Tuesday, 30 June 2015


I love my bed. The sheets smell lightly of detergent and lightly of me, the futon has never made me wake-up with a back ache and although the bed is just a simple Ikea construction it works (for now). After two weeks of sleeping elsewhere, I love my bed even more. It was the greatest relief to come home to it and pass out, finally getting a good night's rest.

The first week was spent at a conference for PhD students on visual methodologies at Aarhus University in Denmark. About 20 students from all over and doing very different PhDs came together to discuss the manner in which we choose to study visuality, and how traditional approaches can be remixed to fit the individual topics. The course was led by three wonderful women whose insight and ways of navigating academia was inspiring and ultimately it was more than I had hoped it would be. When I came to Germany, I expected students from various backgrounds and engaged lecturers wanting to discuss canonical works, as well as debating current trends and developments. It is a course in culture, language and media, but somehow it feels as though we stagnated for 18 months and are all feeling rather over it.

The beach near my AirBnb
The week in Aarhus by contrast was exactly how I had imagined by Masters: people with diverse backgrounds, all with a desire to be there and learn from one another, coming together and exchanging worldviews, knowledge and a few beers. We were assigned specific groups, but could combine our various talents to best research the various tasks we were given (or rather, where we were given a wide framework to choose our own specific task from). It was a learning curve to see how the other students approached the research, how each used different methods and how things that I had considered frivolous and more for my own interest than as academic research could be validated (such as doodling or making subjective notes or simply taking photographs).

Before Flensburg, I thought I had found my way. Academia would be where I wanted to spend my time, where I could learn and teach, where knowledge and interaction and working together would be valued, because that is how the department I was in worked (despite administrative bickerings). But the system at this university and the lecturers' attitude of simply not giving a fuck chipped away slowly at the desire to go into the same field. What if everyone, everywhere was like this? Would I want to spend my time surrounded by people who, outwardly at least, have no passion for their jobs, no wish to talk with the students, no  desire to work with instead of against others. I am being unjust to this city, because it does have its beautiful moments and I do value the time spent, the wonderful apartment and the new friends made. And yet it took a little of an optimism that previously would not yield to mumblings of having to choose differently. Now I hear the whispers, ingest the insecurities, constantly overthink whether I can do this. Whereas I looked forward to whatever happens next, this place made me fear it.

Aarhus gave back a sliver of reassurance since I could see and talk to others who had struggled with the same thoughts. Aarhus also gave me music, a saviour in all cases.

Ginger magic Jack Garratt. 
The Northside festival was part of the field work we did, which is also why I initially signed up: a reason to rationalise the great expense of the festival ticket. Friday's line-up already made it all worth it. I stood front and centre for Jack Garratt, and hot damnnnn was it good. As a British guy behind be said: "Yeh, he's a proper lad". I caught Death Cab singing Soul Meets Body and then got into angst-ridden 20-year-old mode for Incubus. The Danes filled the hills for Mø, a Danish singer who dresses like Sporty Spice and whose songs all sounded the same to me. Our little group headed to a different stage to see FKA Twigs, but for having being rather hyped this past year she just seemed exhausted and ingenuine. She came on stage, had her back to the audience, stood there for a few minutes, then left again to come back dancing sultrily and breathing into her microphone, which was her entire performance. Northside redeemed itself through a great set by Alt-J and then the Wu Tang Clan got everyone to jam. At 1:00 in the morning Grace Jones gave the performance of the evening: I cannot remember having consciously listened to her music, but she was enigmatic. She changed costumes, had her tits out, made jokes with the audience and just seemed like a fantastic person with fascinating skeletons in her closet.
Bruschetta Burger. Fancy. 
Little tarts. Fancy #2. 
Saturday was a rainy and windy day, but it suited the set by Anthony & the Johnsons perfectly as he sang with the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra. Somehow the melancholic music and the sound of the rain falling on everyone's raincoats worked so well together that I could forget the miserable weather, the loneliness felt when not going to a festival with friends, and thinking that I shouldn't miss the bus again because walking home for an hour in the rain would suck.

Sunday I decided that just chilling with the others was enough, so we grabbed some beers, stood in a queue for an hour to get a tshirt printed, saw the marvellous man that is Ben Howard and danced a bit to the final act of the festival: the Black Keys.
'Sup Handome. 

The next two days we used our research to formulate concrete findings and suggestions before presenting these before a panel from the festival and ReThink2017, a group charged with making Aarhus a cultural capital in the coming year.

I travelled back to Flensburg, chucked my dirty clothes on the floor, packed new ones, slept a little and went off on the next adventure.

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