Care of the Brain

Up, Sammy, Look Up

Intergenerational Knowledge and its Distractions

Malcolm Kratz

Essay – April 12, 2018

How do we step away from a culture of docility, and move to a place of imperfect neuronal liberation, where amenity is no longer part of us? Malcolm Kratz argues that we should enrage ourselves against an economic, political and mediatic system that promotes flexibility and obedience, while accepting that our brain does not obey itself, that it overproduces and needs to get the pressure off. Kratz advocates education for a culture of neuroliberation. This essay is part of the DAI Open! Coop Academy research project (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism.

Technology has enhanced our lives in countless ways. At the same time, it is the primary source of distraction that interferes with our pursuit of goals. Interference means hindering, obstructing or derailing other processes. The impacts of this can be found on many levels: thinking, perception, decision making, communication, emotional regulation and memory (in short executive functions) – our ability to learn and engage in social situations.1

But I’d like to say more about the process of interference before pointing all fingers at modern technology, or immersive media. Interference happens naturally: think of how the mind wanders, or surrounding sights, sounds and smells that distract you from focusing on the task at hand. These distractions are involuntary, but the interruptions are voluntary: for instance, thinking about a particular task or deliberately multitasking by working on another task or trying to focus on multiple sources of information (Facebooking during a lecture, listening to music while cleaning). The more complex a system gets, the more likely it falls prey to distraction – and the human mind is incredibly complex.

The dopaminergic system triggered by foraging for food is today triggered by foraging for information in a world of proliferating technologies and ways to access them amid ever-expanding information. Through this dopaminergic process, we give in only to short-term rewards, instead of potentially more rewarding long-term accomplishments. We are triggered by inner and outer interference, without the time to critically engage and contemplate in order to develop, what Bernard Stiegler, philosopher and head of the Institut de recherche et d'innovation, and N. Katherine Hayles, literary critic and previous director of the Electronic Literature Organisation, describe as (deep) attention. Continuous attention capture on the part of our digital devices leads us into a state of hyper attention, which excels in dealing with rapidly changing environments. When entered in its pure form, perception-action cycle (our animalistic action-reaction mechanism) overtakes cognitive control (our ability to pause and make conscious decisions). Yet hyper attention also makes it possible to switch between different input sources, making us alert to our environment and flexible within it, while vulnerable to outside and inside interruption as we skip over the reality principle: our executive functions. […]

Hold Me Now

Feel and Touch in Unreal World

March 21, 2018 10:30 – March 24, 2018 17:30Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Studium Generale Rietveld Academie presents a four-days conference-festival guest curated by Karen Archey, Mark Paterson, Rizvana Bradley and Jack Halberstam, who will each inaugurate a discursive and performative programme on how the haptic – relating to or based on touch – is thought and experienced artistically, philosophically, and politically in life, art and design, and theory. Simultaneously Rietveld Uncut presents projects by departments and individual students in relation to the theoretic framework of Studium Generale. Students from the DAI / Open! Coop Academy Topologies of Touch Group will publish comments and reviews on part of the conference at the Blog-section of Open!

How do we feel and more specifically touch in our technologically mediated dematerialized digital cultures? Do we solely stroke and swipe our screens? How are the body and its feel involved? Are we in fact cultivating different tactilities in relation to the world and others? Further, how can we trace the ways in which touch informs and reforms the body with respect to violence, gender, sexuality, democracy, and identity? If art and design have privileged sight and sound, should touch – and all the senses – be addressed and activated in order to help us stay ‘in touch’ with our bodies and the material world?

Karen Archey, Mirthe Berentsen, Jesse Darling, Joseph Grigely, Carolyn Lazard, Luke Willis Thompson, Mark Paterson, Kate Elswit, Anna Harris, Carey Jewitt, David Parisi, Stahl Stenslie, Rizvana Bradley, Hortense Spillers, Eyal Weizman, Aracelis Girmay, Erin Manning, Ligia Lewis, Wu Tsang, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Jack Halberstam, Karen Barad, boychild, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Mel Y. Chen, Paul B. Preciado, Jeanne Vaccaro.

Further information on the programme on the website:

Entrance for students and staff from Gerrit Rietveld Academie and Sandberg Instituut is free. All students and staff are welcome. Interested people from outside the Rietveld are also […]


Terra – Terror – Territory

Re-Articulating the Territory by Putting Use Value above Exchange Value

Pascal Gielen

Essay – December 18, 2017

While Blue Marble showed us the finity of the earth, of Terra, the current culture of grabbing sees territory as private property and exchange value. This can only be adjusted if we intervene at the structural level, says Pascal Gielen. We have to re-evaluate and upgrade the use value, whether it concerns public or private territory. Artists and cultural organizations can play a crucial part in this. Not by proclaiming a political message but by acting politically or not with their work. 

Care of the Brain

The _____ Between Us Lines

Wilfred Vlad Tomescu

Artist contribution – November 2, 2017

‘The _____ Between Us Lines’ is an experimental text contribution by Wilfred Vlad Tomescu to the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism. The aesthetics of the text are meant to reminisce about dot matrix or thermal printing and to reference ticker tape, punch cards and the first human computers, such as Jean Bartik, a savant mathematician operating the ENIAC in 1946

Care of the Brain


Mónica Lacerda

Artist contribution – October 27, 2017

In Mónica Lacerda’s contribution to the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism both language and writing float and drift, evoking a more spatial and sensory reading experience. With this the artist asks, can we play with words, letters, their sounds and images and disentangle ourselves from their prior meaning? Can we restructure our mind and thinking by postponing interpretation?

Download complete poem.

  living organism

f            fuuuuu
uuuuu           u

its existence is an uncertainty – it comes and goes and it mutates as it

m                                    o                                v                           e                  s


Care of the Brain

The Narrowing Scope of the Recursive Image

Katja Dendulk

Essay – October 16, 2017

Our media-inscribed self-images direct not only the way in which we perceive ourselves, but on a cosmetic level, can normalize our attempts at differentiation. DAI participant Katja Dendulk unlocks this algorithmic process in her essay below as part of the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism. Does the scientifically proven phenomenon of our preference for novelty paradoxically swallow self-expression? How might our increasing awareness rejigger self-image under mass media? 

In this article I do a relatively free speculative mapping of some components underlying cultural production today. The implementation of algorithms in cultural production has lead to an initial aesthetic funnelling of the produced works. I begin this line of inquiry by linking the peak shift phenomenon to our reception of aesthetic novelty and its implications in the cosmetic register, following the connection scientists have made between peak shift and our understanding of what is beautiful. In turn, this leads me to a few socio-economical implications regarding the construction of our social identities within our current political landscape and cognitive-cultural economy. I make a couple of assumptions in this text: first, that cosmetics is an intersubjective semiotic game and is inherently productive; second, that the concept of cosmetics and mass media are reciprocally tied to one another. I argue that this consequently forms an increasingly reiterative loop between cosmetics and mass media whose procedures and mechanisms are increasingly being remediated through the abstraction inherent to algorithmic procedure. As such this limits us to constructing our social identities necessary to navigate the life […]

Care of the Brain

Peep Peeps = ⋆≋≬※⁑⊸

Pitchaya Ngamcharoen

Artist contribution – October 4, 2017

Pitchaya Ngamcharoen’s sound essay is part of the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism. Sound plays a crucial role in positioning oneself in the given surroundings. Memory is important in perceiving sound without knowing its source. ‘Peep Peeps = ⋆≋≬※⁑⊸’ offers a space for the reader to create, within her own imagination, using sounds – and at the same time, to question what is lost and gained in translation. Have you heard the sound of a rock singing? Or a conversation between fish and seaweed? Do you know what light and shadows sound like? Have you heard your own toe complain after a long day? How can we understand sounds whose sources are unknown, and reflect ourselves in these? What are we missing in what we see?

Imagine yourself floating on chronic ▤s∺✪n≣d waves, the soundscape of every subject surrounding you.


(Re-)Designing Affect Space

Eric Kluitenberg

Essay – September 19, 2017

This text draws together a set of characteristics that can be used as building blocks for a conceptual model of Affect Space. I have previously described Affect Space as an emerging techno-sensuous spatial order. Here I build upon these earlier investigations and the outcomes of the Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S) public research trajectory conducted in 2016, which included public seminars in Amsterdam, Cambridge, MA and Rotterdam. The investigations continue in a series of commissioned essays on Open!, of which this text is one. These essays can help to articulate new design strategies for this quickly evolving context, where the spatial design disciplines are curiously absent from the debate. 

The so-called ‘movement(s) of the squares’1 did not precisely invent a new dynamic of mobilization of crowds and activation of public space – it rather revealed an emerging spatial order enabled by distributed electronic communication networks and the proliferation of wireless, mobile media inextremely ‘densified’ urban spaces. This emerging spatial order produced paradoxical spectacles that seemed at once strangely familiar and curiously novel, massive as well as evanescent.

Since 2011 we all (as a global predominantly online media audience) have witnessed recurrent spectacles of massive dissenting gatherings in public space. They originate in networked exchanges, then spill over into the streets and squares, effortlessly switching between geographic, cultural and sociopolitical contexts. We witnessed the action not via mainstream mass-media channels, but almost in real-time, live-streamed on social media feeds, blogs and activist sites, to our buzzing smartphones.

While revolving around a variety of heterogeneous issues / things, these gatherings remained remarkably constant in their patterns of mobilization / activation: in addition to online mobilization being followed by embodied gatherings in public space, the spaces became connective platforms in which to create synchronous and asynchronous feedback with electronic networks. This action in physical space drew even more subjects into an […]

Care of the Brain

(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism

Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class 2016–2017

Jorinde Seijdel, Florian Göttke

Editorial – September 14, 2017

The brain is a work, and we do not know it. We are its subjects, authors and producers at once – and we do not know it.
—Catherine Malabou

(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism is a new series of artists’ publications resulting from the 2016–2017 Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI). DAI is an internationally orientated MA Art Praxis focusing on art, but explicitly granting attention to the crossings and interactions with other domains, disciplines and knowledges. As a partner of DAI, Open! conducts thematical research and publishes projects with a group of MA students using the Open! platform as the overarching discursive framework and site for experimentation and presentation. You can find links to the results of the previous year below.

This year our study group questioned the state of the mind and brain under conditions of cognitive capitalism. Mainly from the perspective of the humanities and political aesthetics, we focused on current notions of the brain in our global capitalist societies. We asked after how far the brain can be ideologically infiltrated or resist that infiltration. From the assumption that culture and brain form complex systems of influence, control and resistance, and that language, memory and imagination are more and more performed by machines and automated algorithmic procedures, we looked at some of the implications of […]

Care of the Brain

Commuters, Thy Name

Areumnari Ee

Artist contribution – September 8, 2017

Mr. Gu just started to work as an intern after graduating from university. He commutes to work every morning from Sindorim station to Seolleung station on Seoul Subway line 2. He departs from home, waits for the train on the platform and thinks about the life of a hellish city in a subway filled with people. Then he faces the full-blown capitalism of the train, the obsession with false beauty, advertisements for violent game, and the physical pressure… Is it possible for Mr. Gu to go to work safely this morning? After this perilous journey to work, will he survive his day as a precarious worker safely as well?

Care of the Brain

Next Year at Marienbad

Notes on 360-Degree Multi-Narrative Film

Maya Watanabe

Essay – September 8, 2017

In this contribution to the 2016–2017 session of Open! COOP Academy, Maya Watanabe looks at the devices on which fictional spaces depend: from architecture in theatre to the frame in film to the omnidirectional camera in virtual reality. In tracing this trajectory back to Alain Resnais’ 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad, Watanabe exposes the progressive dissolution of separation between body, location and language. She thereby shows how make-believe space is made believable, and perhaps, how it is becoming more real.

Alain Resnais released L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad) in 1961. In the film, a man meets a woman during a social gathering at a mansion. Shot in three different palaces as if they were one place, the characters walk through the corridors in a labyrinthine remembrance of a previous encounter. It’s unclear if they actually met before or if it’s an oneiric recount of a false memory. Dialogues are repeated in different rooms, and the fragmented narrative seems to belong to a frozen time without a possible way out.

A and X – the names of the female and male protagonists – don’t have fixed identities. They have different skins and it’s difficult to determine if they are themselves, or if they have shifted to become other people.

An atmosphere of disorientation impregnates the movie. Last Year at Marienbad, with its altered spatial references and ambiguous characters, reshapes the visual and conceptual definition of place, space, language and subjectivity.

Care of the Brain

In Search of the Miraculous

Agata Cieślak

Essay – September 8, 2017

Agata Cieślak questions the position of the artist in an academic regime that has perhaps become more dependent on discourse than material reality. To do so she explores three narrative threads in the below text for Open! COOP Academy (2016–2017). With the piece adopting its title from Bas Jan Ader's famed last work, and her research into a Polish ship held hostage somewhere in Europe, Cieślak begins to grasp the difficulty of being an artist at sea facing both is potential for freedom and imprisonment.1

Imagine a young artist enrolled in a postgraduate Fine Art course. Everything discussed during class creates an atmosphere that seems hypothetical. It feels, to all intents and purposes, like a philosophy course. It is not that he is not requested to make anything exactly. He and his classmates work with theory, text, but also some materials. These things are combined as works. These works are discussed strictly in terms of the possibility of constructing meaning and shaping thought.

For him this feels like an intellectual way of making art. Sometimes, he thinks there is something missing from the process. The extreme priority given to verifying assumptions through research seems to be a way to make sure assumptions are never verified. Ideas are provided only as potential meaning. A lot is thought, but very little is thought through.

There are no artists in his family, but his parents are taking care of his art education. He went to many art galleries as a child and later as a teenager trying to imagine how fun life as an artist could be. He wondered at once how difficult his life would be and how free and fulfilling.

With time, he started to realize it’s not such an easy question. He should ask himself about the meaning of art. He should find his position with respect to the […]

Care of the Brain

Lexicon (Against) Neuralgia

Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism

Open! COOP Academy 2016–2017

Artist contribution – August 13, 2017

Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class 2016–2017 – a project with the Dutch Art Institute (DAI) – has been investigating the state of the mind and brain under the conditions of cognitive capitalism. We focused on current notions of the brain in our global capitalist societies and questioned in how far the brain can be ideologically infiltrated. From the assumption that culture and brain form complex systems of influence, control and resistance, and that language, memory and imagination are more and more performed by machines and automated algorithmic procedures, we looked at some of the implications of ‘cognitive automation’ for our subjectivity, identity and free will. We explored how neuro-scientific conceptions of the brain are appropriated by cognitive capitalism and charted possibilities to subvert the instrumentalization of our brains. This lexicon is one of the results of the project and a collaborative work by the Open! COOP Academy participants. 

Verena van den Berg

You see your screen, clicking on links that lead to articles – the cursor took you were you choose to go and so seemingly, did your finger. But did it? Controlling our body, objects around us and reflecting on our actions, makes us see a self independent of surroundings. This leads to identification with abstract inner processes, which we distinguish from the biological matter of our bodies. Separation of mind and body seems the only logical conclusion. But this line of reasoning is in fact only possible through activating our motor and perception systems; our body’s ability to move and sense. We conceptualise through our bodies only and our metaphors are based on physical experiences.1 This intricate interdependency of rational and physical functions made philosopher William Poteat talk of bodymind. Dancer Mary Whitehouse suggested that the body changes through working with the mind and the mind changes through working with the body. Considering their interconnected mash this could be rephrased as: engaging physically leads to new information. If our perceiving bodymind in motion, which drives our conceptualisation, is sensitised and triggered in its response-ability, we are able to perceive more accurately what is […]

Open! Academy

Declaring Reason

Imposed Arguments of Political Books

Niels Schrader, Lauren Alexander

Artist contribution – August 10, 2017

Declaring Reason is a collaboration between Museum Meermanno and the KABK – Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague that presents the works of third-year Graphic Design students who investigate the history of parliamentary democracy by means of books and manuscripts from Museum Meermanno’s collection. The exhibition juxtaposes books from the museum’s historical collection with innovative new impressions by students, and is on show for the public from 3 June until 24 September 2017. Declaring Reason was tutored by Niels Schrader and Lauren Alexander from the Royal Academy of Arts and included theory component tutoring by Maarten Cornel. Guest critics were Alice Twemlow and Olivier Arcioli.

Democracy holds a precarious position in times of post-truth politics, because when facts don’t matter and sensation rules, how can democracy possibly survive? In the 2017 elections for the House of Representatives in the Netherlands, France and Germany, the European Union is subject to unprecedented challenges that threaten its very existence. This seems reason enough for a young generation to explore concepts of governance and understand the democratic legacy of our predecessors.

For Declaring Reason each Graphic Design student group selected one book from a pre-curated collection of political books that form the backbone of this exhibition. Books reviewed include Atlas Maior (1662–1665) by Johannes Blaeu, Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670) by Spinoza, Encyclopédie (1751–1772) by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, Social Contract (1762) by Jean Jacques Rousseau, Aan het Volk van Nederland – To the People of the Netherlands (1781) by Joan Derk van der Capellen tot den Pol and the 1814 Dutch constitution. Each of the selected books has shaped our understanding of democracy in a particular way.

The core objective of Declaring […]

Open! Academy

Declaring Reason (Exhibition)

Imposed Arguments of Political Books

Niels Schrader, Lauren Alexander

Artist contribution – August 9, 2017

Declaring Reason is a collaboration between Museum Meermanno and the KABK – Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague that presents the works of third-year Graphic Design students who investigate the history of parliamentary democracy by means of books and manuscripts from Museum Meermanno’s collection. The exhibition juxtaposes books from the museum’s historical collection with innovative new impressions by students, and is on show for the public from 3 June until 24 September 2017. Declaring Reason was tutored by Niels Schrader and Lauren Alexander from the Royal Academy of Arts and included theory component tutoring by Maarten Cornel. Guest critics were Alice Twemlow and Olivier Arcioli.

Daniel Hernández and Dóra Kerekes

Daniel Hernández and Dóra Kerekes have created a digital platform, which compares selected words from Diderot’s Encyclopédie with definitions from Wikipedia. The main objective is to determine, by means of word frequency analysis, the various agencies and concerns of different historical periods. The comparison makes apparent that the common definition of truth is slowly but constantly changing. 

Open! Academy

Behind Sham

Thalia Hoffman

Essay – August 7, 2017

For PhDArts at Leiden University / Royal Academy of Art (KABK), The Hague, which offers a doctorate in art and design, Thalia Hoffman details the production of her film Sham, part of a larger series that considers Israeli-Palestine relations in the wider Middle East. Here, she uses several voices to unfold the personal and sociopolitical environment around the film’s production, involving script excerpts, theoretical reflections on art’s role within activism and diaristic reports of her on-set reflections. In relation to her project she examines Walter Benjamin’s thoughts on the distortion of history, and the importance of plurality in both politics and art evidenced in the work of Hannah Arendt and Claire Bishop among others. Hoffman thereby creates a backdrop against which to process the debilitating violence that plagues Israel-Palestine relations. ‘Sham’ means ‘there’ in Hebrew, and in Arabic refers to Sham, Greater Syria, which included Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria of today.

EXT Judaea Plains – Day

At an intersection of footpaths in the Judaea Hills, an open-back truck is at a standstill in the road. It is almost empty. One person sits in the back watching people as they decide which road to take.

This is a perfect location to film the truck. Just standing here and looking around, I feel the four-thousand years people have occupied this land.1 I can almost smell the blood repeatedly shed here. I just hope it won’t rain.

The film will be the second in a series created as part of the Guava platform for art actions that advocate free movement and the removal of borders in the Middle East. It practises political imagination in the Middle East and with its residents, through film, video, performance and participatory art.

EXT Judaea Hills – Day

Samira (Arabic): What are you looking for?

Goni (Hebrew): Signal, I’m looking for a cellular signal.

Samira smiles, and gestures with her hands that there isn’t one.

A pile. A huge pile of things and people on the side of a road. This is the first image I have when I think about the film. After a few moments I notice that something is moving inside this pile, which has looked dead at first. It has life within it, moving slowly, finding its way around the pile. As usual, I tell Yuval about the idea. Almost every time I have an idea, I talk to Yuval first. At least, as long as he was living here. It could seem like technology dismisses distance, but there is a quality of dialogue and friendship that is possible only when […]

Between and Beyond

On Demasculinization

Speculation on a Demasculinized Society

Wayne W. J. Lim

Essay – July 13, 2017

One fateful night the word ‘demasculinization’ came up during a conversation I was having at a bar with my artist-friend André Chapatte. We were discussing the possibility of reconfiguring the male gaze. A few days later we met up again and decided that we should work further on this idea. We started to exchange thoughts, writing and things to read almost immediately. Throughout 2016 we worked together in Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels. In our correspondence, we discussed (in no particular order) (de)masculinity, nature / culture, manhood, manly emotions, the male gaze / perspective, gender equality, gender neutrality, redefining of men in society, gender in public / private / domestic spaces, romanticism, objectification, violence, power, domesticity, gendered-language / words / tones / expectations, privileges, sex, domination and cultural hegemony.

This speculative essay on demasculinization is a culmination of our (myself and André Chapatte) ongoing discussions and exchanges regarding methods for embodying (de)masculinity – understanding emotions as a strategy to rebel against the larger patriarchal capitalist system. Although the initial intention was to move towards ‘achieving gender equality’, I have since changed course in order to both construct and speculate on what demasculinization could mean and give rise to. My motivation is not just to consider the meaning and process of demasculinization, but also to create a lexicon for this potentially under-theorized idea.

We want to understand how we as men can rethink and reposition ourselves in this patriarchal society and make it less patriarchal by envisioning a different course for Homo sapiens in retrospect. How to stop ‘acting like a man’; here, I find the words of author, educator and activist Tony Porter most fitting:


Seven Work Ballets and Mierle Laderman Ukeles

Sarah Demeuse

Review – July 13, 2017

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Seven Work Ballets, Kari Conte, ed., Kunstverein Amsterdam, Grazer Kunstverein, Sternberg, 2015, ISBN 9783943365931, 232 pages and Patricia C. Phillips with Tom Finkelpearl, Larissa Harris and Lucy R. Lippard, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Queens Museum, DelMonico Books, Prestel, 2016, ISBN 9783791355382, 256 pages

Almost fifty years ago, artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles coined the concept ‘maintenance art’ in her ‘Manifesto for Maintenance Art 1969! Proposal for an Exhibition “CARE”’ (1969). Central to maintenance art is ‘Life Instinct’, what she describes as: ‘the unification; the eternal return; the perpetuation and MAINTENANCE of the species.’ We learn from the same manifesto that the exhibition of maintenance art would ‘zero in on pure maintenance, exhibit it as contemporary art, and yield, by utter opposition, clarity of issues’. She has dedicated her practice to fulfilling this goal, clarifying through opposition, namely, the neglect of reproductive labour under capitalism.

Through writing, making and forging alliances with the press she makes both her work and the issues it advocates visible. Yet in-depth publications about her work have been largely non-existent, until now. One reason is the challenge posed by any book-length presentation on this artist – never mind an exhibition – given the abundance of her carefully executed interpersonal communications. In preparing an exhibition of her work, Queens Museum curator Larissa Harris asked: […]


Watching Puerta del Sol

On Protest Space and its Temporal Conflicts


Essay – June 28, 2017

With Alberto Gómez Saiz, Rodrigo Delso and Javier Argota (JARD) developed the online platform Open Urban Television (OUT), which monitors ongoings in key protest sites in Madrid, live-streaming them 24 / 7 via CCTV cameras. In this essay, the project is a prism through which JARD discusses public space as a Hybrid Space-Time, where multiple forms of affect are generated simultaneously. One case study concerns Puerta del Sol, occupied by Spain’s 15M movement in 2011. Since then, it has become increasingly popular for both civic and military events. JARD identifies a feedback loop between urban and affect, emphasizing time as the key factor in our relationship to public space now. This essay is a contribution to the interdisciplinary research project Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S).

Lately I have been having trouble sleeping and thinking. I believe it all started during a roundtable conversation at Matadero Madrid: Centro de Creación Contemporánea. The event was called Hypermad1 and organized by Master in Architectural Communication (MACA)2 students as part of a discussion series about the homeless. We sat down and the moderator began the debate by asking what in any other circumstances, would have been an ordinary question: ‘In which public spaces of the city do you spend more time?’ That is, it would have been a normal question for someone who wasn't addicted to urban streaming webcams 24 / 7.

Let me explain myself: I and two other colleagues (an engineer and an architect) started a project called Open Urban Television (OUT).3 It consists of placing webcams that stream 24 / 7 in the most important and iconic protest spaces of Madrid. This project takes the form of an online platform that can be accessed by any citizen at any time so they might watch what goes on in their public spaces.

Allow me to return to the breakdown episode I refer to above, triggered by the moderator’s question. The moment it was asked my mind went completely blank as I realized that the most important public space in my daily life was Puerta del […]


The City as Performative Object

An Essay in Footsteps


Artist contribution – June 27, 2017

This contribution to Technology / Affect / Space (T / A / S) consists of a ‘walking essay’ by Esther Polak. The world in which this essay takes place is Google Earth: an alienating landscape of almost seamlessly stitched-together satellite images. The stage of the walk, a utopian appartment building in the Amsterdam’s Bijlmer neighbourhood, seems warped and flattened and competes for attention with the black weirdness of its own shadows. During a repetitive walk around the building Polak uses Judith Butler’s ideas on the performativity of gender and applies them to the city space, exploring different possibilities of what she calls ‘move-categories’ and ‘move-drag’.

The City as Performative Object is walked and spoken by Esther Polak. It was executed through conversation in and around the Hakford building in the Bijlmer.