Nonetheless, I cycle a few thousand kilometres a year, the Mont Ventoux doesn’t have any secrets for me anymore, I am regularly spotted wearing tight and aesthet- ically unjustified outfits, and I spent a fortune on a celeste green Bianchi—the same type on which Pantani won several races.
Every spring classic, every Giro, Tour and Vuelta keeps me glued to several sports channel’s streams. I devour gluttonous accounts and opinion pieces about sly strat- egies of favourites, in a search for the spirit of man.
My heart jumps over a beat for the long tours, like the Tour de France, the Giro and The Vuelta. The spring classics are for East-Belgian farmers, too big, rude muscled men. Like the idiots in my hometown, their merit lies in their muscular power, not their brains. Spring classics carry in them only a fraction of the cunning and tragedy of pure heroism. The victory of Thomas De Gendt springs to my mind, on the flanks of the Stelvio, in the Giro a couple of years ago.
You’d probably ask yourself what cycling has to do with avant-garde or Jihad. On first sight, there is not much in common in between art and cycling. Compared to noisicians or avant-garde composers, the body of a cyclist is a well-oiled machine. Chaos, intuition and lucidity is the modus operandi of the arts. Cycling’s core con- cept is efficiency. The arts claim to be ethical on money, the main goal of cycling teams is gaining it. The arts are latently elitist, cycling is an overtly popular sport. Taking the differences into account, for me, the victories and the failures of men like Contador or Boonen trigger the same emotional response then an outsider composition, a tape full of noise jams or a ragtime trash concert.
You seem to me a passionate man, and I’m sure you understand passions—which sometimes cross the border of obsession. That’s the reason why I’d like you to point out, in a poetic way, what the core is of the 17th edition of the KRAAK festival—The so-called high mass of off-stream music. I hope this letter will inspire you.
This letter is addressed to you, because, while writing this edito, I couldn’t ignore the fact that dystopia is everywhere. The army in the streets, beside-the-point debates about freedom of speech, a we vs. they discourse, with no clarity on who is part of which side, as the ‘we’ or the ‘they’ seems to be defined by looks—beards, trousers which are too short, a vaguely sunburned face... I keep you partly responsible for this, although I’m the first to admit that cynic geo-politics gave you a wide supported, yet doubtful, reason to exist.
In this contemporary context, it seems the raison d’être of avant-garde is under pressure. But, I am sure you and I can find a common ground, especially in the shared belief in the power of the image, and in addition, arts and music. I admire your talent for powerful imagery. Grained photo’s of warriors dwelling in the desert, exuberantly veiled in black dresses, on white Adidas sneakers. Waving the more and more know black flag with a white circle and Arabic verses. They are moving images, their power lies in the combination of the composition and the estranging content.
Dear Mr. Bakr, while giving this current state of the avant-garde some thoughts, I was wondering whether you consider yourself as an avant-gardist. Is the Jihad for you, what the KRAAK festival is for me? I see parallels between you and the warriors fighting for IS, and avant-garde musicians: the latter produce aesthetically challenging works, and contaminate content by form—not unlike the images of the IS. Moreover avant-guardians are organised in an loose network of autonomous cells, interconnected through new media. Both disturb the world around them, the avant-garde in the way I described above, you by terror attacks, abductions and decapitations—destroying lives and families.
Maybe I envy your profound quest for the obsessive. Before some one misunder- stands me: I abominate your methods. My respect for human life is too big. Personal drama should be avoided in any way. But the shock effect you accomplish, speaks to me. Sometimes avant-garde feels too safe. Nothing is new, the shock effect is neutralised by its institutionalisation and by the history of art.
Whilst reading the last paragraphs, you probably getting my concerns: I am sincerely dissatisfied with the Western context. The overwhelming stream of news about radicalisation, the beside the point excuses of our Muslim community, the blustering by annoying politicians, distracts me from my personal obsessions—cycling and art. As I said earlier, I take you responsible for this. As an intelligent man, you understand that personal obsessions are very important—you follow yours, I follow mine. It’s annoying that yours interfere mine.
I have a solution, I sincerely hope you would considerate it. Maybe you should focus on cycling and start a Pro Cycling Team. I’m sure you will be equally satisfied. For several reasons: a same heroism will be yours—now gained through decapitation,
dragging people at a 4x4, and exploding western targets. Cycling will cause the same disturbed feeling, which should be clear out of my account on cycling. Cycling is on top the perfect opportunity to exploit the power of the image. Some- thing tells me a Jihad cycling team would blow minds—excuse me the slightly unfortunate metaphor. Close your eyes, and picture a veiled, bearded man, carrying verses of the Prophet, racing to the top of a mountain, alone, empowered by pure faith. While doing so, he humiliates deeply those western bastards behind him. It would be a great scene, I’m sure it would produce great images as well?
There’s off course always the avant-garde arts... It seems that puzzling your audi- ence with contradiction and uncompromising ideas is already your cup of tea. Remember the Jihad on Adidas.
You would in free us from stupid non-discussions about freedom of speech, and political recuperation, nor would you have to destroy the personal luck and safety of our and your Muslim brothers. And I would be able to concentrate on what’s really important. For instance: Wout Van Aert or Mathieu van der Poel? Will Contador try to win the 3 big rounds, and so on. Not to forget the yearly KRAAK festival.
Yours truly, Niels Latomme