Have yourself a Meelberg summer

By Vincent Meelberg

– Groove: A Phenomenology of Rhythmic
– Tiger C. Roholt (New York: Bloomsbury 214). A phenomenological study of
what I consider one of the most important aspects of music: groove.

– In the Blink of an Ear: Toward a
Non-Cochlear Sonic Art
– Seth
Kim-Cohen (New York: Bloomsbury 2009). And: 
The Tone of Our Times: Sound, Sense,
Economy, and Ecology
(Cambridge: MIT Press 2014). Two books on sound, but
discussed from different perspectives: art and ecology, respectively.

– Speaking Code: Coding as Aesthetic and
Political Expression
– Geoff Cox (Cambridge: MIT Press 2013). And: Code/Space: Software and Everyday Life – Rob
Kitchin and Martin Dodge (Cambridge: MIT Press 2011). 
Two books on another phenomenon
that I am fascinated with: software. These books approach software from a
cultural studies perspective.

Now trending: the transgender model

By Lianne

The May 2015 issue of US Vogue
(Vol. 222) featured the first transgender model in the history (132 years!) of
its existence: Andreja Pejic. That same month, IMG Models – one of the biggest
modelling agencies worldwide – announced transgender actress, writer and model Hari Nef as the
newest addition to its roll. Two months later, H&M sister brand ‘&
Other Stories’ followed the example of brands like Barneys and Make Up For Ever by launching an advertising campaign featuring transgender models Valentijn De Hingh and Hari Nef. And last week, it
was all over the news when Dutch model Loiza Lamers was crowned the first-ever transgender winner of the ‘Next Top Model’ television franchise. Has the fashion industry
suddenly become all trans-friendly?


Although the vocabulary used to describe this trend may fool you into believing
otherwise, the presence of transgender models in fashion imagery is not exactly as new as it seems. In the 1960s, after going through the horrors of
bullying, assault, failed suicide attempts, and (electric, drug, hormone)
treatment in a mental institution, April Ashley worked as a professional model in Britain until the
news about her gender confirmation surgery soon made an end to her professional career. In 1991,
the British model Caroline “Tula” Cossey became famous as the first trans women to pose for Playboy.

It may not be
an entirely new phenomenon, but in many ways the recent rise and success of the
transgender model does seem groundbreaking. The increasing visibility of trans
models such as Valentijn De Hingh, Lea T, and Andreja Pejic on the runway, and
in print and media seems to contribute to – or at least coincide with – a broader, cultural and political mainstreaming of
transgender identity
. As there are
but few role models and spokespersons for the transgender community, their
visibility is literally of vital importance in raising awareness and advancing tolerance.

the current ‘trans model trend’ also has its downside. Many of the captions,
press releases, interviews, and statements appearing alongside all the
seemingly trans-friendly fashion imagery testify to a less trans-tolerant
climate, to say the least. LGBT (!) news site The Advocate, for example, blatantly notes that the ‘& Other
Stories’ campaign shows “that trans people are beautiful, too”, while Elle headed
that Pejic modelled for a beauty brand “And looks gorgeous doing it”.

As much as I
would love to believe that the recent success of the transgender model is the
definite harbinger of a more gender-diverse fashion industry, I can’t help but
notice the accompanying, stigmatizing discourse of the transgender model as an
‘object of curiosity’. Like Pejic, I nonetheless hope that the trans model trend will
turn out to be much more than just another case of cynical casting, clever
marketing, or fashion tokenism.  

– Lianne
Toussaint is a PhD candidate at the Department of Cultural Studies of the
Radboud University in Nijmegen. Her research is part of collaborative
NWO-funded project ‘Crafting Wearables’.

– IMAGE: Andreja
Pejic for Dossier, Issue 7, Spring
2011. Photography by Collier Schorr, Styling by James Valeri, Hair by Holly Smith,
Makeup by Ozzy Salvatierra, Shirts and Pants by Haider Ackermann: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nielleborges/6196657940/in/photostream/

Blasted by sounds

by Vincent Meelberg


Music has the potentiality
to move us, sometimes quite literally so. It incites us to dance, triggers emotions,
or helps us remember. Music simply makes us feel something. Listening to music
is not only a mental activity, but a physical one as well. This is not only
noticeable when one listens to very loud
. Soft music can have
a similar impact as well. Yet, there are people who claim that music does
nothing to them. They believe to be insensitive to the moving powers of music. 

As of today, it might be more
difficult to sustain that claim. Salk Institute scientists have found a way to control the brain
cells of a tiny nematode worm through ultrasound.
No devices needed to be attached to the poor creature; it was all done by
simply blasting ultrasonic waves to the worm. Through these sound bursts the
scientist were able to change the worm’s direction. Neural activity thus was
triggered from a distance, by using sounds that penetrate the worm’s body. The
scientists expect that it will eventually also be possible to do this with
larger animals, including humans. 

The intrusive powers of
music and sound isn’t a recent discovery. Steve Goodman, also known as Kode9, for instance, wrote
an excellent book on sonic warfare. And one only needs
to stand in an elevator and listen to the
music played there
to realize how
intrusive, and nerve wrecking, sound and music can be. The fact, however, that
sound can literally change our physical constitution and manipulate and control
our movements does seem to make the claims regarding the influencing powers of
music on consumers, as articulated by companies such as Mood Media,
much more believable, and a bit scary as well…

Image by https://www.flickr.com/photos/76999192@N06/ via https://flic.kr/p/ezQdZm under creative commons.

Advertenties, abonnees en de ontdekking van ‘objectief’ nieuws in de 19de eeuw.

Promovendus Thomas Smits vraagt zich op zijn blog


af wat 21ste eeuwse kranten van hun 19e eeuwse voorgangers kunnen leren over abonnees, adverteerders en paywalls.

Kranten hebben vorig jaar wereldwijd voor het eerst meer
verdiend met abonnementen en losse verkoop dan met reclame, blijkt uit een
van de internationale kranten organisatie WAN-Ifra naar de financiering
van geschreven nieuwsmedia. Opvallend zijn de woorden ‘voor het eerst’. Het
grootste deel van de negentiende eeuw – de eeuw waarin niet alleen de huidige
vorm van de krant maar ook van ‘het nieuws’ als concept ontstond – waren lezers
immers belangrijker voor de financiering van de krant dan advertenties. Dat er
een omslag plaatsvond naar advertenties als belangrijkste inkomstenbron, stimuleerde
volgens veel historici het ontstaan van het moderne begrip van nieuws en de beroepsethiek
van de journalist. Wat kan negentiende-eeuwse geschiedenis ons leren over de
toekomst van nieuwsmedia in onze eigen tijden?

Verder Lezen…

Shaping Ships

By Laszlo Muntean 

Walking along London’s Victoria Embankment one cannot help
but notice a UFO, in this case an unidentified floating object. Upon closer
inspection (and use of reason) the object reveals itself as a ship featuring a
variety of forms and colors painted all over its hull and superstructure. The
ship is the HMS President, built in
1918, and covered with “dazzle painting” by German artist Tobias Rehberger in
July last year.


Besides the HMS
two other ships have received similar treatment by renowned artists
Peter Blake and Carlos Cruz-Diez as part of the commemorations of the 100th
anniversary of World War I. For dazzle painting is a type of camouflage used
primarily by the British and the American navy during the Great War.

If camouflage is meant to conceal an object, how can
something so spectacular serve this purpose? Indeed, dazzle painting is the
opposite of camouflage that allows an object to blend into its environment. With
the growing threat of submarine attacks navy officials soon realized the
impossibility of concealing any vessel at the high seas. What seems like a
counterproductive attempt at camouflage, the role of dazzle painting was
nothing else but to disrupt the shape of a ship so as to make it difficult to
identify its size, speed, and course.

By no means a surprise, many Cubist artists soon found
themselves in the ranks of the navy, the army. Paul Klee, for instance, painted
camouflage on German airplanes, while the English vorticist Edward Wadsworth produced
a series of paintings depicting dazzle painted ships in harbor, drawing on his
wartime experience as a camoufleur.


Whether the patterns that they designed had ever
managed to dazzle the eyes of the enemy is debatable. By World War II, with the
advance of aerial warfare, the heyday of dazzle painting was already over. For
an in-depth study of the subject consult the works of professor of graphic
design Roy Behrens, who has written extensively on the intersections of art and
camouflage. The trend known as “Razzle Dazzle,” however, rolled on into the
roaring ‘20s in the form of fashion. The June 15, 1919 issue of the New York Tribune, for instance, features
a photograph of three women wearing dazzle-patterned swimsuits as “the newest

With Rehberger’s re-shaping of the HMS President dazzle painting has
acquired a commemorative function. His design is, however, more intricate than the
ones suggested by photographs of the same ship in 1918. What appears as a maze
of pipes and ducts seems to expose the ship’s interior from multiple
perspectives. David Kew’s short film Dazzle
Ship London
uses Rehberger’s project as a platform to delve into the
interrelation of art and camouflage. In its dazzling appearance the ship can be
visited until 31 July 2015.  

Image credits: via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_President_(1918)#/media/File:HMS_President_Dazzle_2.jpg and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Wadsworth#/media/File:Dazzle-ships_in_Drydock_at_Liverpool.jpg

A Hollow Victory for the arts

By Rutger Helmers


I don’t know how many of you follow
operatic life in Novosibirsk, Russia, but I know I have been, lately. This February,
a local production of Wagner’s Tannhäuser
in Russia’s third largest city became the focal point of fierce debate when
promising young director Timofey Kulyabin and the manager of the Novosibirsk
Opera Boris Mezdrich were charged of ‘intentional public desecration of objects
of religious worship,’ following a law introduced in 2013 – shortly after the
Pussy Riot trials – intended to protect the ‘feelings of believers’. The case
appears symptomatic for the influence of the Orthodox Church in Russian state
policy in recent years, as well as the authorities’ tightening control over
various media, which now apparently also affects opera.

The law in question, which is not very
clear in its definitions, may have implications for many fields of culture and
society. I was confronted with it myself some time ago, when I requested
permission to use a nineteenth-century image from a Russian archive, and was required
to confirm that I would do so without any ‘slogans related to the realization
of extremist or terrorist activity’, without ‘any attributes or symbols similar
to Nazi attributes’, without employing ‘the state symbols of the Russian
Federation (the state coat of arms, flag, and hymn)’, and finally, ‘without
offending the feelings of the faithful.’ It was the last clause that worried me
the most: it was a promise that seemed almost impossible to keep given the
sheer number of people subscribing to one religion or another.

The feelings of believers, of course, have
been very much on our minds lately, since the horrible attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. And it seems the
contemporary debate about the freedom of expression is inextricably mixed up
with the notion of terrorism, as opponents of Kulyabin’s Tannhäuser invoked the Charlie
attacks to press their case. Duma member Yaroslav
, who heartily supported the prosecution of Kulyabin and Mezdrich,
argued that this would serve to deter others from following their example, and
insinuated that their behaviour might otherwise ‘foster the desire to seek
retribution and commit terrorist acts’ among the hurt believers.

Kulyabin’s production was of the kind often
decried as director’s theatre by conservative operagoers: Wagner’s opera was
given a contemporary setting in which the eponymous hero Tannhäuser was represented
as a film director shooting a movie called Venus’s
about the early life of Jesus, which involved both religious imagery
and nudity. The production, it appears, was well received by audiences and the
press, until the Novosibirsk metropolitan Tikhon filed a complaint, claiming he
had received many reports from shocked members of his congregation. Several
thousands of Orthodox activists took to the streets, demanding that the
authorities would respect their feelings, artists throughout Russia rallied for
support of Kulyabin and Mezdrich. The affair is reminiscent of recent
controversial productions elsewhere, like the Düsseldorf
in 2013, which was rife with Holocaust-imagery, or the
Metropolitan Opera’s staging of John Adams’ The Death of Klinghoffer last October, which its opponents
denounce as anti-Semitic and pro-terrorist. But as far as I know, in neither of
these cases did the director risk a three-year jail sentence. Could it be, I
wondered, that an opera performance would acquire the same resonance as Pussy
Riot’s punk-rock provocations?

Eventually, on March 10th, the Novosibirsk
court decided to drop the case against Kulyabin and Mezdrich, and the affair
seemed to end well for the proponents of artistic freedom. It was a hollow
victory, however, as the Ministry of Culture responded by sacking Mezdrich. The
Ministry is struggling to maintain a neutral stance and called for the Orthodox
activists to cease their public protests; at the same time, however, Putin’s
press officer Dmitry Peskov
declared that the state had the right to expect that productions by subsidized
collectives ‘would not cause such an acute reaction from public opinion’.

The dust hasn’t settled just yet. This
week, a stand of the Novosibirsk Opera was found vandalized with the text ‘For
Tannhäuser’, and critics continue to question the government’s position: if the
Ministry of Culture is in fact opposed to censorship, they ask, why would they
continue to put the screws on the arts?

Democratic Scholarship?

By Edwin van Meerkerk


It’s no joke: starting April 1st, the Dutch are asked to suggest topics for
scientific and scholarly research via a national website, launched by a coalition of the
national Confederation of Industry and Employers VNO-NCW, the Association of Universities
in the Netherlands
the Royal Academy of Sciences, and the national research council
NWO. According to its website, the
Science Agenda ‘consolidates the themes that science
will focus on in the coming years.’

Under the
guise of a democratising measure, the autonomy of academia is being curtailed.
When the overarching science policy of which this agenda is part was launched
several months ago, newspapers received dozens of letters to the editor by scholars denouncing the
measures as inappropriate and threatening to the quality of Dutch research.
While it is too late to stop the agenda, the launching of the crowdsourcing
website helps us to understand what is really happening.

In all
western nations, the arts and sciences have been treated as related domains
throughout the long nineteenth century. Even though the gap has widened since
World War II, their position vis a vis politics and government remains largely
the same. Yet, while in the arts this relationship has been defined in clear
frames, known in Britain as the ‘Arm’s Lenght Principle’, there is no official
position regarding the influence of politics on the academic agenda. Still,
what is happening to universities today, only mirrors what has happend to the
arts over the pas few decades.

Dutch prime minister Johan Rudolf Thorbecke famously stated that “De regering
is geen oordeelaar van wetenschap en kunst” – the government does not judge
science or art. This phrase, generally referred to as the Thorbecke Adage, has
been used to prevent the government from making artistic decisions, while at
the same time legitimising the construction of a large bureaucratic apparatus
aimed at indirect control over the arts. With the Science Agenda, politics is
looking for the same kind of back door into academia.

Image via http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7a/Johan_Heinrich_Neuman_-_Johan_Rudolf_Thorbecke.jpg

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Can’t imagine the world without music…

By Puck Wildschut


Thelast 15 years has seen a surge in speculative popular fiction focusing on theexistence of gods and mythical creatures trough a kind of thoughtform: If a
great enough number of people believe in the actuality of certain higher beings
deeply, passionately and for a prolonged amount of time, these beings are
enabled to ‘exist’, to intrude onto the physical plane of mankind and work
their not always so benign magic. In American
(2001), – soon to be transformed into another major fantasy
 – Neil Gaiman explores numerous pantheon’s in this way, from the
ancient Egyptians’ to modern day media-goddesses; In his incredibly
entertaining urban fantasy series The Iron
Druid Chronicles
(2011- ongoing), Kevin Hearne makes the last remaining
Druid on earth battle witches, cooperate with vampires, and deal with Norse
gods and Native American tricksters; And traces of thoughtform motives can be
seen in the universes of such bestselling series as Jims Butcher’s The Dresden Files (2000 – ongoing) and
Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series
(2012 – ongoing).

power of thoughtform as a literary theme, however, is not restricted to novels.
Last January, at the 2015 Image Expo in San Francisco, it was announced that a
third series of the comic book (or graphic novel, whatever suits your fancy) Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie
McKelvie is to be published in August of this year. Its first volume Rue Britannia (2006-2007) tells the
story of the highly unlikeable chauvinist David Kohl, who is a phonomancer, a
rare kind of magician who feeds on people’s love for a certain type of music
and who can channel that love for magical use. Kohl is facing a dilemma: His
specific drug is Britpop, but suddenly the world appears to be slowly
forgetting its existence, and therewith Kohl’s, since he is kept alive by their
remembering. Kohl then starts on a literal trip down memory lane to save
Britpop, ensuring that not only he himself does not disappear, but, more
importantly in his eyes, people will still remember Kenickie as being the ultimate
goddesses of Britpop, that the mysterious disappearance of Manic Street
Preachers’ Richey Edwards
will makes sure he will always be remembered… and
that (praise the good Lord!) people will not start thinking of those
proto-hipsters of Kula Shaker as actual Britpop. Phonogram is a mixed read: Kohl is one of the most unsympathetic
characters I have ever come across, but he is redeemed by his love for music.
Every reader of Phonogram, Britpop
fan or no, will be able to connect
with Kohl’s nostalgic longing for those days when you were being immersed into
a certain music scene for the first time in your life and your personal gods
came into existence – an experience that will form you, and maybe even haunt
you, for the rest of your days.

current time in history, we might say, is an especially grim one, with
ideological wars raging all over the world, people becoming more and more connected
through electronics but less and less connected as human beings, and
differences are often more important than similarities. The gods we believe in,
if we do at all, are gods of hate and anguish – at least, those are the gods
that haunt our news bulletins. ISIS fighters destroy Muslim art in the world’s
museums, while Feyenoord supporters trash ancient Rome’s relics in Italy’s
capital. Their gods of religion and sports are ‘thoughtformed’ by annihilation,
hate and oppression, created through acts of barbarism rather than art.

Phonogram’s gods, on the other hand,
are thought into existence by love, admiration and creativity; and above all by
people’s passion for music. And that is why I am glad the Phonogram’s saga continues, while, as an avid reader of speculative
fiction, I believe the theme of thoughtform is becoming rather a cliché. Phonogram shows precisely what it is to
be human, to truly have faith in something outside of ourselves, and most
importantly, it shows that art, in this case music, is a symbol of hope in a
time when the world is so off-balance. Maybe, if the people of this world could
believe just a little harder, a little more passionately, in the gods we hear
on our radio’s, those we see expressed on canvases in our museums, those we see
on the stages of our theaters and encounter in the words of stories, the world
could be just that bit more of a
hopeful place. So if you stumble upon Phonogram’s
next installment ‘The Immaterial Girl’ somewhere this summer, don’t hesitate to
give a go; it might just change the world.

Image via: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phonogramcover2.png