Recent articles
Issue #028 Published: 18-02-2020 // Written by: Anonymous
Emancipation or indoctrination, ingested: thoughts from the Dutch corporate-academic food complex
I read with great interest, commiseration and sympathy your experience of Sustainable Development Studies in Big Dutch Academia, and wish to wade in on the conversation. The following is an account of my perspective and experiences as a researcher from the side of food system sustainability at the Wageningen University – the food valley, industrial heartland, purveyor of fine methane emitters, the corporate breadbasket of the country. Colonialism in Europe, with the chauvinism, white privilege (read: supremacy) and sequestration of wealth by the few - under the guise of bringing civility and prosperity to the savage lower class – lives on in the corporate growth models of capitalism’s retirement years. Croaking capitalism is like my semi-retired boss (an academic who enjoyed decades of generous speaking fees from the likes of Danone and Unilever, all-inclusive exotic trips to the East to preach the industrial agricultural approach towards better health and ‘development’). He hits a few thousand golf balls a week, flies recreationally monthly, and looks proudly down on an ever-expanding legacy of both academic and biological grandchildren. “I had my hey-day, but god damnit I’m still here”. While fossil fuel (and other) resource extraction and manufacturing grinds to a slow halt as we are confronted with the limited resources this planet has on offer, we can’t (and won’t anytime soon) escape one of the more necessary commodities: food. Add to the recipe a growing population, on track to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050 (our planet’s sustainable carrying capacity is 1 billion), and a dash of climate catastrophe threatening crop yields and general food production capacity in the poorest and most populated regions. Examining our own economic hive, now that knowledge and technical services rather than raw goods dominate our exports (nearly a trillion tomatoes per year notwithstanding), and our riches cannot be forcibly and directly reaped from other nations, academic institutions have become houses of the holy for capital and power. What better platform from which to extoll our industrial food efficiency? Programs such as the troubled and colonial-rooted development studies, as described in the previous Emancipation or Indoctrination, and the deeply problematic technocratic solutions to the climate crisis are but some of the examples (petri dish meat; electric cars; reflective clouds; moving civilization to Mars). Staying within the context of food. Most of us know the evils: global food production is responsible for one QUARTER (25%) of global greenhouse gas emissions, over 75% of which is attributable to our appetite for animal flesh. Beyond greenhouse gases alone, our food systems are the primary drivers of biodiversity loss, deforestation, freshwater pollution, the list goes on, making you want to eat a handful of oak leaves for lunch. Locally, the Dutch agro economy is the proud son of the European grand-uncles Danone, Unilever, Albert Heijn and the like. A recent call by dozens of prominent scientists to reach ‘peak meat’ by 20301 had zero signatories from the Netherlands, amidst staggering CO2 emissions from the Dutch livestock sector and the expanding Nitrogen crisis. At Wageningen University – deep in Gelderland’s ‘Food Valley’, Extinction Rebellion, collective and self-determining social housing organisations and truly low-waste and sustainable local agricultural initiatives sit cozily next to Unilever, Monsanto and its pub-mate Syngenta, Friesland Campina, and others. There is no university policy for food sustainability, and campus cafeterias are run by massive international food service corporations. Our president, Louise Fresco, sits or has sat on the board in an executive capacity of Unilever, Syngenta, the SHELL FOUNDATION (that’s Royal Dutch Shell, to be crystal clear) and Rabobank. Many graduate students are co-appointed to one of these corporations, and, anecdotally, I have witnessed in seminars many of said students openly deride with confidence the idea of reducing our dependence on animal offerings. How does this ivory manure tower smell to you now? As in other realms of sustainability activism, study, or intensive involvement, as a food sustainability researcher one is confronted daily by the citizen-consumer paradox – we must eat to survive in this twisted economy of Albert Heijns and Jumbos. As both researchers and citizen-consumers we are trapped in perverse systemic feedback loops driven by corporate interest, and utterly staggering levels of policy inertia perpetuating climate change, disillusionment, depression, obesity and overweight, socioeconomic divide, the dismantling of social services. Yadda yadda yadda, the rich get richer and older still. What does this all mean for academia, and for the academic pawns in this current ecosystem? In my own psyche, the comfort found in status quo academia butts its head daily against the sheer hypocrisy and inadequacy of it all. I see how easy it is to toe the line, how easy it is to strap yourself in to the mechanical cart that moves you through the chambers of academia. You must only sit, mesmerized and obedient, tapping the test tubes and keyboard and regurgitating the desired result. I once rode the (children’s) Carnival ride at Efteling on mushrooms. It feels like that. Step and speak gingerly around the (almost exclusively) old white, indigenous Dutch men, so as not to disturb them in their waking slumber. They run the departments and refer to you as ‘lieve schatje’ if you interrupt or pose a challenging thought. The radicalism and sense of extreme urgency and purpose fall away as you are massaged by the small comforts and successes of publishing small pieces of bullshit that will do absolutely nothing for the world, save to secure you another few years on your academic contract. There are so-far no burning answers that come to mind to divestment our collective understanding of what constitutes knowledge and progress away from industrial academia, particularly not in this country. We can start by asking some critical questions. Perverse and rigid European funding apparatuses make dipping into the (fairly deep, seemingly unlimited) pot of Euros for the sake of citizen initiatives nearly impossible. Considering public funds alone, with an operating budget of 13 billion regionally (European Research Council, 2014-2020) and 1 billion per year locally (Nationale Wetenschapsagenda), we’d do well to convene a citizen’s court and judge whether these investments have been paid forward to the masses, or have done enough to secure a livable planet for generations to come (they haven’t). What is the role of the academic institution as a bona-fide puppet of industry on this melting planet inhabited by a civilization in peril? What powers and norms are responsible for maintaining the illusion that a) a university education is the natural gateway to a fully formed human and b) universities are the real engines of free thought and progress? How can we identify and dismantle these deeply societally conditioned avenues so as to divert both monetary funds and physical efforts towards more meaningful action? Finally, on a personal note, it is up to disillusioned academics to exit the institute and find more ethical and constructive ways to apply our knowledge skills to society outside of the ivory tower. Europe’s newly announced ‘Green New Deal’ promises to throw billions of Euros towards research and innovation, tasking public institutions with the bulk of the transition work. But what good is the deal if the structures in place to digest this money are the same as those that got us in this mess? Academics from many other realms, locations and seats of power are demanding rapid and transformative system change, see for example the outspoken Swedish rock-star of sustainability science Johan Rockström. In this country, we are complacent and complicit, academics and non-academics alike. On our padded bike seats, eating cheap, plentiful food, rinsing plastic containers of ultra-processed veggie meat, dreamt up in a lab in Gelderland. Let us radically rethink how we look at sustainable development and agriculture through the lens of academic, publically-funded research. Divorce these public private partnerships and make agricultural programs paid for by people work for people and the entire planet.   1) Harwatt et al. Lancet Planetary Health, December 2019
Issue #028 Published: 07-02-2020 // Written by: Grootveld, Ginkel, Waalwijk
Het ‘nieuwe normaal’: de kaboutermoraal
De stad Amsterdam is druk in de weer om een nieuwe langetermijnvisie te formuleren, de Amsterdamse omgevingsvisie 2050. Komend jaar zal hiervoor een ontwerp worden opgesteld, dat vervolgens vanaf 2022 als richtinggevend kader voor het ʻnieuwe normaalʼ moet gaan dienen. De Structuurvisie 2040 uit 2011 is door de griffe groei van de stad ingehaald en biedt onvoldoende houvast voor de toekomst. Amsterdam gaat immers weer bijbouwen, wel 75.000 woningen in de komende tien tot dertig jaar, met name in het westelijk havengebied. Maar een stad die groeit moet wel kunnen blijven ademen. In het Algemeen Uitbreidingsplan (AUP) uit 1935, dat de toenmalige groei van Amsterdam in grote lijnen vastlegde, plande de stedenbouwkundige Cornelis Van Eesteren omvangrijke parklandschappen: de scheggen van Amsterdam. Als groene vingers moesten deze scheggen tot diep in de stad doordringen: het zogenaamde vingerstadmodel. De gemeente Amsterdam benadrukte in de Structuurvisie 2040 vooral de recreatieve functie van de scheggen. Maar het onlangs gepresenteerde Manifest van de Scheggen ( ziet veel meer kansen voor de deze longen van de stad door nieuwe functies toe te voegen en slimme verbanden te leggen. Ontwikkeling van de natuur en recreatie kunnen bijvoorbeeld prima samengaan met de productie van energie en voedsel. Het Manifest benadrukt echter ook dat de scheggen door hun aantrekkelijke ligging extreem kwetsbaar zijn voor de huidige bouwdrift, zoals blijkt uit de dreigende aanleg van een bedrijventerrein in de Lutkemeerpolder, die feitelijk juist een sleutelrol zou moeten vervullen in de voedselproductie in de nabijheid van de stad. Volgend jaar is het vijftig jaar geleden dat de Kabouters in Amsterdam een eigen staat uitriepen: de Oranje Vrijstaat. De Kabouterbeweging kun je zien als de eerste groene politieke beweging in Nederland, zelfs in heel Europa. Zij zette zich toen al af tegen de moderne consumptiemaatschappij (de verslaafde consument) en de aantasting van het milieu. Het doel was een leefbare stad met veel groen en genoeg woonruimte voor iedereen. De kapitalistische economie blijft echter groeien, want groei is de essentie van het systeem. De centrale drijfveer is het accumuleren van steeds meer kapitaal. Dus wat groeit is niet de duurzaamheid of leefbaarheid van de stad en ook niet het welzijn van haar bewoners. Nee, wat groeit is alleen de leefruimte van het kapitaal, namelijk de markt, en die lijkt de stad langzamerhand op te vreten. Inmiddels naderen we het punt waarop nagenoeg alles op begint te raken en de klimaatverandering onomkeerbaar is geworden. Steeds meer mensen proberen daarom een alternatieve manier van leven te vinden. Volgens geograaf David Harvey, die afgelopen maand in Amsterdam was voor ‘De stad van morgen,’ zou je kunnen zeggen dat zij een heterotopie1 proberen te creëren. Maar Harvey stelt ook dat deze heterotope basis uiteindelijk zal worden opgeslokt door het systeem, want als het erop aan komt is geen enkel goed idee opgewassen tegen de verlokkingen van het kapitaal. Toch is die heterotope basis noodzakelijk, aldus Harvey, om te kunnen bouwen aan sociale relaties die niet worden gedomineerd door de marktlogica, herkomst of genderongelijkheid. In september organiseerden wij het achtste Futurological Symposium Free Cultural Spaces, met als thema Reframing Environmentalism, om met diverse vertegenwoordigers van vrije culturele ruimtes uit binnen- en buitenland kennis en ervaringen te delen. Veelal blijkt dat juist deze plekken zelf de ontwikkeling van hun fysieke leefomgeving bepalen. Hier wordt wars van iedere commercie geëxperimenteerd met het vormgeven van alternatieve omgevings- en milieuvisies. Het gebied rond de Afrikahaven in Amsterdam, aan de rand van wat straks ‘Haven-Stad’ moet gaan worden, toont hoe een trans-industrieel landschap van de toekomst er uit zou kunnen zien. Hier is een synergie tussen de sociale, natuurlijke en industriële ruimte tot stand gebracht, ook al dient die nog verder ontwikkeld te worden. Er zouden groene corridors tussen de bedrijventerreinen moeten komen, waar dieren gebruik van kunnen maken om zich te verplaatsen. De vrijplaats Ruigoord zou verbonden moeten worden met de groengebieden in de directe omgeving, die onderdeel zijn van de Brettenzone, een groenstrook die Amsterdam vanaf het Westerpark met de duinen verbindt. De ‘rafelranden’ van de stad zijn precies de heterotope tussenruimtes waar Harvey het over had. Ze zijn van groot belang voor de stad, als we het gedachtegoed van de kabouters willen laten herleven. Het achtste Futurologisch Symposium sloot af met een demonstratie vanaf het VrijPaleis aan de Paleisstraat naar het Lieverdje op het Spui. Na speeches van onder meer de oud-Kabouters Coen Tasman en Roel van Duijn werd er een appelboompje geplant. Ter viering van de verjaardag van de oprichting van de Oranje Vrijstaat in 1970 is in overleg met de gemeente Amsterdam besloten deze boom in februari 2020 een vaste plek op het Spui te geven. 1) De heterotopie is een concept dat is uitgewerkt door de Franse filosoof Michel Foucault om bepaalde culturele, institutionele en discursieve ruimtes te beschrijven die op de een of andere manier ʻandersʼ zijn: verontrustend, intens, onverenigbaar, tegenstrijdig of transformerend. Heterotopieën zijn werelden in werelden, die spiegelen en daarmee verstoren wat er daarbuiten gaande is. Written by: Menno Grootveld, Patrick van Ginkel, Aja Waalwijk
Issue #028 Published: 06-02-2020 // Written by: Sonic Acts
Sonic Acts Academy 21-23 February 2020 Amsterdam
Sonic Acts Academy is a festival at the intersection of innovative audio-visual and performative art and critical thinking, concerned with human-caused planetary transformations and driven by the need to rethink common futures. Taking place in Amsterdam from 21 to 23 February 2020, it offers three evenings of live cinema, experimental concerts and progressive club nights alongside a conference with cutting-edge international artistic voices at partnering institutions Paradiso, De Brakke Grond, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and OT301. As a condensed rendition of its bigger sister, the renowned Sonic Acts Festival, the Academy focusses on inspiring artistic research with a special emphasis on experimentation and innovation in the age of the Anthropocene. The first artists and thinkers are: Nabil Ahmed, Marja Ahti, AYA, bod [] + Schwestern Sisters (SwS), Bookworms, Anthea Caddy, DEBBY FRIDAY, T. J. Demos, Design Earth, Marjolijn Dijkman, Elvin Brandhi, Hugo Esquinca + Yuk Hui, Maika Garnica, JonášGruska, Terike Haapoja, Holly Herndon, Anja Kanngieser, Lag OS, LukášLikavčan, Daniel Mann + Eitan Efrat, MÆKUR: Anton Kats + Maia Urstad + Eva Rowson, Kali Malone, Meuko! Meuko!, Roly Porter + MFO, RUI HO, S280F / 011668 / vvxxii, Sadaf, Speaker Music (De Forrest Brown, Jr.), Tadleeh, Philip Vermeulen, and Via App. Info & tickets The next programme announcement will be made in January. Go to the Sonic Acts website for more info and tickets.  
Online only Published: 03-02-2020 // Written by: Sofia Bifulco
Earlier this year, after travelling to Berlin and Ciudad del Mexico, Skalar landed in Amsterdam. Skalar is a kinetic audio/visual installation developed by German light artist Christopher Bauder and French DJ David Letellier aka Kangding Ray, especially tailored to the interior of the Gashouder on the Westergas terrain. Their work seeks to explore the interplay of two forms – light and music – and the emotions that they can evoke. The installation, which runs from 10 January to 5 February 2020, consists of a 40 minutes loop of moving lights and soundscapes. In addition, Bauder and Ray’s installation is offered in an extended and more intense version involving a live show on specific dates. The term “scalar” is a mathematical definition used to describe something that has size but not direction. In Skalar, light photons are manipulated in order to create solid sculptures, and spectators are walk through a wheel of emotions by the show’s sounds and color spectrum. The Theory of Colours describing the sensory quality connoted in the perception of colours was first introduced around the beginning of the 19th century. It revolutionized the world of art, and artists started to play and explore its repercussions and how different colors affect spectators’ feelings. Kandinsky, a Russian painter who introduced abstractionism into visual arts in Europe, once wrote: “These weird beings that we name colours coming one after the other, living in themselves and for themselves, [are] independent and endowed of the necessary quality of their future and independent life.” Kandinsky was the first to make colour the subject of paintings, instead of using colour as a means to depict a traditional subject. Through utilising modern technologies, Skalar translates this theory into an artwork for the contemporary age. To this end, the show deconstructs colours, and the projected beams of varying wavelengths of visible light are the absolute subjects of this work. The Gashouder provides the perfect setting for the installation: it is a round, enclosed space that helps visitors to be encompassed by the deep sounds and the spectacle of light. Unlike during the special live performances, during working hours the venue is not crowded, people can sit, stand or lay down and thus enjoy the show from different perspectives. As you enter you immediately feel you are entering a space which is alive. The installation immerses you, and as you realise the loop has closed you feel compelled to stay and experience it all again one more time, maybe from a different position, maybe in a new frame of mind. The live shows, meanwhile, have the atmosphere of a concert more than an art exhibition due to the presence of a numerous audience and the show’s chronological narrative. Overall, the public reception has been mainly positive. However, the way the artwork was branded might be counterproductive to how the artists want the work itself to be experienced. Making use of extensive social media advertising, collaborating with other big names in the arts industry, and making the tickets expensive and exclusive, are all tactics that make Skalar seem a commercially-oriented entertainment extravaganza, rather than a work of art that wants to stimulate emotional meditations. This branding strategy brings thousands of visitors to the exhibition but also develops expectations and preclude to the visitors the possibility of fully experiencing the artists’ vision. As a result, Skalar has seem to have been underwhelming for some; in fact, some interviewees said that “it lacks depth and a narrative”, “did not fulfill its potential,” and “I was expecting more.”. These reactions are understandable given the fact that Skalar’s interplay between lights and sound is not extravagant: the show produces measured luminous sculptures, while the sound consists of deep beats. This is why the visitor’s mindset when entering it is extremely important. Indeed, the visitors who let the installation walk them through their inner contemplation agreed, as interviewees Thomas de Bruijn and Noah Van Sittart said, that it “takes over your mindset”, “stimulates your imagination”, and brought them through a clean “up and down of emotions, like a rollercoaster”. Although Skalar is a great success story, it’s a story that makes us (the public) and artists question the role of branding in contemporary art, how can it affect the expectations of the public, and what role do those expectations play in their overall experience. In this case, the way Skalar was branded set high expectations and made the work seem more like a commercial performance than a work of art meant to inspire meditation and perception of emotions. Indeed, as the artists have stated in an interview about the project, Skalar is “more meditative: you come in, get into the mood, and it is a constant up and down of intensities,” (Bauder) “we are triggering emotions and opinions, that’s exactly what we want.” (Ray). I would definitely recommend you visit Skalar, although it is important to keep in mind Baudar and Ray’s instructions: “Enjoy the piece from different perspectives, it's 360 degrees so there is not a perfect spot, do not only lay in the middle or not only stay on the side, move around, and try to enter into the mood, not like ‘ok now I’ve seen everything and that’s it’, but try to get into a meditative state, be open to what it does with you.“ (Bauder) “come open-minded and try to see this as a parallel universe. It’s not Netflix, it’s not Instagram, it’s real life. It’s a real experience, it’s not the image of it, it is the piece. And then you can decide whether you like it or not, but you have to immerse yourself in it.” (Ray)          
Issue #028 Published: 30-01-2020 // Written by: Chris Kelly
The Return of Protest Music Ft. Lowkey & Noam Chomsky
“Life is a paradise for some and a pair of dice for others’’ Trust in traditional media outlets is at an all-time low. In a poll carried out by the independent research body Statista, “40% of all Europeans have ‘little to no’ trust in traditional media forums”. All though I’d hate to give Donald Trump and Borris Johnson credit for anything, there is no question that they both deserve a spot right next to Rupert Murdoch on the Mount Rushmore of compulsive liars. The construction of fabricated diatribes to create false narratives and conjecture, has become a part of today’s mainstream political strategy. It has dirtied and diluted our sources of truth, resulting in decades of political desensitisation, particularly amongst young people. However, there is one medium of independent education that has been historically proven to reignite the public’s passion for political involvement: Protest Music. History of Protest Music From the late 1800’s onwards, protest music became a way in which normal people could tell their side of the story and share the true nature of their experiences. Much like how Soul and Blues was born out of the music of plantation workers in the deep south, later musicians would use their music to voice their anguish at corrupt systems of governance. For example, the tensions between the American people and the government during the 1970’s became vocalised in the form of a vibrant renaissance of Protest Music from the likes of John Lennon, The Sex Pistols, Eagles, Bob Marley and The Doors. Not since the raw and cathartic sounds of Nina Simone’s ‘Missisipi Goddam’ and Ray Charles’s ‘Georgia’ had social unrest been so eloquently worded and creatively conveyed. Protest music became a way of keeping specific injustices at the forefront of the collective social consciousness. This notion is perhaps best embodied by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song,‘Ohio’. The song was released in reaction to the Kent State University shooting that took place on May 4th 1970 in which 4 young students were killed by US soldiers during a peaceful, on campus, protest against the Vietnam War. The chorus reads: “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming We’re finally on our own This summer I hear the drumming Four dead in Ohio” The song became a soundtrack to the 70’s as it defined and immortalised the contempt felt at the events of mainstream political discourse at the time. These events would include the Watergate scandal, the assasination of Kennedy and the war atrocities of Vietnam. Through their art, Crosby Stills, Nash & Young memorialised the events of Kent state and codified them as part of the national identity of the US. Protest Music in the 2010’s: The Return of Lowkey Much like the US in the 1970’s, the political unrest of the last decade has resulted in a similar element of political commentary permeating UK Garage, House, Electronic and Hip Hop music. Whether it be Fatboy Slim mixing Greta Thunberg’s speech with his single ‘Right here right now’, or the formation of the Grime4Corbyn movement, more and more UK artists are using their music to stimulate political curiosity and engagement. The risk of idleness is now too big and their voices too loud not to be used like the voices of Nina, Ray and Crosby. One musician in particular is redefining Protest Music once more. Lowkey or Kareem Dennis is a prolific London based, Iraqi Grime MC and activist, who has used his music to contemplate and challenge the actions of the UK government. In 2009, he travelled to Palestine and was arrested for attempting to host charity concerts to rebuild the Gaza Strip. He was a core member of the Stop the War Coalition against the invasion of Iraq whilst also becoming a prominent supporter of Jeremy Corbyn in his 2017 and 2019 campaigns. In addition to all of this, Lowkey’s last album came out in 2011, meaning that for 8 year, fans have waited eagerly to hear this philosophers perspectives on a decade of political turmoil. His new project ‘Soundtrack to the Struggle 2’ is a masterful piece of political analysis and musicality. In the album’s title track, Lowkey is joined by political philosopher and living legend Noam Chomsky. Lowkey asks him about his concerns with the intentions of capitalism and the inevitabilities of the system. Noam’s response is expertly layered over a dark and imposing beat as the two go back and forth. Lowkey raps about his confusion as to how ‘CEO’s are more concerned with with future profit than the future of their grandchildren’ before Noem delivers some hard political truths. He says: ‘The CEO of JP Morgan Chase has two choices every day: One, do exactly what is most profitable which happens to be fossil fuels. Or two, be replaced by someone who will do the same thing. Its an institutional problem, not a one man problem’. This is an unparalleled philosophical analysis for the context of a Hip-Hop album. The rest of the album follows the same pattern of protestation against scandals of unjust governing that had elapsed during his 8 year hiatus. A track called ‘McDonald Trump’ deals with the result of the US election, where he writes: “A weapon of mass distraction in this twisted age of decadence Government, big business, the relationship incestuous Hope workers in your businesses unionize and shut you down A million people march when you try to enter London Town” Similarly, the songs ‘The Ghost of Grenfell Tower’ part 1 and 2 enshrined the anger of Londoners within his discography, meaning that the memory of the victims will be remembered for as long as Lowkey is listened to. One last political event is addressed by Lowkey on a track entitled, ‘Long live Palestine’ that begins with a reading of a poem by British comedian Franky Boyle. The eclectic mix of features on this project is a testament to the broad fanbase of Lowkey’s work, encompassing Grime legends such as Akala and theoretical thinkers like Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges. Conclusion The body of work that Lowkey has created in ‘Sounds too the Struggle 2’ is in many ways revolutionary. Lowkey has intelligently repackaged political matters and cultural events that desperately need public awareness into a format that is not only desired but revered by a generation that feels detached and excluded by traditional political discussions. He has revolutionised the protest song, turning it into a form of expertly researched and factually reliable source of honest but opinionated journalism. This new album sort of acts as an encyclopedia of the social injustices felt in London communities over the last decade and therefore it should be treated not only as a classic Hip-Hop album but also as an important document of political philosophy, journalism and history.   Photo: The 2&6 Collective