Preface: For the 2021/22 year, I find myself in the Netherlands on Erasmus exchange, studying at Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht. My adventure started 28/08/2021, quarantining in a hotel. To occupy myself, I’m purging my thoughts on here. We’ll see how long this continues once I’m free...
Veel plezier met lezen!
Tues. 5 October [18:55]
Last week was a workshop with Teresa Ruller of The Rodina. I was introduced to their work last year when she gave a talk via zoom at Kingston. Back then, I didn’t really appreciate what she was talking about. The area of performance and graphic design did align with my interests but I don’t think I fully appreciated their reasoning until now, as I felt I stopped myself at the jarring aesthetic hurdle which last year I deemed as ‘not my style’. However, after meeting the rodina in Eindhoven’s Van Abbe Museum at an exhibition they designed, I saw first hand the level of thought and reasoning implemented in their work and how as a user and audience member, yet participator, I experienced the playful benefits and beauty of participation within the graphics they designed. Additionally, after speaking with Teresa extensively afterwards (and listening to her talk the next day) I found a new admiration and appreciation for their work and have come away wanting to challenge the possibilities of graphic design. This is the first time I have really felt a want to position myself in a place that confronts traditions, or explores the capabilities of the field I want to work in. I also now fully appreciate the role of theory, design and philosophical that could shape my practice, something I will now dive into to further understand the work I want to create and curate a process that hasn’t been taught to me in an academic sense, but one that I find myself through play and experimentation. (Affordances, props, invitation, scores)
Also visited the Stedelijks’s Dutch book designs of the year and they were beautiful and I want to buy them all but €€
Sun. 26 September [23:03]
I don’t quite understand the necessity of the weeks AV class where we will have limited time to progress in a very condensed timetable. There is also a lack of clarity of communication of where we will end up, or what the end goal is. Maybe, this is intentional on the tutors behalf but I would appreciated some structure.
Maybe A quick reflection on the rest of my first Amsterdam experience. Writing about the niceties seems redundant: the park in the sun, the architecture and canals, late night churros. What is interesting, to me, is the red light district. Now. I am not sure of my own standpoint, so let me fail to articulate myself via hammering out some keys on a keyboard. Personally, I found it uncomfortable. Not as a result of the women in the windows, but as a consequence of the culture and environment it harboured; the drooling and pointing men: it felt like an inverted zoo, stripped of all humanity and decency where the animals observed and goaded the humans in their ‘cages’. It definitely bred a culture where objectification felt acceptable and - from an outsider’s perspective - a real power imbalance. Conversely, I understand that these women may feel empowered in the ownership of their bodies and sexuality but I still struggle to understand how that survives when faced with the grotesqueness of men. I appreciate that the legality of it makes it a lot safer but equally, I wonder if by facilitating unhealthy environments that are deemed as legal, people then carry the attitudes cross borders and perpetuate female objectification in their own communities. I haven’t really evaluated this all in my own head or come to a conclusion, maybe I never will.
Fri. 24 Spetember [23:57]
I mean this with no insensitivity intended but out of respect for an extraordinary story. Yes. I visited Anne Franks House in Amsterdam today (first time in Amsterdam - it’s beautiful, but I’m not in the mood to write about that). Honestly, I was more moved and emotional at the holocaust memorial than the house. The impact of all these names on a wall, people leaving stones and flowers, people crying was far more stirring than I expected. I think, living in the UK, there is a certain level of disconnect to the personal relationships and impact of the holocaust, we are lucky to not have experienced the immediacy of it like those in mainland Europe. Nonetheless, the museum and house was very important for me to see, I didn’t learn anything new, the curation and presentation of material felt as though it was for those who (somehow) have never heard the story. Admittedly, I have the advantage of having studied it throughout school. Additionally, the museum was stripped to a chronology of events and I don’t know how to feel about that. It almost stripped the humanity from it. However, I am also wary that you don’t want to dramatise the story or dictate someones emotions when the raw material is so powerful by itself. Part of me fears I had a less emotional reaction because it has turned into another story in my head. I have heard it so many times and been presented it in different carnations that I have almost become desensitised to it, which is rather sickening to think. Hopefully, it was more of an inability to comprehend the reality of what these people went through that left me ‘emotionless’ - or at least not as emotional as I anticipated. One thing did infuriate me: celebrity video testimony. What the fuck was Barbara Streisand and Whoopi Goldberg (amongst others) doing giving their 2 cent? Tenuous links of jewish blood aside, I felt the celebrities words undermined this of the people who knew the family or survived the holocaust themselves. Cutting from a childhood friend to the jovial grin of Whoopi Goldberg sickened me. I also resent the fact the large majority of testimonies from Americans - as if they have come to save the day again. Barbara Streisand, from this day on, has placed a deep dislike for her in me as she sits in her huge, beautiful house and speaks about Anne Frank as if writing the headlines on a tabloid newspaper. Never has so much anger swelled in me than seeing her frozen face try and sensationalise an ALREADY sensational story. Utterly disrespectful. I also place some of this onus on the museum for using these testimonies. Additionally, the museum featured a section where the diary was re-imagined as a vlog. I too found this slightly insensitive, I fully understand that it helps get the youth engaged in the story: to see it rather than read. However, I think there is such disparity between the idea of a someone having access to the technology to make a vlog and the reality of Anne Frank’s experiences. Using 21st century technology fails to give justice to the reality of isolation and disconnect from the outside world, a factor that I believe to be so imperative to the story.
Regardless, I am happy I went. I won’t be rushing back. But, whilst I was here, it was something I felt like I had to do. Maybe I’ll write about the rest of Amsterdam at the end of the week. Rant over.
Sun. 19 September [20:14]
If I started every future entry with how long it’d been since the last, these would become a little tiresome. I would now consider these more of a weekly recap. A workshop from Heleen Mineur was super interesting in exploring new ways of working, less linear more abstract and process focused rather than outcome. Aesthetically, the work wasn’t necessarily my style bit I appreciated the unique ways of working and enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone. The use of ‘scores’ to set parameters and rules to work within in projects was a really interesting idea that I may implement in my work to provide some structure when things can be so open and overwhelming. This also helped make intuitive and quick decisions that has always been something I struggled with. This week also allowed me to be critical of my own practice by exploring what the (green and yellow electrical) tape that I use a lot meant to me. I implemented Heleen’s process of writing to help articulate myself. This facilitated the exploration of my relationship with my grandfather in a more abstract and playful way by using imagery of pesto pasta and literary and philosophical references that I was interested in after mapping out my thoughts. This manifested itself in a poem / ode to pesto pasta structured in Shakespeare’s 7 ages of man to tell a story of this relationship. All this made me realise that vulnerability and introspection can be a good base and starting point for interesting work. However, I do struggle with this blurred lines of Art vs Design. I consider myself a designer as my work has a purpose and an audience: it is more of a service. Whereas, I view art as more introspective and vanity based that serves you rather than a group of people? I don’t know. This has always been something I find hard to articulate but I still feel strongly about. Maybe, by the end of the year I’ll have more of an understanding of my own attitude.
Sex Education S3 (same as s1&2)
Sun. 12 September [19:55]
Wow. I’m really slacking. I should mention the reading group but that was on Friday. Ok, briefly, relaxed and interesting discussion of an address by Audre Lorde. I think it’s going to be greatly beneficial to be reading works outside of a typical design field.
Yesterday-this-morning was a good day. An exercise and experience of Dutch democracy. A demonstration. Open the clubs. I didn’t understand or fully appreciate the politic of it but a huge street parade party couldn’t be turned down. It’s been too long since obnoxious base has rattled my core and unexpectedly, I loved it. I didn’t realise I missed it.
Thurs. 9 September [16:49]
Happy Birthday James.
So. I feel this is the way it is going to go. Less Diary: more of a retrospect. First day at HKU was good. It’s taught in English. Praise be to the Lord. It was more about meeting people than Graphic Design.
It still feels like a holiday, the sun playing a leading role. Drinks by a canal out of city and back into the city for drinks in a field with music. You might start to sense a theme. A large crowd, in a park. With drink. I said to a fellow Brit, ‘isn’t it weird that there hasn’t been a fight yet?’. Everyone else was shocked. What? A fight? Why? The UK has nurtured a deep sense of pessimism within me. I was surprised that no one there was after my money, claiming I looked at them funny or just exhibiting their alpha masculinity. But alas, it appears people are only here to have fun - I will have to transition from my mindset of expecting the worst of people. All in all, a good time - apart from running fall speed to catch the last bus <luton terminal flashbacks>. Embarrassing.
Tues. 7 September [18:25]
Forgive me father for I have sinned. It was a lapse of the mind. I can only apologise to those whom I have done wrong: I forgot to write yesterday. And, so it starts. But, Sunday I gave two. Does this reconcile yesterday’s actions. NO. of course it doesn’t. But wait, I was socialising — I met people. Partied. Next to people from all over the world … and Aylesbury, 12 miles or so from home. The unidentified, not-translatable, indeterminable homemade spirit was bought out. Maybe that’s why I forgot to write. I believe it to be lighter fuel. Very smooth then, rough this morning. A tongue like 10 grit sandpaper. I could have stripped all the furniture in this room from licking it.
Today, however, was a more idle affair. The mistake of going on my first run post-quarantine. Fitness: gone. Heart: stopping. Walked: a lot. But it’s a start. Then back out for cleaning supplies which I later put to use. I don’t think this flat was cleaned to any healthy standard prior to today. I gagged. Anyway, cleaning and admin aside, it starts tomorrow. Let’s get to work.
Sun. 5 September [22:48]
I am Britain. We and I. It and Me. Sole representative for the failures of our nation. Personally, I believe myself to be an inadequate spokesperson but, I will take the plaudits for Harry Potter. In our earth of 7 nations in flat 201, we have a congress that spans the map and have recently held our first UN summit. A healthy discussion spanning Afghanistan, Coronavirus, rise of fascism in Europe and Colonialism <I love these conversations, so interesting - skip the small talk and bang!>. I am the first to say I am not proud to be British with respect to the history of the country and the turmoil we spread around the world. This being said, I was very quick to use we, us and our. I don’t know what that means.
Sun. 5 September [20:00]
Utrecht. The white middle class would describe Utrecht as ‘charming’. A lovely place to go, where you can experience enough culture without having to try to endure the language barrier to any great extent. I know I have only just arrived but I am belittled by every time I apologetically utter, “het spijt me, spreekt je engels?”.
I don’t even have the energy to mention the hassle of the moving-in and keys issue. So no more on that. I did have to do some urgent Feng shui on the room. Initially, it was a prison cell with a void-like corridor connecting the front and rear doors. It’s amazing what putting the desk under the window has done: increased the frequency of my vacant stares by 340%. Nevertheless, it did make me feel a lot more at ease. A lot more settled. Maybe I should scrap the graphics and do interiors. If I can overcome these orange walls and fixed-in-place furniture, you can call me Laurence Lewellyn Bowen because I am annoying - I don’t share the man’s astounding lack of taste.
Sat. 4 September [09:59]
Every time I wake up, yesterday feels like a dream. More like a drunken haze without the clarity of the preceding night’s actions that a hangover brings. If it were a film, these moments would be shot with vaseline on the lens. I view my life as if it were a film too much. Vaseline on the lens suggests I don’t think it to be more than a B-Movie at best. Maybe it’s a detachment thing. A constant out of body experience. It does allow for a more objective view of my life. This film definitely has an amazing main character: me. Surely, everyone should aspire to be the main character in their own life. That might be selfish.
+50 hours. Fuck it. I’m calling them. ‘Oh it’s negative’. Of course it is. How long have you known? <About a month or so—Eliza you should’ve told me> They definitely knew yesterday but no-one was kind enough to inform me. Anyway. I’m out. Well, not yet. I’m in the room, writing this waiting for my phone to charge as I meticulously plan my route and ask google how buses work in the Netherlands. I don’t even know how buses work outside of London - so good luck me!
Fri. 3 September [14:26]
Purgatory. Quite literally in a waiting room. Well, a hotel reception. +31 hours since the test and nothing. Google tells me average wait is 32. Irrespective of that, I’ve missed the welcome event which is a shame. The set up of the testing centre, falsely, led me to believe it was a proficient system. I think my lack of digId and dutch citizenship is working against me.
In this equation, St. Peter’s Gate has been replaced by automatic doors. They dance with the ‘free’ people on the other side, rarely do they draw to a complete close before another of the ‘free’ evokes a response. The doors pull apart to allow another to join his right hand side. I watch on, bitter with envy. Not least accentuated by the cacophony of noise it adds too. The brushing of the door against the floor rides tandem with the farewell and thanks exchanged by the free as they cross the threshold. The phone ring adds to the orchestra and in fades the tick tack tapping of keyboards: all layered amongst the ambient music of the radio. It’s fascinating how lyrical foreign voices are. Not knowing what’s being said and the removal of context writes a melody that is far more intriguing than any heard before. This is, at least, a blissful way to look at my ignorance. Someone should make a saying about that.
+32 hours. Fuck me that last hour went slow. Given up on hope I’m going anywhere today. My heart leaped when I heard my phone ring but, it was only Mum seeing if I’d heard anything. Not that I didn’t appreciate the phone call from her it’s just, I have a very sensitive relationship with my phone at this moment.
I gave in. Booked another night in the hotel. I’m now on floor 5. The room is identical but mirrored. It is as if I have entered an alternate universe. I wonder who this universe’s Spider man is. I hope time goes quicker in this reality if only to get my result back and I can truly return to life. Maybe, this holiday inn is like the twilight zone. Imagine if you will…
A Cinderella Story (An obvious classic)
Thurs. 2 September [18:14]
I’ve come to the conclusion my own company is too much but not enough.
5884 steps today. Wow. I took the long route to walk to the test centre, via the Johan Cruijff Arena and the shopping centre. But, at 8 in the morning it felt as lonely as the hotel room.
The test centre was a lot more proficient than any I’ve been to in the UK. I faired pretty well, understanding the Dutch spoke to me followed by my very basic responses. Unfortunately, I had to ask if they could speak English when I believed what they were asking to be of medical importance. Felt like your average British wanker who expects everyone to speak the Queen’s English. It’s hard when everyone speaks your native language so impeccably and you’re stammering out a butchered version of theirs. I am still sat here waiting for the phone to ring to tell me the test result. I’ve been endlessly googling average wait times, GGD office hours and endless hypotheticals in order to plan my tomorrow.
The novelty of the takeaway has lost its appeal. I would enjoy something slightly fresher tasting. At the beginning of the week, I was worried that food might be a scarcity or hard to get up to my room and now, I’m sick of it. This is the first time I’ve had breakfast consistently since primary school. It’s also the first time since primary school that my days have been mostly been offered up to ‘play-time’.
I hate to paraphrase Louisa May Alcott’s (or Greta Gerwig’s translation of) words from Little Women - something along the lines of the importance of writing being: that is it important because it reflects life, or is it the fact it is written down that makes it important <absolutely butchered that, so sorry>. I found that interesting. Is *this* important? I’d argue not. But I think importance is dictated by the audience otherwise it is a vanity project under the guise of introspection. Diaries are the fine art of the literary world. This is my self portrait; the Internet my gallery wall.
Little Women (8/10)
Isle of Dogs (7/10 a bit slow and one note)
Weds. 1 September [11:32]
There should be more tables for one in dining establishments. There was an empty chair opposite me. It’s geometric pattern blinking at me as I raised my third croissant to my crumb-decorated mouth. I didn’t know you could feel such judgement from a chair. It’s pattern was morse code, ‘ALONE’. It wasn’t wrong. But, this time my loneliness was due to government enforced regulations, not me.
The Breakfast now resembles cardboard more than any nutrition. I’m questioning whether it’s even fuel.
Is this what old age is like? I had an overwhelming vision of being an elderly man, tentatively pushing food to my mouth, staring at the empty chair in front as life just happens around me. I’m given a breakfast slot everyday. 9-9:30am. So maybe, I’m mistaking old age with routine. Routine must be the biggest killer, I’ll have to check ONS records. I wake up, cram in a pathetic excuse of exercise only to counter those efforts with a processed breakfast. Then, to resume the same position I’ve held for the last four days, sprawled across the bed, with all the necessaries within an arms reach. It is the ideal recumbent position that facilitates the indefinite bounding between social media and Netflix. Interestingly, when viewing elements of the routine in isolation, it sounds like the ideal Sunday hangover cure. So, I don’t know whether it’s routine or comfort that I am struggling with. The repetition is undoubtedly torturous but, being comfortable is quite frankly unsatisfactory. Perpetual comfort spells boredom. And at 20, it is a distinct lack of ambition <upon re-read, this feels a frighteningly unhealthy statement to make. Without digressing, I believe this to be the fault of the UK education system>. Maybe, that’s why I’m here.
Tues. 31 August [21:19]
New levels of boredom today. Add in my inadequate attention span, I fail to persevere TV shows or films that require concentration. So, that’s a neat predicament I find myself in. The choice of anything answered by doing nothing. Boredom, to the point I read a book (A proper book, a novel) for the first time since school. The Outsider, Albert Camus. Some interesting stuff, reading existentialist writings whilst locked up in quarantine rendered me contemplative as I stared at a wall, evaluating my current position. Can’t even remember what I did the rest of the day.
He’s All That (Absolute dog shit)
The Outsider (7/10)
Mon. 30 August [21:03]
The weather teased me today, seduced me and left me yearning out of the window. The first Amsterdam peepshow I bared witness to. Sun. I haven’t felt warm sun on my skin the entirety of summer. And, there it was. A piece of double glazing prohibiting my desires. Were I wearing my orange jumpsuit, this would have been the spit of many-a opening scenes to gritty action movie romance subplots. “Babe, when I get out of here, I’ll never leave your side. Ever.” In this scenario replace Kevin Costner with myself and what ever talentless -but beautiful- has been actress starring opposite Costner, with the sun.
Writing this drivel entertains me if no one else. I funnel my residual creativity through poor grammar and spelling and leave it out in the void of the Internet. It’s not quite therapy as the internet lacks the presumed confidentiality of a therapist and in turn subconsciously censors what I hammer out on my keyboard. Oh, context! That’s something I did today. Pretty much finished the redesign and made a page for this stuff. As much as I enjoy doing this at the moment I think there’s a limited life expectancy to them. But it would be nice to see it through.
Sun. 29 August [22:06]
I exploited that buffet breakfast. Multiple trips were made. Goods smuggled back for lunch, getting my money’s worth. Same again tomorrow.
The middle of my day was family facetimes, doing the rounds, completed all Grandparents. Repeating the same information, facing the same questions and greeting them all with the same candid, impromptu but fully rehearsed answers as if each one were the million dollar question. Thankfully, none of my grandparents are Jeremy Clarkson.
I shaved. For the first time in a year I went clean shaven. Eve warned me not to. She was right <as always>. I definitely look like een jongetje (not as much of a Dummy as yesterday). It’s a regret. I fear, like Samson, I will now loose my strength. Upon reflection at the end of quarantine, it will be the absence of patchy facial hair that has been detrimental to my physicality not 6 days of take aways and minimal exertion.
I spent the bulk of the day redesigning my website. My taste changes far too often, maybe because I don’t know what I am yet or how I want to present myself. Ed was there to help. Again. It was nice to be productive. I will add to it in the coming days — maybe, I’ll find a place for these scrawls.
Facetime with Peri. Since I’d been minimising my social contact since last Sat. It felt odd to socialise (albeit virtually). I definitely rambled. Laughed a lot. Makes missing people slightly easier.
Kissing Booth 3 (absolute garbage like 1 & 2)
Sat. 28 August [21:01] GMT+1
Finally stopped sweating after the interrogation at immigration. Not in a way that I was concealing contraband but, akin to Bambi making their way on their own and every immigration officer resembling a hunter. I printed out an excessive amount of paperwork and checks were loose: the slow, methodic, count of days since my second jab (which I knew fell one day short of the required 14) was enough for the concentration of my BO to become nasally uncomfortable and pit-moistening.
Exaggeration aside, it was alright. It all was. But, that’s not an interesting start to this adventure — neither are the hours I spent trying to figure out how to get my hotel room phone to work to book a COVID test to release me from my quarantine in 5 days time. What might spark some interest, is a Kalfvleeskroket; the fine work of those at Netherlands answer to American fast-food, FEBO. In addition to my order of their signature burger and fries, my dutch adventure started in my palette as I embarked on a rollercoaster of flavour. This veal croquette made a pleasant change to the norm of greasy cardboard: it tasted of something. Yum yum. 10/10. Would order again.
Hitman’s BodyGuard (fell asleep)
Dutch for Dummies (early days … still a dummy)