New Kunstlicht Issue: Auga

12 Jun


Auga is the title of ‘s first issue of 2014. Auga, Old Norse for “eye,” explores the window in visual art, architecture, cultural history and literature. In this Kunstlicht examines the complex triangle in which viewer, window and view interact; topics include Dan Graham’s pavilions and Paul Scheerbart’s visions of translucent architecture. For more information, see the editorial here.

For the first time, all articles in this issue are published in both Dutch and English, “testifying of our aim to remain firmly embedded within Dutch-language academia, as well as our drive to showcase the work done within these confines on an international stage.”

Kunstlicht’s next issue will be on “Art Criticism in a Networked Age” (which will include a conversation between VAMA’s Sven Lütticken and Jorinde Seijdel), and the one after that will tackle the subject of speculative design. You can read the call for proposals here. Deadline: 24 June.

Debate on the University

31 May

IMG_1122VAMA students Roel Griffioen and Jesse van Winden have found yet another brilliant and entirely justifiable reason to prolong the writing of their theses a bit more: they have co-authored a manifesto on the state of Dutch universities. The long version will be published in a book edited by two VU philosophers, Ad Verbrugge and Jelle van Baardewijk, Waartoe is de universiteit op aarde – Wat is er mis en hoe kan het beter?, which will be presented at a “Night of the University” in the News in Amsterdam on June 6. Today, the short version of Roel and Jesse’s text has been published in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, and on this occasion Roel is the paper’s cover boy. The online version is here.

We’re proud that Roel and Jesse participate in the necessary debate on the contemporary university, which has been financialized and turned into a faltering pseudo-business, riddled with perverse incentives. One example of this, discussed by Roel and Jesse, is the pressure to “churn out” diplomas if you want to secure your funding and your income. As protesting students at the VU put it some months ago, the university appears to be run like a “cookie factory” — and to gain access to this factory, students must make debts or have wealthy parents. Neo-liberal internationalization in the wake of “Bologna,” with the world becoming a market of potential students that are needed to ensure growth, is another problematic development. But this process, in which we are of course entangled, also creates some elementary preconditions for genuine international exchange—however compromised and imperfect.

In his article in today’s NRC, which was also written for Waartoe is de universiteit op aarde, Ad Verbrugge attacks the top-down imposition of English, or the mutated version thereof that Hito Steyerl has dubbed International Disco Latin. Clearly, Verbrugge has a point when he attacks the fetishization of rankings and of “top research” published in peer-reviewed international journals, which can act as a disincentive for academics and students to think and act locally; and this project is certainly an impressive example of a critical intervention of (what remains of) the local public sphere.

However, it would be disastrous if the problem were ultimately to be framed in terms of good/local/Dutch versus bad/international/English. No doubt this is not the intention, but there are some worrying signs suggesting that the necessary analysis of the economic and ideological contradictions that both produce and undermine today’s university is swapped all too easily for conservative Kulturkritik that fetishizes the pre-1968 university; whereas Roel and Jesse, by contrast, praise the relative accessibility and openness of post-’68 academia. During the Night of the University (pardon my French: the Nacht van de Universiteit), one of the protagonists of today’s Edmund Burke-worshiping neoconservatives will lecture on the “the cultural role of the university” —  Theodore Dalrymple, who has published a book with the Flemish nationalist Bart De Wever, and does not appear to be overly interested in distancing himself from his admirer’s political agenda.

In a Europe in which the neo-liberal internationalism of the EU breeds various nationalisms, populisms and xenophobic movements (from Lucke and De Wever to Farage, Wilders and Le Pen), what is the way to deal with the dialectic of the local, the national and the global, and with conflicting incentives and imperatives? One thing is for sure: for VAMA, returning to Dutch would be considerably less attractive than reverting to actual Latin. If we are to go back in time, then let’s do it properly! Fortunately, being enrolled in an international MA programme does not prevent VAMA students from engaging with the world their live in and the conditions they labour under.

Activities in June

20 May

A few lectures and seminars for June:

On June 18, Katja Kwastek will give her inaugural lecture as professor of art history at VU University: Post-Digital Art History. This is a public lecture in the aula in the main building of VU University, starting at 3.45 PM.

On June 19, we will meet artist Andrea Fraser for a seminar. We will watch her two-channel video Projection and discuss this piece, her practice in general and her essays “From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique,” “There’s No Place Like Home” and “Autonomy and Its Contradictions.” This is part of a loose series of sessions on and with artists associated with institutional critique.


And on June 23, we welcome Eric Gordon (Emerson College/Harvard). Eric Gordon will give a masterclass in the morning, and a public lecture titled “Play, Games and Power” at 3.30 in the main building, room 1E24.

“Games can be powerful tools for motivating civic participation. They have demonstrated effectiveness in learning outcomes, charitable giving, and even public participation. Governments and NGOs are eager to adopt games and game-based processes to aid in this work, but to what end? This talk provides a critical analysis of how governments and NGOs are thinking about the “use” of games and the design of play in cultivating citizen engagement. Too often, the focus on gamification and efficiency dominate the discourse around tech-enabled citizen participation, where democracy is presented as an instrumental process, rather than a constructive one. There is need to understand the relationship between what institutions want from games and what they want from democracy, and to scrutinize the (dis)connections.”

Image (update): the seminar with Andrea Fraser at Casco.

Alumni News

20 May

delangstedag5f1c-4cafbWe are delighted that VAMA alumnus Angela Bartholomew has been awarded an NWO grant that will enable her to pursue her PhD at VU University. We look forward to Angela’s return to our community!

Her PhD project is titled The Mediation of Critique and analyses artistic and curatorial strategies of mediation in the Low Countries during the 1980s and 1990 in the framework of institutional critique: “This research postulates that the two seemingly polar approaches to art practice that emerged in the mid 1980s are, in fact, both responding to increased mediation within the institution. While the hypermediated approach pushes forward a critique of mediation, covering new territory through the use of unconventional or new media forms (Gerald van der Kaap, Raul Marroquin, Aernout Mik), more self-contained works of painting and sculpture also operate in response to their own mediation through abstaining or withdrawing (Didier Vermeiren, Thierry De Cordier, Fortuyn/O’Brien). Given that the mediation of art by the institution inspires mediation as an artistic strategy, both can be seen to be involved in a generative cycle in which both institutions and artists advance mediation. This focus upon mediation as a subject and a means of criticality is indebted to a lineage of institutional critique practices, which also looked to the context of their exposure as the subject and the medium of their praxis.”

Image: Jef Cornelis, De langste dag (1986)

Student News: Seeing Red

12 May


VAMA student Boris Čučković has an article out in the new Leonardo Almanac, which is titled Red Art: New Utopias in Data Capitalism. Boris’s text, “Grounds for the Political Aesthetics of Cultural Commons in the Post-Medium Condition: The Open Source Cultural Object,” is an outcome of the research Boris has been pursuing in his two years as VAMA student, culminating in his thesis – which he is currently writing. In the autumn, he will continue his research as a PhD student at the Courtauld Institute. Oh yes, and the entire publication is available online here. That’s digital commoning for you!

On a related note: Roel Griffioen (VAMA student) and Stefaan Vervoort (VAMA alumnus) have reviewed the exhibition The Good Cause: Towards an Architecture of Peace for Open!

Going Underground

26 Apr

The last regular session of Ginette Verstraete’s course of Critical Issues – Locating Media, Mediating Place: Between Power and Play was last week; many second-years students are currently focusing on their thesis (we will have thesis presentations on May 20, from 1 PM). A few weeks ago, Ginette and the VAMA students engaged in a bit of urban spelunking in the context of this class – by descending into the under-construction Rokin Metrostation. Student Arnold Westerhout reports:

The Amsterdam Metro network is enlarged by the much-contested Noord/Zuidlijn, which is due to open in 2017. On March 12th, the future Rokin metrostation was visited by the students, along with professor Ginette Verstraete, artist Krien Clevis and civil technician Ries Jelier, who acted as guide. Apart from an unforgettable experience and many jolly photo opportunities, the visit provided a wonderful contextualization for several questions discussed in the course, such as: How is new place created on and in a historical site, out of mud containing artifacts of bygone eras? Moreover, the excursion contributed to the understanding of Krien Clevis’ research into newly created underground spaces through quarrying. One of her questions: How can earlier uses be made visible amidst a future articulation of that very same place?


Photos by Krien Clevis.