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REVIEWS / MEDIA
“The contemporary sedentary is someone who feels at home everywhere, thanks to cellphones, and the nomad is someone who does not feel at home anywhere, someone who is excluded, ostracized.”
The Administration of Fear, Paul Virilios
ANXIETY GENERATION by Claire Hazelton
Time has shaped the definition of anxiety; like clay, it changes with pressure. Angst and its more elevated synonym, furcht, tie the concept of fear with threat; the pressure comes from the future – the foreboding dread of the overtaking of machines during the industrial revolution, the threat of World War in the 20th Century. Contrastingly, anxiety has been closely linked with pressure from the past, too; the anxiety of influence, the pressure of following what has come before.
For his new exhibition, Anxiety Generation, Stuart Semple focuses on anxiety as defined by the pressures of now. “My generation has never had a great war, nor do we have the memory of one,” Semple explains. His is a generation with an anxiety that thrives in denial and disconnection; one that comes from the pressures of freedom and from the violent past it is built on, yet completely disengaged from: “My generation is the fulcrum for decades of anxiety and we have been made so inert and fearful that we dare not even face it to understand what it is.”
“What we are doing is making children more insecure as our alarmist message becomes part of everyday life.” Frank Furedi
The narrative that runs through Anxiety Generation eludes to idiosyncrasies of Semple’s generation – solitude, hostility, disillusionment – all causes of and/ or fuelled by a greater anxiety. The painting, Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ represents a directionless and, consequently, hostile youth culture; a faceless youth, dressed in a tracksuit strides through a burning landscape, evoking images of the 2011 London riots. He is reminiscent of the lost of Semple’s generation – those who, in a world where everything is instant, accessible and free – where socialising is a solitary activity – have nothing to fight for, those who start their own wars to find things to be passionate about. Semple explains that people are “suspended between two states”: the over-stimulation caused by saturated mass culture and the “unconscious coma state induced by […] that flickering media-flow which ultimately shuts us down.” People live desensitised from reality, in a content middle ground, failing to face any extremes/fears. Despite this generation being free, without the constraints of war or any other threat, ambition is kept just for children; as demonstrated by All The Stars That Never Were, childhood ambition becomes disappointment/ disillusionment with age and the onset of adulthood. The anxiety of the generation is one associated with being nothing, achieving nothing and meaning nothing. But it is also, too, one focused on something foreboding, an anxiety of missing something, perhaps, sleeping through life while socializing alone at a laptop, living through screens.
“The spectacle is not a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle
Semple proposes that to understand the predicaments of the current generation, we must remove time and distance the anxiety from the context that has shaped it. He explains, “Paint and its ability to convey an image is vital now, its place outside a digital space is an ideal arena to discuss where we are and more importantly how it feels to be here.”