For as long as I can remember I have been pursued by wanderlust, pulling me gently away by the hair..
However this past year I have been forced to be thankful for the beauty of where I live and every day I try to walk, whether through sun, rain, mud or snow. Today was the hardest walk of them all. From Hastings old town through Ecclesbourne Glen to the rocky beaches only accessible by precipitous paths on foot. It was the most challenging walk, although the sun was beautiful, the air blessedly cool with no wind at all. The mud made it even harder on the incrediby steep rocky paths, trying to navigate in wellies. Pretty humbling. At times I felt defeated, but it was so worth it when I climbed that final hill and threw myself on the grass just before the sun went down.
They have become more intense, and quite cinematic. Every night brings forth a new, intense, layered, somewhat apocalyptic, complex reel from my psyche and the archives of my subconscious.
The other night I dreamt I had driven to the beach in my old silver Peugeot. I climbed a hill to the sea but to get there, I had to pass through a backstage area with props and sets under construction. The ocean and sky were painted, with large descriptive Turneresque waves and clouds, in black and white. I could see a seam, a slit in the backdrop, like the Truman Show, behind which the real ocean began, but I wasn’t allowed past it. The backdrop was being patrolled by guards and menacing men who prevented my movements towards the mural. They told me I needed to go back and find my car and leave. I saw a boy from school and early art school days who was working on the set. He has since turned to alcoholism but in the dream was still young and beautiful. (He used to tease and provoke me, later declaring it was actually love he had felt.) The guards accompanied me, but I couldn’t find my car. There was an old cushion on the floor and they said I must drive on that. I explained it wasn’t possible and that I needed to find my car, although every car was similar but not quite mine. My car contained beautiful drawings and coloured oil pastels,
Everything in the dream was black and white, but the pastels in my car were beautiful colours. It was so reminiscent of the Truman Show and as though I had driven to the end of the constructed reality. I guess it’s not hard to see that after a year of lockdowns, and government overreach, there is still a sense of dissent and desire to fight authority, to find my way out of the semiotics of covid and control, my own wrestling with conspiracy theories and Adam Curtis-type narratives. The paradox of both wanting escape and wanting safety.
A world where we are endlessly curfewed by governments who are blatantly corrupt, sustained by an equally corrupt media unable or unwilling to hold politicians and corporatists to account, where we have to be dependent on money-driven pharmaceutical companies administering updated vaccines every year to keep up with continuing mutations of viruses (and profiting more than they could ever have imagined), where the dictates of the market, even when it comes to climate and environmental mitigation, predominate and influence any decision made, is not a world that anyone can call humane or natural and it is certainly not going to solve the crisis. It is the ultimate triumph of the capitalist death-drive to control and consume until there is nothing left to consume. It is destroying what is left of the fabric of society, which has survived despite the increasing demands of the debt-driven markets. The mental health crisis, which is barely discussed with the seriousness it should be, is not a result of individual failings, it is not something in the individual to be fixed, it is the result of a systemic crisis with the basic structure on which our economic and political systems are built. It suits the upholders of that system, and those most invested in its continuation to characterise and generalise anyone who opposes them as extremist, as delusional, based on the examples of a few. Nowhere in mainstream news is there an acknowledgment that the financial and political systems are themselves toxic and must be challenged and replaced as a matter of utmost urgency. This will reach a tipping point and it will become irrelevant to frame all those who oppose this madness as “far-right extremists” or “conspiracy theorists”. A rebellion borne out of love of humanity and love of nature, however obscured by clickbait junk, must find its place to heal this generational wound, because it is in our deeper nature to do so. This cannot go on, because bio-techno-capitalism based on surveillance and control to service the needs of a tiny fraction of the world population is not sustainable, it is not an answer, it is the symptom of a fundamental disease that must be treated.
The weaponisation of fear is not just with institutions. Some of that is also coming from big, powerful far-right organisations who have infiltrated what were essentially leftwing and liberal spaces (eco-spirituality) to poison the water, or as Steve Bannon put it “flood the zone with shit”. But it is telling that any dissent now can be characterised as “far-right” or “conspiratorial” which makes it so much easier to dismiss and much harder to hold corrupt governments to account.
I was part of a small team of painters, headed by David Cutmore, medieval paintings expert, with Melissa White, who painted many different wall cloths in original pigments mixed with rabbit skin glue, for Shakespeare’s Birthplace Museum in Stratford upon Avon.