legacy of John Hammond in music today.

 

This, I’ve noticed, is what Guinness do – attach themselves to areas of significance in popular culture, and the question is that of the chicken and the egg – are drinkers of Guinness fans or Rugby and Rugby fans fans of Guinness so Guinness ad moguls want to represent that fact, or did they see an untapped market in middle aged men looking for a drink and try and get a Guinness into their mind and then their hand.

I have no answers exactly, but I do have a vague sense of unease about the whole thing.