Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The lucid eye

This picture is taken at the 42nd street in New York by Dutch photographer and cineast Johan van der Keuken (1938-2001 born and died in Amsterdam). While the photo is shot in New York it reminds me of Amsterdam: it is a sunny but windy winter day. The light is obviously strong – a sign of a sunny day. The coats these people are wearing show it is winter though. And the three heads down show that they are facing head wind. In sum, this photo is a not uncommon picture in Amsterdam as well. (For more information on Johan van der Keuken.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

From gibberish to language

For a long time their speech was mere gibberish to me. But along the years I started to recognize it as Hokien (and not as Cantonese or Mandarine) – as speech, even though I still don’t understand a word that is uttered. This reminds me of what Wittgenstein penned down in his 1914 notebook (published in Culture and Value): “We tend to take the speech of a Chinese for inarticulate gurgling. Someone who understands Chinese will recognize language in what he hears. Similarly I often cannot discern the humanity in a man.”

Sunday, February 25, 2007


He looked upon me with suspicion. I took the photo anyway, without asking explicitly for permission, but I was on less than two meters distance. And I am not the fastest photographer anyway, so he had ample time to reject. After I had shot the picture he asked me where I am from. (Sometimes I answer this question with Jakarta.) Upon hearing my answer he murmured: “Belanda goreng.” In Indonesian this means fried Dutchman, so that doesn’t seem to make much sense. In Sundanese, though, it means something like bad or evil Dutchman. (But can someone from a North Sumatran hamlet, where this portrait was taken, have knowledge of a language that is spoken in West Java.) Was he referring to past behavior of my fellow Dutchmen? Was he referring to the act of photography as illegitimate appropriation?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Window without a view

From this window one cannot enjoy a view. Is a window without a view still a window? I wonder why this window was closed. I wonder why. Anyway, no view from this window.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

My world remains round

In 2005 the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published ‘The World is Flat, A Brief History of a Globalized World in the 21st century’. And in December 2006 Time Magazine declared ‘You’ as person of the year. The world on this side of the equator remains round. And ‘You’ is not one of us. Friedman claims that due to an increased interconnectivity the world will become more prosperous and peaceful. The world of the previous fine de siècle was interconnected though, which did not prevent the outbreak of WWI and the subsequent great depression. And there is no correlation between globalization and democratization, or the invention of new technology and moral progress. Just as Friedman, Time Magazine is blinded by the sight of another utopia. Grossman writes in Time’s editorial: “It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.” This editorial heralds the new day when digital democracy arrives. But if it arrives it will arrive for a happy few only. Out of six billion earthlings there are only one billion internet users. And most of these can only access the World Wide Web through the slow lane. These people, we, cannot access the latest video on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sacred Cows

From L.A. to Bombay, from Mexico City to Jakarta our streets are silted up. We waste hours in jammed traffic. The boredom, the horror. But, on the other hand, this boredom could lead to great art. And we can already imagine different modes of transportation: Leonardo da Vinci, Jules Verne and all those visionaries from Hollywood gave us plenty of examples. Somehow, though, we are Hindus worshipping the sacred cow. And forget about the conspiracy of car manufactory and oil businesses against the development of new transportation modes, don’t be a paranoiac. Don’t be stupid, it’s just a cow.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I see clearly now

I bought new eyeglasses. And it was high time. It was more than just appropriate to acquire new glasses. The old ones were worn-out – even affected by fungus. As a sign of tropical frenzy? I can again see clearly now. Time for revelations? Perhaps, but perhaps another time.

Thursday, February 8, 2007


I have been in Indonesia since March the fifth, 2003. The last time I had Dutch ground under my feet was according to my passport – my diary – two years and two days ago. Did I somewhere cross a line without noticing it – without the need to show my passport with all the required stamps and signatures? In the past few years I collected twenty-five pages of stamps, signatures and corrections thereupon from various Indonesian state officials. Did I somehow become an émigré? In exile? Expatriated? I have, to be honest, no clue whatsoever. I try to live my life wherever.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A girl and the flood

A large part of Jakarta has been flooded because of massive rains. The rain was pouring down for three days in a row last week. And there is no way to avoid the consequence: wet feet. No umbrella or barricades with sandbags that would be of any help. I just photographed this little girl. Her brother was walking in front of her, but didn’t want to carry her. And she got tired and from time to time she just sat dawn in the muddy water. What I understand from my conversations with people passing by is that a large part of Jakarta West is now part of the water world. Not far from my place they offer a service to cross the flooded street by cart, for 2000 Rupiah (approximately 20 Euro cents).

Monday, February 5, 2007

A gift

For my 33th birtday I received an artwork made by the Bandung artist Ay Tjoe Christine (1973). This work is titled 'Table Generation I' (29x23cm, drypoint).

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Paper News

It is rather difficult to read Indonesian politics. It is multilayered. And its space is occupied by many players. Beside the usual president, ministers, politicians and party bosses, there are the ulema, the NGO-activists, the CEOs, the mobs and thugs. Many of these have more than one face and they speak in different voices from different tongues at different occasions. Should I read newspapers, magazines and books to understand Indonesian politics? Or should I turn to the street and listen there to the cacophony of voices?