INTERVIEW: Mark Pinder | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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From having the industrial lifeblood and public services drained by the Tories, to investment and attempts at modernisation during the Blair years, not many regions have had as many dramatic changes put upon them in recent years as the North East has.

Documenting the many effects of these political decisions is Cumbrian photographer Mark Pinder, whose exhibition and book Macromancy retrospectively draws on over 35 years of his photographic archives, covering British social and political life since 1986, and telling the story of the overwhelming transformation in Britain since 1979 when Margaret Thatcher came to power.

Mark explains more about the inspiration behind this project: “The book and show is actually quite autobiographical in that whilst it is concerned with the external, it is also as much about what I choose to photograph and how I chose to interpret and sequence that work as a response to my understanding of what I’d witnessed.”

Macromancy was completed in collaboration with the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland and German art publisher Kerber, an opportunity that arose after Mark shared his work online.

it’s the cognitive dissonances between what the politicians tell us, and what we see with our own eyes that informs my practice as a photographer

I had spent many years afraid of examining or curating my archive in fear that I’d lost sight of what I originally set out to do. Several years ago, I started going through that material and posting it on social media. Quite quickly, this work started to gain traction which boosted my confidence to seriously start curating the archive. In 2019 I received a message from Alistair Robinson who was the director at NGCA asking to meet, which led to an offer of a show and a publication with Kerber. I jumped at the opportunity as the brief was left pretty much up to me and allowed me the opportunity to realise the project which became Macromancy.”

As someone whose career is based around noticing what’s going on, I ask Mark what changes he’s noticed in the region over the years. “The most obvious change has been the shift from a heavy industry-based mass employment economy to one based on service. The North East has become far more confident in asserting itself in many ways, but get outside the urban areas and very little has changed (or even gotten worse).”

With a new year in full swing, I asked for Mark’s predictions for where society is heading in the next 40 years, and, if you’re a ‘glass half full’ individual, then you might want to stop reading now.

I think the polarisation of wealth and power will continue and accelerate globally as many industries are wiped out and the fourth Industrial Revolution, of AI and machine learning, gathers pace. British politicians will cling to the neo-liberal paradigm (despite all the evidence to its failure) and democracy will become even more managed as the Overton Window narrows and moves further to the right, and any notions to collectivity are eroded as the British state becomes more authoritarian and only really exists to collect taxes on behalf of the corporations who have exempted themselves from democratic oversight or control as the poor and disadvantaged (especially) are only seen as a problem to be managed rather than allowed agency as their economic choices become narrower. I obviously hope I’m wrong, but it’s the cognitive dissonances between what the politicians tell us, and what we see with our own eyes that informs my practice as a photographer.”

Mark Pinder is in conversation with Dr Alistair Robinson at The Lit & Phil, Newcastle on Thursday 22nd February.

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