This week I am in the Netherlands to participate in a conference on Shenzhen. The conference is being held in Almere, another of the so-called new cities that has appeared in the postwar era of American style globalization. Of course, talking about Shenzhen in Almere reminds that we’ve passed through so many variations since the American century began circa 1945: the Cold War, post socialist, and now Chimerican, to deploy a lovely neologism beating at the heart of commodity chains.
Today an easy entry into Dutch cultural geography via the national museum and streets apes. First impressions:
1) work on display. Office buildings with floor to ceiling windows that frame/ display admins and clerks. Pretty displays that have me wondering about production and other forms of manual labor, which is what’s on display in Shenzhen;
2) where the people are. Did not feel crowds at Schipol the international airport of 1 million passengers per day, but did feel that the national museum was well used;
3) Santa Claus had slaves. Apparently in 1850, St Nick began working with Black Pete servant/ slave (I’m unclear) and according to the museum info, we’re used to thinking of St Nick as having black helpers. Really? I grew up thinking his unpaid workers were all male and all white elves. Clearly there’s much about the celebration of Christmas that I need to learn. It also reminded me that Europe is geographically close to Africa, a fact that frequently slips my mind, which is another symptom of my colonialized mental geography;
4) winter light cuts exquisite lines against blue skies. So thinking again about architecture and density. The city seems comprised of 3 and 4 story buildings elegantly organized along quaint brick roads.
So basically just absorbing the Dutch new rich aesthetic and wondering why it seems “elegant” in contrast to Shenzhen’s new rich constructions when it’s still about the all too brutal accumulation of capital.