My first public performance

5 10 2012

This was the assignment:

Dear Class,

I would like to clarify what I expect as your assignment for Tuesday.

1. Please re-work, re-write your manifestos and have the in typed form and send them to me by email before class.

2. Along with your manifesto – please type up to 3 exercises similar to those we performed in class that best define your manifesto

3. Each of you please compose a musical anthem to be SUNG by those who will be following your Manifesto

4. Bring Props – objects – material – color pencils – crayons – paints – clay – etc that you wish to build a group art structure which will best define your Manifesto.


5. Identify a PUBLIC location in Amsterdam where you would like to perform your manifesto.

See you all on Tuesday!

Have fun!


This is what I came up with:

I performed my manifesto last Thursday, September 27 at the World Trade Center in Zuidas, Amsterdam’s business district. I didn’t attract a big crowd, but it was a learning experience and it generated lots of ideas for the other public performances I’ll have to do this semester.

As typical Amsterdam weather would have it, it was cool and windy with patches of rain. As such, the audio quality isn’t top notch. So, here is the version I performed here:

The streets are busy. Filled with people, bicycles, cars. All moving about. Moving quickly. Too quickly for any interaction, except market-based interactions, of course.  

One beer, please. Here is your change. Would you like a bag? Would you like your receipt. Thank you. Polite, yet empty interactions. Buying, spending. Always buying more. Must buy more. Have more. Always inadequate. Must look better. Be better. 

Scurrying about like machines. Stop. Go. Stop. Go. We are nearly as mechanized as the machines we carry in our pockets – cell phones, smart phones, iPhones, iPads. Responding to every text message, iMessage, notification or email the moment we receive it. It is like another language.

By night, more of the same. Get drunk. Go to the club. A big party with hundreds of people. All strangers, except for a few friends. More drinks. Tequila shots. Music is playing. It’s loud. Suddenly, dancing with one stranger. A boy. Everything starts moving even faster. Kissing. Touching. And inevitably, sex. Small talk, no real conversation. The most intimate of human interaction, now commonplace. Sexuality defined by a sea of drunken experiences. Moving at the speed of sound. No time for romance. No time to think. No time to process.

Amidst the flurry of noise and speed, there’s loneliness. Far too often, depression. So many crowds, so much contact, but no connection. So occupied with trivial actions of daily life that any sight of who we are is lost. 

Who are we?

We are social beings. Our identity is a mosaic of the people we meet. The selection of each piece is influenced by our conversations. Listen and observe, and be transformed.

I am calling for a ruralization of the city. Slow down and create time and space to have these conversations that are in accordance with our social nature. 

We will reject mechanization. Refuse to be a machine. Use our portable electronic devices. But never let them use us. We won’t necessarily respond to every message right away. Instead, we will prioritize the friends who are with us right now.

We will seek smallness and community wherever we are. 

We will smile at the people we pass in the street, greet the people we ride with in the elevator, and learn the names of the people we meet. We will remember details they share with us and every once and awhile, ask them how their parents are doing. 

We will create meaningful friendships. Choose quality, over quantity. We will build a diverse social network. Not just virtual one, but a living one.  Make friends with people who we wouldn’t normally be friends with, and likely learn something new as a result.

We recognize social capital as real capital. And as such, we will appreciate its worth and invest in it extensively. 

Rediscover the beauty of post and write a letter to an old friend. 

Call our grandmother and listen to her stories of days gone by. 

We will never pass up a potluck. Eating alone doesn’t make much sense. 

We will embrace opportunities for group work, because collaboration is a gift. We will listen to our peers until they feel that they have been understood. 

 Yet, amidst this eruption of social interactions, we will also make time to have conversations with ourselves, to find our own quiet, calm space, and to relish these moments of solitude because they allow us time to contemplate and process our exchanges with others. 

We will engage in work that feels like play. Work that allows you to exercise our own unique creative faculties, work that we are passionate about, work that is meaningful to us.

Let us take back the streets.

Let us reclaim our identity as social beings.

Let us create connection where only contact existed before. 


A manifesto for social creatures

11 09 2012

Last week, I received an unusual homework assignment unlike any before – write a manifesto. It was assigned at the end of my first class of a course called “From Dada to Hell’s Kitchen” which explores performance art. I read bits and pieces of other manifestos to try to gain some inspiration – the Communist Manifesto, the Anarchist Manifesto, the Cannibal Manifesto, the Port Huron Statement, the Futurist Manifesto and even the Lululemon manifesto. This is is a work in progress, but it’s what I’ve come up with so far. Critical feedback welcome.

We are social creatures. And as such, our identity is a mosaic of the people we meet. The selection of each piece is influenced by our conversations. We chose to include what we like, and leave the rest. 

In accordance with our social nature, we must slow down and create time and space to have these conversations. Listen and observe, and be transformed.

Create meaningful friendships. 

Learn the names of the people you meet. Remember details about them and every once and awhile, ask them how their parents are doing. 

Build a diverse social network. Not a virtual one, but a real one. 

Make friends with people who you wouldn’t normally be friends with. You might learn something new. 

Rediscover the beauty of post and write a letter to an old friend. 

Call your grandmother and listen to her stories of days gone by. 

Never pass up the opportunity to host or attend a potluck. Eating alone doesn’t make much sense. 

Embrace group work. It’s a learning experience and it builds character. Sometimes it is fun.

Social capital is real capital. Appreciate its worth and invest in it extensively.  

Governments are elected and defeated. Corporations eventually require bailouts. Cars break down. But people are consistent. Yet consistently changing, which allows for new conversations. 

We don’t have to respond to every text message, notification or email the moment you receive it. They will be there later. Instead, prioritize the friends who are with you right now.

Yet make time to have conversations also with yourself. Relish these moments of solitude because they allow us time to contemplate and process our exchanges with others. 

Don’t wait. Add some pieces to your mosaic today. And continue everyday. It will never be finished. 

Similar to the Lululemon, I came across another company called Holstee that also has a good manifesto. I like it.

Welkom in Amsterdam

26 08 2012

I have now been in Amsterdam for one week and the dust beneath my feet is beginning to settle. Yet, this week has gone by very quickly because I was busy with orientation activities organized by ISN (International Student Network). The highlights include a neon party, a crash course in Dutch, a boat cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, picnicking with friends in Oosterpark, a improv comedy night at Boom Chicago, a rooftop BBQ, sport climbing and karate at the university’s beautiful sports center and the final party with over 800 people! And last night, a couple friends and I went to “Pluk de nacht” or “Seize the night”, an open air film festival where we watched a coming-of-age comedy called “Terri“. However, even more exciting than all these activities was meeting so many new friends who are also studying in Amsterdam on exchange this term!



This past week I have also become more familiar with Dutch culture and tradition – including “de fiets” or “the bike”. It seems like a funny coincidence that it is called “fiets”, pronounced “feet” because a bike is like your second pair of feet! I was fortunate to acquire a bike very quickly because my roommate was going on a holiday in Portugal for the last two weeks of summer and let me borrow her bike. This is by far the best way to explore and orient yourself around the city! At times, it is a bit unsettling as there are so many bikes and traffic and people, but it is getting easier as I learn the proper etiquette. There are two things (at least!) that I like best about my “fiets”:

  1. Physical activity! I have always struggled to find time to “work out” nor have I particularly enjoyed exercising for the sake of exercising. Yes, I know it is necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which is adequate justification, but it’s a challenge nonetheless. Further, I find it a bit nonsensical to see people going to the gym and jumping on the treadmill which is plugged into the wall and watching the television, also plugged in. Think about the energy use! In reality, gyms could be creating electricity if we converted all that kinetic energy, like they do for the Toronto Bicycle Music Festival. (I met the organizer of this at Hillside this year and went to his workshop about bike power. Pretty neat stuff!) Power plants, not gyms! While I wait for this utopian technology, I’ll just ride my bike, reduce fossil fuel use, exercise (without it feeling like exercise!) and get from point A to point B.
  2. It is basic technology that still requires use of our wonderfully complex human brains. In the age of mechanization, our actions are becoming more and more automated. Green light, go. Red light, stop. GPS says turn left, turn left and we forget to use our God-given mind. I just finished reading E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful and in his chapter titled “Buddhist Economics“, he talks about how traditional Western economics focuses more on the product and less on the worker, and in a quest for greater efficiency, we turn to mechanization. However, this process of mechanization often deprives us of getting true fulfillment from our work because we are merely machines. Perhaps this is gone a bit off topic, but I’ll bring it back. A car is a relatively complex machine and if it breaks, we usually can’t fix it ourselves and need a mechanic. Also, we are bound by other traffic and traffic lights. A bike, on the other hand, is fairly simple technology, thus easier to fix. And although, we have to follow traffic lights too, there are bike paths and I feel a greater sense of freedom. I have to weave around obstructions and keep my eye out for other traffic, but my ability to do this makes me human, and I like that.

Anyway, the rain clouds have finally parted (for now) and the sun is out, so I better take advantage of this window of opportunity and hop on my fiets and do some errands.

But before I go, here are some photos of my apartment (otherwise known as “the penthouse”)

My apartment


…and of my beautiful, brand new academic building at Amsterdam University College.



Scholastic and fantastic

13 06 2012

“Scholastic and fantastic” sounds so incredibly nerdy and uncool, but I’m very excited because I have just registered for courses for at Amsterdam University College. I’ll be on exchange there for the fall semester, leaving August 18 and returning at the end of December. I’ve booked my flights, applied for my residence permit and submitted my housing form, so there’s no room to chicken out now.

Here are my course selections:

From Dada to Hell’s Kitchen
This one-off special course is a seminar for upper-level students which will be offered in the fall semester. Students become familiar with concepts of Performance Art through Futurism and Dadaism in Europe and follow a historical survey into the present. They examine various artistic schools of thought and philosophical manifestos, which influence multi-artists into the 21st century. Though this is a reading and writing intensive class, it also requires weekly impromptu public improvisations inspired by what is studied in the class during that particular week. Students are equipped with video cameras and they document their public performances and audience reactions through video- recordings. They write their own manifestos, and try to influence audiences to follow them. Through the use of language, sound and space in time, silence, visual stimulation and emotional manipulation, students imply new ways of artistic collaboration.”

Basic Research Methods & Stats
This course provides a general introduction into the methods of behavioural and social research. It covers four general fields: the foundations of behavioural and social sciences, research design, data collection and data analysis.

Community & Society in a Globalized World
It is nowadays commonplace to argue that ‘globalization’ affects people’s social lives. This argument is founded on the observation that social contact increasingly stretches beyond traditional community boundaries, dissolving old configurations while at the same time creating new ones. But how does this work in practice, and how do individual persons respond to the challenges that globalization presents them with? Key to the course is to equip students with approaches, (theoretical) ideas and skills to untangle the complexities of this. The course focuses on globalization from below, i.e. on local actors and their social practices. Hence the course is critical of ‘grand’ views stressing the universality and predictability of globalizing forces.

To unpack the complexities of people’s social lives under globalization, the course explores particular linkages between the ‘local’ and the ‘global’. In this exploration, a distinction is made between social, economic and cultural aspects of globalization. To make this more concrete, the course focuses on three broad themes: i) migration and transnational life, ii) global circulation of goods, iii) cultural globalization. During lectures, key ideas and thinkers in these themes are introduced, followed by empirical case studies wherein these are applied on particular actors, products and ideas. Central throughout is what this all means for common people, and how they respond to this in different ways.

History of National Civil Rights Movements
Starting with the American civil rights movement, this course will provide students with a comparative perspective on civil rights, protest, and other collective action movements within specific nations. One of the objectives of the course is to examine how civil rights discourse as it was developed in the United States became inflected and transformed as it was incorporated by these other movements for the purpose, however, of formulating of their own specific programs and goals. Focusing on cases from different countries and time periods, students will gain and on cases from different countries and time periods, students will gain an understanding of not only the history of these movements, but also the political forces that have shaped them. Questions addressed should include: Why did these movements arise? What are their strategies? Why do they succeed or fail? These discussions will provide a framework that allows the students to more fully understand current national and transnational movements such as environmentalism, anti-globalization and minority rights.

How have I done? Hopefully these courses will further inform my Question and my Keystone project. Then, in January, back to Quest for my final semester!?! I can’t believe it. It seems like yesterday when I was driving the wagon across Canada to start at Quest. Four years, just like lickety-split!