While we were appropriating

While we were appropriating

While we were appropriating, the machine was learning. What we were appropriating and what the machine was learning may have run parallel for some time, yet the machine was more studious (trained by studious people) and concentrated on a large volume of structured data. Machine learning is massive; in comparison, humans can access only a small part of the existing and potentially learning material. However, an equally important difference is that humans attribute a concept to the product of their appropriation, while machines generate content on a given concept with the use of pre-existing content (appropriation). At both ends of the line is ‘the concept’ which for the moment derives from and stays with humans.

What is appropriating: To incorporate elements from existing works, like texts and images, into one’s own work without much transformation and without the permission of the creator. 

In the arts, appropriation has always been a practice, as in ‘Dali Mona Lisa’ or the African masks in the paintings of Picasso and in the artworks of the dadaists. Where in art limits are vague, in textual works there is more control. The academic world has sorted this out: In your writings you must mark every bit of text, phrase, or idea that is not strictly yours and put the reference in the foot/end-notes. In any other case appropriation is called plagiarism. In the art world, boundaries are loose and the issue is addressed case by case, usually attached to a legal process. However, an effort is made to draw some rules in image appropriation, such as the Appropriation Art Guideline, a policy drawn by Pictoright, the author’s rights organisation for visual creators in the Netherlands.

The recent release (November 2022) of generative artificial intelligence bots by OpenAI, along with increased media attention, has sparked once more the discussion about the relationship between humans and machines, the issue of property and copyright of the used and the generated material, and the eventual job loss as a result of increased automation. 

The talk is about generation of texts and images, including artworks, with the use of algorithms that analyze and recreate content and form/style. The AI uses text to generate text and prompts (commands) to generate images. The image generating AI also creates image variations based on a generated or an uploaded image. On text generative AI bot ChatDPT you can have a smooth conversation with the machine. You ask a question and the machine generates an answer. When asked about the impact of text and image generative AI on employment, the machine answers:

“As an AI language model, I do not have personal opinions or feelings. However, I can provide information and context on the topic of the potential impact of AI on employment.”

It also states that its training stopped in 2021, so information after that year is not in its set of knowledge. The generated texts seem quite general; they can be used as a basis for further editing and creating a specific text, for example for marketing purposes, (micro)blogging, reports, etc. For shorter advertising texts, the Ai-generated text suffices. 

While the generation of text seems to go smoothly, the generation of images is more of a struggle. For example, when experimenting with DALL-E, which is described as “capable of creating images from natural language descriptions” (such as ‘a red kitten with back light on ears’), it soon becomes obvious that one has to learn to ‘talk’ to the machine in order to get something other than a smudge or a caricature out of it. That means that there is a need for usable prompts (commands, string of text) in order to have generated something close to the desired image. Entering easy ideas for a start, numerous examples are images of kittens and puppies, or zombies and cartoon heroes. When moving a bit further, the generated images are less interesting, ranging from illustrative clichés to incoherent smudges or too close to the source image (without the flair) to be considered a new creation.

The machine still has a lot to learn about art and words alone will not do the job. That aside, and despite the fact that there has been AI experimentation in the art world for a few years already, visual artists start having dark thoughts about their role in the future, or the near future for what concerns illustrators and graphic designers. At present, it is good to note that DALL-E is still in research (beta) mode; the generated images do not fall under copyright law because they are not human creations; when you upload your own images, these are considered ‘feed’ and are taken into the database and anyone can use them.

DALL-E generated image ‘Van Gogh style painting Cat with bandaged ear’ [off topic]

Thinking backwards, a number of points line up: the question of quality of the generated images; the question of property and copyright of the appropriated material and of the generated as well; the question of prompts; the question of quality of the generated text; the question of quality and extent of the fed & learnt material; the question of impact on creative professions. 

In experimental and open mode these text and image generating tools are fun and fine. It is the extent and speed, as well as the natural-like language use of ChatGPT, that make these tools a mega-appropriation project. This will bring changes in laws, jobs, ethics and aesthetics. It is a game changer, worth checking. Try it and enjoy it before the serious questions, like ‘why’ and ‘what for’, will pop-up. There might be a little traffic jam on ChatGPT.

“We’re experiencing exceptionally high demand. Please hang tight as we work on scaling our systems.” [Sincerely yours, ChatGPT]

P.S. 1 The non-digitally-documented artifacts (and texts) are not part of this game.

P.S. 2 This is an interesting article; an interview with ChatGPT (read the comments too): Thoughts on AI’s Impact on Scholarly Communications? An Interview with ChatGPT

Archiving contemporary art: a transdisciplinary endeavour

Archiving contemporary art: a transdisciplinary endeavour

On Saturday 18 June 2022, the new issue of the magazine DeFKa Research* will be presented at a ‘Meet & Greet with Gert Wijlage/DeFKa Research’ afternoon event in the bookstore Van Der Velde in Assen.

Issue SC 2022/5 of this series of publications displays essays, exhibits, and manifestos on the theme of Decoration, Craft & Design. It came out in April and was celebrated with a reception in the project space of DeFKa Research, situated in the Havenkwartier of Assen. The first copies of the magazine were presented to the attendees by the editors, Gert Wijlage and Adrie Krijgsman, and each contributor was handed a copy. With a few words by each contributor and questions about the specific proposals and the artistic practice, a contentment of the intellect came about, followed by vivid discussions.

The ever growing exhibit/archive of the DeFKa Foundation (Stichting), initiated in 1994, was also part of the presentation. With enthusiasm I offered an ik-snap-er-niks-van artefact for the DeFKa archival collection: an ik-snap-er-niks-van cotton bag with an ik-snap-er-niks-van T-Shirt in it. It was accepted and immediately added to the presentation. This, together with the publication SC 2022/05 where my contribution is text and images about my ik-snap-er-niks-van project (concept-practice-history-meaning), means a significant step further for the project, and therefore I am grateful.

*DeFKa stands for ‘Departement voor Filosofie en Kunst in Assen’ (Department of Philosophy and Art in Assen). DeFKa SC Magazine is an essayistic platform for transdisciplinary research with leitmotiv the archiving of contemporary art. Each issue has a theme on topos/areas that illuminate the archiving endeavour from a philosophical, scientific or artistic perspective. Textual language is (mainly) Dutch.

P.S. 1 The DeFKa Research magazines can be ordered at bookstores, also online, with their ISBN number. All issues of the series are presented with their theme and ISBN number on defkaresearch.com

P.S. 2 The project ik-snap-er-niks-van/ικ-σναπ-ερ-νικς-φαν is an art project presented in the form of a webshop. The project was a normal webshop from end-2017 till the beginning of 2022. When the hosting requirements changed, the project moved to a webpage on my atelier’s website, see https://atelierkapnos.com/iksnaperniksvan/ . There are still some items available for sale (T-Shirts, etc.), while I am working on moving the project to the next level, in (artistic) form and circulation.

I don’t understand a thing about space

I don’t understand a thing about space

at LOU Oudenoord, in Utrecht

Original Dutch title: Ik snap er niks van ruimte [text in Dutch]

The installation ‘I don’t understand a thing about space’ looks at space in connection to time, the specific time that people have (or should have) for themselves and in which they can be themselves. In this space the functional duties (work, money, competencies, social status) are explicitly left out, to prevent them from crawling in and overtaking everything.  This free space where real thoughts can be deployed, leaves space for doubt which then generates new thoughts. In this context the expression ‘I don’t understand a thing’ is a depiction of space. The presented work is made of three pieces arranged as podium curtains; the central piece carries the concept sentence. The textile works at the front are fully hand-made of embroidered and sewn pieces. There is abstract imagery to be seen as well as suggestions of costumes; nothing is complete nor perfect. They are open and offer space for reflection.

The installation is part of the project ‘ik-snap-er-niks-van’ (meaning ‘I don’t understand a thing’) that came to life end 2017 in the form of a web shop. In the design, the concept sentence is given in Greek letters and also entails the head of an astronaut. The design plays with the notion of identity, the communication between people, and the philosophical idea that what we can really know is that we know nothing (see also Socrates).

Measurements: approximately 200x200x50 cm

Materials used: textile; embroidered, sewn, cut, painted.

Artist: S.Kapnissi [Instagram @kapnissi.art]


The group exhibition EIGEN DOMEIN/OWN DOMAIN is curated and organised by the artist Maria Makridis in collaboration with the creative space LOU Oudenoord.

EIGEN DOMEIN uitnodiging.jpg

How do people divide their space? This question is the starting point of the exhibition EIGEN DOMEIN / OWN DOMAIN. Public and private spaces are continuously shaped for the needs of humans, while it seems more and more difficult to fulfill these needs; as it shows on our environment. Does the sense of space still exist, now that it becomes more artificial than ever? And how do humans relate to it?

Opening: Saturday 19 February 15:00-21:00

Open: Daily 20-27 February 12:00-17:00

Address: LOU Oudenoord, entrance on the right

Oudenoord 330

3513 EX Utrecht


ik-snap-er-niks-van ruimte at LOU Oudenoord-Utrecht, with Sofia Kapnissi, February 2022

Save that artist: the issue of solidarity

Save that artist: the issue of solidarity

Professional or vocational groups in organised form tend to get an allure of a heavy body, often distant if not alienated from their basis. Recently I heard of grass-root teams that in the current health crisis and the attached socioeconomical one, have set up self help mechanisms for either finding funds to finance artists in direct need or have created a movement from all artistic disciplines with the goal to push governments for financial support. In both those cases it was pointed out that these teams did not want to have direct contact with the politicians; it was on the unions and the associations to do that after all.

In 2020 an extreme amount of hours was spent in virtual meetings and in writing (yet not for this blog). Right after the first lockdown went into force, it was obvious that artists, among many other professionals, would go through hard times; even harder times than normal. As member of the board of the visual artists’ association in NL (BBK), I got involved in the efforts of directing letters to the political scene, explaining what visual arts are as a profession and what artists actually do. The aim was to save the visual artists, and in particular those in just not the correct position for receiving the state support.

A percentage of visual artists was covered by the temporary financial support called TOZO, that has been given to all freelancers from day one of the lockdown and is still running till 1st July 2021. A number of actions, including more official letters, online films and stunts, a demonstration and lobbying, were organised by the gathering of all the associations of artistic disciplines of the country working under the name Creative Coalition (Creatieve Coalitie). The BBK and the visual artists (some are member of other similar associations, a fragmentation making the biggest flaw of our field in this country) occupy anyway a marginal positon in what is called ‘the arts’ and the bigger frame of ‘the creative industries’. Stage artists, actors, dancers, musicians, etc. have a strong presence in the coalition and out there. They talk about labour agreements and paid rehearsals with the assertiveness of the performer. The area of entertainment includes this dealing with money always and for all its parties; it comes more naturally to claim money for concerts and shows. Moreover, entertainment is something understandable by everyone and liked and missed in any time. In that sense, the situation of stage artists is totally different than that of visual artists; and it is not a happy one.

Painters and sculptors, we found to some extent peace and time for reflection during the first total lockdown; that is, we, the ones that do not depend on scrappy jobs to make a living, and/or that at least have the freelance status. In the first letter, an Open Letter to the Parliament sent on 30 March, we set the tone for our views on the situation. It was a brief letter (no time for extensive thinking) but tried to include everyone we could cover as association. Since then, and through the repetition of basic points by the BBK and by others, basic goals have been achieved. Yet, the request for including everyone remains unresolved.

Basic goals achieved:

Starting from the latest positive outcome, the studio rent of the municipal studios in The Hague (one city as a start, hopefully) has been returned to the artists for the months May to December 2020. This, as a response of the municipality of The Hague to a well reasoned letter and further action by the artist Jan Naezer, BBK member, who in April sent the request/suggestion to the Hague Council. The BBK had published the letter in one of its newsletters of the period March to May (first lockdown) fully supporting the action. Recently a draft letter in open format was sent to all BBK members through a newsletter, to use in individual requests to the municipalities.

The immediate previous positive result was the acknowldgement of the TVL (initially called TOGS) also for visual artists. This means that the Chamber of Commerce registration code SBI-9003 has been included, or better said, is not more excluded from this regulation. This is needed for special cases of artists that have a kind of business practice with high monthly costs. The BBK had explicitly insisted on this also through a letter sent to the minister of culture which even got an answer from her. At that point, somewhere in the summer, the minister claimed that she had done what was possible to save the cultural field, visual artists included. Later there seemed to be more saving means available and so the TVL was granted to all professionals for the 4th quarter of 2020.

Round about the summer, the state support for flex-workers, people working via a work agency, and those working on a 0-hour contract was formulated; the employers got support through a regulation called NOW which covers the biggest part of the personel payments including those with precarious contracts. Next to that, the TOZO (for freelancers) was extended, first with added restrictions which were later dropped.

The first BBK letter of March 2020 in its translation from the Dutch original:

BBK, the Beroepsvereniging van Beeldende Kunstenaars, represents visual artists; many of our members fall under the Tozo – Extra support for Self-employed persons (zzp’ ers). Yet not all our members can apply for this support: artists who do not have a regular income from their artistic practice, or have a side job in the catering/ hospitality industry, or others who work on 0-hour-contracts in various sectors. That 80% of the visual artists anyway – even in normal situation – earn less than 20.000 euros gross income per year is already a problem. (see: https://bknl.nl/wp/wpcontent/uploads/2019/06/BKNL_CollectiveSelfie_spreads.pdf). Overhead costs like the studio rent and energy keep running. For artists from countries outside the EU the situation is that they cannot even apply for financial support because that would jeopardise their residence status in the Netherlands. Even after a normal rhythm has been established, the quarantine consequences will affect visual artists for a long time.
We request an emergency basic income for all the visual artists living in the Netherlands, from March till the end of 2020 and with re-evaluation of the situation in December 2020. This can be distributed via the visual artists’ organisations, like BBK, to the subscribed members.
Visual art raises critical thinking and at the same time offers balance to the individual and the society. Visual art contributes to the fulfilment of life, complete and good. The outcome of visual art is the background of your life.

P.S. My extended for emergency reasons term in the BBK board is ending on 12 February 2021, when the General Assembly will take place (online) and new members will be chosen. There is a vacancy advert for new members published and the hope to go further with new people and new ideas. Being a member of the board gives a chance to be actively involved in the art field on many levels; in decision making as well for that matter. Being a member of the BBK as visual artist gives you a chance to be part of a community that shares the same problems and privileges (intellectual mainly) as you do. It is also a community that challenges your sense of solidarity. The BBK was created and is governed by visual artists.

At the movies

Movies make a big part of my life. My WhatsUp static message says “at the movies”. I am the typical day dreamer. My brain makes space for a second life for day-time dreaming and a third life for sleep-time dreams. I admire film makers and script writers. Since young I had the chance to see movies from all over the world. Athens was – and still is – a city with geniuin cinema fans and cinema owners. These last ones admirably kept their cinema spaces through the 10 year crisis and their audience did not let them down. I will never forget going to see On body and Soul by Ildikó Enyedi in the cinema Asty in the centre of Athens in one of my last mama-bound trips. OK, it is one of the oldest cinemas in the city and has always been a culture place, but still! It was full and it is not a small space; rather the opposite. So, growing up – with culture as my guide and saviour – my aesthetic and intellectual being was formed by J.L. Godar, M. Antonioni, W. Wenders, etc. These as the main course with the common Hollywood blockbusters as side dish.

Here in The Hague, this part of culture is squeezed in tiny rooms of about 30 persons and only in a cinema called “Filmhuis”, the house of film. All the other cinemas are uniformly set up for blockbusters and mono-language films, English or the local Dutch production (and rarely French).

The other day, a youngster brought up the movie Fifty Shades of Grey on which I said that I watched 10 minutes and no more because I found it boring (he as well actually). During a short passage by the university recently, a professor kept banging on that the book would not have become so successful should it not have been available for e-readers (which was a standard example for e-reader benefits) because people would be embarrassed to read a physical book with the title on the cover exposed in public spaces, meaning in the train while going to work (and getting horny?). Then he would go further to talk about the film in cinemas and how shocking that was for people, etc. Whenever he would mention this I wanted to counter propose Lars von Trier and his Nymphomaniac (see my blog post). But as I discovered lately not so many people in The Netherlands know about him and his movies (or my environment is in a certain deep at the moment). The before mentioned young man that does know him said to me “If you like his movies then you should see this director’s films as well”, talking about horror movies. Von Trier’s films are not horror, they are masterly horrific, and I cannot say that I like them though I do watch them religiously (must have something to do). I certainly do like  the feel of crushing our domesticated bourgeois existence (mine included) with his extremities that seem to have no limit. It is more about getting things into perspective and re-focus. Anyway, life contains a big portion of horror and pain; we contain horror and pain and we walk around frustrated and disoriented in the world of the bold and the beautiful.

Talking about horror movies, my distance to them started somewhere after The Ring and its American version of 2002. Hadn’t given much thought about it, beside relating this with going through years of special sensitivities; bringing up a child, etc., until I recently read this article “The Ones That Got Away” (Douglas Coupland, Bit Rot, 2015, Witte de With Publishers, pp. 72-74) in a bundle of writings by Douglas Coupland (yes, the same person who wrote back in 1991 Generation X). One of the cases (that got away) starts with this statement “Back around 2000 I was having dinner with a film producer looking for ideas and I told him the future was in zombie films and TV. He asked why and I told him the truth, which is that in order to turn an actor into a zombie, all the actor has to do is put out his or her arms and grunt. Net cost? Zero.” I was shocked! So it is not about cheating our fears, throwing a laugh at them perhaps? Feeling happy in the end for not being a freak ourselves? Anyway, a horror film came on tv and I sat to watch it. It was made with teenage actors and apparently for the same age audience. It was horror without reason and somehow well in line with the tv news. It was horror as light entertainment that generates money. OK, one more on my list of things that I don’t get (see also ik-snap-er-niks-van project). Yet, I will look for intellectual horror movies and come back on the subject when I find them.

P.S. In the photo I am retouching a painting (not mine/ours) that was damaged and K_Van and I restored it; a paid assignment by an art collector (not mine/ours). Seeing the photo I remembered The Ring; yet, it was just another non-functional gig of mine: having no hair band while kneeling on the floor to apply paint (oil paint) on someone else’s work. To even out this horror, it kindly brought out all these thoughts about movies, in the night-dreaming space of my mind.

Sofia as a horror hero



The first works of 2019 were ready by the 3rd week of January: two linocuts of medium size, one with two plates and the other one with three. The aim was transparency, juxtaposition of free drawing and design drawing, experimenting with white on black to achieve the aimed transparency. Noted while working: Later the underprint might be coloured. Titles: “Pattern: white noise” and “Pattern: efforts to tame freedom”.

Proof prints and models

These two linocut prints took many work hours and many proof prints. After the first proofs of the first one (White noise), I printed on Japanese paper Awagami size 49,5 x 61 cm. The result was not what I wanted: the paper did not stick well on the inked plate and did not absorb the ink well. As a result, the second plate which entails a large inked surface (white) came out with lines from the spoon that I use for hand printing.

Then, I made the second design and decided to use three plates. Before working on the two smaller plates for this one, I made a model from milky semi-transparent paper that is usually used for animation design.

linocut plat2and3 milky model_crop

Tosa Shi paper and waterbased ink

After several proofs, I went ahead with printing again: I bought new Japanese paper of differently layed fibres and slightly smaller sheets: Tosa Shi is the name of the paper, white colour, with a rather coarse texture on one side, smooth on the other; the sheets I bought are size 45,5 x 60 cm. This paper sticks well on the inked linoplates. While printing you see the design at the back side of the paper. It is also strong, does not tear. It does leave a bit of grain/dust on the black surfaces. I don’t know if this can be avoided if using oil ink. This time I wanted to work fast so I used the Schminke waterbased ink (with natural bind mediums-gummi arabicum). This ink is supposed to dry within 15′. However, to print the second layer, I allowed the prints to dry for one day. For the 3rd layer of design 2 – black lines on white surface – I waited for two hours for the white to dry. Still, I have the impression that it could have dried longer. I also tried both sides of the paper to see which side prints better. It is definetely the smooth side that you need to use. Unless you want to experiment with dusty like surfaces and a result of less opaque colour.

2019 will be a printing year for me. I continue now with smaller format linocuts and with colour (red and yellow inks already in the studio). Then I also want to work with lithography. I have two designs nearly finished; need to sit down and prepare them and then arrange to go to the printing studio in The Hague, to put them on a stone and print.

lino prints white noise

Engraving is a (or the) art labour to draw satisfaction and peace from. You need physical strenght, control on your movement, good planning and precision, and a special kind of concentration and devotion when engraving and printing; and the prints radiate all this. What a thrill!

linocut rolls and inks


Acts of rebellion in a lifetime

Acts of rebellion in a lifetime

My mother, Athina, from Ioannina-Epirus, lived most of her life in Athens; as youngster in Petralona, as married woman and mother in Kypseli and then later in Maroussi a northern suburb of Athens (and earlier times a village). She lived a simple life with a husband, two children, love, smile, beauty, some dramas and many sorrows. She didn’t enjoy eating nor drinking. She loved animals; she’d feed stray cats systematically and saved many of them from sickness and from street life dangers (unfriendly dogs, neighbors, cars, etc.). She was a tireless craftswoman in crochet and knitting; and somewhat in embroidery.

She kept her wishes dimmed, yet contributed her acts of rebellion just as we all ought to do (no matter how small). She got cremated in Bulgaria because the Greek State has not managed to surpass the church’s claim to our bodies (soul is not enough). It was her wish to be cremated despite the church’s commands and against most of her acquaintances and distant relatives’ expectations. Her own people had long before her departed. There was no ceremony; only my brother and I said goodbye to her body before the last trip to Sofia.

When still in Kypseli, on the first anniversary of “Polytechnio”, in 1974, she put in her bag the family film camera Standard 8 and went. The students’ rebellion against the junta – marked by the tank entering the Athens Polytechnic university in the early morning of 17 November 1973 and the accompanied brutalities by the police in and around the Polytechnio building – was then, just a year after and with the democracy freshly reestablished, a symbol of the fight for freedom, collective and individual; the Polytechnio ground was a highly emotional place. My mama filmed a roll or two. These films became a part of our family films; they were to be found in between summer holidays and Christmas dinners.

In 2007, based on these bits of film I made the video with the title “The importance of flowers” which was shown in the exhibition “Words-no-Words” in The Hague. It was the time of our housing and studio space renting in soon-to-be-demolished blocks of buildings. My mama did see the exhibition and her part in it. We were together then, our names connected closely as always.

From now on silence.

Athina Kapnissi-Tsanti, 1932-2018



The continent formerly known as Europe

The continent formerly known as Europe

In the 20th century’s 90’s, deep in the bliss of spending in the name of consumerism (without a blush), the foundations were secured of what we are living now. Europe endorsed money as the major life value and its citizens were renamed into consumers; then the talk about (the) currency started and ruled over any other concern of the European existence.

This, the currency, was meant to be the main experiment and around it we saw all possible flaws sticking to the continent’s vessel. As real Europeans growing in self-criticism, should we first list the (criminal) flaws? Dublin 2 top of the list; the agreement regarding the refugees that touch land in Greece, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, but also Hungary (till sometime ago); an agreement designed to protect the financially advanced, situated in the centre of this continent, at any cost (lives-dignity-resources). The economical flaws are equally crucial. Tax evasion (or accomplice to) as a person or as State; bribery and fraud counted in bills of hundreds or of millions (under this should we also mention the bonuses of bank managers in central continent?); corruption on the level of a police station officer or on systemic violations of citizens’ constitutional rights (e.g. strategic misinformation turning peoples against each other)?

Once flaws listed, every top meeting and every negotiation in Europe could start with reporting about the basics. On which ideas should we base our directions? What can your country contribute to the pool of historical knowledge and philosophical vision? The standard answer of eternal financial growth is here irrelevant; as it refers to an accountancy and investment bureau, not to the place that claims to defend democracy, etc. But the € union is systemically pushing humanities and culture to the side; starting by crashing the (university) studies that do not translate into present or future profit, those failing to produce present or future antagonistic individuals (humanities again). No need to mention the total dishonouring of the arts; though here more actors are involved. Governments are even applauded when scrapping in one go 40% of the spending on culture from their annual budget.

Europe was a continent and then, after multiple internal massacres, came the European community, then called union; then the Euro and the eurozone appeared. In this process, Greece received its share of benefits, while contributing – amongst a number of known and less known things – the name Europe, Ευρώπη. Within the recent dismay of everything Greek, and the non-memory of the people, the officials will cut off from the name, one way or the other.

On a time leap ahead, when our dear northerns will be visiting Europe, they can show their passports mentioning at forefront “citizen of €”, or else “citizen of the continent formerly known as Europe”.

P.S. 1 From the depth of my heart to a hero of my youth: Thank you Jean-Luc Godard, for your fiery defense for Greece and for the ideas that once seemed to unite this continent.

P.S. 2 This text was written in the midst of the Greek financial crisis. Since then, some things may have changed in the Greek situation; the tv has found other black sheep to point fingers at. I am not a journalist; my point remains.

the continent formerly known as Europe

I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

I cannot travel anymore – books for short trips

‘I cannot travel anymore’ would be the next book to read. I would read it within a day or two: as long as a short trip for work usually lasts, or equal to the free time saved for reading when away for longer (work/duty) trips. It is a good title; a statement that shocks in real life. People ask immediately why. What to give as main reason: the physical strain (including the recovery time that becomes longer and longer), the shattering sense of loneliness among familiar faces (never managed to beat this one), the dislike of hotel rooms with their zombie tidiness, the limiting of the vital space within the frames of a suitcase and a crummy airplane seat, the food mostly under the acceptable standard (note: I like simple food), the goodbyes to loved ones, the current readings that must stay at home because of their volume and weight.

‘I cannot travel anymore’ does not exist as book title yet. I’ve had to do with other (more imaginative) titles, this recent period.

Here is a short selection of five:
A General Theory of Oblivion (2015, in EN) by Jose Eduardo Agualusa, an Angolan writer, famous (of what I read) and really special in his writing style and story building. I bought the book at Eason in Dublin; read it that evening sitting in my dorm bed and at the airport the next day before returning home.
The last days of New Paris (2016) by China Mieville, an English writer of fantasy fiction but also of history related to Marxism and the October revolution; here dealing with Surrealism and its role in history, with artists and Nazis in exploding encounters. I bought the book at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on my way to Athens; read it during the trip and one night in the Athenian heat of August (air-co on of course).
Swing Time (2016) by Zadie Smith, an English writer famous enough not to need introductions I think. This one is about the inevitable crashing of lives no matter what the predictions or the first indications might be. But, open as an artwork, others have read in it tales about friendship and such which is indeed the first level of the story. I bought it also at Schiphol airport on my way to Marrakech for a conference job; read it there and then in between work, dinners, talks, and through hours of sleeplessness.
Batavia’s Graveyard (2002) by Mike Dash, a Welsh writer of history. This is a scholarly publication with 100 pages of annotations and a full bibliography; yet an absolute page turner. It is the story of the Dutch ship ‘Batavia’ that left Holland in 1628 and shipwrecked a few months later onto a group of islands off the Australian west coast. The mutiny that followed, the killings, the living conditions on and off the ship(s), the scum of the earth that manned the East India ships and populated the colonies, and the retribution by the authorities: exciting by itself and told by a fantastic writer, all into it! I bought the book at the American Bookstore in The Hague and read it on my way to Kassel; a road trip this one.
The Red and the Black (1830) by Stendhal, the classic 19th century French writer, yes. Where did this come from, one would wonder. Well, apart from doing a refresh of early readings, I wanted to read through a good account of ambition and hypocrisy, together with love affairs with a purpose, horrendous (real) love entanglements, and the all-time hopelessness of those lacking social/cultural/financial capital. I bought it online and read it somewhere between Athens and Amsterdam. Though reading it in English was difficult, I found, cause the long sentences of the French language sound awkward in  English, the tone was well transferred.

Since the fall of Napoleon, all appearance of gallantry has been severely barred from provincial manners. There is fear of being deprived of one’s post. The scoundrels seek the support of the Congregation; and hypocrisy has made most wonderful progress even in the liberal ranks. Boredom redoubles itself. There remain no other pleasures but reading and agriculture. [p. 52]

P.S. Dedicated to all those who travel more than often, with admiration for their physical strength.

‘Highways and a dream: on wet roads’, oil on canvas, 100 x 150 cm, 2015





Dublin in lost mode

Dublin in lost mode

You know that a city is a welcoming place when you can enjoy a long walk in lost mode without much; not afraid to take the wrong turn; no (terribly) wrong street to step foot on nor too long a distance to deal with.

Dublin is such a welcoming place: in the centre, despite the hordes of tourists (with the drunkenness and whatever else that often brings in the need for paramedics), in the high neighbourhoods with the coloured Georgian doors and the classy galleries, and just the same in the working class streets where you smell and see in full: open air food markets, small eating places, basic shops of anything, people doing their thing and letting you be.

No, I am not idealizing it as it is not a harmless joyful city; the word ‘disparity’ is here again more than obvious, just like in most of our cities; soup for the poor and homeless, high art for the delicate souls. Still, Dublin manages to keep it down to earth (no lepricorns  here).

The deep green colour is beautiful and heart breaking; the soups have a distinct blunt taste as if grandma made them (delicious); the dark beer flows and the rain falls whenever it pleases, and you can count the drops one by one.

 P.S. Getting lost with a smart phone in your hand is the easiest thing, trust me!