Laura Oldfield Ford:
Punk’s outcry “No future!” reverberates anew from Laura Oldfield Ford’s homepage, as one of her semi-self-portraits stares out at us, fuming, “I’ve looked into the future and I can’t find myself ANYWHERE.” Born in 1973, Laura found herself in Halifax, Yorkshire, far removed from punk’s first detonation of anger, anarchy and D.I.Y. aesthetics. Her longing for a movement she never experienced has fuelled a dozen issues of Savage Messiah, her low-priced, low-tech, high-touch, photocopied zine, self-published since 2005. No exercise in style nostalgia, this is her recovery of punk’s provocation and politicisation which spills over into large drawings and even larger paintings. “The England conjured up in my work is one of socio-political upheaval, the mayhem of squat culture, Brutalist architecture, anarcho-punk and sentimental pop tunes. Nostalgia becomes a form of revenge; if rebellion has been recuperated, Savage Messiah demands a return to more radical times.”
For all the mass media’s efforts to whitewash and brainwash, we are living in radical times, amid financial meltdown and unquestionable faith in the 2012 Olympic agenda. Laura chose Savage Messiah as her title, taken from H.S. Ede’s biography of French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, because it suggests prescient warnings, prophecies of seismic changes to rock our social strata. In the footsteps of Walter Benjamin and Iain Sinclair, Laura on her long wanderings or “urban drifts” is internalising the city’s evershifting psychogeography, its architectural follies of high-rises, gated estates and new towns, its class antagonisms. From her reportage photos, she collages an ongoing archive of drawings built up in nuances of inky biro. The writing is unmistakably on the walls, and like them her images are written on, layered, worn, almost vandalised with graffiti, slogans, numbers, marks and those accusing eyeballs, in felt-tip and fluorescent acrylic.
Laura is drawing the wraparound cover for Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption and will be launching her 13th issue of Savage Messiah at the Comica Festival ‘09: “It will be called Savage Messiah number 786. 786 is a special Islamic number… you quite often see it above people’s doors round Tower Hamlets. This issue is about Globetown and the Sylheti community, post war new towns and 1981 riots.”
In her strip below, her first, Laura timewarps us between flashpoints, between pasts she barely knew, present problems outside her Hackney doorstep, and the post-Olympic aftermath on the horizon. There is no messiah complex at work here, no blanket creed or manifesto, but she envisages a transformation from “mass despondency” to a “new militancy”, unifying communities, reclaiming the streets. Perhaps here is one future she could find herself in.
This article first appeared in Art Review magazine in October 2009.