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i_hongkongness_on-black-PRC-emblem
the IMAGINED COMMUNITY of HONGKONGNESS

– this is my second attempt to summarise HongKongNess in one icon like picture –


香港人 = HONGKONGNESS (also spelled Hon Kong-ness) the idea of a special, separate identity many citizens of the “Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China” do conceive as their ‘imagined community’ (the last term comes from the well-known study on the meaning of nationalism by Benedict Anderson, 1983) [1]. A side effect of the tactical doctrine proposed by the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the early eighties for the ‘take back’ (after 156 years) of the Crown Colony of Hong Kong, from the British Empire by the People’s Republic of China: “ONE COUNTRY TWO SYSTEMS”… HONGKONGNES expresses first of all what is NOT wanted (the legal Chinese state system where the separation of powers between the juridical and the reigning party system does ‘de facto’ not exist)…

HONGKONGNESS is also the idea of ‘freedom (of expression)’ and at the same time the ‘freedom of entrepreneurship and trade’ (hence including exploitation of humans and property).

There is hardly any surviving ancient Hong Kong native culture that can be used as a cultural carrier for this city-state new form of nationalism. Hong Kong was just a sparsely populated rock and some islands with a few fisherman settlements at the moment of occupation by the British. Hong Kong has seen a fluctuating past since it became a British colony with periods of rise and decline of its population and economic importance. In the mid sixties – at the moment of a great influx of refugees from Mainland China because of extravagant and often chaotic political and economic reforms during the reign of Mao Zedong, the city’s population started to grow fast. It was also the time of the Cold War and economic boycott of Mainland China, that created the often infamous industry city-state associated with products branded ‘Made in Hong Kong’.

The policy change in Mainland China, with the implementation of Free Economic Zones (read free to exploit the local labour in these areas) like the adjacent region around Shenzhen, brought about by Deng Xiaoping, cum suis, repositioned the role of Hong Kong, whereby the element of factory production diminished and the already growing sector of international banking and associated trade activities greatly expanded.

This last development may explain the paradoxical status of the idea of HONGKONGNESS whereby those who want more civil rights, local democracy and some even class equality, find themselves in the same basket as members of the big business community when it comes to protest against changing the actual ‘rule of law’ system, which is seen as yet another step in the ‘salami-tactics’ of Mainland China powers to gain greater control over the city-state, its inhabitants and its business. There is even a double bottom to this ‘unholy alliance’ because the international banking and trading sector of Hong Kong is eager to keep as long as possible the ‘status aparte’ of the ‘special administrative region’ to facilitate it’s growing investments and influence in Mainland China and the funneling role of Hong Kong to reap the profits of it.

Big profits can be made by being close to China, work in China, but not being ruled by China (too much).
This process is not a one-way undertaking, because financial conglomerates from Mainland China are using Hong Kong for a similar type of exploitation. In other words these are economic dragons with more than one head.

Do these observations make the mass movement of Hong Kong people we have witnessed in the past weeks suspect? I do not think so. There is a genuine need to keep a way of life that allows for more personal freedom than available in the People’s Republic of China proper. Still that what can be called ‘the City State of Hong Kong’ is far from an ideal social system… when it comes to social differences Hong Kong is among the top ranking nations for its ‘social inequality’. [2]

As always ‘social movements’ are phenomena that are ‘on the move’, within days one can see how discontent expressed in demonstrations reach a momentum whereby the quantity (the amount of people participating) invokes new quality. Single demands become lists of demands, a political program may evolve… claiming things far beyond the impetus. We need to keep in mind as well that ‘unity’ is always momentary and that ‘a social movement’ is mostly something that carries differing opinions on means and ends. Potential leaders are “born” during the struggle, will rise and will have a hard time not to get caught in the ideological stratification processes whereby single opinions on tactics and strategies are imposed onto a pluriform crowd. Fractions may form, internal struggles may develop, up to fratricide.

What stems hopeful in regard to the mass street rallies of Hong Kong, is that these displays of popular dissent and power are ephemeral, warning signs to those who rule the city state. The demonstrators show the authorities that they have to reckon with a population that is formally hardly represented in the straightjacket representational system that has been tailored by the party communist system of the People’s Republic of China. These highly visible mass street rallies are set against the wheeling and dealing of an opaque local governmental system. The mobilization structure for the mass rallies is manifold. Methods of action are most often peaceful. Non-violent tactics are acquired with each new rally. A learning process of many years in the case of Hong Kong. Most important there is NOT a formal structure of leadership, there are NO formal representatives that may be lured into compromise and estranged from ‘their followers’.

The existing government and its functionaries are forced to – somehow – absorb the popular demands in their policy, if only, to fence off the calling in question of their rule. [3]

It may be a failure of Machiavellian insight by the leadership of People’s Republic of China to have limited the population of Hong Kong so much in their demands for independent democratic representation in the last decades. Without such mediating political devices only the ‘social media’ of the internet and demonstrations in the streets have remained as means for expression of popular opinion.


Afterword

The text above was written between Sunday June 16 and Tuesday June 17. In The Guardian of today (June 18) there is an interview with one of the young activists who was active in the earlier demonstrations in the year 2014 known ast he ‘Umbrella movement’ Joshua Wong Chi-fung (1996-). The 2014 movement was about the limitations set to the  elections for a new Hong Kong ‘chief execute’ which was a closed shop election affair whereby only those screened and accepted by the government of the People’s Republic of China, could participate. The person chosen in that (non democratic) election was Carrie Lam. Joshua Wong had just served a prison sentence of two months for contempt of court during court proceedings against him because of his activism. He was released last Monday. In the interview the point I have raised in my analysis about a broad social movement without apparent leaders, came up as well:

Asked whether he would like to be leader of the next set of protests, Wong sidestepped. “As an ‘organic’ movement, the anti-extradition protest is very decentralised. The key is not who is leading it.”

Many learned about the protests through groups on WhatsApp and Telegram and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

“When a movement has no leaders, it constitutes even greater pressure on the authorities to give concessions because they have no one to negotiate with and they can’t just go and arrest one of the leaders,” he said.

The sweeping opposition to the extradition bill had come from not only the pro-democracy camp and young people, but also the business sector. The huge turnout in the protests – an estimated one million on 9 June and nearly two million on 16 June, were beyond anyone’s imagination, Wong said.



Notes
[1] Benedict Anderson, 1983:

“… a nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”. () Members of the community probably will never know each of the other members face to face; however, they may have similar interests or identify as part of the same nation. Members hold in their minds a mental image of their affinity: for example, the nationhood felt with other members of your nation when your “imagined community” participates in a larger event such as the Olympic Games.”

In the case of Hong Kong being a city-state with a land surface of just over 1 km2 and a population of approximate 7,4 inhabitants, the huge demonstrations of last week (with 1 million on June the 9th. and almost 2 million demonstrators on Sunday June 16th. (these are maximalist numbers by the organizers, of course the Hong Kong police comes up with much lower numbers). Still it si realistic to say that the last demonstration of Sunday was a turn out of a quarter of the population onto the streets. That is rare and in a way the theory of Benedict Anderson (members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members) has been overturned in the case of Hong Kong as all those out in the streets were not only seeing huge numbers of their fellow citizens face tot face, but also through the ubiquitous personal communication tool of smartphones. So also their families and acquaintances staying at home for all kind of reasons could follow their personal relations on the street, both of these groups could instantly zoom in on the personal level and zoom-out to the manifold news and social media outlets that showed the enormous crowd from a higher position, up to aerial photography and drones.
The ‘nation as a crowd’ does get a new meaning here.

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Along the route taken by the march. (A) Causeway Road, outside Victoria Park, (B) Hennessy Road, in Causeway Bay, (C) Hennessy Road, in Wan Chai. Sources: Bloomberg reporting, Google Earth, Transport Department. Source Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-hong-kong-protests-extradition-to-china/

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Hundreds of mothers holding placards, some of which read “If we lose the young generation, what’s left of Hong Kong”, and lit smartphones protest against the amendments to the extradition law in Hong Kong on Friday. Photo: AAP. Source: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2019/06/15/hong-kong-protests-extradition-2/

 

[2] South China Morning Post, 27/9/2018, Michelle Wong:

Aid agency Oxfam has issued a 60-page report recommending the Hong Kong government set aside an extra HK$36.7 billion (US$4.7 billion) next year to prevent more people falling into poverty. The charity said the funds were needed to address the city’s widening wealth gap – the largest in 45 years. So how did Hong Kong come to be such an unequal society, and what else could be done to level the playing field?
How bad is the wealth gap in Hong Kong?
The difference between a society’s rich and poor is often measured using the Gini coefficient – statistician Corrado Gini’s index of how evenly income is distributed on a scale from zero to one. In June last year the figure for Hong Kong was 0.539, with zero indicating equality. The result was the highest in 45 years. The United States was at 0.411 and Singapore 0.4579. Hong Kong’s number has climbed 0.006 points since 2006, according to the city’s Census and Statistics Department.
One in three elderly Hongkongers lives below the poverty line.
In 2016 the median monthly household income of the top 10 per cent of Hongkongers was 43.9 times the bottom 10 per cent. The poorest would have to work three years and eight months on average to earn what the richest make in a month.

Read on at
https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/2165872/why-wealth-gap-hong-kongs-disparity-between-rich-and-poor

[3] The Guardian 18/6/2019: “Hong Kong protesters unimpressed by Lam’s ‘sincere’ apology // Chief suggests extradition law effectively shelved but protesters say key demands ignored”

Hong Kong chief leader Carrie Lam is cited:

“I will not proceed again with this legislative exercise if these fears and anxieties could not be adequately addressed,” Lam said. “If the bill does not make legislative council by July next year, it will expire and the government will accept that reality.”

Read on at:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jun/18/hong-kong-carrie-lam-to-apologise-to-protesters-extradition-bill

Bevrijdingsmonument-afgetopt_prijsvraag_Dam_Amsterdam

BEVRIJDINGSMONUMENT AFGETOPT op de Dam te Amsterdam, het gebeurde nauwelijks opgemerkt afgelopen maand mei 2019… het onttopte monument is hier te zien op een screenshot dat ik deze middag nam van de gemeentelijke Amsterdamse webcam op de Dam, vergeleken met een opname die de Engelse wikipedia pagina over het monument op de Dam siert.Dit feit is – hoe onbedoeld ook – kan een zekere symbolische waarde niet ontzegt worden. Het is als een castratie, verlies van potentie van denationale heldhaftigheid van de Nederlandse staat. (*)
Ooit maake een cartoonist – zijn naam ben ik vergeten en de prent weet ik (nog) niet terug te vinden – een fraaie spotprent op het monument, in slappe toestand na een zaaduitstorting. Nu weet AT5 te melden dat het gehele monument bouwvallig is en recentelijk onderworpen werd aan een endoscopisch onderzoek waarbij scheuren doorlopend van de binnen- tot de buitenzijde aan het licht zijn gekomen.

Nog niet lang terug (2017) werd het monument op de Dam tot ‘nationaal monument’ in bouwkundig opzicht verklaard, dus we mogen aannemen dat het geval weer rechtop en getopt terug zal komen in het stadsbeeld en het nationaal bewustzijn… of – beter – is het een moment met ongekende kansen voor een verandering van het monument, waarbij de afgetopte fiere kolom gezien kan worden als een sokkel waarop een nieuw te maken kunstwerk geplaatst zal worden…

Ik lanceer hierbij dan ook DE GROTE PRIJSVRAAG AFGETOPTE BEVRIJDING die vanaf de Dam in Amsterdam een nieuwe blik op het verleden en daarmee een nieuwe wending van de toekomst teweeg moet brengen. Inzendingen kunnen als ‘commentaar’ op dit bericht alhier geplaatst worden.

[Iedere inzending wordt vooraf door de beheerder van de Hinkende Bode/Limping Messenger beoordeeld op geschiktheid om publiek gemaakt te worden, immers ‘herdenking van slachtoffers van geweld’ en ‘vrijheid van meningsuiting’ zijn zaken die niet altijd in overeenstemming met elkaar te brengen zijn.]


(*) “De pyloon bestaat uit een bakstenen en betonnen kern waaraan travertin platen zijn opgehangen. De centrale beeldengroep van geketende mannen verbeeldt het lijden van het volk, geflankeerd door beelden die het arbeiders- en intellectuelenverzet symboliseren. Het hierboven geplaatste beeld van moeder met kind gedenkt de bevrijding en kijkt naar een toekomst zonder oorlog. Ook de duiven symboliseren vrijheid. In de twaalf ingemetselde urnen bevindt zich de aarde van fusilladeplaatsen en erebegraafplaatsen uit de Nederlandse provincies en Indonesië.” Tekst ontleend aan de beschrijving in het Rijksmonumentenregister (Monument nummer: 530906)

Palestinian_songfestival_2018
– contest not in Jerusalem as some were hoping in 2018 but in Tel Aviv (*) –

All selected artists/groups for Tel Aviv Eurovision Song Contest – which is it’s original name – have been invited to produce before the contest a short video-clip (video post-cards), clips used in the live broadcats of the event. …. These clips were set and filmed in different parts of Israel… whatever territory might entail… so I saw a few (I do not watch the Eurovision thing normally, but now it has enough other meanings to do so when Isarel becomes a part of Europe)… in the clips I saw beautiful fields, beaches, townscape (no fences and walls in sight) – all without an actual mapping of the location… I became under the impression that there was no ‘video shot’ fired in the West Bank, let alone in Gaza… so public relation managers must have advised prime minister Netanyahu not to use the occasion of Eurovision to showIsraeli occupied/liberated enclaves within the West Bank as Israeli landscape background for these clips.

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This screen shot is taken from: “ISRAEL21c is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization and the publisher of an English-language online news magazine recognized as the single most diverse and reliable source of news and information about 21st century Israel.” The’ABOUT’ section states also this: “ISRAEL21c was founded in 2001, in the wake of the Second Intifada, to broaden public understanding of Israel beyond typical portrayals in the mainstream media. The organization’s founders – Israeli-American technology executives – understood the great power of the Internet and developed a first-of-its kind online product with global appeal and reach.

The mash-up video giving flashing fragments of several of the ‘Israel postcard video clip series made for the Eurovision Song Contest 2019.
~
There are several small nations included the city state of San Marino (*), very new ones also, like the latest version of Macedonia, BUT I could not find anything related to a young or old nation called by the name of Palestine… REASON ENOUGH TO REPOST MY SONG CONTEST PICTURE made in 2018… which shows the spectacular swirling tear gas cartridges thrown from helicopters and hand swung pyromatic objects by people unhappy by what goes under the name of the state of Israel.
~
Meanwhile I keep wondering since when Australia (that participates in the song contest) is considered an European nation or country? Certainly they did any tradition aboriginal dances and songs in Tel Aviv. 21st century nationalism often comes in disguise like the Polish ladies performing in what is supposed to be some kind of national costume… covering all the body parts that need to be covered when the Pope would be the dressmaker… I will try to make later an analysis of the song that brought Israel the first price last year…. with the fat lady doing her stage stampede with skinny boys and girls that emanate a non Jewish state expression of gender roles… this because of the tourist campaigns of the city of Tel Aviv proposing itself as a pro-gay community paradise..
~
Alas, I am waiting for the day that Tel Aviv becomes a city state (like San Marino) which also gets rid of all nationalistic devides and a twofold or even threefold city state of Jerusalem (something like Brussels) where orthodox jews, secular pro Palerstinian jews and orthodox Palestinian nationalists all have their own quarters… They can then all participate in the Eurovision Song Contest, making that device into an liberating machine for mankind: A PLATFORM OF CONTESTED NATIONS.
~
The winning Israeli song of 2018 had a #MeToo theme with the song “I am not your toy boy”, which is a good thing in a gender emancipatory sense. The #MeToo theme needs to be expanded to other phenomenon of repression and rape… to ‘the rape of nation states’.
No nation state can deny that its history is based on the favouring of one group of people over another one and what is presented as its sacred history is nothing more than a constructed myth about a past that never existed the way it is represented now. Of course a myth tends to have some traits of reality that existed in the past, it is not all imagination, but as the nation state proposes it’s unique identity, this can only be done by neglect or discrimination of elements that are excluded.
The landscapes of Israel shown in the song contest video-clips prove my point… the reality of occupation, of unwanted settlement in territories that do not belong to Israel according to established international law, was excluded from the Eurovision Song Contest broadcasted visuals. No fences, no walls, no road blocks, no Gaza, no West Bank.
~

What kind of Eurovision we will see in the future with the split up of national states on the one hand and a further integration of European nations on the other? Will it become a contest of regions? Will the number of participating regions and even city-states make it into an event with over one hundred contesting ‘national or cultural entities’? Welsh, Scottish, Norther Ireland, Catalan, Basque, Occitania, Flanders, Wallonia, Limburg, Friesland, Sachsen, Transylvania, Liechenstein, Rutania, name it… Will it be something smeared out over a song-contest season taking several months… and most important will we then get a more idiosyncratic regional cultural impact on melody, text,language and choreography of the contesting singers, musicians and dancers? As it stands now diversity of the stage acts is dwindling by the year and with participants from the other side of the globe we may ask if this is more due to a globalising than an europeanising cultural effect, with less and less unique cultural species around.

A Eurovision Song Contest of regions could counter the melting pot effect of styles… or am I here proposing a xenophobic renaissance of autochtone tribalism and is the fusion of all national styles into three theatrical prototypes – as we witness now – something we should welcome as a positive outcome of peaceful coexistence?

The total neglect and exclusion of the Palestinian nation in the year 2019 Eurovision Song Contest in Israel shows that such a development may take many decades before it can becomes a reality. At least I like to propose it as something to strive for, utopian as it may seem today.


(*) The New Yorker had this picture and comments on the choice of Eurovision city and the failed attempts to boycot the 2019 Israel Eurovision event:

The host city is often a country’s capital, but this year the European Broadcasting Union, which produces Eurovision, nixed Jerusalem. The city has hosted the event twice before, in 1979 and 1999, but those were times when Jerusalem’s future seemed more open-ended, and Israel’s claims on it more ambiguous. Barzilai won the event, last year, during the same week that the Trump Administration moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, and more than sixty Gazans were killed at the border with Israel. If the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Donald Trump were going to try to settle the fate of Jerusalem by fiat and force, the executives of the European Broadcasting Union, apparently, were not going to be party to it.

So Tel Aviv was swapped for Jerusalem, Israel’s état réel for its état légal, a decision that rightist pundits called “a win for the B.D.S. movement”—the Palestinian-inspired movement of Western activists advocating for boycott, disinvestment, and sanctions—although any hard feelings caused by the flap quickly dissipated. In the end, no country backed out of the contest. Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, a B.D.S. supporter, had called on artists to shun the event, particularly Madonna, who was considering making an appearance. But Madonna, an acolyte of Kabbalah—a Jewish mystical tradition—confirmed that she will perform at the closing event, on Saturday night. Israelis will settle for that.

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Caption of the New Yorker: “Left-wing Israelis protest the Eurovision Song Contest, which this year is being held in Tel Aviv.Photograph by Menahem Kahana”

(**) There is a very interesting andwell documented Wikipedia page on the Eurovison Song Contest and the participating countries, explaining how the odd definition of Eurpean works according to the EUROVISION broadcats association as well as listing those ‘countries” that tried in vain to participate (Liechtenstein, Lebanon, Catalonia, Kosovo, Qatar, Scotland, Wales, Soviet Union, Tunesia).

END OF ASYLUM OF
THE LEAKING MESSENGER
ASSANGE after 2487 days removed from the embassy of Ecuador in London.
~ after his self-imprisonment he becomes a prisoner of state ~
BREAKER OF STATE & CORPORATE SECRECIES SILENCED

Assange_the-messenger-arrested_2019-04-11


and… then of course Assange is certainly not a peace saint on the level of his daily semi-prison existence and empathy for people who had to bear him over the years… here a summing up from the Ecuador point of view in The Guardian of today:
~ Julian Assange ‘Rude, ungrateful and meddling’: why Ecuador turned on Assange ~

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Procrastination is mostly seen as a vice. Putting things off till later as a bad habit. This is not necessarily so. Certain decisions can have so many complicated effects, that putting them off to later may even become beneficial for all. The long lasting indecisiveness of the British parliament on on leaving the EU and if so how do do that is a fine example of the positive effects of procrastination. The object of decision is changing in the process. Starting of with Yes or No for Plan A, we have now passed plan B and C and in the end someone may walk off with a Yes for plan E, whatever that will be.

The extension of the BREXIT decision given by the leaders of the EU states to Great Britain, up to one year from now, brought me to read again the pocket book of diplomats, rulers and politicians written in the 17th century by a Spanish court priest Balthasar Grácian “The Art of Worldly Wisdom”, as the two hundred and so maximes still do apply to actual politics (as many wisdoms from the past, with technology and scientific knowledge having changed a lot, but human nature not).

These one’s may well fit in the hand bag of Theresa May… the book of Grácian has been translated in many languages and an early Dutch edition has as a title: “Handorakel of de kunst der voorzichtigheid” (Hand oracle or the art of prudence). A small size book one could put in one’s pocket or bag was called in the Low Countries ‘handorakel’. As with all of these ‘tactical manuals’ the whole set of recommendations/maximes will show some inconsistency, what is deemed good to do in one may be called not so good or bad in another. Still it helps us to get a wider perspective on the phenomenon of poltical decision.



AMSpict005485
“3. Keep Matters for a Time in Suspense. Admiration at their novelty heightens the value of your achievements. It is both useless and insipid to play with the cards on the table. If you do not declare yourself immediately, you arouse expectation, especially when the importance of your position makes you the object of general attention. Mix a little mystery with everything, and the very mystery arouses veneration. And when you explain, be not too explicit, just as you do not expose your inmost thoughts in ordinary intercourse. Cautious silence is the holy of holies of worldly wisdom. A resolution declared is never highly thought of; it only leaves room for criticism. And if it happens to fail, you are doubly unfortunate. Besides you imitate the Divine way when you cause men to wonder and watch.” [Gracián y Morales, Baltasar, and Joseph Jacobs. 1892. The art of worldly wisdom. London: Macmillan and Co. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/api/volumes/oclc/654889.html. ; maxime 3. ]

“36. In Acting or Refraining, weigh your Luck. More depends on that than on noticing your temperament. If he is a fool who at forty applies to Hippocrates for health, still more is he one who then first applies to Seneca for wisdom. It is a great piece of skill to know how to guide your luck even while waiting for it. For something is to be done with it by waiting so as to use it at the proper moment, since it has periods and offers opportunities, though one cannot calculate its path, its steps are so irregular. When you find Fortune favourable, stride boldly forward, for she favours the bold and, being a woman, the young. But if you have bad luck, keep retired so as not to redouble the influence of your unlucky star.” [Ibid.; maxime 36.]

“39. Recognise when Things are ripe, and then enjoy them. The works of nature all reach a certain point of maturity; up to that they improve, after that they degenerate. Few works of art reach such a point that they cannot be improved. It is an especial privilege of good taste to enjoy everything at its ripest. Not all can do this, nor do all who can know this. There is a ripening point too for fruits of intellect; it is well to know this both for their value in use and for their value in exchange.” [Ibid.; maxime 39.]

“55. Wait. It’s a sign of a noble heart dowered with patience, never to be in a hurry, never to be in a passion. First be master over yourself if you would be master over others. You must pass through the circumference of time before arriving at the centre of opportunity. A wise reserve seasons the aims and matures the means. Time’s crutch effects more than the iron club of Hercules. God Himself chasteneth not with a rod but with time. He spake a great word who said, “Time and I against any two.” Fortune herself rewards waiting with the first prize.” [Ibid.; maxime 55.]

“59. Finish off well. In the house of Fortune, if you enter by the gate of pleasure you must leave by that of sorrow and vice-versa. You ought therefore to think of the finish, and attach more importance to a graceful exit than to applause on entrance. It is the common lot of the unlucky to have a very fortunate outset and a very tragic end. The important point is not the vulgar applause on entrance — that comes to nearly all — but the general feeling at exit. Few in life are felt to deserve an encore. Fortune rarely accompanies any one to the door: warmly as she may welcome the coming, she speeds but coldly the parting guest.” [Ibid.; maxime 59.]

“110. Do not wait till you are a Sinking Sun. It is a maxim of the wise to leave things before things leave them. One should be able to snatch a triumph at the end, just as the sun even at its brightest often retires behind a cloud so as not to be seen sinking, and to leave in doubt whether he has sunk or no. Wisely withdraw from the chance of mishaps, lest you have to do so from the reality. Do not wait till they turn you the cold shoulder and carry you to the grave, alive in feeling but dead in esteem. Wise trainers put racers to grass before they arouse derision by falling on the course. A beauty should break her mirror early, lest she do so later with open eyes.” [Ibid.; maxime 110.]

“257. Never let Matters come to a Rupture, for our reputation always comes injured out of the encounter. Every one may be of importance as an enemy if not as a friend. Few can do us good, almost any can do us harm. In Jove’s bosom itself even his eagle never nestles securely from the day he has quarrelled with a beetle. Hidden foes use the paw of the declared enemy to stir up the fire, and meanwhile they lie in ambush for such an occasion. Friends provoked become the bitterest of enemies. They cover their own failings with the faults of others. Every one speaks as things seem to him, and things seem as he wishes them to appear. All blame us at the beginning for want of foresight, at the end for lack of patience, at all times for imprudence. If, however, a breach is inevitable, let it be rather excused as a slackening of friendship than by an outburst of wrath: here is a good application of the saying about a good retreat.” [Ibid.; maxime 257.]

“268. The Wise do at once what the Fool does at last. Both do the same thing; the only difference lies in the time they do it: the one at the right time, the other at the wrong. Who starts out with his mind topsyturvy will so continue till the end. He catches by the foot what he ought to knock on the head, he turns right into left, and in all his acts is but a child. There is only one way to get him in the right way, and that is to force him to do what he might have done of his own accord. The wise man, on the other hand, sees at once what must be done sooner or later, so he does it willingly and gains honour thereby.” [Ibid.; maxime 268.]

“WANNEER ZIJN WE ER?”

Aflsuidijk-afgesloten_herinnering _1956-2019
…het is en het voorjaar van 1956 en samen met mijn oom fietsen wij van Noord-Holland naar Friesland, over de Afsluitdijk… het mist, een dichte mist, heel af en toe een auto, en dan de schimmen van schapen op de dijk, naar de linkerkant was toch al niets te zien… je moest dan afstappen en de dijk opklimmen om de Waddenzee te aanschouwen. Het leek eindeloos die kille dijk voor een twaalfjarige jongen die steevast tijdens de Paasvakanties lange fietstochten diende te maken met mijn oom… Oom Sjoerd heette hij de broer van mijn moeder, een bijkans eeuwige student kunstgeschiedenis die mijn uithoudingsvermogen placht te testen en tegelijkertijd mij leerde landschappen en de dingen waaruit dat bestaat te lezen… we hadden nog veel voor de boeg die dag, Makkum, Hindeloopen en dan door de weilanden naar een boerderij aan de Fluessen, bij Galamadammen…. als ik nu op Google maps kijk herinner ik mij die namen.

Die kaarsrechte lijnen met van weg, fietspad en dijklichaam waren vrijwel uit het zicht door de mist. Pas bij de kromming van het dijklichaam bij Kornwerderzand, stak er een windje op en blies de mist weg… daar doemde Friesland op en mijn oom begon bij het oppeuzelen van de meegenomen boterhammen al een uitleg te geven over de aloude beschilderde tegelindustrie van Makkum en het gedecoreerde meubelwerk van Hindelopen… ja mijn oma had daar wel wat van thuis….

Nu lees ik in de krant van vandaag: “De Afsluitdijk krijgt de komende jaren een grondige opknapbeurt om aan de nieuwste deltanormen te voldoen. Daarbij worden speciale betonblokken gebruikt, is er aandacht voor de trekroutes van vissen en wacht wielrenners een flinke teleurstelling.”… denk terug aan ons tempo op van die oude krakende Hollandse herenfietsen en hoor in mijn geestesoor het voorbijzoeven op hoge snelheid van die hedendaagse wielrenners die nu klagen dat zij hun blindelingse raceparkoer rondom het IJsselmeer drie jaar moeten missen.

Hoe het met de schapen moet tijdens de verbouwing van de dijk lees ik nergens. Er is een petitie ergens on-line om dat fietspad open te houden. Ik ben er al eens geweest en hoef niet meer zo nodig en zo snel. Die dijk heet ook niet voor niets zo!

AGNES VARDA 1928-2019

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It must have been the Cineclub of Den Bosch, a provincial town in the Netherlands where I attended the art academy, where I saw in 1962 Varda’s just released movie “Cléo de 5 à 7″… and as young would be intellectuals afterwards we discussed the hidden meanings which we thought to have discovered… but of course we had read in the newspapers… the Greek drama unity of time and space as indicated by the title (in fact the events depicted take half an hour more)… the confrontation between the glamorous life of the central figure a female pop singer – Corinne Marchand – and the the young man she meets by chance, drafted to serve in the French colonial war in Algeria… this last thing was something we Dutch youngsters understood at that time as the Dutch government had started to send young drafted soldiers to the other side of the globe, Nieuwe Guinea, to be employed into what soon was expected to develop into a colonial war with the new state of Indonesia… I was eighteen then and when I failed my exam in the art academy I would have to go into the army as well..

What was engraved into our memory the most were the aesthetics of this black and white movie, especially the Parisian loft, home of the pop singer, painted all white, floor, ceiling, roof-beams… it’s bareness created beauty, widened both space, and mind. A swing hangs from the ceiling and some more gymnastic contraptions (at that time such things would have no reference to bondage and sexual acts for us).

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Of course Agnes Varda did not invent such a space, she used mostly existing spaces in a documentary way… (photos of bohemien parties in Amsterdam in the early sixties come to mind, with a lady with a mini-juup on a swing and some saxophonist playing) [*]… brings us back to the movie with a jazzy rehearsal in the lof with the singer with wonderboy Michel Legrand on the piano and Jean Luc Godard as supporting actor…
“tu joue sur ton piano
des noires et des blanches
et moi et moi
et moi je joue des hanches
j’en joue, c’est fou
des hanches”…

The pop singer Corinne Marchand who sings these lines in fact acts her own future life – as she had hardly had a career as a singer before she is chosen by Varda to play in her movie… which made Corinne Marchand famous overnight…
there is an inherent critique in several movie scenes of the manipulative practices of the music industry that uses such pretty girls to just reproduce the music and lyrics written for them and not by them…
“you play your piano
the blacks and whites
and me and me
and me I display my hips
I play them, it’s mad
these hips”

The pop-singer during the Greek drama time frame is waiting for the results of biopics taken, as she may have developed a cancer… which throws her out of the fancies and fairy tale life style of a celebrated singer… she is seen entering a cafe and playing on the jukebox one of her own songs… admidst reguar customers not aware of the contradiction between the joyous song and her anxieties… this a short moment before visiting her doctor… also she is seen when visiting a friend who is posing for a sculptor class with her attractive body amid representations of her formed by the hands of the students… this scene shows the other talent of Varda, that of a photographer, in the way the differences of light are captured between a naked body and its representations, displaying contrast between a wide and a narrowed down spectre of black and white and greys.

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At the time a saw the movie in 1962 I was living in a loft of a small industrial building near Den Bosch in the South of the Netherlands and often working in a sculpture class studio of the art academy, including the exercise of directing one’s hands fo follow one’s eyes with a model on a turning platform. I must confess that my hands had hardly any experience then of touching a naked female body (I was a late comer say) and thus the enticing figure with the bobbed hair of the singer dressed in flurry white gripped me… images spun in my head of being with such a being, in such a space.

Three years later I got a job as an assistant for an Italian artist, Lucio del Pezzo, who was working that winter on an installation for the coming up Venice Bienale in 1966. So I found myself in a house in Paris that belonged at that time still to the artist Max Ernst at Rue Mathurin Régnier 58… many avant-garde artists and associates of name had stayed there, like Dorothea Tanning and Marcel Duchamps… the house had a small front courtyard with a shack and the main building had about four floors, not including the huge cellar. The floors were subleted and I was working on the floor that belonged to the Italian artist Enrico Baj who, on his turn, had rented it to Del Pezzo.
I was given this shack on the courtyard which looked sad and downtrodden.
That was my moment to reenact Varda’s spirit of Cléo de 5 à 7 by painting the whole shack and everything in it WHITE! What looked miseable at first, became a glorious space, be it on the ground floor and much smaller than the lofty loft in the cinematic original. No swing from the ceiling, no piano, no big baroque bed… but those who know how to live their fantasy do not need an exact replica.

Newer generations than me may have a hard time understanding such sentiments, when they see that movie. It looks banal to them. The story line is awkward. The acting unnatural. Maybe the scenary is the only thing that remains attractive. Travelogues through a Paris showing a soul that has eroded since.

I can not escape the nostalgic aesthetics of this early Varda movie. Interesting is the fact that her visual style is adaptive to the subject she chooses. She has a method to construct her drama according to a specific subject… something she produces by using existing scenery and – often – amateur actors.

Was it by chance that I saw her 1985 “Sans toit ni loi” (Vagebond) on ARTE tv only a week ago? It traces back the rebellious life of a young homeless woman who refuses any compromise when it comes to her independence… she is both adorable in her non compromise attitude and sad in her incapability to accept empathy and help. She ends up frozen to death in a ditch of a farmland.

I have a hard time to connect the message given by these two movies from 1962 and 1985. Maybe the only parallel is the process of self consciousness of the two female protagonists. Varda is certainly not delivering happy endings… apart then her own long, full and creative life that came to an end today… a life symbolised by the colours of sea, beach and her beloved fabric pattern of polka dots.


[*] Picture by Ab Pruis of a house party in Amsterdam, most probably 1963 showing a girl on a swing (the later added caption says Marijke Koger, but I doubt if that is correct) and next to her Robert Jasper Grootveld. Photograph from the Provo movement archive, now in the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. Grootveld went to Paris in 1963 doing a happening in the avant-garde Galerie Cordier (also photographed by Ab Pruis)… he may also have seen the movie of Varda in Amsterdam. Often it is hard to know if something is copy cat or simultaneous. From fall 1962 the movie “Cléo van 5 tot 7” was running in Amsterdam in Kriterion and Leidsepleintheater (with the documentary “De werkelijkheid van Karel Appel” (the reality of Karel Appel) by Jan Vrijman as a warm-up.

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