Open! Academy

Following the Fault Lines

Identifying and Contesting Sites and Spaces of Drone Surveillance, Colonial Knowledge Production, Digital Pollution, and Extraction through Art and Design Research

Alice Twemlow

Editorial – August 2, 2019

Each year the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague makes provision for a selected group of its tutors and staff to work on a self-defined research project in the context of a Research Group. The nature of these projects varies, from research driven by and through one’s own artistic or design practice to historical or theoretical research; from material or technological research to academic research in preparation for a PhD trajectory. In monthly meetings, participants discuss progress and questions related to methods for research and analysis, theoretical concepts and modes of dissemination. Alice Twemlow, lector Design at the KABK and Chair of the 2018 Research Group, introduces (image) essays by Rachel Bacon, Rosa te Velde, Niels Schrader and Donald Weber, which are distillations of individual research projects and are published in two batches.1

Taking as our metaphorical conceit the geological concept of fault lines — fractures in the planet’s surface, along which movement and displacement occurs — we addressed the changing contours of contemporary art and design research as the borders of disciplines shift.2 How does art and design research inhabit the fissures between disciplinary realms and negotiate the discontinuities between them? What is the frictional or generative potential of such interstitial positioning? Are there particular qualities and capacities of art and design-specific research tools and methods and what do they allow for?

The concept of fault lines allowed us to map and interpret an array of pressing issues, including the convergence of airspace and dataspace, a colonial-modernist bias in design history, digital pollution, and climate change. How can we reveal and resist the expanding geographies of drone surveillance? What are some strategies for critiquing design history’s Eurocentric modes of knowledge production? What are the environmental and psychological impacts of our ever-accumulating data detritus? What is the role and position of the artist in a time of ecological crisis?

[…]

Open! Academy

Undermining Value

Rachel Bacon

Essay – August 1, 2019

In this research project, undertaken as part of the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (KABK) Research Group 2018, artist Rachel Bacon explores the relationship between mark-making in drawing and in mining, hoping to develop a drawing practice capable of responding to the ecological crisis. Cultural theorist T. J. Demos believes that environmentally engaged art has the potential to address and rethink the complexity of relations between economics, politics, technology, culture and law.1 An alternative to this activist position – a more emotive practice, of adjusting to and mourning the effects of the calamity – is posited in the work of Timothy Morton and Heather Davis among others. During the past year Bacon has been investigating where and how her drawing practice is situated along this spectrum between activism and grieving

Despite the overwhelming nature of the ecological crisis, my initial reaction when confronted with an open-pit coal mine – surely one of the most physical and visceral symbols of climate change – was, I must admit, to be somewhat underwhelmed. Thinking about the relationship between the mark-making of drawing and mining had led me one cold, rainy week in November 2018 to Western Europe’s largest open-pit coal mine, near Cologne in Germany. This mine, the Tagebau Hambach, is one of a number of lignite (brown coal) mines in the area. It supplies fuel to the second and third worst polluters on Climate Action Network’s ‘Dirty Thirty’ list of the top CO2-emitting power plants in Europe.2

As I stood at the brink of the mine, I tried to make sense of it. At almost forty-five square kilometres of surface area, the mine is so big it almost resembles a feature of the natural landscape, like a river valley. Lignite, an especially dirty form of coal to burn, was created from ancient forests and bogs. The brown coal lies like a huge black stroke at the bottom of the mine, five hundred metres deep, only this drawing has been accomplished by massive digging machines. To get to the layer of brown coal, the excavators have to remove layers of topsoil, called […]

Open! Academy

A Message from the Future: An Interview with Dr Adelante Revoleis

Rosa te Velde

Interview – August 1, 2019

Last December, anthropologist Dr Adelante Revoleis presented their findings on Design History during the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (KABK) Fault Lines research symposium in The Hague. In this interview, we speak with them on their forthcoming book Advancements in the Study of the Peculiarities of the Rise and Fall of Design History in the Late 20th and Early 21st Century.

Rosa te Velde: Could you tell us a little bit about your research on Design History?

Adelante Revoleis: Until recently, we have only been able to research the phenomenon of ‘Design History’ through the sparse archival materials that would reveal themselves. Some time ago I coincidentally stumbled upon a dusty collection of ‘Design History’ books. Around the same time, the Long-Lost Internet Repository Project granted access to their findings and there I found a collection of Design History articles, mainly from journals such as the Journal of Design History (1977–2029) and I(1979–2024) – a bizarre and extraordinary find, which proved that there was once an academic field called Design History, predominantly practised in the Former West by a small group of specialists. I wondered who they were, what this mysterious practice was all about and why it was so short-lived. This type of investigation will contribute to our understanding of the remnants of practices of modernity/coloniality in the first half of the 21st century.

How would you define the field of Design History?

Despite its potentially wide-ranging interests, Design History was a marginal field of academic inquiry. Since its departure from art history in the 1970s, it claimed that it was concerned with contextual investigations into the social, economic and political aspects of various design objects. Yet, there seemed to be a discrepancy between its self-description and what it actually was: an exclusive canon of sanctified Design Knowledge. Some Design Historians advocated for a dethroning of the designer as the most important figure in the design narrative in favour of a focus on the context of design objects, and on the consumer, while others pushed to broaden its geographic reach, and expand its subject matter. But all of this proved to be too radical for most Design Historians and the Design History textbooks remained largely focused on the Grand Design History Narratives, which included William Morris, Walter Gropius, The Bauhaus, Charles and Ray Eames, and a long list of Scandinavian and Italian […]

Fare niente da qualcosa

Improvvisare, pubblicare, resistere! 

June 28, 2019; 15:30 – 17:30Controra - Oreri Iniziativa Editoriale

Making Nothing Out of Something: Improvising writing and publishing in relation to practices of resistance is the 2018–2019 Open! Coop Academy study group, part of DAI Roaming Academy. After a year of study and intensive gatherings in Arnhem, Epen, St. Erme, Cagliari, Dessau and Berlin, we will share our inquiries and makings with the public.

How can the collective task of writing enhance the singularity of our individual voices, as a social space where political desires can be improvised, embodied and shared? Improvisation as the core of a language for a community yet to come. A community of resistant bodies that perpetually claims its geographical infinitude, its unwritten histories, oppressed traditions, and bastard languages. 

As roaming, gentrifying, squatting, culturally entangled, privileged yet marginalised members of this study group, we take inspiration from activist movements, both historically and contemporary, to self-publish alternatives to the current techno capitalist cultural hegemony. How do we define our tools, methods and ethos to act out a queer possibility, deliberate on our current dislocated locality and post-colonial condition? How can we produce objects that operate as comrades and set the stage for a discussion that can narrate our protests? With Fare niente da qualcosa: improvvisare, pubblicare, resistere! we invite you to join us for a gathering, performance, reading, conversation and exhibition in which we aim to reflect and embody improvisation as ‘a movement, a dehiscence, a quickenin […]

Open! Academy

Making Nothing Out of Something / Fare niente da qualcosa

Lexicon

Open! COOP Academy 2018-2019

Artist contribution – June 16, 2019

This lexicon is a collaborative textual and visual work composed of contributions by the participants of the Open! COOP study group Making Nothing Out of Something: Improvising Writing and Publishing in Relation to Practices of Resistance. The study group – part of DAI Roaming Academy 2018–2019 – took improvisation as the substantive starting point for both making and thinking. Improvisation was reflected about and embodied as generative and relational, and as a catalyst for artistic and social experiment and practice, specifically experimental writing and publishing.

Commonist Aesthetics

Unshrinking the World

An Interview with Avery F. Gordon about The Hawthorn Archive: Letters from the Utopian Margins

Krystian Woznicki

Interview – June 2, 2019

Avery F. Gordon’s The Hawthorn Archive: Letters from the Utopian Margins (2018)1 is an impressive, kaleidoscopic and genre-bending book based on Gordon’s more than two decades of research into utopian traditions that have been systematically excluded from the Western canon. Organized in the form of an archive of actual and fictional experiences of living and working together differently in the shadows of power, Gordon’s book makes a vast array of subjugated knowledge visible and available for appropriation. The Hawthorn Archive that has initially been a space for encounter and the preservation of precarious materials, and that now has been turned into a book, unearths neglected utopian traditions that are less about some distant future place that would have to be built according to people’s ideals than living and working differently in the here and now of the communal as a way of realizing co-existence across the boundaries of space, time and, above all, social groups. Here, those who were struggling for the commons (and against enclosures) in seventeenth-century England are a major reference point for a variety of other movements, including abolitionism and decolonialism.

The recent rise of right-wing populism consolidates the work of post-financial crisis austerity politics: shrinking access to existential resources and economic participation in general is compensated with the promise of national membership. Unsurprisingly, it too propagates the logic of less: ever fewer people are supposed to benefit from the forms of membership that the nation-state represents; ever fewer impulses from the world out there are supposed to influence the nation-state. In short, while austerity rhetoric insists we must tighten our belts, right-wing populist rhetoric claims we must tighten our border controls.

This particular brand of ‘less world’ politics obstructs access to the world. As a consequence, not only is access to the world as it is blocked, but also access to the world as it could be. It is high time to reverse this trend. As the political-discursive ‘world shrinkage’ and the false utopia of the homogeneous nation-state become increasingly normalized under right-wing populism, The Hawthorn Archive provides practical models against world shrinkage and for alternative utopias, especially to false ones. Gordon’s book convincingly shows that world shrinkage is always to a certain degree transcended in the everyday practices of the communal. The Hawthorn Archive is a resource for the Berliner Gazette, entering its twentieth year with a project titled More World, which counters world shrinkage by inviting you to explore together communal tools for planetary challenges. We have a special section open for contributions from all over the world and launched the project in January with a talk by Avery F. Gordon on The Hawthorne […]

Open! Academy

The Workshop and Cultural Production

Anja Groten

Essay – June 1, 2019

The workshop is a popular framework in cultural production that brings together groups of people from different fields in order to (co-)produce knowledge. Situated between work and leisure, workshops are organized within extra-curricular activities, such as symposia, incubator programmes, and innovation labs. Those activities emerge from public cultural institutions, for-profit festivals and congresses, academic conferences, and small non-profit initiatives. Buzzwords like ‘rapid prototyping’ or ‘agility’ promote high-velocity technological development and imply that the workshop format is a highly productive one. From the perspective of design practice and more specifically, by looking at collaborative approaches to technology design, this essay explores the1 workshop’s capacity, or lack thereof, to create critical, constructive conditions for designing technology.

I was asked by one of my design students: ‘Why does everything have to be a workshop these days?’ The question most probably arose out of a certain workshop fatigue after having gone through a whole semester of weekly hands-on workshops during a practice seminar I taught on collaborative making from 2017–2018 in the design department at Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam. However, the question also2 addressed a certain exhaustion of the ‘workshop market’, a workshopization of cultural production, and a general disappointment in what workshops are actually capable of. The format of the workshop offers a framework for social gatherings, producing, and sharing knowledge. However, there seems to be little specificity in articulating its premises, characteristics, and objectives.

Together with the Amsterdam-based collective Hackers & Designers (H&D) I co-founded with artist Selby Gildemacher and software developer James Bryan Graves in 2013, I make critical inquiries into the complexity of technological constructions and their societal implications through collective processes of designing technology. H&D currently has seven members and is only one of many workshop initiatives in the Netherlands that have started organizing extra-curricular bottom-up educational activities outside of the institutional context since 2010 […]

Urgent Publishing

New Strategies in Post-truth Times

May 15, 2019 19:00 – May 17, 2019 22:00ArtEZ University of the Arts, Arnhem

Institute of Network Cultures, ArtEZ University of the Arts and Willem de Kooning Academy are happy to invite you to Urgent Publishing, a conference with presentations and workshops about publishing strategies in post-truth times.

The 21st century has witnessed the liberation of publishing practices. Digital technologies have brought the printing press to the masses. Who gets to publish and when, the medium used and the channels through which information is consumed have all changed drastically. An ever accelerating development of emergent technologies has led to a wide array of emergent publishing practices, be it in the form of longreads, vlogs, zines, collaborative platforms or print-on-demand – all the while leaving the status of and love for paper books intact. A plethora of tools, applications, infrastructures, models, and hacks thus makes many futures of publishing possible. How to realize sustainable, high-quality alternatives within this domain of post-digital publishing?

Liberation comes with its downsides: while the availability of publishing technologies has helped bring different voices onto the stage, connect new communities and identify hegemonic intersections of power, they have also played a role in bringing about what is known as the ‘post-truth era’. Critical interventions have been somewhat self-referential and concentrated on the needs and demands of people and communities engaged in the history of art or avantgarde publishing. In the meantime, the scale and scope of once emergent publishing practices have exploded, leaving a disenchanted public to scavenge the rubble of breaking fake news stories, information pollution and broken links. Speed and availability of publications may have increased, but the quality of the information presented and of its containers lags […]

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Fabulating Alternative Imaginaries in Art and Life

March 27, 2019 10:00 – March 30, 2019 17:00Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

Four-days conference-festival organized by Studium Generale Rietveld Academie with guest curators Kunstverein / Maxine Kopsa, Hypatia Vourloumis, Daniela Rosner and Tavia Nyong’o, who each inaugurate a discursive and performative study day with practices of critical fabulation in art, design and theory. The conference-festival is an invitation to ‘take a walk on the wild side’, and to regard fabulation – in the sense of fabricating the real, world-making or speculative fiction – as an artistic, social and political capacity. By making use of the fictional, critical fabulation in art, literature or theory can produce or uncover visions, histories and stories that are radically discontinuous from official and dominant narratives about our lives and living together. By bringing the unthinkable and silenced into representation, fabulation can be a way or methodology to enter the wild side: a space for what lies beyond current systems and structures of rule.

Take this day as a remedy, a retreat, a parachute drop out of frippery and pseudo-fame trappings. Take this day as a day of experiences, involvements, encounters, occurrences, friendship, digital avoidances, first person accounts, parallel perceptions, alternative languages and song. In waves and ribbons, and transitions, accompanied by silences and lights. A stroll with Alice Chauchat and Raimundas Malašauskas. Listening to time travel with Rosalind Nashashibi. Encountering ‘a misdirected weeping angel within a close proximity communication method’ hosted by Austin Redman.Topped emotionally with a ballad song to you by Mark Buckeridge. Participants: Mark Buckeridge, Alice Chauchat, Isabel Lewis, Raimundas Malašauskas, Rosalind Nashashibi, Austin Redman.

The presentations and performances on this day of study will delve into the aesthetic practices and unruly visons of queer diaspora, sensual excess and brown jouissance, the poetics of emergent aberrations, the magic of science and the intertwining of neurodiverse sensory circuits, futurisms and distorted constellations, the love song, anticolonial time, and the dancing of things and nothingness. Participants: Nwando Ebizie, Gayatri Gopinath, Malak Helmy (with Janine Armin), Monsur Mansoor, Amber Jamilla Musser, Sandra Ruiz, Jackie […]

Culture of Control

False Positives

Esther Hovers, Sophie Wright

Artist contribution – March 8, 2019

Esther Hovers’ photographic project False Positives is about intelligent surveillance systems that are said to be able to detect deviant behaviour within public space. False Positives asks questions on how power, politics and control are exercised through urban planning and the use of public space. It is set around the question of normative public conduct and focuses on eight different ‘anomalies’ in body language and movement that could indicate criminal intent. Through these anomalies the algorithms are built and cameras are able to detect deviant habits. Current systems pay attention to the following behaviours: Standing Still; Fast Movements; Lonely Objects; Placement On A Corner; Clusters Breaking Apart; Synchronized Movements; Repeatedly Looking Back; and Deviant Directions.

Esther Hovers’ interest lies in the unwieldy relationship between individual rights and national security, and focuses on the use of intelligent surveillance technology in public space. Within our global political climate the need for heightened public protection is only increasing. In the past decade, surveillance technology has become woven into our public spaces, part and parcel of everyday life. While its emergence certainly sparked public debate, many of the discussions held around this issue have been characterized by a polarisation of privacy and security, reducing a complex and multilayered debate into a matter of ‘either / or’ in the name of public safety. In its most simple terms, privacy is defined as the right to do things without being observed. Yet in its full, embodied form, it is a social practice. A concept that spans the realms of ethics, psychology, philosophy and policy, bridging the personal and the political, in both the physical and the digital world – one that demands broader consideration and protection.

Opening a transparent dialogue about the development and implementation of surveillance technology has never been more urgent, particularly due to the speed at which it is evolving. As it hurtles forward with the development of sophisticated facial recognition software and video analytics […]

General

how the minor moves us: across thresholds, socialities, and techniques

a conversation with Erin Manning

Halbe Kuipers

Interview – February 20, 2019

Halbe Kuipers converses with Erin Manning, philosopher and director of the SenseLab, an international network based in Montreal, of artists and academics, writers and makers, working together at the crossroads of philosophy, art, and activism. From a thinking that is beyond the unique individual, the conversation focuses on the concept of minor sociality, the perspective of the treshold and techniques to challenge Whiteness.

Halbe Kuipers: Some time ago you gave a talk in Amsterdam during the Studium Generale Rietveld Academie 2018, after which we had a public conversation. That conversation seems to be one that in a way is always already underway for, as you said back then, this work is continuous – there is no end to it so the conversation keeps going. For me that immediately foregrounds the necessity of the work, the ethics, how what calls us tends to the minor – the minor gestures, to use your concept, that always elude us yet move us.1 The minor seems to move across, as your talk in Amsterdam did in moving with John Lee Clark’s work and deafblindness alongside autism and neurodiversity, on which you’ve written extensively. This moving across, the tending to the minor, could this be a start, the start of that conversation that keeps going?

Erin Manning: I like that you begin right in the middle, in a conversation that we had months ago. Working through the minor requires a sensitivity or attunement to what moves through thought. This is an ethos I try to bring to my writing. The piece I presented at the Rietveld is an example. When I began to write about John Lee Clark’s poems (in my piece […]

General

The Leather-Feather Whip

Acting Up for the Virus

Taka Taka

Essay – January 17, 2019

Welcome, my name is Tantra Kassandra, I am an ancient fortune teller and contemporary sexologist. 

Imagine a horse standing quietly with its head lowered, unresponsive to normal social and environmental stimuli, and moving away only at the release command or following the directive of the handler. 

To learn helplessness or the submissive posture is considered basic training in certain Western shows and working disciplines for horses. The horse as animal perfectly embodies the deserted reflection of human desire for submission. Many of the observers of horse behaviour use their knowledge and experience to compare horses in domestic and wild settings. The slippery departure point of this assumption is the observation of the horse that we know as submissive, and that the non-submissive is wild. Is it wild when we simply abandon domestication efforts? How do horses deal with resources in their original environment and not domesticated stables in which humans place them? 

For five years, Joel Berger observed wild horses of the Granite Range breed on ranches. The Spanish brought horses to the United States 400 years ago. It was exactly then that Granite Range horses became domesticated. This specific breed has been living and reproducing freely in the open ranches of the Hudson since then. Consequently, they managed to maintain their autonomy to a great extent. The breed is considered one of the clearest examples of wild horses that live communally outside a human […]

Commonist Aesthetics

Who Steals the Goose from off the Common?

An Interview with Peter Linebaugh

Louis Volont

Interview – December 22, 2018

To find out whether capital has nowadays discovered the commons, or if the commons can and must remain invisible in order to survive, Louis Volont speaks with historian Peter Linebaugh. Linebaugh is Professor of History at the University of Toledo and has written extensively on labor, history and the commons. His books include The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All (2008) and Stop, Thief! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (2014).

In recent years, the vocabulary of the commons and its derivatives has taken centre stage in debates on political and economic crises. If we are to believe Charlotte Hess (2008), Ostrom’s lifelong commons companion, many ‘new commons’—that is: ‘new sources to share’—have seen the light of day: market commons may heal the wounds of austerity politics; the cultural commons may replace the archaic producer-consumer relationship in the arts; the knowledge commons may counter an increasingly closed circuit of scholarly insights; public space—Syntagma, Tahrir, Gezi—may lay the groundwork during struggles reclaiming public space for collective use. As the world observes with great interest how these alleged ‘new forms of governance’ reshape everyday life, the historical roots of the commons have too often been left untheorized. 

The value of historian Peter Linebaugh’s oeuvre is exactly to fill this gap. He teaches us rightfully that ‘scarcely a society has existed on the face of the earth which has not had at its heart the commons’ (Linebaugh 2014, p. 14). Linebaugh’s Magna Carta Manifesto (2008) shows how the age of the commons preceded the age of the commodity; how the age of reproduction preceded the age of production; how the conviviality of the kitchen preceded the alienation of the factory; and how the age of subsistence existed long before the vocabulary of the (neo)liberals would begin to deride the commons by the ideological use of the words […]

Open! Academy

Walking the Talk and Boating in Amsterdam

A Fabulous Meeting with Jack Halberstam

Charlotte Rooijackers

Interview – December 20, 2018

In advance of this year’s edition1 of Studium Generale Rietveld Academie, Open! reflects on the key positions taken at last year’s gathering, which focused on touch in artistic, philosophical and political terms. Jack Halberstam, Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University, curated the final day of the programme’s conference-festival 2017–2018 under the title ‘Reach out and touch / Somebody’s hand / Make this world a better place / If you can’. Contributors included Karen Barad, boychild, Julia Bryon-Wilson, Mel Y. Chen, Paul B. Preciado and Jeanne Vaccaro. After the conference, Charlotte Rooijackers interviewed Halberstam.

While walking through Amsterdam’s Vondelpark and boating around the city’s canals, Jack Halberstam and I spoke about the artists he writes about, the works that inspire him and how generative that exchange is – not everyone appreciates the large-scale publicity he enjoys in his work in queer theory. In relation to his supportive ‘failure book’, The Queer Art of Failure (2011), I began by asking whether success is what one truly desires.

Jack Halberstam: Well, I mean that’s sort of the paradox. People have critiqued the model I offer for being secretly committed to another kind of success. So, on the one hand, I seem to be advocating for failure. On the other hand, there’s a triumphalism in the children’s films that I look at, or in some of the humour. I understand this paradox. But, in the end, it is not about success or failure – it’s about the logic of success and failure that rules us, disciplines us. Like the student who really wants to study art but feels they should study science or business because that’s more practical. That’s a rubric of success that makes art into a site of failure, in an almost predetermined way. It is also about recognizing that this logic captures you by speaking to orientations that are really embedded in you ideologically. You know, […]

Culture of Control

Challenging Logistical AI

The Politics of Artificial Artificial Intelligence

Krystian Woznicki

Essay – December 19, 2018

Critic and publicist Krystian Woznicki reviews Ambient Revolts, the eighteenth annual conference of the Berliner Gazette that took place in November in Berlin and questioned how to rethink political agency in an AI-driven world. Woznicki signals the emergence of what he calls Logistical AI and coins the term Artificial Artificial Intelligence (AAI) to start a discourse about this new field.

Politicizing the rise of Artificial Intelligence while autocrats are gaining momentum, the Ambient Revolts conference moved onto new ground: ‘Logistical AI’. It is new ground insofar as it has hardly been covered by academic or journalistic knowledge production. Of course, there is a lot about AI in general and there is also a lot about logistics in general, but there is hardly any literature about the intersection of these terms that I propose calling Logistical AI. So, out of urgent necessity, in my view there is a need to invent a critical discourse on Logistical AI. In order to do this I first sketch the emergence of Logistical AI as a field of politics, then introduce the seemingly unrelated work of Sandi Hilal and Evelina Gambino within this emerging field. Finally, I reflect on the struggle within and against Logistical AI as a politics of Artificial Artificial Intelligence (AAI), raising critical issues of agency and labour.   

Fault Lines

December 14, 2018; 10:00 – 20:00Royal Academy of Art, The Hague

Fault Lines is a one-day symposium that will explore the interstitial positioning and generative potential of design research as the borders of disciplines shift, while presenting an array of research projects that map and interpret the traces of design’s complicity in climate change.

How does contemporary design research inhabit the fissures between disciplinary realms and negotiate the discontinuities between them? Are there particular qualities and capacities of design-specific tools and methods and what do they allow for? And how can the insights that arise from experimental research inquiries make a significant contribution to design practice, to education, and to knowledge?

This one-day symposium aims to surface research activity by members of the teaching community at Royal Academy of Art (KABK) and Leiden University. It will feature some of the projects being developed through the current KABK research groups, alongside contributions from invited keynote speakers, with a particular emphasis on practice-led research that uses design either as its subject matter or means for investigation. The symposium seeks to identify approaches, methods and tools with broader application to the growing design research culture at KABK and beyond.

Featuring keynote lectures by Marjanne van Helvert (Dirty Design), Anab Jain (Superflux), Richard Rogers (Digital Methods Initiative, University of Amsterdam) and Susan Schuppli (Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths). With presentations of research in progress by […]

Commonist Aesthetics

The Salt of the Earth

On Commonism: An Interview with Antonio Negri

Pascal Gielen, Sonja Lavaert

Interview – August 18, 2018

With Assembly (2017), Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have continued their trilogy Empire (2000), Multitude (2004), and Commonwealth (2009) into the new decade, expanding it into a tetralogy. The fourth episode sees these advocates of commonism once again provide a critical analysis of the most topical developments in society. Their central issue this time concerns why the social movements that express the demands and wishes of so many and show that the common is a fact, have not succeeded in bringing about a new, truly democratic and just society. The line of questioning itself is already controversial, as are many of the propositions and concepts launched by the authors in Assembly. According to them we must confront the problem of leadership and institutions, dare to imagine the entrepreneurship of the multitude, appropriate old terms and, especially, reverse their meaning. We meet with Antonio Negri in his apartment in Paris, to try out this recipe for reversal and to discuss strategy and tactics, ideology and aesthetics, and art and language.

Pascal Gielen & Sonja Lavaert: Our book Commonism is about the triangle of ideology, aesthetics and the commons.1 Our tentative assumption is that commonism may be the next meta-ideology, after neoliberalism. We understand ideology not only negatively as a false awareness, but also positively as a logic of faith that connects fiction and reality and can make people long for and work towards a better form of living together. In Assembly you and Michael Hardt do something similar with notions such as ‘entrepreneurship’, ‘institution’, ‘leadership’. What does ‘ideology’ mean to you and do you think it may also figure in a positive narrative?

Antonio Negri: In my experience, ideology tends to have mostly negative connotations, or, rather, I have regarded ‘ideology’ mainly in negative terms. This means though that we are speaking of something that is real. Ideology is a real fact. In addition, it is something real that embodies, shapes and constitutes reality. What I see as positive in this embodiment of reality is critique – which can be critique of the ideology or of reality – and the dispositive, understood as the transition of the world of thinking to that of reality. In my view, ideologies make up reality, but I use the term preferably when discussing its negative aspect, whereas when I speak of its positive aspect, i.e., the critique or the dispositive, I prefer these latter […]

General

It’s So Nice That We Don’t Have to Talk about Politics Anymore

Saša Karalić

Artist contribution – August 7, 2018

The ongoing work It’s So Nice That We Don’t Have to Talk about Politics Anymore is, so far, staged in three different social contexts. It consists of a group of people performing a number of political slogans in public space. In each version of the work, the slogans are conceived, after extensive research, within the social context in which they are performed and based on the ‘general politics of truth’ of that context. The ‘general politics of truth’ is the foundation on which a society builds its self-perception and showcases its self-worth by often bypassing difficult questions and concerns. The work brings out these ‘truths’ and repeatedly performs them in public space.

The Dutch version of the work entitled Het is zo fijn dat wij hier niet meer over politiek hoeven te praten was performed in June 2013 at the Amstelhoven in Amsterdam and the video registration of it was shown at the Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam in 2015 as a part of the group exhibition Resolution 827. The slogans included in this version, among others, are: ‘We live in the human rights paradise’, ‘Finally, Indonesia is not a subject any more’ and ‘We did what we could in Srebrenica’.1

Open! Academy

Other Voices, Other Views

Lauren Alexander, Niels Schrader

Artist contribution – July 20, 2018

Other Voices, Other Views is an academic research project led by Lauren Alexander, Maarten Cornel and Niels Schrader and executed by third-year Graphic Design students from the Royal Academy of Art (KABK), with guest tutors Ramon Amaro, Femi Dawkins and Kelly Walters. The project invites students to closely examine their own racial, cultural and gender identities aiming to critically rethink how established norms have come into being. In the Netherlands, years of colonial rule have meant that race and economic exploitation have been central to society and we recognise that work needs to be done to undo damages of the past. Putting the decolonial writings of Gloria Wekker, James Baldwin and many more into practice, students were encouraged to identify and research racial bias vis-à-vis different sectors of Dutch society by means of an interview format.

Auke Lansink, Carolina Valente Pinto and Zuzanna Zgierska
in conversation with Ramon Amaro, Danae Io, Dr. M. Birna van Riemsdijk and Marc Schuilenburg
16:52 min

The video The Frayed Edges of Efficiency brings together the opinions of four specialists in algorithmic discrimination. During the interviews Ramon Amaro, Danae Io, Dr. M. Birna van Riemsdijk and Marc Schuilenburg explain the hidden biases in machine learning, and argue how software that is used for predictive policing, racial profiling and voice recognition is everything but neutral. The interviews conclude with the suggestion that the first step towards a solution to potential discrimination is ensuring that agency and accountability is inherent in the tools we have developed.

General

Parliaments of the European Union

Nico Bick, Ingrid Oosterheerd

Artist contribution – June 12, 2018

As a conceptual documentary photographer, Nico Bick’s photographic works, often produced as series, invite concentrated investigation. In this work, by focusing on the plenary chamber of parliaments in the European Union, he draws attention to parliamentary history of democracy and its functioning within the EU.

After the (banking) crisis in 2008, it became increasingly clear that unity within the European Union is fragile. As soon as the economy began to deteriorate, the EU and the fiercely fought-for European unity began to crack in many places and even national sentiment reappeared – one reason for Bick to deepen his understanding of one of the most important conditions for EU membership, democracy. His series of three or four photographs captures the plenary chamber of all parliaments in the EU – the twenty-eight member states and the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg. The simplicity of this description stands in stark contrast to the great effort that went into making the series, which took Bick almost six years to complete. He photographed his first parliament in the summer of 2010 and his last parliament in fall 2015. Organizing access to parliaments and travel was a long and complicated process. For example, some parliaments were not easily persuaded to grant him access. In some cases, the access application took more than a year and a half to complete. The photography itself also required great effort, finding the right position for his analogue technical camera and to define the frameworks for his triptych and tetraptychs was meticulous and time-consuming […]