'You can group all white supremacists together, based on being white
supremacists, but you can still split the group by separating those for
abortion and those against.'
That is a crass comment and it smacked me across the head when I came across
it. The comment crossed my path around the time I made 'Us, Us and Them', whilst
I was lurking on Hacker News -- a tech. news
website/forum. Unfortunately, I lost the URL for the page which hosts said
comment so I'm going to declare it as a paraphrased comment.
The essence of the quote is about how we categorise and group things. The
categories the person used in their comment were a tad dramatic but the point
was easy enough to follow. The hyperbole, also, helped evoke a stronger reaction
in me than normal which helped lodge itself into my head. Which is why I can't
remember the article but I can remember this. So, good point well made? I'll
let you decide that one.
I didn't attach the quote or its idea immediately to the image which
eventually became 'Us, Us and Them'. If anything, all it did was remind me of a
bit in one of Jason Manford's stand-ups. I don't know if there is an actual name
for this bit but the YouTube clip below titles it 'On Hating Each Other'.
If the video fails to load, I have added a list of the key points Jason made in
the video above. I have not transcribed it because he is a bit all over the
place, regarding sentence structure, making it difficult to read. Feel free to
skip this part if you can watch the video.
- I've noticed in this country, basically, everyone hates everybody who's about
forty-five minutes away.
- Everybody hates the next town/city along.
- Manchester and Liverpool hate each other.
- Portsmouth and Southampton hate each other.
- Glasgow and Edinburgh hate each other.
- This hatred changes when viewing someone a little bit further away.
- Manchester and Liverpool hate Yorkshire: They (L'pool and Manc.) become the
- The North-West and Yorkshire become Northern and hate Southerners.
- Northerners and Southerners become English and hate Scotland.
- Scotland and England become British and hate the French.
- Britain and France become European and hate America.
- The only time humans will be friends is when we get invaded by aliens.
- Humans hate the aliens.
- 'Coming down here, shagging our woman, with ya three knobs.'
Where I started to make the connection between the comment, video and artwork
was when I noticed I used the same protractor for each group (Figure 3). No
matter which colour marker I used, there was a sense of connection between them
because of this. Some groups were hollow and some included the outer
circumference of the protractor. While the variations grew, the groupings
grew. Below is a list of some of those groups:
- The solids and the hollows.
- Those with the outer circumference and those without.
- The pink ones and the none pink ones.
- The big bundle and the one on its own.
I could continue listing groups and categories but you get the idea. The main
point is each group has the ability to pair-up with another. This leads to an
escalation of separation. The more you categorise each element the more you
weaken their connections to their previous groups. The pink ones are not just
the pink ones. Some are now part of the 'solids' and other belong to the
'hollows'. That lonely pink, sitting on its own in the corner, is still a pink
and a 'solid'. It is here were the second 'Us' in 'Us, Us and Them' came from.
The reason why it took me a moment to make the connection between the original
comment at the start, the video with Manford in it and my artwork is because I
started the piece thinking about 'spacial awareness', for lack of a better
word. Early on, I was more focused on the space between the lonely pink circle
and the other circles and the effect it had on the viewer. I glossed over the
use of the protractor. It was a constraint I used so I could focus on drawing a
series of images. I viewed this constraint as a 'Rule-Set' not long after
starting the first drawing. The idea was to make a series of drawings with
different spacial arrangements between the different groups on the page. From
there, I envisioned displaying the series by clumping different drawings
together and others further apart -- in a gallery of some sort.
Aside: If you want to see the other drawings I made, you can view them in
the Us,Us and Them Concepts Sketchbook.
By having the protractor -- and the paper -- as the only real constraints, I
started to include pencils alongside the Sharpie markers. I never took to the
pairing of pencils and markers, though.
In the middle of me creating of these drawings I had the idea of naming each
group of drawings with names like 'Christopher', 'Amy', 'Kerry' and 'Adam' --
the piece hadn't become 'Us, Us and Them' yet. I, also, thought about using
names of stereotypical social groups (found on the school yard) like 'the cool
kids', 'the losers' and 'the goths'. I chuckled at the idea but I quickly killed
it. With that said, this act of grouping the drawings coincided with me reading
the comment mentioned at the start of this post. It was here when I started to
think I was over complicating the artwork and reduced the series to a single
drawing. The categorising, grouping and spacial positioning was all already in
the original drawing I made. I, also, felt the first drawing looked the least
One thing which bothers me about this piece is the disconnect it has with the
aforementioned comment and video, regarding their contexts and imagery they
invoke. Hopefully, I've managed to steer clear of subjects like white supremacy
and abortion with this piece. The main reason why is because I don't know enough
about either of those topics to start passing judgements on them, especially in
public. With that said, I do find it weird how I took those two things and made
this. I wonder sometimes if me steering clear is a failing of the piece. Maybe
the piece will forever lack the ability to evoke a strong emotional reaction and
lodge itself in your head. Maybe I've reduced this drawing to the same status as
that article I can't remember. I guess you will need to make your own mind up on
that but it does feel like a bland piece to me, in comparison.