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Somewhere at STRP Biennial 2017, a future, earth-shattering genius is walking around among the schoolchildren

Leisure is the mother of philosophy.
-motto by British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, seen in Klokgebouw during STRP17

An app called "Die with me" that once your smartphone is at five per cent remaining power, automatically connects with other Die with me users. An app game called "Airb'n'bhost", where you have to choose who offers the airb'n'b interior from three portrait photos each time. The cutest: a dating app that "matches" based on shared internet history. Welcome to the cheerful, mildly provocative world of Belgian artist Dries Depoorter.

Depoorter was speaking at the first conference day of Eindhoven's biennial 'creative technology' festival STRP [ref]named after the Strijp district, the birthplace of Philips[/ref] .


The festival with the unpronounceable name can be characterised as the boisterous, 'brainy' sister of Dutch Design Week. That big brother has grown into a mass event attracting visitors from all over the world. Brother and sister share an enthusiastic list of subsidy funds and sponsors, plus the municipality of Eindhoven, which, as a 'tech city', bets high on "TDK". No, not Tokyo Denki Kagaku, that famous manufacturer of audio cassettes, but technology, design and art - the mantra with which city marketing is done at Eindhoven's city hall.


Atmosphere-enhancing element of STRP is the presence of some six thousand schoolchildren and students. The STRP Biennial in Eindhoven is now one of the top ten leading creative technology festivals in the world. It is therefore not very far-fetched to assume that somewhere among the dozens of schoolchildren here, at least one future genius has received the final push towards a world-shaking invention.

Sand in the machinery

At least you hope so. Anyway, for someone who has been in the middle of the total demolition of part of the Dutch performing arts sector (world music), a visit to STRP is particularly joyful. Again, with all the innovation drive demonstrated and all those young kids indulging in it, I thought: might the creative energy have shifted to the tech sector?

Panacea or curse?

Incidentally, I certainly do not wish to be the uncritical apostle of algorithms and data collections here. The good thing about STRP is that the speakers on duty actually want to throw pleasantly thought-provoking sand into the machinery. At least that was true of at least two of them. Artists Memo Akten and the aforementioned Dries Depoorter both boldly questioned any brash futurism so characteristic of 'techheads'. One with a solid foundation of historical analogy (Acts), the other with equally cheerful and abrasive apps who raise sharp questions about the status quo of the app as a beatific panacea for just about every problematic phenomenon on this planet (Depoorter).

Memo Deeds (s)preaches four deep truths #STRP17

Bleak future outlook

Isolde Hallensleben, the conference chair, meanwhile, kept the conversation as light-hearted as it was sharp. Amidst the afternoon's by nature rather high nerd content, she was the sparkle with substance that, at the right moment, took things up a notch. Like her comment that google is not a search engine, but an artificial intelligence under construction. Based on personal information that humanity casually gives away to the listed company, I would add. In the words of Memo Deeds ("I think the future is bleaker than we think. That's why I learned machine learning, because when robots take over, I'd like to know what I'm dealing with."[ref]I think the future is grimmer than we think. That's why I've been looking into learning machines. When robots take over, I want to know what I'm dealing with."[/ref]) left the afternoon part of the conference.


In the evening, co-founder of 'techmag' held WIRED Kevin Kelly the keynote lecture. Rarely have I seen over six hundred people listen so intently for exactly an hour to this digital prophet, incidentally adorned with a beard reminiscent of both Gnome Plop and Chriet Titulaer. The man, like so many Americans required to take the rhetoric subject in high school, can take an audience on a vista-filled journey - that is a fact. The author of several books, he knows how to glowingly summarise various phenomena in a grand narrative.

Nine thousand startups

With many of Kelly's examples, I couldn't help but have a deja-vu experience. We now know that the big players of the new economy own no content (facebook), no real estate (airb'n'b) and no taxis (uber). Yet Kelly always manages to convince, precisely also with telling figures. Like the nine thousand (!) startups trying to build an uber-like application.


The pleasant self-mockery with which Kelly lards his stories (in 1989, Kelly already believed in the breakthrough of virtual reality glasses) ensures that you don't leave the digital church already before singing.

Meanwhile, I can't wait for the upcoming film adaptation of Dave Eggers' The Circle. Time for some high-profile anti-stories - the topic is of greater importance than just the outreach of digital civil rights organisation Bits of Freedom. An excellent club, by the way: you wish more people would take a more critical view of technology in gear. As Kelly's introducer rightly stated: technology alone will never suffice, a vision of where that technology should lead is also needed.

Good to know

STRP can still be visited at Eindhoven's Klokgebouw until 2 April. About the 2015 edition, wrote George Vermij For the Cultural Press Bureau here.

Jaïr Tchong

Formerly cultural journalist and music programmer (Tolhuistuin, Melkweg) in the Netherlands. Since 1 December 2019, music programmer for arts centre KAAP. KAAP organises two annual collaborations in Bruges and Ostend. In Ostend in its own venue by the sea, in Bruges nomadically throughout the city and with partners such as Concertgebouw Brugge, Cactus, CC Brugge and De Republiek. KAAP also organises festivals: Push the Button, Dansand, Jazz Brugge and AMOK.View Author posts

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