I spend a lot of time either supporting or recording the lives of people who might be conventionally considered ‘to be’ members of the very lowest echelon of society. I immediately object to this definition as it diminishes the humanity of all of us and masks the reasons behind the increasing disparity between what we might consider the other end of the societal spectrum, ‘the elite’. It is these clumsy definitions that passively point the finger at those who have not been offered the opportunities or do not know how to recognize and take them. Equally it diminishes the terrible depression and mental illness behind the shiny gates. Instead images of the poorest and most vulnerable passively act as a two dimensional arbiter of acceptability and success. I am personally very conscious of how close I am to eating out of bins, whilst at the same time accepting an award, being published in an international magazine or just sitting in my garden. I don’t consider myself unique, so I imagine we are all a little bit afraid that the lives we are living might not be on the firm foundations we hoped, its why we work so hard right; to feel safe? Because I am exposed to such a diverse cross section of society; standing in a squalid bedroom of a child with a soiled nappy on the floor and the next day eating bircher muesli at my regular table at The Wolseley, I inevitably am challenged to comprehend where I belong, well I don’t, my adopted experience allows me to float between world’s observing through a thin plain of glass, from the outside looking in.
I see only great benefits to belonging.
My existential loneliness that seeps into every pixel is a very comfortable place; it is where ‘I belong’. I am of course not alone, but the often crushing realizations that lead to hugely challenging moments in our lives as we pass into the era of individuation, I am already prepared for.
We are leaving people behind in this country in our need to feel safe, increasing numbers are in our blind spot, like death, the sun or cruelty to animals, we cannot look our own country’s poverty square in the face without the safely defined parameters that frame horrors as palatable. Whilst we accept some personal responsibility for our own lives we must also recognize how we have achieved our place in society and in so doing attempt to emphasise with anyone less able. We can help people back up on their feet or even show them how to stand at all and unfortunately we also have to support those who have no foundations for achieving a ‘successful life’ defined by some semblance of happiness. Its actually in our best interests to be slightly less individualistic, we are inextricably linked, equal to each other and part of a society. We have an in-escapable collective responsibility irrespective of our selfish narcissism, for those that deliver our mail, collect our garbage, make our laws as well as those who steal from us or want to hurt us.
I am working with a group of artists on an exhibition in the Houses of Parliament later this month sponsored by 1001 Critical Days Manifesto that examines the impact of the first 2 years of life on the adult personality and we will explore with scientists how we might respond to improve our potential futures.
|A Child's Bedroom, UK © Richard Ansett 2014|
|Soiled Nappy, UK © Richard Ansett 2014|