We Are Not Sick zine: Introduction

This Saturday, my research lab with the School of Commons—Band of Burnoutsis presenting Geert’s band We Are Not Sick at Zurich’s annual contemporary music festival Lange Nacht. You can see all information about the event here.

As part of the intervention, we’ve made a special edition zine which is available onsite at Mehrspur music club. Inside it is an interview between myself and Geert, We Are Not Sick stickers (pictured above), a take-home poster, and micro-publication of the lyrics from band’s debut album ‘Sad by Design.’

Today I’m posting here the introduction to the zine, written by yours truly.

The album begins with a moody hum that soon fills the body with a familiar feeling. As the voiceover iterates that “Intuitively, many feel that their mental mess is produced by society. It is not a sickness in our heads” we know that this is a kindred spirit speaking to us from the void. Since first hearing some rough Sunday-jam tracks of what would become the Sad by Design album, I have been a fan of We Are Not Sick’s new modality of critical theory. The beat-driven aphorisms, dancefloor-worthy treatises, and witty delivery of the relatable everyday internet-psyche experience are a welcome re-think of contemporary theorisation. Listening to an album is sure as hell more fun than reading another academia.edu article.

For the 2021 edition of the Lange Nacht (Long Night) Festival in Zürich, our Band of Burnouts research lab jumped at the opportunity to present We Are Not Sick as part of our year-long series of interventions around the topic of the burnout. Band of Burnouts is a transdisciplinary study of the burnout phenomenon through multi-voiced, multi-perspective, encounters with the experience. Within our research the subject of social media appears again and again. Feelings towards using social platforms in relation to burnout range from overwhelm and aversion, to consolation, ambivalence, and total resentment. The full spectrum is there. What is unique about We Are Not Sick’s standpoint is the refusal to accept that the fact that majority of people report having negative feelings after a session on social media (primarily sadness, loneliness, and low self-worth) means there is something wrong with them. We are not sick, the platforms are. As the first track on the album states: “We can no longer leave the management of the world to Silicon Valley. We need to dismantle the free and invent new ways to work together and deal with differences and disputes, rather than rehashing them for the billionth time.”

Melt into John Longwalker’s genre-defying sounds; from gentle ambience to raw– almost brutal–hip hop and anthemic acid house, whilst Geert Lovink speaks truth to the platform and the contemporary condition in this experimental music experience at Mehrspul music club. Zone out, tune in, let’s see how we can make critical thinking sexy again here tonight. With a generous dollop of fun and lol moments along the way.

—Jess Henderson


Jess Henderson

Jess Henderson, founder of No Fun and Outsider, is an independent writer and researcher based in Zürich and Amsterdam. She is the author of Offline Matters: The Less-Digital Guide to Creative Work (Amsterdam: BIS Publishers, 2020), and is currently undertaking the first transdisciplinary study of the burnout.