by Mood of Collapse

After 12 years of running the Mood of Collapse art blog you’d expect I’d be a dab hand at writing an article about what it is I do and why but it’s proven to be a daunting task. Show me a piece of art or music and ill knock out 2000 words easy about how great it is and its value but it’s always a challenge to turn the microscope on yourself. Thankfully as I get older the inhibitions and fears have subsided and I feel a lot more confident looking in on myself. 

I started the blog back in 2008. It was a strange time in my life and had recently experienced some traumatic events which had a profound impact on me. I had an urge to make the most of every day, seeing life as a blessing and a chance to do somethng good. I’d already been making street art for a year and realised I was surrounded by amazingly talented friends. I could see real value in what they were doing at the time with pop up exhibitions, street interventions, gallery mural marathons and a whole lot more. These events would have a gaggle of hipsters foaming at the mouth for the perfect instagram selfie nowadays but it seemed to be ignored at the time with support from a dedicated few but mostly friends, even the gate keepers of culture in the city didn’t bother supporting anyone but themselves. This partly led to the emergence of spaces like Project Slogan, an artist run unit which aimed to bridge the gap between emerging talent and creating opportunities to show and make new work for local and international visitors. Slogan provided somewhere artists could come together on any given weekend for an opening but it also fostered something deeper and helped forge a fresh creative community. And not the kind of red wine drinking tweed coat wearing community you’d find at other creative spaces but young 20 somethings who we’re ready for change and wanted to challenge the status quo and to be challenged. Of course the residents of Torry weren’t quite ready for the Reservoir Dogsesque installation that filled the Slogan windown on Victoria road, a bit too challenging maybe but there was room to try and to fail. With every show and every artist I met a bigger picture began to emerge of what culture looked like, way different from what the council was putting forward and I wanted to share it. 

So pre social media starting a blog seemed like a logical step as I could take photos, make videos and share flyers for up coming events. Having gained my higher art twice I developed a basic knowledge of the finer aspects of art and art history but still didn’t 

know much beyond the big names. I’d have liked to attend art school but a lack of funds meant University was out of my reach but it didn’t stop me hanging out at Grays where I’d visit my girlfriend at the time. Although I was accepted by this amazing group of friends I still felt slightly out of place and felt like I didn’t really have the skills to speak about art with any authority. So instead I’d focus on sharing the visual side, cool photos and videos which show the culture instead of boring wordy essays about the twig on a shelf. I wanted to show people what they’d missed but also to try and dispell the ‘nothing ever happens’ brigade. I like the idea of keeping write ups simple so anyone could read it and understand. That said it does feel good to flex some creative writing once in a while or to go a bit deeper on a specific artist or show. But there’s always been the issue of connecting with the wider community and how to disseminate culture in a way that people can appreciate. I didn’t have much of a platform at the time and to be honest its still a struggle now as we’re all fighting for people’s attention. 

So connecting to people has always been a key aim. But why would art matter to a 14 year old in Tillydrone for example? I grew up in a council house in Mastrick where my culture at 14 was smashing bottles round the back of the Spar and getting chased by older boys after calling them cunts. But looking back I can see how my parents helped to subtly shape my appreciation for art with reproduction prints of Gaugain and Van Goghs in the living room but they weren’t pushing us to visit galleries. I really started to appreciate art when I spotted a Quadrophenia postcard in my art teachers classroom, a beautiful space that was unlike all the other rooms in my school with its big high ceilings and skylights. I started connecting the mod target postcard she had up with the bands I was into at the time, perhaps the first connecting of the cultural dots. I still have that postcard in my collection, of course I nicked it off her wall. But during this time I discovered art that really touched me in a way I didn’t know art could, namely in the pages of the Japanese Graphic Art book and its cover featuring the radiant blue wave about to smash the small boat. Something in that image and the other works in that book ignited an appreciation for art that I’d never had before. Suddenly art & music became central passions along with getting my hands on a Vespa. 

Also skateboarding became a huge part of my teenage years in spite of the constant trips to hospital. Being a Heamophiliac doesn’t bode well for a skateboarder but its one of the challenges that shaped my thinking and perspective. Skating introduced me to another community who we’re literally breaking the rules just by skating down the street. Skateboarding didn’t have the same street cred it carries nowadays and in 1998 it felt like the most rebellious act imaginable. Union Street was like a gauntlet of arseholes trying to knock you off your board or shouting at you to perform. I guess in another life I might have been one of those people. Skating opened up the world of DIY culture from making ramps in abandoned factories to blasting heavy metal and exploring new music but it also highlighted how we can connect via shared beliefs. If you spotted someone in a Zero skull hoody there’s a good chance they skated and you’d acknowledge each other in passing knowing a shared kinship existed. I found these connecting threads in skateboarding, music and eventually art.

I’d veered off the art path in college and was now exploring photography, super 8 films and stop motion animations. I’d left school a year early to re do my higher art in the hopes of getting an A but was unfocused and maybe a little lost. I got another B after resubmitting most of the previous years work. At least the examiners were consistent in their marks! But art had led me onto an interesting path but I didn’t really know what to do. I got a job working in a comic shop and was heavily into the Uncanny X Men comics for a while collecting issues from the 70’s & 80’s. The shop gave me plenty of time to check out other titles and I was soon reading Hellboy and a host of cool indie titles. These formative years were so important and looking back were underpinned by skateboarding, alternative music, art and good friends.  

Over the years I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who are involved in culture both in the city and further afield by simply taking an interest in what they’re doing. As with skateboarding down the street, going to art shows and events felt like a rebellious act and to blog about them became my outlet. Although I was making stencils I didn’t feel like it was the same as what friends were doing, they were real artists and I was something else. I guess most creatives experience some form of imposter syndrome and I was no different. At least if I could capture what friends were doing then I could be of some use. I didn’t really know who my audience was so the blog existed as a record of things at that moment in time which has been incredibly handy, especially when subcultures like skateboarding and street art began to become mainstream talking points. Suddenly I had this archive of events and artists which seemed to reach much further than just Aberdeen but to me connected to things happening in New York, London, Paris. And Tillydrone!

I’ve been able to get my voice out there more in recent years with the arrival of Nuart Aberdeen which in turn has helped me to amplify others. There’s a lot of kudos in cultural capital that didn’t seem to exist 10 years ago and indeed a lot of money too as the council looks to use the cities creatives as a selling point as we transition into a post oil economy. But the true value of a vibrant creative economy and city is in the connections we make with each other and I’d argue that some of the cities most valuable cultural assets fall through the cracks of the funded orgs and institutions yet somehow thrive in our communities despite being undervalued. Venture into Tillydrone and you’ll find hardships for sure but you’ll also find expansive street art murals and young people trying to get a leg up making rap videos, expressing their every day struggles and still finding love for the city. On the flip side we have artists who show paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh and win big awards, working away right now in the city centre but I’m sure if you asked many locals where to find them or WASPS studios they’d struggle (its at the back of Soul Bar on Justice Mill Lane). It’s a strange disconnect for a city the size of Aberdeen where the cultural footprint is huge but the significance of it has been played down and most still feel like nothing really happens here. 

I guess it starts to make more sense when you see the fractured nature of things. An art school outside the city centre that operates in its own bubble and doesn’t need to engage the public, the council plodding on with renewed city of culture plans while for my money ignoring a lot of the culture that exists and I don’t think I can take another cheesy article from the Evening Express. There’s a lot of gaps in the cities cultural offering, how its promoted, how its shared and how its disseminated. There’s also a disconnect between organisations, funding bodies and the people who are making work from a grassroots level up. Even after 12 years I’m constantly suprised to discover new talent in the city, some emerging from the cocoon of Gray’s while others are well established creatives who’ve been making work for 20 plus years. I try to make sure I don’t fall into writing about the same people all the time and work to expand my own network to help shine a light on those who deserve it and those who are doing interesting things. If we all shared pictures of art or music made by friends the way we share memes and fail videos then we’ might get some traction in helping to make culture visible in the city again. And it was visible, there’s posters to prove it and photos from the 1960’s on. And this is where Leopard Arts is doing a fantastic job with their open approach to creativity and highlighting new voices across the board. I’ve been waiting a long time for another blog to appear that is interested in the underground and subversive cultures of Aberdeen.

But why does any of it matter? Why does culture matter? For me it comes back to the connections and the very human aspect of creativity. As a slightly lost teenager art helped me to explore the world around me but also to see beyond my own postcode. I’ve met some of my best friends thanks to the various paths that its led me down and I think its enriched my life no end. It’s given me agency in our city, from skating at Broad Street and making illegal street art to leading hundreds of Aberdonians around the streets looking at murals and shouting about the connections they have to our city and our history. It’s also given me a couple of Banksy princess Di tenners which is nice. Sometimes it helps me to make sense of the world and it really helped me to heal from the trauma of my early 20’s. It’s forced me to address my internal biases and to interact with people who I assumed I’d have nothing in common with and learning that its ok to be wrong if you own it. Culture has given me opportunities but its also challenged my ideas about what art & creativity is and helped me to see the connections of skateboards and comic books to Monet & Picasso. On a whole my interactions with culture have helped to make me a better person but also reminded me that there’s always work to be done and that learning is a life long pursuit. And that feels good. Good like discovering a Hokusai print or a Barbra Hepworth sculpture (I had to google her last year). I guess wherever you can find that joy hold onto it, nurture it and don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re not worthy of it. I mean if I can write about art for 12 years without a degree then anyone can!