The Revolution Mixtape

revolutionI ain’t gonna work on Maggie’s farm no more. Well, I wake up in the morning. Fold my hands and pray for the rain. I got a head full of ideas that are driving me insane. It’s a shame she makes me scrub the floor.

These lines mark the first sentences of a song by the impeccable Bob Dylan: his acclaimed “Maggie’s Farm”–approximately 23 plays today, still counting. Apart from its blues characteristics and musical arrangements, of which I have no expertise whatsoever, this song from 1965 still has enormous relevance today. Writer’s Block Magazine has offered me a great platform this past year to write about cultural developments‒digitalisation in photography, the humanities, the online zeitgeist, and many more‒notwithstanding the existential angst in writing about this wide range of topics. So while I’m looking for yet another internship, working yet another job on the side with minimum wage, I can only move up and down the postmodern ladder of existential angst and creativity and conclude that it’s been more than worth it just to create works of writings in a team of which its members have continuously proven themselves to be more than a random group of crazy, university students. So I propose to move on Kantian and Enlightenment’s ‘Sapere Aude!’ (Dare to know!) and usher in the period of ‘Dare to create!’. Not without a Revolution Mixtape though. Oh, did I mention our next issue’s theme is, par accident, ‘Revolution’?

 

Spotify playlist:

Ilona

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A Letter to Barlaeus and Vossius

Ilonaexample_May article

28 April, 2015

 

Dear Casparus and Gerardus,

I wish I could have been there with you, seventeenth-century’s chillings. Cursing every fucking Newtonian number with theological twaddle. Who would have thought your legacy to be the death of the polymath? In this sped-up system we call ideology, covered with a thick layer of dust, anti-heroes cease to exist, creativity is being commodified, and academics are undermined. We barely hear your two voices and the only pair I truly believed in turned out to be a salt and pepper shaker set. Recipe books are called Fifty Shades of Chicken. Everything’s a parody, mimesis has been fucked up, man. Who to follow? Who to believe? I heard voices up until 11 April; they sounded just like yours, even though I never got to meet you.

So tell me what you thought behind the Baroque fences of the Athenaeum Illustre? Tell me. Then tell it again. Again. Tell me eleven times, read to me your bedtime stories or should we set up a literary salon? Guide me again and don’t let them sell you in stone as well. Just like they did with (y)our homes.

Love,

Ilona

 

Ilona

Recent Ouija: Lamenting Between Artifice and Reality

Plaatje IlonaAlthough the majestic works of Henri Matisse have been luring numerous visitors to the Stedelijk Museum, it is its basement that confirms the experimental and contemporary course that the museum has set out to follow when Beatrix Ruf took up position as director last November. Titled Recent Ouija, the exhibition of the works of Ed Atkins (Oxford, 1982) encompass several enormous HD digital video projections including a hyperreal protoganist, identical to what one would call an avatar–a blue-eyed skinhead named Dave (although Atkins himself prefers to leave him unnamed).

Ouija, a combination of the French and German word for ‘yes’, refers to the late-nineteenth century board used for communicating with spirits. Judging on its title, Atkins suggests that his works, or rather the screens of his works function as a contemporary communication board between observer and virtual reality. I say virtual and not digital, because standing in front of the work’s vastness feels like you’re walking through Grand Theft Auto. Vertigo.

Nonetheless, while at first glance the virtuality of Atkins’ works seems to suggest a potentiality of virtual embodiment, very much like gaming, they strongly emphasise the confrontational relationship between the digital potential of new technological media and our physical being in the real world. Although Dave is hyperrealistic–he drinks, farts, sings, and curses–the artist continually confirms that Dave is merely a virtual character: in Ribbons (2014), Dave gets punctured, leaving nothing but a deflated head after begging from his audience compassion, understanding, and pity for 13 minutes. It is also because of the surrogacy of Atkins’ characters that they become “stand-ins for real people, and because they’re not real, I feel able to do more to them, treat them worse in a way”, Atkins discusses in an interview.

A second element of his art works is its linguistic aspect. Like mentioned before, Dave sings and curses, even gets mad on occasion. Welcomed by a gigantic avatar, this time with long black hair, Atkins’ Warm, Warm, Warm Spring Mouths (2013) at the entrance of the exhibition repeats the same monologue over and over again in different scenes: I don’t want to hear any news on the radio about the weather on the weekend. Talk about that. Once upon a time a couple of people were alive who were friends of mine. The weathers, the weathers they lived in! Christ, the sun on those Saturdays. Even though the screens are set up in their own individual rooms, they seem to interact with each other on linguistic level. As the protagonist on the entrance screen states That Leonardo DiCaprio looked like a fucking gun, the first notes of Elvis Presley’s You Are Always On My Mind are channeling from another room until somewhat later you find yourself in the next listening to a drunk Dave singing Bach’s Erbarme Dich.

Atkins writes the texts himself, performs these then in front of a camera with a computer programme that turns his face into an avatar, a surrogate. He doesn’t want to speak for anyone else besides for himself and for that reason uses his own voice and face. Recent Ouija is more than subversive and experimental–after all what kind of contemporary art is not trying to be. The exhibition assumes a paradox in the representation of human lives in contemporary digital culture by exhaustion and hyperrealism. Not just in the Pynchon way or by literally blowing up objects like Jeff Koons’ Inflatable series, but by using himself a questionable medium of technology, Atkins is a pioneer in challenging the medium by exhausting its representation to the fullest. The paradox of performance art has been discussed for many years now, but Atkins shows how relevant this paradox still is: instead of only questioning the artificiality or authenticity of art, representation, and performance, he also tries to grasp the line that divides the two and liquefies it. And though a cursing, singing virtual Dave lamenting might not be inviting or friendly, Ed Atkins’ works are hauntingly beautiful because of that.

 

Ilona

Header image: Ed Atkins, Ribbons, 2014, courtesy of the artist and Cabinet, London

On Intellectual Curiosity and the Online Zeitgeist

Ilona

In an ambitious attempt to respond to Yentl’s article on Generation Wuss, I’ve come to the conclusion that this characterisation of my generation is actually a confronting, but accurate term for the post-postmodern generation that seems to have it all, desire it all, know it all. We flaunt our lives by underlining the insignificant, taking photographs of the meals we eat, posting selfies in the local gym and making sure that our 400+ friends are well informed on where we are: ‘Ilona Roesli #maagdenhuis 52.3686492° N 4.890201111111111°E – feeling rebellious’. I’m not one to judge though–y’all don’t wanna check up on what’s on my Facebook-biz. However, how can we shake off this painful term in our digital age? I advocate the intellectualisation of curiosity.

There’s something laughable about our online behaviour. Just the other night, my roommate and I were laughing to the point of crying while watching this video about a hamster on a date. While we were both wearing headphones. In separate rooms. In the middle of the night. It’s a sad, sad situation that this accumulation of information is defined according to the number of animal videos we send each other. Is this our modern online zeitgeist?

No, it is not. You can call me optimistic, naïve or full of BS when I say that these social media distractions some deem as ‘obstructions’ are merely one of the elements we should take into consideration in our already failing time management. I have long been a self-declared enemy of a little thing called Wi-Fi, calling it Wireless inFidelity, until I came to realise I was distracted by everything offline as well. I am simply a curious human being.

But where do we place this seemingly innocent trait of curiosity in a world where we have it all (and flaunt with it), desire it all (awaiting likes), and know it all (between the cat videos and the infinite well of information)? Though I see no harm in finding pleasure in nonsense, as Nietzsche pointed out in 1878: “for it momentarily liberates us from the constraint of the necessary”, curiosity becomes a lonesome trait when we allow ourselves to get lost in the online maze. That is why I promote an intellectualisation of the online zeitgeist. It may be hard work, but it is a necessary response to Easton Ellis’s coinage of Generation Wuss. We all seem to ask: “please, please, please, only give positive feedback please”. Now it’s time to stop the weeping and be driven by intellectual curiosity instead. And there’s ample opportunity for our generation to do that online[1].

Ilona

Footnotes:
[1] examples: http://www.hitrecord.org/, an online production company by actor Joseph-Gordon Levitt or free online courses at https://www.coursera.org taught by well-known international universities.

Philosophers Review Our Most Popular Romantic Films

ValentinesDayIlona

For the Family: “The Sound of Music”

Plato: Why is there so much singing? I hate singing. Just look at the text: “When the dog bites, when the bee stings / When I’m feeling sad / I simply remember my favourite things”. How deceitful Maria is with these lines! Generalising her fear for dogs is completely unacceptable. Surely, you cannot make out that a truthful and good captain such as Georg von Trapp himself could fall for her? We must thus conclude that this film only appeals to the ignorant amongst us. — One star

Glaucon: You are quite right. — One star

Karl Marx: Maria’s excellent artisanship in sowing reminds me of our old guild-masters. A forgotten value in our capitalist society must not be left unappreciated. — Four stars

Sigmund Freud: Liesl’s Nazi-boyfriend should have finished off the dad. — One star

Average rating: 1.5/5 stars

 

With a Group of Friends: “Love Actually”

Cicero: Dreadful film. It celebrates adultery, betrayal, and bad friendships. I did not agree with the film’s focal points of porn and American women. Seemingly, this film does not care about virtue. — No stars

Thomas Kuhn: Love leaps from one paradigm shift to another paradigm shift just when you’ve assumed that it lies in loyalty, you start to reconsider an acting role in a porno film or a bumpy flight to the States. “Love Actually” is a film full of paradigm shifts. Beautiful. — Five stars

Average rating: 2.5/5 stars

 

For the Sensation Seeker: “Titanic”

Ayn Rand: An epic story celebrating the unexpected in life: realistic and pure. Up until DiCaprio died. A film that honours a man that could not find a piece of wood of his own to survive at sea is even weaker than the man himself. Abysmal. — No stars

Karl Marx: It could have been better if the travellers in third class had started a revolution under the guidance of Jack Dawson. At least they then would have died for a cause. — Two stars

Immanuel Kant: All people should agree that the chandeliers were beautiful, but all should also agree that, after careful observation, it was impossible for Jack to still have his hands after having a woman going at him with an axe. — Four stars

Average rating: 2/5 stars

 

For Those Wondering What Happened to “The Notebook”

We commissioned Alain de Botton to write a review, but then he turned the review into a book of average length and sold it en masse in museums. It is currently being taught at The School of Life for €55,- per lecture.

 

Ilona

 

(For more popular romantic films, check: http://imdb.to/1IjkCMo)

 

Humanities: Rethink, Redefine, Reform

6,6--17,7 Winter, 2010 (Article Ilona)It’s a tough world out there as a humanities scholar. Facing virtuous doctors, renowned mathematicians, and heroic physicists, we are more than often advised to celebrate the wondrous worlds of Raphael’s Stanze, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, whilst occasionally throwing around a Judith Butler text, alone, without claiming their utility. Studying humanities is a way to enrich your life. It underlines our pursuit of knowledge. Its intrinsic value is so prominent and elitist already that there is no need to associate the humanities with other fields of science. Apparently we are just studying a lifestyle. Thus, humanities scholars need to defend themselves in this polemic academic disunity. And we’ve done so poorly.

In the ongoing debate of Profile 2016 and the humanities departments in universities in general we, as humanities scholars, have the tendency to defend a position in which we establish two dichotomies. The first one is a simple one and emphasizes the differences between the humanities and the hard sciences[1]. The second dichotomy refers to the ongoing debate of how we should defend the value of the humanities with the obligation to ‘choose’ between its intrinsic or its instrumental value. However, a number of recently published articles have pointed out that there is a need of philosophy, literature, language, and history in other fields of science, and even in the U.S. Air Force Academy[2] (“Greater emphasis on humanities means more well-rounded decision making”). And it’s in the argumentation of these new discourses that the humanities scholar is to find a new defense.

In May 2014, The Guardian[3] argued that the humanities are necessary because of the enrichment of art and literature in our lives, but are not essential to democracy and therefore their instrumental value is doubtful: “The arts and humanities cannot claim to be essential to democracy, economic success and social wellbeing. Most people do perfectly well without direct engagement with culture.” However, there is one thing we should not ignore in this article: “At their best they [the arts and humanities] can engage us in a continuous search to understand the human condition.” And where The Guardian fails to elaborate, Azar Nafisi’s The Republic of Imagination picks it up: “I object to the notion that passion and imagination are superfluous, that the humanities have no practical or pragmatic use or relevance and should thus be subservient to other, more “useful” fields. In fact, imaginative knowledge is pragmatic: it helps shape our attitude to the world and our place in it and influences our capacity to make decisions.[4]

So, if we can take humanities into our world of democracy and even as far as the U.S. Air Force Academy, why do we still establish and emphasize the dichotomy between the humanities and the hard sciences? In its most recent issue of De Gids, Netherlands’ longest established literary and cultural magazine, Bert Keizer in his essay on the medical sciences stresses the importance of philosophy of science, but also acknowledges the difficulties of application[5]. In this, there is a glimmer of hope for the humanities scholar. I’m not saying that we should go around saying we can save lives telling medicine students what to do. However, in the possibilities of reforming departments in universities, we should keep in mind the value of humanities, rethinking and redefining it continually.

 

ISA

 

Footnotes

[1] For example: http://spunk.nl/blog/we-zijn-geen-betastudenten-dus-we-kunnen-onszelf-beter-weggooien.

[2] http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/11/at-the-air-force-academy-stem-education-isnt-enough/382793/.

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/may/29/study-arts-humanites-enrichment.

[4] The Republic of Imagination, p. 11-12.

[5] “ Waar zijn we in terechtgekomen? Midden in het cartesiaans dualisme. Dat is geen filosofische positie, maar een filosofisch probleem.”Read the full article in Dutch on Blendle: https://blendle.nl/i/de-gids/geloven-hopen-en-weten-in-geneeskunde/bnl-degids-20141201-18949_geloven_hopen_en_weten_in_geneeskunde.