Aynouk Tan on appearance

I was lucky enough to give a hand to a friend of mine the other week, when she asked me to interview one of the most interesting, and, as I found out, inspiring, persons in Amsterdam’s creative scene.

Have a look at what I wrote on the basis of a well-spent 45 minutes on Skype with Aynouk Tan. The brief was to write a short piece on how she feels about the importance of appearance in today’s world – here’s the result.


The Amsterdam-born journalist Aynouk Tan is more than what meets the eye. Besides being an awarded fashion icon, she is a multi-tasker in the heart of Amsterdam’s creative buzz and sees appearance as much more than a fancy set of fa-fang outfits. We caught Aynouk Tan for a brief chat over fashion, modern-day identities and looking beyond what one sees on the surface.

Aynouk Tan, perhaps best known for her two year-long column for the Dutch newspaper NRC Next, is today freelancing with full force. She is writing for L’Officiel and its Hommes-brother, but is also busy with various styling tasks. Lately, moreover, Aynouk has made a serious step towards the world of arts. Combining her passions for arts and writing, she is currently finishing an essay on the rise of the amateur. The essay, that focuses on the changes in the cultural and artistic climate brought about by the amateur, is accompanied in Aynouk’s CV with work for the acclaimed Mondriaan Fonds, the fund responsible for the governmental subsidies for various fields of art. Next to being in the know of the up-and-coming artists, she is fascinated by the latest theoretical developments in the arts, communication and society. Hence it comes as no surprise that it often is the up-to-date, thought-evoking character that shines through her work.

Shining through her view on fashion, then, is the focus on modern-day identities instead of simple pieces of clothing. Aynouk Tan often aims in her own outfits for combinations between ”something that is generally considered as aesthetically pleasing” and something peculiar. With the help of this mix she is able to get the viewer intrigued and hence raising questions about her identity. Who is Aynouk Tan, on the basis of what one sees? This is exactly what the journalist aims for: to start a dialogue about modern-day identities.

Identities are, according to her, explicitly interwoven with one’s choice of clothing in today’s society. ”The clothes we wear are seen as the ultimate truth: he is a skater, he is a punk, and that’s it”, says Aynouk. She, however, wishes to raise awareness of what she consideres extremely important: one’s appearance does not say much about what lies inside. Inside are the fluid and ever-flexible identities, that can only be reached with looking beyond the cover.

Seeing beyond the known – expanding one’s horizon – can be done with the help of an experimental attitude towards fashion, the journalist recommends. By wearing something that does not feel ”100 % me” and stepping out of the oh-so-safe comfort zone, she is left with her character – the naked truth, as it were. This truth is far from the one on the surface, and requires effort to be visible: ”It really takes courage to feel good about yourself if you wear something that you don’t feel good in, as you only have to rely on what’s inside”, concludes Aynouk Tan.

photo: onesixtynotepad


I’d rather stay in the hole

“I am worried about the creep of digital information, smoking us out of the imaginative holes we once dug and decorated for ourselves. I am not on Facebook, and cannot face going there. I don’t understand why something so fixed, so fundamentally hierarchical (the powerful create the form and you rollover and supply the content) has got so many people. If you can’t mess with the structure, then it sounds wrong to me.”


Emma Hart for Dazed Digital


Dutch to watch: Light Light

With not even ten shows played, Light Light can already be crowned as Holland’s newest hope.

The hypnotizing mix of shoegaze, dreampop and psychedelica got me hooked when seeing the group open for Maria Minerva. The Amsterdam-based group, formed of members of ZzZ and Saelors, played their first show for the city’s own crowd in December. Since then, the band has even made it all the way down to Paris: not a shabby start at all. Receiving a number of positive reviews from the Dutch press, this group is one to keep an eye on.

Have a look at 3 voor 12’s page for some live material or check out their demo Guru:


Light Light – Guru (demo) from alexandra duvekot on Vimeo.

High Highs & deep dives

The new video for High Highs‘ Flowers Bloom.

“I don’t know how to answer. I know what I think, but words in the head are like voices underwater. They are distorted.”
― Jeanette Winterson

Diving into my head, swimming smoothly among my thoughts; or splashing around, creating waves in which I drown.

I don’t know what I think.

Bubbles and beachy tunes: Girls at Melkweg

Safe and sound, yet sizzling – that is the bubble of Amsterdam. Living here is more often than not, at least among expats, referred to with that b-word. Last night, however, I got carried into another bubble – one cotton-like Californian bubble.

Girls, hailing from San Fransisco, played at a jammed Oude Zaal at Melkweg. Luckily at Melkweg, as initially they were booked for OT301; the venue that, despite its charisma, would have left too many music-enthousiasts outside in the cold. Inside Melkweg, the set performed by Girls was anything but cold. Including tracks from all their three records, they delivered quite an experience: it isn’t too often that I catch myself in such a smooth, careless swing like last night. Having matured remarkably in their overall stage-presence since last seeing them, in August 2010 at Flow, Girls now owned their act and audience in their charmingly cool manner.

On another note, however, quite a nasty needle threatened my own little bubble. As one could expect, a bigger stage brought about it a bigger audience, along with a bigger chance for people having “a conversation” (read:yelling at each other) right behind my ears during the first notes of ‘Vomit‘. Oh well, luckily I was drawn into the soothing tunes faster than I could spell silence.

All in all, Girls did succeed to exceed my expectations for the night. Being more beach-poppy live than on record, their show delivered a well-needed break from darkness and certainly left me smiling.


The temporary site for urban culture

Quite early on the other Wednesday, I ended up watching a free-for-download film not in the most usual spot. I found myself entering the pearl of Amsterdam’s nightlife at 8 pm. In the basement of the world-renowned club, Trouw, I enjoyed watching the perhaps stereotypically American take on the digital revolution of the music industry. However, despite finding some interesting viewpoints in the film, I was mainly thrilled by the concept of the event.

The screening of PressPausePlay was organised by “the temporary site for urban culture”, de Verdieping. Every Wednesday and/or Thursday the organisation hosts various events, be they talks, films or workshops, on the ground floor of Trouw. The events are focused on three key themes: the Future of the City, Future Media and Future Art & Culture. The viewing I last visited was part of the “Future Art & Culture”-branch, but the other two programmes look comparably exciting.

While the movie itself may have been a bit limited on its perspective, the point of gathering together to watch it was the most fruitful part of the evening, as agreed by the program leader of de Verdieping, Jarl Schulp. Schulp, radiating that famous viba, lead the thought-provoking, but laidback discussion on some main topics of the movie. One of the most interesting ideas raised during the commentary regarded the grey masses; whether they have become too great and powerful with the rise of new media, leading to the gradual decay of the quality of art. Such a subjective matter lead to a number of fascinating comments – who is anyone to deem artistic expressions good or bad? Luckily, and not so surprisingly, a general agreement was reached on the oh-so-prominent question: will off-line life survive the threat of the overtaking online-mode.. As agreed, it will, shall, and should indeed – despite the pads, a crisp white A4 will stay as the exciting starting point of creative activities. And, as the evening organised by de Verdieping showed, we are still drawn to experiencing things in real life, with real people.

Image: Openhaard.nl