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.


The Gospel Project - Final Performance

Come one, come all--unite for voices of resistance and emancipation!

The final performance of the Gospel Project takes place in the Auditorium of the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague on the evening of Monday 4 November at 20:30.  Student singers and actors from Leiden University College The Hague bring to life the historical and political context of the gospel tradition through song, dance, drama, and meditation.

This powerful compendium of political artistry is free and open to all.

Drumbeat, by Sue Duda ©

The Gospel Project is the practical component of an independent research project in Political Arts, as conceived and conducted by Anna-Liisa Springham, a second-year undergraduate studying liberal arts and sciences themed on global challenges at Leiden University College The Hague.  Her research revolves around the political, social, and affective aspects of choral singing on community-building, the theoretical and practical case study of which harkens back to a collective singing tradition born of resistance against injustice and discrimination.


Films of Change from the Middle East

'400 Years of Arabic in Leiden' and the Leiden International Film Festival (LIFF) are excited to offer you 'Films of Change from the Middle East' during the 2013 edition of LIFF.

The organizers have selected two recent films by young, prizewinning, filmmakers from the Middle East and invited these directors to suggest a movie that served as an inspiration to their own work.

On Tuesday 5 November, Annemarie Jacir's 'When I Saw You' is on the program followed by her movie of choice 'The Runner (Davendeh)'.

On Wednesday 6 November, Egyptian filmmaker Ahmad Abdalla will personally (!) introduce his movie 'Microphone' and his inspiration 'The City/Al Medina'. Ahmad will also be present to answer questions from the audience.


Microphone is a 2010 film from Egypt about rock music, graffiti and the underground youth culture in Alexandria, was widely cited as a sign for some of the unrest that bubbled up in Egypt during its January 25 revolution, which ousted President Hosni Mubarak, Microphone reflects the cultural change in the region in which many countries have disproportionately young populations. Abdalla first screened the film at the Toronto Film Festival in 2010, which preceded the Arab Spring uprisings by months.

Programme details are on the '400 Years of Arabic' website.


The art and science of architecture: Memories, missions, and materials for the future

On the heels of Banksy's recent criticism of One World Trade Center, let's move from street art to the most public art form there is: architecture. 

Architecture of Density #39, by Michael Wolf ©

Whether we value architecture instrumentally, say as shelters for efficient urban survival, or intrinsically, as crafted space expressive of humanity and its history, industry, and creativity, Canadian transmedia story-teller Katerina Cizek's A Short History of the Highrise, an interactive documentary featuring the 2,500-year global history of vertical living, renders perspectives of heights and depths palpable as she presents cases of economic inequality, social displacement, and political alienation.  Swipe and dig for carefully curated photographs from the New York Times archives, narrated in four episodes by the director and Canadian sirens Feist and Cold Specks.

On a higher note, towards a future utopia enabled by an aesthetic symbolism both literal and spatial, South Korean architecture studio Mass Studies, which concocted more than a few sensational public pavilions this millenium, may give us some hope and inspiration:


And onwards to the latest in architectural design technology, the Centre for Art, Science, and Technology at MIT joins forces with its Department of Architecture to discover and design sustainable and intelligent materials for the built environment.  From the 4D printing of self-assembling construction components to architectural aspects which metabolise without ecological costs, these advances in architectural geometry may enhance our appreciation of the utility and beauty of those spaces that shape our everyday existence:



Better Out Than In: Transnational street art

As the debate between art and crime (from pornography to vandalism) rages forth, the people of New York City get to experience Banksy's graffiti in situ this October and make up their minds for themselves.  Join them for the final leg of the elusive street artist's daily creations--including a larger than life fibre glass Ronald McDonald being shoe-shined from one golden arch to another, and a meat truck of animal muppets squealing through the boroughs--and see whether Mayor Bloomberg succeeds in sabotaging Banksy's street residency.

An Englishman in New York
That political street artists cross borders to wield social awareness, reflection, and change in various global neighbourhoods is not new, but each set of wandering work bears its own signature, such as that of Spanish street artist Escif:
A Valencian in Montréal
The same Valencian in Katowice 

and Italian street artist Blu:

An Italian in Buenos Aires
Do share your transnational street art sightings (here as a blog comment, or via facebook)! 


Who's in Control? @ Free Thinking Festival 2013

Political Arts invites us to (dare to!) re-imagine the political in the 21st century, amidst new technologies, epistemologies, and geographies for critical expression and engagement.  BBC's Free Thinking Festival of Ideas this year, themed on CONTROL, brings the arts into dialogue with public health, sustainability, and other global and personal challenges which often fetter our individual and collective imagination and audacity.

For those of us unable to attend this set of free debates and performances in London from 25 - 27 October 2013, fear not--BBC Radio 3 broadcasts key discussions as part of its live and recorded programming until the end of the month:

     Friday 25.10.13 - Michael Marmot on self-control
     Monday 28.10.13 - Sally Davies on controlling infection and combatting disease
     Tuesday 29.10.13 - Panel on science fiction, surveillance, and dystopia
     Wednesday 30.10.13 - Panel on social media, choice, and consultation
     Thursday 31.10.13 - Panel on scarcity, sustainability, and creativity

As with all posts on imag-e-nation, comments are encouraged!  Please feel free and safe to share your thoughts after cogitation, as evoked or inspired by the various content of this blog.

Incidentally, in contrapuntal variation with control: art historian Jennifer Roberts advocates the pedagogical power of patience.

Metro 2033: Digital novel and video game in the flesh

Meet young Russian science fiction writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, who penned his first novel at age 18--Metro 2033, initially accessible for free on his website, now enjoys worldwide commercial success as a popular paperback and video game, with its sequel Metro 2034 published in 2009 and film rights negotiated with Hollywood.  This dystopic tale of life in the Moscow Metro after a nuclear disaster invokes questions of social order and collapse: what happens to humanity when human beings face extinction?  And has Dmitry's own adventure from open-access story-telling to multi-media block-buster-mongering affected his now highly commercialised creative process?

Visiting from Moscow, Dmitry Glukhovsky will feature in a free literary event in The Hague's Central Library this Thursday 24 October from 19:30 - 21:30, which will include Q&A with the author, as well as book-signing and video-gaming opportunities.

*Scaffold* in the City of Peace and Justice

American artist-activist Sam Durant brings his "Scaffold", an impressive piece of institutional critique which attracted major public and critical attention at Documenta 13 of Summer 2012, to The Hague this October.

The giant sculpture, built from reconstructed gallows wood from various historically significant execution facilities in the United States, invites reflection on (capital) punishment and criminal justice as much as civil disobedience and solidarity, all especially apt for an audience in the city which prides itself as the locus of international peace and justice. The installation opens on Sunday 20 October opposite Museon on President Kennedylaan 5, with a pop programme of "Murder Songs" from 13:00 - 17:00 and the official unfolding of the scaffold at 15:00, with introductions by the artist and Amnesty International alongside a dramatic monologue about the death penalty.

Sam Durant is joined by Pieter Spierenburg, a professor of criminal history, for a free, public lecture on Monday 21 October from 15:00 - 17:00 at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague to discuss his work and engage with the long histories of violence and punishment in the disciplining of human bodies and behaviour. For other critical, political conversations invoked by artistic expression in The Hague on the topics of law, conflict, fear, freedom, and hope, Stroom Den Haag is hosting and curating See You in The Hague this fall. 


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