for sale

I cycle past this old mill regularly.  Its for sale.  It looks ridiculously impractical and probably a money trap.  Still, I cant help dreaming as I go past.  Next to the mill is the river, widening at this point and a ford with a foot bridge.  I have drawn from that bridge before, below are sketches from 2016 and 2014.

 

Fragments

Race linked to White and Non-White skin colour is an invention founded in exploitation and slavery in Europe and its colonies over centuries.  Empire and capitalism created divisions to justify and facilitate the extraction of value from people through actual and economic violence.  Alongside this is a history of shared humanity and resistance to these divisions.

White is a fluid concept.  To make our lives and our children’s lives more secure, we acquire camouflage to mimic or blend in with privileged people.  There is more to this than skin tone, but colour is a key marker.  So, like many others, three generations of my ancestors progressively shed their poor Polish Jewish identity to redefine what it is to be White so that it included them, claiming the trappings of being middle class and privileged.  That must have been hard, but their skin was pale and no visible tag of that journey remains in me.

Being White, I need not think about race.  I can say: I do not have a race; race is a problem for other people, race is a problem for the people we group together as Black and Minority Ethnicity, race is their problem.

As a White social liberal I can say: I treat everyone the same regardless of skin colour and expect the same back; racism is a problem for people being abusive on public transport, or the deplorable Leavers or MAGAs and their antidiluvian attitudes; racism is not my problem; racism is a problem between racists and Black and Minority Ethnicity people.

If you challenge me on this, I can be defensive: I can say I did not choose my skin colour, did not enslave anyone, did not kneel on his neck nor fire those guns.

History is dynamic. We do not make what came before us, but we selectively mythologise historical events to build our culture and identity, continually making and remaking our society.  We choose what we see and what we ignore.  Privilege means we choose many things in our daily lives that reduce or perpetuate division and exploitation.  Being White and privileged, we determine what we expect of our public servants, the politicians, the unelected officials, the police, the teachers.  We are small fish swept along in the shoal, but we are also actors.  We make choices that influence the direction of the crowd.  So in this way, White supremacy is both perpetuated and undermined.

White supremacy is a problem for White people: so it is my problem to solve and if also you are White, then also it is your problem to solve.  When we duck the challenge, we support White supremacy.

When we own and oppose White supremacy, we have to actively see what had been invisible to us, seek out the history of empire censored from the curriculum and the news, give way and listen and promote the voices of those who are White supremacy’s most immediate victims, protest, bravely challenge not just the racists but our liberal friends, donate also if we can, make changes through wise and courageous voting.

There are many links.   Here are some, for which there is an opportunity to donate.  I have included speeches of the many that moved me.

Black Lives Matter

Minnesota Freedom Fund

The Stephen Lawrence Trust

Anti-racism book list

Rapper Killer Mike speaks: “it is time to fortify our own house .. plot, plan, strategize, organize and mobilize”  Note the police chief in the background: she went among the crowds of protesters and listened.

Tamika Mallory speaks “Don’t talk to me about looting. You are the looters”.

General CQ Brown speaks “I am thinking about our two sons and how we had to prepare them to live in two worlds”

Found sculpture

 

This sculpture was found by Outside Authority.  Here I have more or less copied their photograph in charcoal, chalk and white acrylic paint.  This took a Bank Holiday afternoon, and is a start, a way of getting to grips with the source material. I have an idea how to take this forward that builds on the segmentation of the image made by the wire fence. I used the companion photograph in a previous piece, starting as a random scribble which I disrupted and reworked as Pilgrimage through the detritus of growth.

But see how OA has worked the same source of inspiration, starting with cut-outs in a manner like Matisse, development, modelling in three dimensions, re-working back onto paper, and expression in fabric.  This is a fascinating sequence of work.  Also, it is well worth while reviewing the surrounding posts from OA around the same time, the portraiture developing a view from an unconventional angle.  I pick two examples from a plethora of work, “Vying” and “Diary” but I find this whole sequence moving, and astonishing in the breadth of exploration through varying media.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dystopia

We are all doing our best, at home or in scrubs, masked, at work.

Yet there seems a vacuum in government, a deliberate loss of governance.

Four months in, locked down, our health system turned upside down, we have yet to start the actual work of managing the pandemic.

The core work of Public Health is being outsourced to amateurs, like contracting cross-channel supply to a company without boats.

Still no systematic identification of cases, testing, contact tracing, isolation of individuals.

Meanwhile our population isolation is being eased, spasmodically, to suit the news cycle.

Only now we start quarantining arrivals and at the same time, schools are to open, shops to open.

Will home-made masks and two metre distancing be enough to stop another explosion?

And in the midst of this, there is no accountability for those in charge, no rule of law.

Is this a sideshow, have they their own agenda to pursue while we are distracted?

Clever hands deceive the eye.

 

Pilgrimage through the detritus of growth

 

This piece arose from a reference photograph selected by Outside Authority.  Their interpretation of the same elements (with reference to both Henry Moore and Matisse I think) is here and here.

I flooded my original doodle with water, ink, white acrylic paint and ground chalk pastel, heated it dry and then worked back into it with knife, ink and watercolour.

 

The City and the City

Somewhere in the Balkans the city of Besźel occupies the same topological space as Ul Qoma.  The two cities are separated by culture, religion, language, taking opposite sides in the cold war and and before that between the Allies and Axis. Citizens of one space unsee, unhear, unreact to all protuberances from the other.  You can reach one from the USA, the other has more links to Canada.  Internet and cell phones work on both sides, but to communicate between the cities, that must go long distance through international exchanges, or perhaps not at all.

The air is shared, but aromas from one side are unsmelled on the other. Objects exist strictly in one or the other place, but as they disintegrate to anonymous detritus, they blow with the wind through both cities.  They say it rains more in Besźel.

I cannot tell if this is some quirk of folded space-time that brings together these specific overlapping fragments of parallel universes separated by an historical quantum event, or instead this is an idiosyncrasy of two populations in a single conurbation reinforced by intense taboos and policed by the feared invisible omniscient Breach.

This is The City and the City by China Mieville which I have listened to as an audiobook.

While listening to this book, I came across this video “to survive, to live – 2019” through twitter.  The writer who introduced me to it now has a blog.  I thought, this is the city and the city.  People live precariously, and isolation during a pandemic leaves them without resource and invisible.  I thought, we are not asked to judge, just to not unsee.

guest art 2

Its Mothers; Day.  Here are the drawings from my son (the hound) and daughter (herself as a toddler with her mum).

The kids are home now for months.  We have been able to set aside part of a room as a classroom for them.  They like that.  But we both must go into work daily.  They resist the school places put aside for them.  Will they work?  Will they eat proper lunch?  There is discussion about eating up meals rather than raiding the fridge and cupboards.  Although we know there is genuinely no shortage of food, actually obtaining it may become less sure on a day to day basis.  Nationally, uncertainty itself creates the circumstance.

I have memories of my childhood in London without a fridge, or actually cupboards I think, when we shopped daily for what we could afford.  Later, in Swansea, the teachers went on strike for months and we stayed and learned at home.  In Poland, where my father worked for a time, power was so scarce that I saw the Milky Way for the first time and watched the perseid meteorite shower in awe.  A year or so later, back in London, the lights would flicker to warn us to get out the candles before electricity failed.  Life is always uncertain: perhaps, though, that is the true definition of being middle class, that sometimes we go for a long while with the illusion otherwise.

Stay safe everyone.  If you can stay at home, please do so.  All our lives now depend on our maintaining distance between us and washing our hands.

There is hope amidst all this.

guest art

These drawings appeared taped to my computer screen at the start of my working day, starting from 3 weeks ago.  They are done by Kathy and Karen, who take blood from my patients.

We are now gearing up, ringing all our patients to keep on with their treatments if possible, and preparing ourselves and our families for personal redeployment.

blinded

I have done my consultations this week by phone.  But you learn so much from seeing someone’s demeanour, how they rise from a chair and walk across the waiting room.  I have become blind, and must rely on listening more to detect those subtle clues.

The main benefit is people not travelling long distances by public transport or sitting waiting in a crowded room.  Still, someone has to get close to take the blood sample and to give the treatment.

My greatest social distancing pleasure comes from walking the dog across fields, through woods, and along the stream.  He imagines himself the lead explorer, running back now and again to check on me.

He has taught himself that when I stop to draw, he will sit and wait by me.