Category Archives: democracy

The New Newsroom: Lost (and found?) in the information stream

We consume more news than ever but does that mean that we are better informed?

Every day, we eat up, share and generate stories through news apps, podcasts, Twitter, youtube, facebook updates and even VR. Yet, it seems that the more intimate we get with the creation of information, the less grip we have on its meaning and on the impact its manipulation has on politics and society. The exhibition The New Newsroom. Reporting Redesigned at MU in Eindhoven, explores how we can use the power of digital technology to create meaningful content and regain control of information.

In The New Newsroom, journalists, technologists, artists and designers investigate innovative formats, analyse the news and present their findings in stimulating visuals and installations

The exhibition is packed with emoticons, VR installations, humour, poetry, anecdotes and other weapons of mass distraction. And yet, the more you engage with the art and design works in the show, the clearer the message: the shape of information is evolving faster than ever and we need to probe and question its new guises if we don’t want to remain trapped inside filter bubbles and lose all consciousness of what makes and breaks society.

Here’s a quick tour of some of my favourite works in the show:


Reporters without Borders, Uncensored Playlist, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Reporters without Borders, Uncensored Playlist, 2018

China, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Thailand and Egypt are some of the countries at the bottom of the list for freedom of press. The Uncensored Playlist is the result of a collaboration between Reporters Without Borders Germany and local journalists and musicians to by-pass censorship. They turned censored news stories into songs with innocuous titles that can then be streamed for free via music apps.

Using music as a loophole, the platform aims to get the work of exiled journalists across the border, into people’s playlists. Just like other pop songs, the music spreads through word of mouth, turning news stories into hits.


Lilian Stolk, Emoji Newsfeed, 2018


Lilian Stolk, Emoji Newsfeed, 2018


Lilian Stolk, Emoji Newsfeed, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

I had no idea that there are already 3000 emojis for us to chose from. 100 are added every year. The Unicode Consortium determines which icons are added, but news media also plays a role in the pre-selection and modification of the icons. Proposals that meet a large audience in the media, are more likely to be added. Lilian Stolk monitors the development of emoji as she sees the process as a reflection of the choices and changes society is going through. Her colourful and ridiculously interesting Emoji Newsfeed charts the controversies and strange stories surrounding emoji communication.


Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, Pics or it Didn’t Happen. Photo: Cassie Brown. Insta: @show_you_mine


Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, Pics or it Didn’t Happen


Arvida Byström and Molly Soda, Pics or it Didn’t Happen. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Pics or it Didn’t Happen is an archive of photos banned from Instagram.

Arvida Byström and Molly Soda collected these images -most of them strange rather than offensive- into a book as a guarantee that they would not disappear: “We have to think about how to archive the web,” they told the Independent. “Putting something in a book is an interesting way to take encapsulate something, but also elevating the things that we aren’t supposed to be seeing.”

According to their own analysis, the social platform tends to reject (mostly female) bodies that aren’t young, hairless, lithe, and white. The tendency to favour the standard over what is considered deviant reflects the way society perceives, regulates and suppresses bodies.


Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska, Computational Propaganda About Computational Propaganda, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska, Computational Propaganda About Computational Propaganda, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Nicolas Maigret and Maria Roszkowska‘s Computational Propaganda About Computational Propaganda is a troll campaign that looks at the social and political responsibility of the five Big Tech companies (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft).

The troll campaign is executed by a bot that has no political agenda other than stressing the presence of the GAFAM in popular political discourse. “Using Big Data analysis techniques to extract hidden correlations from Wikipedia, the bot is built to spark discussions that link the companies to major social and political issues. The resulting assumptions are spread on social media under the viral form of internet memes. The memes are tracked and recorded, so that their aftereffect can be observed and scrutinized.”

I need to come back with a more detailed story on that one soon!


DROG, Slecht Nieuws, 2017
. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

The disheartening influence of fake news highlights the need for greater media literacy. Including among adults. Slecht Nieuws (Bad News), a game made by DROG, entices players to fabricate and spread fake news themselves. By learning to recognise the methods involved in the spread of disinformation, players are thus better equipped to distinguish falsehood from truth.

Forensic Architecture, al-Jinah Mosque

In March last year, the U.S. forces bombed a site in Al-Jinah, Syria, claiming that it was a terrorist meeting place and that the only causalities were terrorists.

Forensic Architecture worked with Human Rights Watch and British blogger Bellingcat to analyze numerous videos and images (from both before and after the drone strike) and interviewed survivors, first responders and the building’s contractor to demonstrate that the U.S. had in fact aimed fire at a mosque. Their work revealed the fatal misindentification, the killing of civilians and a possible cover-up by U.S. forces. After making the information public, the Pentagon eventually retracted part of their statement and confessed the target was indeed, “part of a mosque complex.”


Coralie Vogelaar, Looking for a Possible Algorythm for the Popular News Image, 2016


Coralie Vogelaar, Recognized / Not Recognized – A Comparative Movement Analysis of Popular and Unpopular News Images, 2016. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Coralie Vogelaar, Recognized / Not Recognized – A Comparative Movement Analysis of Popular and Unpopular News Images, 2016. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Coralie Vogelaar, Looking for a Possible Algorythm for the Popular News Image, 2016. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

Coralie Vogelaar browsed through the databases of the large press agencies for photographs of ten high-profile news events and used search engines to determine how often each image – 850,000 in total – was published online. She then compared the most popular photographs to the least published ones of the exact same situation to figure out what made news agencies favour one over the others. The result, Looking for a Possible Algorithm for the Popular News Image, is puzzling. Each of the iconic photo is brought side by side with its least published “twin” and soon patterns in the focus and composition of the images seem to emerge: babies and tears have to be clearly visible, for example. Gestures well defined and crowd movements easy to interpret.

The artist then attempted to translate these images in Recognized / Not Recognized, a two-channel video installation that reproduces these images in the form of a performance piece created in collaboration with choreographer Marjolein Vogels. Nine dancers move from one frozen position to another: on one screen, they mimic the news photograph that was most popular and on the other, the simultaneously shot but failed image.

Interestingly, the successful images often show people in poses that evoke famous western artworks, such as Michelangelo’s Pietà or Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa. From a vast ocean of photographic data, we have the tendency to favour images that confirm our visual frame of reference.

Donghwan Kam, After Photography, 2018


Donghwan Kam, After Photography, 2018


Donghwan Kam, After Photography, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

In After Photography, Donghwan Kam renders iconic news images in 3D and then walks around with his VR headset and a digital point-and-shoot camera he modified to capture the virtual through the use of sensors attached to the front of the device. He thus cuts through the numbness of yet another image of human suffering to create a personal relationship with the event.

Submarine Channel & VPRO, The Industry – Mapping the Dutch Drug Economy (intro), 2017

The Industry, an interactive documentary made by VPRO and Submarine Channel, delves into the drug industry in The Netherlands.

The work interweaves hard facts and figures with personal stories from the people who keep the industry going: housewives, students, dockworkers, weed growers, full-time coke dealers, etc. You can meet the protagonists “on location”: in cannabis plantations hidden in villas, coffeeshop, containers in harbors, etc. Some spaces are real, some are reconstructions based on existing spaces.

Soon enough, you realize that the shady drug world is all around you. 



More images from the exhibition:


Jim Brady, Mobile Journalism, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Daan Wubben, In Aerial Times. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Maxime Benvenuto, Lexicographies of Propaganda and News, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


Maxime Benvenuto, Lexicographies of Propaganda and News, 2018. The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer


The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned – MU Eindhoven, 2018. Photo by Hanneke Wetzer

The New Newsroom: Reporting Redesigned, curated by Nadine Roestenburg & Angelique Spaninks, remains open at MU in Eindhoven until 11 November 2018.

Image on the homepage: Donghwan Kam, After Photography.

Staying Alive. A “wunderkammer” of disaster solutions

The third project i discovered at A School of School, the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial (after Halletmek. The Turkish art of speeding up design processes and Genetically Modified Generation) is not a project but a cabinet of curiosities curated by SulSolSal, a collaboration between Brazilian architect Guido Giglio and South-African designer Hannes Bernard.


Demystification Committee, Offshore Spring/Summer 2018, 2018


Exhibition view of Staying Alive, part of the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial. Photo: Kayhan Kaygusuz

Global warming, widespread precarity and the threat of another economic crisis, the rise of far right discourses across Europe and the US, the mass extinction of natural species, (cyber)terrorism, political unrest, etc. The world seems to be facing a constant stream of menaces and crisis that only seem to grow with each passing day. Governments don’t seem too concerned about it, they are too busy signing climate agreements they won’t respect and courting votes with short-time measures that can only fool the naive and the self-centered. As for industries, they pursue their strategies of turbo-greed as if there was no tomorrow. And maybe indeed there won’t be any tomorrow.

SulSolSal’s Staying Alive is part a “wunderkammer” and part a survival guide. The artists, designers, architects and other resourceful citizens whose thoughts and works the SulSolSal duo has collected look bravely at some of the crisis we are facing today and attempt to help us prepare for a future of adversity and scarcity.

I wish SulSolSal‘s website was up and running and that they hadn’t titled their contribution Staying Alive because i’ve spent the whole weekend pretending i’m Robin Gibb. Other than that, i can’t fault the work of these guys. The research they did for the Istanbul Design Biennial was smart and inspiring.

Here’s my favourite projects in their selection of interesting and often tongue-in-cheek attempts to respond to the ongoing climate of impending doom:


Theo Deutinger, Europe in Africa, 2014


Theo Deutinger, Europe in Africa, 2014

Europe in Africa (EIA) is a proposal for a new city – state on an artificial island to be created right between the Exclusive Economic Zone of Tunisia and Italy. The aim of EIA is to provide a secure place for people that have to flee their country and want to reach Europe.

The purpose-built island would offer a football stadium, a business park, a mosque and a church, a business park, a police station, schools and spaces to live and grow crops.

After living and working 5 years in EIA its inhabitants would be granted with a truly European passport and could leave and legally reside in any European country; if wanted. The designer believes that Brexit exiles would be welcome on the island as well.


SkyLift V0.3 (current build) Photo ©Adam Harvey. Used in Adam Harvey and Anastasia Kubrak, Data Pools, 2018

The pools and mansions of Silicon Valley are financed by the mechanisms of economic surveillance and ownership of your personal data. Yet the geographic locations of these luxurious residences are often removed from open source databases. Data Pools uses SkyLift, an experimental wifi geolocation spoofing device that relocates your smartphone to these hidden locations of interest. The work explores the relationship between data collection, consent and the technologies behind wifi geolocation positioning.

With this project, Adam Harvey and Anastasia Kubrak allows you to cheat these technologies of control and pretend you’re having a drink by the private pools of big tech billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg or Larry Page.


Human Rights Foundation, Flash Drives for Freedom, 2005

The Human Rights Foundation is using USB sticks to counter Kim Jong-un’s propaganda machine and influence people living in North Korea.

A few years ago, a group of defectors began smuggling USB drives with educative and informative contents from the outside world. The campaign invites people all over the world to support their “subversive” effort and donate their unused drives. The USBs will then be filled with e-books, films, an offline Korean Wikipedia and other content proven to inspire North Koreans to disbelieve Kim Jong-Un’s propaganda and take a stand. The drives are then smuggled into the country.


Meeus van Dis, Super Green (Solar powered tanning bed), 2016. Photo credits: Sabrina Gaudio


Meeus van Dis, Super Green (The diesel fuel powered electric car), 2016. Photo credits: Sabrina Gaudio

Steven de Peven, Meeus van Dis and Bart Eysink Smeets used absurdist humour to question the “technofix”, this tendency we have to look at technology and design as providers of the ultimate solution to climate change and other man-made problems.

Their Super Green series features the GreenBrown solarium powered by solar energy to give you an eco-tan, an electric car powered by a diesel generator and an electric fan that uses wind energy.


Joao Roxo, The Hand that Feeds you, 2017. Photo: Kayhan Kaygusuz

The Hands That Feed You: Global Dependency and Design for the Third Space maps the North-South divide and the dynamics of its inter-dependency systems, in particular its flows of waste and surplus. The work also exposes a “Third Space” made of self-reliance and resourcefulness and informal economies. An example of this inventiveness is the furniture that people in the South craft using the excess of unwanted clothing sent as ‘charity’ from the North. People stuff big bags with the clothes and use them as poufs for example.

Janna Ullrich, Quantified


Janna Ullrich, Quantified (image)

’Quantified’ is a cooperative board game, set in a world in which everyone’s behavior is constantly surveilled and analyzed. A player’s behavior results in a social credit score leaving traces of data behind for governments and corporations to analyse and determining their position on the social ladder. Players start from different positions on the social ladder, as refugee, unemployed or employed, with unequal access to human rights. The goal of the game is to make all rights accessible to all players and to fight the implementation of totalitarian policies.

By gamifying the complex challenges of migration, participants experience how legal innocent activities can make them lose their rights and how they can collectively fight for laws that protect their rights.


Tattfoo Studio, New Earth Personal Survival Kit, 2017. Photo: Kayhan Kaygusuz

Tattfoo Studio, New Earth Personal Survival Kit, 2017

New Earth Personal Survival Kit, aka NEPSK, is a series of small survival kits that form part of an educational program teaching an ethos of self-reliance and living closer to the Earth. Although the work intends to prepare us for any type of challenging situation we might encounter in the future, it features artifacts inspired by folk craft and everyday objects. The artist believes that equipping yourself for the future also involves a great deal of looking back at past practices and strategies.


Demystification Committee, exhibition view at the Istanbul Design Biennial. Photo: Kayhan Kaygusuz


Demystification Committee, exhibition view at the Istanbul Design Biennial. Photo: Kayhan Kaygusuz

The Demystification Committee is an art and research project that takes the shape of an international corporate structure set up to model and explore offshore finance. Secretive movement of money is a crucial component of the offshore world. In order to benefit from this, the Demystification Committee has launched a collection of beachwear: Offshore Spring/Summer 2018. In this leisure collection, the stakeholders and strategies of the dark infrastructure is portrayed as being just as unseen as brightly coloured, pop-fashion diagrams.


Demystification Committee, Offshore Economist, 2018

The Offshore Economist, a digital publication focusing on the cracks inherent to the offshoring practices of corporate finance.


Mary Ponomareva, Luxury Survival Fair, 2017

Our anxieties and uncertainties about future disasters shouldn’t stifle the economy. In fact, ‘The end of the world’ is a business opportunity like any other, with high-end private security systems, state-of-the-art predator drones, luxurious survival condos and jewel-encrusted gas masks, etc.

By speculating on the objects and services that will make post-apocalyptic life more glamourous, Mary Ponomareva’s Luxury Survival Fair questions the role that aesthetics plays in the construction of ideology.

A School of School, the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial is curated by Jan Boelen and organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV). The exhibitions remain open at various locations in Istanbul until 4 November 2018.

Also part of the biennial: Halletmek. The Turkish art of speeding up design processes and Genetically Modified Generation (Designer Babies).

Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology. Part 1. The exhibition


Jeremy Hutchison, Movables, 2017. Exhibition view of Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Miha Fras / Aksioma

National borders are being increasingly challenged under the pressure of mass movement of peoples, digital maneuvers and other technology-enabled disruptions, climate disorder, progressive policies or global economics. This new reality brings about tensions and anxieties but also new ways to consider questions of geography, politics and national identity.

Transnationalisms, an exhibition and symposium curated by James Bridle at Aksioma in Ljubljana, investigates the various conditions in which national frameworks are transcended and transgressed today.

While the nation state is not about to disappear, it is already pierced and entangled with other, radically different forms. Alternative models and protocols of citizenship, identity and nationhood are being prototyped and distributed online and through new technologies. Transnationalisms examines the ways in which these new forms are brought into the physical world and used to disrupt and enfold existing systems. It does not assume the passing of old regimes, but proclaims the inevitability of new ones, and strives to make them legible, comprehensible, and accessible.

Transnationalism is a poignant and challenging theme to explore in 21st century “Fortress Europe”. Yet, as the artists featured in the exhibition demonstrate, it is also a topic that calls for creative sabotage and digital trespassing.

Here’s a quick overview of the show:

Daniela Ortiz, Jus Sanguinis, 2016


Daniela Ortiz, Jus Sanguinis (Collage of Peruvian passport and medical book illustration), 2016

Jus soli, the “right of the soil, is the right of anyone born in the territory of a state to nationality or citizenship. Jus soli is the predominant rule in the Americas, but it is rare elsewhere. European countries, for example, do not grant citizenship based on unconditional jus soli. Instead, most of them grant citizenship at birth based upon the principle of Jus sanguinis, meaning ‘the right of the blood’. The main way children can thus acquire citizenship is thus through the blood of at least one of their parents and not by birthplace.

Daniela Ortiz is an artist of Peruvian descent. In 2016, she had been living in Spain for 9 years when she found herself pregnant. She knew her residency permit would expire before the birth and that her baby would inherit her nationality and legal status. During a performance that year, Ortiz received a blood transfusion from a Spanish citizen, directly challenging the nationalist regime of citizenship which would classify her child as an immigrant and automatically submit him or her to the violence of Immigration laws.


Raphael Fabre, CNI, 2017


Raphael Fabre, CNI, 2017

Last year, Raphael Fabre presented a request for a new French ID card. All of his papers were deemed to be legal and authentic. The ID card was issued. What makes his ID card uncommon is that the photo the artist had submitted to his local government was created on a computer, from a 3D model, using several pieces of software and special effects techniques developed for movies and video games. The official document is thus featuring a citizen which is practically virtual and fictional.

The work reflects the increased importance that digital technology takes in mediating our relationship with forms of authority.

CNI reminded me a bit of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series Portraits for which he photographed Madame Tussaud’s wax replicas of iconic historical and political figures. Just like in the case of Fabre, the setting was meticulously staged and the result adhered strictly to the rules of the portrait genres. In both cases, however, the hyperrealistic images add an extra manufactured layer to the representation of an individual.

Julian Oliver, Border Bumping, 2012-2014


Julian Oliver, Border Bumping, 2012-2014. Exhibition view of Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Janez Janša / Aksioma

You might have noticed, when traveling in Europe, that your mobile phone operator sometimes notifies you that you’ve entered a new country minutes before or after you have actually crossed the national border. Your phone is in one place, your body in another. When active, Julian Oliver’s Border Bumping phone app collected mobile phone tower and location data to map the ways in which the electromagnetic spectrum defies the integrity of national borders.


Folder group, Italian Limes, 2016


Folder group, Italian Limes at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana. Photo: Miha Fras / Aksioma


Folder group, Italian Limes at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana. Photo: Janez Janša / Aksioma


Folder group, Italian Limes at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana. Photo: Janez Janša / Aksioma


Folder group, Italian Limes at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova in Ljubljana. Photo: Janez Janša / Aksioma

Italy set its borders as we know them today in 1861 when the country became officially united. Global warming, however, have recently caused these borders to shift. The rise in the average temperature have resulted in the slow melting of the Alpine glaciers that marked out the frontier between Italy and its neighbours. Rather than deciding on a precise redrawing of its national frontiers, the Italian government made the interesting decision of defining its Alpine borders as ‘movable’. They can shift depending on the location of the watershed and how it is affected by ice melt.

The project Italian Limes (limes is the latin word for ‘border’ or ‘boundary’) monitors the fluctuations of a section of the Alpine border in real time. A couple of years ago, the team installed a series of solar-powered devices on the melting ice sheet at the foot of Mt. Similaun, on the Austrian-Italian border. The measurement units tracked the change in the tridimensional geometry of the glacier.

The GPS sensors are linked by satellite to the pantograph in the exhibition space. The instrument graphically reproduce, hour by hour, the shift in the border prompted by the glacier’s movement and shrinkage on a local map. The shift in natural border and by extension the reality of climate disruption become visible to all.

More works and images from the exhibition:


Jonas Staal, New Unions – Map, First draft, 2016. Exhibition view of Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Miha Fras / Aksioma


Jonas Staal, New Unions – Map, First draft, 2016. Exhibition view of Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Janez Janša / Aksioma

Jonas Staal’s New Unions maps the emergence of social movements and new political parties which are creating progressive models of political assembly and decision making in Europe while proposing new forms of transdemocratic practices. These political experiments transcend the boundaries of nation states, just like corporations do but with more ethical and humanistic values.


Jeremy Hutchison, Movables, 2017

Jeremy Hutchison’s work was triggered by a photo showing the inside of a car, the headrests torn open to reveal a person hiding inside each seat. The photo, taken by police at a border point somewhere in the Balkans, testifies to a reality where human bodies attempt to disguise themselves as inanimate objects, simply to acquire the same freedom of movement as consumer goods.

They Are Here, We Help Each Other Grow, 2017

Thiru Seelan, a Tamil refugee who arrived in the UK in 2010 following detention in Sri Lanka during which he was tortured for his political affiliations, dances on an East London rooftop. His movements are recorded by a heat sensitive camera more conventionally often used to monitor borders and crossing points, where bodies are identified through their thermal signature.


Exhibition view of Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Miha Fras / Aksioma


Exhibition view of Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology at Aksioma Project Space. Photo: Miha Fras / Aksioma

Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology, curated by James Bridle, remains open at Aksioma Project Space in Ljubljana and at the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova until 25 May 2018.

This program is realized in the framework of State Machines, a joint project by Aksioma (SI), Drugo more (HR), Furtherfield (UK), Institute of Network Cultures (NL) and NeMe (CY).

Related story: The System of Systems: technology and bureaucracy in the asylum seeking process in Europe.

Handbook of Tyranny: a guide to everyday cruelties

Handbook of Tyranny, by Theo Deutinger, an architect, writer, lecturer, illustrator and designer of socio-cultural maps.

On amazon UK and USA.

Publisher Lars Müller writes: Handbook of Tyranny portrays the routine cruelties of the twenty-first century through a series of detailed non-fictional graphic illustrations. None of these cruelties represent extraordinary violence – they reflect day-to-day implementation of laws and regulations around the globe.

Every page of the book questions our current world of walls and fences, police tactics and prison cells, crowd control and refugee camps. The dry and factual style of storytelling through technical drawings is the graphic equivalent to bureaucratic rigidity born of laws and regulations. The level of detail depicted in the illustrations of the book mirror the repressive efforts taken by authorities around the globe.

The twenty-first century shows a general striving for an ever more regulated and protective society. Yet the scale of authoritarian intervention and their stealth design adds to the growing difficulty of linking cause and effect. Handbook of Tyranny gives a profound insight into the relationship between political power, territoriality and systematic cruelties.


Animals slaughtered per second worldwide and slaughterhouse floor plan


Animals slaughtered per second worldwide

The Handbook of Tyranny‘s infographics and texts bring to light the nonhuman entities that restrict, govern and guide our daily existence. They lay bare a vast ecosystem of coercion that is (often insidiously) interwoven into the fabric of cities, of society, of every day life.

Some of these ‘small cruelties’ are engineering innovations, others are small design tweaks. Some are massive and overwhelming, others are subtle, their unpleasantness concealed behind a veneer of propriety, comfort or security. Some affect the existence of only a limited part of humanity (the refugees or the prisoners, for example), others target each and everyone of us as we walk around the neighbourhood, go on holiday or look for a place to sit in the park.


Bunker Buster


Prison cells

We might resent some of these objects and strategies of control but that doesn’t mean that will will automatically condemn them. At least not if we are told that they have been designed to ensure our safety and protect us from undesirable behaviour.

Handbook of Tyranny is a sharp, enlightening and beautifully designed book. It told me about anti-injecting blue light, urine deflectors that ‘pee back‘ at you and bunker busters that delay their explosion until after they have penetrated layers of earth or concrete. It also made me think about the responsibility for the authoritarian features of modern life: they do not reside entirely into the hands of ‘the powers that be’ but also in the ones of architects, designers, engineers and, to a certain extent, the rest of us.

Theo Deutinger & Lars Müller Publishers present Handbook of Tyranny at Pakhuis de Zwijger


Refugee Camps


Crowd Control


Crowd Control


Walls & Fences

Related story: Book review – Unpleasant Design and Design and Violence. Part 2: violence where you wouldn’t expect it.

The System of Systems: technology and bureaucracy in the asylum seeking process in Europe

Back in May, i went to Athens on a whim. Of course, Greece has the most fabulous food on the old continent, firemen on motorbikes, soldiers wearing pompom shoes, and jaw-dropping architecture. But I also wanted to see The System of Systems, a group show that explored how political powers are using technologies in bureaucratic systems to determine the fate of asylum seekers in Europe.

What better place than Greece to discuss this topic? Not only has the country developed an intimate experience of the EU brutal bureaucracy since the early days of the financial crisis, it is now also attempting to aid the thousands asylum seekers and refugees who have reached its frontiers in the hope of finding a better life in European countries. Unfortunately, like other member states on the EU’s external borders, Greece is receiving insufficient signs of solidarity from the EU.


Image Danae Papazymouri


Danae Papazymouri & Rebecca Glyn-Blanco, And if the asylum seeker does not wish to participate in the interview? Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens

The System of Systems looks at asylum seeking in Europe under a broader perspective. It is not only an exhibition but also a book and a series of events that aim to raise a better informed debate around the legal framework of asylum seeking in Europe, asking questions such as:

What policies are we voting for as citizens of European countries, and what is our relationship to this issue? How does the asylum system illegalise people? How are technologies used as processes of making and discrediting evidence?

The System of Systems ironically takes its title from an informal term used to describe EUROSUR, a division within border management agency Frontex. This subsection is an ‘information exchange framework’ and ‘surveillance system’ that operates on behalf of the EU. The process of seeking asylum is thus a ‘system’ composed of many ‘systems’. The rather clinical description suggests a number of rules and control apparatus but it also hides a series of complex and often harsh control mechanisms.

The System of Systems exhibition dissected the strategies used by the EU to ‘process’ and restrict the movements of people who don’t have the ‘adequate’ documents. It also examined the stratagems deployed by migrants to counter EU bureaucracy and enter “Fortress Europe.”

The show in Athens closed a few weeks ago. Other events are planned but in the meantime, i’d really recommend that you check out the publication of the project. Just like the exhibition, the book goes beyond the facts and stats you can read in the press and offers a more compassionate perspective on the asylum seeking process.

Here’s a quick tour of some of the works exhibited in Athens:


Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Conflicted Phonemes, 2012


Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Conflicted Phonemes, 2012


Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Conflicted Phonemes, 2012. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens

Since 2001, immigration authorities in Australia, New Zealand, as well as several European countries have been using forensic speech analysis to determine the validity of asylum claims made by thousands of people without identity documents.

While applicants are interviewed, their language, dialect or accent are scrutinized by language experts who then assess whether or not the way the applicant speaks matches the one used in the region they claim to come from.

Forensic speech analysis is far from being fail-proof, however. This can have disastrous consequences for the fate of asylum seekers whose application has been unjustly rejected.

In 2012, artist Lawrence Abu Hamdan worked with linguists, artists, researchers, activists and twelve asylum seekers whose applications had been rejected following a language assessment. Together they discussed how to raise awareness around the limits of forensic language and worked with graphic designer Janna Ullrich to create a series of maps that expose the realities of this technology. The maps demonstrate that a spoken language is not a static entity but an hybrid, living organism that quietly evolves with changing social conditions, with age or under the influence of crisis and displacements.

The maps have been exhibited in galleries and refugee organizations, but they have also been presented to a judge working within the Dutch immigration authority. The research was also submitted at a deportation hearing before the UK Asylum tribunal.


Eugenio Grosso, Papers, 2015


Eugenio Grosso, Papers, 2015


Eugenio Grosso, Papers, 2015. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens

Your documents don’t determine who you are—but they certainly have a lot to say about where you can go.

Eugenio Grosso photographed the papers left behind by those making their way through Europe in the hope of a better life. The photos were taken shortly before the controversial EU-Turkey deal which now allows Greece to return to Turkey “all new irregular migrants”.

Before the agreement, refugees allowed to enter Macedonia from Greece had to pass by a track that leads to the small town of Gevgelija. The path, a limbo between Greek bureaucracy and Macedonian bureaucracy, was where migrants tore apart and discarded the documents temporarily issued by Greece. Knowing their nationality could determine whether they would be allowed to continue their journey freely or be sent back or incarcerated, these men and women chose to leave part of who they were behind them. Each time they entered a new country, their identities had to be confirmed again and again.


Ayesha Hameed, A Rough History (of the destruction of fingerprints), 2015–2016. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens

A Rough History reveals other sacrifices that migrants are ready to make in order to be able to enter the EU. Ayesha Hameed‘s film essay and performance explores how some of them are cutting or burning their fingerprints to avoid being identified by the EU’s fingerprint database, Eurodac.


Nana Varveropoulou, No Man’s Land. Each room in the category B prison holds two men


Nana Varveropoulou, No Man’s Land


Nana Varveropoulou, No Man’s Land


Nana Varveropoulou, No Man’s Land. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens

The Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre was built as a prison. Yet none of the 380 detainees held there is serving a prison sentence. Most don’t even know when they will be released. Like other thousands of people locked in similar centers, they can be detained for months, even years. UK doesn’t accept them and the country they come from doesn’t recognize them. They can’t leave nor go, they live in a state of limbo.

During 2 years, Nana Varveropoulou worked with asylum seekers detained in Colnbrook IRC. She invited them to participate to photography workshops, gave them cameras and soon they started recording their life in the centre. In parallel, she produced her own photographs. Together, the detainees and the artist created ‘outsider’s’ and ‘insider’s’ perspectives of indefinite immigration detention.


Melanie Friend, Border Country. View of moat from Dover Immigration Removal Centre, August 2005


Melanie Friend, Border Country. The Visitors’ Room, Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre (near Gatwick), April 2004. (The single chairs on the left are for detainees; visitors sit opposite)


Melanie Friend, Border Country. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens

Photographer Melanie Friend spent four years documenting what the UK calls the ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ (IRC.)

She interviewed detainees, portrayed some of them and photographed the interiors and exteriors of eight centers. At least the parts she was allowed to photograph.

The recordings of the interviews are particularly moving. We hear the voices of people who have no home nor belonging, are separated from their family and find themselves in a system they don’t fully comprehend. Some of them have been detained for months, waiting for deportation or asylum. Through they stories you get a sense of who they are, what they tried to escape, what they dream of and the psychological and emotional impact that life in this type of prison-like institutions has on them.

The photos only confirm the sense of confinement and alienation they have to face day after day for indeterminate periods of time: the high fences, the barbed wires, bright lights, security cameras, bleak rooms, lack of privacy, bars on the window, etc. Together, recordings and photos challenge the dominant representations of asylum seekers and migrants as ‘others’.

James Bridle, Seamless Transitions


James Bridle, Seamless TransitionsExhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens


James Bridle, Seamless Transitions. The interior of Inflite Jet Centre. Photograph: Picture Plane/The interior of Inflite Jet Centre


James Bridle discussing Seamless Transitions at the opening of The System of Systems

It is illegal to photograph the detention centres, closed courts, lounges and private jets Britain uses to deport people. But James Bridle found a way around the restrictions. His work Seamless Transitions focuses on 3 key elements of the UK immigration system: a courtroom, a detention centre and an airport.

Field House in the City of London is the home of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), Harmondsworth IRC is a detention center near Heathrow Airport Heathrow and the Inflite Jet Centre is a luxury terminal at Stansted airport where businessmen check in for their private jets by day and deportation flights depart at night.

Since he had limited to no access to these spaces, Bridle had to acquire planning documents and satellite photos, interview academics and activists, and read accounts from eyewitnesses. He then worked with digital imaging studio Picture Plane to recreate the places as 3D computer models.

The film walks us through sanitized and empty environments. The work helps us visualize a reality that remains hidden. And while the images can’t convey the smell, the stress and despair these walls witness on a daily basis, they speak volumes of the lack of humanity and compassion of our immigration systems.

It’s about the unaccountability and ungraspability of vast, complex systems: of nation-wide architectures, accumulations of laws and legal processes, infrastructures of intent and prejudice, and structural inequalities of experience and understanding. Through journalistic investigation, academic research, artistic impression, and, I believe, the confluence of these approaches with new technologies, there is an opportunity to see, describe, and communicate the world in ways which have not been possible before, Bridle writes

More images from the show:


Design Unlikely Futures. Exhibition view The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens


Thomas Keenan & Sohrab Mohebbi, EUROSUR. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens


Thomas Keenan & Sohrab Mohebbi, It’s obvious from the map. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens


Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Conflicted Phonemes, 2012. Exhibition view of The System of Systems at GRACE in Athens

The System of Systems is a series of exhibitions, events and a publication curated by Rebecca Glyn-Blanco, Maria McLintock and Danae Papazymouri.

How To Live Together. Part 2: the good news


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Outside Arabeska wedding hall), 2014

Since last week’s review about the exhibition How To Live Together at Kunsthalle Wien was all doom and gloom, i had to come back with another post and a more encouraging viewpoint.

This time i will thus focus on the artworks that show what makes coexistence possible in times of rapid societal changes, growing economic inequality, forced migrations and a widespread loss of trust in politics.

Intuitively, we already know that the key to more unified societies lies in a mix of resistance, remembrance, borrowing from other cultures, dreams and empathy. Many of the artists in the show illustrate what happens when these abstract notions are turned into real life stories:


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day, 2014


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Laili wedding hall), 2014


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Niagara wedding hall), 2014


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Evropa wedding hall), 2014


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust: Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day, Makhachkala, 14.09.2014

Makhachkala is the capital city of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia. Dagestan is famous for its dozens of ethnic groups, none of them forming a majority. Which explains why the country has 13 official languages.

Dagestani weddings are as serious as they are expensive and i’m glad no one has ever invited me to one because traditional celebrations can last for 3 days. Makhachkala counts more than 60 wedding halls. Each of them booked out during peak season (late spring to early autumn.)

With the complicity of local wedding photographer Shamil Gadzhidadaev, Taus Makhacheva spent a whole day crashing as many weddings as possible. At the end of the day, she managed to attend 19 marriage celebrations.

The performance was documented in postcards (each of them available for Kunsthalle Wien visitors to take away.) You see her adopting all the clichéd poses: congratulating the newlyweds, dancing, eating among the other guests, standing proudly next to the wedding gifts, etc. She’s the perfect uninvited guest!

Because of the coexistence of so many cultures into one city, the images of the festivities show a fabulous mix of brides wearing a hijab and a Western ‘princess’ dress, female guests whose style icons are clearly one or all the Kardashian sisters, people taking photos using an iPad, ladies in very conservative outfits, etc. Somehow this blend of oriental/occidental, pop/traditional attires works fabulously and suggests a society that is borrowing from several cultures in order to define its own identity.


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust. Willem de Rooij, Bouquet V, 2010

Bouquet V is made of ninety-five species of fresh flowers. The arrangement gives equal importance and visibility to each flower, no mater its colour, size, or provenance. The bouquet symbolises the beauty of diversity, the appeal of mixing individuals of various origins to obtain a stunning foral composition. The same logic should apply to society. Yet, celebration of diversity is still undervalued in many parts of the world. Unless you live in Dagestan of course.

Willen de Rooij‘s floral compositions are also a reference to the Netherlands’ role as a key hub in the international flower trade.


Binelde Hyrcan, Cambeck (video still), 2010

Binelde Hyrcan, Cambeck (extract), 2010

The latest Mercer Cost of Living Survey calculated that Angola’s capital Luanda is the most expensive city in the world for expats. While living costs for foreigners who often work for the oil industry are slightly higher than New York and San Francisco, the average wage for the local population in Angola is just under $2 a day.

The most moving work in the show is a video by Binelde Hyrcan. The film shows four little boys playing on the beach in Angola. Sitting in the sand, they pretend they are driving around the world in a limousine. In only 2 min 30, the children’s playful chitchat reveals an existence plagued by social inequalities, poverty and families split by migration. “I’m going to America and live in a building; you’re going to stay here and live in a shantytown!”

But the film also talks of hope and dreams as a way to escape the trauma of social suffering.


Kader Attia, Reflecting Memory (Video Still), 2016


Kader Attia, Reflecting Memory (Video Still), 2016


Kader Attia, Reflecting Memory (Video Still), 2016

Kader Attia is also interested in exploring trauma and social anxieties. He believes that the world, too focused on the present to remember the past, is suffering from amnesia.

His film essay Reflecting Memory deals with the idea of trauma and “reparation”. Surgeons, historians, philosophers, psychoanalysts and traumatised people discuss the phenomenon of phantom pain, which amputees feel for their missing body part. The video draws parallels between this neurological condition and the trauma caused by psychological wounds, such as those brought about by war, slavery, colonialism, genocide and terror. They can spread over several generations as an unexpressed sensation of pain. This pain can in turn divide communities and create social tensions.

According to the interviewees, a confrontation with the past and an acceptance that it is part of our genealogy are necessary steps towards “repairing” the pain.

Attia’s film is shown in the screening room next to the space occupied by Sven Augustijnen’s Le Réduit which explores an episode in Belgium’s ruthless exploitation of Congo (i mentioned the work in my previous story). Congo, now The Democratic Republic of the Congo, typifies the fate of an ex-European colony which has experienced much trauma but has never been offered any healing experience.


Johan Grimonprez, Kiss-o-drome (fragment from Shadow World, story written and read by Eduardo Galeano), 2016

In 1980, Judge Manuel Morales ruled that ‘the cinemateographic kiss, in which salivas mix to simply swell the sensuality’ should be banned from the city of Sorocaba in Brazil.

In reaction to the ludicrous edict, almost 2,000 young people marched through the streets and organized a huge ‘kiss-in’ protest. “Never had people kissed so much,” writes in his book Eduardo Galeano in Children of the Days.

Johan Grimonprez‘s short video celebrates the protest with images of a dancing couple and the voice of Eduardo Galeano narrating the Kiss-o-drome demonstration.


Herlinde Koelbl, Italy Catania-Messina (from the series: Refugees), 2016

Herlinde Koelbl’s Refugees photo series highlights under-represented aspects of the life of refugees after they’ve arrived in Europe: their days inside the camps, the most treasured possessions they brought with them, etc. But also the generosity they encounter in the countries of arrival.


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust. Wolfgang Tillmans, Anti-Brexit Campaign, 2016


Wolfgang Tillmans, Anti-Brexit Campaign, 2016


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust. Ieva Epnere, Riga Circus, 2004–08/2017


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust: Armin Linke, CNR, National Research Council, Fermi conference hall, on the wall the Globe made by Fra’ Mauro in 1460, 2007

How To Live Together also attempts to be more than yet another art exhibition for the usual cultural aficionados. The curators set up a “Community College” offering workshops, tours, brunches, courses and lectures until the end of the show. You can find the programme inside the exhibition booklet.

If you want to know more about the show, have a look at HTLT’s playlist or download the PDF of the exhibition booklet.

How To Live Together is at Kunsthalle Wien until 15 October 2017. The show was curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen, with curatorial assistant Juliane Bischoff

Previously: How To Live Together. Part 1: the bad news.

Also on view at Kunsthalle Wien (Karlsplatz location): Work it, Feel it! New mechanisms of body discipline.

How To Live Together. Part 2: the good news


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Outside Arabeska wedding hall), 2014

Since last week’s review about the exhibition How To Live Together at Kunsthalle Wien was all doom and gloom, i had to come back with another post and a more encouraging viewpoint.

This time i will thus focus on the artworks that show what makes coexistence possible in times of rapid societal changes, growing economic inequality, forced migrations and a widespread loss of trust in politics.

Intuitively, we already know that the key to more unified societies lies in a mix of resistance, remembrance, borrowing from other cultures, dreams and empathy. Many of the artists in the show illustrate what happens when these abstract notions are turned into real life stories:


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day, 2014


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Laili wedding hall), 2014


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Niagara wedding hall), 2014


Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day (Evropa wedding hall), 2014


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust: Taus Makhacheva, 19 a Day, Makhachkala, 14.09.2014

Makhachkala is the capital city of the Republic of Dagestan, Russia. Dagestan is famous for its dozens of ethnic groups, none of them forming a majority. Which explains why the country has 13 official languages.

Dagestani weddings are as serious as they are expensive and i’m glad no one has ever invited me to one because traditional celebrations can last for 3 days. Makhachkala counts more than 60 wedding halls. Each of them booked out during peak season (late spring to early autumn.)

With the complicity of local wedding photographer Shamil Gadzhidadaev, Taus Makhacheva spent a whole day crashing as many weddings as possible. At the end of the day, she managed to attend 19 marriage celebrations.

The performance was documented in postcards (each of them available for Kunsthalle Wien visitors to take away.) You see her adopting all the clichéd poses: congratulating the newlyweds, dancing, eating among the other guests, standing proudly next to the wedding gifts, etc. She’s the perfect uninvited guest!

Because of the coexistence of so many cultures into one city, the images of the festivities show a fabulous mix of brides wearing a hijab and a Western ‘princess’ dress, female guests whose style icons are clearly one or all the Kardashian sisters, people taking photos using an iPad, ladies in very conservative outfits, etc. Somehow this blend of oriental/occidental, pop/traditional attires works fabulously and suggests a society that is borrowing from several cultures in order to define its own identity.


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust. Willem de Rooij, Bouquet V, 2010

Bouquet V is made of ninety-five species of fresh flowers. The arrangement gives equal importance and visibility to each flower, no mater its colour, size, or provenance. The bouquet symbolises the beauty of diversity, the appeal of mixing individuals of various origins to obtain a stunning foral composition. The same logic should apply to society. Yet, celebration of diversity is still undervalued in many parts of the world. Unless you live in Dagestan of course.

Willen de Rooij‘s floral compositions are also a reference to the Netherlands’ role as a key hub in the international flower trade.


Binelde Hyrcan, Cambeck (video still), 2010

Binelde Hyrcan, Cambeck (extract), 2010

The latest Mercer Cost of Living Survey calculated that Angola’s capital Luanda is the most expensive city in the world for expats. While living costs for foreigners who often work for the oil industry are slightly higher than New York and San Francisco, the average wage for the local population in Angola is just under $2 a day.

The most moving work in the show is a video by Binelde Hyrcan. The film shows four little boys playing on the beach in Angola. Sitting in the sand, they pretend they are driving around the world in a limousine. In only 2 min 30, the children’s playful chitchat reveals an existence plagued by social inequalities, poverty and families split by migration. “I’m going to America and live in a building; you’re going to stay here and live in a shantytown!”

But the film also talks of hope and dreams as a way to escape the trauma of social suffering.


Kader Attia, Reflecting Memory (Video Still), 2016


Kader Attia, Reflecting Memory (Video Still), 2016


Kader Attia, Reflecting Memory (Video Still), 2016

Kader Attia is also interested in exploring trauma and social anxieties. He believes that the world, too focused on the present to remember the past, is suffering from amnesia.

His film essay Reflecting Memory deals with the idea of trauma and “reparation”. Surgeons, historians, philosophers, psychoanalysts and traumatised people discuss the phenomenon of phantom pain, which amputees feel for their missing body part. The video draws parallels between this neurological condition and the trauma caused by psychological wounds, such as those brought about by war, slavery, colonialism, genocide and terror. They can spread over several generations as an unexpressed sensation of pain. This pain can in turn divide communities and create social tensions.

According to the interviewees, a confrontation with the past and an acceptance that it is part of our genealogy are necessary steps towards “repairing” the pain.

Attia’s film is shown in the screening room next to the space occupied by Sven Augustijnen’s Le Réduit which explores an episode in Belgium’s ruthless exploitation of Congo (i mentioned the work in my previous story). Congo, now The Democratic Republic of the Congo, typifies the fate of an ex-European colony which has experienced much trauma but has never been offered any healing experience.


Johan Grimonprez, Kiss-o-drome (fragment from Shadow World, story written and read by Eduardo Galeano), 2016

In 1980, Judge Manuel Morales ruled that ‘the cinemateographic kiss, in which salivas mix to simply swell the sensuality’ should be banned from the city of Sorocaba in Brazil.

In reaction to the ludicrous edict, almost 2,000 young people marched through the streets and organized a huge ‘kiss-in’ protest. “Never had people kissed so much,” writes in his book Eduardo Galeano in Children of the Days.

Johan Grimonprez‘s short video celebrates the protest with images of a dancing couple and the voice of Eduardo Galeano narrating the Kiss-o-drome demonstration.


Herlinde Koelbl, Italy Catania-Messina (from the series: Refugees), 2016

Herlinde Koelbl’s Refugees photo series highlights under-represented aspects of the life of refugees after they’ve arrived in Europe: their days inside the camps, the most treasured possessions they brought with them, etc. But also the generosity they encounter in the countries of arrival.


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust. Wolfgang Tillmans, Anti-Brexit Campaign, 2016


Wolfgang Tillmans, Anti-Brexit Campaign, 2016


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust. Ieva Epnere, Riga Circus, 2004–08/2017


Installation view: How To Live Together, Kunsthalle Wien 2017, Photo: Jorit Aust: Armin Linke, CNR, National Research Council, Fermi conference hall, on the wall the Globe made by Fra’ Mauro in 1460, 2007

How To Live Together also attempts to be more than yet another art exhibition for the usual cultural aficionados. The curators set up a “Community College” offering workshops, tours, brunches, courses and lectures until the end of the show. You can find the programme inside the exhibition booklet.

If you want to know more about the show, have a look at HTLT’s playlist or download the PDF of the exhibition booklet.

How To Live Together is at Kunsthalle Wien until 15 October 2017. The show was curated by Nicolaus Schafhausen, with curatorial assistant Juliane Bischoff

Previously: How To Live Together. Part 1: the bad news.

Also on view at Kunsthalle Wien (Karlsplatz location): Work it, Feel it! New mechanisms of body discipline.

The Museum of NonHumanity


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Many of us, consciously or not, believe in human exceptionalism. We assume that the human species is not only ‘categorically or essentially different than all other animals’ but that it is also the most significant entity of the universe. Furthermore, at several moments throughout history, a group of people have declared another group of people to be nonhuman or subhuman and have used the argument to justify slavery, oppression and genocide. Examples abound. Think of how the Nazis defined Jews, Roma, Slavs and other non-Aryan “inferior people” as Untermensch. Or how Belgium brought 60 Congolese people to live in a human zoo for visitors of the 1897 International Exposition (and the 1958 one) to gape at.

Such atrocious practices are not confined to the past, alas! Women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi minority are routinely enslaved, raped and tortured by IS militants who regard them as sub-human. Palestinians are discriminated against on a daily basis and called snakes or animals by prominent figures in Israel. Even today‘s hate speech contain elements of dehumanization.

The Museum of NonHumanity is an itinerant museum that presents the history of the distinction between humans and other animals, and the way that this imaginary boundary has been used to oppress human and nonhuman beings.

The Museum of Nonhumanity was launched by History of Others, a large scale art and research project led by visual artist Terike Haapoja and writer Laura Gustafsson. The duo collaborate with experts in ethology, cognitive sciences, civil-rights and animal-rights activism and other culture practitioners to look at the issues that arise from our anthropocentric world view. In an effort to open new paths for more inclusive notions of society, The Museum of Nonhumanity also teams up with local individuals and organizations to set up a program of lectures, guided tours and seminars that explore local environmental and social issues.

I discovered The Museum of Nonhumanity a couple of weeks ago while i was in Moss, Norway, for the press view of MOMENTUM 9, the brilliant Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art. The Museum of Nonhumanity was one of the two artworks that moved me the most at MOMENTUM because it uses a compassionate, perceptive and pertinent lens to explore some of the issues that mar our relationship with the other inhabitants of this planet.

I asked Terike Haapoja and Laura Gustafsson to tell us more about their art & research project:


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

Hi Terike and Laura! Why do you think it is important to draw attention to the topic of dehumanization nowadays?

When you look at any major crises of our world today, be it related to environmental or animal rights, war or terrorism, you can as a rule find an element of human-animal distinction at play. You can find it in explicit instances, such as the dehumanising language used by right wing xenophobes in Europe of immigrants, but also in the internalised dehumanisation imbedded in structural racism and sexism. And there’s also the fact that nature and all the other species have, because they’re literally “non-human”, no way to be visible to the justice system as a victim of a crime. Underneath all this is a logic where defining something or someone as less human justifies discrimination and abuse.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

There seems to be an enormous amount of research and thoughtful selection behind the work. How did you select which particular historical case illustrated a specific chapter? Why did you chose Rwanda to typify Disgust for example? etc.

We weren’t interested in cataloguing all the atrocities in history that had been justified by dehumanisation, but in examining the rhetoric devices and the reasoning and motives that connect these actions. So while doing research on concrete cases, we started to think of key words that open up a specific viewpoint to the phenomenon of this boundary making: using someone or -thing as resource, referring them to something disgusting, creating physical or emotional distance between “them” and “us” and so on. Rwanda, the Holocaust or the horrible history of colonised Congo are well documented, but once you start to look into how and where the human – animal boundary is constructed, you see that the boundary making is present in seemingly innocent details, like the guidelines of scientific research, in how we talk about the body and female body in particular, or in the key ideas of western philosophy. its not something that happens somewhere there, or to someone else. We wanted to bring in this complexity.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

I was particularly moved by the story of the female members of the Red Guards that were imprisoned after the Finnish Civil War. Is their history well known in Finland? The reason why i’m asking that is that i’m Belgian and when i was at school, we were never told about the atrocities committed by Belgium in Congo. I learnt about it much later, while studying in another country. This has changed of course (to a certain extent) and i think children learn about it at school now, but the awakening is actually quite recent. Also i was discussing with a Swedish artist recently and she told me that most Swedish people actually do not know much about the discrimination the Sami people face in Sweden and possibly in other countries too. Do you feel that most nations tend to try and cover up all the terrible and cruel acts they committed in the past?
And do you think it would still be possible to bury atrocities nowadays, in this age of surveillance and over sharing?

The history of the civil war is still very much silenced in Finland, just as is the atrocities towards Sámi people and their culture. There is a lot of work to be done. It seems that the mechanism of dehumanisation is at play in nation making itself, where unwanted and negative characteristics are projected on anyone that is desired to be kept out of the nation. Perhaps that’s the reason why it’s always easier for a nation to see and acknowledge other histories than its own.

In terms of whether it’s possible to bury atrocities – what’s central is that once this boundary has been established, it’s possible to perform these atrocities in plain sight. They become invisible to the collective moral code that forbids them, and in ways that are immune to surveillance. And that happens all the time. Once someone or -thing is collectively defined as “animal”, anything can be done to it.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

What i find remarkable about the work is that the historical documents you selected sometimes echo so well current situations and opinions. In fact, while reading some of the quotes, i assumed that they were all from decades ago but the dates underneath each quote revealed that some of the most appalling ones were actually found in forum discussions or politician declarations of recent years. Do you see hope in the way we treat each other?

There is something very effectively violent in the culture that we live in, and something that enables ‘othering’ and looking at violence from a distance. The technologies we live with are definitely a product of that culture, and we are a product of it. You can go to the most liberal leftist bubble and see how, even there, people use dehumanising and violent language online. So it’s something that is in us, not out there, and the only hope there is is that we are committed to being self reflective and cultivating solidarity and empathy, and acting against these mechanisms.

The information you share is laid out in a rather neutral way. The way you selected each theme and document is not neutral of course but you leave every document speak for itself. What do you hope people will get from visiting the exhibition or reading the catalogue? Is it about informing them? About inviting them to pause and take a critical look at their own prejudices? Or did you have other objectives in mind?

We decided very early on that we would only include archival material, and reference everything very well. In that way it is not only information, it’s also evidence. This way it becomes a memorial museum, where these things have been put on show, to remind us of a past we don’t want to return. What we’d like the viewer to take with them is an understanding of how fast things can move from words to action.

We’d also hope that it would be a way for people to see that human rights violations and environmental or animal rights issues are not competing struggles, but born out of the same roots. Environmental destruction and factory farming is killing our planet, and it’s happening in plain sight just because this boundary has been so well established.

It’s good to remind here that an important part of the project is programming, which is built by local practitioners and for local audiences. The programming is all about proposing bridges to a more sustainable coexistence. We had lot of programming, a vegan cafe and a book shop in Helsinki, and we will be having that in our Italy exhibit too. In Momentum we will be working with local guest guides and environmental protection activists, and organise a seminar later in the fall. So the project is not only looking back, but it really is a platform for looking forward too.


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag


Museum of Nonhumanity, installation at MOMENTUM9, 2017. Photo by Istvan Virag

The installation i saw at Momentum9 is quite stunning, it’s hard not to be drawn into it. How do you turn a research process or catalogue into an installation like this? Which kind of artistic decisions did you take in order to translate a catalogue into a piece of visual art?

We knew it would be encyclopaedic from the beginning, and that it would be a memorial museum. You just have to work with the material and start to organise it and trust that pieces will fall into place. The amount of research material we had was enormous, so working through the structure and making sure all the details, foot notes, references were correct was a big part of the work. When we came to the idea of building the whole thing with video and sound it felt right, because it’s so immaterial, but also because it makes a kind of symphonic approach possible. It’s extremely important to have the viewers open up emotionally to the realities behind the stories and not just the cold data.

The text on the webpage of The History of Cattle states that “The exhibition is suitable for scientific, pedagogical or art context.” Would you say that this statement can also be applied to The Museum of Nonhumanity as well?

Since we are appropriating the form of a museum, it makes sense to think of it from the point of view of pedagogy also. We had a specifically tailored outreach program for high schools and upper classes in Helsinki. That said, it’s clearly an art project, built to make you think, not to give you easy answers. But I guess our approach is that art can be pedagogical, and it doesn’t mean that it would be didactic.

Thanks Terike and Laura!

Check out The Museum of Nonhumanity at Momentum 9, The Nordic Biennial of Contemporary Art curated by Ulrika Flink, Ilari Laamanen, Jacob Lillemose, Gunhild Moe and Jón B.K Ransu. The exhibitions remain open in various location in Moss, Norway, until 11 October 2017
The Museum of Nonhumanity is also open in Santarcangelo di Romagna, Italy for the Santarcangelo Festival.

Previously: MOMENTUM9 – “Alienation is our contemporary condition” and MOMENTUM9. Maybe none of this is science fiction.

Disobedient Electronics: Protest

I find myself the very lucky and very pleased recipient of the Disobedient Electronics booklet edited and hand-crafted by Garnet Hertz.


Disobedient Electronics. Photo by Garnet Hertz

The booklet’s manifesto calls for more design (or art) that gets out of the sleek graduation shows and galleries, confronts sociopolitical issues head-on and bites back. As he sums up, “Design can be how to punch Nazis in the face, minus the punching.” Hertz isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers when he writes in his intro to the publication that:

1. Building electronic objects can be an effective form of social argument or political protest.
2. DIY, maker culture and local artisinal productions can have strong nationalist and protectionist components to them – in some senses, populism can be seen as the rise of the DIY non-expert.
3. Critical and Speculative Design (Dunne & Raby) are worthwhile approaches within industrial design, but perhaps not adversarial enough to reply to contemporary populist right-wing movements (Brexit, Trump & Le Pen). Questions like “Is it moral to punch Nazis in the face?” should be answered with smart alternatives to violence that are provocative pieces of direct action.
4. If we are living in a post-truth time, we should focus on trying to make progressive arguments and facts more legible and engaging to a wide and diverse audience.
5. The fad of ‘Maker Culture’ is over. Arduinos and 3D printers are fascinating things, but the larger issues of what it means to be a human or a society needs to be directly confronted.

A few months ago, Hertz issued a call for submissions and published some of the most inspiring answers he received. Some are works i was familiar with (but always happy to find again in new context and with new texts written by the artists/activists/designers) such as the Abortion Drone by the ever brilliant Women on Waves (& Collaborators), Julian Oliver‘s Transparency Grenade, Román Torre and Ángeles Angulo’s Thero device that allows you to physically manage your data traffic, Eizo Ishikawa and Tamon Sawangdee’s Tamon CRAF, the paperplane machine for protests , I.E.D. (Improvised Empathetic Device) by Matt Kenyon and Doug Easterly, the Barbie Liberation Organization generously offers a Barbie/G.I. Joe home surgery manual, the Institute for Applied Autonomy‘s Robotic Graffiti Writer, etc.


Annina Rüst, A Piece of the Pie Chart. Photo via Unframed

I also discovered some smart ideas and projects that were completely new to me. There’s Annina Rüst’s A Piece of the Pie Chart, a feminist food robot that visualizes the gender gap in art and tech on edible pies. Or The 79% Work Clock that sounds an alarm 79% of the way through the work day to remind us that after a certain time of the day, women stop being paid for their work. Neil MacAloney’s description of Phantom Kitty, a (work in progress) device that would turn on whenever you’re not using the computer, sounds very promising. The tool would perform online searches and open websites, throwing in a vast amount of misinformation into internet tracking activity, rendering data gathering pointless.


Pedro G. C. Oliveira and Xuedi Chen, Backslash (ROUTER. Off-Grid Network)

The works i found most interesting were Pedro G. C. Oliveira and Xuedi Chen’s Backslash, a series of open source functional devices that help activists communicate during a network blackout. I was also very impressed with the Automated Doorbell and Decorative Wreath made by with the Feminist Maker Space at the University of Texas in protest of Campus Carry, a law that provides that license holders may carry a concealed handgun throughout university campuses.


Matt Walker, Device for the Emancipation of the Landscape

There are more projects in the book (all dutifully listed on the webpage of Disobedient Electronics) but i’d like to end with the one i found most touching: Matt Walker’s Device for the Emancipation of the Landscape. This sound-cannon collects sounds from the surrounding landscape through its “mouth.” The field-recordings are then mixed and projected back into urban or industrial sites, opening up the space of authority and offering an opportunity to reflect on both the human impact and treatment of landscape.


Disobedient Electronics: Protest (Pre-production Proof – version 2017 April 28)

I love the booklet: the hand-made format, the colour, the whole impetus behind its creation, most of the works included (or rather i love ALL of the works included, i just felt that some of them were only scratching on the surface and wouldn’t reach anyone beyond the usual art/activist audiences). Disobedient Electronics is a great starting point for a much-needed discussion about how art, design and creative practices in general can challenge issues such as homophobia, sexism, racism, economic inequalities, political status-quo, etc. I think that in general media art and interactive design are far too complacent when it comes to creating socially-engaged works. Too often, the projects are more about getting some attention from bloggers and festival curators and less about directly getting to grips with a specific issue. Or reaching out to the ‘general’ public.

I would love more publications like Disobedient Electronics, with artists from other parts of the world for example. If Hertz makes another issue, i’ll definitely send something.

There are only 300 copies of the booklet available, if you feel you can contribute in any way to the project, Hertz might send you one of the last copies for free…


Disobedient Electronics. Photo by Garnet Hertz


Disobedient Electronics. Photo by Garnet Hertz


Disobedient Electronics. Photo by Garnet Hertz


Disobedient Electronics. Photo by Garnet Hertz

Previously: Critical Making and an Interview with Garnet Hertz.

The Funambulist Nº10: Architecture & Colonialism

The 10th issue of The Funambulist, a magazine edited by Léopold Lambert to examine the politics of space and bodies, is out!

The theme of the issue is Architecture & Colonialism and it works in tandem with the previous issue, Islands, which critically documented indigenous and anticolonial struggles from various islands of the world. While the last issue was dedicated to the seminal work of Édouard Glissant, this one is influenced by the work of another Martiniquais: Frantz Fanon.

The two editorial arguments of this issue are simple: colonialism is not an era, it is a system of military/police, legal, administrative, social, and cultural system of domination; and, architecture is not (only) an aesthetic vessel, it is an apparatus organizing and hierarchizing bodies in space.

Content of The Funambulist Nº10: Architecture & Colonialism:

Kelsen Caldwell writes a guest column titled A Call to Disrupt White-Dominated Architectural and Public Policy Imaginaries; Mawena Yehouessi of Black(s) to the Future wrote one called Afrofuturist Politics: Less Power, More Commitment; while Jess Myers‘s column is titled Here There Be Dragons: Broadcasting Identity and Security in the Parisian Region.

The main essays are: Aurès, Algeria: Regroupement Camps During the Algerian War for Independence by Fabien Sacriste; Tripoli, Libya: Scale and (Im)Mobility in the Control of Colonial Territory, authored by Mia Fuller; Heliopolis: Politics of Space in Occupied Cairo, by Mahy Mourad; Amman, Jordan: The Case of Open Space, by Jawad Dukhgan; Dadaab, Kenya: Architecting the Border: The Hut and the Frontier at Work, by Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi; Esfahan, Iran: Architecture and the Making of a Gendered Working Class, by Samaneh Moafi. There is also a transcript of the podcast with Ann Laura Stoler about The Colonial Administration of Bodies and Space.

As for the photos below, they are by Bruno Fert and accompany Sophia Azeb‘s essay The “No State Solution”: Decolonizing Palestine beyond the West Bank and East Jerusalem:


Bruno Fert, Tel Aviv-Jaffa (Longitude: 32°5’16” N, latitude: 34°46’11” E. Abdel Nabi Jaffa cemetery.) From the series The Absentees


Bruno Fert, Al Bassa (Longitude: 33°04’34” N, latitude: 35°08’27” E. Date of depopulation: May, 14 1948.) From the series The Absentees


Bruno Fert, Haïfa (Longitude: 32°48’46” N, latitude: 35°00’8″ E. Date of depopulation: April 1948.) From the series The Absentees

In 1948, the creation of the State of Israel caused the exodus of approximately 700,000 Palestinians to neighboring countries. The refugees were never allowed to return to their homes which were confiscated under the Israeli “Absentee Property Law“. With the help of the mapping done by Zochrot (an Israeli non-profit organization that promotes awareness of the Palestinian Nakba), photographer Bruno Fert returned to the places of some of the roughly 500 villages which were depopulated and sometimes destroyed during the first Arab-Israeli war. The resulting photo series is called The Absentees.


Photo by Kelechi Anabaraonye


Photo by Kelechi Anabaraonye

There’s also a few pages dedicated to student projects related to architecture and colonialism. One of them is a photo project by Kelechi Anabaraonye whose camera captures the colonial infrastructures left to decay in Nigeria.

You can purchase the issue in digital or print+digital form. Or you could get a subscription and get access to the magazine’s full online archives. I don’t get free Funambulist copies, neither am i paid to write about it. I just happen to think this intelligent and meaningful publication has no equal.