Please come sit with us. We’ll confide something to you. I am Gijs, and as the host of this month’s newsletter, let me start.
Le confident by Napoleon III
I find writing a newsletter hard. It seduces me to write in a particular confident mode of sharing my achievements, which makes me feel distant from you. I may decorate my tower with beautiful flags of my achievements and then take a seat with myself.
I want to feel connected with a Field, which Silvio Lorusso describes as a “space inhabited by a series of connected communities of practice,” which Wikipedia explains as groups of people who "share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” Great. Yet tower-decoration-mode feels more like reproducing an Arena of competition than building a Field of connection with other practitioners.
I read a phrase from Ben's blog that captured what I want: “cultivating some sort of intimacy.” Can this newsletter be a place for professional intimacy?
What I like about our studio space is that it is a kind of private audience, somewhere in between the privacy of one’s house and the publicity of a stage. It allows me to share things intimately without being seduced to present too rosy a picture. If I would, you’d probably laugh. Private-public seems to work in a different logic.
home, desktop, drawer
classroom, XP, dinner party
IG, stage, newsletter
The word confidence comes from trusting (’fidere’). However, ‘con-’ refers not to ‘with, together,’ but to ‘firmness’. Having confidence is to firmly trust oneself. Perfect for tower decoration.
Professional intimacy requires something more. Sharing my concerns means I need to place trust in you. You become a confidant, one to confide things to. This requires a different firmness of trust. Let’s call it confidance.
Le confident by Salvador Dalí
A private-public setting rewards confidance, but how can this newsletter cultivate confidance?
I think of the GTBT radio of my studio mates; which often manages to comfort guests into private-public chats while being broadcasted publicly. I also think of a particular model of chair (I encountered through Le Grand Jäger). And I think of my teaching experiences.
In the workshops I've been doing with the second year Critical Inquiry Lab students (S/O!), I sometimes get touched by a strong sense of intimacy within the group. Or probably, their confidance.
If you allow me some tower decoration – the format started from a tendency to read grad projects as self portraits: ways of dealing with and expressing personal struggles and conflicted desires. In Ego Design workshops we've been exploring how facing this aspect of a critical project could help make it more empathic, situated and accessible.
I wonder if such ‘self-intimacy’ may help to be professionally intimate.* If a sense of grounding with your project makes it is easier to welcome others.
*When Silvio Lorusso describes the Field, it’s an antidote to a tendency in design schools to start from the personal that he calls "design intimism," as this may only increase isolation. I hope that when you look deep enough you end up at shared conditions. Seeing the world in a navel; finding the field through ego?
Le confident by Extra Practice
So for this newsletter, I took the opportunity to finally try out some ego design with the studio. We did a small workshop to find out how we were each emotionally involved in our most autonomous projects. This is the simplified script, so you can follow what follows below (and try it yourself):
- Identify the topic you are looking at.
- Pick an image of something that bothers you in this topic, and circle what bothers you most.
- Identify your fear and desire implicit in the bothering.
- Identify the counterdesire behind the thing that bothers you.
- Formulate a question of how to deal with the tension between desire and counterdesire in your project.
- Draw yourself in the image trying to deal with this tension.
Enjoy, and we’re happy to hear from you confidants if you have thoughts, feels, references, criticism to share. And yes there is also a flag tower section at the bottom with announcements and achievements!
Ben diving from the top-down into the water
I am looking at simulations of water where I ask how I can challenge ways of knowing that offer the idea of total overviews and a distanced perspective through immersion and personal experience. In my work I usually try to create overviews that offer 'whole' perspectives which often means that I exclude my own perspective and it gives me a feeling of safety. That is why, in my project Data Streams, I am examining different methods of simulating water whilst simultaneously immersing myself in wet places. I want to find ways of knowing that allow me to examine my own relationship to bodies of water and that also question my own research methodology. I would like to know other methods and processes that others use to help them learn about something whilst simultaneously immersing themselves in it.
Emma trying to see the romantic escape from another angle
I'm interested in escapism, and currently consuming lots of content on living in rural or secluded areas amidst nature, slow sustainable lifestyles in sync with mother earth. I thought I was just kind of obsessed, secretly longing for such a bare-feet-in-the-grass cottagecore life maybe, but the workshop helped zoom in on the deeper fears and desires hidden within this fascination.
I chose this picture as a representation of the framing of agricultural lifestyle content, and one fear that came up is that these beautiful images feed a collective urge to escape 'the real world' and all its responsibilities. And –besides the fact that possibility is a giant privilege– this escapist urge scares me because somehow I connect it to giving up hope on.. a better world (?) and just choosing to leave it and live in utopia (but still document and frame it and make ad money so actually also not really escaping capitalism after all lol)
Thus my desire is something like a more hopeful attitude, collective spirit, everyone contributing, working through stuff instead of escaping?? But of course deep down I also long for not having to deal, for the poetic freedom I associate with those utopias I see in the cottagecore videos, for joy and pleasure and doing only what I want, yolo-style.
So I ask myself: How to have a fulfilling and free creative practice while contributing to community/society? How to balance fun and responsibility? A question for life, really. And perhaps the challenge here is figuring out how this research can lead to a meaningful project and be conducted on a fun residency in some utopian location:)
Kirsten sifting tabs in search of honesty
Still fascinated by the theme of (non)productivity, I’m looking at how to go about an artistic research project in a way that the output reflects how the mind dwells, wanders and needs time to make sense of things. I tend to try and overcome my personal struggles through my work, but in doing so very openly, I’m not entirely sure yet what I fear most: oversharing, being too self-indulgent or getting stuck within clichés? I’m scared to be “just another privileged navel-gazing millennial” sharing their experience of grappling with the need to be productive by creating content about how it’s okay to be unproductive. I desire to feel validated in what I do and the way I do it, and while I would like to find that validation more internally, I still find it difficult to determine the value of me dawdling around. In my project Essaying, I am trying to create an honest record of my attempts at exploring temporal crisis and mental well-being by interweaving fragments of theory with personal material, and balancing leisurely thinking with making conclusions. My biggest problem right now is that I’m stuck with a foggy brain and perhaps in need of a real break. When to work through tension and when to listen and stop?
Jack peeking to find informality in the new NTS chat
Through the creation of an internet radio receiver device I’m interested in the formation and spatial ramifications of online audio communities. I want to create work that explores possible future scenarios but fear creating work that lacks genuine community ownership and engagement. I often overcome this in my projects by creating a semi-fictional narrative and performance that speculates on these scenarios while simultaneously offering a useful functioning tool. The challenge I have is how to really make it a viable product that is used by people so that it doesn’t just become speculation. How can I create, or how can I make this product public so that people genuinely want to own and keep using it outside of this performative speculation.
Gijs trying to feel at ease in a zen garden
I’m looking at ways of caring in the context of human-nature relations. When I see certain gardens, I fear the seduction of a mode of care that is based on control, like helicopter parenting or geo-engineering the Earth into a planetary zen garden. I want to feel close to things, to be challenged and to respond. But I think what scares me is that I also recognise the seduction of control. So a central struggle for me –in this theme of practising care, but also in general – is how to have a sense of agency without isolating from other bodies, so while letting go of control?
In big-scale climate responses I tend to recognise a (masculine) tendency to practice care through ordering things, limiting danger, and especially in case of Mars-dreams, isolation. I wonder how such big-gesture tendencies can be seduced into other modes of care. Could I find and feel other ideals of agency, responsibility, masculinity? In my gijs.garden project, I now gather and analyse human-nature interactions, looking for ways of caring based on trust.
I still doubt how I can apply this struggle in my process. Inviting other people to contribute or shake up my ‘ordered’ grid? No, more open: I would like to invite you, dear reader, if you noticed something that bothered you about this project, or the general professional intimacy, to try some confidance and send me an email. Critique is care lol.
🏰 Flag tower
> Jack has been working on a narrative flag making project with the community of Vreewijk, Rotterdam South as part of Janneke Derksen’s and Eros Chein’s Cultuuronderzoekers project. This will culminate in the final exhibition of The Pole, Rotterdam.
Airing out the Laundry
The Pole, Rotterdam
April 9 – May 29, 2022
Starting with a tour hosted by Jack Bardwell, that will begin at 16:00 at Het Witte Paard (Groenezoom 245, 3075 GD Rotterdam) followed by an Opening between 18:00–22:00 at The Pole (Pompstraat 40-B1, Rotterdam)
> Ben gave a lecture at Non Linear Narrative (KABK) about life after graduation. The lecture can be seen back on NLN’s Instagram.
> Kirsten and Ben are off to visit our friends Robida in Topolo at the beginning of April to think together about their rhythms, seasons, publishings and anything else that might make up their future website.
> Emma is currently collaborating with MU to develop an interactive work with young students to facilitate conversations about mental health and media consumption, don’t hesitate to send her any references that come to mind!
> Also, the videos from Emma's place-making workshop (mentioned in last newsletter) are now available to watch online at https://www.translocallives.com/films