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.


Mastering the tamed: experience the virtual ninja this Saturday!

Manga is coming to town!

This reminder of's Manga in/as Essay this coming Saturday 6 December in The Hague--featuring a spectacular exhibition of different styles of graphic storytelling from all over the world, a short and sweet seminar accompanying the launch of a graphic manifesto, and a spread of free edible and readable goodies--comes with an exclusive sneak peek of the Virtual Ninja Manifesto:

Don't miss this manga extravanganza: register here and see you in Pulchri Studio this weekend!


A view from the balcony: sovereign expression in the 21st century?

How can we define the relationship between image and spectator if the borders between public and private space are fading - because are we not all out there in public? Are we not all on the balcony?

MoMart's latest exhibition opened this past Amsterdam Art Weekend with an eye on Balconism, a new term coined by net artist Constant Dullaart to capture the insidious behavioural movements in visual culture afforded by smart technology and social media, resulting in the commodification of images and audience alike.

The strong and varied set of meditations on this theme features recent work by independent artists who question the status of the image in the 21st century, from a winding line of tourist photographs taken when New York's Twin Towers stood tall in the background--Thomas Kuijpers's invitation to his audience to reconstruct an iconic and representative image mentally through his yet-be-constructed collage--to Dullaart's heart-shaped hand-cradle--a smart phone holder which reifies Instagrammatical digital hearts and the influence of following, on a pedestal to boot:

[Front] High retention, Slow delivery by Constant Dullaart
[Back] Excerpt of When the Twins were still beautiful by Thomas Kuijpers

In a playfully anachronistic and analogical twist, Kuijpers also presents a series of drawings based on press photographs of world leaders' handshakes.  While these diplomatic gestures are often posed for the sole purpose of media dissemination, they are not devoid of sociolinguistic signals.  Here are a couple of politically and socially intriguing handshakes, decoded:

Chávez/Merkel and "The Finger Tip Grab", from Gesture by Thomas Kuijpers
Putin/Obama and "The Obvious Upperhand", from Gesture by Thomas Kuijpers

On a more serious note, Florian Göttke's artistic research on the function of public images and the viewer's reception of such images challenges the responsibility of the spectator in his video installation of an elusive photograph of a Syrian protester in Homs, as published in a mainstream news source.  Pinpointing the origins of that image took the artist through a maze of covert resistance and media representation, thus precipitating an in-depth magnification of the politics of this image in particular and press images in general.  Zooming slowly into the newsprint image, accompanied by steady narration, Göttke's incisive critique of the visual elements of the photograph yields insight into the political situation in Syria, the social conditions of image-making, the marketing tactics of image dispersal, the unknown identity of but iconic identification with the photographed subject, and, ultimately, the choice and responsibility of the viewer to look deeply and see critically.    

Stills from A Protester in Homs, Syria by Florian Göttke

Moving from the political to the personal, Ola Lanko creates a wall peppered with instructions and images, colour-coded with pins, strings, stickers, and highlighted text to illustrate a system for sifting through, selecting, and archiving photographs from our private collection.  The webs of topics and wealth of information intersect in a visual game of snakes and ladders: this mixed media installation is not only impressive in size and scope, but also striking in its at once neat and cluttered representation of our impulses to document, categorise, and reduce, as well as our paradoxical desires to keep and to purge.  The digitalisation of images and digital photography do not, alas, resolve these tensions for us.    

Excerpts from ED IT: The substantial system for photographic archive maintenance by Ola Lanko

Balconism closes on 17 January 2015, and so there is time yet to ponder the state of the image and the perspectives from which we encounter it in the second decade of the 21st century, with the above artists in full, alongside other thought-provoking work by Anna Bedaux, Sharon Houkema, Sanne Peper, Manó Dániel Szöllősi, and Aram Tanis.



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