I started this assignment with not just the subject matter – food poverty – in mind but some kind of framework within which I wanted to address the issue, some ‘bumper rails’ that I would work within. I had spent some time thinking about both the parameters I intend to work within, and the principles I would follow.
Poverty can be a wide and complex issue, and one could focus on various aspects or viewpoints:
- Political: the causes (policies, ideologies etc), the response – or lack of
- e.g. could juxtapose the political classes and their consumption habits with people experiencing food poverty
- Practical: the solutions
- e.g. focus on food banks, how they operate, who works in them
- Nutritional: the quality of the actual food people are eating due to poverty
- e.g. using a high-end ‘food porn’ aesthetic but applying it to chicken nuggets and microwave chips etc
- Psychological: the effects on individuals and families
- e.g. depicting try state of mind of someone living in food poverty
I’ve been volunteering in a food bank for the last few months and have heard numerous frontline stories of people falling into food poverty and needing help. This experience narrowed the above list down to two: political and psychological. Practical (food bank operations) is problematic for confidentiality reasons – and doesn’t lend itself as well to creative concepts; nutritional just feels quite condescending and not my style.
A political standpoint felt right for a while as my overriding emotion around food poverty was anger. The UK government since 2010 has instigated so-called ‘austerity policy’ benefits cuts that have coincided remarkably well with the rapid rise of food bank setup and use (I’m with Yanis Varoufakis on this: “Austerity is being used as a narrative to conduct a class war” – Guardian 2015).
However, political conceptual art is hard to do well and it’s easy to go all ‘angry sixth former’ if you’re not careful (witness my efforts earlier in the course…).
Psychological fits well with my preferred way of working; I’ve become increasingly interested in the possibilities of using photography to depict internal states of mind. I find projects that allow me to depict thought processes, emotions and sensations are the most interesting ones. On Context & Narrative the assignments I found most satisfying were about exploring creative block, dislocation and the tension between my work life and my studies.
So far these projects have been introspective, from my own viewpoint. The new challenge here is to inhabit the minds of others and attempt to depict my perception of their state of mind.
So the psychological angle is the one I will pursue: how worrying about where your next meal will come from affects your mind.
I would however like to see if I can get in reference to political causes in some way. I’m not sure what this is yet.
More to follow.