The Post-Industrial Man - Empire State Human

First of all, a belated "happy new year" to my colleagues and friends on Crafthaus. I returned from my festive break to a 'flu which completely knocked me for six, to the point that I was in bed and unable to move... feverish, coughing, weak and aching. Horrible, in short. 

 

2013 has already started off to be busy. First of all I had a quick-fire commission to make a ring "with fish that have a bit of life about them, something in blues and greens" but which had to be completed and delivered to France before February. Wolves, bears and stags are more my animals than fish, so it was a bit of a challenge to come up with but I drew up a couple of salmon in Rhino, milled them out and cast them. These were then put onto an iron disc which spins around a blue topaz:

 

Small Pond Ring - 5

 

The ring itself is made from a piece of iron gas-pipe and the back is set with a beautiful pale Umba sapphire:

 

Small Pond Ring - 1
I am pleased to report that the customer loved the idea of "alive" meaning that they can move freely around their little pond!

 


 

The ACJ is organising a members' exhibition as part of the next "Galvanize Sheffield" festival in Sheffield, Yorkshire. I was part of this last time with my work for the "Beneath the Skin" show and so I was keen to take part again, especially as part of a show of work representing the ACJ. The theme for the exhibition is Stain-less, a celebration of 100 years of Stainless Steel: right up my street in some ways. I did, however, struggle for ages with what I was going to make.

I've always been a big fan of the strange electronic music which was produced in Sheffield from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s and it was a comment by Richard H Kirk of Cabaret Voltaire which started me thinking about the politics of this music and how it related to the wilful decisions by government to allow the heavy industry of places like Sheffield to collapse. Interestingly, this led to me making my first overtly political piece of work, "Empire State Human - A Post-Industrial Codpiece"!

 

Empire State Human - A Post-Industrial Codpiece, 11

 

Made from ten vintage "Viners" stainless-steel table-knives (made in Sheffield, now, alas! made in China), corroded spring washers, silver, 40/60 shibuichi and set with small Cubic Zirconia. I'm having it photographed on a body tomorrow, so I'll post more pictures to show how it is worn later in the week.

 

The political theory is as follows:

 

Empire State Human [1] – A Post-Industrial Codpiece

The 1980s saw an emasculation of Britain, nowhere more so than in the heart of steel-producing cities like Sheffield where a political agenda cut away at the core values described by Marx as 'The Dignity of Labour'. The destruction of this pure ideal lead to the current hubristic - in the Ancient Greek sense of ὕβρις - political thinking, endless recession and the crushing humiliation of a service-drone population.

 

Taking a cue from the Nitzchean and Marxist ideals of the music which evolved in Sheffield [2,3] at the very point of transition from industrial to post-industrial – music by bands like The Human League and Cabaret Voltaire – this piece seeks to protect the steel-worker from both literal and figurative castration by the god/dess Mammon, leaving the wearer’s ideals and body Stain-less.

 

[1] The title 'Empire State Human' is taken from a track by The Human League, written in 1979. In this song the lyrics express a Nietzschean ideal:

'I never wanted to be human size
'So I avoid the crowds and traffic jams
'They just remind me of how small I am...
'...if I'm not tall, tall, tall, then I will grow, grow, grow
'Because I'm not tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall, tall'

See also David Stubbs, 'The Battle Between Thatcherite Pop and Marxist Funk', The Quietus, March 27th 2009.

http://thequietus.com/articles/01376-david-stubbs-explores-the-batt...

 

[2] 'Made In Sheffield', Plexifilm DVD, ASIN B0009I7NGC 2001 - interviews with Philip Oakey (The Human League) and Richard H Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire).

 

[3] 'Synth Britannia', BBC Enterprises, Broadcast on BBC 4, 2nd August, 2010 – interview with Richard H Kirk (Cabaret Voltaire)."

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