In the Vanity of Small Differences
As my work is concentrated around class in the UK I found the Grayson Perry set of documentaries for Channel four inspiring and interesting. Perry starts by asking 'what is behind our personal tastes?' and 'What does it mean?'. He is to produce six tapestries revolving around the class system in the UK. Perry's main source of inspiration was William Hogarth, who looked at class and social position in his classics.
The first episode concentrates on the working class, Perry positions himself Sunderland, once the heart of the tradesman. Sunderland is a contemporary manifestation of the working class. It is at once apparent that the middle class are still disgusted by working class traditions and taste. Is this because of their willingness to 'climb the class ladder'? Perry looks at working class rituals, and compares them to tribal rituals of males and females, such as men using cars as a sexual display. An example in female form is women and the prospect of measurable beauty, and using getting ready as some kind of bonding ritual.
The key to this first episode is Perry's epitome of education being the key, the key to prospect, the key to a better future, the key to climbing the ladder. Class mobility is a key theme throughout the entirety of the works.
Next Perry travels to Tunbridge Wells in Kent, a middle class haven. What is the working class, what is the new modern middle class? It is soon apparent that for the lower middle class symbolism is key, symbolism and aspiration. The prospect of buying a lifestyle is ideal for this group. They are the new product of an increasingly obsessed population of capitalist consumers. Next Perry looks at more levels of the middle class spectrum, distinguishable by comfort in their tastes and individuality.
The penultimate episode focuses on the upper classes, the constant fight for survival at the top of the ladder. Weighed down by past traditions, family history and taxes.
The following are exerts from an interview with Perry on his works;
I am increasingly interested in the portrayal of the classes in contemporary Britain today. Perry's work has inspired me to research several projects I have in mind;
1. Tribal London, Londoners decisions on where the make a home are calculated and the diverse nature of the different Burroughs in London interests me. I wanted to photograph and interview the different tribes across London.
2: The Worker: I wanted to research professionalism that are often over looked by modern workers and see the real workers, how hard is it to maintain that role in a modern world? Taking portraits of fishermen, tradesmen and farmers to name a few.