April 12: Hito Steyerl

4 Apr


On April 12, we will have a seminar session with artist and theorist Hito Steyerl at the Van Abbemuseum, preceding the opening of her solo show later that day. We will discuss her essay “Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?” in the context of her practice and the exhibition.

April 8: Steven Jacobs

3 Apr


On Tuesday April 8 at 1.30 PM, we welcome Steven Jacobs from the University of Ghent for a guest lecture. Jacobs is an expert on cinematic representations of architecture and cities. In his lecture he will focus on the genre of city symphonies, films from the 1920s which include such films as René Clair’s Paris qui dort and Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin, Die Sinfonie der Großstadt. This lecture takes place in the context of the seminar The Art of Comparison: The Cinematic City by Ivo Blom, Koos Bosma and our endowed professor Bert Hogenkamp. Subsequently, Bert Hogenkamp will lecture on the image of Amsterdam in Dutch documentaries (Ivens, Van der Elsken, Van der Keuken).

Images: stills from Menschen am Sonntag (Robert Siodmak and Billy Wilder, 1930, and A Photographer Films Amsterdam (Ed van der Elsken, 1982).

Alumni News: Politics and the Arts

2 Apr

VAMA alumnus Laura Prins (Van Gogh Museum) is co-organizing the conference The Artwork Exposed. Politics and the Arts (1850-1914), which will be held at the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum, April 17-18. There will be a keynote lecture on “Patriotism, Empathy, and the Politicization of Art” by Michelle Facos (Indiana University Bloomington), a presentation by Laura titled “L’Art pour l’art or L’Art pour tous? The Artist, the Anarchist in Les Temps nouveaux, 1896-1903,” and VU University’s Jos ten Berge is one of the respondents.

The second day includes a visit to the Rijksmuseum “for an in situ discussion of the relationship between arts and politics in the Dutch context.” The focus of this excursion will presumably be on the patriotic nineteenth-century decorations, but the fact that the Lord of the Drones and his Dutch sidekick recently used the Nightwatch as backdrop for a press conference could add some contemporary spice to the proceedings.

“The Creative Class as Foreign Legion”

20 Feb

street-by-streetVAMA student Roel Griffioen is currently writing his thesis on architecture and photography in the interwar years. Roel is also a proud denizen of Amsterdam Nieuw-West, where ambitious gentrification plans have been put somewhat on the back-burner due to the crisis. Enter the artists, critics, designers and researchers! In his recent article “De creatieve klasse als vreemdelingenlegioen” (“The Creative Class as Foreign Legion”), published in the Belgian magazine Rekto:verso, Roel analyses the rather ambiguous role of various project spaces and other “artistic incubators” run by the “nouveau poor” or “lumpen freelancers” (dixit Hito Steyerl). As Roel notes, he himself is part of this scene, making this is an act of immanent critique that has already spawned an interesting discussion in the comments section. Now if he could just briefly stop doing all these interesting and urgent things and complete his thesis…

Image: photo by Taf Hassam from Street by Street, Block by Block (2012, Goleb, Amsterdam) by Roel Griffioen and Taf Hassam.

Locating Media, Mediating Place

9 Feb


One of the main courses this semester is the biannual seminar Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries, which focuses on processes of commercialization and globalization in the areas of art, media and architecture — or what in the mid-20th century the philosophers Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer scathingly referred to as the ‘culture industry’. Since this course is taught by different professors every other year, the issues addressed alternate along with the teacher. While in the past the emphasis was on the changes in the institutionalization of the visual arts, currently the focus lies on issues of space and place in different cultural practices. Taught by Ginette Verstreate, this edition is subtitled “Locating Media, Mediating Place: Between Power and Play,” and addresses the entanglements of space, place and media from a variety of perspectives.

Starting point is the spatial turn in media studie,s as this runs parallel to the increasing importance of location-based mobile media in diverse fields of application: in advertising, Google navigation, on-site social networking such as Foursquare, but also in artistic projects, urban games and in the context of social activism. We will ask how to interpret these current media developments in theory and practice as these are situated in the tensions between power and play. We will learn that location-based media practices have a genealogy of their own (involving different kinds of media) and that the academic reflections on them have a long history that can be traced back to 20th-century French thought and (post)Marxist geography.

Along with the increasing mobility of goods, money, and people and the rise of networks through digital media – both known as globalization – issues of space and place have been on the agenda in various disciplines and cultural practices. As if the so-called placelessness (the famous “abolition of space”) that comes with globalization has paradoxically called forth a renewed attention to what gets lost. This does not mean that place and space in those discussions and practices simply refer back to rootedness, as opposed to movement. Rather, spatiality often gets redefined in relation to the physical and virtual (also imaginary) mobilities through which it is reshaped. Interestingly, addressing such new questions about space and place in media, art and cultural theory also has far-reaching effects for ourselves since it enables us to take the objects of our research beyond their presumed autonomy – beyond the screen or frame so to speak – and into the streets.

This semester there will be a couple of guest lectures focusing on the city/media nexus, both in the context of this course and of Ivo Blom and Koos Bosma’s The Cinematic City seminar.  On Tuesday April 8, 1.30 PM in 11A36 Steven Jacobs (University of Ghent) will lecture on “City Symphonies,”  and in June there will be a master class with and plenary lecture by Eric Gordon (Emerson College and Harvard University).

Image: the center of Amsterdam, photo published in Internationale Situationniste no. 3 (December 1959) with the caption “Une zone experimentale pour la dérive. Le centre d’Amsterdam, quit sera systématiquement exploré par des équippes situationnistes en april-mai 1960.”

Seminar: John Byrne

24 Jan


On 3 February, we welcome John Byrne (programme leader in Fine Art at Liverpool John Moores University) for a seminar on the basis of his research into notions of usefulness and use value in the context of modern and contemporary art. We will be studying three texts that were recently published in The Manual for Useful Art: John Ruskin’s “The Relation of Art to Use” as well as John’s essay “Grizedale Arts: Use Value and the Little Society” and a text by Alistair Hudson of Grizedale Arts – an institution for which Ruskin is a crucial point of reference.

John is also working on a chapter on art and use for the Art and Autonomy reader, a publication Sven Lütticken is editing for Afterall as part of the Autonomy Project, a network of art and academic institutions. In a cultural and intellectual landscape that is being remodeled according to the ruling politico-economical ideology, the Autonomy Project seeks to facilitate a number of events to put the problem and practice of autonomy back on the agenda. It began in 2010 and since then has published newspapers, run a series of seminars, two Summer School in 2010 and 2011, and a three-day symposium on October 2011 in the Van Abbemuseum, with among other speakers Jacques Rancière, Thomas Hirschhorn, Tania Bruguera, Peter Osborne, Hito Steyerl and Franco Berardi ; this symposium in turn gave rise to a special autonomy issue of Open

 Image: John Ruskin costume from It’s a Lake District Knockout, devised by artists Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope for Grizedale Arts