1.2. Off the Grid

Fall 2019

Themes in this issue

Critical trans studies
Political ecology

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This issue has been printed using a monochrome risograph technique, the ink used for this issue is dark green.
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Laura Pannekoek & Zoë Dankert

editors-in-chief 2018-19

For centuries the grid has dictated how human beings move through space; read images, texts and maps; and exchange goods and energy. Entire cities are modelled on the rectangular division of space, and, although predominantly associated with modernity and Western civilizations, there are examples of premodern, non-Western gridded cities that could be regarded as blueprints for contemporary urban environments.

Off the Grid, An Introduction

Gretchen Bakke

In this introduction to 1.2, Bakke reflects on this edition's essays noting how they "demonstrate...that infrastructure and civilization can be negatively coordinated. Infrastructure can (and perhaps must) become less in order for civilization to become more." Bakke muses that "off the grid" represents the "next necessary step for a better world", gathering the essays under the banner of an infrastructural turn that reconfigures the terms by which we think and characterize civilizational progress.

Gretchen Bakke holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in cultural anthropology. Her work focuses on the chaos and creativity that emerges during social, cultural, and technological transitions. She is author of The Grid: The Fraying Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future (2016) and co-editor of Anthropology of the Arts: A Reader (2016) and Toward an Artful Anthropology (2017).

Caught in the Lattice

Lena Reitschuster

This paper connects recent philosophical discourse on ontological entanglement and materialist epistemologies, following the unfolding of the ecological crisis with the modern episteme, through the historical example of the Linnaean classification system. It suggests a comprehensive theory of grids as a relay between the concrete and the abstract, coining the term conceptual grid. For this purpose, Bernhard Siegert’s media-theoretical understanding of the grid is modified. As conceptual grids shape perception, they become widely invisible. This unnoticed pre-structuring of relations to the world is problematized in the contemporary humanities discourse on the ecological crisis. To counter the separating functions of the conceptual grid, notions such as holobiont, endosymbiosis and sympoeisis are drawn from recent observations in evolutionary biology, arguing for an entangled becoming-with.

Lena Reitschuster studied South Asian Studies and Religious Studies at Heidelberg University, Philosophy and Curatorial Practice at HfG Karlsruhe, and Media Studies at The New School in New York. Her research is located at the intersection of philosophy and biology with a focus on the conceptualization of broadscale system change in the face of ecological crisis.

Grid Locked

Mina Hunt

This essay explores how migrant transgender experience is structured through medico-legal and temporal grids. Following other trans scholars, such as Dean Spade, this paper uses autoethnography to break down the barrier between theory and its object, foregrounding my own subjective stakes within grids of transgender control. Specifically, this essay analyzes the consequences of being in-between or off the grid, and ultimately asks to what degree this is currently possible for trans people seeking medical and legal services as migrants. Ultimately, despite my own privilege as a white transgender woman, at the time of writing this I have not been able to escape the controlling aspects of the grid(s) described here. This lack of agency has reinforced, and reiterated, a progressive linear temporal unfolding through the medico-legal system as I fail to become fully legible to the BIOPOLITICS of the grid.

Mina Hunt is a research masters student in the Gender Studies Department at Utrecht University. Hunt is currently researching issues of transgender migration and mobility.

"Why are we so afraid of the grid?" An Interview with Het Nieuwe Instituut

Marina Otero Verzier, Katía Truijen and Marten Kuijpers

What is the role of public institutions, museums and archives vis-à-vis the various financial and authoritative grids that support them? The Research Department at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam works at the intersections of architecture, design and digital culture to develop the ideas, concepts and formats that in turn shape the institute’s agenda. We spoke to Marina Otero Verzier (the institute’s Director of Research), Katía Truijen (media theorist and senior researcher for Architecture of Appropriation) and Marten Kuijpers (architect by training and senior researcher for the Automated Landscapes project) about Het Nieuwe Instituut’s uneasy relationship with, and attitudes towards, various gridded structures. Is it possible — or even desirable — to resist, reshape or break away entirely from these grids?

Regional Politics: On Region, Nation, and Regionalization

Thom Aalmoes

This paper takes up the conceptualization of region introduced by Imre Szeman in his 2018 article “On the Politics of Region” to consider longstanding tensions between different regions in the Netherlands. While Szeman’s conception opens up new ways of looking at regions, this paper argues that it introduces too stringent oppositions between nation and region, positing the former as artificial and the latter as natural. Considering the case of the Netherland’s ‘Green Heart’ region through Szeman’s region concept, and analyzing how regions are constituted, or what Pierre Bélanger calls regionalization, this paper moves away from an opposition between nation and region.

Thom Aalmoes is a graduate student at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis. His research interests focus on the formation and institutional formalization of regional and urban identities.

The Grid as Structuring Paradox: A Case of Tiny Living

Pepita Hesselberth

This short position paper addresses the gap between idealistic, entrepreneurial, and culturally critical concerns over the emergence of new environmental communities that strive for more sustainable and self-sufficient modes of living, taking the tiny house community in the Netherlands as a case in point. Reflecting on the micro and macro processes of deterritorialization and reterritorialization at play in the concrete case of tiny living, the grid is seen to wield a stricter interpretation of a more general problematic with regards to contemporary urban/human life, where the notion of the grid, I argue, functions as a structuring paradox that at once allows and disallows for the negotiation of possibilities and limits in our thinking about community, sustainability, and alternative modes of living today.

Pepita Hesselberth is Assistant Professor Film and Digital Media at the Centre for Arts and Society, Leiden University. She is the author of Cinematic Chronotopes (2014), and co-editor of, amongst others, Legibility in the Age of Signs and Machines (2018) and Compact Cinematics (2016). She has published widely on Disconnectivity in the Digital, a project for which she received a fellowship from the Danish Council for Independent Research and was appointed as a research fellow at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen (2015-2018).

A Grid, Memes and David Hockney

Stepan Lipatov and Sissel Møller

This visual essay explores the patterns of accretive interpretation often afforded to "memes". Citing the Loss meme, a meme format that has been replicated and re-interpreted countless times through different configurations of its basic visual elements, this collaborative effort works to mirror this replication and re-interpretation based around an episode of the artist David Hockney being stuck in an elevator at the Van Gogh museum. Artists were given a keyword around which to structure their reproduction of this event and explore the images as "a series created with a non-visual grid in a simple act of reproduction."

Sissel Vejby Møller (1994) and Stepan Lipatov (1989) are both graduating students at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. As graphic designers they experiment with the language between text and image.

Blurred Lines: Challenging Urban Grids On and Off the Page in City Illustration

Tânia A. Cardoso

This paper draws parallels between the acts of walking and drawing in the city as appropriations of the urban grid. Following Michel de Certeau's theorisation of urban practices, it reflects on both my own drawing in situ practice and [the] picture book The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam by Jan Rothuizen. Both reflect lived experiences and (urban, spatial) stories, determined by and reshaping the city's constructions of spatiality and an urban imaginary. By distorting the pictorial grid, the illustrations speak back to mapped city space, emphasizing that a line between two spatial elements is not blank but rather full of social and cultural significance. These illustrations, by revealing space through metaphorical practices, disrupt the authoritarian logic of city planners and traditional mapping, creating blurred lines in the urban grid and in its corresponding pictorial grid. This way, their heterogeneous, embodied depictions echo the city's impact on both artists’ imaginations.

Tânia A. Cardoso (Lisbon, 1985) is an urbanist and illustrator based in Rotterdam who has had exhibitions in Portugal, the United Kingdom, Brazil and the Netherlands. Her work has been rewarded the Worldwide Picture Book Illustration Competition 2015 and the Gorsedh Kernow Creativity Award 2017. Currently, she is a PhD candidate at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis researching the relationship between illustration and the city.

The From of Affinity: Line and Landscape in Four Shadows

Aaron Dowdy

This essay considers the ways in which lines are integral to how the concept of affinity is formalized in Larry Gottheim’s structuralist film Four Shadows (1978). The film presents a number of landscapes, references to nineteenth century Romanticism, and a rigid formal structure shaped as a grid. This essay explores how these facets interrelate and asks whether the structural grid functions to enclose the visual landscapes, or whether the role of the grid is emphasized so that these various parts, along with the film's sonic and formal operations, instead work to open it up. Against a purely Romantic reading, this essay offers an analysis of how the film employs lines to account for this balance between confinement and opening, which, this paper argues, is the definition of affinity.

Aaron Dowdy is a graduate student at Columbia University. His research focuses on twentieth century aesthetics, philosophy, and the cinematic image.


Jeff Diamanti

This afterword reflects on the political ecology of infrastructure in Amsterdam. Building on recent work by anti-colonial and feminist materialist scholars concerned with the historical conditions of anthropogenic climate change, my proposition is that cultural analysis as a discipline is in a unique position to critically examine the interimplication of capitalism, carbonization, and colonialism in and through infrastructure.

Jeff Diamanti teaches Literary and Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. Before that he was the “Media and Environment” Postdoctoral Fellow at McGill University. His book project, Terminal Landscapes, tracks the convergence of economy and ecology across the energy systems of postindustrial capitalism.

Check other printed matter

WARP Conference Special Edition: Call for Papers

December 7, 2022

Walking-with Amsterdam: Reflections on Walking as Research Practice (WARP Conference special edition)

Call for papers

The WARP Research group in collaboration with Soapbox journalinvites all interested in walking as research practice to contribute to the upcoming publication ‘Walking-with Amsterdam: Reflections on Walking as Research Practice (WARP Conference special edition)’ edited by Soapbox and the WARP Conference organising team.

This publication comes after the Walking as a Research Practice (WARP) Conference, a two-day conference that brought together scholars from many different fields in the social sciences, the humanities, and the arts, as well as creative practitioners, for a transdisciplinary dialogue about the capacities of walking practices as research. With its emphasis on the body, the senses, placemaking and becoming, walking is inspired a critical rethinking of traditional methodologies and perspectives. 

Aiming to share and disseminate the results, reflections, collaborations, and outcomes born out of the Walking as Research Practice (WARP) Conference 2022 we invite all participants of the WARP Conference to submit a paper, and we also welcome contributions by non-presenting members of the conference. We also hope that members of the WARP Reading Group will feel motivated to contribute, as well as those in the wider walking as research community.   

Read the full Call for Papers


We are currently looking to expand our team. Soapbox is a student-run journal focused on promoting voices that creatively engage with concepts and cultural objects in the broadest sense, through publishing academic, artistic, and interdisciplinary works. Soapbox is a collaborative effort in gaining experience and experimenting with running a small publishing platform. All members take part in actively shaping what Soapbox is by weighing in on editorial decisions and take part in any aspects of publishing (both online and in print). 

In general, the time commitment expected is between four and six hrs/week, including a weekly two-hour meeting. The journal is run on a voluntary basis. For all roles, applicants should be based in the Amsterdam area and available for at least the remaining academic year (until June 2023).

If you're interested, please email info@soapboxjournal.net with any particular role(s) you would be interested in.

Deadline: October 31st


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We would like to stress that we need applicants for this position to commit to being consistent and reliable for the duration of the editorial timeline of one issue, which tends to take one year.

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Call for papers: Interface

For the next issue of Soapbox we invite young researchers and established scholars alike to submit academic essays or creative work that critically engages with the theme of interface. We are inviting extended proposals (500-1000 words) that follow the MLA formatting and referencing style. We don't charge a submission fee.

Send your proposal to submissions@soapboxjournal.net by December 14th 2021.
Mediation by Murray Gibson, 2020. Gobelins tapestry, wool and cotton, 25 x 25 cm. Image courtesy of the artist: murraygibsontapestry.com

An interface is a space of contact and interconnection. Thinking within but also beyond a media studies framework, we can understand our lives to be constantly mediated by interfaces of one form or another. Broadly speaking, they serve as an intermediary between an individual and a system, or alternatively conceptualised, between experience and infrastructure. Interfaces mediate between a body and its environment, private and public, subject and object. In each instance, the interface enables interaction and activity. Think of the movement from print to digital media, the structural design of spaces and buildings, the reception of knowledge from an academic paper: as we move through the world we encounter and interact with a range of interfaces that delineate the possibilities of experience in profound ways. Their politics can be intentionally designed or inherently implicated in their operations. As such, interfaces are cultural as well as political: they connect us to a matrix of histories and structures while their imbrication in power can afford and advance the needs of one group at the expense of another. 

We invite you to think through and beyond the somatechnic view of the interface, allowing perspectives that explore the aesthetic, infrastructural, affective, material, and political dimensions of the interfaces that give shape to contemporary experience.