'Looking back' - on the young unemployed

Tabrizian, M. 2015. 'Looking back' - on the young unemployed. Venice Biennial

CreatorsTabrizian, M.

This is a photographic work made in 2013/2014 when under David Cameron’s government “the youth unemployment reached the highest level…the UK has seen in modern times" .

Young people are among the hardest hit by the current economic recession, in which the number of unemployed is now approaching one million. Youth unemployment poses a particular threat to social and political stability. Studies show that most young people now are ‘destined’ for a life of underpaid work, punctuated by frequent periods of no work. As The Guardian journalist Sara Barnard writes: ‘If a graduate is jobless now, that's a problem, but if that same graduate is still jobless in 10 or even five years, then that is a tragedy.’

Under the present government's work experience program young job seekers are exempted from the national minimum wage for up to eight weeks. And people taking up work experience places – providing up to 30 hours a week of unpaid labour– face losing benefits if they quit.

And the expression ‘lost generation’, used by politicians to describe young people in today’s Britain, is both alarmist and defeatist. It implies a foregone conclusion, an accepted ‘truth’, with no opportunity for explanation or contestation. Most problematically, the rhetoric removes any sense of urgency from the problem. A generation that is ‘lost’ is already gone, and thus beyond help. What point is there in worrying over the lack of jobs for a generation that is already lost?

'Looking bac' is prompted by this current crisis. Shot in London, in a dilapidated fringe theatre, a group of young unemployed are looking at the stage, where extracts from the debates on unemployment between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, are playing on a screen. The image is set in a theatre to indicate allegorically the surreal nature of the crisis; a write-off of an entire generation is closer to fiction than reality. The run down mise en scene could be read as a reference to the economic crisis, or more abstractly as an ‘anticipation’ of No future in this ‘theatre of the real’!

And what the image portrays is not what is happening on the screen, on stage, but people’s reactions. The viewer can only speculate as to the meanings of an event fully open to interpretation. One thing however is abundantly clear, the young people who look back at us are far from lost and gone!

Date22 Nov 2015
Filemitra tabrizian 'looking back' lower res .jpg
Mitra Tabrizian_The Great Game copy.pdf
'Looking back' quotations final- mitra tabrizian.pdf
Mitra Tabrizian.jpg
Media typeImage
KeywordsFinancial crisis

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