Friday, May 30, 2008

Exposure '08 and Some Very Cool Ceramics

Leeuwarden, Netherlands

Noordelijk Hogeschool Leeuwarden logoExposure is an annual student showcase sponsored by the Northern College of Leeuwarden (which is pronounced "LAY-var-den," approximately). This school has one of the most interesting game programs I've ever heard of. All the assignments are actually work projects with real game development studios. The companies approach the school looking for student labor; the school Exposure '08 logohelps to match them up appropriately; and the students learn on the job. It isn't always full-time work, because the students also take classes in the usual way. Exposure is the great matchmaking event of the year, where the students show off projects of their own, and employers wander around and look at the exhibits. They also have a number of invited guest speakers, and I was asked to give a lecture by Tim Laning of Grendel Games, who's also a part-time instructor at the college. I also had some very interesting talks with Albert Sikkema, who heads up the program. We're trying to see if there's a way I can be more involved.

Leeuwarden is an ancient and extremely pretty town in Friesland, the northernmost province of Holland. Like many Dutch cities, it's full of canals that once brought trade from all over the world. I snapped a picture of the original weighing-house, at which merchants had to stop and prove that they were providing honest measure before they could take their goods farther on up the canal to the market.

The weighing-house.

Art Nouveau vase.I had some time on my hands after my talk, so Tim dropped me off at the Princessehof Ceramics Museum, whose building, as luck would have it, is also the birthplace of the artist M.C. Escher, beloved of programmers, mathematicians, and nerds generally. The museum has an extensive collection of works from Holland's history, as well as a number of other Islamic and Asian pieces, including some Ming dynasty vases from China. (Looking at them, I couldn't see what the big deal is about Ming vases, but I'm probably just a philistine, or perhaps the ones I saw aren't necessarily the best examples.) My favorite collection was the large group of Art Nouveau plates and vases, of which this is one example. But the museum isn't limited to historical works; it also contains a number of modern items such as this dramatic statue of Eve as a dominatrix, holding two male demon-figures in chains and crushing the serpent under her foot. (The full title is E.V.E. 1: Erotics Versus Evil. This is one of the things I like about Europe -- precious few American art museums would dare have something like this in their garden.)

Statue of Eve.I also like these geometric works by the artist Wim Borst, most of which don't have any pretensions to functionality.

After my talk the organizers of Exposure gave me a present -- some tasty spiced cookies rather reminiscent of Italian biscotti, and a bottle of something called Meekma -- a 60-proof liqueur which seems related to gin or the Dutch genever (from which gin derives). Both are characteristic of Friesland, apparently. I'm looking forward to my next visit.