Confessions of an Artist: The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of the Crash)

[Image: John Ledger. From The Mary Celeste Project (The Scene of the Crime)]


This is the first text in a series of documents relating to ‘unrealised projects’. The project itself, is situated in space that is experiencing tension. These tensions threaten to de-stabilise and topple the project before it’s even properly begun. The ‘unrealised’ is subject matter and sad reality.      

What is this document you are about to read? Well… That is a good question, one that will perhaps become more or less solidified as we embark upon this potentially perilous voyage. One must set sail with an open mind, clear head and all those similarly related idioms.

Let us begin, with a fragment. The fragment of a conversation, which has no doubt, persisted in many related conversations for countless years. What the hell is going on? This question was perhaps rhetorical in its delivery, in that very moment, space and time. However, it seemed incredibly apt and ignited a series of events that are currently in motion.

Artist John Ledger was the source of the question at hand. The location was Meadowhall shopping centre, Sheffield. This conversation, possibly to be entitled the Meadowhall tapes (Meadowhall cares) as it was in fact recorded, twisted in an interesting direction. One could begin to feel a sense of cutting, slicing through the mire of language with a sharp blade. Some event was about to happen. Could it be an idea, concept born from a Third Mind-like scenario? Just as the gates were about to open.

“Could I take your order please sir?” The guy behind the generic Mexican cantina interrupted. This seemingly banal action of rehearsed ‘dead’ machine language, that was probably uttered billions of times around the world in that instant, severed the thought before it was fully realised. In an instant the conversation shifts to that of a rehearsed routine.

“I’d like a Burrito please.” I said.

“What size Burrito, sir?” he said.


“With hot spicy chicken and peppers, please.” This dialogue continues becoming ever more prescribed until I receive a standardised Burrito, which I suspect is far removed from what the pioneers of this food stuff intended.

It was as Ledger and I sat down at a table behind the ‘Mexican Street food’ stall that the conversation resumes. There was something lost, from that previous conversation, or at least the memory of it. The unspoken part through the unconscious mind. It resides somewhere beyond the conventions of linguistic language that cannot be fully articulated in this account, or indeed in that second. The conversation recommenced.

“I guess it’s about two possible futures, and also a kind of the un-locatable present.” Ledger takes a bite of his burrito, so the sound of this statement is slightly comedic. However, this observation is a deadly serious.

“Yeah, it’s if there was some sort of rupture, or a point at which the utopian view of the modernist project, let’s say the later quarter of the 20th century, became a dystopian sort of postmodern reality.” I said.

“Yeah, I think, it could be observed that the second lost future, one which I feel I experienced, was located in the early 90’s utopianism for the coming millennium.” Ledger’s thoughts were beginning to reach some form of articulation that I had not witnessed before. He paused to take a sip of his Pepsi.

“What’s the un-locatable now, then?” I uttered, through a mouth full of Mexican beans and rice.

“It’s the intensification of digital capitalism that we are experiencing deep disorientation, which begins to warp our experience of time. A kind of omni present is created.”

“I agree, with the omni presence of the late 90’s early 00’s, a form of zombiefied existence that the digital creates with a sense of compressed history.” I said, just as the conversation was interrupted by a couple of teenagers with music blaring out of their smartphones. As if to prove a point, it was some house music that could have been at home in the 90’s.

“What is important though is that, after the ‘global’ financial crash in 2008, this disorientation and uncertainty has leaked into the very workings of the capitalist machine, indeed, into culture itself.” Ledger paused again, as if gathering his thoughts.

“I think, that the period after the crash to now, is a hybrid mix of these lost futures and a kind of intense liquidation of history, particularly from the near past that haunts and repeats itself with ever increasing speed.”

“Wow, I see some Bauman in that analysis.” I said.

“Yes, liquid times, modernity or whatever you want to label it.” The conversation tailed off as we both glanced around the eating experience.

“Do you think that everything is sold to you as an ‘authentic experience’ now?” I said.

“For, sure!” Ledger replied. “It is simulation; this canteen was upgraded not long after Meadowhall flooded, from cheap fast food to this thinly vailed, extravaganza of fast food eating simulacra!”

“I think that Baudrillard’s hyperreal has full power.” I said with a chuckle. “It’s the blind acceptance of this ‘experience’ sold to you for a higher price that these shopping markets really tap into.”

“It’s the always on culture, the 24/7 news, I want more information, more choice, more experiences. It’s the drug of digital capitalism.” Ledger was angry and sad all in one expression, this added to the poignancy of his language. We had finished our simulacra burrito, so we plunged into the cold of the Meadowhall car park and service areas to continue this platonic-like dialogue.

It seemed that the ghost/ zombie of what was lost before the interruption of the mechanical, food order had been unearthed. The conversation was just beginning as it continues to this day. For lest we forget, just because it’s not recorded doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or is the recording through digital devices a mark of the only existence that is taken seriously.  

End of Part 1…

John Wright