RAW DATA: Today I went to a open meeting about contemplation and creativity – I never made it.
I went to talk to some people who meet to discuss and create visual art. Specifically contemplative art (Is there any other form of art? I wonder). I have seen some of the group’s creations and I was looking forward to meeting and discussing ‘stuff’.
I cycled into the town an hour early with a view to sitting in Leicester Town Hall Square and having a breather after a day sat at a screen juggling pixels & print. It was a sunny evening and the prospect of 30mins on a bench by the fountain promised grounding and mindful space.
Was I in for a wake up call! It’s not often I venture into Leicester. I used to enjoy it as a young person with no cares or responsibilities. I recall commenting on the buzz and the vibrancy that was there, but I struggle to identify with that sentiment now. I have not had cause to go into the centre for, well I can’t remember; vacuous christmas shopping perhaps? Why would I have needed to go into the city centre?
What greeted me as I sat on the bench was perhaps 20 young people, playing music loudly on the grass and benches, the language was abundantly vulgar and ignorant. I was shocked. This is only the town of Leicester, it’s not a busy city. What then ensued from the other corner of the square was a gang of lads with a brick chasing another lad. “F*C*B* I’m gonna F* kill you, you F*C*”. The gangs faced up to each other and ‘discussed’ what was gonna happen… one on one? weapons?… I sat amongst this. The brick was tossed around and discussions were had as to whether to “smack his F* head” in with it. Others joined in. I looked for a decent person nearby but there was no one. Anyone that was around blanked the situation and scurried away. I decided to move on. I went around the corner to another bench further down the high street. “I’m gonna F* kill your F* dog you C*”, three drunken men were heatedly ‘discussing’ what was gonna F* happen later. I looked for something sane to cling to. I found nothing around of any hopeful substance. I looked for some form of authority to discuss the brewing incident that was happening in the square. Nothing resembling a ‘authority’ in sight. Personal anxiety took over as I looked for something clean, something hopeful.
The meeting was in 40mins and I’m sorry but I was nowhere near in a frame of mind to meet a bunch of strangers (albeit promising strangers) and discuss contemplative photography.
My anxious tweet on the way home: “Leicester city town sq. Contemplating dirt, vulgarity, abuse, violence, drunkenness, dishonesty. I could cry #anxiety what a horrible place.”
It seems to me we create images and pictures of hope and beauty and joy. We create images of violence, despair and horror. We play with expression of love and hate and right and wrong. We sanitise the insanity that might leak into our world and entertain ourselves with horror, failure and sorrow. We live in worlds saturated with infotainment, digital worlds, consumerist worlds, corporate worlds, polished chromium worlds, legal worlds, anthropomorphic worlds, domestic worlds, nutritious worlds. We build our security with what we possess.
Personally I see hope, joy and beauty in nature – I am often overwhelmed but beauty in the natural world, beauty in the innocence of young-people growing and learning. It’s easy to see beauty in the natural world even when in reality it’s a harsh natural world, it’s still visually exciting, it evokes mystery wonder and otherness. But what I would like to see, celebrate and magnify is beauty, hope, love and glory in humanity. I would like to see art that magnifies and resonates human activity, the reality of people, real relationships and real human interactions. But what we so often see in visual art is “pretty stuff”, “polished stuff”, “entertaining stuff” not reality.
I went to Leicester today to contemplate capturing beauty in our world. I left contemplating a grimy, dirty, empty space far outside our ideals.