1.2. Off the Grid

Fall 2019

Themes in this issue

Critical trans studies
Political ecology

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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.

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May 7, 2021


June 7, 2021

Clogging up the Final Frontier

On Earth, Outer Space, and Orbital Waste

The issue of outer space and orbital debris has from the outset been one of exclusion (e.g. non-spacefaring nations, women, and other minorities). However, the risk that space waste poses calls for inclusive and interdisciplinary thinking as well as a different understanding of time. This afternoon is an attempt at doing so as we engage with a journalist and poet, a space archaeologist, and a space law expert to answer questions about the future of space and space waste and our relationship to both. We’ll explore why space exploration and colonisation hold such a tight grip on our imagination, as well as issues of responsibility and accountability, and how artistic expressions (e.g. literature, performance, art, etc) can potentially reframe the dominant narrative and help create (public) awareness.

About the speakers

Alice Gorman is an internationally recognised leader in the field of space archaeology and author of the award-winning book Dr Space Junk vs the Universe: Archaeology and the Future (MIT Press, 2019). Her research focuses on the archaeology and heritage of space exploration, including space junk, planetary landing sites, off-earth mining, and space habitats. In collaboration with NASA and Chapman University, she is part of a team conducting the first archaeological study of the International Space Station. She tweets as @drspacejunk and blogs at Space Age Archaeology.

Marjolijn van Heemstra studied theology with the aim of becoming an arbitrator. Before getting there, she got into theatre which led her to work as a poet, writer, journalist, theatre- and podcast maker instead. Her poetry has won various literary prizes and her latest novel has been translated into eight languages. Marjolijn van Heemstra has been writing for De Correspondent since 2019. Her focus is on how space can help us look at the Earth differently. Her more recent book on this them, In lichtjaren heeft niemand haast, will be published later in May. She also regularly makes podcasts (Sør (2018), Stadsastronaut (2019), De Binnenbühne (2020)) in which she takes the listener along on her quests.

Frans G. von der Dunk holds the Harvey and Susan Perlman Alumni / Othmer Chair of Space Law at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s LL.M. Programme on Space, Cyber and Telecommunication Law since January 2008. He also is Director of Black Holes BV, a consultancy in space law and policy, based in Leiden. Moreover, Von der Dunk has acted as legal advisor or legal task manager in more than 130 projects, advising various government agencies and international organizations as well as a number of non-governmental organizations and industrial stakeholders on matters of space law and policy, including major space applications such as satellite navigation, remote sensing, and private commercial spaceflight. He has has been awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL) of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF), the Social Science Award of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA), and the Social Science Book Award of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA). He was a signatory of the ‘Asteroid 100x Declaration’, together with various Nobel Prize winners, dozens of astronauts and cosmonauts, and other luminaries from the global science and entertainment community.

Kimberly Peuling (moderator) has been an intern at SPUI25 since January 2021. She is currently completing a research master in cultural analysis at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Her research focuses on the environmental and socio-political implications of orbital debris and the imaginaries of past and future spatial infrastructures. In addition to her studies and traineeship, she is a teacher assistant at the UvA, editor-in-chief and web design coordinator at Soapbox Journal for Cultural Analysis, and a member of the events committee of the Benelux Association for the Study of Art, Culture, and the Environment (BASCE).

In collaboration with


June 13, 2021

Geographies of Freedom

(*please note that the date above is the publication date, not that of the event)

Thursday 17th June, 18:00-20:00 (CEST)

Soapbox are delighted to present a screening of the film Geographies of Freedom developed by multimedia artist Miguel Peres dos Santos and researcher Egbert Alejandro Martina.

What is freedom and what constitutes a free life? How have architecture, the law, and geography been used to consolidate the spatiality of freedom? These are questions that are posed by the Geographies of Freedom research project, developed at Het Nieuwe Instituut. The eponymous film explores these themes by delving into the neocolonial ties of the multinational Shell and the Dutch Antilles through a compilation of archival footage.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with the director Miguel Peres dos Santos, Prof Dr Yolande Jansen, Dr Floris Paalman, and Mikayla Vieira Ribeiro, moderated by Lijuan Klassen.

About the speakers

Miguel Peres dos Santos (°1976, Lisbon, Portugal) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By emphasising aesthetics, Peres dos Santos reflects on the closely related subjects of archive and memory. His works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilised’ selves. By using an ever-growing archive of found documents to create autonomous artworks, his works references post- colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Mikayla Vieira Ribeiro is a student, educator, translator, and poet from Curaçao, and of Portuguese-North American descent. After receiving her BA in Black Studies and English from Amherst College (USA), she returned to Curaçao to teach middle school math and English. She is now doing her rMA in Literary Studies at the University of Amsterdam where she focuses on (Dutch) Caribbean literature. She is a part of and has been highly influenced by several global grassroots communities fighting for social justice in education including Liyang Network (The Philippines and USA), Catalytic Communities (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and Korsou Kontra Rasismo (Curaçao). Mikayla dreams of decolonial knowledge building and sharing, grounded in territory and community, especially within the Caribbean and its diaspora.

Floris Paalman is coordinator of the MA programme ‘Preservation & Presentation of the Moving Image’ at the University of Amsterdam. He teaches courses on film analysis, film history, film archiving & curating, and currently researches the archiving of political films. He holds degrees in filmmaking, cultural anthropology, and media studies.

Yolande Jansen is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and Special Professor of Humanism in Relation to Religion and Secularity for the Socrates Foundation at the VU University Amsterdam. She is the author of Secularism, Assimilation and the Crisis of Multiculturalism; French Modernist Legacies (2014), co-edited The Irregularization of Migration in Europe; Detention, Deportation, Drowning (2015) and recently edited a special issue of the journal Patterns of Prejudice (2020) about ‘Genealogies of “Jews” and “Muslims”; Social Imaginaries in the Race-Religion Nexus’ (with Nasar Meer). She has been teaching about political philosophy and the decolonial humanities at BA, MA and PhD levels. Yolande is currently working on a project in which a critique of religio-secular framing is connected to a decolonial approach to ecological crisis.

Lijuan Klassen (moderator) is a former research master student of Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. In her thesis, "Camouflaging Worlding in Worlds of Camouflage“ she explored the genealogical roots and speculative becomings of camouflage as a concept-object. She is committed to the more-than-human and de-colonial practices, and always uncertain about her own identity. She currently works at De Appel Amsterdam and seeks to further explore the field of contemporary art, as an in-between space for theory that is not academia.

This is a free online event but please RSVP to info@soapboxjournal.net to receive the Zoom and movie details.

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