Dominic Oliver

"Please Leave Quietly"

Section 5, Bahar Noorizadeh

Keywords: moving image, archival practice, consumption

Wetherspoons are not ‘real pubs’. According to many, the nation’s favourite freehouses are soulless and crude supplanters of independent establishments. However, there is something curiously appealing about their shameless surface double coding, combining populist and traditional aesthetics. This is amplified by the relentless policy of grafting kitschy pseudo-pub aesthetics onto the skeletons of old theatres, banks and town halls, creating an intertextual web of references which have lost their signifier.

Perhaps, the heavy layering of semiotics and artificiality produces a postmodern hyperspace, where all Wetherspoons are simulacra - each a unique copy of a pub which has never existed.

The advent of the wetherspoons app means we no longer have to interact with other human beings to order drinks. We interface with the pub itself through our phones, and the order appears on our table: The pub has become an autonomous machine.

In January 2017 Wetherspoons founder Tim Martin announced that a 3% sales increase in his eponymous pub chain dispelled post-referendum recession myths. Over the past few years, Martin has become one of the most vocal brexiteers in business, broadcasting his views all over the british media, even publishing his own propaganda ridden ‘Wetherspoon News’ magazine.

It is peculiar that Martin should assume such a divisive role considering that his empire of pubs has become the ultimate social leveller in contemporary British society, arguably hosting the nation’s most diverse clientele. Aside from vague generalisations, views on Brexit do not seem to follow any kind of specific geographical or sociological pattern. It is ironic that the classless, ageless utopia of Wetherspoons should become such a beacon for xenophobia and isolationism.

Historically, the pub has always acted as a mediator between different social groups, made evident by its full name - public house. Politicians have long exploited the mediatory qualities of the pub; With a pint in hand and the backdrop of a bar, even a far-right elitist becomes a man of the people. However, Wetherspoons accelerates this mediation not only socially, but visually too. The eclectic pastiche of historical references creates a perpetual present, mirrored by the brexit negotiations - stuck in an atemporal purgatory.

Each pub boasts a unique bespoke carpet. Large areas of the UK were built on textile manufacturing, as it has moved to developing countries, these regions have been left with low employment and a dejected population - many of whom voted for Brexit. I will appropriate this medium to create an alternative Wetherspoons carpet.

I will film and collect references from the pubs and weave them into an alternative visual carpet. Different formats of recording such as super 8, digital will be used to mimic the stylistic and temporal pastiche of the Wetherspoon aesthetic. Brexit has become such an absurdist farce that objective documentary media has been rendered futile. In light of this, context will be removed from the images onto which a contrived narrative will be constructed. This will literally flatten the superficial language of Wetherspoons onto the surface of the screen but ultimately aims to create a provocation about Britain’s identity crisis.