Saturday, 10 January 2015

England Uncensored – Peter Dench

In this article on the BBC website - – Dench talks about “continuing to apply the humorous approach with an underlying social commentary” and also of wanting to “create a rounded look at the English both geographically and socially.” I’m not sure these two objectives are compatible – social commentary in particular does not seem to me to square with “rounded”.

The exercise asks us to think about the ethical issues of his work. The humour, in particular seems often very cheap – people doing daft things after too much drink seems a popular theme. How much this is “Englishness” is a moot point -  the bigger problem I have is that it feels, to me at least, judgemental. Unlike the work of Parr this feels like laughing at, not laughing with. There is an argument that if you make an idiot of yourself in public you get what you deserve, and it’s certainly neither illegal or immoral to record it – the question I have is “What’s the purpose?”. What do we learn from laughing at drunks?

Not all his work is like this – RainUK on his website for example, captures our love affair with the weather very nicely, so it feels a shame that my overall view of his project is muddied by the concerns above.

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