Blighter is a deeply personal work, a way for me to process my personal history. However, it is my hope that by peering through the prism of my families history that the work might provide a broad contextual view of the plight of the Irish people, British colonialism, and by extension the physical and psychological suffering endured by countless others as a result of colonial policies the world over. My Irish descendants were affected by mass starvation and forced migration from their homeland over 160 years ago. Colonial tactics of divide and rule continued for those of my relatives who stayed on the island, resulting in sectarian violence which again forced many family members to flea their homeland in search of refuge and relative safety. We see the same tactics of colonial terror being used by Empire across the Middle East and Africa to this very day.
An integral part of my process with regards to Blighter has involved redacting a book written by Fredrick Engels entitled, The Condition of the Working Class in England. Engels lived and worked in my hometown of Manchester for 30 years during the middle of the 19th Century. The book is recognized as an invaluable, historical, social document, regarding the lives of working people in England during the time of the British Industrial Revolution. But he was trying to make out as if he was sympathetic, almost a champion of the people, the workers. I reckon the opposite was true. His writing and thoughts were funded by the elites of his time, for the purposes of retaining both power and wealth.
My decision to carve potatoes into feet stems from the Engels quote: “shoes they know not”. The image of bare-feet is extremely evocative of poverty, primitiveness and squalor. Even today, within the collective psyche of many who deem themselves civilized there is a stigma attached to having no shoes. By carving feet I am also, in a deadpan manner, playing with the colonial notion of Ireland having the last forms of primitive life in the so- called western world.