POSH, anthropomorphic wires?


Yes, long before Victoria Beckham sashayed her way into our consciousness as Posh Spice, I had a tyrannical headmaster who terrified and taught us stuff in almost equal measures.

One of the lessons which stuck with me (along with speed-reciting of the 9 times table for fear of being combusted by the Times Table Dragon) was his understanding of the origins of the word posh; Port out, starboard home, which was how the better-off colonialists sailed out to India and the Empire, back when that seemed like a good idea. That way you travelled on the shady side of the ship, out of the blazing afternoon sun – the port side (left if you’re on the ship) heading south, and the starboard side (right hand side on the ship) when you head back north.

I have been thinking about global trade of goods as I made the work for Nothing Endures But Change, which is part of the Waterloo Festival. The colours I have used and the orientation of the work reflect that mythical description of the word: I think a lot about the trade in power and privilege which dictates where all the stuff we buy is manufactured by lower-wage workers. This ongoing exploitation/natural flow of capitalism and industrialisation (depending on your politics I suppose) (and how guilty I wake up feeling that day) seemed to be relevant in the context of class and status, and the questionable title of posh which some are labelled with.

Then when I looked into the name further, it seems the origin is more interesting, stemming from the street term for money which was used by criminal gangs in the 19th century. This feels a bit like reclaiming the word, it being used as slang for wealth, rather than as a sort of put-down. The fact that the myth about the ships headed for Asia has proliferated almost reinforces the system of class and entitlement which the underworld operated (operates) apart from. So that’s a fortuitous reference to start with.

Then, in the making, to cheer myself up (and ease the guilt I felt as I considered what had been shipped where on the pallets I’ve used) I made all the wires point up. Is it possible to have cheerful, optimistic wires??

I hope you can join me on the 6th for a walk round the sculpture garden, I’ll see you there at St John’s Churchyard, 73 Waterloo Road, SE1 8TY from 6 pm.

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