Monster In Your Closet

23.07,2014 –by Jeroen van der Hulst

I recently read a news article critical on the way social media is used by the public after disasters occur. It questioned whether sharing intimate tweets and photos originally posted by victims of a disaster on online social media platforms expresses genuine sympathy or is merely an act of voyeurism.

It was in response to the social media activity following disasters such as the Boston bombings of 2013 or the recent tragedy of flight MH17 in the Ukraine. In both cases graphic and intimate images and messages regarding victims emerged online and were shared en masse by the public without any accountability. Although the article’s main question seems to describe an activity that can be justifiably criticized, the piece ended with a disappointing conclusion, stating: “the line between sympathy and voyeurism appears to be wafer thin.”

The problem with openly sharing photos, information, assumptions, etcetera on social media platforms isn’t necessarily that others will turn out to be misinformed – although this is still a legitimate point to make. Arguably, sharing the photo of a ‘Syrian boy’ in between his ‘dead parents’ as an illustration of the horrors resulting from the civil battle in Syria could have had a benefit. Though erroneous, when that image spread it got a reaction from the West that no longer could ignore the atrocities in Syria. The fact that the boy in question was neither Syrian nor actually orphaned (it was a Saudi boy posing for a photograph by Abdul Aziz al Otaibi) didn’t take away the fact that many Syrian children are suffering. What does this newly found awareness from Western citizens really mean? It doesn’t mean anything to the Syrians – the conflict is still raging – so does it mean anything to us?

This brings me to a different side of the story; the moment that the West is hit by catastophe. After the disastrous turn of events surrounding Malaysia Air flight MH17, social media outlets flooded with horrific images of clothing, airplane parts, and bodies strewn across a flowery field. Images of the contents of ripped open luggage. Images of stuffed animals. It appears that disasters do have the effect of luring many into the realm of voyeurism. This voyeurism isn’t a pleasurable gaze into the private space of another, but its fantasmatic, internalized counterpart.

I would like to argue that so many of us in the West live in relative safety, freedom, and prosperity that it becomes increasingly difficult to identify with people affected by disasters and suffering around the world. Let me take the example of stories of monsters told to children. The older children or adults tell stories of monsters and ghosts coming to haunt you in the night. As the stories pile up you have yet to encounter your first sighting. One evening you are in bed and the pile of clothes on the chair in your room appears as a silhouette of the monster you have created in your mind. This is the type of fantasy at play. Not a yearning for the monster to be real but knowing that it, in a sense, is real without knowing what it looks like and having the need to define the monster. Seeing the monster, acknowledging it, in this way becomes a subversive duty defying the reality that there is no monster for you to see.

Sharing graphic images and messages online can express a genuine (but perhaps misplaced) feeling of sympathy. However, more likely they express a need to free oneself from the burden of living in safety and not having a real idea of what disaster and collective suffering really are. We constantly hear ghost stories so our duty becomes to seek out what our nightmares look like. In order to try and grasp the feelings of those affected by the tragedy, onlookers share intimate tweets from victims, photos of the disaster area, speculate about culprits, etc.

This digging into the world around a disaster happens immediately after the first glimmers of the news are out there. The online presence of victims or possible culprits is excavated and spread (note the circulation of false accusations directed at innocent people regarding the Boston bombings). But all of this happens in the name of sympathy for those affected. In this way the wafer thin line between sympathy and voyeurism doesn’t need to exist; sympathy requires voyeurism.

Let’s be clear; this is not a polemic engaged in a struggle to dismiss genuine grief. It is to try and show the duality in trying to remedy those suffering by freely spreading images and accounts of suffering. The harmful aspect is that this act of sharing replaces the moment of reflection immediately with a moment of activity, or rather pseudo-activity, an act that merely serves the status quo, or as Theodor Adorno put it: (..) Pseudo-activity; action that overdoes and aggravates itself for the sake of its own publicity, without admitting to itself to what extent it serves as a substitute satisfaction, elevating itself into an end in itself.

The act of sharing horrific images means, “look at these atrocities! Share if you care! I care!” Implicitly leaving anybody who doesn’t share as though they don’t care. This is the pseudo-activity within burden of collective suffering; the act overdoes itself and aggravates its intention (that of offering support to victims and affected families by ‘raising awareness’). It doesn’t show support to grieving families of victims but a need to partake in their suffering – sympathy comes from the Greek words syn meaning “together” and pathos meaning “feeling”, and pity derives from piety, which comes from the Latin pietas meaning “dutifulness.”

The burden of our position of relative safety in comparison to those in grief requires us to define suffering the moment we encounter it. This implicitly makes collective suffering a duty. However, to “feel together” becomes an impossibility almost if you are not directly affected by such a tragedy. There is no line between voyeurism and sympathy. The latter depends on the former. Perhaps instead of relentlessly confirming and repeating the stories of monsters one should silently provide a flashlight for those hiding under duvet, petrified for what might happen during the night.

The Lobster Clasp

21.09.2014 –by Jigna Umeria

The Lobster Clasp (1) – A Forgotten Mechanism (2)

Oversized fingers struggle to hold the delicate clasp hidden behind the neck. Hair strands become a forest for the fingers to fiddle through. Your cumbersome thumb repeatedly attempts to hold the tiny lever down long enough to hook the ring but always slips too soon. (3)

The clasp is as important as the pendant it holds. (4)

(5)

Taking the necklace off is always easier than putting it on. Your thumb does not slip. The ring leaves the hold of the clasp easily.

(6)

The larger forms of the lobster clasp sit comfortably in the hands. The internal mechanism plays a sound as your thumb presses down the lever for the opening to widen and then snaps closed when released.

The tactile action of repetitively pressing the lever and releasing it gives a simple sense of satisfaction until your thumb aches from this childish play.

Like clicking the end of a biro, the spring is made tired.

Your thumb is left with a little dent where the tip of the lever has rested.

Sporadically your finger is caught in the gap that the lever moves within.

The exhausted muscle in your knuckle stops you from pressing the lever again. The cheap metallic smell it leaves on your hands is sweet yet unpleasant, toxic and irritating, a reminder of the material’s industrial qualities. (7)

When the lobster clasp finds itself attached to a bag strap, there is tension along the chain the clasp has become a part of. The weight of the bag pulls the clasp to move accordingly. (8)

When the bag is not held the clasp lies lifeless. In the future the clasp will outlive the bag, yet will still be made redundant, as it is no use on its own. They rarely exist alone. (9)

A middle-sized lobster clasp can be found hidden amongst a cluster of keys at the end of a key ring.(10)

The various sized clasps form a family of differing personalities and purposes all based on the elegant shape of a lobster’s pincher claw. (11)

1

The lobster clasp is an elongated version of the classic ring clasp. The modifications were made in the late 1970s to make the new body sturdier than its predecessor. It is commonly found on western jewellery, keys rings and on bag straps.

2

Like the hinge on a door or the brass studding along the edge of a leather armchair the lobster clasp simply functions, often unnoticed or hidden.

3

The clasps are designed to exist firmly closed. Like the form of a book, it rests as a closed object but is redundant if it remains like this. The difficulty in opening the clasp is an inconvenience yet offers assurance and security.

The clasp should be at the front and made a show of.

4

The word clasp has a sense of urgency or importance about it. The clasp on a necklace can hold someone’s most sentimental belonging. The hidden clasp is as precious as what it holds.

5

If the metal hook on dangly earrings were a lobster clasp it would solve the problem of the butterfly falling and disappearing. But perhaps butterflies are better suited to sit behind the ear and a lobster, to secure, hold and protect an adornment of the neck.

The lobster clasp is shaped like an ear but an ear clasp doesn’t seem like something that would snap close or hold anything too tightly.

6

In eastern cultures the lobster clasp is not used as much. In some places an adjustable string and thread mechanism is used and in others knotting mechanisms are used to adjust necklaces over the head and tightened accordingly.

7

This elegant three-part object is the result of several perfected industrial manufacturing processes. The shell is stamped out from a strip of sheet metal and spat out by a customised dye. Leaving behind a train track like pattern along the strip, the shells fall amongst an anonymous pile. Three shells are picked by hand and placed into a mould to be folded with exact precision. They begin to take form and are welded individually. The lever is pressed into shape and the spring coiled.

The shell, lever and spring are pieced together. From a thin strip of sheet metal a three dimensional form is made.

8

The addition of a rotary base permits the clasp to function better.

9

The clasp mechanism is always attached to another form, a door hangs off the hinge like a parasite and fabric smothers the anatomy of an umbrella.

10

Again, it has company. Sharp crocodile teeth cut keys are fed on to the clasp. The rotary base joins the clasp to an assortment of keys rings and personalised objects, memorabilia, branding, collections, rubbish, the unused and the unnecessary. The surrounding objects play a sound unique to that particular organised accumulation. There appears to be competition amongst the disarray, between sentiments and functionality.

11

A moving lobster cannot be ignored but the resting lobster clasp can go unnoticed.

How to Live as Long as Possible

02.06.2014 – by Gijs Assman

Martin Gostner, After my death I would like to be a paradise for birds, 2003

How can I live as long as possible?

1. Don’t be afraid of ‘bad’ things. The body has its own defence mechanisms for outside influences like radiation, poison and heat. Your body has its own tools to prevent damage.

Nikola Tesla

2. Surround yourself with people. Married people live longer, and having a large group of friends or family also helps.

Fischli/Weiss

3. Move to a place where people grow older. Like Japan, a moderate and healthy environment.

Erwin Wurm

4. Enjoy yourself. Drink a glass of wine every day and sleep when your body wants you to. Eat chocolate – it’s good for the arteries.

5. Train your brain. Read a lot, play games, hold discussions. Especially when you’re older.

Erwin Wurm

6. Laugh and relax. Positive thinkers live longer.

Martin Kippenberger, Strong Face

7.Go to the doctor when you need to. Prevention is easier than healing. But don’t overdo it.

MARTIN KIPPENBERGER, Schlecht belegte Studentenpizza gepollockt

8. Eat well and in moderation.

9. Go out. Learning new things (like playing bridge, deep sea diving, Japanese) keeps the mind and body youthful.

Franz West, Adaptives

On Bulbs, Brains, and Better People

25.02.2015

‘I can’t make art, is this an illness?’ is the first question Trudy Dehue asks her audience. As a philosopher and sociologist of science, she specialises in our concept of truth and what reality means within the field of science. At first sight, the question and its conclusion might appear a bit strange, but through her lecture we come to understand that these strange conclusions are normal in today’s society.

Scientific research is much more a matter of shaping reality than of discovering it. By this, Dehue refers to technology and classifications as the main transformers of our perception of reality. Technology allows us to experience the world differently. For example: before the invention of light, parties as we now know them wouldn’t exist. For the simple reason that without light, it is impossible to ‘go out’. In this case, technology changes our perception of reality since we can now experience the night with the help of artificial light.

As said before, classification also plays a big role in our perception of reality. When we look at ‘homosexuality’ we can ask ourselves if homosexuality has always existed. According to Trudy Duhue, the answer is no, for the simple reason that in ancient times, homosexuality was a common phenomena that remained unnamed. It wasn’t until Saint

Saint Augustine (354-430) that same sex relationships were identified as sin.

The first DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), published in 1952, describes ‘homosexuality’ as a disease. This is the first occurrence of this terminology, and it is since then that we name persons that fall for the same gender ‘homosexual’. The reason why people agreed with this definition at the time was that – before this publication of the DSM – being gay was seen as something negative. And if the other option is to be defined as being ‘bad’, most people prefer to be termed as ill. The weird thing is that, although we are far more tolerant now, we still use the DSM definition—in essence the description of a disease. This all has to do with the fact that we have an urge to conform to society.

Harvard Psychological Laboratory Display. Circa 1892.

A next slide shows us a rat with the title: ‘’How to test depression pills?’’ Trudy tells us that scientific research for medicines for depression are done with rats. Generation after generation, the rats are put in boxes with a trap. The rat hangs by its tail and it has to find a way to free itself. When the mouse –test after test– frees itself it is seen as ‘not depressed’. But when the mouse gives up the effort to free itself, it is seen as ‘depressed’. Trudy tries to tell us that we should be more aware of conclusions that are drawn by the medical world. The rats are a great example to show how ridiculous and absurd our notion of ‘depressed’ is and that scientific research is – as said before – much more a matter of shaping reality than of discovering it.