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CODE’s ‘edit and reconstruct’ issue

CODE21LR-379x469The spring/summer 2012 issue of CODE magazine has been out for a while.

Besides managing as managing editor, I wrote a travel feature about grey – but mighty and magical – Kaliningrad. This city-formerly-known-as-Königsberg is now a dislocated blob of Russia in the heart of the EU, and offers crash courses in Teutonic Knights, WWII, the Cold War and how to build arts scenes out of freaking nothing. It’s also got killer beaches and drunken pine trees.

I also had the honour of interviewing Magnum Force of Street Style (and cover boy) Nick Wooster, as well as the Dutch artist/designer Joep van Lieshout. As founder of Atelier van Lieshout, Joep has brought the world fully-realised ‘Free States’, slave camps and rectum bars. Now he’s just come out with a line of unisex handbags. So I asked him if he was undermining his past work, playing with people’s minds or just being hilarious – he definitely proved to be hilarious. He also had interesting things to say about order vs. chaos.

This issue also has features from two of my favourite writers: Sarah Gehrke (on Noses) and Floris Dogterom (on doodle tattoos). And the design is by the inspired lads of Het Echte Werk. So check, check, check it out. It’s now available at the world’s better mag shops – including Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum in Amsterdam.

Read about CODE’s ‘2012 Survival Kit’ issue here.

Posted 9 years, 6 months ago.

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Heading to Berlin…

























Posted 9 years, 7 months ago.

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Road to Gagarin presents the short film ‘The First Yugoslavian Cosmonaut’ on the 51st anniversary of human space flight.

On 12 April 1961, the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-68) yelled ‘Off we go!’ as he was blasted off from a dusty steppe in Kazakhstan to become the first human in space.

This historical event made a Belgrade boy start dreaming of becoming Yugoslavian Cosmonaut #1…

Road to Gagarin is a project by photographer/film-maker Rene Nuijens and I. By documenting the major settings of the bizarre and dramatic life of Yuri, we are out to capture the essence of the man who is dead, and his myth which is very much alive – and still inspiring much love, art and conspiracy theories. Yuri has not only been our rocket into Russia, but also Cuba.

Now it’s time to visit Yuri Gagarin Boulevard in Novi Belgrade, Serbia. Let’s all lay flowers.

Posted 9 years, 8 months ago.

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I got to preach about the meaning of value to the future business elite of the Netherlands. Nice work when you can get it. Read it on page 6 in the fall/winter issue of Nyenrode Now. Or below…

By Steve Korver

‘Price is what you pay, value is what you get,’ the financier Warren Buffet once observed when asked for the meaning of value. When mere mortals are posed the same question, we tend to come up with repackaged clichés: ‘It’s all relative’, ‘Value is in the eye of the beholder’, ‘Everything is worth nothing without your health’… In short, value appears to be a rather random construct. And recent global financial disasters can largely be explained in terms of people and institutions being much too arbitrary – or plain tricky – in how they establish ‘value’. Now much of the world is left wondering what it actually means.

Happily, philosophers have sweated for millennia about the concept. Plato made the distinction between ‘instrumental value’ (something that can be used to get something else, such as cash, gold and real estate) and ‘intrinsic value’ (something that is worth having in itself, such as friends, family and a sense of home). Currently, many explain the current economic and environmental realities in terms of our nasty habit of overemphasizing the instrumental over the intrinsic. It is certainly impossible to deny that there has been a hidden price to many human activities. There’s some truth in saying: ‘The only time you know the true value of something is when you lose it.’

Many things blur the line between the instrumental and the intrinsic. A common example is a green, wild and dynamic natural ecosystem which has obvious intrinsic value in its beauty, but can also be taken apart into resources of instrumental value. Another example is an education. Studying can expand one’s mind to a world of possibilities but it can also aid you in getting a well-paid leadership position. If you manage to balance the two, voila: you are, or could be, a successful entrepreneur.

Information, partnerships, networks, diversity and sustainability… they’re all things that have added value from the way they can surf the wave between the intrinsic and the instrumental. Perhaps it would be wiser for us to bank more on those things that don’t qualify to be locked up in a bank.

The final word, for human value, is for the writer F Scott Fitzgerald. He advised: ‘What we must decide is how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.’ Perhaps there’s even value in clichés.

Posted 9 years, 11 months ago.

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[Spoiler alert: Not recommended reading for those who believe in Santa Claus.]

Each year in the Netherlands during the Christmas season, the tone around the debate on whether Zwarte Piet (‘Black Peter’) is a form of racism gets darker. This year, the discourse was further inflamed by the rather violent arrest of ten protesters with ‘Black Peter is Racism’ t-shirts and the news that the Dutch-Canadian community in Vancouver decided to no longer allow Black Peters in their annual Sinterklaas (St Nicolas) procession. Meanwhile many of the Dutch-Dutch just get increasingly defensive as they treat such talk as a threat against their culture.

For the outsider, it remains a curious tradition: countless Dutch adults putting on black face, smearing on red, red lipstick, popping on a wig of kinky hair and adorning their ears with large golden hoops – and doing all this without any sense of malice. Then they hit the streets like a pack of highly caffeinated Al Jolsons to help St. Nick distribute sweets to children.  Years ago, a visiting friend and I came across such a posse. I was long used to it, but my friend’s jaw hit the ground in disbelief – and this is a man who has witnessed much weirdness worldwide. ‘What is this minstrel madness?!?’ he asked flabbergasted. (Not long after while in Russia our roles were reversed in a strange and convoluted way when we were waiting at a backwoods train station and some skinheads came to confront my friend about the colour of his skin. He stayed cool and dealt with the situation. I just stood there. Totally flabbergasted.)

Local Dutch cultural history only goes so far in giving my friend a reasonable explanation behind the Black Peter tradition. Continue Reading…

Posted 10 years ago.


The Hole Report (or at least part of it)

Yesterday I had a night full of holes. And it wasn’t about drinking to excess, but about attending the ‘On Portable Holes and Other Containers’ night at Felix Meritis organised by Paleisje voor Volksvlijt. Artists, philosophers, musicians and writers gathered to present and ponder such questions as ‘Is a hole a container?’, ‘How do we talk about something that does not exist?’ and ‘If you buy a donut, are you also buying the hole?’

It was actually quite enlightening. Lately I’ve been looking for new ways to perceive reality, and holes might just be the ticket. But I must admit I am still a little stuck on: ‘How do you successfully describe a knotted hole without refering to the immaterial?”

The night was partially inspired by the excellent and often hilarious book Gaten & andere dingen die er niet zijn [‘Holes and other things that are not there’] by the Easy Alohas. This DJ duo, comprised of Bas Albers and Gerard Janssen, were on hand for what must have been one of their easiest gigs ever: playing silence – or rather a mash-up of John Cage’s ‘4’33”’ and Mike Batt’s ‘One Minute Silence’. Because there was no turntable, the Alohas were forced at the last minute to download these tracks of nothingness from iTunes. This also meant we could not listen to the album they had brought along called The Best of Marcel Marceau – everyone’s favourite mime.  

Later I confessed to Gerard of the Alohas that my life is filled with huge, gaping holes. He reassured me as only a holy master of holes can: ‘You shouldn’t see that as a problem. These holes are just spaces that you can fill up with new people and ideas.’ I was suddenly filled with a huge sense of belonging. I was now truly part of the silent majority.

[Full disclosure:  You remember when the CERN Large Hadron Collider particle accelerator was first turned on in 2008 and it mysteriously shut down almost immediately, and it was theorised that a particle from the future had travelled back in time to do this in order to ensure that the accelerator would not form a black hole? I am that particle.]

Posted 10 years ago.

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NYC through the stomach

By Steve Korver, October 2011

The US economy is generally collapsing more quickly than other economies. So it’s really a perfect time, exchange-wise, to visit New York City and indulge in what is the centre of the food universe. However it does help having a food-obsessed host to point the way. And with some luck, you can also squeeze in some more traditional sightseeing.

It’s smoking
54431-rect-220Char No. 4 is a bar-restaurant with a passion for bourbon. Its interior is appropriately amber-hued and woody. The 19th-century row house location in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn might make it potentially pretentious. But it’s not. They serve ‘American fare with a focus on smoked meat’. And anyway, I have long trusted my food-obsessed host to regularly reward me for knowing him. He is the man who earlier introduced me to such global culinary touchstones as the ‘herring in a fur coat’ at Petrovich and the rainbow of innards that they concoct at St John. Continue Reading…

Posted 10 years, 1 month ago.

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CODE’s ’2012 Survival Kit’

CODE_20_COVERRecently I acted as managing editor for the fall/winter issue of a fashion magazine. Yes, I entered the world of style.

[I’ll pause for effect...]

Of course this gig should come as no surprise to those who already know that I get my savvy selection of seasonal clothes here and my 1960s welfare-recipient glasses here. But for some reason whenever I mention this whole ‘Steve in fashion land’ concept, friends generally break down into hysterical laughter. Why do they do that? During the whole process, there were really only a few moments of complete Mr Bean-like slapstick.

But anyway, the periodical is CODE (‘documenting style’), and the issue’s theme is an enticing one: ‘2012 Survival Kit’. It poses the question ‘What would you design for a hypothetical toolbox meant to help you survive the apocalypse?’ It’s also an international creative call to artists, architects and designers of all stripes to come up with their own ultimate survival products. The results of this ‘co-creation’ will be touring the world as an exhibition through 2012 – from Amsterdam to Kobe, Japan. You can find more information about the project and how to get involved here.

The issue’s main features focus on the survival tactics of sideshow circus freaks, new agers, off-grid pioneers, emerging tech gurus, urban warfare clothing designers and the brave and delightfully eccentric characters who fish off the decaying piers of Brooklyn.

CODE’s ‘Survival Kit 2012’ magazine is distributed worldwide (check out this week’s window display at Athenaeum in Amsterdam). 

See you in the hills! Looking sharp! And sustainable!

Posted 10 years, 2 months ago.

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I am in a perfect position to imagine the setting of the Eel Riot of 1886: a window seat at cafe De Kat in den Wijngaert overlooking Lindengracht, a former canal that was filled in shortly after this tragic event from almost exactly 125 years ago. But sadly I cannot have a ‘perfect Amster-moment’ since the café’s otherwise stellar menu – their tostis are justifiably legendary – offers no eel-based snacks.

As deeply enigmatic tubes, eels are 100-million-year-old slime wonders with authentic phallic mystique. A connoisseur no less than Freud spent a summer as a medical student slicing and dicing hundreds of eels in what proved to be a failed search for their sex organs. And to this day, their sex rites remain shrouded by the bottomless Sargasso, leaving scientists to hypothesize about the actual nature of the orgy of lust that climaxes the eels’ journey of thousands of miles. Continue Reading…

Posted 10 years, 2 months ago.

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Buck Owens’ ‘Amsterdam’

American country singer Buck Owen’s only hit in the Netherlands: ‘Amsterdam’. In 1970 the song spent eight weeks in the Top 40. Now I’m wondering if his song ‘Made in Japan’ was a hit in Japan. Perhaps targeting specific spots to write songs about – and hopefully scoring a local hit – was his business model after his American hits dried up.

But whatever: ‘I picked peaches in a Georgia town / And I picked cotton down in Birmingham / At the day I’ll get out of Alabam / I’m goin’ back to Amsterdam. / Amsterdam, old Amsterdam…’ 

Posted 10 years, 3 months ago.

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