IMAG-E-NATION the political & philosophical arts initiative blog

(re)imagining the political and philosophical in the 21st century

The Political & Philosophical Arts Initiative is interested in the ways in which people interact with and compose political and philosophical ideas and actions through the various, diverse media of technology and the arts. Participants in PAI seek to explore the ways in which poetry, literature, music, photography, performance and other creative arts interleave with the political and philosophical life, either as vehicles for criticism, elaboration, theorization, intervention or activism.
The Imag-e-nation blog is a forum for interested parties to share stories, images or other contributions. Contributors range from students and faculty to artists and musicians to professional and casual commentators. Pieces can be short opinions, re-postings of appropriate materials, or original compositions. In addition, the PAI at LUC will make a selection of relevant or provocative news items each week for (re)publication here.


Looking for Peace in the city of Peace

Thanks to the sponsorship of LEGO, +HIP is beginning to receive images in its Figur(in)es the Hague competition.
looking for peace amidst the peace and justice, chris goto-jones

This image, entitled 'Looking for Peace amidst the Peace & Justice' was submitted by Chris Goto-Jones.  If you steal it, please acknowledge him and PAI.

No Content

As our departure to New York approaches, the part of the Artistic Activism Summer School taking place in The Hague draws to an end. Tomorrow will be the closing day - we do not expect any more surprises. And surprises we have had, our assignment for today was no exception. On Wednesday 27 June during the last hour of the second workshop, we were told to organize a protest for the next day. This protest would have to incorporate both the artistic as well as the activistic skills we had learned over the course of the week. Some important issues were raised: When does a gathering become a protest? How does the space in which an action takes place contribute to, or perhaps deminish, the message this action brings forth? In an hour we decided to build on our previous concept of ‘This is NOT a Protest’. We would not protest, but rather perform as a group of people walking around The Hague without any direct message to convey. In close formation we would walk around The Hague, wearing white t-shirts and jeans. This would contribute to the non-message we were conveying at first sight. We would carry empty banners and hand out empty flyers. There would be no content. Yet the form of an empty protest would be present, with the objective of evoking confusion in our audience.
So today was the today. At 2 PM we all gathered in the LUC building at Lange Voorhout for the last preparations of our non-protest. The weather was better than it had been in earlier workshops, and many people were out and about in The Hague. Our tour would start off at Lange Voorhout, proceed through Lange Poten and past Buitenhof and it would all end at Lange Voorhout again. However, our performance never made it that far. 
Sometimes we would stand still for a while - allow for people to let our non-message to sink in. The first time we did so at Lange Voorhout, we did not receive a lot of verbal response. Rather, people would stare and quietly discuss amongst each other what was happening. Some took photos. When we changed our location to Plein, responses were different. Our empty banner was referred to as a ‘giant napkin’, and some joked that we had forgotten to write anything on our banners. A teenager laughed and told her friend: “It’s all a big joke, they don’t even have a message!”. When a little girl pointed her finger at us her mother told her to stop. People felt uncomfortable. We had disrupted the order of things in the space they were sharing with us. Confusion had arisen, mission accomplished.
As we walked over to our next location, we noticed the police approaching. We had neglected to notify the authorities about our plans 96 hours in advance - as we only knew about our non-protest less than 24 hours in advance. The police’s response was very kind: we would not have to pay the usual fine. However, our encounter with the police meant the end of our non-protest. As we made our way back to the College Building all we could do was chuckle a bit: another interesting day at LUC.

By Simone Baardse

ArtActic: This is Not a Protest

The second field workshop took place Wednesday afternoon. We received instructions to mobilize 80 people by 2 pm, causing us to desperately run around campus Tuesday evening knocking everyone’s door, trying to convince our friends to help us. Initially we planned to stage a flashmob, however, only about 10 people joined us. We decided a flashmob would not be effective with a group of this size, and therefore, last minute, changed our plans. To see what happened next, watch the short video I made of the event. I decided to make a video, because a visual impression will bring across most effectively the atmosphere of the afternoon, and the knowledge we gained. Furthermore, in line with this course, I wanted to convey this experience through art, and I chose film because I am interested in photography and documentary making. I hope you enjoy.

By Emma Romeijn

Artistic Activism in the Field

It’s the second day of Artistic Activism summer school – the day of the first of a series of three field workshops in artistic activism. This was in quite the contrast to the first day’s event, when we, the students, participated in a discussion on the Dogme 95 manifesto and watched the movie “Festen”. The series of workshops are given with the aim to teach us the practical side of artistic activism, to make sure we are equipped with the right skills and tool to make the New York leg of our trip a success. The workshops are given by Miguel Peres dos Santos, David Pocknee, and Ana Smaragda who are all masters students in artistic research at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. They come equipped with a background in artistic and political activism, making them the right people to give these workshops.

Having had an intense and highly theoretical philosophic seminar in the morning, the workshop provided a welcome change of topic and a chance to relate theory to practice. The session was kicked off by Ana Smaragda, who is probably the researcher with the most hands-on experience in (documenting) political activism. In a previous non-course related setting, she gave a workshop at LUC on the staging of a protest, based on her own experience and filming of a major protest in Romania. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ana was able to give us a good overview of the various ways of activism ranging from the non-violent to the violent and everything in between. Withdrawing funds from a bank can be a form of protest, just as chaining yourself to the rail tracks in order to block the transportation of nuclear waste is a form of protest. Before engaging in activism, all the benefits and costs need to assessed. It is important to address questions of ethical concerns. For example, it is very well possible that you do a lot of collateral damage to innocent people who are not directly involved in the cause you are protesting against if you perform a DDoS attack –a Distributed denial-of-service attack is an attack overloading an institutions servers. Special attention was also paid to documenting a protest. For maximum impact, the best documentation is required. Consider this: would “Tank Man” be as famous, or even be a phenomenon if the following photo had been the only angle under which his actions were shown,
... instead of from this angle?

In contrast, the latter part of the workshop was quite different. The focus lay on networking –especially the virtual kind. A short presentation focusing on the best online tools to network and promote your activism was given. Most of us tech-savvy students were already quite aware of these tools and their potential for activism –they include social network sites such as Facebook and Google+, as well as media sharing websites such as Vimeo and Flick. After the presenting was done we were posed with a challenge. The challenge: create an impressive virtual presence for our group in 30 minutes. We quickly decided that we wanted our presence not to focus on a particular issue, but rather to be an online presence for our group to share our experiences and promote the political arts initiative. As ever, the toughest part was to come up with a name. We finally settled on ActArtic, only to change it to ArtActic midway through the process, resulting in a lot of newly-founded social media accounts needing to be renamed. Some of us were in charge of setting-up accounts at the various web services, while others were in charge of quickly creating some basic content, creating logos, and even creating a whole website to tie it all into. In the end, it unsurprisingly proved to be a goal to lofty to have a complete web-presence up and running in 30 minutes, especially considering website-building takes a fair deal of time. Do expect to see a link appear on this blog shortly though!

The workshop concluded with quite a bombshell. The next assignment given to us has us scrambling a group of 80 people (10 people per student) within 24 hours for a walking tour about political power in The Hague. While initially we were quite shocked by this assignment –after all, all our university friends have jetted off to sunnier places weeks ago- we are determined to make it a success, using our social media skills and power of persuasion! Expect to hear how it went down in the next entry of this blog.

by Chris Terwisscha van Scheltinga


Dogme The Hague

The kick-off of the Artisitic Activism Summer Course opened successfully with a discussion of the Dogme 95 manifesto and a screening of Thomas Vinterberg's ''Festen'' in LUC’s Faux Cinema, also known as the college lounge. In true LUC Fashion, the students were not afraid to ‘’disagree to agree’’ as the manifesto stirred up some differentiating views.  Unsurprisingly the first remarks on the manifesto were those questioning its contradictory nature.  

The manifesto seems to be advocating a strict line of rules, termed the ‘’vow of chastity’’, while it’s clear that its goal to purify filmmaking through these strict rules, and the concept underlying the creation of these rules might be slightly flawed and inconsistent. What I found particularly interesting was the attitude the founders of the manifesto seemed to have towards the manifesto’s reception by the public. Although the founders of the Dogme 95 manifesto were skeptical about the branding of the manifesto as a particular genre, it seems that it is inevitable to categorize it once they have termed their ‘’movement’’ the ‘’Dogme 95 cinema’’. The sole fact of putting a term to label the set of rules is to put it in a box, especially when keeping in mind the strict nature of the rules. If their concern was for it to not become a genre, it seems it might have been more effective to voice their discontent with current commercialized cinematic ideals, and propose a non-labeled set of rules that directors are advised to follow. If there is no diction that categorizes and labels a certain ideal, it is usually perceived as a set of ideas/hints by the authors rather than being categorized within a new innovative genre.                                              

On the other hand some students did argue in favor of the sincerity of the manifesto. The filmmakers have made their point; the manifesto, flawed as it might be, does make an impact at any rate. It brings to light the need to re-focus the act of filmmaking on the story and the actors’ performances. Eventually, it does say something about the, still current, trend of overproduction in movies.  To be honest, I did not agree with these latter views as I leaned more towards calling the manifesto ‘’highly paradoxical’’ and ‘’impossible to realize’’. My main issue lay with the manifesto’s aim to be more ‘’truthful’’, while my first impression was that presenting a work of fiction by using the techniques advocated (handheld camera, diegetic sound), would only fool the audience more as it was presented as if it was a true frame of reality, thus one was tricking the viewer into thinking the actions behind the camera were truthful. It wasn’t until watching the movie ‘’Festen’’ by Vinterberg that I started to appreciate the aims of the manifesto. I was surprisingly affected by the movie and, after further reflection, realized that it was mainly due to the, almost perfect, following of the set of rules. The handheld camera made the movie so much closer to life as the actions of the characters came across more shocking (e.g. if the scene where Michael hits the waitress was done with smooth camera moves, and was accompanied by a dramatic score, it somehow seems that it would have been less shocking). What I enjoyed most was that, although Vinterberg followed these rules, it was clear that it was not an amateur production. There were many moments that were cinematographically immensely inspiring, and although the belief in Vinterberg following the Dogme 95 cinema style means that the aesthetically pleasing moments were not intentional, some moments were certainly aesthetically enjoyable.                                                                                                                     

It does say something when one finds out that this manifesto was written impromptu in twenty-five minutes, however I think it’s message is still clear; one doesn’t need to overproduce the material. Why the manifesto might be so criticized is that it is a one-way street and bluntly implies: less is more, however, especially when discussing the notion of truth and free choice combined with the accessible nature of the Dogme 95 style, it might be more fitting to state that less can be more.

By Limo Baroud

LEGO sponsor +HIP

The Political Arts Initiative is delighted to announce that LEGO have generously agreed to sponsor our new issue of +HIP, Figur(in)es The Hague.  The have provided a number of sets of LEGO to be used to create scenes and installations in The Hague as well as a number of LEGO-figures to be used with all due significance in any location in the city.

We are excited about the creative and expressive opportunities afforded by this classic and timeless medium, and we very much encourage submissions to the new +HIP issue to make use of LEGO in someway.  Should we receive sufficient entries of sufficient merit, we will make a special gallery of LEGO images and award a prize in this category.

Those looking for inspiration should look here, whence the pictures in this post were drawn (many thanks).