Robin Maddock: England!? les anglais ont débarqué! (Signed)
In 2016 was sitting in Entrecôte restaurant in Toulouse France eating a steak with a glass of wine when the result hit. ~Not being stupid, i realised the irony and headed on the first boat back to old Blighty to continue my work on my third and largest effort about England.
i spent three years travelling around to try to get to know my own country better. We should have all known it way better, before this shocker of a decision pulled the magic carpet from under our feet. Well i must say here ; i'm European and so this is my book !
It's as messy as the country, there are so many different cameras, types of encounter and journeys.. that it became i kind of extended family album scrap book.
i have had to put things into closer proximity on the page than is comfortable sometimes . The same way disparate things knock against each other today as never before, ...emulating the way new feelings arise from between these juxtapositions.
in the same way, i pushed my writing forward to be more direct in my account, in response to the historic moment; Of the failures that are England now. After all.. the long tern economic damage has not even begun to hit yet .
I also brought together some older images that go back over 20 years, that have somehow stuck to me like limpets. After all this is not a new subject, how we arrived where we have, has been a slow motion car crash .The politicians and right wing press blamed the EU for everything for many years . Old fashioned xenophobia, a story as old as the bible, one might say.
In making a book of such a subject; so big and small at the same time .. i've been free=happy and also tortured in turn.
Many places i'd rather not say or stay, alone in cheap motels, that sounds like a blues song but ...let's be straight, there are many lost towns in England, who have been totally forgotten since their industrial decline 30 years ago. If i was a young person from there i would be where is that greyhound bus (National express/eurolines ) outta there ..
The subject 'England' is a concept both real, physical, political and yet one of the mind. A binding emotive that now has been more of a divided one . As well as the politics of leaving Europe, along ethnic and racial lines, inequalities of wealth expanded, access to the right kind of knowledge too.
There are those who read books and those left behind on their phones, debated histories are shifting towards deleted histories.
Those states themselves mirror the ambiguity that England as any country feels about its self, but also our (esp. my individual artistic) egos know these self-love/self-hate tensions. Today kids often talk about the importance of "loving-oneself". For me this seems like a pure extension of the individualism that has poisoned the well of collective energy which is human potentiality. What it is to not be an animal is language, with which we love/care for each other.
Why do i still care at all?
The formative moments of my life were in England during rave culture and i have never felt so optimistic and proud to be English. It was a country where the social codes and order could be re-written and shown by example to work again through music, drugs and shared experience.
(i have seen the return of this positive energy in the protests of XR, what ever you think about white middle class people doing road blocks and samba : They are right about the science, action needed and the lack of appropriate social and political urgency )
How did we lose this DIY spirit? How did we commercially assimilate all this and in so doing knowingly remove our own socially transformative power?
The accepted narratives of England's historical role in the world, have been unravelling in my head these past years. This became a journey to find out more about the actuality of now against that background , so i could still speak.
i made this work because i believe the left has shirked from these questions of immigration, flux, nationhood and identity.. producing a vacuum which the right has exploited so ruthlessly. They left us here in decline and now isolated, still not knowing why they lost so badly, against such a weaken opponent.
Yet at the same time it's a very unfashionable photographic subject, something so grand; i had no choice basically ...fuck you very much England, i love you...i survived ..
Title: England!? les anglais ont débarqué!
Publisher: fire/hole, 2021
Author: Johny Pitts
Photographer: Robin Maddock
Size: 19 x 27 cm, 248 pages
Edition: 750 copies
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