Printed digitally on Munken Print white, measuring 297 x 210 x 7 mm, counting 100 pages and bound with a metal wire-o.
You can purchase your book for € + shipping by filling in your details below. Save this URL to view or purchase at any later time.
the-documents.org is a project by De Cleene De Cleene.
All books will be printed, bound & shipped by:
atelier Haegeman Temmerman.
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All books are shipped within 10 working days after your order. Contact email@example.com if you have any questions about your order.
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What constitutes a ‘document’ and how does it function? A document has trouble defining itself.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymo-logical origin derives from the Latin ‘documentum’, meaning ‘lesson, proof, instance, specimen’. As a verb, it is ‘to prove or support (something) by documentary evidence’, and ‘to provide with documents’. The online version of the OED includes a draft addition, whereby a document (as a noun) is ‘a collection of data in digital form that is considered a single item and typically has a unique filename by which it can be stored, retrieved, or transmitted (as a file, a spreadsheet, or a graphic).’ The current use of the noun ‘document’ is defined as ‘something written, inscribed, etc., which furnishes evidence or information upon any subject, as a manuscript, title-deed, tomb-stone, coin, picture, etc.’ (emphasis added).
Both ‘something’ and that first ‘etc.’ leave ample room for discussion. A document doubts whether it functions as something unique, or as something reproducible. A passport is a document, but a flyer equally so. Moreover, there is a circular reasoning: to document is ‘to provide with documents’. Defining (the functioning of) a document most likely involves ideas of communication, information, evidence, inscriptions, and implies notions of objectivity and neutrality – but the document is neither reducible to one of them, nor is it equal to their sum. It is hard to pinpoint it, as it disperses into and is acted upon by other fields: it is intrinsically tied to the history of media and to important currents in literature, photography and art; it is linked to epistemic and power structures. However ubiquitous it is, as an often tangible thing in our environment, and as a concept, a document deranges.
The-documents.org continuously gathers documents and provides them with a short textual description, explanation, or digression, written by multiple authors. In Paper Knowledge, Lisa Gittelman paraphrases ‘documentalist’ Suzanne Briet, stating that ‘an antelope running wild would not be a document, but an antelope taken into a zoo would be one, presumably because it would then be framed – or reframed – as an example, specimen, or instance’. The gathered files are all documents – if they weren’t before publication, they now are. That is what the-documents.org, irreversibly, does. It is a zoo turning an antelope into an ‘antelope’.
As you made your way through the collection, the-documents.org tracked the entries you viewed. It documented your path through the website. As such, the time spent on the-documents.org turned into this – a new document.
The-documents.org is a project created and edited by De Cleene De Cleene; design & development by atelier Haegeman Temmerman.
The-documents.org has been online since 23 May 2021.
It snows on December 19, but the situation changes on the 22nd with the arrival of an Atlantic low-pressure area, bringing masses of hot and humid air. Thaw follows.
And then, it snows again on December 26 and 27, before the arrival of a new warm front on the same day. A significant and brutal rise in temperature ensues: at Lac Noir, at 920 m, the temperature shoots up from 0,3 °C on December 27 at 7 AM to 7,4 ° C on the 28th at 9 PM.
Recently built apartment with two bedrooms, two terraces, underground car parking space and basement storage. The layout is as follows: beautiful spacious entrance hall with fitted cupboard, spacious living room with a sliding window and a terrace, open kitchen, storage room. Separate toilet with sink. Bathroom with shower, bath, toilet and bathroom furniture with double sink and mirror cabinet, 2 bedrooms, 1 with terrace. Fully painted and ready to move in. Public transport and shops in the immediate vicinity. Rental price: 775 € / month + 55 € general costs / month. RECOMMENDED!’
Zaffelare, December 2019.
First published in A+ Architecture in Belgium, A+ 282, Village (February, March 2020), https://www.a-plus.be/nl/tijdschrift/village/
‘ORIGINAL. Rire de tout ce qui est original, le haïr, le bafouer, et l’exterminer si l’on peut.’
[‘ORIGINAL. Laugh with everything that’s original, hate it, scold it, exterminate it if you can.’]
Flaubert. Bouvard et Pécuchet (présenté par Raymond Queneau). Paris: Livre de poche, 1959 (with p. 232-233: dried leaf of a ginkgo tree, and p. 324-325: dried leaf of a birch tree), p. 429 [2,00 EUR, Librairie Vic-sur-Cère, August 2021].
It’s early spring. The pool is covered with a sheet of plastic. The deciduous trees are just leafing out. A tree stump serves as a placeholder for the diving board’s foot – it was customary to take it indoors for winter – and keeps people from kicking its threaded rods sticking up from the silex tiles that line the pool.
The upper right corner of the plastic frame is missing. It’s probably where the insect – now dead, dry and yellowish – got in. The frame was left behind in the laundry room overlooking the garden, the pool and the pool house. At the time it hadn’t been used for quite a while. Half empty, the water green.
In summer, when the wind dropped, horse-flies came. You could shake them off temporarily by swimming a few meters underwater.
When the juneberry (Amelanchier Lamarckii) flowers, the beekeeper knows it’s time to add a first honey super to the hive. Winter’s over and worker-foraging bees will fly out and come back with their stomachs full of nectar. To avoid larvae in the honey, the beekeeper will place a grid – the so-called queen excluder – between the main compartment of the hive and the honey super.
The door leading to the kitchen has a section in stained glass. The other day, I took a closer look at one of the spots on it, which I had half-consciously registered every time I passed it. On two square meters, there are three of them. All are oval in shape. Two of them seem to be flat bubbles of air, haphazardly produced during the manufacturing of the glass, I imagine. The third one, however, is peculiar. It drew my attention because it appeared to represent something. Upon closer investigation, it seemed to allude to different things. A model ship, like the ones in glass bottles. A dragon, like the one used on the Welsh national flag. A tailed, devilish figure riding a cloud-like motorcycle. What skills the glass worker must have had, to produce an image in a glass covered air capsule like this. I closed the door softly, as the microwave’s signal sounded.
The road down from the top of Mount Vesuvius, at Atrio Del Cavaillo. The sun sets. The last tourist bus has headed down. Then the headlights of the guardian’s car swing their way down. It must be freezing. I am holding an orange-sized piece of petrified lava, probably stemming from the 1872 or 1944 eruption. A kilometer further down the road, the old Observatory is empty. Nowadays, monitoring seismic changes is done in a research centre in the city of Naples. Their seismographic registrations can be followed online, in real time. Two headlights swirling along the slopes, underneath me, are coming upwards.
A mostly empty book designed to collect cigar bands. The bands are glued to the paper at their left side, so the information on the backside, explaining the image and referring to the series it belongs to and the number of different labels the series contains, can be looked up. The book has complete and incomplete series on Christopher Columbus (complete), tanks (incomplete), the origins of civilization (complete), Ancient cultures (incomplete), fashion (complete), South-American sculptures (complete), Ancient columns (incomplete), Nobel Prize Winners (incomplete), an unclarified series of seven men, most of whom are ‘prof.’ or ‘dr.’(complete / incomplete), design plates (incomplete), famous Belgians (complete / incomplete), statesmen (incomplete) and football players (incomplete). The first page in the book is used to present two series. The left column presents the Egyptian dynasty (incomplete). The middle and right column present a series of bands by the brand Jubilé on the history of energy in telling scenes and pieces of machinery.
Middle column, top to bottom:
Right column, top to bottom:
The series is incomplete.2
The scene shows a man standing at a desk, sticking out his hand to an officer in a window that reads, in mirror writing: Customs.
On eBay a complete series is advertised (15 EUR), with a lo-res picture of the whole collection, including the five bands missing in my grandfather’s collection. The information on the back, however, is not given. It leads to a highly speculative history of energy.
A man in a gown watching a T-shaped object.
A child in a cellar, sitting on a stool at a table with gray objects.
A soldier kneeling beside a child, in front of a train, and in front of a boat.
A low table with a giant cartwheel of sorts and a box.
A vertical object with what seems to be a bell on top.
The Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place every year since the track’s inauguration in 2004 – except for 2011 when the race was cancelled due to protests in the wake of the Arab Spring. To prevent sand from covering the track and entering the air-ducts and engines, the sand near the track is sprayed with an adhesive to keep it from blowing around.
The cloud of sand in the picture (made near Avenue 61 on an artificial island close to Seef) was made by kicking it into the frame while M.R. and M.D.C. had to stop and wait for a truck that was being towed after the driver lost control over the vehicle and flipped it onto its side. Days earlier M.D.C. had tried to make a photograph of the F1-track, but couldn’t get close enough to make a decent picture.
At the State Archive in Kortrijk, I am leafing through a 1955 photo album of the construction of the provisional church in Lokeren by the famous furniture company Kunstwerkstede De Coene. Gigantic wooden, prefabricated beams structure the building. It is cold. An old man in a grey suit shuffles between the racks to look up the date of birth of his great great grandmother. Snow covers the unfinished provisional roof. A bus passes, I reckon, through the pouring rain.
In Boarhunt, close to Winchester (UK), the fort houses the Royal Armouries’ artillery collection. It contains parts of the ‘Project Babylon’ space gun, the two part bronze Dardanelles Gun and a collection of French field guns, captured in Waterloo. On the lawn to the South of the fort two neat piles of fifteen1 36” shells flank a Mallet’s Mortar. Manufactured in 1857, the mortar remains unfired up to this day.2 In 1873, its inventor – the engineer and geophysicist Robert Mallet – publishes his translation of Luigi Palmieri’s Incendio Vesuviano. Before giving a lengthy account of his take on the present state of vulcanicity, he briefly introduces the famous Italian vulcanologist’s report: ‘The following Memoir of Signor Palmieri on the eruption of Vesuvius in April of this year (1872), brief as it is, embraces two distinct subjects, viz., his narrative as an eye-witness of the actual events of the eruption as they occurred upon the cone and slopes of the mountain, and his observations as to pulses emanating from its interior, as indicated by his Seismograph, and as to the electric conditions of the overhanging cloud of smoke (so called) and ashes, as indicated by his bifilar electrometer, both established at the Observatory.’
In the outskirts of East of London, along Repository road in Woolwich, the only other mortar of this type is installed. This particular one fired nineteen shells on three occasions. Each time resulting in a damaged mortar.
Screenshot taken from AbeBooks, where the first edition of The Eruption of Vesuvius in 1872 with Notes, and an Introductory Sketch on the Present State of Knowledge of Terrestrial Vulcanicity, the Cosmical Nature and Relations of Volcanoes and Earthquakes is listed for 1895,00 USD. https://www.abebooks.com/first-edition/Eruption-Vesuvius-1872.with-Notes-Introductory-Sketch/439314424/bd
Project Gutenberg’s The Eruption of Vesuvius in 1872, by Luigi Palmieri (translated by Mallet) can be found at: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/33483/33483-h/33483-h.htm
During the one day course Safety and Avalanches, teacher G.T. shows pictures of different manifestations of snow and ice. If one learns to read them, one can deduce the wind direction when hiking or skiing in mountainous terrain. Wind direction is crucial for assessing the stability of the snow. G.T.’s examples are of Austrian origin. He speaks about ‘Anraum’: displaced snow can get stacked horizontally against an object, such as a tree or a cross. The snow ‘grows and builds into the wind’. Counter-intuitively, the snow points to the side the wind is coming from. One can expect dangerous terrain in the direction of the ‘unbuilt’ side of the object.
(‘Imaginary landscape in the actual greater Gent, some thousands of years ago. A grassy riparian zone separates rivers from the edge of the forests’)
Imagine a deserted city of Gent, overtaken by nature, Thiery asks the reader in his book Het woud (The Forest). After fifty years, you return to the city. Buildings have collapsed, streets are overgrown. It has become an impenetrable, dense forest, except for the river on which the reader makes his or her way through it. In the first half of the twentieth century, Leo Michel Thiery made one of Belgium’s first botanical gardens for educational purposes. In the middle of an industrialized quarter of the city of Gent, the garden presented different sceneries. There were landscapes from the Alps, dunes, the Ardennes, steppe. Besides sceneries with chalk-, loam-, marl- and sand-based vegetation, there were forests, grasslands and swamps.
After his death, Thiery’s garden decayed. Decades later, it was restored, with the Alps, dunes, the Ardennes and steppe now classified as a protected view.
Thiery, M. Het woud. Een proeve van plantenaardrijkskunde. Gent: De Garve, s.d., p. 14
(transcript CNN Saturday morning news, Aired September 21, 2002 – 07:32 ET)
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MILES O’BRIEN, CNN AnchorNow this Astronomy Picture of the Day goes back as far as the popularization of the Internet. The discovery of what is now Netscape, if you will. Let’s take a look at the guys behind it. It’s an art gallery of astronomy, featuring explosive supernovas, deep black holes, flaring comets, and breathtaking earth views.
O’BRIEN(voice-over) Every day since the web was in its infancy, two enthusiastic astronomers have posted a new image to Astronomy Picture of the Day.
ROBERT J. NEMIROFF, NASA Astrophysicist
I think that a lot of these would look great in a gallery. They’re very different, there’s a lot of different colors involved, there’s a lot of different contrasts, a lot of different textures. And, it has the added bonus of being scientifically interesting. It’s scientifically true.
O’BRIENRobert Nimiroff and Jerry Donnell (ph) choose the images based on their educational value, newsworthiness, or just plain beauty.
I mean, there’s a ‘wow’ factor here. I usually know within a second or two of seeing a picture whether it’s a sure thing for The Astronomy Picture of the Day, because I just say ‘Wow, what is going on there?’
O’BRIENEvery image is archived on the site. Underneath each picture is a brief explanation so that the site is not just eye candy but educational, as well. Including images that give us a new perspective.
Recently, people put together a bunch of pictures from the moon in this great panorama. You can look all the way around in the circle and see what the astronauts saw. The face on Mars, which the best explanation is, it’s just a rock formation, but there’s a lot of conspiracy people out there who think it’s more, and the picture of the earth at night. And, I think it’s one of our most popular images.
O’BRIENSome images come from telescopes around the world. Others from the Hubble Telescope, peering deep into space. Others, from amateur photographers, an artist’s renditions of black holes too distant for detail.
And you can just look at it and feel that you’re there.
O’BRIENMany people take the images from the site and post them as wallpaper on their computers, or, create a slideshow screensaver.
Our biggest demographic is the intelligent professional who works at some company and has a computer on the desk, has a web browser, and they check us out. We’ve got e-mail that we’re many people’s morning cup of coffee.
O’BRIENWhether you’re a space junkie or just enjoy looking up at the sky, Astronomy Picture of the Day is worth the visit.
https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap950616.html (original post: June 16, 1995)
At the copyshop, on a shelf above photocopier 8, the lid of a box of paper serves as the container for ‘forgotten originals’.1
The book being copied: Didi-Huberman, G. La ressemblance par contact. Archéologie, anachronisme et modernité de l’empreinte. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 2008.
Due to strict regulations during the COVD-19-pandemic, the yearly vehicle inspection had to be scheduled by appointment. Getting ready to drive to the DMV, the car wouldn’t start. It had rained heavily, the preceding days. The day before the DMV-appointment, water had come running into the car on pushing the pedals. My socks were wet.
I called the DMV to say I needed to cancel the appointment and make a new one (but that the car, besides not being able to drive, was perfectly fine, vehicle-inspection-wise).
Later that day, we got the engine up and running again, using jumper cables and a second car, so we would be able to drive to meet the midwife the next day.
Renault Clio. Instructieboekje. 2012. PDF-file
A block of concrete. Fissures are showing and rebar is sticking out from all sides. If it were still straight, the block would measure approximately 130x15x40cm.
It is lying by the side of the road, a few hundred meters from a construction site. It appears to be shaped by impact. Maybe the block plummeted to the ground from a great height. Perhaps, something heavy hit it. For all one knows, it served as a column and was exposed to an unforeseen amount of pressure, causing it to buckle.
According to Eyal Weizman ‘[a]rchitecture emerges as a documentary form, not because photographs of it circulate in the public domain but rather because it performs variations on the following three things: it registers the effect of force fields, it contains or stores these forces in material deformations, and, with the help of other mediating technologies and the forum, it transmits this information further.’1
Weizman, E. ‘Introduction’, in: Forensic Architecture. Forensis. The Architecture of Public Truth. London/Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2014.
Most mornings I eat three slices of bread. I stack them. Between the highest slice and the one in the middle I put a slice of cheese (young Gouda). I put the whole in the microwave1 for 1 minute and 50 seconds. The result is what I like to call a smelteram2.
On the morning of my thirty-second birthday the plate broke in half during heating.
A contraction of smelten (Dutch for melting) and boterham (Dutch for a slice of bread).
‘The masons in training pour a concrete slab and build four walls upon it in a stretcher bond. Then the block comes to our department and the students in the course Electrical installer (residential) can grind channels and drill cavities in it.’
‘It’s not always a success from the outset, but they learn quickly.’
‘Never grind horizontally, always vertically. Diagonally if there is no other way.’
‘Two fingers wide.’
‘After this it goes to the sanitary department. After the bell drilling, the demolition hammer follows and the masons make us a new block.’
Competentiecentrum VDAB, Wondelgem, July 2019.
First published in A+ Architecture in Belgium, A+ 279, Schools (August, September 2019), https://www.a-plus.be/nl/tijdschrift/schools
Belgium, approximately 1.5km from the French border, photograph made on 16.06.2018.
The European flag symbolises both the European Union and, more broadly, the identity and unity of Europe. It features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. They stand for the ideals of unity, solidarity and harmony among the peoples of Europe. The number of stars has nothing to do with the number of member countries, though the circle is a symbol of unity.1
On Dutch-language online shop bol.com’s web page of art critic Hal Foster’s latest publication (Brutal Aesthetics. Dubuffet, Bataille, Jorn, Paolozzi, Oldenburg), the author’s biography is presented automatically. Hal Foster, the algorithm mistakenly says, is the ‘Michelangelo of the comic strip’ and creator of the famous Prince Valiant comic book series.
In Et si les œuvres changeaient d’auteur? Pierre Bayard states that nothing is more damaging to a work of art or a literary work than being attributed to the same author, again and again. There is a lot to be gained by reading Franz Kafka’s L’étranger, viewing Alfred Hitchcock’s Battleship Potemkin, or looking at Robert Schumann’s The Scream.
Bayard, P. Et si les œuvres changeaient d’auteur? Paris: Minuit, 2010.
Foster, H. Brutal Aesthetics. Dubuffet, Bataille, Jorn, Paolozzi, Oldenburg. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020.
Foster, H. Prince Valiant, 1937-ongoing.
https://www.bol.com/nl/p/brutal-aesthetics/9300000001176684/?bltgh=qsqMVci5YnpjLm9mBg5MbQ.2_9.10.ProductTitle , accessed on June 1st, 2021.
Cathedral glass, or Flemish glass, lets light through, but distorts visibility. It can show something or someone is present behind it, but not in detail. Often used in front doors, it marks the opaque edge between the private and the public sphere, laying bare their presence, without disclosing their contents.
A blue hand, or a spider (Cyriopagopus lividus), traces the cracks that testify to the fact that the jammed door had to be closed with force. The hinges need oiling. Cobalt blue tarantulas are said to be extremely defensive.
A year before the crash, Swiss artist Charlotte Stuby designed a tailor-made cover for the car. The dents caused by the unfortunate hailstorm weren’t visible. The work, called Gone Fishing, was on view during an open air exhibition on the theme of the parking lot. Heavy wind had caused the temporary traffic signs on the parking lot, left there by the city services, to tip over. One hit a car and caused a scratch. It was unclear if this would be something the insurance company would accept. We attached Stuby’s cover a second time. Parking fines flew irregularly across the lot.
In June, 2014, a severe hailstorm hit Belgium. Warnings were broadcast. A football game between the national teams of Belgium and Tunisia was paused. The morning after, there were small dents in the hood and the roof of the car, each a square centimeter in size, some 10 centimeters separated from each other. The storm didn’t get a name.
Assessing the damage, the insurance company’s expert took the dents into account to establish the wreck’s worth.
Near Avenue 61 on an artificial island close to Seef, a truck is being towed after the driver lost control over the vehicle and flipped it onto its side. A warm wind blows in from the Persian Gulf.
A police officer signals us to come closer. ‘Why are you taking pictures?’ he asks. ‘This is just an accident. You have to delete the pictures from your phone. Now.’ After checking the pictures-folder on our phones, he gets in his car, drives a few metres, stops the car and rolls down his window. ‘And don’t do it again!’ he yells. Then he drives off, raising a cloud of sand in his wake.
Photograph taken and recovered from my trash bin on 18.12.2020.
Our one year old’s favourite toy he’s not supposed to play with is the HP Officejet Pro L7590 All-in-one in my office. I have given up on forbidding him to play with it. We have a new game: he brings me one of his other toys, we put it on the flatbed, close the lid – as far as possible –, press the button ‘START COPY – COLOR’ and wait for the print to come out of the machine. When we place the original onto the copy, he laughs. So far we have copied his blue pacifier, his planet-earth-bouncy-ball and his rattling crocodile.
The previous owners of the house we moved into, left us a piece of a newspaper that was used to clad the wall at the time the building was built, and which they found when they renovated the house. The sport-section of the socialist newspaper Vooruit is dated 18 November 1931. It features articles on cycling and soccer. Recently, we noticed the plaster is coming off the wall in one corner of the living room. With sufficient rain, it might reveal other events that happened on that 1931 November Wednesday.
A sheet of brushed aluminium serves as the base for a monochromatic print showing a circular floor plan and seven photographs. The nearby Prosopis cineraria, known as the ‘Tree of Life’, is a well-known tourist attraction in the Arabian Desert near Jebel Dukhan. The plaque shows how the recently constructed concrete structure, circling the four hundred year old tree, allows the visitors to see and photograph the landmark in new and – because of the tree’s decentralized position – surprising ways. In summer the temperature can rise well over 40°C. The different expansion rates of the aluminium and its imprint cause the latter to crack.
In 2020, the print versions of the Flemish telephone books ‘Gouden Gids’ and ‘Witte Gids’ (The Golden Guide and The White Guide), were published for the last time. From that year onwards, the directory could only be accessed and consulted online. The effect of the production of print telephone directories on the environment is considered to be enormous. As yearly updated, ubiquitous books, they were publications that soon turned superfluous. They led to piles of waste.
From the beginning of the 21st century on, both the print version and the online version had been available. This was a period of medium transition. During the last two decades, the print directory increasingly referred to the websites of the companies listed. To search for e.g. someone to inspect the heating installation, it was possible to find such a company’s website via the print directory, and consult the inspector’s services and price online, bypassing search engines such as Google and its complex algorithms. The telephone directory had a thematic and alphabetical order, combined with the possibility to buy additional advertising space.
A visit to the Royal Observatory of Belgium, in Ukkel. Most of the domes are damaged and need repairing. Only a few telescopes are in use. It is difficult to find a good spot from which to film the site. When we asked the people at the Royal Meteorological Institute – the Observatory’s neighbouring institution – if we could access their building’s roof to film the observatory, the answer was ‘no’.
I (M.D.C.) remember there was a fire nearby. We couldn’t see the flames, but a tall dark plume of smoke rose above the trees lining the site. We didn’t insist any longer and ceased our attempt to access the roof, hoping we might find a good spot to film the smoke with a dome in the foreground.
Kesteloot, J. Leerboek van Cosmografie voor Middelbaar en Lager Normaal Onderwijs (derde vermeerderde uitgave). Brugge: Firma Karel Beyaert, 1948.
Ten years ago, in November, I drove up to Frisia – the northernmost province of The Netherlands. I was there to document the remains of air watchtowers: a network of 276 towers that were built in the fifties and sixties to warn the troops and population of possible aerial danger coming from the Soviet Union. It was very windy. The camera shook heavily. The poplars surrounding the concrete tower leaned heavily to one side.
I drove up to the seaside, a few kilometers farther. The wind was still strong when I reached the grassy dike that overlooked the kite-filled beach. I exposed the last piece of film left on the roll. Strong gusts of wind blew landwards.
Months later I didn’t bother to blow off the dust that had settled on the film before scanning it. A photograph without use, with low resolution, made for the sake of the archive’s completeness.
The dust on the film appears to be carried landwards, by the same gust of wind lifting the kites.
The building is almost finished. One apartment is still up for sale, on the top floor. The contractor is finishing up. There’s a long list of comments and deficiencies that need to be addressed before the building can be handed over definitively to the owner. The elevator’s walls are protected by styrofoam to prevent squares, levels, measures, drills, air compressors, chairs, bird cages, etc. from making scratches on the brand new wooden panelling.
In 1932 Brassaï began taking photographs of graffiti scratched into walls of Parisian buildings. On his long walks he was often accompanied by the author Raymond Queneau, who lived in the same building but on a different floor. Brassaï published a small collection of the photographs in Minotaure, illustrating an article titled ‘Du mur des cavernes au mur d’usine’ [‘From cave wall to factory wall’].
I bought my son a gift while abroad: a toy turtle named Essie whose perforated shield projects stars onto the ceiling in blue, green or amber. ‘8 actual star constellations’, the box proclaims.
The manual explains how to power up the turtle and what the four buttons on Essie’s back do. The small document (recto: Chinese, verso: English) concludes with some ‘Words from Little Turtle ESSIE’. In it the turtle shifts from direct speech to illeism1 and back.
The act of referring to oneself in the third instead of first person.
In between two cities along the Belgian coast, water has run from the dunes (and the Second World War Heritage site scattered among them), underneath the coastal road and tram rails, to the beach. It has formed a small S-shaped estuary, bound to disappear due to the increasingly harsh wind coming from the coast of Britain, blowing North-easterly, and hammering down on the levee. The vibrations of the empty Ostend-bound tram passing just before the photograph was taken, had no visible impact on the estuary.
In his Handboek Varende Scheepsmodellen (Handbook Sailing Ship Models) André Veenstra explains the different classes in ship model-competitions. There’s a wide variety. For static ship models the most important one is ‘truth-to-nature’. A jury compares the model to photographs of the actual ship and brings into account categories such as amount of work, degree of difficulty, scale ratio, construction execution and painting.
The most interesting class – according to Veenstra – is F 6. In this particular class, a number of participants with different boats will form a team. Together, they will perform a certain ‘act’ with a maximum duration of ten minutes. During the act, they mimic a slice of reality. Such as, for example, ‘rescuing’ and towing a ship in distress; extinguishing a fire on a tanker or oil rig, lichen and/or tow the sunken wreckage to the harbor, stage a naval battle, etc.
Page 262 shows a photograph of such a mimicked slice of reality. The caption explains: ‘Image 14.15. The Dutch demonstration in the F 6 class during the European Championship of 1975: the oil rig is set on fire by a motorboat with terrorists. The fire is extinguished and the oil rig is quickly towed to a safe harbor by tugs. The show was performed by six people and took a very creditable fourth place.’
A cigar box, standing at the back of a shelf next to the heating installation, with in it silex-like stones with what seem to be traces of prehistoric usage.
In the garage, there were papers (the archive of O. Clemminck) and objects (stones, tiles) left to us by a man who had worked at the city archive. He was an acclaimed expert on our village’s history.1
A recent study by professor Philippe Crombé at Ghent University states that during the last Ice Age, in the region where I grew up, there was once a great lake, with, at the shores, proven presence of prehistoric man. As a kid, we dug up shells with a toothbrush, and set a perimeter with plastic tape. The former presence of a tavern where my parents now live, and the restaurant which still serves seafood at the other side of the road, prevented accurate dating.
A half a day’s walk from the Fuente Dé teleférico, there are less and less traces of passers-by. The path to Sotres suddenly runs through a lusher green. The fence between two pastures keeps the sheep from crossing and coincides with the border between two regions. A hole in the fence would change the landscape’s hue.
On March 23th 2015, a high pressure system above Panama Bay blew strong winds landwards. At the Gatun locks, one of the webcams overlooking the Canal neglected the traffic and briefly captured its own images. The ship’s presumed passage through the Gatun locks wasn’t recorded by this camera and the AIS-transponder did not save any data of the ship’s transit from the Pacific to the Atlantic side of the canal: the Authenticity managed to swap oceans undetected.
On February 16th 2016, the transponder still signals the ship near the port of Bahia Las Minas. The current is calm, the ship has been practically immobile for a year.
First published in: De Cleene, M. Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Roma Publications, 2019
Webcam Gatun Locks, Panama Canal, http://www.pancanal.com
I’m taking a scan of a family photo album given to me after my grandmother passed away, wanting to write something about the marvelous portraits inside. The genealogy is only partly clear to me: I recognize my dad as a kid, my uncle, my grandmother, her brother in the laboratory he (said he) ran. He smelled of cigars and severe perfume. The older photographs present people I don’t know, but must be my ancestors. My grandmother told me stories1 that, historically, reach further back than the figures I recognize in the photographs. There are no names and no dates in the album. The first two pictures seem to be the oldest ones.2 I retract them from the album pockets in which they were slid to check if something is written on the backside. When I take the album away from the scanner’s glass plate, particles of leather, gold varnish and sturdy cardboard come loose. I place a sheet of paper on the glass plate and press ‘scan’ again.
Once she (my grandmother) went home from school, sick, with her bicycle. She studied to become a nurse. The school was in Brussels, about 60 kilometers from her native village M. The milkman’s van tipping over in front of my grandmother’s parental house. A milk covered street. My great-grandfather, physician and mayor at M. Something happened during the Second World War having to do with telephones or radios when she was still a kid.
Anastasio Guzmán was a Spanish pharmacist and naturalist. He spent most of his career in South-America. He died in 1807 during an expedition in the Cordillera de Los Llanganates in Ecuador, in search of the lost treasure of the Incas. Some time after his death, his colleague Juan José Tafalla suggested naming a certain genus of plants after his friend.
Guzmanias are mainly stemless, evergreen, epiphytic perennials native to Florida, the West Indies, southern Mexico, Central America, and northern and western South America.They are found at altitudes of up to 3,500m in the Andean rainforests.
The symbols beneath the photographs indicate that these Guzmanias require full light, but it is advised to avoid bright sunlight in spring and summer (HALF WHITE, HALF BLACK SUN), the compost should be kept moderately moist during growth, allowing it to dry slightly between each watering period (HALF FILLED WATERING CAN). Unlike, for instance, the Grevillea Robusta, a Guzmania does not require being sprayed regularly (SPRAYER). The four digit code is the AUCTION CODE: ‘Every product has a code. This code is indispensable for the trade.’ The COLOURED BAR at the bottom shows the availability of a plant quarterly. RED means good, PINK means moderate and WHITE means not available.
The introduction to this booklet mentions that ‘[p]rinted colours are often not as accurate as the colours of the plants themselves, which is why it is possible that colours shown in pictures in this booklet may be a little different from the colours of the real pot plant.’
Bloemenbureau Holland. Potplanten, pot plants, topfpflanzen, plantes en pot, piante da vaso, planta en particular 1995/96. Leiden: Bloemenbureau Holland, 1995.
Every two weeks, The New York Review of Books falls into my letterbox. Those are good days. Most often, I won’t get to reading it, but what I instantly do, is check the last page with ‘The Classifieds’. The people writing the (genuine, not fictitious) adverts and inquiries reappear every so often. I happily assume the position of the implied reader, as they address the presumed readers of the review. There’s a ‘charismatic, aging French rock star’ providing original songs in Franglais. There are top notch apartments in Paris for aspiring writers. There are those seeking love and astronomical peculiarities: ‘Hitch my wagon to a star – Looking for a bright sophisticated senior star gazer! CStein3981@aol.com’.
The New York Review of Books, March 11, 2021, Volume LXVIII, Number 4.
French writer Raymond Queneau did extensive research into what he called hétéroclites, and at other times fous littéraires, a continuation of a longstanding bibliographic project of assembling texts proposing eccentric theories that were never picked up by the scientific community. Disappointed by the results of his research and unable to find a publisher, he abandoned the idea of publishing the encyclopaedia he was compiling. Later, in his encyclopaedic novel Les enfants du limon, he picks up the thread, from a different perspective. It tells the story of two quirky characters, Chambernac and Purpulan, wanting to compile an encyclopedia on fous littéraires. The novel cites from the texts they have dug up. The novel ends when they give up on the project, and give their findings to a novelist they meet and who says to be interested in the material, and asks if it would be OK if he’d attribute it to a character in a story he’s writing. Chambernac agrees, asking the name of the novelist he’s meeting: ‘Monsieur comment?’ – ‘Queneau’.
Queneau, R. Aux confins des ténèbres. Les fous littéraires du XIXe siècle (M. Velguth, red.). Paris: Gallimard, 2002.
Queneau, R. Les enfants du limon. Paris: Gallimard, 2004 .
An architect in Z. receives a reminder. ‘Please send, as soon as possible, the plans of the construction before the damage.’ The reminder was sent by the Ministry of Reconstruction, in 1951. The architect’s address in Z., as mentioned in this file, is nowadays a house adjacent to Saloon Redbarn, a hall used for activities organized by a club of country and western-aficionados.
Semi-translucent paper, typoscript, stamps, handwritten notes and signature, from the archive of architect O. Clemminck, file ‘Remi Van Bockstael’
I recognized it in a flash, the late Jurassic-early Cretaceous herbivore looming dangerously over the road I was cycling on. I thought of Some Windy Trees.1
A utility pole (425638, 07/99, 07/2002, COBRA), electrical wires, a hawthorn (Crataegus) and an old man’s beard (Clematis vitalba). A symbiosis.
brouck, V. Some Windy Trees. Loupoigne: Wilderness, 2013.
In John Berger and Jean Mohr’s groundbreaking book Another Way of Telling, the index at the end gives information on the images printed throughout the book. Most of them are Jean Mohr’s. In the section ‘If each time…’ – a wordless sequence of images which aims to develop an alternative way of telling a story – some images are referenced as ‘documents’. The information is sparse. On page 138, the index states, there is a ‘Document, detail’. It features a closeup of a knitted piece of fabric. It appears to be the same picture as seen on the first page of the section (p. 135), where it is printed beneath another image – a photo by Mohr of hands knitting. On this occasion, the image is indexed as ‘Document’.
Berger, J. & J. Mohr. Another Way of Telling. London / New York: Writers and Readers, 1982.
The oldest coin in the collection has darkened over time, but upon inspection, the text ‘AD USUM BELGII AUSTR’ (left) and the contours of a (female) head (right) can be discerned. A quick search learns it stems from the middle of the 18th century. The coin was made and used in the Austrian Netherlands, reigned by Maria Theresa, who is the one depicted. My mother recollects finding it in the backyard when she was a kid.
About 40 years later, the euro was introduced. The ringbinder with my mother’s coin collection was taken from the shelf. A dilemma came to the fore: we wondered if we should keep one of each existing Belgian coin and banknote and put them in the binder, alongside Maria Theresa, or if we should exchange them for the new European currency. The decision to keep a coin of five Belgian francs was not difficult to make, but as the amount raised, the answer was increasingly hard to give. This was an assessment of the old currency’s emotional and projected historical value, compared to its current financial worth. It was a decision based on investment principles.
To accentuate the value of the Maria Teresa kronenthaler of 1 liard, I put the coin on a pile of red post-it-notes when photographing it. Coins like these are sold on eBay for prices ranging from 0,70 euros to 16 euros.
In his debut novel ‘De Metsiers’ Hugo Claus employs a multiple narrative perspective. In the copy I picked up in a thrift store, there’s a bookmarker between pages 44 and 45 where the perspective shifts from Ana to Jim Braddok. It’s pouring. The pink piece of paper lists 9 sessions at a driving school. There’s a total of 20 hours, taught alternately by Johan and Guy.
In 2000, 2006 and 2017 the twenty-sixth of December was a Tuesday. (Earlier years are improbable, since the Euro was not introduced yet.)
Claus, H. De Metsiers. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij De Bezige Bij, 1978.
As the hours passed, and while clouds continuously kept us from seeing stars and planets, we started to photograph the set-up used to launch this website. To highlight the umbrella that protected the gear from the unpredictable bursts of rain, we used a flashlight: during the thirty second long exposure, it was lit for two seconds. This proved to be enough to give the whole the feel of an untampered, realistic view. Meanwhile, the website was in all likelihood streaming a grey haze, as the telescope was pointed to the fleeting clouds and gradually spinning along with the earth’s movement to keep track of the same invisible celestial bodies. As we returned to the base, planet Jupiter had become visible to the naked eye.
In another exposure of the same length, we left the flashlight on for approximately eight seconds and pointed the beam a bit lower.
Depending on the language one chooses, the Wikipedia entry for ‘document’ shows a different picture. The French-language page shows what appears to be a Slovenian thesis written in 1984. The caption states it is a ‘book of Czechoslovak computer science author Květoslav Šoustal about computer networks’. The image was uploaded by Kelovy, a Slovakian mushroom-picker.
The anonymous hand rests on a lemon-yellow tablecloth, on which a yellow book and a blue binded file lie. The top left corner is the most intriguing, however: the tablecloth seems to be draped over a lemon, alongside a drinking glass. The cloth, however, does not get shaped by the lemon. Nor does the shadow-side of the lemon coincide with the shadow the other documents throw on the tablecloth. A closer look seems to indicate that the lemon is in fact an image of a lemon, printed on a plastic napkin.
The Russian wikipedia shows the image of a lease agreement. The German wikipedia for ‘document’ is text only.
https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Document#/media/Fichier:KVETOSLAV_SOUSTAL_BOOK.JPGKVETOSLAVSOUSTAL BOOK.JPG, created October 3, 2006 / original in original: paper, 1984
To detect gravitational waves, physicists built enormous research centers, amongst others at Livingston, Louisiana. The facility mainly consists of two tunnels in an L-shape. Mirrors inside provide data. Disturbances from gravitational waves are miniscule. To prevent interference from outside, such as vibrations caused by people passing in the neighbourhood, the mirrors have to be detached from the earth. They ‘float’, suspended by glass fibers in a pendulum-like construction. As I was watching my screen, a courier was on his way to deliver a book (Noel-Todd, J. The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem: From Baudelaire to Anne Carson. London: Penguin, 2019).