Gerrit Rietveld Academie & Sandberg Instituut Research Fellowships Reader 2023
Fellows Published —

What was the starting point of your research project?

It started with the idea of translation as an art practice and philosopher Walter Benjamin’s concept of “over-naming,” which occurs as the very foundation of language. I've been thinking about tools to combat over-naming, particularly as climate change threatens to undo our linguistic and material boundaries. This concept has influenced films, exhibitions, and my overall studio attitude in recent months.

What approach did you take for the fellowship research project, and how does it relate to the role of research in your practice?

My approach has been to investigate the material consequences of language. I primarily accomplished this investigation through Benjamin’s concept of over-naming, which he introduced in his 1916 essay “On Language as Such, and on the Language of Man.” He sees this concept as a way for us to “name” to solidify our own framework to control language and subjects. But, in doing so, we also break the possibilities of plurality. Because of my past disability, I've considered the linguistic slur as a way of undoing the “over-name” and as a decategorizing power to which other non-linguistic languages, such as music, could be added.

I'm also using the concept of “The Slur” to disrupt the consolidation of language around climate change. According to Benjamin, things communicate primarily through a “material community,” from which we cannot escape by over-naming. In response to this, I’ve been researching and compiling a collection of moving embers, smoke, and ash from around the world, as well as the fires that produce them. These films are based on manual scraping of online amateur video sources informed by tags and metadata syntax. The collections feel more like “flow throughs” of participation with an “un-nameable” climate crisis, or, as Benjamin would frame it, as that which cannot be named and which passes “through a continuum of transformations.”1 They cannot be categorized through naming but rather through what I hope would be a community of undoing together.

Can you describe the role of collaboration in your practice? Is there a relation between the slur, the dissolving of boundaries, and collaborative tactics in your work?

Collaboration is a dissolving action in many ways, as well as an exchange of skills and an admiration for another practice. Whether with a couturier, glass blower, curator, or music producer, this exchange is critical in my work. This also applies to the practices on display at Shimmer, the exhibition space in Rotterdam I co-founded. Collaboration is about unlearning and coming together in ways one cannot do alone. This slurring with practices is more akin to translating each other’s work than authorship, and thus about mutually learning through each other.

1Walter Benjamin, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man,” Selected Writings Volume 1, 1913–1926, Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, eds. (Cambridge, MA and London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press).

Say it Right


Over the last years I’ve been thinking and working around “the slur.”1 In particular, I’ve been considering the slur as having the power to undo, change, slip, and reconsider what is taken for granted and what is considered “standard.” My interest in slurs comes from having had a series of strokes, and from relearning to speak as a child. The slur offers a space outside of “rational” language where the potential of change through art can lay in the unnamed, the undoing, the unspoken, and the unraveling—in that which cannot be adequately represented.

The slur currently finds itself in a unique contemporary moment, in an increasingly smooth cultural world of constant streaming,2 conveniences of understanding, and a lack of dialogue. The slur, though slippery, is not a notion that can be streamlined or easily fit into this smooth cultural world of the present. The slur is not only a conceptual notion, it is based on the reality of people, materials, and temporalities that challenge categories by the very existence of slurs, and in their refusal to give themselves into categorization. From this refusal, a series of different intended and unintended strategies arise: spaces of ritual, speech acts, and also less controllable corporeal acts that resist compartmentalization.

This text will unpack a few of those models, and propose that slurring is a defiant strategy against aggressive category-making.

There are multiple meanings for the term of the slur.

1)Mud, slime, a semi-fluid mix of water and dirt or clay, probably related to Middle English term “sloor” meaning “thin or fluid mud.” Slurry, for example, comes from rubbing two materials together such as when two rocks are ground together and water suspends the remnants as a slurry.

2)Deliberate slight, disparaging or slighting remark. As a dialectal slur or insult (circa 1600).

3)The notion of sliding, like the glissando, or later the cross-fade from one track to the other (circa 1746).

4)Lastly, the slur in terms of speech, an “inarticulateness” (circa 1882).3

The slur resists the articulation of who one is and how one is to another’s set of criteria. My belief, and hope, is that art-making is a resistance to the tyranny of categorization, limiting the plurality one has with another person and the world. Art has—when working—the ability to move around the obstacles that are defined by institutions and capital. Its ability to redefine itself in context of where it ”operates” provides it not only the possibility to change, but also slur the context that it is situated in: recategorizing, reimagining, and undoing.

I hope for an art as a decategorization of the power structures that hold definition, or even the age-old prejudices that attempt to contain not just a person, but their children, and their children’s children too. I hope for a decategorization that unfolds outwardly over multiple generations, as a resistance to the categories that still continue to hold generations under the contaminants of definition today. By being held in containment, a subject thus becomes “smoothened,” made easier for a placement within the confines of predefined categorization. To slur categorizations is an act of defiance against linguistic, political, and cultural containments and judgments. This is not about removing positions of clarity or selfhood, but rather, about the removal of tendencies of approaching language as “over the top of the world” around people, their relationships, their histories, and their shared futures. I’m proposing this through an apolitical lens, as I feel the political left, now holds categorizations just as much as the right.4 The slur leans toward a concept of ethics as opposed to morality. Morality is something personal, normative, and unchanging, whereas ethics are distinguished by a certain community or social setting. Ethics change with one’s environment and positions become more complicated as someone wrestles with their own ethical unknowings.

Ethics move together, toward each other, and with each other like a huddle work by artist, dancer, and choreographer Simone Forti. And so too does my proposal for the slur, which proposes a blending together of one’s politics, beliefs, and actions while still maintaining their own personal identities and struggles. As art workers, we are privileged enough to be tasked to rework names, and I propose that we consider ourselves as translators with each other rather than authors of each other—as namers and renamers who hold the ability to approach the world in a much freer and decategorized way than we give ourselves credit for. But with this comes a great tax of energy, thought, and reconsideration far beyond standards. To think outside of notions familiar to oneself is exhausting, listening to slurred speech is exhausting, to speak with slurred words is exhausting, the task at hand is exhausting, and what is required is time: longer durations of becoming with one and other. If one is asked to “say it right,” they need to ask whose right is being spoken about, and with whose political speech are the words being spoken.

Through the speech act, power lies with the “namer” and according to many religions, the power of the word is absolutist—“Let there be light.” I want to propose that one can slur together as part of a community, to slip into unintended speech acts, or acts of art-making. A decategorical community, as if at the moment God said “Let there be light,” light was slurred outside of the categorical separation of a self and the world. People slur themselves into the world, thereby revealing both them and others as an expansive community together—both done and undone by each other. Philosopher Hannah Arendt posits this quality of disclosure as being outside of intended categorization: “This revelatory quality of speech and action comes to the fore where people are with others and neither for nor against them—that is, in sheer human togetherness. Although nobody knows whom he reveals when he discloses himself in deed or word, he must be willing to risk the disclosure.”5 My proposal is to explore language—and therefore community—as having the material consequences of reciprocity in artistic work,6 or: that one enacts on the world as much as the world does on them, and that complicated relationship is held together through culture. If a community can hold their slurred culture together in this way, without the calloused utilization of each other, and treat that slipperiness as the very foundation of that identity, there is nothing that community cannot do.

In 1916, the 24-year-old Jewish cultural critic Walter Benjamin publishes his essay “On Language as Such, and on the Language of Man.”7 In the essay, Benjamin considers the notion of over-naming as a way in which one “names” in order to solidify their own frameworks to control language (and subject). In doing so, any hope of plurality is broken:

“We, the multiplicity of human beings, are a plurality and not merely a multiplicity to the extent that we do not necessarily fall into fixed patterns and categories but have the capacity to depart from the patterns and categories of our day and thereby become unique.”8

One is unique through the very act of falling out of fixed patterns; one is unique by the very virtue of resisting categorization. Arendt later borrows Benjamin’s notion of the over-namer in her understanding of categorization. “If one can attach ‘lazy’ to any definition of thinking by Arendt, it is this. Lazy thinking occurs when we take the ‘easy’ route of overnames. Tyranny promotes such ‘easy’ or ‘lazy’ thinking because it works heavily in commonplaces or overnames that are so strong as to be come powerful agents in giving ‘excuse’ for actions.”9

I’ve thought of the “linguistic slur,” through my own disability, as a means of undoing the “over-name,” as a means of decategorization woven through artworks and people. I propose extending the notion of the slur to the process of trying to undo the consolidation of language used around climate change—as it points toward the great slurring of “boundaries” that are considered to exist between language and the world. Therefore one cannot and should not rely on the nation-based over-names that are being used in, for example, the United Nations Climate Change Conference. People’s relationships to one and other through the slur of climate change exceeds any category imposed by the notion of nation states. In this sense, climate change undoes our language of borders, and through doing this, creates a new possibility of language and futurity. Yes, this means the loss of fragments of past language and landscape,10 but also the emergence of the newcomer of future generations. Arendt “refers to the fact that the web of human relationships is constantly shaken up and altered by the appearance of newcomers.”11 Politics exists in the turnover of newcomers, without them culture, politics, and life stagnates into a present category with no potential imagination of the new.

For Benjamin, things (non-human) communicate through a “material community,” and the community of climate change is one that cannot be over-named out of. For me, the slur resists the rapid consumptive obsession with key performance indicators that are placed on people, practices, and materials amidst the rapid desire to represent instead of present. The “re” in representation—at least in disability theory—is a problematic notion. There is no “re-”anything, when one awaits the recognition of their personhood. This representation relies on the linguistic contaminants of recognition in the very first place—ones that cannot hold and never intended to hold the slurriness of disability and arguably climate change as well. Therefore a decategorical hope lies in the newcomer that can—and hopefully will—undo the notions held within present understandings. Benjamin states that while humans communicate through linguistics, things communicate in a way that he calls communal. “The communication of things is communal in a way that posits the world as an undivided whole.”12 According to Benjamin, language divides. However the indivisibility of non-human communal language, between environment and body, between foreground and background, is where a non-over-naming body reacts to the language of the world as enmeshed together in oneness. The body does this, by undoing the aggressive separating power that over-naming language makes, through creating language outside of linguistics. The slur, the wail, the heave, the laugh, and the cry are forms of communal language that themselves return people to a language of sheer togetherness.

Turn it over, and over (doina)13

The strokes I suffered in childhood left me unable to speak and articulate linguistic language. My aphasia removed my understanding of language and my abilities to speak, write, read, and talk. I could hold a word in my head, but could not connect it to an object. The inability to speak in a society of verbal contracts is the near inability to exist, to respond as a full member of society. When I learned to speak again—one who enters into socially recognized language more generally realizes this—life became filled with the prejudice of the slur, judgments of intelligence, the underestimation of one’s capacity to understand or to have thoughts. Legibility is connected to the perception of capitalist value, how clear one makes their ideas, how transferrable they are, how easily they slot into the preconceived and consumptive structures of power. These structures have no time for slurriness, no time for mourning, no time to grieve, no time to love, only time to categorize, to streamline away the weight of one another’s histories, lineages, bodies, and memories. It is a question of how much you are worth to someone, how much you mean to them, how much you intend,14 and the ability to make yourself recognized above others. How do you push to be recognized when you can’t form the words for that recognition, or you fall outside of the frame of the articulation?

For me, aphasia became a life-long studio practice of unpacking the fundamental questions of how forms of togetherness and community could come from the dismissed. Dismissal takes the form of keeping certain bodies at a distance by insisting their linguistic language adapts to standard norms and meaning outside the acknowledging powers of authority. It is exactly this critical refusal of standard articulations where the studio and exhibition might be a space that rethinks the democratic standards often taken for granted. If one is to bring back the Arendtian idea of plurality as not allowing people to “fall into fixed patterns and categories but have the capacity to depart from the patterns and categories of our day and thereby become unique,”15 then it must be asked what “binds” people together; what covenant does one make to their social fabric? I would argue it is the communal language that makes people “things” as much as “humans” It is this constant return and turn toward the communal nonlinguistic language that is part of being enmeshed together.

When paralyzed, all I wanted was communal language, language outside of linguistics, surfaces of warmth, tenderness, and proximity. In the impossibility of words, everything outside of the standardized feels unfixed; these are terrifying spaces of disorientation followed by new fundamental configurations of who one is to another person, of how one’s surface might embody another. This is not about a cure but a redefining of containments of what one means to another.

“If there's a cure for this, I don't want it,
I don't want it.
If there's a remedy, I'll run from it from it.
Think about it all the time.
Never let it out of my mind.”


I want to highlight the danger of the slur, in personhood, and the potential slurring that comes from multigenerational erasure. Earlier I proposed the slur as a space that could alleviate the oppressiveness of containment, but I also want to highlight that the slur does not only advocate for the in-between as a place of freedom: the slur can also function as the erasure of who one is as an individual with agency and personhood. Consider here being systematically both categorized and decategorized. Here the categorizer attempts to undo you, by either slurring your existence, or by attempting to recategorize and then devalue the category you were placed into—or worse, they claim that the pain of the category they placed you in was your own fault, slurring their responsibility.

When my son Aby was four months old, he, according to Arendt, was becoming into language and the web of relationships. Aby was creating social change through the “newcomer” status when an artist I vaguely know oddly sang a song regarding his place in the artist’s world, along with his status in the world and his gender. The song, sung as a strange lullaby, touched on his privilege, other’s suffering—therefore not his—and his future in the world, considering he comes from a “first-world country” (a place that this artist was also from). This baby sitting in my arms, barely able to see 30 cm ahead of him, was being sung violent categorizations in an attempt to erase his futurity. The artist’s own limited and shallow experience of Aby’s present-ness was replaced with an over-naming violence, occurred during the very act of his arrival. Never before had I seen Arendt’s newcomer being so clearly exemplified than in that moment. Where the threat of the newcomer’s agency to undo and to unfix, needed to be violently neutralized. Aby represented an interregnum,17 a slur of Arendtian undoing, and years before any understanding of race, class, culture, gender, and religion, Aby was thrusted from the tender communal, to the violent linguistic space in the name of another’s’ twisted sense of personal morality.

This violence is not dissimilar to the violence of original sin, the precondition that at birth people are in need of redemption, born into the sinfulness of the world—an idea that I would argue is still deeply entrenched within western democracies.18 I would rather think of communities as being in a constant state of resurfacing, and that historic pasts are resurfaced into the present. One becomes through the act of resurfacing from the depths of their pasts—both good and bad—and, in a more painterly sense, in the redoing of the surface of the present. The tyranny of the categorizer, their violence, their oppression and their banality, must be resisted, as they not only destroy pasts and presents, but also the hope for a better future that is not so easy to envision; this is a radical hope.

Therefore, continuity and fluidity in the act of becoming is an act of resistance: to continue stories, rituals, and the reinvention of tradition. This resistance is a means of survival. I mean that in all literal senses, from making art, to having a child, to writing poetry, to undoing standards, to being with friends, to lighting candles, to falling in love, to enmesh together as individual and community, is a direct resistance to the over-namer. It is not silence, it is not forgetting, it is not glossing over, it is to hold together people’s many challenges and imperfections. As chemist and writer Primo Levi said: “as we all know, perfection is one of those things which are recounted, not experienced.”19 People must move forward in imperfect resistance, with the slippery messiness of trying to work out new ways of living together, of making one’s life more livable for themself and for others.

That messiness is so crucial to recognizing how history bubbles up and resurfaces in the present. I’ve learnt that rituals elegantly layer time, invigorate pasts, and position my body toward new potential futures in the present. In Judaism, the past is always alive in the present. Memory inherently creates community, as historian Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi taught: the goal of liturgical remembering is there to recite a fusing of past and present (and future I would argue) into the present, to create a single collective identity that transcends both geographical and temporal borders into our presently situated bodies. This means that there is a consideration that past voices—ghosts too—are relevant dialogue partners to people in the present. It is also a corporeal embedded genealogy that connects people and slurs time. Its radical nature is that it is always being turned over by the arrival of the newcomer.

This form of cross-temporal, poly-communal space, is my hope for how artworks, exhibitions, and arts organizations can work, slurring time itself into present remembrances of how to better accommodate people and future worlds to come.20 When oneself is slurred as subject, the abolishment of spacio-temporal limits becomes an act of survival. The slurring of time is not a linear notion of only transmission from one to the next of successors, but something much more viscous, implicating everyone all into an undoing, into a deeper ebb together. In a conversation I had recently with poet and author Anne Boyer, she most eloquently said—and I’m paraphrasing—that to write for and about flowers is to join the community of all those that did exactly that before—those who love and live through language, not with and especially not for language. Rituals are that language, the systems and ways that one adapts and preserves, layering their messiness into another’s life.


If communal language allows one to speak in the world of material, then one must also consider their body as being material in the world. I would argue that certain forms of communal language are uncontrollable and materially embedded in the world. In particular, I’ve been thinking about mourning as one of the languages outside of linguistics—especially a mourning of the changing climate, along with the implications around how it instigates new communities. Mourning has the power to undo people, it heaves their bodies and implicates them in community, beyond rhetoric and linguistics. When mourning with others, sobbing together, one recognizes that they are alike the other person. Mourning does not occur only after the fact, the future of the unnamed can be mourned for, and through connection to the multitude of pasts, mourning can extend beyond a singular understanding of time. Mourning can also be a celebration of life, memory, and alternative futures beyond one’s grasp.

As an undoing, mourning has the power to bring people together, to reassess the present, and to recognize time passing. Mourning is wordless, it is corporeal, grief can be recognized in someone’s eyes; like with Benjamin’s concept of communal language, the interconnection of people can begin to be understood through sounds, heaving, and communal wailing.

In “Violence, Mourning, Politics,” Judith Butler writes

Perhaps one mourns when one accepts that by the loss one undergoes one will be changed, possibly for ever . . . I do not think, for instance, that one can invoke the Protestant ethic when it comes to loss. One cannot say, “Oh, I’ll go through loss this way, and that will be the result, and I’ll apply myself to the task, and I’ll endeavor to achieve the resolution of grief that is before me.” I think one is hit by waves, and that one starts out the day with an aim, a project, a plan, and finds oneself foiled. One finds oneself fallen. One is exhausted but does not know why. Something is larger than one’s own deliberate plan, one’s own project, one’s own knowing and choosing . . .

When we lose certain people, or when we are dispossessed from a place, or a community, we may simply feel that we are undergoing something temporary, that mourning will be over and some restoration of prior order will be achieved. But maybe when we undergo what we do, something about who we are is revealed, something that delineates the ties we have to others, that shows us that these ties constitute what we are, ties or bonds that compose us. It is not as if an “I” exists independently over here and then simply loses a “you” over there, especially if the attachment to “you” is part of what composes who “I” am. If I lose you, under these conditions, then I not only mourn the loss, but I become inscrutable to myself. Who “am” I, without you? When we lose some of these ties by which we are constituted, we do not know who we are or what to do. On one level, I think I have lost “you” only to discover that “I” have gone missing as well.21

Applying Butler’s idea, that the “I” is part of “you,” then my mourning of the environment further enmeshes myself into the pain of the changing environment at large. I cannot be separated from it. I cannot be compartmentalized through “over-naming” myself away from it. I am also deeply enmeshed in the lives of the newcomers, a form of intimacy as an entanglement with community, deviating from the rationalization of linguistic strategy, semiotics, and rhetoric. I refuse to be over-named away from my environment, just as I refuse the impossibility to be removed from it, just as I refuse to categorize a future of which I am both part and apart from, just as I refuse the impossibility to be spoken for, just as I refuse the impossibility of being removed from my rituals, just as I refuse the impossibility of being removed from grief.

This undoing of language in mourning is the sob, the breaking down of language into Benjamin’s “communal communication.” In this moment one could ask how culture might be the uncontrollable sob for community—not through monuments of remembrance but through the remembrance of time. How can one create monuments in time—through rituals that allow for mourning—that extend to the past and the future? In this way, one can become the literal fabric of an artwork that is woven in communal language, rather than its subject, theme, or as a representation within it.

In late-nineteenth-century Cantorial music, the cantor or hazan who lead the synagogue in prayer would utilize krechtzen, meaning “sobs” or “wails” in Yiddish. The krechtzen allow for a breakdown of the voice in prayer, an undoing of the power of speech, transforming it into something more closely resembling a sense of community through sound not words. The role of krechtzen was to reflect the centuries of Jewish suffering, and to quote Zavel Kvartin, hazan of Stanislawow, “to express the overwhelming longing for complete redemption.”22 In musical realizations, this means of expression takes the form of a sigh carried over two dropping tones, performed legato or glissando, or a breaking voice or moan, achieved by introducing an appoggiatura, the intonation of a word or sentence in a plaintive or imploring tone. While the distinctive phrasing comes from building up a phrase, which is no longer just a direct outcome of the ornamentation of motifs within the nusah, it is common practice to throw in prefixes and interjections such as oy-yo-yoy, oy-vey; to repeat the sound nu (which means “please” in Yiddish); and to colorature the sound akh. In Yiddish the techniques used to achieve a more expressive interpretation of the religious texts are often called khendlekh and dredlekh.23 Samuel Vigoda called the distinctive east European mode of expression in liturgical music the “hazanut of deep feelings.”24

Mourning is an expansive release; it is an undoing that a community can enact together. Not everyone needs to mourn in order to feel commonality with those mourning, through those that make it their life’s work. Here, I want to invoke the klogmuters (also platshkes), professional mourners who were widespread in the Jewish shtetls of Eastern Europe. I learnt more about the klogmuters through the amazing work of researcher Annabel Gottfried Cohen, whose translation from Yididish into English of Abraham Rechtman’s The Lost World of Russia's Jews: Ethnography and Folklore in the Pale of Settlement, cited here:

If someone died, God help us, they came to cry and lament over them. If someone became dangerously ill or was dying, they ‘moved heaven and earth’, ‘opened the holy ark’ and ‘tore graves’. They did all of this with professional knowledge. They would burst in in a place of worship with a clamour, with a heart-rending cry, throw open the doors of the holy ark, fling their heads inside and kiss the Torah Scrolls, losing themselves in a bitter lament, screaming at the top of their voices and beseeching that the sick person should recover quickly. When ‘tearing graves’ they went wailing to the holy place [the cemetery] and spread themselves out over the graves of the invalid’s relatives, praying fervently to awaken the dead so that they would rise from their graves to go knock on the gates of mercy and entreat on the sick person’s behalf. On the wedding day of an orphaned bride, the klogmuters took her to her parents’ graves. They wished the parents Mazel Tov and invited them to their child’s wedding. They shed streams of tears over the fact that they, the loyal parents, would not have the honour of leading their good, dear child to the wedding canopy. They listed the virtues of the groom, and asked the parents to intercede on behalf of the bride and her beloved. . . . In the month of Elul, they spent entire days in the cemetery. People coming to visit their relatives’ graves would hire them to mourn over their loved ones. The klogmuters merely asked the name and the mother’s name of the deceased, and suddenly, abruptly, with no special preparations they would break out in a heartrending lament, hitting themselves on the head, beating their hearts and improvising unique prayers and petitions. . . . Like this they went from grave to grave, spilling out tears, lamenting and wailing, extoling the virtues of the dead and begging for mercy for the living.25

One’s sobbing and imploring, shifting from the linguistic into the communal returns them to an undoing of categories that rely solely on linguistics, definition, and boundary-making. It is not the words used but the texture of despair being invoked. As the voice transforms from the “speaking” into slurring, wailing, and sobbing one is reconnected to the past, present, and future, no matter their spatial-temporal boundaries, no matter their political and social condition, and regardless of whether a future or past exist. The slur aims to abolish the borders that makes the past “only” the past. People come from those that came before them: all who have heaved themselves outside of linguistics into the language of the communal, the ancestors outside of linguistics. Attitudes toward the climate crisis are not solely about linguistics but rather communal language, one that is deeply embedded into the Earth, the language of memory and dirt.

This is a relationship distanced from people, and which cannot be over-named, as the climate crisis creates a loss not just of the self—a loss of livable space—but also the loss of everyone’s neighbors. The loss of communal language is not only a loss of community, but of each person’s ancestors that are with them today, and that will be with them in the future. One loses themself by over-naming their way into a thin ”capitalist present” where and when nothing exists except for the here and now, and where they must fit into the predefined categories of capital. I want people to be slurred into change, into new political, environmental, and social futures far beyond what can be recognized in the here and now. I want people to live with the ghosts of their slurred memories. I want definition to sway in and out of view. I see a memory of a deeper future than what has ever been dreamt possible, where the wind of pasts and futures find resonance in that which cannot be named, reverberated through a continual flow in the mouths of newcomers, those I might never meet, who exceed my current political and social understanding; narrowness met with expansiveness.

1The essay’s title references “Say it Right,” by Nelly Furtado, Loose (Geffen Records, 2006). “In the day, in the night, say it right, say it all.”

2“Why do we today find what is smooth beautiful?” asks theorist Byun-Chul Han at the beginning of his book. He teases the “smooth” back to eighteenth-century economist and philosopher Edmund Burke who “releases beauty of any negativity.” Byung-Chul Han, Saving Beauty, trans. Daniel Steuer (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2018), p. 18.

3“Slurry (n.)” on Etymology,

4 I’m not sure that I believe in political binaries like this anymore, but when I speak of ‘left’ I’m alluding to my own political leanings, or at least the set of political ethics I raised within. When I say the ‘now holds categorisations just as much as the right’, I’m not saying that the left holds categories of the ‘right’, but also categories of themselves. To quote Byung-Chul Han, Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power “Now, under the neoliberal regime of auto-exploitation, people are turning their aggression against themselves. This auto-aggressivity means that the exploited are not inclined to revolution so much as depression.”

5Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 180.

6Here I want to evoke the notion “deed over creed.”

7I stress Benjamin’s Jewishness here because during this time he entered into dialogue with scholars Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem, and involved himself in forms of Jewish thought and dialogue.

8 Wolfhart Totschnig, “Arendt’s Notion of Natality An Attempt at Clarification,” Ideas y Valores 66, no. 165 (2017). He goes on to write: “It is by virtue of the capacity to act, by virtue of making ourselves unique, that we constitute a plurality.”

9Matthew Boedy, “Eichmann’s Thoughtlessness and Language,” Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Theory Archives Journal,

10In no way am I attempting to downplay the climate disaster (and its inherent injustice) but I do want to suggest that there will be new forms of community that you and I cannot yet dream of. I’d like to thank my 15 month old son Aby, for showing me this.

11Totschnig, “Arendt’s Notion of Natality An Attempt at Clarification.”

12Walter Benjamin, “On Language As Such and the Language of Man,” in One-Way Street (Verso, 2021), 135.

13Doina is a Romanian name for a musical ornamentation said to have originated from Persia. It is characterised as having ”no center” and is rhythmless, an undulating musical form. Historically it is improvised, and is intended to ”ease one’s soul.” Later it became a key motif with Klezmer musicians (who traveled with Romanian musicians, who were said to have travelled through the Persian empire) in playing in different communities throughout Eastern Europe. In 2009 it was inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity with UNESCO,

14I’m thinking here about the slippery slope of intentionality. If an intention also alleviates responsibility from an action, does a good intention create a more generous space for the intender, and what are the different levels of responsibility between intention and circumstance?

15Totschnig, “Arendt’s Notion of Natality An Attempt at Clarification.”

16 Diana Ross, “Love Hangover,” on Diana Ross (Motown, 1976).

17An interregnum refers to an interval or pause between two periods, often related to monarchy or government, where a high degree of political uncertainty exists.

18Saint Augustine of Hippo was the first author to use the phrase “original sin,” in Latin as peccatum originale. I would argue, though we live secular lives that peccatum originale is still prevalent in “Secular-Christian” political life. I want to argue here that this notion is still alive, and there are dozens of examples. The main one I want to bring up is the toeslagenaffaire, a racist strategy exposed in The Netherlands (where I live). In the toeslagenaffaire parents with “non-Dutch”-sounding last names were specifically targeted and falsely accused by the Netherlands’ tax department of defrauding the Dutch public through childcare support payments.This is one of the clearest examples of an attempt to flatten the newcomer.

19Primo Levi, The Periodic Table, trans. Ann Goldstein (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 2015), p. 931.

20This notion of pasts folding into the present was introduced to me in a studio visit by my past teacher Marc Camille Chaimowicz.

21“Violence, Mourning, Politics,” Judith Butler, Studies in Gender and Sexuality 4, no.1 (2003).

22Sholom Kalib, The Musical Tradition of the Eastern European Synagogue (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2002), p. 186.

23Ibid, p. 161.

24Bozena Muszkalska, “The Art of Cantorial Singing in the Polish Territories,” Polin Studies in Polish Jewry 32 (2020), p. 49. The word “nusaḥ” is also used as a technical term of synagogue music. In combinations such as Nusaḥ ha-Tefillah, Nusaḥ Yamim Nora'im, and Nusaḥ Shabbat it denotes the specific musical mode to which a certain part of the liturgy is sung.

25 Abraham Rechtman, “Klogerins un baveynerins – Lamenting women and weeping women,” trans. Annabel Gottfried Cohen, Pulling at Threads,