Tang Chu Fang

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Declared Void_ Carey Young

Declared Void_ Carey Young

mrstsk:

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.)

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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!)

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This book embraces airport-relevant but airport-unusual themes: doubt, migration, Islamism, a terrorist act.

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This space has not been assessed for its retail or rental value. It’s free to sit here, for as long as you like.

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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.)

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"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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.