Class, Fairness and the Scope of Social Media



I am quite excited because hopefully I am going to help contribute within a month long discussion/exhibition at the Winkleman Gallery in Chelsea, New York who, with the artist curators Jennifer Dalton and Wlliam Powhida have opened its doors to artists and people to share thoughts on class and fairness within the art world, the event is called hashtagclass and takes place from 20th February for one month and will I believe, try and show all sides of the process from actually making the piece to the value of its social worth and how that squares with what has and is going on in the art market.


The dialogue and art will range from hands on in and around the gallery, to wider internet/social discussions and contributions (including my two pen’rth ) toward the project, which incidentally, I came across through social media.


Funnily enough  class has been on my radar for a while now, (or maybe not so funny – it is a bit bloody obvious isn’t it in the wake of last year’s polemic of no jobs, lives down the pan and pie in the sky bonuses). So yes I have been thinking about not necessarily the word class itself but the ethics that have been stifling the life out of social cohesion.  Class also seems to have been leaping out at me from every media source in the UK recently possibly with the advent of the political mudslinging that is no doubt going to become even more childish as the weeks wear into the pre election reasoning.

Will Hutton, never one to be swayed from his resolve hit the nail on the head in one of his weekly articles, pointing out that the PM’s joke directed at David Cameron and his buddies, although funny, instead of joking about Eton, educated toffs and inheritance tax had missed a more vital point. That of fairness.


A lot of this resonates even wider not least because from nearly every angle of the last 50 years or so the idea of the rat race, and the misplaced Darwin-esque theories that were entrenched into a social market place, the idea of dog eat dog, and tough luck has long been the social mantra of the more fortunate and therefore least likely to suffer from any of this anachronism. Unfairness is definitely the word best used to describe – not jealousy – not miss appropriated aspiration – just bloody unfair.


So with that in mind I was taken with other references to class that I had made here, when talking about comedy, fashion, and protectionist stances in the name of fairness and ethical issues.

As far as I can see fairness is a gesture made with the knowledge that you have not excluded someone from the possibility of also making or engaging with that gesture.

A wide task! But for some it is not a case of the scope of the task but the fact they have chosen to wear blinkers, a denial; what is not evident is not fact, and the protection of that.

Maybe that is why so many who are in a position to make gestures with money don’t like the idea of seeing where they could be without that freedom. Many do though, and look fate in the face, but the closed worlds of class have not been eradicated as some would have us believe; class is very much here and now.

I always thought the word class had become so entrenched in older ideals and categories that the Tony Blair exhort of a classless society to be a rather ambiguous use of the word. Categories do exist, financial categories especially, they demark how we live what we aspire and are able to aspire to, and pathways to these aspirations are just as relevant today. The days of I know my place; I’m poor and happy kind of propaganda, are thankfully no longer a convenient label posted in that tick box by people who would prefer it to stay that way.


The status quo like the market place is no longer in control of its customers, just as when social marketing took hold and customer profiles began to lead the product, it is having to reappraise its values. Social groups are having to look each other in the face, some very reluctantly but they need to square up, with fairness as its benchmark; aspiration yes, exclusivity, no.

Public interest and ownership of wider affairs is much broader now and is not the sole property of a fortunate few even if the jobs are. National and International law are having to change with human rights, privacy and information sharing. The closed structures of commerce and education are having to, if not actually believing in it at least look fair. The guarantee of the fairness of a gesture whether financial or social is hopefully coming into its own, and most certainly needs a strong focus.


The public realm of education is much more accessible, even if the formal institutions are still dogged but awareness of what can be accessed and public ownership has come with it. Social media can offer this access and even things like the XFactor have, regardless of the ethics of the format and content, involved a wider more engaged public and with it highlighting those sorts of creative possibilities (and not just through a lottery like structure). The baby doesn’t have to be thrown out with the bathwater here.

Public art and institutions in the same way must be pro active now and not follow suit only after something has become a commercial success. Now the word popular can almost be said in the same sentence as the word populace. Never before have Public Art and institutions been so in need to realize and engage with that.