Showing posts with label art and society. Show all posts
Showing posts with label art and society. Show all posts

Monday, June 23, 2014

street art project by google

google launched a wonderful project: street art on google view.

i'm a longtime fan of street art, for various reasons. one of these reasons is that street art relates closely to the human need for artistic (visual) expression, stripped from commercial and elitist considerations.

you can of course wonder why i do not engage in street art myself...

but that is a question of circumstance and personality. i'm shy to perform in public, and i'm also not at ease with anti-street-art legislation. if i would have a commission, and if i could work in reasonable peace, it would be different... so i can see myself doing murals (i did some inside murals long ago, and it was very inspiring) but only if the wall in question is given to me freely and explicitly.

nonetheless i have great respect for many street artists who are more daring in their approach, and who create wonderful pieces for everyone to see. in my opinion, we need art very dearly in this technocratic society. and this whole capitalistic structure where a very few rich people control all the infrastructure, buildings, land...why? do not all people have a right to this earth?

street art is a way of challenging these rigid and corrupt societal structures, in a way that i often find endearing and enriching. we need societal change. we really do. so instead of wasting our attention on football and fickle politicians and corrupt bankers and other media `stars', why not simply go look at art once in a while?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

again drawings (5): experiment, new worlds

grief and comfort v ~ frank waaldijk
grief and comfort (own work, 2012-2013, 40 x 55 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)[updated sept 2013]

wodance together, dance alone ~ frank waaldijk
dance together, dance alone (own work, 2010, 20 x 30 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

child abuse ~ frank waaldijk
child abuse (own work, 2010, 40 x 50 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

like i wrote in this earlier post on digital photopgraphy, i feel artists should explore new worlds. for this, i need constant experimenting. that doesn't only mean technical experimenting, but also a lot of emotional and psychological experimenting.

what is it that my `inner' artist self wants to show? how can i, the holder of pen, brush, pencil, this inner source to express itself in a poignant, perhaps sometimes disturbing but hopefully moving way?

life is not about superficial esthetics, and so for me neither is art.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

what is an outsider artist? am i outsider in any sense? 2 (intermezzo in the miscellaneous series)

nek chand, rock garden monkeys
nek chand saini, monkeys in the rock garden of chandigarh (photo giridhar appaji nag y)

(continued from the previous post) from wikipedia on outsider art:
The term outsider art was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 as an English synonym for art brut (French: "raw art" or "rough art"), a label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture; Dubuffet focused particularly on art by insane-asylum inmates.

While Dubuffet's term is quite specific, the English term "outsider art" is often applied more broadly, to include certain self-taught or Naïve art makers who were never institutionalized. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work is discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrates extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.

Outsider art has emerged as a successful art marketing category (an annual Outsider Art Fair has taken place in New York since 1993). The term is sometimes misapplied as a catch-all marketing label for art created by people outside the mainstream "art world," regardless of their circumstances or the content of their work. goes to show, i think, that noone really knows a workable definition of outsider art.


for me personally, there are many situations in which i feel an outsider. and this is linked to mental health issues too, specifically depression. the way i see art and create art is a reflection of how i see life, society, nature,... by which i mean to indicate that art most often has a spiritual meaning to me.

i think much in our society operates on unspiritual grounds, to put it mildly. homo homini lupus est, dog eat dog, you know the drill. these unspiritual mechanisms are just as prevalent in the art world. and i cannot really bear with them, as i have found to my detriment over the years.

therefore, my understanding has become that i am in quite some measure an outsider artist. like i stated in the previous post, this doesn't change the art one pixel, but it helps me to embrace the direction in which my explorations take me. i have however no inclination to use it as a marketing strategy, for various reasons.


here an interesting fragment of a documentary interview with jean dubuffet on art brut (in french)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

art and life: societal criticism in art

i had a discussion with a dear friend, the other day. not known for my lack of radical views, i stated that i had trouble accepting that so many people in our western society seem to prefer 'positive' untruths to ... well, to the bleak truth that e.g. in a country like ethiopia people have to pick coffee beans at a wage of 40 eurocent a day...7 days a week, for 10 grueling hours a day...just so we can drink cheap coffee. please don't dismiss this statement too easily. think about it for some time.

she said: well, if you are so unhappy about exploitation of poor workers, why don't you do something about it? so i tried to explain to her that this is what i try to do -in my way, which is the only way that i see myself capable of keeping up over the years. which means talking about it, writing about it, painting and drawing about it...although most of my drawings and paintings approach the subject from the other way round: i try to portray how the world would look if we concentrate on a 'spiritual' interaction (compassionate, mild, respectful, you get my drift). and of course i have been buying fair trade as much as i can, for a very long time.

which brings me to another aspect of this thread which has been going on for quite some posts now: societal criticism in art. the theme of societal criticism has been around for centuries in art. a 19th century example:

jean-françois millet, gleaners
jean-françois millet the gleaners (les glaneuses, 1857, musée d'orsay, paris, click for enlargement)

we see three gleaners: poor women, who when the wheat had been harvested scoured the land for the remaining stalks and ears. The so prominent display of the poorest of the population was seen by many as an indictment of poverty and exploitation of the workers. from wikipedia:
Millet first unveiled The Gleaners at the Salon in 1857. It immediately drew negative criticism from the middle and upper classes, who viewed the topic with suspicion: one art critic, speaking for other Parisians, perceived in it an alarming intimation of "the scaffolds of 1793."[1] Having recently come out of the French Revolution of 1848, these prosperous classes saw the painting as glorifying the lower-class worker.[1] To them, it was a reminder that French society was built upon the labor of the working masses, and landowners linked this working class with the growing movement of Socialism and the dangerous voices of Karl Marx and Émile Zola.[2]

One critic commented that "his three gleaners have gigantic pretensions, they pose as the Three Fates of Poverty…their ugliness and their grossness unrelieved."[3] While the act of gleaning was not a new topic—representations of Ruth had already been composed—this new work was a statement on rural poverty and not Biblical piety:[3] there is no touch of the Biblical sense of community and compassion in contrast of the embodiments of grinding poverty in the foreground and the rich harvest in the sunlit distance beyond. The implicit irony was unsettling.
millet was a big source of inspiration for vincent van gogh:

vincent van gogh, the potato eaters
vincent van gogh, the potato eaters (1885, Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam, click for enlargement)


let me add a drawing which i made yesterday, after having had this discussion. i don't think it's my best work...since my subconscious seems to work better on its own, without a directive from my mind. but i do have enough image-creating experience to get things done, visually speaking. however, i'm left with a low expectation that any of my art works will really have an impact on this persistent problem of greed, wealth, uneven distribution of resources,...human nature you could say. you may call me negative for stating this. but i think we need this negativism in order for anything to change. much of the so-valued 'positivism' in my eyes serves to maintain a status quo which is decidedly injust on a global scale.

we trample on them, to maintain our luxury
we trample on them, to maintain our luxury (own work, 2012, 21 x 30 cm, click on the image for an enlargement)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

what is art for? homo aestheticus by ellen dissanayake

as an illustration to the previous post, let me quote from the wikipedia lemma on ellen dissanayake:

In Homo Aestheticus (University of Washington Press, 1995), Ellen Dissanayake argues that art was central to the emergence, adaptation and survival of the human species, that aesthetic ability is innate in every human being, and that art is a need as fundamental to our species as food, warmth or shelter.

What art “makes special”
This aesthetic ability, she says, enabled us to ‘bracket off’ the things and activities that were important to our survival, separate them from the mundane, and make them special. We took the objects and practices involved in marriage, birth, death, food production, war and peacemaking and enhanced them to make them more attractive and pleasurable, more intriguing and more memorable. We invented dance, poetry, charms, spells, masks, dress and a multitude of other artifacts to make these associated activities, whether hauling nets or pounding grain, more sensual and enjoyable, to promote cooperation, harmony and unity among group members, and to also enable us to cope with life’s less expected or explicable events.

Methods of “making special” derived from our evolutionary inheritance
Using her own lived, anthropological experience and a wide knowledge of contemporary literature on the subject, she provides many examples of how this “making special” is done. She argues that in making things special we drew on those aspects of the world that evolution had led us to find attractive and to prize: visual signs of health, youth and vitality such as smoothness, glossiness, warm colors, cleanness and lack of blemishes; vigor, precision, agility, endurance and grace of movement; in sounds - sonority, vividness, rhythmicity, resonance, power; in the spoken word repetition of syllables, verses and key words, the use of antiphony, alliteration, assonance and rhyme. She adds to these pattern, contrast, balance, roundness, length, geometric shapes such as circles, squares, triangles, diagonals, horizontals and verticals) - and more complex forms arising from variation on a theme, or to put it the other way round, the absorbing of asymmetry and difference within a wider, encompassing pattern - the taming of the unruly wild. As such, she argues that art springs from the same sources and interacts with the same physiology as everyday life, but because it is so crafted, more intensely.

Art as a normal and necessary part of human life
In Homo Aestheticus, Dissanayake argues that Art is not an ornamental and dispensable luxury, but intrinsic to our species. And once we recognize this truth, she says “each one of us should feel permission and justification for taking the trouble to live our life with care and thought for its quality rather than being helplessly caught up in the reductive and alienating pragmatic imperatives of consumer and efficiency-oriented and “entertain-me” society.”
“Art is a normal and necessary behavior of human beings and like other common and universal occupations such as talking, working, exercising, playing, socializing, learning, loving, and caring, should be recognized, encouraged and developed in everyone. Via art, experience is heightened, elevated, made more memorable and significant”

Included in the book are more than 16 pages of references covering the emergent fields of Bioaesthetics, Neuroaesthetics and Psychobiology.

what is art for? is the title of another book by ellen dissanayake (this links to her website):

what is art for?, ellen dissanayake

and you will note the nice 'coincidence' that the author uses the same painting by gauguin as the one that started me on this whole thread...;-)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

ai weiwei released on bail (see previous post, art & society 2)

since i'm working extremely hard to finish a fair chunk of mathematical research, i haven't been able to write on this blog.

but this good news of course must be added: ai weiwei has been released on bail, although he may still face civil charges.

news sources say that the attention given to this case by western media and protesters have pressured the chinese authorities to release ai weiwei. many others who like him are critical of the authorities are however still detained under equally vague charges and with doubtful legality.

(read more in the l.a. times, and the l.a. times).

ai weiwei, china map
ai weiwei, china map

Friday, April 8, 2011

ai weiwei arrested in china (art & society 1)

one of my favourite modern artists, ai weiwei, was arrested this week in his home country china. he has been charged with economic crime, according to the LA Times. however, it is very very likely that this is just a form of censoring by the chinese government. ai weiwei has been arrested before, on trumped up charges, even leading to hospitalization.

sometimes i am just so fed up with the world.

ai weiwei is a very talented artist, and a very talented technical craftsman as well. he combines these talents to comment on our society, and sometimes this is especially about his home country china. his art is always respectful in every way, but it does have a message. that is one of the very important functions of art, imnsho.

i hereby wish to give my support to ai weiwei, and to all other artists and like who are hounded by governments, authorities or other organizations for speaking out for those values that are the very essence of a better humanity.

and shame on all those bureaucrats and power-hungry people who wish to muzzle the freedom of speech and other (artistic or not) expression in order to force their world vision on others, and in order to maintain their power positions.

(to be continued)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

what can art be and do? (shale gas development in the cévennes 2)

as a follow-up to the previous post, just let me post this link to a very informative news article on shale gas development in the cévennes on french news online.

in the recent posts, environmental issues feature prominently. one could ask if an art blog is the best place for these concerns, but i'm inclined to allow it (...;-)). first of all, one can't cut up the world in subjects and expect to never have to redefine or rethink categories. second, a real and important issue for me is the role of art in society. and a major role imnsho is to raise awareness about fundamental issues that society faces.

so, although this is not primarily meant as a protest blog, from time to time i will post on issues which i hold to be fundamental in arriving at a better society and world.

and this just begs the question: how many famous works of art are about environmental protection??

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

nuclear energy & art 3: chicago & henry moore

to finish the thread, there is also a (in my eyes) disturbing sculpture `nuclear energy' by henry moore, which was commissioned to mark the place where the first makeshift nuclear reactor was realized in chicago (chicago pile-1). the sculpture was erected in 1967 at the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the splitting of the atom on the grounds by enrico fermi on december 2, 1942.

nuclear energy, henry moore
henry moore, nuclear energy (picture lenka reznicek, click on the image for an enlargement, cc-license see the link)
It’s a rather strange thing really but I’d already done the idea for this sculpture before Professor McNeill and his colleagues from the University of Chicago came to see me on Sunday morning to tell me about the whole proposition. They told me (which I’d only vaguely known) that Fermi, the Italian nuclear physicist, started or really made the first successful controlled nuclear fission in a temporary building. I think it was a squash court - a wooden building - which from the outside looked entirely unlike where a thing of such an important nature might take place. But this experiment was carried on in secret and it meant that by being successful Man was able to control this huge force for peaceful purposes as well as destructive ones. They came to me to tell me that they thought where such an important event in history took place ought to be marked and they wondered whether I would do a sculpture which would stand on the spot. (Henry Moore quoted in Art Journal, New York, spring 1973, p.286)

i think moore captured this duality rather too well...the sculpture reminds me of a giant skull. i don't think this is quite coincidental either, because imho moore was a great artist.

lenka reznicek writes a blog called radioactive! the nuclear blog, below is another of her pictures (creative commons licensed, go to her flickr page -link above- for the full license).

caution do not dig, lenka reznicek
plot m marker, red gate woods chicago (photo lenka reznicek, click on the image for an enlargement).

enrico fermi died in 1954 of stomach cancer, as a result of overexposure to radiation. below his image in a graffiti tribute from vitoria in spain:

enrico fermi, mural graffiti

Monday, January 24, 2011

nuclear energy & art 2 (into eternity)

[continued from the previous post]

apart from its ominous content, i found michael madsen's documentary `into eternity' quite artistic, showing people in a natural setting, answering well-structured questions, but at the same time painting a contradictory canvas of the issue and human arrogance/insecurity at the same time.

still, i was even more triggered by one of the main problems posed in the documentary:
Once the repository waste has been deposited and is full, the facility is to be sealed off and never opened again. Or so we hope, but can we ensure that? And how is it possible to warn our descendants of the deadly waste we left behind? How do we prevent them from thinking they have found the pyramids of our time, mystical burial grounds, hidden treasures? Which languages and signs will they understand? And if they understand, will they respect our instructions? While gigantic monster machines dig deeper and deeper into the dark, experts above ground strive to find solutions to this crucially important radioactive waste issue to secure mankind and all species on planet Earth now and in the near and very distant future.

especially of course the question: which languages and signs will people still understand after 50,000 years?

in the documentary the conclusion seems to be (and i agree) that visual language (art!) is so universal for humanity, that it can be assumed that even 50,000 years from now people will still understand parts of well-executed comics, cartoons, drawings and paintings. other languages and communication mechanisms appear to be rather less time-resistant. many old languages can no longer be understood by us, but the pictorial representations are still easily recognized.

however, in the special case of radiation, one has to wonder if one can visualize radiation if the phenomenon is outside the scientific awareness of the people involved. the second question is: will any visual sign/representation be endurable enough to survive such an onslaught of time?

this ties in to the earlier discussion this year about the importance of art and art education: since our thinking has a large visual component, our ideas can often be expressed far clearer in pictures than in words. so here you have an example of a real challenge to art: can we visualize (the presence of) radiation in such a way that even people with little or no scientific background will understand its dangers and enough of its working mechanisms?

trailer from `into eternity'

Sunday, January 23, 2011

nuclear energy & art: into eternity

last week i saw a documentary by michael madsen called `into eternity'. let me cite from wikipedia:
Into Eternity is a feature documentary film directed by Michael Madsen.[1] It follows the digging and pre-implementation of the Onkalo nuclear waste repository in Olkiluoto, Finland. Director Michael Madsen is questioning Onkalo's intended eternal existence, addressing a remotely future audience. More importantly, this documentary raises the question of the authorities responsibility of ensuring compliance with relatively new safety criteria legislation and the principles at the core of nuclear waste management.[2]

Background information
This movie is the only full-length documentary about nuclear waste underground repository storage solution. The concept of long-term underground storage has been explored already from the 50's. The inner part of the Russian doll-like storage canisters is to be composed of copper. Hence in the case of Onkalo it is tightly linked to experimentations on copper corrosion in running groundwater flow.[3] Application for the implementation of spent nuclear fuel repository was submitted by Posiva Oy in 2001. The excavation itself started in 2004. With a total of 4 operable reactors providing 25% of the country energy supply, Finland ranks 16th in the world nuclear power reactors country list topped by USA (104 reactors), France (58 reactors) and Japan (54 reactors).


Every day, the world over, large amounts of high-level radioactive waste created by nuclear power plants is placed in interim storage, which is vulnerable to natural disasters, man-made disasters, and societal changes. In Finland, the world’s first permanent repository is being hewn out of solid rock – a huge system of underground tunnels – that must last the entire period the waste remains hazardous: 100,000 years.

Once the repository waste has been deposited and is full, the facility is to be sealed off and never opened again. Or so we hope, but can we ensure that? And how is it possible to warn our descendants of the deadly waste we left behind? How do we prevent them from thinking they have found the pyramids of our time, mystical burial grounds, hidden treasures? Which languages and signs will they understand? And if they understand, will they respect our instructions? While gigantic monster machines dig deeper and deeper into the dark, experts above ground strive to find solutions to this crucially important radioactive waste issue to secure mankind and all species on planet Earth now and in the near and very distant future.

before talking about the artistic aspects, once again, dear reader, i wish to draw your attention to the ominous content of the documentary, and the enormous implications of our current involvement in nuclear energy.

i repeat from an earlier post: we are apes playing with fire. but even that is a weak metaphor. we are apes playing with Eternal Pollution, we are producing nuclear waste that will pollute our world for hundreds of thousands of years, and we DO NOT KNOW HOW TO SOLVE THAT PROBLEM. we also have currently no nuclear waste storage facilities which will withstand natural disasters, so the problem is not only in the future, it is here and now. (and don't forget all the incidents that happen in nuclear plants, please don't think that they are safe because they aren't, we could easily have another chernobyl. and even if that could be addressed, what do you think the greatest nightmare of anti-terrorist agencies is?)

chernobyl radiation map 1996, cia factbook
radiation map of chernobyl in 1996, 10 years after the chernobyl disaster (image from the cia factbook, click on the image for an enlargement)

chernobyl seen from pripyat, 2007, jason minshull
chernobyl seen from the abandoned town of pripyat in 2007, 20 years after the chernobyl disaster (photo by jason minshull, click on the image for an enlargement)

[to be continued]

Monday, January 17, 2011

what is art for? 4 (art in our merchant society)

but let's forget about the economic importance of art and art education. this importance should be evident to anyone who ... has had enough education to understand the importance of education...although this maybe isn't dependent on how much education one gets. many of our current political `leaders' have had quite a lot of education...but of what type, one cannot fail to wonder.

that is where art comes in, and art education as well.

ultimately, in my not so humble opinion (imnsho), the question `what is art for?' revolves around the same sun as the question: `what gives our existence meaning?'. personally i do not believe that money, power, sex, drugs [let's say the four modern horsemen of the apocalypse...] come close to this sun, although our current merchant society would really have us believe that these four horsemen are the beginning and the end of all our longings, and that the sun shines out of their arse...

albrecht dürer, the four horsemen of the apocalypse
albrecht dürer, the four horsemen of the apocalypse (click on the image for an enlargement)

i mean, look at italy, where a complete `civilized' country is being dominated by the arch-caricature of money power sex drugs: berlusconi. after all the scandals and corruptions, has italy managed to regain the upper hand? no. do the other countries of the european union even try to stop the incredible corruption in italy from spreading throughout the union? i for one fail to notice any real progress in this matter.

and all of this is because we as a society -at EVERY junction- stress the importance of money. the importance of power. the importance of sex, and drugs as well. because the main societal credo seems to be: "as long as I feel happy, as long as I am in control of things around me, as long as I am rich and powerful, who cares about the rest?".

since money is the generic means to obtain all of the above four horsemen, our merchant society drools over money like one wouldn't believe.

what then is one of the main ways to illustrate that money isn't everything? if we need to get across the message that there are other values in this world which need protection from the money-scheming white-collar criminals? i would say that art is in a unique position for this. (this includes all forms of art, not just the visual arts).

what is art for? 3 (art in our merchant society)

[to continue our discussion: art and art education is important for economic development]

the first reason why art and art education are economically important was given already by looking at the world of design, and the importance of colour, form, perception for this discipline.

a second reason can be found on a more profound level. it turns out that much of our thinking is `visual'. we `see' things, see? so when we say we understand something, it often means we have a visual representation of this something which makes sense to us. also, new ideas, creative ideas, often come in visual form. but that means that we can hardly train enough our capacity for visualization and for visual communication.

for example, read this interesting article on colour by ibm researchers rogowitz and treinish: Why Should Engineers and Scientists Be Worried About Color?. they argue that specific colour representation of research data is critical for its understanding, and that colour theory should be applied when presenting data.

this is just a small portion of the ways in which we think and communicate visually. clearly, for industrial and technological innovation, visualization is of the essence. good education in visualization therefore is a vital pillar to economic development, imnsho. this also covers training in simply `seeing', `looking'.

from neurophysiological brain studies, it becomes clear that our brain has several large visual `modules', large parts of which are activated when we try to understand things.

so we come back to wittgenstein: wir machen uns bilder der welt
(we make ourselves images of the world), by which wittgenstein means that this is our way of thinking about the world and being able to grasp parts of this world.

then thirdly, there is the direct economic aspect of art: art appreciation in all its forms has a direct economic component. of course this is what most of the criticism and `looking down' on artists is about, in our merchant society, because many artists cannot really make a living out of their art.

but on who does that reflect poorly, really?

given the utmost importance of visualization, colour, creativity for human development, and given the often back-breaking effort put in by visual artists to achieve profound levels in their artistry, on who does it reflect poorly that these artists often struggle to get by?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

what is art for? 2 (art in our merchant society)

[continued from previous post]

so if we adopt the utilitarian viewpoint, then clearly art is for the benefit of mankind.

in my not so humble opinion (imnsho): if the dutch political party pvv wants to state that `art is a leftist hobby', they really show to understand so little of what the world needs that they should be disqualified by voters as quickly as possible.

but -and now i'm coming back to education and johannes itten- in the netherlands we have a long tradition of considering education in the arts to be unimportant. this results in a merchant mentality in large parts of society, a mentality which is actually hampering the netherlands in its economic development - try explaining that to someone who cannot think beyond quick profit.

first of all: design is a key element of industrial commerce, so that design in all its aspects is of major importance in developing one's economy. however, the key aspects of design are largely concomitant with the key elements of the visual arts...and nobody, nobody comes close to what visual artists have developed in this respect over the centuries. so take another look at `kunst und farbe' by johannes itten:

kunst der farbe, johannes itten
johannes itten, kunst der farbe (art of colour)

in this book many insights about colour are developed and explained in a very inspiring manner. one could easily call this book a scientific text on the `feel and use' of colour. this also illustrates that the words `art' and `science' are in a way on the same level...since art is also the science of esthetics - as contrasted to esthetics as a branch of philosophy (you should really read this link, if this topic `what is art for?' interests you).

so instead of teaching `dry' economy for three hours a week, four years of secondary school, why not add a module `economic impact of colour'...? that would certainly straighten some not-so-leftist strange ideas about the importance of art...and hopefully also about the importance of art education.

(i simply repeat johannes itten's work from the previous post, since it is about education:)

johannes itten
johannes itten "Education is revelation that affects the individual."--Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, The Education of the Human Race, 1780. From the series Great Ideas of Western Man. (1966, click on the image for an enlargement)

[to be continued]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

monarchy & vpro continued 3 (art in our merchant society, more digital design)

[oh well, i probably should have added what follows next to the previous post, but it would have become so terribly long.]

one thing certainly strikes me: last year's theme `the monarchy' certainly struck home a lot more than this year's theme `ode to paper'. in fact, looking at the designs which were pitched, the first thing that glares at us is that so many of last year's designs were so negative about our royal family. so let me make a small leap of imagination here.

first of all, last year the vpro chose as winner a non-committal design, bland even, which did not relate a lot to the briefing, but which did have the decided advantage that it would not give negative publicity (one must remember that the royal family still has the support of well over 80% of the population - incredible but true.). looking at the submitted designs, there were obviously enough excellent designs that -if made vpro cover- would have led to a lot of commotion under vpro members, and possibly non-members too.

so could it be that in our merchant society, the vpro hesitates to use covers which are really confrontational, which really touch on the societal issues at hand? i would not be surprised if the vpro was surprised last year by the vehemence of the designs offered. so that might explain the rather bland theme this year: `ode to paper'. no way that there will be controversial designs coming out of that theme!

ok, sorry for bitching, but it still is a fundamental issue: why would the vpro not be happy with the real societal response they had with the theme `monarchy'? is that not truly fantastic, if you can mobilize people's visual creativity around current societal debates? [ongoing, in case of the monarchy, for this great institution costs our society 114 million euros a year...if you can believe that in a time where we are budget-cutting hospitals, care centers, schools etc.].

so once more i hope the vpro will take the stance that controversy is better than blandness. we do not need blandness in this society which is sorely late for some real refurbishing. we do not need more bland television, more entertainment, empty amusement. we need sharp criticism of banking institutions, of greed, corruption, of discrimination etc. etc. IF we are ever to do better than our predecessors who made such a mess of things.


ok, then i still owe you my design for last year:

design frank waaldijk, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010
design frank waaldijk, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010 (click on the image for an enlargement)

the design was largely based on the vpro briefing, in which the television series `bernhard, scoundrel of orange' featured prominently. elements in the design: the picture of the st. bernard dog to me is the symbolization of the sanctimonious denial by bernhard of all his missteps, i added the halo for the same effect. the dog is in black and white, visualizing that all this was in the past (bernhard passed away in 2004; original colour photo of the st. bernard by daniel steger, under a creative commons license 2.5, which implies my design is under the same cc 2.5 license, see the original picture on wikipedia)

the orange crown was added, to picture bernhard as saviour of the monarchy. you will see the colours of our national flag in the background. all in keeping with the sanctimonious picture of our royal family as being good for our country.

the added text reads: `bernhard and the monarchy' ... however, i added a little venom, because in dutch this would read `bernhard en de monarchie' but if you look carefully you will see that there is in fact no space between `de' and `monarchie' so it really reads (though unobtrusively so):

`bernhard and demonarchy'


not a very brilliant design perhaps, but it finally gave me the opportunity to vent some of the indignation i felt as an 11 yr old, when bernhard wasn't even prosecuted for his corruption.

oh, i also made a version with lettering (but i could not easily obtain high quality fonts) because i thought it would be nice if the halo passed through the lettering:

design frank waaldijk with logo, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010
design frank waaldijk with logo, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010 (click on the image for an enlargement)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

more vpro cover, prince bernhard, art in our merchant society, monarchy (digital design)

oh well, i'm still not done. in 2010 i also participated in the vpro cover design contest, the theme then was: `monarchy'. but, as was explicitly stated, the main reason for this theme was the new television series to be aired by the vpro, called `bernhard, scoundrel of orange' (`bernhard, schavuit van oranje') about the life of prince bernhard, husband of our former queen juliana.

prince bernhard was severely compromised in the '70s for accepting bribes from lockheed and other parties, in his role as military adviser to the government. he also fathered two extra-marital children. before the war he was a member of the nsdap and the reiter ss, which he first denied and when confronted with paper evidence he claimed to have been made member without his knowledge (although contribution was paid promptly and meticulously for years). also he was already a member of the deutsche studentenschaft from 1932-1934 with an application form filled out in his own handwriting (the studentenschaft was also clearly nationalsozialistisch -in other words nazi).

when caught in the bribery act, he was -naturally- facing indictment and trial. however, queen juliana said she would abdicate if her husband was put on trial and daughter beatrix (our current queen) said she would not take up the throne in this way.

so...what do you think happened? i was 11 yrs old at the time and i still feel the indignation of what our government concocted. they decided to not put bernhard on trial, to save the monarchy. if you even think bernhard had to pay back the money, you are wrong. his punishment consisted of stripping him of his military uniform in public appearances and relieving him of his advisory function. wow. any `common' shoplifter or thief is treated with harsh justice, for let's say a couple of thousand at the most, but when it comes to millions, the high society protects itself...

these are not the only scandals and controversies surrounding bernhard. read for yourself on wikipedia: prince bernhard von lippe-biesterfeld.

so you can imagine this theme also caught my attention. we are a so-called democracy, but still our monarch has some not unimportant political functions. a strange state of affairs. monarchs' succession is by birthright, so it must be that some special status is accorded to `being the child of'. still, our future king willem alexander married maxima zorreguieta. she is the daughter of jorge zorreguieta, (civilian) member of the argentine military junta of jorge videla, which was responsible for the calculated murder of thousands of dissident civilians from 1976-1983 (in the so-called dirty war).

i am the first to state that children bear no automatic responsibility for the actions of their parents, and i have nothing against maxima, but in this case i find it extremely unacceptable for our future king to be wedded to her. ok, they should have married, let love prevail, but then let someone else take the throne. if anything good can be ascribed to monarchy, it should be about representation, about making the right choices. what message do we give to all the bereft argentine mothers, fathers, children, who saw their beloved taken away in the night never to return?

from wikipedia:
The news of the couple's relationship and eventual marriage plans caused controversy in the Netherlands. Máxima's father had been the Minister of Agriculture during the regime of former Argentine President Jorge Rafael Videla, a military dictator who ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1981 and who was responsible for many atrocities against civilians (An estimated 10,000–30,000 people disappeared during this and subsequent military regimes before democracy was restored to Argentina in 1983). Jorge Zorreguieta claimed that, as a civilian, he was unaware of the Dirty War while he was a cabinet minister. Professor Baud, who on request of the Dutch Parliament did an inquiry in the involvement of Zorreguieta, concluded that would it have been unlikely for a person in such a powerful position in the government to be unaware of the Dirty War.[1]

in order to understand all the designs that were sent to the vpro for this `monarchy' theme, i should fill pages...but you get the drift of what lies beneath the surface of our happy orange household...

but one big benefit of our monarchy usually remains underexposed: the entertainment value. several gossip magazines rely almost exclusively on our royal family for their existence. if the queen plus entourage get a salary of millions of euro's, this may seem large, but divided by our population it yields an attractive per capita amusement tax [added later: the cost of the royal family turns out to be the staggering figure of 114 million euros per year, where i thought it would be 10 million max. incredible.]. therefore i would advise all other civilized countries to reinstate monarchy if they haven't been able to maintain one over the centuries!

in this spirit, one of the best designs for the 2010 vpro cover i thought was the one below by teun van den wittenboer (if teun or vpro object, please let me know and i will remove the image, although it can be seen at the link above):

design teun van den wittenboer, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010
design teun van den wittenboer, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010

the text reads: "the -up 'till now hidden- second tattoo of bernhard".

you might wonder what i find so brilliant about this...but i think the image is perfectly executed, and i also consider the idea to be a brilliant mockery of what we dutch think of as important in life...the exterior body, and silly secrets. we do not take the time to ponder the real implications of our monarchy, instead we are fascinated by gossip-magazine items and glitter and glamour.

the jury -as expected somewhat i must say, since i have now seen more years of designs and jurying- did not spot this design, it seems. the winning design was -contrary to my expectations which were obviously too high- a very non-committal silhouette of our queen, nothing more. well, no controversy there, a very safe choice! but not really in concordance with the original commission if you ask me. and for me it also raises the question of how critical our television broadcasting associations really are. i hope we will not drift towards an italian situation, where television is largely mind-numbingly stupid entertainment.

we need critics! we need people who dare speak out against superficiality and money/power/sex as a sole goal in life. so i hope the vpro will continue to orient itself towards such a critical role.

anyway, the jury did pick out the following design by michelle sipers, which i also think is very good (see the above remark about removing the image):

design michelle sipers, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010
design michelle sipers, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2010

i will perhaps pick out some more designs in the next post.

Monday, January 10, 2011

nuclear energy (vpro cover, digital design) continued

i would like to describe where the previous design came from (let me repeat it below for best reading, design for the january 2007 vpro cover, click on the image for a large enlargement)

v-pro of contra, design frank waaldijk, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2007

some elements:

in 1982 in my final year in high school i made a cynical postcard `greetings from kalkar'. at the time there were plans for a nuclear plant in kalkar, and i was very much against. the card was meant as a cynical depiction of how a nuclear plant could (never) be a touristic feature...

however, strangely enough, the plans were ultimately cancelled, leaving the already constructed outer building with no clear purpose. in the nineties, this building was converted in a water-based attraction park for recreation, and called kernwasser wunderland, today the park is called wunderland kalkar...and what once was a cynical postcard now is simply touristic reality...incredible, isn't it?

greetings from kalkar, frank waaldijk 1982

cooling tower used as climbing wall in wunderland kalkar
cooling tower used as climbing wall in wunderland kalkar

you can see how i used elements from the postcard in the vpro design...


for dramatic effect, i also used a figure from a painting by rubens (but since a computer crash, i have been unable to refind the original painting from which this figure was taken...i've tried searching for it with google, but to no avail.

the direction of looking of the original figure was dramatically upward (far more so than in this design), i photoshopped until the face had the right expression. then i also added a radiation burn pattern on the face...because in my not so humble opinion we are taking an extremely unfair risk with regard to future generations.

detail rubens, vpro design frank waaldijk, 2007


in the background, the dramatic picture of the sun is actually a depiction of a much safer form of nuclear energy: fusion. both solar energy and possibly in the future nuclear energy from fusion are far more sustainable than our current nuclear plants imnsho.

in the foreground, i have tried to recreate the old photographic effect of solarisation (arising from overexposure of negatives in a certain way):

detail solarisation, vpro design frank waaldijk, 2007


to clarify the borssele connection, i added this element in the standard design of dutch town limits:

detail borssele, vpro design frank waaldijk, 2007

then of course the lettering: the commission always states to leave out the lettering and the vpro logo. but in this case i did not have much faith in the vpro's own layout, and also i wanted to sharpen the theme by adding `vpro or contra'.


so, there you have the different layers of the design all spelled out...perhaps you can understand why i am still very contented with this design, perhaps not.


to finish, another design which i thought was `cool'...;-) by judith van meeuwen [there were many other cool designs, unfortunately the vpro has removed the higher resolution pictures and this is the best i can offer; if judith or vpro object to my reproducing it here, please let me know and i will remove it]:

new energy, vpro design judith van meeuwen, 2007
new energy, vpro design judith van meeuwen, 2007

it is a really mystifying, atmospheric design, which to me has all the intrigue of something we don't know about yet, and which is also clearly about energy.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

nuclear energy, vpro cover, art in our merchant society (more digital design)

so in this thread (art in our merchant society, vpro cover competition, digital design) i would like to put up a design i made a few years back for the vpro cover competition. the theme given was: `new energy' and the explanation talked about the dilemmas facing our society with regard to dwindling traditional energy supplies (oil, gas, coal). any design featuring this theme and /or this dilemma was welcome, also with an enthusiastic invitation to think of new forms of energy.

at the time an important decision had just been made by the (previous) dutch government regarding nuclear energy, namely to continue operating the nuclear plant in borssele until 2033 (instead of closing it down in 2013, as was the earlier plan). the decision had been taken in june, but in november a new government had been elected, and public discussion about nuclear energy should have been priority in my not so humble opinion. the political debate was whether to create even more nuclear plants, to maintain status quo or to strive for elimination.

since then plans for a second nuclear plant in borssele have been developed. so before this, and in the backlight of this debate, i made the design below:

v-pro of contra, design frank waaldijk, VPRO Gids Cover 1, 2007

(my design for the january 2007 vpro cover, click on the image for a large enlargement)


before talking about the design in particular designerspeak (if i'm even capable of that...), i'd like to note that there were -as usual- many wonderful designs. i do not envy a jury! but given the fact that energy is a serious societal problem, i somehow would expect that designs focusing on the problematic side of the commission would also get some attention. in my recollection, the jury picked almost exclusively `light' designs.

well, like i said, don't expect me to be any better in picking nominees or winners...! but to grumpy old me, this perceived favouritism for `light' (funny, easy to grasp, nudge nudge, tongue-in-cheek) designs seems a bit symptomatic of the underestimation in the netherlands of visual art, and of the importance of having a good visual training/education, perhaps i should call this "imagery education".

because an image speaks a thousands words.

much of what we think is governed by images, more than by words. if i want to know if you have understood something, what will i ask most frequently? i believe this to be the question: "you see?".


but in our merchant society, we have degraded art education in our secondary schools to a very unimportant position. we have made mathematics compulsory for all years of secondary school, as well as foreign languages (merchant merchant!). but we neglect to educate values, emotions, clear thinking, artisticity, creativity, criticism, ...all necessary elements for a culturally and economically thriving society, which also can take its responsibility when it comes to long-term decisions affecting the well-being also of future generations.

can we put a price on being able to live in a non-polluted environment? can we trade the extinction of the whale against a 5 ct reduction in the price of bread? can we trade the cost of war in afghanistan and iraq against the funds necessary to help people starving or struck by natural disaster? ...apparently we can. but future generations will hold us responsible, and rightly so.

and this is what artists can and do tackle, and do try to attract attention to. with images and imagery that cannot be ignored (if the artist is worth her/his salt AND if the merchant mentality in society is not completely dominant).

[wow, frank in rant be continued, since i forgot to talk about the design in designerspeak -which i probably don't speak anyway, but...]

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

art in our merchant society 2 (more digital design)

[see also previous post! oh well, i'm careening a bit between two subjects (see the ambiguous title), sorry]


marcel klein's design for the vpro cover competition (see previous post, not nominated by the jury - i take it for granted neither marcel nor vpro will mind my putting up this design on my blog, if so just let me know and i will remove it and replace it with just the link).

i like it for a couple of reasons. the somewhat strange composition, which works out lively and elegant. but also the sharp juxtaposition of `old' and `new' technology - paper cut-outs and computer-related cables - in the form of a tree...which is what paper is made of, usually...and what also constitutes a big argument against paper, namely wouldn't we want those trees to serve a better purpose?

moreover, notwithstanding the briefing from the vpro which contained some nostalgia about paper being on its return, as far as i know our paper consumption has not decreased since the ICT revolution, but on the contrary has increased...perhaps because we print out all those emails and memos and reports and all the try-out versions of these products too, i don't know.

so the image also describes this process: a lot of electronic communication ends in physical paper...

therefore: nice! - but not immediately classifiable as an ode to paper, you could say. does that really disqualify this design? i would say on the contrary, it lifts the original commission to a higher level.

(grumpy me: i'm not completely enthusiastic about the colours, and one could also point out that the branching out of one of the electronic-cable-branches is a bit obviously photoshopped, so be it)

anyway, i'm not saying this design should have won or should have been nominated, but in comparison to some of the nominated designs it is clear that the jury looks more to direct visual effect than to possible deeper layers.

it would in my not so humble opinion be a step forward if also designs that consider a more complex message would get serious reconsideration. not only in this competition, but in cover designs overall.


however, in a merchant society, i believe that subtle and/or complex art is bound to suffer. time is money, after all! if i cannot grasp the meaning of something in a few seconds, then i might lose valuable opportunities of course that only the most blatant art will impress my newfound family of rich entrepreneurs who also seek to impress me with their blatant modern art collection...

obviously i speak not in absolutes, but i believe this to be the general prevailing mechanism in modern (or contemporary if you prefer) art. and this is judging by what i see in museums and galleries specializing in the `top' of contemporary art. (but you know my views on quality mechanisms, else search this blog for `quality' (without the single quotes this becomes a funny statement, but perhaps true too...)).

it all boils down to the question:

what is art for?

in a merchant society, you can imagine the most common reply. and this is then subsequently what drives our art market, our art institutions, and if we are very very unlucky our artists as well.

Monday, January 3, 2011

art in our merchant society (more digital design)

every year, the dutch broadcasting corporation vpro holds an open design competition for the cover of its first magazine of the new year.

a very inspiring idea!!

and one should really look at all the designs that people make, they are put on the vpro's website for cover 1. it is very inspiring to see what is being made by young and old, professional and non-professional.

of course, i would'nt be grumpy old me if i wasn't grumpy old me, so i also see quite a number of drawbacks to the way this competition is organized, remains a nice and original idea! for many amateur/semi-amateur designers, where can one find a similar opportunity to create a design with (if you win of course...) national exposure?

which is partly why i like to participate, from time to time. not every year, because i often don't feel much affinity with the selected theme (like this year's theme: `ode to paper' - it just doesn't do much for me, because for me the direction has been predetermined too much. it would have worked better for me if it had been simply: `paper', but even that probably would not really have set me on fire, i suppose, much as i like paper as a medium and also as a material).

so far i have participated twice, with designs that i really like and which naturally failed to draw any attention from the jury...;-) but thankfully i have reached a stage where i understand that drawing attention from a jury is a very subjective affair, and also isn't the only thing that makes a design worthwhile.

but even if i don't participate, i usually take quite some time to look at the designs made by others, because it is really inspiring, like i said. from this i have noticed that my way of looking is rather different than the jury's...if i were to nominate 10 designs, in most years there would be not more than one or two overlaps with the nomination of the jury, and frequently none.


the next will sound arrogant, i know. but to me it sometimes seems as if really intelligent design is at a disadvantage. i have seen some excellent designs going unnoticed [yeah i know you could now laugh at me, but i'm not talking about my own designs ;-)], where the only reason for this that i could think of was that the idea behind the design was subtle, and took more than a short moment's reflection to grasp.

this brings us back (i think i discussed this earlier on this blog, but i'm not sure!) to the discussion on how `popular' art should be. the vpro prides itself on bringing programs that bring real content and culture, a deepening of background shall we say. therefore i think that it is a real sign of the times that even in the vpro-setting `intelligent' design is at a disadvantage.

to me it seems that we dutch are simply not motivated to invest time and effort in building our culture to the point where art, music, literature, poetry, film, etc. are appreciated as a valuable way to determine what values we treasure, what ways we should go and what ways we should not go with our society.

our new government is a very appalling example of the merchant mind which seems to dominate the netherlands. what a poor culture my country really has, is sometimes obscured by the many great painters which were born in the netherlands. but they are really just a strange exception to the dutch rule.

and it is also surprising that with such a merchant mentality, many eminent scientists also came from the netherlands. however, this latter phenomenon cannot persist i believe. whereas the natural talent for painting seems to be indigenous, to maintain a high level of science requires a definite non-merchant mentality. i'm sure we will see the downslide of dutch science in the decades to come. and we deserve it, for being so short-sighted and narrow-minded.

now who will be able to illuminate the blind? traditionally, i would say, it should be the artists (all liberal arts included). but in our merchant society, they are currently being put down as irrelevant (unless commercially successful) and as being basically parasitic on society - i'm NOT joking.

this is what happens when we vote for people who have no real cultural upbringing, no real cultural reflection, no basis for the insight that the arts are about everything that we hold dear. who can only think in terms of success, failure, money, power, fear, control, get the idea.

what does beauty mean to these people? what does colour mean? a song or a poem that brings the tears to one's eyes?

[to be continued]