The visual cue for the veiled woman comes from the beautiful artwork to Joy Division's album ‘Closer’. The artist, Peter Savile, used a black and white photograph from a cemetery in Genoa, in which a vignette of statues of mourning figures grieve over the dead. Apparently, Tony Wilson almost pulled the artwork because of the tragic suicide of Ian Curtis just before the record released. I'm glad they didn't.
The music we used to inspire these photographs was a very specific recording of ‘The Eternal’ - a live bootleg from The Warehouse in Preston. The song creeps over you slowly building a ghostly atmosphere, flushed with emotional insight. As it happened, the band were having enormous technical problems at the show with mics and the PA. Perhaps Ian Curtis’s entry into the song was delayed for these reasons. But the result is a song which builds a powerful darkness with slow chanting synths until after a few minutes Curtis’s voice pierces the darkness like a shaft of light. The effect is incredible. One of my favourite recordings of all time.
The image is another of my pieces referencing renaissance imagery of the Madonna, the symbol and embodiment of emotional connection. The veil is a powerful device, hiding the figure just beyond the reach of our eyes, as so much emotional truth around us is to be found.
Identity politics marks a shift from being mindful of ones own prejudices to policing others’ thoughts.
XXXTentacion has been blacklisted from publicly funded Radio 1. The Guardian seeks to justify this censure by claiming the artist’s rise to fame was built on his terrible personal misdemeanours. This view is clearly wrong- firstly there are many violent, lost individuals in the world, that certainly does not guarantee them success in the arts; secondly, his music is clearly far more nuanced and reflective of his troubled feelings towards existence, hardly promoting his actions uncritically. In fact to the contrary, it’s precisely his strikingly effusive self-doubt and anger that makes his music such a relief from modern pressure, makes his sorrowful position so relatable. The BBC has made a grave error, in this specific and in the general case.
Art must be protected, which is not to say artists should be safe from criticism, precisely the opposite. If you look at the work of anyone born before the 20th century, you’ll find the creator was almost certainly in possession of beliefs and views which would have them blocked from Twitter.
Do we stop listening to The Smiths because Morrissey is incorrect about the relationship between ISIS and Halal? Of course not, if the songs’ component words and music help make sense of your inscrutably incomprehensible life, or help you through a tough time like no other friend could, there’s the value. It’s why we have art. It’s why we started blowing coloured dust onto cave walls.
It doesn’t mean we accept all the politics and prejudices, the inevitable human failings of the artist into our ‘identity’, any more than loving the work of Ian Curtis and Joy Division makes me a Manchester City supporter.
The human experience is too complex, dark, and rich to be limited by political correctness. Art is the antithesis of, if not the antidote to, political correctness.