Thursday, May 30, 2019

COGNITIVE RECREATION

Amsterdam Research Institute of the Arts and Sciences (ARIAS) is a crossing platform for arts and sciences as clearly reflected by its name. Last night, 29 May, I have attented an event they organized about arts and archives in Reinwardt Academy, Amsterdam. 

There was a presentation about research on the Myth of Rodin. 

Then participants could choose four group themes. I have chosen titled Reworking Colonial Photographs led by Leiden University’s Anne Vera Veen. She led the participants to look for strategies to rethink, reframe and rework photographs in colonial archives in order to imagine decolonial futures.

The discussion was lively and enlighting. It opened up a new perspective of how we can give meaning to photographs by exploring more backgrounds and categorizing them in appropriate contexts. I was very inspired and stimulated.

The participants of this relatively small group, 10 persons, came from archives, museums and heritage fields. Small and beautiful in true sense. Everybody focused and contributed seriously. Nobody looked at their mobiles. What a refreshing atmosphere.

Why do I give such a huge compliment about this kind of event? I went and lived in other places where there is a lack of opportunity for cognitive recreations like this. Amsterdam is a relatively small city but opportunities for cognitive recreations are in abundance. As its citizen, I am always triggered to dig creativity, new ideas, and dynamic networking. I feel alive.

My experiences in my previous cities were different. Administratively those cities are larger with many education institutions but cognitive impulses are limited exclusively for the insiders and mostly in the context of academic endeavors. There are not so many opportunities for the larger public. Available recreations are usually entertainment and food in the packaging of malls. Malls are everywhere. Old, new, small, large, ugly, modern. Malls, malls, and malls. I am concerned about this development.

Creating cognitive recreations do not require a lot of costs and complicated preparations. What we need are a bunch of free spirits, open minds, and creative souls. Those qualities are everywhere including in cities that are far away from capitals. No excuse to say that we live in a small city that is why nothing to do here. It is not true. Two or three souls are sufficient to start something valuable. I do hope my dear friends in Indonesia share this dream with me. 


Monday, May 20, 2019

ACADEMIC ENDEAVOURS

After 25 years working and learning in cultural heritage field, I feel an urge to contemplate what I have been doing and learning. To give a structure to my contemplation, I have sent my ideas to University of Leiden. They responded very positively in a very short notice. Before I knew, I have received a student card, welcomed to various facilities and received academic guidance to sharpen my ideas. 

It feels great to find out that an academic institution is accessible for a field worker like me. I like school that is open minded and gives freedom for everyone to develop. Education is supposed to be that way.

There are two books that influenced me about education system. First is Deschooling Society (1970) written by Ivan Illich. This book critized education institutionalization in modern society. Schools can be dangerous for creativity development. The second is Toto Chan, the Little Girl at the Window (1981) by Tetsuko Kuronayagi. It is about unconventional education experienced by the writer herself. 

My own mother didn't go to formal school, she didn't write and read her whole life I think. Few occasions I saw her read and write documents with difficulties, part because of age, part because she hardly did them. She also warned her children, especially me, of not too much reading because reading is a passive way of learning. "You should learn from practices, from real life,"she said many times. Luckily she went out everyday so I could read books freely especially outside school schedule. Nevertheless, she was very proud when she attended my bachelor graduation in Bandung. Now I am getting older,  I start to understand what she has meant by learning from practices and real life.  It was not that she prevented me from learning, what she meant was to be observance of facts and realities. School system in old days Indonesia, at least the schools I attended, could prevent children from being brave and unique due to requirement to be uniformed in all senses, physically and mentally. Uniqueness was rare those days. 

I never had difficulties in schools. I enjoyed friendships. But when I grew up and attended universities, I started to be unhappy at schools. Universities are so segregated into faculties and specializations without too much freedom for combination and crossing diciplines. I think I passed my bachelor and masters degrees with relatively a lot of confusions in my mind. I loved journalism but I studied social welfare. I like cultural heritage but I studied regional planning. I taught myself to be an autodidact. I went to as many journalistic courses as my obligated classes at social welfare. I went to hundred conferences and trainings of cultural heritage more than my classes at regional planning. At the end, the universities were sort of legitimation, on papers, of fractions of my interests. They tell only parts of my history, my interests and my capabilities. I am glad I have gone to schools, though, because in this world, we all need papers. It is part of a game. 

This time I come back to school with full awareness of my rights and obligations. Yes, some parts will be administrations, but hopefully most parts are joys, enthusiasms and passions. At my age, I don't need a new academic title. I don't go to school to waste my life. I go to school to receive inspirations and cognitive sparring partners. 


Sunday, May 12, 2019

MAGIC OF ANDALUCIA

I was very curious how Andalucia, Spain, with its warm climate and world famous monuments, manage its crowd (read: tourists). The province receives about 11 millions international tourists per year plus domestic tourists (about 80% of the population means about 140 million tourist trips per year). In main destinations like Granada, Cordoba and Seville, most tourists visit main destinations so concentration of crowd is relatively high.

In Al Hambra, Granada, ticket has to be purchased by internet and only available at certain dates and certain hours. Most tickets have gove weeks and months in advance. In this way, crowd could be well managed and distributed every day from morning to evening. It is still crowded but manageable. There is no long queue at entrance.

The Mezquita-Cathedral de Cordoba, sells tickets on site and if lucky, taking at least half hour to get the tickets. Queueing under the sun is not a joke for some people who forget to bring hats or umbrella. Inside, there are no signs to arrange flow of tourists so it ends up that too many people at certain spots taking pictures creating congestions.

The Alcázar of Seville combined the two system, tourists can buy tickets on internet or on site joining tour guide. Queue is not too long especially when joining the tour guide. The tour is about one hour. The guide that I joined told more than what I found on books and internet. It gave an added value.

All in all, the palaces are impressive. They tell so much about wars, politics, religions and nature of human beings.

But Andalucia has more to offer than only palaces. Its people.

Seville, as the capital of Andalucia, has more vibrants due to the famous bull fighting and the Spring Fair or the Feria de Abril,  especially this year at the first week of May. Males and females dress up, for themselves, for their customs and traditions. They dress up seriously, not half casual, half formal. Areas around the bullring (the Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de CaballerĂ­a de Sevilla) and the huge recinto ferial (fairground) in Los Remedios transform into extraordinary natural organic spontanious largest catwalks in the world! Views and atmospheres are very festive and joyful, all ages, all genders, all backgrounds.

The best of all is that they do that for themselves, not for tourists. I think this is a true intangible heritage of Seville that doesn't need a recognition from any cultural authorities whether or not it has a world heritage status. It is a world heritage. This custom and tradition is soul of Seville, spirit of Andalucia, gives life into all ancient palaces. This genuine living intangible heritage is so priceless in my eyes because I have seen so many touristic places with fake shallow cultural practices. We can build cultural parks but not the spirit of the culture owners. That is the challenge for all heritage sites and that is also the tricky side of world heritage status. How many world heritage sites become soulless destinations?