Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Vision of Saint Augustine

Me & Otto the Dog at Quarters Cafe, Highgate © Shu-Hui Chiao 2014

Vision of St Augustine, Vittore Carpaccio (circa 1503)
Isn't it interesting how much has changed but so little is different? I think the human experience is so fleeting; our collective progress as a species seems nowhere near as fast as the world around us. Progress is so difficult when we must all individually learn through experience. The same lessons of life first articulated by the great intellects of history must be re-learned each time by each of us through experience; it can't be taught. Modern society has made the access of information and education much easier (relative to Mr Augustine's time at least), so we can at least access the knowledge that empathises with our state of mind in that moment, We owe it to ourselves to make whatever progress we can at our own speed. (Mine is quite slow).

This is a spot (see photo) I enjoy spending some time in to do some writing, thinking or work on files. Its a lovely cafe called 'Quarters' in Highgate (near the tube). I walk through the woods and end up here for a couple of hours with my dog Otto.

When I first started coming here I was with film director Bruce Goodison; we were arguing about something as usual, when I recognised someone in another corner. It was Spencer Rowell the artist and psychotherapist who, when I last met him 15 years ago, I was photographing the top advertising photographers of a generation. He has spectacularly turned his back on that world and now is also one of the founders of Uncertain States.

This is the original home of the Uncertain States salons and I understand why, it still is a great and peaceful place to think through ideas and have discussions with the like minded and not so like minded.

Its very easy to loose direction and faith in yourself in such a saturated and competitive world. If you are a serious and committed artist and are open to a genuine dialogue and would like to talk through any issues you are having or get some feedback on your work, I am happy to meet here, just send me an email. We are not alone.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Every Little Helps

Image_0214, Sage Charles, Poet, Performance Artist © Richard Ansett 2014

Detail from Image_0233 © Richard Ansett 2014

"All great things must first wear terrifying and monstrous masks in order to inscribe themselves on the hearts of humanity." - F. Nietzche

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Big Society (new statement development)

The ‘Big Society’ initiative is a flagship policy introduced by the United Kingdom Conservative Party in 2010. The stated aim is to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a "big society" that will take power away from politicians and give it to the people. The policy considers that most of the problems facing society from crime to issues like obesity are possible to tackle only if citizens play more of a part; to empower individuals into supporting their own lives, reducing the need for government.

The idea is not original, since the ‘New Labour’ government (1992 – 2007) a greater degree of freedom of thought was gifted to the British people. There was a de-construction of the historic boundaries that defined the old national stereotype but for all the benefits of this new found freedom, there are inevitable consequences and victims. There is a polluted bi-product that emerges from setting minds free. Ironically the same issues that the Big Society policy attempts to address, are exacerbated by that same empowerment. Issues such as crime and health are inevitable consequences of a relatively free and democratic society.
The West’s self-confidence in capitalist individualism as the shining example for others is reliant on an outward looking and patronising critique of other systems. Part of the maintenance of this act of hubris is an avoidance of self-analysis. It is a challenge to turn that objectified gaze back on ourselves but perhaps we don’t feel we are worthy? The suffering of other parts of the world seems unimaginable compared to the amazing lives we are being asked to believe we have in the West. Do we have the right to feel depressed or suicidal? I argue that pain is not a relative construct; that suffering of the individual is not lessened by the knowledge of the agony of another and further; problems of other worlds should not be a distraction from the fractures which are unique to our own society.
THE PROJECT (link to all images)

Premise: Our emotional states are inevitably on show and we are shaped and contribute to the shaping of the social political landscape. We mostly share a commonality of experience but it is how we deal with this, especially moments of crisis that shape our evolving adult personality. In most of us the signs are complex and partial; we learn ways to disguise our vulnerability. These hiding strategies contribute to our image identity but for some of us the responses are impossible to camouflage.
The subjects in The Big Society (shot in 2007 – 2008) represent the discarded by-products of a progressive but hubristic society before the financial crash in 2008. The images are a record of that moment when we were left to fend for ourselves in the new era of moral relativism.

This work is an interpretation of this new emotional shape as a demonised allegory seen through an objectivist lens. Not intended as documentary or Arbus-esq freak show but as an extended metaphor and privileged insight into another equal human being’s most intimate vulnerability. These subjects exist as a part of ourselves, they are in this moment physical representations of our own emotional possibility.
Image from series 'Woman with Angels' from The Big Society © Richard Ansett 2014

Image from series 'Man Living with Mother'' from The Big Society © Richard Ansett 2014