Column: Multicultureel

Een Nederlander, Brit, Pool, Zuid Afrikaan, Ier en Amerikaan zitten na werktijd in een Argentijns restaurant in Amsterdam. Het klinkt als de eerste regel van een vermoedelijk lange mop, maar het was jaren geleden de realiteit bij persbureau Reuters, mijn tweede werkgever. (…) Wat me bij is gebleven, is dat Nederland voor de wereld eigenlijk niet zo bijster interessant is. Dat Kopenhagen wel eens gezien wordt als de Nederlandse hoofdstad, zegt waarschijnlijk meer over die desinteresse dan over het IQ van buitenlanders.

Fragment van column voor Coaching Magazine, vakblad voor managers en professionals op Curaçao, editie 3, 2014

Rags to riches – charity cast-offs hit the catwalk

Most visitors to Amsterdam’s swanky Bijenkorf department store are probably more interested in brands than in anything that came from a rag pile. But with the help of the Bijenkorf, Dutch designer Harry Puts hopes to change that and in the process raise cash for the homeless, many of whom spend their days milling around outside the store’s landmark building in the Dutch capital.

His vision? One-of-a-kind, pret-a-porter clothing stitched together with the help of a stylist from cast-offs
donated to his client, the Salvation Army. “This is about living together in society,” Puts, an art director for Dutch advertising and marketing firm Only, told Reuters. “The idea was to bring different kinds of clothes and cloth together to make unique new parts, as unique as every human being is.”

Story for Reuters

Modern shipping accidents mean bigger salvage tools

OSTEND, Belgium – Next to the salvaging equipment being used to raise the sunken car carrier Tricolor from the seabed, the three-million-kg hulk of scrap metal itself appears tiny. Three ships – the yellow Hercules, black Giant 4 and white Rambiz – tower almost 100 metres (330 feet) above the waves as they lift the first and probably trickiest cut-off part of the Tricolor. Its wreckage has obstructed the English Channel, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, since
December.

Salvaging equipment has got ever bigger over the decades as shipping accidents have grown worse and more complicated, salvagers say. “Accidents became fewer but at the same time more severe,” says 59-year-old Kees Muller, one of the
directors of Multraship Salvaging, a family-run company for 225 years.

Story for Reuters

FEATURE-Malcolm McLaren soaks up karaoke

By Otti Thomas

MAASTRICHT, Netherlands, Oct 18 (Reuters) – “Where are the crates. Don’t tell me they didn’t deliver them or I’m going to kill somebody,” shouts Malcolm McLaren to no one in particular. The designer of “anti fashion” and former manager of notorious seventies punk band the Sex Pistols sighs. McLaren doesn’t feel like talking because he has to finish an exhibition about himself as a work of art within 24 hours.
“This will take another two weeks,” he mutters and then asks his assistant for the Sid Vicious doll. Cursing and swearing he squats on the floor of Maastricht’s Bonnefanten Museum and puts the doll beneath a pile of bricks in a coffin containing relics of the punk era: boots, T-shirts and newspaper headlines announcing: “Sid Vicious is dead”.

Three hours later, during a tea break, 53-year old McLaren says that after fighting the establishment for more than 30 years, he accepts there’s no underground culture anymore.

Life has become Karaoke

“Life has become karaoke. Anyone can be a star for 15 minutes. You get up, you sing George Michael, you are George Michael. Everything is mainstream,” he says.
Four one-armed-bandits represent the karaoke element of life in McLaren’s new art project called “Casino of Authentici and Karaoke.” After opening in Maastricht, the exhibition is due to go to Germany, Britain, Japan and France.
By scoring three anarchy symbols on the slot machine, the player “wins” a video fragment about McLaren’s life, projected onto a screen.
“You can play with my life, without taking any responsibility for it. That’s karaoke,” he says. Relics from the past represent the authentic or romantic in life; alongside mementos from the punk era are some of the clothes McLaren designed with his former partner Vivienne Westwood, displayed pressed between glass sheets.

The assassins of fashion

McLaren’s karaoke world is a world without any particular point of view. It differs from the past, when it was possible to live life without fitting into the norm.
“I expected people to live…for adventure. When I designed fashion, I wanted people to wear it as anti-fashion, to be the assassins of fashion. It was for people outside the establishment, with a different kind of behaviour, which maybe was symbolised in the way they wore their clothes,” he says.
He took some of his inspiration from Apache Indian culture and pirates, people who went their own way.
“Pirates would beat the living daylights out of a colonel who was colonizing an island for spices on behalf of the British empire – and then take his uniform. That’s a funky kind of pirate,” McLaren said.
In much the same way the Sex Pistols era, with its chaos and adventure, was funky, he says. “Philosophically speaking, it’s very romantic to become an outlaw at age 14, leave school, wear your blazer inside out, write ‘chaos’ on your armband, steal your mother’s safety pins and walk out into the streets. Live life to the full.”

Pop Culture loses power

But at the end of the century pop culture hasn’t got the power it once had, the fashion designer says.
“The new form of dressing, more often than not, is some kind of disguise to look like nothing. You can walk through every country and not worry about passport control. We don’t dress up like peacocks anymore and get out on the street to confront everybody at the bus stop. We are immune, used to that.” Since the karaoke world is democratic, he says it’s fine.
“It’s the way we’ve all decided culture should be. I’ve come to a point, where I’m trying to understand how the whole culture works and how I can work in it. I’m still a student,” he says.
The current exhibition is a first attempt to find his place in the karaoke world, he says.
“That’s what an artist does, tries to find a position in the world. The life of an artist is whatever he paints or creates. You try to take the past and ram it right into the future. That’s when you change the culture and you move on.”
McLaren is part of the Bonnefanten Museum’s exhibition on “Taste” which runs to February 13, 2000.

Interview for Reuters with Malcolm McLaren, 1999

Legionnaire’s town makes slow recovery

The Dutch village of Bovenkarspel used to pride itself for hosting the world’s largest indoor bulb show. For 65 years the Westfriese Flora has heralded the start of the Dutch flower season, but this year, the village and the show have become synonymous with the Legionnaire’s bacterium and the death and disease it causes.

This February, as normal, the last of the 80,000 visitors left, the halls were cleaned out and Wim Boon, the vice chairman of the organizers, planned a week’s rest. Other Flora members went on a holiday abroad. “But then this happened. Every day of the first week, journalists came looking for answers. I do understand though. It’s big news. It’s a disaster”, Boon says.

Story for Reuters.