sebald 001

This photo might not seem like much, it’s from 2012, but I think it was one of the turning points where, having almost given up on the idea of being an artist after university, I made something, just for myself, that really entertained me.

I shot everything back then on a Fuji 645 medium-format camera, who’s autofocus was never great but the vibes were good, and I chuckled when I saw this image emerge, line by line on the screen, as it scanned in.

Between the slices of bread is the book ‘On The Natural History Of Destruction’ by W. G. Sebald.

I was reading a lot of Sebald back then, I was 24, and my brain felt nourished by it after many years of being forced to consume things it didn’t really care for.

To put this into context, at university, I went deep with the critical theory. The image of being an intellectual artist appealed to my vanity, and I wanted ANSWERS! And I liked the politics. I still like the politics.

But the theory I was reading never really stuck. I never really read Marx. I tried. I loved the communist manifesto (who doesn’t? Come on it’s great). But Capital just didn’t stick around in there, didn’t even really hang out for a bit, just seemed to pass straight through, a gossamer fog, a spectre if you will. In brief, I started university as a keen painter and ended it as a bad Marxist.

So, during my early twenties, reading was hard going as I would only plough through the type of things that would help me become, or at least be perceived to be, a serious artist.

And becoming a serious artist felt so impossible once I had a job, and the vision I had of what being an artist would entail was so grim, that I almost gave up. Because I wasn’t enjoying myself anyway.

Enter Sebald! His intertwining of history, thought, narrative, images, emotions, reflections, rejections, was a revelation!

Not only did it stick, it blossomed, it grew, and gave me new ideas, whole new ways of thinking about what art is and what it could be.

Sure, his prose can be a bit slow, but before you know it, he’s woven this narrative around you and you look up and you comprehend the emotional gravity of a historic moment for the first time. It’s incredible!

Anyway, so here’s my photo that was somehow in homage to him to say, sir, you are as nourishing as food.

It was at this point I started to more knowingly use humour in my work and to make things that I, at least, enjoyed.

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