I listened to a discussion on the radio about how millennials are buying less - and caring less - about cars than their older counterparts. The guest said there were a variety of reasons for this, chiefly: a lack of accessible cash, higher concern for the environment, and the rise in technology, in the sense that millennials often didn’t need to drive somewhere, most things they actually needed to survive could be ordered online. Their unique situation was frequently compounded, it said, by a lack of permanent residency, which also makes buying a car, annual parking permits and the like, less attractive. The piece went on to surmise that when millennials did leave their high-rent hovels it was likely to be on foot or via public transport. Former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once allegedly said that if you’re still using a bus at the age of 30, consider yourself failure. And by this logic there must be quite a few failures out there, myself included :( But the radio piece, interestingly, also said that millennials appeared to be spending more time in their homes in general, than previous generations. The convenience brought about by technology, coupled with things like “Netflix binging”, and social media scrolling, can all, of course, be obsessively sated in the comfort of your living room, your nest.

The idea of us all snugged into our temporary accommodation desperately trying to create a shelter from the chaos of the harsh climate and societal embarrassment the other side of the door, interested me. I was reminded for some reason of a story I once read by James Joyce. The story is part of his Dubliners collection, entitled Clay. It’s only a few pages long so I went and read it again. Essentially, it’s about a maid called Maria who’s known as a “peace-maker” among her colleagues, because she’s always managing to resolve petty disputes. Not only that, she’s often found laughing “till the tip of her nose nearly met the tip of her chin”, so quite an affable character. Always smiling, perhaps this is hiding deeper insecurities, but regardless, there’s plenty of themes and undertones going on in the story, however two have really stayed with me. Firstly the pace of the story, we follow Maria around as she goes about the minutia of her life. She’s clearly a woman who’s become burdened by chores and routine, trapped by it. She seems obsessed and self-consciously pre-occupied with the small things. Cleaning jobs, trips to buy cake, the journeys she has to make are timed out – twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there. In terms of plot not much happens, and instead Joyce seems to be making a virtue of those moments that are so often ignored, or deemed unworthy even of mention, yet they no doubt have happened to everybody. At one point for example she leaves some cake that she brought as a present on the tram, and is mortified by her forgetfulness. Is Joyce saying that too much routine can be harmful, in the same way as letting in too much chaos?

I wanted to pull the two ideas together. As millennials spend more time rattling round their rooms or flats, what if penned in by the unrealistic demands of the outside world, and like Maria the minutiae of their existence, became the focus of their worlds. I created a series of images using, aptly enough, the social networking platform Facebook Messenger which celebrate the scenes, so often seen by me, and yet appear seemingly inconsequential. I wanted to focus on the unfocused and make these scenes the centre of the work. In recognition of Joyce’s story I’ve called this series of images New Clay, and I’ve accompanied them a transient poetic verse, which I hope brings out the alchemy of those places so often ignored.

Photos taken on iphone ;)

© Kirsty Lackie 2021
kirstylackie@gmail.com                                 :)