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.


おたくのビデオ? Animockumentary @ Nutshuis on 4 June

Join our Political Artist-in-Residence for a screening of Otaku no Video and a discussion of anime fan culture at The Nutshuis in the evening of Wednesday 4 June!


Art and forensics: post-conflict reconstruction towards restorative justice

Rhetoric of disasters abound, but whither courage and vision?  To identify, understand, and repair the myriad damages incurred through man-made catastrophes, the artistic and spatial disciplines are contributing to the science of reconstruction and restoration, towards conflict resolution and cultural reconciliation via art and architecture.

Angkor reconstruction (photo courtesy of World Monuments Fund)

Protection and preservation of cultural heritage, especially sites damaged by armed conflict, compose one of the mandates of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).  To demonstrate the impact of warfare on cultural life, the increasing involvement of heritage experts in post-conflict reconstruction, and the resilience of affected societies, the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO selected some telling shots from Aleppo and Bamiyan to Cairo and Mostar for an outdoor photography exhibition.  For those of us not able to wander through the full-size images on Lange Vijverberg in The Hague by 15 June, catch the digital version here.

Across the North Sea, the Center for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, is taking forensic architecture beyond surveyors' systematic analysis of the structural soundness of buildings.  Attending to the cultural, economic, historical, social, and political function of spatial structures, its Forensic Architecture research project mines architectural evidence through the digital visualisation of destructed zones to examine the role of forensics in the articulation of defensible notions of truth, especially those admissible in courtrooms and collected in crime scenes.  From drone strikes in Afghanistan to tear gas attacks in Palestine, the team at Forensic Architecture combines human and spatial testimony with scientific analysis to recollect loss for more complete closure.  Learn more about the project here and walk through its recent exhibition in Berlin here.

Inside Riga's Corner House

Meandering over to the Baltic Sea, the European Capital of Culture this year has set up one of its most classical and infamous buildings to tell the social, political, and cultural stories of Latvia during Soviet occupation.  As headquarters of the Cheka (the Soviet security service) from 1940 to 1991, Aleksandrs Vanags's stylised creation, known as the Corner House, saw citizens tipping off the secret police, the detained and the soon-to-be-disappeared awaiting their fate, and the KGB carrying out summary executions.  The semi-derelict spaces of the building are open to the public until 19 October, with some rooms furnished with exhibitions themed on the individual's relationship with authority.  Find out more about the Corner House in the context of Riga 2014 here and read about its sobering, inspiring, and restorative effect here.


Hoogtij highlights for 30 May: The Hague's art tour turns political!

Hoogtij, a cultural staple in The Hague for the art-loving and art-curious, hits the galleries, streets, and pARTytent this Friday night with its 37th edition.  Explore the city and its contemporary art for free, this time with some political provocation!

Whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, Airco Caravan's exhibition inspired by anti-abortion demonstrations offers food...and fetuses for thought. Quite literally: be there at 19:30 for the artist's lecture and eschuit met muisjes (per tradition, less literally). 

As with past Hoogtij, free soup is served at GEMAK at 18:00, with guided gallery tours through the city on foot and by bicycle departing from this venue at 19:00. Or stay put for Airco Caravan, in addition to performances at 18:00 and 20:00 by Artistic Research MA students from the Royal Academy of Art.

Photographs from Anatomy of Forgiveness by Lana Mesić

To commemorate 20 years after the genocide in Rwanda, Creative Court commissioned Lana Mesić and Pieter Hugo to photograph seventeen pairs of perpetrators and survivors. The compelling results are exhibited in The Nutshuis, ready for comparison and critique. Let the images tell the complex story of how forgiveness has evolved after the legal utterances performed in Gacaca courts.

The politics of representation and politics in the artworld are writ large in Autonomy Exchange Archive, an installation of collected artistic manifestations by Paul Branca, David Horvitz, and Fawn Krieger. From the process of making to accumulation, exchange, and intervention, expect to question material culture and meaning production.

...and take a peek into The Nextdoor Window for its Hoogtij debut surprise!


It's raining rain (hallelujah!): the power of the literal

When metaphors falter and abstractions fail, there remains plain, direct verbal communication.  The no-frills approach to expression may lack semantic thrill and poetic resonance, but hits hard all the same in the following instances.

National Public Radio's compilation of graduation addresses
from 1774 to present.

Reasons for unplugging...once a week.

Surface reading of canvases
(there is nothing more to them)

Coen Young following Gertrude Stein
is Coen Young following Gertrude Stein
is Coen Young following Gertrude Stein

To a tee

That's all folks!


Soviet animation: Winnie, Dorothy, and Alice politicised

To rival Disney Studios, the USSR cartoon industry took off in the 1930s with what might, at first sight, appear as mere imitation.  Without the pressure of capitalism and with generous state support, however, Soviet animation enjoyed a rare naïveté which continues to resonate with a now world-wide audience.  Made for the people rather than for commercial competition in a global market, here are a few exemplars of Western stories animated by and for the Eastern Bloc.

Winnie-the-Pooh became Vinni Pukh from 1969 to 1972, produced by Soyuzmultfilm and directed by Fyodor Khitruk after A. A. Milne's celebrated adventures of a Canadian black bear.

Abiding closely by Milne's original text, this Soviet adaptation realised an existentially curious and realist bear and a host of friends who asked well-motivated and commonsensical questions.  The laconic and deadpan delivery in this trilogy contrasts with the Disney version, much to the comic relief of adults.

Moving to 1988 Czechoslovakia, Alice in Wonderland became Něco z Alenky, Czech animator Jan Švankmajer's first feature-length film.

Something for Alice turned out to be a deconstruction of Alice: instead of Lewis Carroll's little Victorian fantasy, this Soviet adaptation reveals the darker psychological frustrations of a young girl constrained by not only authoritarian customs but also hyper-rational nightmares, the awakening from which made for an ambivalent auto-critique of socialism.

Juxtaposing filmed scenes with a live actress and stop-motion photography of dolls, puppets, a slab of meat, jam jars full of nails, a taxidermically stuffed rabbit, and other weird and wonderful objects, Švankmajer pitched realism against surrealism for a doubly magical world animated by the urgent and the grotesque--quite the statement prior to the Velvet Revolution.

Speaking of the magical, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz became The Wizard of the City of Emeralds, a 1974 television series based on Alexander Volkov's 1939 Russian adaptation of Frank Baum's 1900 novel.

This Soviet journey along the yellow brick road saw Elli and Totoshka travel to Magic Land, with the usual company in tow but encountering political and ethical challenges beyond the war of the witches.  Freedom for the people, defense against invasions, rejections of feudalism and aristocracy kept the heroes busy and the children of the Eastern Bloc entertained, with catchy musical interludes.

As Russia opens its paws to the 21st century, the critical innocence of Soviet animation is in the process of being overshadowed by high-budget productions targeting international distribution, as already reported from the Cannes Film Festival this month.  Sic transit anima?


Cultuur?Barbaar! 2014 Festival @ Leiden

15 - 17 May 2014: Three days of music, poetry, graffiti, and more brought to you by Cultuur?Barbaar!, the Leiden-based platform for music, arts, and cultural theory.  From open source and street art expos to acoustic sessions and international electronica, Leiden is staged to turn it up to eleven this early weekend.

Check out the lineup, mark your map, and grab your ticket!


Designing Justice: Law & Order Mini-Conference by Archis

Experimental think tank Archis, as part of its Architecture of Peace project, will hold a mini-conference at Stroom Den Haag on Tuesday 20 May from 13:00 - 17:00.
A host of international experts from the world of justice, design, activism, conflict management, and politics will discuss how justice and design can either contain or ignite conflict situations. One of the important questions to address is: whose law are we applying?
Francesco Sebregondi has been part of the Forensic Architecture Research group at Goldsmiths, University of London, since the group started in 2011. With the experience of these various research projects he will address the complex but highly relevant relation between spatial research and ‘evidence’, politics and justice. Next to this he will focus on his own research on the use of white phosphorus munitions in urban environments.
Mark Kersten is founder of the Justice in Conflict blog, where he challenges the difficult relationship between justice and peace. His PhD research focuses on the implications and effects of the International Criminal Court’s investigations on peace processes and negotiations in Libya, Darfur, and northern Uganda.
Apart from these two keynote speakers, several experts will share their experience and by the end of the afternoon we hope to have brought the agenda for an Architecture of Peace one step further.
Free entrance! Register by sending an email to mentioning 'AOP conference'.
As a prelude to this event, Archis will be hosting one of its world-wide RSVP pop-up events in The Hague on Monday 19 May 2014.  Curious


The Secret State: Masterclass, Lecture, Exhibition @ Stroom

Geographer, artist, and investigative journalist Trevor Paglen shares his insights on NSA, NGA, NRO, and other states of secrecy in Stroom Den Haag on 30 May 2014.

Continuing to explore the themes of surveillance, citizenship, and authority, this transatlantic programme of See You In The Hague brings the public and private implications of state defense, intelligence, and security into sharp relief:

Friday 30 May
12:00 - 16:00  Masterclass (for students by application before 20 May): Seeing Machines
17:00 - 18:30  Lecture and opening (for the public by registration): Seeing Secrecy

Paglen's presentation of images and flags from the secret state runs until 27 July 2014.

Recollect and reflect on related instances of resistance in The Hague earlier this year.  We'll be seeing you...



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