Jaap Kooijman


Fabricating the Absolute Fake

NOW AVAILABLE as Open Access Download. To download, click here.

American pop culture - Hollywood cinema, television, pop music - dominates the rest of the world through its hegemonic presence. Does that make everyone a hybridized American, or do these elements find mediation within the other cultures that consume them? Fabricating the Absolute Fake applies concepts of postmodern theory - Baudrillard’s hyperreality and Eco’s “absolute fake,” among others - to this globally mediated American pop culture in order to examine both the phenomenon itself and its appropriation in the Netherlands, as evidenced by such diverse cultural icons as the Elvis-inspired crooner Lee Towers, the Moroccan-Dutch rapper Ali B, Dutch Entrepreneur Shandar Kooij, musical tributes to an assassinated politician, and the Dutch reality soap opera scene. Fabricating the Absolute Fake is a fascinating exploration of how global cultures struggle to create their own “America” within a post-9/11 media culture.

Available at Athenaeum, Amazon UK, and Amazon USA.

“A brilliant, thoroughly enjoyable work of cultural critique, Fabricating the Absolute Fake takes seemingly exhausted concepts like ‘Americanization’ and turns them on their head. Refusing simple binaries between the fake and the authentic, or between cultural imperialism and native resistance, Kooijman demonstrates just how flexible the signifiers of Americanness can be when they circulate globally.” Anna McCarthy, Cinema Studies, New York University

“Most daring and persuasive is Kooijman’s ability to move between and connect the most delicious pop and the most searing political events (9/11, the murder of Pim Fortuyn), never evading the seriousness of entertainment nor the spectacle of politics. A book that is a pleasure for what it conveys of its subject and for its intellectual rigor, managing to be at once subtle and straightforward, complex and lucid.” Richard Dyer, Film Studies, King’s College London

Fabricating the Absolute Fake shows that pop culture is more than emphemeral entertainment. When looked at with Kooijman’s cosmopolitan eye, pop culture can be seen as a continuing ritual in celebration of national identities, America’s identity for sure, but also, intriguinly, a Dutch or even European sense of self.” Rob Kroes, American Studies, University of Amsterdam

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Fabricating the Absolute Fake wins ASCA Book Award 2009

Jaap Kooijman has received the ASCA Book Award 2009 for Fabricating the Absolute Fake: America in Contemporary Pop Culture (AUP 2008). The annual award is given to an outstanding book published by a member of the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). In Fabricating the Absolute Fake, Kooijman examines the global dominance of American pop culture and its local appropriations. Written in an accessible style, the book cleverly shows how politics and popular culture are intertwined. The author perceives Americanization as a dynamic process, recognizing both its imperialistic character as well as its promise for productive appropriation on local level.
Recently, Kooijman has promoted the book by giving public lectures, including a keynote lecture at the Appropriating America, Making Europe conference of the European Science Foundation in Amsterdam (16 January 2009), and book talks at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Minnesota (10 March 2009) and the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University (6 April 2009).

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America’s Next Top President

What happens if we perceive the American presidential elections from the perspective of pop culture? By comparing the spectacle of politics to reality television shows such as American Next Top Model and American Idol, the construction of the media personality and its star myth becomes visible. Just like other media personalities, politicians are the most convincing when they succeed in “being themselves,” thereby providing the illusion of authenticity. Although these media events are not the same - obviously the next American president will have a greater impact on global political reality than any next American top model or pop idol - some of the media strategies are remarkably similar. On October 23, Jaap Kooijman will give a lecture on this topic at the Roosevelt Academy in Middelburg. On the evening of the elections, November 4, he will give a lecture at SPUI25, join a debate at CREA, and reflect on the rhetoric of hope at the infowarroom in the Melkweg.

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Now is the Time: Discussing 9/11 and Art

 What impact has 9/11 had on the visual arts and how do artists depict the post-9/11 world? Often the terrorist attack of 9/11 and its political and military aftermath are interpreted as an appeal to artists to leave their ivory towers and produce politically engaged art dealing with the social impact of the war on terror, as in the abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners for example, the complicity of the mass media in war propaganda, or the introduction of rigid national immigration policies and the rise of an ‘economy of fear’. On the other hand, Karlheinz Stockhausen called 9/11 ‘the ultimate artwork’. There appears to be a perpetual fascination with the visual spectacle triggered by this and successive attacks. How do these two reactions relate to one another? How does contemporary art relate to art from other periods dominated by social conflict and disorder? On Tuesday October 28, W.J.T. Mitchell, Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, and visual artist Sean Snyder will talk on this topic as part of the Now is the Time lecture series. The discussion will be moderated by Jaap Kooijman.

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Fabricating the Absolute Fake on NPS Kunststof

On 7 August 2008, Petra Possel interviewed Jaap Kooijman about his book Fabricating the Absolute Fake on the radio 1 talkshow Kunststof. With fragments of songs ranging from USA for Africa’s “We Are The World” and Mariah Carey’s “The Star-Spangled Banner” to Lee Tower’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Gerard Joling’s “At Your Service,” the discussion focuses on the Americanization of Dutch popular culture and the dominance of America in global pop culture. One of the talkshow’s traditions is to have the guest write down “words of wisdom” on a tile. Jaap cited the late singer Paul Jabara, who sang in his disco classic “Never Lose Your Sense of Humor” that “instead of the plumber, I called Donna Summer.” In other words, instead of always opting for practical solutions, answers sometimes can be found in art or pop culture. Click here to listen to the show.


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ESSCS visits “Beyond Paradise” at SMBA

As part of the Amsterdam 2008 session, the participants of the European Summer School in Cultural Studies have visited the SMBA exhibition Beyond Paradise, curated by Delphine Bedel and Ayako Yoshimura, in collaboration with Jelle Bouwhuis. The visit included a session with the curators in which they explained the motivation behind the exhibition: “The starting point of this exhibition stems from the paradox that tourism still involves romantic, if not paradisiacal imagery, whereas the tourist experience is actually shattered by all kinds of forces that haunt our daily lives: commercialism, gentrification, the complex entanglement of migration and tourist destinations, war, and fear of terrorism.” Beyond Paradise runs until 7 September 2008.

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Fabricating the Absolute Fake in the Media

On 17 June 2008, at SPUI25, Jaap Kooijman presented the first copy of his book Fabricating the Absolute Fake: America in Contemporary Pop Culture to José van Dijck, dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Amsterdam. Before that, personal reflections on the book were presented by Stine Jensen, Pieter Kottman, and Bas Heijne. Since then, Kooijman has been interviewed about the book on several radio shows, including Casa Luna, DeSmet Live, De Avonden, Hoe?Zo!, and BNR. To listen to these shows, go to the media page of this website. Fabricating the Absolute Fake has been published by Amsterdam University Press.

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European Summer School in Cultural Studies

This year, the session of the European Summer School in Cultural Studies takes place in Amsterdam. The 2008 session of the ESSCS takes “forms of life” as its signature term and core theme proposing to explore how past conceptions and present perceptions of “life” have manifested themselves in cultural practice and theory, and how they are likely to change in the future. While also referring to earlier uses of the concept (Wittgenstein), we will use “forms of life” to move beyond the nature versus culture divide – re-mapping the human and non-human, matter and mind, people and things, art and life, zoe and bios, form and process – and explore how culture inflects all forms of life, their objective study and analysis, as well as their performative presence, through enactment, embodiment and self-reflexivity. Moreover, we will strive for a critical analysis of the procedures and figures that give life intelligible form.

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Amsterdamned Global Village

In “Amsterdamned Global Village,” Jaap Kooijman explores the cityscape by analyzing films that are set in Amsterdam, including Amsterdamned, Do Not Disturb, Turkish Delight, Naked over the Fence, Shouf Shouf Habibi!, and Amsterdam Global Village. This eclectic collection of Dutch films functions as a cinematic site of karaoke Americanism, revealing how cinema connects different strands through both time and place, across a variety of genres, thereby providing an entrance into the multilayered cityscape of pop-cultural appropriation and the dominant presence of Hollywood in our everyday lives. “Amsterdamned Global Village” is included in Mind the Screen, edited by Jaap Kooijman, Patricia Pisters, and Wanda Strauven.

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Mind the Screen

Edited by Jaap Kooijman, Patricia Pisters and Wanda Strauven

Mind the Screen pays tribute to the work of Thomas Elsaesser, one of the pioneering and leading scholars in the field of film and media studies. Each contribution applies a media concept as developed by Elsaesser, revealing the wide range of themes and concerns that have come to define his work - not only in film and television studies, but also in new media studies, art and visual culture, system theory, media archaeology, and more. The issues discussed include cinephilia, melodrama, historical imaginary, post-classical Hollywood, European cinema, mind-game film, double occupancy, media technology, YouTube, images of terrorism, and the audiovisual archive. Together these essays present a close-up of media concepts, providing a looking glass for all types of audiovisual screens, from archaeological pre-cinematic screens to the silver screen, from the television set to the video art installation and the digital e-screen, and from the outdoor city screen to the mobile phone display.

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Jaap Kooijman | Photo: Bob Bronshoff