netherlands

Already time to leave Tilburg again

My Tilburg visit is already over and I have to say, this time, it was too short due to other travel arrangements and my delayed arrival. Students and colleagues were great and it was a real pleasure and privilege to be here. I am looking forward to come back to campus in 2017 and also to explore the Netherlands again a bit more then. Now it is nearly time to head for Malta with a short stop over in Frankfurt. Still no sign of autumn here, which is very exceptional this year. 

Exploring the land of canals from the waterside.

Exploring the land of canals from the waterside.

Tilburg arrival

Unfortunately, I arrived a week delayed in Tilburg due to my Malaria. And I find the recovery of fitness is going rather slowly. Of course, this is not a complaint, as this kind of Malaria is still a life threatening disease and it seems no surprise that a full recovery is not done in days but weeks. I am visiting Tilburg University and Lecture in the Master of International Management, as I also did last year. It is a very enjoyable environment with bright students, nice colleagues and good infrastructure. It is an amazing late summer this year, while in the same period of 2015 I was taking pictures of a commencing autumn here. Most of Northern Europe is experiencing record temperatures these days. And of course many people see this with pleasure and concern at the same time. 

I am also looking a bit deeper into the economic development of Tilburg, including the recovery from the time after the decline of the textile and leather industry. One of the newest achievement is that Tesla has opened an assembly plant, in the commercial zone. The city revived after depression with services, logistics, food and beverage production. It is experimenting with "unconditional minimum income" for every citizen, no ties attached. And it turned itself, not into an architectural beauty, but a modern and clean habitat, which in many ways appears like it could serve as a model for others and future cities. This fits into a research topic I am going to deepen in 2017 with some projects.

Tesla at Tilburg. After a great test drive of the Model S (photo snapped by Jeroen Kuilman).

Tesla at Tilburg. After a great test drive of the Model S (photo snapped by Jeroen Kuilman).

Dutch light

There is a myth around a special kind of light, which is said to have been the greatest source of inspiration for the painters of the Dutch golden age from the 17th century. In the 1970s the German artist Joseph Beuys postulated that this light has lost its radiance for good in the 1950s and with its disappearance it ended a special visual culture which lasted for centuries. Beuys saw the reason for its disappearance in the massive land reclamation project in the Zuyderzee (also Zuiderzee), which was a shallow bay, cut off the North Sea by a man made barrier which turned parts of it into the freshwater lake IJsselmeer. In a massive land reclamation project, the Netherlands gained a new province, called Flevoland. Peter-Rim DeKroon and Maarten DeKroon produced the documentary movie Dutch Light which compiles views on the subject, for example by the arts historian Svetlana Alpers, the painter Jan Andriesse, Jan Dibbets, as well as the astronomer Vincent Icke, who often refers to Marcel Minnaert, also an astronomer and author of The Nature of Light in open Air. There are numerous articles exploring the field, like for example Robert Greenler and David K. Lynch in 30 OPN Optics & Photonics News on A Return to Optics’ Roots. A special Dutch light on paintings might have also been a certain technique and skill, which was more strongly represented by the Dutch painters' style. When browsing through paintings of that period, I also noticed quite a few indoor scenes and portraits which are very deceptive in terms of light and brightness. But it could as well be an atmospheric phenomena, as some claim. To me the land reclamation of the Zuyderzee, which is said to have changed atmospheric conditions, albedo and reflection in a way that the Dutch light might have disappeared, seems, even given its size, too small to cause such changes on a broader level. The physicist Günther Können, who is the head head of the climate analysis department of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, is also skeptical that there is anything like a Dutch light today. It is likely that it was not the light, but the flatness of the landscape, the low clouds and the steady line of the horizon which gave a special perception of light in the Netherlands. The "low sky" (meaning the clouds) is really one of the things I noticed in my month here in the Netherlands. And when the sun breaks though the clouds, the landscape looks sometimes very dramatic. Perhaps that's what makes the light appear more radiant: the contrast.

IJsselmeer by LANDSAT (Public Domain, NASA, https://zulu.ssc.nasa.gov/mrsid/)

IJsselmeer by LANDSAT (Public Domain, NASA, https://zulu.ssc.nasa.gov/mrsid/)

Arrived Tilburg

A few months ago, I received a surprise invitation to come to Tilburg University and teach in the Master in International Management Program. Luckily the program team could schedule the course very compact in one month, and after I cleaned up my calendar own a bit, we could fit it in. A few days ago, we arrived from London, had a very warm welcome and are very happy to be here. In the Netherlands, Tilburg University is, aside the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, very well represented in global economics and business research. It is a small place with a big punch. Already in my first days here, I experienced a very nice and open working environment, and taught my first lectures to very bright students. What is further remarkable, is the high degree of interaction, and the resulting spirit. I have been to the Netherlands as a visitor before and was in contact with people and culture. But this is the first time, I have a little bit of a deeper insight into the work life. And it is very enjoyable, practical, strait forward, and well managed. The city of Tilburg itself, also is also in this spirit. At the end of the 1800s it developed into the "Wool Capital" of the Netherlands and build up a strong textile industry. It was only in the 1960s that this industry collapsed and the economic mix is now leaning towards services - mainly logistics. During the first phase of economic and urban renewal, many old buildings, including monuments, were demolished. These measures seem very disputed until today. But for me, who does not know the old Tilburg, the city has its charm and represents a very successful case of such transitions. We definitely enjoy being here.

A morning view on the Tilburg University campus

A morning view on the Tilburg University campus