“Two sites I used to look a lot are the Tumblrs This Isn’t Happiness (often NSFW) and Magnificent Ruin, both of which present photography, illustration, design, quotations, and other miscellanea from around the web. Often you’ll find really interesting, clever stuff taken out of context, and I’ve stumbled across things that have led me down ever deeper rabbit holes (worm holes?) of discovery. But these sites have always taken a stance of disquiet and disillusionment (as you’d expect from their titles) and I’ve finally reached saturation point with the ethos that drives their curation. Too many photographs of models alone in bare, dimly lit rooms, cigarette smoke unfurling from their mouths; too many cells of Charlie Brown at his most bleak; too many fragments of poetry by Bukowski and John Tottenham (whose work focuses pretty much solely on feelings of futility and bitter disappointment). These fragments fuel a kind of myth-making about feeling unhappy: that it’s interesting, mysterious, and, very often, beautiful. It is despair as an aesthetic, not as a human feeling in all its messiness and difficulty and struggle.
I’ve begun to have a similar response to some artists who I used to really love, such as Bored Rita (er, also often NSFW) and David Shrigley, who – and maybe it’s just through too much exposure to their work – now leave me cold. Bored Rita’s work now seems hardened by bleakness and misanthropy. Is it the work that’s changed, or me? I don’t know. But I look at it and I feel as though Bored Rita hates me. Writing this, I’m suddenly afraid that she’ll discover this post and tear me to shreds with the same pointy teeth as her characters. In a similar vein, I can recognise that David Shrigley’s stuff is clever and original, that it walks a tightrope between stupidity and profundity, that it messes with perceptions of what important art is – but all I can really take from it, in the end, is hostility. Maybe that, too, is the point. But where do you go from hostility, what can you take with you into your life?”