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.


A Postlude to NSS2014: Arresting Activism

Political Arts meets Journalism during LUC students' recent run-in with the law at the Nuclear Security Summit on 24 and 25 March 2014.  Rebecca Streng, Year 2 student at LUC, reports!

To quote Aernout van Lynden's first rule of journalism: "never get yourself arrested." Of course the best way to do this is to film an illegal protest during the Nuclear Summit from close-by. On the first day of the Summit, my film team and I headed out for the central station to film a group of about sixty people, of which many were over the age of 60. These were the passionate activists from the 1980's that had lived the biggest protest in the Hague's history against nuclear arms. During the Summit, their concerns about nuclear arms were more relevant than ever, and their sense of urgency led them outside their confined protest area. Outside the Malieveld, every protest was deemed illegal, something which they felt was severely diminishing their civil rights to voice their opinion. Armed with rainbow flags, drums and guitar, the little crowd started to walk, singing "we shall overcome someday," to be stopped by a barricade of military police, vans, horses and police on bikes. Before we knew it, we were surrounded, waiting to be taken into custody. The protesters handled it with lots of humor and singing, complimenting the police on their bikes and saying that it was time to go because the coffee was getting cold. Unfortunately, we only saw coffee after our release about six hours later. Everyone was loaded into a big bus, which reminded me of my old school trips. After about an hour we arrived at the police headquarters, where busses with cells were made ready for protesters, just like little booths were we had our pictures and fingerprints taken. As if we had committed an actual crime. And this is how I ended up in a 1 meter by 70 centimeter cell that strongly remind me of a toilet in an airplane, listening to the cheesy songs on radio Veronica for four and a half hours, together with my cellmate, an old lady that was led out after about 1.5 hours. Somehow, I was the only person that did not get fined in the end. Maybe because they had lost my passport in the paperwork. 


All the small things...

Look around you and notice miniatures in movement--against neo-liberalism, climate change, and exceptional surveillance--towards a playful urban awareness all over the world.  Game the city and intervene now!

Joe Iurato's wooden figurines in New York:

Isaac Cordal's cement figurines in Europe:

Flemish coast, Belgium

Nantes, France

i4C ArtActive Lab's paper tanks in The Hague:


All quiet on the Western front...

'Nuff said, but here's more:


Get ArtActive! Urban intervention in The Hague during NSS 2014

*26 March update*: As the Nuclear Security Summit ends and the roadblocks, fences, and security measures gradually become dismantled, capture this de-escalation moment with your paper tank and send your photos to by 31 March 2014!

How can we visualise the International Zone in a playful manner, penetrating its hard physical shell and exposing its soft underbelly?  How can we involve people in and of The Hague, whose everyday routines are interrupted by the high-level security and surveillance put in place for the Nuclear Security Summit on 24 and 25 March, to add information to the as yet indeterminate map of the International Zone?

The Political Arts Initiative and Stroom Den Haag took a first step with the academic community of The Hague at the i4C on 19 March 2014.  Students and staff from various higher education institutions in The Hague, as well as artists and curators, joined the ArtActive Lab on the top floor of Central Station to prepare for an urban intervention before, during, and after NSS 2014.  The displacement of residents around the World Forum, the extra fencing around The Hague, and the crisis rehearsals in the International Zone culminate in a palpable tension between military presence and civic life, all the more ambivalent in the international capital of peace and justice.

An origami paper tank, unique to each participant, is a small individual gesture to express a critical voice to those invisible surveillance and security measures which are, more often than not, implemented without consent or consultation of the citizenry and in the name of pre-emption of and protection against terrorism.  When each paper tank is placed within the International Zone, wherever its boundaries, these harmless representations of instruments of violence will make an unexpected and united statement about sustained exceptionalism, rights to privacy, and freedom of movement for residents of The Hague.

So, a set of simple instructions for this ArtActive intervention:

1. Fold a paper tank; if you already have yours from the i4C launch, all the better!

2. Place it somewhere in the International Zone, with an international institution (such as an embassy, an NGO office, Peace Palace, World Forum) in view.

3. Take a photo of the tank in your chosen spot and e-mail the snap to i4C in time for a collage at the end of March, which will be displayed at Gaming The City, a Political Arts Initiative symposium in April.

4. Leave the tank there for it to make its statement, or take it elsewhere and repeat steps 2 to 4. 

Make the invisible visible, and join us in this urban intervention!

paper tank / surveillance mechanism / union jack 


Reflective triptych on "Suppose it's true after all, what then..."

Performance as Scholarship students at LUC share their thoughts on installations after an excursion to GEMAK's exhibition on the cross-fertilisation of art, culture and fashion, with a focus on the process of research and the connections between image communication and identity.

 © Maddi McMurray

By Maddi McMurray, 3rd-year LUC student:

In Clare Bishop’s piece “Delegated Performance: Outsourcing Authenticity”, she considers three kinds of ‘delegated performance’. First and foremost – non-professionals, secondly the use of professionals from other spheres, and lastly delegation through the presentation of video and film.[1]  Interestingly, “Suppose It’s True After All, What Then…” utilises all three of these strands of delegation in one particular piece, but with both subtracted and added components.

One could argue that the wall of video displays portraying a cornucopia of different images, cultures, fashions, rituals and dances were an example of non-professionals as delegates. Many of the videos were amateurs, or non-professionals – take for example the video of the child getting ready for school, or the Japanese boy becoming a Japanese girl, and also the punks. One could also argue that it was professionals being broadcast, thus embracing Bishop’s second model.  The models, the cheerleaders, and the other dancers are experts in their field and for many this is their profession. Lastly, and most obviously, the fact that all of this was broadcast through the medium of video connects this mode of delegation to Bishop’s last category.

However, one important aspect is missing that ensures that the video display doesn’t truly fit into any of Bishop’s modes of delegation – the aspect of consent. In each of Bishop’s categories the external individual is asked to participate and thus becomes an intrinsic constituent part. From this stems a conversation – a conversation between artist and performer, performer and the audience, and ultimately artist and audience. This conversation is where meaning is conceived – a middle ground where everyone’s ideas and structures come together to converse.[2]

When the performer is both absent - and unaware - they are unable to join in with the conversation: It is at best the appropriation of an image, culture, or lifestyle. The lack of conversation between performer and audience, and artist and performer means that a very important aspect of the meaning, and thus the entire piece, is absent. If meaning is conversation between all constituent parts, yet one constituent part is only there in the non-consensual appropriation of their image, then how can honest or authentic meaning truly be conceived?

One could potentially argue that each of the individuals in the video are in fact already in conversation with the audience, by virtue of their performance - thus this aspect is not as nonexistent as I initially said. However, this performance is taken out of the context of their performance space (i.e. their conversation with the audience) and moved to an installation space, which only regards the conversation between the artists’ meaning and the audiences’ perception.

The piece itself was engaging, intricate and very aesthetically appealing. I enjoyed viewing the videos placed in stark juxtaposition with each other. It is not a bad piece of art – it is however, arguably, an inauthentic or appropriative piece of art. Some of these appropriations are not hugely problematic: the cheerleaders, the young girl putting make up on, potentially even the punks – because they are belong within our culture. We already have a fairly strong idea about the motivations and lifestyles of these individuals as a unit, but not actually as individuals. The appropriation becomes more problematic when it is the appropriation of external cultures and lifestyles – cultures and lifestyles we have no real idea about. Not only are these individuals absent from the conversation, their personal meaning is absent unless viewed by an individual who actually knows about the motivations and desires behind their culture, lifestyle, and most importantly: fashion. 

[1] Bishop, Claire. “Delegated Performance: Outsourcing Authenticity”. Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso, 2012.
[2] Hanrahan, Siún. “Poesis”. Thinking Through Art: Reflections on Art as Research. London: Routledge Press, 2006. 

© Maddi McMurray

By Rebecca Streng, 2nd-year LUC student:

Installation as a performance might need its audience more than other forms of performance art. The viewers engage with, and thus contribute to- and shape the installation and its meaning, as they are part of the performance. In the case of installation, a renegotiation of meaning takes place, as the audience is very present in the space of the artwork. As the audience is part of the performance, the artwork and its meaning are constantly renegotiated.

An artwork is given meaning in the process of its creation. It may well be that this process of assigning, or creating meaning is an encounter between the artist and the space. This space, like Hanrahan describes, is often a studio. In a studio, the space asks for a thought, for inspiration, for any reason or meaning that will create art. The studio creates a certain expectation that something will take place. This expectation fuels the thinking for the sake of thinking; art for art’s sake. She holds that art is responsibility, as the creator gives it a meaning that is his or her own. In turn, this sense of meaning is shaped by the conceptual framework the artist is born into.

A second layer of meaning is given when the viewer encounters the artwork, and perceives it. This perception is formed by the viewer’s conceptual framework, and determines the duration of the artwork’s performance, as it is the viewer who can walk away at any moment, ending the performance. Hanrahan holds that the meaning of the artwork is fluid as every viewer perceives it differently. Meaning is never fixed, as even outside the context of art, it is constantly recreated from moment to moment as we make sense of the world around us. In short, there is an intended meaning and the meaning that arises from the encounter between the artwork and the audience.

Bishop talks about delegated performance, which makes the body through which art is performed collective. In the exhibition in GEMAK, the delegated performance could be seen in the many television screens that comprised an installation, showing fragments of tribal rituals, fashion shows, dancers and army-like practices. However, the people in the film-fragments may not have been aware that their actions at that moment are now considered a performance. In my view, this again stresses the point that space plays an important role in the whole process of performance and art; it begins with an empty space that creates an expectation, and it ends with the space creating an expectation of the viewer to give meaning to the artwork or performance.

The meaning constructed in installation art hence is not only in relation to the viewer, but also in relation to the space. With this in mind, I would like to ask whether there then is a difference in the construction of meaning of an installation when it is placed in different spaces. An indoor space like a museum might put the viewer in a different position than when the installation is placed directly in the ‘real’ world outside the museums, in the daily life of the audience. Is the one space more confined than the other? What does the space mean for the encounter between viewer and artwork? For when the viewer constantly gives meaning to the world surrounding him or her, the space surrounding the artwork might demand its own process of perception too. If this is true, then the meaning given to the space could well influence the meaning given to the artwork.

© Maddi McMurray

By San Yoon, 1st-year LUC student:

In the chapter “Je participe, tu participes, il participe…”, Bishop refers to Debord, a member of the Situationist International (SI), who argued that “the most revolutionary demand of the historic avant-garde, [is] the integration of art and life”.[1]  Ironically, the SI encouraged the suppression of art with the aim of recognizing the activity as life. The SI’s nihilist romanticism also advocated that “art is to be renounced, but for the sake of making everyday life as rich and thrilling as art, … an experimental investigation of the free construction of daily life”.[2]  Then, what is the relationship between art and life; are the two actually inseparable from one another or not?

In “Delegated Performance: Outsourcing Authenticity”, Bishop mentions one of Steve Paxton’s walking pieces called Satisfyin’ Lover, a delegated performance “with forty-two dancers, and comprises three movements only: walking, standing and sitting”.[3]  Bishop goes on to refer to Yvonne Rainer, who observed that the performance was “as though you had never seen ordinary people walk across a space. It was highly revelatory”.[4]  This statement shows that one is often unable to detect or appreciate the possibility of art within one’s life until the artist labels and puts meaning behind ordinary activities such as walking.

For instance, Tino Sehgal, the artist of This Objective of That Object, persistently claims “that his practice [should] not be referred to as ‘performance art’ but as ‘situations’, and that his performers be referred to as ‘interpreters’”.[5]  As the boundary between art and life becomes indefinite, Sehgal’s terminology seems appropriate. Consider the exhibition “Suppose it’s true after all, what then…” in Vrije Academie GEMAK, The Hague. Even though the display has been curated by Demoed and De Rooij who create the high fashion brand The People of the Labyrinths, the installation is heavily comprised of ethnographic videos juxtaposed with garments associable with everyday situations.

According to Bishop, artists use people as a material “to give visibility to certain social constituencies and render them more complex, immediate and physically present, … [and] to problematise the binaries of live and mediated, spontaneous and staged, authentic and contrived”.[6]  Despite the fact that GEMAK’s display does not use actual people, the variety of photographs and video footage of people deliver the viewers an overflow of visuality that is embedded in each individual through fashion. This approach stands in contrast to that of the SI, since the exhibition asserts the viewer’s identity by means of fashion, thus illustrating a strong connection between art and life.

In understanding the democracy of participatory art, Bishop states that everyday culture is “accessible to all”.[7]  Like so, not only artists, but also each and every one should celebrate art in order to enrich one’s daily life and not surrender to its burdens. In this sense, the relationship between art and life is not only inseparable, but the two are integrated and complementary with one another as well.

[1] Bishop, Claire. “Je participe, tu participes, il participe...,” 83. In Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso, 2012.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Bishop, Claire. “Delegated Performance: Outsourcing Authenticity,” 225. In Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. London: Verso, 2012.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 224.
[6] Ibid., 238-239.
[7] “Je participe, tu participes, il participe...,” 80.

Origami tanks in the International Zone? Game the City @ i4C Launch Party on 19 March

*Post-19 March update*: check out the ArtActive Lab urban intervention, and join us!

The Political Arts Initiative joins forces with Stroom Den Haag for an artistic urban invention lab hosted by i4C, Leiden University Centre for Innovation's latest platform for hands-on experimentation and transdisciplinary collaboration amongst students, researchers, and practitioners at Campus The Hague.

Join us at the i4C launch party this Wednesday evening, 19 March, from 19:00 onwards at the apex of Central Station in The Hague!


Smelling something rotten: Political action in theatre

From geopolitics to thespian-psychiatry to dangerous acts, here is the latest on the state of political theatre around the world.

Is there something rotten in taking Hamlet to North Korea? (

Acting is like cooking, according to Mohan Agashe (

Madeleine Sackler on Belarus Free Theatre (


"Making art is like speaking in tongues"

Conceptual artist Alicia Eggert creates kinetic, electronic, and interactive sculptures to move with time and play with direct, verbal communication.  From the de- and re-construction of minute- and hour-hands of mechanical clocks to capture the ineffability of eternity to guerilla sculpture tours which bring her message to an unsuspecting audience, the evangelical upbringing of this atheist artist translates from religion to science to art.

The Political Arts Initiative wishes you wit and wonder on International Women's Day!


Reminder: Silence tonight @ Nutshuis

Annabel Kanaar : Samuel Vriezen : Miguel Peres dos Santos : Heath Bunting : Cissie Fu
18:00 Food / 19:00 Programme @ The Nutshuis
5 March 2014

Architecture: Site for Responsibility?

The latest OPINION @ Dezeen: in response to Joseph Rykwert's Royal Gold Medal lecture this week, where the critic stressed that all design has political implications, Kieran Long rejects Zaha Hadid's assertion that architects have "nothing to do with the workers" who die on construction sites.


Architecture for Peace and Justice: The Good Cause @ Stroom

9 March - 1 June 2014
Opening exhibition: Saturday 8 March, 5 pm, with an introductory program from 4 pm

Location: Stroom Den Haag, Hogewal 1-9, The Hague

Missions of war and missions of peace: both can have a devastating effect on the spatial and social condition of the city. Architecture of Peace is a long-term research project by the international think tank Archis, addressing the military, political and cultural complexity of rebuilding operations. Can architecture actively contribute to a sustainable peace in this field of conflict? The exhibition The Good Cause shows inspiring and hopeful examples in post-war areas in order to distill a number of ‘key success factors'. 

The Good Cause is part of the program See You in The Hague. As the International City of Peace and Justice the city of The Hague is an important player on the world stage. This not only affects the public image of The Hague all over the world, but also has a great impact on the city itself and on its inhabitants. The Good Cause shows the (in)visible imagery, structures, rules and mechanisms this identity brings and the impact it has on daily life in the city.



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