Research Summary; Goodbye England’s Rose; Edward Alabaster
The research summary for my final major project is to conclude on four months of research into nationalism, Englishness, symbolism, minimalism, contemporary art and the contextualisation of English Idols.
In this summary I will elaborate on the contextualisation of my final images, starting with the daffodils.
The image of the daffodils is inspired by a poem of the same name, written by William Wordsworth. Wordsworth was one of the early pioneering poets of English Romanticism, his poems often spoke of the ecstasy the natural world provides to a healthy soul. Wordsworth lived through an age of great development in the industrial revolution.
Strongly opposed to industrialisation for being absorbed in materialism and commercialism at the expense of preserving the great natural simplicities. Wordsworth rebelled this new age through his poetry, ‘The world is too much with us’ (Wordsworth, 2002) being a direct attack on the new order.
Industrialisation thrusted the country into a new world but has itself now reached a collapse in this nation. No longer are we the world’s or even our own factory, as we bid farewell to our mines and our factories. What we are is a consumer nation, which needs to constantly be buying and selling to maintain its status.
In Possessions and the Extended Self consumer psychologist Russell Belk writes “A mans self is the sum of all he can call his” (Belk, 1988) . The theory dictates that we establish meaningful connection and relationships to inanimate objects, the objects act as an extension of ourselves. We animate objects to act as physical symbols that represent an element of our identity. Jacques
Lacan developed a theory called the mirror phase, the moment at which an infant recognises his reflection and itself as being vulnerable and separate to its mother. The infant develops a conscience “to establish a relation between the organism and its reality” (Lacan, 1949). The infant will grow with an instinct to assimilate as a way of protecting itself, to not reveal its vulnerabilities.
The bullets were purchased at an extraordinary stand in the Cambridge market, the stand sold war memorable from World War 2 and before, indiscriminate of which side. The three bullets are from World War 2; the one on the left (west) is an American bullet, the one on the right (east) is a Soviet bullet and the one in the middle is a spent British bullet. The image is designed to posses multiple contextualisations. Firstly connecting to the history of a waring nation, with a clear reference to World War 2; Secondly, the cooperation between these nations in defeating a far right aggressor. The image is designed to bring this history into the modern relationship and status between these nations. Historically “the UK was seen first as an imperial and then capitalist aggressor in Russian and the Soviet eyes respectively” (Monaghan, 2018). The dynamic has changed, we are a spent imperial power lying in the middle of the two modern imperial giants America and Russia. World War 2 was the beginning of this alternation.
George Orwell in ‘Notes on Nationalism writes “history is thought of largely in nationalist terms indifference to reality” (Orwell, 1945). A nationalist is unyielding in the profession of its nation’s greatness, this behaviour is still explicit in its accuracy when debating who did the most to win World War 2. The statistics are telling with each of these countries heavily proclaiming themselves as the most vital in defeating the Nazis (Jordan, 2015). Peter Kennard in his book ‘Unofficial War Artist’ summarise the world as being “One wracked with inequality, wealth disparity and skewed priorities, where basic human compassion is often trumped by corporate interests and the rivalry of richer nations” (Kennard, 2015). You must ask is nationhood for the people, can it be separated from political nationalism? We can proclaim not to support the nationalist agenda; but how can we separate ourselves from the ideals of the people announcing there despicable views in the name of a nation we cannot deny we are a part of? nationalism must always be challenged. Nationalism and a national identity does not require permission, it is awarded to the loudest voice. To defeat far right nationalist rhetoric, you must become a nationalist to represent a true national perspective, which will in turn invite more challenges.
In the opening of his book ‘English” Ben Fogle reprises a conversation he had with the Woman’s Institute in Harrogate, He asked “wether they would ever fly the St George’s Cross from their home?” (Fogle, 2017) The question was met with a shocked reaction as they all said no. The reason why was because “it has been hijacked by the extreme right” and “it represents racism and xenophobia”. This is the result when you do not enter the fight for nationalism. Nationalism does not have to be negative or on the right, it can be liberal and tolerant. You must not ever freely allow someone to proclaim an identity for you, the result may be the inability to fly your own flag.
The roast dinner shot is an image I have been planing to shoot since last semester. Before university I was working full time managing a hotel kitchen. Sunday was often our busiest day, with the majority of the orders being for a roast dinner. Despite this studies show families getting together for a Sunday roast has hit a steep decline “The survey revealed that the vast majority of people prefer to opt for a ready meal or a quick bowl of pasta instead of a roast dinner with the family” (Duffin, 2012). The demise of the Sunday roast is a sad reality that we are isolating ourselves away from each other including family. The reason why is likely down to a multitude of reasons; the rise of online social communities, financial pressures, the need to constantly be working and the scrutiny that the age of technology has brought forward. Isolation breeds depression. In the 1970s an experiment was carried out on the cause of drug addiction. Scientist Bruce Alexandre carried out an experiment he called ‘rat park’ (Alexandre, 1978). The experiment gave strong evidence that addiction was caused by isolation from a community, that isolation required a substitute vice to the one of being an active member of a social community.
The sinking popularity of the roast dinner will also be a concern to the local produce. The roast dinner is quintessentially of this nation with the plate representing what is grown in the nation. Roland Barthes writes about the semiotics of steak and chips that “being part of the nation, it follows the idea of patriotic values: it helps them to rise in wartime, it is the very flesh of the French soldier, the inalienable property which cannot go over to the enemy except by treason” (Barthes, 1957). Strong words by Barthes as he describes the power in motivating a nation the symbolism of its favourite meal can have.
The image contains two other core element in relation to the identity of the nation. Attached to the roast dinner is the Christian religion. The roast dinner was traditionally eaten after church on Sunday, the day meat was to be cooked. The two appear to have to have a joint trajectory, with both losing popularity. We have reached a stage where it is more surprising to find out someone goes to church. I myself had an interesting/ uncomfortable experience earlier this year when I wrongly assumed to my mother that my brother was an atheist. I am agnostic myself and I was surprised to find out my older brother and mother still strongly associated their religious beliefs with the Church of England.
John Ruskin the founder of Cambridge School of Art when talking to a group of businessmen in Bradford looking to build a new corn exchange said “Though it may seem at first as if it were graceful and reverent, at the root of the matter, it signifies neigh more nor less than that you have separated your religion from your life” (Ruskin, 1866). Ruskin was deploring them not to turn to other cultures when designing the corn exchange but use their own inheritance. Ruskin was emphasising the point that although you may not see it, your own cultural and religious inheritance is unique. You possess all the qualities necessary to create something sublime if you trust in your identity and in your nationhood. Ruskin uses religion to connect land and art to spirituality.
The image of the boots comes from a more personal perspective. One of my friends once told me that the best thing about football is that it can be played by and with anyone at anytime, all you need is something resembling a ball. A great example of this is the game that took place on Christmas day in no man’s land during World War 1. I have grown up playing football with family and friends that play as well. Football is a game for all but for a long time it was strived forward by the working class. When my father was young he would go to a game every week, that is not possible for me. Football associations have developed a rigid class system, with all the money going up and flooding into the elite sector. It has become a game for billionaires. Having travelled to Holland you can witness the stark contrast; every club is immaculate with perfect pitches, staff and a community club house. I played for a club that had existed for over fifty years having never once had its own pitch and in the end had to fold. The English game is about enhancing the top and not worrying about the bottom.
The modern history of booze culture is one of marketing. We have always been a nation of drinkers but of light pale ales. The modern world tells us we need to be drinking more. Heineken where the first to capitalise on the market by advertising as “refreshing” in 1974 (Giles, 2015). Our drinking history shows our susceptibility to advertisement, with each generation adding new trends inline with the advertisement. It is no longer about the pub and socialising, it is purely about drinking as an expression of nationality. “Nationalism is not an archaic, natural or ahistorical thing, but that it is dialectical and cultural construction defined, for instance, by economy, politics, mass- media, or in this case contemporary art” ( Henriksson, 2007). who decides on a national identity? They are not inscribed by a natural alcumnation but through mutual assimilations.
Pubs are closing up and down the country, through lack of business as more people choose to drink at home and the appealing rise of property prices. In the photography book ‘Plastic Vanitas’ Neudecker writes “the flowers will wither, the fruit will rot, insects will nibble at leaves: everything will turn to dust. Ashes to ashes: this is still life’s promise” (Neudecker, 2015). This is the question my project asks. is it time to mourn and move on, or is it time to fight to reinvigorate?
Wordsworth, W., 2002. Daffodils and other poems. london: Michael O’Mara Books.
Belk, R.W., 1988. Possessions and the Extended Self. Journal of Consumer Research, [e-journal] 15. pp.139-160. Abstract only. Avaliable through: Anglia Ruskin University Library website <http:// libweb.anglia.ac.uk> [Accessed 15 October 2017]. p.139.
Lacan, J., 1949. The Mirror Stage as Formative of the function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience. [manuscript] Zurich: Delivered at the 16th International Congress of Pschoanaysis. (17 July) Alternative copy Available athttp://www.davidbardschwarz.com/pdf/ mirror.pdf [Accessed: 03 January 2018]
Monaghan, A., 2018. UK-Russia Relations.[PDF] The Foreign Policy Centre. Available at: https://
fpc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/1320.pdf [Accessed: 20/04/2018]
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Jordan, W., 2015.People in Britain and the U.S. disagree on who did more to beat the Nazis. [online] Available at:https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/05/01/Britain-America-disagree-who-did-more- beat-nazis/ [Accessed: 27/04/18]
Kennard, P., 2015. Unofficial War Artist. London: Imperial War Museum.
Fogle, B., 2017. English; A Story of Marmite, Queuing and Weather. London: Harper Collins Publishers.
Duffin, C., 2012. Is the traditional Sunday roast a thing of the past?. [Online] Available at: https://
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Barthes, R., 1957. Mythologies. Translated from French by A. Lavers. St Ives: Vintage. p.70.
Ruskin, J., 1866. Traffic. Reprint 2015. St Ives: Penguin Books. p.10.
Henriksson, M,. Edited by Boynik, S,. 2007. Contemporary Art and Nationalism. Critical Reader. Kosovo: University of Kosovo.
Neudecker, M.,. Edited by Lambert, S., and McClean, V,. 2015. Plastic Vanitas. Bournmouth: text + work