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Art and Capitalism

The Age of Discontent

In an age such as ours, in an age, that is, which is the necessary preliminary (long or short) of a drastic social change, there must inevitably be a distinct and increasing tendency for people to adopt a critical, to a large extent a negative, attitude towards all social institutions and activities. No matter in what sphere of life one may move, it will be found that the evils of Capitalism, no longer hidden, but becoming more and more glaringly insistent, are the theme for attack even amongst the most superficially-minded people. Among members of the working-class, of all descriptions, whether they be manual workers, on managerial and clerical staffs, civil and domestic servants, housewives, writers, artists, and scientists, is to be found a sense of dissatisfaction, more or less articulate, with things as they are.

Exhibition Review: The ABC of Capitalism

‘We live in a capitalist world. Capitalism defines our society, economy, politics and culture. However, it’s not a school subject in the UK or any other capitalist country.’ So runs the publicity for an exhibition ‘The ABC of Capitalism’ by Riiko Sakkinen, currently on display at Bury Art Museum, which is also described as containing ‘the School of Capitalism for kids’. This sounds potentially intriguing, but it all turns out to be a bit of a let-down.

Mixed Media: Mary Barnes

Earlier this year there was an exhibition of paintings by Mary Barnes (1923-2001) at the Nunnery Gallery, Bow in East London. The works came predominantly from the collection of psychiatrist Dr Joseph Berke, who is 'Boo-Bah', Mary's therapist and friend. Mary was an Army Nurse in the Second World War, in 1949 she converted to Roman Catholicism which was a rebellious and unusual step, representing a break from staid and bourgeois Anglicanism. But when she was 29 she was diagnosed as schizophrenic. With her condition seriously deteriorating, in 1963 she read RD  (‘Ronnie’) Laing's The Divided Self, and contacted and began regular therapy sessions with him.

Blobby Culture

The new emblem of British culture has been unleashed. From the great system of dynamic enterprise which tried to sell us the Sinclair C5 and Charles 'n' Di mugs has emerged the ubiquitous Mister Blobby. Once a mere pseudo-personality to share a screen with the non-personality of Noel Edmonds, now Blobby has achieved the success of shooting to the top of the Christmas record charts and being mobbed by adoring fans wherever he appears. That he is not real (there is not even an out-of-work actor inside him, we are told by an official at the BBC) well reflects the condition of contemporary art. Like a glove puppet with no human hand to manipulate him, Blobby embodies - if not emblobbies - the emptiness of late-twentieth century market culture.

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