Sunday, November 5, 2017
Sunday, March 7, 2010
What a wonderful idea isn't it? To make "high" culture a popular event is a challenge that the Netherlands seems to have met and even superseded expectations. Here's a glimpse of the program of the night:
All 45 museums and galleries participating in the ninth edition of the Rotterdam Museum Night have announced their programmes, inspired by the theme XS/XL. The spectacular opening at 20.00 hours outside the Laurenskerk will kick off with a musical highlight of XS singing tones, XL music and 999 eyes that will be let off to wander through the night by the minister of Culture Ronald Plasterk. The programme of the Museum Night is varied and consists of pure highlights. The Witte de Withstraat and the Museumpark is the booming centre of the night. Let yourself be surprised by the eccentric circus at Alliance Française or relive your puberty in the National Museum of Education (Nationaal Onderwijsmuseum). Make your own inventions in the Kunsthal, create your own dream world in Boijmans or get the creeps in a show with monsters only: kids are allowed to stay up extra long on the Museum Night! Or you can join in the rhythm of a spectacular performance with the “Journey through the city”.
Now to see if we can make the popular, run-of-the-mill life of ours art!
Sunday, August 23, 2009
I am an unabashed fan of the series, “The Wire.” It is by far one of the finest “video-ethnographies” I’ve ever seen. It has the potential to offend at a glance…far from being politically correct, it does not seem afraid to break convention and start and continue with a multitude of stereotypes: of African-Americans in the drug trade, their lives wrapped with dysfunctional schools, corrupt politicians, apathy in family life, not so “maternal” mothers, violent teenagers, and deadbeat and racist cops. It’s almost entirely an African American show. Yet, scratch the surface and sit through this show and you will start to understand how this all comes together…it humanizes violence…shows how the violent are victims too; shows how ingenious these children are who in spite of their circumstances learn to survive…it makes you realize that if you were in their position, you would probably be compelled to take to the drug trade, violence, and more..it seems the smartest and sometimes only path available in such desperate contexts. That for sure takes guts to portray. This show does not allow you to comfortably see through one lens of a main protagonist that you can relate to; it shifts lenses almost with every new series… characters come and go until you’re left on your own to experience this complex phenomena. In truth, the most difficult aspect of investigations, of ethnographies as such, video and otherwise, is to take upon a hotly contentious topic, say race, and combine it with the cliché correlation of drugs and violence…most investigators fail to come out of it unscathed as the danger of perpetuating a stereotype is high. Hence, few venture into this terrain and those that do, tend to point their lens to “success” stories, to show that not all is “lost” or perhaps the good old potential for “reform” where by highlighting a desperate situation, makes the case for urgent rescue. “The Wire” however takes us through their day to day lives to see how larger systems of schooling, security, politics, and economics play at the ground level. You cannot walk away with judgment…try condemning a cop for his racist moves and you realize how he is very much a victim too of higher orders for “stats” for the upcoming election, for pressures from the community, from his fear of his own safety and more; try condemning a drug addict and neglecting African American mother and you see how desperate her situation is, her loneliness, her lack of safety nets and more; the story keeps thickening..
Talking of sensitive subjects such as race, I have just moved to Rotterdam, Netherlands, as the event of the firing of the Swiss Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan by Rotterdam city council and Erasmus University unfolds. He is accused for his refusal to stop working for an Iranian backed TV channel as he was hired to be a key advisor on integration issues. The argument goes that his credibility is undermined by his association with the Iranian regime. That said, at a glance, one may condemn him for his association with the Iranian regime especially at a time when mass street protests against the regime are unfolding in Iran; or perhaps one may condemn the city for its “racist” move…and so the story continues without an actual understanding of what the forces are that compel such action. What we do not know is why at this moment in time, does a scholar affect city officials? How does Ramadan negotiate his need for critical scholarship with the dealings of the Iranian sponsored Press? Who is the audience for his program in Iran and worldwide? What’s the nature of his association and its impact? Who funds his position at Erasmus University and what are the real constraints on the university in his hiring and firing? What is the economic and immigrant climate in Rotterdam currently and how does that play into this action? Rather than making this about “Islam,” we should take a moment to see how we can approach this from multiple perspectives before forming a quick judgment. Who says TV is an idiot box? The Wire surely can show some guidance here…