How to be the Right Kind of Arsehole. A coffee with Alina Lupu

It was raining, in a figurative sense too, when I met Alina Lupu on a bench in Amsterdam.

When arranging my interview, I had apologised for only being able to buy her a coffee for her time to drink outside in the rain because of the pandemic. I had thought of an old interview Adrian Piper did with the New York Times Magazine, where the journalist had mentioned how he had dined her at one of the fanciest restaurants in Berlin — perhaps to discredit her a little, I’m still not sure. But I didn’t mention it to Lupu. I knew we were also going to talk about activism and art, but neither of us had studied at Harvard and I was not working for a prestigious media house. Read more

Who Wants to Talk About the Golden Coach?

The Golden Coach, 1898. Rijksmuseum

Finally, the Amsterdam Museum is opening their exhibition of the Golden Coach belonging to the Dutch Royal family. The exhibition is the culmination of a long restoration process, which has seen the coach taken out of use since 2016. The coach, decorated with imagery depicting Dutch colonial subjects in a position of reverent submission, has been the focus of much criticism as a representation of a painful colonial history. And, for that reason, the museum had planned what should have been an extensive programme of public engagement. This was to begin in the months leading up to the installation of the exhibition. The plan was to invite interested groups and museum visitors to share their thoughts and opinions on the object and its potential future, so that these thoughts could then inform the broader narrative of the exhibition, and potentially influence the curation process – all amid rumours that the King is considering whether to permanently consign the coach to a museum setting. Read more

Finding Suburban Queerness in Essex

Cover art from Laindon 2 Maz Murray

Essex-based artist Maz Murray self-published the novellas Laindon 2 and 3 just a little more than a year ago the sequels to their 2018 short film of the same name. They follow the journalist Felicity on her perilous journey into the cultural wasteland of Laindon, Essex. There she investigates a mysterious portal inside a shopping centre scheduled for redevelopment. The portal connects Laindon to a queer utopia, a literal over the rainbow, where the striking miners were all retrained as renewable energy experts and all names are gender neutral.

When I read the two booklets, at the beginning of the first lockdown, I was not sure what to do with them. Not because they were difficult or inconclusive, but the fantasy of a queer community that was conjured up in the books felt impossibly far removed from a world where gathering in groups is both violently policed and publicly condemned. For all the justified discontent with austerity measures and increasing levels of inequality in the last decade and now that some have more free time than ever it suddenly seems that the only choice is silent compliance with healthcare guidelines, not public protest. If a trans tree falls in the woods and there is no one to hear her, does she really make a sound? Read more