Fred London has announced an exhibition of Greg Rook’s new paintings, his first at the gallery. Researching social trends, and systematic forecasting of what are their past potential futures, Greg’s reading has led him to particular social experiments, which, for better or worse, are now generally considered to be over and largely discredited.
“I am interested in the motivation behind them (whether they were born more from optimism or pessimism), the reasons for their failure and their relevance as
contemporary potential futures.”
Greg’s new paintings look at three distinct and remarkable forms of utopian social concepts from the past, each of which offered to all equal status and responsibility and a real alternative to the contemporary mainstream society, and offer us a peek into the 1970’s Hippy communes in the western United States; the English communitarian ‘digger’ projects; and the Soviet social experiment.
Greg Rook writes: In 1975, when Britain was seemingly grinding to a halt with political upheaval and economic gloom threatening financial and social collapse, the BBC broadcast the incredibly successful series ‘Survivors’ (1975 -77). Based on the premise that a global pandemic could leave only a few thousand survivors in the UK, it explored the practical and political implications for a group of individuals attempting to survive and ultimately rebuild society. The concepts of self-sufficiency and commune living were extremely current in the UK.
Survivors seemed like a right wing, apocalyptic reaction to ‘The Good Life’, also first broadcast in 1975. They functioned as opposed versions of the potential futures imagined in the sixties and seventies. In the politics of apocalypse: the right focuses on the battle and the final show down that will, in the final triumph of the conservative impulse, return the earth to the state it occupied at the beginning; the left focuses on a New Age, where there will be no final battle, only a glorious transition to a future of sheer bliss. In this system there is no evil, only the perception of evil and therefore perception is all that there is to change. The right wing imagines perfection only in the past, the left in what’s to come.
I was brought up understanding ‘The Good Life’ to be some kind of ideal – affable, well-intentioned making-do and self-reliance were the cornerstone of my moral upbringing – and yet the more I romanticise an agrarian, self-sufficient lifestyle, the more I fear that it will only come about, not through enlightened, progressive thinking, but through disaster and collapse.
Researching the commune and off –grid movements that have been proposed and that have and do exist, I find myself particularly drawn to English Georgic landscapes, seventies US communes and Soviet social realism, and so, with these as my source, I set about making not so mock heroic paintings of our past potential futures.