STUDENT MAGAZINE OF LITERARY AND CULTURAL ANALYSIS
Year 5 nr. 1 Walking Past Valhalla
Colophon Year 5, Volume 1 2017-2018 Text editors: Nela Zielinska, Nikole Wells, Lucas Tonks, Serina Tatham, Matija Stojanovic, Gunhild Eivor Slågedal, Paula Reischl, LaraLane Plambeck, Eveline Mineur, Kat Lybanieva, Nikki Kerruish, Awethu Kakaza, Boriana Hadjieva, Henrike Freytag, Shelly Chuang, Carlota Font Castelló. Image editor and design: Kat Lybanieva Illustrations: list on p. 35 With special thanks to Fabula Rasa. Contact and submissions: email@example.com facebook: Tijdschrift Heroine twitter: @tijdschrifthero Do you want to subscribe to our magazine? Mail us. You can choose between an annual subscription (€8,-) or a subscription for two years (€15,-). Would you like to be part of the creating process of this magazine? Please contact the editorial board. We are also looking for new stories and images for our next issue: Censorship.
Contents Editorial the editors FindingValhalla Lisa Renée Garter FindingValhalla Gunhild Eivor Slågedal Untitled Kees Burhman In Space No One Can Hear You Pray Lara-Lane Plambeck Into The Trench Besiana Vathi Let Us Share Mythologies Matija Stojanovic Rue Amherst Matija Stojanovic Freedom Serina Tatham Dear Cthulhu, Please Spare God Shelly Chuang What’s In The Mirror Carlota Font Castelló Homergasten guest: Jeff Diamanti Untitled Serina Tatham Secret Writers Workshop the editors Heroïne’s Quarterly Horoscopes the editors
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Editorial “Have a little faith”: that’s what Joe Cocker and John Hiatt sing. One of George Michael’s most famous songs is called “Faith”. Probably the most powerful thing in humans is belief. Without it, they say, we’re nothing. People have been taking strength from their believes in different rituals, stories and religions. Even in times when science often seems to rule over religious faith, it is still present in our everyday life, even though we often aren’t aware of it. For example, where do the names of the weekdays come from? Their origin does actually lie in the belief in Norse Gods. Thursday is named after the Norse God of Thunder Thor and Tuesday’s named after the God of War Tyr. Having given the omnipresence of belief in our everyday life some thought, we’ve decided to worship belief by establishing it as a topic for this magazine’s issue with the title ‘Walking Past Valhalla’ that, in Norse mythology, is known as the place for the dead that have died in combat. Appreciating every kind of belief and the strength it gives to people – whether it is daily rituals like having coffee in the morning or the strong alignment with some kind of religion, destiny, karma, or love – we’re inviting our readers to share collected thoughts, short stories and poems as well as illustrations with us. ~ the editors
Finding Valhalla by Lisa Renée Garter
“Til Valhall!” reverberates through the air, a battle cry from the soldiers of the Norwegian army. Far away from that, in a small café, we sat drinking a cup of Kenyan roasted black coffee. My friend Erik is a veteran from the Norwegian army. He can go on for hours about his time serving for the Norwegian army, on a mission in the Middle East. Some of the stories are sad and serious, but others are beautiful and breathtaking. “As soldiers we are all ready to die in battle, we will give our life for something bigger than ourselves. I proudly fight for my country, and I believe that if I lose my life in a battle, I’ll go to Valhalla. For me Valhalla is a peaceful place, and it is the belief in
a place like this that helps me feel safe and focused when the bombs rain and the bullets hail.” His voice is strong, but mild. “You know, we respectfully remember our fallen brothers and sisters, they are in
Valhalla now. Believing this gives me peace.” He looks thoughtful out of the window, and takes a sip of his coffee, leaving a little milk foam in his red beard. He looks at me with a smile on his face, and asks: “So where is your Valhalla?”
by Gunhild Eivor Slågedal
Is it still there? The promised land of eternal rest for fallen men: Valhalla. Where strength never fades and the mead never runs out. Observing life on the arctic circle, it seems like the aftermath of the Viking age brought a certain type of legacy to life – one that is still present in contemporary Scandinavian society. In a Norwegian man’s sweat perhaps; the smell of hundreds of years of battle for survival. Or in Norwegian nationialism; the dream of a traditional and pure society. One can find traces of the Viking legacy in different areas of Norwegian life, but nowhere is it as visible
as in the context of a Norwegian party. Believe me, no one can drink as much as the Norwegian male. Alcohol seems to have the power to turn the nicest and sweetest northener into a primal, Viking-like madman. I once had a friend who insisted that he believed in the old norse gods. He would only drink beer, mead and whisky, and listen to an absurd amount of Viking metal. After one too many beers he would try to convert me to his «religion», going on rants on how Thor and Odin represented «the perfect man» and that we should all aspire to be more like the Vikings, men and women alike. On my 18th birthday he drank a whole bottle of whisky in three minutes and disappeared for four hours before returning, mumbling like a caveman and
lighting my tablecloth on fire. Usually, the night would end with him getting in a fistfight and driving drunk home. Now he is in the army, living his modern Viking dream shooting artillery cannons and driving a tank. As a society we have distanced ourselves from the religious part of Norse mythology (Thor and Odin were replaced with God and Jesus in a legendary bloodbath in the year 1030). The mythical world of strange gods and dramatic stories has become something like a fairytale, only revisited in long and boring history lessons in Norwegian schools. Yet we still carry with us this legacy of pride and strength – and a little violence when drunk, which reminds us that we descend from a barbaric group of people. A long time ago, my mom picked me up from a party. About to pass out in the backseat, I drunkely told her how hard liquor has the tendency to make
me violent. She nodded understandingly, blaming it on my ancestors, «who were all drunks and roamed around town beating up everyone they saw». Their genes must have passed through the generations, she said, on to me. And she might not be that far from the truth.
by Kees Burhman
Mijn gemoedstoestand alterneert varieert springt op tot een hoogte waar hij een snelle seconde stilstaat niet wegwaait – te zwaar – niet fladdert of een licht komische sfeer rondstrooit gedwongen een halve slag draait en begint de weg omlaag versnelt
tot het moment waarop mijn hele lichaam om afleiding vraagt of wil dat een stratenwalser elke cel in mij plat danst mij gelijkmatig verspreidt zodat ik mijzelf aan het cement kan hechten mijn hersenpan toch een baken van structuur en vastigheid wordt en een simpele constante ook tot mijn nalatenschap behoort.
In Space No One Can Hear You Pray
by Lara-Lane Plambeck
Do you know that feeling, when you’re lying in bed, in the darkness and then suddenly feel this emptiness, when you feel so very lonely? These days when something happens, that makes you lose the ground. When you feel lost at a place where you belong and you should feel secure at, call it home maybe. These moments when I notice myself praying. ‘Please let him be happy where he is. Please let me see him again’. But wait – who am I praying to if I say I don’t believe in God? On paper somewhere I might have a religion but thanks to science I can’t
believe in it. It’s something I was born into but lost track of while growing up. I mean sometimes I still enjoy going to church, at Christmas for example. Probably because I like when people come together, take each other by the hands and sing with a smile on their face. I like when they say nice things to each other in that one moment of the year when it seems like there can actually be peace between us, fights and rumors are forgotten and forgiven and a natural kindness appears. But then the serious part comes when everyone rises from the bench, folds hands and an earnest expression chases the smile from the face. That is when I suddenly feel really wrong. Trying to murmur the prayers I’ve tried to follow all my life but still don’t know the words of; eyes fixed on the ground, hoping no one will notice. Guilt is what I’m feeling. And I try my best to believe in what I’m saying, but I can’t. Again I’m in my room and notice
myself praying. Feeling so lost in the world, hiding behind curtains and a locked door, surrounded by darkness. Lost in a sea of soft down pillows; praying to a God I don’t believe in. It’s like falling through space without an end to come. But do you know what? – In space no one can hear you pray. And I realize what makes me feel better and gives me the strength I need: it’s people! It’s the love I feel when my father hugs me. It’s the tears and laughs I share with my friends. It’s the feeling of peace when people sing together. When seeing a child getting a balloon, eyes full of joy, so proud of the new toy, running towards the arms of the mother. She hugs it closely and swirls it around, both laughing. When seeing an old couple, both can barely walk, but together they make it from the car to the table where they enjoy a cup of coffee together as if it was the most pleasant thing in the world. They just smile at each other; they’ve said all the words.
10 â€˘ In Space No One Can Hear You Pray
With these pictures in front of my eyes, like a candle lighting up the dark, I get up. The pillows I nearly drowned in now push me out of bed like springs. I know now: I might not have a religion, but I do believe â€“ in people. So why should I pray for myself, lost somewhere in space, when there is so much love surrounding me here on earth?
Into the Trench by Besiana Vathi
I want to feel so alive I do not want to breathe. Imagine, a ratio so bent as the Virgin Mary biting into an apple. Gracefully. The world of concepts and images and cornucopias of matterless things fornicating in times of hysteria. No, instead, the color red. Virgins who never sleep in their own bed. Those who fled and came back again. The sailor and the ocean but not the sky. I want to feel so alive I do not care to die.
Let Us Share Mythologies by Matija Stojanovic
Montreal is the greatest fetish of every teenager in Ottawa. Musicians think they’ll become Dirty Beaches just by moving there, filmmakers think they’ll have fucking soup with Xavier Dolan every Tuesday, and the only writer I knew loved that she could buy darts at 18, since she didn’t have a fake. I myself had a stupid dream of running away there, living with friends and busking to get by. Nevermind that I could hardly play the guitar and couldn’t sing worth anything. I would have been Leonard Cohen meets Holden Caulfield meets fucking frostbite and a search-warrant because I was an overly romantic 15 year-old. I imagined that by eloping with Montreal, I would write
better and live exactly how I wanted. So when I was 16, having evidently matured massively, I transformed this ridiculous fantasy into a ridiculous, self-loving memory. A few friends and I went to Montreal for the weekend sometime in March. They drove down while I hitchhiked there. There was a blizzard warning for later that night so I booked a bus to get back the next morning. We met up and went around in the afternoon, but towards the evening they all decided to bail; I chose to stay, since I had already bought the bus ticket for the morning. We were around the stadium on Rue St Catherines and they told me that they could run me a ride to the Greyhound station so that I could find a hostel around there. I got in the car and told them to wake me up when we got to the station because I was tired as anything. Eventually they told me we were
there, so I said bye real drowsy-like and hopped out. After they drove away and I came to, I felt something was off. Where were the cars? The lights? The buses? Why was the station closed? How was it snowing so much in fucking March? I walked round the block and with a bit of finessing of Grade 9 French I realized that they dropped me at some other Greyhound Station and not the one on Berri, where I was supposed to go. The guy I talked to said it was only 45 minutes to Berri, and since I didn’t have money for the metro, I set off walking. My friend had grabbed me a pack of MacDonald Reds, though they might have been Du Mauriers, and I was smoking like a fiend as I walked for 45 minutes, then an hour, then an hour and a half, then I was still in the fucking boonies. I asked someone shovelling the sidewalk for directions and they helped me out. When I finally asked how much longer it was
Matija Stojanovic • 13
to walk, they laughed. Probably a couple hours. My phone was dead and I didn’t know any Montreal numbers by heart, so I kept walking. I walked and walked and smoked and smoked and started singing along the way, the same song the whole way. The song changes depending on who hears this story; usually it’s “I’ll Fight them Back” by Pavlo V, sometimes it’s “Dink’s Song”. Either way, it isn’t important. The point is that I was just singing without thinking. I’m no singer, but this was the first time I felt like I sounded real, like myself, not imitating anyone. So I sang the same song over and over until I started recognizing the streets of Mile End and then Plateau and then Quartiers des Spectacles and finally Berri. The Plateau is normally nothing special, but that night, around two in the morning, with the narrow streets and winding black staircases unknown and new under
pouring snow, it was the perfect fantasy I had of Montreal. Eventually I got around the station and found a hostel that put me up for free. On the bus back I thought that I had gotten something from that night, that I could finally sing like myself. I thought that if I could do that, maybe I really could run away to Montreal and live out my stupid 15-year old fantasy. So when I got to Ottawa I went down to the radio station and tried to record myself singing the same song again. I only tried for half an hour before I gave up. It couldn’t come out like it did before. I was trying to emulate something, but I didn’t know what. Something that I don’t think exists outside of my imagination. So I didn’t learn how to sing that night, or just about anything else. There’s no romantic ending to the night, despite how much I’ve romanticized it. It wasn’t much of a night either; just a guy walking
through the fucking cold for a few hours. But sitting away from Ottawa, away from Montreal, away from those clueless friends, away from those shit Canadian darts, away from CKCU and away from my show, away from the poems I wrote then and the magazines I sent them to and the people I wrote them for, away from the beds where I dreamt of her and him and this and them and all of the above and went through new Montreal streets and new snow and sang new songs and finally wrote new poems worth anything at all, away from it all, it’s all I can think of, is that night in Montreal.
by Matija Stojanovic
Rhythm without lyric rolls from your lip As the words wither beyond our room Floating curled in ribbons of dust Pouring they pour falling away Flowing through to other rooms beyond your lip
by Serina Tatham
Walking through the luscious fields of England, Torill already felt at home. The rucksack over his right shoulder began to feel heavy and so he followed the signs to the nearest town in hope of a meal and somewhere to sleep. Appledale was a small village in the countryside that was stereotypical in every way; quaint cottages with thatched roofs, rows of small shops and tea rooms, a stone church and fields of cows tended to by the locals. This is what Torill had been searching for, that quintessentially English scenery he couldnâ€™t find in his home town in Scandinavia. There was, however, a slight difference between this stereotype and the reality; England was in
the firm grasp of a religious cult, known as the Supreme Cult, which had prohibited all religions other than their own. This village was no exception.
Upon entering Appledale, Torill (unaware of the current situation in England) headed for the nearest B&B, his sturdy brown walking boots almost as tired as he was. The bed and breakfast, a
16 • Freedom
stone building with ivy growing up the walls, was small, as was everything in this village. He pushed open the heavy wooden door and found himself in a dimly-lit room which appeared to be the reception, with a frail lady dressed in floral print whose grey hair was pinned up in a bun. Torill enquired about a bed, and was quickly ushered up the steep stairs to room 9. Almost as soon as the kind lady shut the door behind her, Torill fell into a deep sleep. Having stayed in there for almost a month, Torill felt that he knew the village well. The lady at the reception desk, Abigail, had become accustomed to his comings and goings, and often suggested activities for him to do during the day. He was happy with where he was in the world and with what he was doing, but in some ways he felt incomplete. Walking past the local estate agent on a sunny Wednesday, Torill felt inspired. Most of the residents
of Appledale have spent their entire lives there, and so houses for sale were few and far between. Luckily, as Mr Morgan the estate agent informed him, a shop with a flat above it had recently become available. Less than an hour later, Torill had become the proud owner of the former ‘Ye Olde Sweet Shop’, whose name had stood for decades. Not feeling that sweets were his calling, the Scandinavian wanderer took down the sign, much to the village’s disgust, and put up his own; ‘Valhalla’. A name with Nordic origin, stories about Valhalla and the Norse gods fascinated Torill. He was told these by his grandmother as a boy, and so he saw the name as fitting. A week after buying the shop, he had moved in and had begun selling his uniquely crafted items. Lining the wooden shelves of his small shop were handcarved figurines depicting the gods, and hanging from the ceiling were beautiful
dream-catchers in multiple colours of the rainbow. Torill’s personal favourites were the necklaces displayed in a glass cabinet in the window, decorated with protection runes that he had chiselled into them. He was so proud, but couldn’t understand why he had no customers. Even after two months of ‘Valhalla’ being open, no one had dared ventured in. This was, of course, because they were afraid of getting into trouble with the supreme leaders in power, but Torill had somehow managed to remain oblivious to this. After a few more weeks of curious but timid residents of Appledale refusing to enter his shop, the door finally creaked open. Half in shock, half in confusion, Torill poked his head round the bookcase at the back of the store that he was organising and saw a young boy, “Barnaby”, looking at the figurines. “Can I help you?” His strong Scandinavian accent was sometimes hard to
Serina Tatham • 17
comprehend. “Urm…” he paused. “My mum is poorly; I want to give her something to make her better.” The eight-year-old boy had a head of brown curls and big brown eyes to match. “You’ll need Eir, the goddess of healing.” Torill took Barnaby over to the correct shelf and pointed her out. “How much is she? I only have £3 of my pocket money left.” Torill was not the kind of person to reject a young boy on the basis of money, so waved the fee and gave it as a gift. Barnaby bounced out of the shop and ran home to his mother. About a week later, the boy returned to ‘Valhalla’ and proclaimed “it worked! It really worked! My mother is not sick anymore!” Taken aback, Torill suddenly understood what he meant and grinned. “I’ve already told all the villagers
on my way here that your shop is magic. Thank you, Sir!” Barnaby bounced out of the shop once more. It didn’t take long before people started coming into the shop, no doubt having heard about this miraculous recovery. Business was booming for Torill, and his presence was finally accepted in the village. People became more interested in his shop and in the gods, compared to the imposed religion. Churches became empty while his shop became full, as people from nearby villages and towns came to see Torill. The Supreme Cult, being more focused on keeping control of London and other major cities, didn’t notice the unrest in the countryside until it was too late. Despite sending soldiers in to force former church-goers back into their old routines, they had lost their grip. The news broke and inspired similar demonstrations
of anti-cult behaviour across the country, and before they knew it, the cult had lost their power throughout England. It all happened so quickly that people didn’t know what to do with themselves. Who do they look to for advice? What should they believe in? A year after what humorously became known as ‘The Great Escape’, England had settled back into its pre-cult routine of religious tolerance and acceptance, with the Queen reasserting dominance and guiding those in need of direction. Torill’s name was not known country-wide, but to him and his friends, they felt a sense of pride knowing that they had a played a part in freeing the country from the tight grip of the Supreme Cult.
Dear Cthulhu, Please Spare God
by Shelly Chuang
Darkness… darkness and humidity, that’s all I can feel. My hands are tied and my legs are chained to a metal object. I’m most definitely bleeding in multiple places, both internally and externally. Everything hurts, even the small patch of skin underneath my left eyebrow hurts. “Have you any idea why you have to die?” Female. A rough and deep voice, but definitely female. And contempt, the voice is full of contempt. It’s not towards me, though. No, the contempt is directed towards the whole situation, towards the fact that she has to be here. Determination. There’s a great deal of determination
as well, she was making an effort to hide it, but it’s rather obvious to me. After all, I do know everything. This one will kill me. She’s not the only one that had ever tried, but this is the first time I am convinced of it. I should respond. I can change her mind, I can do anything, and they have always been weak, the way I intended. “Would you care to enlighten me, my child ?” She lights a cigarette with a match and scoffs. I saw a glimpse of a pretty face, dark eyes and thin lips. Her face, it’s calm, extremely calm and icy. Truly the most horrid thing I have ever seen. How can something of such beauty carry that sort of indifference? “I thought you knew everything. And I am just a sheep.” Intelligent and self-loathing, no wonder she managed to pull this off. To bring me, the all powerful, to my knees, eagerly waiting for her next move. When
Shelly Chuang • 19
was the last time I cared the slightest bit about any of them? “A very special sheep indeed. As the shepherd, I shall always remember you.” “Well, that would be quite a promise if only your eternity wasn’t going to end in minutes.” Her voice sounds even rougher after a smoke. Dreadful, the pure disinterest is just dreadful. For the first time, I know what it’s like to fear something. My jaw is shaking. I think I’m about to vomit. This is the singular thing to be fearful of. Nothing I have done before even comes close to this, not even that flood. She, or rather, her utter indifference… this is the true horror. I am actually going to die. “At least let me know why you’re doing the dirty work?” “They told me you’re genocidal, among other things. It was quite a long list, actually. But frankly, I don’t think it matters.”
“Of course it doesn’t, my dear. But that’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking why you are here. You clearly don’t concern yourself with any of this.” She lit another cigarette and shrugged her shoulder lightly. “I was bored. I just wanted something to do.” Her voice no longer sounds rough, instead it’s like honey and Darjeeling tea. Boredom, so that’s what I, the Almighty, am going to die for. Such a crude joke! But I suppose I only have myself to blame. After all, I’m the one who made this cruel universe. Or did I? Do I matter? Does anyone matter in this universe? This universe that doesn’t give a shit about anyone or anything in it. This cruel, cruel, indifferent world. Surely, I must die now. “Surely, you know you must die now.” She’s about to pull the trigger now. I’m not ready. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for it. I need to know one last thing.
“Name. Give me your name. Any name.” I can hear her chuckles. Anyone would fall for such a lovely sound. I would have if I wasn’t about to die. “Cthulhu. They call me Cthulhu. Sleep well, dear.” Oh, yes, sleep well I will, Cthulhu...
What’s In The Mirror by Carlota Font Castelló
Liz woke up shivering. Her lungs were missing air and when she tried to breathe a dry cough burned her throat. She remembered being under water, a freezing water that went through all her winter clothes and soaked her to the skin. To stop her shivering she hugged her legs and felt her naked skin. This was not strange, given that she always slept naked under a thick duvet. The clock on her wall marked ten to three. It must have been a dream. When she woke up next Monday morning, her throat was still sore. She took a warm shower before leaving for university and had breakfast on the bus. By the time she got to class, most of her classmates were already there. She said hi to
Veronica and Eli, who were in their usual place, and sat next to Teresa. The three of them were talking about Eli’s trip to Budapest last weekend. Liz frowned —had she been away? How did I not know? How did I not notice? Soon the class started, and shaking her head, Liz forgot about it. The subject was Aristotle. How great. She had read him in high school already and did not feel like having another debate on the educational purposes of tragedy. However, everybody else seemed to have a lot to say and that made her feel even more out of place than before. Why did nobody tell me about the trip? In the back of her head, she felt a headache growing, and the voices around her turned into a uniform buzz, making her dizzy. I should probably go home. In that very moment, she felt cold as ice. Just like in her dream, she started shivering. She tried to hug herself, to warm up, but something stopped her immedi-
ately. Under her long-sleeved shirt there was nothing. She stopped breathing for a second and stared at the place where her hand should have been. Where she could still feel it was. Nothing. Her other hand was also not there. Nor her hair. Was she transparent? She looked up suddenly remembering she was in the middle of a class full of people. Could the others still see her? Liz? A voice said her name. She blinked, and when opening her eyes she saw her hands again, and her hair, herself. Liz? The teacher was talking to her. What are your thoughts on what Jeremy suggested? She had no idea. Shaking her head, she excused herself and asked permission to leave. Without waiting for an answer, she ran to the bathroom. What just happened? Am I crazy? She locked the bathroom door and tried to calm her breathing. She told herself it must have been a hallucination; she had read some-
Carlota Font Castelló • 21
where sleep deprivation can cause them. Right? No. Why lie to myself ? It had been real. Instinctively, she also knew she could not do anything about it. There was no one she could go to and say, hey, I turned transparent for a second back there in class. No. there was nothing to do but continue living. She laughed at her own thought. Continue living —what is this, a Sunday drama? She unlocked the bathroom door and decided to go back to class. On her way out, she did not notice the bathroom had a mirror.
At the beginning of their materialist treatment of oil in Energy and Experience, Finnish philosophers Antti Salminen and Tere Vadén make a startling claim:
the guest: Jeff Diamanti In Homergasten we ask a guest contributor about a personal favorite in the realm of literature, theatre, film, TV, or otherwise. In this issue Jeff Diamanti from the Faculty of Humanities discusses an intricate relationship between religion and oil in his submission titled “Innovation is a Dirty Word for Automation, and Neither Will Save Us From Fossil Fuels”.
The death of God and the birth of the age of oil have been experienced together, precisely by keeping them apart. The distinction—the sacred and the meaningful here, the economic and the useful there—is one of the most essential characteristics of the age of oil. After His death, God turned into oil, and oil became a surrogate God with very straightforward utility: everything that smacks of being sacred is burned in the black motor of economic growth. A strangely familiar odor hits the nostrils.1 Inspired as they are in equal parts by Nietzsche’s genealogical critique, Heidegger’s ontology, and Bataille’s crude— even gnostic—materialism, Salminen and
Vadén here name the substance of modernity and with it the structural backdrop of secularization’s dirty secret. Oil’s explosive capacity as fuel source and its malleable plasticity simultaneously enrich modern experience and distance those experiences from the destructive expenditures upon which they depend. Further down the line the question of ritual and social habit will become central to how Salminen and Vadén, following Albert Borgmann, imagine an other to our petrocultural present.2 In the meantime, we have hanging above and below us that other object of knowledge borne, according to Timothy Mitchell, on the swell of postwar oil: the economy. How did oil become the hegemonic substance of 20th and 21st century life? How, beyond shallow critiques of bad consumerism or empty gestures towards
Jeff Diamanti • 23
ethical forms of capitalism, can we catch hold of the social practices, habits, and structural logics that made possible the era of oil we call our own?
In short, modernity itself is entirely unthinkable without fossil fuels. Can we buy our way out of this mess? Can we innovate our way out?
The physical world we’ve designed for ourselves is laced with oil through and through; the primary fuels for all manner of activities are still dominantly and overwhelmingly fossil fuels; capital markets respond immediately and aggressively to energy markets; entire populations depend on industrial fertilizers made from petroleum products; our computers, phones, clothes, toothbrushes, and most other industrial products include or rely upon plastics; industrial and now postindustrial production depend on more and more fossil fuelled automation to maintain economic growth; and, as some have argued, democracy itself depends on easy access to powerful energy.
As Mitchell outlines in Carbon Democracy, oil was initially imagined during the Bretton Woods meetings as a viable replacement to gold as an international commodity suitable to fix exchange rates. John Maynard Keynes and Harry Dexter White had proposed to create a third institution called the International Petroleum Council, alongside the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and what would become the World Bank, whose jurisdiction would be the regulation of key global commodities. Even Hayek, who spearheaded the intellectual opposition to Keynes, was arguing for a “commodity reserve currency”3 as oil was quickly becoming the most sought after energy
stock. Oil was then already very near it’s mid-century hegemony over other energy sources internationally (the fateful year is 1950). Its mobile properties and superiority over coal as a fuel source on the one hand (elasticity), and its dominance as industrial material in petrochemical, industrial fertilizer, and mass produced commodity production on the other hand (plasticity), made its regulative function over various economic spheres all too clear to those tasked with building out a postwar path to prosperity. Though it wasn’t just the modern financial system that oil made possible, in Mitchell’s account, but that peculiar thing called “the economy” which emerges discursively on the scene as an object of knowledge at the moment oil’s elastic and plastic character sets the stage for the golden era of capitalist growth. The
24 • Homergasten
economy “was an object that no economist or planner prior to the 1930s spoke of or knew to exist.”4 Economic analysis until then applied to “government, or the proper management of people and resources, as in the phrase ‘political economy.’ Economic abstraction, in other words, was nominalized as an object requiring a new science, not incidentally as the energy source increasingly giving it shape became oil. If the rise of oil is bound up with the emergence of 20th century economic discourse, what does it mean to engage in cultural criticism of fossil fuels today? Where might we catch hold of its integrative and regulative character, beyond the spectacle of oil spills and beached tankers?
Even as an abstraction, oil touches our lived realities every day. To labour in today’s economic context is to experience energy both as embodiment and as externality. We know this split intimately when for instance our car hits empty, or the grid goes dark. It felt like we were at one with the car, that our fluid movement through the city and its switches was first nature: but neither are true when the external flow of energy runs out, and we are left with mere embodiment again. Notice, though, how what was an intuitively physical concept of energy has morphed into a historically specific one, shaped as it is by the technological and economic apparatus through which it flows.
(though those do not help) but instead capital’s macroeconomic dependencies on an ever increasing resource base. These dependencies include the need for more and more energy at the site of production in order to maintain productivity increase and therefore profit rates, while infrastructural extractivism promises more and more energy intensive forms processing, storing, and circulating physical commodities around the globe. Even digital forms of communication, data storage, and currency production require ever growing quantities of energy to fuel and facilitate.5 The cloud is estimated to consume roughly three percent of global energy as of 2016, and is set to triple that number by 2026.6
Today the historically specific modalities through which fossil fuels continue to dominate global culture are not merely through north American consumer habits
If digital innovation is not going to quell our global energy dependency, what will?
Jeff Diamanti • 25
Fossil fuels are made available to consumers and industry via extractive means. Yet the conventions that have developed around the landscape photography of artists such as Edward Burtynsky of necessity work on a model of exposure bound to a form of aestheticized ideology critique. It is true that fossil fuels are equally seductive and satisfying as they are toxic and destructive. These material and aesthetic qualities of fossil fuels, however, concentrate the work of art in a tradition stylistically bound to the self-annihilating lure of the sublime. Quite different is a critical realism alert to the circulation of energy in and across social practices. The interconnection of capital’s productivist metabolism and extractivist infrastructure leads to a concept of the contemporary that returns us to the soil.
Every litre of oil, ounce of coal, or cubic foot of liquid natural gas (LNG) used to power everything from global trade to the grid required to send and store an email comes from under the earth. More to it, the typology of buildings and their interconnectivity via roads, freeways, and subsurface pipes are made and shaped by materials extracted from somewhere on the planet. Both the typologies and the material systems that link them to extractive landscapes emerge from and continue the colonial legacy. Canadian mining companies, for instance, export a resource-regime to every corner of the globe, and with it a form of economic domination that turns the subsurface into the dominion for capital. Canadian firms conduct a staggering seventy five percent of the world’s mining operations.7 Energy resources are bound up with colonial structure of mineral rights that Canadian firms inherited from the British Crown.
Mining itself, both for the precious metals required for electronic and information media, and for fossil fuels, is one of the most energy intensive operations in the world. Investigating the means by which energy infrastructures link and threaten various landscapes means redefining energy as a historically specific set of practices, politics, and forms of economic organization. If as Salminen and Vadén suggest, oil became a surrogate for God at the end of the 19th century, its because the social, cultural, and economic forms of modernity that mark the long 20th century are all bound up in an energyscape that only very rarely appears to us in its structural form. Structures, as a general rule, do not take kindly to staring. Certainly the disavowal of fossil fuels from the standpoint of the daily is a satisfying and
26 • Homergasten
straightforward procedure when you live in a city like Amsterdam (even though the social and physical infrastructure of the Netherlands is wholly bound up with nearly fifty years of profits from oil and natural gas). To return to the notion that the death of God and the rise of oil are mutually constitutive processes, perhaps what’s missing is a post-secular embrace of fossil fuels, instead of an ethical discourse of consumer volunteerism, or at the very least a set of social, cultural, and political rituals that help figure the structural qualities of our collective energy base. Maybe then we will be able to catch a glimpse of a transition towards something other than a thinly veiled fossil future.
2 For more on “petroculture” see the book length treatment of the concept in After Oil jointly composed by the Petrocultures ResearchGroup http://petrocultures.com/ 3 F.A. Hayek, “A Commodity Reserve Currency,” Economic Journal 53:2010/211 (1943). 4 Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracies, London: Verso, 124. 5 See Ingrid Burrington, “The Environmental Toll of a Netflix Binge,” The Atlantic (December 16, 2015). 6
Tom Bawden, “Global warming: Data centres to consume three
times as much energy in next decade, experts warn,” The Independent (January 23, 2016). 7 EXTRACTION, Exhibition Catalog, Canadian Exhibition from Venice Architecture Biennale, 2016: 6.
by Serina Tatham She did not believe That she could. They did not believe That she could. But he did. So when she did, He smiled, And she smiled back.
On October 16th Heroïne hosted a lovely “Secret Writers” creative writing workshop, which included a wonderful presentation by Paul Folten - a freelance editor - on the publishing and editorial process, with plenty of useful tips on writing and editing. Originally the workshop would have taken place in a room above a fishmonger, but luckily we managed to relocate to the even better smelling VoxPop building. There was a lot of writing and plenty of creativity and donuts so it would be great if you could join and help us finish the donuts next time!
Heroïne’s Quarterly Horoscopes
White silky stardust has descended from the heavens, spelling out your future in the sky. A question of belief you might say, but our own bodies consist of tiny particles of oxygen, metals and gasses blown into being at massive explosions in the galaxies, or whirled of off ancient stars like dead skin cells. Thus suspecting a connection between the movements in our lives and the patterns formed by the celestial bodies is hardly as far-fetched as many a story in this magazine. Go ahead, lift the veil in front of your bedroom window and expose yourself to the illuminating signs shattered across the black velvet of our night sky. We bring you our humble transcription of the recent interstellar developments. Read along, but keep in mind: stars are hard to ignore at night. ~ the editors
(March 21 - April 19)
(April 20 - May 20)
(May 21 - June 20)
As the year is coming to an end, Aries might be feeling a little down on energy. However, December is the perfect time to introduce new activities into your existing or non- existing routine! Now, if you have been in a search for a creative trigger, the answer is yes, the planets will align. Also, DO NOT MATCH WITH LEO, in whichever form it would be.
Even though you feel like snuggling up for the winter, it’s time to extend your casual bike ride into a more hot-blooded work-out regime and burn right through the coldest months. Don’t expect too many surprises the first two months of the new year. This relative stability forms the perfect setback for finally acting according to your feelings. If you show the right dose of your passion for life to that special someone, the end of February will be unusually warm for that time of the year. The next few months will bring a renewed sense of peace and connection. Be sure to prioritise and care for yourself in order to open yourself up to new beginnings. Although you may be tempted to rush into new friendships in the New Year, be wary of stretching yourself too thin. Expect an exciting new writing adventure to take place end of January, although very likely not taking the form of what you would expect.
You’ve been working very hard to achieve your goals lately, but sometimes you need to remember to slow down and treat yourself a little bit. It’s also important to remind yourself that you’re just one person and avoid takinhg on too much responsibility. Stay away from the long working hours and spend some time with the family you haven’t been paying much attention to. After all, your family has always been and will always be your motivation and inspiration.
Winter time is resting time for the Leo. Don’t expect anything big to happen and try to gather strength for the next year. But keep your eyes open; the next year will bring some surprises for the Leo. Friendships might be tested and new love opportunities will occur. But be careful not to rush into things; the lamb is not used to Leo’s fire.
As the year is ending it is time take financial risks and experience things outside of your comfort zone. Try using your university savings on a blackjack table in Vegas. You should attempt to stay positive and believe that everything will be fine; despite now being unable to complete university because blew your savings and believed in some guff a writer told you about your life (do you really think we know what the hell we’re on about?). But stay positive!
(June 21 - July 22)
(July 23 - August 22)
(August 23 - September 22)
(September 23 - October 22)
(October 23 - November 21)
Sagittarius (November 22 December 21)
Christmas is a hard time for the most balanced zodiac sign because of how unbalanced everyone else gets. Breathe. February will be your month. If you are planning on expanding the family, this is your moment! (If you are not, don’t risk it and use protection, you are definitely more likely to receive an unexpected surprise) Work, as always, will try to suck the life out of you. Channel your inner scale and stay balanced. Also, love is not for you this winter, wait for summer or adopt a dog.
The winds of change are blowing through the trees. An exciting new business opportunity will arise in the coming few months that will rekindle a sense of purpose in your life. Be sure to get plenty of rest these next few months to be ready for this opportunity. It is important to keep in mind that change can operate in a positive form if you are open to it. A potential new reconnection with a friend is also on the horizon.
You’re up for a wild ride next year, just don’t forget to buckle your seatbelt! Don’t allow yourself to be dragged into any gambles by Capricorns (if you do, drag Leo with you for better balance). Saturn strongly recommends that you avoid trusting tall, dark haired men, especially if they are Scorpios. Stay focused on your goals, pick up a new hobby and learn how to make cinnamon tea to stay warm this winter.
Capricorn (December 22 - January 19)
(January 20 - February 18)
(February 19 - March 20)
A long-term project will begin to take shape as your hard work pays off. The new moon in Capricorn on January 17th coincides with the new year, so implement some big changes in your life. These may not be easy at first, but your persistent nature will pay off as the full moon on January 31st will get rid of the block you are facing. Be ambitious and go with the flow, but make sure you plan thoroughly.
The future of the Aquarius is like Amsterdam’s weather: there will be storm, there will be sunshine. But thanks to Uranus, Aquarius features the possibility of quick transformation, adequate to the situation the Aquarius finds oneself in. Important enough, since the New Year will have in store some major changes, while simultaneously old, dear won relationships and traditions will intensify. Aquarius should be prepared to use its sharp sense of what people need but don’t oppress your urge of individualism. So do not worry: December will hold some welcome surprises. Being a water sign, water is going to be very prevalent in your life over the next few months, and it mostly will be from your tears. Now don’t panic, people have been known to cry of happiness. You are doomed to go from one extreme to the other during these coming cold months; however, your emotional vulnerability will have its pros. All your senses, just like your emotions, will be heightened which means sex like never before (hurray!).
llustrations Nikole Wells: cover, p. 8, p. 11, p. 27, p. 28. Mubashir Sultan: p. 2, back. Kat Lybanieva: p. 4, p. 5, p. 6, p. 14, p. 15, p. 18, p. 21, p. 30. Mona Feline Hübner: p. 10. Zep de Bruin: p. 22. Eveline Mineur: p. 31, p. 32, p. 33, p. 34. Carlota Font Castelló: p. 31, p. 32, p. 33, p. 34. Boriana Hadijeva: p. 35. Layout by Kat Lybanieva After the free-floating content of this issue, Heroïne will severely tighten the reign: the theme for our next issue will be Censorship. After the Christmas break the editors can be heard licking their red pens, yanking at their black tape and shaking their little pots of white correction fluid. After all, word and image are paradoxically among the most powerful tools for both oppressing and breaking free. We are looking forward to receiving your explicit versions, pixelated images, political (in)correctness, straight-forward propaganda and critical self-reflection: redactie.heroïne@gmail.com
Student magazine of Literary and Cultural Analysis UvA year 5 #1