Unfold Amsterdam hits the streets

Unfold_Vol01_01_COVERUnfold Amsterdam has officially hit the streets. Every two weeks, Amsterdammers will be able to pick up this free English-language poster/mag highlighting the work of local artists/designers and covering the best of what’s going down around town. Hopefully it will fill the gap left since the demise of alternative weekly Amsterdam Weekly. In fact, Unfold Amsterdam arises from the luminous efforts of some of the more luminary ex-Weekly staff and freelancers. So I dig it indeed. Especially this edition’s poster by Simon Wald-Lasowski. So check, check, check it out — or at least put your finger on the pulse by checking regularly at their sweet-looking website.

Also keep your eyes out for the Unfold special edition covering the mighty Klik Amsterdam animation festival coming up on 15-19 September.

Posted: September 15, 2010 at 10:00 am.

1 comment


orangeUsually I don’t have a lot to say about orange. And  certainly my football strap starts twanging hollow as soon as I have played out my two basic one-liners:  

‘Wouldn’t two balls solve the whole problem?’

‘If two teams can’t get it together to share, what hope is there for the bleeding billion different teams that make up this planet?’

It would be easy to smirk my way through some smart-ass facts like orange being the colour of the sex ’n’ spleen chakra, or that orange was considered by Goethe as the colour of the rough and uneducated, or that orange is the favourite colour of everybody’s favourite god of wine ’n’ bonking, Bacchus.

I could even dwell on the irony of orange — despite advertising’s Golden Rule: ‘Never Use Orange’ — becoming a marketing phenomena where seemingly everything that is now currently being sold in this country, from condoms to contact lenses, is orange.

But actually I’ve been getting into the spirit of things and now when those orange guys score, I even catch myself jumping to my feet as if an industrious fart of mine has suddenly harnessed the secrets of rocket science. So out of respect, I choose to discuss the aesthetics of football. It is such a purty sport after all…

For instance, when the mass psychosis surrounding the game gets too much for my weak and dicky ticker, I let my eyes glaze over and randomly follow the lil’ orange blobs darting about the green field until the sport takes on the vibe of fireflies darting about in a kid’s glass jar (or flames randomly darting about in a campfire…). It is all so very relaxing and probably similar in effect to staring into an orange hypno-pinwheel and getting very, very sleepy.

But before I get too lost in these visual games and a dull-voice inside my mind starts chanting ‘Must… Buy… Orange… Products… Must… Buy… Orange… Products’, I redirect my focus to take in the equally pleasing rhythmics of relaxation to be found within the stadium crowd scenes. The texture reminds me of those scrambly computer-generated pictures that you stare at until a 3D image pops out at you. And yes, invariably out of the sea of distorted orange comes a freaking huge orange clog to kick me upside the ass and onto my feet again and thereby forcing me — albeit happily — to start the whole process again of trying to regain my preferred state of freestyle floating.

But I wouldn’t dare to come across all flaky like psychic spoon-bender Uri Geller who has spent a lot of energy trying to convince people that if enough fans of a particular team focus on an orange dot placed on their TV screen, the resulting convergence of cosmic energies will lead to certain victory for your team… I’m no jock pundit, but that sort of stuff doesn’t strike me as very sporting.

But whatever. Off to the stamkroeg.

Posted: July 2, 2010 at 1:34 pm.


Unfolding Election





For those who want a, um, concise view on the national Dutch elections, my pal Floris Dogterom is writing a series of reports on the still very-BETA website of Unfold Amsterdam. This web/paper  publication is a very welcome endeavour to fill the void left by Amsterdam Weekly‘s demise and includes a lot of Weekly alumni. They won’t be truely kicking off until 1 September but meanwhile the website already features a savvy choice of what’s going down in town. Check it out! It will rule! Support!

Posted: June 3, 2010 at 11:53 am.

Add a comment

The Art Pie that is Kunstvlaai

kunstvlaaiThis year sees the return of  the city’s edgy arts market and festival Kunstvlaai/Artpie which runs until this Sunday 23 May at the Westergasfabriek. The bi-annual Kunstvlaai was formulated as the evil twisted twin of the commercial art fair Kunstrai  (who in their mediocrity decided to rebrand as Art Amsterdam  so they might sound more like  the ever-more-hip Art Rotterdam). As such, Kunstvlaai gives space to hundreds of decidedly less middle-of-the-road artists, groups and galleries. It’s a happy chaos complete with a 6-meter tall  pink mouse and pentagrams made of homebrewed beer. Check it out while you can…

Meanwhile later this month,  between 28 and 30 May, another new anti-Art Amsterdam manifestation  kicks off  as  a few  of the city’s  more interesting  local galleries come together to form Minimarket  in an old canalhouse.

Posted: May 18, 2010 at 1:25 pm.

Add a comment

Confessions of a Canadian Liberator

trees-allaboutamsterdamToday is Liberation Day. And it was 65 years ago that Canada liberated the Netherlands from Nazi German occupation. Sure, it was more of an “Allied” operation and the Poles did their bit to help out, but Canadians soldiers truly left their mark as they lingered in Amsterdam for months after. They even had their own Amsterdam guide book (pictured left, see full scan here).

By early 1946, venereal disease was skyrocketing and over 7000 babies were born out of wedlock (which is coincidentally  around the  same number as those Canadians who had died). Even today, when Canadian soldiers return to take part in the Remembrance Day ceremonies they are greeted by aging women with signs asking ‘Are you my Daddy?’.

I was clued into the raw sex appeal Canadians enjoyed back then by a friend’s octogenarian grandmother. She had been there to welcome the Canadians when they came marching into town. She described how handsome and muscular they looked, especially when compared to the local lads who had just come out of the ‘Hunger Winter’. She also mentioned how great it was to get chocolate and fresh stockings. She really went on and on… Then I got a little creeped out when I realised she was actually reliving the raw lust she felt back then for these strapping Canadians. Talk about living memories!

Later I heard that a lot of those ‘Hunger Winter’ Dutch boys remembered something else: how when the Canadians rode through the cheering masses, the soldiers would lift up women onto their tanks and trucks by picking them up like a 10-pin bowling balls… (Which is kind of weird since one of the marks of Canadian identity is a preference for 5-pin bowling.)

trees_00011000734But anyway, I decided to just focus on the purely liberation part of the story. I started to bring my Canadian passport with me on Liberation Days in the hopes of scamming free beer for the sacrifices my country had made. Actually, I just tried it on a befriended bartender. And when he wasn’t immediately forthcoming with the free beer, I tried to suggest that he really owed me: after all, maybe I was his Daddy. After a brief lecture in mathematics he finally relented and gave me a beer. But his true gift came later. As I exited I shouted goodbye to him across the crowded bar. He returned with a: “Hey man, thanks for the liberation!” And just before the door swung shut behind me I had time to yell “Hey man, anytime!”.

It was the best bar exit scene ever. So of course I tried to relive this magic moment every year. Until a regular who had witnessed my ploys pointed out to me: ‘Yes, liberation is all fine and good, but occupation is not.’ I knew then that I had worn out my welcome as Canadian Beer Liberator.

But it still felt like destiny a couple of years ago when I was cast as a Canadian major liberating Holland in the film Snuf de Hond in Oorlogstijd [‘Snuf the Dog in Wartime’],  which was based on a children book series about a Lassie-like dog who became a hero of the Dutch Resistance. Basically I played a gullible Canadian peckerhead who falls for the stories of a traitor who is supposed to show  us the enemy German positions but is instead setting us up for a trap. Luckily, Snuf comes in just in time to save the day. You could say the Canadians came off quite badly in this movie. Or you could say I was being typecast as usual.

But my favourite story related to the Liberation by the Canadians  I heard  while taking a cab to Schiphol airport. The cabbie was an old Dutch guy and after I told him that I was heading back to Canada to visit my family he said: ‘I got a story you will just love.’

He told me how he was born a few years before WWII in the south of Holland and how during the war he acted as his blind grandfather’s seeing-eye dog. One night, his Opa and he were walking under the cover of darkness to a nearby village to trade food, milk, tulip bulbs, whatever. Suddenly his Opa heard some sort of heavy transport coming in their direction. Worried that it was the Germans, they hid behind a fence. But as it came closer, his Opa realised that the engines sounded different. So they came out of hiding and saw a whole procession of tanks and trucks. The leading tank stopped in front of them, the top popped up and a soldier appeared and asked in English: ‘Is this the way to Arnhem?’ Opa replied in the affirmative and then asked back in English: ‘Are you Americans?’

The soldier looked down at blind  Opa with disgust and answered “No way old man. We’re fucking Canadians!

trees-heeft-een-canadees--collectie-hugo-keesing-1994Now isn’t that a heart-warming tale? Isn’t it nice to know that such a well-developed sense of Canadian-ness already existed back in 1945? Isn’t it enough to make a Canadian nationalist out of you?

Of course, I became a fierce Canadian nationalist once I stopped living there 20 years ago. For a long time, I would always be ready to natter on about Canada’s natural beauty, expansive spaces, nice folks, un-American-ness, reasonable immigration policies, multiculturalism as a matter-of-fact and not a matter of endless circular discussions…

However my nationalism eventually got dimmed by a friend in Amsterdam who happened to have  an estranged Canadian lumberjack father. He once interrupted one of my pro-Canadian rants with: ‘You want to know what I think about when I think of Canada? I think of a drunk that used to beat me.’

Indeed. ‘Where’s my Daddy?

Posted: May 5, 2010 at 10:43 am.

1 comment

The first photographs of Amsterdam, 1845-1875
















The City Archives have another great exhibition running until June. It features  the earliest examples of street photography in Amsterdam. This is a picture of photographer Jacob Olie’s family in front of their house  at Zandhoek 10 in the painfully scenic Westerlijke Eilanden. The  children and the dog obviously did not have the patience to sit still and are therefore immortalised as ghosts. This street remains pretty much unchanged to this day. But back  in the Golden Age days, this  was where people came to pick up  sand (zand)  whenever their property started to sink. It is said that many a riot occurred here during sand shortages. I guess people get panicky whenever their homes threaten to  return to the bog from whence it came.   Anyway you can download a tour along the settings of these photographs here.

Posted: April 12, 2010 at 8:37 am.

Add a comment

Cosmonautics Day

On 12 April 2010, it’s the 49th anniversary of the first human space flight. Join the Yuri party. Around 4 or 5 years ago, Amsterdam was dotted with cosmonaut graffitti. Here are photos of some of them. Enjoy.

Posted: April 11, 2010 at 8:59 am.

Add a comment

Best of PiPS:lab in Paradiso

Head down to Paradiso this Friday 29 January for the best of Pips:Lab. You can look upon PIPS:lab as a kind of A-Team — where the ‘A’ stands for ‘Art School Dropout’. Actually, they are more like MacGyver — but then with a sense of humour and a taste for Human Growth Hormone. But seriously, PIPS:lab tells a heart warming, and often brain melting, story of what happens when a collective of artists from a variety of disciplines seek to create everything, from software to vocal harmonies, themselves. Combining new media, theatre, music, film and photography — along with tech, chuckles and raw public interaction — PIPS:lab produce everything from theatrical performances to installations. And it’s all done live in your face, right down to the video editing.

For example,  their Washing Powder Conspiracy show is  a groovy, funny and catchy  laundry-themed multimedia theatre concert. And while loose and wacky, the show is still tighter than two people in a washing machine. Everything — from the sing-along tunes and primal screaming right through to the light graffiti artistry and outfits — refers to washing powder. Things that did not quite make sense from earlier in the show are later power edited live to form new backdrops for yet more nonsensical acts of madness. Where else can absurdist speeches about detergents be magically transformed into radical political statements? Meanwhile all the happy chaos is rhythmically backed by a washing machine, three dryers and a sextet of irons. And remember folks, your whites can always get whiter…

Meanwhile, staying in touch with friends and loved ones just gets easier and easier these day. And now it’s even possible to stay in touch with the dead thanks to the internet community DieSpace. Step right up folks! Yes indeed, with laptops, cameras and light sensors, PIPS:lab has created a interactive musical show about post-mortem social networking. And with today’s ongoing ‘grayification’ of society, it’s not such a crazy idea — especially if you believe the onstage marketing manager/show master. Meanwhile… Your mug shot is being projected on the screen since he chosen you, above all others, for a DieSpace Premium Account!

OK, maybe you just got to be there…

Posted: January 27, 2010 at 11:15 am.

Add a comment

What’s up Doc?


With the world’s largest documentary film festival IDFA opening this weekend, let’s take a moment to pay tribute to the forgotten masses who have been working the last weeks  in subtitler  sweatshops  found across town in dank basements and dusty attics.   So instead of feeling sorry for all those overhyped masses of  call center workers, take a moment to give thanks to all those selfless subtitlers out there who make this event possible…

Meanwhile check out films about space tourists, the Russian War on the North Sea island of Texel, a non-violent psychopath, a freaky futurist, the birth of Punk Islam, disco in Estonia,  a Belgrade folk hero, the inner life of Glenn Gould, googling yourself a  baby, and some miscreants of Taliwood…

It’s also worth  checking out T_Visionarium Open City  (pictured) at the Zuiderkerk (an ancient church worth visiting in its own right as Amsterdam’s urban planning center). This installation, running until 22 November, bends the mind  as a 360 degree 3D — complete with glasses — projection of hundreds of films about urbanisation. Browse, watch, remix, repeat. Really quite trippy…

Posted: November 21, 2009 at 10:02 am.

Add a comment

NDSM Open Day

hotdocks-voorThe former shipyards of NDSM in Amsterdam Noord is a post-industrial wonderland which features the biggest “breeding ground” for the arts in the country with over 200 artist studios. This Saturday 14 November, they are having an open house. I love this place: it’s got the free ferry ride from behind Centraal Station, lots of apocalyptic eye candy and a great cafe/restaurant. I’ve written about this place a lot – here for instance – because I saw it as a microcosm of Amsterdam (or even the world) where the battle between arts and commerce is playing out. But since the credit crunch, the commerce part has stepped backed and the area seems to be reverting back to its more purely arty roots. Hell, they even found a new place to squat: the former pumping station…

Posted: November 12, 2009 at 10:56 am.

Add a comment