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A Sea of Cogs

Ruaridh Law and Matt Nish-Lapidus (2022)

Buy the album and book on Bandcamp

As Ruaridh says:

In early 2020, the excellent UNFIX festival asked me to produce some new work for what was then to be their 2020 edition. I’d worked with them before, developing a performance and installation based around data-bending audio and video from Breitbart in an attempt to spin gold from the right-wing shit, and had idly mused on doing something similarly data-visualising for the next edition.

Then COVID came, and lots of things changed. I was in the hugely privileged position of having a good day-job as a manager in retail that allowed me to sustain my artistic life, and like many millions of others, I was made redundant as lockdown bit hard. The job I’d had right before lockdown took me all over the UK and was the most rewarding day-job I’d ever had, and losing this life-line hit me hard - not just financially, but also in terms of my identity and how i kept my life in order.

So when the time came to plan for the rescheduled festival, with its themes of building a better world, the human spirit facing challenges and re-orienting ourselves to face changed times, it seemed logical to focus on the voices of those who had similarly been forced to examine their identities in a time of job losses or dried up work. What started initially as just visualising the data of job losses became more, once i realised that each little dot was a person, with hopes, dreams, uncertain future; both alone but also part of a silent mass, adrift on a sea of like-minded cogs in the machine. So reaching out to an actor, a marketer, a scuba diver, a retail worker and an artist led to five sets of interviews, where each participant found themselves without knowing it looping the conversation round each time to who they were before, and who they are now, after.

A week after my redundancy went through, I was returned to the same employer doing almost the same job. I was lucky, but as the pandemic reaches its second year there are still millions out there struggling and who have had to rethink their whole identity, as the realisation of how much a job can define a person hits home. Moving on is a collective act, and piercing the silent sea to hear the voices of others is the only way to do it. No cog is alone.

The accompanying book of poetry is a collaborative publication between Matt Nish-Lapidus, Ruaridh Law, and the five participants of the initial interviews from Law’s video series. Using the interview transcripts as poetic material, the poems published in this small book cut, edit, copy, duplicate, and disintegrate the original conversations, one person at a time. Each one looks for the turning points and exclamations and mundanity and commonality of experience and expression.

– Ruaridh Law and Matt Nish-Lapidus with Fabiana Prior, Jen Hepburn, Ronan Doyle, Mariam Rezai and Scott McKellar