I am back now from my week at The Queen of Hungary project Space and reflecting on what I got from the week. I spent the first 2 days installing and experimenting with work I made in the run up to the residency. Then I spent the following 2 days working on a short video piece combining text from Thomas Browne’s book “Pseudodoxia Epidemica” with footage I have culled from You Tube, including people who we are told are benefit cheats plus footage of sparrows and a snake eating another snake. It was really useful to have the time and Continue Reading → Outcomes
After the first 2 really good days at the project space, days 3 and 4 have been a bit more of a struggle. My aim was to try and develop a short video piece using text from Thomas Browne and combining this with some footage I have downloaded from you tube. The footage includes video of people who are purported to be benefit cheats (presumably filmed by spying neighbours), baby swallows, mouths open for food, and a video of a snake eating another snake. When I project each separate bit of footage along with the text pieces in the space Continue Reading → Day 3 & 4
Video sketch, ombining text from the book “Pseudodoxia Epidemica” by Thomas Browne with a quote from David Cameron and snippets of text from recent newspaper articles. To sit upon an ass with one’s face towards its tail from Amelia Crouch on Vimeo.
Hugh sent me a list of words that were coined by Thomas Browne, some still in use and others not. I am thinking of trying to sneak as many of them as possible into a video: medical literary computer (a person who computes) hallucination incontrovertible suicide electricity approximate ascetic exhaustion ferocious precarious typography cryptography antediluvian coma carnivorous indigenous tollutation (ambling) triturable (capable of being powdered) obnubilated (clouded) fritinancy (noise insects make) garous (of garum, ie. fish sauce) retromingent (urinating backwards) cecutiency (tending to, or partial, blindness) scorious (rich in slag or dross from smelting) commolition (grinding together) spadiceous (reddish brown) Continue Reading → Browne words
This is sort of my title phrase and I’d like to display it as a large wall text. Although I am not sure you can really tell, the texture on the letters is a manipulated image of some dead birds. To locate the quote in it’s longer paragraph in Browne, he writes: “…his injunction is, not to harbour Swallows in our Houses: Whose advice notwithstanding we do not contemn, who daily admit and cherish them: For herein a caution is only implied, not to entertain ungrateful and thankless persons, which like the Swallow are no way commodious unto us; but Continue Reading → (No Title)
I am thinking about what I need to take to Aylsham later this week and doing sketches of some of the ways I might display text in the project space. It’s difficult to decide this before I get there and see what the space is like, however I want to try and be prepared as I only have a limited time there. My plan for the week is 1) experiment with some ways of displaying text as installations within the project space 2) make a video using sampled footage and fragments of text from Browne and newspapers.
I have also been looking for videos of birds (to resonate with the quote ‘Not to Harbour swallows in our houses’) and from this somehow got to other footage of snakes swallowing other snakes, swallowing alligators etc…that’s You Tube for you! But given that some of the quotes I have collected from Browne refer to animals. Some videos of animals might make it into the installation too. I think I have one quote about the mistaken belief that baby snakes ate their way out of their mothers’ wombs (must check this!)
I have been doing searches on You Tube for the phrase ‘Benefit Cheat.’ Over the week I want to make a video (or possibly installation with different video/text elements) using fragments of these videos along with text from Thomas Browne. I wasn’t sure about doing this at first, because there’s something really distasteful and divisive about people filming their neighbours/members of their community and posting it online and I don’t just want to reinforce that. One of the first videos I found included a woman falling off a mobility scooter which was quite upsetting to watch. But there are also Continue Reading → ‘Benefit cheats’
I was thinking of the multiple meanings of the word ‘judgement’- having good judgement, being judged and who by. It resonates with Browne who advocates judgement and reason. Also in his time there probably would have been the sense of the ultimate judgement coming from God. Now we find ourselves in a political situation where people are judged as to whether they are fit to work, to receive benefits etc. I did this sketch from a photo of some placards, as a way to display the word ‘Judgement.’ However I also found when creating the sketch that there is perhaps Continue Reading → Judgement
I have been working on some text pieces for the residency next week, pairing quotes form Thomas Browne with contemporary newspaper headlines or political quotes about working or worklessness. Hugh and I have been talking a bit about metaphor in language and literal truth. Also about the difference between words and images. Hugh suggests that at Browne’s time: “There seems to have been a sense in which pictures were given more credence than what people said or even wrote. This was in a time when most of the painted images people saw represented biblical events etc. And Browne writes about Continue Reading → Words and Images
Needless to say, I am failing in my aim to read newspapers and Thomas Browne every day. Too many other things going on at the moment as well. So with the residency getting closer, I wanted to have a look at what I have to work with already. I decided to take stock and look at bits of text and themes I have collected so far, to see if there are any clear ideas or possibilities starting to develop. Here is a copy and paste of an e-mail I sent to Hugh about where my thoughts are at, with his Continue Reading → Fragments of text
Today I have been playing around with a couple of video and audio sketch ideas. Click the links to see the video or hear the audio piece (which might become a video soundtrack. F is for work For Better or Worse
The book on ‘many things questionable as they are commonly described in Pictures’ is an interesting hodge-podge of different types of images. It includes questioning pictures of animals and pictures depicting biblical stories. Browne suggests both that a picture may be a symbol or allegory that subsequently gets mistaken for the truth, and that a picture can represent something as it has been seen but that the visual apprehension of the thing could have been a mistake itself. For example questioning whether dolphins are crooked, he says that just because they are seen holding themselves in a curved shape doesn’t Continue Reading → Browne Bk V, Pictures
I found the book on ‘Tenets concerning man’ less interesting and must admit then to skim reading parts of it. Still, I have picked out a few phrases of interest. Again Browne appeals to anatomy on several occasions and to reasoning and to God. I also keep noticing that he does accept certain things that have a poetic or metaphorical truth but dislikes when these get taken or confused for literal ones. “Nor are they only extolled from Arbitrary and Poetical grounds, but from foundations and principles, false, or dubious.” Nice phrases Eyelids stop the eyes regarding the heavens refutable Continue Reading → Browne Bk IV, Man
Continuing to read the book on ‘animals,’ Browne repeats the same methods of appealing to observation/experiment to physical characteristics, to reasoning (often comparing with other examples of similar animals) and to the work of other authors to disprove ‘errors’ about animals. A lot of his methods are still sensible today but at other times show how scientific knowledge was less developed when he was writing. E.g. although he can’t understand the mode of transmission, he accepts that a serpent may poison by looking at you but not that this would only happen to the first man it looked at. He Continue Reading → Browne Bk III, Animals, pt2
On Hugh’s recommendation (having found the language of the intro quite hard going) I have been reading some of Browne’s chapters on animals. It was a good tip because a lot the beliefs Browne sets out to disprove are very funny! My favourites thus far are that Swans sing more sweetly before their deaths, Peacocks are ashamed of their legs and that Storks are to be found, and will only live in Republics or free States. Browne appeals, in different instances, to Authority, Sense, Reason and Experience to disprove – or at least query – the beliefs. In most cases Continue Reading → Browne Bk III, Animals
Chapter V explains credulity (a tendency to be too ready to believe that something is real or true), with Browne providing examples largely from scripture. Along with this comes an obstinate incredulity – not acknowledging or assenting to what is reasonably inferred. His next reason – ‘supinity’ – is an obsolete word but related to ‘supine’: sluggishness, inertness or moral weakness. He also writes that this is ‘neglect of enquiry.’ So on to Ch. VI and we still have: adherence unto Antiquity, Tradition and Authority as his other reasons. These are quite obvious so I won’t go into them at Continue Reading → Browne CH. 5 & 6, BK 1
My newspaper collecting has been a little bit neglected over Easter as I’ve been away from my regular routine and the library, but it has given me the chance to focus on starting to read Browne. I have also had some interesting e-mails with Hugh. He suggested that people today are considered to be ‘job units,’ in comparison to terminology used by Chris Packham who describes voles as ‘prey units’! At the moment there are two things that I am starting to think about that possibly relate to Browne, or for which his work might bring an interesting perspective. 1) Continue Reading → Thoughts
There has been a lot in the paper about the Phillpot case. Generally the papers condemn George Osborne’s attempt to use the story politically, saying it shows the problems of welfare. However it has opened up some questioning of the welfare system and particularly the size of families it should support.
Interesting pairing of articles in the Guardian today. One writes of how people might have benefits cut or withdrawn if they are not doing enough to find a job with more hours. The idea of helping people find “more work or better paid work” also sits oddly with other recent articles about freezing minimum wage. In the same paper is an article about teachers’ wanting to limit their contact time with pupils, to have more time for marking, admin and prep. This is presented in a fairly straightforward manner in the Guardian but in another paper that, in error, I Continue Reading → The Guardian
In Chapter III Browne writes about people relying on sense rather than reason to discern things and thus making errors. E.g. believing the earth to be larger than the sun because it appears so from our position. Also people are persuaded by doctrine – rhetoric over logic. He says they take proverbs to be more powerful than demonstrations (so not sure how this sits in relation to previous comment). He criticises people for interpreting scripture literally…and later goes on to say that people have been deluded by lots of professions, giving some examples of these. In Book 1 Chapter IV Continue Reading → Browne CH. 3 & 4, BK 1
Two articles on jobs today. One says that “Jobless UK must close borders” – quoting a warning from MPs including Frank Field. The other is about jobs in a sofa shop where there were 12000 applicants for 9 jobs (with the number of candidates for a single job ranging from 3 to 610).
On the Causes of Common Errors: Browne writes that the “Father-cause of common Error, is, The common infirmity of Human Nature…” He writes that, we are infirm ourselves and will see this in the errors that we still commit even whilst being aware of our infirmity. Then he also sees this infirmity in more infallible people (who are far separate from us in time and closer to God) from whom we derive our being. As soon as people were removed from God they were grossly deceived. He goes on to relate the biblical story of The Fall – Adam, Eve Continue Reading → Browne Ch.1 & 2, Bk 1
Alongside collecting headlines, I am going to try to read a couple of chapters of Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica each day and pull out ideas and quotes that are of interest and relevance to me. Via this process I hope that my contemporary research and reading of Browne will come together in an interesting way! For an introduction to Browne, Hugh (who I am conversing with) has written a short essay here. You can also find the full text of the book online.
There’s not so much in the paper about migration today, but I did see this article in the Times with ‘the facts’ on migration. Says the government are pandering to misinformed public opinion and the rise of UKIP.
The Telegraph lead with an article about full time mothers’ for the second day running. This time it quotes the Bishop of Exeter on his opinion that the policy will ‘cost more in the long run.’There is also a comment article on the same theme.
Reporting on an open letter to David Cameron in which 50 social policy professors warn welfare reforms and cuts “will result in the poorest tenth of households losing the equivalent of 38% of their income.” The article also suggests that contrast of “strivers and shirkers” does not reflect truth of a situation in which there is severe youth unemployment and a fluidity of work. According to the article/letter “around one in six economically active people have claimed jobseekers allowance at least once in the last two years.”
Another mother in the ‘Daily Express’ today is deemed not worthy of getting support – although they seem a bit unsure whether it’s her fault or the governments. They also don’t propose a solution, just indignation – should the government simply give her less money so she is forced to go out and get any job offered to her? We are not told how long she has been on benefits or whether she is seeking work, it is also presented as if she is being paid 70,00 a year when actually this is for 4 people when you include her Continue Reading → Daily Express
More articles saying that Tory policy to incentivise mothers to go out of work penalises people who want to stay at home to look at children. Telegraph compares tax paid by different family structures in different countries.
In contrast to today’s other papers that I looked at, the Daily Express continues to expound Cameron’s announcement on limiting migrant benefits. One article recognises that the proposals may not be allowed under EU legislation: “Meddling European officials threatened to block David Cameron’s crackdown.” Another comment article says: “Cameron’s speech on migration did not go far enough.” A further article says: “if you want benefits you should have contributed” and tracks some recent immigration statistics.
The articles on immigration and benefit restrictions continue today. In 1) The Mirror and 2) The Independent, articles are critical of the government for getting their figures wrong, calling it ‘scaremongering.’ 3) and 4) from the Guardian, the authors also ask for ‘facts not fictions’ and consider how it is the rise of UKip that is pushing other political parties to strong rhetoric on immigration.
Comment article picking up on leak earlier in the week that jobseekers are being overly sanctioned in order to meet job center targets. Tanya Gold writes: “The Tory view of the state: those who need it don’t deserve it.”
Still the EEA migrant story but with a bit more depth – going into figures too. N.B. I am starting to highlight text in articles that I think are suggestive quotes or could be part of an artwork in some way.
More headlines about migrants today (just EU/EEA); about limiting their access to benefits if they haven’t found work in 6 months. Billed as ending a “something for nothing” culture in the Daily Mail. Could cause conflict with EU legislation I suspect.
Here’s a daft picture that someone posted on twitter this morning. An advert was printed with holding text before the copy was updated. The reason I have included it here is because I am starting to think about Thomas Browne and how his book Pseudodoxia Epidemica (Vulgar Errors) relates to the stories and headlines I have been selecting from the papers. In one sense maybe it doesn’t – and I’ll think more about this as I read about Browne. However my starting point and my proposal for the residency is about considering whether the work-centred or economically determined view of Continue Reading → Daft juxtapositions
These are the words used on the Andrew Marr show by Danny Alexander to describe the government’s ‘radical new intervention’ into the housing market and its announcement before the details have been worked out. Eddie Mair (presenting in Marr’s absence) asked about policy intention vs. effect. i.e. the policy is meant to help first time buyers but what if it helps more people buy second homes? The interview also covered the topic of immigration and social housing, about which Alexander said the government needs to have “policies that are seen to be fair.” I have noticed this phrase a lot Continue Reading → Danny Alexander
Guests on this morning’s Andrew Marr show newspaper review picked up on the story repeated across today’s papers about planned changes to social housing provision. The proposed changes make it harder for immigrants to get social housing. Baroness Bakewell (Labour) said that in a time of depression it always happens that we say: “Let’s blame people we don’t know: immigrants, strangers.” She suggests that a lot of political support can be gained by stirring up hatred and that often it is based on misinformation. The other guest – Isabel Hardman from the Spectator – picked out an article written by Continue Reading → Newspaper review
On the theme of housing, there’s a lot of debate currently about whether the planned interventions in the housing market (with the government guaranteeing a percentage of mortgages) will help buyers or create inflation and a housing bubble. I include a brief mention of the story here because it relates to what individuals are encouraged to aspire to (owning a house). PROPERTY OWNERSHIP=GOOD. DEBT=BAD. But how can these two be compatible.
Article suggesting that jobcentres have targets to put sanctions on people and remove their benefits. Denied by Iain Duncan Smith. Whether true or not it chimes with the prevailing idea that you must be looking for work to get benefits.
Okay, so this image has nothing to do with the article. It’s just an advert next to it, but I liked it! The article is about UKIP plans to stop benefit claimants spending money on things like alcohol, cigarettes and satellite TV.
The Telegraph’s take on changes in support to parents suggests “The Tories have lost the women of Britain forever.” It decries the taking away of choice – whether to stay at home and rear children or to go out to work, because of economic incentives favouring the latter.
In an article about the value of stay-at-home mums (who have taken the decision to stay at home “with their husbands) the Daily Mail pits them against ‘scroungers.’ I suspect a different value system may to exist in the Daily Mail’s eyes if those stay at home mums are single parents on benefits (as per the previous post).
Headline from a Daily Mail article about a mum on benefits supposedly living a life of luxury funded by the tax payer. This is a double page spread, feature article written in a way to make us incredulous.
There’s several articles in the papers today about new childcare funding for families. The Daily Mail repeats a story from yesterday’s paper – about a mum who attacked Clegg for penalising stay at home mothers. It makes me think about how different political and economic measures support different types of families. What size and shape do we want our families to be today?
It occurs to me how newspaper articles often focus on an example individual or family. These are the individuals we are asked to empathise with, identify with or distance ourselves from. Or – e.g. in relation to the budget – they ask you to think about your own situation. Will you be better or worse off?