THAT'S PROMO AT ICE! 2K19
Sketchbook writing 2019 (updated 2020)
I took a trip to ExCel London to participate in, and observe ICE 2019: a gambling, payments, and online gaming convention.
How is morality structured? You have to be prepared to strike hot sensitivity on the search for Art. I wondered whether I was going to act on resentment towards the systems in place and perform in a reflection of anger. How can I appropriate moments from this mass-market place of frenzy? An employee leaning on a fresh Cadillac. A plastic shotgun in the front seat for passers-by to perform for the camera. Behind her was a screen featuring herself as a cartoon graphic spinning off Grand Theft Auto. The entire set up of this stand had been created around this laborer's digital image. Paper money was strewn over the bonnet. As a ten year old I, never passed a single level in Grand Theft Auto; I just learned from my older brother and his friends that it was fun to keep mowing down hookers after having sex with them in the car to reclaim their wages upon pixel murder.
From behind velvet ropes, I watched a man grin without a pause between picking up the gun and pressing the shaft into her chest. He wore a suit and a lanyard. I noticed from the real surprise in her face, a spectacle emerging between her instinct to shy away from having a gun pulled on her nonconsensually, to being a model bait with the objective of entertainment value. She raised her hands in the air, pulled a shocked face on top of her authentic shock, and feigned a smile. The photo was taken, I didn’t have the courage to ask the man if he really wanted to shoot that woman because that’s how he feels about women? I asked the actress if that was a normal gesture, whether the gun often gets turned on her in tableaux of violence and assassination as if in a game without consequences. He was enacting a story of representation through 'play'. Her answer was simply that he was the first one of the day and she hoped he was the last one too. I asked the guard to take our photo:
Skins are thin at the moment. That’s to do with all the packaging on top of what has hurt communities of people— deep-set traumas are exposed eventually like veins of gold to be stockpiled and remarketed. When someone desires to claim authority via a process of shaming, it is a form of violence. So how does society eroticise violence through monetary systems? Freebies cost a fortune in the struggle, nothing is ever for free. The real problem is how we learn to evolve our personal formats of realisation, to discover how much truth debt we owe ourselves first and foremost.
There were numerous activities happening. Mainly nations of men from Asia, Europe, USA, Whatever. Big handshake moments paused for documentation. I felt like I went for basic reasons, not for salacious, voyeuristic purposes. So when I took a photograph of a man taking a photograph of another man standing between two models, I needed that man there because I was capturing the casual attitude of the fetishistic act of taking an image of people.
I said hi to my brother at the event. He works for a FinTech company. Whenever he ran into someone he knew amongst the swarm of 44,000 people he became part of something, felt happier - he knew someone, was recognisable, individuated. A really good salesman is just themselves. They inject their attitude into the superfluous vessel and form a relationship with an object that relies on their voice for existence. The object of desire is for the salesman to channel with purpose enough for a wage. As a maker of objects, I know something like this feeling in the studio. When the product would never get made unless you motivated your own internal salesperson. At times of incompleteness, you have to sell yourself a 'self' to get something done. To move on with temporary feelings that nourish but also drain.
I pulled myself into action on the second day feeling mightily depressed about what I’d seen the day before. I wore my,
t-shirt instead of the Mickey Mouse one and placed the lanyard around my neck like some holy but hellish tradition. I had to find something that would give me hope amongst the sea of excess. I lay down a collection of studio-made objects on surfaces in the various fragments of Casino showrooms: poker tables, flooring samples, pool tables.
I arranged a broken telephone wire made from clay with a shoelace in the middle, a series of photocopied images of cartoon magicians' hands, a glove puppet with huge lips.
I also picked up a calendar full of bikini girls which they were handing out at the convention. I took it to the toilet and ripped out their faces to scatter them around the event like a confetti of missing people.
I was still wearing my wig, carrying a holder and Dslr camera looking for fellow passengers of this transparent, exhibitionist journey to take 'my' photo. I trundled through the carpeted space with Michael Jackson and other Paedophile's singing in my ear. Thousands were drinking free morning booze, pockets filled with cards from Vistaprint to go through the motions to go home somewhere still seeking a well of connections. I met a man who deals with Pornhub payments.
Just as I was leaving, I committed to myself that there had to be something other than bullshit to find. My truth debt had to be reduced. The space was like being in a multi-mega-casino-sink hole and I was gambling with time and energy. The longer I spent, the more of my ignorance was pulled into the excess, draining me of critical knowings and filling me with disorientation and sensations of anxiety. This hub was a very uncertain place filled with some mass amnesia. Now the ExCel has been repurposed as the critical care Covid-19 unit, the NHS Nightingale Hospital.
As I knelt on the floor with hundreds of drunk morning legs walking past in packs
I unpacked my artist toolbox:
A few people watched perplexed probably because it was near their stand. They would ask me politely to leave without knowing what I was doing in the first place. It gave me a chance to experience a form of openly judgmental social engagement - the gravity at the end of the spectrum to the open-access of creativity and connection. I wanted to interact with this wave of avoidance, beyond expectation and without a standard, because I was witnessing a dangerous norm that immerses, at a very core level, my spirit in resolute extinction and I had to understand its textures because this market place affects me even if I was never there. It’s a broken system and only through the communication of a sustainable kind can we hope for living with instinctive acceptance rather than war. Quite suddenly a woman with brown hair noticed me and delicately came over and bent down inquisitively to look at my artifacts. She calmly asked what I was doing. I told her I was an artist. She told me I should come over and take a look at her stall, she had an artist with her. So I gathered my things and removed my wig. What I found was a pinprick in my heart that could tear an entire universe of negative truths apart to reveal a priceless and alternate momentum in humanity. She was very surprised that so few people were interested in their company's free gift: hand-drawn book covers by their artistic director done there and then in the midst of the chaotic neon strip. However, as I had learned from another fintech soldier the day before in a queue to receive a free coffee,
“People want new. We want our clients to feel special. So instead of doing Christmas corporate gifts, we did a summer hamper with water bottles, umbrellas, and towels.”
Personally, I can’t see the competition between hand-drawn, personalised images on a free notebook with the plastic, logo encrusted bottle of some faceless conglomorate. But I guess one businessman’s beach is another tribe's cemetery.
The artist had his pencil case, a wooden bow tie, and a smile. Zhivko Zhelev was his name and he creates cartoons and graphics for an online casino software provider, BetiXon. Naturally he offered me his pencil case, some paper and we spent time together making drawings; magically creating invisible walls of sacred memory through imagination, escapism, and our human hands.