Damien Hirst, or what it means to be an artist

So, I went to the Damien Hirst retrospective at the Tate. Many thanks to my lovely cousin. Next time, we’ll also Tate Britain, I promise.
On the escalator I casually pointed out to Darling Boyfriend that David Hockney and Damien Hirst were mentioned on the wall as sponsors of the museum. Which amused us tremendously.
The retrospective covers the basic themes of his work, the dots, the prepared animals, the medicine cabinets and the butterflies.
Boyfriend mutters that it’s Not Okay that an artist is rich, as a workshop that houses an extra shark without trouble, and has assistants do his work. Just like Rembrandt, I retort, though quietly wondering if it was indeed Rembrandt. I ask if he’d rather have a poor artist who can’t produce as much work as he comes up with because he lacks the resources. Boyfriend looks at me as if I’m a weirdo.
Boyfriend has a bit of a shark fetish, so he was rather smitten with the sharks. I rather liked the commentary on the performance of medicine. But most of his work makes me smile a little, or even laugh out loud. ‘I see what you did there’, in internet speak. Because I understand what he is doing. I understand the imagery. I get it. It’s funny or or not, it’s relevant or not. But I understand.
Which is nice and all, but it’s not enough to make it great. When art is absolutely great, it leaves me speechless, unable to articulate what it is about the work that moves me, hits me. It’s a physical experience, not a cognitive one.
I had that visceral response only to his butterfly paintings. I find them… moving. And I don’t know why.
Which is exactly how it should be.


Ik ben grotendeels neurotypisch, en ik heb het daardoor tamelijk gemakkelijk.

1. I have never been told, because of my neurology, that I am incapable of feeling pain.

2. If I have a medical problem, I do not worry that my doctor will dismiss it as part of my neurotypicality.

3. When attempting to purchase health insurance, I know that I will not be rejected because I am NT.

4. If I am bullied or abused, people will not assume that my neurology means I am at least partially to blame, or that the abuse would stop if I tried harder to behave like someone else.

5. I can assume that police officers will not become alarmed at my natural body language and find it necessary to subdue me in advance of any wrongdoing.

6. I do not have to carry a special card or bracelet with me to explain my natural body movements or the sounds I naturally make.

7. I am not considered more dangerous and more likely to commit a crime because of my neurology.

8. People of my neurology are not generally considered burdensome to our families or to tax-payers.

9. Nobody will murder me because of my neurology.

10. If I am murdered, my murderer will not be let off because my murder was deemed “an act of mercy,” or given a light sentence because of the stress caused by interacting with me.

11. I do not have to fear that important decisions about my life will be made by others who are considered more qualified based on their neurology.

12. I am not expected to accept seclusion rooms, restraints, or neuro-enhancing drugs as conditions of my educational experience.


13. For a child of my neurotype, everyday teaching of the skills they will need to live in this society is called education or parenting—not therapy, treatment, or intervention.

Eerlijk gezegd, als ik nu 10 jaar oud was, had ik waarschijnlijk op sociale vaardigheidstraining gemoeten.

14. If someone of my neurology can do something well, I will not be punished for being unable to do the same thing well or at all.

15. People do not constantly tell me that I need to work on the things which I am very bad at, at the expense of things which I am good at and enjoy doing.

16. People who have power over my education will probably not decide that, instead of receiving the academic education most of my peers receive, it would be best for me if my time in school were spent learning non-academic “skills.”

17. I can reveal my neurology to my boss and coworkers without fear of losing my job.

18. I can ask for technical or social support on the job without being seen as a troublemaker or charity case.

19. People do not automatically assume that the best place for me to live is an institution.

20. The majority of people who make the laws of my nation share my neurology.

21. The services that I need to survive not only already exist, but even if I use those services on a 24-hour basis, I will still be considered independent.

22. When I need help performing a particular task, I can ask for help without having to produce documentation to prove I actually need help with it. The help will most often be provided in a manner I can understand, and will not be considered an inconvenience or an act of pity.

23. No one sees my neurology as being in need of elimination or cure.

24. If I am visibly upset, people generally assume something must have upset me, and will generally try to help me.

25. People do not suggest that groups that are made for the benefit of people of my neurological type be led and ruled by people of a different neurological type, because mine is seen as inherently incapable.

26. I have never had to take a single test that determines, for my entire lifetime, whether I get to communicate.


27. My family, friends, and significant others are not told that I am incapable of relating to other human beings.

28. If I am an adult, I can be a sexual being without the assumption that any partner attracted to me must be a predator or pedophile.

29. I am never told that I should not have children lest I pass on the genes that cause them to share my neurological type.

30. No one speculates about whether I am competent to raise children based solely on my neurology.

31. People do not assume that living in the same household as me is inherently “tragic” or “devastating,” or that my family, friends and partner will need a support group to deal with living with me.

32. I will not be asked to leave a public place, or to change where I live, because people are uncomfortable with my neurotypical behaviors.

33. If I am unhappy, people do not automatically assume my unhappiness is the result of me being who I am.

34. My opinions on social mores and societal issues are not dismissed based on my neurology or on the assumption that I am incapable of understanding how these things work. Likewise, my gender identity and sexual orientation are not discounted because of my neurology.

35. I expect people to presume intellect and competence with me.

36. If I fail, most will encourage me by telling me that I will ultimately succeed.

37. If I fail to understand autistic people, this is attributed to a deficit inherent in autistic people rather than in me.

38. If I have a particular talent or ability, I can demonstrate that talent without being called an “idiot savant” or my talent being called a “splinter skill” or some other demeaning word.

39. The definitions of rude and irritating conduct were developed by and for people with my neurology.

40. I am not praised for acting less neurotypical or punished for acting more neurotypical.

41. I am not expected to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting, or expressing emotion in most circumstances.

Ik zeg veel dingen niet: mijn reacties worden vaak als ervaren als niet-sluitend aan de voorgaande mededeling. Ik heb regelmatig een heel aantal associaties die voorafgaan aan mijn niet-passende reactie.
42. If I fail to alter or suppress my natural ways of moving, interacting, or expressing emotion, I do not fear public ridicule or exclusion because of this.

43. When prospective parents and others speak of wanting a “healthy child,” I know that they mean a child like me.

44. People don’t accuse me of grandiosity or derisively dismiss it if I suggest that some admirable historical figure might have been neurotypical.

45. It is considered good for people who are not like me to try to act more like me.

46. My natural movements and traits are not used by my peers to ridicule others of their neurological type, either jokingly or maliciously.

47. I am never told that the fact I have a certain cognitive skill means that I am lying when I say I lack another cognitive skill. Nor am I dismissed as incapable of things I truly can do because I lack certain cognitive skills.

48. I can discuss my interests at length without this being viewed as a “symptom.”

49. When I communicate, people do not gather in crowds around me and gawk.

50. My behaviors, abilities, and skill levels at age 2 or 3 are considered indicative of an immature phase of life that will pass naturally, not as representative of my prognosis for the rest of life.

Definition of terms

Majority: The dominant group.
Minority: (1) A racial, religious, political, national, or other group thought to be different from the larger group of which it is part; (2) A group having little power or representation relative to other groups within a society; (3) a member of one of these groups.
Neurotypical: (1) Having a type of neurology that is expected and/or favored by the society in which one lives. (i.e., having a “normal” or “typical” brain, and the typical sensory processing/body movements/facial expressions associated with a typical neurological system.)
We: (1) The people who helped to create this document—most of us autistic or with other less typical neurology; (2) those who support the recognition of human rights for autistic people and others with less typical neurology.


In The Observer van 4 september 2011 liet Cumberbatch optekenen:
“”I’d love to transform my body into some ridiculous war machine,” he says, with a twinkle. Don’t bet against this cerebral character actor reinventing himself as an action hero, given half the chance.”

Een slechterik uit Star Trek dus.

In de Q&A over Sherlock afgelopen mei werd hem gevraagd wat hij zou willen doen. Hij begon over Kavelier & Clay.

Ik leef in hoop.

Hawking en Amazing Grace

Er komen nieuwe afleveringen van lievelingsserie Sherlock. Eind 2013. Hopelijk. Van Martin Freeman heb ik verrassend veel gezien. Dus haal ik in de tussentijd zoveel mogelijk oud werk van Gatiss, Moffat en Cumberbatch in. Vandaag: Hawking en Amazing Grace.


Cumberbatch speelt een jonge Steven Hawking, vanaf het moment dat hij erachter komt dat hij de controle over zijn ledematen begint te verliezen door amyotrofe laterale sclerose. Hij is dan bezig met zijn promotieonderzoek, en nogal nadrukkelijk niet onder de indruk van de steady state universe theorie. Hij zoekt een andere oplossing voor het probleem van het begin van het universum. Hij ontmoet de wiskundige Roger Penrose, die wordt geintroduceerd als topoloog (een veld in de wiskunde). Met Einstein en Penrose ontwikkelt Hawking dan een bewijs voor de big bang theorie.

Ik heb het gevoel dat ik de film veel beter vind dan hij verdient. Ik wordt vreselijk gelukkig van dingen begrijpen. Het gevoel dat de puzzelstukjes op hun plek vallen, dat alles klopt, hoort bij mijn favoriete dingen in de wereld. Dus het moment dat Hawking met een geleend krijtje de oplossing op het perron tekent: mooiste cinema tv-film moment ooit. En Penrose is hier topoloog, net als vriend M, dus ook daarbij zat ik te stuiteren.

Wat me daarnaast onnadrukkelijk opviel is hoe Hawking in beeld gebracht wordt. Een belangrijk deel van zijn conflict met zijn mentor zit in Hawkings afwijzing van de steady state-hypothese. Dat wordt nog versterkt doordat wanneer Hawking in beeld is, de camera een beetje lijkt te zwiepen. Deze man leeft niet in een steady state universum, maar in een onrustige wereld. Het maakt de niet-betrouwbare, niet-vaststaande wereld heel fysiek voelbaar.

Kortom: geweldige ervaring.

Amazing Grace

Eerlijk gezegd vond ik Cumberbatch’ William Pitt het allerbeste aan Amazing Grace. En niet vanwege dit -hoewel het geen kwaad kan. Het verhaal draait om William Wilberforce, de parlementariër die heeft gestreden voor afschaffing van de slavernij, een persoonlijke vriend van premier Pitt. Wilberforce probeert eerst met rationele argumenten zijn collega’s te overtuigen voor de afschaffing te stemmen. Dat loopt stuk op economische belangen van de havensteden. Gesteund door zijn geweldige vrouw keert Wilberforce na jaren terug om de slavernij alsnog afgeschaft te krijgen.

Ik ben politicoloog, lid van een politieke partij en ambtenaar. Politieke besluitvorming, beïnvloeding, strategieontwikkeling: ik vind het prachtig. De discussies in het Britse parlement, de politieke tegenstellingen, ik geniet daar echt van (zie ook hier). Daarom is Pitt mij ook zo dierbaar: hij een succesvol strateeg. Hij doet zijn best om de voorstellen van Wilberforce te ondersteunen, maar met nogal gevarieerd resultaat. Het wat horkerige idealisme van Wilberforce… het irriteert me niet precies, maar het is een beetje… saai. Halverwege de film vroeg ik me af of het verhaal wellicht verteld had kunnen worden vanuit een ander perspectief. Bijvoorbeeld Olaudah Equiano. Of een van de parlementariers die tegen de wetsvoorstellen van Wilberforce stemde. Of William Pitt. Dat had wellicht een interessanter conflict opgeleverd.

Alles bij elkaar: aardige film.


Ontroering, opluchting

Lief loopt met de borden naar de vaatwasser.

“Nog niet leeggeruimd” roep ik de keuken in. Want uit mijn werk gelijk aan het eten koken geslagen.

“Jawel hoor” zegt lief, “je hoeft niet alles zelf te doen.”


Alles in mij is te klein: mijn buik is te klein voor mijn buik, krimpt, wringt. Mijn hart is te klein voor mijn borst. Alles doet pijn. Mijn keel zit dicht. Ik doe wat er moet gebeuren, maar mijn aandacht is niet bij mijn handeling.

Why Would You Watch That?

I went to The Hunger Games without Darling Boyfriend. I’d read the books, they were screaming to be turned into a sceenplay. When I told my Darling what I’d been watching he interjected: “Okay, stop right there. That’s awful. Why would you even watch that?”
I’m a profoundly political person: I’ve been fascinated by current affairs, conflicts, climate change, loss of biodiversity, misunderstandings, religious differences, in short: of the human capacity to render a situation Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition -of course I love dystopian sci fi! When applied correctly, dystopian novels work as a sort of distorting mirror, blowing up our faults, taking troubling trends to their logical horrifying extreme.
Which is basically the world-building of The Hunger Games. A world full of mutants and hybrids, our climate has shifted, causing hunger, riots and it’s following authoritarian smack-down, resulting in the Capitol’s dictatorship. Every year –Athens’ style- every district must hand over one boy and one girl who will fight each other until only one of them survives. The spectacle is of course televised as a reminder of the price of rebelling against Capitol. And, as per the model of these stories, we are given a hero, a Theseus to end this practice.
There are many things I like about these books -and the movie(s). First of all: I love that the hero a young woman. In a perfect world, that wouldn’t matter, but things being as they are… I love that it’s a young woman who doesn’t dress sexxxy in order to win. She wins on merit. She wins by archery, by building an alliance with another woman, and yes, by manipulating the system by playing by their own rules. She’s awesome.
But I also love how reluctant she is about the whole thing. On the one hand, she chooses to enter the Hunger Games, but her choice is constrained by her drive to protect her younger sister. Protecting her baby sister is what she has been doing most of her young life. She’s good at it, but she doesn’t enjoy it. She wants to win, because the alternative is dying.  Her reluctance makes her lovable over much of her competition -especially the professionals.
By throwing humans in the worst thinkable circumstances we give ourselves chance to consider (1) what would I do? How would I navigate this world? How can I tell right from wrong? And (2) by entering the heroine, we are given a way out of the labyrinth. It provides us with the hope that even if a rotten future is inevitable, we’ll also keep trying to find a way out.
Darling, does that answer your question?


…en toch zou mijn kinderwens mij minder moeilijk vallen als ik het idee had dat klimaatverslechtering met evenveel energie en enthousiasme zou worden bestreden als de economische crisis. Of in het geval van dit kabinet: de files.