December’s election result made me question the innate ability to change circumstance. As 10pm came that night, I watched on silently, looking at my phone and television in utter disbelief. Instantly, the pundits clicked into gear. This was the inevitable, apparently. In some ways it was, but such a take fundamentally short changes those who believed in the ability to change circumstance through action; those who knocked on doors hour after hour in the darkest hours of mid-winter. Their belief is no less weak in currency due to the overall outcome.
While Liverpool courageously remains the anomaly in nationwide democratic exercise, the feeling of being able to bring about real change shouldn’t be seen as a once in every five years opportunity. Nor should it be reserved to the political playing field, either. Anywhere and everywhere change can happen. Find the cracks in their reality and continuous escape can happen.
These were the exact thoughts that came to me as I was sat underneath an underpass of the M53 a few days after the election. Rather than placing myself in the cold and wet of the motorway that bisects Wirral, this metaphorical totem of Birkenhead’s Mark Leckey has been installed in Tate Britain for the Turner Prize-winning artist’s latest exhibition, O’ Magic Power Of Bleakness.
Under Under In, one of three films shown in the exhibition, depicts a group of boys sat under this very motorway bridge which Leckey would frequent in his childhood. All throughout the film, the notion of bleakness – the cold concrete reality the boys are surrounded by – is interspersed with reaches from a supernatural of their own design. The pining for escape crosses over with the thrill of existence, as class, place and innate power is energetically displayed in the boys’ ownership of circumstance. All of the eventualities – magic, safety, escape – are possible under Leckey’s conception of the underpass. The safe space is one of the many cracks in this reality where we can find the energy for innate change, the eventual strength to return to the tangible with energy to overhaul.
Similar to Leckey’s fascination with the underpass, this issue’s cover artist, Pizzagirl, explains how ownership of personal landscape has provided transport to new a level of acceptance. Growing up in North Liverpool, Pizzagirl resided under the safe confines of the internet before breaking through its contours with his antidote to bleakness. Music itself is the underpass for Dan Disgrace, who highlights the art form as an uninterrupted world away from strained office life. Equally for many in this city, 24 Kitchen Street, which remains under threat, is the underpass that so many have congregated under, sharing an energy and escape that’s brought about change beyond its four walls.
This magical bleakness of ours, it can be anything and everything we want it to be.