I live in easternmost Hampshire in a benighted corner between Arts Council regions. My practice tends toward conceptual photography and I feel sharply the lack of like-minded artistic interests. As one female colleague put it acidly “arts round here means rich ladies who paint”, though I do admire the work of some of those women. The truth though is that there is more money than good sense round here,

Over the past viral years I have discovered the possibilities for  community building through collective publication. While group exhibitions could not go ahead we could make a call for contributions, get a critical essay together, print each artist;s image and supporting text, typeset, and bind it nicely. My contribution was the compilation, production, and a free copy to each contributor; sometimes people subbed up for additional copies to use as publicity or personal gifts. My reward was a developing community of artists worldwide, and an expanded knowledge of them and their situation.

This could be my mission statement

My childhood delight in reading and a physical book must have been the awakening stimulus for my career as an artist and though my training as an engineer may have seemed to lead me away from my present life I record that my first job was in the team designing two of the first photo-typesetters — the Linotron 505 and the Harris Intertype FotoSetter. This built on my school days’ experience of hand composing lead type for a treadle driven 14-inch ‘Arab’ press.

This marriage of the digital computer and the optical composition chain educated me in the details of hyphenation and page design. I became a lifelong convert to Donald Knuth’s TeX software for its resolute commitment to the beauty of the printed page.

In the preparation of any book – whether for my own authorship or in a project joined with fellow artists – I strive for these qualities of beauty and the generosity of the printed book as a potential gift.

As to my practice as an artist and photographer, I experience a great deal of isolation in the countryside where I live: I have resolved to contradict this isolation in this process of building community with artists worldwide who share my interests and to use some of my resources in the cost of production. I rationalise this to myself when I remark that any over-run in the printing still takes up much less physical space than framed photographs or sculpture.

bear with me, I’m working up the call for another book publication and I will need your contributions — you’ll get a free copy


done it now, the cat is out of the bag, this is going to be political.

A quotation, forgive an old man this digression:

‘If You Are Not a Liberal When You Are Young, You
Have No Heart, and If You Are Not a Conservative
When Old, You Have No Brain’

Although widely attributed to Winston Churchill, it is probably older than that. When I was 19 I had no empathy with Soviet Communism and became an anarchist, now while I grow older I recognise some hardening of the arteries, but I also begin to  wonder if I am being cheated by destiny while conservative thought lurches violently to the Right and becomes enamoured with Populist demagogues. I cannot cheat ageing but I can reread Marx. And for myself, an insight that Capitalism and Colonialism are surely interlinked, even two sides of the same coin. It goes without saying in most places that Colonialism was and remains a bad thing; it’s not so easy to see that Capitalism can be displaced from its claim to be what must seem to be the only game in town.

Let me explore this duality a little further — I am hoping to show that the methods of anti-colonial struggle can be re-imagined for a decolonisation of art, and artists as having been colonised by the economic power of cultural capitalism as identified by Bourdieu.

Consider how geographic colonisation begins. Traders arriving in this new land find that goods, desirable at home, are priced attractively, better yet these goods are disregarded here and may be bought in by barter for trifles.

The colonist arrives in the trader’s wake with a get-rich-quick mentality, to make their fortune as to be respected in the financial and social values of the home country. Speed being of the essence corners must be cut and troublesome local values must be subjugated to this desire for quick results. Physical force is very soon to arrive particularly when there is a gap in military technology.

The colonist must learn to disparage local cultural norms, impose language, and in particular replace the existing economy and currency with those of the mother country. Here the capital strength of the mother country begins the gravitational squeeze of wealth extraction, movement of wealth away from the colonised country back to the capital markets of the colonist. Local agriculture, viewed as low-tech is replaced by growth of cash crops and any value-add in their processing is removed from the local economy: famine was all too frequent.

One point remains that while colonisation is a crime by one people against another people, capitalism has to be embodied on both sides of the economic relationship: it requires a belief in free will and voluntary action. That this is achieved by economic force — perhaps the threat of starvation — is  generally not spelled out.

An aside: the British ruling classes had until WW1 exploited a colonial relationship with the rest of the country. They then expected the working class in company with the armies of the colonies to fight their wars with the aristocracies of Germany and Austria. When they found that the physical health of these forces was so poor the foundations of the Welfare State began to form. NB Alastair Bonnett, “How the British Working Class Became White: The Symbolic (Re)formation of Racialized Capitalism”

Simultaneously liberation and anti-colonial groups in the Empire struggled with a debate to use their involvement as a bargaining tool for their cause. It would not prove so straightforward for some.

Summary: there are enough parallels between Capitalism and Colonialism for me to explore the Capitalist consumption of Art, and the applicability of methods of de-colonisation to regain an human identity for artists.





so much for a methodology
In 2019, I got quite aerated by a curator who was swanning around the countryside pushing a strategy for survival as an artist that could only be appropriate for a young, single graduate fresh from the speaker’s metropolitan school still hanging on in the big city. The suggestions were in my view just so far from any practical use to artists like myself in the back -of-beyond as to be insulting.  Among other suggestions were for assiduous attendance at PVs, fawning attention paid to gallerists, and an aggressive use of social media.

I forbore to ask if the speaker had bought their own day return ticket from the big city at a cost of £45: there are no galleries in my 20km radius, consequently no private views, and social media is the Neighbourhood Watch WhatsApp group. Best avoided.

The advice was the promotion of a view of the art world that seemed completely alien from my experience and self-identification as an artist. For my own peace of mind I began working on a project to reach out to artists who might share my outlook, build some solidarity with them, and to develop a different world-view which could only be more comfortable than sitting around seething angrily over jumped-up big city types.

This wasn’t my first attempt at a group publication and I had investigated channels for publicising a call. I had over 100 responses but for conciseness I had to whittle this down to a shortlist of about 20.

The book was published titled ‘Critical Moss: art beyond the bubble’ [isbn 978-1-9995847-3-3], reflecting the aphorism that a rolling stone gathers no moss. The aphorism is taken to mean that decisive action must be taken in critical circumstances to avoid stagnation. The term bubble, a restricted society of people who live and think alike, and rarely venture from, here is a shorthand for the metropolitan bubble, which I perceived to be insular and self-absorbed.

The chief lesson I learned in that project is that the language of the Call is everything, and as I’m sitting here thoroughly annoyed by the state of the world, the continent, and the country I am using this blog to marshal my thinking for a Call to artists like me who recognise the stinking pile that is end-stage Capitalism with all its essential repression.