General improvement is currently active on two live performance projects. Inspired by the work started with to carry a picture, both take place in public transports and rest on the principle that if you cannot secure a line of communication with 7.5 billion people, it makes little difference whether you address five thousand, five hundred or five. The only thing you can then focus your energy on is the impact of the message on the audience. Without ever forcing anything onto those unwilling to engage, general improvement is (modestly) attempting to change the world one individual at a time.
It will fail but not trying is simply not an option. Implementing the principles so concisely articulated by the great Jeanette S Thyrsson as Reflective Optimism, general improvement is pleased to present general improvement for TfL and minimal graffiti.
This project consists in the (very) slow dissemination of leaflets in the London Underground. The leaflets have a large slogan on one side and a text on the other. The idea is for me to leave a leaflet, slogan side up, on the seat when I leave a carriage. It follows similar principles to those presented in to carry a picture. I continue to provide those in need of setting their eyes on a two-dimensional media with a ready-made, convenient and non-judgemental solution whilst using this opportunity to engage their sense of social responsibility. At the same time, this affords me an additional justification for travelling on the underground.
Minimal graffiti is a project looking into degree zero of graffiti (or a minimalist take on graffiti). Inspired by the works documented by the great Jill Posener in the late 70's and early 80's, I use newspapers and magazines as support for graffiti. The idea is to write a slogan and leave the support on the seats/tables for whoever comes after me. Exposure is minimal but the effect on the individual is very similar to that of a sprayed billboard - a brain wave that lasts the time it takes to read the message.
The minimal exposure to an audience (only a handful of people will ever see it) grants it a fragility and spontaneity which reinforces its impact. The minimal graffiti is repeated as many times as I encounter the support.
In this project, I have opted to use or create slogans which represent a certain form of extremism; although I am not binding myself to this. As a person, I am usually very skeptical of extremists but as a theoretical person (I hesitate to say as a thinker or, worse, as an intellectual!) I relish the impact extremists have on the majority.
In general I think of the extremes as a very necessary evil to prevent the masses from falling into complete apathy. Extremes provide inspirations and generate debates; they are what enables the majority of us to be thoughtful without being extremists! Their passions highlight our own inconsistencies and continuously encourage us to reevaluate our own actions and commitments however disapproving we are of their actions and commitments.
On a personal level, I find that feminism remains one of the most potent and grounded critical stance and I will always find it easy to use it as a result. The LGBT voice is represented as a direct consequence of that (and the fact that I am particularly fond of those graffiti documented by Jill Posener in Louder than Words). Marxism, pacifism and environmentalism will also feature prominently. In general, the line is likely to be seen as leftist and liberal but it is unlikely that a single coherent message will emerge as a result of so many agendas being represented.
Finally, this project rests on the assumption that what is once read can never be unread and is a tribute to the original graffiti:
Minimal graffiti is hosted on the general improvement blog (encyclopedia of modest thought) where you can follow its progress. Each blog post reproduces the graffiti text as well as the name of its support and my location (or destination) at the time.
Below are the first fifteen in the series.
(bevendean community garden)
More Reflective Optimism than general improvement, bevendean community garden remains a practical embodiement of some of the premises of general improvement; most notably that we are nothing without each other.
Visit the blog or visit the garden; you will not be disappointed.