Sort by: last name / publication date
Filter by:
General

How do we confront the triple crisis that has beset the economy, the environment and civil peace?

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Cultural critic Brian Holmes analyses the genesis of the distributional machinery of intermodal transport that circulates commodities through the global economy. What are the implications for our way of life, both for people tied to a particular area and for migrants? Is it possible to escape capitalism’s laws of motion?

Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

Cultural critic Brian Holmes explains how in communal space, which is determined more and more by technology, the privatization of knowledge continues to increase. Can language and communication still be meaningful in this context?

Show more articles…
Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

Now that neoliberalism seems to be in decline, Brian Holms wonders what this will mean for the emergence of Asian biennials. In reference to the concept of the sixth Taipei Biennial – undeniably a neoliberal stronghold – and a few of the works of art presented there, he discovers possibilities to imbue this transcontinental exchange with new meaning on various scale levels.

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

The British culture critic and activist Brian Holmes claims that the imprint of artistic experimentation on social protest movements is undeniable. He examines the notion of process as that which exper­imental art and ­­ acti­vism have in common. Holmes analyses the exodus, mass defection, as a means of escaping the immobilizing transparency of the mediated democracies, as a way to resist politics-as-usual.

Brian Holmes is a cultural critic living in Paris and Chicago. He holds a doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures from the University of California at Berkeley, was a member of the editorial collective of the French journal Multitudes from 2003 to 2008, and has published a collection of texts on art and social movements entitled Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Imagineering (New York: Autonomedia, 2007). His book Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society is available in full at brianholmes.wordpress.com. Holmes was awarded the Vilém Flusser Prize for Theory at Transmediale in Berlin in 2009.

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

Using the ideas of Gabriel Tarde, Ludwig Wittgenstein and George Herbert Mead, writer and critic Stephan Wright reflects on the question of how, in a capitalist knowledge economy, to prevent intellectual property from being commodified and knowledge from becoming increasingly privatized.

Stephen Wright (GB) lives in Paris. He writes on art and is a research fellow at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art in Paris. He has acted as curator for various exhibitions, including The Future of the Reciprocal Readymade (Apexart, NYC), part of a series of exhibitions which examined artistic endeavours with low coefficients of artistic visibility and raised the possibility of art without works of art, authors or spectators.

Last publication date: 2007-03-26.
Open no. 22, Transparency

In the modern era, publicity is often depicted as the leading principle of political and social representation, in which there is no longer any room for secrecy. This is a myth, according to the Viennese philosopher Stefan Nowontny. Publicity and secrecy are – through the production of affects – more entangled than ever in an inextricable knot.

Stefan Nowotny is a philosopher based in Vienna. He has published widely, especially on philosophical and political topics and currently mainly works on the research project Europe as a Translational Space. The Politics of Heterolinguality carried out by the EIPCP. See further: www.eipcp.net.

Last publication date: 2011-11-18.
Open no. 22, Transparency

Media theorist Boris Groys analyses the significance of WikiLeaks against the background of the democratic need for universal openness and communication. In doing so, he makes a remarkable observation: WikiLeaks’ universal openness is based on total concealment, and this makes it a first example of a truly postmodern universal conspiracy. By devoting itself to being a universal, administrative service in the form of a conspiracy, WikiLeaks is not only a historic innovation – it also runs a great risk.

Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

Art philosopher Boris Groys sees the art installation as a way of making hidden reality visible. The ambiguous meaning of the notion of freedom that Groys observes in our democratic order is also present in the contemporary art installation. This can be exposed by examining it and analysing the role of the artist and the curator. The public space created by the installation, and by the biennial, is the model for a new political world order.

Boris Groys is since 2009 a Full Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University, New York. As of December 2009, he is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Academy of Design in Karlsruhe, Germany. He additionally curates various exhibitions and publishes articles and books, including Art Power (2008), Going Public (2010) and Introduction to Antiphilosophy (2012).

Last publication date: 2011-11-18.
Commonist Aesthetics

Once we accept that capitalism is communicative and communications are capitalist, where might we find openings for critique, opportunities for resistance and possibilities to break free, Jodi Dean asks? She sees one answer appearing in the commoning of faces, a practice that emerges out of the communicative practices of mass social and personal media. To explore this commoning, she develops the idea of ‘secondary visuality’ as a feature of communicative capitalism. Reflecting on the repetition of images and circulation of photos, Dean presents secondary visuality as an effect of communication that blends together speech, writing and image into something irreducible to its components, something new.

Commonist Aesthetics

Political theorist Jodi Dean asserts that Jonathan Lethem’s novel Dissident Gardens (2013) “gives communism a body where we can again feel its beating heart”. She describes how Lethem “lets us sense the continued vibrancy of communist desire on the left despite the absence of a party.”

Open no. 22, Transparency

According to American political theorist Jodi Dean, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange lacks insight into the setting in which he operates. In communicative capitalism, the whole concept of the relation between openness and democracy radically changed. Not only does Assange assume that reliable, symbolically effective information is the basis of democracy, he also does not recognize that information overkill is a greater handicap than too little information, and that he himself is part of the spectacle that is diverting attention from political issues.

Jodi Dean is the author of numerous books and articles. Her books include Solidarity of Strangers (1996), Aliens in America (1998), Publicity's Secret (2002), Žižek's Politics (2006), Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies (2009), Blog Theory (2010) and The Communist Horizon (2012).  Her most recent book is Crowds and Party, published by Verso in 2016. 

Last publication date: 2016-12-31.
Autonomy

Marco Scotini is the curator of the ongoing Disobedience Archive project, a video station and discussion platform that focuses on the relationship between artistic practices and political action. In this text, Scotini focuses on the Autonomia movement of 1977 and the Italian underground filmmaker Alberto Grifi, who is considered a cinema pioneer who anticipated contemporary disobedience cinema. Scotini analyses Grifi’s film Festival of the Young Proletariat at Parco Lambro and offers his reflections on social disobedience in relation to mediatisation and representation.

Marco Scotini is an independent curator and art critic based in Milan. He is Director of the department of Visual Arts and Director of the MA of Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies at NABA in Milan. He is Editor-in-Chief of the magazine No Order. Art in a Post-Fordist Society (Archive Books, Berlin) and Director of the Gianni Colombo Archive (Milan). He is one of the founding members of Isola Art and Community Center in Milan. His writings can be found in periodicals such as Moscow Art Magazine, Springerin, Domus, Manifesta Journal, Kaleidoscope, Brumaria, Chto Delat? / What is to be done?, and Alfabeta2. Recent exhibitions include the ongoing project Disobedience Archive (Berlin, Mexico DF, Nottingham, Bucharest, Atlanta, Boston, Umea, Copenhagen, Turin 2005–2013), A History of Irritated Material (Raven Row, London 2010) co-curated with Lars Bang Larsen and Gianni Colombo (Castello di Rivoli, Turin, 2009), co-curated with Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. He has curated solo shows and retrospective exhibitions of Santiago Sierra, Deimantas Narkevicius, Jaan Toomik, Ion Grigorescu, Regina Josè Galindo, Gianni Motti, Anibal Lopez, Said Atabekov, Vangelis Vlahos, Maria Papadimitriou, Armando Lulaj, Bert Theis and many others. His most recent exhibition was Disobedience Archive (The Republic) for the Castello di Rivoli (Turin) and he is currently working on an exhibition project dedicated to the art from Eastern Europe, to be opened in January 2014 in Bologna.

Last publication date: 2013-11-17.
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

The Italian-French sociologist Maurizio Lazzarato uses Foucault’s concept of ‘pastoral power’ to analyse the demise of the separation between public and private space. Furthermore, his study of the social policies concerning unemployment shows how ‘the production of guilt’ is more and more often being used as a strategy; a process already described by Franz Kafka in his literature.

Maurizio Lazzarato is a sociologist and member of the editorial staff of the magazine Multitudes. He lives and works in Paris. 1996 saw the publication of his famous essay ‘Immaterial Labour’, whose theme he further developed in Lavoro Immateriale. Forme di vita e produzione di soggettività (Verona), which appeared a year later.

Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
Care of the Brain
The seven major fibre bundles of the human brain; these tracks are created using DSI Studio and rendered in TrackVis. Image: Sudhir Pathak

The brain is a work, and we do not know it. We are its subjects, authors and producers at once – and we do not know it.
—Catherine Malabou

(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism is a new series of artists’ publications resulting from the 2016–2017 Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI). DAI is an internationally orientated MA Art Praxis focusing on art, but explicitly granting attention to the crossings and interactions with other domains, disciplines and knowledges. As a partner of DAI, Open! conducts thematical research and publishes projects with a group of MA students using the Open! platform as the overarching discursive framework and site for experimentation and presentation. You can find links to the results of the previous year below.

This year our study group questioned the state of the mind and brain under conditions of cognitive capitalism. Mainly from the perspective of the humanities and political aesthetics, we focused on current notions of the brain in our global capitalist societies. We asked after how far the brain can be ideologically infiltrated or resist that infiltration. From the assumption that culture and brain form complex systems of influence, control and resistance, and that language, memory and imagination are more and more performed by machines and automated algorithmic procedures, we looked at some of the implications of ‘cognitive automation’ in terms of our subjectivity, identity and free will. We learned how neuro-scientific conceptions of the brain can be appropriated by cognitive capitalism and charted possibilities to subvert the instrumentalization of our brains. 

Through seminars and in conversation with generous guest tutors and by studying texts and other resources, we entered the brain. We were very much inspired by philosopher Catherine Malabou’s questioning of ‘what we should do so that consciousness of the brain does not purely and simply coincide with the spirit of capitalism’. Malabou wants to instigate consciousness of the ‘plasticity’ of the brain – that is the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience – at the service of an emancipatory political understanding. We also closely looked at the ‘neuroplastic dilemma’ as described by theorist and activist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi who asserts that neuroplasticity can be the condition for the reactivation of empathy and political solidarity’s necessary conditions for a process of self-organization of the general intellect driven by ethical and aesthetic sensibilities rather than by the an-ethical impulse of economic competition.

Artist-theorist Warren Neidich introduced us to the fields of neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics and concepts such as the neurobiological sublime, the brain without organs and noology. Art historian Antonia Majaca conducted a brainy seminar about the use of technology and the potential to generate non-paranoid imagination and agency in the age of algorithmic governmentality. Bifo passionately spoke about the Guattarian concept of ‘chaosmose’ and about ‘chaosmique spasm’. He urged us to find a new rhythm between the relation of the brain and the chaos of the infosphere. Art historian Amelia Groom focused on ‘viscosity with a will’ and went into the ways in which soft invertebrates and brainless slimes invite new ways of understanding intelligence, embodiment and collectivity. Finally researcher and lecturer Willem van Weelden tried to critically compare Malabou’s recent definition of trauma (brain trauma and psychic trauma), based on the advances made in neurobiology and new senses of materiality (plasticity), with Jean-François Lyotard’s investigation of time and matter – as demonstrated in the eighties by his manifestation ‘Les Immatériaux’ and his philosophy of the Inhuman. 

Alongside all this the Open! COOP Academy participants developed their individual (image)essays and experimental writings, guided by the Open! team and the guest tutors. As a collaborative exercise in thinking and writing they also created a playful image-text lexicon in relation to the overarching subject matter and the issues at stake, so as to break open concepts and create new relationships among them.1 

T/A/S
Image: Mind Design

Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S) is a conceptual and interdisciplinary research project into the interaction between technology, affect and public space initiated by Open! together with media theorist Eric Kluitenberg. It can be considered as a continuation and actualization of the Hybrid Space issue of the Open! print cahier in 2006 on the mobilization of public space facilitated – and even initiated – by wireless media. In Hybrid Space we noted that publicness has become ‘a complex of concrete and virtual qualities, of static and mobile domains, of public and private spheres, of global and local interests’ and asked how a critical position could be possible in a hybrid space that is characterized by invisible information technology. Since then Web 2.0 and wireless media have only developed further; social networks such as Facebook and Twitter came into being and mobile media devices are now ubiquitous. T / A / S takes into account the ultimate implications of this for the public sphere in exploring the dynamics, aesthetics, design and politics of an emergent techno-sensuous spatial order that we refer to as ‘Affect Space’. There have been three exploratory public events so far on this topic in 2016: Amsterdam (with De Balie and LAPS); Rotterdam (with the New Institute); and Boston (with ACT, the MIT Program in art, culture and technology). A series of articles will be released on Open! in the coming months. What follows is a brief introduction to the underlying subject matter and key questions of T / A / S.

The emergent techno-sensuous spatial order of Affect Space is characterized by three constitutive elements: the massive presence of self-produced media forms, the context of (occupied) urban public spaces and the deep permeation of affective intensity in these media forms and urban spaces. While not ‘invented’ by anyone, the complex dynamics of the interaction among these three elements became clearly visible in the extraordinary series of popular protest gatherings in public space that have dominated world news from early 2011 onwards. In each case the local context and ‘underlying issues’ were remarkably diverse (Tunis, Caïro, Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, New York, São Paulo, Haren, Kiev, Hong Kong, Ferguson, Paris...), the pattern of simultaneous mobilization in the media and physical space was incredibly consistent – as was the ephemeral dissolution of these same acts.

This striking pattern of sudden collective mobilization and dissolution in public space is not limited to these protest gatherings, and cannot be explained exclusively by the aide of technology in their coming into being. Nor can it be reduced to the contested political, ideological and economic issues at stake. The diversity of context, incitement and participants is simply too great to hold accountable for the recurrence of this pattern.

The above point is perhaps illustrated tellingly in an early example of this pattern, with the ‘Project X’ party riot in the suburban town of Haren, the Netherlands in mid-2012.1 A Facebook invite to a local girl’s sixteenth birthday party (accidentally posted ‘public’) was picked up and transformed into a Project X party meme. It went viral, generating enormous traffic and (mass media) attention. In reaction to the seemingly immanent public order disturbance local authorities organized a massive police response. On the designated date numerous police officers and a large crowd of Project X Haren participants clashed over a party that never existed, leading to the devastation of the city centre’s public space and widespread damage to private properties. A national investigation produced a thorough report.2 Most intriguing was the media analysis by researchers at Utrecht University. They concluded that the crowd build-up was incited almost exclusively via social media channels. Mass media exposure had a negligible influence. While the mobilization pattern was virtually identical to the large protest gatherings we’ve become familiar with since 2011, any kind of underlying contested social or political issue was completely absent. So how do we account for these remarkable phenomena?

In an essay by the co-author of this editorial Eric Kluitenberg titled ‘Affect Space’, the contours of a model are suggested, building on three constitutive elements:

  1. A technological component: The Internet, but in particular the widespread use of mobile and wireless media perform a crucial function to mobilize large groups of people around ever-changing ‘issues at stake’.
  2. An affective component: A recurrent characteristic is the affective intensity generated and exchanged in these mobilization processes. Reasoned arguments seem to play much less of a role than affective images, suggestive slogans (‘We are the 99%!’ / ‘Je (ne) suis (pas) Charlie’) and vague but insistent associations with things that are felt as highly desirable (the mystique of a Project X party in (sleepy) Haren, whose meaning no one fully grasps, and whose existence is subject to question – in this case with no party taking place at all).
  3. A spatial component: Particularly the affective intensity generated in the mobilization process cannot be shared effectively in disembodied online interactions on the Internet and via apps. This lack stimulates the desire for physical encounter, which can only happen in a physical spatial context paradigmatically in (urban) public space.

The use of mobile and wireless media changes the nature of public space dramatically. Ever- tighter feedback loops of the physical and the mediated are generated, turning streets and squares into media channels and platforms in near real-time. As wireless networks speed up, the speed of these feedback loops is only intensified (Wi-fi, 3G, 4G, et cetera). The physical and mediated feedback loop precipitates affect-related forms of communication and exchange. In these dense environments, messages, images and impulses with the strongest affective effect – not the most well thought-through argument, delicately composed visuals or eloquent exposé – are the most apt for dissemination.

The main questions T / A / S pushes to the forefront and explores through public research meetings and essay assignments are:

  • How does the complex but highly recognizable interaction between technology, affect and physical space influence use, design and behaviour in public space?
  • What is the significance of this development for political processes, particularly when the relation between content and affective slogans and images becomes extremely ambiguous?
  • Which new forms of manipulation and control emerge, in the media space and in public space – in short in the public domain?
  • How can effects that undermine rather than support an open democratic social order be counteracted?
  • What role do artists, designers, architects and urbanists have in these processes? And what is the role that they wish to assume?

There is a rich repository of engagements with the implicit and explicit orderings of public spaces, ranging from psychogeographic procedures developed by the Situationists, to critical theories and practices in architectural and urban design, information architecture, and geo-locative arts and design, as well as within social movements, community arts, and media theory and activism. The aim of T / A / S is to bring protagonists in these different fields into conversation on the emergent techno-sensuous spatial order of Affect Space. Please continue to visit us as the essay series puts forth contributions by media scholar, artist and activist Alessandra Renzi, artist- researcher Sher Doruff, architectonic office JARD (Javier Argota and Rodrigo Delso), media theorist Nishant Shah, artist-designer Christian Nold, Eric Kluitenberg and artists PolakVanBekkum (Esther Polak and Ivan van Bekkum).

Between and Beyond
Giulia Crispiani, 0001. – Image by Federico Antonini

By the late twentieth century, our time, a mythic time, we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism; in short, we are cyborgs. This cyborg is our ontology; it gives us our politics.
—Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto, 1983

For posthuman theory, the subject is a transversal entity, fully immersed in and immanent to a network of non-human (animal, vegetable, viral) relations. The zoe-centred embodied subject is shot through with relational linkages of the contaminating / viral kind which inter-connect it to a variety of others, starting from the environmental or eco-others and include the technological apparatus.
—Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman, 2013

Between and Beyond, a series of artists’ publications, is the result of the 2015–2016 Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) MA Art Praxis based in Arnhem, the Netherlands, but international in its scope and assembly. As a partner of DAI Open! conducts thematical research and publishing projects on an annual basis, with a class of first- and second-year MA students using the Open! digital platform as the overarching discursive framework and site for presentation. You can find the results of last year's Publishing Class here.

The theme for this year’s Publishing Class was the ‘posthuman.’ The concept originated in the fields of science-fiction, contemporary art, feminism, queer theory and poststructuralist philosophies and literally means a person or entity that exists in a state beyond being human. Often reverting to Donna Haraway’s seminal essay A Cyborg Manifesto,1 first published in 1983, critical discourses around posthumanism seek to reconceive the notion of the liberal humanist and anthropocentric subject that has been dominant in Western culture since the Enlightenment. In questioning the central position of the human, critical posthumanism also involves the issue of the animal other, the inhuman, neo-materialism and the anthropocene. It is engaged in rethinking modernist dualisms between nature and culture, matter and mind, man and woman, man and machine, the human and the inhuman. If ‘Man’ is not the measure of all things, what should our frame of reference be, and what else than human are we becoming?

Posthumanism is also concerned with technologized and virtual bodies in the digital age, but should not be confused here with transhumanism, which regards man and technology as able to solve the world’s problems and aims at producing a supra human being. The critical notion of posthumanism we are interested in is much more about empowerment, rethinking and resilience within the current entanglements of technology, culture and nature.

In a series of seminars with guest tutors and the Open! editorial team, and with several face-to-face meetings, Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class has been exploring and discussing critical posthumanism – its ethics, politics and aesthetics. We read texts by Donna Haraway, Rosi Braidotti, Vilém Flusser, Baruch Spinoza and Jacques Lacan among others and worked on two publishing assignments. Each student-participant contributed to the printed group publication Between and Beyond – A Posthuman Bestiary. This compendium of ‘beasts’ provides physical and allegorical descriptions and illustrations of real or imaginary posthuman animals along with interpretations of the philosophical and political significance each animal embodies. Between and Beyond – A Posthuman Bestiary considers and represents new relationships and entanglements, questions old hierarchies, crosses boundaries and introduces new subjectivities and narratives.

Alongside the bestiary the student-participants developed (image) essays related to the main subject matter, but grounded in their individual interests and ways of working. This has resulted in a rich and heterogenous body of texts in which aspects of the posthuman appear without assigning it a fixed identity. The contributions of Giulia Crispiani, Malcolm Kratz and Miguel Ángel Rego Robles are concerned with the philosophical implications of human entanglement with developing technologies. Sebastian De Line, Despina Sevasti, Wayne Wang Lie Jim, Florencia Almirón and Zhenia Vasiliev are focused on the need to decentre the male and anthropocentric perspective in the social and political realm, while Valentina Curandi, Maike Hemmers and Mirjam Linschooten depart from the material entanglement of bodies, things and institutions to dislodge prevalent Cartesian dualisms. These contributions will be published on Open! in the coming months, together with a curatorial-editorial extension by Sonia Kazovsky, who provides an extra discursive layer by linking the texts to each other and to existing texts on the Open! platform.

Tutors and guest tutors: Kayla Anderson, Janine Armin, Rick Dolphijn, Florian Göttke, Mohammad Salemy, Niels Schrader, Jorinde Seijdel, Etienne Turpin

Show more articles…
Common Conflict
‘Hot Winter Press’ zines at We Are the Time Machines: Time and Tools for Commoning at Casco by Cooperativa Cráter Invertido (Jazael Olguinzapata), 2015. – Photo: Sven Lütticken

From its inception, Open! and Casco’s series Commonist Aesthetics was meant neither as a celebration nor as a debunking exercise, but as a critical inquiry. The commons certainly is not lacking in those who hype the cause, nor in vehement detractors. For the Invisible Committee, an example, ‘commonism’ is identified with Ostromite liberal managerialism:

Governing the Commons is the title of the recent bestseller by Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, who has defined eight principles for ‘managing the commons.’ Understanding there is a place for them in an ‘administration of the commons’ that remains to be invented, [Antonio] Negri and associates have embraced this theory, which is perfectly liberal at its core…

…[They] are inclined to make the ‘commons’ into the latest metaphysical principle to come out of the West’s magical hat. An arche, they say, in the sense of that which ‘organizes, commands, and rules all political activity,’ a new ‘beginning’ that will give birth to new institutions and a new world government.1

And is the excitement in some art world circles (however marginal they may be) for forms of commoning, or at least the rhetoric of commoning, not deeply suspicious? In her essay for Commonist Aesthetics, Marina Vishmidt suggested that a ‘structural and ideological affinity already holds between “commonist” politics and the field of art practices’; both, she argues, ‘are committed to change in the here and now through the means available, often interstices and spare capacities, “making do” as in the “sharing economy.”’ Making changes in the here and now sounds good when the alternative is waiting for a phantasmagorical revolution. But is the exclusive privileging of ‘making do’ under current conditions not equally problematical – especially if connected to the hope that enough cute grass-rootsy commonizing activity will attain such critical mass that capitalism will, after all, disappear or morph beyond recognition? Vishmidt states in the aforementioned text: ‘The centrality of J.K. Gibson-Graham’s The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (1996) and A Postcapitalist Politics (2006) to several of a number of cultural scenes of inquiry into “the commons” would seem to point to the voluntaristic roots of this attitude as they cut across art and politics, present and past, performance and mobilisation.’

Nonetheless, we would not have pursued Commonist Aesthetics if we agreed that commons discourse is completely bankrupt and utterly irredeemable. In a passage recently evoked by Katharine Gibson during a lecture at Casco, Massimo de Angelis acknowledges that commoning is often instrumentalized not in order ‘to provide alternatives to capital, but to make a particular node of capital – a region or a city – more competitive, while somehow addressing the problems of reproduction at the same time.’ However, he maintains that ‘in spite of capital’s strategies to use a commons fix to the problems it creates while never really solving them, commons may well be part of a different historical development.’2

This ‘may well be’ continues to hover over the debate, a debate that we wish to develop and intensify with this ‘virtual roundtable’ titled Common Conflict, mirrored by a public forum at Casco on 12 March. Later this year, the whole Commonist Aesthetics project will be rounded off by a book publication.

For Common Conflict, we have confronted a number of authors with a series of questions, some or many of which may be leading questions. The authors were free to pick and choose, or ignore, as they saw fit; to rephrase and reroute a line of questioning; and to examine their own as well as others’ practices and theoretical presuppositions.

Is the notion of the commons subject to an ontological essentialization? Is dehistoricization tantamount to depoliticization?

The resurgence of the commons is clearly linked to the decline of the public sector, at least in Europe. Is commonism tacitly complicit with the ever further dismantling of the state and the public? Does the state need to be reclaimed?

Does the commonist discourse have a potential depoliticizing effect, being compatible with hazy visions of the ‘sharing economy’ and an Ostrom-style governance? What are the consequences of the division between ‘Ostromites’ interested in governing the commons and autonomists eager to prefigure a coming insurrection or a coming community?

How does, or should, commonist self-organization around specific issues relate to more general antagonisms and struggles? Is commonism in need of a wider autonomist horizon and bona-fide leftist strategy – or are ‘actually existing’ commonist tactics, however compromised, a daily reminder of the bankruptcy of more fundamental, more rigorous, more dialectically canny leftist positions?

What is the relation between theories of the commons / commoning and specific practices? Does the theory lag behind the most cogent practices? Is it often a substitute for actual commoning practices at specific sites for struggles? Can problematic, partial or blocked attempts at commoning be as valid as seemingly successful and exemplary endeavours?

Is the commons’ rhetorical success in parts of the art world indicative of an aestheticization of the social – with aestheticization here being used in its negative Benjaminian sense? Does the all too familiar critique of art institutions need to be followed by an active commoning of institutions? How to proceed with this?

Does the art world focus overly on low-tech forms of commons and commoning, unduly neglecting the digital commons? How can and should online and offline impact each other?

Do we see the beginnings of a commonist aesthetic practice in a more fundamental sense, involving forms of sensuous activity that challenge and go beyond established notions of art and existing institutional forms? Does aesthetic practice allow us to refocus all of the above questions?

Culture of Control
Dattoo by KABK students Christina Yarashevich and Janne van Hooff is a digital mask that provides anonymity through obfuscation.

The theme Culture of Control, which Open! is working on in close collaboration with Stroom Den Haag, is a necessary and logical extension of a particular line of research conducted by Open throughout the years. A brief look back:

The first issue of Open, on which I worked as editor-in-chief, appeared (still in printed form) in 2004 and had as its theme and title, (In)Security. In that editorial, I wrote: Within today’s public domain, the call for more protection, supervision and care dominates on all fronts. The individual and the community are demanding maximum security for the public space and for themselves, and ever more control over the other. There seems to be a veritable obsession with security. The issue explored this obsession from the vantage points of architecture, art, philosophy and politics. It discussed global and local fears, occupation, surveillance, power, control and (in)security, as well as activist and cultural strategies for opposing this. All sorts of things had happened on the world stage in those years: 9 / 11 (2001) and the invasion of Iraq by America and other Western countries (20 March 2003). In the Netherlands, we witnessed the murders of the right-wing populist politician Pim Fortuyn (6 May 2002) and the film director Theo van Gogh (2 November 2004).

In 2010, an issue of Open was devoted to the loss of (our sense of) privacy, seen in light of the political events of previous years, but also in relation to the rise of the Web 2.0 and social networks. The focus was not so much on deploring the loss of privacy, but taking the present situation of ‘post-privacy’ for what it was and trying to gain insight into what was on the horizon in terms of new subjectivities and power constructions. From that editorial:

In the globalized network cultures, visibility, transparency, accessibility and connectivity are what count. These values are at odds with the idea of privacy as ‘secluded from the rest’. Does this imply that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ to an increasing extent, as in Huxley’s dystopic Brave New World (1932)? Or, these many years after The Fall of Public Man (Richard Sennett, 1974) are we experiencing ‘the fall of private man’ – from which we could then conclude that the public-private antithesis has lost its force as a signifier of meaning? Are alternative subjectivities and rights emerging that are considered more important in the twenty-first century? Are new strategies and tactics being mobilized to safeguard personal autonomy and to escape forms of institutional biopower?

Spurred on by WikiLeaks (in 2010, WikiLeaks publically disclosed the so-called Collateral Murder video and tens of thousands of documents on the war in Afghanistan, among other things), Open continued its investigation a year later with an issue on transparency and secrecy. From the editorial: This issue… examines transparency as an ideology, the ideal of the free flow of information versus the fight over access to information and the intrinsic connection between publicity and secrecy. Among other things, the issue also discussed the extent to which transparency contains within it aspects of concealment and control.

The present research theme, Culture of Control, continues along this vein. It critically discusses how the primacy of control and security has further developed in recent years – partly under the pressures of a credit crisis, terrorism, revolutions and hordes of refugees – and how it is manifested in public and urban space, in our communities and individual lives. What are our new fears or the new instruments and mechanisms of control? The theme deals with security and control in today’s urban environment, but also with the implications of technology and the digital sphere, and their relation to art and aesthetics. For example, in From Biopolitics to Mindpolitics: Nudging in Safety and Security Management, law philosophers Marc Schuilenburg and Rik Peeters discuss how the ‘neoliberal program seeks to create neither “a disciplinary society” nor a “society of control”, but instead a society that cultivates and optimises differences by using “new techniques of environmental technology or environmental psychology”.’ In Aesthetics of the Secret, against the background of the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Clare Birchall discusses secrets as subject to and the subject of radical politics rather than regulation. She looks at the secret not only as it figures in current affairs but also in artworks by Trevor Paglen and Jill Magid. Michael Seeman, the author of Digital Tailspin. Ten Rules for the Internet After Snowden, describes in his new essay, The Kontrollverlust of the Nation State and The Rise of the Platforms, how the nation states are losing control over their citizens, while digital platforms like Facebook and Google are increasingly getting a grip on them.

In the coming months, these essays will be supplemented with more writings and artists’ contributions by curator Francien van Westrenen, photographer Elian Somers and architect / reseacher Abla Bahrawy, among others.

The Culture of Control project at Stroom Den Haag runs from 3 October to 13 December 2015.

did you feel it?
Image: Foundland, quote taken from ‘Softward Takes Command’, Lev Manovich, 2013

As a partner of the Dutch Art Institute (DAI), Open! undertook a research and design project with an international group of first- and second-year Master of Fine Arts students in the academic year 2014–2015 on the functioning of ‘affect’ in the digital network-and-image culture. Open! considers this subject important because – within the scope of a better comprehension of the workings of mediatization and digitization processes for the public sphere, one of its editorial leitmotifs – an understanding of affect can help us gain greater insight into how the digital environments in which we increasingly find ourselves affect us and influence our actions in the personal, social and political senses. The influential essay ‘The Autonomy of Affect’ (1995) by Canadian philosopher Brian Massumi was the starting point for our investigations. Referring to Baruch Spinoza and Gilles Deleuze / Félix Guattari, Massumi construes affect as “a pre-personal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act.” Affect therefore has to do with a sphere of experience which falls outside the dominant paradigms of representation and with unconscious processes which underlie our behaviour and influence our attitudes towards the world around us.

In a series of seminars with guest tutors that included Brian Massumi1, we asked: How is affect being produced and transmitted in today’s digital environments? What sort of role does it play in the networked society in terms of the formation of subjectivity? What about the aesthetics and politics of affect? Can affect be defined as a critical departure point for curatorial and artistic practices? If anything subsequently became clear to us, it was that affect is a complex and hard-to-grasp notion that does not easily lend itself to being used as a theoretical, artistic or activist tool. In itself, the concept is neither good nor bad in the ethical or aesthetical sense, and different disciplines – the neurosciences, social sciences, art-and-media theory – approach and apply it differently, although ‘The Autonomy of Affect’ is a recurring reference point.

In his generous seminar, which included a closed masterclass as well as a public lecture, Massumi emphasized again that affect always is a movement from one experiential state of the body to another, that it is relational by nature and that it always concerns ‘to affect and being affected’. Precisely because it is about movement and therefore about change and becoming, affect has a political dimension: affect can govern a transition. “Politics, approached affectively, is an art of emitting the interruptive signs, triggering the cues, that attune bodies while activating their capacities differentially,” according to Massumi.2 Politics can instigate certain affective fields, and for instance create an atmosphere of fear, such as George Bush did after 9 / 11. Against this, Massumi sets the possibility of ‘affective alter-politics’, which he considers dissensual “in the sense that it holds contrasting alternatives together without immediately demanding that one alternative eventuate and the others evaporate. It makes thought-felt different capacities for existence, different life potentials, different forms of life, without immediately imposing either a choice – or a compromise – between them.”3

Initially, the main emphasis of our investigations was on examining how public images (the course at DAI was called ‘Affective Images: How Public Images Produce Affect in a Digital Age’) play a role in affective conversion processes. We understood ‘public images’ to be mediated images that are engaged in public political discourses. These could include amateur images as well as news images and artistic images – ranging from photos of Abu Ghraib to the ISIS videos or images of public art works. We focused on how these images conceal ideological layers and produce affect.

Gradually, however, we also became interested in technological or digital interfaces and their affect. Realizing that we are continually in and around the media in our daily lives and that we have developed a symbiotic relationship with technology, we focused on the interface, that ubiquitous and largely hidden layer between human and machine that permanently shapes our view of the material, the social, the political and the technological. “The moment of impact is like an interface to affect and being affected,” according to Massumi at the DAI seminar. What interested us philosophically about the interface was the Massumian ‘threshold’: “When you affect something, you are opening yourself up to being affected in turn, and in a slightly different way than you might have been the moment before. You have made a transition, however slight. You have stepped over a threshold. Affect is this passing of a threshold, seen from the point of view of the change in capacity.” In terms of media theory, we took inspiration from Alexander Galloway’s The Interface Effect, in which he describes the interface as “an autonomous zone of aesthetic activity, guided by its own logic and its own ends”.4

The insights and questions which arose after taking the course led to the organization of ‘did you feel it?’ A Symposium on Digital Interfaces and Their Affect, which will take place in the Designhuis in Eindhoven on 16 September 2015.  ‘did you feel it?’ deals with the concern of how affect manifests through technology, by focussing attention on the idea of the interface as a relational space that creates and mediates the affective forces that influence our social, political and artistic encounters. How do interfaces shape, transform and transmit affect? In what ways does the experiencing of affect, mediated through an interface, work upon our daily lives? And how can we as artists, theorists, activists, designers and ‘users’ engage in the zone of aesthetic activity that the interface opens? This symposium is entirely curated by the DAI students.5 The keynote speakers / performers are the theorists Mercedes Bunz, Mark Fisher and Nishant Shah and the artists Veridiana Zurita, Benedict Drew and Erica Scourti.

As part of the course, the students also worked on individual contributions about image, interface and affect that in the coming period will be published on Open! in batches. These (visual) essays reflect the students’ different artistic and critical practices and therefore are very diverse in terms of form, content and approach. Together however, and in relation to each other, they provide provocative insights and questions concerning the subject matter.

Open! is also publishing a review on Brian Massumi's Politics of Affect by Eric Kluitenberg. Besides, in November 2015 Open! will publish a new interview by Willem van Weelden with Massumi and the video recording of the lecture the latter gave at DAI in Arnhem on 18 June, Virtual Ecology and the Question of Value.

Commonist Aesthetics

With Commonist Aesthetics, the editorial team Binna Choi (Casco), Sven Lütticken, Jorinde Seijdel (Open!)  introduces “the idea of commonism” – not communism – as a topic that various writers and artists will explore and expand upon in the course of this series. Commonist aesthetics pertain to the world of the senses, or a “residually common world” that is continuously subject to new divisions, new appropriations, and attempts at reclamation and re-imagining.

Common Knowledge

In response to the protests and occupations that have rocked universities and art schools from Montreal and Toronto to Amsterdam and London, Open! organised a virtual round table on the crisis in higher education and  presents a constellation of short texts by professors, lecturers, PhD candidates, students and alumni, as well as by artists and activists.

General
Photo by Roel Backaert

Dear reader,

We are very happy to welcome you at the new publishing platform and living archive of Open!, which was designed by Niels Schrader and Mind Design. The site should offer a truly dynamic, discursive environment that continues to focus on the changing conditions of the public domain and public sphere, and the consequences of privatisation, mediatisation and globalisation processes on our social, cultural and artistic practices. It includes the almost complete contents of Open: Cahier on Art & the Public Domain 2004–2012 and everything that has been published since then. We request your patience, as we continue to revise and digitise the archived images and texts. The Open! archive is alive and well – indeed.

To optimise and enrich the online research and reading experiences, the new website allows the user to always retain a full overview of the volume of the archive, even while deeply immersed in the reading of an article. The content is presented next to three navigation columns that connect related pieces of texts via cross- and hyperlinks, provide additional explanations via definitions and include footnotes and references to literature. The site has been optimised for desktop and tablet view.

How does one navigate the new Open! site? Well, you can browse through our content by: Year, Content type, Theme and / or Tag; you can also use the Timeline interface, the search engine or find texts via Contributors. You can access the latest articles by simply clicking Articles and browse through these linearly with the previous / next button. Under Timeline, you can easily browse through the chapters of any article you are reading.

If you still prefer reading in an analogue format, you can simply download texts as PDFs. 

Last but not least, we’ve added a Donation / Support function. Since Open! is a non-profit organisation with no structural funding, we depend on all-important donations to enable us to maintain the Open! platform and share its content with you. A donation would be highly appreciated.

Recently Open! published “The Economic Power of Public Opinion & the Public Power of Economic Opinion. Think Factories, Think Tanks and the Privatization of Power” by artist Andreas Siekmann and “Affect Space: Witnessing the ‘Movement(s) of the Squares” by media theorist Eric Kluitenberg. We continue our investigations of the theme Commonist Aesthetics in close collaboration with Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht and Sven Lütticken. The contributions by Marina Vishmidt, Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, Isabell Lorey, Sven Lütticken and Andreas Siekmann will soon be supplemented by new contributions from Metahaven, Matteo Pasquinelli and Christoph Brunner / Gerald Raunig, among others. Upcoming research themes include: The Culture of Control and The Affective Image. Stay up-to-date on our latest publications by subscribing to our newsletter.

Open no. 24, Politics of Things

This Open is exceptional in several respects: as a result of radical government cutbacks on art and culture in the netherlands, it is out of sheer necessity the last issue to be published by SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain and nAi Publishers – SKOR will cease to exist in its present form as of 1 January 2013.1 At the same time, Open 24 is special because it was made with the help of three art lectorates (research groups at universities of applied sciences that revolve around specific knowledge domains): Art and Public Space (Gerrit Rietveld Academie, chaired by Jeroen Boomgaard), Arts in Society (Fontys School of Fine and Performing Arts, chaired by Pascal Gielen) and Autonomy and the Public Sphere in the Arts (Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, chaired by Peter Peters).2 Also involved in the realization of this issue, through the lectorate Art and Public Space and its research programme ‘ Making Things Public’, were Sher Doruff, a researcher in the area of experimental methods within the practice of artistic research, and visual artist Yvonne Dröge Wendel, who is conducting doctoral research on the relation between people and things, and who earned an international reputation with her object-performance Black Ball.3 The lectorates acted as financing partners and partly as guest editors, an experimental collaboration with a great chance of succeeding due to our undeniable common interests in regard to the production of knowledge on art in the public domain, something which is becoming only the more apparent in the present Dutch society marked by market thinking and populism.

‘The Politics of Things’, the subject matter of Open 24, is also a little out of the ordinary in relation to previous themes. it is not an urgent political, social or cultural trend, such as populism, mobility, post-privacy or transparency, but sooner a school of thinking related to the philosophy of technology and object-oriented philosophy. That’s also precisely where its interest for Open lies: to a large extent, the Politics of Things is about processes of democratic publicness and publication in the network society, and the role of issues, objects and art within that. At the foundation of this discussion is Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, a book and exhibition from 2005 by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel. Starting with the premise that parliamentary democracy is under pressure in the globalized society, they asked themselves how a democratic politics can function more optimally, and what the role of art is within that. The politics of things thus has a political-philosophic dimension in which power, for example, is investigated as an effect of networks of connections and interactions between people and things, and space is given to things and issues that are seldom represented in connection with democracy.

This Open is about what a thing like art does in democracy, how art makes publics, and is a thing that interacts with other things and people and influences them. Latour’s approach makes it possible to avoid the oppositions and dualisms that often paralyse the discourse on the arts in the public domain and goes beyond distinctions such as “applied” or “autonomous”, ’ emphasize Boomgaard and Peters. As Doruff asks: ‘What’ s been happening since Latour and Weibel went public with their exhibition and catalogue? has there been a perceptible tendency towards an ecology of practices that precipitates sustainable difference in the sciences and arts when publics matter?’

Open 24 includes an introduction to the current Politics of Things and considerations on art and public space through a Politics of Things lens, such as the essay by Peter Peters and Ruth Benschop reconsidering the renowned public art work Tilted Arc by Richard Serra, or the text by Peter-Paul Verbeek on how art can examine the political role of Things – and implicitly, the article by Mariska van den Berg on artistic practices for the city. The contributions in this issue also show new perspectives on the public and democratizing effect of art. The ‘art thing’ is bringing back uncertainty in political systems and thus can stimulate a ‘democratic autonomy’, postulates Pascal Gielen in the column.

The introductory essays by Boomgaard and Doruff give a clear picture of how the Politics of Things offers purchase for actual practice and prompts more abstract, philosophical reflections. These qualities converge in the essays by Noortje Marres and Fiona Candlin, who both discuss the politics of technology, things and issues, but from different points of view. Bernard Stiegler’s essay ‘Interobjectivity and Transindividuation’, introduced by Pieter Lemmens, is above all a richly experimental approach to our technical condition in the era of hyper-capitalism. How art can be made and examined from an awareness of ‘relational thingness’ is expressed in the contribution by Yvonne Dröge Wendel and her Object Research Lab, with a text by Sher Doruff and Maartje Hoogsteyns.

It only remains for me to say thanks to SKOR and NAi Publishers for the collaboration from 2004 to 2012, and also to the authors and readers and all who have made Open possible. Hopefully we will meet again through Open!

Open no. 23, Autonomy

In many Western states, not lastly in the former subsidy paradise of the Netherlands, huge cutbacks are taking place in governmental budgets for the arts and culture, in addition to equally drastic financial measures in the public sector and social services, in health care, education, the environment and developmental aid. Not only is there a question of national economic, social and political crises, which here and there are coupled with a rise of populism, but there is also a euro crisis and a global free market crisis. What's more, a wave of revolution is going on in the Arab world which is bringing about new local and global relationships. All of this compels a drastic revision of national and international positions and the interests of nations, parties, institutions and citizens in relation to one another, to authority and also to the communal and the shared.

That a concept like autonomy comes into this, and that it would be put forward in an issue of Open as a topic of thought and investigation, would seem both obvious and surprising, or even dubious: it seems inevitable that this notion would be reconsidered and probablematized at a time when people and things are being thrown more upon their own resources; but at the same time, a number of its connotations evidently run directly counter to the urgent call for new forms of involvement and participation that is resounding everywhere – witness the rise of the Occupy movement. In the arts, certainly, the term is often directly related to Clement Greenberg's sterile notion of autonomy, in which the art object must in the first place refer to itself and its own formal characteristics. According to Greenberg, a work of art must try to avoid dependence on every order of experience that is not inherent to the most essentially construed nature of its medium.

This modernist art theory is miles apart from the political thinking of the Italian Autonomia movement in the 1970s, which was about the autonomy of the working class, of immaterial labour, biopolitics, precarity, the 'multitude' and the 'commons'; topics that tellingly enough are currently in the spotlight again. Where does the call for engagement and performativity, which in the arts in particular has been frequently made over the last few years, converge with the desire for autonomy, broadly seen as the urge to take the helm oneself and have a significance that is separate from old structures? Doesn't engagement actually spring from a desire for autonomy?

Open 23 was made in collaboration with art historian and publicist Sven Lütticken, author of Secret Publicity (NAi Publishers, 2006) and Idols of the Market (Sternberg Press, 2009). This issue picks up the thread of The Autonomy Project, which Lütticken participates in and which is a collaboration between the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and a number of art history and art study programmes in the Netherlands and abroad (see theautonomyproject.org). From 7 to 9 October 2011, a several-day symposium took place in the Van Abbemuseum within the framework of The Autonomy Project, where the ideas of Jacques Rancière on politics and aesthetics and the intertwining of autonomy and heteronomy played an important role. During the symposium, the Occupy movement manifested itself at various places in the world; this became an important topic of debate in the Van Abbemuseum, and is also reflected in this issue.

The symposium was organized by an editorial team comprised of Jeroen Boomgaard, John Byrne, Clare Butcher, Charles Esche, Annie Fletcher, Thomas Lange, Sven Lütticken, Nikos Papastergiadis, Gabriëlle Schleijpen and Steven ten Thije, with assistance from Laurie Cluitmans and Arnisa Zeqo. Furthermore, in Eindhoven there were contributions by, among others, Peter Osborne, Gerald Raunig, Franco Berardi, Hito Steyerl, Thomas Hirschhorn and Joost de Bloois, each of whom also has a voice in Open 23 with either a new contribution or an adapted or extended version of their lecture. Willem van Weelden interviewed Franco Berardi on Autonomia, the Occupy movement and the educational system for Open. Steven ten Thije investigates the underlying motivation for The Autonomy Project. The issue includes an e-mail exchange between Rancière and Hirschhorn on presence and production and new, in-depth articles by John Byrne, Andrea Fraser and Johan Hartle as well as a column on autonomy and Anonymous by the undersigned and an essay titled 'Autonomy After the Fact', on 'autonomy as praxis' in the intervals between disciplines and structures, by Sven Lütticken.

In Open 23, autonomy is regarded from the viewpoints of art, art history, philosophy, political theory and cultural criticism, a variety of artillery that is necessary in order to break open the concept and give it new meaning. The friction between these different discourses and disciplines and between theory and practice is precisely what allows perspectives to emerge for an 'engaged autonomy', a compound term that Charles Esche, director of the Van Abbemuseum, coined in order to escape the limitations of thinking in terms of engagement on the one hand and autonomy on the other.

Open no. 23, Autonomy

Reflecting upon Anonymous, the activist Internet movement that can be anyone and that has no leader or external management, the following question comes to mind: could autonomy and anonymity perhaps have something to do with each other, in thinking about new forms of critical art and culture? The term ‘anonymous’, from the Greek anoonumos, means ‘nameless’, ‘unnamed’ and also ‘incognito’ or ‘unmarked’. The advent of the so-called autonomous subject in the modern age was specifically coupled with the naming of that subject and with a rational process of individualization. This ‘calling by name’ also literally resulted in a personality culture and a theory of authorship, not least within the arts, in which the identifying, the determining of a person’s individuality is of great importance, and which has produced strict value structures. The social order and political administration that is attendant on this is based on people’s uniqueness, on what makes them recognizable and identifiable. Distinctive identities cannot be ascertained from anonymous subjects, or at least not without difficulty: the anonymous subject, which is in fact a contradiction in terms, undermines the logic and culture of the autonomous subject, in that it does not let itself be controlled just like that. It’s not for nothing that messages without a sender are almost always distrusted in our culture: the anonymous subject becomes the object of suspicion.

From the perspective of these modern ideological conceptions, anonymity and autonomy would thus appear to be mutually exclusive. One can immediately qualify this, however. For instance, you can assert that a condition and situation of anonymity in fact also implies a degree of autonomy in the sense of freedom and the room to move with respect to the dominant system. This autonomous anonymity or anonymous autonomy was found by a number of artists and activists in the 1990s, for instance, in the form of the ‘multiple use name’ Luther Blisset (‘author’ of the novel Q) and later Wu Ming, both of them explorations of new forms of authorship and identity, and spinoffs of the Italian counterculture’s Autonomia movement.

Not being able to be identified because of a voluntary, self-chosen anonymity, an act of resistance, has its advantages and offers new operational perspectives. But in our society, anonymity can also stem from a directly or indirectly imposed status of not being heard or seen, as a result of not being identifiable according to the system, an exclusion and exceptionalness that actually attacks personal autonomy. Under laws made by others, the individual then cannot follow those laws – a bizarre condition of illegality.

At the same time, you can wonder what the unique identity of the subject still comprises, if anything, in an era when identities are more makeable, fluid and reproducible than ever, and can no longer be pinned down in time and space. The autonomy of the subject has long been beset by immaterial shadow presentations in the form of avatars, data bodies and online personas, new ‘life forms’ and subjectivities that never totally coincide with their original. On the Internet, anonymous cultures and anonymous information exchanges flourish, and autonomy arises from a game of (non-)identities and collective desires instead of from the manifestation of a singular absolute identity and its free will.

And then we are back to Anonymous, whereby unidentified persons agitate to protect the free exchange of information on the Internet, and who have become famous and infamous for their DDoS attacks and Operation Avenge Assange. Anonymous sees itself as a spontaneous collective of people who serve a common goal, and in that sense is comparable with Occupy, which does not work with obvious leaders or representatives either, and likewise campaigns on behalf of and for everyone without unequivocally sanctioned principles. The interesting thing about these movements is that from this interplay of anonymity and autonomy a form of politics seems to be arising, a community that is taking shape, which comes close to what Jacques Rancière describes as a new distribution or reorganization of the sensory, that is to say, of the structuring of perception that determines what can be seen or not seen and said or not said in a society. This is not about the private interest of a specific group or the injustice done to it or to another, nor is it about finding a consensus. It’s about the demand to be heard and accepted as a partner in the conversation. And so it is about a different group in society which speaks for the entire society because their actions concern everyone.

Rancière seems to be saying that those who are not perceived, and thus in fact are anonymous, can only achieve a form of autonomy out of precisely that condition. A stimulating proposition in every way. In the context of Anonymous, you can counter this by the fact that 25 ‘suspected members of Anonymous’ were recently arrested by Interpol and that they thus actually are identifiable, and therefore traceable for the police. However, the movement does not have any membership structure; everyone can carry out activities in the name of Anonymous. The arrests are real, but the idea of the anonymity of a group that is not perceived, to use Rancière’s term, is guaranteed.

Open no. 22, Transparency

Taking WikiLeaks as an illustrative example, Open 22 investigates how transparency and secrecy relate to one another, to the public and to publicity in our computerized visual cultures. This issue continues to explore what for Open are fundamental themes such as privatization, mediatization and the demand for the communal. In the more general sense, it examines transparency as an ideology, the ideal of the free flow of information versus the fight over access to information and the intrinsic connection between publicity and secrecy. It also tries to come to grips with the social and political implications of the phenomenon of WikiLeaks, which, with the illustrious Julian Assange as front man, produces an effect on a global scale. While most people would agree that WikiLeaks has started something that is unstoppable; there is hardly any consensus on its morality, effectiveness or strategy, neither in conservative nor in progressive circles.

WikiLeaks, as the counterpart of the ‘transparent’ citizen or consumer, expresses a growing public desire for openness and transparency as regards the state, businesses and administrators – a demand for publicity that is continually fed by floods of sensational social and political revelations. And whereas people often consider secrecy within the public sphere to be inadmissible and clandestine, transparency is associated with democracy, participation and accessibility. But does transparency only work in a liberating way? Can it not equally have a concealing or controlling effect? Aren’t certain forms of transparency actually the manifestation of the banality of the contemporary spectacle, which revolves around pure display and the production of affects?

In any case, with their capacity to immediately reproduce and disseminate information, the media play a crucial role in the social process of displaying and disclosing. But on behalf of whom are they doing this, and for whom? Do they not increasingly form an abstract power?

Two introductory essays explore political and social notions of transparency and secrecy. Media theorist Felix Stalder searches for a form of transparency that is not employed as a means of power and control, such as in neoliberal market thinking, but that can express and strengthen social solidarity. Stefan Nowotny, philosopher, goes into publicity and openness as a modern myth in relation to the production of affects and the exercise of power, and finds that secrecy and publicity are intertwined more than ever.

Other pieces directly examine WikiLeaks and its implications. Philosopher and media theorist Boris Groys argues that WikiLeaks’ democratic universal openness is based on the most absolute secretiveness, and as a matter of fact is a conspiracy. The American political theorist Jodi Dean shows herself to be extremely critical about WikiLeaks, stating that too much information is a greater handicap than too little information in ‘communicative capitalism’ and that Julian Assange, by becoming a star in his own story, takes attention away from the political issues he says he wants to bring to the public’s attention. The interview conducted by Willem van Weelden, researcher-publicist on interactive media, with media theorist Geert Lovink and political scientist/sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen goes into the question of whether and how WikiLeaks brings about social and political change, and what the platform means for contemporary forms of art and activism. In the column, Jorinde Seijdel wonders where WikiLeaks and Facebook converge, seeing as both avow transparency as their ideology but apparently out of very different motives.

Transparency and secrecy are also relevant concepts in art and architecture. The art historian Roel Griffioen posits that, analogous to social developments, the ideal of the glass house in modern and contemporary architecture has made way for the house of one-way glass, in which concealing has become just as important as displaying. Art theorist Sven Lütticken discusses how the structure of the modern art work offers the perfect means of gaining insight into the dialectics of opacity and transparency in this age of public secrets. The work of Amsterdam-based American artist Zachary Formwalt, who also made a special visual contribution to this issue, is one example of this.

This issue features a number of excerpts from Failed States, a manuscript-in-progress by American artist Jill Magid that investigates transparency and secrecy out of Magid’s desire to be an eyewitness to the ‘war on terror’ and the media’s representation of it. British artist Heath Bunting contributed a fold-out flowchart that explores the porous borders between the individual, their ‘data body’ and corporations.

Illustrations of a project by designer Floor Koomen and graphic design students of the Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam can be found throughout this issue. The assignment consisted of selecting a leak from the WikiLeaks website and editing and designing it for a print-on-demand publication, thus providing us with a critical look at WikiLeaks as a medium and the current position of journalism. (see: www.orderyourwikileak.org)

Open no. 22, Transparency

In the light of a critical examination of today’s transparency ideologies, comparing Facebook and Wiki­Leaks with each other in a basic manner is surprisingly clarifying. At first, this might seem inappropriate, because of the apparently fundamentally different premises and divergent social, economic and political views of these super-topical digital platforms: Facebook as an ultra-capitalistic billion-dollar company versus WikiLeaks as an activist, non-profit organization; Facebook as a social network for the exchange of personal information versus WikiLeaks as a whistle-blower site for anonymous revelations of public interest; Facebook as commercial purloiner and trader of information versus WikiLeaks as altruistic provider of information.

There are also many similarities, however: both Facebook and WikiLeaks are to a large degree products of an increased societal desire for disclosure. Both seek their societal legitimization in the philosophy (or doctrine) of transparency and the sharing of information, and on the basis of that, both preach a better world – whereby ‘Julian Assange sees the world as filled with real and imagined enemies; Zuckerberg sees the world as filled with potential friends’, as Time Magazine once put it. In their fanatical creed of transparency, both organizations have also been accused of serious violations of people’s privacy (despite WikiLeaks’ position that transparency is something for government and not for individuals), while both Zuckerberg and Assange seem to actually encourage a certain mystification as regards their own person. Last but not least, both claim a significant role as stoker of the revolutions in the Middle East. In that regard, however, Assange, who considers WikiLeaks a check on power, called Facebook an ‘appalling spy machine’ for the American government and its intelligence services. Zuckerberg, on the other hand, does see ideological similarities ‘somewhere’: ‘At a higher level some of the themes may be connected.’

Be that as it may, somewhere in the shining clarity of radical transparency there is an acute black hole, a dark spot where Facebook and WikiLeaks meet. The question is: At that frightful point of convergence, what happens with the first resumed differences? Are they confirmed after a fleeting contact, so that a process of semantic and ideological divergence can immediately resume, or might it be revealed that these podiums indeed both are a special kind of ‘service’, proceeding from their dedication to transparency? And then here the word ‘service’ is also meant in the sense of ‘celebration’ or ‘cult’. But who or what is being served, and if this is a cult, what is being worshiped or celebrated?

At first sight, of course, this seems to be a cult of visibility, whereby Facebook and WikiLeaks, in their craving for universality, complement one another as counterparts: the former involves the ‘community’ in the celebration and the latter its institutes; both must be transparent. In this immense transparent bliss, the communal is then celebrated and claimed, as one big discourse and a democratic exchange, whereby an immaterial, intangible service is provided to the populus, a service that it carries out itself, as a higher specimen of Do-It-Yourself. DIY in the sense that it is the ‘populist body’ itself that produces (by sharing and by publishing) the experience of transparency and communis, which it then digests and consumes.

So in fact, the communal is also what is ‘drawn up’ and offered in this cult, and what disappears into the all-absorbing black hole of hyper-transparency. And so this concerns a service to visibility and openness just as much as to secrecy. The core of the communal and public can thus never be situated purely in the visible and transparent, but is equally present in the hidden and opaque. (In this light, it is understandable that the central focus in the new reality programmes, such as Secret Story, is on keeping a secret, instead of exacting extreme transparency from the participants.)

Thus the contrived search for a point of convergence between Facebook and WikiLeaks as a small thought experiment at any rate results in the realization that, despite their differing ideologies and objectives, the paradigms underlying these two organizations are not essentially different. On the contrary, it is precisely together that they manifest the dominant paradigm to which the demand for transparency belongs in optima forma. They equally well demonstrate together, as counterparts of one another, that the philosophy of transparency and its logistic or performative system not only makes the communal visible but also makes it evaporate and lets it escape.

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

This issue came into being in collaboration with guest editor Eric Kluitenberg, a media theorist, writer and organizer of projects concentrating on culture and technology. In 2010, Kluitenberg organized the ‘ElectroSmog International Festival for Sustainable Immobility’. ElectroSmog arose out of criticism of the ‘growing worldwide mobility crisis’ and began as a ‘search for an alternative lifestyle that is no longer dominated by speed and continuous mobility’. The festival took place in several international cities simultaneously and was streamed live on the Internet. The idea that communications technology can resolve the conflict between ecology and mobility was by no means confirmed during ElectroSmog, but once again problematized, not in the last place by the recognition of different ‘regimes of mobility’ that are active on the local and global levels and affect one another.

Sustainability and ecology is merely one dimension of mobility as a social question. In the light of globalization, the new technology and sociopolitical developments on the local and global levels, it is equally about mobility versus immobility in terms of people, data, capital and products. It is also about mobility privileges and the freedom of movement, or lack thereof, of population groups and individuals, about incessant flows of data, the enticements of capital and free commodity markets.

This issue of Open explores the internal contradictions of prevailing mobility regimes and their effects on social and physical space. Advanced communications technology, rather than revealing itself to be a clean alternative for physical movement from place to place, seems to pave the way for an increase of physical and motorized mobility. The accelerating flows of data and commodities stand in sharp contrast to the elbowroom afforded to the biological body, which in fact is forced to a standstill. And while data, goods and capital have been freed of their territorial restrictions, the opposite is true for a growing portion of the world’s population: border regimes, surveillance and identity control are being intensified at a rapid pace. In short, on the one hand there is a question of an uncurbed and uncontrolled increase of mobility, while on the other, segregating filtrations are taking place.

Kluitenberg explores the contradictory regimes of (im)mobility in his introductory essay and searches for a perspective of intervention. He provisionally arrives at a ‘general economy’ of mobility, whereby the boundless longing for freedom of movement intensifies to the point of a ‘fatal worldwide standstill’. Following the example of Saskia Sassen, he concludes by turning to the local as a context from which effective counterforces can be generated on the global level. From another line of approach, namely the rhizomatics of Deleuze and Guattari, philosopher and jurist Marc Schuilenburg argues for connectivity with the local, introducing a new term in this regard: terroir, a contextualized approach to place and identity in which the emphasis lies on the dynamic relation between objects and people. 

Charlotte Lebbe, architecture researcher, and Florian Schneider, media artist and filmmaker, each address the ambivalence of the present border regimes. Lebbe analyses how the external borders of the Schengen Area are being more and more strictly guarded with the help of new digital techniques, in order to regulate mobility. She sees the rise of a dispositif surveillance, the Ban-opticon. Schneider, seeking a new theory of borders and a different approach to mobility, argues in favour of abandoning the concept of the nation-state and advances the notion of ‘transnationality’. Architecture theorist Wim Nijenhuis presents a ‘dromological’ history of mobility, leading to the topical question of what exile means in today’s ‘exit city’. 

Culture critic Brian Holmes examines the technological and cultural side of the capitalist mobility system: he analyses the intermodal distribution and transportation industry, in particular container shipping and the system of just-in-time production, drawing among other things upon Ursula Biemann’s video work Contained Mobility. Political sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen and architecture researcher Miguel Robles-Durán interviewed the social geographer David Harvey, who theorizes on the spatial effects of capital accumulation.

John Thackara, design critic, reflects upon the limitations of mobility as a challenge for designers, who ought to seek new ways of using space and time. Through a problematization of the mobility of food and its tracking, media theorist Tatiana Goryucheva investigates the preconditions for a democratic design of technology. Architect Nerea Calvillo expounds upon the project In the Air, which focuses on collecting data to visualize invisible elements in the urban atmosphere and aims at being a tool for increasing the awareness and participation of city inhabitants. The contribution by design and research collective Metahaven is about the mobility of money. In Mobile Money, they envisage new forms of money and capital.

Last but not least, in the column, media theorist Joss Hands, whose @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture recently appeared, discusses the mobilizing capacity of social media in the recent events in the Middle East, and how they can trespass on space, time, movement and personal will.

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Boris Groys, Going Public, e-flux journal, Berlin / New York, Sternberg Press, 2010, ISBN 9781934105306, 168 pages

Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

‘Some may have forgotten, but politics still always is imagination, the capacity to dream collectively, to tell stories; politics still always accommodates a form of mythology. If we want to take populism seriously as a political force, we must above all consider it in the light of these aspects. At the same time, we must ask ourselves the difficult question of why our own politics no longer can appeal to the imagination.’ With this provocative statement, guest editor Merijn Oudenampsen sums up the theme of Open 20 in his introductory essay. Sociologist / political scientist Oudenampsen (b. 1979, Amsterdam) conducts research on Dutch populism, and among other things is working on a book on populism and the politics of symbols. He is also the editor of www.flexmens.org, which reports on ‘everything that makes life unpredictable – migration, war, art, crisis, modernity, and the housing market’. Perhaps someone of his generation is precisely the one who should pose this urgent question about politics and the imagination, someone who can go beyond the moral, rational and politically correct standpoints of traditional criticism, and far beyond the protest generation of 1968, in considering and questioning the current populist spectacle.

In the Netherlands, the formation of a new cabinet has been going on for months at the time of this writing, not lastly because of the prominent position that populist Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) have acquired in the formation process. However, this issue of Open is not specifically about populism in the Netherlands, but also about its current manifestations in the USA (the Tea Party) and Italy (Berlusconi and the Lega Nord), and about the success of left-wing populism in Latin America. The contributions steer clear of the often all-too-easy moral evaluations of populist party programmes, or of passing judgments on populist leaders. Populism is not regarded here as a ‘sickness’, as Le Monde recently opined in a piece on the political situation in the Low Lands, but as a manifestation of the need for a politics that is not merely based on ‘public management and a rational assessment of interests’ (Oudenampsen). People have a desire for a new political discourse with room for the imaginary and for appealing stories. Not as a denial or simplification of the complex social reality, but as a recognition of its mythical quality. This irrevocably concerns the failure of modern politics, the emptiness of Western democracy, xenophobia, neoliberalism and the role of the media. But above all, this issue of Open is a plea for a more imaginative politics that emphasizes the importance of new, ‘creative’ ways of thinking.

Thus the American sociologist Stephen Duncombe argues for a dreampolitik. Politics should be the art of the impossible, says Duncombe, and for this we need tools and methods that inspire people to dream themselves, instead of being subject to the dreams of their leaders. He shows how the artists / activists the Yes Men and Steve Lambert organize ‘political acts of imagination’ that simultaneously shake people awake and give them an opportunity to momentarily drift off into a dream world. The Italian theorists Franco Berardi and Marco Jacquemet go into Berlusconi’s media populism and explain his success through a historically determined religious-cultural undercurrent, in which the image is divine. Political scientist Jolle Demmers and writer Sameer S. Mehendale analyse how, in the Netherlands, fantasizing about purity and moralizing over culture and citizenship has interacted with the neoliberal market and the media in giving rise to xenophobia.

Yves Citton, literary theorist, pleads the case for new emancipatory myths as a way out of the capitalist system, seen as crisis and not as being in crisis. Rudi Laermans’ interview with the Argentinean political theorist Ernesto Laclau, author of On Populist Reason (2005) covers Latin American left-wing populism and populism as an inherent dimension of a democratic politics. In the column, British philosopher Nina Power declares that we must again appropriate the concept of ‘popularity’ as a way of countering the depressing populism we currently are witnessing. In a discussion on mythopoesis, the Italian writers’ collective Wu Ming critically assesses its activist role in the demonstrations against the G8 summit and the IMF in Genoa in 2001.

Aukje van Rooden, Dutch philosopher, says that the greatest myth of our contemporary politics is the assumption that it can function without a mythological structure. The rise of populist politicians is accommodated by this faulty myth, according to Van Rooden. Sociologist Willem Schinkel contends that populism should not be considered a threat to democracy. In a time of radical depoliticization, populism is valuable as a mnemonic technique, a reminder of the political, states Schinkel.

In the pictorial / written contribution by the graphic design and research bureau Foundland, graphic design is employed as a way of researching the symbolism and media representation of populism and its leaders. In collaboration with anthropologist Lynda Dematteo, Italian graphic designer Luisa Lorenza Corna analyses the visual strategies of the populist movement Lega Nord.

Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

Privacy is a defensive right that protects a person’s private life. However, the ‘right to be left alone’ is not just a legal but also a political and social construction. Therefore, this is a concept that, although established by law, can be experienced and observed differently by individuals and groups, depending upon their position in society and the desires and interests attendant upon that. For instance, privacy can be an urgent topic for civil rights movements, whereas citizens apparently are less bothered about it. And so more and more government measures can be taken and new technologies applied that conflict with the right of privacy but which are used in a relatively unconcerned way or submitted to with hardly a whisper of protest.

Whether this be an endangered basic right, an obsolete concept of the enlightenment, a lost cause or an activists’ obsession, the traditional notion of privacy has largely been undermined in today’s security and information society. This certainly is the result of a preventive government policy that is out to control the comings and goings of citizens, and a commercial sector that, off-line and online, tries to get more and more of a handle on the individual desires and consumption patterns of customers through its clever registration devices. But there is more going on: people are having less and less qualms about voluntarily revealing personal information in the media and on the Internet. The protection of privacy seems to be subordinate to people’s desire to manifest themselves publically in society. In the globalized network cultures, visibility, transparency, accessibility and connectivity are what count. These values are at odds with the idea of privacy as ‘secluded from the rest’. Does this imply that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ to an increasing extent, as in Huxley’s dystopic Brave New World (1932)? Or, these many years after The Fall of Public Man (Richard Sennett, 1974) are we experiencing ‘the fall of private man’ – from which we could then conclude that the public-private antithesis has lost its force as a signifier of meaning? Are alternative subjectivities and rights emerging that are considered more important in the twenty-first century? Are new strategies and tactics being mobilized to safeguard personal autonomy and to escape forms of institutional biopower?

In Open 19, the concept of privacy is examined and reconsidered from different perspectives: legal, sociological, media theoretical and activist. Rather than deploring the loss of privacy, the main focus is on the attempt, starting from our present position of ‘post-privacy’, to gain an idea of what is on the horizon in terms of new subjectivities and power constructions. Naturally, this cannot be investigated without paying attention to the sociopolitical and technological violations of privacy that are going on at present.

Daniel Solove, law professor, proposes that privacy be considered as a pluralistic concept with a social significance. A theory on privacy should be directed at the very problems that create a need for privacy, according to Solove. Maurizio Lazzarato, taking Foucault’s concept of ‘pastoral power’ as an example, analyses how the state wields power techniques to control the users of social services, and how it intervenes in the lives of individuals in doing so. Sociologist Rudi Laermans goes into the implications of the ideal of transparent communication for secrecy and personal privacy.

In search of effective strategies against the surveillance regime, Armin Medosch, media artist and researcher, has developed a model in which he couples the historical function of privacy in a free democracy with the overall technopolitical dynamics. Felix Stalder examines today’s ‘post-privacy’ situation, in which a change is taking place in how people achieve autonomy, and how institutions and corporations exercise control over them.

In the column, Joris van Hoboken, member of the board at Bits of Freedom, challengingly states: ‘Privacy is dead. Get over it.’ Oliver Leistert uses a post-Fordian framework in criticizing the German protest movement AK-Vorrat, which focuses on issues concerning data retention and privacy from a liberal democratic standpoint. Martijn de Waal considers the concrete possibilities of using locational data from cellular networks for civil society projects and the questions on privacy that this raises. In the light of contemporary computer paradigms like the Internet of Things, Rob van Kranenburg argues in favour of making concepts of privacy operational from the bottom up in the infrastructure of technologies and networks that connect us with one another in our environment.

Mark Shepard has made a contribution on ‘The Sentient City Survival Kit’, his research project in the area of design, which proposes playful and ironic technosocial artefacts that investigate the consequences that the observing, evermore efficiently and excessively coded city has for privacy and autonomy. Matthijs Bouw, architect and director of One Architecture, investigates privatization and privacy in the context of the Internet platform ‘New Map of Tbilisi’. With photos by Gio Sumbadze and Lucas Zoutendijk, he shows how the ‘wild capitalism’ of the new Georgia has led to a reduction of privacy in Tbilisi.

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

With the international credit crisis there is more and more talk of the crumbling of the neoliberal hegemony. Whatever this may mean exactly, in relation to the theory and practice of art and public space this very crumbling also seems to be revealing implications and effects of neoliberalism that were previously suppressed, at least in mainstream discourse. Assuming that neoliberalism, consciously or unconsciously, is more or less internalized in the policy and programmes of art and public space, a crisis of market thinking is also affecting the core of these domains. In other words, if neoliberalism fails economically, socially and politically, what are the symptoms of this within art and public space? And how should we be dealing with this?

Two concepts resonate in this issue of Open – ‘post-Fordism’ and ‘precarity’ – the first being something that can be called a manifestation of neoliberalism and the second an effect. The premise is that post-Fordist society has supplanted the Fordist order: the hierarchical and bureaucratic production system as worked out by Henry Ford and Frederick Taylor is no longer dominant. This system was characterized by the mass production of homogeneous, standardized goods for a mass market. Since the 1970s, however, there has been a shift of emphasis within the organization of labour to the immaterial production of information and services and to continuous flexibility. Both systems reflect different social and economic value systems – the mainstays of post-Fordism are physical and mental mobility, creativity, labour as potential, communication, virtuosity and opportunism – and have their own forms of control

The political philosopher Paolo Virno sees a direct connection between post-Fordism and precarity, which refers to the relationship between temporary and flexible labour arrangements and a ‘precarious’ existence – an everyday life without predictability and security – which is determining the living conditions of ever larger groups in society (part-timers, flex workers, migrant workers, contract workers, black-economy workers, etcetera). This structural discontinuity and permanent fragility also occurs in the ‘creative class’: art, cultural and communication businesses in which there is talk of flexible production and outsourcing of work. Through the agency of European social movements and activists, and philosophers such as Virno, precarity has been a political issue for some years already in countries like Spain, France and Italy.

Brian Holmes writes in this issue about the video series Entre Sueños, in which artist Marcelo Expósito reports on this ‘new social issue’. Merijn Oudenampsen deals very concretely with the response of Dutch cleaners to their precarious situation. Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter contend that the rise of precarity as an object of academic analysis coincides with its decline as a political concept capable of inciting social action. They sound out the power of precarity to bring about new forms of connection, subjectivity and political organization. Gerald Raunig poses the question as to whether the post-industrial addiction to acceleration can create strategies that give new meaning to communication and connectivity.

What can notions like post-Fordism and precarity bring to light when they are related to the current conditions of, and thinking about, urban space and about art and the art world? In the context of the city, the ‘creative city’ thrusts itself forward as a post-Fordist urban model par excellence, whereby creativity and culture are seen as the motor for economic development. The creative city is also an entrepreneurial city in which city marketing and processes of gentrification go hand in hand, and in which social issues are subordinated to the demands of the labour market and the production of value. Matteo Pasquinelli, in particular, directly addresses the role played by the creative scene in making (im)material infrastructures financially profitable and susceptible to speculation. The architect and activist Santiago Cirugeda has made a poster with a selection of urban interventions created in recent years by his office Recetas Urbanas, which are aimed at regaining public space for citizens within the precarity of the urban environment.

Nicolas Bourriaud argues that the essential content of contemporary art’s political programme is not an indictment of the ‘political’ circumstances inherent to current affairs, but should consist in ‘maintaining the world in a precarious situation’. Sonja Lavaert and Pascal Gielen interviewed Paolo Virno in Rome about such matters as aesthetics and social struggle, the disproportion of art and the need to invent institutions for a new public sphere. Gielen describes in another article how the international art scene embodies and indulges the post-Fordist value system, and asks to what extent its informality and ethics of freedom can be exploited and managed biopolitically. From the heart of the art scene Jan Verwoert resists the imperative to perform creatively and socially, and calls for a different ethics, one that all of us should be able to take to heart.

Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

Open is conducting structural research into the current conditions of public space and changing notions of publicness. This implies an experimental and interdisciplinary exposition of the reality, possibilities and limitations of contemporary urban space, notably from sociological, philosophical, political and artistic perspectives. Within the scope of this ‘project in progress’, themes such as safety, memory, visibility, cultural freedom, tolerance, hybrid space, the rise of informal media, art as a public issue, social engineering and precarity have come up. When Open was approached by the independent Amsterdam curator Brigitte van der Sande about working together on an issue of this journal whose contents would tie in with an art event she is organizing, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam, this presented a chance to further these explorations and editorial goals.

2030: War Zone Amsterdam as perceived by Van der Sande will be an exercise in imagining the unimaginable: civil war in Amsterdam in the year 2030. This subject, no matter how absurd it may seem, immediately prickled the imagination of the editors. Extrapolating an extreme situation to a near future, and turning the city of Amsterdam into a concrete case and a projection screen, makes it possible to continue, specify and sharpen Open’s reflection on a number of fundamental and urgent topics. Moreover, the fictitious element presents the contemporary social reality of Amsterdam, which shows little creative development in the debates on some social issues, in a radically different light.

What must be emphasized, however, is that no enemies are named in 2030: War Zone Amsterdam. Rather, it is an intensified impression of an actual urban space in which certain social, historical, co-political, cultural and urban conditions are magnified. Neither do all of the contributions in Open 18 literally refer to Amsterdam. Some essays take a more global approach in analysing significant developments and scenarios of the future with respect to the contemporary city and/or forms of warfare. Using Amsterdam as a test case, this issue of Open ultimately is about questions and problems generally facing Western cities today: fear and safety, privacy and biopolitics, control and militarization, globalization and virtualization, commercialization and neoliberalism.

In the introduction to Open 18, guest editor Brigitte van der Sande explains her motives and the history that is behind 2030: War Zone Amsterdam, and partly also behind this issue, under the motto ‘There is no audience, there are only participants’. The Rotterdam sociologist Willem Schinkel discusses the implications of an urban policy for Amsterdam that employs war rhetoric and marketing strategies. In a fictional contribution, the novelist and philosopher Dirk van Weelden imagines what it is like to live and move about in an Amsterdam at war. The British Frank Furedi, author of Politics of Fear (2005), analyzes the politicization and dramatization of fear. He calls upon Amsterdam to conduct a public discussion in which the participants are not the objects but the subjects of change. John Armitage interviewed the philosopher and urbanist Paul Virilio on the contemporary conditions of the city in relation to the concept of war zone for Open. Virilio speaks of ‘cities beyond the city’ that are anchored in the electromagnetic waves of increasingly faster information and communications technologies. Stephen Graham, whose work on the one hand investigates the relationships between urban locales, mobility, infrastructure and technology, and war, surveillance and geopolitics on the other, is interviewed by Bryan Finoki on his viewpoints. In the column, writer Tom McCarthy rakes up an Amsterdam experience in which Mexico City, Dante’s Inferno and The Fall by Camus converge. Starting from the concept of ‘urbanibalism’, Wietske Maas and Matteo Pasquinelli test the edibility of the city in times of war. Among other things, they search for Amsterdam’s hidden ‘third landscape of food’. In architect and theoretician Eyal Weizman’s adapted article, he uses an interview with two brigadier generals of the Israeli Armed Forces to illustrate the importance of theories derived from figures such as Tschumi, Deleuze and Guattari for recent ways of conducting war. Weizman wonders what the implications of this deadly theory are for the city and its inhabitants.

This issue also includes artists’ contributions by Gert Jan Kocken and the Israeli duo Adi Kaplan & Shahar Carmel. Kocken placed a large number of historical maps of Amsterdam one over the other, with their combined information trying to capture something of the city’s recent war years, which are still interwoven in its present-day structure. His contribution is introduced by the art critic and historian Bianca Stigter, author of, among others, De bezette stad. Plattegrond van Amsterdam 1940-1945. Kaplan & Carmel visited Amsterdam and drew a cartoon speculating on a possible future based on their experiences. Imagine a city – your own city, for instance – in which everything is on edge . . .

Open no. 15, Social Engineering

This Open reflects on old and new forms of social engineering in relation to the urban and social space as well as to (communal) life within it. Is social engineering now a hollow ideal, or does it offer new, urgent perspectives?

Social engineering, in an objective sense, only refers to an analysis of the possibilities of constructing something. In relation to, for instance, sociopolitical reality, a strong faith in social engineering was an element of the utopias and idealized societies of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the course of the last century, however, social engineering also became a more specific, almost self-sufficient concept. As part of the modernist concept and as an expression of an optimistic faith in progress, there emerged, particularly in the Netherlands, an explicit discourse of social engineering1 dealing with societal models to be realized (the welfare state) or forms of citizenship to be stimulated (the emancipated citizen), which were also mirrored by large-scale physical social engineering projects. As part of the modernist projects in the domain of urban design (the Bijlmermeer) and spatial planning (the impoldering of the Zuiderzee, the Delta Plan), social engineering also became a more specific, almost self-sufficient concept. Social engineering became associated with a social-democratically oriented faith in government intervention and with a belief in a nature that could be controlled by man.

Over the last several decades, there as been an apparent abandonment of social engineering and its ideals. Cultural critics such as John Gray attacked the general faith in social engineering and progress as a disastrous regression to the utopias of the Enlightenment, degenerating into a destruction of culture and nature and providing fodder for totalitarian thinking. At the same time, affluent Western countries experienced the bankruptcy of the welfare state, and developments such as privatization, globalization, migration, international terrorism and climate change generated steadily increasing scepticism about the social engineering of the world. In neo-capitalist postmodernity, or as culture philosopher René Boomkens called it, 'the new disorder', social engineering seemed a phantasm.

The question is, however, whether the philosophy of social engineering had really disappeared or whether it is being used by neoliberal philosophy, using the procedures and instruments of the market and corporate management and targeting the individual. The model of the 'creative city', in which creativity and entrepreneurship are implanted in the urban fabric, seems a quintessential product of this 'neo-social engineering'. Other 'neo'- social engineering models might be the network society, the information society, the knowledge society, and of course the security state. Neo-social engineering, after all, seems to tap the logic of the police and the secret services as well: the security state is emerging as the most current and complex societal ideal of the moment, dystopian and disturbing as it may be considered from the standpoint of the old philosophy of social engineering, yet at the same time based on the utopian desire that liberty and security might be compatible – a desire that is also part of the neoconservative ideology of the Americans, which illustrates, as John Gray emphasized, the current right-wing philosophy of social engineering.

And then there is that other current obsession in which a belief in social engineering plays a role, namely 'the citizen': according to the Dutch 'Assimilation Delta Plan', a demonstration of contemporary biopower, legal newcomers from outside the European Union are transformed into national citizens, while the European Commission programme 'Citizens for Europe' wants to turn national citizens into European citizens. And all these citizens have to be 'active' citizens – illegals and refugees excepted.

Philosopher Lieven De Cauter, in his book The Capsular Civilization, emphasizes the impossibility of a non-social engineered society: 'It is not because total social engineering is dangerous that society should not be engineered, albeit relatively engineered. If society were not engineerable, it would be a natural process, or an accidental coincidence, or destiny. No politics can be conducted on this basis, and there is not a single historian who cannot demonstrate that society is engineered, not created, and moreover by a complex process of decisions.' De Cauter indicates that he believes in the countering force of a relative social engineering, thereby touching on current discussions about urban politics and social systems, in which theorists and designers are again asking whether social engineering is not a requirement of the human longing for organizational forms and intervention that vouchsafe a pleasant communal life. In its contribution, BAVO rightly asks to what extent relative social engineering can lead to an actual repoliticization and not remain mired in an ethical appeal without consequence. Are there new, emancipatory forms of a philosophy of social engineering, in which agency is pre-eminent, that might provide a tactical, political or activist response to dominant neoliberal and neoconservative tendencies?

Open no. 13, Informal Media

The media through which news and information are gathered, produced and exchanged have expanded significantly over the last several years. Weblogs, advanced search engines, virtual environments like Second Life, phenomena such as MySpace, Hyves, Flickr and YouTube are offering new tools, communication options, social networks and platforms for public debate. These are micromedia or grassroots media: media that are largely programmed, supplied and broadcast by the user – in contrast to conventional macromedia such as television and the printed press, which are more institutionally determined. And these are ‘informal media’, used outside the formal protocols and authorized precepts of the old mass media, although, of course, various overlaps exist.

The rise of the informal media also implies the rise of the amateur, of the layperson or ‘citizen journalist’ making public pronouncements on all manner of social, cultural and political issues. Andrew Keen, in The Cult of the Amateur (2007), argues that the ascendance of the masses is a threat to the culture of authorities and experts, with mediocrity becoming the norm. He bemoans a lack of ‘gatekeepers’, who can determine the value of news and information on the internet. His critique allows no room for considerations of the emancipating, democratizing or subversive effect of the informal media.

Henry Jenkins, in his Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (2006), is more nuanced about the blurring of boundaries between media producer and media user, between the professional and the amateur – a process he calls ‘cultural convergence’. He emphasizes that this process is born out of the interaction between the commercial media industry and the user, out of negotiations between the consumer and the producer. The result is dynamic and capricious, has no clear outcome and is devoid of any set ideological programme. According to Jenkins, questions about the control of new internet platforms are particularly relevant.

In order not to be entirely lost or carried away in today’s public sphere, in order to be a political, social or cultural player, it seems essential to study the new instruments and platforms that function within that sphere critically. Open 13 features contributions by theorists and artists who reflect on the implications of the informal media for the public programme, conceived as the whole of public principles and requirements. Questions are raised about the conditions of our everyday media practices and about the opportunities for artists who work in a convergence culture.

Open 13 also includes specific attention to the changing position of conventional public media. Media scholar Oliver Marchart wonders how a radically democratic media policy can be conceived within the information society. The public dimension of television culture is also the focus of the special Hot Spot section compiled by Geert van de Wetering. Hot Spot, an initiative of the Dutch broadcasting organization VPRO, wants to investigate the implications and possibilities of the shifts in media production, distribution and consumption. How might programme makers benefit from an audience that participates in conceptualization and discussion?

Media philosopher Martijn de Waal assesses the democratic quotient of processes of valorization and systems of collective intelligence within the public sphere of Web 2.0. Internet critic Geert Lovink delves specifically on the expanding ‘blog­osphere’. He sees blogging as a nihilist enterprise that undermines traditional mass media without stepping forward as an alternative. Henry Jenkins’ ‘Nine Propositions Towards a Cultural Theory of YouTube’ are included in the column. Media theorist Richard Grusin looks at the commotion around the Abu Ghraib photographs in light of our everyday media practices. Art theorist Willem van Weelden interviews web epistemologist Richard Rogers on the politics of information and the web as a discrete knowledge culture. Web sociologist Albert Benschop compares the 3D structure of Second Life with the old, ‘flat’ web in relation to such aspects as methods of communication and the creation of power. DogTime students Arjan van Amsterdam and Sander Veenhof made a visual contribution. Artist and media researcher David Garcia sees, precisely within a commercial service industry in which media are omnipresent, opportunities for artists to contribute critical services and effective tools.

Artist Florian Göttke created a visual contribution derived from his project Toppled, an archive of news and amateur photographs taken from the internet, documenting the toppling of the statues of Saddam Hussein. I have written a text about iconoclasm and iconolatry and the potential of Toppled as a shadow archive. Felix Janssens and Kirsten Algera, of the design and communications agency Team TCHM and the makers of PRaudioGuide, produced the contribution Hollow Model, a number of templates with text in which they interrogate ‘the public of the public’ and the role that media and media use play in this. Is the public made hollow if it exists only in the media?

Open no. 13, Informal Media
Florian Göttke collected hundreds of press and amateur photographs of the toppling of statues of Saddam Hussein from the internet. He used this digital archive to create the iconographic project Toppled, as well as a special contribution to this issue of Open.1  Toppled raises urgent questions about contemporary forms of iconoclasm and iconolatry, about the aesthetic and political effect of images in the contemporary public domain and about the potential of subversive shadow archives.
Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

Recent years have seen a politicization of the ‘common’ in the public domain. This intensification of the debate stems from a growing number of conflicts between public and private with respect to the ownership and control of knowledge and culture. ‘Freedom of culture’ has become a pressing issue with both legal and ethical ramifications: it concerns the extent to which culture and knowledge can be freely distributed, exchanged or appropriated, and the guarantee of places where the ‘commons’ can manifest themselves and be discussed.

The expansion of restrictive legislation relating to copyright and intellectual property, as well as the increasingly inaccessible technical architecture of the Internet, the source codes, are jointly responsible for the rise of movements or initiatives such as Free Software, Open Source, Libre Commons, Copyleft, Free Culture and Creative Commons, projects which differ widely with regard to politics, philosophy and chosen strategy, but which all interpret ‘free’ as ‘free as in free speech, not free beer’. The activists in particular are concerned not merely with fighting copyrights or creating alternative licences and free spaces, but with realizing a social vision. Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, for example, argue in their writings about power and the masses in an era of globalization, for an ‘an open-source society, that is, a society whose source code is revealed so that we can all work collaboratively to solve its bugs and create new, better social programmes’.

Concepts like originality, authorship and ownership were already being explored in art and philosophy in the 1970s and ’80s, at which time ‘appropriation’ became an explicit figure of speech. Compared with the massive scale on which culture is being appropriated and exchanged today, due in no small part to digitization, this now looks more like a symbolic, intellectual and elitist affair, more like an artistic project than a social strategy. But the flip side of today’s ‘free culture’ is a growing measure of regulation and control in which some people discern the contours of a ‘permission culture’. At the same time, there is a growing tendency to outsource elements of public culture to private parties (patrons, corporations and the like) who are then able to co-determine what will be released or made publicly accessible and what not.

Open 12 examines the consequences of these developments for the ‘free’ realization and exchange of culture, the dynamism of art and the balance of power in the public domain and urban space. It looks at new restrictions but also at new possibilities. The emphasis is on questions surrounding the privatization of intellectual property on the one hand, and on public space as creative practice on the other.

Stephen Wright ponders what the growing privatization of knowledge means for art as a form of knowledge. Brian Holmes also looks at the privatization of knowledge, but in relation to the collective, technologically determined space in which language and communication acquire meaning. McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto and Gamer Theory, describes the adventure of publishing his books in light of his own theory. Joost Smiers criticizes the current copyright system and leading alternatives like General Public License and Creative Commons. He puts forward an alternative proposal for returning ‘to the commons what has always belonged to it’. Willem van Weelden questions the effectiveness of the activist credo of ‘becoming minor’ in relation to Net criticism of Lawrence Lessig and Creative Commons.

In ‘Artistic Freedom and Globalization’, Pascal Gielen seeks to return art to a role that encourages reflection and argues for the creation of a free zone that would entail accepting globalization in all its complexity. Maxine Kopsa interviews British artist Chris Evans about his project Militant Bourgeois: An Existential Retreat, which focuses on the area of tension between patronage (in particular the increasingly criticized Dutch system of government grants) and the contemporary production of art. In his column, Arjen Mulder states that ‘an artist doesn’t live on in his oeuvre, but in his fakes’.

Architect Dennis Kaspori collaborated with Jeanne van Heeswijk on a supplement entitled ‘Guest ≠ Welcome’ in which they react to the discourse of segregation in urban space with new models for care and hospitality aimed at developing a better understanding of the fragile situation in which the residents of the so-called Zones Urbaines Sensibles find themselves, and at devising more inclusive forms of urbanity. They invited a number of international firms and initiatives to present a vision based on their own practice.

Swop Network’s contribution, ‘Give Away in Circulation’, challenges the notion of intellectual property, while artist Oliver Ressler gives a special presentation of his project Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies.

Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

For a long time, the public sphere as a space in which rational debates are conducted, free of prescriptive forces, and public space as a common world were guiding concepts in the discourse on publicness defined by such thinkers as Jürgen Habermas and Hannah Arendt. These enlightened forms of ‘civilized publicness’ seem far removed from either the theory or the practice of the present day. Neoliberal forces, such as privatization and commercialization, are torpedoing the idealized modern concepts of the public sphere, which is being increasingly defined, in terms of a practical project, by acute expectations concerning security and threat. At the same time, public space is being claimed by groups and audiences such as illegal aliens, refugees and migrants, who are not accounted for, or only minimally, in official policy dealing with this space. 

Indeed, current thinking about the public sphere and publicness is no longer based on models of harmony in which consensus predominates. Repeated references are made to Jacques Ranci¯re or Chantal Mouffe, who emphasize the political dimension of public space and its fragmentation into different spaces, audiences and spheres and in whose view forms of conflict, dissensus, differences of opinion or ‘agonism’ are in fact constructive and do justice to many. This means public space has once more become an urgent topic in the debate on liberal democracy, a debate which, supported by radical-leftist philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben or Alain Badiou, is increasingly focusing on the relationship between politics and life, in which ‘the political’ often runs counter to politics itself. 

In the wake of these developments, the artistic space of art and its institutions is also repeatedly considered as a social or even political space, as a public issue. The aesthetic and the political are played off against each other, and new questions are being formulated about autonomy and serviceability. This issue of Open examines how art and its institutions are reinventing, reformulating or re-legitimizing their public dimension and involvement. A neutral position, after all, seems at the very least naïve here: both art and art institutions still manifest themselves at the sufferance of the public, the audience. They cannot avoid re-examining what is public (or not) and why, who the audience is and how they want to relate to it. Do they dare become part of ‘the political’, or do they let themselves become instruments of market players and party politics? 

Chantal Mouffe postulates her ‘agonist’ model of space and the role she sees for the artist within it. Nina Möntmann outlines how small art institutions can play the role of the ‘wild child’ and adopt a meaningful (counter)position in public space. Simon Sheikh observes that the erosion of the nation-state has produced a post-public situation, in which the public sphere or ‘the public’ can no longer be precisely localized. 

The controversy sparked in Germany by Gerhard Richter’s stained-glass windows for Cologne Cathedral inspires Sven Lütticken to reflect on the cathedral, the museum and the mosque as public space. Sjoerd van Tuinen argues for a Sloterdijk-esque perspective on the public sphere, in which the intimate is taken seriously and art actualizes concrete forms of ‘conviviality’. Artists Bik Van der Pol have produced a contribution about a spot in the Park of Friendship in Belgrade that was once the planned site of the Museum of Revolution.

Jan Verwoert rejects the idea that artists and exhibition makers should be required to identify their audience. To him, this reeks of an economic legitimization of culture, and he sees anonymity, on the contrary, as a pre-requisite to meaningful encounters in the cultural domain. In its column, 16Beaver denounces the reduction of the world, of art and of its institutions to numbers, because ‘the stakes are immeasurable’. BAVO calls on artists to link radical artistic activism with radical political activism. 

As curator of the Dutch pavilion at the last Venice Biennale, Maria Hlavajova, artistic director of BAK in Utrecht, worked with Aernout Mik, who produced the video installation Citizens and Subjects. This led her to consider the relationship between art and society, as well as such concepts as community and nationalism. Florian Waldvogel questions Kasper König about his experiences with ‘Skulptur Projekte Münster’, which König organized from 1977 to 2007, and in the process outlines the evolution of the relationship between art, public space and the urban environment. Max Bruinsma spoke with Jeroen Boomgaard, professor of Art in the Public Space at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, and Tom van Gestel, artistic director of SKOR, about the role of art in a public space where public-private partnerships dominate and where public interests are mixed with economic and managerial interests.

Open no. 14, General

Camiel van Winkel De mythe van het kunstenaarschap, Fonds BKVB, Amsterdam, 2007, isbn 9789076936192, 96 pages

Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

The philosopher Hannah Arendt defined public space as a place where people act to create a ‘communal world full of differences’. But where does this space manifest itself today, that generally accessible domain where people meet one another and create public opinion and hence a form of political practice? In physical places like streets, squares and parks? In mass media such as newspapers and television? Or on the Internet, in chat rooms and newsgroups? Publicness is increasingly enacted in all these places simultaneously and in that sense has become supremely ‘hybrid’ in nature: a complex of concrete and virtual qualities, of static and mobile domains, of public and private spheres, of global and local interests.

The configuration of hybrid space is currently experiencing a powerful impetus thanks to wireless and mobile technologies like GSM, GPS, Wi-Fi and RFID, which are making not only the physical and the virtual but also the private and the public run into each other more and more. And although we apparently deal with this flexibly in our daily lives, what is often left aside in debates on environmental planning or on social cohesion, or in cultural analyses, is the fact that the use of these wireless media is changing the constitution of public space. They can be deployed as new mechanisms of control, but also as alternative tools for enlarging and intensifying public activities – whether it’s a matter of parties, events or meetings, or of campaigns, riots and demonstrations. Wireless media make a ‘mobilization’ of public space possible, both literally and figuratively, so that it is no longer static and can be deployed by individuals or groups in new ways. Open 11 deals specifically with the implications that these mobile media have for public activities, and hence with the public dimensions of hybrid space. The issue has been produced in collaboration with guest editor Eric Kluitenberg, theorist, writer and organizer in the field of culture and technology. In his introductory essay he asks himself how a critical position is possible in a hybrid space that is characterized by invisible information technology. Together with Howard Rheingold, author of the renowned book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (2002), Kluitenberg has also written a polemical piece about the right and the ability to ‘disconnect’, that is to say, about not being connected with the ‘network of waves’ as a form of acting.

New wireless, mobile media and hybrid space are being used experimentally and reflected upon on a small scale by a select company of artists, designers, architects and urban designers. In her essay for Open, the sociologist and economist Saskia Sassen looks at ways that artistic practices can ‘create’ a type of public space within globalized network cities that can make visible the local and the silenced.

On the basis of their projects for the Ruhr region in Germany, architects Frans Vogelaar and Elisabeth Sikiaridi provide an account in Soft Urbanism of how urbanism and architecture can be combined with information and communication networks. The researchers of the design project Logo Parc critically analyse the ‘post-public’, hybrid South Axis area of Amsterdam and make proposals for experimental design strategies.

Assia Kraan writes about how ‘locative arts’ – art that makes use of location- and time-conscious media like GPS – can stimulate public acting in urban spaces. The Droombeek locative media project is discussed separately by Arie Altena. Max Bruinsma analyses OptionalTime by Susann Lekås and Joes Koppers. Klaas Kuitenbrouwer looks at the cultural and social possibilities of RFID. The artists / designers Kristina Andersen and Joanna Berzowska discuss the social possibilities of wearable technology in clothing.

Noortje Marres’s column reflects on the public’s (in)ability to act and the role the media plays in this. The German researcher Marion Hamm reports on the Critical Mass bicycle tour in London in 2005, a political demonstration against neoliberal globalization, which was experienced and prepared as much on the Internet, particularly by Indymedia, as in physical space.

The interview by Koen Brams and Dirk Pültau with the Flemish television maker Jef Cornelis is part of a larger research project at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht about his work and also provides the theme of Open 11 with a historical dimension. The conversation deals with the conditions of TV as a public medium and the changes in urban public space that Cornelis drew attention to in his early films such as Mens en Agglomeratie (1966) and De Straat (1972).

This issue of Open includes the CD-Rom Amsterdam REALTIME. Dagboek in sporen / Diary in Traces, a GPS project by the artist Esther Polak in collaboration with Jeroen Kee and the Waag Society. Made in 2002, it deals with mobility and space and has in the meantime become a classic point of reference within ‘locative arts’.

On the invitation of Open, the design and art collective De Geuzen has contributed Mobiel Werk, which is partly concealed in the cover.

Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

No discourse seems more hollow at the present moment than that about tolerance and freedom of expression: in Western culture, and not least the Dutch, enlightened ideas are scarcely capable any longer of generating meanings that apply and appeal to all of us. Through all political groupings, controversies great and small are wreaking havoc on democracy’s traditional consensus model and cutting across the public domain. The formal and informal codes, rules, agreements and symbols that determine our freedoms and rights within that domain have ceased to function effectively. One would be tempted to call some of the results cartoonish, were it not for the fact that they have entailed so many real deaths.

Leaving cynicism and nihilism behind, the politico-philosophical concept of the public sphere needs to be articulated anew. The desire for this is projected not just onto politics, but also onto art as the most obvious domain of freedom of expression and symbol formation. Architecture and the city also present themselves as projection screens for experimental ideas about the communal, the heterogeneous and the autonomous.

Open 10 brings together analyses, stances and proposals of theoreticians, artists and designers who examine questions concerning contemporary symbolism and freedom of expression, artistic and otherwise, in relation to the Western notion of tolerance and forms of extremism. The failure of consensus thinking and acting finds expression at various levels. It is no accident that the ideas of philosopher Jacques Rancière – author of The Politics of Aesthetic: The Distribution of the Sensible (2004) – concerning the possibilities of a political aesthetic and the perspective of the ‘dissensus’ are cited with increasing frequency in cultural and art theory discourse. Ranci¯re argues that a true democracy should be founded on a productive ‘dissensus’, whereby two worlds are located within one and the same world. The radical nature of this proposition appears more stimulating in the present situation than the whiny and exhausted harmony model.

The ‘dissensus’ possibility does not exclude an appeal to idealism and engagement. In his Atmosphere trilogy, Peter Sloterdijk describes how the macro-atmospheres (‘Globes’), homogeneous spaces where everyone is equal and secure, are ‘frothing away’ to nothing. Modern pluralism and individualism give rise to an infinity of foam bubbles, to micro-atmospheres (‘Bubbles’) that are both connected to and separated from one another. Sloterdijk believes in the positive power of such foam and argues that we must learn to think ‘inside out’ in order to be able to deal with the increasingly blurred distinction between inside and outside.

In the essay ‘Citizens in a Vat of Dye’ Sloterdijk examines the premises for a democratic society and the importance to it of written and representational media. The roots of democracy also feature in Tom McCarthy’s interview with architect Maurice Nio and artist Paul Perry about their Amsterdam 2.0 project, which provides a constitutional framework that allows 400 cities to inhabit the same territory and which is based on a system of ‘radical tolerance’ whereby the citizens of one city are constitutionally prevented from imposing their will on the others.

In their open letter, Lonnie van Brummelen and Siebren de Haan emphasize the importance of a ‘reflective interchange’ between the institutional interior of art and the ‘exterior’ where it is installed. Open also includes textual and visual excerpts from Van Brummelen’s publication The Formal Trajectory which recounts the long application process that preceded her Grossraum film project.

Roemer van Toorn points to aesthetics as politics in the architecture of Wiel Arets and Rem Koolhaas. Jeroen Boomgaard argues for a radical autonomy in the visual arts in order to free them from the disastrous planning processes of the market economy. Lex ter Braak opposes the call for art to design new symbols for the Netherlands. The column by The Buggers deals with repressive tolerance, while Gijs van Oenen reflects on the souring of Dutch tolerance in the new culture of assertion. Apropos of Paul McCarthy’s controversial butt plug gnome sculpture in Rotterdam, Max Bruinsma explores the revenge of the symbols and challenges the artist to step beyond provocation and assume social responsibility. Martijn Engelbregt, known for controversial projects like Regoned and De Dienst, which push democratic instruments to their limits, produced a special contribution for Open. Joke Hermes considers Engelbregt’s work from the perspective of her position as lecturer in Public Opinion Formation. Designer Ben Laloua / Didier Pascal contributed a series of drawings in which she interprets the printed media’s reporting of a number of current events such as the recent revolt in the French suburbs. Jorinde Seijdel wrote about Koolhaas and Google in China in the light of contemporary notions of censorship.

Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

Rem Koolhaas and Google are doing business in China – along with countless others, of course. But the new promised land is still a dictatorship in which the Communist Party exercises censorship on a large scale. Both Koolhaas and Google appear to be supporting and facilitating that censorship with their own particular projects. Censorship, it would seem, is no longer a categorical evil in the post-modern culture, but an integral force.

Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

This extra issue of Open is published in honour of the cahier’s fifth anniversary and has come about in close collaboration with guest editor Pascal Gielen. At the time of the first Brussels Biennial, Gielen organized a programme of lectures and debates in Brussels on 19 October 2008, focussing on the art biennial as a global phenomenon. The programme was put together in cooperation with the Flemish-Dutch House deBuren in Brussels, the Flemish institute for visual, audiovisual and media art (BAM) and Gielen’s own Lectorate in Arts in Society at the Fontys College for the Arts. The debates looked at the boom in international art biennials – at the moment there are hundreds of biennials active all over the world. They also considered how the art biennial, which was originally an instrument within a politics of nation-states, is increasingly deployed for developing and marketing cities and regions. In order to compensate for this, biennials often put political issues onto their artistic agenda. The recurring question is Brussels was: can biennials really represent an alternative political voice in these neo-political times?

The philosophers Chantal Mouffe, Michael Hardt and Boris Groys and the curators Molly Nesbit, Charles Esche and Maria Hlavajova talked about the biennial as model, concept and instrument, and about the geopolitical, sociocultural and economic space in which it manifests itself. Some of the lectures formed the basis for this special edition of Open which this time is appearing without its regular features. Supplemented with an introductory essay by Pascal Gielen, new essays by Brian Holmes, Irit Rogoff and Simon Sheikh and with the republication of an exemplary text by Thierry De Duve, a ‘reader’ has been created in which the art biennial as a global phenomenon is analysed and approached not only in terms of an art theoretical discourse or curatorial practice, but also on the basis of more sociological and political-philosophical discourses. Some essays deal directly with the biennial, while other essays, such as those of Hardt and Mouffe, reveal different conditions and relationships within the social and political reality that the biennial is part of, putting forward proposals and posing questions that could be addressed by art and its scene. The result of the reflections and propositions in Open 16 is by no means unequivocal, but all the ‘strategies in neo-political times’ that are articulated express the urgency of not taking the biennial as a global phenomenon for granted. There are also signs of a shared awareness that it cannot be regarded separately from the logic of neoliberal markets.

In the context of Open as a series of anthologies in which the changing conditions of the public domain are examined from a cultural perspective, the subject of the biennial represents a possibility to look at the way in which this phenomenon and its legitimizing discourses relate to ideas about the city and urban politics, to new notions of publicness and to the implications of processes such as globalization and mediatization. The editors of Open are grateful to Pascal Gielen for his generous commitment as guest editor. Our great thanks are also extended to the co-producers of Open 16: Dorian van der Brempt, director of deBuren; Dirk de Wit at BAM; and Fontys College of Fine and Performing Arts. Last but not least, we are grateful to SKOR for allowing us the editorial freedom to develop Open as a series.

Open no. 9, Sound

Open 9 examines the role of sound in the public domain. After all, public space is manifest not only visually, but also, and to a considerable extent, acoustically: its public nature hinges on visibility as well as on audibility. All the same, the accent in cultural or social analyses of the public space still often rests on the visual. Despite sound’s ubiquity and inescapability, it is usually regarded as being merely illustrative, a minor consideration or nuisance. Marshall McLuhan took a critical stance on the dominance of ‘visual space’ as the ‘linear, quantitative mode of perception that is characteristic of the Western world’. In his view, however, this traditional space was being superseded by the ‘global village’, constituted by the electronic media, which he likened to ‘acoustic space’, a mythical, tactile, organic and integral space that is characterized by solidarity.

Though this now seems largely utopian, it is clear that technology and new media amplify the auditory space, or add an extra dimension that has aesthetic, ethical and political implications. For this reason alone, involving the role of sound in reflections on public space and in its design is as necessary as taking the visual into account. In recent years there seems to have been an increasing sensitization for the auditory aspects of everyday life and the public domain. Within ‘cultural studies’, ‘sound studies’ has emerged as a serious area of research that focuses on the history of audio media, on reflection about the nature of sound and listening or on the role of sound in modern experience and perception. In the visual arts, research is focused on the potency of sound as an aesthetic, meaningful or communicative element in relation to social or spatial environments. The medium of radio, which has proven itself capable of embracing digital culture, seems to be undergoing a veritable cultural revival, and is also being extensively explored artistically.

In Open 9 there are essays about the way in which sound and audio media play a role in urban public environments, and how they can propagate publicness or indeed sabotage it. Jonathan Sterne, whose published work includes The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (2002), underscores how ‘acoustic design’ or ‘sonic architecture’ can be deployed as a tactical instrument in the politics and design of urban culture in order to manage spaces. In their ‘pop analysis of the urbanization process’, Alex de Jong and Marc Schuilenburg were inspired by Peter Sloterdijk’s ‘spheres’ concept. Using techno, the architecture of Archigram and ‘Urban’ youth culture as examples, they argue that spheres lead to a shared urban experience. Within the specific context of the city, Caroline Bassett examines the qualities of the auditory space created by mobile telephony, which make possible a new, mobile subjectivity. In the literary essay ‘The Multiplication of the Street’, Dirk van Weelden writes about the changing relations between radio and publicness based on his fascination for the physical aspect of listening to radio. In the column ‘Listen and Learn’, Siebe Thissen calls into question the protection of copyright by the music industry with respect to ‘audio bloggers’ on the Internet.

Open 9 also features a range of international artists from different generations. They explore the possibilities and conditions for sound and public space in their work, as well as the limitations. Based on an interview, Brigitte van der Sande discusses the work of Moniek Toebosch, a performance and audio artist in whose work sound has played a critical role from the very start. Ulrich Loock analyses Max Neuhaus’s sound artwork Times Square, which was installed invisibly on Broadway in New York City in 1977. Artist Mark Bain discusses his critical intercourse with sound and space in a text about repressive and subversive sonic techniques. For a performance at the Kalvertoren shopping centre in Amsterdam, the German collective LIGNA wrote an evocative ‘monologue for a broadcaster’s voice’ about the future of radio art. Jeanne van Heeswijk and Amy Plant designed a new sound medium, the Vibe Detector, as a means to gain an understanding of urban transformation processes. The device was tested in a neighbourhood in London. A series of logbook fragments that sprang from this, as well as documentary photos, illustrate how ‘fleeting layers of sound’ can reveal what is happening in a specific area.

As a supplement to Open 9 there is an mp3 disc that includes work by Toebosch, Bain and LIGNA. Besides the audio version of the above-mentioned monologue by LIGNA, Dial the Signals! , a radio concert for 144 mobile telephones, is also included. The disc also includes a special compilation of radio programmes that were made in autumn 2005 and broadcast during Radiodays, a project by participants in the 10th Curatorial Training Programme at De Appel in Amsterdam. One of the curators, Huib Haye van der Werf, made an audio selection including interviews with Hans Ulrich Obrist and Suchan Kinoshita along with programmes by Raul Keller, Guy van Belle and James Beckett for Open 9.

Read and listen!

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

The dynamic of contemporary culture is dominated by the diktat of visibility. The degree of visibility of social, political, economic and cultural events, of things and people, in public imagery, is considered a prime indicator of a society’s democratic credentials and of the quality of the public domain. Visibility is associated with openness and communication, and is taken as prima facie evidence of the orderliness of society and its political makeup. Invisibility is in this logic the uncontrolled, the repellent or the repressed; but it is also that which still awaits disclosure. From this viewpoint, the reality of the invisible plays no explicit part in the sociocultural and political debate, but the longing to reveal is all the stronger – to the point of explosiveness.

Within the regime of visibility, the visual media generate an incessant stream of images while members of the public are also constantly visualizing their experiences. However, this plethora of images does not confirm the success of the ideology of visibility; on the contrary, it exposes the decline of that ideology. There is a growing scepticism towards images, manifesting itself as public doubts about their authenticity and evidential status. These doubts can apparently only be countered by yet more images, without a point of satisfaction ever being reached.

In this baffling situation, any visual message or social agenda is out of the question. What position does art take in this situation? What contribution can artists, designers and architects make, with all their commitment and legitimizations, in this ‘lost’ public domain? And what specific developments in today’s visual culture are relevant here? Open 8 explores these questions with the help of a guest editorial panel consisting of Jan van Grunsven, artist, and Willem van Weelden, artist and researcher/commentator in the domain of new media. Both are directly and explicitly occupied with issues relating to public space and the public domain, and both support taking a critical, defiant attitude in practice. In the introduction, ‘Viewing: Seeing: Looking Away’ the guest editors expand their views on the problems of visibility and invisibility.

In a condensed version of Chapter 1 of his new book The Regime of Visibility, to be published this autumn, Camiel van Winkel offers examples from fashion, art and design to demonstrate that today’s culture suffers not so much from an excess of images as a deficit. This is followed by a visual contribution from Pascale Gatzen, a designer operating on the borderline of fashion on art whose work places a critical accent on the treatment of fashion in photography. In his essay ‘The Post-Monumental Image’, Jouke Kleerebezem argues for strategies in this mediatized, computerized culture that will lead to ‘enduring visibility’. In ‘Transparency & Exodus’, the British culture critic and activist Brian Holmes explains how experimental art has stamped its signature on contemporary social protest movements. In ‘Wild Images’, I myself describe the increasing influence of amateur images on news and opinion. In ‘Empire and Design’, the Belgian philosopher Dieter Lesage contends that the stress placed by architects, artists and designers on the visual identity of territories is actually a concession to a postpolitical situation; he strives for a form of resistance that avoids this pitfall. Henk Oosterling, in ‘The Public Existence of Homo Informans’, reflects on events surrounding the American artist Steve Kurtz of the Critical Art Ensemble, who was arrested on suspicion of wire and mailfraud. The architectural theorist Wouter Davids contributes a column on a work of art by Santiago Sierra made for Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens in Deurle, Belgium.

Further, Open 8 reports on a discussion conducted by Jan van Grunsven and Willem van Weelden with Arno van der Mark from the multidisciplinary design group DRFTWD Office Associates about a design attitude in which visibility and autonomy are secondary. Willem van Weelden interviewed the French conceptualist group Bureau d’Études, that produces maps intended to make ‘the organization of capitalism’ visible; one such map, titled The System, is included as an insert in Open 8. This issue of Open also documents a private discussion on the present-day legitimization of art school courses for art in public space, starting from the assumption that the Netherlands lacks a politically engaged practice or tradition regarding public space art; the participants were Jeanne van Heeswijk, Henk Slager, Jouke Kleerebezem and Jan van Grunsven, Henk Oosterling took the chair.

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

There is nothing new in camera images shot by amateurs being able to play a role as evidence and as a visual resource in the reporting and interpretation of significant events – witness the Zapruder film of the assassination of J.F. Kennedy or the Rodney King video tape. Now, however, digital media and the Internet seem to make an increasing intrusion of amateur images in the professional media inevitable. What is the status of these ‘wild’ images in the public domain? Do they reveal the new blind spots of the official news media? Or do they primarily demonstrate a public desire for images that almost eradicate the distance from events?

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

The subtitle of the new Open reads, ‘cahier on art and the ­public domain’. A cahier on art and the public domain is not ­necessarily or exclusively about art in public space. The physical interpretation often associated with ‘art in public space’ is often too limited. In the new Open public space is seen as a component of the larger arena of public opinion-making and public life, an arena that can take multiple forms. Within this Open sees art not as an isolated phenomenon, but as a participant bearing joint responsibility, as well as in relation to other signification disciplines and developments. This does not imply that Open is an interdisciplinary cahier, but it does imply that it includes room for themes, visions and viewpoints that sometimes criss-cross these various areas. Something like this seems urgent in a time when all notions of publicness are being reappraised.

From this perspective Open 7 explores the current status of memory within art and the public domain. Public and collective forms of remembrance are definitely not static or neutral, but rather subject to socio-cultural, historical, political and technological forces, which continually redefine their conditions and ­limits and continually reconfigure memory. The current culture seems equally dominated by safe-keeping and remembering as by discarding and forgetting. Cultural heritage is a topic of interest, as is the search for workable memorials and contemporary monuments. Technology guarantees unlimited storage space for information and data. But at the same time the media and ­consumer culture contribute to a ‘memorylessness’ and transience that make it seem as though ­everything were beginning all over again.

The present pluriform and post-ideological public domain is not shored up by one single binding collective memory, but by countless material and immaterial memories. These short and long-term memories oppose or overlap one another. The current organization and experience of the public domain is defined in part by the tension that exists between individual and collective, between old and new, between autochthonous and allochthonous memories. Within the public domain, memory (its content, control or place) has an impact on the way in which we view each other, ourselves, our past and our future. He who controls the memories and archives of a society controls time and space. It is precisely for this reason that keeping them accessible and sharing them is something that concerns everyone.

How can active use be made of the information and the memories stored in the current ‘memory places’? What is the role of art in this? Is such a thing as ­collective remembrance still ­possible? How can the cultural heritage be made accessible ­without turning city and country into one big open-air museum? And what are the implications of new media and digital storage techno­logies for the social and historical process of safe-keeping and remembering?

In Open 7 Rudi Laermans analyses the current ‘heritage regime’, while Frank van Vree examines the political significance of the ­contemporary monument. Cor Wagenaar argues for the use of time as an instrument in the Belvedere policy, in which the cultural history serves as a source of inspiration in the spatial planning of the Netherlands. The German media ­theorist Wolfgang Ernst demonstrates how the archive, in a ­digital culture, literally becomes metaphor. Jorinde Seijdel subjects Bill Gates’s image archive to closer inspection, while Sven Lütticken writes on the ‘conspiracy of publicness’ at work in the mass media. Geert Lovink interviewed artist and archivist Tjebbe van Tijen about his project Unbombing the World 1911–2011, which aims to document air ­bombardments all over the world.

This Open includes a separate supplement, designed by Lonnie van Brummelen, with a text on identity and local memory, entitled ‘Wij’ (‘We’), by artist Arnoud Holleman, written for the Proeftuin Twente. In addition Open 7 includes ­shorter texts taken directly from actual practice or linked to (art) projects, and the books section has been expanded. There is a story by the photographer and writer Hans Aarsman, and the ­column on art as public space was written by philosopher Henk Oosterling. Nico Bick photographed several archives for Open, inclu­ding the Amsterdam Municipal Archives and the National Archives in The Hague. This issue also includes a letter by Barbara ­Visser, written under the aegis of Sternet, the network of twelve distribution buildings of the ­former PTT designated as ‘recent urban heritage’. Artists Joke Robaard and Nico Dockx produced contributions for Open based on their own preoccupations with the archive.

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Corbis Corporation, a private company owned by Bill Gates, owns the electronic reproduction rights to more than 80 million images, of which a portion are made ­available for ­purchase via www. corbis.com. Corbis also owns a large number of photo archives. In 2001 the company stored ­millions of original ­photographs, negatives, prints, and slides in Iron Mountain, a hermetically sealed, underground storage facility in Pennsylvania. Its ‘cold storage’ stops the chemical deterioration of the images. Is Gates the saviour of the visual memory of the modern era, or a megalomaniac claiming a monopoly over this memory in an unprecedented way? What is the nature of his archive, and what are the implications for art and culture?

Open no. 6, (In)Security

This is the first issue of Open to come out in cahier form and to be published by NAi Publishers. The new Open, redesigned by Thomas Buxó, is published twice a year in a Dutch-language as well as an English-language edition. The cahiers are thematically arranged, with art and public space as starting points – not as an isolated phenomenon, however, but as a component of the cultural and social developments that define the dynamics of the current public domain, and in relation to relevant areas such as architecture/urban planning, landscape architecture, spatial planning and digital media. The new Open strives more than in the past to achieve a balance between theory and direct contributions from actual practice. It is intended for all with an interest in the function and organization of the public space and/or the role of art within it.

Open 6 is devoted to art, public space and security. Within today’s public domain, the call for more protection, supervision and care dominates on all fronts. The in­dividual and the community are demanding maximum security for the public space and for themselves, and ever more control over the other. There seems to be a veritable obsession with security. A fearful culture is being postulated, in which, however, little is clear about the nature or the provenance of the threat. Is there really danger out there, socially, politically or economically speaking, or is the new fear coming out of a collective sense of being powerless to exert any influence on everyday reality, for instance? Are there perhaps so many new struc­tures and associations emerging in the pluriform, multicultural and global network communities as to engender a universal perception of being uprooted and alienated, with all the feelings of unease that this entails? Has the gap between citizens and government perhaps grown too wide as well? Or have the media, with their over-exposure of danger and their barrage of shocking images, become the primary authors of our fear?

The issue of security seems to consist of a steadily condensing constellation of disparate as well as related socio-cultural, political and economic factors, which is increasingly coming to dominate the culture. At all events, it is questionable whether the solution lies in the implementation of a society of control, or in a capsular society in which everything and everyone is suspect and we move from one protected enclave to the other: the rhetoric of security is not far removed from the rhetoric of danger. In any case, thorough and critical analyses of the current propositions on security seem to be in order. For the implications of thinking in terms of security for the public domain, for its organization, experience and use, are considerable. Neither the perception of nor the relationship to the public as audience and the public as sphere, in the role they play in the theory and practice of art and public space, can remain untouched.

Open 6 examines what lies at the root of the public yearning for security, of the cumulation of fear, and what new questions are being asked of and by artists, designers, theorists, clients and policy makers. Theoretical considerations and scenarios from art, architecture, philosophy and politics are reviewed, in an attempt to uncover something of the current security paradigm, or to propose alternative (conceptual) models.

Legal philosopher Gijs van Oenen analyses the transformation of the public sphere into ‘the new secur­ityscape’, and art historian and philosopher Lieven De Cauter develops an initial ‘short archae­ology of the new fear’. Art critic Sven Lütticken considers fictitious and genuine models of the enclosed space in philosophy, art, architecture and media, while the essay by art and culture theorist Thomas Y. Levin examines how artists working in the public space relate to the panoptic surveillance society. In the articles by architecture theorists Harm Tilman and Mark Wigley, security and architecture take centre stage – in the former primarily in a Dutch context and in the latter in direct connection with the World Trade Center buildings in New York. There is also an autonomous visual contribution by artist/photographer Sean Snyder in the context of his Temporary Occupation project.

This Open also includes a pole­m­ical column by Hans Boutellier, author of De Veiligheidsutopie, offering a personal view from his specific expertise on the possibility of art torpedoing the vacuous order of the Security Utopia. In addition there are contributions more directly connected to concrete events, places or (art) projects, providing insight into the current aesthetics and ethics of security. Open 6 also includes the debut of a book section, which will be expanded in the following issue with more reviews and reports.

Jorinde Seijdel is an independent writer, editor and lecturer on subjects concerning art and media in our changing society and the public sphere. She is editor-in-chief of Open! Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain (formerly known as Open. Cahier on Art & the Public Domain). In 2010 she published De waarde van de amateur [The Value of the Amateur] (Fonds BKVB, Amsterdam), about the rise of the amateur in digital culture and the notion of amateurism in contemporary art and culture. Currently, she is theory mentor at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy and head of the Studium Generale Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. With Open! she is a partner of the Dutch Art Institute MA Art Praxis in Arnhem.

Last publication date: 2017-09-14.
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

According to Daniel Solove, professor of law at Washington University Law School, we need to reconsider the concept of privacy. He appeals for a more pluralistic reading of the concept, to facilitate the recognition of problems pertaining to privacy. In his most recent publication Understanding Privacy,1  he has developed a framework for this. In the following article he discusses the ideas unfolded in the book.

Daniel J. Solove is a professor of law at George Washington University Law School. In 2008 he published Understanding Privacy; see: www.understanding-privacy.com. Solove is also the author of The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor and Privacy on the Internet (2007).

Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

Media artist, writer and curator Armin Medosch researches the development in the meaning of the term ‘freedom’ and the idea of privacy that goes with it. The solution to the current crisis concerning privacy stretches beyond finding a new balance between private and public. According to Medosch, the solutions should be sought in the realm of the digital commons, where freedom is not seen as something to achieve on one’s own by accumulating possessions, but as something that is created by sharing knowledge.

Open no. 14, General

Imaginal Machines: Autonomy & Self-Organization in the Revolutions of Everyday Life, Minor Compositions / Autonomedia 2009, ISBN 9781570272080 

Armin Medosch is a researcher in digital arts and network culture, based in London and Vienna. His latest projects include the exhibition Waves and the collaborative research platform Thenextlayer (www.thenextlayer.org).

Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
Art Discourse

While the current historical situation demands urgently a redefinition of authorship, the art world offers very little in terms of critique or alternative practice.

Open no. 22, Transparency

Media theorist Felix Stalder describes the changed agenda of transparency in today’s neoliberal era. That agenda’s regime of measurability and standardization leads people to make forced choices in order not to be isolated or excluded. In order to avoid this, a new form of transparency is necessary, one that is horizontally organized and employs the newest means of communication.

Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

Researcher Felix Stalder analyses the loss of the key role of the concept of privacy. Privacy long secured the balance between the control of institutions and the autonomy of the citizen. Today, with institutions aiming more and more to provide customized services and the autonomy of both citizens and institutions changing, this role is disappearing, making the danger of an increase in control and power a realistic one. To turn the tide, Stalder argues for a greater transparency of the back-end protocols, algorithms and procedures of the new, flexible bureaucracies.

Felix Stalder is a professor of digital culture and network theories at the Zurich University of the Arts and an independent researcher / organizer working with groups such as the Institute for New Cultural Technologies (t0) in Vienna. His research interests include: Free and Open Source Software, Free Culture, emancipatory cultural practices, theories of networks and the network society, of digital culture, of the transformation of space and its practices, as well as theories of subjectivity. His publications are available at www.felix.openflows.com.

Last publication date: 2013-11-02.
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

‘Privacy is dead. Get over it.’1

Joris van Hoboken is a PhD candidate at the Institute for information Law (IViR). His research focuses on search engine regulation and freedom of expression. He is specifically interested in issues relating to Internet media and fundamental rights. Joris is also a member of the board at Bits of Freedom.

Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

The introduction of the data retention policy in the EU, resulting in digital doubles, has led to the emergence of grassroots protests centred on privacy and surveillance issues, especially in Germany. One of these, AK Vorrat, is a network platform that makes intensive use of the Internet and is rooted in the liberal democratic tradition. In the following text, media researcher Oliver Leistert places data retention in a post-Fordist framework and highlights some of the shortcomings of the protest movement.

Oliver Leistert studied philosophy, computer science and German literature. He was a research fellow at the Central European University in Budapest and at Sarai, an institute for new media and urbanity in Delhi. As a member of the DFG Graduiertenkolleg ‘Automatismen’ at University Paderborn, he researches the mobile media practice of social movements and its surveillance. For this research he conducted a series of interviews in cities around the globe.

Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

According to media researcher Martijn de Waal, it is time to rethink our ideas of privacy. The growing use of cellular networks is generating data that plays an important role in civil society projects. To be able to continue using such data in a meaningful and fair way, people must become aware of the fact that privacy is not only a question of either private or public, but includes many gradations in between.

Open no. 13, Informal Media

In this essay, media philosopher Martijn de Waal examines the implications of the rise of Web 2.0 for the public sphere and its democratic content. Who decides what is of value in the new media ecosystem and how do important processes take place?

Martijn de Waal is a writer and researcher. He is part of the New Media, Public Sphere and Urban Culture research project in the Department of Practical Philosophy at the University of Groningen. He is cofounder of TheMobileCity.nl – an international think-tank for new media and urban culture. See further: www.martijndewaal.nl.

Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

To what extent can artists and designers develop instruments that, using the newest digital technology, question how we will live our lives in the (near) future? In search of an answer, the editors of Open asked artist, architect and researcher Mark Shepard to write about his research project The Sentient City Survival Kit.

Mark Shepard is an artist, architect and researcher whose work explores the implications of mobile media and embedded information systems for architecture and urbanism. He is an assistant professor of architecture and media study at the State University of New York in Buffalo.

Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

Someone not to be overlooked in a publication on autonomy is Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, the éminence grise of the Italian Autonomia movement, which reached its peak in the late 1970s; in the last few years, however, the ideas behind it have been making a comeback. Inspired by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, Berardi, alongside figures like Antonio Negri, Mario Tronti and Franco Piperno, was a leader of the revitalization of the left and known as an activist for his free pirate station, Radio Alice. Fleeing the law in his own country – where Negri and others were imprisoned for suspected involvement in the Red Brigades and the death of Aldo Moro – he stayed for years with Guattari in Paris, where he became acquainted with Guattari’s work on schizoanalysis in the La Borde clinic. In the 1990s, he above all focused on the impact of the new media, by developing a media theory based on a fusion of an unorthodox form of neo-Marxism, psychoanalysis and communication theory.

As a teacher, Berardi has a post at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, where he teaches the social history of communication. After the dot-com crash at the beginning of the millennium, the increasing surveillance after 9 / 11 and the uprisings of the alter-globalists, he wrote the probing essay ‘What is the Meaning of Autonomy Today? Subjectivation, Social Composition, Refusal of Work’ in 2003,1  in which he describes the increasing precarity of what he calls the ‘cognitariat’, the new proletarian class of workers in the creative industry, who have become the new exploited class as a result of the flexiblization and fragmentization of work in a collapsing financial system. His analyses primarily address the psychopathological aspects of the new developments, and his more recent writings are straightforwardly sombre diagnoses of the network society. Yet Berardi has remained a militant figure, who currently is concentrating on setting up knowledge institutes and knowledge networks outside the regular educational system, such as scÉpsi, European School for Social Imagination.2 In Italy, he can be considered a driving force behind the student protests and is a source of inspiration for the Occupy movement.

Reason enough to visit him in December 2011 in Barcelona, where in collaboration with the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) he organized the conference KAFCA: Knowledge Against Financial Capitalism, and to ask him what he thinks about the possibilities for the Autonomia movement today.3

Open no. 22, Transparency

In the wake of the developments around WikiLeaks, the time is ripe to take a closer look at the current information landscape. Willem van Weelden, researcher and publicist specialized in media and culture, spoke with political sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen and media theorist Geert Lovink on how WikiLeaks can effect social and political change and contribute to making power more transparent.

Open no. 19, General

Brian Holmes, Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society, Van Abbemuseum Public Research #2, Paris, What, How & for Whom / WHW, Eindhoven, Zagreb, Istanbul, 2009, ISBN 9789070149987, 416 pages

Show more articles…
Open no. 19, Beyond Privacy

Konrad Becker and Felix Stalder (eds.), Deep Search: The Politics of Search Beyond Google, Studienverlag & Transaction Publishers, Innsbruck / Vienna / Munich, 2009, ISBN 9783706547956, 220 pages

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

Benda Hofmeyr (ed.), The Wal-Mart Phenomenon: Resisting Neo-Liberal Power through Art, Design and Theory, with contributions from BAVO, Hito Steyerl, Benda Hofmeyr, Erik Swyngedouw, Daniël van der Velden, Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie, 2008, ISBN: 9789072076298, 160 pages

Open no. 18, General

Matteo Pasquinelli, Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons, Rotterdam, NAi Publishers in association with the Institute of Network Cultures, Hogeschool van Amsterdam, 2008, ISBN 9789056626631, 240 pages

Open no. 13, Informal Media

How can the web be understood as both a symptom and an expression of a public practice? According to what logic do search engines work and how do they influence the way we deal with knowledge, news and information? Web epistemology is a new research practice that regards the web as a separate knowledge culture and advocates giving an ear to what lies beyond all the din. An interview with Richard Rogers, web epistemologist at the University of Amsterdam, author of Information Politics on the Web, founder of the Govcom.org Foundation and developer of the Issue Crawler, an ‘info-political tool’.1

Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

Net criticism, by consistently employing a strategy of decentralization and un-organization (‘becoming minor’), has become marginalized. How relevant can it continue to be from within its self-appointed ghetto? The ambiguous way in which net critics have responded to the ideas and actions of Lawrence Lessig, front man of the Free Culture movement and one of the initiators of Creative Commons, makes this question all the more urgent, argues Willem van Weelden in this polemical essay.

Open no. 11, General

Janet Abrams en Peter Hall (eds.), Else / Where: Mapping – New Cartographies of Networks and Territories, University of Minnesota Design Institute, 2006, isbn 0972969624

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility
David Gibbs, Mosque in a former school building in the Presikhaaf district in Arnhem, 2002 (OK5 Arnhem).

In rebus quoque apertis noscere possis,
Si non advertas animum, proinde esse,
quasi omni Tempore semotae fuerint,
longeque remotae.

Even in the case of things which are clearly visible,
you know that if you do not turn your mind to them,
it is as though they had never been there
or were far away.

Lucretius, IV, 8091 

Visual art, in all its manifestations, benefits from contradictions that serve to extract clarity about the variables that define its public existence and effect. You might say that the contradiction presented in this Open 8, visibility versus invisibil­ity, refers to the most significant ­presentations and oppositions within the current, complex battle of images. Traditio­nally, the theme of (in-)visibility is linked to emancipation movements, lending their existence, practices or particulars visibility, out of a struggle to be seen. Feminism, for instance, would have had less prestige had it not explicitly engaged in the struggle to influence dominant models of perception. The tradition of lending visibility to alternative modes of perception has always been a political one.

The history of visual art, certainly the tradition that has shown evidence of engaging with the public space, or public debate, was originally closely linked to the movement, more broad-based from a societal point of view, of emancipating visibility strategies. Be it a question of pointing out abuses or proposing illegal or alternative methods of perception, or simply showing something that would otherwise remain invisible, ‘visibility’, as an ideal, has given direction to a practice that aimed to correct the dominant and obfuscating representations of so-called visibility.

The question under discussion is to what extent visual art, in its fusion with the culture of everyday, mediatiz­ed images, is still capable of lending visibility to this emancipating agenda of perception.

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

For a considerable time now, the Parisian conceptual group Bureau d’Études has been engaged in literally mapping contemporary capitalism. Since the erosion of the Iron Curtain, capitalism as an organizational form has undeniably become a global affair. This article is a conversation on the practice of contra-cartography, which, by making information that is available but often invisible visible, aims to ‘potentialize’ society and at the same time to actualize a potential society.

Open no. 6, General

Internet Art, The Online Clash of Culture and Commerce, Julian Stallabrass, Tate Publishing, Londen, 2003, ISBN 1854373455

Willem van Weelden is an Amsterdam-based teacher, lecturer and independent writer on new media culture, media theory and interaction design.

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Autonomy

According to art sociologist Pascal Gielen neoliberalism, by pushing artists to be more entrepreneurial and to embrace the creative industry, leads to a shrinking of the imaginative horizon and to the evaporation of the modern hope for autonomy. If we ever want to become modern, we have to make a political choice, he states.

General

Gerald Raunig, Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity, Los Angeles, Semiotext(e), 2013, ISBN 9781584351160, 168 pages

Autonomy

There are very few academics who can still determine their own research agenda, let alone a sustainable one.

Show more articles…
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

Precisely because that odd thing that people call ‘art’ nowadays is met by incomprehension, it holds the position of a minority in our society. The ‘dismeasure’ that it introduces in the measure of a culture has determined the dynamics within the art world ever since the modern era. Time and again, the idiosyncratic or singular artefact has to be legitimized. Time and again, such a thing has to prove its right to exist. Anyone visiting an art biennial or a modern art museum can easily observe how contradictory artistic voices and styles are often juxtaposed. In that sense, the contemporary art world cultivates an ‘agnostic’ way of being together (at least temporarily). After all, within art worlds and even within a single exhibition, a multiplicity of contradistinctions, varied cultures and conflicting visions often coexist without their constantly denying each other’s right of existence or legitimacy. Artists will fight all compromise from their singular position, and although their relations within the art world are often irreconcilable, they are rarely hostile. Such an attitude is only possible – so claims Belgian political philosopher Chantal Mouffe, who set the concept of ‘agony’ in a political light – if we see each other ‘as taking part in a shared symbolic domain in which the conflict takes place’.1

Just as in a democratic political domain, antagonism in the art world is sublimated into an agonistic manner of coexisting. Here, however, the singular minority position is only accepted because of the argumentation upon which it rests – and for the record, this does not refer to the rationally communicated argument within the Habermasian public space. On the contrary, argumentation is understood to mean the vehicle through with which one attempts to obtain public support (however limited) on the basis of an artistic gesture. Such arguments can be rational, theoretical, emotional and/or aesthetic, but they can also lie within the artistic thing itself. The agonistic democratic domain is comprised of many such lines of argumentation, which always start from a minority position. In that sense, the contemporary artistic domain differs greatly from our present liberal representative democracy. The latter, after all, does not rest upon the voiced arguments of the voter, but on an anonymous act in a voting booth with no public argumentation. In a liberal representative democracy, what counts are the numbers. The voter can go to the voting booth without ever having to answer to anyone.

Within the agonistic space of the artistic domain, on the other hand, people are allergic to a democratically chosen work of art. After all, a dismeasure preferred by the majority is no longer a dismeasure, but a measure. Within the democracy of the art world, a position for dismeasure can only be convincingly obtained through the argumentative path, or ‘publicizing’ the artistic gesture. This is why we could also speak of a minority democracy as opposed to the liberal democracy of the majority. Within a minority model, democracy must continually be recreated through the movement of individual voices towards a more or less broad collective basis. The essence of democratization lies precisely in that process of the non-understood singular and peculiar thing moving towards (sometimes limited) public acceptance. So it is not about having a voice, but acquiring one.

Thus a minority democracy of the singular ‘art thing’ might offer a few keys to a future political democracy. In a globalized world, if we are to believe political scientist David Held, no classical, republican, liberal or direct kind of democracy will survive. Only a democratically autonomous model will have a chance of succeeding.2 Held is referring here to a democracy that stimulates and organizes a multiplicity of citizens’ voices; a formula that permits full experimentation with the self-governance of individuals, enterprises, citizens’ initiatives, organizations and all sorts of collectives. Democratic autonomy, in other words, is a political regime that constantly stimulates and facilitates the autonomous economic, social and cultural development of a whole range of minorities. This multitude of initiatives subsequently aims as much as possible at democratic self-government. And precisely because of the multiplicity of different initiatives, these end up in an increasingly symmetrical bargaining position with states, transnational authorities, local administrative entities, citizens’ initiatives, etcetera. The state or supranational political forums are merely a democratic decision-making apparatus in addition to many others. In the future, democracy will only continue to maintain its legitimacy if it makes the transformation of inequalities the keystone of its politics, according to Held. Among other things, this entails making minorities central to its policy. What’s more, that very ‘art thing’ that is so hard to understand is precisely what reminds us that such a minority can present itself over and over again. It is always at the ready to put the majority thinking in brackets. In short, this exceptional thing is irritating because it bursts open the world of certainty again and again. This uncertainty is exactly what a political system must accept if it wants to be called ‘democratic’.

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Elena Filipovic, Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø (eds.), The Biennial Reader: An Anthology on Large-Scale Perennial Exhibitions of Contemporary Art, Bergen: Kunsthall Bergen, 2010, ISBN 9783775726108, 512 pages

Open no. 19, General

Marie-Christine Bureau, Marc Perrenoud and Roberta Shapiro (eds.), L’artiste pluriel. Démultiplier l’activité pour vivre de son art, Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, Villeneuve d’Ascq, 2009, ISBN 9782757400869, 194 pages

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

In sociology, the ‘scene’ is barely taken seriously as a form of social organization, but sociologist Pascal Gielen sees the scene as a highly functional part of our contemporary networking society and thus worthy of serious research. Were the current success of the creative industry to result in the exploitation of the creative scene, however, the level of freedom enjoyed could quickly become a lack of freedom.

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

In his home town Rome, Italian philosopher Paolo Virno talks with philosopher Sonja Lavaert and sociologist Pascal Gielen about the relation between creativity and today’s economics, and about exploitation and possible forms of resistance. Virno is known for his analysis of post-Fordism; his view that the disproportion of artistic standards runs parallel to communism, however, is new to the philosophy of art. He believes aesthetics and social resistance meet in a quest for new forms. Political art or not, the contents hardly matter.

Open no. 15, Social Engineering

This past summer, three Belgian intellectuals held a conversation for Open about the renewed attention being paid to the ‘makeability’ of city and society. Moderated by sociologist Pascal Gielen, philosopher Lieven De Cauter, urban designer Michiel Dehaene and sociologist Rudi Laermans discuss such topics as the limits of the socially engineered society and the role of creativity and science in this.

Open no. 13, General

Lex ter Braak, Gitta Luiten, Taco de Neef and Steven van Teeseling (eds.), Second Opinion. Over beeldende kunstsubsidies in Nederland, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, 2007, 128 pp., isbn 9789056625252

Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

Many culture and art critics have pointed to the negative impact of globalization on the art world over the last decade. As this concept has been linked to a variety of phenomena such as ‘commodification’, mediatization and uniformization, it has become heterogeneous and anaemic. Sociologist Pascal Gielen attempts to clarify the relationship between globalization and all the evils ascribed to it. In order to give art a renewed role in inspiring reflection, he calls for the creation of a free zone in which globalization is accepted in all its complexity.

Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

By means of an analysis, sociologist Pascal Gielen attempts to get a better handle on the problematic aspects of the art biennial as a global phenomenon. Only then can new strategies be developed for escaping the worldwide competition hysteria, with all its negatives characteristics. Neoliberal city marketing as the bogeyman is too facile an explanation.

Pascal Gielen is affiliated with the University of Groningen (RUG) as an art sociologist and holds the Arts in Society chair at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in Tilburg. His last three publications are: The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude: Global Art, Memory and Post-Fordism (2009), Arts in Society: Being an Artist in Post-Fordist Times (2009, co-edited with Paul De Bruyne) and Community Art: The Politics of Trespassing (2011, co-edited with Paul De Bruyne).

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

Militant Bourgeois: An Existential Retreat is a project by British artist Chris Evans that became an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (smba) and an artists’ residence along the A10 in 2006. Fifteen artists accepted the challenge and confronted the primitive and unsubsidized ‘retreat’. Evans focussed on the field of tension between patronage, especially the increasingly criticized Dutch system of state subsidies, and current art production. Maxine Kopsa talked to him about anachronisms and the relation between artist and society.

Maxine Kopsa lives in Amsterdam. She is a freelance writer, curator and editor of Metropolis M.

Last publication date: 2007-03-26.
Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

Pirate copies and fakes have a bad name, yet many an artist owes them a rich body of work. The music Franco et le T.P.O.K. Jazz put out on LPs in Zaïre in the 1980s would typically be on sale throughout the country on illegal cassettes within about four months. Their way of keeping one step ahead of this piracy was a stroke of genius: they produced a new LP every three months. This provided them with a tidy nest egg and us with 150 records of wonderful dance music.

Etcher and painter Anton Heyboer did something similar. In order to assure his five wives of an income after his death, he painted dozens of canvases every day in his characteristic style, each adorned with his sizable signature. His widows still have warehouses full of paintings and sell them under the motto: ‘You can only be sure it’s genuine if you buy it from us in Den Ilp.’

Somewhere in the Dutch polders there’s a big barn with good overhead lighting where expert painters and silkscreen artists churn out lithographs of artists like Herman Brood, Corneille and Appel on an assembly line. In smaller, urban studios the work of Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Chagall, Giacometti and Hockney is being reproduced.

The only one who truly profited from this democratization of art is Karel Appel. In his early years he was often too poor to buy canvases and paint, so little work exists from this period. Then suddenly, unknown early works began to turn up. They were submitted to the painter, who must have thought, ‘There’s no way I could have painted this that year. On the other hand, it’s not badly done – if I’d had the money at the time I would have painted something like that; maybe the top streak a bit brighter and blurrier, but still, you know what, I’m just going to say it’s one of mine.’ This validation must have come as a pleasant surprise to the makers of the paintings, and inspired them to produce even better early Appel work.

It won’t be long before literary texts, too, are discovered, which, if their authors were still alive (or indeed are still living) would and will be recognized by them as written in their unique approach to sentence structure and language associations. If only they’d had more peace and quiet, time and concentration, they would have written these themselves! Once authors’ names become big brands with price tags to match, it becomes profitable to counterfeit them. Thomas Pynchon’s work is probably already being produced by a team of writers.

Some writers anticipate this and develop a style that is so typical, or in fact so generic, that they can be perfectly imitated with little trouble by the fellow writers who will later fill in the gaps in their literary oeuvre. Others attempt to pre-empt this development by imitating Pessoa and writing as much new and unknown work destined for their desk drawers as possible, so that there is enough upon their deaths to supply the market for at least 70 years. In the Netherlands, over the past 15 years, the oeuvres of Nescio, Hanlo, Elschot and Ida Gerhardt have doubled thanks to the publication of suddenly discovered letters and notes.

Other authors wish to remain authentic and write in a style that will never be counterfeited because no one can make head or tail of it now. Or is it better to write clearly for a small group of attentive readers, providing them with such rich hours that you never need explain anything on radio or television, and therefore never become famous?

I don’t know. When I think about what I’d love to happen after I die, I think of Nicola Tesla. He posthumously dictated one hefty tome after another to a medium in Wales, or was it Eastern Europe? I don’t care who writes it down. One day a woman will sit at a computer and begin to type. She won’t be writing; she’ll be transcribing what she hears an external voice dictate to her inner ear. I’ll be that voice. I’ll come up with new essays, bundles of poetry, enthralling novels, travelogues, works of philosophy and revelations from the beyond. I hereby give my descendants permission to authenticate everything, as long as the work is just like I would have written it. We don’t want rubbish. An artist doesn’t live on in his oeuvre, but in his fakes. So reinvent me as often as possible.

Pirate copies and fakes have a bad name, yet many an artist owes them a rich body of work. The music Franco et le T.P.O.K. Jazz put out on LPs in Zaïre in the 1980s would typically be on sale throughout the country on illegal cassettes within about four months. Their way of keeping one step ahead of this piracy was a stroke of genius: they produced a new LP every three months. This provided them with a tidy nest egg and us with 150 records of wonderful dance music.

Etcher and painter Anton Heyboer did something similar. In order to assure his five wives of an income after his death, he painted dozens of canvases every day in his characteristic style, each adorned with his sizable signature. His widows still have warehouses full of paintings and sell them under the motto: ‘You can only be sure it’s genuine if you buy it from us in Den Ilp.’

Somewhere in the Dutch polders there’s a big barn with good overhead lighting where expert painters and silkscreen artists churn out lithographs of artists like Herman Brood, Corneille and Appel on an assembly line. In smaller, urban studios the work of Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Chagall, Giacometti and Hockney is being reproduced.

The only one who truly profited from this democratization of art is Karel Appel. In his early years he was often too poor to buy canvases and paint, so little work exists from this period. Then suddenly, unknown early works began to turn up. They were submitted to the painter, who must have thought, ‘There’s no way I could have painted this that year. On the other hand, it’s not badly done – if I’d had the money at the time I would have painted something like that; maybe the top streak a bit brighter and blurrier, but still, you know what, I’m just going to say it’s one of mine.’ This validation must have come as a pleasant surprise to the makers of the paintings, and inspired them to produce even better early Appel work.

It won’t be long before literary texts, too, are discovered, which, if their authors were still alive (or indeed are still living) would and will be recognized by them as written in their unique approach to sentence structure and language associations. If only they’d had more peace and quiet, time and concentration, they would have written these themselves! Once authors’ names become big brands with price tags to match, it becomes profitable to counterfeit them. Thomas Pynchon’s work is probably already being produced by a team of writers.

Some writers anticipate this and develop a style that is so typical, or in fact so generic, that they can be perfectly imitated with little trouble by the fellow writers who will later fill in the gaps in their literary oeuvre. Others attempt to pre-empt this development by imitating Pessoa and writing as much new and unknown work destined for their desk drawers as possible, so that there is enough upon their deaths to supply the market for at least 70 years. In the Netherlands, over the past 15 years, the oeuvres of Nescio, Hanlo, Elschot and Ida Gerhardt have doubled thanks to the publication of suddenly discovered letters and notes.

Other authors wish to remain authentic and write in a style that will never be counterfeited because no one can make head or tail of it now. Or is it better to write clearly for a small group of attentive readers, providing them with such rich hours that you never need explain anything on radio or television, and therefore never become famous?

I don’t know. When I think about what I’d love to happen after I die, I think of Nicola Tesla. He posthumously dictated one hefty tome after another to a medium in Wales, or was it Eastern Europe? I don’t care who writes it down. One day a woman will sit at a computer and begin to type. She won’t be writing; she’ll be transcribing what she hears an external voice dictate to her inner ear. I’ll be that voice. I’ll come up with new essays, bundles of poetry, enthralling novels, travelogues, works of philosophy and revelations from the beyond. I hereby give my descendants permission to authenticate everything, as long as the work is just like I would have written it. We don’t want rubbish. An artist doesn’t live on in his oeuvre, but in his fakes. So reinvent me as often as possible.

Open no. 12, General

Eric Kluitenberg (ed.), Book of Imaginary Media. Excavating the Dream of the Ultimate Communication Medium, Amsterdam / Rotterdam, NAi Publishers, 2006, ISBN 905662539X / 9789056625399, 320 pages

Open no. 10, General

Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds.), Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy, zkm / The mit Press, Cambridge (Mass.) and London, 2005, isbn 0262122790

Show more articles…
Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Boris Groys, Topologie der Kunst (‘The Topology of Art’), Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich / Vienna 2003, ISBN 3446203680

Arjen Mulder (NL) is a biologist and essayist, associated with the V2_Institute for Unstable Media in Rotterdam and the course for a masters degree in Editorial Design at the Utrecht College of Art. His recent books include: Over mediatheorie: woord, beeld, geluid, gedrag [On media theory: word, image, sound, behaviour] (2004) and De vrouw voor wie Cesare Pavese zelfmoord pleegde [The woman for whom Cesare Pavese committed suicide] (2005).

Last publication date: 2007-03-26.
Open no. 12, Freedom of Culture

The Austrian artist Oliver Ressler (b. 1970) in many works focuses on forms of resistance against neo-liberal globalization. One of his recent projects is Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies (2003–2007). Having received an initial grant from republicart (www.republicart.net), the ongoing project consists of a series of installations, usually expanded with new video work (www.ressler.at). Each installation contains monitors with video interviews, as well as a typical quotation taken from one of these and projected in the exhibition space. Ressler made a presentation for Open, in which nine text excerpts from the video interviews are combined with installation shots from various cities.

Oliver Ressler (AT) is a graphic artist. Since 2003 he has been working on the project Alternative Economics, Alternative Societies. See further: www.ressler.at.

Last publication date: 2007-03-26.
Open no. 22, Transparency

In Failed States Jill Magid finds a mentor in CT, a writer and editor in Austin, Texas with a military and intelligence background. A former war reporter who has covered ten conflicts, he agrees to train her to be an embedded journalist with the US military in Afghanistan. In these excerpts Magid is confronted with the reality of going to war, and what is personally at stake for her in this decision. Failed States approaches the themes of transparency, secrecy and publicity through Magid’s personal desire to engage the war on terror and its media representation through becoming an eyewitness.The following is a series of excerpts from Failed States, a work-in-progress manuscript by Jill Magid.

Jill Magid seeks intimate relations with impersonal structures. She is intrigued by hidden information, being public as a condition for existence, and intimacy in relation to power and observation. Magid is a visual artist, performer and writer. She lives and works in New York.

Last publication date: 2011-11-18.
Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

According to Michael Hardt, the production of the common is the most important economic mainspring in a time in which immaterial and biopolitical production are dominant. By connecting economics, politics and aesthetics and analysing their relations, Hardt arrives at questions concerning the role of the artist and the meaning of his or her work in the distribution of the common.

Michael Hardt teaches in the Literature Program at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina (USA). With Antonio Negri he co-authored Empire (2000) and Multitude (2004).

Last publication date: 2006-02-06.
General

The strength of Occupy is having a designated adversary, but that is not enough to ensure concerted political action.

Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

The Belgian polit­ical philosopher Chantal Mouffe defines the public space as a battleground on which different hegemonic projects are confronted, without any possibility of final reconciliation. According to Mouffe, critical artistic practices can play an important role in subverting the dominant hegemony in this so-called ‘agonistic’ model of public space, visualizing that which is repressed and destroyed by the consensus of post-political democracy.

 

Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

Political philosopher Chantal Mouffe shows how the existing hegemonic structures in current political systems can best be opposed by the development of counter-hegemonic practices. Specifically, cultural and artistic practices can play a major role in this because they are pre-eminently the terrain on which new subjectivities can be developed.

Chantal Mouffe is Professor of Political Theory at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster in London. She has taught and researched in many universities in Europe, North America and South America and she is a corresponding member of the Collège International de Philosophie in Paris. She is the editor of Gramsci and Marxist Theory (Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1979), Dimensions of Radical Democracy. Pluralism, Citizenship, Community (Verso, London, 1992), Deconstruction and Pragmatism (Routledge, 1996) and The Challenge of Carl Schmitt (Verso, London, 1999), the co-author with Ernesto Laclau of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Towards a Radical Democratic Politics (Verso, London, 1985) and the author of The Return of the Political (Verso, London, 1993), The Democratic Paradox (Verso, London, 2000) and On the Political (Routledge, London, 2005). See further: www.westminster.ac.uk.

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

According to Belgian philosopher Thierry de Duve, the criticism of the art biennial as a global phenomenon from the perspective of economic and amusement value is too limited. By allowing the aesthetic value of art to again be part of art criticism, a different type of opposition against the hegemonic centres that are dominant in today’s global culture becomes possible. To achieve this, De Duve lays claim to the Kantian idea of sensus communis – the human ability to share feelings.

Thierry de Duve is a Belgian historian and theorist of contemporary art committed to a reinterpretation of modernism. 

Last publication date: 2006-02-06.
Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

According to Simon Sheikh, the erosion of the nation-state has led to a post-public situation, in which the public sphere of ‘the public’ can no longer be specifically located. The answer is not a nostalgic return to outmoded notions of the public and its spaces, but an analysis of the relations between publicness, consumption and production, culminating in new public formations where action can be taken.

Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

In order to fathom the real meaning and opportunities of biennials as a global phenomenon, Scandinavian critic and curator Simon Sheikh introduces the term a politics of translation. Seen in this light, the biennial is a place where new meanings, stories, histories and connections are constantly produced. This condition of permanent flux may mean that biennials can do more than generate capital.

Simon Sheikh is a curator and critic. He teaches art theory and is Coordinator of the Critical Studies Program at Malmö Art Academy in Sweden. In 2003–2004 he was curator at NIFCA in Helsinki. Among his publications are In the Place of the Public Sphere? (2005) and Capital (It Fails Us Now) (2006) and his writings can also be found in such periodicals as Afterall, AnArchitektur, Open, Springerin and Texte zur Kunst.

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

‘Geo-Cultures’, a research project conducted by Irit Rogoff, a professor at Goldsmiths College in London, investigates how the contemporary practice of art informs rather than reflects globalization processes. Seen in the framework of this study, biennials are interesting places. They have evolved into circuits of research, exchange and dialogue that combine specific local features with the illumination of conditions elsewhere in the world.

Irit Rogoff is a theorist and curator who writes at the intersections of the critical, the political and contemporary arts practices. She is Professor of Visual Culture at Goldsmiths College London University, a department she founded in 2002. Her publications include Terra Infirma – Geography’s Visual Culture (2001), A.C.A.D.E.M.Y (2006), Unbounded – Limits Possibilities (2008) and the forthcoming Looking Away – Participating Singularities, Ontological Communities (2009). She curated De-Regulation With the Work of Kutlug Ataman (2005–2008), ACADEMY (2006) and Summit – Non Aligned Initiatives in Education Culture (2007).

Last publication date: 2006-02-06.
T/A/S

This text draws together a set of characteristics that can be used as building blocks for a conceptual model of Affect Space. I have previously described Affect Space as an emerging techno-sensuous spatial order. Here I build upon these earlier investigations and the outcomes of the Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S) public research trajectory conducted in 2016, which included public seminars in Amsterdam, Cambridge, MA and Rotterdam. The investigations continue in a series of commissioned essays on Open!, of which this text is one. These essays can help to articulate new design strategies for this quickly evolving context, where the spatial design disciplines are curiously absent from the debate. 

T/A/S
Image: Mind Design

Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S) is a conceptual and interdisciplinary research project into the interaction between technology, affect and public space initiated by Open! together with media theorist Eric Kluitenberg. It can be considered as a continuation and actualization of the Hybrid Space issue of the Open! print cahier in 2006 on the mobilization of public space facilitated – and even initiated – by wireless media. In Hybrid Space we noted that publicness has become ‘a complex of concrete and virtual qualities, of static and mobile domains, of public and private spheres, of global and local interests’ and asked how a critical position could be possible in a hybrid space that is characterized by invisible information technology. Since then Web 2.0 and wireless media have only developed further; social networks such as Facebook and Twitter came into being and mobile media devices are now ubiquitous. T / A / S takes into account the ultimate implications of this for the public sphere in exploring the dynamics, aesthetics, design and politics of an emergent techno-sensuous spatial order that we refer to as ‘Affect Space’. There have been three exploratory public events so far on this topic in 2016: Amsterdam (with De Balie and LAPS); Rotterdam (with the New Institute); and Boston (with ACT, the MIT Program in art, culture and technology). A series of articles will be released on Open! in the coming months. What follows is a brief introduction to the underlying subject matter and key questions of T / A / S.

The emergent techno-sensuous spatial order of Affect Space is characterized by three constitutive elements: the massive presence of self-produced media forms, the context of (occupied) urban public spaces and the deep permeation of affective intensity in these media forms and urban spaces. While not ‘invented’ by anyone, the complex dynamics of the interaction among these three elements became clearly visible in the extraordinary series of popular protest gatherings in public space that have dominated world news from early 2011 onwards. In each case the local context and ‘underlying issues’ were remarkably diverse (Tunis, Caïro, Madrid, Barcelona, Athens, New York, São Paulo, Haren, Kiev, Hong Kong, Ferguson, Paris...), the pattern of simultaneous mobilization in the media and physical space was incredibly consistent – as was the ephemeral dissolution of these same acts.

This striking pattern of sudden collective mobilization and dissolution in public space is not limited to these protest gatherings, and cannot be explained exclusively by the aide of technology in their coming into being. Nor can it be reduced to the contested political, ideological and economic issues at stake. The diversity of context, incitement and participants is simply too great to hold accountable for the recurrence of this pattern.

The above point is perhaps illustrated tellingly in an early example of this pattern, with the ‘Project X’ party riot in the suburban town of Haren, the Netherlands in mid-2012.1 A Facebook invite to a local girl’s sixteenth birthday party (accidentally posted ‘public’) was picked up and transformed into a Project X party meme. It went viral, generating enormous traffic and (mass media) attention. In reaction to the seemingly immanent public order disturbance local authorities organized a massive police response. On the designated date numerous police officers and a large crowd of Project X Haren participants clashed over a party that never existed, leading to the devastation of the city centre’s public space and widespread damage to private properties. A national investigation produced a thorough report.2 Most intriguing was the media analysis by researchers at Utrecht University. They concluded that the crowd build-up was incited almost exclusively via social media channels. Mass media exposure had a negligible influence. While the mobilization pattern was virtually identical to the large protest gatherings we’ve become familiar with since 2011, any kind of underlying contested social or political issue was completely absent. So how do we account for these remarkable phenomena?

In an essay by the co-author of this editorial Eric Kluitenberg titled ‘Affect Space’, the contours of a model are suggested, building on three constitutive elements:

  1. A technological component: The Internet, but in particular the widespread use of mobile and wireless media perform a crucial function to mobilize large groups of people around ever-changing ‘issues at stake’.
  2. An affective component: A recurrent characteristic is the affective intensity generated and exchanged in these mobilization processes. Reasoned arguments seem to play much less of a role than affective images, suggestive slogans (‘We are the 99%!’ / ‘Je (ne) suis (pas) Charlie’) and vague but insistent associations with things that are felt as highly desirable (the mystique of a Project X party in (sleepy) Haren, whose meaning no one fully grasps, and whose existence is subject to question – in this case with no party taking place at all).
  3. A spatial component: Particularly the affective intensity generated in the mobilization process cannot be shared effectively in disembodied online interactions on the Internet and via apps. This lack stimulates the desire for physical encounter, which can only happen in a physical spatial context paradigmatically in (urban) public space.

The use of mobile and wireless media changes the nature of public space dramatically. Ever- tighter feedback loops of the physical and the mediated are generated, turning streets and squares into media channels and platforms in near real-time. As wireless networks speed up, the speed of these feedback loops is only intensified (Wi-fi, 3G, 4G, et cetera). The physical and mediated feedback loop precipitates affect-related forms of communication and exchange. In these dense environments, messages, images and impulses with the strongest affective effect – not the most well thought-through argument, delicately composed visuals or eloquent exposé – are the most apt for dissemination.

The main questions T / A / S pushes to the forefront and explores through public research meetings and essay assignments are:

  • How does the complex but highly recognizable interaction between technology, affect and physical space influence use, design and behaviour in public space?
  • What is the significance of this development for political processes, particularly when the relation between content and affective slogans and images becomes extremely ambiguous?
  • Which new forms of manipulation and control emerge, in the media space and in public space – in short in the public domain?
  • How can effects that undermine rather than support an open democratic social order be counteracted?
  • What role do artists, designers, architects and urbanists have in these processes? And what is the role that they wish to assume?

There is a rich repository of engagements with the implicit and explicit orderings of public spaces, ranging from psychogeographic procedures developed by the Situationists, to critical theories and practices in architectural and urban design, information architecture, and geo-locative arts and design, as well as within social movements, community arts, and media theory and activism. The aim of T / A / S is to bring protagonists in these different fields into conversation on the emergent techno-sensuous spatial order of Affect Space. Please continue to visit us as the essay series puts forth contributions by media scholar, artist and activist Alessandra Renzi, artist- researcher Sher Doruff, architectonic office JARD (Javier Argota and Rodrigo Delso), media theorist Nishant Shah, artist-designer Christian Nold, Eric Kluitenberg and artists PolakVanBekkum (Esther Polak and Ivan van Bekkum).

did you feel it?

Brian Massumi, Politics of Affect, Polity, ISBN: 9780745689814 (UK), 2015, 224 pages

Show more articles…
Hybrid Space

Eric Kluitenberg analyses the complicated logic of “Affect Space”, as he calls the public gatherings and urban spectacles that have been taking place over the past few years in cities around the world, from Zuccotti Park in NYC to Tahrir Square in Cairo, Gezi Park in Istanbul to the streets of Hong Kong. Kluitenberg attempts to figure out how the massive presence of self-produced media forms, the context of (occupied) urban public spaces, and the deep permeation of affective intensity relate to each other and how together they are able to produce such baffling events.

Hybrid Space

After witnessing “2011”, a year marked by intensely mediatised popular protests and public square occupations around the planet, we no longer need to speculate about “how wireless media mobilise public space”, or what kinds of “webs of interhuman relations” may eventually develop here.

Open no. 22, General

Josephine Bosma, Nettitudes: Let’s Talk Net Art, Rotterdam, NAi Publishers, ISBN 9789056628000, 272 pages

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

A worldwide explosion of mobility versus bodiless interaction in digital networks; hypermobility of flows of capital and goods versus the immobility of the biological body; the pressure of ecological and energetic depletion versus the desire for total freedom of movement: our present-day mobility regimes are characterized by deeply rooted contradictions. Media critic Eric Kluitenberg seeks a perspective for intervention to achieve ecological and social stability.

Open no. 13, General

Ned Rossiter, Organized Networks: Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Institutions, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, in association with the Institute of Network Cultures, Hogeschool van Amsterdam, 2006, ISBN 9789056625269

Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

The emergence of digital media has meant that in recent years the use and significance of traditional public space has altered radically. The newest developments in information technology make use of apparatus which is less and less noticeable, so making a critical attitude more difficult. Eric Kluitenberg, researcher in the field of the significance of new technologies for society and guest editor of the present issue, draws attention to a number of activist strategies to encourage public and private action in a hybrid space.

Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

In this article, media experts Howard Rheingold and Eric Kluiten­berg ask us to consider if unques­tioned connectivity – the drive to connect everything to everything, and everyone to everyone by means of electronic media – is necessarily a good thing. To stimulate ideas, the authors propose a possible alternative: a practice of ‘mindful disconnection’, or rather the ‘art of selective disconnectivity’.

Open no. 8, General

www.republicart.net

Eric Kluitenberg is an independent theorist, writer and educator, working at the intersection of culture, politics, media and technology. He was head of the media and technology program of De Balie, Centre for Culture and Politics in Amsterdam (1999–2011), and taught theory of interactive media and technological culture for a variety of academic institutions, including the University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and Academy Minerva Postgraduate Studies in Groningen. He was also a scientific staff member of the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. Currently he teaches media and cultural theory at the Art Science Interfaculty in The Hague. In 2013 he was a research fellow at the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. Publications include: Techno Ecologies (2012); The Legacies of Tactical Media (2011); theme issues '(Im)Mobility' (2011) and 'Hybrid Space' (2006) for Open! Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain; Delusive Spaces – Essays (2008); and The Book of Imaginary Media (2006). He is working on the preparation of an international anthology on Tactical Media co-edited with David Garcia, to be published by MIT Press in 2017. Projects include FREE!? – A one day journey into the cultures of sharing (2013), Economies of the Commons conference series (2008–2012), ElectroSmog – International Festival for Sustainable Immobility (2010) and Next 5 Minutes 3 & 4 – Festivals of Tactical Media (1999 / 2003).

Last publication date: 2017-09-19.
Culture of Control

In From Biopolitics to Mindpolitics Marc Schuilenburg and Rik Peeters explore how ‘nudging’ as a technique to alter people’s behaviour works in social fields and how it is embedded in our environment. They ask what nudging means in terms of Foucault’s analysis of biopolitics. This essay is part of Culture of Control, a collaboration with Stroom Den Haag.

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

In order to describe a sense of connection with the local without denying dynamic physical and virtual interpersonal relationships, philosopher Marc Schuilenburg introduces the term terroir. Introducing terroir as a right makes it possible for new subjectifications to arise, with which the relationship between identity and places can be restored in this age of immigration and globalization.

Open no. 15, Social Engineering

Marc Schuilenburg addresses the issue of governance as an essential aspect of the philosophy of social engineering. Via the insights and concepts of Foucault and Deleuze he goes in search of a more adequate understanding of the link between social reality and governance. Discussion on this should no longer be fixated on the dichotomy between private and public, says Schuilenburg. Society, after all, is not an immutable, static quantity; it has a fluid character that requires thinking in terms of surveillance 'assemblages'.

Show more articles…
Open no. 15, Social Engineering

In discussions about 'makeability' or social engineering, specifically when they concern manageability and biopolitics, references are often made to the ideas of philosopher Giorgio Agamben. Open is republish­ ing his key 1993 text 'Beyond Human Rights', with an introduction by philosopher and jurist Marc Schuilenburg. According to Schuilenburg the figure of the homo sacer that Agamben presents in this and other writings leads to many misunderstandings. He also addresses the differences in Agamben's ideas about biopolitics and those of Foucault.

Open no. 11, General

Edward J. Valauskas (ed.), Urban Screens: Discovering the potential of outdoor screens for urban society, First Monday, Special Issue #4, issn 13960466, University of Illinois at Chicago Library, 2006

Open no. 9, Sound

Under the name Studio Popcorn, architect Alex de Jong and jurist-philosopher Marc Schuilenburg research the effects of urbanization processes. They argue for the inclusion of processes other than physical, spatial ones in the scope of research on urbanization. This article focuses on the rise of an intermedial space, which includes contemporary popular music and its associated urban culture, and which plays a crucial part in today’s urbanization processes.*

Marc Schuilenburg teaches in the department of Criminal Law and Criminology, VU University Amsterdam. His latest book The Securitization of Society: Crime, Risk, and Social Order (2015) was awarded the triennial Willem Nagel Prize by the Dutch Society of Criminology. See further: www.marcschuilenburg.nl.

Last publication date: 2015-10-10.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Architecture historian Wim Nijenhuis charts the history of the concept of mobility and its significance for the city and its inhabitants since the Renaissance. Ultimately, the modern-day world city seems engulfed by the ethereal city-world, as the philosopher Paul Virilio argues. There’s only one way out: exit!

Wim Nijenhuis is an independent architect / writer on the history and theory of architecture, urban design and art. He introduced Paul Virilio in the Netherlands and wrote De diabolische snelweg (The Diabolical Highway, 2007). See: home.hccnet.nl for a updated biography.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

In the process of globalization, mobility has become characterized by ambivalence. On the one hand, we are witnessing ever greater control of the movements of migrants, and on the other, a rich elite can travel freely all over the world. The free flow of people, capital and goods within the Schengen Area has required an increasingly stricter policing of its external borders. Combined with innovative digital techniques, this has led to a shift from a system of control to a proactive system of selection and exclusion.

Charlotte Lebbe is reading European Studies at the University of Bath. She graduated last year from the University of Leuven as an architect. Her Master’s thesis, De terugkeer van harde grenzen. Een biopolitieke blik op Fort Europa, (The Return of Hard Borders. A Biopolitical Look at Fortress Europe) received the Karel Verleye award.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Art Discourse

Merijn Oudenampsen focuses on some of the deeper issues and paradoxes that underly both art discourse and the recurring discussion about its intelligibility in the Netherlands. Can it be that the “unassailable jargon” of art discourse and the anti-intellectualism of newspaper journalists criticizing it stem from a similar background? Could it be that they are both actually feeding and reinforcing each other?

Open no. 22, General

Lieven De Cauter, Ruben de Roo and Karel Vanhaesebrouck (eds.), Art and Activism in the Age of Globalization, Reflect #8, Rotterdam, NAi Publishers, 2011, isbn 9789056627799 and isbn 978905662, 334 pages

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Space is not a given, but is continuously produced, reproduced and reconfigured. Taking up where the French urban theorist Henri Lefebvre left off, the Marxist geographer David Harvey has focused on the development and incorporation of a spatial analysis in Marxist theory. He has emerged as one of the foremost intellectual commentators on the global financial crisis, portrayed in his recent book The Enigma of Capital (2010) as an instance of those same structural contradictions Karl Marx forewarned us about.

Show more articles…
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

BAVO, Too Active to Act. Cultureel activisme na het einde van de geschiedenis (with a visual essay by Hendrik-Jan Grievink), Amsterdam, Valiz, 2010, ISBN 9789078088387, 128 pages

Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

Contrary to what many people might think, politics involves imagination, storytelling and the creation of myths. According to sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen, guest editor of this issue, recognizing this truth is absolutely essential if we are to understand and learn from populism as a growing political force.

Open no. 19, General

Pascal Gielen, The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude: Global Art, Memory and Post-Fordism, Valiz, Amsterdam, 2009, ISBN 9789078088349, 368 pages

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

Working conditions in virtually all sectors of the labour market are under pressure at the current time. Focusing on the developments in the cleaning industry, sociologist Merijn Oudenampsen shows how, following the American example, cleaners have successfully started to mobilize in the Netherlands and have thus given a new impulse to the revival of trade unionism.

Open no. 15, Social Engineering

Forty years after the revolt of May ’68, the prevailing opinion seems to be one of aggrieved jealousy, disguised as the wisdom of experience. A series of retrospective newspaper articles seeks to finish once and for all with a troubled legacy. Writers stubbornly struggle to distance themselves from the idea that idealism and engagement could mean anything other than the charitable causes espoused by pop stars and society figures. The soixante-huitards are dismissed as sandbox idealists, weak-minded and aimless sympathizers of terrorism, who in their unbridled naivety thought the world could be changed; we know better by now. It’s the gist of several months of disappointing newspaper reading.

What all this disparagement of the ’68 activists is meant to cloak – without succeeding particularly well – is the bottomless vacuity of today’s politics and the loss of any horizon along which social development might take place. Where are the utopian visions today? Where are the visions of the future, for that matter? With the exception of the development scenarios of consultancy firms, planning bureaus and policy advisers, no one is willing to offer any sort of vision about a collectively desirable future. The world cannot be remade, we are told, when it is in fact being irreversibly reproduced day after day.

Urban space is where the spirit of ’68 – in essence a struggle against any form of authority – particularly manifested itself, not just in Paris, but also in the inner cities of the USA, where the violent repression of the civil-rights movement degenerated into full-scale riots, in the streets of Prague, where the rebellion turned against the Soviet occupation, or in bullet-riddled Saigon, target of the Vietnamese Tet Offensive. In Amsterdam the spirit of ’68 was embodied by the Provo and Kabouter movements, the Nieuwmarkt protests, and the general resistance of residents against the form of autocratic modernist urban development in force at the time. A small revolution took place, one that still defines the structure of Dutch cities to this day.

It is therefore in the area of urban development – in Dutch history one of the most fertile grounds for the development of radical politics – that an impressive system of procedures was created to prevent conflict and not so much parry criticism as render it toothless. ‘Interactive policy making’, ‘open plan processes’ with ‘sounding-board groups’, ‘consultation procedures’, ‘co-production’: the quantity of terms used to describe the participation of residents in contemporary urban development gives the impression that we are living in a veritable Mecca of democracy. Ultimately, however, the marvellous participation models result in a disappointing reality of notification and information, with a few therapeutic public-comment meetings to calm tempers a little. For it’s too late for any real decisions. The political establishment now hides behind a hedge of semantic impenetrability: urban development plans are deliberately drawn up in a jargon that no resident can comprehend. We live in a so-called post-political age, where the framework of politics is set and remains unquestioned by any political party, and within which tiny alterations are the subject of intense negotiations.

The post-political framework of contemporary urban policy is that of the entrepreneurial city. An entrepreneurial mindset has taken over city government, where the drive towards competition among cities has supplanted every other policy consideration. As much care as is being devoted to the strategic positioning of cities in global flows of human and financial capital, so little interest does there seem to be in adopting the existing population of the city as the premise for any integral vision of city politics. We have arrived at a clearly atopian juncture,1 safely removed from any utopian philosophy and at the same time from the dystopian darkness.

The only fertile domain of utopian politics today seems to exist in the digital world, in the open-source software movement FLOSS,2 where an all too real battle is being fought for the public, open nature of the Internet. Although there have been attempts to pull these politics out of the computer domain and transpose them to analogue everyday life, this has aroused surprisingly little interest in the social mainstream. The first step in the Netherlands to translate the cybernetic to the urban domain, strangely enough, is coming from the real-estate sector, which describes its projects using terms like urban hardware (urban infrastructure) and urban software (urban programming). It is no longer just about the bricks. Project developers have discovered that genuine added value lies in linking the physical hardware (the built environment) to sociocultural software (practices, identities, and so forth). This is why project developers now almost routinely invite artists and other cultural actors, on a permanent or temporary basis, to ‘add some flavour’ to as yet unfinished real estate, in order to jack up the prices. Almost every large-scale project in Amsterdam is now associated with a new cultural institution; the Zuidas has a design museum, the South Banks of the IJ have the Muziekgebouw, and the Overhoeks project the new Filmmuseum. Even in the restructuring of social housing, cultural branding has been turned into a new trend.

Interestingly, these computer terms of software and hardware were translated to urban space in the 1970s by the Pop Art architecture group Archigram,3 to promote the use of soft and flexible materials such as the inflatable bubble instead of the modernist hardware of steel and cement. Along with contemporaries such as the Italian architecture group Archizoom and texts such as Jonathan Raban’s Soft City, Archigram aimed its critique at the monotonous and rational functionalism of modernism, presenting a more organic conception of the city as a living organism (comparable views made Aldo van Eyck the quintessential architectural spokesman of the Nieuwmarkt battle against urban modernization). The term urban software thus dates back to the 1960s and 1970s, with software as the social programming of a city and hardware as its infrastructure. Just as the Situationists experimented with bottom-up software through psychogeography and the dérive, so did subjective, organic and bottom-up approaches develop into a spearhead of the utopian urbanism of the time. French urbanist Henri Lefebvre, an important source of inspiration for the urban social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, formulated ‘the right to the city’ in the 1960s: ‘. . . the right to the city means the right of citizens and city residents . . . to take part in all the networks and circuits of communication, information and exchange.4 

In light of current notions of cities as centres for trade in and exploitation of knowledge (the ‘creative knowledge economy’), this formulation of the right to the city seems more imperative than ever, as well as being intrinsically connected to open-source politics. For, in the neoliberal city, this libertarian approach to software is being replaced by an increasingly tightly regulated and coded version, in which urban programming often comes to serve narrow economic functionalism. Through the introduction of codes of behaviour, local ordinances and an increased police presence, streets are kept free of unsanctioned street scenes and undesirable use. By means of the creative city policy, the neoliberal city encourages and promotes the influx of highly educated residents, even as cutbacks are imposed on the creative public domain such as education and the cultural sector and lower education levels have been in crisis for years. Notions of cultural and creative entrepreneurship are becoming dominant in the cultural sector, formerly grounded in political and aesthetic considerations. Culture as a consumer product is developing into a crucial resource in the branding battle among cities. In the process, cultural branding becomes an attempt to construct competitive urban software products that serve to ‘programme’ the urban space in the most economically favourable fashion possible. The neoliberal city is becoming the Microsoft of the spatial knowledge economy: it chooses branding over substance and refuses to makes its source code – its political agenda – public. With the ‘kernel'5 of the city increasingly focused on intercity competition, policy no longer needs legitimization – the need to be a ‘top city’ is reason enough. It seems an almost inevitable necessity, as a response to this trend, to create a programme that translates the demands of the FLOSS movement to the urban space. The realization of a public domain dedicated to the bottom-up production of knowledge and power, and an open urban source code that encourages, rather than complicates, participation; these, at any event, are two essential ingredients of a yet to be determined method for open-source urbanism.

Flexmens, text Merijn Oudenampsen; illustrations: Thijs Vissia

Merijn Oudenampsen (1979, Amsterdam) is a sociologist and political scientist. He is affiliated to Tilburg University, doing a PhD research project on political populism and the swing to the Right in Dutch politics. He was guest editor of the 20th edition of the art journal Open, titled the Populist Imagination (NAi 2010). He edited a volume titled Power to the People, een anatomie van het populisme (Boom | Lemma 2012). His essays and other texts are archived on merijnoudenampsen.org.

Last publication date: 2014-07-02.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

‘The city was a fused group’ – so says Jean-Paul Sartre, speaking of Paris during the 1789 storming of the Bastille. What Sartre apprehends in his analysis of this revolutionary moment is the necessary interdependency of space, time, movement and will. His concept of the fused group brings these elements together in a way that recognizes the capacity to transform the given into something altogether new. In the moment of fusion Sartre sees a transformation from an isolated seriality, in which each person is a lonely powerless unit, into a collective entity – a being together in the most powerful sense of the term, a mutual recognition of that which he understands as most human, freedom.

Joss Hands is the author of @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture (2010). He teaches media and communication at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge where he is also co-director of the Anglia Research Centre in Digital Culture.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

According to Florian Schneider, researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, the world’s current border policy is based on the outdated liberal ideology of the nation-state. He advocates the development of a new border regime in which the key concept is ‘transnationality’.

Florian Schneider is a filmmaker and media artist based in Munich and Brussels. He is one of the initiators of the campaign Kein Mensch ist illegal and curated the performance project Dictionary of War. He teaches at the Trondheim Academy of Fine Art and the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht.

Last publication date: 2011-11-18.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

The many proposals advanced by policymakers and designers to tackle the ever more complex issue of mobility are merely spurious solutions, according to design critic John Thackara. We must radically change our thinking in this regard. In his view, we can learn a lot from the workings of the human brain, microprocessors and network topography.

John Thackara is a writer, educator and design producer. He is the author of In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World (2005) and of a widely-read blog at www.designobserver.com.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Media theorist Tatiana Goryucheva investigates the logic behind the correlations between the traceability of food and the technological and social processes during its production. She advocates a democratic model of a socio-technological infrastructure for reconnecting people with their natural and social environment through food.

Tatiana Goryucheva is a media theorist, curator and lecturer based in Amsterdam. In her research and projects, she explores the politics of technological design, the culture of democracy and social engagement in relation to technology.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Metahaven is an Amsterdam-based design studio, founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden. Metahaven creates and researches visual identity, which was the focus of their 2010 book Uncorporate Identity. For this issue on mobility, they draft a speculative future for ‘mobile money’, in which a faltering Euro currency is rescued by Facebook Credits.

Metahaven is an Amsterdam-based design studio founded by Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden. Apart from commissions, Metahaven works on research projects on visual identity, such as as the Sealand Identity Project (2004), Transparency Inc. (2010–2011), and the Museum of Conflict (2006). Metahaven’s work was shown at Forms of Inquiry (London, 2007), Manifesta 8 (Murcia and Cartagena, 2010) and Graphic Design Worlds (Milan, 2011). Solo exhibitions by Metahaven were Affiche Frontière (Bordeaux, 2008) and Stadtstaat (Stuttgart and Utrecht, 2009). Metahaven’s book Uncorporate Identity (2010) is an anthology of design projects and critical writings. See further: www.metahaven.net.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

With the project In the Air,1 Spanish architect Nerea Calvillo wants to make the citizens of Madrid more aware of the city’s official monitoring systems for measuring air pollution and get them involved. Through the development of interfaces, collective action can be initiated that is aimed at exchanging experiences and raising community consciousness.

Nerea Calvillo is an architect and researcher who studied at the Escuela Tecnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid (ETSAM). She was awarded the Fulbright grant to pursue studies at Columbia University (MsAAD), she received her doctorate in 2014. She has worked at NO.MAD and Foreign Office Architects (FOA) before funding her own office C+ (2004), winning several national and international competitions. Her work and articles have been published in architecture magazines, academic journals and general media.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Art Discourse

What artistic activist aims have in common is a faith that awareness can change the world without any specific follow-through. This is magical thinking.

Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

A dominant movement in leftist politics has always embraced a sense of reality as opposed to dreams and imagination. The American sociologist Stephen Duncombe argues instead for a dreampolitik, which, unlike reactionary populist fantasies, can activate the imagination with impossible dreams. They make it possible to think ‘out of the box’ and to wonder what an alternative world and a different attitude to life might be like.

Stephen Duncombe is an associate professor at the Gallatin School of New York University, where he teaches the history and politics of media and culture. He is the author of, most recently, Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy (2007) and the cofounder and codirector of the College of Tactical Culture and the School for Creative Activism in New York City.

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

Yves Citton, author of Mythocratie. Storytelling et imaginaire de gauche (2010), analyses the various affective levels that motivate sociopolitical movements and argues that they should not only be recognized but also taken seriously. Against that background it becomes possible to understand current populist developments more clearly, and even to learn from them. By creating new myths that are emancipatory, we can steer the future of our society in a better direction.

Yves Citton is professor of French Literature of the 18th Century at the Université de Grenoble-3 and a member of the umr LIRE (CNRS 5611). He taught for 12 years in the department of French and Italian of the University of Pittsburgh, PA, after getting his PhD from the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and has been invited Professor at New York University, Harvard and Sciences-Po Paris. He co-directs the journal Multitudes and writes regular chronicles in the Revue des Livres

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

A spectre is haunting Western Europe, and it no longer bears the name ‘communism’ but ‘populism’. Politicians and political parties such as Wilders in the Netherlands, Le Pen in France, Berlusconi in Italy or the Vlaams Belang in Flanders refer to ‘the people’ or the demos to legitimize what is usually an extreme right-wing programme that connects ‘the danger of Islam’ and ‘the threat of immigration to identity’ with such things as globalisation, security and the future of ‘our’ social safety net. This rhetoric is embedded in a more general discourse that creates a broader antagonism between ‘us’ and ‘them’, ‘the people’ and their adversaries. ‘Us’ stands for average hard-working citizens who behave decently and have common sense. ‘Them’ stands for the political establishment and the ‘left-wing church’, who squander money at the government’s expense and deprive ‘us’, ‘the silent majority’, of freedom of speech through the imposed morality of political correctness. In this way, right-wing populism can position itself as an ultra-democratic discourse, adept at aggregating various complaints and fears in the name of ‘the people’. Whether it’s the European Union, the uncertain future of the pension system, the credit crisis, the rate of taxation, or simply the ever-growing queues on the motorways, it is always connected to the discrepancy between ‘us’ and ‘them’. ‘They’ do not listen to ‘us’; ‘they’ ignore the will and identity of ‘the people’. This discourse not only simplifies the political arena; it also relates ‘the people’ to a charismatic leader who seems to literally personify its presumed desires. Le Pen, Wilders, De Winter or Berlusconi profess that they give the ‘silent majority’ a voice, while in fact they actively articulate it by ascribing very different complaints, demands and desires to the discrepancy between ‘us’ and ‘them’. All of this is facilitated by the mediatized audience democracy, in which self-appointed mouthpieces of ‘the people’ can directly address the individual citizen in prime time with well-chosen one-liners. In the Netherlands, first Pim Fortuyn and then Geert Wilders proved in this way that a populist politician can appeal to a broad spectrum of the population without the support of a consolidated party machine.

Latin America is in the grip of a completely different kind of populism. Of a left-wing persuasion, it is buoyed by a combination of three factors: the mobilization capacity of various grassroots movements, the recruitment power of the mass media, and the rhetorical allure of a charismatic leader, à la Evo Morales, Lula da Silva or Hugo Chávez. Unlike in right-wing Europe, the contradistinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is not primarily articulated culturally, but economically, which would seem to make Latin American populism a descendent of Marxist thought. Or is this precisely not the case, because the populist antithesis between the people and the establishment differs thoroughly from the antagonism between a dominated or exploited class and a propertied class?

For political theorist Ernesto Laclau (born in 1935 in Buenos Aires), this question sparked a reflection that would bring him ‘beyond Marx’ and prevailing theories of democracy. The populist appeal of ‘Peronism’ in Argentina was a reason for Laclau to cast serious doubts on the orthodox Marxist axiom that all politics is essentially an expression of economic class differences. Instead, populism teaches that class politics is also first and foremost, a question of discourse: the articulation of the social space according to a specific dichotomy, which in populism assumes a more general form than in Marxism. In Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985), written together with Chantal Mouffe and which co-initiated so-called post-Marxism, this idea is further elaborated through an appeal to Gramsci’s notion of hegemony. A hegemonic discourse, or a discourse that strives for hegemony, relates various dissatisfactions to each other: it homogenizes them by linking them together as equivalent demands in a chain of equivalence. This simultaneously creates an antagonism between ‘the people’ and the establishment: on the one hand, the equivalent demands are represented as coming from ‘the people’, which is thus discursively construed and given a political content, and on the other hand these demands are contrasted to the interests of those in power and the groups connected with them. The distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’ may be defined in class terms, but this is only one possible articulation. Every hegemonic or contra-hegemonic discourse has its characteristic central signifiers that connect or combine divergent demands – one of the meanings of the verb ‘to articulate’ – and thus give shape to the antagonism between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Precisely because a signifier such as, for example, ‘the working class’, ‘the Dutch people’, or, in a liberal context, ‘the citizen’, combines very different demands, it acquires so many connotations that it ultimately tends towards meaninglessness, it changes into ‘an empty signifier’. In short, hegemonic politics comes down to constructing a ‘people’ by creating an antagonism with the help of versatile symbols.

After Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Laclau published several collections of theoretical essays in which he on the one hand dwells upon specific issues regarding the theory of hegemony he developed with Mouffe and on the other gives attention, among other things, to the dialectics between universality and particularity in light of the identity politics that were strongly taking hold in the 1990s. He thus became an internationally much heard and broadly respected voice on the left, as shown by the debate with the feminist theorist Judith Butler and the Lacanian-inspired political philosopher Slavoj Žižek in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality (2000). In 2005, 20 years after the publication of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, Laclau published On Populist Reason. Rather than a faithful synthesis of insights noted earlier, this is a study that stands on its own in which Laclau rearticulates the path his thinking has taken in the meantime. One of the basic propositions of the book is that populism is neither an aberration of a democratic politics nor a danger to it but, on the contrary, an inherent dimension of it. Democratic politics requires the construction of a ‘people’ on the basis of one or more empty signifiers as well as an antagonism between ‘us’ and ‘them’ – which is not to say that every populism is also by definition democratic.

Rudi Laermans: In Western Europe, a resurgence of populism can be observed, particularly of the extreme right-wing type. What is your perspective on this development?

Ernesto Laclau: I think that the prospects in today’s Western Europe are rather unpleasant. All the governments in Western Europe are reacting to the crisis with extreme neoliberal formulas of adjustment. Zapatero has just passed a set of draconian measures and you know what is happening in Greece. In Germany the situation is also relatively unsustainable, and in England the relationship between Nick Clegg and David Cameron is quite feeble because there exist strong tendencies within the Liberal Democrats to reject the coalition agreement and the way it is implemented. So the situation is bad, and this all the more because the social democratic parties, which are the only viable alternative at the moment in Eastern as well as Western Europe, do not have any alternative plan. These conditions fuel extreme right-wing populism. If you don’t have an alternative to the system, people who feel a need for such an alternative move to extreme ideologies, whether they are right-wing or left-wing. Take the example of France. There existed a classical discourse of opposition, which was that of the Communist Party and the red belts of the industrial cities. This world has disintegrated as a result of the tertiarization of the labour market. The outcome was a unique system of power in which the social democrats and the more conservative forces did not differ very much from each other. The only political alternatives were to be found on the fringes of the left and the right, yet it is the right fringe that has progressively expanded. Many former voters of the French Communist Party are today voters of Le Pen, a phenomenon that is called gaucho-lepénisme. The reason is simple: if you want change in some way, the precise way in which that change is going to happen and its ideological framing become a secondary matter. And that is of course not only the situation in France. The chances for a left populism are today in Western Europe rather minimal. Populism is going to expand, but it will be a populism of the right.

RL: You mean an ethno-populism?

EL: Not necessarily. Ethnic populism is important in Eastern Europe, but I don’t think you will have a populism of that kind in Western Europe. Thus Le Pen is not someone who tries to recreate a national identity as the sole basis of inclusion. It’s not the ethno-populism that flourished in Bulgaria or Romania during the interwar period. It’s a rather complicated matter, and I don’t know how it’s going to evolve. What is clear is that without a reconstruction of the left along a social democratic line – because communist options are already over – it’s difficult to imagine how a more democratic politics can come about.

RL: People like Le Pen in France or Wilders in the Netherlands make an appeal to the identity of the French or the Dutch, which they position as threatened by immigrants as well as the reigning political elites. Yet you wouldn’t speak of ethno-populism?

EL: No, because of a terminological question. Le Pen or Wilders are not focusing on race as the central question. Le Pen is not claiming that there exists a superior French race. He is saying something different than ethno-populism: ‘We are French people and we reject the immigrants.’ The same goes for the Dutch right-wing populism of Wilders: it’s not an ethno-populism but an anti-immigrant one. Maybe the situation is a bit different in Flanders because there you have not only the theme of immigration but also the relationship with the Walloons.

RL: Wilders and the Party for Freedom are a complex thing. It’s a populism that claims to defend ‘our values’, such as tolerance toward homosexuals. There is thus a twofold reference, one to the supposed values of the Dutch, so a nationalist reference, and a more general one to the modern-liberal tradition.

EL: What would be the empty signifier?

RL: In the case of Wilders Party for Freedom, ‘freedom’ itself is a very important signifier. It’s made equivalent with being modern, tolerant, secularized… and at the same time with a certain idea of ‘We the Dutch’.

EL: At this point we have to distinguish several things, such as ethnicity, nationality, race… These unifying signifiers don’t all function in the same way since their modes of inclusion and exclusion are different. All of them are without doubt right-wing, yet the logic behind the creation of these identities differs. Thus in the Nazi discourse the eugenic component was very important, whereas this is not at all the case in today’s right-wing movements. And a second thing is that it’s also important to distinguish the logic of dichotomizing society in two camps from the ideologies that invoke this logic: in Latin America the opposition to neoliberalism mobilized around populist themes in the wake of the ascension of peasant communities in Bolivia, the dynamic of the new social movements in Argentina, or the grassroots mobilization in Venezuela. The latter would have collapsed without the presence of Hugo Chávez as a unifying signifier. So there are two levels at which popular mobilization takes place. The same is happening in Ecuador with Rafael Correa, with Evo Morales in Bolivia, with first Nestor and then Christina Kirchner in Argentina, and with Pepe Mujica in Uruguay. To some extent, Lula has managed to create a similar situation in Brazil, clearly a more complicated country than the others just mentioned. So overall the spectrum of politics in Latin America is moving to the left, with populist logics.

RL: Hearing you mentioning all these presidential names reminds me of the fact that in On Populist Reason, you stress the importance of the name of the leader as a constitutive performative element in populist discourse. Yet most political theorists of liberal democracy regard populist leadership as quite problematic because it rapidly tends to become authoritarian.

EL: Politics is constructed around two poles. One side is populism, the other is institutionalism. The excess of populism leads to the dissolution of the social community, which is of course a disaster. Yet since an excess of institutionalism results in political paralysis, one always has to construct a balance between these two poles in order to have a viable political system. This balance is created in different societies in different ways. An excess of institutionalism more particularly leads to the parliamentarization of power, which paralyses the executive. A typical example was the Fourth Republic in France. The country became unmanageable and within this context Gaullism emerged, which was probably a moment of populism. Several things that were not manageable by the disintegrating political system became again manageable thanks to the personalization of power. And then came the rebellion of 1968. It threatened to disintegrate society since it proved difficult to transform this broad mobilization and the many accompanying demands into a viable political progressive alternative going beyond Gaullism. Only one man had the sense of what was needed at that point, and that was Pierre Mendès France. When the mobilization started, he was giving a series of talks in Chile. He interrupted his tour, went back to France, and said on the radio that he was prepared to seize power if he was backed by the whole left. He proposed the founding of a Sixth Republic on a left-wing basis but did not succeed. On the one hand the Communist Party had a very cautious corporatist politics of negotiation. The last thing in the world they wanted was the emergence of a left-wing populism in France. On the other hand the gauchistes were totally elsewhere with their slogan ‘all power to the imagination’. What happened then, we have already been speaking about. People didn’t see that the mobilization of 68 could result in a reorganization of French society. During the subsequent election De Gaulle therefore won massively, but not because people were particularly happy with him. For one year later, in the April 1969 referendum on the proposed constitutional amendment, De Gaulle was defeated. In the forced parliamentary election of 1968 people just didn’t see how a new politico-hegemonic arrangement could possibly emerge. So confronted with the prospect of a complete disintegration they voted for De Gaulle. Jacques Lacan once said that the two great leaders in French politics of the second half of the twentieth century that he admired were De Gaulle and Pierre Mendès France. Slavoj Žižek has misinterpreted this statement, saying that it showed Lacan was not at all left-wing. I think Lacan was actually trying to say something different, namely that the only genuine hegemonic projects that proposed an image of the state’s capacity to unify French society were advanced by the right-winger De Gaulle and the left-winger Mendès France. But to reiterate the more general point: we need a balance between populism and institutionalism. In the Latin-American context this is perfectly clear. In the European context the lack of unifying signifiers, so of slogans or leaders, is going to be felt very much in the next few years. And the risk is that they will be come from the right…

RL: What you say reminds me of the analysis of Max Weber. In his view, the administrative bureaucratic apparatus needs a strong leader on top who receives a plebiscitee via election. Without that kind of leader, the moment of true politics disappears because you end up with a takeover of bureaucracy or administration. Weber therefore favoured a presidential regime based on the American model. In comparison with a strict parliamentary system, a presidential regime seems indeed to foster populist politics. One could perhaps be in favour of a dual regime with a populist dynamic via the presidential channel that is balanced by procedures and parliamentary control?

EL: Postcolonial theorists such as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak or Leela Ghandi, the great-granddaughter of Mahatma Ghandi who is professor at the University of Chicago, have produced an interesting analysis of – if I translate it in my language – the ways in which the signifiers of democracy create different institutional preconditions within different societies. What could democracy mean in an Islamic society? What could democracy be in the Latin American case, which I am trying to analyse? They are dealing with the kind of topic that you mention. I think we have to arrive at a more universal theory of democracy in which democratic demands are dealt with in all of their diversity, considering both their dangers and possibilities. With our Eurocentric view we tend to think that democratic demands can be handled in only one way. Yet at the beginning of the nineteenth century liberalism was a very respected form of political organization, whereas democracy was a pejorative term, like populism today, because the notion was identified with the ‘government of the mob’ or Jacobinism and related things. It took many revolutions and reactions to reach the kind of relatively stable balance between liberalism and democracy we still know today in the West. I think that this kind of integration of democracy and liberalism was never reached in Latin America. After they became independent, Latin American states were organized as liberal parliamentary regimes, yet they were not the least democratic because the democratic demands of the masses were ignored. The mass movements that emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century therefore expressed themselves predominantly not via liberal channels but mainly through a form of nationalistic military dictatorship. There existed a bifurcation in the democratic experience of the masses: there was liberalism and there was democracy expressed through these non-orthodox channels. Only after the experience of the horrible dictatorships of the 1970s arose the possibility of coupling the liberal-democratic and the national-populist tradition. This construction is an uneasy thing but I think no one in Latin America, neither Chávez or Morales nor Kirchner or Correa, is advocating the dismantlement of the liberal foundations of the state. In Latin America, we have, or are going to have, democratic governments with a strong presidentialism. This is not the case in Western Europe. Nevertheless, Western Europe needs some kind of populist reconfiguration of the social space in a democratic direction since otherwise that space is going to be occupied by the horrible movements we were speaking about previously – by Le Pen, Wilders and his Party for Freedom, and the like.

RL: Let’s go the philosophical basis of your work. In your view, politics is not just a separate societal sphere but a necessary dimension of instituting the social. Could you elaborate this idea a little bit?

EL: In my work I have tried to clarify the distinction between the social and the political according to the Husserlian distinction between sedimentation and reactivation. Whereas the social consists of sedimented practices, the dimension of reactivation comes to the fore in the instituting moment – and that is the political. Obviously, Husserl would not have bought this argument. He would have conceived the instituting moment as being that of the transcendental subject, which has in his view an absolute constitutive priority. I consider the moment of reactivation as a moment of radical contingency. You have social institutions or sedimented practices, but their institution or reinstitution does not have a ground beyond itself. Suppose that you use a mathematical operation. You don’t remember the moment in which this mathematical operation was mathematically grounded. So in the moment of sedimentation you use practices that are simply established, whereas in the moment of reactivation you go back to the original moment of institution. For Husserl, this moment of institution would imply an absolutely grounding, transcendental subject, whereas for me it points to a radical contingency that defines the moment of the political.

RL: And that moment appears in various kinds of struggle?

EL: Yes, I think that the instituting moment is continually reproduced. The social is never completely ordered but society is also not something that starts from zero. The two dimensions are constantly overdetermining each other.

RL: Yet why call the instituting moment political? Because it involves struggle?

EL: Yes, and that brings us to another aspect of my thinking. You have read my joint work with Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, and subsequent writings. One of the defining ideas is that antagonism is of central importance to the institution of the social. You have overall two ideas on the social. Either it is a ground preceding everything else that is happening, which implies that the social has a definite meaning. Or it is an Abgrund, in the sense of Heidegger, which is to say that the social lacks any foundation and that the moment of totalization is not a ground but a horizon. Once you have this idea of a horizon, the moment of the political comes to the fore.

RL: And for you this necessarily implies an antagonism?

EL: I have a twofold position on antagonism. When we wrote Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, we conceived antagonism as pointing to the impossibility of the social order to constitute itself as a sedimented order. Later on I had second thoughts. Antagonism already goes hand in hand with a first discursive inscription of somebody as an enemy that is already a form of sedimentation. There is thus something deeper involved, a moment of dislocation that prevents the existing structure from overcoming this unstructured moment in one way or another. Let’s take as an example of a dislocating experience the crisis of the Weimar Republic in which the middle classes lost their savings. You can say: ‘It’s forces of evil doing this’, or ‘It’s a punishment sent by God because of my sins’. Whatever form of inscription you choose is a second moment with regard to the experience of dislocation, which does not necessarily lead to any form of discursive articulation.

RL: The moment of dislocation can also just elicit particular claims that are dealt with in an administrative way, so without the moment of politics.

EL: There is no radical dislocation if the claims can be handled in that mode. A radical dislocation happens in the moment in which you cannot follow administrative ways.

RL: How would you then delineate administration from politics?

EL: Let me start with an example and then move on to the theoretical approach of this question. Suppose you have a group of neighbours asking the municipality to create a bus line that connects the place where they live to the place where most of them work. If the municipality accepts this claim, this is the end of the matter. The claim is discursively inscribed and administered. But let’s suppose the municipality does not accept the claim. There is then the frustration of a demand, and an inability of the institutional system to channel the demand. Now let’s further suppose that among or connected to these people whose demand has been frustrated, there exist other demands that are also being frustrated, for instance regarding housing, health, security, schooling, and so on. People start to have the idea that they have something in common, in the sense that their demands are being opposed by a system that has power but does not recognize them. That is a pre-political and pre-populist situation. Instead of the demands being administratively solved, there is the emergence of a chain of equivalent demands not recognized by the system. In this situation people will start feeling that there exists a division of society between those at the top and those at the bottom. At some point somebody starts interpellating people at the bottom against the whole system. That is the moment in which the populist identity arises. So you have all these demands floating there and some sense of equivalence, or what I call an equivalential chain. And then there is the crystallizing of the plurality of demands around one symbol that unifies the chain. In most of the cases – in fact I have not found a single example in which this is not the case – that symbol is the name of a leader. When all this happens, the social space is divided into two camps. It can happen with an ideology of the right, like you may observe in Flanders or in Holland, or it can happen with an ideology of the left, like in Latin America. The crucial point is that populism is not an ideology itself. It is a form of constructing the political through the division of society in two camps.

RL: And with an explicit reference to ‘the people’?

EL: Well, the people are precisely constructed through this chain of equivalences.

RL: I had the impression that your early work on populism suggested that it was necessary to refer to ‘the people’ as a basic signifier that keeps the whole chain of equivalences together, whereas in more recent writings the empty signifier that installs a hegemonic discourse can for instance also be ‘the market’, witness neoliberalism.

EL: After 1989 the reference to the market definitely played that role in Eastern Europe of the signifier unifying all demands. The market is actually a way of organizing the economy but in Eastern Europe the market meant at that time many other things, such as catching up with the West, the end of bureaucratic inefficiency, freedom and the right to be different, and so on. Everything crystallized around the signifier ‘market’ but that did not last long. People started realizing that the market was not an all-in solution to all their difficulties. This led to a disintegration of the anticommunist imaginary and the emergence of some kind of more pragmatic arrangement in most Eastern European countries.

RL: So even if ‘the market’ is the central signifier, you would still speak of a populist discourse?

EL: It was a genuine populist discourse.

RL: Because it still contained an implicit reference to the people and their claims?

EL: Yes! Don’t forget that the people can be constructed in various ways. Thus the Long March of Mao constructed the people as something that exceeded class. There was at that moment no possibility to say that they all belonged to the working class or something of the kind. You had predominantly people who were marginal, with destroyed daily lives – people who were dislocated, as we said before, because of the Japanese invasion. All their demands that could not be met were reabsorbed around the Red Army and communism. In that period, communism started to signify in China something that had very little to do with what it meant in the experience of nineteenth-century Europe, where it was associated with justice and related things. The same can happen in discourses with a completely different ideological orientation. Take the case of Mussolini and Italy in 1923-1924. When people observed that the state that had emerged from the Risorgimento was disintegrating, they were looking for some sort of radical re-foundation. The fascists have been able to carry out that revolution whereas the communists failed. One could say this is nonsense, since a true revolution would have been something very different. Yet at some point, ‘revolution’ became the central signifier pointing to a radical reorganization of society, be it a fascist one. When people realize that society is threatened with radical disintegration, whatever kind of reorganization of society weighs more than the actual ideological content framing it. The truth is that there were many people moving from communism to fascism and vice versa during this period. In 1944-1945 the opposite process took place: the communist signifier started to articulate a much wider series of equivalences than the fascist one within the context of the German army occupying Northern Italy.

RL: Let’s return to more recent times. You spoke of the populist character of the market discourse in Eastern Europe just after the fall of communism. At that time, neoliberalism was already becoming a hegemonic discourse in the West. During the 1990s neoliberalism spread out in different ideological directions, including the left – I’m thinking for instance of Tony Blair’s so-called third-way politics. Was this kind of neoliberalism also a populist discourse?

EL: No. I don’t think Blairism was at any moment genuinely populist, except perhaps in its very beginnings. The conservative regime was disintegrating in the 1990s, so there was some kind of populist appeal to Blairism. Yet what Blairism was providing later on was a continuation of Thatcherism by other means. Eric Hobsbawm has written that Blairism was Thatcherism with trousers. It was exactly that. Very quickly the mystic of Blairism was reduced to nothing and, with the Iraq war, it simply disappeared.

RL: How should we then conceive neoliberalism as a hegemonic discourse?

EL: The interesting phenomenon is that neoliberalism in its most crude forms requires authoritarian methods. The restructuring of the Chilean economy in a neoliberal direction by the Chicago boys required the dictatorship of Pinochet. In Argentina, the economic plan of Martínez de Hoz would not have been able to implant itself without the dictatorship of Videla. But there exists another, more pervasive form of neoliberalism that emerges when the parties that should have opposed these regimes are permeated by their ideas. It happens all the time. The Blairism just mentioned is a clear example. And today, the politics of readjustment according to the most traditional norms of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are advocated by the socialist Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The neoliberal disease ultimately goes beyond the authoritarian form, by way of negotiations. Argentina offers an example to the contrary. After the crisis of 2001 and the arrival to power of Nestor Kirchner, the country completely broke with the formulas of the IMF and started up a more pragmatic politics. The result is that Argentina is passing through the actual crisis in a rather mild way, without having to appeal to any forms of adjustment. Most Latin American economies are actually moving in this direction.

RL: Is neoliberalism then predominantly hegemonic with regard to active government and administration?

EL: Neoliberalism was only hegemonic among economic and political elites. It never obtained hegemony over society as a whole.

RL: Some people would question this diagnosis on the basis of phenomena such as contemporary consumerism, which can be linked to the marketization of nearly everything, including politics. One may consider neoliberalism not only as a method of politico-economic government but as a broader ideological formation that re-articulates nearly all social relations in terms of provider-customer positions.

EL: I don’t think that there is such a continuity between neoliberalism and consumerism. Consumerism is perfectly compatible with many forms of the welfare state that neoliberalism opposes. It is true that in its most hegemonic moment, neoliberalism rearticulated consumerism according to its own logic. That is exactly what I think is collapsing. Not that I want to be too optimistic because we may have consumerism as an ideology and a social practice for a long time after the neoliberal formula has stopped being effective. So overall consumerism and neoliberalism are not necessarily linked. Before the crisis of the 1970s, there existed a consumerist attitude that was definitely not a neoliberal one. Thatcherism and Reaganism attempted to link these, and stated that consumerism, which had already become a mass ideology, was compatible with self-regulated markets without state regulations. That was the dominant ideology in the 1980s and the 1990s. Things are different today. Consumerism as an ideology is not exactly withering away but what is definitely in decline is the faith that neoliberalism is the best way to achieve consumerism. So my point is that the logic of consumerism and the logic of neoliberalism don’t tend to coalesce in a coherent or necessary way. Let’s suppose that they don’t, and also that neoliberalism does not deliver the goods and that even the consumerist logic is put to the test. Many things may happen then, for instance that people start realizing that they have to become subjects of their own lives at different stages of organization. When this occurs, consumerism is also put into question. I think that all these recent crises not only reveal that neoliberalism is bankrupt but that the confidence on which consumerism was based is also threatened. In such a situation people can think of becoming a different kind of subject, and some hope for another form of societal organization may emerge…

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Using several historical lines, the Belgian sociologist Rudi Laermans analyses the present ‘heritage regime’. Actualism, which so dominates the modern era, is characterized by an emphasis on forgetting. The present focus on heritage seems to contradict this. Yet stressing the autonomous value of the past in fact reinforces the division between past and present. According to Laermans they are two sides of the same coin. The often expressed criticism of Disneyfication merely diverts attention.

Rudi Laermans is a full professor of sociological theory at the Faculty of Social Sciences at Leuven University. His research and publications are primarily situated within the domains of contemporary social and cultural theory and the sociology of art. 

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

The culture of the recent deposed, but all-too-undead New Labour project may be summed up in a single phrase: ‘Populism without popularity.’ What does this mean? It means that the simulacrum of politics has overtaken any possibility of genuine social content, that the desire to be seen to be doing something to be approved of is greater than the desire to actually do it. Politics may well have been like this for some time, we should say, but something subtle has shifted in the transition from Thatcher to Blair, at least in the UK: the USA has long been entranced by presidents who are equally at home on the big screen as on the rallying stage (as Gil Scott Heron put it in B Movie: ‘Acted like an actor . . . Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a Republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We’re all actors in this I suppose.’).

We all know about spin, about style over substance, about how the media frames the debate, where one public ‘slip’ can cost an election, but what about the dire contradictions unleashed by the desperate attempt to appear popular without the will to enact potentially unpopular decisions? In Adam Curtis’s Century of the Self (2002), in an episode entitled ‘Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering’, a line describing New Labour focus groups, Derek Draper, a former Labour spin doctor, makes a valid point about the incoherency of the ‘research’ generated by such groups. Of course people are going to say that they both want better public services and to pay less tax! But is there anything more New Labour than asking people to map out their contradictory desires and then somehow pretending to be able to act on them? The sheen of populism gives everyone a good feeling: my voice has been heard on the one side, we’re listening on the other. The miasmic fantasy of ‘Cool Britannia’ that saw pop stars mingle with politicians in a weightless bubble of faddish fashion and creative industry speak, was pop music and the art world revealing their desperate desire to seem appealing without necessarily arousing any passion (it was about this time that pop stars were suddenly allowed to be just nice normal boys and girls and no one was supposed to worry about class any more).

Recent years have seen the arrival of flash mobs – distracted spectacles of apolitical ‘communities’ incredibly quickly co-opted by ad campaigns and ‘spontaneous’ fake demands to bring back old products (chocolate bars, crisps) that people dimly remembered from their childhoods. These ironic displays nevertheless hint at a subterranean desire for both spontaneity and a more genuine sense of belonging: popularity without the need for populism. In the twentieth century, the right-wing, or, more broadly reactionary, tendencies of political and social life have historically been much better at attempting to inculcate a ‘true’ populism (mass rallies, mass use of propaganda cinema, etcetera), although the Soviets were the first to see the potential of reproducible poster art and an international cinema (albeit in one country). Today, in the USA we see the rise of the ‘Tea Party Movement’, which seems to want to directly fuse a horror of taxation with a kind of deep psychological resentment, and in the UK the rise of the English Defence League, a single issue ‘popular’ movement that objects to ‘extremist Islam’ and looks and acts uncannily like the racist mobs Ballard depicted in his final novel Kingdom Come. Trapped between a commodity culture obsessed with creating fake-popular campaigns, and Facebook-organizing racist thugs, the future of populism doesn’t look great: against this depressing populism, our own recourse is to reclaim the notion of popularity when and where it emerges.

But how can we separate true popularity from false? Is anything allowed to be genuinely popular without immediate recapture by media and consumer culture? A hint here would be to observe when and where the numbers game is fixed, when precisely people don’t want you knowing how many people are involved. Every protestor and activist knows that when the police give out their figures for protests it’s usually a quarter to a half of the real numbers; the same goes for media coverage – the crowd was barely there! Even in the arena of the basely numerical (that is, all contemporary human life), we can see the cracks in the edifice of populism against popularity. These moments of genuine popularity may be overwhelmingly motivated by anger and injustice, but perhaps this is as good a starting point as any, and perhaps the only one we have available to us in our current predicament.

Nina Power is a senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University and the author of One-Dimensional Woman (2009).

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

To what extent is the political use of myths justified? Wu Ming, a writers’ collective based in Bologna, asks itself that question in this kaleidoscopic self-critique. The binding element is mythopoesis, a radical politics of storytelling that, says Wu Ming, must never be beyond all doubt.

Wu Ming (full name: Wu Ming Foundation) is a collective of four writers currently based in Bologna, Italy. They have authored such historical novels as Q (under the name Luther Blissett), 54 and Manituana. See further: www.wumingfoundation.com.

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

Unlike in pre-modern communities, we consider our democracies to be rationally constituted. Philosopher Aukje van Rooden wonders whether the greatest myth of contemporary politics isn’t our assumption that we can function without a mythological structure. Perhaps that denial is precisely what underlies the overwhelming advance of right-wing populist politicians.

Aukje van Rooden is a philosopher and literary theorist and works as a postdoctoraal researcher at Utrecht University. She obtained her PhD from the University of Tilburg with a thesis on the relation between literature, politics and myth: L’Intrigue dénouée. Politique et littérature dans une communauté sans mythes.

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

Willem Schinkel, sociologist at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, does not consider populism a threat to democracy. According to him, populism in fact especially has significance as a means of criticism, now that ‘democracy is so little criticized that every dictator holds elections in order to adorn himself with democratic attire’.

Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

Now that politics is deliberately being shunted aside with greater and greater frequency and all sorts of measures that sooner apply to an emergency are being legitimized, cities are coming under increasing pressure. War rhetoric and marketing strategies are converging in the formulation of urban policies that are primarily aimed at attracting the creative class and integrating the ‘ underclass’. Reflecting on Amsterdam’ s future, sociologist Willem Schinkel reacts to the marketing slogan ‘ I Amsterdam’ by asking, ‘ Who is Amsterdam and where is it heading? ’

Willem Schinkel lectures in theoretical sociology at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. He is the author of Denken in een tijd van sociale hypochondrie. Aanzet tot een theorie voorbij de maatschappij (Thinking in an Era of Social Hypochondria. Toward a Theory Beyond Society, 2007).

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Freedom of Culture

In Syria cartoon characters are appropriated and re-narrated in order to reflect anti-regime protest propaganda.

Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

The graphic design and research collective Foundland (Ghalia Elsrakbi, Lauren Alexander and Dirk Vis) conducts research from within political and social developments through graphic design. They translate complex issues in Dutch society into accessible communications products, such as posters and installations. The editors of Open have asked them to make a special contribution because of their research into populism.

Foundland Collective (Ghalia Elsrakbi, SYR and Lauren Alexander, ZAR) is a design, research and art practice, based between Cairo, Egypt and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Since its inception in 2009, the collective have focused on critical analysis of topics related to political and place branding, manifesting their speculations and ideas through visual and written manifestations, exhibitions and publications. See further: www.foundland.info.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
General

Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum’s experiences during the making of the video Últimas Palabras in Argentina in 2013 have allowed them to reflect on the historical and didactic nature of the political trial. The video – published at the bottom of this text – focuses on the trial and closing argument of ex-Naval Commander Alfredo Astiz (aka “The Blond Angel of Death” during Jorge Rafael Videla’s dictatorship). It is presented here as a case study that demonstrates how Astiz’s final plea can be read as an expression of power relations in society.

Commonist Aesthetics

The Basque-Dutch artist duo Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum have written a first-hand report about their experiences of working and living inside Occupy Amsterdam, a protest camp that appeared on a public square in the heart of the city at the end of 2011. This ideological enclave sought to distinguish itself from the social order that surrounded it by creating a radically inclusive and participatory form of democracy. The text is a reflection of how this ambition became entangled with the complex moral and political implications of providing some form of protection for the weak in the name of a common good, which is itself in the process of being renegotiated.

Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum are artists. They have worked together since 2001, producing performances, videos, publications and installations. Using documentation as their work methodology, they analyse and question social and political issues concerning the everyday. Their work is often said to be political, as it brings to the surface contradictions and conflicts that may exist between individual and collective experience. In 2010 they wrote a monthly article reflecting on the relationship between art and politics for Mugalari, the cultural supplement of the Basque newspaper Gara. A selection of these texts can be read online at www.postpolitikak.org.

Last publication date: 2014-11-14.
Open no. 15, Social Engineering

I was brought up in England, a country inside a bigger state, the UK, that had been an empire within living memory. Its grandeur, fading but still apparent in the 1970s, was part of my understanding of who I was and could be. At the same time, consciousness of class and ethnicity made it clear that this state to which I belonged could not be expected to care about me in return. There were economic and social forces that excluded and undermined any appeals to loyalty. In short, I knew that the UK could never be 'on my side' in the course of my life; a knowledge embedded in my posture, voice and gesture. The best that might happen would be a temporary alignment of interests – a light mutual abuse.

When I moved to a job in Sweden, I was charmed by discovering a society where people believed that the state was on their side. Years of social democracy had persuaded many people, even given them the evidence, to see the state and their identity as largely coinciding. Personal transparency produced a successful society it seemed, one that was content with itself.

It was partly the riots in Gothenburg in 2002 that marked a change in this rhetoric. Swedes were genuinely shocked that the global movement's demonstrations against the EU leaders' meeting was violently opposed by their police. But, as a foreigner, a sense of disquiet had happened earlier. The Swedish version of social democracy was intrusive in ways I had never experienced in England. This intrusiveness went deep into personal ethics, urban planning, physical movement and demanded a certain spectrum of relatively homogeneous behaviour. I also had the impression that this system of quiet social control appeared much more visible to me, an outsider, than those educated in the system. There was a certain attraction to a parent state, an idea that it cared for life rather than made living possible. In my worst moments of despair, it seemed to reduce bodily experience to the conditions of the maternal womb, with warm, double-glazed housing and clean linoleum flooring curving clinically up the wall.

In 2004, I moved to the Netherlands, aware of its reputation and its troubles. Naturally, I found a different body in a different condition than in Sweden, though a degree of the social democratic temperature was familiar. What struck me first was the survival of what I perceived as the 1960s. 'Letting it all hang out' still appeared to have some currency. Meetings were about telling people what you thought not building alliances, agreement was something given rather than asked. I came across pure 'autonome kunst' for the first time too, and a passion for authenticity that reminded me of the hippies seeking to find themselves in the high mountains of the Afghan trail.

Yet, just as in Sweden, my initial enthusiastic curiosity was inevitably tempered by some realizations that all was not well with the 1960s model. The political consequences of social democratic failure were obvious from before I arrived, but socially – bodily – gestures appeared out of scale. Maybe the lack of self-conscious identity was suddenly imagined to be a weakness rather than a strength and over-compensated. It is difficult for an outsider to understand it well, I think.

But one thing struck me as different. If the 1960s were still the benchmark, what happened in 1989 – the political and consequent social changes in Europe, South Africa, China – seemed unacknowledged. What for me was a change of overwhelming significance, maybe because I grew up between two ideologies in some ways, appeared here to be interpreted as a distant event of minor actual consequence.

The project 'Be(com) ing Dutch' that we began two years ago has been, in many of its facets, an observation and research into just this question – did another era start in 1989 here as well as 'over there in the former east' and, if so, what are its consequences 20 years on? The discussions and art commissions we organize certainly seek to internationalize the question by asking artists to help us see ourselves as others see us, yet the question still stays close to its particular formation in this country. Looking at the exhibition after one month, I see artists who are almost always seeking to get to grips with the question of Dutch identity, yet doing it from their own position and integrity. This often means they look at the subject in a quite literal way, giving a flavour of ethnology to their work in order to confirm Jacques Rancière's crucial insight that: 'the real must be fictionalised in order to be thought'.1 If this is true, then it gives a role to art. While personal and social identity always remains 'in becoming', the field of action in which they 'become' is delineated in part by these fictions.

It is the need to make visible what is taken for granted or ignored in the everyday through enlarging the details that the 'Be(com) ing Dutch' exhibition uses as its main trope. Its purpose is partly to fictionalize in order to think, but also to use the detail as a hieroglyph for the broader state of things – a device that is I think not so well understood from a pre-1989 position. In the 1960s, gestures still had a certain grandeur of ideological certitude, exoticism was exciting, difference (to a degree) an attraction. If that comprehension is used to read 'Be(com) ing Dutch', it fails.

Having gone through two-thirds of the extended project, perhaps Rancière's fictions of the real, and then on a small scale, are one of the few options left to us today. They give us the possibility to come to conscious terms with the post-1989 world without resorting to grand schemes and new utopias. The most worthwhile contemporary artists are often found ploughing slowly through the many surviving fictions of that socially foundational moment in the 1960s to find out how far we have travelled and in what direction. While all history is inevitably constructed, our collective historical construction needs largely to match contemporary observations. If it falls too far out of alignment, it generates frustration and alienation. 'Be(com) ing Dutch', which should then be seen as part of a potentially wider process that goes beyond artistic expression, tries to temper that frustration by zooming in on the details and close-ups of our imagined pasts, presents and futures. Such a focus is not particularly heroic, which is probably why the exhibition counters much artistic expectation in the Netherlands.2 In this sense the project 'Be(com) ing Dutch' remains a modest proposal for a specific reorientation of our contemporary artistic condition rather than a grand narrative. The next step – configuring new self-conscious fictions for our situation today – appears some way off. It is, without any doubt, a major collective task, but the fragmented Dutch (art) scene is not minded to start such a project today. However, I remain convinced that it will become a crucial theme for the future to which this project will have made a thoughtful contribution.

You can find out more about the two-year project at becomingdutch.com

Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

Charles Esche and Maria Hlavajova were invited, as representatives of Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and BAK in Utrecht respectively, to contribute to the Brussels Biennial. With ‘Once is Nothing’1 they tried, from their position of institutional responsibility, to find an answer to the fleeting character of many biennials and their economically motivated quest for modernization.

Charles Esche is a curator and writer. He curated various exhibitions and biennials, including the 2nd Ramallah Biennial (2007) and the 9th Istanbul Biennial (2005) with Vasif Kortun and Esra Sarigedik Öktem. Together with Maria Hlavajova, he curated Once is Nothing at the first Brussels Biennial in 2008. He is co-editor of Afterall Journal and Books, based at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design in London. Since 2004 he has been Director of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

In 2007, Maria Hlavajova was the curator of the Dutch Pavilion of the Venice Biennale. She worked with visual artist Aernout Mik, who compiled the three-part video-installation Citizens and Subjects for the Biennale.1  Their collaboration led to a number of reflections on the relationship between art and society, and on terms such as communality and nationalism in relation to Mik’s work.

Open no. 16, The Art Biennial

Charles Esche and Maria Hlavajova were invited, as representatives of Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and BAK in Utrecht respectively, to contribute to the Brussels Biennial. With ‘Once is Nothing’1 they tried, from their position of institutional responsibility, to find an answer to the fleeting character of many biennials and their economically motivated quest for modernization.

Maria Hlavajova is artistic director of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht since 2000. In 2007 she curated the three-part project Citizens and Subjects for the Dutch Pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale. She has also edited and contributed to a variety of publications on art, theory and curatorial practice. Hlavajova lives and works in Amsterdam and Utrecht.

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

A study of contemporary Italian society reveals social and political trends that are still developing elsewhere in the world, according to Franco Berardi (philosopher) and Marco Jacquemet (communications specialist). The success of Silvio Berlusconi can be explained by forces that arose during the Counter Reformation and the baroque and never actually left industrialized, Catholic Italy. Since the transition to the semiocapitalistic system, in which the linguistic element is dominant, they even have become obvious again.

Franco (Bifo) Berardi is a writer and media activist. He founded the magazine A / traverso and worked for Radio Alice, the first free pirate radio station in Italy. He teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and is cofounder of the e-zine rekombinant.org.

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

A study of contemporary Italian society reveals social and political trends that are still developing elsewhere in the world, according to Franco Berardi (philosopher) and Marco Jacquemet (communications specialist). The success of Silvio Berlusconi can be explained by forces that arose during the Counter Reformation and the baroque and never actually left industrialized, Catholic Italy. Since the transition to the semiocapitalistic system, in which the linguistic element is dominant, they even have become obvious again.

Marco Jacquemet is associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of San Francisco. His current scholarship focuses on the communicative mutations produced by the flows of multiple languages, power relations, and media texts in a globalized world. He is currently writing a book based on this research, called Transidioma: Language and Power in the 21st Century.

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

In the following essay, political scientist Jolle Demmers and writer Sameer S. Mehendale argue for the necessity of recognizing the relationship between xenophobia and neoliberalism and of gaining an understanding of the complexity of that relationship. In the case of the Netherlands, the rise of xenophobia is part of a broader process: the largely market-controlled takeover of symbolic forms of collectivity in an increasingly atomized society.

Jolle Demmers is an assistant professor and cofounder of the Centre for Conflict Studies at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. She lectures and writes on conflict theory, the role of diasporas in violent conflict, and neoliberalism.

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
Open no. 20, The Populist Imagination

In the following essay, political scientist Jolle Demmers and writer Sameer S. Mehendale argue for the necessity of recognizing the relationship between xenophobia and neoliberalism and of gaining an understanding of the complexity of that relationship. In the case of the Netherlands, the rise of xenophobia is part of a broader process: the largely market-controlled takeover of symbolic forms of collectivity in an increasingly atomized society.

Sameer S. Mehendale is a novelist based in Amsterdam. His publications include Heliosis (2002) and Zuid, Noord-Zuid, Noord (2006). His new book De Magistraat will come out in 2011.

Last publication date: 2011-01-17.
General

This text is based on a lecture given at the University of Groningen within the conference Arts and Humanities: Of(f) Course. The conference was addressing the fact that both the arts and the humanities have lost their self-evidence in a world where ‘bottom line’ economic standards are becoming increasingly dominant.

Mark Fisher is the author of Capitalist Realism (Zer0, 2009) and the forthcoming Ghosts of my Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures (Zer0, 2013). He teaches at Goldsmiths, University of London, the University of East London and the City Literary Institute.

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
Common Knowledge

In front of the University of Amsterdam Maagdenhuis building there is a red cube. The cube appears to be a foundation, a support structure, for an abstract metal geometric construction that emerges from it. Its constructivist nature may indicate a desire for change and replication – as if the structure is not quite finished, temporarily frozen in its growth process. If this is truly a “monument” for the New University, as Alexander Nieuwenhuis and Rudolf Valkhoff's piece is called, then it is one that seems to doubt its own nature because, rather than commemorating structures from the past, it yearns to imagine the future. It is as if the thousands of students and supporters of the New University who were standing around the red cube they had adopted as their symbol of protest were demanding not only a new university but were also planting the seed for a new art.

Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Beyond Allegories

Open! published the texts and videos developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate that took place in the City Council of Amsterdam on May 9, 2014. In Beyond Allegories politicians and artists discussed proposals on the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action.

Show more articles…
General

We must find the right allies to show that art can be a tool used to break down the barriers that prevent engagement and the creation of different public domains.

Jonas Staal is a visual artist whose work deals with the relation between art, propaganda, and democracy. He is the founder of the artistic and political organization New World Summit, which develops parliaments for stateless political organizations, and the New World Academy (together with BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht), an educational platform for art and politics. His most recent publications include Nosso Lar, Brasília (Capacete & Jap Sam Books, 2014) on the relation between spiritism and modernism in Brazilian architecture. He currently finalizes his PhD research entitled To Make a World: Art as Emancipatory Propaganda at the PhDArts program at Leiden University.

Last publication date: 2015-06-15.
General

What is the real motivation behind the Dutch government’s increased efforts to reduce arts funding?

Zihni Özdil is a junior lecturer and PhD candidate at Erasmus University’s School of History, Culture and Communication. He comments on social and economic issues as a panelist for Dutch radio show Dichtbij Nederland. Özdil is also a columnist for Erasmus Magazine. See further: www.zihniozdil.info.

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
General

Matthew Stadler, Deventer, nai010 publishers: Rotterdam, 2013, ISBN 9789064507496, 256 pages

General

Life Between Borders: The Nomadic Life of Curators and Artists, New York City, apexart, 2013, (edited by Steven Rand and Heather Felty), ISBN 9781933347653, 112 pages

Marianna Maruyama (1980, California) is an artist based in the Netherlands. Through writing, audio recording, drawing and play, she looks for ways that sound and movement facilitate an understanding of position. Orientation and voice, specifically loss of position as it relates to loss of voice are dominant themes in her practice. She studied at Oberlin College (USA) and the Dutch Art Institute and moved to the Netherlands from Japan. See further: www.mariannamaruyama.com.

Last publication date: 2014-11-02.
General

Open! Platform for Art, Culture and the Public Domain happens to include, in its very title, at least two misreadings...

Florian Cramer currently is director of Creating 010 at Hogeschool Rotterdam, an applied research centre for the creative industries in the Rotterdam region. He also serves as a board member of WORM, the Rotterdam-based Institute of Avantgardistic Recreation. He recently published Anti-Media Ephemera on Speculative Arts, nai010 publishers, Willem de Kooning Academie, and Institute of Network Cultures, 2013.

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
Common Conflict
‘Hot Winter Press’ zines at We Are the Time Machines: Time and Tools for Commoning at Casco by Cooperativa Cráter Invertido (Jazael Olguinzapata), 2015. – Photo: Sven Lütticken

From its inception, Open! and Casco’s series Commonist Aesthetics was meant neither as a celebration nor as a debunking exercise, but as a critical inquiry. The commons certainly is not lacking in those who hype the cause, nor in vehement detractors. For the Invisible Committee, an example, ‘commonism’ is identified with Ostromite liberal managerialism:

Governing the Commons is the title of the recent bestseller by Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, who has defined eight principles for ‘managing the commons.’ Understanding there is a place for them in an ‘administration of the commons’ that remains to be invented, [Antonio] Negri and associates have embraced this theory, which is perfectly liberal at its core…

…[They] are inclined to make the ‘commons’ into the latest metaphysical principle to come out of the West’s magical hat. An arche, they say, in the sense of that which ‘organizes, commands, and rules all political activity,’ a new ‘beginning’ that will give birth to new institutions and a new world government.1

And is the excitement in some art world circles (however marginal they may be) for forms of commoning, or at least the rhetoric of commoning, not deeply suspicious? In her essay for Commonist Aesthetics, Marina Vishmidt suggested that a ‘structural and ideological affinity already holds between “commonist” politics and the field of art practices’; both, she argues, ‘are committed to change in the here and now through the means available, often interstices and spare capacities, “making do” as in the “sharing economy.”’ Making changes in the here and now sounds good when the alternative is waiting for a phantasmagorical revolution. But is the exclusive privileging of ‘making do’ under current conditions not equally problematical – especially if connected to the hope that enough cute grass-rootsy commonizing activity will attain such critical mass that capitalism will, after all, disappear or morph beyond recognition? Vishmidt states in the aforementioned text: ‘The centrality of J.K. Gibson-Graham’s The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (1996) and A Postcapitalist Politics (2006) to several of a number of cultural scenes of inquiry into “the commons” would seem to point to the voluntaristic roots of this attitude as they cut across art and politics, present and past, performance and mobilisation.’

Nonetheless, we would not have pursued Commonist Aesthetics if we agreed that commons discourse is completely bankrupt and utterly irredeemable. In a passage recently evoked by Katharine Gibson during a lecture at Casco, Massimo de Angelis acknowledges that commoning is often instrumentalized not in order ‘to provide alternatives to capital, but to make a particular node of capital – a region or a city – more competitive, while somehow addressing the problems of reproduction at the same time.’ However, he maintains that ‘in spite of capital’s strategies to use a commons fix to the problems it creates while never really solving them, commons may well be part of a different historical development.’2

This ‘may well be’ continues to hover over the debate, a debate that we wish to develop and intensify with this ‘virtual roundtable’ titled Common Conflict, mirrored by a public forum at Casco on 12 March. Later this year, the whole Commonist Aesthetics project will be rounded off by a book publication.

For Common Conflict, we have confronted a number of authors with a series of questions, some or many of which may be leading questions. The authors were free to pick and choose, or ignore, as they saw fit; to rephrase and reroute a line of questioning; and to examine their own as well as others’ practices and theoretical presuppositions.

Is the notion of the commons subject to an ontological essentialization? Is dehistoricization tantamount to depoliticization?

The resurgence of the commons is clearly linked to the decline of the public sector, at least in Europe. Is commonism tacitly complicit with the ever further dismantling of the state and the public? Does the state need to be reclaimed?

Does the commonist discourse have a potential depoliticizing effect, being compatible with hazy visions of the ‘sharing economy’ and an Ostrom-style governance? What are the consequences of the division between ‘Ostromites’ interested in governing the commons and autonomists eager to prefigure a coming insurrection or a coming community?

How does, or should, commonist self-organization around specific issues relate to more general antagonisms and struggles? Is commonism in need of a wider autonomist horizon and bona-fide leftist strategy – or are ‘actually existing’ commonist tactics, however compromised, a daily reminder of the bankruptcy of more fundamental, more rigorous, more dialectically canny leftist positions?

What is the relation between theories of the commons / commoning and specific practices? Does the theory lag behind the most cogent practices? Is it often a substitute for actual commoning practices at specific sites for struggles? Can problematic, partial or blocked attempts at commoning be as valid as seemingly successful and exemplary endeavours?

Is the commons’ rhetorical success in parts of the art world indicative of an aestheticization of the social – with aestheticization here being used in its negative Benjaminian sense? Does the all too familiar critique of art institutions need to be followed by an active commoning of institutions? How to proceed with this?

Does the art world focus overly on low-tech forms of commons and commoning, unduly neglecting the digital commons? How can and should online and offline impact each other?

Do we see the beginnings of a commonist aesthetic practice in a more fundamental sense, involving forms of sensuous activity that challenge and go beyond established notions of art and existing institutional forms? Does aesthetic practice allow us to refocus all of the above questions?

Commonist Aesthetics

With Commonist Aesthetics, the editorial team Binna Choi (Casco), Sven Lütticken, Jorinde Seijdel (Open!)  introduces “the idea of commonism” – not communism – as a topic that various writers and artists will explore and expand upon in the course of this series. Commonist aesthetics pertain to the world of the senses, or a “residually common world” that is continuously subject to new divisions, new appropriations, and attempts at reclamation and re-imagining.

Common Knowledge

In response to the protests and occupations that have rocked universities and art schools from Montreal and Toronto to Amsterdam and London, Open! organised a virtual round table on the crisis in higher education and  presents a constellation of short texts by professors, lecturers, PhD candidates, students and alumni, as well as by artists and activists.

Show more articles…
Commonist Aesthetics

Within Open!’s research theme Commonist Aesthetics, artist Andreas Siekmann created a series of pictograms and a matching glossary to continue his investigation into the increasing privatisation of the public realm. The work is part of his larger ongoing project initiated in Berlin in 2012, The Economic Power of Public Opinion & the Public Power of Economic Opinion: Think Factories, Think Tanks and the Privatisation of Power. One can view and read Siekmann’s contribution by either clicking the underlined entries beneath the pictures in the slideshow, or by directly entering the glossary pages in which pictograms and texts combined are combined. Sven Lütticken wrote a short introduction to the piece.

Commonist Aesthetics

Sven Lütticken argues that it is only by facing the ongoing process of extraction and abstraction of the pre-capitalist that the commons becomes a political and an aesthetic project. He asks what contributions artistic or aesthetic practice can make to practice directed against our current regime of accumulation and abstraction. The aim would not be to instrumentalise art in the name of a political project, but to sound out possibilities for an aesthetic contestation in conjunction with a political one.

Art Discourse

Two things are crucial for Open!, both in its previous and in its putative future form. The first is the problematisation of the category of art and the use of an extended notion of aesthetic practice; the second is the shift away from criticism to critique.

Open no. 23, Autonomy

Art historian Sven Lütticken subjects the concept of autonomy and its relation to aesthetics and politics to a thorough analysis and places it within the context of post-war modernism, whereby autonomy is not interpreted as a fact but as an act. As Rancière has shown, the aesthetic and political characteristics of an act can never coincide, although some acts can function in different registers simultaneously.

Open no. 22, Transparency

Art historian and critic Sven Lütticken sketches how concepts such as transparency and opacity, openness and secrecy are being used by artists in increasingly subtle ways. They are particularly interested in the question of how we can make ourselves ‘visible as something other (either more or less) than the kind of subject to which we tend to be reduced’.

Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

Using as a point of reference the window that Gerhard Richter designed for Cologne Cathedral and works by Thomas Struth, Lidwien van de Ven and De Rijke / De Rooy, Sven Lütticken analyses concepts such as ‘sacralization’ and ‘profanity’. Delving into the shifting and interlocking import of institutions like the cathedral, the museum and the mosque, Lütticken lends nuance to prevailing views on art and public space.1  

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

The concealing effect ­ of the mass media is often seen as a conspiracy, in which every­thing is a plot to erase historical consciousness. In the 1960s William Burroughs, with his cut-up trilogy, created a literary mythology that managed to appropriate and manipulate the myths of the mass media, so that a sort of counter-publicness could emerge. Now that many subcultural myths have been ­ co-opted by the media, Sven Lütticken argues it is time for a new Burroughs: the myths must once again be unmasked and deployed in a new form as an ­instrument of criticism against the conspiracy of publicness.

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Jan De Cock, Denkmal ISBN 9080842419, published by Atelier Jan De Cock, Auguste Gevaertstraat 15, 1070 Brussels

Open no. 6, (In)Security

The need to keep out the big, bad, unsafe world is growing, as evidenced by the increase in enclosed spaces. Using the concept of the ‘human park’ introduced by Peter Sloterdijk in 1999, as well as old and new examples from film, architecture, art and television, Sven Lütticken wonders whether the new societal form these places conjure up for us is in fact safer.

Sven Lütticken is a member of the editorial board of Open! Platform for Art, Culture & the Public Domain. He teaches art history at VU University Amsterdam; is the author of several books, including History in Motion: Time in the Age of the Moving Image (2013); and writes regularly for journals and magazines including New Left Review, Afterall, Grey Room, Mute and e-flux journal. At the moment he is working on a collection of a essays under the working title 'Permanent Cultural Revolution,' and editing a reader on art and autonomy. See further: www.svenlutticken.org.

Last publication date: 2016-02-05.
Art Discourse

What artistic activist aims have in common is a faith that awareness can change the world without any specific follow-through. This is magical thinking.

Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert are the co-founders of the Center for Artistic Activism in New York. They began collaborating in 2007 out of a mutual interest in studying efficacy at the intersection of art and activism. They co-founded the Center for Artistic Activism around this research and a desire to share it with other like minded practitioners. Both experienced educators, they communicate a combined expertise across multiple disciplines. See further: artisticactivism.org.

Last publication date: 2013-10-01.
Commonist Aesthetics

In this contribution to Commonist Aesthetics, Matteo Pasquinelli, referring to Alfred Sohn-Rethel and Alain Badiou, questions the master-slave relation between Captial and Number. Money can be regarded as an abstract machine like others that replaces and amplifies previous social relations. As any other machine, it can be analyzed according to its inputs and outputs, to the division of labour and social relations that it engenders. The new abstractions of science, the new technologies of computation and augmented intelligence, should be adopted within an extended definition of both money and labour, Pasquinelli asserts.

General

Matteo Pasquinelli is advocating a paradigm where the opposition between body and mind, between bios and noos, between life and knowledge will eventually vanish.

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

Now that the financial world seems to be collapsing, writer and researcher Matteo Pasquinelli thinks the time is ripe to think about how the creative city and its gentri­fication processes will develop in the coming years. It’s important that this debate goes beyond the position of the art scene and the cultural industry and that it includes the ruins that the immaterial accumulation of value has left behind.

Show more articles…
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

In times of war, the accepted food chain is broken and the city becomes ‘edible’. It starts to cannibalize itself, according to Wietske Maas and Matteo Pasquinelli, who use various historical examples to prove their point. With this ‘urbanibalisme’, as they call it, as their motive, they’ve developed a recipe for a therapeutic beverage, Ferment Brussels, to bring a toast to a communal lifestyle as the antidote to rising forms of nationalism.

Matteo Pasquinelli is a philosopher and Assistant Professor in Media Studies at Pratt Institute, New York. He wrote the book Animal Spirits: A Bestiary of the Commons (NAi,2008) and edited the anthology Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and Its Traumas (Meson, 2015) among others. With Wietske Maas he also wrote The Manifesto of Urban Cannibalism (2012). Website: www.matteopasquinelli.org

 

Last publication date: 2015-12-11.
Art Discourse

In his latest response to Camiel van Winkel’s The Sandwich Will Not Go Away Or Why Paradigm Shifts Are Wishful Thinking, Steven ten Thije critiques his concept of the “sandwich” as an analytical tool. Ten Thije claims that Van Winkel’s “sandwich” is nothing more than pure theory because it fails to offer the necessary connections to the extra-theoretical and, moreover, essentially ignores art altogether.

Art Discourse

In a critical response to Camiel van Winkel’s essay The Sandwich Will Not Go Away Or Why Paradigm Shifts Are Wishful Thinking, Steven ten Thije insists that merely describing the sandwich is not enough; if we find it difficult to digest, we should ask ourselves: Who made this sandwich? Ten Thije rejects the black-and-white polarity that some insist exists between autonomous art and an art that is less so. He pleads for more generosity and a new attitude from everyone involved in the cultural sector.

General

Society seems to have slowly accepted the use of business-world measurement tools in other areas, but it remains profoundly unclear whether these statistical tools have actually contributed to the quality of our democracy, culture, or our actual lives.

Show more articles…
Open no. 23, Autonomy

From 7 to 9 October 2011, the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven held a symposium on autonomy. Steven ten Thije, one of the symposium’s initiators and organizers, reports on the urgency of this project. Particularly during this period of drastic cutbacks that are being borne by a majority of the population, it is necessary to reformulate the position held by autonomous art and its associated activities in our society.

Steven ten Thije is a research curator affiliated with the Van Abbemuseum and the Universität Hildesheim. He was a coordinator of The Autonomy Project and co-organizer of The Autonomy Project Symposium (autonomyproject.tumblr.com). He co-curated Spirits of Internationalisms, part of the European collaborative project l’Internationale.

Last publication date: 2014-02-09.
Common Knowledge

What if the university was a unique time and space where society could offer itself a future? Would this be a sufficient reason to offer the university a future?

Commonist Aesthetics

This text is based on a lecture given at the University of Groningen within the conference Arts and Humanities: Of(f) Course. The conference was addressing the fact that both the arts and the humanities have lost their self-evidence in a world where ‘bottom line’ economic standards are becoming increasingly dominant.

Jan Masschelein is Professor of Philosophy of Education at the Laboratory for Education and Society at the K.U. Leuven, Belgium. 

Last publication date: 2015-06-03.
Common Knowledge

What if the university was a unique time and space where society could offer itself a future? Would this be a sufficient reason to offer the university a future?

Commonist Aesthetics

This text is based on a lecture given at the University of Groningen within the conference Arts and Humanities: Of(f) Course. The conference was addressing the fact that both the arts and the humanities have lost their self-evidence in a world where ‘bottom line’ economic standards are becoming increasingly dominant.

Maarten Simons is Professor of Educational Policy, also at the Laboratory for Education and Society at the K.U. Leuven. Together they are author of Globale Immunität. Ein kleine Kartographie des Europäischen Bildungsraum (2005, Berlin / Zurich: Diaphanes, and Jenseits der Exzellenz) and Eine kleine Morphologie der Welt-Universität (2010, Berlin / Zürich: Diaphanes). More recently they co-authored In Defence of the School: A Public Issue (2013, Leuven, free downloadable: ppw.kuleuven.be). They co-edited The Learning Society from the Perspective of Governmentality (2007, Oxford: Blackwell) and Rancière, Public Education and the Taming of Democracy (2011, Oxford: Blackwell).

Last publication date: 2015-06-03.
General

The monetization of our social relations is the causality of crowdfunding. Instead of just giving one’s time, or attention – those of us who are online and participating are coerced into contributing. This network, then, becomes the commodity.

Renée Ridgway is an artist, free-lance curator, writer and educator based in Amsterdam. Her current research merges artistic and curatorial practice with digital economies in regard to online remuneration along with investigating the conceptual as well as technological implications of ‘search’. She is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design (BFA) and Piet Zwart Institute (MA) and has exhibited widely in the Netherlands and internationally: Manifesta 8, P.S.1, MoMA,  Hotel New York, Centraal Museum Utrecht, Museum De Lakenhal, Gouda Museum, Conflux Festival. Ridgway is co-initiator and contributor to n.e.w.s., a collective online platform for the analysis and development of art-related activities. Presently she curates and facilitates Welcome to Econotopia – Commons of the Contemporary, masters curriculum at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) that addresses spaces of transgression, ranging from institutions of culture to contemporary hubs of spectacle to the internet. See further: reneeridgway.net.

Last publication date: 2013-11-02.
Commonist Aesthetics

Questioning the assumed ‘irrepresentability of finance’ and critically looking at works of Geissler / Sann, Andy Warhol and the Institute for Human Activities, Steyn Bergs asks if better practices and models for the redistribution of wealth via art and its institutions could not be developed. Reflexivity is what is needed, he asserts, especially because art is so implicated within the world of finance that it displays a highly similar relation to the value form.

Common Conflict
‘Hot Winter Press’ zines at We Are the Time Machines: Time and Tools for Commoning at Casco by Cooperativa Cráter Invertido (Jazael Olguinzapata), 2015. – Photo: Sven Lütticken

From its inception, Open! and Casco’s series Commonist Aesthetics was meant neither as a celebration nor as a debunking exercise, but as a critical inquiry. The commons certainly is not lacking in those who hype the cause, nor in vehement detractors. For the Invisible Committee, an example, ‘commonism’ is identified with Ostromite liberal managerialism:

Governing the Commons is the title of the recent bestseller by Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, who has defined eight principles for ‘managing the commons.’ Understanding there is a place for them in an ‘administration of the commons’ that remains to be invented, [Antonio] Negri and associates have embraced this theory, which is perfectly liberal at its core…

…[They] are inclined to make the ‘commons’ into the latest metaphysical principle to come out of the West’s magical hat. An arche, they say, in the sense of that which ‘organizes, commands, and rules all political activity,’ a new ‘beginning’ that will give birth to new institutions and a new world government.1

And is the excitement in some art world circles (however marginal they may be) for forms of commoning, or at least the rhetoric of commoning, not deeply suspicious? In her essay for Commonist Aesthetics, Marina Vishmidt suggested that a ‘structural and ideological affinity already holds between “commonist” politics and the field of art practices’; both, she argues, ‘are committed to change in the here and now through the means available, often interstices and spare capacities, “making do” as in the “sharing economy.”’ Making changes in the here and now sounds good when the alternative is waiting for a phantasmagorical revolution. But is the exclusive privileging of ‘making do’ under current conditions not equally problematical – especially if connected to the hope that enough cute grass-rootsy commonizing activity will attain such critical mass that capitalism will, after all, disappear or morph beyond recognition? Vishmidt states in the aforementioned text: ‘The centrality of J.K. Gibson-Graham’s The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (1996) and A Postcapitalist Politics (2006) to several of a number of cultural scenes of inquiry into “the commons” would seem to point to the voluntaristic roots of this attitude as they cut across art and politics, present and past, performance and mobilisation.’

Nonetheless, we would not have pursued Commonist Aesthetics if we agreed that commons discourse is completely bankrupt and utterly irredeemable. In a passage recently evoked by Katharine Gibson during a lecture at Casco, Massimo de Angelis acknowledges that commoning is often instrumentalized not in order ‘to provide alternatives to capital, but to make a particular node of capital – a region or a city – more competitive, while somehow addressing the problems of reproduction at the same time.’ However, he maintains that ‘in spite of capital’s strategies to use a commons fix to the problems it creates while never really solving them, commons may well be part of a different historical development.’2

This ‘may well be’ continues to hover over the debate, a debate that we wish to develop and intensify with this ‘virtual roundtable’ titled Common Conflict, mirrored by a public forum at Casco on 12 March. Later this year, the whole Commonist Aesthetics project will be rounded off by a book publication.

For Common Conflict, we have confronted a number of authors with a series of questions, some or many of which may be leading questions. The authors were free to pick and choose, or ignore, as they saw fit; to rephrase and reroute a line of questioning; and to examine their own as well as others’ practices and theoretical presuppositions.

Is the notion of the commons subject to an ontological essentialization? Is dehistoricization tantamount to depoliticization?

The resurgence of the commons is clearly linked to the decline of the public sector, at least in Europe. Is commonism tacitly complicit with the ever further dismantling of the state and the public? Does the state need to be reclaimed?

Does the commonist discourse have a potential depoliticizing effect, being compatible with hazy visions of the ‘sharing economy’ and an Ostrom-style governance? What are the consequences of the division between ‘Ostromites’ interested in governing the commons and autonomists eager to prefigure a coming insurrection or a coming community?

How does, or should, commonist self-organization around specific issues relate to more general antagonisms and struggles? Is commonism in need of a wider autonomist horizon and bona-fide leftist strategy – or are ‘actually existing’ commonist tactics, however compromised, a daily reminder of the bankruptcy of more fundamental, more rigorous, more dialectically canny leftist positions?

What is the relation between theories of the commons / commoning and specific practices? Does the theory lag behind the most cogent practices? Is it often a substitute for actual commoning practices at specific sites for struggles? Can problematic, partial or blocked attempts at commoning be as valid as seemingly successful and exemplary endeavours?

Is the commons’ rhetorical success in parts of the art world indicative of an aestheticization of the social – with aestheticization here being used in its negative Benjaminian sense? Does the all too familiar critique of art institutions need to be followed by an active commoning of institutions? How to proceed with this?

Does the art world focus overly on low-tech forms of commons and commoning, unduly neglecting the digital commons? How can and should online and offline impact each other?

Do we see the beginnings of a commonist aesthetic practice in a more fundamental sense, involving forms of sensuous activity that challenge and go beyond established notions of art and existing institutional forms? Does aesthetic practice allow us to refocus all of the above questions?

Art Discourse

In his response to Merijn Oudenampsen’s essay “Lost in Translation: On the Intelligibility of Art Discourse” Steyn Bergs tries to both complicate and adjust the essentially sociological account offered by Oudenampsen from an art historical perspective. Bergs wants to offer a clearer image of some of the intricacies of the functioning of art discourse in asking after what we mean by “a more accessible language in the arts” or “a more critical, intellectual and pedagogical relation to art.”

Steyn Bergs works as media and research coordinator for Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht. He also publishes as a critic and an art historian, and is co-editor-in-chief of Kunstlicht, journal for art, architecture and visual culture. Furthermore, he is currently preparing PhD research.

Last publication date: 2016-06-07.
General

Levien Nordeman takes a closer look at the notion of craft, as well as analog or “retro” media, and argues that the current fascination with craft, which is increasingly observable in both the cultural sector and the art academies, can be understood as a way of redefining our relationships with digital technologies.

Levien Nordeman is lecturer and researcher in the field of new media and culture. He currently teaches media theory at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and is affiliated with knowledge centre Creating 010 in the research program Communication in the Digital Age.

Last publication date: 2014-11-02.
Commonist Aesthetics

Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen argues that we must both continue to identify the revolutionary perspective as a communist one and continue to describe the revolution as a communist revolution. He contributes to the on-going discussion of the revolutionary position by reflecting on the relationship between revolution, counterrevolution and reformism. His essay is also contributing to Open!’s Commonist Aesthetics theme.

Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen teaches Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen. He is the co-editor of Expect Anything Fear Nothing: The Situationist Movement in Scandinavia and Elsewhere (Nebula & Autonomedia, 2011), Totalitarian Art and Modernity (Aarhus University Press, 2010) and Aesthetics and Politics, a theme issue of Nordic Journal of Aesthetics (2013). His new book is titled Crisis to Upheaval (Minor Compositions, forthcoming 2015).

Last publication date: 2014-09-24.
Common Knowledge

The contemporary neoliberal university is often compared to a factory. In this essay, Roel Griffioen and Jesse van Winden explore the practical and symbolic value of this metaphor, using the recent protests at VU University in Amsterdam as a case study. Is the relation between the two institutions – university and factory – more than just proverbial?

General

Klaske Havik, Urban Literacy: Reading and Writing Architecture, nai010 publishers: Rotterdam, 2014, ISBN 9789462081215, 256 pages

General

The Good Cause at Stroom Den Haag addresses the military, political and cultural complexity of rebuilding operations. Can architecture contribute to a sustainable world peace? Roel Griffioen & Stefaan Vervoort critically question the exhibition and its premises.

Show more articles…
Open no. 22, Transparency

Whereas in the 1950s transparency in architecture was considered an unambiguous and politicized ideal, since the advent of the television programme Big Brother it has become a paradoxical concept. ‘What is transparent for the camera is opaque for the resident,’ writes architecture historian Roel Griffioen. Openness and privacy, transparency and opaqueness are intertwined with one another more than ever.

Roel Griffioen is a writer and researcher. He works at Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, is an editor for Kunstlicht, and is currently co-initiating The Front Line, a critical research project examining the role of the creative class in urban politics.

Last publication date: 2015-08-05.
Commonist Aesthetics

With this investigation into the relationship between commoning and aesthetics via the dimension of time, Marina Vishmidt contributes to the theme of Commonist Aesthetics. Vishmidt views temporality as a framing condition for thinking “commons” as a practical and affective project that traverses politics and aesthetics. The exploration of Commonist Aesthetics is an editorial collaboration between Open!, art critic and historian Sven Lütticken and Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory.

Portrait of a Recipient

Writer, editor, and critic Marina Vishmidt is preoccupied with issues that involve art, labour, and value. She takes up Chris Evans’ artwork Portrait of a Recipient as a Door Handle to elaborate upon Pierre Klossowski’s text Living Currency and to address the notion of people as currency and commmodities and the inherent economies of affect.

Marina Vishmidt completed her PhD, entitled Speculation as a Mode of Production in Art and Capital at Queen Mary, University of London in 2013. She is the co-editor of Uncorporate Identity (Lars Müller, 2010) and WINTER: Poetics and Politics (Mousse Publishing, 2013). She is currently writing a book with Kerstin Stakemeier on the politics of autonomy and reproduction in art (Hamburg: Textem, forthcoming). She has taught at Middlesex University, Goldsmiths, Central Saint Martins and Universität der Künste Berlin.

Last publication date: 2014-09-03.
General

Philosopher Marieke Borren explores the phenomenon of the undeportability of “illegal aliens”. She argues that their undeportability results from fundamental legal and political tensions – the “paradox” of politics and democracy or a “rights gap” in international law. She also discusses the question of claiming collective agency of undeportable illegal aliens in light of these tensions, gaps and paradoxes.

Marieke Borren teaches philosophy at various Dutch universities. Her expertise lies in the areas of political philosophy and philosophical anthropology. Her research focuses on political phenomenology, a perspective she developed in her dissertation, “Amor Mundi. Hannah Arendt's Political Phenomenology of World,” University of Amsterdam, 2010. She applied political phenomenology to contemporary cases, such as debates on national identity, irregular migrants, social movements and identity politics. She has published numerous academic and popular articles on political phenomenology and Arendt, most recently in Hypatia and International Journal of Philosophical Studies. Her present research further develops political phenomenology, by investigating the fundamental existential conditions of civic engagement (vu-nl.academia.edu).

Last publication date: 2014-09-03.
Beyond Allegories

Open! published the texts and videos developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate that took place in the City Council of Amsterdam on May 9, 2014. In Beyond Allegories politicians and artists discussed proposals on the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action.

Ann Demeester is director of Frans Hals Museum | De Hallen, Haarlem.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Beyond Allegories

Open! published the texts and videos developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate that took place in the City Council of Amsterdam on May 9, 2014. In Beyond Allegories politicians and artists discussed proposals on the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action.

Carolien Gehrels has been an alderman for the Labor Party (PvdA) in Amsterdam from 2006 to May 2014. In her eight years as an alderman, she was responsible for, among others, economic affairs and art and culture. In 2009 she gave the well-known Boekman lecture Kunstbeleid in een postideologische? samenleving [Art policy in a post-ideological? society], in which she pleaded for a larger involvement of politics with the arts. At the time she stated this about art: "We may also govern in this area. We may also have an opinion. And we may even judge.” See further: www.pvdaamsterdam.nl.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Beyond Allegories

Open! published the texts and videos developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate that took place in the City Council of Amsterdam on May 9, 2014. In Beyond Allegories politicians and artists discussed proposals on the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action.

Hans van Houwelingen studied at the Minerva Art Academy in Groningen and at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. His work manifests itself internationally in the form of interventions in public space, exhibitions, lectures and publications, in which he investigates the relations between art, politics and ideology. He publishes regularly in newspapers and magazines. The monograph STIFF – Hans van Houwelingen vs. Public Art (2004) offers an overview of his projects and texts and an extensive reflection on his work. The publication Update (2008) describes the permanent update of the Lorentzmonument in Arnhem during the exhibition Sonsbeek 2008 and Undone (2011) presents nine critical reflections on three recent works. See further: www.hansvanhouwelingen.nl.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

Open! invited writer E.C. Feiss for her opinion on the Beyond Allegories congress held in Amsterdam in May 2014, in which the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action was discussed. Feiss also addresses some of the propositions that were jointly formulated by artists and politicians on the occasion of the debate and are as well published by Open!.

E. C. Feiss is a writer currently based at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht. Her work has also appeared in Afterall, Frieze, Texte zur Kunst and Variant, amongst others.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Salima Belhaj is a council member of Rotterdam since 2008 and since 2010 she is party leader of D66 (Democrats 66) in that city. As such she takes an active role in the debate on racism and the debate on culture. In 2011 she participated in the first edition of the project Allegories of Good and Bad Government in W139, Amsterdam. In 2014 she had a decisive role in the coalition debates that led to the formation of the local government of the city of Rotterdam consisting of members of the political parties D66, Leefbaar Rotterdam [Livable Rotterdam] and the Christen-Democratisch Appèl (CDA, Christian Democratic Appeal).

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Maartje Remmers is a Dutch actress and member of the Flemish-Dutch theater collective Wunderbaum consisting of herself, Walter Bart, Wine Dierickx, Matijs Jansen, Maarten van Otterdijk and Marleen Scholte. In 2013 Wunderbaum initiated the four-year project The New Forest in which Wunderbaum explores together with civil society organizations alternative models of democracy through theater. See further: www.thenewforest.nl.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Mariko Peters was Member of Parliament for GroenLinks [Green Party] in the Netherlands from November 2006 until September 2012. Prior to this, she worked as an attorney, and, as a diplomat. She co-authored the first Freedom of Information Act in the Balkan countries and served as Advisor to the Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs. As a Member of Parliament her dossiers included Foreign Affairs, Defence, Public Administration, Media Culture & Copyrights. She now serves again with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Common Knowledge

In light of the recent protests concerning the democratisation of higher education, this short essay will develop two arguments; firstly, democratisation of the university requires a critical re-evaluation of the “demos”. Secondly, the We Are Here Academy is not an alternative to higher education – nor should it be – but a protest movement that strives for an educational system that is both inclusive and democratic. This essay will conclude with the argument that cooperation between the New University and “undocumented Dutch citizens” is relevant and necessary in order to stimulate and critically investigate how accessible higher education is, and, thus, the very meaning of a democratic university.

Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Yoonis Osman Nuur is a We Are Here Academy student and part of the refugee council of the Here to Support Foundation. As a human rights activist and politician, Nuur fights for the visibility and recognition of refugees in limbo, in Dutch society and law. See further: www.wijzijnhier.org

Last publication date: 2015-05-25.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Ahmet Öğüt is a conceptual artist based in Amsterdam and Istanbul. Öğüt is the initiator of The Silent University, an autonomous knowledge-exchange platform led by refugees for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. The Silent University aims to make apparent the systematic failure and the loss of knowledge and skills experienced through the silencing process of people seeking asylum. See further: www.thesilentuniversity.org.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Dirk Poot has been a spokesperson for the Dutch Pirate Party since 2012 and has as a candidate MP actively taken part in the Dutch parliamentary elections of 2010 and 2012 and the 2014 elections for European Parliament. The Pirate Party supports a free Internet as a condition for an open and democratic society, as a source of inspiration and knowledge, and above all as a source of critical information. See further: www.piratenpartij.nl.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Beyond Allegories

De volgende tekst werd ontwikkeld ter gelegenheid van het Beyond Allegories debat, waarvoor 250 kunstenaars, toneelschrijvers, politici, academici, afgevaardigden van vakbonden en vluchtelingenorganisaties en NGO’s, journalisten en studenten gedurende zeven uur bijeen waren in de raadzaal van Amsterdam om te spreken over de rol van kunst binnen bestuur, politieke mobilisatie en activisme. Dit debat werd georganiseerd door Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (tot voor kort wethouder Kunst en Cultuur, PvdA, Amsterdam) en de kunstenaars Hans van Houwelingen en Jonas Staal in een poging om nieuwe progressieve allianties te smeden. De tekst zal deel uitmaken van het DVD-boek Beyond Allegories, een verzameling van de resoluties en video’s van het project, dat dit jaar gepubliceerd zal worden. 

Ron Meyer has led the largest party in Heerlen, the Socialist Party (SP), for the past eight years. Besides his work as a party leader, he works as a campaign leader for the labour union FNV Bondgenoten, where he has had a leading role in the cleaners’ protests since 2009. Brave cleaners who rise up for a better future are for him “the example of strength and progress.” In March 2014 Meyer received the Best Council Member Award in the Netherlands.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Beyond Allegories

The following text was developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists, and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA / Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The text will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published this year. 

Beyond Allegories

De volgende tekst werd ontwikkeld ter gelegenheid van het Beyond Allegories debat, waarvoor 250 kunstenaars, toneelschrijvers, politici, academici, afgevaardigden van vakbonden en vluchtelingenorganisaties en NGO’s, journalisten en studenten gedurende zeven uur bijeen waren in de raadzaal van Amsterdam om te spreken over de rol van kunst binnen bestuur, politieke mobilisatie en activisme. Dit debat werd georganiseerd door Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (tot voor kort wethouder Kunst en Cultuur, PvdA, Amsterdam) en de kunstenaars Hans van Houwelingen en Jonas Staal in een poging om nieuwe progressieve allianties te smeden. De tekst zal deel uitmaken van het DVD-boek Beyond Allegories, een verzameling van de resoluties en video’s van het project, dat dit jaar gepubliceerd zal worden. 

Matthijs de Bruijne’s artistic practice and research often arise in collaboration with trade unions and other labor organisations. De Bruijne was closely involved in the cleaners’ strike of 2012 for better wages, working conditions and social recognition. This strike was the longest strike in the Netherlands since 1933. As part of the cleaners union’s campaign De Bruijne installed a temporary Rubbish Museum in Utrecht’s central station and produced, in collaboration with the Domestic Workers Netherlands, several shadow plays.

Last publication date: 2014-08-19.
Portrait of a Recipient

British artist Chris Evans introduces his artwork Portrait of a Recipient as a Door Handle, After a Drawing Produced by an Anonymous Philanthropist, which was produced through a commission from Sculpture International Rotterdam (SIR) and installed at the Blaak 333 branch of the Rabobank in Rotterdam. Also Dees Linders, SIR’s artistic director, explains her organisation's interests in Rotterdam and this particular project. Open! also includes essays on Evans’ work by Tirdad Zolghadr and Marina Vishmidt.

Chris Evans (born 1967, Eastrington) lives and works in London. Forthcoming solo exhibitions include CLODS, Diplomatic Letters, The Gardens, Vilnius (2014); Clerk of Mind, Piper Keys, London (2014). Recent solo exhibitions include CLODS, Diplomatic Letters, Juliette Jongma, Amsterdam (2012); Goofy Audit, Luettgenmeijer, Berlin (2011); The Cell That Doesn’t Believe In The Mind That It’s Part Of, Marres, Maastricht (2010); I Don’t Know If I’ve Explained Myself, Mala Galerija, Ljubljana (2010); Take A Bureaucratic Bow, Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp (2009). Significant group exhibitions include: A Needle Walks into a Haystack, Liverpool Biennial (2014), Radical Conservatism, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2013), Bourgeois Leftovers, De Appel (2013), Specific Collisions II, Marianne Boesky Uptown Gallery, New York (2013), The Narrators, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (2013). In 2012 a monograph on the artist was published by Sternberg Press in conjunction with his exhibitions at Marres and Objectif Exhibitions. Chris Evans is represented by Juliètte Jongma, Amsterdam and Lüttgenmeijer, Berlin.

Last publication date: 2014-07-04.
Portrait of a Recipient

Curator and author Tirdad Zolghadr tries to frame Chris Evans’ new artwork Portrait of a Recipient as a Door Handle, After a Drawing Produced by an Anonymous Philanthropist by de-framing it as well as returning it to its essential materiality and site-specificity. Evans’ work, commissioned by Sculpture International Rotterdam, was recently placed at a local branch of the Rabobank in Rotterdam.

Tirdad Zolghadr is a writer and curator. The working title of his third novel is Headbanger.

Last publication date: 2014-07-04.
General

The Good Cause at Stroom Den Haag addresses the military, political and cultural complexity of rebuilding operations. Can architecture contribute to a sustainable world peace? Roel Griffioen & Stefaan Vervoort critically question the exhibition and its premises.

Stefaan Vervoort is a Research Organization Flanders (FWO) PhD candidate at the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ghent University, with a research project entitled ‘Model as Sculpture’. His research focuses on the exchange between art and architecture in the postwar era, as well as on the material formation of modern and contemporary art museums. He is editor of Luc Deleu - T.O.P. office: Orban Space (with Wouter Davidts and Guy Châtel, Amsterdam: Valiz, 2012) and curator of the exhibition Orban Space: Luc Deleu - T.O.P. office (with Wouter Davidts, Stroom Den Haag, The Hague (2013) and Extra City/VAi, Antwerp (2013)). He writes for the art and architecture magazines Camera Austria, De Witte Raaf, Metropolis M, OASE, and San Rocco.

Last publication date: 2014-05-12.
General

Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge and London, 2014, ISBN 9780674051867, 768 pages

Anca Pusca is a Senior Lecturer in International Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London and author of Walter Benjamin: Aesthetics of Change (2010). Her work uses a Benjaminian framework to understand social change in post-communist Europe, focusing on issues of popular culture, architecture and vulnerable communities. You can contact her at: a.pusca@gold.ac.uk.

Last publication date: 2014-06-20.
General

Joshua Simon, Neomaterialism, Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2013, ISBN 9783943365085, 194 pages

Louis Moreno is a lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, researcher at the UCL Urban Laboratory, University College London and a member of the “Freethought” group convened by Irit Rogoff.

Last publication date: 2014-05-06.
General

With The SKOR Codex the artists’ collective La Société Anonyme adopted an experimental model for an artistic corporation to respond to the commodification of culture by searching for alternative ways to make, promote and sustain art.

Open no. 23, General

Olga Goriunova, Art Platforms and Cultural Production on the Internet, London, Routledge 2011, isbn 9780418893107, 112 pages

Annet Dekker is an independent researcher, curator and writer. She is interested in the influence of technology, science and popular culture on art and vice versa. Currently she is core tutor at Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam. In 2009 she initiated aaaan.net with Annette Wolfsberger; they coordinate artists-in-residences and set up strategic and sustainable collaborations with (inter)national arts organisations. Previously she worked as web curator for SKOR (2010–2012), was programme manager at Virtueel Platform (2008–2010), head of exhibitions, education and artists-in-residence at the Netherlands Media Art Institute (1999–2008), and editor of several publications on digital art and issues of preservation. In 2008 she began a Ph.D. research at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths University in London, titled Enabling the Future, or How to Survive FOREVER. A study of networks, processes and ambiguity in net art and the need for an expanded practice of conservation.

Last publication date: 2014-04-17.
Open! Academy

Declaring Reason is a collaboration between Museum Meermanno and the KABK – Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague that presents the works of third-year Graphic Design students who investigate the history of parliamentary democracy by means of books and manuscripts from Museum Meermanno’s collection. The exhibition juxtaposes books from the museum’s historical collection with innovative new impressions by students, and is on show for the public from 3 June until 24 September 2017. Declaring Reason was tutored by Niels Schrader and Lauren Alexander from the Royal Academy of Arts and included theory component tutoring by Maarten Cornel. Guest critics were Alice Twemlow and Olivier Arcioli.

Open! Academy

Declaring Reason is a collaboration between Museum Meermanno and the KABK – Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague that presents the works of third-year Graphic Design students who investigate the history of parliamentary democracy by means of books and manuscripts from Museum Meermanno’s collection. The exhibition juxtaposes books from the museum’s historical collection with innovative new impressions by students, and is on show for the public from 3 June until 24 September 2017. Declaring Reason was tutored by Niels Schrader and Lauren Alexander from the Royal Academy of Arts and included theory component tutoring by Maarten Cornel.

Solidarity or Solo

Solidarity or Solo is a research and design project executed by third-year Graphic Design students at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, initiated by the tutors Niels Schrader (Graphic Design), Lauren Alexander (Interactive Media) and Maarten Cornel (Philosophy). The project encouraged students to investigate their own relation to, and opinions about, the European Union by using mapping, archiving and referencing methods to formulate a refreshing and articulated view of what the EU means to a younger generation.

Show more articles…
Solidarity or Solo

Solidarity or Solo is a research and design project executed by third-year Graphic Design students at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, initiated by the tutors Niels Schrader (Graphic Design), Lauren Alexander (Interactive Media) and Maarten Cornel (Philosophy). The project encouraged students to investigate their own relation to, and opinions about, the European Union by using mapping, archiving and referencing methods to formulate a refreshing and articulated view of what the EU means to a younger generation.

Lauren Alexander (1983, Cape Town, ZA) holds a Masters degree in Design from the Sandberg Institute (2008) and an MFA from the Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem (2011). In 2009 she initiated Foundland Collective, together with Ghalia Elsrakbi, a design, research and art practice, based between Cairo and Amsterdam. The collective’s work draws on graphic design, art, writing and research in order to develop critical and imaginative reflections on political and social issues, particularly related to the Middle East. See further: www.foundland.info.

Last publication date: 2017-08-10.
Open! Academy

Declaring Reason is a collaboration between Museum Meermanno and the KABK – Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague that presents the works of third-year Graphic Design students who investigate the history of parliamentary democracy by means of books and manuscripts from Museum Meermanno’s collection. The exhibition juxtaposes books from the museum’s historical collection with innovative new impressions by students, and is on show for the public from 3 June until 24 September 2017. Declaring Reason was tutored by Niels Schrader and Lauren Alexander from the Royal Academy of Arts and included theory component tutoring by Maarten Cornel. Guest critics were Alice Twemlow and Olivier Arcioli.

Open! Academy

Declaring Reason is a collaboration between Museum Meermanno and the KABK – Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague that presents the works of third-year Graphic Design students who investigate the history of parliamentary democracy by means of books and manuscripts from Museum Meermanno’s collection. The exhibition juxtaposes books from the museum’s historical collection with innovative new impressions by students, and is on show for the public from 3 June until 24 September 2017. Declaring Reason was tutored by Niels Schrader and Lauren Alexander from the Royal Academy of Arts and included theory component tutoring by Maarten Cornel.

Solidarity or Solo

Solidarity or Solo is a research and design project executed by third-year Graphic Design students at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, initiated by the tutors Niels Schrader (Graphic Design), Lauren Alexander (Interactive Media) and Maarten Cornel (Philosophy). The project encouraged students to investigate their own relation to, and opinions about, the European Union by using mapping, archiving and referencing methods to formulate a refreshing and articulated view of what the EU means to a younger generation.

Show more articles…
Solidarity or Solo

Solidarity or Solo is a research and design project executed by third-year Graphic Design students at the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague, initiated by the tutors Niels Schrader (Graphic Design), Lauren Alexander (Interactive Media) and Maarten Cornel (Philosophy). The project encouraged students to investigate their own relation to, and opinions about, the European Union by using mapping, archiving and referencing methods to formulate a refreshing and articulated view of what the EU means to a younger generation.

Niels Schrader is a concept-driven information designer with a fascination for numbers and data. He is founder of the Amsterdam-based design studio Mind Design and member of the AGI – Alliance Graphique Internationale. Next to his design practice Schrader has been lecturing at the Delft University of Technology, ArtEZ – Academy of Art & Design in Arnhem and Willem de Kooning Academie in Rotterdam. Since January 2013 he is together with Roosje Klap head of the Graphic Design department at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. In his work, Schrader plays the role of both a mediator and a designer. He considers communication to be an interactive process that requires participation through questioning. Schrader’s projects frequently challenge the audience to experience the very means of communication by providing insights into the complex methods of information exchange. See further: www.minddesign.info.

Last publication date: 2017-08-10.
Autonomy

The New World Summit is an artistic and political organization founded by visual artist Jonas Staal, dedicated to providing ‘alternative parliaments’ hosting organizations that currently find themselves excluded from democracy. The fifth summit (part 1) took place in Rojava, Syria, in October 2015. Brigitte van der Sande was part of a delegation that was invited to participate.

General

Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London (29–31 May 2015) was the catchy but not always relevant title of a three-day event with an impressive line-up of artists, theorists and activists who mapped out the state of technological, social, political and artistic practices in the present-day postdigital reality.

General

Brigitte van der Sande discusses An Ecology of the Courtroom by Model Court, a live event and exhibition she curated at Stroom Den Haag about the politics of media technologies, their central role in exercising the principal of universal jurisdiction and how they condition and reconfigure the space of law.

Show more articles…
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

This issue of Open functions as an independent reader for 2030: War Zone Amsterdam,1  an event that kicks off in November 2009. Here, Brigitte van der Sande, curator of the event and guest editor of this issue, explains her motives.

Open no. 9, Sound

Image and sound in Moniek Toebosch’s oeuvre are like Siamese twins; even in projects which seem initially to consist solely of sound, the surrounding countryside may for instance serve to heighten the experience of the sound. Loudspeakers are never deployed neutrally, but are presented in a dramatic setting. Brigitte van der Sande spoke to her about art, sound and open space, about overstepping limits in cultural institutions and setting limits for art in public space.

Open no. 8, General

Anri Sala, Entre chien et loup / When the Night Calls it a Day / Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen, Deichtorhallen Hamburg and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris / ARC (eds). Walther König Publishing, Cologne 2004. English / German edition ISBN 3883758086, English / French edition ISBN 388375806X

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

In last year’s exhibition ‘Partners’ at the Haus der Kunst in Munich the Canadian curator and collector Ydessa Hendeles broke the tacit laws of Holocaust memorials. Grouping objects of different natures and placing them in a single context, created all manner of fascinating cross-connections among the objects and with the building, laden by the Nazi past.

Brigitte van der Sande is an art historian, independent curator and advisor in the Netherlands. In the nineties Van der Sande started a continuing research into the representation of war in art, resulting in exhibitions like Soft Target. War as a Daily, First-Hand Reality in 2005 as BAK, basis voor actuele kunst in Utrecht and War Zone Amsterdam (2007–2009), as well as many lectures, workshops and essays on the subject within the Netherlands and abroad. In 2013–2014 she curated See You in The Hague at Stroom Den Haag, and co-curated The Last Image, an online archive on the role of informal media on the public image of death for Funeral Museum Tot Zover in Amsterdam. Van der Sande is currently working on a concept for a festival of non-western science fiction, that will take place in 2016.

Last publication date: 2016-01-15.
General

Giorgio Agamben, The Highest Poverty: Monastic Rules and Form-of-Life, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2013, (edited by Werner Hamacher and translated by Adam Kotsko), ISBN 9780804784054, 157 pages

Janine Armin is a freelance writer and editor based in Amsterdam. Her writing on art, literature and music appears in various publications, and is forthcoming in Thought (Archive Books, 2014) and Social Life of the Record (castillo / corrales, 2014). She is editor for Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory and book review editor for Open!.

Last publication date: 2014-03-06.
Commonist Aesthetics

In the early 2000s French artist duo Bureau d’Études began making interactive maps that identify links among global corporations, drawing attention to our own positions within those relations. After opening up the map-making process to other users, the duo turned away from institutional art practice to invest in local movements – an approach that is at times challenged for its potential distancing from the ‘general intellect’. Yet in reflecting on their work, the question remains: How far does our embeddedness extend and how do we extricate ourselves, without, as Tom Holert asks, falling prey to dominant forms of representation? How can other movements like Lokavidya Jan Andolan (People's Knowledge Movement) in India motivate the recognition of knowledges that may not hold currency in what has come to be termed the ‘knowledge commons’?1

General

Sven Lütticken, History in Motion: Time in the Age of the Moving Image, Berlin / New York, Sternberg Press, 2013, ISBN 9783943365894, 312 pages

Open no. 10, General

Camiel van Winkel, The Regime of Visibility, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2005, isbn 905664253; W.T.J. Mitchell, What Do Pictures Want? The Lives and Loves of Images, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2005, isbn 0226532453

Tom Holert is a Berlin-based writer. In 2015, he co-founded the Harun Farocki Institut in Berlin. Holert also conceptualized the exhibition Learning Laboratories, on view at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst in Utrecht, from 2 December 2016 to 5 February 2017.

Last publication date: 2016-10-12.
Art Discourse

Camiel van Winkel responds to Steven ten Thije as part of their discussion regarding Van Winkel’s essay "The Sandwich Will Not Go Away Or Why Paradigm Shifts Are Wishful Thinking" on the state of contemporary art discourse. Van Winkel here argues that Ten Thije never actually addresses the content of his essay, and then pretends that it is about artistic autonomy. Look for Ten Thije’s concluding reaction to be published here soon.

Art Discourse

Camiel van Winkel postulates the notion of a sandwich of artistic-academic discourse to dispute the supposed paradigm shift in the arts and society as put forward by key figures in the institutional art world. Considering the paradigm shift a mere escape fantasy, Van Winkel senses a distaste for the autonomy of art. Steven ten Thije, researcher and curator of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, will soon offer his response to Van Winkel’s essay.

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

Using a number of examples from fashion, advertising, graphic design and television, Camiel van Winkel invest­igat­es the regime of visibility and its implications for a ­ crit­ical approach to contemporary visual culture. This article is a condensed version of Chapter 1 of his forthcoming book The Regime of Visibility.

Camiel van Winkel writes on contemporary art and occasionally curates exhibitions. Based in Amsterdam, he teaches art theory and art philosophy at LUCA School of Arts / Sint-Lukas Brussels. He is advisor at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam. He is the author of Moderne leegte. Over kunst en openbaarheid (1999), The Regime of Visibility (2005) and The Myth of Artisthood (2007 / 2013). His latest book, based on his PhD dissertation, is During the Exhibition the Gallery Will Be Closed. Contemporary Art and the Paradoxes of Conceptualism (Valiz, 2012).

Last publication date: 2014-01-26.
Informal Media

Maaike Lauwaert questions the issue of the balance between work and life within the cultural field. Our lives are governed by the terror of the updates, she says. How can we resist the burps and farts of a system that is trying to eat us alive?

Open no. 23, General

Jonas Staal, Art, Property of Politics III, Onomatopee 63, 2011, isbn 9789078454755

Open no. 22, General

Jeroen Boomgaard, Wild Park: Het onverwachte als opdracht, Amsterdam, Fonds BKVB, 2011, ISBN 9789076936000, 98 pages

Maaike Lauwaert writes on contemporary art for various magazines and blogs and works as a visual arts curator at Stroom Den Haag, an independent centre for art and architecture in the Netherlands. Before starting at Stroom, she worked at the Mondriaan Foundation and completed a PhD in the cultural sciences at the University of Maastricht. Her work has been published in Metropolis M, Kaleidoscope, Modern Painters, Art Agenda, among others.

Last publication date: 2014-01-26.
Informal Media

Facebook has turned all of us into addicted, narcissistic cheerleaders. It has become increasingly difficult to quit Facebook, a “public space” that could suddenly make or break our revolutions. It has been said that the true revolution will not be televised, but it won’t be facebooked either.

Vesna Madzoski is an independent theorist and researcher based in Amsterdam. She has a PhD from the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Her PhD research, entitledDE CVRATORIBVS. The Dialectics of Care and Confinem ent, focused on the history of curating, the transformations of this practice in the past fifty years and its relationship with political and economic systems. She has been one of the editors of Prelom, a Belgrade-based journal for art and theory, and since 2006 is a member of the artists’ collective Public Space With A Roof in Amsterdam. More info: madzoski.synthasite.com.

Last publication date: 2014-01-26.
Care of the Brain
The seven major fibre bundles of the human brain; these tracks are created using DSI Studio and rendered in TrackVis. Image: Sudhir Pathak

The brain is a work, and we do not know it. We are its subjects, authors and producers at once – and we do not know it.
—Catherine Malabou

(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism is a new series of artists’ publications resulting from the 2016–2017 Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI). DAI is an internationally orientated MA Art Praxis focusing on art, but explicitly granting attention to the crossings and interactions with other domains, disciplines and knowledges. As a partner of DAI, Open! conducts thematical research and publishes projects with a group of MA students using the Open! platform as the overarching discursive framework and site for experimentation and presentation. You can find links to the results of the previous year below.

This year our study group questioned the state of the mind and brain under conditions of cognitive capitalism. Mainly from the perspective of the humanities and political aesthetics, we focused on current notions of the brain in our global capitalist societies. We asked after how far the brain can be ideologically infiltrated or resist that infiltration. From the assumption that culture and brain form complex systems of influence, control and resistance, and that language, memory and imagination are more and more performed by machines and automated algorithmic procedures, we looked at some of the implications of ‘cognitive automation’ in terms of our subjectivity, identity and free will. We learned how neuro-scientific conceptions of the brain can be appropriated by cognitive capitalism and charted possibilities to subvert the instrumentalization of our brains. 

Through seminars and in conversation with generous guest tutors and by studying texts and other resources, we entered the brain. We were very much inspired by philosopher Catherine Malabou’s questioning of ‘what we should do so that consciousness of the brain does not purely and simply coincide with the spirit of capitalism’. Malabou wants to instigate consciousness of the ‘plasticity’ of the brain – that is the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience – at the service of an emancipatory political understanding. We also closely looked at the ‘neuroplastic dilemma’ as described by theorist and activist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi who asserts that neuroplasticity can be the condition for the reactivation of empathy and political solidarity’s necessary conditions for a process of self-organization of the general intellect driven by ethical and aesthetic sensibilities rather than by the an-ethical impulse of economic competition.

Artist-theorist Warren Neidich introduced us to the fields of neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics and concepts such as the neurobiological sublime, the brain without organs and noology. Art historian Antonia Majaca conducted a brainy seminar about the use of technology and the potential to generate non-paranoid imagination and agency in the age of algorithmic governmentality. Bifo passionately spoke about the Guattarian concept of ‘chaosmose’ and about ‘chaosmique spasm’. He urged us to find a new rhythm between the relation of the brain and the chaos of the infosphere. Art historian Amelia Groom focused on ‘viscosity with a will’ and went into the ways in which soft invertebrates and brainless slimes invite new ways of understanding intelligence, embodiment and collectivity. Finally researcher and lecturer Willem van Weelden tried to critically compare Malabou’s recent definition of trauma (brain trauma and psychic trauma), based on the advances made in neurobiology and new senses of materiality (plasticity), with Jean-François Lyotard’s investigation of time and matter – as demonstrated in the eighties by his manifestation ‘Les Immatériaux’ and his philosophy of the Inhuman. 

Alongside all this the Open! COOP Academy participants developed their individual (image)essays and experimental writings, guided by the Open! team and the guest tutors. As a collaborative exercise in thinking and writing they also created a playful image-text lexicon in relation to the overarching subject matter and the issues at stake, so as to break open concepts and create new relationships among them.1 

General

Visual artist Florian Göttke investigates the function of public images and their relationship to social memory and politics. In this contribution, Göttke zooms in on the newspaper photograph of a Syrian protester to reflect on how images serve as a means of communication in our current mediatised society. He poses questions regarding the agency of the photographed subjects and the responsibility of the spectator.

Florian Göttke is a visual artist based in Amsterdam. Since 2006 he is teaching at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI), Arnhem, about topics related to art and public issues. In his recent works he investigates the functioning of public images, and their relationship to social memory and politics. His lecture and book Toppled (Post Edition, Rotterdam, 2010), about the fallen statues of Saddam Hussein, is a critical study of image practices of appropriation and manipulation in our contemporary media society. Toppled was nominated for the Dutch Doc Award for documentary photography in 2011. Currently he is working on his PhD in Artistic Research “Burning Images – Genealogy of a Hybrid and Global Cultural and Political Practice” at the University of Amsterdam and the Dutch Art Institute, about the practice of hanging and burning effigies in political protests. See further: www.floriangoettke.com.

Last publication date: 2017-09-14.
Commonist Aesthetics

Weak connections are at the bedrock of social media and the marketing empire it protects. Geert Lovink’s work over the last decade on ‘organized networks’ proposes organized strong connections as tools to embrace and generate a commons that not only consists of small-scale experiments but is a large-scale infrastructure. If the commons is to be saved from the neoliberal fate of the Internet, we must consider those around us, and how to work closely with them towards a shared reality that is not governed by the oppressive regimes we claim to dispel.

Art Discourse

In April 2015 I had the honour to receive a private tour by the Spanish artist Daniel G. Andújar of his solo show, Operating System, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid.1 I know Daniel from the net.art days of 1996–1997 when he was running Technologies To The People® (TTTP) (1996), a work shared in Operating System. All these months later, as the works in the show stayed with me, I decided to contact Daniel and request an e-mail interview with him. What I appreciate in his work is the natural way in which his ‘new media arts’ background is woven into the broader visual arts context of a large museum such as Reina Sofía. The show brought together the real thing and its virtual double – as if the two have never been at odds. Operating System offered a mix of many things, such as playful net.art, a dark, hacker space installation, journalism investigating real estate projects (from the pre-2008 boom years), a colourful room filled with manipulated versions of political celebrity posters and an art historical investigation into Pablo Picasso. The exhibition seemed to find the ‘tactical’ equilibrium so many people have thrived on and thirsted for. When we have all moved on to become post-digital, where ‘analogue is the new digital,’ then why should we continue to marginalize those who experiment with the ‘new material’ in an evermore ironic fashion? It is time for the Great Synthesis. The historical compromise is there. Everyone prepares for the first post-digital Venice Biennale in 2017. Let’s enjoy the delicate mix between technology, politics and aesthetics in such a way that none of the three dominate, and let Andújar be our guide.2

General

Like the current economic order, Bitcoin privileges certain social relationships. It is a Weltanschauung, and, like all systems, it produces its own animal spirits.

Show more articles…
Open no. 13, Informal Media

In a recently pub­lished book, Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, Geert Lovink analyses the impact of blogging on the public sphere. This essay is an updated version of one chapter of his book, 'Blogging: The Nihilist Impulse', in which Lovink sees blogging as an attitude aimed at undermining 'the mighty and seductive power of the broadcast media'.1 

Open no. 12, General

Saskia Sassen, Territory-Authority-Rights. From Medieval to Global Assemblages, Princeton / Oxford, Princeton University Press, 2006, ISBN 9780691095387, 502 pages

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Visual artist and archivist Tjebbe van Tijen (1944) is interested in the functioning and the creation of collective memory. He concentrates on the gathering of data that generate meanings which deviate from official interpretations. This can lead to a more ­differentiated picture of the past and of the way in which we remember it. To this end Van Tijen makes use of material as well as virtual media and regards them as an inseparable whole. This interview by media theorist Geert Lovink focuses extensively, among other things, on Van Tijen’s project Unbombing the World 1911–2011.

Geert Lovink is a media theorist, Internet critic and author of Social Media Abyss (2016), Networks Without a Cause (2012), Zero Comments (2007) and Dark Fiber (2002). Since 2004 he is researcher in the Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences where he is the founder of the Institute of Network Cultures. His centre recently organized conferences, publications and research networks such as Video Vortex (the politics and aesthetics of online video), Unlike Us (alternatives in social media), Critical Point of View (Wikipedia), Society of the Query (the culture of search), MoneyLab (Internet-based revenue models in the arts) and a project on the future of art criticism. From 2004–2013 he was also associate professor in Media Studies (new media), University of Amsterdam. Since 2009 he is professor at the European Graduate School (Saas-Fee / Malta) where he supervises PhD students.

Last publication date: 2016-11-01.
Common Conflict

In his contribution to the Common Conflict virtual roundtable, Joost de Bloois elaborates on his critique of the ‘ontologized commons,’ arguing that it functions as a cover-up for the absence of effective leftist political action. Furthermore, he asserts that focusing on the commons and the practice of commoning – in art as elsewhere – in fact plays into the neoliberal dismantling of public institutions and infrastructure.

Common Knowledge

In his commentary on the University of Amsterdam occupation, Dutch sociologist Willem Schinkel underlines what he sees as the major pitfall of the current protest movement: students and staff appeared to be indulging in “a reactionary defense of privileges without being able to formulate a convincing narrative concerning the public task of the university”, a supposedly reactionary stance that hinges on “elitist notions such as Bildung”.1 What the protests lack, according to Schinkel, is a thorough analysis of the university’s role in the turn towards “cognitive capitalism”. The protests themselves are, in fact, a symptom of the fact that “we are on the brink of a major political-economic transformation that”, Schinkel argues, “raises the question of what will remain of what we cherish about the university after that transition is completed”.

Art Discourse

Both the artistic practice and the art theory that claims to address art’s political significance will need to face the fact that the latter will remain a dead letter as long as a politics of universal emancipation fails us.

Show more articles…
Open no. 23, Autonomy

Artists and theorists have frequently deliberated the meaning of the idea of ‘autonomy in art’, and certainly since the protests against the cutbacks in art. Cultural studies specialist Joost de Bloois considers the present debate on this issue problematic because it is based too much on assumptions. Fundamental contradictions within the art sector as well as its complex relation to politics and the public domain are often ignored.

Joost de Bloois is an assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, department of Comparative Literature and Cultural Analysis. He has published extensively on the nexus between culture and the political. For an overview of his publications see: www.uva.nl.

Last publication date: 2016-02-01.
Commonist Aesthetics

In reflecting on new sociabilities and communities, Christoph Brunner and Gerald Raunig ask how individuals “enter into composition with one another in order to form a higher individual, ad infinitum,” and how a being “can take another being into its world, but while preserving or respecting the other’s own relations and world.” They respond with a detailed consideration of Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s concept of the undercommons as a micro-political active power.

Art Discourse

What is actually going on when objecthood suddenly reappears as obsession, as a component of art’s currently most fashionable hypes?

Open no. 23, Autonomy

Against the background of Foucault’s analyses of the philosophical significance of the cynic, philosophers Christoph Brunner, Roberto Nigro and Gerald Raunig at the Zurich University of the Arts are investigating present-day forms of activism such as the Occupy movement. By means of three themes – creating new forms of living, inventing new modes of organization and re-appropriating time – they show the pioneering potential of such activism.

Christoph Brunner is a media theorist and philosopher working at Zurich University of the Arts. He is part of the SenseLab in Montreal, the editorial collective of Inflexions – A Journal for Research-Creation, and co-applicant for the SSHRC-partnership grant Immediations: Art, Media, Event. He recently finished his PhD dissertation on “Ecologies of Relation – Collectivity in Art and Media.” Some publications: “Post-Media, Activism, Social Ecology, and Eco-Art,” Third Text 120 (2013) with Roberto Nigro, Gerald Raunig; “Immediation as Practice and Process of Signaletic Mattering,” Journal of Aesthetics and Culture 4 (Mai 2012). More: molecularbecoming.com.

Last publication date: 2015-06-03.
Commonist Aesthetics

In reflecting on new sociabilities and communities, Christoph Brunner and Gerald Raunig ask how individuals “enter into composition with one another in order to form a higher individual, ad infinitum,” and how a being “can take another being into its world, but while preserving or respecting the other’s own relations and world.” They respond with a detailed consideration of Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s concept of the undercommons as a micro-political active power.

Art Discourse

What is actually going on when objecthood suddenly reappears as obsession, as a component of art’s currently most fashionable hypes?

Open no. 23, Autonomy

Against the background of Foucault’s analyses of the philosophical significance of the cynic, philosophers Christoph Brunner, Roberto Nigro and Gerald Raunig at the Zurich University of the Arts are investigating present-day forms of activism such as the Occupy movement. By means of three themes – creating new forms of living, inventing new modes of organization and re-appropriating time – they show the pioneering potential of such activism.

Show more articles…
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

‘The concept of post-Fordism is invented for that which dawns as the future – a linguistic hereafter that seems to stand obtusely at the exit from the past, knocking timidly at the door of the future because its old home no longer exists.’ Thus Hans-Christian Dany, describing the threshold from Fordism to post-Fordism in his cultural history of amphetamines published by Nautilus-Verlag Hamburg in 2008. And just as the ‘linguistic hereafter’ has been peering round the corner into the future now for a pretty long time, obtusely if not without curiosity, so the linguistic labels for the social transformations taking place since the late 1960s have gone on multiplying: post-industrial society, service society, information society, network society, cognitive capitalism, knowledge economy, and so forth. No matter what the perspective, however, it is the acceleration, pace and speed of the currents flowing through it that define the quality of the ‘future’ whose door we have long since passed through.

It is not by chance that Dany’s book is titled Speed. Social transformations are also central to the changes of function and use of the cheap drugs known in their users’ slang by that name. ‘Speed’, in its narrower, drug-related sense in post-Fordist capitalism, no longer implies, as in the preceding century, an ambivalent acceleration, conditioner for the pressures of professional life and resistant medium of new subcultures. In an astounding process of disambiguation it is increasingly found only on the affirmative side, although now more strongly as an element of caring for self. Controlled intoxication is more and more part of a well-ordered relation to self, where getting high and consciousness-raising are deliberate means of self-effectivization. In the cocktail of neoliberal-governmental modes of subjectivization the ‘speed’ family of drugs has become one of a host of components in a generalized style of self-government.

‘Speed’, however, by no means refers any longer exclusively to drug use, but increasingly to all areas of production and reproduction. And in the sphere of production it not only concerns the acceleration of material work processes but also, and above all, the immaterial terrain of the cognitive, the communicative and the affective. Dany describes this in detail with reference to a proto-post-Fordist avant-garde that was already moving into the new era 40 years ago: Andy Warhol’s Factory. In this factory – much as in the completely different political contexts of the fabbrica diffusa conceptually formulated by Italy’s operaist theoreticians and put to the test in the struggles of the Autonomia at the start of the 1970s – the time and space of its subjects are diffuse. As ‘pioneers of the new work’ they have no permanent collective workplace and know nothing of orderly Fordist time. And they no longer produce things but atmospheres: ‘The majority of those present are involved in activities that aren’t immediately recognizable as work and mostly look like the opposite, so that some think it’s a party.’ This new form of employment is no longer based on the separation of work and free time, achievement and leisure, factory and home, sobriety and drug consumption, but on the blurring of the formerly clear-cut boundaries between these areas.

Speed shakes off its more or less intentional marginality and becomes central to post-Fordist production, extending far beyond peripheral drug use as dependence on all forms of acceleration, especially dependence on being attached to accelerated communication and information technologies. And in this dependent attachment the components of the apparatuses traditionally referred to as machines and our own machinic subjectivizations intermingle. Just as we adopt the modes of functioning of the technical apparatuses that we operate and that operate us, so the apparatuses adopt our skills, technology and knowledge. It is as if we had simply gone a step further in the incessant process of becoming machines, from a Fordist-industrial osmosis with the production line to a post-Fordist-informational osmosis with computers. And just as the nineteenth-century view of machines as something like the extension of our arms was reductive, so too now there is the simplistic view of the computer as prosthetic brain. Involved here is not just a one-sided extension of the human body or the upgrading of the human being by a machine, but as ever a flow of machinic currents that permeate things, people and socialities alike.

Once the acceleration of these currents tends to infinity, however, and that moreover on the basis of a machinic desire driving us, grave consequences ensue for living and working conditions. Some of the worst excesses are the outsourcing of material dirty work to the global peripheries, recent interrelated forms of sexist and racist exploitation, and the development of new pathologies specific to the full-speed subjects in the era of precaritization. But machinic desire, as a producer of wishes, also has a revolutionary side. In combating the new subjectivizations, the new atomizing forms of individualization, it is no use simply turning one’s back on machines, or wrecking them, or throwing clogs in the works. Nor are the current patterns of dealing with sociality any help, the yearning for a state that parcels social space and for a closed community are losing all meaning. What we must rather ask is: What are these machines in which accelerated-accelerating singularities can link up together instead of returning to the identitary vessels of community and rasterization by the state apparatuses? What is the nature of this new irrepressible link among these singularities that cannot be understood in terms of homogenizing cohesion? How and where do offensive accelerative strategies emerge, as traffic and concatenation, linked by the absence of any link?

Gerald Raunig is a philosopher. He works at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste and at the eipcp (European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies); he is a member of the editorial boards of the multilingual webjournal transversal and the journal Kamion. His books have been translated into English, Serbian, Spanish, Slovenian, Russian, Italian, and Turkish. Recent books: A Thousand Machines, New York / Los Angeles: Semiotext(e) / MIT Press 2010; Factories of Knowledge, Industries of Creativity, New York / Los Angeles: Semiotext(e) / MIT Press 2013. Upcoming: DIVIDUUM. Machinic Capitalism and Molecular Revolution, Vol. 1.

Last publication date: 2015-06-03.
General

Artists Bik Van der Pol are currently researching the participatory budget, a very specific and challenging process of democratic deliberation and decision-making that emerged as a form of radical participatory democracy in Brazil.

Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

There was once a plan to build a Museum of Revolution in the Park of Friendship in Belgrade: but only the foundations were ever laid. As part of the Differentiated Neighbourhoods project, initiated by Zoran Eric, curator of the Centre of Visual Culture of the Museum of Modern Art in Belgrade, the artists Bik Van der Pol researched this area. They developed a scenario that imbues the location with meaning and questions art, the museum, revolution, the public and the way the media work. Their contribution to Open stems from this project.

Bik Van der Pol work collectively since 1995. They live and work in Rotterdam (the Netherlands). Bik Van der Pol explore the potential of art to produce and transmit knowledge. Their working method is based on co-operation and research methods activating situations to create platforms for various kinds of communicative activities. Their work has been shown in, amongst others, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Biennials of Lyon and Istanbul, and MoMa, PS1 and Creative Time in New York. They produced projects for public space in, for example, Beyond Leidsche Rijn in Utrecht and the Maasvlakte 2 in Rotterdam. Currently, they are course directors of the Master programme School of Missing Studies, at Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam. For more information on their projects and publications see: www.bikvanderpol.net.

Last publication date: 2013-11-02.
Commonist Aesthetics

According to Isabell Lorey, it is essential to invent new forms of democracy and to understand how we are specifically governed by a perverse democratic governing system, which encourages increased precarisation. To counter this, Lorey proposes the subversive figure of the immune: constituent immunisation. She postulates that constituent immunisation stresses a renewed ordering in which the safeguarding of the political body is no longer at stake. Instead, we must turn to the constituting of those who were formerly constructed as a threat.

Isabell Lorey, European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies (eipcp), is based in Berlin, and an editor of transversal texts. At several European universities she teaches as a professor classes in political theory, feminist theory and postcolonial studies. International publications on precarization of labor and life in neoliberalism, social movements (a.o. Euromayday-movement and the democracy-movements since 2011), critical theory of democracy and representation, biopolitical governmentality, and political immunization. Recent publication: State of Insecurity. Government of the Precarious, London / New York: Verso 2015. See further: transversal.at.

Last publication date: 2015-01-20.
General

Robert Pfaller, On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners, Verso Books, London, 2014, ISBN 9781781681749, 288 pages

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

From a person­ally felt necessity, Jan Verwoert calls on artists to search for a new form of ethics in this pamphlet-like text. An ethics that makes it possible to adopt a different position concern­­­­­­­­­­ing the current demand to perform that characterizes today’s culture. Acknowledging that you care about something makes it easier to make conscious decisions about whether or not you want to participate.

Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

More and more often, artists, critics and intermediaries are expected to know whom they are addressing. Critic Jan Verwoert holds an ardent plea for a practice in which the public is anonymous. Only if we don’t know who our audience is do we become curious, can meaningful encounters take place and communities be formed.

Show more articles…
Open no. 11, General

Sven Lütticken, Secret Publicity. Essays on Contemporary Art, Rotterdam / Amsterdam, NAi Publishers / Fonds BKVB, ISBN 9056624679

Jan Verwoert is a critic and writer on contemporary art and cultural theory. He is a contributing editor of Frieze and his writing has appeared in different journals, anthologies and monographs. He is the author of the essay collection Cookie! (Sternberg Press / Piet Zwart Institute, 2014), Animal Spirits –Fables in the Parlance of Our Time (together with Michael Stevenson) (Christoph Keller Editions, JRP-Ringier, 2013), the essay collection Tell Me What You Want What You Really Really Want (Sternberg Press / Piet Zwart Institute, 2010) and Bas Jan Ader: In Search of the Miraculous (MIT Press / Afterall Books, 2006). He teaches at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts, the Piet Zwart Institute and the de Appel Curatorial Programme.

Last publication date: 2015-01-21.
General

Martijn de Waal, The City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City, nai010 Publishers: Rotterdam, 2014, ISBN 9789462080508, 208 pages

Miriam Rasch has a background in literary studies and philosophy and works at the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam. She writes book reviews and guest posts for various websites and magazines; her personal blog can be found at www.miriamrasch.nl.

Last publication date: 2014-08-06.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Space is not a given, but is continuously produced, reproduced and reconfigured. Taking up where the French urban theorist Henri Lefebvre left off, the Marxist geographer David Harvey has focused on the development and incorporation of a spatial analysis in Marxist theory. He has emerged as one of the foremost intellectual commentators on the global financial crisis, portrayed in his recent book The Enigma of Capital (2010) as an instance of those same structural contradictions Karl Marx forewarned us about.

Miguel Robles-Durán, urbanist, is co-founder of ‘Cohabitation Strategies’, a cooperative for sociospatial development based in New York and Rotterdam. He directs the Urban Ecologies Graduate Program at the New School / Parsons in New York.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

According to political, cultural and media theorist Oliver Marchart, the degree to which public media are actually public depends on the political significance invested in the concept of democracy. He believes the main prerequisite for achieving a democratic media is the creation of an absolute democratic hegemony.

Oliver Marchart (Aus) teaches in the Sociology department at the University of Lucerne. His recent books include Post-foundational Political Thought: Political Difference in Nancy, Lefort, Badiou and Laclau (2007), Neu beginnen. Hannah Arendt, die Revolution und die Globalisierung (2005). Ästhetik des Öffentlichen. Eine politische Theorie künstlerischer Praxis (2008) is due to be published shortly.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

According to Richard Grusin, the reason that the photographs from Abu Ghraib triggered such a commotion is not that they cross the ethical boundaries of media practice. He believes that their similarity to everyday media practices of producing and circulating digital images is the cause.

Richard Grusin (USA) is a professor and chair of the English Department at Wayne State University. His books include Remediation: Understanding New Media (1999) with Jay David Bolter. He is currently working on the book Premediation: Affect, Mediality in America after 9 / 11 (working title).

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

The rise of virtual worlds and the 3d web is accompanied by great transformations in the way in which we communicate and interact, publish and learn, meet people and have fun, do business and are involved in politics. The best-known and most flexible virtual world is Second Life (sl). Web sociologist Albert Benschop explores this digital world and compares the structure of the 3d web with the structure of the old, flat web.

Albert Benschop was a lecturer and researcher at the Universiteit van Amsterdam for many years. He is the founder of the world’s most consulted social-science information system, SocioSite, and founding father of net sociology in the Netherlands.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

Media researcher and artist David Garcia is dedicated to achieving effective media tactics by artists and internet activists. Despite the dominance of the commercial, absorbing services industry in which media are pervasive, Garcia believes that they are nonetheless able to offer ethical and critical services by developing tools. He discusses projects by Bricolabs and Mongrel, among others.

David Garcia (GB) is a writer, artist and professor of Design for Digital Culture at the University of Portsmouth and the Utrecht School of the Arts. He makes installations, videos and television programmes and writes about new media and internet culture. He was one of the people behind The Next 5 Minutes (1994–2003), a series of international conferences and exhibition on electronic communications and new social movements. He is currently involved in (Un)common Ground, a series of events and publications on this topic.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

1. YouTube represents the kind of hybrid media space described by Yochai Benkler in The Wealth of Networks – a space where commercial, amateur, non-profit, governmental, educational and activist content coexists and interacts in ever more complex ways. As such, it potentially represents a site of conflict and renegotiation between different forms of power. One interesting illustration of this is the emergence of Astroturf – fake grassroots media – through which very powerful groups attempt to mask themselves as powerless in order to gain greater credibility within participatory culture. In the past, these powerful interests would have been content to exert their control over broadcast and mass-market media, but now they often have to mask their power in order to operate within network culture.

2. YouTube has emerged as the meeting point between a range of different grassroots communities involved in the production and circulation of media content. Much that is written about YouTube implies that the availability of Web 2.0 technologies has enabled the growth of participatory cultures. I would argue the opposite: that it was the emergence of participatory cultures of all kinds over the past several decades that has paved the way for the early embrace, quick adoption and diverse use of platforms like YouTube. But as these various fan communities, brand communities and subcultures come together through this common portal, they are learning techniques and practices from each other, accelerating innovation within and across these different communities of practice. One might well ask whether the ‘You’ in YouTube is singular or plural, given the fact that the same word functions for both in the English language. Is YouTube a site for personal expression, as is often claimed in news coverage, or for the expression of shared visions within common communities? I would argue that the most powerful content on YouTube comes from and is taken up by specific communities of practice and is thus in that sense a form of cultural collaboration.

3. YouTube represents a site where amateur curators assess the value of commercial content and re-present it for various niche communities of consumers. YouTube participants respond to the endless flow and multiple channels of mass media by making selections, choosing meaningful moments which then get added to a shared archive. Increasingly, we are finding clips that gain greater visibility through YouTube than they achieved via the broadcast and cable channels from which they originated. A classic example of this might be the entertainer/writer Colbert appearance at the Washington Press Club Dinner. The media companies are uncertain how to deal with the curatorial functions of YouTube: seeing it as a form of viral marketing on some occasions and a threat to their control over their intellectual property on others. We can see this when Colbert and his staff encourage fans to remix his content the same week that the media conglomerate Viacom seeks legal action to have Colbert clips removed from YouTube.

4. YouTube’s value depends heavily upon its deployment via other social networking sites – with content gaining much greater visibility and circulation when promoted via blogs, Live Journal, MySpace and the like. While some people come and surf YouTube, its real breakthrough came in making it easy for people to spread its content across the web. In that regard, YouTube represents a shift away from an era of stickyness (where the goal was to attract and hold spectators on your site, like a roach motel) and towards an era where the highest value is in spreadability (a term which emphasizes the active agency of consumers in creating value and heightening awareness through their circulation of media content).

5. YouTube operates, alongside Flickr, as an important site for citizen journalists, taking advantage of a world where most people have cameras embedded in their cell phones which they carry with them everywhere they go. We can see many examples of stories or images in the past year which would not have gotten media attention if someone hadn’t thought to record them as they unfolded using readily accessible recording equipment: George Allen’s ‘macaca’ comments, the tazering incident in the UCLA library, Michael Richards’s racist outburst in the nightclub, even the footage of Sadam Hussein’s execution, are a product of this powerful mixture of mobile technology and digital distribution.

6. YouTube may embody a particular opportunity for translating participatory culture into civic engagement. The ways that Apple’s ‘1984’ advertisement was appropriated and deployed by supporters of Obama and Clinton as part of the political debate suggests how central YouTube may become in the next presidential campaign. In many ways, YouTube may best embody the vision of a more popular political culture that Stephen Duncombe discusses in his new book, Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in the Age of Fantasy: ‘Progressives should have learned to build a politics that embraces the dreams of people and fashions spectacles which gives these fantasies form – a politics that employs symbols and associations, a politics that tells good stories. In brief, we should have learned to manufacture dissent. . . . Given the progressive ideals of egalitarianism and a politics that values the input of everyone, our dreamscapes will not be created by media-savvy experts of the left and then handed down to the rest of us to watch, consume, and believe. Instead, our spectacles will be participatory: dreams that the public can mold and shape themselves. They will be active: spectacles that work only if the people help create them. They will be open-ended: setting stages to ask questions and leaving silences to formulate answers. And they will be transparent: dreams that one knows are dreams but which still have power to attract and inspire. And, finally, the spectacles we create will not cover over or replace reality and truth but perform and amplify it.’

Yet as we do so, we should also recognize that participatory culture is not always progressive. However low they may set the bar, the existing political parties do set limits on what they will say in the heat of the political debate and we should anticipate waves of racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry as a general public, operating outside of those rules and norms, deploy participatory media to respond to a race which includes women, African-Americans, Hispanics, Mormons, Italian-Americans, Catholics, and the like as leading figures in a struggle for control over the White House.

7. YouTube helps us to see the shifts which are occurring in the cultural economy: the grassroots culture appropriates and remixes content from the mass-media industry; the mass-media industry monitors trends and pulls innovations back into the system, amplifying them and spreading them to other populations. Yet as they do so, they often alter the social and economic relations which fuelled this cultural production in the first place. We will see increasing debates about the relations between the gift economy of participatory culture and the commodity relations that characterize user-generated content. There is certainly a way that these sites can be seen as a way of economic exploitation as they outsource media production from highly paid and specialized creative workers to their amateur unpaid counterparts.

8. In the age of YouTube, social networking emerges as one of the important social skills and cultural competencies that young people need to acquire if they are going to become meaningful participants in the culture around them. We need to be concerned with the participation gap as much as we are concerned with the digital divide. The digital divide has to do with access to technology; the participation gap has to do with access to cultural experiences and the skills that people acquire through their participation within ongoing online communities and social networks.

9. YouTube teaches us that a participatory culture is not necessarily a diverse culture. As John McMuria has shown us, minorities are grossly under-represented – at least among the most heavily viewed videos on YouTube, which still tend to come most often from white middle-class males. If we want to see a more ‘democratic’ culture, we need to explore what mechanisms might encouraged greater diversity in who participates, whose work gets seen, and what gets valued within the new participatory culture.

This text was taken from Henry Jenkins’ weblog: henryjenkins.org, 28 May 2007.

Henry Jenkins (USA) is the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program. His newest books include Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture.See further: www.henryjenkins.org.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

'Tell me something I don't know. ' That was the subtitle of the proposal Bregtje van der Haak, programme maker at the vpro, submitted to the Dutch Public Broadcasting Authority's Executive Board. Surprise me. Move me. And above all, inspire me with new ideas and passionate people. This brief forms the core of the initiative that since this January has borne the name Hot Spot and is set to run into 2008. After an intensive preparation process in which Bregtje van der Haak called in the assistance of Martijn de Waal and myself, the outlines of the project became discernible. Hot Spot is an informal, creative club for programme makers at all Dutch public broadcasters, which organizes regular gatherings at alternating locations. The aim is to come up with new ideas and to exchange thoughts, with an eye towards the future. Evenings are organized around a central theme, during which new technologies are discussed, social trends are examined and useful ideas are derived from such disciplines as fashion, design and the visual arts for application in public media. The evenings consist of presentations and discussions. Guests, well-known and unknown, speak about their own work and their ideas, often about a work in progress. Sneak previews, pilots and rushes are screened, but also websites and Power Point presentations.

The gatherings aim to provide an impetus to a 'public television culture', a television culture that is genuinely 'public', with a genuinely democratic significance and not based on ratings. Thinking about public broadcasting is too tied to money, power, structures and organization models. This is not conducive to the creativity of programme makers, who are the capital of the public broadcasting system. Creativity thrives in an open atmosphere, exchanges of thoughts and a continuous supply of new, inspiring ideas. For the future of public broadcasting, it is imperative to make room for innovations. And thus for a conversation about the profession. What do we want to make? Why? For whom?

These questions were the focus of the two Hot Spot evenings we organized prior to the summer of 2007. The first, entitled 'The Art Show', had as its premise the beauty of the original idea. Those in attendance were able to learn about innovative ideas and meet people who either come up with new ideas themselves or analyse and assess these ideas. Speakers included Gary Carter, chief creative officer with Fremantle Media, a large international media production company. He discussed the sense and the nonsense of searching for 'the next big thing'.

Tom Himpe, a London advertising executive, gave a presentation on 'guerilla advertising' – alternative, clandestine and original ways of hawking a product. This is significant not only for companies producing consumer goods, but also for programme makers, who in a constantly expanding media universe have to continually reposition themselves in order to attract the attention of the viewer or listener.

As part of the theme week 'Wij zijn de baas' ('We're the boss'), about the importance of democracy (October 2007), a second Hot Spot was organized around the question of how, as a public broadcaster, to generate a meaningful public debate using the latest technological advances. The essence of a democracy, after all, is that a free and public discussion is possible, one that actually contributes to the development of a society. To this end a number of guests were invited to develop ideas in collaboration with the programme makers on shaping this public debate. The guests included coordinators of popular weblogs on politics, artists, media philosophers, engineers and gaming developers.

During the Picnic cross-media week, a major Hot Spot event took place, concerning virtual worlds. A programme was put together in association with the Submarine production company on the opportunities that games and virtual worlds such as Second Life present to programme makers in addressing a new audience and in finding new forms for telling stories.

Future Hot Spot gatherings will focus on themes such as civic journalism, new narrative forms and ethnic diversity.

In addition to organizing these evenings, Hot Spot aims to establish short- or long-term alliances with various partners. These might be cultural institutions, platforms for new media, festivals, like Picnic, Nieuw Akademia, Submarine, all of which concentrate on organizing cross-media projects, but it might also be a magazine, for example. Indeed, this issue of Open is one such example.

Open No. 13 focuses on the question of how the 'public programme' is changing as a result of the effects of globalization and the digital age. This supplement zeroes in on the question of how public media are responding to new, more informal and individually oriented communication technologies, mobile media, media formats and media strategies. It attempts to bring these sometimes rather abstract developments back to the level of actual practice: what do these shifts signify for the programme maker? How should he or she relate to an audience that does not swallow everything docilely, how can he or she use the audience to positively influence his or her programme?

In his column, Dingeman Kuilman, director of the Premsela Foundation, a platform for Dutch design, compares two ways of using television: as a medium that records (the camera obscura) and as a medium that creates (the lanterna magica). In his view, television has become too much a medium that merely records the world around us. He wonders why current programmes are so lacking in creative content.

That programme makers must do better is without question. That they should be given more room to manoeuvre by courageous managers is equally clear. But will they then also get the critique they need? Many programme makers denounce the reviews of their broadcasts in daily and weekly newspapers. Not because these are purely negative, but because they often demonstrate so little insight into television and radio. Critics limit themselves primarily to what is said or done by whom in which programme. A solid analysis of how a programme is structured, how it is edited or how it is experienced is lacking.

This last point is discussed in the article by scientific researchers Irene Costera Meijer (media studies) and Maarten Reesink (television sciences), both at the University of Amsterdam. Their content analysis shows that television critics are very one-sided in their approach: they pay little attention to the commercial broadcasters and disproportionate attention to journalistic and cultural programmes. Most articles consist of strictly personal opinions that virtually relate solely to the content of the programming on offer. There is little or no attention for the aesthetics or the impact of television programmes. According to Costera Meijer and Reesink, critics should therefore develop an experience-oriented vocabulary in order to assess programmes differently.

But of course it all starts with the maker. It is he or she who needs to undergo a change in mentality. Whereas traditional programme makers mainly want to inform their audience, 'new' makers primarily want to communicate with their audience. Media philosopher Bas Könning cannot emphasize this new role often enough. In the interview in this issue he says, 'People today are far less satisfied with the status quo. And that is the result of the huge expansion of the supply and the flows of information. The user/viewer/listener is no longer dependent on you – it's the other way round. Far worse than that, the world can discuss you without you. That is something many programme makers are having trouble getting used to. ' If you have a new idea for a programme, start your own blog immediately. That is Könning's imperative advice. Provide access to the process of genesis and you create not only your future audience, but there is a significant likelihood that you will explore new paths as a result of suggestions from the readers of your blog. So it's a two-way street.

That was in fact the experience of the radio play writer Bert Kommerij. He was, as he puts it, 'booted onto the internet' by the broadcaster for which he works. The rvu commissioned him to conduct research into the question of how people take control of their lives. And how they keep it. And what role the internet plays in this. For this supplement, he submitted the visual contribution Flick Radio – Makes my world feel real. This contribution is based on the 'worklog' www.flickradio.nl. In it he is steadily reducing the difference between script and blog. He turns himself into a character and gives his new digital friends a voice. The end result will be a radio play (music and sound design by Marco Raaphorst) and an accompanying internet film, made with Flickr-photos complete with captions (editing by Pepijn Kortbeek).

Through the contributions in this supplement, we hope to provide a clearer picture of the shifts in media production, distribution and consumption. Although the processes upon which these shifts are based are often complex in nature, this does not mean that the efforts you have to make as a programme maker are enormous. The key is primarily a change in attitude toward the audience. The audience is no longer an anonymous receptor – the audience talks back and thinks along. The public itself is a producer as well. As a programmer, you can turn this to your advantage.

Open no. 13, Informal Media

gvdw How does one become a media philosopher?

bk In the 1980s I studied visual communications at the aki Academy of Visual Arts in Enschede. After that I went on to study philosophy in Amsterdam, for the most part as a ghost student, because I'd used up my university time. I mainly took courses in linguistic philosophy. Around that time I also became fascinated by the internet, which at that moment was nothing more than a collection of bulletin boards. Yet its users could already sense that it was going to turn into something amazing.

From 1994 onward I advised businesses and government and educational institutions on integrating the internet into their organizations. I handled the entire process, like a one-man band, from designing the websites and data structures to initiating the staff into its mysteries. Now that the other media have also become part of the digital revolution, these are really great times for a media philosopher. Incidentally, don't confuse a media philosopher with a media analyst. Aside from analysis, a philosopher lavishes most of his care on synthesis. I examine how developments in the media are changing the world and vice versa. A new media landscape is emerging, and I am sketching a picture of it. My day-to-day work consists of surfing the web a lot, and I work on various projects in conjunction with Nieuw Akademia, a network of academics, consultants and artists. At the moment I am involved, via Nieuw Akademia, with the npox1 media festival organized by the Dutch public broadcasters.

What is the difference between the current excitement about the web and the internet hype of the late 1990s?

Back then we could see the potential, but it was not yet clear what the value of these possibilities was. One could see, for instance, that the supply of products and information was growing enormously. It was assumed that the audience would appreciate this a lot, because freedom of choice seemed a major positive at the time. Since then, it has been demonstrated more and more frequently that what we want is not a broad selection, that we in fact want things to be pre-selected for us. These days you can see that a lot more hierarchy is emerging than in the late 1990s, even though the amount on offer is several orders of magnitude greater, and so is the chaos. The present hierarchy is user-driven, that is to say the sender has made it possible for the receptors to apply a hierarchy to the content on offer, through 'tagging' (describing and labelling), 'rating' (validating) and 'sharing'. We encounter 'familiar strangers' – strangers, but with the same preferences. In this way, the web is evolving from a search engine into a finding machine, and that is an essential transformation, because most people don't enjoy searching very much.

The use of media has changed enormously. What is the most significant shift?

The most significant development, in my view, is the blurring of the boundaries between the various information and communication platforms. Familiar media such a television, radio, internet, newspapers and telephones are making way for a broad palette of hybrid forms. There are more and more devices that can more or less do everything. Like a telephone on which you can watch video. The display screen will soon compete with the printed newspaper at the breakfast table. And slowly but surely, the possibilities of the internet are being made available on television. These are initially technological developments, but they are altering behaviour, as well as the expectations of the audience toward all media. For years, participating in television was not an option. We took that for granted, but the younger generations no longer do. Of the 100 per cent that consume video via internet, 10 per cent respond or participate. That does not seem like much, but the 90 per cent that do not respond themselves do find it very important that the possibility exists. Among these responses, after all, are familiar strangers, who represent their voice. And 1 per cent of internet users put their own material on the web. So at least 1 in 100 consumers becomes a producer if given the chance. This changes the perception of the media and therefore the role of the programme maker – he or she is now among equals, the audience is media-savvy and the programme maker will have to behave accordingly.

Is a change in mentality required for the majority of programme makers?

My short answer would be no, they should just go on making beautiful things. But it is a fact that beautiful things are not automatically seen by their intended audience. So it helps if programme makers become aware of new ways of reaching the audience, and better still, involve the audience in the production process.

What we do or do not watch is increasingly channelled through our own networks and communities. In these communities there are always key figures: people who are more present than the rest, who pop up all over the place and link the flows of information. Programme makers are well-advised to seek out these 'connectors'. They are worth their weight in gold to programme makers, for they know what's going on. And they also take care of distribution, for once connectors find out about something, it quickly gets around.

What is the difference in approach between a traditional programme maker and a programme maker who is abreast of all the new developments in the realm of media production, distribution and use?

The traditional maker handles the research phase from within his or her own network. His or her focus is a medium: it will be a television or radio programme in a specific time slot. The broadcast is mostly the first and often also the last contact for the audience. After the broadcast he or she uses his or her network to see whether something extra can be done with the programme: a discussion evening in the De Balie cultural centre, hiring it out to institutions or a presentation at a university. In short, he or she uses the structure, the platforms and the institutions he or she knows.

For a 'new' maker the time slot is an important climax as well, but the focus is on the process. He or she gets involved in networks related to the subject, sees this as the first audience to be won over and potentially turned into a source. He or she starts a blog, and responds to other blogs. He or she creates circles around his or her production process, adds familiar strangers to his or her address book, turns them into accomplices, puts raw material on YouTube and Hyves, provokes reactions.

Among traditional media makers you sometimes detect fear or at least scepticism in relation to processes of collective and collaborative intelligence. Fear of compromising the quality of the news gathering and the reliability of information. Is this fear justified?

Not at all. The debate that has always raged within journalism – about the vetting of information and about objectivity and subjectivity – is now often being waged by the audience. A much more intricate web of gradual truth has emerged. Every web user, children definitely included, knows that doubt is permissible and imperative. Something is provisionally true, or plausible, or good enough to pass on, with or without source attribution.

The surfeit of examples in which nuanced gradations of the truth exist has made the audience increasingly more adept at assessing the news as to truth value. What used to be done solely by the journalist is now done by the receptor: collecting sources, weighing and testing. If possible he or she does this in consultation with other users, for without supplemental communication, information is less interesting anyway, whether it is true or not.

Geert Lovink, in his article elsewhere in this issue, is sceptical about the expected overthrow of the traditional mass media. He sees precious little evidence of it. What is your prediction?

The mass media have already sustained a major blow, particularly as a result of the expansion of supply, and are increasingly targeting specific groups or themes. In the 1970s, the Dutch television evening news reached 55 per cent of the public; now all the Dutch television channels put together can barely achieve that. Yet despite this growing fragmentation, mass media will retain a certain position. First, because we want stars, and stars exist and thrive by the grace of the mass media. A hit on YouTube only genuinely becomes a hype once the mass media start reporting on it. And I don't see this changing any time soon.

In addition, chatting about yesterday's media in schoolyards and office canteens is a widely shared pleasure, and therefore a programme watched by a lot of people will continue to exert a gravitational effect. Mass media are also indispensable for the creation of frames of reference. Without a regular experience of common ground, it is difficult to be one society. For this reason, governments will work hard to preserve the mass media. The commercial channels, however, are in for a tough time. Advertisers, en masse, are looking for new ways to reach the consumer, and the boom in store for on-demand television is a threat to commercial breaks. It is not yet clear what will happen, but that something is going to change is certain.

Which book or which blog is really of quintessential importance if you, as a programme maker/media maker, want to be thoroughly abreast of the latest developments in the media ecosystem?

Your own blog! With any luck you'll be automatically kept on your toes by your readers. And then you don't have to read all of those books about developments in the use of media. I haven't read Chris Anderson's best-seller, The Long Tail, but I know exactly what's in it. I followed various discussions of The Long Tail on the web and am now familiar not only with Anderson's insights, but also with those of his critics. And the critique of that critique. That is the blessing of participation in the media.

Geert van de Wetering (NL) is a journalist and programme maker. He worked for six years for VPRO Television, where he was the creator and producer of such programmes as Nachtpodium and Picabia. He has also written for the De Volkskrant newsaper and many magazines. He currently works as a freelance journalist and director.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

The fact that public broadcasting is regarded as belonging to the creative industry cannot conceal the sad state of creativity in this sector. Radio, television and internet display a striking lack of imaginative power, a situation that becomes even more embarrassing when set against the vigour of other creative sectors.

Why, for example, is no one in Hilversum1 making programmes with a cachet to match that of our architecture and our design?

Stefan Themerson, writer, filmmaker, publisher and poet, distinguishes two ways of making images: the camera obscura and the magic lantern. The camera obscura represents reality. The magic lantern by contrast elevates representation to the status of reality. Each of these principles results in a different approach to public broadcasting as a creative medium: do programme makers accept existing reality for what it is? Or do they manipulate reality by allowing their imagination free play?

Jaap Drupsteen (b. 1942) belongs to the second category. Drupsteen trained as a graphic designer. In 1975, following a sensational series of vpro network promo spots, he produced his first major feature: Het grote gebeuren (The Great Happening). The action, based on a short story by Belcampo, takes place on the Day of Judgement in the Overijssel village of Rijssen. Hordes of devils and angels descend on the village to read the inhabitants their final lesson. After all the villagers have been carried off to heaven or to hell, only Belcampo, disguised as a devil, remains behind. Eventually, after a group of angels discovers him, he is conveyed heavenwards, 'with steady wingbeats'.

I still recall the New Year's Eve when Het grote begeuren was broadcast. The sense of witnessing something completely new was overwhelming.

Jaap Drupsteen says of this work: 'The viewer is repeatedly fucked about', thereby revealing himself to be no devotee of today's phone-in quizzes. Rather, he champions the programme maker as illusionist. He takes issue with television's alleged social benefit: 'Everything that's added is nonsense, personal hobbies, artistic claptrap, fake magic, pomposity, technical tours de force, trendy hype and showing off, which usually undermines the functionality and for that reason is infinitely more interesting.'

No one looking at the way things have developed since the 1980s can avoid the conclusion that Jaap Drupsteen's views are out of date. Television, radio and internet have become reality machines: the 'Big Brother' living room and the 'Golden Cage' villa turn television quite literally into a camera obscura.

So where did things go wrong with the magic lantern? This was a question Jaap Drupsteen asked himself in 1985, when the nos2 refused to enter his music theatre production The Flood in the Prix Italia. He vented his frustration in several interviews: 'If the nos enters something it's more likely to be a recording of a good performance. But that's more to the credit of the theatre makers than the tv makers. . .. That's typical of the views on creativity and innovation. It's completely normal for television to appropriate the creativity of other media. . .. I've always found that a bit parasitical. But when a production in which television itself is used as creative medium is brushed aside as an incident, I'm rather dismayed.'

Drupsteen regards television as a creative medium, especially public television and the public broadcasting system as a whole. Public broadcasting is public space. Public space is free space. Free space is a space for imagination. Or should be, at any rate.

The international success of Dutch architecture and design is due not just to training, talent and a little money, but above all to good clients. Not to managers, who hide behind public approval and taste, but to people of character with the courage to take responsibility for complete and partial failures. Open-minded and open-hearted. Convinced of the need to stimulate public curiosity.

If public broadcasters are serious about rediscovering their creativity, they must start by being good clients. Who will give the old and new Drupsteens the opportunity to conquer public space? As long as no one feels the need to do so, even the illusionists can have no illusions.

Dingeman Kuilman (the Netherlands) is director of Premsela Dutch Platform for Design and Fashion, based in Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

Sometime in the late 1990s, Maarten Reesink took part in a forum on various forms of reality and 'emotion' television, organized by the University of Maastricht. The two other forum participants were Frits Abrahams, then the nrc Handelsblad newspaper's regular television critic, and Pieter Storms, maker of the notorious consumer advocacy programme Breek­ ijzer, who took offence that a scientist would label his programme 'emotion television'. No offence was intended, Reesink argued, for 'emotion television' can in fact have all sorts of positive qualities – something Abrahams, on the other hand, felt to be nonsense: one should not justify something that is bad, certainly not as an academic. You will have guessed that the discussion lasted late into the night, too late to head home all the way across the country, which is why the organization had reserved rooms for all the forum participants in the adjacent three-star hotel.

The next morning, Abrahams, rightfully considered by many to be the best television critic in the Netherlands, announced that now that he had slept on it, there was something, after all, in science's more nuanced view of the new genre. And in fact, in the time he had been a television critic, he had never opened an academic book about television. Nor was he about to do so: his career as a television critic had nearly run its course, and, far more significantly, he was no longer able to absorb such a completely different view of the medium of television. That other vocabulary, those new perspectives, all those nuances and aspects would have to be left to a new generation of critics to take up.

Irene Costera Meijer (NL) is a senior lecturer in television and popular culture in the Media & Culture department at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. She has written a large number of articles on the quality of television. Her book De toekomst van het nieuws was published in 2006. As a researcher she frequently holds workshops for journalists and programme makers working for broadcast organizations and daily newspapers.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 13, Informal Media

Sometime in the late 1990s, Maarten Reesink took part in a forum on various forms of reality and 'emotion' television, organized by the University of Maastricht. The two other forum participants were Frits Abrahams, then the nrc Handelsblad newspaper's regular television critic, and Pieter Storms, maker of the notorious consumer advocacy programme Breek­ ijzer, who took offence that a scientist would label his programme 'emotion television'. No offence was intended, Reesink argued, for 'emotion television' can in fact have all sorts of positive qualities – something Abrahams, on the other hand, felt to be nonsense: one should not justify something that is bad, certainly not as an academic. You will have guessed that the discussion lasted late into the night, too late to head home all the way across the country, which is why the organization had reserved rooms for all the forum participants in the adjacent three-star hotel.

The next morning, Abrahams, rightfully considered by many to be the best television critic in the Netherlands, announced that now that he had slept on it, there was something, after all, in science's more nuanced view of the new genre. And in fact, in the time he had been a television critic, he had never opened an academic book about television. Nor was he about to do so: his career as a television critic had nearly run its course, and, far more significantly, he was no longer able to absorb such a completely different view of the medium of television. That other vocabulary, those new perspectives, all those nuances and aspects would have to be left to a new generation of critics to take up.

Maarten Reesink (NL) has been affiliated since 1993 with the Media & Culture (formerly Film and Television Studies) Chair Group at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, where he was involved in the development of the television studies specialization. His own specializations are reality television and infotainment.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 15, General

Eric Kluitenberg, Delusive Spaces: Essays on Culture, Media and Technology, Institute of Network Cultures / NAi Uitgevers, Rotterdam 2008, isbn 9789056626174

Open no. 13, General
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

In 2000, an explosion in a fireworks factory wiped out the entire Roombeek district in the city of Enschede. Stichting Droombeek [Droombeek Foundation] responded with a digital project that enables individuals to call up memories of the area with the click of a mouse. Using digital technology, residents add their own images and stories to the website, which can then be accessed by visitors to the digital district, who may in turn add their own experiences to the mix. By linking the present to the past in this way, the website becomes a ‘lived’ space.

Show more articles…
Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Geert Lovink, My First Recession: Critical Internet Culture in Transi­tion, NAi Publishers in association with V2_Organisatie, Rotterdam 2004, ISBN 9056623532

Arie Altena writes about art, technology and new media. He is an editor / researcher at the V2_Archief in Rotterdam, teaches Interactive Media and Environments at the Frank Mohr Institute and is a co-organizer of Sonic Acts. In 2006 he conducted research at the Jan van Eyck Academie. His blog research project, In the Loop, is part of the Ubiscribe project, for which he also edited the POD book Pervasive Personal Participatory, Ubiscribe 0.9.0 (2006).

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 13, General

Joke Brouwer and Arjen Mulder (eds.), Interact or Die!, NAi Publishers and V2Institute for the Unstable Media, ISBN 9789056625771

Open no. 12, General

Alex de Jong and Marc Schuilenburg, Mediapolis: Popular Culture and the City, Rotterdam, 010 Publishers, 2006, ISBN 9789064506338, 240 pages

Open no. 11, General

Kas Oosterhuis, Lukas Feireiss (eds.), Game, Set and Match II: On Computer Games, Advanced Geometries, and Digital Technologies, Rotterdam, Episode Publishers, 2006, isbn 9059730364

Show more articles…
Open no. 9, General

Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid, Rhythm Science, Mediawork / The MIT Press, 2004, ISBN 026263287 

Omar Muñoz Cremers is a cultural sociologist and writer. His essays have previously been published in Mediamatic, De Gids, Multitudes and Metropolis M. His first novel is entitled Droomstof (2007). He lives and works in Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2007-12-31.
Open no. 15, Social Engineering

René Boomkens argues that the contemporary city transcends national social engineering. The city is being confronted by the unpredictable logic of a transnational publicness. Neither the marketing nor the politicization of the use of the city are adequate to deal with this. What is required is a phenomenology of the urban experience that does justice to the everyday and the unspectacular.

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

Lieven De Cauter, The Capsular Civilization – On the City in the Age of Fear (Reflect #3), NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2004, ISBN 9056624075

René Boomkens is a professor of social and cultural philosophy at the University of Groningen (RUG). His books include Een Drempelwereld. Moderne ervaring en stedelijke openbaarheid (1998) and De nieuwe wanorde. Globalisering en het einde van de maakbare samenleving (2006).

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

Michiel Dehaene, Lieven De Cauter (eds.), Heterotopia and the City: Public Space in a Postcivil Society, London: Routledge, 2008, ISBN 9780415422888

Open no. 15, Social Engineering

Philosopher of law Gijs van Oenen detects a 'socially engineered utopia' in the New Babylon project and other work of the Situa­tionists. In light of political social engineering and of our behaviour in contemporary public space, he sees New Babylon as a 'playground'. He calls for an understanding of social engineering in spatial terms, so as to promote the inter­active capabilities of human beings.

Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

The trend towards ‘interpassive citizenship’ that legal philosopher Gijs van Oenen wrote about in Open 6, is leading to a radical change in the way we behave in the public domain.1  Because of this, tolerance is in danger of sliding into an ever wider two-way split between assertion and presence, in other words between citizens who emphatically demand their rights and citizens who avoid making a choice. An important task in the coming years will therefore be to halt this process and to look for alternatives.

Show more articles…
Open no. 6, (In)Security

The issue of security in the public domain is not so much pre­cipi­tated by increased danger as primarily a problem of ‘inter­passive citizenship’, accor­ding to legal philosopher Gijs van Oenen. In the follow­ing piece he examines the conditions for the transformation of the public sphere into an obsessive medium of security concerns.

Gijs van Oenen teaches in the Department of Philosophy of Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he directs a research programme on ‘Interactive Metal Fatigue’. He publishes widely on citizenship, the rule of law, illegality, safety and security, public space and democracy.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 15, Social Engineering

Using two urban development plans for a new city grounded on ideological doctrine – one in a totalitarian regime and one in a democratic society – architectural historian Wouter Vanstiphout demonstrates how the identification of urban planning with a political societal system ultimately turns against itself. Urban planners would do better to see the city not as something that can be made out of nothing, but rather as an unruly reality for which they develop instruments so that it can grow in all its complexity and layeredness.

Wouter Vanstiphout is a partner in Crimson Architectural Historians. Since its inception in 1994 Crimson has curated exhibitions, published books, done research projects, developed urbanism strategies and has realized concrete projects such as the WiMBY! project for the restructuring of the post-war New Town of Rotterdam Hoogvliet. Right now Crimson is developing the international research project ‘The New Town’. Under his own name Wouter Vanstiphout published his dissertation, Maak een Stad, Rotterdam en de architectuur van J.H. van den Broek, in 2005.

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 15, Social Engineering

In 1943, Hannah Arendt published an article titled 'We Refugees' in a small English-language Jewish publication, the Menorab journal. At the end of this brief but significant piece of writing, after having polemically sketched the portrait of Mr. Cohn, the assimilated Jew who, after having been 150 percent German, 150 percent Viennese, 150 percent French, must bitterly realize in the end that 'on ne parvient pas deux fois,' she turns the condition of countryless refugee – a condition she herself was living – upside down in order to present it as the paradigm of a new historical consciousness. The refugees who have lost all rights and who, however, no longer want to be assimilated at all costs in a new national identity, but want instead to contemplate lucidly their condition, receive in exchange for assured unpopularity a priceless advantage: 'History is no longer a closed book to them and politics is no longer the privilege of Gentiles. They know that the outlawing of the Jewish people of Europe has been followed closely by the outlawing of most European nations. Refugees driven from country to country represent the vanguard of their peoples.'1

One ought to reflect on the meaning of this analysis, which after fifty years has lost none of its relevance. It is not only the case that the problem presents itself inside and outside of Europe with just as much urgency as then. It is also the case that, given the by now unstoppable decline of the nation-state and the general corrosion of traditional political-juridical categories, the refugee is perhaps the only thinkable figure for the people of our time and the only category in which one may see today – at least until the process of dissolution of the nation-state and of its sovereignty has achieved full completion – the forms and limits of a coming political community. It is even possible that, if we want to be equal to the absolutely new tasks ahead, we will have to abandon decidedly, without reservation, the fundamental concepts through which we have so far represented the subjects of the political (Man, the Citizen and its rights, but also the sovereign people, the worker, and so forth) and build our political philosophy anew starting from the one and only figure of the refugee.

The first appearance of refugees as a mass phenomenon took place at the end of World War I, when the fall of the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, along with the new order created by the peace treaties, upset profoundly the demographic and territorial constitution of Central Eastern Europe. In a short period, 1. 5 million White Russians, seven hundred thousand Armenians, five hundred thousand Bulgarians, a million Greeks, and hundreds of thousands of Germans, Hungarians, and Romanians left their countries. To these moving masses, one needs to add the explosive situation determined by the fact that about 30 percent of the population in the new states created by the peace treaties on the model of the nation-state (Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, for example), was constituted by minorities that had to be safeguarded by a series of international treaties – the so-called Minority Treaties – which very often were not enforced. A few years later, the racial laws in Germany and the civil war in Spain dispersed throughout Europe a new and important contingent of refugees.

We are used to distinguishing between refugees and stateless people, but this distinction was not then as simple as it may seem at first glance, nor is it even today. From the beginning, many refugees, who were not technically stateless, preferred to become such rather than return to their country. (This was the case with the Polish and Romanian Jews who were in France or Germany at the end of the war, and today it is the case with those who are politically persecuted or for whom returning to their countries would mean putting their own survival at risk.) On the other hand, Russian, Armenian, and Hungarian refugees were promptly denationalized by the new Turkish and Soviet governments. It is important to note how, starting with World War I, many European states began to pass laws allowing the denaturalization and denationalization of their own citizens: France was first, in 1915, with regard to naturalized citizens of 'enemy origin'; in 1922, Belgium followed this example by revoking the naturalization of those citizens who had committed 'antinational' acts during the war; in 1926, the Italian Fascist regime passed an analogous law with regard to citizens who had shown themselves 'undeserving of Italian citizenship'; in 1933, it was Austria's turn; and so on, until in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws divided German citizens into citizens with full rights and citizens without political rights. Such laws – and the mass statelessness resulting from them – mark a decisive turn in the life of the modern nation-state as well as its definitive emancipation from naive notions of the citizen and a people.

This is not the place to retrace the history of the various international organizations through which single states, the League of Nations, and later, the United Nations have tried to face the refugee problem, from the Nansen Bureau for the Russian and Armenian refugees (1921) to the High Commission for Refugees from Germany (1936) to the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees (1938) to the UN's International Refugee Organization (1946) to the present Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (1951), whose activity, according to its statute, does not have a political character but rather only a 'social and humanitarian' one. What is essential is that each and every time refugees no longer represent individual cases but rather a mass phenomenon (as was the case between the two world wars and is now once again), these organizations as well as the single states – all the solemn evocations of the inalienable rights of human beings notwithstanding – have proved to be absolutely incapable not only of solving the problem but also of facing it in an adequate manner. The whole question, therefore, was handed over to humanitarian organizations and to the police.

The reasons for such impotence lie not only in the selfishness and blindness of bureaucratic apparatuses, but also in the very ambiguity of the fundamental notions regulating the inscription of the native (that is, of life) in the juridical order of the nation-state. Hannah Arendt titled the chapter of her book Imperialism that concerns the refugee problem 'The Decline of the Nation-State and the End of the Rights of Man'.2 One should try to take seriously this formulation, which indissolubly links the fate of the Rights of Man with the fate of the modern nation-state in such a way that the waning of the latter necessarily implies the obsolescence of the former. Here the paradox is that precisely the figure that should have embodied human rights more than any other – namely, the refugee – marked instead the radical crisis of the concept. The conception of human rights based on the supposed existence of a human being as such, Arendt tells us, proves to be untenable as soon as those who profess it find themselves confronted for the first time with people who have really lost every quality and every specific relation except for the pure fact of being human.3 In the system of the nation-state, so-called sacred and inalienable human rights are revealed to be without any protection precisely when it is no longer possible to conceive of them as rights of the citizens of a state. This is implicit, after all, in the ambiguity of the very title of the 1789 Déclaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen, in which it is unclear whether the two terms are to name two distinct realities or whether they are to form, instead, a hendiadys in which the first term is actually always already contained in the second.

That there is no autonomous space in the political order of the nation-state for something like the pure human in itself is evident at the very least from the fact that, even in the best of cases, the status of refugee has always been considered a temporary condition that ought to lead either to naturalization or to repatriation. A stable statute for the human in itself is inconceivable in the law of the nation-state.

It is time to cease to look at all the declarations of rights from 1789 to the present day as proclamations of eternal metajuridical values aimed at binding the legislator to the respect of such values; it is time, rather, to understand them according to their real function in the modern state. Human rights, in fact, represent first of all the originary figure for the inscription of natural naked life in the political-juridical order of the nation-state. Naked life (the human being), which in antiquity belonged to God and in the classical world was clearly distinct (as zoe) from political life (bios), comes to the forefront in the management of the state and becomes, so to speak, its earthly foundation. Nation-state means a state that makes nativity or birth [nascita] (that is, naked human life) the foundation of its own sovereignty. This is the meaning (and it is not even a hidden one) of the first three articles of the 1789 Declaration: it is only because this declaration inscribed (in articles 1 and 2) the native element in the heart of any political organization that it can firmly bind (in article 3) the principle of sovereignty to the nation (in conformity with its etymon, native [natío] originally meant simply 'birth' [nascita]. The fiction that is implicit here is that birth [nascita] comes into being immediately as nation, so that there may not be any difference between the two moments. Rights, in other words, are attributed to the human being only to the degree to which he or she is the immediately vanishing presupposition (and, in fact, the presupposition that must never come to light as such) of the citizen.

If the refugee represents such a disquieting element in the order of the nation-state, this is so primarily because, by breaking the identity between the human and the citizen and that between nativity and nationality, it brings the originary fiction of sovereignty to crisis. Single exceptions to such a principle, of course, have always existed. What is new in our time is that growing sections of humankind are no longer representable inside the nation-state – and this novelty threatens the very foundations of the latter. Inasmuch as the refugee, an apparently marginal figure, unhinges the old trinity of state-nation-territory, it deserves instead to be regarded as the central figure of our political history. We should not forget that the first camps were built in Europe as spaces for controlling refugees, and that the succession of internment camps-concentration camps-extermination camps represents a perfectly real filiation. One of the few rules the Nazis constantly obeyed throughout the course of the 'final solution' was that Jews and Gypsies could be sent to extermination camps only after having been fully denationalized (that is, after they had been stripped of even that second-class citizenship to which they had been relegated after the Nuremberg Laws). When their rights are no longer the rights of the citizen, that is when human beings are truly sacred, in the sense that this term used to have in the Roman law of the archaic period: doomed to death.

The concept of refugee must be resolutely separated from the concept of the 'human rights', and the right of asylum (which in any case is by now in the process of being drastically restricted in the legislation of the European states) must no longer be considered as the conceptual category in which to inscribe the phenomenon of refugees. (One needs only to look at Agnes Heller's recent Theses on the Right of Asylum to realize that this cannot but lead today to awkward confusions.) The refugee should be considered for what it is, namely, nothing less than a limit-concept that at once brings a radical crisis to the principles of the nation-state and clears the way for a renewal of categories that can no longer be delayed.

Meanwhile, in fact, the phenomenon of so-called illegal immigration into the countries of the European Union has reached (and shall increasingly reach in the coming years, given the estimated twenty million immigrants from Central European countries) characteristics and proportions such that this reversal of perspective is fully justified. What industrialized countries face today is a permanently resident mass of noncitizens that do not want to be and cannot be either naturalized or repatriated. These noncitizens often have nationalities of origin, but, inasmuch as they prefer not to benefit from their own states' protection, they find themselves, as refugees, in a condition of de facto statelessness. Tomas Hammar has created the neologism of 'denizens' for these noncitizen residents, a neologism that has the merit of showing how the concept of 'citizen' is no longer adequate for describing the social-political reality of modern states.4 On the other hand, the citizens of advanced industrial states (in the United States as well as Europe) demonstrate, through an increasing desertion of the codified instances of political participation, an evident propensity to turn into denizens, into noncitizen permanent residents, so that citizens and denizens – at least in certain social strata – are entering an area of potential indistinction. In a parallel way, xenophobic reactions and defensive mobilizations are on the rise, in conformity with the well-known principle according to which substantial assimilation in the presence of formal differences exacerbates hatred and intolerance.

Before extermination camps are reopened in Europe (something that is already starting to happen), it is necessary that the nation-states find the courage to question the very principle of the inscription of nativity as well as the trinity of state-nation-territory that is founded on that principle. It is not easy to indicate right now the ways in which all this may concretely happen. One of the options taken into consideration for solving the problem of Jerusalem is that it become – simultaneously and without any territorial partition – the capital of two different states. The paradoxical condition of reciprocal extraterritoriality (or, better yet, aterritoriality) that would thus be implied could be generalized as a model of new international relations. Instead of two national states separated by uncertain and threatening boundaries, it might be possible to imagine two political communities existing on the same region and in a condition of exodus from each other – communities that would articulate each other via a series of reciprocal extraterritorialities in which the guiding concept would no longer be the ius (right) of the citizen but rather the refugium (refuge) of the singular. In an analogous way, we could conceive of Europe not as an impossible 'Europe of the nations', whose catastrophe one can already foresee in the short run, but rather as an aterritorial or extraterritorial space in which all the (citizen and noncitizen) residents of the European states would be in a position of exodus or refuge; the status of European would then mean the being-in-exodus of the citizen (a condition that obviously could also be one of immobility). European space would thus mark an irreducible difference between birth [nascita] and nation in which the old concept of people (which, as is well known, is always a minority) could again find a political meaning, thus decidedly opposing itself to the concept of nation (which has so far unduly usurped it).

This space would coincide neither with any of the homogeneous national territories nor with their topographical sum, but would rather act on them by articulating and perforating them topologically as in the Klein bottle or in the Möbius strip, where exterior and interior in-determine each other. In this new space, European cities would rediscover their ancient vocation of cities of the world by entering into a relation of reciprocal extraterritoriality.

As I write this essay, 425 Palestinians expelled by the state of Israel find themselves in a sort of no-man's-land. These men certainly constitute, according to Hannah Arendt's suggestion, 'the vanguard of their people'. But that is so not necessarily or not merely in the sense that they might form the originary nucleus of a future national state, or in the sense that they might solve the Palestinian question in a way just as insufficient as the way in which Israel has solved the Jewish question. Rather, the no-man's-land in which they are refugees has already started from this very moment to act back onto the territory of the state of Israel by perforating it and altering it in such a way that the image of that snowy mountain has become more internal to it than any other region of Eretz Israel. Only in a world in which the spaces of states have been thus perforated and topologically deformed and in which the citizen has been able to recognize the refugee that he or she is – only in such a world is the political survival of humankind today thinkable.

This English translation of the original Italian text (1993) was first published in: Giorgio Agamben, 'Means without End. Notes on Politics' in: Theory Out of Bounds, Vol. 20 (Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2000).

Giorgio Agamben is an Italian philosopher. His many publications include Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (Zone Books), The Coming Community, and State of Exception.

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 15, General

Hans Boutellier, Ronald van Steden (eds.), Veiligheid en burgerschap in een netwerksamenleving, Uitgeverij Boom, Amsterdam, 2008, isbn 9789054549918, 326 pages

Patrick Van Calster studied philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit in Brussels and criminology at Ghent University. He is currently Senior Lecturer in the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology at Leiden University.

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
General

Tom Cohen, Claire Colebrook, J. Hillis Miller, Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols, Open Humanities Press, London, ISBN: 9781785420153, 2016, 227 pages

General

Christoph Cox, Jenny Jaskey and Suhail Malik, eds., Realism Materialism Art, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College / Sternberg Press, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York / Berlin, 2015, ISBN 9783956791260, 408 pages

Open no. 23, General

Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle (eds.) Are You Working Too Much? Post-Fordism, Precarity, and the Labor of Art, New York / Berlin, e-flux journal / Sternberg Press, 2011, ISBN 9781934105313, 216 pages

Show more articles…
Open no. 22, General

Paul De Bruyne and Pascal Gielen (eds.), Community Art: The Politics of Trespassing, Amsterdam, Valiz, 2011, isbn 9789078088509, 374 pages

Open no. 22, General

Maria Hlavajova, Simon Sheikh and Jill Winder (eds.), On Horizons: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, Utrecht / Rotterdam, BAK / post editions, isbn 9789460830372, 242 pages

Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

Daniel Birnbaum, Isabelle Graw (eds.), Canvases and Careers Today: Criticism and Its Markets, Berlin / New York: Sternberg Press, 2008, ISBN 9781933128474, 148 pages

Open no. 18, General

Nicolas Bourriaud, The Radicant, New York, Sternberg Press, 2009, isbn 9781933128429, 192 pp.

Open no. 18, General

Sven Lütticken, Idols of the Market: Modern Iconoclasm and the Fundamentalist Spectacle, New York, Sternberg Press, 2009, isbn 9781933128269, 248 pages

Open no. 14, General

Paul O’Neill and Mick Wilson (eds.), Curating and the Educational Turn, London / Amsterdam, Open Edition / De Appel, 2010, ISBN 9780949004185, 342 pages

Open no. 15, General

Maria Hlavajova, Jill Winder, Binna Choi (eds.), On Knowledge Production: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, BAK / Revolver, Utrecht / Frankfurt am Main, 2008, ISBN (BAK): 9789077288115; ISBN (Revolver): 9783865884664, 222 pages

Open no. 14, General

Margriet Schavemaker & Mischa Rakier (eds.) Right about Now. Art & Theory since the 1990s, Amsterdam, Valiz, 2007, isbn 9789078088172

Open no. 14, General

Jeroen Boomgaard (ed.), Highrise – Common Ground. Art and the Amsterdam Zuidas Area, Amsterdam, Valiz, 2008, isbn 9789078088189, 384 pages


Ilse van Rijn is a critic and art historian. She is working on her doctoral research, studying ‘autonomously produced artists’ writings: their operative force, status and role,’ collaboratively supported by the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, the Jan van Eyck Academy and the University of Amsterdam / ASCA. She was previously a researcher and adviser at the Jan van Eyck Academy. Currently, she teaches in the Rietveld department of ‘image & language.’

Last publication date: 2016-12-30.
Open no. 15, General

Kitty Zijlmans and Wilfried van Damme (eds), World Art Studies. Exploring Concepts and Approaches, Uitgeverij Valiz, Amsterdam, isbn 9789078088226, 480 pages

Özkan Gölpinar works as cultural diversity programme manager for the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture. He has previously worked as a reporter for the newspapers de Volkskrant and Trouw.

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 8, General

Urban Affairs (ed.), Fear and Space. The View of Young Designers in the Netherlands, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2004, ISBN 9056624229

Dennis Kaspori is an architect and the founder of The Maze Corporation. He concentrates on the development of an engaged practice that searches for new models of inclusive urban design.

Last publication date: 2005-04-13.
Open no. 15, Social Engineering

Forty years after the revolt of May ’68, the prevailing opinion seems to be one of aggrieved jealousy, disguised as the wisdom of experience. A series of retrospective newspaper articles seeks to finish once and for all with a troubled legacy. Writers stubbornly struggle to distance themselves from the idea that idealism and engagement could mean anything other than the charitable causes espoused by pop stars and society figures. The soixante-huitards are dismissed as sandbox idealists, weak-minded and aimless sympathizers of terrorism, who in their unbridled naivety thought the world could be changed; we know better by now. It’s the gist of several months of disappointing newspaper reading.

What all this disparagement of the ’68 activists is meant to cloak – without succeeding particularly well – is the bottomless vacuity of today’s politics and the loss of any horizon along which social development might take place. Where are the utopian visions today? Where are the visions of the future, for that matter? With the exception of the development scenarios of consultancy firms, planning bureaus and policy advisers, no one is willing to offer any sort of vision about a collectively desirable future. The world cannot be remade, we are told, when it is in fact being irreversibly reproduced day after day.

Urban space is where the spirit of ’68 – in essence a struggle against any form of authority – particularly manifested itself, not just in Paris, but also in the inner cities of the USA, where the violent repression of the civil-rights movement degenerated into full-scale riots, in the streets of Prague, where the rebellion turned against the Soviet occupation, or in bullet-riddled Saigon, target of the Vietnamese Tet Offensive. In Amsterdam the spirit of ’68 was embodied by the Provo and Kabouter movements, the Nieuwmarkt protests, and the general resistance of residents against the form of autocratic modernist urban development in force at the time. A small revolution took place, one that still defines the structure of Dutch cities to this day.

It is therefore in the area of urban development – in Dutch history one of the most fertile grounds for the development of radical politics – that an impressive system of procedures was created to prevent conflict and not so much parry criticism as render it toothless. ‘Interactive policy making’, ‘open plan processes’ with ‘sounding-board groups’, ‘consultation procedures’, ‘co-production’: the quantity of terms used to describe the participation of residents in contemporary urban development gives the impression that we are living in a veritable Mecca of democracy. Ultimately, however, the marvellous participation models result in a disappointing reality of notification and information, with a few therapeutic public-comment meetings to calm tempers a little. For it’s too late for any real decisions. The political establishment now hides behind a hedge of semantic impenetrability: urban development plans are deliberately drawn up in a jargon that no resident can comprehend. We live in a so-called post-political age, where the framework of politics is set and remains unquestioned by any political party, and within which tiny alterations are the subject of intense negotiations.

The post-political framework of contemporary urban policy is that of the entrepreneurial city. An entrepreneurial mindset has taken over city government, where the drive towards competition among cities has supplanted every other policy consideration. As much care as is being devoted to the strategic positioning of cities in global flows of human and financial capital, so little interest does there seem to be in adopting the existing population of the city as the premise for any integral vision of city politics. We have arrived at a clearly atopian juncture,1 safely removed from any utopian philosophy and at the same time from the dystopian darkness.

The only fertile domain of utopian politics today seems to exist in the digital world, in the open-source software movement FLOSS,2 where an all too real battle is being fought for the public, open nature of the Internet. Although there have been attempts to pull these politics out of the computer domain and transpose them to analogue everyday life, this has aroused surprisingly little interest in the social mainstream. The first step in the Netherlands to translate the cybernetic to the urban domain, strangely enough, is coming from the real-estate sector, which describes its projects using terms like urban hardware (urban infrastructure) and urban software (urban programming). It is no longer just about the bricks. Project developers have discovered that genuine added value lies in linking the physical hardware (the built environment) to sociocultural software (practices, identities, and so forth). This is why project developers now almost routinely invite artists and other cultural actors, on a permanent or temporary basis, to ‘add some flavour’ to as yet unfinished real estate, in order to jack up the prices. Almost every large-scale project in Amsterdam is now associated with a new cultural institution; the Zuidas has a design museum, the South Banks of the IJ have the Muziekgebouw, and the Overhoeks project the new Filmmuseum. Even in the restructuring of social housing, cultural branding has been turned into a new trend.

Interestingly, these computer terms of software and hardware were translated to urban space in the 1970s by the Pop Art architecture group Archigram,3 to promote the use of soft and flexible materials such as the inflatable bubble instead of the modernist hardware of steel and cement. Along with contemporaries such as the Italian architecture group Archizoom and texts such as Jonathan Raban’s Soft City, Archigram aimed its critique at the monotonous and rational functionalism of modernism, presenting a more organic conception of the city as a living organism (comparable views made Aldo van Eyck the quintessential architectural spokesman of the Nieuwmarkt battle against urban modernization). The term urban software thus dates back to the 1960s and 1970s, with software as the social programming of a city and hardware as its infrastructure. Just as the Situationists experimented with bottom-up software through psychogeography and the dérive, so did subjective, organic and bottom-up approaches develop into a spearhead of the utopian urbanism of the time. French urbanist Henri Lefebvre, an important source of inspiration for the urban social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, formulated ‘the right to the city’ in the 1960s: ‘. . . the right to the city means the right of citizens and city residents . . . to take part in all the networks and circuits of communication, information and exchange.4 

In light of current notions of cities as centres for trade in and exploitation of knowledge (the ‘creative knowledge economy’), this formulation of the right to the city seems more imperative than ever, as well as being intrinsically connected to open-source politics. For, in the neoliberal city, this libertarian approach to software is being replaced by an increasingly tightly regulated and coded version, in which urban programming often comes to serve narrow economic functionalism. Through the introduction of codes of behaviour, local ordinances and an increased police presence, streets are kept free of unsanctioned street scenes and undesirable use. By means of the creative city policy, the neoliberal city encourages and promotes the influx of highly educated residents, even as cutbacks are imposed on the creative public domain such as education and the cultural sector and lower education levels have been in crisis for years. Notions of cultural and creative entrepreneurship are becoming dominant in the cultural sector, formerly grounded in political and aesthetic considerations. Culture as a consumer product is developing into a crucial resource in the branding battle among cities. In the process, cultural branding becomes an attempt to construct competitive urban software products that serve to ‘programme’ the urban space in the most economically favourable fashion possible. The neoliberal city is becoming the Microsoft of the spatial knowledge economy: it chooses branding over substance and refuses to makes its source code – its political agenda – public. With the ‘kernel'5 of the city increasingly focused on intercity competition, policy no longer needs legitimization – the need to be a ‘top city’ is reason enough. It seems an almost inevitable necessity, as a response to this trend, to create a programme that translates the demands of the FLOSS movement to the urban space. The realization of a public domain dedicated to the bottom-up production of knowledge and power, and an open urban source code that encourages, rather than complicates, participation; these, at any event, are two essential ingredients of a yet to be determined method for open-source urbanism.

Flexmens, text Merijn Oudenampsen; illustrations: Thijs Vissia

Thijs Vissia lives and works in Amsterdam as a freelance editor, illustrator and photographer. He studied political science at the University of Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 15, Social Engineering

In the struggle against the global world order, Lieven De Cauter calls for a rehabilitation of social engineering and the realization that political choices do matter1  And rightly so. The triumphal march of the global world order – at least at an ideological level – is being made possible by an apolitical view of society.

Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

bavo, a collaboration of architects /  philosophers Gideon Boie and Matthies Pauwels, conducts research in the political realm of art, architecture and planning. According to them, art that aims to be politically relevant has reached an impasse. To break through this impasse, they call on artists to link radical artistic activism with radical political activism. Only then might art that engages with politics genuinely ‘make a difference’.

BAVO is an independent research firm focusing on the political dimension of art, architecture and planning. BAVO is a partnership between Gideon Boie and Matthias Pauwels; both studied architecture and philosophy. Recent publications include Cultural Activism Today: The Art of Over-Identification (2007) and Urban Politics Now: Re-Imagining Democracy in the Neoliberal City (2007). See www.bavo.biz.

Last publication date: 2008-01-01.
Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

German curator and art theoretician Nina Möntmann believes that small art institutions, because of their subversive potential, offer possibilities to escape the pressure of having to attract a mass public. By experimenting with interaction between diverse interest groups and by creating international platforms, they can break away from dominant corporate strategies and redefine their public significance.

Nina Möntmann is a professor and head of the department of Art Theory and the History of Ideas at the Royal University College of Fine Arts in Stockholm. From 2003 to 2006 she was a curator at the Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art (NIFCA) in Helsinki. Currently she is a curatorial advisor for Manifesta 7 (2008). Recent publications include Nina Möntmann (ed.), Art and its Institutions (2006).

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

Philosopher Sjoerd van Tuinen calls for a perspective on publicness he derives from Peter Sloterdijk and his ‘critical awareness of atmospheres’. In this, intimacy is not seen as something obscene that excludes public interaction, but rather as something that actually needs to be taken seriously on a public level. For the visual arts this implies balancing exercises between observation and participation: a socializing art that is not made for an audience but instead creates an audience.

Sjoerd van Tuinen is a philosopher at Ghent University, where he is finishing a dissertation on the Leibniz reception in the work of Gilles Deleuze. He studied sociology and philosophy in Rotterdam. In 2004, Klement published his introduction to the work of Peter Sloterdijk, entitled Sloterdijk – Binnenstebuiten denken.

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

By the time you have finished reading this, it will have been 750 or more words, the space allotted to us by the editors with a going rate of 0.45 euro a word. We have been asked to write a short and polemic column-like text in which we formulate 16beaver’s vision on the public mission of art and its institutions.

Of course we are scripted into schedules and deadlines which need numbers. Yes, numbers were calculated to consider the space available in this publication, the budget for printing, the fees, the salaries, and so forth. Numbers... what started as zeros and ones will soon enough lead to a more complex and flexible equation, bearing with it millions of combinatory numbers, a set for each person on earth... mirroring and tracking us inside and along the peripheries of the camp. We are assigned numbers on boarding, with each seat we take, each meal we charge, we are statistics, analysed, located, identified, placed into groups, numbers, we are pedestrian number x, customer x times, we are worth x, we are weighed, measured, ranked, even speculated upon, hell, we speculate upon ourselves. We are a credit rating. We are supply, we are demand? And yet, we are weightless and measureless. So we take a minute to measure just exactly how much we are worth and in this same logic, we argue, we demand more.

250 or so words in, we are seemingly no closer to addressing our subject of the public mission of art and its institutions. And the task is getting more difficult. We will ask the editors to improve our pay from this point forward. They agree, and raise the price to 0.47 euro per word.

We think about proposing that art’s role today and the role of the institutions (which take on the mandate to protect, house, teach, care for, consider and nurture art) is to wage a war against these numbers. Art, which once took the poetic device – through language, images, diverse forms and behaviours, the task of thinking, elaborating and outlining humankind’s place on earth – has reached an impasse. It has ridden on this impasse for the last century. A century in which the product entered into art as the readymade and art (later the artist) entered into the market as a product. Even if artists long ago left behind these legacies, we nonetheless remain in the vicinity of this intersection today.1

Moreover, a growing number of the existing institutions today, whether universities, museums, or even smaller non-profit spaces, are governed and often directed by the bureaucrats, the accountants, the crunchers of numbers, the trustees, the corporations (the sponsors), the investors, the speculators, the head counters, the grant givers, the generous donors, the infinite ways and means available to distribute and hold us all captive in / to the world of numbers.

Numbers which may aid us in understanding, for instance, the infinite complexity of genetic information residing in our bodies, or to investigate the wondrous textures of our cosmos, and estimate the number of years humans will need to destroy themselves, or how to increase the number of years we live. But they do not go very far in determining how one could live or organize society differently, for instance without creating false scarcity, without engineering and fostering fear, without rampant dispossession, without so much inequity or war. How to rethink our relation to the earth and all the other living and non-living matter? Growing our bank accounts will not address these necessary and quite pragmatic questions.

Some of us, meanwhile, naively await a cry or a whimper, as the marches to various disasters proceed on schedule . . . cries to break banks open, to free the detainees, to end all occupations, to end the wars, but instead we hear the roar of bulls, the hurried thunder of a euphoric albeit confused stampede, running to cash the checks, counting the number of heads, speculating on the next big product launch, noting all the while that bills and salaries have to be paid, in fact, first of the month and a small pssst, ‘you know, since these budget cuts’... You get the picture?!

Liquidity analysts, asset managers, resource administrators, endowment officers, treasury chiefs, grant clerks, donor strategists, corporate liaisons – these are key figures in our coming art institutions.

But this is not about a shortage; on the contrary, art may be entering the greatest period of financialization it has ever known as it gains further and further traction as an investment tool, a marker of status for the newly minted wealthy elite (the few beneficiaries of globalization) and gets increasingly mobilized as a powerful agent for tourism, for redevelopment, regeneration and city re-branding schemes.

47 words past our limit, and we are just scratching at the surface of an idea. What could this call against the becoming-numbers of the world have to do with the possible public role of art and its institutions? To continue we could distinguish (for instance) and disentangle the word public from audience (a word not implicitly negative but too often linked to passivity, numbers, market research and spectacle)?2 To insist that art is not after a marked and predicted audience (much to the dismay of the marketing and publicity departments of many museums), but instead is seeking a public, to call forth a public which has yet to exist. Here calling forth this public would be part of a process called democracy: since we would reject the reduction of democracy to a mode of governance based upon counting votes, tallying numbers, etcetera...3 This process of constructing or calling forth or creating a public would also require some struggle, some disagreement...4 It would require fighting for ground lost and ground which has yet to be imagined. On another front, it would require some effort to link this discourse on numbers to the neoliberal values being taken on increasingly throughout the world – an irrational drive which hides under the seeming rationality of numbers – resting on the world’s greatest selling fiction (money), yet referring to itself as realistic or pragmatic. Furthermore, it would require understanding the constructivist project of neoliberalism: its harsh process of imbuing its logic and values within existing and emergent institutions of government, education, social economic policy and culture.5

And it would come back to art and ask how it might be possible to question and argue against the becoming-numbers of the world, and then to argue for the measureless, infinite, incalculable, uncountable, unheard and unseen futures, which would require an explicit struggle and fight. And if the existing artists and institutions do not exist to wage this fight, then we would have to speculate upon how to shape the space and way for them to exist. The stakes are immeasurable.6

16Beaver is the address of a space in NYC initiated / run by artists since 1999. Since that time, it has served as place where those involved in art, politics, education, as well as a multiplicity of other contexts and fields of activity could discover and develop a common place to share research, questions, understandings, concerns, and struggles. Thus, it has been an open place to share, present, produce, and discuss a variety of artistic / cultural / economic / political projects. It has also been a site where discussions can lead to actions and action can be discussed and rethought. See further: www.16beavergroup.org.

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

Art critic and curator Florian Waldvogel asks Kasper König about his experiences with ‘Skulptur Projekte Münster’, which König has organized from 1977 to 2007. This interview outlines a glimpse of the changing relationship of art, public space and the urban environment. What impact does art have on publicness and public space and how can it influence our view of these?

Florian Waldvogel was artistic director of Kokerei Zollverein / Zeit­­genössische Kunst und Kritik, Essen, from 2001 to 2003 and has been curator at Witte de With, Center for Contemporary Arts in Rotterdam since 2006.

 

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 14, Art as a Public Issue

What role is there for art to play in a public space that is increasingly marked by public-private partnerships and in which public interests are more than ever mixed with economical and security concerns? A conversation with Jeroen Boomgaard, lecturer on Art in Public Space of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, and Tom van Gestel, artistic leader of skor.

According to the editorial concept of this issue of Open, there is a ‘crisis of the public sphere, of public institutions, spaces and tasks’. The question is how art and its institutions should react to this crisis. Indeed, public space has become more and more contested, particularly when it comes to defining what ‘public’ actually means. Freedom and safety, once two concepts that were, if not synonymous at least intimately linked, seem to have grown into two opposite poles in the struggle for arranging public space. The freedom of someone to say and do what he or she wants can jeopardize the safety of another. And the need of political and economical stakeholders for a safely predictable and controllable environment, warranted by public and privatized surveillance agencies, is often at odds with the need for freedom and individuality felt by independent and responsible citizens.

Where does art stand in this debate? As of old, on the side of the ‘most individual expression’? Or on that of symbolizing whatever there remains of collectivity in today’s atomized society? Certainly when looking at art in public space, that question is not so easy to answer. ‘Community art’ is in vogue these days, but it is still often based on the subjective concepts and interventions of one independent and autonomous person: the artist. And cultural institutions are assessed on the basis of a paradoxical combination of demands: they have to enlarge their audience (read: please more people), and at the same time mediate between art and society (read: protect the artist’s idiosyncratic position as a tolerated anomalous individual). This does not transpire without friction. But is this clash of opposing interests and concerns a sign of crisis, or is it the icing on the cake of a society and culture that develop by fits and starts?

I asked two insiders in the field of art in public space, an art historian and a facilitator. One, Jeroen Boomgaard, is lecturer on Art in Public Space, connected to the Rietveld Academy and the University of Amsterdam, and focuses on the Zuidas area, where the Virtual Museum Zuidas is developing a new condition for art in public space. The Virtual Museum’s supervisor, Simon den Hartog, works there alongside project developers in a mega-business quarter, which is now being built by a massive public-private partnership on the South axis (Zuidas) of Amsterdam.1 The other is Tom van Gestel, artistic leader of skor and chairman of the Artistic Team of Beyond, the organization that is developing a programme for art in the public space of another mega-building project, the expansion of the city of Utrecht in Leidsche Rijn.2 To both I put the question of the possibilities and role of art in such partly privatized public spaces, in which enormous economical interests are at play. In such areas, is there a crisis in the relationship between art and its public surroundings?

Open no. 11, General

In Almere’s new city centre, Susann Lekås and Joes Koppers are creating a work of art entitled Optionaltime, which plays a fascinating game with time. The screen is literally a hybrid space and mirrors both the real and the virtual surroundings. On screen, they are mixed together.

Open no. 11, General

Martijn Engelbregt / egbg, Dit is Nederland, de Dienstcatalogus, Amsterdam, Valiz Publishers, isbn 9078088028

Show more articles…
Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

With works like ‘ the butt plug gnome’ – the nickname given by the public to Paul McCarthy’ s controversial sculpture – art in public space touches a sensitive nerve. The symbolic meaning of this sculpture is misunderstood ‘ on the street’. According to Max Bruinsma, symbols are only meaningful within their own codes. That artists are looking for ways to provoke has become unsatisfactory, because the question of social responsibility is left unanswered.

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

One Year in the Wild, Jeroen Boomgaard (ed.), Professorship in Art and the Public Space / Gerrit Rietveld Academy, 2004

Open no. 6, General

Max Bruinsma, New Commitment: In architecture, art and design, Reflect #01, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, 2003, ISBN 9056623478

Max Bruinsma is a freelance design and art critic, curator and editorial designer. He is the former editor of Items design magazine and of Eye, The International Review of Graphic Design in London. Bruinsma has lectured on contemporary visual culture, graphic and media design throughout the world. In 2005, he received the Pierre Bayle Prize for Design Criticism.

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 14, General

Jacques Rancière, Het esthetische denken; Solange de Boer (ed.), Grensganger tussen disciplines. Over Jacques Rancière, Amsterdam, Valiz, 2007, isbn 9789078088141; Amsterdam, Valiz, 2007, isbn 9789078088158; set of two books, isbn 9789078088165

Frederik Le Roy is a philosopher (K.U. Leuven, Ghent University) and theatre scientist (Ghent University) and has been affiliated with the department of Art, Music and Theatre Sciences at Ghent University since 2005. He is working on a PhD on contemporary theatre as a technology of memory.

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 18, General

Ed Romein, Marc Schuilenburg en Sjoerd van Tuinen (ed.),  Deleuze Compendium, Amsterdam, Boom, 2009, isbn  9789085065388, 408 pp.

Open no. 14, General

Jacques Rancière, Het esthetische denken; Solange de Boer (ed.), Grensganger tussen disciplines. Over Jacques Rancière, Amsterdam, Valiz, 2007, isbn 9789078088141; Amsterdam, Valiz, 2007, isbn 9789078088158; set of two books, isbn 9789078088165

Kathleen Vandeputte has a degree in philosophy and has been a doctoral assistant at Ghent University, where she is working on her doctoral thesis, Een politiek-filosofische analyse van differentie en sensus communis aestheticus, since 2005. She has written articles about the sensus communis, Arendt, Lyotard, Rancière and Nancy.

 

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 24, General

Brian Massumi, Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: MIT Press, 2011, ISBN 0262134918, 224 pages

Open no. 14, General

BAVO (eds.), Cultural Activism Today. The Art of Over-Identification, Episode Publishers, Rotterdam, 2007, isbn 978905973068, 128 pages

Eva Fotiadi is Lecturer in Contemporary Art and Theory at the University of Amsterdam and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy of Arts. In 2011, her book The Game of Participation in Art and the Public Sphere was published.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 14, General

bavo (eds.), Urban Politics Now. Re-Imagining Democracy in the Neoliberal City, NAi Publishers Rotterdam, 2007, isbn 9789056626167, 224 pages

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility
Santiago Sierra, Removal of a museum’s glass windows, 3 October through 7 November 2004 in Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium. – Photo Guy Braeckman

In November 2004 the artist Santiago Sierra staged a much-discussed intervention in the Museum Dhondt Dhaenens in Deurle, Belgium. Entirely in keeping with his reputation as a controversial artist, his gesture was as simple as it was radical. He took all the artworks out of the museum and then removed all the glass from the outer windows and doors. The building was completely dismantled, stripped and reduced to a gaunt structure in which wind, rain and vandals had free rein. There was nothing to see, other than a slowly crumbling skeleton. Sierra has a history of similarly drastic architectural interventions. For his contribution to the Venice Biennale in 2003, he had a brick wall erected in the main entrance of the Spanish pavilion. To the dismay of many visitors, Sierra moved the entrance to the rear of the building, where a Spanish police officer would only allow passage to people holding a valid Spanish passport. Once inside, the handful that met this requirement got to see only an empty and (again) dilapidated space. In Kunsthaus Bregenz Sierra loaded 300 tons of bricks on the top floor. The work, 300 Tonnen, 300 tons, tested the load-bearing capacity of the KUB to its limits. The weight of the top floor had to be distributed via support pillars on the floors below. In each of these three examples, architecture – and in particular the accommodations of institutions – is tested in its capacity to undergo and resist artistic intrusion. Whether the building is dismantled, closed off or put under pressure, the end result is always that the institution is no longer able to function in a normal way, or in the worst-case scenario, to function at all.

Sierra’s interventions are part of a relatively short tradition of symbolic and increasingly violent assaults on architecture, and against institutional architecture in particular, from Daniel Buren’s sealing off the entrance of the Galerie Apollinaire (1968), Robert Barry’s During the Exhibition the Gallery Will Be Closed (1969), Michael Asher’s removal of the windows of the Clocktower New York (1976), Gordon Matta-Clark’s Window Blow-Out (1976) to Chris Burden’s Exposing the Foundations of the Museum (1986). In the 1960s and ’70s architecture was something that had to be reacted against. Architecture was seen as the discipline and practice that represented and empowered the system – the institutions and the social order – and therefore had to be criticized, opposed, demolished, destroyed, rent asunder or blown up. Architecture gives institutions their form – it makes them ‘recognizable’. Therefore it was the ideal target for attacking these institutions and ‘visualizing’ the critique. By intervening in architectural elements like doors, windows, staircases or foundations – those elements that define and demarcate the institutional space – one could assail and challenge the institutional conditioning of that interior.

Such offensives against architecture are no longer opportune today, let alone meaningful. In an era dictated by commercial, media and virtual regimes, there is an explicit need for temporal and spatial enclaves that ‘make a difference’. Art needs its own, demarcated places to prevent it from being washed away, unlamented and unnoticed, in the visual slurry of society. Architecture is simply the perfect medium to give this ‘difference’ a form and a concrete content. It makes it possible to create a framework within which an institution can make concrete and publicly visible moves in the wide and, above all, misty domain of cultural production. ‘Subversive’ works like Sierra’s are nothing more than yet another pathetic and hysterical assault on the wrong institution, typical of the critical zero degree at which a lot of contemporary art operates. It is a blind, nihilistic, and, in a political and social sense, even dangerous attack by art on that very institution that lends it both its rationale and its visibility. In an artistic-institutional landscape plagued by a constant questioning of the ‘means’ as well as the ‘place’ of art institutions, it is an act of unbelievable stupidity to play the anti-institutional card once again, and to do so by tackling the very instance that mediates in the creation and demarcation of this institutional place. Sierra’s dismantling of the museum building, then, is nothing more than a vulgar stunt that made the Museum Dhondt Dhaenens briefly ‘visible’ in the media. But above all it is representative of the cynical complacency with which curators, in their servile flirtation with artists, are willing to put their own institutions on the line. Moreover, their common hidden agenda is all too obvious: a hankering for a reputation as a critical and controversial rebel. It goes without saying that we must continue to question the place(s) in which art appears in public, and the role of architecture in this. But preserve us from frivolous and idiotic interventions like Sierra’s.

Wouter Davidts is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Ghent University. He is the author of Bouwen voor de kunst? Museumarchitectuur van Centre Pompidou tot Tate Modern (2006) and in 2007 he curated the show Beginners & Begetters at Extra City, Center for Contemporary Art, Antwerp.

 

Last publication date: 2007-01-01.
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

In the following essay, Nicolas Bourriaud reacts to Jacques Rancière’s claim that his ‘esthétique relationelle’ is little more than a moral revival in the arts. According to Bourriaud, the significance of the political programme of contemporary art is its recognition of the precarious condition of the world. He elaborates this theme in his recently published book The Radicant.1 

Nicolas Bourriaud is a writer and curator and is currently Gulbenkian Curator for Contemporary Art at the Tate Britain, London. In 2009, he curated two exhibitions: ‘Altermodern’, Tate Triennial, London, and ‘Estratos’ in Murcia. He wrote Relational Aesthetics (1998), Postproduction (2002) and The Radicant, recently published in English (Sternberg Press) and German (Merve Verlag).

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

The emergence of precarity as an object of academic analysis corresponds with its decline as a political concept motivating social movement activity, according to Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter. But precarity as an experience has not disappeared. By interrelating its various registers and boundaries, precarity can be seen as an aspect of a common space.

Brett Neilson is Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis at the University of Western Sydney, where he also teaches at the Centre for Cultural Research. In addition to academic publications, he has also written for DeriveApprodi, Vacarme, Subtropen, Conflitti globali, makeworlds, Overland, Carta and Framework. He regularly writes pieces for the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto and is the author of Free Trade in the Bermuda Triangle ... and Other Tales of Counterglobalization (2004).

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

The emergence of precarity as an object of academic analysis corresponds with its decline as a political concept motivating social movement activity, according to Brett Neilson and Ned Rossiter. But precarity as an experience has not disappeared. By interrelating its various registers and boundaries, precarity can be seen as an aspect of a common space.

Ned Rossiter is Associate Professor of Network Cultures, Division of International Communications, at the University of Nottingham in Ningbo, China. He is also Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Cultural Research of the University of Western Sydney. He is the author of Organized Networks: Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Institutions (NAi Publishers, 2006; Manifestolibri, 2009). Together with Geert Lovink, he recently edited MyCreativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries (Institute of Network Cultures, 2007). See further: www.orgnets.net.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

In his home town Rome, Italian philosopher Paolo Virno talks with philosopher Sonja Lavaert and sociologist Pascal Gielen about the relation between creativity and today’s economics, and about exploitation and possible forms of resistance. Virno is known for his analysis of post-Fordism; his view that the disproportion of artistic standards runs parallel to communism, however, is new to the philosophy of art. He believes aesthetics and social resistance meet in a quest for new forms. Political art or not, the contents hardly matter.

Sonja Lavaert is a philosopher and Italianist (UGent, Florence), teaching in the Department of Applied Linguistics and at the Free University of Brussels. She has written about Machiavelli and Spinoza and is working on a dissertation about the concept of ‘multitude’ in the work of Agamben, Negri and Virno.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

Recetas Urbanas (Urban Prescriptions), an architecture firm based in Sevilla, was founded in 2001 by Spanish architect Santiago Cirugeda. The firm is devoted to making interventions in the precarious nature of the urban environment. Their aim is to win back public space for the city’s inhabitants by creating ‘urban interventions and situations’, as they call them. Subversive occupations of public space are proposed in the form of portable architecture. These interventions are often on the borders of what is legal and what is not legal.

Santiago Cirugeda founded the architecture firm Recetas Urbanas in 1995. See further: www.recetasurbanas.net.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

Under the name Studio Popcorn, architect Alex de Jong and jurist-philosopher Marc Schuilenburg research the effects of urbanization processes. They argue for the inclusion of processes other than physical, spatial ones in the scope of research on urbanization. This article focuses on the rise of an intermedial space, which includes contemporary popular music and its associated urban culture, and which plays a crucial part in today’s urbanization processes.*

Alex de Jong (the Netherlands) is an architect. He works for the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). He conducts research into the effects of urban processes together with Marc Schuilenburg under the name ‘Studio Popcorn’. A full version of this article will be included in their book Mediapolis, set to be published by 010 Publishers in 2006 (see www.studiopopcorn.com).

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

Mobile telephones create aural space that is both technological and imaginary. Caroline Basset explores the new spatial economy that is the result of the dynamics between physical and virtual space, between old and new space. Fragmentation and individualization are not her primary findings. Rather, according to Basset, the changing dialectics of presence / absence also generate new types of connectedness and continuity, of mobile subjectivity.

Caroline Bassett (UK) is Senior Lecturer in Digital Media at the University of Sussex (UK). She writes widely on digital technology and its influence on our culture. Her book The Arc and the Machine is being published by Manchester University Press in spring 2006.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound
KODI, alias Nathalie Bruys (Amsterdam), during the Clubtransmediale 2004 in Berlin. KODI uses digital and analogous material, creates installations, music, film and radio and works as a DJ. – Photo: marco.microbi

On 11 July this year, the court in Utrecht ruled that Dutch Internet providers do not have to hand over their customer data to Stichting Brein. Brein (Dutch acronym for ‘Protection Rights Entertainment Industry Netherlands’ and coincidentally the Dutch word for ‘brain’) monitors copyright compliance in the music industry, among other things, and has declared war on ‘peer-to-peer services’ (P2P) like the popular KaZaA and LimeWire programs, which enable Internet users to share music without paying royalties. Although the judgement represents a provisional victory for Internet users offering copied music, ‘file sharing’ is facing an uncertain future. Elsewhere, in the United States for example, the makers of P2P software programs are now being prosecuted too.

The increased pressure on music sharers is also causing ripples in the world of ‘audio bloggers’. Just recently, the highly popular mp3 blog aggregator Totally Fuzzy called a time out. Aggregators generally don't do much more than publish lists of mp3s discovered on the web and provide links to the song, mix or even whole CD in question. They are much-needed guides in a diffuse universe of mp3 blogs. An audio or mp3 blogger posts one or more tracks every day, usually accompanied by a review, commentary or an interview with the musicians concerned. These weblogs engage not only in scouting, promotion and discourse formation, but also in the ‘leaking’ of tracks that have not yet been released and which are meanwhile tested by aficionados and DJs. mp3 blogs are also used differently from, say, a P2P program. In the latter you ‘search’ deliberately for music you want to hear; with an audio blog you ‘find’ music you can listen to and about which you can express your opinion. Most bloggers are CD and record collectors, music fanatics and DJs keen to share with visitors their enthusiasm for a new or forgotten composition, an instrumental (riddim), or self-made remix (refix or mash-up). You’re not very likely to stumble across 50 Cent’s latest hit on an audio blog, but you will find the hiphop-refix Riders On the Storm in which the late Jim Morrison and rapper Snoop Dogg engage in a vocal battle. And in many cases an audio blog will tell you where you can buy the track.

Unlike the classic mp3 blogs, many aggregates are gradually becoming ‘polluted’ by references to obscure outposts of websites where entire CDs have been placed ready to be downloaded. Students in particular use the web space allotted them by universities and colleges to store their favourite music. As a result, aggregates find themselves promoting the ‘search structure’ so typical of P2P programs. Totally Fuzzy, too, discovered that more and more links to CDs were being circulated and declared a brief suspension of activities – to the annoyance of its thousands of mp3-addicted visitors. ‘I’m fed up with all those CDs’, complained host Herr K., returning a week later with the announcement that from now on he would only be publishing links to interesting songs, ‘mix tapes’ and audio blogs. On the one hand he did not want to surrender his blog to the copyright police, on the other hand he wanted to remain true to his genuine love of music. In short, more quality rather than more quantity.

Elsewhere on the net, the first consumer survey has been conducted into the phenomenon of the audio blog (www.surveymonkey.com). The purpose was clearly formulated: have copyright guardians set their sights on mp3 blogs, too? Over a hundred audio bloggers took part in the survey, sixty of them from the United States. Striking findings included the high ratio of male bloggers (94%) ; the relatively mature age of audio bloggers (some 80% are between 25 and 45 years old) ; the explosive growth of mp3 blogs (82% are less than eighteen months old) ; and the high percentage of mp3s devoted to ‘independent’ or ‘alternative music’ (31%). There were also some interesting results concerning discourse development. Only 3% of bloggers do not attach a comment to a posted track and 55% add comments that have nothing to do with the mp3 in question – popular topics are pop culture (42%), personal anecdotes (33%) and politics (21%). It is also clear that audio bloggers do not encourage the posting of entire CDs: over 82% steadfastly refuse to post links to complete albums or concert recordings.

Finally, the question of copyright was raised. Some 40% say they operate ‘legally’, meaning that they seek permission from record labels, musicians, producers or DJs. The remaining 60% readily admit to operating the audio blogs in an illegal fashion. To the question of whether bloggers are ever pressed to remove tracks by musicians or record labels, 88% replied in the negative. In the recent past, only three mp3 bloggers have been faced with legal steps against their websites or threats from providers.

Another, more qualitative, survey was recently conducted by Siddhartha Mitter, a correspondent for The Boston Globe (31 July 2005). Mitter, who credits blogs with helping to broaden and deepen musical taste, came across a growing interest in music from Sri Lanka, Congo and Norway, to name but a few countries. He also discovered that the music industry is flourishing under a regime of audio blogs. In his article ‘Listen. And Learn’ he concluded that mp3 bloggers are seen as ‘a new tastemaking elite, conveners of hipness and buzz... Promoters send popular bloggers free product in the hope of scoring a posting. Some bloggers have been asked to scout new talent for labels.’ What’s more, the audio blog is beating the music-writing media on all fronts and its opinion-forming role can no longer be ignored. Paul de Jong, musician and member of the Dutch-American duo The Books, confirms this trend. ‘The popularity of The Books is first and foremost down to the Internet and mp3 blogs. They promote our music and concerts, publish interviews and tour itineraries with the result that a small band like ours is able to prosper and our record label can make a decent-sized CD pressing.’

It would become Stichting Brein if, as well as acting as the fierce ‘copyright watchdog of the entertainment industry’ (Elsevier), it were also to become a positive force in the development of musical taste. Providing web space where consumers are encouraged to discuss their music with one another would improve Brein’s image and also make a positive contribution to the general development of taste. Until that time, everyone who believes in musical progress is condemned to illegality.

Siebe Thissen (the Netherlands) is a historian, philosopher and music-lover. He is Head of Art & Public Space for the Centre for the Visual Arts (CBK) in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

Muzak, also known as a ‘nonaggressive music deterrent’, is used more and more often as a strategic weapon in the effort to make public space ‘safe’ and controllable. But according to Jonathan Sterne, its use is primarily aimed at excluding non-consumers – whereas he believes it should be seen as a vital component of urban design. In Sterne’s opinion, besides an aesthetical dimension, sound also has a political and ethical dimension.

Jonathan Sterne (Canada) teaches at the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He was the author of The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 2002), and also helps to produce Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life (badsubjects.org), one of the longest continuously running publications on the Internet. His next book is about MP3 as a sonic format.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

Dear Gerry,

Thank you for your kind e-mail messages and the package with delicious things that you sent us. Please forgive me for being so slow and not answering by e-mail, but it's better for me to send you this letter on paper through our own people. My work for the armed resistance makes it too dangerous to use electronic post for personal messages. I would not be able to write freely.

To start with the best news: Laura and I are healthy, our things are safe in an as yet undamaged warehouse in the Westelijk Havengebied and our house in the Rivierenbuurt is intact. We live in an area where there is still hardly any fighting and where the regime so far has displayed little enthusiasm for purging it. Perhaps this has to do with the Second World War, when so many Jews were deported from this neighbourhood. It would raise too many bad memories.

Like I said, we cleared out most of our valuable possessions, like the books, Ma's grand piano, Laura's jewellery, the silverware and the art and have stashed them safely away. It's much too dangerous to have all that stuff in the house; we live in our apartment with the feeling that we can flee any day, if necessary, with an overnight bag with some clothes and a toothbrush. The bags are packed and ready to go, under the coat rack in the hall.

Many people in Amsterdam are taking advantage of the chaos caused by the civil war for their own ill purposes. In Buitenveldert, bands suddenly started going around and chasing people out of their houses, looting the premises and, after a few blows here and there and a gang rape or two, moving on again. Minibuses towing furniture trailers drove along with them at a footpace in order to carry off the booty. Sometimes they set fire to the houses, sometimes not. When they didn't, it turned out they had made an agreement with the so-called 'Restoration Agents', usually collaborationist notaries, who redistribute the houses of public enemies at the order of the regime. As a matter of fact, most of the addresses the plunderers went to were on a list that the new Minister of the Interior had sent to the Chief of Police of Amsterdam-Amstelland. That's why there's been so little uproar and why the police are only symbolically working on the case. They have plenty of excuses for not having any time. They were called in to maintain order behind the advancing troops when the battle over the Zuidas suddenly broke out and were also requisitioned for Amsterdam East, after the Marines revolted.

I read that a resistance group in Amsterdam North is considering a disciplinary campaign against a band that is causing automobile accidents on the A10 ring road in order to rob the victims. It's discouraging to see how similar those plans are to the emergency legislation that the regime is enacting against us.

Ever since the tourists have been staying away and most of the ex-pats have left, there is a miserable feeling of boredom in the city. As if even the daylight is murky and dim. New ads only appear on the squares and the large thoroughfares. In the rest of the city, the sales, models and packaging are from a year or two ago. The photos are wrinkled by the rain that has seeped into the glass cases. The bright colours are faded, the hairdos of the models looked dated. The world in which those posters belong no longer exists.

The city does not maintain its status any more; there is hardly any upkeep. Even the woodwork on the luxury stores in the Nine Streets is peeling. And all of this is extra noticeable because the streets are so empty – and because a third of the shops have gone bust by now or are open just a few days a week.

In the outdoor cafés, you see only young Amsterdammers, who probably sit there in order to keep an eye on the street for their organization or to make a deal.

The alleys next to the busier streets and canals are piled with garbage. Even the municipal workers don't like to go in them anymore. Three of the four safe houses that we have in the inner city are on such alleyways. When I walk into an alley it's as if the hand of a giant has picked me up and transported me back in time. For a moment, I'm in the years of the city's degeneracy, the late 1970s, early '80s. I talked to an old journalist who can hardly believe his own conclusion that Amsterdam has been more devastated in a year and a half than in the 150 years prior to that.

As everyone knows, the least chance of explosions, attacks and murders is on and around the Max Euweplein. The casino on that square is one of the most important economic hotspots in the city. Gambling is much more popular than ever – I think because most of the other pleasures have fallen away. But it's also the presence of large amounts of black money and the clandestine business and trading that is done around the casino that gives the Max Euweplein the function of a city centre. This is where the bigwigs of the regime are seen when they are in the city. Elsewhere in the city they don't feel at ease, but in this enclave of louche bling bling and swindle they feel at home.

The regime boasts that it is safe and peaceful around the Leidseplein and the Max Euweplein. But are the volunteers patrolling in their nationalistic uniforms and the heavily armed soldiers with their armoured vehicles on the Weteringschans and the Babylon complex also the boss? Since the introduction of the permit system for journalists, it's not easy to find out who's in charge here, but my impression is that it's primarily the businessmen from all sorts of countries who come to the city in the wake of the ambassador of the friendly Italian regime. They, and the crews of the companies they hire to do the dirty work. The local underworld and the boys and girls of neighbourhood gangs that deal in guns and drugs make up the rest of it. Besides broken English and Amsterdam patois you mostly hear Italian, Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian.

In the cafés around the Max Euweplein you can also find the foreign journalists, with their differing theories about the source of the money that the regime has at its disposal. Oddly, tax revenues have collapsed but the funds available to the armed forces apparently are inexhaustible.

I am regularly at the Max Euweplein because I also meet with an editor of my London publisher there. I give him USB sticks with stories and essays that I write in English. It's roundabout, but I don't want to risk sending my pieces by Internet. What's more, I publish under a pseudonym. Sometimes one of them gets published and then Jeff, my editor, can give me the money I earn from it – in cash, which is a welcome addition to the little that Laura and I make. As you know, she works as a cook. I'm now an employee at a large dry cleaner's.

Do you remember Harold? That big boorish guy who had a gallery on the Lijnbaansgracht. I think you once bought that drawing with the skaters in it from him, the one that you had hanging on the long wall of your living room. Anyway, this week he suddenly appeared in the dry cleaner's, bringing a pair of trousers, a jacket, suit and a couple of skirts. He looked unhealthy. Red eyes, puffy. He said that besides the gallery he was doing something much more lucrative: selling valuable watches. My not exactly enthusiastic reaction must have shown him I was irritated by the umpteenth bragging story of somebody who is trying to profit from the war. I quickly began to talk about his wife, who was a social worker and probably suffering a lot under the new regime.

Harold burst out in raw, mirthless laughter. She had been interned, and after being interrogated was released. She did lose her job, however. The service at which she worked was located in a 'black district' and declared unnecessary. In the very next breath, he went on to complain about the vigilante groups who were opposing the regime. Why didn't they let the government make a clean sweep, then the repression would automatically lessen and everything could be like it used to be. Living in prosperity, peace and harmony. A provocation. He was not at all surprised to find me working in a dry cleaner's. So he had known all along that I had been fired from the university.

'Harold,' I said, 'little people like you and me have to sit tight and wait it out, try to save our own necks and take care of our loved ones and only join in the discussion again when the madness is over.'

He slammed the money against the counter with his broad, swollen paw.

'Play-actor,' he growled and I gave him the stapled together tickets with a vague smile.

The trains are running again, as I'm sure you've heard. Here you immediately notice it on the street. There are people with maps in their hands walking around again. The shopkeepers are happy about these courageous visitors. Usually they are people looking up their families or coming to do business.

It took months after the bombardment of the Marine Establishment and the devastation of the Eastern Islands in Amsterdam, but now it's once again possible to travel to the south and east of the country by train. The revolt of the Marines and the Marine Intelligence Service headquartered there did give us hope. Luckily, they were clever enough to smuggle out most of the weapons and vital technical systems before openly turning against the regime. We have already had contact with a few of their commanders and they have a couple of bases near the Rai and in Amsterdam North. I expect a lot from working together with them and who knows, maybe they will succeed in persuading other branches of the armed forces to choose our side.

The evacuation and total destruction of the districts neighbouring the Marine bulwark was a typical example of the misbegotten enthusiasm of the regime. Just ask the Kattenburgers camping in the tents in the Vliegenbos Park whether they consider punishing rebellious marines important enough to blast their houses to bits.

With typical bombast, the regime offered the people from Wittenburg, Kattenburg and Oostburg new apartments on Java Island. After all, plenty of apartments would be freed up after the intellectuals who have been singled out as 'enemies of freedom' or 'agents of Islamo-fascism' were arrested. But then the troops of the regime would have to pacify Java Island first. If it's up to us, that will never succeed. What's more, there are far too many people without a roof over their head.

Yesterday, our group was involved in an over-water attack on the Silodam on the river IJ. There's a company in that building that does research for the regime into the antecedents of subversive activities on the Internet. No security or defences could be discerned, probably because they assumed that no one knew about their freelance work for the AIVD. Our intelligence is very good; we even have moles in the Ministry.

We came from three different directions in canoes painted black with powerful and silent – because they were electric – outboard motors. From less than thirty meters away, we shot two RPGs into the building and lobbed a big phosphor grenade after it to cause an extremely hot fire and thus maximum damage. Our canoes vanished just as quickly in three different directions. No telephonic, radiographic communication had been necessary to plan and carry out the attack. A successful operation, with a quick exit and no traces left.

This was not a solo action by our group. We worked with the Fighting Designers, a group of radicalized designers who seldom engage in armed conflict, by the way, but who lately, especially after the destruction of the eastern islands, Oostelijkeilanden, recognize the necessity to also sabotage the regime by physical means. They provided a skipper, the camouflage clothing and treated the hulls of the canoes so that they are quieter in the water and do not reflect light. I was one of the skippers, and one of the marksmen was ours; we also supplied the canoes. The rocket launchers and the other members of the six-man special commando came from the Amsterdam branch of the Turkish communist party.

The water police and the army still have found no answer to our speedy canoes. We were able to sail into the Haarlemmervaart unhindered and under the cover of darkness reach our hiding place in the Bretten district.

Every week in Café Oostoever, a splendid white concrete 1950s café that overlooks the waters of the Sloterplas in an area that is firmly in the hands of anti-regime militias, I join a think tank of people who discuss peace. We don't talk about how and when peace will come. Meetings about that are held in other places. We consider the problems and possibilities for the city once the regime has been beaten.

One of the leading figures is Bas G., an architect and urban designer. Right before the civil war broke out, he had built his own house on IJburg, and after that island was purged (from which he had a lucky escape) he can only come to the suburbs in the West via secret routes and with false identity papers. He leads an apparently unsuspicious life as a town hall employee who records the city's housing situation. I admire the sangfroid with which he looks at the ticklishness of his daily life from the point of view of the long term. We protect him and his family, but we do this in exchange for information that is valuable for combating and sabotaging the regime.

He always claims that the civil war will turn out to be such a horrible trauma for the Dutch that they will rise above themselves trying to rid themselves of the memory. 'It will better here than it ever was before,' he says nonchalantly, 'not necessarily wealthier, but more lively, international, inventive. In some sectors, such as software, sustainable technology, engineering, we can become world leaders. The difference will lie in rediscovering sharpness and fighting spirit. There will be something to prove. The feeling that we now have of standing with our backs against the wall and seeing everything go to pot will soon give us tremendous energy. A whole lot of crap will disappear like snow under the sun.'

When he talks about the future it calms me down. That's necessary, because the situation can make me desperate. After all, I am participating in the fight against the regime without having an explicit ideology. My loved ones and I are outlawed, considered suspicious and designated as enemies of the people. I was fired and spied upon like a criminal on probation. The reaction was instinctive and intense. I joined a group that is primarily engaged in sabotage, but sometimes also with armed combat.

I am not always completely convinced of the rightness of what we are doing, in the service of which all those terrible things occur, the attacks, the raids, the fires. Hasn't it been true for some time that there are not only two, but four, or maybe even six, parties confronting each other in this mess? A month ago, jihadists from Amsterdam West blew up two commanders of The True Patriots from the Pijp district and bragged about it to boot. Left a gigantic crater on the Fredriksplein. And last week I heard the rumour that the raid on the Social Security office in Amsterdam North was given away by a splinter faction of a Jewish action group. Doesn't this seem more like a war between mafia organizations than a fight for liberation?

How do I know, for example, where the money that pays for our group is coming from? Sometimes we have Israeli weapons, at other times American, but also Belgian and Italian ones. It's also never been completely clear to me how much influence our cell's discussions have on the organization's choices of targets and times. Often I have the impression that they couldn't care less about what we say or think. It could be that behind the organization is an Italian real estate investor who wants to buy a certain section of the city, whether it be for a good price or even destroyed and thus ripe for development.

Laura says at such moments that I should drink herbal tea and get more sleep. Every now and then I think about disappearing to Germany, where it's still a little bit civilized. But those thoughts don't often occur to me after I've spent an evening in Café Oostoever. Bas is able to convince me to stay despite everything. Amsterdam is such a special city in his stories that I want to stay here and fight for it.

This week I was in one of the high-rises in the Zuidas district. The air above the city is different than it used to be. Actually you always see a fire smouldering in a few places in your view. Trails of smoke ranging from dirty yellow to deep black. The difference is even greater when you look down at the city. The bust up roads, the destroyed housing blocks, the roadblocks. The picturesque look and hip international atmosphere is gone, but you do see a tough, sturdy urban structure that can't be messed with that easily. When I looked down at the battered city of Amsterdam I know for sure that we will drive the regime out.

Every day I ride to work on my scooter and pass no less than 18 roadblocks. At ten of them at the least, I am stopped and searched. The weird thing is that I can drive from my house to the Vijzelgracht without a problem, whereas the Rivierenbuurt actually is not occupied by any faction at all at the moment. The centre is indeed in the hands of the regime, but I know for sure that three resistance groups have important bases there. And sometimes we simply make a hit, like when we killed four advisors, among them the great leader's speechwriter, who had gone to a discount computer shop on the Koningsplein. The doors suddenly closed and our people came in from the back garden. The three bodyguards were much too late. Burly farm boys in the big city, they had been gaming.

When I go to see Steef and Ben in the Transvaal neighbourhood, I have to take a detour via the Ceintuurbaan and the Wibautstraat because the Berlage Bridge has been blown up. That was inescapable when we took the Amstel Station, where there were a few trains loaded with weapons and ammunition. Otherwise we would have been attacked from the rear.

But anyway, what I wanted to say is that despite all the havoc and the look of the battlefield, that's the direction I take when I tootle along on my scooter to Steef and Ben on the Steve Bikoplein. They stop me 15 times on this route too, but I look too nondescript, and apparently the profession I once practiced, the history of science, is not suspicious enough to earmark me as an 'intellectual opposed to liberty'.

Gerry, the situation is wretched and disastrous, as you can see, but we haven't had to eat the cats yet and the chance of a blanket bombardment is zilch. If nutters break into the laboratories of the VU and the UvA in order to commit biological terrorist attacks with a couple of test tubes, I'm out of here. Or if the regime lines up its tanks in the Rijnstraat and opens fire on the houses. But I don't see that happening very soon as yet.

Keep your chin up there in Wierden. As far as I know it's a fairly comfortable area to be in during these years of national catastrophe. I'm glad you are there. Say hello to Leo and the children. If you want to send something from the garden again, we would be very grateful. And finally, what's most important of all, thanks for offering to take us in, if life becomes impossible here. I am well aware of how big a risk that is for you. For what it's worth, dear sister, I would do the same for you and yours. Let's hope that it will never be necessary. If it becomes unacceptably dangerous for me here, you will receive a message from our people that we are coming. For now, I am trying to stay here in the city as long as possible. It's terrible to have to say it, but never have I loved Amsterdam as much as I do now, when the city is partly in ruins, ripped up by bulldozers and tanks, mutilated by roadblocks and torn apart by factions shooting at each other.

Hugs from your brother Koos

and from Laura

Open no. 9, Sound

Radio demon­ strated all too often in the past how the community spirit could be stirred and feelings of loneliness and isolation dissolved, according to Dirk van Weelden. Today developments in mobile telephony are providing the medium of radio with a new stimulus. If the network is linked to the city’s physical reality this can stretch the significance of the public realm considerably.

Dirk van Weelden (the Netherlands) is a writer.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

From now on, the editors of Open will (re) focus attention on an existing work of art in public space. Max Neuhaus’s Sound Work was first installed on Times Square in 1977. It ceased to function in 1992. In 2002 the Dia Art Foundation restored this work of art and included it in their collection. Ulrich Loock analyses the work and describes how Neuman separates sound from the dimension of time. Without being visually or materially present, Neuhaus creates what he calls an individual and authentic experience of place.

Ulrich Loock (Switzerland) was director of the Kunsthalle Bern and Kunstmuseum Luzern in Switzer­land. Since 2003 he has been the Deputy Director of Museu Serralves in Porto, Portugal, where he has curated exhibitions of work by Raoul de Keyser, Robert Grosvenor, Moshe Kupferman, Thomas Schütte, Herbert Brandl, Adrian Schiess, Helmut Dorner and others. His most recent publication was Thomas Schütte (Cologne: Friedrich Christian Flick Collection and DuMont Verlag, 2004).

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

Artist Mark Bain’s work focuses on the interaction between sound, architecture and public space. Triggered by the emergence of new sound techniques for crowd control, he reflects on ‘psychosonics as an invisible tactile material to provoke a public’, using William Burroughs’ ‘audio virusses’ and his own sound art as points of reference.

Mark Bain (USA) is a visual artist who lives in Amsterdam. His field of interest is the relationship between sound and architecture. One of his areas of research is the psychological effect of sound. He has had exhibitions at Rotterdam’s Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in 2004, the Platform Gallery in Istanbul in 2004, and the MACBA in Barcelona in 2003. See further: www.simulux.com.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

The following text is a rewritten version of the monologue which was broadcast in the shopping centre ‘De Kalvertoren’ in Amsterdam on 27 April 2005 between 4.45 pm and 5.45 pm in the programme of the art project Radiodays at The Curatorial Training Programme of Foundation De Appel in Amsterdam. Several ghetto blasters hidden in plastic bags received the broadcast voice. The voice was dispersed over the homogeneous pedestrian zone. The titles should not be read. New lines and spaces indicate pauses.

Ole Frahm (Germany) is a member of LIGNA, a German artists’ collective.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

The editors of Open asked Huib Haye van der Werf, one of the participators of the tenth Curatorial Training Programme (CTP) of De Appel Foundation in Amsterdam, to write a review of the project Radiodays that took place in April 2005.1  The description of various projects sheds light on the reason why the curators in training chose radio as the medium, and also on the selection of the artists and the type of contribution.2

Huib Haye van der Werf (the Netherlands) is an art historian, curator and adviser on the visual arts (for the Atelier Rijksbouwmeester – the Chief Government Architect’s Atelier – and others).

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, Sound

Jeanne van Heeswijk and Amy Plant started Valley Vibes in 1998, in association with chora, a research institute for architecture, landscape and urbanism. For four years, the inhabitants of an urban regeneration district in East London were given the opportunity to record, mix and broadcast the sounds of their events using the Vibe Detector. This registration of sound can be seen as a ‘journey’ through the district. The following is a description of the project and a selection of the logbook entries.

Amy Plant (UK) is a London-based artist with a community-oriented practice. She has produced self-initiated projects and commissions for galleries and in public space in the UK and abroad. Her works include Contact (Camden Arts Centre, London, 2000); Multi Stop Shop (Arc Percent for Art Scheme, Ireland, 2003) and Laburnum Pilot (The Drawing Room Gallery, Edinburgh, 2004) together with Ella Gibbs.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

Engagement with the public is the central focus in the practices of many artists and designers who deal with urban public space. Art historian Mariska van den Berg analyses three examples that investigate how to call a halt to dysfunctional public spaces in the city and how to reinterpret the relation between citizens and the government.

Open no. 9, General

Bartolomeo Pietromarchi (ed.), The [Un]Common Place. Art, Public Space and Urban Aesthetics in Europe, Fondazione Adriano Olivetti and Actar, 2005, ISBN 8495951983

Open no. 6, General

One Place after Another. Site Specific Art and Locational Identity, Miwon Kwon, MIT Cambridge Massachusetts, London, 2002, ISBN 0262112655

Mariska van den Berg is an art historian, and until 2010 worked as a curator at SKOR | Foundation Art and Public Space. Lately, she has been investigating forms of appropriation in public space, under the title ‘Reclaim: toe-eigening en publiek domein’, for which she received a research grant from the Netherlands Foundation for the Visual Arts, Design and Architecture (Fonds BKVB).

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 9, General

Lara Schrijver and Pnina Avidar (eds.), OASE 66: Virtually Here: Space in Cyberfiction, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2005, ISBN 9056624288

Maarten Delbeke (Belgium) is a fellow at the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Ghent University.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, General

STIFF, Hans van Houwelingen vs. Public Art, Artimo, Amsterdam 2005, ISBN 9075380143

Paul Groot (the Netherlands) is editor of the periodical Mediamatic and a filmmaker. His most recent project was the film Daisukes Tokyo-ga.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, General

Olav Velthuis, Imaginary Economics. Contemporary Artists and the World of Big Money, Fascinations 14, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2005, ISBN 9056624016

Wieteke van Zeil (the Netherlands) is an art historian and journalist.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 9, General

Bik Van der Pol – With Love from the Kitchen, NAi Publishers, Rotterdam 2005, ISBN 9056624180

Jennifer Allen (Canada) is a writer and art critic based in Berlin.

Last publication date: 2005-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Saskia Sassen, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, is specialized in the influence that globalization and digitization processes have on the transformations of urban space. In this essay, she looks at the possibilities of artistic practice to ‘make’ public space that can produce unsettling stories and make visible that which is local and has been silenced.1 

Saskia Sassen (United States) is professor of sociology at the University of Chicago. Her most recent book is Territory, Authority, Rights: From Medieval to Global Assemblages (Princeton, 2006).

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

In this article, media experts Howard Rheingold and Eric Kluiten­berg ask us to consider if unques­tioned connectivity – the drive to connect everything to everything, and everyone to everyone by means of electronic media – is necessarily a good thing. To stimulate ideas, the authors propose a possible alternative: a practice of ‘mindful disconnection’, or rather the ‘art of selective disconnectivity’.

Howard Rheingold (United States) is a specialist in the field of digital media. His books include Smart Mobs. The Next Social Revolution (2002). He teaches at the School of Information in Berkeley, San Francisco. www.rheingold.com and www.smartmobs.com

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Locative media art makes artistic use of location-aware and time-aware media to promote social encounters between users and locations. The social contact is usually experienced via a pc. Assia Kraan wonders whether the shared location is only the pretext or also the location for social activity.

Assia Kraan (the Netherlands) is a media theorist. Her graduate thesis was on ‘locative media art and urban conceptualisation of city dwellers’. See further: www.assia.nl.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

rfid (Radio Frequency IDentification) is rapidly finding new applications and this is giving rise to concerns about threats to privacy. It’s therefore worth thinking about how individuals can have a say in which privacy they are willing to share with whom and when. If citizens can acquire more access to particular rfid implementations, then rfid can also become a support for other, socially interesting value systems. Recent developments in online culture provide exciting ideas for this.

Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (the Netherlands) devises and organizes workshops for Mediamatic in Amsterdam on crossovers between technology and culture. He researches, writes and provides advice about interactive media practices.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Since the early 1960s the Flemish television producer Jef Cornelis has explored the conditions of television as a public medium. A number of his early films look at the changes that have occurred in urban public space. Reason for Open to publish an interview with him by Koen Brams and Dirk Pültau as part of a broader investigation of Cornelis’ work.

Koen Brams (Belgium) was director of the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht (2000-2010). He compiled De Encyclopedie van Fictieve Kunstenaars (Nijgh & van Ditmar, 2000) and since 2002 has been writing, together with Dirk Pültau, an ‘alternative history’ of art in Belgium since the 1970s. 

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Since the early 1960s the Flemish television producer Jef Cornelis has explored the conditions of television as a public medium. A number of his early films look at the changes that have occurred in urban public space. Reason for Open to publish an interview with him by Koen Brams and Dirk Pültau as part of a broader investigation of Cornelis’ work.

Dirk Pültau (Belgium) is an art historian and chief editor of De Witte Raaf. Together with Koen Brams he is writing an alternative history of art in Belgium since the 1970s.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

Taking the teapot as an example, Noortje Marres, a sociologist at Goldsmiths University in London, examines how it is used to make associations between disparate issues, contexts and players. How can you 'charge' objects with issues, or in other words the 'issuefication' of things, and what role does digital technology play in this? Her analysis especially focuses on the fact that political disputes are fought out by way of objects, and not only by people.

Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Phrases like ‘they finally gave in to public pressure’ or ‘public opinion responded unintelligently’ are pretty standard utterances. The normalcy of such expressions may easily obscure the fact that they evoke a mysterious entity. Indeed, the conjuring up of a public that is capable of performing acts, such as ‘exerting pressure’, inevitably involves a certain amount of wizardry. But this wizardry often goes unappreciated. Those who want to support a given public will want to affirm its reality. Accordingly, they have little interest in acknowledging the magic involved in its manifestation. And those who are critical of a particular public are likely to follow the strategy of showing that this public is not a real public. They will want to demonstrate that in fact we are dealing here with little more that a few actors with dubious interests: just business people, or leftists. That is, they will try to kill the magic. But an appreciation of the wizardry involved in the emergence of publics is crucial, it seems to me, for a good appreciation of what they may be capable of.

A first rough indication that publics that are capable of action represent a riddle is that, as long as we follow everyday logic, such entities appear to be a practical impossibility. The notion of a public endowed with agency brings together two contradictory demands. On the one hand, ‘action’ requires that there is an identifiable actor, and preferably an individual, that can be said to do the acting. This is clear from how we deal with questions of justice, for instance. To establish that a particular deed has been done, whether bad or good, we customarily require that there is a specific doer who can be associated with this doing. A bottom line of our everyday logics is that there is no deed without a doer. But, on the other hand, it is an important characteristic of a public that it cannot be reduced to an identifiable actor. As a rule, a public must consist of more than a known set of individuals. When it is revealed that behind a public there is merely a particular social grouping, its status as a public is challenged. When it can be said: these are only the environmentalists making a fuss, then we are only dealing with a special interest group. When it is revealed that ‘it was the political campaign team that directed the crowd into the hall, to cheer during the candidate’s speech’ we speak of a scam. A public must thus satisfy two demands simultaneously: it must be capable of agency, but it must not be reducible to an identifiable agent.

How could such an impossible combination of demands nevertheless come to be accepted as normalcy in many contemporary cultures? Crucial in this respect is a particular commitment that is peculiar to advanced democracies: the commitment not to accept, as matter of course, that if a public is to act, then a representative must do the acting for the public. Indeed, one could say that radical democracies are defined by the requirement that it should be impossible to trace back a public’s actions to one (or a few) identifiable social actor(s). To sustain this demand, to perform a deepening of democracy beyond representative democracy, all sorts of formats have been developed that enable the public to express itself, and potentially, to acquire agency in the process. The mass demonstration is one solution, the opinion poll is another, and then there are the spectacular protest event and the media debate, and so on. These formats can be regarded as attempts to make the riddle of an acting public workable: to produce a capacity to act without producing an identifiable agent. That is, these formats are to enable the emergence of agency in the absence of a specifiable actor behind the action.

To speak of the formats that are available for organizing the public, is also to say that media have a special role to play in all this. To begin with, the media are sometimes held responsible for bringing about the radicalization of democracy mentioned above. According to some political theories, it was an effect of the rise of print media that the public came to be understood as an audience endowed with a voice. Media must then be held responsible for a certain loss of respect for representative democracy, for instance for the idea that it is sufficient for a public to act through individual representatives. Thus, according to the philosopher Kierkegaard, ‘the Press’ was to blame for the fact that the public in his time had become an abstract entity. He observed that in ancient times, ‘men of excellence’ could stand in for the public, but after the rise of print media, the public had taken on the form of ‘a monstrous abstraction, an all-encompassing something that is nothing, a mirage – and this phantom is the public.’ Intriguingly, one of Kierkegaard’s main problems with this media-based phantom public was that it was incapable of action.

However, a few decades after Kierkegaard made his gloomy observations, the American public intellectual Walter Lippmann developed the argument that media provide crucial instruments for the evocation of phantom publics, including phantom publics with a capacity to act. According to Lippmann, writing in the 1920s, media like the daily press, the radio and the telephone are indispensable for the organization of publics, that is, for the production of a non-actor that can nevertheless act in certain ways. For him, publicity media make it possible to produce the public as an effect. As they report conflicts, provide forums for debate, and poll audiences, Lippmann argued, media enable the expression of publics. In these ways, namely, media give direction to the indefinite and multiple concerns of an open-ended population. They channel these concerns into a current with a definite charge, that of being for or against a given position, decision, intervention.

By redefining the public as an effect of media circulation, Lippmann went some way towards solving the riddle of the public. The trouble with his solution, however, is that by reducing the public to an effect he made the public look quite weak. For Lippmann, to make a public emerge is to extract a definitive ‘no’ or ‘yes’ out of content and sentiment circulating in media. It is hard to see what could make a public that obeys this description strong enough to be able to exert force. That is can exert such force, however, is clear from phrases like ‘they were obliged to respond to public pressure’. Thus, the question that remains open after Lippmann is that of the forces that publics may unleash.

To appreciate this force, I would say that we should at the least recognize the following: the agency of the public derives in part from the fact that this entity is not fully traceable. That is, the force of the public has to do with the impossibility of knowing its exact potential. And this for the following reason: when a thing is publicized in the media, whether a person, an object or an event, this involves the radical multiplication of the potential relations that this entity can enter into with other things and people. Thus, when something starts circulating in public media, this brings along the possibility, and indeed the threat, of an open-ended set of actors stepping in to support this entity, and to make it strong. The fact that the public cannot be definitively traced back to a limited number of identifiable sources is thus crucial to the effectiveness of the public: this is what endows publics with a dangerous kind of agency.

This also makes it clear why the wish to concretize the public, to boil it down to the real actors that constitute it, involves a misunderstanding of the public. In relating to publics, and in performing ‘the public’, the point should be to try and work with the threat of a partly untraceable potential of connections, and not to dissipate it.

Noortje Marres is associated with the Department of Sociology of Goldsmiths, University of London. Her first book, Material Participation (2012), has just been published. Marres was an editor of the literary journal De Gids up to 2010.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Elizabeth Sikiaridi and Frans Vogelaar of invoffice for architecture, urbanism and design in Amsterdam are investigating the interaction between the physical and the digital public domain in contemporary urban networks. They are interested in the way that the built environment relates to the space of mass media and communication networks and how these influence each other. On the basis of the project Neighbours Network City for the city of Essen in the Ruhr region, they reveal how this design research is taking shape.

Elizabeth Sikiardi (the Netherlands) lectures on the design and development of the urban landscape at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Together with Frans Vogelaar she runs invOFFICE for architecture, urbanism and development in Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Elizabeth Sikiaridi and Frans Vogelaar of invoffice for architecture, urbanism and design in Amsterdam are investigating the interaction between the physical and the digital public domain in contemporary urban networks. They are interested in the way that the built environment relates to the space of mass media and communication networks and how these influence each other. On the basis of the project Neighbours Network City for the city of Essen in the Ruhr region, they reveal how this design research is taking shape.

Frans Vogelaar (the Netherlands) is professor of Hybrid Space at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. Together with Elizabeth Sikiardi he runs invOFFICE for architecture, urbanism and development in Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Using the Halloween Critical Mass bike ride as an example, Marion Hamm analyses how cyberspace overlaps the physical space of a protest demonstration on the street and how a construction of what she calls ‘geographies of protest’ is developing. Marion Hamm is affiliated with Indymedia, a worldwide network of independent media centres.

Marion Hamm (UK) studied cultural studies and history in Tübingen and Birmingham. She works as an ethnographer at Luzern University and is interested in the social uses of communication technologies. She is a committed participant in Indymedia UK.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

At the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, a research project is underway, on the public space of the Zuidas business district in Amsterdam. This project, entitled Logo Parc, looks into the value of the Zuidas as a ‘symbol’. In addition, proposals are being developed for a conception of the public space as a new type of space. The present essay, along with its accompanying pictorial material, is one of the results of the project.

Daniel van der Velden (the Netherlands) is a designer and coordinator of research at the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, where he heads the Logo Parc project.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Clothing and accessories have always served as a membrane between the outside public world and the inside private world of our body. But what happens when you put the mediated outside world on your skin and so largely do away with the boundary between public and private? Kristina Andersen and Joanna Berzowska, two artists and research workers, use their wide experience of working with wearable technologies – ‘wearables’ – to speculate on the nature of the experiences created by this increasingly permeable membrane.

Kristina Andersen (the Netherlands) is a maker of odd objects and experiences, based at STEIM in Amsterdam. She works with materials and protocols through iterative processes and play, often working with children as her main users and collaborators. She teaches at DasArts and the Piet Zwart Institute.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 11, Hybrid Space

Clothing and accessories have always served as a membrane between the outside public world and the inside private world of our body. But what happens when you put the mediated outside world on your skin and so largely do away with the boundary between public and private? Kristina Andersen and Joanna Berzowska, two artists and research workers, use their wide experience of working with wearable technologies – ‘wearables’ – to speculate on the nature of the experiences created by this increasingly permeable membrane.

Joanna Berzowska (Canada) is an Assistant Professor of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University in Montreal. She works with ‘soft computation’: electronic textiles, responsive clothing as wearable technology, reactive materials and squishy interfaces. She is founder of XS Labs in Montreal, where her team develops electronic and reactive textile.

Last publication date: 2006-11-01.
Open no. 17, A Precarious Existence

Markus Miessen (ed.), East Coast Europe, Berlin / New York: Sternberg Press, 2008, ISBN 9781933128498, 352 pages

Open no. 11, General

René Boomkens, De nieuwe wanorde. Globalisering en het einde van de maakbare samen­leving, Amsterdam, Van Gennep, 2006, isbn 9055156507, 328 pages

Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

When the political discourse retreates to the realm of the visual, when we are supposed to debate the appearance of a flag, then we have to admit that politics has become little more than visual design, according to the Belgian philo­s­opher Dieter Lesage. He argues for a ‘funda­mentalism of human rights’ that will guide us out of the post-political impasse of Empire, the world-embracing network characterized by Negri and Hardt.1 

Dieter Lesage (Belgium) is a philosopher and lecturer at the Department of Audiovisual and Performing Arts (RITS) of the Erasmushogeschool in Brussels. His most recent book is Vertoog over verzet. Politiek in tijden van globalisering [Discourse on Resistance. Politics in Times of Globalisation] (Amsterdam-Antwerp: Meulenhoff-Manteau, 2004).

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

The following text is a shortened version of a lecture delivered by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk during the conference ‘Atmospheres for Freedom. Towards an Ecology of Good Government’ in Venice in 2004.1  In this lecture, Sloterdijk addresses the premises of a democratic society and the importance therein of written and representational media.

Peter Sloterdijk is a German philosopher and cultural theorist. He is a professor of philosophy and media theory at the University of Art and Design Karlsruhe.

Last publication date: 2006-05-01.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

If we go by the number of lectorates (research groups at universities of applied sciences that revolve around specific knowledge domains) in the Netherlands that are currently investigating the role of the arts in the public sphere, it is clear that more attention is being paid to the relation between art and its publics than ever before. The fact that lectorates in particular are being allocated to do this research is a logical consequence of the position they occupy on the interface of theory and practice. Affiliated with practice-oriented educational programmes, they are responsible for setting up and stimulating research that takes actual practice as its starting point. It is therefore only logical that this research primarily focuses on the area where art practice and art criticism step out of their isolation and take on the confrontation with public space.

In this issue of Open, the analysis of this confrontation is based on the work of Bruno Latour. Its central idea can be summarized with the concept of ‘relationality’. Facts, ideas and artefacts do not exist in isolation, but in webs of relations with other facts, ideas and artefacts. The benefit of this relational thinking is that it enables us to look at things in a new way. In what has become a classic example given by Latour: If we want people to keep to the speed limit in the built-up area, we need speed bumps as well as traffic regulations. The traffic regulation, car, driver and speed bump form a network in which there is no a priori difference between people and things. Within such an ‘actor network’, a speed bump can do something; namely, cause the driver to step on the break.

We generally consider art in public space from an art-theoretical or sociological point of view, for example the role of the artist in relation to the commissioner and the public; or from an urban planning perspective that centres on the position of the art work in relation to the built environment. However, when we take the relationality of people and things as our starting point, it is possible to investigate art in public space in new ways. What a work of art does is dependent on more than only its intrinsic aesthetic qualities, social constellations or spatial appropriateness. Latour’s approach makes a combination of perspectives possible. As a result, we can avoid the oppositions and dualisms that often paralyse the discourse on the arts in the public domain. The role that the art work plays as Thing in the public sphere goes beyond distinctions such as ‘applied’ or ‘autonomous’. In Latour’s thinking, these perspectives on the functioning of art are inseparably interrelated. Autonomy can be seen as a condition for engagement, while applicability and instrumental value may be outcomes of the reception of autonomous works of art.

Jeroen Boomgaard, research group Art and Public Space, Gerrit Rietveld Academie

Peter Peters, research group Autonomy and the Public Sphere in the Arts, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences

Open no. 24, Politics of Things

In these texts art theoreticians Jeroen Boomgaard and Sher Doruff take a bifurcating approach to art praxis in public space from a Dingpolitik point of view. Two distinct vectors, one speculative and the other practical, explore and ‘transduce’ the current exigencies of artmaking in the public sphere and the relevance of the thing as it is made and as it continues to make. What’s happening now to the affective before and after of the work of art and the practices that inform it? Referencing key concepts from Bruno Latour (instauration matters of concern, making things public), Isabelle Stengers (ecology of practices) and Gilbert Simondon (transduction), issues concerning the current state of affairs of public space art praxis are fielded, considered and argued, marking a dynamic oscillation between making things public and things making publics.

Open no. 22, General

Paul O’Neill and Claire Doherty (eds.), Locating the Producers: Durational Approaches to Public Art, Amsterdam, Valiz, 2011, isbn 9789078088516, 288 pages

Show more articles…
Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

Now that art is being deployed more and more in public / private development processes, people expect it to have a clearly described effect. The artist’s autonomous position is seriously undermined by this requirement – which, in Jeroen Boomgaard’s view, is a bad thing. He argues the case for a radicalization of the autonomy of art. That alone will allow art to wrest itself free of processes where the law of the strongest holds sway, and so become truly effective.

Jeroen Boomgaard is Chair of the Lectorate Art and Public Space at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. He also heads up the Master Artistic Research at the University of Amsterdam. In 2011, he published Wild Park – Commissioning the Unexpected.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

Contemporary architecture is seldom political. Either it withdraws from reality because of its introverted body of ideas or it uncritically embraces reality in all its heterogeneity. According to the architecture critic Roemer van Toorn, Wiel Arets’s library and Rem Koolhaas’s Casa-da-Música prove that it is indeed possible to develop what he calls a ‘political aesthetics’.

Roemer van Toorn is head of Projective Theory at the Berlage Institute, PhD candidate (Berlage Chair) and research assistant at the DSD Delft University of Technology.

Last publication date: 2006-05-01.
Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

With the formulation of his concept of ‘repressive tolerance’ Herbert Marcuse uncovered a key strategy of manipulation and control in our consumer societies. Repressive tolerance, Marcuse states in his controversial analysis from 1965,1 is sham tolerance that only serves to maintain the status quo. A perversion of genuine tolerance. Its purpose is to draw the teeth of opposition by capturing it into political, economical, and cultural systems that are already fully controlled by the establishment. Democracy, free market, freedom of speech, and tolerance – once revolutionary goals themselves but now fronts for repressive, exploitative, and totalitarian systems – are the false denominators under which opposition is annexed and neutralized. And once absorbed by systems that are really run by large corporations, banks, investment companies, the military industrial complex, and their secret services, all opposition is rendered toothless and turns into a caricature of itself. In that way our democracies are no more than staged media spectacles that conceal and maintain true power relations, the free market principle serves as an excuse for monopolistic concentrations, and even the word ‘revolutionary’ has been adopted by the world of advertising to such an extent that it has become powerless and should be replaced by ‘fuck’ (at least, according to revolutionary Jerry Rubin2 before he fell victim to repressive tolerance himself).

With his analysis, Marcuse outlined implicitly how the counterculture,3 of which he was one of the leading figures and which still seemed very much alive in 1965, would come to its end. He was not thanked for that at the time. ‘We didn’t care for Marcuse’s lectures on how the revolution was going to be co-opted,’ remembers John Sinclair, former leader of the radical White Panther Party, ‘We were too deeply involved in what we were doing and having a lot of fun doing it.’ But Marcuse was proved right in his lifetime. At the time of his death in 1979 the counterculture had been absorbed almost fully by established culture through a process of repressive tolerance. A subjugated Iggy Pop sang in that year: ‘O baby, what a place to be, in the service of the bourgeoisie. Where can my believers be? I want to jump into the endless sea4 Twenty-five years later this process was so complete that another prominent member of the counterculture, French artist and activist Jean-Jacques Lebel, observed: ‘In the worst cases, all that is left is rotting cultural merchandise, as for all the productions and superproductions that enjoyed a certain success in the nineteen tens, twenties, thirties, fifties or sixties and which today have evaporated.5

William Blake, Robert Desnos, William Burroughs, Sun Ra, The MC5 – rotting merchandise? Certainly, works, life, and thought of visionaries and revolutionaries are being sold as consumer goods. Plenty of examples. On the other hand, hardly anybody could have got acquainted with the works of William Blake or Sun Ra if their distribution had remained limited to the original small and handmade editions. So, it works both ways: with the incorporation and commercialization of countercultural works material is spread on a large scale that carries the germs of subversion and attacks the system from within. After all, not everything will be incorporated. That goes for the obstinate core of truly visionary or revolutionary work, but, of course, in the first place for violence.

Repressive tolerance – in the guises of historicizing, aestheticizing, and romanticizing – may have incorporated revolutionaries like The Weather Underground, the Rote Armee Fraktion, and The Black Panthers in academic and artistic circles (which often perform pioneering work in that respect), the violence that they employed remains indigestible for the establishment. Violence is a radical break with any order. A trauma that refuses to be denied or converted and that will only be repeated until the underlying conflict has been settled. According to Andreas Baader, one of the revolutionaries who drew inspiration from Marcuse, breaking a state’s monopoly of violence will expose the ‘fascist-repressive’ character of the legal order. Violence disrupts and unmasks. Let all who want to use it fill their bottles with gasoline and the others let their hands be sniffed at by policemen and security officers.6

‘Remembrance of the past may give rise to dangerous insights, and the established society seems to be apprehensive of the subversive contents of memory’, writes Marcuse in One Dimensional Man.7 Consequently, a first step in the repositioning of the counterculture is to inventory and analyse revolutionary and visionary works from the past. From that it will soon follow that the counterculture can only be viable if it contains both violent and non-violent elements: no revolution without violence and no alternative society without visionaries. From those elements only naked violence and visionary works that are truly capable of evoking other worlds have proved insensitive to repressive tolerance. The choice then to bring the establishment to its knees is that between a Molotov cocktail and Sun Ra’s ‘living blazing fire, so vital and alive.8

* From A Song of Liberty by William Blake, 1792–1793.

The Buggers are a collective that makes itself known via occasional pamphlets in which it sets out to reposition the revolutionary thought of the twentieth-century avant-garde and counterculture.

Last publication date: 2006-05-01.
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

In the mid 1990s I lived in Amsterdam. My accommodation, then, was a well-appointed squat. My downstairs neighbour was a Serbian performance artist whose work consisted of dragging his hands down window-panes. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, one of my flat’s windows was missing a sheet of glass. After measuring the hole and trudging off to have a new sheet cut, I boarded a tram whose driver refused to transport me, instructing me, in Dutch, to disembark. I didn’t understand, of course; a fellow passenger translated for me, adding, in a reasoned, explanatory tone, that ’if the tram crashed, shards of glass might hurt us’. The emphasis and inflection of his words made it crystal clear that us meant the Dutch passengers, not me.

As the tram pulled off again and I stood on the pavement watching it recede, I pictured the only tram crash I’d ever heard of: the one in Mexico City in 1925 in which the artist Frieda Kahlo, seated behind an artisan transporting a small bag of gold dust, found herself both skewered by a metal pole and gilted by the ruptured package. The event formed the basis of her work, which repeatedly shows her transfigured, by some glorious catastrophe, into a tortured icon.

The violent, Catholic splendour of Kahlo’s Mexico seemed very far away that day from safety-conscious, Puritan Holland. And yet the Dutch have been living in the shadow of catastrophe since their country’s inception. The very land on which they build their houses and through which they run their trams is stolen from a sea that wants it back, protected by dams and polders that defy the basic principle that you can’t live lower than sea level. I imagine that Holland first enters the imagination of most of the World’s non-Dutch children, as it did mine, via the fable of the little boy who, noticing a small hole in the sea wall, plugs it with his finger and stays there all night to save the town. His civic-mindedness is a Dutch feature, as an English carpenter, encountered in a bar, explained to me one evening soon after my ejection from the tram: ’In the old days, every citizen, irrespective of their wealth or status, had to put in two or three days every year at shoring up the sea wall. Their logic was that if the dyke goes, we’re all fucked.’

I wondered who the we referred to this time. Puritan theology divides the world into an us and a them: within a predetermined universe that will end, soon, in apocalypse, a few have been selected – pre-selected – as Elect, the ones who will be saved; the others, indeed the vast majority, however, are the Preterite, or damned. The script’s been written, and it can’t be changed. But acting in a way consistent with being one of the Elect confers upon the actor an Elect status – one that, since it’s not the actor but the writer (God) determining his actions, becomes its own proof, its own confirmation: a logic as self-contained as a polder.

The bar in which the carpenter explained the collective barrage-shoring custom to me lay on the Zeedijk, the location (as its name suggests) of Amsterdam’s old sea dyke. The street is full of late-night bars. There used to be one there named Mexico City; Camus used it as the setting for The Fall. In the novel, ’judge-penitent’ Jean-Baptiste Clamence talks, like my carpenter, to an anonymous narrator, comparing Amsterdam’s layout, with its concentric canals, to the topography of Dante’s Inferno. Nowadays, outside the Zeedijk’s bars, on the street itself, foreign drug addicts shake and shuffle as they wait for their next hit. While their Dutch counterparts are provided with prescription heroin, these people, modern Preterite, are kept firmly beyond the polder of social inclusion, scraping its window-pane from the outside. For them, the apocalypse has come, and is repeating on an endless loop: each day is a long, slow catastrophe.

Camus’s Clamence dates his own fall to his failure, some years ago, to act to save a woman from drowning: he, like her, has sunk, lower even than sea level. During the short time I lived in Amsterdam, my childhood image of the Dutch boy with his finger in the dam mutated, till it grew into a strangely English one: a boy pulling his finger from the hole, his face, no longer innocent, replaced with the malicious, leering one of Johnny Rotten, two maniacal white eyes glaring from its centre like marble chrysanthemums.

Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

In the project Amsterdam 2.0, a political model is developed, in which the idea of democracy is once more given content and meaning. The key phrase here is ‘radical tolerance’: the co-existence of the absolutely sovereign and the radical other. British artist / writer Tom McCarthy interviews artist Paul Perry and architect Maurice Nio on the meaning and possible implications of this model.

Tom McCarthy is an artist and writer based in Londen. Tom McCarthy’s novel Remainder, which deals with trauma and repetition, won the Believer Book Award 2007 and is currently being adapted for cinema. His new novel, C, which is about the relationship between technology and mourning, will be published in 2010.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

Joke Hermes lectures on the formation of public opinion at the InHolland University. The editors of Open invited her to write about the political effectiveness of the work of Martijn Engelbregt (www.egbg.nl), an artist who systematically explores the functioning of democracy in his projects. Her conclusion is that popular culture achieves more than art in terms of influencing the free formation of public opinion. For the moment, Engelbregt’s work is reserved for political and cultural cognoscenti.

Joke Hermes lectures in Public Opinion Formation at the InHolland University. Her research focuses on citizenship, media and popular culture. A recent work is Rereading Popular Culture (Blackwell, 2005).

Last publication date: 2006-05-01.
Open no. 10, (In)tolerance

Art critic Anna Tilroe’s and exhibition maker Rutger Wolfson’s appeal to art to furnish the Netherlands with new symbols is, in Lex ter Braak’s view, ill-considered and gratuitous. Not only is it indefensible to presume you can prescribe a direction for art in this day and age, but the form in which the appeal to create new symbols went out was equivocal. The debate and the exhibition took place within the exclusive circles of the art world, and the attempts to target the public domain lacked all impact.

Lex ter Braak was directing Fonds BKVB from 2000–2011. In 2011 he became the director of Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht.

Last publication date: 2006-05-01.
Open no. 10, General

Frits Gierstberg a.o. (eds.), Documentary Now! Contemporary Strategies in Photography, Film and the Visual Arts (Reflect #04), NAi Publishers, Rotterdam, 2005, ISBN 9056624555

Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Sophie Calle M’as-tu-vue?, Prestel Verlag, Munich / Berlin / London, New York, 2003, ISBN 3791330357

Sophie Berrebi is an art historian and curator and lecturer in the History and Theory of Photography at the University of Amsterdam. Her current research considers the issue of the document in contemporary art.

Last publication date: 2006-05-01.
Open no. 10, General

Erik Hagoort, Goede bedoelingen. Over het beoordelen van ontmoetingskunst, Fonds bkvb, Amsterdam, 2005, isbn 9076936145

Ole Bouman is an architecture historian, editor, curator, teacher and lecturer.

Last publication date: 2006-05-01.
T/A/S

Sher Doruff examines improvisation in the potentially activist use of mobile devices, focusing on the recent ‘moving of the squares’ that describes Black Lives Matter. Doruff observes that in live-streaming acts of injustice, our real time responses reveal what is most necessary to us. The author brings in Brian Massumi’s work on affect, and Fred Moten’s and George Lewis’s research within the realm of African-American theory, to better understand how, in ensemble, we improvise to seek a justice-to-come, but one we are not willing to wait for.

Open no. 24, Politics of Things

In these texts art theoreticians Sher Doruff and Jeroen Boomgaard take a bifurcating approach to art praxis in public space from a Dingpolitik point of view. Two distinct vectors, one speculative and the other practical, explore and ‘transduce’ the current exigencies of artmaking in the public sphere and the relevance of the thing as it is made and as it continues to make. What’s happening now to the affective before and after of the work of art and the practices that inform it? Referencing key concepts from Bruno Latour (instauration matters of concern, making things public), Isabelle Stengers (ecology of practices) and Gilbert Simondon (transduction), issues concerning the current state of affairs of public space art praxis are fielded, considered and argued, marking a dynamic oscillation between making things public and things making publics.

Sher Doruff is as a transdisciplinary artist, writer and theorist. She supervises 3rd cycle / PhD artist researchers at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy of Art and Design and the DAS Graduate School and DAS Choreography in Amsterdam. She is a member of several editorial boards including the Journal of Artistic Research.

Last publication date: 2017-02-20.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

Art can play an important role in drawing attention to the influence of things, according to Peter-Paul Verbeek, Professor of Philosophy of Technology at the University of Twente. It can enable people to see through the political role of things and experiment with it.

Peter-Paul Verbeek is Professor of Philosophy of Technology at the University of Twente. His work concentrates on the relation between human beings and technology, and its ethical aspects.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 6, (In)Security

The Belgian cultural philosopher Lieven De Cauter has written extensively on the emergence of the capsular civilisation, in which public space is divided into mon­­itored and enclosed, secure enclaves (gated communities, shop­ping malls, theme parks, camps, ghettos). In this article he makes an initial attempt at analysing the new fear upon which this capsular­ization is based. Is it a frightening but fleeting hallucination, or does collective fear suggest a genuine danger?

Lieven De Cauter is a philosopher, art historian, writer, and activist. He teaches philosophy of culture in Leuven, Brussels, and Rotterdam. He has published several books on contemporary art, experience and modernity, on Walter Benjamin and more recently on architecture, the city, and politics. His latest books include The Capsular Civilization. On the City in the Age of Fear; Heterotopia and the city. Public space in a postcivil society, co-edited with Michiel Dehaene; and Art and Activism in the Age of Gloablization, co-edited with Karel van Haesebrouck and Ruben De Roo. He was initiator of the Brussels Tribunal on the war in Iraq and is co-founder of the Platform for Liberty of Expression, which project fights the abuse of antiterrorism to crack down on activism. He was guest curator of Hidden Cities, with Michiel Dehaene, in Visionary Power of the Rotterdam Architectural Biennale and of Decolonizing Architecture. Scenarios for the transformation of Israeli settlements, with Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti and Eyal Weisman, at Bozar in Brussels (2008).

Last publication date: 2004-04-07.
Open no. 14, General

Marina Vishmidt and Metahaven (eds.), Uncorporate Identity, Maastricht, Jan Van Eyck; Baden, Lars Müller Publishers, 2010, ISBN 9783037781692, 608 pages

Anthony Iles is a writer and editor based in London. He has worked for Mute (metamute.org) and together with Mattin coedited Noise & Capitalism (2009). See: www.arteleku.net. With Josephine Berry Slater, he wrote ‘No Room to Move: Radical Art and the Regenerate City’ (in Mute, October 2010).

Last publication date: 2008-04-15.
Open no. 14, General

Gerald Raunig, A Thousand Machines: A Concise Philosophy of the Machine as Social Movement (translated by Aileen Derieg), Semiotext(e), 2010, ISBN-10: 1584350857, ISBN-13: 9781584350859, 128 pages

Sebastian Olma studied political science, sociology and philosophy in Leipzig, New York and London. He holds a PhD from the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College. He has published on Vitalism, Autonomist Marxism, and questions of social temporality and creativity. Living in Amsterdam, he works as a consultant / researcher. For more information contact: info@thethinktank.nl.

Last publication date: 2008-04-15.
Open no. 14, General

Maria Hlavajova, Sven Lütticken and Jill Winder (eds.), The Return of Religion and Other Myths: A Critical Reader in Contemporary Art, Utrecht: bak basis voor actuele kunst, and Rotterdam: Post Editions, 2009, ISBN 978946980075, 214 pages

Ernst van den Hemel is a doctoral student in the history of christianity and teaches literary theory at the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of Calvinisme en politiek. Tussen verzet en berusting (2009). He additionally is involved with the squatted gallery ‘Schijnheilig’ in Amsterdam. www.schijnheilig.org

Last publication date: 2008-04-15.
Open no. 6, (In)Security

We live in a time without illu­sions. Its utopian yearning is for security. Fear and unease are so prevalent that we can think of nothing else but fighting them. The police and the criminal justice system have become the agents of our yearnings, and we cannot get enough of this. We are trapped like a rabbit in the headlights: paralyzed with fear and unable to get away. I expect artists to manage to escape the powerlessness of the present time. Art does not have to please, but it could offer some support.

A few months ago I saw a perform­ance of the oratorio Die Schöpfung by Haydn at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki. The musical composition of the Creation story was simply overwhelming. But what especially struck me was the unembarrassed sense of jubilation about the beauty of nature and of humanity. It dawned on me that the power, the joy and the solace this composition expressed are out of date. I think few artists these days feel compelled to celebrate Creation in such an exuberant way.

But why? It seems art is being guided by the idea that there is little to celebrate. It prefers to focus on the Fall and on the unmasking of beauty as kitsch, of love as a trap and of human motives as terror. I realize general statements about art are dilettante-ish and criticism of modern art practice quickly smells of grousing. And yet I am often unable to shake off a feeling of disillusionment upon visiting a museum of modern art. A lot of concepts but little inspiration.

In essence there are three sources for providing impulses to a culture devoid of illusions. We cannot expect this of politics – the first candidate. Its pragmatic and mediagenic course can no longer be turned back. Something similar applies to the second candidate, religion. Religious faith is an individual matter and will not experience a revival as a cultural factor. From the Muslims we would prefer no organized religious movement.

When it comes to inspiration, I still base my hopes most on the art and culture sector. For a long time – too long – this has been dominated by the motif of unmasking. The inquiry into the deepest if not the lowest motives of human beings (Bataille!) seems to me to have been sufficiently carried out by now. Indeed, if we look at some commercial television programmes, the results of this examination have become common property. The inquiry into human perversion has made it commonplace and thereby become superfluous.

Pornography and violence have become normalized and thereby have acquired a new significance. They abnormalize restraint, vulnerability and the inquiry into moral­ities. This is not a call for decency in art or for a reintroduction of hypocrisy. It is, however, a plea for a new cultural élan, which must come from the people who have traditionally dared to venture down unbeaten paths. I yearn for new (or in fact old) representations of – ahem – love or reformulations of the battle between good and evil.

The old culture has been sufficiently dismantled to look for new potential in its foundations. This requires time (and means), which might best be used in studying texts and images that have survived, or in fact in making new ones that have not yet been appropriated by the culture of security. In the current utopian yearning for security lurks the danger of a totalitarian dream of power, but also a spark of hope. I yearn for the hope of creation.

Hans Boutellier is Professor in Safety and Citizenship at VU University in Amsterdam and executive director of the Verwey-Jonker Institute in Utrecht; board member of Kei, expert centre for urban regeneration; member of the board of trustees of the Wiardi Beckman Foundation; board member of the Association of Policy Research and member of the editorial committee of the European Journal of Criminology. 

Last publication date: 2004-04-07.
Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

In the last several years, under the spotlight of media attention, a number of spontaneous monuments have popped up all over the place, monuments that threaten to ignore society’s complexity and remain visible only as long as the ­media’s attention lasts. This places the traditional monument, as well as the collective memory, in jeopardy. In Jouke Kleerebezem’s view, the networked media and the network culture related to it, offer signifi­cant perspectives of a new process of ‘post-monumental conceptualization’, a new economy of attention.

Open no. 6, (In)Security

Fear is a poor counsellor if we want to examine the potential of the information society. If we let ourselves be led by it we will remain stuck in a mass-media society, in which obsolete systems of power and knowledge still operate. According to Jouke Kleerebezem we must above all be vigilant ourselves and test the limits of the possibilities offered to us in a network society.

Jouke Kleerebezem is a visual artist, author and researche and teachter. See further: www.nqpaofu.com.

Last publication date: 2005-04-13.
Open no. 22, Transparency

Heath Bunting explores the porosity of borders. Often performing as an interventionist or prankster and finding form within everyday acts of resistance, Bunting’s work reaches its public through systems of documentation and distribution including photography, print publishing and the web. Dismantling the divisions separating art and everyday life, Bunting prioritizes information and action. His work is based on creating open and democratic systems by modifying communication technologies and social systems. (Annet Dekker)

Heath Bunting is a computer artist and co-founder of net.art. He is banned for life from the USA because of his anti-genetic work. Currently he is producing an expert system for identity mutation.

Last publication date: 2011-11-18.
Open no. 7, (No)Memory

The editors of Open invited the ­photographer Nico Bick (Arnhem, 1964) to produce a pictorial essay, especially for this issue, about archives, the places in which the tangible proofs of the past are ­collected and stored. Nico Bick lives and works in Amsterdam. His work is characterized by a penchant for the ostensibly unremarkable, the ordinary aspect of a place. For this assignment he photographed the archives of the International Institute for Social History, the National Institute for War Documentation and the Municipal Archives in Amsterdam as well as the National Archives in The Hague. He focused on the storage space and not on the content of the archives of its users. He aims to ‘make the structure of the storage clear, as well as making visible the collective memory, which is contained in places that are public, but at the same time hidden’.

Nico Bick is a photographer.

Last publication date: 2004-09-30.
Commonist Aesthetics

Within Open!’s research theme Commonist Aesthetics, artist Andreas Siekmann created a series of pictograms and a matching glossary to continue his investigation into the increasing privatisation of the public realm. The work is part of his larger ongoing project initiated in Berlin in 2012, The Economic Power of Public Opinion & the Public Power of Economic Opinion: Think Factories, Think Tanks and the Privatisation of Power. One can view and read Siekmann’s contribution by either clicking the underlined entries beneath the pictures in the slideshow, or by directly entering the glossary pages in which pictograms and texts are combined. Sven Lütticken wrote a short introduction to the piece.

Commonist Aesthetics

Within Open!’s research theme Commonist Aesthetics, artist Andreas Siekmann created a series of pictograms and a matching glossary to continue his investigation into the increasing privatisation of the public realm. The work is part of his larger ongoing project initiated in Berlin in 2012, The Economic Power of Public Opinion & the Public Power of Economic Opinion: Think Factories, Think Tanks and the Privatisation of Power. One can view and read Siekmann’s contribution by either clicking the underlined entries beneath the pictures in the slideshow, or by directly entering the glossary pages in which pictograms and texts combined are combined. Sven Lütticken wrote a short introduction to the piece.

Andreas Siekmann (1961) is an artist, curator and theorist who lives and works in Berlin.

Last publication date: 2015-04-16.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

According to John Byrne, who works at the School of Art and Design in Liverpool, autonomy in art is by no means a given any more, but a socially constructed and produced possibility that constantly must be fought for. Using Marx’s distinctions between ‘work’ and ‘labour’, and ‘use value’ and ‘exchange value’, he investigates the role and significance that art could have in the ‘smooth, mirror-like surface of global capital’.

John Byrne is currently programme leader in Fine Art at the Liverpool School of Art and Design (John Moores University). He is also co-director of Static, an organization for creative production in Liverpool (statictrading.com). Byrne has published regularly on the relationships between contemporary art, media and popular culture.

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Common Knowledge

The protest movement in and around the University of Amsterdam (UvA) has – in changing waves of conjuncture – been active for more than half a year now. It has produced some beautiful encounters between staff members and students, and has led to various learning and politicisation processes that, for a long time, seemed unthinkable. Suddenly things could be put on the agenda that had been impossible to discuss in times of atomised and competitive working relations, on the one hand, and endless formalised administrative meetings, on the other. 

Open no. 23, Autonomy

According to philosopher and cultural theorist Johan Hartle, the rightwing populist criticism of art is anything but democratically inspired. The democratic legitimacy of art is in fact destroyed by the present ‘culturalist paradigm’, which is dominated by a romantic, nostalgic longing for the restoration of cultural unity. Instead of a ‘leftist hobby’, this attempt at restoration is actually the ultimate ‘rightist hobby’, which is blind to the diversity and contradictions so characteristic of the modern age.

Johan Frederik Hartle teaches philosophy of art and culture at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). His research deals with institutional theories of art, the aesthetico-political and the heritage of Marxism. He is currently working on a book about the beauty of leftist politics.

Last publication date: 2015-06-15.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

Nowadays work, like art, has become an ‘occupation’, with autonomy having turned into a dominant ideology of flexibility and personal initiative. Now that art has ‘occupied’ life, according to the filmmaker and theoretician Hito Steyerl, she wonders how life can recapture its autonomy from art. Just as the white cube was once employed to criticize the narcissistic spectacle of artistic autonomy, she makes a case for using the black box as a zone in which to consider how the autonomy of life can be reinstated with respect to art as an occupation.

Hito Steyerl works as a filmmaker and author in the area of essayist documentary films and videos, media art and video installations. Her works are located on the interface between cinema and fine arts, and between theory and practice. They centre on the question of media within globalization and the migration of sounds and images.

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

Against the background of Foucault’s analyses of the philosophical significance of the cynic, philosophers Christoph Brunner, Roberto Nigro and Gerald Raunig at the Zurich University of the Arts are investigating present-day forms of activism such as the Occupy movement. By means of three themes – creating new forms of living, inventing new modes of organization and re-appropriating time – they show the pioneering potential of such activism.

Roberto Nigro works at the Institute for Critical Theory of the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHDK) and is Program Director at the Collège international de Philosophie in Paris. Prior to that, he taught at various universities in Italy, France, Germany and the USA. His research mainly focuses on poststructuralist theories.

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

More than anybody else, artist Andrea Fraser has for decades painstakingly investigated the concept of autonomy, basing her work on the analyses of the cultural sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. She discovered that the different dimensions of autonomy are contradicting one another more and more sharply in their functioning. A more meaningful autonomy can be developed by approaching the concept from a psychoanalytic perspective, provided that certain conditions are accepted.

Andrea Fraser is a performance artist. Her recent work includes an essay for the Whitney Biennial 2012 and the performance Men on the Line: Men Committed to Feminism, KPFA, 1972. She is a Professor of Art at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

It is a distinctive feature of much recent critical discourse that ‘autonomy’ has become increasingly derided in art, while being increasingly valued in politics. Indeed, autonomy is frequently claimed to be the very basis of politics, and hence of a politics of art – art activism – dedicated to the production of non-autonomous art. Yet it is not clear that the sense in which some art may be claimed, critically, to function autonomously is well understood; or that the theoretical intimacy of relations between claims for autonomy in art and in politics is fully appreciated. This short piece (brutally brief) approaches these relations from a historico-philosophical angle and a broadly Adornian point of view. It sets out from four common misconceptions of the autonomy of art, and proceeds to what Osborne takes to be Adorno’s less inadequate conception, its political limits, and the dialectical entanglement of its critique with artistic autonomy itself.

Peter Osborne is director of the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP), Kingston University London, and an editor of the UK journal Radical Philosophy. His new book, Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art, will be published by Verso in early 2013.

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

Download the maps as a PDF: Global Laboratory / World Government.

Leonore Bonaccini and Xavier Fourt (France) have been working together as Bureau d‘Études since 2000.

Last publication date: 2005-04-13.
Open no. 7, (No)Memory

The archive has ­become a universal metaphor for all ­conceivable forms of storage and memory. Seen from the ­media-archaeological ­perspective of the Ger­man theorist Wolfgang Ernst, ­however, the archive is not dedicated to memory but to the purely technical ­practice of data storage: any story we add to the archive comes from outside. The archive has no narrative memory, only a calculating one. In a digital culture, Ernst says, the archive in fact changes from an archival space into an archival time, in which the key is the dynamics of the permanent ­trans­mission of data. The archive then ­become literally a ‘metaphor’, with all the possibilities this entails.

Wolfgang Ernst is a professor of media theory at the Humboldt-Univer­sität in Berlin.

Last publication date: 2004-09-30.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

Between December 2009 and February 2010, French philosopher Jacques Rancière and Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn exchanged thoughts in a series of e-mails.1  Using Hirschhorn’s art project Bijlmer Spinoza Festival from 2009 in Amsterdam as an example, the two of them investigate the essence of a work of art in this day and age. Hirschhorn tries to analyse his work with terms like ‘presence’ and ‘production’, to which Rancière reacts and stimulates further reflection.

Jacques Rancière is a French philosopher. He has written various books, including Dissensus: On Politics and Aesthetics (2010).

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Open no. 23, Autonomy

Between December 2009 and February 2010, French philosopher Jacques Rancière and Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn exchanged thoughts in a series of e-mails.1  Using Hirschhorn’s art project Bijlmer Spinoza Festival from 2009 in Amsterdam as an example, the two of them investigate the essence of a work of art in this day and age. Hirschhorn tries to analyse his work with terms like ‘presence’ and ‘production’, to which Rancière reacts and stimulates further reflection.

Thomas Hirschhorn is an artist from Switzerland.

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Open no. 23, General

Serge Daney, Volharden, Solange de Boer (editor), Een ruimte om in te bewegen. Serge Daney tussen cinema en beeldcultuur, Isbn 9789490334017, 160 pages ,isbn 9789490334048, 192 pages, ‘Text & Context’ series, Amsterdam, Octavo Publications, set: isbn 9789490334062

Stoffel Debuysere is active in the field of media culture and media art as a curator, researcher and teacher. He has worked for various cultural organizations and institutions, including Argos, BAM, Impakt and Courtisane. As of 2012, he heads up the research project ‘Figures of Dissent: Cinema of Politics, Politics of Cinema’, within the auspices of the KASK / School of Arts (Ghent).

Last publication date: 2012-05-01.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

Because the work of French philosopher Bernard Stiegler is relatively unknown in the Netherlands, the editors have asked Pieter Lemmens, who is specialized in the relation between man and technology, to write an introduction for the following article by Stiegler.

Pieter Lemmens studied biology and philosophy in Nijmegen and obtained his doctorate in 2008 with a thesis on the close relation between human beings and technology. At present, he does postgraduate research at Wageningen University and teaches philosophy at Radboud University in Nijmegen.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

If we go by the number of lectorates (research groups at universities of applied sciences that revolve around specific knowledge domains) in the Netherlands that are currently investigating the role of the arts in the public sphere, it is clear that more attention is being paid to the relation between art and its publics than ever before. The fact that lectorates in particular are being allocated to do this research is a logical consequence of the position they occupy on the interface of theory and practice. Affiliated with practice-oriented educational programmes, they are responsible for setting up and stimulating research that takes actual practice as its starting point. It is therefore only logical that this research primarily focuses on the area where art practice and art criticism step out of their isolation and take on the confrontation with public space.

In this issue of Open, the analysis of this confrontation is based on the work of Bruno Latour. Its central idea can be summarized with the concept of ‘relationality’. Facts, ideas and artefacts do not exist in isolation, but in webs of relations with other facts, ideas and artefacts. The benefit of this relational thinking is that it enables us to look at things in a new way. In what has become a classic example given by Latour: If we want people to keep to the speed limit in the built-up area, we need speed bumps as well as traffic regulations. The traffic regulation, car, driver and speed bump form a network in which there is no a priori difference between people and things. Within such an ‘actor network’, a speed bump can do something; namely, cause the driver to step on the break.

We generally consider art in public space from an art-theoretical or sociological point of view, for example the role of the artist in relation to the commissioner and the public; or from an urban planning perspective that centres on the position of the art work in relation to the built environment. However, when we take the relationality of people and things as our starting point, it is possible to investigate art in public space in new ways. What a work of art does is dependent on more than only its intrinsic aesthetic qualities, social constellations or spatial appropriateness. Latour’s approach makes a combination of perspectives possible. As a result, we can avoid the oppositions and dualisms that often paralyse the discourse on the arts in the public domain. The role that the art work plays as Thing in the public sphere goes beyond distinctions such as ‘applied’ or ‘autonomous’. In Latour’s thinking, these perspectives on the functioning of art are inseparably interrelated. Autonomy can be seen as a condition for engagement, while applicability and instrumental value may be outcomes of the reception of autonomous works of art.

Jeroen Boomgaard, research group Art and Public Space, Gerrit Rietveld Academie

Peter Peters, research group Autonomy and the Public Sphere in the Arts, Zuyd University of Applied Sciences

Open no. 24, Politics of Things

On the basis of the Actor Network Theory and Science & Technology Studies (STS), Ruth Benschop and Peter Peters, affiliated with the lectorate Autonomy and Publicness in the Arts at the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, attempt to reinterpret the meaning of art in public space. Using Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc as a case in point, they take a different approach than that of the usual dualist thinking on art and its publics.

Peter Peters is Chair of the Lectorate Autonomy and Publicness in the Arts at the Zuyd University of Applied Arts and a university lecturer at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Maastricht University.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

On the basis of the Actor Network Theory and Science & Technology Studies (STS), Ruth Benschop and Peter Peters, affiliated with the lectorate Autonomy and Publicness in the Arts at the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, attempt to reinterpret the meaning of art in public space. Using Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc as a case in point, they take a different approach than that of the usual dualist thinking on art and its publics.

Ruth Benschop is a senior researcher in the Lectorate Autonomy and Publicness in the Arts at the Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, where she investigates the relation between ethnography, styles of documentation and art, and undertakes artistic research.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

In the Vintage Wireless Museum in London, the private and the public sphere are closely connected. With this museum as an example, Fiona Candlin, teacher of Museum Studies at Birkbeck (University of London), examines the extent to which the autonomy and independent position of private museums makes it possible for them to have a different form of exchange than that of museums financed by the government.

Fiona Candlin is Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. She is the author of Art, Museums and Touch, co-editor of The Object Reader, and is working on a new book entitled Micromuseology

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 24, General

Christian van ’t Hof, Floortje Daemen and Rinie van Est, Check In / Check Out: The Public Space as an Internet of Things, Rotterdam, NAi Publishers (in collaboration with the Rathenau Institute), ISBN 9789056628086, 272 pages

Lonneke van der Velden is a PhD student at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) and teaches in the Department of Media Studies (University of Amsterdam). Her research focuses on Internet surveillance and activism.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

Peter-Paul Verbeek, Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things, Chicago / London, The University of Chicago Press, 2011, isbn 0226852938

Ed van Hinte is a freelance publicist, curator and teacher in the field of design. He additionally is the initiator of Lightness Studios (lightweight constructions) and DRS22 (design research) in The Hague.

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 7, (No)Memory
Bellamystraat 45A, 49–69, Amsterdam, 1951. © Bureau of Monuments & Archeology Collection, Amsterdam

Is the Amsterdammer where he really wants to be? There are whole tribes living in Amsterdam who would rather be somewhere else: somewhere in the past.

There are people who have come from faraway countries. They have difficulty adapting. They find Amsterdam difficult, they think, and they simply cannot get used to Western society. But that’s not it. They have difficulty with the present-day. They dream of their youth, when they still had a grip on their lives. That was in a country far away, with a different culture and a different climate.

Born and bred Amsterdammers also have a youth that they reminisce about. They also want to turn back the clock. They have it no easier adapting than do immigrants. The present takes a bite out of the city of their youth every day: all the things that disappear and all the things that are added. There are poignant memories around every corner.

I am one of these Amsterdammers: I was born and raised here. Every time I try to negotiate the traffic chaos known as the Leidseplein, my compassionate thoughts turn to the Leidsebosje. Until the 1980s this little copse was nothing more than a few trees and some shrubs in the middle of a roundabout. The roundabout used to stand in front of the modern-day Marriott, and you could ride around it until you reached the right exit. I’ve never actually been into the Leidsebosje, merely peered at it from my father’s car.

It’s best to be a tourist in Amsterdam: then you have least trouble adapting. Tourists have no memories of the past. For them, everything is fresh. In the same way parents are much more easygoing with someone else’s children, they cruise around in the knowledge that they will be leaving again. Four million of them come here every year to look at the canals, visit the coffeeshops and the museums. Tourists are a serious is­sue for the city council. In order to please them, the city centre has been designated a protected cityscape. They just have to tunnel the new North / South Line metro through beneath it and then they can set up a ticket booth for the city centre: the centre of Amsterdam as an open-air museum.

But isn’t that what the born and bred Amsterdammer wants as well? Then everything continues just like it was?

No, that’s not what I want. You don’t gain anything by stopping the clock. And certainly not by turning back the clock. For me, the Leidsebosje doesn’t need to be replanted. The filled-in canals don’t have to be excavated again either. And please let the Paleis van Volksvlijt (Amsterdam’s 19th-century ‘Palace of Industry’ that was destroyed by fire in the 1930s) rest in peace as a stack of photos.

The size of two big classrooms filled with chests of drawers, with people nosing around among them, is more or less how you can best imagine what was, until recently, the Beeldbank (‘Image Bank’) of the Gemeente­archief, the Amsterdam Municipal Archives. In the drawers there were photographs of Amsterdam from the seminal years of photography, the middle of the 19th century, up to the present. Subdivided by street. Every Amsterdammer could go and search in those drawers for evidence of his or her past. So there they were, usually huddled in pairs, with a photo of the street where they were born in their hands. Look at this! Just look at that! Do you remember? Or the street where they live now, but then as it used to be. The air was filled with ‘ohs’ and ‘ahs’. At the counter they could order a little print of their find, almost as big as an A4. That cost a couple of guilders at the time, and took a couple of weeks. You can find them in a great many staircases of Amsterdam homes, those photos of how the street used to be. Set in a simple frame. You could also hang them up inside, but then you couldn’t share them with the neighbours.

The room full of drawers has disappeared now. The 100,000 photos have been scanned and placed on a server the size of a fridge. Go to www.gaaweb.nl and click on the ‘Beeldbank’ button. You can search by street, by photographer, by neighbourhood. The photos appear on your screen. You can even print them out, for free and without waiting, in a format slightly bigger than a postcard. Slightly too small for the staircase, that’s true. However, there is no municipality in the Netherlands, in the whole world, where the archives are as accessible as in Amsterdam. I miss that room with chests of drawers all the same. I miss the delighted exclamations of people who have dug up something from their past. One day, when the windows are wide open on a summer’s day, I will go onto the street at dinnertime. According to statistics collected by the Amsterdam Municipal Archives, it’s at this hour that the Image Bank gets the most visitors (120 per hour). You never know, I might catch an ‘oh’ or an ‘ah’ through the open windows.

I visited the Image Bank for the last time a fortnight ago. Via via I had heard there was a garage with living space above it for sale in the Bellamystraat. On the corner with the Ten Catemarkt, the city’s cheapest and most pleasant market, according to insiders. I just wanted to take a look first. It turned out to be a real immigrant neighbourhood, but completely unlike Bos en Lommer. Whether it’s because of the monotony of the architecture there, or because of the utter listlessness that hangs in the air, I think Bos en Lommer is the saddest part of Amsterdam. I can’t see a headscarf there without thinking: throw off that hopeless thing, participate, don’t let yourself be boxed in by those men. There are so many women walking around there with their hair shielded from the glances of men that you can only get those ideas out of your head after you’ve left the neighbourhood. In the Bellamystraat and on the Ten Catemarkt there are also a lot of headscarves, but more cheerful, more varied, perhaps even more exotic. By the look of it more than half of them don’t speak any Dutch, but you don’t feel like a stranger in your own city there. In the garage there was a Volvo on the ramp which looked like new. It had a sports exhaust that two men wearing winter jackets were pulling around to check whether it was attached properly. Most of the tinkering was done, the garage owner told me, sitting in the little office right at the back. He had Parkinson’s disease, and would be leaving the place within a month. A friendly man with big hands, and he offered one in a handshake, firm without gripping. He stood up to show me the property. I hardly noticed he was ill, except that it seemed like he had to force every word out of his throat. That didn’t stop him talking nineteen to the dozen. Did I remember Stiefbeen en Zoon? Sure, that television series about that scrap-metal dealer (based on the English series Steptoe and Son). His little dealership was just opposite, and the scenes were shot from that place on the corner. Crikey! Was that here? Wasn’t it Rien van Nunen who played the father? And the son was played by … what was his name again? Now he’s a Chief Constable in that police series … what’s it called again? He also acted in that … but that was even longer ago … that children’s series about a sailor …. ’To sail is more fine than you think…,’ I piped up, and the garage owner chimed in with the second half of the couplet: ‘… come sail along with me.’

‘Piet,’ it suddenly came to me, ‘his first name was Piet ...’
‘…Römer,’ the propietor added.
‘Piet Römer!’ we chimed in unison.
He shook my hand for the second time.
‘And that police series was called …Baantjer.’
Our memories, pleased with their success, picked up steam.

‘Do you remember how Stiefbeen senior dragged kettle after kettle of hot water to the bathtub in the garden, stripped off down to his underwear and took a bath, right in the middle of the garden! The dirty git would keep his filthy black feet out of the water. He would have a jar of pickled onions in his hand, and a couple always ended up in the bathwater, then he fished them out and stuck in his mouth. That Rien van Nunen played the mayor in Swiebertje later on. And then he became seriously ill. What was it he had? He was in a wheelchair.’

‘…Parkinson’s,’ the garage owner finished.
‘I didn’t know it was infectious,’ I splurted out before I could stop myself.
The garage owner burst out laughing.

When I returned home I found 20 photos of the Bellamystraat on www.gaaweb.nl, including one showing the garage and the cinema next door, the Olympia, which is now a Turkish Cultural Centre. There had been a flood, and the cars were standing up to their axles in water.

There used to be floods often, the garage owner told me. The Bellamystraat was the lowest point in Amsterdam. If anything went wrong with the draining of the polder then they would be up to their knees in water. Then they would go surfing on old doors. The photo was taken in 1951, the year I was born.

I printed it out and took it along to the garage. He wasn’t there. The letterbox was so small, a type you hardly ever see now. A slit only 10 cen­timetres wide. I had to fold the photo double in order to get it through.

What can the past do for you? It used to be like that, now it’s like this, and later it will be like something else. There’s hardly anything to be learned from the past. Results from the past don’t provide any guarantee for the future. On photos the past looks so rosy. Meaningful and acceptable, like the present never is. Perhaps in 30 years, when the present has itself become the past. You would prefer it if that gap wasn’t there. That you could look at the present with the same acceptance as you look to the past. Photos from the past can’t help you here. Sooner the opposite. They make the gap even greater. It’s best to accept that there’s a gap and that it will never be bridged. Let the present and the past co-exist like two different versions of the same world. One slightly easier to understand than the other. You can dig up Amsterdam’s past in the archives. But where do you find the present?

If you want to understand the present then stop harrying the tourists from the cycle path, step off your bike and walk along behind them. Tou­rists, with their innocent gaze, understand Amsterdam better than the Amsterdammers. Tourists know why they have come here. Amster­dam­mers have forgotten, because we’ve been here so long already.

Follow them into the souvenir shop and look over their shoulder at the stand of picture postcards. Amsterdam is what the tourists send home to show where they’ve been. An image of a bright yellow bike against a bright green bridge railing, locked with three chains. Wherever that card falls on the mat they will understand immediately: that card comes from Amsterdam. There is only one city in the world where 100,000 bikes are stolen every year. A man’s backside in tight jeans astride an Amster­dam­mertje. Ten naked guys dancing on a boat in the canals. It could only be Amsterdam. Walhalla for homosexual love. The window of a coffeeshop with a man-high symbol of the marijuana plant painted on it. Every­thing’s possible: that’s Amsterdam. A sanctuary for tourists. And for terrorists. For everyone who has the prospect of being somewhere else sooner or later.

Fifty years from now, the generation that is currently growing up will look back to this present on www.gaaweb.nl with a hint of melancholy. The days when everything was possible. Or will they perceive it as the era when everything was supposed to be possible.

Hans Aarsman is a photographer and writer based in Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2004-09-30.
Open no. 24, Politics of Things

Gilbert Simondon poses that the transindividual is constituted by its supports, which signifies that signification is not only a fact of language, but also one of things: the supports of the transindividual are, above all, primarily our everyday objects.

Bernard Stiegler is a French philosopher and publicist who is particularly interested in questions on the philosophy of technology. He is Director of the Department of Cultural Development at the Centre Georges-Pompidou in Paris and professor at the Université de Technologie de Compiègne. Recent publication: Ce qui fait que la vie vaut la peine d’être vécue: de la pharmacologie (2010).

Last publication date: 2012-09-28.
Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Visual artist and media theorist Jordan Crandall, in the project Under Fire, which was recently exhibited at the Witte de With centre in Rotterdam,1  examines the significance of the representation of armed conflicts. According to Crandall, it is imperative that attention be shifted from what an image means to what an image does. By developing a sort of counter-memory, it may be possible to expand our outlook and acquire more insight into the political and cultural dimensions of the representation of war in a globalized world.

 Jordan Crandall is an artist and media theorist. 

Last publication date: 2004-09-30.
Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Euroscapes - Forum, volume 41, 2003, MUST Publishers and the Genootschap Architectura et Amicitia, ISBN 908063512X

 Dirk van den Heuvel is an architect and researcher at the Delft University of Technology.

Last publication date: 2004-09-30.
Open no. 7, (No)Memory

Hans Aarsman, Onzichtbaar Gent, foto’s en diagrammen van de stad/ Invisible Ghent: Photos and Diagrams of the City, published by Gent Cultuurstad vzw, 2004, ISBN 9080672238

Arnoud Holleman is a visual artist and writer, living in Amsterdam. In general, his work is based on the role of language in the experience of the visual.

Last publication date: 2004-09-30.
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

In the Nether­lands, the politicization and dramatization of fear is preventing people from seeing the real problems, according to sociologist Frank Furedi. It is high time we realize that this in fact has to do with an estrangement from our own identity, especially as it has developed since the 1960s. Furedi thus argues for a more future-oriented activism, in which we must ask ourselves what the Nether­lands and Am­ster­­dam in particular want to be in the future.

Frank Furedi is professor of sociology at the University of Kent in Canterbury. His research has focused on the culture of fear in relation to issues such as health, children, education, food, terrorism and new technologies. His most recent book is Wasted: Why Education Is Not Educating (2009).

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

The investigations of geographer and writer Stephen Graham show us a city not only caught in the crosshairs of a perpetual war between international military coalitions and their swarming counterparts, but a city that’s been reframed, re-imaged, as a strategic site in a larger geoeconomic scheme for engineering the urban machinations of control that are necessary to secure the triumph of neoliberal capitalism across the globe.

Bryan Finoki is the author of the blog Subtopia: A Field Guide to Military Urbanism. He lectures regularly and writes for newspapers and journals. He currently teaches at Woodbury University’s School of Architecture in San Diego, California.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

Architect and researcher Eyal Weizman uses interviews with two brigadier generals of the Israeli Armed Forces, Aviv Kokhavi and Shimon Naveh, the latter of whom headed up the Institute for Operational Theory and Research that closed in 2006, and is now retired, to illustrate the importance of the formulation of theories in the Israeli army’s recent ways of conducting a municipal war. He likewise shows what radical and disastrous conse­quences the ‘operational theory’ derived from thinkers such as Tschumi, Deleuze and Guattari has for the population.

Eyal Weizman is an architect based in London. He is the director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College (roundtable.kein.org). Since 2007 he has been a member of the architectural collective ‘decolonizing architecture’ in Beit Sahour / Palestine (www.decolonizing.ps). His books include The Lesser Evil (2009), Hollow Land (2007), A Civilian Occupation (2003) and the series Territories 1, 2 and 3.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

At the request of Open, the cultural theoretician John Armitage interviewed the French urbanist and philosopher Paul Virilio (b. 1932, Paris). A discussion on the future of the city.

John Armitage teaches contemporary art and cultural theory in the Department of Visual Arts at Northumbria University in Great Britain. He is co-editor, with Ryan Bishop and Douglas Kellner, of the journal Cultural Politics, editor of Virilio Live: Selected Interviews (2001), Paul Virilio: From Modernism to Hypermodernism and Beyond (2000), and is currently completing Virilio and the Media and Virilio Now: Current Perspectives in Virilio Studies.

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 18, 2030: War Zone Amsterdam

In times of war, the accepted food chain is broken and the city becomes ‘edible’. It starts to cannibalize itself, according to Wietske Maas and Matteo Pasquinelli, who use various historical examples to prove their point. With this ‘urbanibalisme’, as they call it, as their motive, they’ve developed a recipe for a therapeutic beverage, Ferment Brussels, to bring a toast to a communal lifestyle as the antidote to rising forms of nationalism.

Wietske Maas lives in Amsterdam and works for the European Cultural Foundation. As an artist she is working (together with Matteo Pasquinelli) on the project Urbanibalism, which explores the gastronomic geography between the ecological fabrics of the city (www.urbanibalism.org).

Last publication date: 2009-11-01.
Open no. 8, (In)Visibility

For Open 8, the editors invited Pascale Gatzen to make a visual contribution, more specifically in reaction to The Regime of Visibility by Camiel van Winkel. As a fashion designer, Pascale Gatzen is primarily interested in fashion as a formal system of codification and production of meaning. Gatzen won international fame with photos of clothing she made herself, which were published in various fashion magazines. Her clothes are meticulous re-creations of the two-dimensional images of clothing as presented in fashion spreads in magazines such as Purple, i-D magazine and Vogue, but rather than interpreting the items of clothing from the fashion spreads (the collaborative interpretation of designer, stylist and photographer) as derivatives of an original, as representation, Gatzen treats them as something that can be treated as inspiration, as source. By photographing the remake and presenting it alongside the photo from the fashion collection on which it is based, Gatzen manages to liberate the image from the representation, or, put more precisely, opts to revise image and representation in a way that transcends their limitations.

Pascale Gatzen (the Netherlands) is a fashion designer.

Last publication date: 2005-04-13.
Open no. 8, General

Plop: Recent Projects of the Public Art Fund, edited by Tom Eccles, Anne Wehr and Jeffrey Kastner, Merrell Publishers, London / New York 2004, ISBN 1858942470

Tom van Gestel worked as the Head of the Visual Arts Commissions agency of the Ministry of Culture (1983–1995) and then joined the Mondrian Foundation, where he held the post of Head of the Visual Arts Commissions Department until 1999. Since then till 2012 he has been the artistic leader, senior curator and adjunct director of SKOR (Foundation for Art and Public Space).

Last publication date: 2005-04-13.
General

The Arachnean and Other Texts, Fernand Deligny, translated by Drew S. Burk and Catherine Porter, Univocal Publishers, Minneapolis, 252 pages, ISBN: 1937561100, 2015

General

Michael Seemann, Digital Tailspin: Ten Rules for the Internet After Snowden, Network Notebooks 09, Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2015, ISBN 9789082234589

Şeyma Bayram is a writer, editor and curator based in New York City. She received her BA and MA from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Last publication date: 2016-01-14.
Open no. 21, (Im)Mobility

Markus Miessen, The Nightmare of Participation (Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality), New York / Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2010, ISBN 9781934105078, 304 pages

Christel Vesters is a critic and independent curator. She studied art history and curating in Amsterdam, New York and London. She has curated various exhibitions and discursive projects on art and architecture and regularly contributes to international art magazines and art publications.

Last publication date: 2011-05-09.
Open no. 12, General

Wouter Davidts, Bouwen voor de kunst? Museumarchitectuur van Centre Pompidou tot Tate Modern, Gent 2006, ISBN 9076714282, 412 pages

Domeniek Ruyters
Last publication date: 2007-03-26.
Open no. 19, General

Wouter Davidts and Kim Paice (eds.), The Fall of the Studio: Artists at Work, Valiz, Amsterdam, 2009, ISBN 9789078088295, 250 pages

Dominic van den Boogerd
Last publication date: 2010-04-23.
General

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, The Critical Legal Studies Movement: Another Time, A Greater Task, Verso Books, London, 2015, ISBN 9781781683392 (UK), 224 pages

A Precarious Existence

Isabell Lorey, State of Insecurity: Government of the Precarious, Verso Books, London, 2015, ISBN 9781781687147 (UK), 148 pages

Lara Garcia Diaz is an independent art researcher. Her work focuses on the analyses of practices that challenge the boundaries between art and politics, considering alternative modes of empowerment through radical theories and practices of cultural resistance. Since 2014, she collaborates as an assistant researcher at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven where she formalized her research on Urban Utopias and Spanish modern architecture in one of the rooms of the exhibition Confessions of the Imperfect. 1848 – 1989 – Today (2014–2015). Since 2015 she is extending her research on institutional contexts in collaboration with the Research Centre for Arts in Society, Groningen. 

Last publication date: 2015-10-30.
Common Knowledge

Blink and you will mistake last year’s UvA marketing campaign for a United Colors of Benetton ad. The posters juxtaposed groups of contemplative students and lecturers with captions such as Curious by Nature, No Guts No Story, and Competent Rebels. 

Thijs Witty is a PhD candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA), University of Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2015-05-24.
Common Knowledge

In light of the recent protests concerning the democratisation of higher education, this short essay will develop two arguments; firstly, democratisation of the university requires a critical re-evaluation of the “demos”. Secondly, the We Are Here Academy is not an alternative to higher education – nor should it be – but a protest movement that strives for an educational system that is both inclusive and democratic. This essay will conclude with the argument that cooperation between the New University and “undocumented Dutch citizens” is relevant and necessary in order to stimulate and critically investigate how accessible higher education is, and, thus, the very meaning of a democratic university.

Djoelia van der Velden is an active supporter of We Are Here since 2014. She holds a MA in Conflict Studies and Human Rights and is currently working as a writer and researcher at the Here to Support Foundation.

Last publication date: 2015-05-25.
Common Knowledge

The current protests by students and staff at the University of Amsterdam and other universities in the Netherlands are a sign of very deep structural problems in the academic system. Rather than just a local problem concerning the language departments ​​or the position of the humanities (well beyond the University of Amsterdam or universities in the Netherlands), these demonstrations are a reaction to an accumulation of national and international developments in the way the university is structured, organised and funded. 

Patricia Pisters is professor of film at the Department of Media Studies of the University of Amsterdam and director of the Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis (ASCA). She is one of the founding editors of the Open Access journal Necsus: European Journal of Media Studies. She has published on political cinema, transnational media, neurocinematics and film-philosophy. She is currently finishing a book on the Dutch filmmaker Louis van Gasteren and starting a project on ‘mines and minds’ around the idea of filmmakers and artists as metallurgists. 

Last publication date: 2015-05-25.
Common Conflict
‘Hot Winter Press’ zines at We Are the Time Machines: Time and Tools for Commoning at Casco by Cooperativa Cráter Invertido (Jazael Olguinzapata), 2015. – Photo: Sven Lütticken

From its inception, Open! and Casco’s series Commonist Aesthetics was meant neither as a celebration nor as a debunking exercise, but as a critical inquiry. The commons certainly is not lacking in those who hype the cause, nor in vehement detractors. For the Invisible Committee, an example, ‘commonism’ is identified with Ostromite liberal managerialism:

Governing the Commons is the title of the recent bestseller by Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009, who has defined eight principles for ‘managing the commons.’ Understanding there is a place for them in an ‘administration of the commons’ that remains to be invented, [Antonio] Negri and associates have embraced this theory, which is perfectly liberal at its core…

…[They] are inclined to make the ‘commons’ into the latest metaphysical principle to come out of the West’s magical hat. An arche, they say, in the sense of that which ‘organizes, commands, and rules all political activity,’ a new ‘beginning’ that will give birth to new institutions and a new world government.1

And is the excitement in some art world circles (however marginal they may be) for forms of commoning, or at least the rhetoric of commoning, not deeply suspicious? In her essay for Commonist Aesthetics, Marina Vishmidt suggested that a ‘structural and ideological affinity already holds between “commonist” politics and the field of art practices’; both, she argues, ‘are committed to change in the here and now through the means available, often interstices and spare capacities, “making do” as in the “sharing economy.”’ Making changes in the here and now sounds good when the alternative is waiting for a phantasmagorical revolution. But is the exclusive privileging of ‘making do’ under current conditions not equally problematical – especially if connected to the hope that enough cute grass-rootsy commonizing activity will attain such critical mass that capitalism will, after all, disappear or morph beyond recognition? Vishmidt states in the aforementioned text: ‘The centrality of J.K. Gibson-Graham’s The End of Capitalism (As We Knew It) (1996) and A Postcapitalist Politics (2006) to several of a number of cultural scenes of inquiry into “the commons” would seem to point to the voluntaristic roots of this attitude as they cut across art and politics, present and past, performance and mobilisation.’

Nonetheless, we would not have pursued Commonist Aesthetics if we agreed that commons discourse is completely bankrupt and utterly irredeemable. In a passage recently evoked by Katharine Gibson during a lecture at Casco, Massimo de Angelis acknowledges that commoning is often instrumentalized not in order ‘to provide alternatives to capital, but to make a particular node of capital – a region or a city – more competitive, while somehow addressing the problems of reproduction at the same time.’ However, he maintains that ‘in spite of capital’s strategies to use a commons fix to the problems it creates while never really solving them, commons may well be part of a different historical development.’2

This ‘may well be’ continues to hover over the debate, a debate that we wish to develop and intensify with this ‘virtual roundtable’ titled Common Conflict, mirrored by a public forum at Casco on 12 March. Later this year, the whole Commonist Aesthetics project will be rounded off by a book publication.

For Common Conflict, we have confronted a number of authors with a series of questions, some or many of which may be leading questions. The authors were free to pick and choose, or ignore, as they saw fit; to rephrase and reroute a line of questioning; and to examine their own as well as others’ practices and theoretical presuppositions.

Is the notion of the commons subject to an ontological essentialization? Is dehistoricization tantamount to depoliticization?

The resurgence of the commons is clearly linked to the decline of the public sector, at least in Europe. Is commonism tacitly complicit with the ever further dismantling of the state and the public? Does the state need to be reclaimed?

Does the commonist discourse have a potential depoliticizing effect, being compatible with hazy visions of the ‘sharing economy’ and an Ostrom-style governance? What are the consequences of the division between ‘Ostromites’ interested in governing the commons and autonomists eager to prefigure a coming insurrection or a coming community?

How does, or should, commonist self-organization around specific issues relate to more general antagonisms and struggles? Is commonism in need of a wider autonomist horizon and bona-fide leftist strategy – or are ‘actually existing’ commonist tactics, however compromised, a daily reminder of the bankruptcy of more fundamental, more rigorous, more dialectically canny leftist positions?

What is the relation between theories of the commons / commoning and specific practices? Does the theory lag behind the most cogent practices? Is it often a substitute for actual commoning practices at specific sites for struggles? Can problematic, partial or blocked attempts at commoning be as valid as seemingly successful and exemplary endeavours?

Is the commons’ rhetorical success in parts of the art world indicative of an aestheticization of the social – with aestheticization here being used in its negative Benjaminian sense? Does the all too familiar critique of art institutions need to be followed by an active commoning of institutions? How to proceed with this?

Does the art world focus overly on low-tech forms of commons and commoning, unduly neglecting the digital commons? How can and should online and offline impact each other?

Do we see the beginnings of a commonist aesthetic practice in a more fundamental sense, involving forms of sensuous activity that challenge and go beyond established notions of art and existing institutional forms? Does aesthetic practice allow us to refocus all of the above questions?

Commonist Aesthetics

With Commonist Aesthetics, the editorial team Binna Choi (Casco), Sven Lütticken, Jorinde Seijdel (Open!)  introduces “the idea of commonism” – not communism – as a topic that various writers and artists will explore and expand upon in the course of this series. Commonist aesthetics pertain to the world of the senses, or a “residually common world” that is continuously subject to new divisions, new appropriations, and attempts at reclamation and re-imagining.

Binna Choi is since 2008 director of Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht, the Netherlands, where she developed a multi-year trans-disciplinary and collaborative research project The Grand Domestic Revolution (2009 – 2014, with Maiko Tanaka) and the program Composing the Commons (2013–2015 / 2016). In this context, she’s part of the faculty of the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem and Arts Collaboratory, trans-local “network” of over 25 art organizations that deal with social and political matters mainly in the so-called “global south” but beyond. She is also the curator for the 11th edition of Gwangju Biennale (2016).

Last publication date: 2016-02-05.
Commonist Aesthetics

This report from the two-day event Revolution at Point Zero organised by Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in 2013 and lead by activist and philosopher Silvia Federici, provides a premise for thinking commons today, pushing off from the domestic sphere and into the realm of political struggle. Contributors included professor Tine De Moor, collective ASK! (Actie Schonen Kunsten) and trade union FNV Bondgenoten among many others who attempted to source collective practices we might envision as commons.

Silvia Federici (1942, based in New York) is a teacher, activist, writer and co-founder of the International Feminist Collective, which initiated the International Wages for Housework campaign in the 1970s. She has authored many essays on political philosophy, feminist theory, cultural studies and education. Federici is Emerita Professor of Political Philosophy and International Studies at Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York. Her published works include: Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (2012); Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (2004); A Thousand Flowers: Social Struggles Against Structural Adjustment in African Universities (co-editor) (2000); and Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of Western Civilization and its “Others” (editor) (1995).

Last publication date: 2014-04-18.
Commonist Aesthetics

This report from the two-day event Revolution at Point Zero organised by Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in 2013 and lead by activist and philosopher Silvia Federici, provides a premise for thinking commons today, pushing off from the domestic sphere and into the realm of political struggle. Contributors included professor Tine De Moor, collective ASK! (Actie Schonen Kunsten) and trade union FNV Bondgenoten among many others who attempted to source collective practices we might envision as commons.

Tine De Moor (1975, based in Utrecht) is Professor of Institutions for Collective Action in Historical Perspective at the department for social and economic history of Utrecht University. She is (co-)founder of International Journal of the Commons and has been a member of the executive council of the International Association for the Study of the Commons since 2008. De Moor is a member of both the Young Academy of Europe and the Young Academy of The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Information about her research can be found at www.collective-action.info.

Last publication date: 2014-04-18.
General

The Artist Organisations International conference, organised by Florian Malzacher, Jonas Staal and Joanna Warsza, took place in Berlin’s HAU theatre from 9 to 11 January 2015. The organisers emphasised how it seems that more and more activist artists are creating organisational structures that increase the effectiveness of their artistic actions and productions, which also makes it possible for them to exert an influence on the ethical standards of the contexts in which they work.

Anke Coumans is professor of the research group Image in Context at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen. This research group is part of the Research Centre Art & Society. The different ways in which artists can bring about change in society is the key subject of study in this centre. Research is taking place on the following topics: the political role of the artist in society, photography as research, interculturality and the designer as agent of change in social contexts. Anke Coumans was educated as a film theoretician in Nijmegen and Paris and obtained her PhD in semiotics and the public image. In addition to her work for Hanze University Anke Coumans works at HKU in Utrecht. Together with Ingrid Schufelers she works as a social ecological designer on the project Membranen. In this project students, teachers and partners work together in a dynamic environment in which the redefining of social relations creates a playground which makes room for new perspectives, insights and possibilities for real innovation.

Last publication date: 2015-06-09.
General

The Artist Organisations International conference, organised by Florian Malzacher, Jonas Staal and Joanna Warsza, took place in Berlin’s HAU theatre from 9 to 11 January 2015. The organisers emphasised how it seems that more and more activist artists are creating organisational structures that increase the effectiveness of their artistic actions and productions, which also makes it possible for them to exert an influence on the ethical standards of the contexts in which they work.

Bibi Straatman is lecturer cultural studies en (design) research methodologies at the ArtEZ Fashion Masters Arnhem and at the Utrecht School of the Arts, and postdoc Researcher for the Reserch Group ‘Image in Context’, Minerva, Groningen, about the (‘political’) role of practice driven artistic research & design projects in the public domain. Her PhD, Palimpsest. Slow thinking, on actorship and revolution, is about re-founding our notions of science and scientific research, by deconstructing oppositional pairs such as science & art, theory & practice, discursive, hermeneutic analysis & experience, mind & body. Main thesis: science, art and design are means to produce and support change and to acquire actorship. Science, art and design are tools for transformation and / or for transformational thinking.

Last publication date: 2015-06-09.
Common Knowledge

“Academia on Sale”1 includes addressing managerialism, the decline of autonomy and the deterioration of the organisational climate, as well as how to maintain commitment and engagement, love for teaching, and how to revive our enthusiasm, maintain solidarity among the disciplines, and strive for a socially and academically sustainable context in universities. Performance pressure is high; many of us suffer from the stress of overwork and, at the same time, we “can’t get no satisfaction”.

Ida Sabelis is Associate Professor and Program Director for the Master (MSc) Culture, Organization and Management (organizational anthropology) at VU University, Amsterdam, Faculty of Social Sciences. Her research entails diversity and gender studies; time/s and sustainability in organizations; and a focus on critical-creative methods. Her publications include "Frayed Careers: exploring rhythms of working lives", Gender, Work and Organization 20 (2013) with Elisabeth Schilling; "Juggling difference and sameness: Rethinking strategies for diversity in organizations", Scandinavian Journal of Management, 29 (2013) with Halleh Ghorashi, Making Time (2002) with Barbara Adam and Richard Whipp, and Wider das Diktat der Uhr (ed. with Karl Heinz Geissler and Klaus Kümmerer , 2006, Hirzel Verlag). She is joint Editor-in-Chief for the journal Gender, Work and Organization; editorial board member of Time & Society (Sage); and member of the German ‘Zeitakademie’ (time and sustainability) in Tutzing, Bavaria. She has been involved with the Veronruste VU-ers from the start – and has, among other things, chaired debates and hearings about current ‘neoliberal’ developments at VU University. Currently she works on a book ‘The End of University’ (working title) with Leonidas Donskis, Frans Kamsteeg, Stefano Bianchini, and Harry Wels.

Last publication date: 2015-06-14.
did you feel it?

Hu Wei's image essay is part of the Open! Co-Op Academy research theme “did you feel it?” It focuses on the production, distribution and perception of selfies related to Hong Kong Occupy Central. Wei here attempts to understand the role of affect in the functioning of these images: How can protest selfies also be “entertaining” and vice versa?

Hu Wei (1989, Dalian, China) is an artist doing a MFA program at Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem. He holds a BA Degree in Painting from Central Academy of Fine Art (2008 – 2012). Since 2013, he has been working as a programmer at an independent art space named Institute for Provocation. Currently he is based between Beijing and Amsterdam. Hu works with multi-media including video, installation and micro-performance. His work has been exhibited in Amsterdam, Berlin, Tijuana, Beijing, Shenzhen.

Last publication date: 2015-08-30.
did you feel it?

This short video by Charlie Dance is a playful performance that reflects on our insatiable desire for spectacular images. What if suddenly there were no images? This work is part of the Open! Co-Op Academy project “did you feel it?”, which focuses on affect, public images and digital technology.

Charlie Dance (1986, UK) is a visual artist and writer living and working in Warsaw, Poland. He graduated from his BA from Glasgow School of Art in 2010 and his Masters of Fine Arts from the Dutch Art Institute in July 2015. His practice revolves around the status of art, artists and the role of the image and truth. His recent projects include a video work, The Difficulty of Thinking About Things in a Straight Line, and the thesis A Bird In the Hand… for more: www.cargocollective.com.

Last publication date: 2015-08-30.
Common Knowledge

The contemporary neoliberal university is often compared to a factory. In this essay, Roel Griffioen and Jesse van Winden explore the practical and symbolic value of this metaphor, using the recent protests at VU University in Amsterdam as a case study. Is the relation between the two institutions – university and factory – more than just proverbial?

Jesse van Winden holds a research degree in Visual Arts, Media & Architecture (cum laude) from VU University Amsterdam. His dissertation ‘Destabilising Critique: Personae in between self and enactment’ (2014) offers a historically founded theoretical framework of persona and a method to analyse persona performance, and was received with high esteem. He is chief editor of Kunstlicht, a peer-reviewed journal for visual arts, visual culture, and architecture. He presented his research on persona at ‘Facing the Unknown: Anonymity in the History of Art’ (Case Western Reserve University / Cleveland Museum of Art, 2014) and ‘Otherness and Transgression in Celebrity & Fan Cultures’ (Cultural Transformations Research Group, Aarhus University, 2014). For Kunstlicht, Van Winden prepares a journal issue (working title: Persona) expected Summer 2015.

Last publication date: 2015-08-05.
did you feel it?

You are about to begin paging through a visual essay, A sketchbook is blown onto the floor. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other image. Let the world around you fade away. Best switch off the notifications on your phone, they are always vibrating and interrupting you. Find the most comfortable position with your device: seated, stretched out, curled up or lying flat. You were browsing the Open! site and then while scrolling around you noticed A sketchbook is blown onto the floor and you found the author’s name somewhat intriguing and completely unknown. You tapped and arrived here. Good for you.

Eduardo Cachucho is an artist based between Brussels and Johannesburg, with an MFA from the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) in 2015. He lectures Digital Representation at the University of Johannesburg and continues various longterm research projects into national and trans-national infrastructural developments and their long lasting effects.

Last publication date: 2015-09-01.
Between and Beyond

Indigenous scholarship in the Americas offers an alternative to the dualistic focus of Western science in embracing a wider and more animated body of relations. Sebastian De Line brings this line of investigation into contact with Karen Barad’s thoughts on wave diffraction and the unpredictability of matter, pulling from the contingent relationships that form during the classic double-slit experiment. The unravelling of these takes on science, stemming in the first case from spirit and in the second from controlled experiment, unearths a platform to address our web of relations that does not dispose of past models but rather integrates them. ‘All My / Our Relations’ is part of the Open! COOP Academy series Between and Beyond.

did you feel it?

Sebastian De Line reflects on how affect appeared to spread across a large demographic following the events of Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 that started with two gunmen forcing their way into the Paris headquarters of the magazine and opening fire. In order to rethink subjectivity and difference, he questions the image documentation and exposure surrounding this event and prompts us to ask what happens when the image is cut or edited. This essay is part of Open! Co-Op Academy ‘did you feel it?’.

Sebastian De Line is a Chinese-Métis artist, born in Canada and residing in the Netherlands. His scholarly interests include indigenous philosophy, sovereignty, new materialism, and queer and feminist theory.

Last publication date: 2016-07-07.
did you feel it?

This video, image and text work by Kastė Šeškevičiūtė explores the visual appearance of two historical sites in Lithuania and Iran, respectively. Meanwhile, the accompanying poem attempts to make a speculative inquiry into their agency as the embodied affects of public memory. ‘Take a Leap into a Memory Hole’ is part of the Open! Co-Op Academy project ‘did you feel it?’

Kastė Šeškevičiūtė (1989, Lithuania) is a visual artist, performer and researcher based in the Netherlands. She holds a Bachelors degree of Painting from Vilnius Academy of Arts (2012) and a MFA from the Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem (2015). 

Last publication date: 2015-11-04.
did you feel it?

This essay (part of the Open! Co-Op Academy project “did you feel it?”) is concerned with how affective forces move through our technological encounters and how technology itself can alter these, as well as their perception within our brain. It’s not so much about the exchanges between one another, as about the situations where other, non-human, intelligences come into the fray. How and where do these intelligences manifest and what psychology do they bring about? In the latter part of the essay, I’ll compare some examples with existing theories of affective labour in order to give us an idea of what could come of these forces in the future. Affective labour has become central to consumer capitalism, seen in the prevalence of roles like the call centre worker, and so related theories can show how capital already functions affectively.

Ben Burtenshaw graduated from the Dutch Art Institute in 2015. His work as an artist is interested in how art can mediate a perceived technological divide. In other words, how the ‘truths’ of science are understood and utilised culturally.

Last publication date: 2015-09-02.
did you feel it?

Delusional Cause is an ongoing artistic project within the theoretical framework of Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s critique of epistemology. This video is an interruption in a cumulative and reiterative study which aims to work toward a method or model to adequately visualize capital. Delusional Cause is part of ‘did you feel it?’ Open! Co-Op Academy.

Monique Hendriksen (1982, NL) graduated from the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) in 2015. She has a background in economics. Her artistic practice is informed by the desire to radicalize the space of art through her outspoken appropriation of visual systems in mix with abstract configurations. Her practice bridges multiple mediums including lecture performance, video essay, sound and PowerPoint animation. Art is at stake for her as a possibility to discuss the entangled relations between art, theory, politics and economics in relation to living conditions. She critically considers the complex nature of our digital condition as well as the neoliberal condition through her personal engagement with it.

Last publication date: 2015-09-14.
Between and Beyond

As the focus in some aspects of contemporary art turns increasingly to the cognitive arena, artists adopt neuroscientific research to explore larger issues, political or otherwise. This text introduces the work of Thomas Metzinger, who developed a phenomenological model for how we experience consciousness, in tandem with that of Wilfrid Sellars, who stresses the importance of past experience in that process. The author makes a claim for interpreting certain works of art through a combination of these two approaches to create a possible map for understanding art concerned with how we construct realities. ‘Art and Neuro-philosophy’ is part of the Open! COOP Academy series Between and Beyond.

did you feel it?

Miguel Ángel Rego Robles’ essay demonstrates how Madrid’s public space, the Puerta del Sol, has over the past two centuries been transformed from a “passive body as a spectator” to a paradigm and receptacle of social emotion. This image-essay is part of the Open! Co-Op Academy project “did you feel it?”.

Miguel Ángel Rego Robles is an artist and researcher who lives in both Spain and the Netherlands. He studied Computer Science and Fine Arts at Complutense University in Madrid and is currently working on his Master of Arts degree at the Dutch Art Institute in Arnhem, the Netherlands. He was awarded a pre-PhD scholarship with which he works at the CSIC (Spain) and is a member of the editorial and artistic collective Brumaria. He has exhibited his projects and lectured in both national and international contexts.

Last publication date: 2016-07-07.
Culture of Control

In From Biopolitics to Mindpolitics Marc Schuilenburg and Rik Peeters explore how ‘nudging’ as a technique to alter people’s behaviour works in social fields and how it is embedded in our environment. They ask what nudging means in terms of Foucault’s analysis of biopolitics. This essay is part of Culture of Control, a collaboration with Stroom Den Haag.

Rik Peeters is a researcher at the Tilburg School of Politics and Public Administration (Tilburg University). In The Preventive Gaze (2013) and other works he analyses the consequences of preventative policies for the role of government in contemporary society.

Last publication date: 2015-10-10.
Culture of Control

Clare Birchall attempts to set up an ‘aesthetics of the secret’ against the background of the revelations of  Edward Snowden. She discusses secrets as subject to and the subject of radical politics rather than regulation and looks at the secret not only as it figures in current affairs but also in artworks by Trevor Paglen and Jill Magid. Aesthetics of the Secret is part of Culture of Control, a collaboration with Stroom Den Haag.

Clare Birchall is a Senior Lecturer at King’s College London. She is the author of Knowledge Goes Pop: From Conspiracy Theory to Gossip (Berg, 2006) and co-editor of New Cultural Studies: Adventures in Theory (Edinburgh University Press, 2007). She has also edited special issues of the journals Theory, Culture and Society and Cultural Studies. Her most recent research is concerned with the relationship between secrecy and transparency in the digital age and she is part of an ESRC grant to fund a series of research seminars on such issues entitled “DATA – PSST! Debating and Assessing Transparency Arrangements – Privacy, Security, Surveillance, Trust.” Alongside more traditional scholarship, Birchall is involved with a number of digital projects. She is one of the editors for the online journal Culture Machine; an editorial board member and series co-editor for the Open Humanities Press; and part of the team behind the JISC-funded Living Books About Life series.

Last publication date: 2015-10-09.
did you feel it?

In this image essay Amir Avraham questions what we really see of events in the images spread by the media. The closer we get to reality, the less there is to see, he asserts. The affect of news pictures is not primarily created by their subject matter, but by their graphic framing. In ‘The Closer We Get the Less There Is to See’ the affect generated via multilayered mediation is suspended in order to create a different viewing experience. This essay is part of the Open! Co-Op Academy project ‘did you feel it?’.

Amir Avraham is a graphic designer working and living in the Netherlands. After studying Graphic Design in Jerusalem and Zürich and working as a graphic designer in the cultural field in Tel Aviv, he recently finished his MA at the Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem, the Netherlands. Since the inception of his practice, his work has been focusing on printed matter, site specific projects and new forms of digital publishing, their methodology, image and social effect.

Last publication date: 2015-11-08.
Culture of Control

Michael Seemann argues that there are a lot of ways that governments and nation-states can lose control. First, they lose control over their data. This is neither a particularly new thing nor unique to the nation-state. The loss of control over one’s data is an issue that affects everyone. But there is also another way that the nation-state loses control, Seemann asserts. The world is currently undergoing a transition that is driven by that first level of Kontrollverlust, which transfers much of the power and control from the nation-state to new players: the platforms. This essay belongs to Culture of Control, a collaboration with Stroom Den Haag.

Michael Seemann studied cultural science in Lüneburg, Germany. In 2010 he started ctrl-verlust.net – a blog about theorie of losing control over data in the internet. It started as a blog project of the the German Newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and was later run individually. In 2014 the latter topic was turned into a book: Das Neue Spiel – Strategien für die Welt nach dem digitalen Kontrollverlust. It was also partly translated into an English version with the title: Digital Tailspin – 10 Rules for the Internet after Snowden. Michael Seemann lives and writes in Berlin. He occasionally writes articles for several German magazines, newspapers and online news sites and also works as a lecturer, keynote speaker and consultant.

Last publication date: 2015-10-11.
Commonist Aesthetics

Canadian writer and artist Marc James Léger asserts that today’s socially engaged art is mainly a socially enraged art. He reflects on a current meeting of Artist Organisations International (AOI) to ask what cultural revolution and avant-garde art might mean today. This essay is part of the research theme Commonist Aesthetics.

Marc James Léger is an independent scholar living in Montreal. He is editor of The Idea of the Avant Garde – And What It Means Today (2014) and Culture and Contestation in the New Century (2011). He is author of Drive in Cinema: Essays on Film, Theory and Politics (2015), The Neoliberal Undead (2013) as well as Brave New Avant Garde (2012).

Last publication date: 2015-10-27.
Culture of Control

The art project One and Another State of Yellow (2013–2016) studies the interplay between architecture and urban planning, ideologies and psychological warfare around two landscapes of ‘war’ in the US: 1) the urban military experiment El Paso-Juárez at the United States-Mexico border; and 2) Washington, DC as the US war and control apparatus. El Paso is an American city that borders directly on Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. In 2010 Juárez was listed as the deadliest city in the world. At the same time El Paso was listed as the safest city in the US. Washington DC can be seen as the big overall political ‘constructor’ and ‘producer’ of the landscape of war. The work questions the ways in which architecture and urban planning are strategically employed – as psychological warfare strategies, that is, propaganda, military deception, perception management – to threaten or stimulate fear, or even to deceive an audience or enemy. One and Another State of Yellow consists of a photographic installation of the Mount Cristo Rey foothills in El Paso, and a cartographic work of greater Washington DC that takes up an entire wall.

For this digital version the carthography is accompanied by the text work From the Monument, a script for voice over. The text is based on a collection of literature, newspaper and magazine articles, from amongst others LIFE, TIME and Collier’s, and descriptions of urban plans and systems. Written from an urban planning perspective on the one hand (narrator I) and from a strategic planning perspective on the other hand (narrator II), it brings together various urban plans and systems based on urban planning ideologies as well as hidden military agendas. The two perspectives almost overlap, but the differences between narrator I and narrator II (both clickable) are subtle and significant. 

Elian Somers (Sprang-Capelle, 1975) lives and works in Rotterdam. She completed her Master in Architecture at the Delft University of Technology and her Master in Photography at AKV St. Joost in Breda. In her long-term projects she questions the utopian urban landscape and the ways its ideological foundations and (virtual) histories are manifested and interpreted. Her works have been shown at various exhibitions, amongst others Border Theories (solo) at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (2013), Between the Map and the Territory at TENT, Rotterdam (2012) and Learning from… Rotterdam at Kunsthalle Wilhelmshaven (2012). In 2013 the book Border Theories was launched.

Last publication date: 2016-02-13.
Common Conflict

Érik Bordeleau slightly shifts the ground for the Common Conflict virtual roundtable. Seeing as the main challenge is how to envisage and feel our being-in-common, he argues that the commonist question par excellence is whether or not to abstract the commons: Does the -ism in communism or commonism elevate the commons to a higher and more enduring power, or does this universalization of particular instances of commoning hinder their capacity to affect?

Commonist Aesthetics

Erik Bordeleau characterizes the political collective the Invisible Committee as a revolutionary and literary force entangled within a complex field of power relations. He asserts that the collective configures a politics of enunciation that oscillates between anonymity and extreme personalization. This essay is part of the research theme Commonist Aesthetics.

Érik Bordeleau is researcher at the SenseLab (Concordia University, Montreal). He is the author of Foucault anonymat (Le Quartanier, 2012, Spirale Eva-Legrand 2013 award) and of Comment sauver le commun du communisme? (Le Quartanier, 2014). He is interested in the current speculative turn in contemporary continental thought and has recently published ‘Bruno Latour and the Miraculous Present of Enunciation’ in the book Breaking the Spell: Contemporary Realism Under Discussion (Anna Longo and Sarah de Sanctis (eds.), Mimesis, 2015).

Last publication date: 2016-02-01.
Art Discourse

Ruth Noack is a German art historian and curator. In 2007, she held the post of curator of documenta 12 in Kassel, while Roger M. Buergel served as artistic director. As the two state in the preface to the exhibition, it ‘was organised around three leitmotifs: modernity’s fate and legacy, the biopolitical turn and aesthetic education as a possible alternative to both commodity fetishism, and the complacency of critical studies.’1 Based on the presumption that exhibition is a medium, Noack and Buergel defined, as the organizing principle of documenta 12, the migration of form. Regarding the multiple and diverse modernisms, Noack develops a political interpretation of formalism, as she puts it, politicizing the line. Analyzing the works of Lygia Clark, Sheela Gowda, Eva Hesse, Trisha Brown, Chantal Akerman and others, Noack writes: ‘Each line is born of history and pain,’ not being able to be considered as a neutral abstraction.

In 2014, Noack was Visiting Professor of the sixth edition of the Gwangju Biennale International Curator Course (GBICC), leading the program on the dynamics of thinking through art. The interview below by curators Manoel Silvestre Friques and Renan Laru-an was held on the occasion of this course, on 5 September 2014, and continued through e-mail until June 2015.

Manoel Silvestre Friques (1982, Rio de Janeiro) is an Assistant Professor at School of Engineering at UNIRIO, Brazil. He is a PhD candidate in the History of Art programme at the Department of Social Cultural History (PUC-Rio). He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, New York. For the past decade, he has been involved in various Brazilian cultural projects either as curator or as dramaturge.

Last publication date: 2015-12-03.
General

Early this year, the first volume of the multimedia project The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia, a platform for ongoing research, a matrix for generating future projects and an oracular montage machine was launched at the Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong. Compiled and conceptualized by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen in collaboration with Sebastian Lütgert and Jan Gerber, Yasuhiro Morinaga and Bani Haykal, it gathers ‘narratives of shape-shifting and amorphous characters, ideas, and genres’1 and for the past few years, it has worked as a finite resource and a node for continuation of Tzu Nyen’s artistic projects. The dictionary is divided into twenty-six terms – some of them annotated, for instance, in the case of G for ghost, ghostwriter, gene z. hanrahan. The perpetual sense of inscription, of perennial inflection and contamination in a server containing some 5,000 online video clips and 300 feature films on and about Southeast Asia brings the reader into an interface of displacement despite the abundance of signs.

Art Discourse

Ruth Noack is a German art historian and curator. In 2007, she held the post of curator of documenta 12 in Kassel, while Roger M. Buergel served as artistic director. As the two state in the preface to the exhibition, it ‘was organised around three leitmotifs: modernity’s fate and legacy, the biopolitical turn and aesthetic education as a possible alternative to both commodity fetishism, and the complacency of critical studies.’1 Based on the presumption that exhibition is a medium, Noack and Buergel defined, as the organizing principle of documenta 12, the migration of form. Regarding the multiple and diverse modernisms, Noack develops a political interpretation of formalism, as she puts it, politicizing the line. Analyzing the works of Lygia Clark, Sheela Gowda, Eva Hesse, Trisha Brown, Chantal Akerman and others, Noack writes: ‘Each line is born of history and pain,’ not being able to be considered as a neutral abstraction.

In 2014, Noack was Visiting Professor of the sixth edition of the Gwangju Biennale International Curator Course (GBICC), leading the program on the dynamics of thinking through art. The interview below by curators Manoel Silvestre Friques and Renan Laru-an was held on the occasion of this course, on 5 September 2014, and continued through e-mail until June 2015.

Renan Laru-an (born Sultan Kudarat) is a researcher, a curator and the founding director of Philippines-based DiscLab – Research and Criticism. He is jointly curating the 8th On Demasculinization Indonesia Media Arts Festival, Jakarta (with Julia Sarisetiati, 2017), and is a member of the founding team of the new public institution the Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN) temporarily housed at the Vargas Museum, where he leads and designs the research programme Public Engagement and Artistic Formation. He has initiated research as curator-in-residence at Hangar, Barcelona (2016) and the Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2016). In 2017, he received the Curatorial Development Award from Forecast in cooperation with Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin to produce new performances of four artists from Indonesia, the Philippines, Spain and Iran for his project The Artist and the Social Dreamer with Hou Hanru.

Last publication date: 2017-06-16.
General

Gerald Raunig, Dividuum: Machinic Capitalism and Molecular Revolution, Vol. 1, translated by Aileen Derieg, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, 2016, ISBN: 9781584351801, 208 pages

Stephanie Danner (1987, Austria) is a writer, theorist and artist living and working in Switzerland.

Last publication date: 2015-12-03.
Open! Academy

Within Open! Academy Open! occassionally publishes research, essays and reports that came into being within educational contexts. This text by artist k.g. Guttman is an individual writing project she produced as a PhD candidate at PhDArts Leiden University / KABK Den Haag that offers a doctorate in art and design.

The article examines the theoretical notions underlying the installation / performance Fear of losing the details (2014), a site-specific project that took place in the artist’s childhood home in North York, Canada (January–March 2014). The home is located on land colonized by the British Crown (now the Canadian government) administered by a disreputable treaty between the British Crown and the First Nation, the Mississaugas of Credit River in 1787. The article takes up, through the prism of historical research and practice-based choreography and performance, how site-specific work initiates the production of new critical and creative counter-movements within the infrastructure of colonial spatiality, referencing de Certeau’s notion of ‘practiced place’: ‘Space occurs as the effect produced by the operations that orient it, situate it, temporalize it…’1

k.g. Guttman (Canada) is an artist and research candidate in the PhDArts program of Leiden University and the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague, the Netherlands. Her work, funded through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), considers post-colonial discourse, choreographic practice, and site-specific interventions.

Last publication date: 2016-01-13.
Open! Academy

Within Open! Academy, Open! occassionally publishes research, essays and reports that came into being within educational contexts. This text by artist Yota Ioannidou is an individual writing project she produced as a PhD candidate at PhDArts Leiden University / KABK Den Haag that offers a doctorate in art and design.

The project The Storyteller, The Knife and The ‘Machine’, created for the Athens Biennale in 2013, serves here to introduce the research topic. It is a form of ‘research-based art,’ which denotes artworks whose research process – in situ, visits to archives, discursive conversations, research material, etc. – includes images, texts, interviews, documents, records and other forms of data, constituting dominant elements in the shaping and presentation of the artwork itself. The research process and material thereby become the artwork – either in the form of a performance, an event, an installation or a publication.1

Yota Ioannidou (Athens) graduated with a BA from the Athens School of Fine Arts and a MFA from the Dutch Art Institute (Arnhem). In her projects Ioannidou creates and revises archives, following a process of research (visits in archives and in situ research), collection (texts, images, data, maps, films), recordings of interviews or discussions. The formulation of the research material combines performance as storytelling and formation of reading and performing groups on the research subject. Ioannidou's projects investigate issues related to social struggles and act to question and cross-examine phenomena triggered and maintained by various hierarchical structures for political, cultural or social reasons. Recent projects include Good Morning Mr. Mesmer, 2015–present, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna; The Storyteller, The Knife and The ‘Machine’, 2013, 4th Athens Biennale; Voice_Over, 2012; Aula Intergalactica (with Teresa Maria Diaz Nerio), 2011, Word of Mouth curated by Kernel for the 3rd Athens Biennale; and On the hill one happens to be sitting on – A tribute to failure, 2011–2013, various locations.

Last publication date: 2016-01-13.
Common Conflict

In this response to the Common Conflict questionnaire, architect and theorist Stavros Stavrides contextualizes the popularity of commons discourse on an ongoing redefinition of ‘the public.’ He states that commoning practices, insofar as they are informed by concrete social experiences and embedded in specific historic conditions, can provide valuable tools for post- or anti-capitalist struggle. Stressing the importance to the commons of openness to ‘newcomers,’ he claims that art should be re-appropriated as a crucial field of commoning.

Stavros Stavrides, architect and activist, is associate professor at the School of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens Greece, where he teaches graduate courses on housing design (including social housing), as well as a postgraduate course on the meaning of metropolitan experience. He has published numerous articles on spatial theory. His books include: The Symbolic Relation to Space (1990), Advertising and the Meaning of Space (1996), The Texture of Things (with E. Cotsou, 1996), From the City-Screen to the City-Stage (2002, National Book Award), Suspended Spaces of Alterity (2010), Towards the City of Thresholds (in English, 2010, forthcoming in Spanish and Turkish) and Common Space (in English, forthcoming). His research is currently focused on forms of emancipating spatial practices and spaces of commoning.

Last publication date: 2016-02-01.
did you feel it?

This is about the moment you realize that a single tear has formed and is cascading down your cheek. This isn’t about the act of crying or the emotions associated with tears. This is about the single tear, :’( . This isn’t about the other tears, the ones that come after the :’( has been shed. This is about the image of a :’( , the moment that forms that image, and its subsequent abstractions and permutations in popular culture. This isn’t about feeling but rather the realization of feeling a feeling. This is about the baggage attached to an image and what is potentially transferred when this image is viewed. This isn’t about what is felt but rather that it is felt. This is asking whether ubiquitously understood images can mean something anymore. This essay is part of the Open! COOP Academy series 'did you feel it?'

Jammie Nicholas (1987, UK) is an artist, occasional curator and occasional writer. He is currently studying at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI, MFA ArtEZ, Arnhem) and likes the nuances of things.

Last publication date: 2016-04-02.
Common Conflict

In this contribution to the Common Conflict virtual roundtable, Rick Dolphijn emphasizes that the commons is not a humanist concept but much more a materialist concept. He argues that the commons depends upon the creation of new assemblages: it is the accidental process of realizing a mental, a social and an environmental whole that marks the commons. 

Rick Dolphijn is a writer and philosopher teaching in the Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University. He is interested in continental philosophy, art, technology and contemporary activism. He published in journals like Collapse, Deleuze Studies and Continental Philosophy Review. His books include This Deleuzian Century: Art, Activism, Life (edited with Rosi Braidotti) (2015) and New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies (edited with Iris van der Tuin) (2012). Currently, Dolphijn is finishing a new monograph entitled Surfaces: How Philosophy and Art Matter.

Last publication date: 2016-03-04.
Common Conflict

In their contribution to the virtual roundtable Common Conflict Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen of the arts and spatial practice STEALTH.unlimited say that in order to achieve some form of social and economic endurance, we have to establish solidary structures and forms of organization that emerge from within our own networks. With that, the commons is becoming a way to work and live, rather than a subject of work or research. The commons thus shifts from an external, to an internalized subject – it becomes a verb.

Ana Džokić and Marc Neelen work together as STEALTH.unlimited (Belgrade / Rotterdam). Initially trained as architects, for over fifteen years their work is equally based in the context of contemporary art, urban research and spatial activism. Džokić is a Practice-based Researcher at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm. Neelen is a Visiting Professor at the Sheffield School of Architecture. They are among the founders of Who Builds the City [Ko gradi grad] platform in Belgrade since 2010. In 2013, they co-initiated City in the Making [Stad in de maak] in Rotterdam.

Last publication date: 2016-03-09.
Culture of Control

This piece has been formulated in the context of the research project Disorderly Group Behavior in Public Space which started in 2014 in Amsterdam. The text and diagrams were presented at the closing event of Culture of Control on 13 December 2015 at Stroom Den Haag.1 Mob sexual attacks are handled here as one example of group behaviour that can get out of control at any time and at any place; It goes beyond any specific incident. Having said that, I would like to condemn the appropriation of such struggles for the sake of racist and political arguments.

Abla elBahrawy is an architect and researcher from Cairo. Her practice oscillates between architecture, archaeology and art. She recently graduated with an MFA from the School of Missing Studies at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam and is artist in residence at the Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht from 2016–2017.

Last publication date: 2016-04-13.
did you feel it?

The abstraction inherent to neoliberalism has us constantly shifting between the real and virtual. The self moves among multiple spheres, perhaps in search of shared universals and a future other than alienation. In this essay, part of the Open! COOP Academy series ‘did you feel it?,’ Aarti Sunder looks at how the self negotiates continuously changing boundaries and what potential lies in the relational field. 

Aarti Sunder is interested in ideas that create the subject: thought and the nature of being, territory, time, space, relationality and potential; how we relate to them; and how these ideas affect and make us. These forces of abstraction that create the individual become the form and the content of her practice through making or collecting or plotting. In 2015 she graduated from The Dutch Art Institute (DAI, MFA ArtEZ, Arnhem). 

Last publication date: 2016-05-06.
(No)Memory

The Missing Pieces, Henri Lefebvre, Semiotext(e), Los Angeles, translated by David L.&nbspSweet, ISBN: 9781584351597, 2014, 88 pages

Alena Alexandrova is an Associate Professor at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design and Lecturer at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Amsterdam. She obtained her doctoral degree from the University of Amsterdam. She has published internationally in the fields of aesthetics, performance and visual studies and works as an independent curator.

Last publication date: 2016-05-09.
Between and Beyond

This text and image work, part of the Open! COOP Academy series Between and Beyond, explores the violence of museum display particularly with respect to ethnography. Since the emergence of ethnography, cultural objects have been taken out of their immediate contexts and rearranged for the purpose of Western humanist study. While the arranger remains out of sight, objects are displaced into a taxonomy of otherness, appropriated by a single story that leaves them incomplete. In fact, the objects seem absent, rendered invisible by layers of interpretation and projection. ‘Temporarily Removed’ suggests that the objects removed from their original context could someday be returned; it also explores the space of objects around and beyond the museum. Reflecting on how the original contexts of these objects might resonate today, and how things-turned-artefacts relate to their current environment and need to be integrated into new networks of relations, might bring us closer to an inclusive posthumanist thinking.

Mirjam Linschooten is a visual artist working with installation, publication, collage and photography. Her work is concerned with tactics of representation and questions the way memory and history are constructed through various forms of collecting, interpreting and display. She has participated in several artists’ residency programmes and has exhibited in various countries including Canada, Egypt, France, Morocco, the Netherlands, Turkey and the United States. Mirjam completed her Bachelor of Graphic Design at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam and is currently enrolled in the MA Art Praxis programme at the Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem.

Last publication date: 2016-07-04.
Between and Beyond

The relationship between animate and inanimate species is becoming more elusive. When one finds the touch of the screen preferrable to that of a partner, it is time to consider the agency of the object. As we become each other, there is less to tell us apart. Can poetry be written by our devices? Can they reflect our beliefs, or even have their own?  ‘Silicon-companion Species’ is part of the Open! COOP Academy series Between and Beyond.

Malcolm Kratz: My occupation is unknown. Not that it is a secret – it is merely because I don’t really know what I am. What I do know is that our society is fucked in the way it’s organized now. We’re hoping for some techno-fixes for our climate, while what we actually do is look away and carry on with our lives. Children are the new seeds of our society that should be supported in their free development of understanding, rationally and emotionally, but also in their movements and ways of thinking. We need to build a platform for cooperation, common the school system and think together with our kids about our future, the future of this planet and a post-growth society!

Last publication date: 2016-07-07.
Between and Beyond

The Cloud, and those who live in it like 0001, can introduce us to algorithms that allow us to exist as a whole. This algorithmic process of becoming sees the whole as not merely the end but the means to it. In the Cloud, it is possible that we are always already whole, and that there we find our desires are not ours alone. ‘Cloud_0001’ is part of the Open! COOP Academy series Between and Beyond.

Giulia Crispiani is an Italian visual artist and writer based in Amsterdam. She received a BFA from the Ceramics Department at Gerrit Rietveld Academie, Amsterdam in 2015 and completed a degree in Industrial Design at the University Sapienza, Rome in 2009. From 2013–2014, she was part of the Art and Research Honours Programme (Rietveld Academie and University of Amsterdam). She is currently pursuing an MA in Art Praxis at the Dutch Art Institute, Arnhem. Crispiani’s practice shows a stable trajectory moving from a base in the visual and object to the textual.

Last publication date: 2016-07-10.
Between and Beyond

Maike Hemmers’s image essay is part of the Open! COOP Academy research theme Between and Beyond. In order to understand the boundaries between bodies as animate and inanimate beings, she attempts to question the notion of a body as a fixed condition. ‘I, They, Body, Space’ is me and them as bodies in space. What does a stone desire, when it’s falling? What does a dead rat want to talk about, when it places itself next to a rubber glove? And what is an I: Is it the body that reflects on itself or is it the body that disconnects?

Maike Hemmers is a German artist, living and working in Rotterdam. Her current research includes the conception of ordinary and imagined spaces, the boundaries between bodies and the notion of ‘nothing.’

Last publication date: 2016-07-18.
General

A conference held last year in Palestine reflected on the relevance of Walter Benjamin’s critical responses to oppression, in a place all too familiar with its reality. Here, Jack Segbars considers how and if critical theory now can avoid entrapment by the very target of its critique, and instead realize actual political change. As knowledge production becomes more entangled with artistic production, models – namely that of participatory panel discussions – must be reviewed for their capacity to enact the change they so desire.

Jack Segbars is an artist, curator and writer, engaged with the conditions and parameters that shape art production. Segbars explores the different forms and positions that shape the praxis of art: the artist, the role of language and discourse in art production and the role of the curator. He currently works as a PhD researcher at the University of Leiden. In 2009 the publication Rondom-All around the periphery (Onomatopee) was published, dealing with the overlap of positions and domains. In 2012 he produced the publication Inertia (Onomatopee). Segbars is one of the intiators of Platform Visual Arts (Netherlands), a platform researching the role of art in times of political change and austerity. Segbars regularly writes reviews and articles on art and art-related subjects for publications including Metropolis M.

Last publication date: 2016-09-07.
General

Precarity is both viewed as a result of lower living standards, and something that can give millenials an adaptive edge in today’s ‘libidinal’ economy. The rise of Post-Internet style in contemporary art takes up this positioning, laying a gloss over or even displacing criticality. The authors create a framework in which to read this transition, and offer that lines may need to be redrawn with respect to representation in contemporary art.

Anselm Franke is a curator and writer based in Berlin. He is Head of Visual Art and Film at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, where he co-curated The Anthropocene Project (2013–2014), and the exhibitions The Whole Earth; After Year Zero (both 2013), Forensis (2014), Ape Culture (2015) and Nervous Systems (2016), among others. In 2012, he curated the Taipei Biennial, and in 2014, the Shanghai Biennale. Franke’s exhibition project Animism has been presented in Antwerp, Bern, Vienna, Berlin, New York, Shenzhen, Seoul and Beirut in various collaborations from 2010 to 2014. Previously, Franke was curator at KW Berlin and director of Extra City Kunsthal Antwerpen. He completed his PhD at Goldsmiths College London.

Last publication date: 2016-09-08.
General

Precarity is both viewed as a result of lower living standards, and something that can give millenials an adaptive edge in today’s ‘libidinal’ economy. The rise of Post-Internet style in contemporary art takes up this positioning, laying a gloss over or even displacing criticality. The authors create a framework in which to read this transition, and offer that lines may need to be redrawn with respect to representation in contemporary art.

Ana Teixeira Pinto is a lecturer at UdK (Universität der Kunste) Berlin and her writings have appeared in publications such as e-flux journal, Art Agenda, Mousse, Frieze / de, Domus, Inaethetics, Manifesta Journal, or Texte zur Kunst. She is the editor of The Reluctant Narrator, published by Sternberg Press (2014) and more recently contributed to Alleys of Your Mind: Augmented Intelligence and its Traumas, edited by Matteo Pasquinelli and published by Meson Press (2015).

 

Last publication date: 2016-09-08.
Between and Beyond

Sometimes it is hard to believe that we’re living in the future that has already taken place. We go on speculating about the prospective forms of power, in which access to knowledge is equipped with information-, nano- and bio-technology along with cognitive science. What it seems we fail to recognize is that we already are a part of the new state: a political corporation that is not a mere extension in scale and scope of already existing precedents, but a completely novel form of government. While the new state might still be in the process of comprehending its own capacities, power-knowledge within it is already fully deployed via technology. Furthermore, knowledge and its dissemination are interweaved so radically it is no longer possible to distinguish between technological and power relations. In essence, the model is an upgraded version of body politic in which all members, human and non-human, are agents in a larger meta-body construction, an electronic as well as a biological body at once.

Zhenia Vasiliev comes from a varied background, initially trained as a journalist and later as an illustrator. Despite having spent a big part of his career working as a print designer for book publishers and magazines, his current interest lies in the sphere of digital media, a field in which he now works as an illustrator and information designer. His work focuses mainly on data visualization and infographics, and more theoretically, on human-machine interaction in a post-human world.

Last publication date: 2016-11-16.
T/A/S

The commercial housing projects that arise from gentrification in Jakarta are inseparable from the longstanding neighbourhoods and markets they displace, each defining the social landscape. Alessandra Renzi observes that in Jakarta this process of ‘modelling,’ in which disembodied data is used to control disenfranchised populations and further corporate development, is being turned on its head. Groups are engaging with this same data, but in the interest of creating ‘counter-models’ towards rezoning and sustainable housing solutions that still fit the larger plan.

Alessandra Renzi is a practitioner and theorist, exploring the linkages between media, art, and activism through ethnographic studies and media art projects. Her current research focuses on radical uses of data for social and environmental justice. She is Assistant Professor in Emergent Media for the Department of Art + Design and for the Program in Media and Screen Studies at Northeastern University. Alessandra is co-author of Infrastructure Critical: Sacrifice at Toronto’s G8 / G20 Summit (ARP Press, 2012) and co-producer of the documentary Preempting Dissent: Policing the Crisis on Government Surveillance after 9-11. Her media projects have been featured at Transmediale Festival in Berlin, the Hemispheric Institute’s Encuentro in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the Queens Museum of Art in New York. 

Last publication date: 2017-02-20.
Commonist Aesthetics

Last year, on 28 February 2016, Michel Bauwens gave a talk at Casco – Office for Art, Design & Theory for Commoning Governance, the third instalment of the We Are the Time Machines Commoning Forum Series. This event aimed to look into actually existing commoning practices working with, within and against existing forms of governmentality on different scales. More specifically, the question was how and to what extent these practices can alter and revolutionize existing governmental forms from within. To this end, we relied on the concrete, lived experience with commons-based modes of governance of two speakers. The first was Manuela Zechner, a researcher and cultural worker involved in the leftist party Barcelona en Comú, which seized power in Barcelona in the city’s municipal elections in May 2015. After Zechner, Bauwens spoke in his capacity as founder of the P2P Foundation, an international organization – itself structured as a commons – dedicated to studying, documenting, and promoting peer-to-peer processes, from software production to participatory forms of knowledge-sharing. The P2P Foundation is mostly known for its work on Ecuador’s FLOK (Free-Libre, Open Knowledge) Society plan, the first time an entire nation commissioned a plan to transform itself into a mature peer-to-peer economy.

In his talk Bauwens discussed his work in Ecuador as an experiment that ultimately failed due to hesitations on behalf of the Ecuadorian government, but that had some interesting outcomes nonetheless. Taking cues from the lessons learned from FLOK, he evaluated the practical possibilities that exist in moving to a post-capitalist form of cooperative peer-to-peer production, noting that a special point to attend to was the role that existing political structures, such as cities and states, can play in this process. First, however, Bauwens addressed how the seeds for this transition are already planted, as evidenced in the shift in the value regime that is becoming more and more evident everywhere.

Michel Bauwens is the founder of the P2P Foundation, a global research and activist / advocacy network studying the emergence of peer production and commons-centric economic, political and social forms. He lives in Thailand since 2003, and is undertaking, in the spring of 2017, a Commons Transition Plan for the City of Ghent, Belgium. He is the co-author of the report Value in the Commons Economy, which researches and analyzes the current transition in value regime.

Last publication date: 2017-02-24.
General

Living Earth: Field Notes from the Dark Ecology Project 2014–2016, edited by Mirna Belina, Sonic Acts Press, ISBN:  9789082321623, 256 pages

Sarah Jones is an artist, writer and curator. She is a PhD candidate with the University of New South Wales School of Art and Design. She was awarded her MFA from the Dutch Art Institute in 2015. Her practice explores publishing-as-process through the complicated materiality of text-based artworks. See further: www.sarahjones.net.au.

Last publication date: 2017-04-13.
Informal Media

Geert Lovink, Social Media Abyss: Critical Internet Cultures and the Force of Negation, Polity Press, 2016, ISBN UK: 978150950775, 220 pages

Marysia Lewandowska is a Polish-born, London-based artist who has been exploring the public functions of archives, museums and exhibitions through a research-based practice resulting in exhibitions, publications and films. She has initiated projects involving the property of others to create new relations between forms of knowledge and ownership, activating reflections on the commons, the social and immaterial public domain. She is co-editor of Undoing Property? (Sternberg Press, 2013). See further: www.marysialewandowska.com.

Last publication date: 2017-04-14.
T/A/S

This contribution to Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S) consists of a ‘walking essay’ by Esther Polak. The world in which this essay takes place is Google Earth: an alienating landscape of almost seamlessly stitched-together satellite images. The stage of the walk, a utopian appartment building in the Amsterdam’s Bijlmer neighbourhood, seems warped and flattened and competes for attention with the black weirdness of its own shadows. During a repetitive walk around the building Polak uses Judith Butler’s ideas on the performativity of gender and applies them to the city space, exploring different possibilities of what she calls ‘move-categories’ and ‘move-drag’.

The City as Performative Object is walked and spoken by Esther Polak. It was executed through conversation in and around the Hakford building in the Bijlmer.

Esther Polak and Ivar van Bekkum work together as an artist-couple under the name PolakVanBekkum. Their work focuses on landscape and mobility. Rooted in the history of Dutch realistic landscape depiction, they embrace new technologies to express personal experiences of contemporary city and countryside spaces. Their projects are often informed by collaborations with participants, be it with humans, objects or even the rays of the sun.

Last publication date: 2017-06-27.
General

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Seven Work Ballets, Kari Conte, ed., Kunstverein Amsterdam, Grazer Kunstverein, Sternberg, 2015, ISBN 9783943365931, 232 pages and Patricia C. Phillips with Tom Finkelpearl, Larissa Harris and Lucy R. Lippard, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Queens Museum, DelMonico Books, Prestel, 2016, ISBN 9783791355382, 256 pages

Sarah Demeuse (US / Belgium) makes exhibitions and writes. She often works collaboratively as Rivet. She is the instigator behind dos, a forthcoming podcast series. Sarah also teaches in the Curatorial Practice MA programme at School of Visual Arts in New York.

Last publication date: 2017-07-13.
Between and Beyond

One fateful night the word ‘demasculinization’ came up during a conversation I was having at a bar with my artist-friend André Chapatte. We were discussing the possibility of reconfiguring the male gaze. A few days later we met up again and decided that we should work further on this idea. We started to exchange thoughts, writing and things to read almost immediately. Throughout 2016 we worked together in Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels. In our correspondence, we discussed (in no particular order) (de)masculinity, nature / culture, manhood, manly emotions, the male gaze / perspective, gender equality, gender neutrality, redefining of men in society, gender in public / private / domestic spaces, romanticism, objectification, violence, power, domesticity, gendered-language / words / tones / expectations, privileges, sex, domination and cultural hegemony.

Wayne W. J. Lim (born 1989) is an art practitioner who writes, researches and occasionally makes things that revolve around political economy and geopolitics concerning the economics of identity and precariousness caused by economic or state regimes. Due to his research, writing and travelling practice, he is often challenged to transfer local / cultural / social / political codes through a method of speculation and strategic thinking, in the hope of opening up possibilities for imagination or an alternative future. See further: www.waynewjlim.com.

Last publication date: 2017-07-13.
Care of the Brain

Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class 2016–2017 – a project with the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) – has been investigating the state of the mind and brain under the conditions of cognitive capitalism. We focused on current notions of the brain in our global capitalist societies and questioned in how far the brain can be ideologically infiltrated. From the assumption that culture and brain form complex systems of influence, control and resistance, and that language, memory and imagination are more and more performed by machines and automated algorithmic procedures, we looked at some of the implications of ‘cognitive automation’ for our subjectivity, identity and free will. We explored how neuro-scientific conceptions of the brain are appropriated by cognitive capitalism and charted possibilities to subvert the instrumentalization of our brains. This lexicon is one of the results of the project and a collaborative work by the Open! COOP Academy participants. 

Open! COOP Academy 2016–2017
Last publication date: 2017-08-13.
Open! Academy

For PhDArts at Leiden University / Royal Academy of Art (KABK), The Hague, which offers a doctorate in art and design, Thalia Hoffman details the production of her film Sham, part of a larger series that considers Israeli-Palestine relations in the wider Middle East. Here, she uses several voices to unfold the personal and sociopolitical environment around the film’s production, involving script excerpts, theoretical reflections on art’s role within activism and diaristic reports of her on-set reflections. In relation to her project she examines Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on the distortion of history, and the importance of plurality in both politics and art evidenced in the work of Hannah Arendt and Claire Bishop among others. Hoffman thereby creates a backdrop against which to process the debilitating violence that plagues Israel-Palestine relations. ‘Sham’ means ‘there’ in Hebrew, and in Arabic refers to Sham, Greater Syria, which included Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria of today.

Thalia Hoffman (1979, DE) is a visual artist working in film, video, performance and public interventions. She holds a BA in Humanities from the University of Bar-Ilan, and is an MFA graduate (with honours) in Fine Arts from the University of Haifa, where she is currently teaching. Hoffman directed the full-length documentary (To each his own, 2005) and several short experimental films and is working as an independent film director and editor. In addition Hoffman works on and develops social / political change programmes using film and video within different communities. She also approaches this work through cooking and feeding, both in professional and artistic contexts. All of her work strives to be involved in its surroundings and engage people in looking at, listening to and feeling their social / political landscape with attention. Hoffman’s films, video works and performances have been shown in group exhibitions and festivals in Israel and around the world. See further: www.thaliahoffman.com.

Last publication date: 2017-08-07.
Care of the Brain

Agata Cieślak questions the position of the artist in an academic regime that has perhaps become more dependent on discourse than material reality. To do so she explores three narrative threads in the below text for Open! COOP Academy (2016–2017). With the piece adopting its title from Bas Jan Ader's famed last work, and her research into a Polish ship held hostage somewhere in Europe, Cieślak begins to grasp the difficulty of being an artist at sea facing both is potential for freedom and imprisonment.1

Agata Cieślak (born Łódź, 1990 currently living in Warsaw) works with narrative and storytelling. She is interested in the relation between historical facts and artefacts, personal experiences, fiction, and falsifying. Her works take different forms – objects, images, performance and text. There is always the possibility that this text could be just an introduction to another story.

Last publication date: 2017-09-08.
Care of the Brain

In this contribution to the 2016–2017 session of Open! Coop Academy, Maya Watanabe looks at the devices on which fictional spaces depend: from architecture in theatre to the frame in film to the omnidirectional camera in virtual reality. In tracing this trajectory back to Alain Resnais’ 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad, Watanabe exposes the progressive dissolution of separation between body, location and language. She thereby shows how make-believe space is made believable, and perhaps, how it is becoming more real.

Maya Watanabe is a Peruvian visual artist who works with video installations. Her work has been exhibited at: Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Matadero Madrid, Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco; Das Fridericianum, Kassel; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Lima; and Kyoto Art Center among others. She has been featured in festivals including: Videobrasil, São Paulo; LOOP, Barcelona; FILE, São Paulo; Madrid Abierto; Havana Film Festival; and Beijing Biennale. She has also collaborated as a set designer and audiovisual art director for theatre plays performed in Peru, Spain, Austria and Italy. Watanabe is based in Amsterdam.

Last publication date: 2017-09-08.
Care of the Brain

Mr. Gu just started to work as an intern after graduating from university. He commutes to work every morning from Sindorim station to Seolleung station on Seoul Subway line 2. He departs from home, waits for the train on the platform and thinks about the life of a hellish city in a subway filled with people. Then he faces the full-blown capitalism of the train, the obsession with false beauty, advertisements for violent game, and the physical pressure… Is it possible for Mr. Gu to go to work safely this morning? After this perilous journey to work, will he survive his day as a precarious worker safely as well?

Areumnari Ee is a media artist currently based in the Netherlands and South Korea. Her practice extends from video, sound, performance to installation. She collects images and sounds, stories from daily experiences, and mixes these in a critical way with myths and literature. Her works have been shown in various countries including the Philippines, China, Argentina and Colombia.

Last publication date: 2017-09-08.
Care of the Brain

Pitchaya Ngamcharoen’s sound essay is part of the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism. Sound plays a crucial role in positioning oneself in the given surroundings. Memory is important in perceiving sound without knowing its source. ‘Peep Peeps = ⋆≋≬※⁑⊸’ offers a space for the reader to create, within her own imagination, using sounds – and at the same time, to question what is lost and gained in translation. Have you heard the sound of a rock singing? Or a conversation between fish and seaweed? Do you know what light and shadows sound like? Have you heard your own toe complain after a long day? How can we understand sounds whose sources are unknown, and reflect ourselves in these? What are we missing in what we see?

Pitchaya Ngamcharoen works with anything from ants to monkeys, from food to animal droppings. Her recent occupation and research deals with the hierarchy of human senses, which, she believes, establishes the hierarchy of knowledge that we apply today. How do we avoid isolating scent while de-hierarchicalizing / deconstructing the human senses and advocating for the senses of smell, taste and touch to exploit the politics of their value? She also adopts a word / phrase by Chheng Phon, a master of Khmer classical dance, as a practice: “A garden with only one type of flower, or flowers of only one color, is no good.” See further: pitchayang.wordpress.com.

Last publication date: 2017-10-04.
Care of the Brain

In Mónica Lacerda’s contribution to the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism both language and writing float and drift, evoking a more spatial and sensory reading experience. With this the artist asks, can we play with words, letters, their sounds and images and disentangle ourselves from their prior meaning? Can we restructure our mind and thinking by postponing interpretation?

Download complete poem.

Mónica Lacerda lives and works between Porto and the Netherlands. Her artistic practice is an on going wordful dance – allowing words to be played by senses – taking a feminist and queer standpoint. The many ways in which Mónica engages with the written word brings out the bittersweetness that grows with the desire to be flooded by words. This overwhelming passion brings out the fragility and corruption of language, and the tension of constantly resisting the subversion of oppressive language. In an attempt to capture the nerve-wracking-now, Mónica's practice actively enquires — through thought and practice — the usefulness of language, where precision in the use of words is needed in turning them into a space for inclusion. Poems — written or performed, — choreographing an act of movement of the body through space, shaping as time unfolds.

Last publication date: 2017-10-27.
Care of the Brain

Our media-inscribed self-images direct not only the way in which we perceive ourselves, but on a cosmetic level, can normalize our attempts at differentiation. DAI participant Katja Dendulk unlocks this algorithmic process in her essay below as part of the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism. Does the scientifically proven phenomenon of our preference for novelty paradoxically swallow self-expression? How might our increasing awareness rejigger self-image under mass media? 

Katja Dendulk is an artist, essayist and software developer particularly invested in questions surrounding future technologies, the relation between human and machine, routine, efficiency and redundancy in general, and corporate aesthetics. She currently lives and works in Rotterdam.

Last publication date: 2017-10-16.