The Meat-man cometh :Posted: April 15, 2015
The work i’ve been creating and revising for my upcoming third-year show started from natural creative oupouring into seemingly seperate works.
My ‘Box-Son’ comic strip (see earlier blog posts) was born out of wrecklessly handling morally perverse subject matter for the purpose of comedy, and then reeling it in as a narrative to give it an artistic purpose.
I’m also creating printed T-shirts that deal with socially repulsive subject matters with the intention of indicating the difference between comedic subject matters on the stage or in a book, and comedic subject matters shoved in people’s faces in public.
And giving the work some obvious social direction, I’m currently working on a semi-sarcastic diagram playfully outlining my views on inconsidered rectionary politics concerning the criminal justice system and welfare reforms.
But visually linking this together is work that started with my painting a guitar to donate to CardiffSchool of Art and Design. Originally I just wanted to leave an acoustic guitar in the school to make it a more social space and I wanted to paint the guitar to insert more of my ideas into the school. My first designs were based on the idea of the guitar as a News outlet, decorating in BBC logos and the like. This led me to consider the contrast between the romance of music and the dry bearaucracy of Newsreading. Televised News to me looks like a conscious struggle to remove empathy from stories for the sake of coming accross as unbiased. Wanting to exaggerate the lack of empathy, I introduced a meat texture to the guitar, as if it was just a lump of steak. And I eventually scrapped the BBC logo idea, deciding that the meat guitar was more repulsive without logos.
With this I made some Meat-masks, and left these with the guitar around the studios for people to pick up and play/wear when they wanted. I occasionally told students that if they were to play the guitar, then they had to also wear the mask. This was so that the character that was nick-named Meat-man would have a constant presence, regardless of who was playing the guitar.
When playing guitar as the Meat-man, I started finding a character for him. He’s a symbol for ignored problems, which suits the blues very well so bluesy riffs and lyrical themes have become his signature.
My dissertation was on public opinion, humour and morality. I came to the conclsion that although humour isn’t essentially linked to morality, humour can be an indicator of what we are uncomfortable discussing. If you want to find out what we are socially uncomfortable with as a society, look no further than the subject matters of apparently offensive comedians. For my dissertation I deconstructed the subject matters of one of Jimmy Carr’s stand-up sets, copying the style of deconstruction that Jan Bremmer had undertaken on a two-thousand year old joke collection in his essay collection;
‘A Cultural History of Humour: From Antiquity to the Present Day’ (1997).
Bremmer’s style of studying humour as a response to culture influenced my own thinking and writing on the subject matter. In using the format for his deconstruction of the Ancient Greek Joke collection ‘Philogelos’ on Jimmy Carr’s recorded stand-up act, I got the following (*Taken word for word from my 2015 dissertation):
- Not fewer than thirteen jokes concerned disability, amputation and the efforts to cater to disability.
- Twelve jokes derived humour from homosexuality: gay sex, stigma and stereotypes
- Eight jokes dealth very explicitly with violence against women, including rape and physical bullying
- Eight jokes contained health and mortality worries universal to all
- At least seven jokes explicitly concerened paedophilia, with elaborations on the jokes achieving more laughs
- There are four jokes on neighbouring areas (mostly west country and scotland)
- four jokes concerning Islam/Muslims
- Four Jokes regarding british class stereotypes
In my dissertation I followed many of these topics into deeper studies, researching books by specialist sociologists on the heavier contents. Some of these subject matters are uncomfortable for open discussion because the clash of ideas concerning them have a harmful effect on some people.
Where Meat-man comes into the discussion is as the piece-of-meat representative for the people who are labelled mentally ill, labelled as homosexuals, labelled as criminals, convicts, paedofiles. These are all terms applied to a individuals who share with everyone else a whole load of personality traits. And whether some of them are negative or positive doesn’t take away from the fact that labelling our differences helps reduce empathy, and in turn helps us not deal with either society’s problems, or the individual’s problems.
My personal view on each of these labels varies from one to the next.
- Being mentally ill is a fairly appropriate term for how we feel at our lowest or meanest or most confused. But ‘mentally ill’ is not currently used in our society to decsribe an affliction from which someone suffers from. It’s instead used to tarnish people with permenantly.
- A person may feel comfortable with describing themselves as a homosexual but the term comes with stereotypes which imply that it’s almost a full time occupation to love or sleep with someone of the same sex. In school I can’t remember ever hearing ‘look out, there’s a heterosexual coming up in front of you’. but the gay equivelant I remember being quite common.
- Criminals are labeled as wrongdoers by lawmakers. If you do not agree wholeheartedly with the law of the land, or with the legitimacy of how criminality is applied then the term criminal is no kind of negative. That’s not to say that I don’t have many moral codes that the law almsot agrees with, but I obviously disagree with many laws very strongly, and especially with the ways they are inforcred and upheld; often repulsively, and sometimes very dysfunctionally.
- Convicts as term is a conveniant and understandable term for a person who is locked in a small room for a pee-determined period of their life. As with all these labels, it has it’s uses whilst also suspending empathy, which we often need to do. But I feel that this suspense of emapthy has gone further than I am comfortable with.
- Paedofelia is a complex topic of discussion in modern british society. It’s often used lazily to mean child molester, sexual attacker, or child rapist but literally just indicates an attraction to children, which again in our society could be put under the label of mentally ill. It’s very understandable why people get so angry at child attackers, and especially so when the reason for the abuse is sexual. This is above all else, I think because of the cheapness of it for the attacker, in stark contrast to the heavy feeling of betrayal and emotional harm caused to the victim/child. But I think that especially concerning emotionally charged subject matters like this, the media should be more literal in it’s descriptions of events, rather than insinuative and blood-thirsty. The vagueness of the descriptive terms used for everyone involves leaves only room for disgust, anger and a want for lazily punitive justice, rather than for questions and better solutions to take place; solutions that prevent the perpetual occurances such as these, rather than just locking up each new predatory individual and waiting for the next generation repeat.
These complicated topics need facing in a way, and I think a mixture of Art and comedy can handle sensitive subject matters in a way that doesn’t have to have heavy consequences. My Meat-man character has proud medals outlining natures. He wears them because they are what he is, but they are medals made and given to him by higher powers.
Meat-Man is still in the process of creation. He has been writing a few songs, lyrically odd, performing them in underpasses at night to gain confidence for the degree show.
The entire catalogue has so far been under the wrking title of Piece o’ Meat Blues, with finished tracks : Local Epidemic (Paranoid Schizohrenic),Jailbait Rock, Ages without Wages, and Long Arm of the War.
Hopefully he’ll see you this summer`!