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A letter from my couch

Maia Kenney (author)
Published 19 Jan 2024
Image by Angelina Nikolayeva

Dear Reader,

A confession: I do most of my best work lying on my couch at home. Sure, I go into the office at Het HEM for much-needed time with the team. But it’s at night, face up with a cup of tea (or wine, pick your poison) on the decrepit ‘Italian design couch’ provided by my landlord, that I can write, edit, think. Read.

I suspect that you do the same.

So, as a comrade in prone editorial enjoyment, I’d like to offer you a moment of couch-based reflection on what The Couch has become since it launched exactly six months ago today – and what to expect in the coming year.

At Het HEM we’re always thinking about how to make our beloved bullet factory a space for everyone. We started The Couch in a critical moment: it was always our wish to start this project, but the closing of our building for renovations was the nudge we needed to make it happen. But how could we be a space for everyone without a physical space in which to host them? We wanted to reach broader audiences while closed, of course, but also to keep our candle burning. To feed our curiosity about the world and take it in a new direction – online. It took me a while to realize that we had lit a new candle, one that cannot be contained in the term ‘digital platform’. (Not to get all cocky about it.) It’s intended as a slow burn, a space for critical reflection on what digital life is and could be. For exploring new, intentional ways to present art online. For embracing the diversity of (artistic) practices and where they can live: online, offline… or even in-between.

For setting ourselves up so that when our physical programme is back, Het HEM will have two flames burning with curiosity of the creative people around us.

Image by Angelina Nikolayeva
Image by Angelina Nikolayeva
Image by Angelina Nikolayeva

A little overview of what we accomplished in six short months: we’ve published over 50 pieces on The Couch, from art commissions and video works to essays, fiction and interviews. I’ve loved taking deep plunges into the collision between artificial intelligence and magic; into the way grief can shift as it becomes collective; into the worlds of the people who have helped make Het HEM what it is today; into the beautiful and limitless research into the sonic qualities of our building; into hearing artists’ own words about their video artworks; into other possible worlds, be they darker or lighter.

This year, as The Couch matures and takes on new forms, I’d like to highlight a few projects I’m particularly looking forward to. We have (at least) three very exciting art commissions coming in the next months. I won’t give too much away, but you can expect artworks that challenge your perceptions and what you hold to be true. The three artists explore ways of knowing that not all of us have access to, and each uses a different digital medium to unpack the potential of these knowledges. Too mysterious for you? Expect to use senses usually limited in your daily use of digital tech.

We’re also working on sharpening and deepening our editorial approach, and, as always, attracting new contributors beyond our networks. The Couch is a space without hierarchy, one of unexpected connections and chance meetings. So if you or someone you know is burning with ideas, send ‘em our way.

One very important area in which we are expanding our approach this year is by opening The Couch to difficult subjects. We feel that, given the catastrophic events of the last months, the freedom of and openness to the creative expression that Het HEM embodies is needed – now, perhaps, more than ever. That means that we will develop and maintain a discursive space in which we can inhabit different narratives and in which we can better understand the role and responsibilities of culture – particularly the arts – in the face of violence and oppression. We will share more with you soon.

Image by Angelina Nikolayeva

In the meantime, I sign off from my couch. Thank you for reading along with us over the past six months. And thank you to the incredible team of Het HEM, without whose dedication and care none of this would be possible.

Hope to surprise, delight and challenge you over the next year.

With my best,

Maia Kenney

Curator and Editor of The Couch

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