I included this piece as to me, it's the first conceptually complex, well executed and original artwork that I had made to this point. The theme that it concerns would also become my focus for the next 3-4 years. The work was inspired by a number of coalescing incidents both personal and global. The personal catalyst for this work was my transplantation from Brighton to Peckham, London. Brighton or more specifically Hove where I grew up, is a majority white, majority middle class area, moving to Peckham was a cultural shift and it made me assess my identity in racial terms, not by force but by choice and awareness of being suddenly in the position of a minority. I was aware of the themes of gentrification in this area, of intrusion and of privilege, of being physically in an area while existing above its problems. This reorientation along with the new educational approach in attempting to decolonise the university curriculum put my identity in question. I felt that being a white, straight, male made my identity a target for criticism, at the time this troubled me I felt that the reframing of issues by race created a myopic view point, grouping all people of my denomination together and labelling this criteria as a problem. I thought about the great feats of people that look like as I do, through history, thinking of Newton, of Darwin, of Stephenson and Brunel.
This non subscription to either the conceived stand points of white supremacy or of modern racial thinking allowed me to begin examining the legacy of colonialism, racism and racial thinking from an essentialist standpoint. I began looking at instances that I felt highlighted that themes of violence, injustice and hierarchy were not governed by race. From the trial of O.J. Simpson which to me seemed to be about the difference between the justice afforded to rich and to poor. To the reign of Mansa Musa the Malian King whose empire functioned through the use of slaves. I knew that Racism had been enrolled into the collective conscience of Europe due to the slave trade and was not, as many think, its inspiration. I knew that Colonialism had been motivated by the expansion of wealth and frequently had been perpetrated by private companies and I knew that racial violence and racist viewpoints were often carried out and embodied by those neglected by their own societies. These and other historic incidents viewed through a different lense, began to form a picture of subjugation due not to race but to class and wealth.
This different way of thinking gave the piece its visual language and title. The aesthetics were inspired by the concept of the soviet film maker Sergei Eisenstein famous for Battleship Potemkin and the creation of the montage. He coined the term Intellectual Montage Theory, or Third Image Theory. The idea that through the combination of images you can create a cerebral image for the viewer. I used disparate images, some images taken from modern news footage, others from 18th century oil paintings, forming a transhistorical picture of the issue I was highlighting. This is where the use of the term omnipresence came from, the idea that certain moments outlive their time and became entrenched in the collective psyche. To illustrate this visually, some of the images that make up this pieces are heavy, dark, almost black, a stain in the timeline. Themes such as the millennia of monument erection and death at the hands of authority appear this way. While faces lost in time are executed with a quiet sensitivity and fragility that attempts to point out the vulnerability of all humans in the face of time.
What I wanted people to take from this piece was not a didactical conclusion, but instead I wanted to point out loose threads in the tapestry of accepted discourse for them to pull at. To see issues currently presented so as to protect the rich and powerful and sew division between the poor on the basis of the colour of their skin, as matters of capitalist violence and inequality. Although, I have regrets that part of this pieces inspiration was merely an attempt to protect my privileges legitimacy, I'm so glad that through tackling my own prejudice I now have a far greater conception of these issues and can see the difference between the attitudes I'd inherited and those I now am proud to subscribe to.