Happy Valley

Neil Rumming

31 Oct - 13 Dec 2020

I tried but I could not find a way, looking back all I did was look away
Next time is the best we all know, but if there is no next time where to go? (1)

During the summer I did a lot of walking with my family like many people. I had time, a different sort of time, an enforced time, a re-setting of what was important and what I was allowed to do with that time. I walked and enjoyed the space, fresh air and beauty of the countryside, I also consumed horror on a daily basis. My existence consisted of harsh juxtapositions, endless news feeds helped to exacerbate anxiety, a loss of self, fear and denial, a sense of paralysis of not being able to do anything except consume and be complicit in my daily intake of never-ending information.

Today we live in the midst of an existential crisis, we are all part of a global pandemic, a war on dis-information, a fight for racial and sexual equality, surveillance capitalism, the climate crisis, Brexit and civil unrest. These traumatic conditions have signalled the need for change both on a personal and political level. Change is difficult and takes a period of adjustment, we continue to consume and maintain the same habits, routines, rituals because these help us to feel safe, but are we all suffering a sense of loss? A loss of our former selves and the perceived freedoms we once had? Or are we now free to see the fragile temporal reality of our own existence. The sense of something being broken that cannot be fixed only re-made / re-modelled and sold back to us as being better. It’s new, shiny, much improved, but ultimately a construct, a mimetic reality that is embedded into our consciousness and distorts our understanding of what is real and not real. We consume large portions of reality through a constructed lens, we live vicariously through over peoples plights and feel secure in the fact that it’s not happening to us, but it is happening to us and no-one knows what to do or how to react? Is it easier to just walk in the Happy Valley and pretend that things will get better or to find agency through activity, co-operative élan and socially minded spirit?

Otto Dix’s ‘Der Krieg’ (The War) is a series of 50 etchings, aquatints and dry points made in 1924 (2). This series of prints bear witness to the horrors of the first world war, the fragility of our corporeal being. They do not censor or shy away from the savagery and violence of warfare. They are a potent lacerating testament to the act of witnessing and the violence of man. Dix’s prints are a forensic treatment in the act of showing and not telling and why it is important to not just look into the fire but to feel its heat on our skin. As an artist the act of making is a witnessing of time, an engagement that exposes a relationship with an idea, materiality, process or machination, sometimes the results are underwhelming and other times they are unsettling and allow you to glimpse the extremes of material life. 

‘Re-Make / Re-Model’ was a song written by Bryan Ferry. It was recorded in March 1972 and is the opening song on Roxy Music’s debut album ‘Roxy Music’.

Brockley Gardens