By the end of unit two, once again Stanley Black found himself on a sticky wicket. His return to political art had backfired, he had hoped he had contextualised his work and clearly explained his intent however he had failed in this attempt and once again his work was deemed unacceptable. Having been called into the office (for a stern chat about his judgement and future direction) for the second time during the course it was becoming clear to him that his initial aim of ‘testing the boundaries of taste, decency and acceptable discourse within the academy’ had been achieved. As stated during unit two, the main objective of Stanley Black’s political work was his ardent defence of freedom of speech.
The first act of my pivot towards censorship as a major theme within my work started with redetacting large sways of my website. All offensive material was hidden from the public and any text that did not comply with the liberal left orthodoxy blacked out.
Freedom of speech seems self-evident however it is often caveated with the view that “I believe in free speech but...” As I have stated previously within the website one of the problems with free speech is you have to essentially give a voice to idiots or at least allow the people you fundamentally disagree with a chance to air their opinions. Stanley Black had garnered no pleasure from making offensive art works, quite rightly he had been accused of making bad art, not only in a moral sense but a technical one, which was fair criticism. He had felt in order to push the boundaries of free speech, there was no point in producing work that people wouldn't find unpallable, as this is no sort of test. Instead he felt he had to step outside the current norms of taste and decency. He had attempted to do this with a humorous touch, but his choice of subject matter was considered too grave to be considered so lightly.
An important part of my process are the conversations that occur in and around my work. I am ultimately interested in ideas and why people hold them. I have always viewed my work as a bellwether to test people’s presuppositions and first principles. My aim was always to open dialouge and create debate and I have always felt these conversations to be the strongest part of my work. I decided I wanted to expand on this by holding a series of one on one long format discussions (in the style of a podcast) and to give a series of talks. I approached Michell Smith, we had often commented to each other the overlap of our work as we often explored similar themes although I would perceive them from a right wing position and Mitch from the left wing. I felt this would be a fruitful discussion as Mitch had adopted the intersectional identity politics that Stanley Black was trying to critique and would be a good chance to highlight the free speech principles set out in John Stuart Mills ‘On Liberty’. This is the argument against no platforming, when two people are engaged in a serious discussion about serious issues the most important aspect is not the speakers themselves but the audience. If you believe that the majority of people are fair minded, they will listen to both sides of the argument, they will agree with some points, disagree with others and then will formulate an opinion based on synthesis of their own knowledge and the views they have heard. This is the nature of civil discourse, the main objection to no platforming is that it first presumes that the audience are too weak minded to hear dangerous ideas and removes their individual agency, the second is that it encourages a culture of authoritarianism, after all who is the person that decides that an idea is too dangerous to be heard? However, because of the topics discussed after receiving my warning letter I decided it was too risky to publish the two-and-a-half-hour discussion as I could jeopardise my place on the course.
I had become increasingly interested in the civil unrest that had been occurring in France and wanted to explore the yellow vest as a potentially new symbol of social resistance and its semiotic implications. The ‘gilet jaune’ movement started as a motoring tax protest (the use of the fluorescent vest explained by the fact that every motorist has to carry one in their vehicle, by dictate of the law) but quickly escalated into full scale rioting. Stanley Black reads this as a further symptom of the seismic political realignment that is occurring throughout western democracies. I discussed my initial idea with Mitchell Smith and he was very enthused by it, he suggested we should collaborate on the project and approached me with an idea regarding a video work. I was very excited to be working with Mitch once again and viewed the collaboration as a further extension of the long format discussion we had held during the Christmas break. Although Mitch was critically concerned with the vest being adopted by English right wing protesters outside parliament I personally felt the French protest was right wing in nature anyway, as a revolt against environmentalism, a clear rejection of a 'green' tax and a more general populist uprising against the neo-liberal consensus. I therefore viewed the piece as more of a comment on Brexit and the lack of dialogue between the leave and remain sides. With myself in Dover giving the two finger salute to the continent and Mitch in Calais giving the bird to Britain with the English Channel forever between us. I also felt the piece could be read as the futility of political art gestures with both of us essentially howling into the wind.
YELLOW VEST - GILET JAUNE
BLACK MARKET ART
Much like the Angels Den of unit one, Dragons den was again the opportunity to show work to industry insiders and receive critical feedback. I decided to present a performance piece, where I would explain the story of Stanley Black and the events that led to his warning letter. Part of my thinking on speech centres around the idea that if topics are not allowed to be freely discussed and debated in an open forum, they are essentially pushed underground were they become more toxic and dangerous. I therefore also decided to produce a series of works called ‘Black Market Art’. As I was pivoting towards censorship as a theme, I thought it would be funny to re-edit my ‘Waterloo’ video, remove all the visuals and leave only the sound. This was intended to be a comment on self-censorship and a continuation of my redacting process. As I explained in my presentation, I had started to view my warning letter in terms of Aristloe’s competing virtues. This is the notion that in some circumstances two competing virtues are at odds with each other and at one stage a decision has to be made on which virtue is paramount. In this case for the university administration it is the intersectional and identity politics notion of diversity, for myself, the classically liberal notion of freedom of speech.
is an arts organisation whose objective is to showcase artists and art practise. We achieve this by holding group exhibitions that transform unusual spaces into rich artistic environments.
Having been a member of the organising comitee The fourth oppertunity to showcase work
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL (WE DUN NEED YA EDUKATION)
Much like the poster event of unit two I decided to ignore the brief and instead viewed it as an opportunity to promote my free speech critique. Being the final event to showcase new work before the degree show I viewed it as my last chance to engage in a cheeky art gesture. As previously explained, I had intended to give a series of talks after the Christmas break, however after my written warning and due to the subject matter of some of the proposed talks I was advised that this was not a good idea and I should reconsider. The aim of this work was to highlight my belief that altough the academy purportes to be a place of open ideas and diversity when it came to diversity of thought they are in fact extremly closed and activily hostile to any disscussion or ideas that fall outside their leftie, liberal, metropolitian, globalist view of the world
The degree show marks the accumulation of two year’s worth of research and learning. The structure of the two-year course is excellent for artists, allowing for plenty of time for development and critical interjection from the tutors. I therefore viewed the exhibited work as the final statement of Stanley Black and the end-point of his adventures in academia. This meant I wanted to tie up several threads of my practise and as a completist by nature present a work that unified the various strands of my practise.
(STANLEY BLACK IS...) COLLECTING DATA
My initial hypothesis, which I explored during unit one in my ‘Scared Cows’ series was that there are certain subjects that have to be approached and discussed in a particular (politically correct) manner. During unit two I became interested in this mode of thinking and started to research its origins, first principles and presuppositions that form the basis of this particular way of viewing the world. The ideas and assumptions have their roots in the disiplines which follow the Frankfurt School's notion of critical theory. I became deeply interested in evolutionary psychology as it appears to offer a more scientifically robust view of human nature and is closer to the common sense approach rather than the fanciful claims made in abstract theories that seem to have no bearing to reality. I therefore wanted to conduct a scientific test by collecting empirical data. Having become aware of ‘The Political Compass Test’ and the statements presented within it, I calculated that the entire class if surveyed would appear in the left-liberal quadrant of the graph. My initial idea was to produce a visual pun with everybody on the left and only me on the right. This would highlight my political black sheep status amongst the group and the wider art world, although the left/right divide is an economic spectrum and on the social scale I am just as liberal as everyone else. The title ‘Institutional Echo Chambers’ again aims to highlight Stanley Black’s belief that there is an orthodoxy of thought within the academy and institutions are not just bricks and mortar but are filled with people. Whose ideological slant and ideas shape the structure and have a real-world effect on policy and procedure.
(STANLEY BLACK IS...) PERFORMING
My second critical decision came in terms of framing. In both of my tutorials it had been mentioned that my idea was interesting but a little one dimensional and both tutors recommended that I needed to expand on my initial premise. Having toyed with the idea of a live performance or audience participation through an interactive question I decided the most fitting solution was a video prologue. The aim was to introduce the viewer to the Stanley Black persona, whilst maintaining distance and highlighting his political leanings and stance. I wanted to make the video look like a cheap infomercial (although not badly made, meaning technically I would have to be on point) and play around with the ‘is he joking/is he being serious’ delivery I had explored during unit one. Under the premise of confirmation basis the subject matter informed the structure of the piece. Stanley Black’s aim for the video was to offer his view on the technical varsity of the scientific method and its findings, which often contradicts and opposes the findings and claims found within gender studies literature and research. Confirmation basis was also in keeping with the ‘Institutional Echo Chambers’ title and allowed me to offer a stanch defence of scientific truth (especially evolutionary psychology) and a harsh criticism of my belief in the fanciful claims of the gender studies departments. Dismissing epistemological arguments; I have always been interested in the audience reaction to my work and in some ways, it is this reaction that is most important aspect to my political art, rather than the artworks themselves. My aim has always been to test people’s beliefs, presuppositions and first principles and my intention with this work is to determine which side of the fence the viewer stands.
Having filmed, edited and added the animations to the video work, the next challenge arose through the location I was allocated. I was given an excellent spot which encompassed the whole of the corridor. Being away from the group suited the nature of my work but did mean I would have to work with the entire space. With only two weeks to go until set up and with prior commitments to the events team, my challenge was threefold. The extra work would 1) have to fill the space 2) look good 3) be quick to make.
(STANLEY BLACK IS...) APPROPRIATING
There is only one plug socket in the corridor, so this meant the location of my video work was pretty much fixed. I decided I wanted a piece that would span the entirety of the adjacent wall. A prefabricated, multiple object seemed like the best solution and fitted with the Stanley Black aesthetic I had established during the course. Having already explored cake and the yellow vest as political symbols; I decided to work with the Donald Trump MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat due to its political implications, its bold colours and the speed in which I could have them made. I became interested the MAGA hat as a symbol, due to its polarising nature. Especially amongst far leftist internet activists who view the item as a symbol of white supremacy on par with a Ku Klux Klan hood rather than a simple signifier of political allegiance (surely no different to wearing a I love the Tories t-shirt, or a Labour is great badge.) By slightly changing the text I wanted to subvert the meaning and playfully reclaim the cap as art. The message is also meant to be gently teasing and hopefully can be read as a sly dig by Stanley Black and his overall view of the contemporary art scene.