Fudge the Facts

forever a pupil

Walking Berlin

Moving through Berlin – I’m astounded by the construction and general gentrification.  If every construction site became a space of poetry – what an even more wondrous place this would be.

Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology By Barrie Tullett

I’ll definitely be ordering this little gem, which explores the the precursor to ascii art. (apparently with stenography included in its history…)

You can order the book from here, and design critic, Rick Poynor, explores the subject further here.

Master Interior Architecture and Retail Design projects in Milan: Instruments. Reimaging the Music Room

Wishing I could be in Milan to see this project in the flesh – of course I witnessed the evolution of prototypes in the MIARD studios, but curious about the installation and the way the works come together as a visual and aural experience at the Ventura Lambrate.  Luckily, others have volunteered to be my eyes and ears there.

“Instruments. Reimaging the Music Room, is an exhibition that centres on the theme of the domestic soundscape and the place of music in the home. The study explores the detection and recognition of an immaterial audio presence or sonic architectures that exists in the home, engendered by our domestic rituals, their space and objects. This audio presence requires the inhabitant to recognize a spatial acuteness, cognition, and mapping, which isn’t necessarily rational, visible or haptic. In turn, the inquiry has generated projects, which offer novel design solutions and alternative ‘sonic’ experiences for contemporary home life.” Read more about Instruments. Reimaging the Music Room

Fred Rogers – a little grattitude for more than just a beautiful day in the neighborhood

Fred Rogers died on February 27th 2003.

For kids of my generation, Mr. Rogers was a daily staple of television viewing.  Glued to the tube,  Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood represented everything wholesome and innocent about America.  Knitted sweaters, clean-cut hair – no matter what decade of the broadcast, he was a legacy of the fifties aesthetic; a man who was neatly Brylcreemed and still adorned navy blue canvas sneakers with bright white soles.

Addressing little viewers with lines like – “let’s play make believe” – and – “You make each day a special day. You know how?  By just your being you. ” – he enchanted children, and conversely became the fodder for many perversely twisted adult jokes – inclusive of Eddie Murphy imitating him on a Saturday Night Live skit called Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood – needless to say the hood was not as quaint.

Endearing to some and comical to others, Mr. Rogers was much more than I realized at the time – he was a vegetarian, a Presbyterian minister and a champion of the right to copy. During the infamous case of the Sony Corporation of America versus Universal City Studios Inc., or Betamax case as it was more commonly referred to in the early eighties, Rogers testified in defense of the right to record his program on personal VCRs saying:

Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the “Neighborhood” at hours when some children cannot use it … I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the “Neighborhood” off-the-air, and I’m speaking for the “Neighborhood” because that’s what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family’s television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been “You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.” Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.

So a little gratitude to the man who not only brought us to the Land of Make Believe, but also helped in guaranteeing our right to record and view.

Dennis Atkinson: Events of Learning and the Poietic Materialism of Art

Date: Friday February 28, 19:30 – 21:30 hrs.
Location: Piet Zwart Institute
Address: Karel Doormanhof 45, Rotterdam
Admission: Free

In the second keynote lecture Dennis Atkinson (Professor Emeritus Goldsmiths University of London Department of Educational Studies and the Centre for the Arts and Learning) will explore processes of learning through the themes of event, truth, pedagogies against the state and becoming. He will focus on art in education at a time when it is under threat. Arguing for the importance of art in education in terms of the force of art, by taking the line that the transformational and ‘vital’ force of art is deeply significant for processes of learning and pedagogic action. Here the emphasis is not upon the art object in its more traditional or contemporary guises, but upon art’s process of becoming or its event: an event that will be considered in terms of a poietic materiality. A space whose force, put in the words of Deleuze, is to restore a belief in this world when today for many the distance between involvement in the world and a belief in it is increasing. Read more about the whole programme description here.

To give you an impression of Atkinson’s writing/thinking – you can download one of his essays here and another can be found here.

Judith Butler withdraws from talk at the Jewish Museum: a few thoughts on negotiating the political, the person and the work

image from the Wikimedia Commons

The cancelled event, looking at the work of Franz Kafka, would have brought Butler in conversation with Jens Hoffmann, the Deputy Director of the Jewish Museum in New York.

In an email to Inside Higher Ed, Butler said:

I did decide to withdraw when it became clear to me that the uproar over my political views (actually, a serious distortion of my political views) would overtake the days ahead and the event itself. As I understand it, the Jewish Museum also felt that it could not handle the political storm, and we were in complete agreement that the event should be canceled as a result.” (read more of the article here)

Admittedly, when this lecture was initially announced,  I wondered how the talk would unfold given the contention that surrounds Butler’s scholarship within the Jewish community (Please understand the latter with the diversity and complexity that any community encompasses).

When it comes to Butler and these types of controversies, sometimes there is a tendency to separate her writing from her politics in order to resolve difficult tensions and eradicate ambiguities. This followed a similar pattern. In support of their initial choice, the Jewish Museum released a statement saying: “She was chosen on the basis of her expertise on the subject matter to be discussed. While her political views were not a factor in her participation, the debates about her politics have become a distraction making it impossible to present the conversation about Kafka as intended.”

Although understandable in terms of impetus, it’s a false divide which ultimately is a disservice to her unique form of engaged, if not activist, scholarship. It is a reinforcement of the notion that the political is the person (embodied and individual), and the work (disembodied and eternal) is that of the neutral scholar – and clearly in this case as reflected by the museum’s statement, the politics, person and position have proven to be a distraction from that scholarship or “expertise”.

There is something reminiscent of the NEA’s 1989 defense of Robert Mapplethorpe’s work. They championed his photographs on aesthetic grounds, while simultaneously underplaying homoerotic elements for fear of feeding right-wing anxiety.  In the end, although the right-wing didn’t morally sanction such representations (the anxiety was already there) – they nonetheless understood that the work was about homosexuality (both embodied and political). With the case of Butler, it would have been good if the museum acknowledged her opponents, not by agreeing with them, but through issuing a statement that publicly recognized the very political nature and value of her work, whether writing about gender, Kafka, or otherwise.

Butler’s exit and its subsequent characterization raises fundamental questions about how we see scholars and even the subject she was initially invited to speak about – Franz Kafka.  In other words, how can we possibly delve into Kafka’s work in any depth without taking on the political and acknowledging the context in which he generated his stories, and moreover why should we resist drawing contemporary analogies to his work that might be speculative and contentious? Without opening up space for these kinds of debates, which no doubt Butler’s input would have done, Kafka’s texts remain inert and encapsulated in a tidied history.  No author’s work deserves that fate. But most of all,  by playing it safe and avoiding that which seems too hot to handle,  cultural institutions lose their efficacy to inform and stimulate public debate about both the past and  present – they fail to challenge us as readers, viewers and participants in dialogue.

Marina Gržinić: From Biopolitics to Necropolitics

One of the many highlights of this year’s CAA 2014 Conference in Chicago was a lecture by Marina Gržinić. Her talk, focusing on the shift from biopolitics to necropolitics, was quite simply -  spot on.

I appreciated the fact that the talk panned out to larger issues and asked more systemic and fundamental questions. She described the biopolitical as “make live and let die” and the necropolitical as ““let live and make die”. The latter meaning you can live if you have the means, and all those who cannot, are made to die through the “war machine”, which in her use is not necessarily military.

She held up New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as an American example and in Europe she pointed to Lampedusa where countless migrants die along its coast. She went further by referencing the fact that when the large disaster happened at Lampedusa, those whose bodies were found, were made Italian citizens (who were made citizens only through death) to save on funeral costs and those who did not perish were prosecuted.

Gržinić borrows the term necropolitical from Achille Mbembe – who situates this in an African context. In many respects various scholars have been thinking through these issues from different perspectives – Judith Butler talks about what lives merit mourning in Precarious Life, and Henry Giroux talks about the politics of disposability when it comes to the marginalized in his book, Stormy Weather: Katrina and the Politics of Disposability.

Marina Gržinić and Šefik Tatlić have a forthcoming book coming out entitled: Necropolitics, Racialization, and Global Capitalism: Historicization of Biopolitics and Forensics of Politics, Art and Life

Until then, I’ll be ordering this book!

RIP Stuart Hall whose work was full of thought-provoking and positive agitation

Of course there are many brilliant observations made by Stuart Hall – but one of my favorites is his description of the early days of the Centre for Cultural Studies. To me it reveals a lot  – his enthusiasm for the present, a desire to promote an open exchange of  ideas and an unconventional and innovative approach to education. Taken from a conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Interviews, Volume 1, Hall noted about that period:

“To go back to what I think was inspirational about the Centre’s way of working. Because it was a new field, we couldn’t set ourselves up as teachers in the conventional sense, as the exclusive owners of knowledge – we had simply read a few more books than our students. So we had to work collaboratively with them. They knew that we were often reading the next three texts in a week before they did. So that exploded the myth of the professor and “his” apprentices.”

I never had the possibility to see Hall lecture publicly – I wish I could have – but his writing was certainly an influence on my thinking, work and approach to education. There was something gentle about the way he approached contentious issues – an enviable quality, not to evade what’s important, levy astute criticism, but to leave space for grace and production.



De Geuzen, Other Projects & Collaborations

Next to my other work, I've collaborated with Riek Sijbring and Femke Snelting under the name of De Geuzen since 1996. Below you'll find links to De Geuzen's main site and selected projects which have radically informed my thinking about visual research, digital writing and narratives. It is important to note that some of these works have collapsed with the evolution of the web, nonetheless I keep their traces online as an archive of an earlier internet.