Next Rotterdam speaker
The theme of this month’s event is Equality. What is your view on that? Would you say everyone is equal, or rather that no-one is?
Equality is an interesting term because it looks like it is objective, while it is, most of the time, subjective. Legally, until fairly recently, women were not equal to men. People of color experience the same in western society. Culturally, we say that in the Netherlands there is equality for everyone; however, when a man has many different sexual encounters in a short timespan, he is treated totally different then the woman who does the same. So, they act equally, but the social reception of their behaviour is extremely unequal. Looks like a paradox to me.
Some trans-people hope to blend in. You, on the other hand, chose to turn your own story into a mission to help and educate others. What made you follow this path?
Living in the Netherlands, I have the privilege to be open about my trans-identity without getting into serious trouble or danger. Worldwide, the amount of hate-crimes experienced by transgender people is enormous, and therefore it is understandable that people would like not to be recognised as transgender. But with that invisibility comes another problem; what about the stigma on transgender people? If transgender people are not the norm, they are VERY abnormal, or they are invisible, there is no progress to a different cultural approach of transgender people. And from there we took action, because the constraints around ‘male’, ‘female’, masculinity and femininity are not only oppressing transgender people, but they keep everyone stuck in their own little labeled box.
You strive for openness about gender diversity. Are there any questions that still offend you or you really don’t want to hear (anymore)?
Yes, there definitely are. These are questions that focus merely on the physical part of being transgender. Questions you wouldn’t ask anyone else.
But because curiosity and open communication about gender diversity are a step in the right direction I made a project out of this; The Naked Truth - a video series where everyone can ask everything they always wanted to ask a transgender person, but didn’t dare to. We answer all questions, honestly and shirtless. After all, it’s the naked truth.
What is your ultimate dream for the future? What would you like to achieve?
I would like to achieve the understanding that everyone has their own perspective, their own background and their own way of understanding the world around them. This is different from person to person, and one is not more true than the other.
Identity is something you define yourself, and also on this matter, I would love to get rid of the sublime hierarchy that is now present. White able bodied, straight, masculine men, are the winners of the cultural identity game. Femininity is a flaw, a downgrade. It shouldn’t be, and none of the variations of human beings should be treated differently.
Some people say that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. That must be depressing for anyone earning a living from writing. For Tim de Gier these words are nothing but an encouragement. Tim has a talent for writing incredibly fast, yet sticking to the point. Last year Tim was in the US as a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Now that we’ve got him back, we’re looking forward to hearing his thoughts on journalism, politics, and TRANSPARENCY. But first we asked him some questions:
What do you want the future of journalism to be like?
For me personally I hope that my country finally gets some decent online publications. We’re years behind. I always feel I have to create my own circumstances. If someone could start a good newssite or online magazine, I’d be very happy. I don’t want to be a writer that only works from paper. I want to be an online writer. But a serious one. Our online publications are still mainly people that got fired from the legacy media.
What will the future of journalism be like?
In the next five months, up to the (Dutch) elections, it will be a battleground between ways of living: between the frontrow in the big cities and the backrow outside it. They have completely different value systems. There will be anger, there will be lies, there will be racism and hard critique. But it’s a confrontation we have to make. Journalism can’t be just for the happy few.
What’s the one topic you would like to know everything about?
The future of Europe. For the first time in years it’s very interesting. And surely, if we don’t do anything, the days of the EU are counted. I hope it’ll be alright. Coverage of European issues is quite mediocre. I want more. Now I have to read the Guardian and their country just left the union, damn it.
What can artists and designers learn from journalists?
I always taken journalism as a bridge between a very complicated pile of information and the audience. Artists and designers build the same bridges, using a different medium. Journalists however, are focused on the news and therefor in a world that changes super fast. It’s amazing how fast their (our) world changed in the last fifteen years. Journalists are always looking for ways to make information more accessible. Their ways of (self)promotion and the eternal struggle to make information relevant could be very inspiring. In your own way though. Please designers and artists, don’t become journalists. But learn from them, sure.
What’s the one topic you would like to know everything about?
Joost Prins: I would like to know everything about Rotterdam Zuid. My whole life I’ve lived on the North side of the river. Of course I’ve visited Zuid a lot, but only occasionally. I never got to know what Rotterdam Zuid is about. That’s strange because almost half of the population of Rotterdam lives there! So the last couple of months I started to explore Zuid by going there on my bike and wandering around some of the beautiful neighborhoods and cultures Zuid has to offer. It almost felt as if I was in an unknown city, instead of the city I was born and raised in. I was a bit ashamed that I felt like a tourist in my own city. If you think about it, I’m not the only Rotterdammer that knows so little about it. Many people who live in Rotterdam don’t know more about Zuid then the Kop van Zuid or De Kuip.
This is strange because it has a lot of rich cultures and nice and peaceful areas. Little streets and vibrant markets with vegetables you’ve never eaten before. You have areas where you see the old harbors of the city, where new developments are taking place and where you see the old Rotterdam and feel the new. I think it should be mandatory to know more about Zuid, to get to know it better, instead of talking about it. And like my grandpa always taught me “you’re never too old to learn something new”. So South, I want to tell you this: “I’m truly sorry I didn’t see you standing there for all those years. You are beautiful. I want to know everything about you. I hope you feel the same way. Let’s be friends.”
This mini-interview is part of a series on our community. On Friday, November 4 you’re invited to join us as we’ll talk about TRANSPARENCY, in Het Industriegebouw. Signup for our newsletter, and reserve your (free) ticket!
Photo by Gaby Jongenelen fotografie
Martin van der Molen and Silas Nout are the skilled magicians behind Studio Mals, a Rotterdam based creative studio that produces eye catching images and film and beautifully crafted visual campaigns. We took the opportunity to ask Silas and Martin some questions on their work and this month’s topic MAGIC:
What’s Rotterdam’s most Magic place?
used to be located in Katendrecht. Although we moved out, we’re still in love
with that place! The Deliplein always is nice place to enjoy food and drinks!
Who do you
consider the Magician of all Magicians?
all kinds of magic designers who really inspire us. From graphic designers like
Stefan Sagmeister to filmmakers like Aardman. It’s all over the place really.
Whats most inspiring to us are people that go for it all the way. That
unlimited energy to create something incredible is really inspiring!
tell us about a trick that failed?
We fail all
the time! When making the stuff we do by hand, a lot goes wrong. We have to
improvise to make it work. For Lipton we shot commercials and that didn’t
always go smooth! You can watch some behind the scenes and see things don’t
always go right the first time!
Joren Joshua is a Rotterdam-based illustrator. You might recognize his work or maybe you just thought you did, and mistook his girlfriend’s (Ilse Weisfelt) mural for Joren’s. Its not only their styles that blend in every so often. That’s why Joren will be speaking on this month’s global theme: LOVE.
What is it like to collaborate with your girlfriend on projects?
Some days it’s the best thing in the world, other moments it’s just all feels like a really bad idea. It’s actually very cool to share the same interests and love for a certain subject. Due to that we can put a great deal of time into it. We experience lots of things together because of our work and we help each other out and strengthen our skills. It relaxing when you have extra time to spend with each other. Not everyone can take his colleague back home at the end of the day! But projects can also involve complex issues or setbacks and, of course, compromises. We both have a strong will, so that can cause clashes. Sometimes that happens during our design stage. Then we like each other just a little bit less. In the end of the day, it’s always easier to work together than to cook together!
What do you like best in working with Ilse?
Being a professional illustrator can be lonely, without peers. You’ll often be working at your desk or kitchen table. Your work or style is often quite personal, so all in all you’re spending a lot of time by yourself. Regarding that I totally don’t fit into this profession. I really like to be in a social environment, so I can interact. Collaborating on larger projects, like walls, with Ilse is like getting into an adventure. You share all the experiences during the process, the problems that you encounter and the things you come up with. You can then look back at these memories and results together. A bit similar to a vacation.
If you could choose anyone to professionally cheat with, who would it be?
Haha, I think this kind of cheating is still tolerated in our relationship. But let me check, just to be sure…! I don’t really have a role model. Most of my friends work within the creative sector, and I would always like to enter into a partnership with them. I believe that that chemistry can work well. It would always be an adventure!
What place in Rotterdam do you love the most and why?
I always try to go to new places. Rotterdam’s diversity made me want to move over here - the combination of old and new, chic and industrial and many nationalities. These are things that really excite me! I often feel like I’m in a foreign city. It’s like I’m travelling. And it’s a very relaxing feeling to then travel to your studio on a Monday morning.
To recall a specific spot, we live close to the ‘Dakpark’ in West. That’s a very well managed park, a bit futuristic, very open with a view of the cranes of the port and super beautiful industrial buildings. Since we have no garden or balcony it’s a perfect base for sitting, thinking or drinking a beer.
Dig into the past of our speaker, Andrew Spitz, and you’ll be surprised how versatile a man can be. Andrew is a Jack of all trades, and also a master of one: running FROLIC studio! Together with his co-founder Ruben van Vleuten, he designs meaningful and innovative products. Andrew often takes his cue from small and big problems - things that are broken. This also happens to be the global theme of June: BROKEN. We took the opportunity to get to know Andrew a bit better in advance.
You were born in Monaco, then lived in Africa, Korea, Scotland, USA, Denmark and many other countries. What is it like to let go of everything you know so well?
Living in new places often meant I had to start over many things. After every new move I had to get used to a new culture and needed to find new friends. I think that those experiences help me today in designing. As a designer you’re always creating into a new context. Through these personal experiences I can now put myself much easier into other people’s shoes.
What one thing are you really proud to have fixed?
When I was young in France, I was failing school so badly. I wasn’t fitting within the system and at a certain point I even got expelled. Only in South Africa I managed to get back in. Got my grades up and finally managed to get my exams. I’m really glad I got everything sorted out then!
I noticed you were a very active skydiver. Did those experiences have any effect on your current work as a designer?
Yes! Well in a way: at a young age I was really into skydiving. I wanted to capture our flights and so I became a skydiving cameraman. I really got into the camera work, and I decided to study film. I went to film school thinking that I would be doing cinematography, but I’m colourblind and that turned out to be a bad match. Really getting into things that excite me is something I do up till today. At the time I wanted to know everything about the best canopy (parachute), right now in a similar fashion I totally get into certain technologies.
At first sight one might be easily deceived by the appearances of Agi Haines. She may seem a friendly and nice woman, but have a closer look at her work and you’ll be surprised by modified baby faces, flying brains and autonomous organs…
Agi is a speculative designer. She will challenge REALITY (the global theme of May). We asked her some questions. Get yourself prepared!
Your body manipulations may seem disturbing. Are our brains flexible enough to feel attracted to them?
There has been a few mixed reactions to some of the pieces of work I have made, some of the people I have discussed it with seem very opposed to the point where they are angered, others feel as though we should be utilizing it already, but I myself am still unsure. I have never met anyone yet who actively wants one themselves. I hope wholly the artwork may increase the flexibility of our brains to think more about these kinds of topics and the implications of the research that is going into them.
What would you want to change about your own body?
If I could I would love to enhance my brain to be more intelligent, or more productive. Regarding a more physical enhancement it would be fantastic to be able to fly, even though I am afraid of heights! Although I do often think shampoo for your wings would probably be very expensive.
When and how did you come to start challenging the current reality of our bodies?
I think I perhaps always have without knowing it, and I think other people do as well. As children, people often wonder why they can’t fly, but birds can, then as teenagers people become more self aware and start doing things such as dying their hair or getting body piercings. All of these things, which I also went through, seem to challenge the bounds of the body.
As the creator, can you imagine yourself to fall in love with a grown up version of your gill-featured baby?
Yes, I do not see why not, I think if this type of modification ever became socially acceptable we may not even see it as unusual at all, for example it seems to have become quite acceptable to have plastic inserted into your breast, and in fact this seems to be desirable by many. I feel as though if you think too much about any part of the body it seems extremely weird, for example we have a hole in our face that we put foreign objects in and they disappear! We are strange creatures as it is.
If you were god, and you could change ONE thing about the shape of our bodies, what would our bodies look like?
I have been recently researching into how modifying the brain may impact behavior, and although I definitely believe everyone should have the freedom to act and do as they feel, I do often wonder if some more damaging behavior would be better to eradicate. For example could you change the shape of the human brain and prevent depression, or anxiety in order to enhance well-being. This kind of research does really scare me, but it is fascinating that you may be able to make a physical change that can impact our thoughts and actions in this drastic way.
A decision to start a project is a risk, and so is deciding on the right moment to wrap up the efforts one puts into it. That’s why Johannes Langkamp has developed a special technique for working on supposedly “silly ideas”.
Do it fast!
Johannes Langkamp is a new media artist based in Rotterdam. Originally from Germany, he studied fine arts in Enschede, but also in London and Wellington. You can see his work in “Project Rotterdam” a special exhibition of Rotterdam artists at the Boijmans van Beuningen museum. You can see Johannes himself on April 29th, when he will talk on this month’s topic of RISK. But first we asked him some questions:
As an artist, do you consider yourself to take a lot of risks within your work?
When I was a child, I often got sick. I felt my life back then was boring - without any risks. Living a life without risks is the opposite of what I truly enjoy: feeling absolutely free! So I was very aware that I missed out a lot.
After graduating high school, I was given the opportunity to study in an art academy. So I took the plunge. And I must say, I really, really enjoyed it! I felt so free there, I was creating whatever I wanted to make. I wasn’t thinking about risks; I went out, exploring.
It often happens that I see a boring object, but in my mind it sparks a new idea. The simpler the better. Sometimes, something is so simple and stupid I just have to immediately execute it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have dared spending my time on it. I believe that the more effort you put into something the more important it may feel; and so you better feel that the time you spent on it was worthwhile. That’s why I always create my video-sketches in a short amount of time.
Can you tell us a bit about your process when you are going to work on a new project?
I often come up with new ideas at night and most likely I would want to figure out how it will look like, so I scribble it down. The next day I plan how much time it would cost to execute the idea. If it takes a lot of time, I might discuss the idea over with someone else to see if there’s a way to fix it; but probably I will focus on something else. I do have this one journal with all my ideas from the previous years. They are there, just waiting to be exposed on my big gallery show! Just wait three more years. Or maybe I’ll accidentally become rich and can get support to build those projects. You never know!
Sometimes, “art-wise” a project may seem ready. But technically it still requires a lot more time to get the necessary execution to work longer than a day. Sure, this can be frustrating. But I do feel a big responsibility towards my own work, and I think a project can only exist when it is being exhibit. So I put all my energy into getting that done.
In your life: what’s the biggest risk you ever took? And do you regret it, or did it pay off?
In 2012, I decided to ask for help more often both for personal and professional things. At art academy I got pretty used to figuring everything out by myself; but I realized that doesn’t always work well in the outside world.
That period I lived in the same place where I worked. To tell the truth, I almost never went out of my house/atelier anymore. My life was really small, and I didn’t see any friends or outsiders. Then one day I realized I tried to become friends with the mailman, just to have some social interaction. At that moment I decided to change things.
It felt like a big risk to start talking about my feelings and thoughts again. I needed help but I just wasn’t comfortable about asking help from others. Eventually, I started asking for help and it has definitely changed my life in a positive way. I can say that it was worth taking the risk!
Walk around Rotterdam and you’re trespassing the canvas of Annemieke Fontein. She is the head of urbanism and landscape architecture at the Municipality of Rotterdam. Educated as a landscape architect, Annemieke is the person in control of everything green in our city. But actually, that would sell her short. Talk with someone born and raised in Rotterdam, and he or she will tell you that this city has transformed a lot. Although not alone, Annemieke is certainly accredited for this big transformation. That’s why we’ve invited her for this CreativeMornings on the topic of CHANGE:
In both your personal and professional life, what CHANGE has made the biggest impact?
To start, and later to stop travelling. I grew up as youngest child of family of seven. Our parents stimulated us to see more of the world, because Holland is a small country in a big world. I stopped traveling when I decided that I had consumed enough beauty and differences and wanted to add something to the world, to build on something in a more structural way. Besides, of course, finding love and getting children.
Where is the best place in Rotterdam to see your signature reflected in the city?
On the green quays. I didn’t design them myself though. I did the supervision. It took me many years to get the attention on the quays, get them on the agenda and obtain financing for them. A more personal design signature, you can find in Rotterdam Zuid, in Zuiderpark, one of our three city parks whose reconstruction I worked on in the ‘90s.
Can you share what you love the most about Rotterdam?
The open atmosphere. Physically speaking I love the river, the boulevards and the insides of different hidden neighborhoods. Mentally I like the openness of a big group of inhabitants and their love and proudness of the city, of the architecture and of Feyenoord.
What one thing in the city would you really like to CHANGE?
The rivers. Rotterdam is a city in the delta, but we are not using and seeing enough of this quality. The rivers Nieuwe Maas, Rotte & Schie can be far more natural, green, attractive and recreational, so that all the people in Rotterdam would visit, use and stroll along them more.
You can ask Ebele Wybenga everything on topics ranging from nude photography to what is in vogue in Japan. If you would walk him by (think trenchcoat and corduroys), you might mistake him for a journalist. Well actually, you would be right. And wrong. Ebele contributes to the weekend edition of newspaper NRC Handelsblad and is a columnist for Adformatie, but he also co-founder of Hearhear: "a new type of media company connecting confident brands and critical minds“. In other words Ebele is in the industry of branded journalism. We turned tables and took the opportunity to ask Ebele some questions on his work and this month’s topic of ETHICS:
As a journalist, what is it like to collaborate with an advertising agency?
If I think about it, only 20% of my time I work as a journalist. At Hearhear, I am not a journalist. My role is to come up with unique storytelling ideas and discovering the right writers, photographers and documentary filmmakers to narrate them.
Hearhear is a collaboration with ad agency Dawn. We’re housed in the same office too. Dawn develops strategies for brands and advertising campaigns. To this, Hearhear adds in-depth stories that reflect the point-of-view of a brand, targeting an influential audience.
I truly enjoy collaborating with an advertising agency. Usually, clients would reel me in a project once the concept was completed. But today it’s the opposite. I now get involved in the earliest stages of developing a brand’s strategy.
In your life as a creative entrepreneur, have you ever hesitated to accept a client from an ethical perspective?
No. But if the Russian government would ask us to write and promote an article about the “true” face of Russia, well then I would kindly pass the offer! In earnest, with all the work that I am involved in, what matters to me most is that the result doesn’t deceive the audience. That’s where my responsibility lies. I don’t have control or a total overview of every activity of the organizations and companies that I work for.
What is one thing you look forward to in the future of journalism?
People paying for quality journalism again: I believe this would create a better distinction between independent journalism on one hand, and stories with a commercial or public relations interest on the other.
Citizens have to get used to the fact that if there not paying for a story, there will usually be a second agenda lurking behind it. To persuade them to buy something, support a cause or think positively about a company. The paywalls that quality newpapers like The New York Times, The Financial Times and NRC Handelsblad have successfully erected and ad-free initiatives like Blende and De Correspondent help to shape this new media landscape.
Can you recommend us your “must read” branded content article? (This could be one of your articles, but it isn’t necessary. And please don’t forget to tell us why this is a must read.
Without a doubt that would have to be The Reach of War by Doctors Without Borders! I highly recommend this to everyone. It’s a well written, more than 5,000 words, multimedia story, translated into nine languages. What really fascinates me about The Reach of War is the application of appropriate journalistic techniques, all in the interests of Doctors Without Borders. Truly impeccable!