Declared Void_ Carey Young
I’ve noticed — and like — a tendency for airports to become more civic, more down-to-earth; to offer useful things like bakeries, laundromats and libraries as well as the more traditional security checks and duty-free luxury brands.
This move from the neoliberal to the liberal, from consumer to citizen, is visible in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which has a nice little library in one of its avenues.
Re-routed after a missed connection, I was a typical user: I had time to kill but no local currency to burn, I wasn’t in Holland for Holland’s sake but was prepared to learn something about the nation surrounding this “hub”.
The English section of the Schiphol library contains not “airport novels”, not embossed shopping-and-fucking titles, but carefully-selected books by Dutch authors in translation.
Being a liberal enterprise, this involves some self-flagellation; I doubt the Japanese would be examining their own colonial legacy in an airport library, for instance. (Of course, open self-criticism is a form of covert self-boosting for the liberal state. And to regret that you had colonies is also to boast that you had colonies.)
These are the kind of books one doesn’t normally see at airports, which tend — in Britain, anyway — to present a sort of Sunday Times / Jeremy Clarkson view of the world. (Because, don’t forget, you’re a high flyer!)
This book embraces airport-relevant but airport-unusual themes: doubt, migration, Islamism, a terrorist act.
This space has not been assessed for its retail or rental value. It’s free to sit here, for as long as you like.
Within the place there are other places; that’s what a library might be: a place for other places. (And of course that’s what an airport is too.)
"Dutch Delftware: the history of a national product." I’m not saying this is not propaganda by the state. It is propaganda by the state, and I don’t mind that at all.
Since I was heading to the Far East on a Dutch airline, this was the title that interested me the most: a savage satire on Dutch colonialism in Indonesia.
I’m also interested in the neat and willing Dutch embrace and re-discovery of architectural Modernism (the UK was much more cautious), as exemplified by this book about a 1920s TB clinic.
You know, walking past Magma in London the other day I glanced in and saw two titles, a book called Life’s A Pitch and a magazine called Brand, and thought to myself that a lot of what passes for “creative” publishing in the UK is just stuff about money and clients. But the Schiphol library has a good selection of design titles which are actually about design rather than “pitching” or “brand” or whatever.
They’re also laying claim to Anton Corbijn, who is in turn laying claim to David Bowie during his most liberal and creative period. Always a bonus in my book.
Well done, Dutch government, your sly propaganda exercise has persuaded me that Holland is more liberal than the UK, and that after neoliberalism there is… liberalism.