Den Haag, Netherlands.
An excellent day in Rotterdam yesterday, ending with this appropriately Bladerunner-esque sunset shortly before a screening of Alien, which in turn was tied to the ongoing Science Fiction: a Journey Into the Unknown exhibition at the Kunsthal, which I recommend wholeheartedly. It’s rare to see an exhibition aimed at a general audience on your own field of interest that doesn’t make you angry, and this felt genuinely well conceptualised, if a little canted toward the rationalistic/”hard” formulation of the genre (wot no New Wave/New Weird?)
A lot of cinema props in the catalogue, but fewer than I expected, and some excellent paleofuturological material that serves to remind us just how long a flogging that some dead horses have been enduring. And of course these images made great bonus gimmicks for highly addictive products like cigarettes:
The Kunsthal is a fine and recent neo-brutalust edifice, and excellent value: €12 gets you into everything, and there’s lots to see. A fine addition to a very walkable city; set aside a full afternoon for it.
Bonus sfnal sublime: the new floodproof archive building currently under construction next to the New Institute, a vast concrete boat/bowl/spaceship dropped onto an empty plain.
And it wouldn’t be a proper trip to Rotterdam without a portrait of the notorious Buttplug Gnome, would it?
Will Davies at the NYT:
Many of the anxieties surrounding “post-truth” and “fake news” are really symptoms of a public sphere that moves too quickly, with too great a volume of information, to the point where we either trust our instincts or latch on to others’. There’s a reason Twitter invites users to “follow” one another, a metaphor that implies that amid a deluge of data, truth is ultimately determined by leadership.“Everything is War and Nothing is True“
The birdsite has been much on my mind in recent weeks, after some meatspace conversations in which my reasons for leaving it were revisited. I remarked last week that it still feels like a sort of self-amputation, and that metaphor holds strong — but any sense of regret is increasingly eclipsed by a sense that it’s become a weird synthesis of warmachine and battleground.
To follow on from Davies’s points about militarisation metaphors: if we’re currently mired in a culture war, then the birdsite is a theatre of trench attrition, a foul morass of embedded positions where neither side can win, but where the left has more to lose simply by merit of the right seeing a state of open conflict as a precondition of its broader dreams of victory.
Leaving aside questions of professional necessity, most of the arguments I’ve been offered in support of staying there have been political: it would be a form of defeat to let the right seize control of the discourse. But the longer I’m away from that front, the more obvious it seems to me that its horrific spectacle (and the sense of moral necessity that stems from that horror) only serves to distract attention from other more concrete theatres of conflict where, unobserved and largely unopposed, the right is clocking up conquest after conquest.
Perhaps my position can and should be treated like that of any other conchie. But I’m starting to think that my silence is a form of complicity in and of itself, and that sits uneasily with me. I recognise the ideological struggle, and the necessity of engaging in it. But this particular manifestation of the conflict seems only to prolong and amplify the problem — and when the opposition treats destructive conflict itself as their victory condition, then strategic withdrawal is the only option that makes any sense.