I intended this documenta fifteen review for The New European to be mostly dedicated to what was on show rather than about the antisemitism controversies that the show in Germany’s Kassel has been embroiled in. Unfortunately, then, right after the opening, there was another major incident and the piece slightly changed direction. Even so, when talking about what what on show, at least during the preview, it’s hard to say that this is a brilliant documenta. It’s mostly a missed opportunity to showcase some of the best of the Global South. Instead it’s part agitprop throwback to the 1960s and 1970s and part naive-seeming return to nature and idealised collectivist village life with the theme of lumbung, the Indonesian communal rice barn. The attempt to open up documenta and make it less stuffy is attractive, ruangrupa inject a welcome dynamic and change of emphasis but the whole is so loosely curated that for such a large exhibition it dramatically under-delivers.
France’s healthcare turn – The Lancet
The Lancet is a peer-reviewed medical journal with an unparalleled name in the field. It also publishes more generalist news stories on medicine and healthcare and it’s such a pleasure to contribute to those. This one, done between France’s presidential and parliamentary elections, looks at the ‘preventive turn’ that many who work in the sector say that France needs to take.
Dutch benefits scandal for Thompson Reuters Foundation
The childcare benefits affair is one of the worst scandals that the Dutch state has been involved in this century. It involves the authorities hounding thousands of parents over non-existent or trivial infringements in an anti-fraud frenzy that got out of control and that was skewed towards the most vulnerable members of society and minorities. My first story for the Thompson Reuters Foundation.
Dutch colonial amnesia challenged
Brexit blogging in times of crisis
I keep blogging for BCU’s Centre for Brexit Studies, although lately it focuses more on general despair with the direction of Europe and its allies.When BCU’s Centre for Brexit Studies asked me to continue to blog on, even after the UK finally left the building, I agreed. Enjoy!
Amsterdam’s struggle with its sex and drugs image
Europe and Syria’s refugees
All my stories in the New Europan can be accessed here.
One of the stories that I was most proud of in 2021 was on Syrian refugees. I was lucky to come across the excellent and articulate artist Issam Kourbaj in Amsterdam’s Museum of the Tropics.
And it was fun to look at the Netherlands somewhat from a British media perspective.
Eurovision or bust
Finally, a nice, lighthearted piece, a bit tongue in cheek, about our human need to be entertained, even if it means risking life and limb. Get ready for the summer of love, the whoring twenties, etc. Or so I thought. Alas, it was not to be. Eurovision song contest antics lost out to the serious stuff, like case numbers and vaccine percentages in this article for the New Europan.
The decline of Social democracy
The New European asked me to shed a light on the baffling decline of social democratic parties in Europe, in the wake of Labour’s poor performance on Super Thursday in May. My unsurprising conclusion: it’s complicated…
Dutch elections take
I got this Dutch pre-election analysis for The New European mostly right, but than again it wasn’t rocket science: Long-serving Dutch PM Mark Rutte gained seats, and so did the far-right. I didn’t see the gain for the so-called progressive liberals of D66 coming but don’t think it’s particularly significant. Further fragmentation and the far-right turn are.