I was asked if I’d like to speak to students at my old comprehensive high school, now an academy, during an event which seemed to be a budget version of a Ted Talk.
For those who don’t know what an academy is, simply put, it is the creeping marketisation of education. Yet another move away from at least seeming to compete on a level playing field, into an environment where poorly vetted private sponsors have a meddling hand in children’s educations, and where there is an overemphasis on undue competition.
To quote the email, it was about people doing what it is that they love… instead of perhaps going down a route of making money. I found this perplexing because art was a vocational choice for me, and not an uncontrollable passion that was to end in bewilderment.
There is a misconception that creativity and the ubiquitous martyrdom complex are closely linked, and that romanticised view may well have been reason enough to accept and counter the dross.
I just don’t believe artists, or people in general choose to do things because they want to make their lives worse, either materially or intellectually, but mainly materially, and most definitely ignoring spiritually. People often react badly when the reality of something doesn’t live up to their expectations, because expectation prevents us from validating what we have achieved or learnt.
Academies fail foremost in that capacity. In an attempt to achieve the ideal of excellence, the past, which isn’t a particularly great place, is expected to be rejected in an attempt to promote an unknown or hard-to-define but seemingly important special property, that no one, not even the cabinet members in government, knows of what that is.
I would dare to say there are two types of artists, which I will circumscribe, for simplicities sake as post Second World War, and the post Thatcher. The first creates from boredom, and uses their imagination as a vehicle to escape the monotony of daily life. The latter doesn’t actually have an imagination, and constantly uses spectacles to hide the fact. The first makes something big out of something small, often starting with an observation like a drawing or conversation. The other makes something big out of something bigger, like the colourful plastic finishes on luxury apartments which seem to mimic popular contemporary paintings. Good art should unsettle while bad art should make you feel like you’re wearing slippers. What I am trying to say, is life is more interesting when people are less ambitious.
The schools event seemed to be a franchise whose founders only credentials as a self appointed life guru, were trying to mimic the British Empire in global travel, and taking grossly banal black and white photographs. After reading the blithe langue of the guidelines I didn’t think I really encompass the ethos of the event. The hyperbole of its arena, was too spectacular for the kind of talk I would prefer to give, which I imagine beginning with a still image of a sallow vampire posing upon his own self help book, selective slaughter. I would start my soliloquy, doubt and scepticism are human virtues and then description how Buffy the Vampire Slayer influenced my art practice.
I feel it is rash to assume you can make a living doing something you love, and I don’t think young minds, or any minds for that matter need to be indulged with more X Factor munificent chicanery. I don’t endorse any vampiric self-help gurus, vampire yoga, undead techno, blood diet detoxes, or human sacrifice based pyramid schemes… but I do think vampires make great metaphors for people.