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Confraternity of Neoflagellants

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Talk by Norman Hogg and Neil Mulholland for The North, 26.5.10, Edinburgh College of Art Research Workshop

Talk by Norman Hogg and Neil Mulholland for The North, 26.5.10, Edinburgh College of Art Research Workshop

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  • The neo-feudalism generated in this contemporary narrative is one that fuses neatly with current Western geopolitical analyses of globalisation. Of course, the fascination with the Other has to extend beyond ‘British’ and European cultural history. It also has to engage with concepts of simultaneity – with the fact that there are many moderns and thus many pre-moderns and post-moderns. We need to look in all directions. Neomediaevalism, is a lens through which UK-based artists identify and justify the present in the past, and through which they narrate this past in terms of how they imagine their futures. It has no logical conclusion.
  • As the international art world globalises, it does so as the UK state is becoming increasingly Balkanised into fiefs, city-states and overlapping territories.
  • In this, it resembles what Hedley Bull prophesised as a New Mediaevalism: a “system of overlapping authority and multiple loyalty.”The devolved UK state is one in which there are competing legitimate organising principles for the cultural arena and in which individuals are legal members of a transnational community while also having legal responsibilities to the local territory in which they reside. In art as in politics, the discourses of Britishness continue to surface in resistance to the realities of neo-medievalism, but they do so in very confused ways! For example, the federal structure and thus the national imaginaries of the Arts Councils in the UK is not well understood:
  • Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are also there.
  • Sheffield have a Pavlion – this tours to other major expos such as Documenta and Muenster – it’s more ambitious than the UK’s national Venice Pavilions. The fact that Sheffield trades in many expos is testimony to the collapse of ‘British-ness’ as a unitary currency in the artworld. Perhaps Sheffield is a better brand than ‘Britain’?Manchester has a Pavillon – This is put together by two artists. It doesn’t require a complex infrastructure to support it. The artists simply claim the right to represent their peers from the city they live in.Peckhamhas aPavillion in the form of Hannah Barry’s Gallery (operated by Hannah Barry and Sven Mündner) – two private individualsmasquarading as a burgh state.
  • What impact might this have upon the UK’s cultural ecology?
  • Two types of neomedieval Cultural Economy operate simultaneously in the UK.Pre-industrial (dominant in the artworld) – (left - BLUE) e.g. British and Scottish Pavilions at VenicePost-industrial (emergent) {right - ORANGE} e.g. PeckhamInternationale and Manchester PavilionThese fields of cultural production overlap, for example…………
  • the mercantile economy finds its stock and skilled labour in the prosumer economy.{left – BLUE} The value of objects in the mercantile art market is linked to their cultural capital. {right – ORANGE} Cultural capital is generated in the long tail, in the grassroots wherein experiences and community are valued rather than ‘objects’. Objects are meaningful here only as nodes in a socially-oriented gift economy.
  • What does this look like: {Left– Blue} As in the High Medieval period, many artisans in the ‘Naughtieshave been participating in a reinvigorated pre-industrial economy wherein objects are valued more highly than experiences. Such artists have different dealers and patrons in different states – they serve different lords simultaneously.As more wealth concentrated in the hands of fewer people in ‘NaughtiesBritain, vassalage has been responsible for the circulation of new holy relics and for the widespread retreat into cultural monasticism. This is thanks to the snowballing dealer-collector system that was encouraged by the de-regulated London finance sector. Curatorial celebrations of cultural supranationalism that we find at Biennials such as Venice not only serve to mask such centrifugal forces of vassalage that have dominated the art world in the ‘Naughties; theyare a product of vassalage.------{Right – Orange} There are, of course, alternatives to this. This is what I now want to turn to….
  • In what way is a neomedievalcultural ecology of the commons manifested in practice in the UK?
  • In Dreaming the Middle Ages Umberto Eco said that "..we are at witnessinga period of renewed interest in the Middle Ages, with a curious oscillation between fantastic neomedievalism and responsible philological examination...”
  • Tate Britain’s Altermodern - at the turn of last year -flirted with Eco’s neomedieval, featuring a range of works that related to shamanism (Marcus Coates)Spartiatism and carnivàle (Spartacus Chetwynd).
  • Eco’s sense of a tension between a scholarly and a fantasy approach is much evident in Olivia Plender’s work.Plender is interested in the ways in that neomedievalism is manifest in our culture, for example: in the return of guild systems among the voluntary simplicity movement, in neo-paganism, in ‘greenwashing’, and in paeleoconservatism. Such ideas, which involve invocations of ambient or unseen terrors and hidden cultural phantasms, are spreading like The Plague.
  • Geopolitical neomedievalism inthe form of Balkanisation is simply not an explicit point of reference for these dark age fantasists who are more familiar with contemporary Goth mores such as shoe-gazing than they are with Beowulf. Among artists schooled in the histories of modernisms, there’s a high degree of self-awareness that retreat into irrationalism and fantasy is expected to emerge at points of crisis in modernity in the UK. The Long Dark explicitly relates this to John Ruskin and the neo-Gothic of late 19th Century industrial England, The Dark Monarch to its neo-romantic progeny. Neomediaevalism therefore is as much a product of modernity as it is a response to modernity.Equally, neomediaevalism is the symptom of a longer running tension between the supporters of rationalism and irrationalism– this competitionis a product of the medieval period.So, when it manifests itself in cultural production, neomedievalismrepresentscompetition for power in our society right now.
  • They represent a proxy battle between a homogenising technocracy and an emancipatory folk culture. The culture of re-enactment - is the storyteller. The ‘liveness’ or performative allows the folk-tale to be both liberated and retold repeatedly.Role play, as a form of escapism, has the potential to suppress the habitual response, which in turn may allow space for a playful creative approach, a different way of visualising, or a genuine synthesis to emerge. Crucially, this aspect of neomediaevalism reintroduces the principle of subsid - iarythat the mercantileart world sorely lacks.
  • Alex Pollard and Claire Stephenson’s current show – Four Fatrasies, Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London.
  • So, culturally speaking, neomedievalism might allow us to engage with the modern via its other. AsPlastiqueFantastiquedemonstrate,it can be way of understanding the shift from a postindustrial to a ‘transformation’ economy (folkseconomy) using philosophies that involve highly speculative approaches (e.g. ‘Hauntology). It would be easy to castigate these disparate artists and projects as being united in the ‘new irrationalism’, an anti-Enlightenment mash-up of old and ‘new’ 19th century religions. This isn’t what they are concerned with. Neomediaeval art is allusive. It’s no accident that one of its favoured forms is role-play. These scenarios aren’t really concerned with the past; they are about the present.
  • Torsten Lauschmann’s solo show The Darker Ages (Mary Mary, Glasgow).
  • Eddo Stern
  • Transcript

    • 1.
    • 2. We are looking backwards
      We are running backwards
      Running through time into the past
      Taking retro to its logical conclusion
       
      The Mighty Boosh, Series 3, Episode 3, BBC 3
    • 3. Travels of Sir John Mandeville (1357 – 1371?)In one of these isles be folk of great stature, as giants. And they be hideous for to look upon. And they have but one eye, and that is in the middle of the front. And they eat nothing but raw flesh and raw fish.And in another isle toward the south dwell folk of foul stature and of cursed kind that have no heads. And their eyen be in their shoulders.And in another isle be folk that have the face all flat, all plain, without nose and without mouth. But they have two small holes, all round, instead of their eyes, and their mouth is plat also without lips.And in another isle be folk of foul fashion and shape that have the lip above the mouth so great, that when they sleep in the sun they cover all the face with that lip.And in another isle be folk that go upon their hands and their feet as beasts. And they be all skinned and feathered, and they will leap as lightly into trees, and from tree to tree, as it were squirrels or apes.
    • 4. Mappa Mundi ca. 1300. Currently on display in Hereford Cathedral in Hereford, England.
      Northwest Southwest
    • 5. Images scanned from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493).
      One of the best documented early printed books.
    • 6. and the Bonnaconin ‘Asia’ which is looking back over its shoulder at its own explosion of diarrhoea, which, according to the adjacent legend, sprayed a distance of three acres and scalded anything it hit.
    • 7. The relentless association, from the Renaissance onwards, of the Middle Ages with the ‘hypereconomy’ of the gift, with whatever exceeds calculation or rationality, for good or for ill, has made the Middle Ages a marker of fantasy and excess, even of excessive privation, and it continues to have a vast cultural address in the contemporary U.S. precisely as a figure of the unnecessary and the extraordinary.
    • 8. Geopolitical Neomedievalism
    • 9. New Medievalism
      “A system of overlapping authority and multiple loyalty.” (Bull: 245) 1977
    • 10.
    • 11.
    • 12. Neomedieval Cultural Ecologies
    • 13.
    • 14.
    • 15.
    • 16. Neomedieval Aesthetics
    • 17. Neomedievalism
      Umberto Eco, "Dreaming the Middle Ages," in Travels in Hyperreality (1973).
      "..we are at present witnessing, both in Europe and America, a period of renewed interest in the Middle Ages, with a curious oscillation between fantastic neomedievalism and responsible philological examination..."
      Luke Collins
      Cee Face (2005)
    • 18. Spartacus Chetwynd
      Marcus Coates
    • 19. Olivia Plender
      The Folly of Man Exposed or the World Upside Down, 2006, Details
      35 Warrender Park Road
    • 20.
    • 21. Spartacus Chetwynd Mime Troupe (left)
      Spartacus Chetwynd Mime Troupe Feminism, Little Tales of Misogyny.
      Sequences, Reykjavik, November 2009
    • 22.
    • 23.
    • 24.
    • 25.
    • 26.
    • 27.
    • 28. Alex Pollard
      Robin Hood Vortex (2008)
      Oil on Canvas
      Alex Pollard and Claire Stephenson – Four Fatrasies, Pump House Gallery, Battersea Park, London 20 January - 14 March 2010
    • 29.
    • 30. "If the reader will suspend his disbelief and exercise his imagination upon it even for a few minutes, I think he will become aware of the vast re-adjustment involved in a perceptive reading of the old poets. He will find his whole attitude to the universe inverted. In modern, that is, in evolutionary, thought Man stands at the top of a stair whose foot is lost in obscurity; in this, he stands at the bottom of a stair whose top is invisible with light."
      C.S. Lewis 'The Discarded Image'.
    • 31.
    • 32.
    • 33. Plastique Fantastique
      Ribbon Dance Ritual to call forth the Pre-Industrial Modern
      part of The Event in Birmingham in April 2007
    • 34. Torsten Lauschman
      The Darker Ages
      Mary Mary, Glasgow,
      until Sat 21 Nov 2009
    • 35.
    • 36.
    • 37. Confraternity of Neoflagellants
      An Unco Site
      Edinburgh Art Festival, August 2010
    • 38. http://community.thisiscentralstation.com/_Confraternity-of-Neoflagellant/group/113456/126249.html
      Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland License.