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What constitutes a ‘document’ and how does it function?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymological origin is 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 affected 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 Gitelman 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.
This document was compiled by ____ on 03.02.2022 17:10, printed on ____ and contains 56 documents on _ pages.
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 23.05.2021.
At a dental practice, the white Alligat®-powder is mixed with the right amount of water to get a mouldable dough that is pressed upon a patient’s teeth. After thirty seconds, the Alligat®-dough stiffens and takes on a rubber-like quality. At that point, still white, it must be removed from the patient’s mouth. Over the next few hours, the mould turns increasingly pink as the substance becomes less humid. Now, it can be used as a mould to create a positive master cast of the patient’s teeth.
Outside the dental practice, the powder’s possibilities remain to be fully explored.
First published as part of De Cleene De Cleene. ‘Amidst the Fire, I Was Not Burnt’, Trigger (Special issue: Uncertainty), 2. FOMU/Fw:Books, 25-30
On the online thrift shop 2dehands.be the homepage generates a ‘for you’ section. On November 9th this section listed, among other things, a picture of the sky on a patch of concrete. On closer inspection, it became clear that it was the sky’s reflection in a mirror with a red frame and four lightbulbs in it, the kind you might see at the hairdresser’s or backstage in a television studio or theatre. The seller estimates the mirror’s current value to be 45,00 EUR. The listing includes five photographs. In the fifth one, the object for sale reflects a bucolic landscape: a blue sky, white clouds, some trees and a fragment of a barn.
On a pile of fresh hospital sheets, near the radiator, the tangerine curtains and the black marble window sill (the window looks out over the parking lot), underneath the two-day-old bouquet of flowers and next to a pile of magazines with a handwritten note on top (about a syrup that relieves slime and tastes like oranges), lie two sheets of paper.
Earlier that day the physiotherapist had come by. Twice. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon. He had each time drawn the first line, as an example. A straight line in the morning, a curvy line in the afternoon.
With a ballpoint pen my grandfather, who is recovering from an accident, diligently copied the examples (31 in the morning, 5 in the afternoon).
When I grew up, my parents told me that the number of raisins in the local baker’s raisin bread attested to the result of the most recent soccer match of KAA Gent. A victory was celebrated by throwing more raisins into the dough than usual, a loaf following a painful loss was hardly a raisin bread at all.
The baker retired long ago. Today my two-year-old son picked out all the raisins from his slice of bread. KAA Gent’s last game was a tie against Union.
K. says that the stall where he usually buys fruit has already been packed up. But he is not worried about the quality of the fruit the other vendor sells. He gestures encouragingly.
Five signs of type-1, eleven of type-2 and two of type-3 are visible. Four of type-2 (two visible, two deduced) and two of type-3 retain two vehicles.
Márk Redele pursues projects that fundamentally relate to architecture and its practice but rarely look like architecture. www.markredele.com
What they took for ice that slid down the dam’s slope, appears to be the reason for draining the reservoir: a fissure in the watertight layer. The dam became unreliable.
On January 23, 2020 a young couple walks around the drained reservoir of Kruth-Wildenstein.
It’s freezing. They’re expecting their first child within a month.
The river swells and eventually overflows, causing the death of six people and extensive damage: washed away bridges, damaged homes, submerged factories, destroyed food stocks, heavily eroded roads and paths.
December, 1947. Rapid snowmelt coincides with torrential precipitation. At the bottom of the Thur valley, in Wildenstein, the water gathers.
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’].
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 ago, mid-August, just before sunrise, the mostly unlit office buildings line the road that leads to the underground parking. I turn off the ignition. I’m in F36. The walls are painted pink. Looking for the exit, I take the escalator and get stuck in an empty shopping mall. The music is playing but all the shops are closed off with steel shutters. So are the exits. I’m out of place. In keeping early customers out, the mall is keeping haphazard visitors in. I’m back in the parking lot. The elevator is broken. I take the stairs and walk by a homeless man, sleeping. There’s shit on the floor. I open the door that leads out of the stairwell. It slams shut behind me. There’s no doorknob. I find myself on a dark floor between mall and parking lot. People are sleeping; some are awake. Heads turn toward me. I start walking slightly uphill towards where I think I might find an exit, or an entrance. The scale of the architecture has shifted from car (F36) and customer (the closed mall) to truck. I find myself amidst the supply-chain. It takes five minutes, maybe fifteen, maybe more to get out and see the office buildings towering over me in the first light of day.
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.
‘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].
Conducting research into the effects on energy consumption of blockchain-based applications such as bitcoin, I was triggered by the fact that many of the facilities making blockchain-mining1 possible are located in Georgia. Low energy prices and a relaxed taxation policy are said to be among the reasons why companies such as Bitfury locate their plants there.
After a three-day hike in the Caucasus Mountains, on the Georgian side of the border with Chechnya, we are invited to pitch our tent in the garden of Murati, a local farmer in a small mountain village. We are overwhelmed by the scenery and Murati’s hospitality. Many of the villages, thrown on the mountain flanks, have tower-like structures of some twenty meters high, making them all look fortified. They have no windows or doors on the ground floor.2
Murati invites us into his house to drink warm milk with his family and brings us cheese-filled bread. One of us speaks Russian. He inspects our backpacks, headlights and drinking bags. He tells us a 500 kilogram pig of his did not return to the house that night. The family is saddened.
In the evening, we see him taking his granddaughter by the hand. They walk to the highest point of the gravel road in front of his house and together watch the last light of the day fall on the snow-covered triangular peak of one of the Caucasus’ highest mountains.
I’m mistrusting my memory and look the passage up in the journal we kept. The village is called Zagar. The mountain is Mount Tetnuldi. The granddaughter’s name is Anna.
When I click through to one of the websites promising information on Georgia’s blockchain economy, I happen to stumble on a dark web-related website and access is denied.3
‘Mining’ is what is being done when data – a transaction – has to be added to the blockchain (which, in itself, is the sum of all previous transactions, added to each other as data). To do this, computers have to solve a complex mathematical puzzle, which is crucial for the trustworthiness of the system, but for which loads of energy is needed. Criticism on the effects of blockchain-mining is growing, as it has a gruesome effect on resources. In 2018, Andrew North writes, Bitfury used 28 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, equalling the consumption of 120,000 Georgian households.
The Sedum reflexum grows on rocky soils and in crevices of walls. In L’herbier classique, it is depicted in two ways, just like the other plants in the book. This double portraiture is important, the author states in the introduction: ‘one consists of the reproductions of the photographs taken by the author of this book […]; the other, drawings made by excellent artists who observed the plants themselves, showing details photography can’t reproduce, highlighting aspects the photographs leave untouched. […] From this double representation, interesting comparisons can be made, highly enlightening from an artistic point of view, between the realistic aspect of nature’s “productions” and the interpretation thereof by the draftsman’ (5).
A detail not covered by the drawing of the sedum reflexum, is the presence of other species in the vicinity of the plant, a detail shown in the photograph and described in the caption: ‘The Common houseleek grows on the same rocks, with its rosette of leaves pretending to be an artichoke’ (59).
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).
Today I brought an old bedspring, the styrofoam the air-humidifier came in, a few bags of sawdust and some scrap pieces of plywood to the municipal recycling center. As I was waiting to mount the stairs to the scrap metal container, a gray-haired man wearing blue leather shoes, dark jeans and a checkered shirt was tipping – with relative ease – a weight bench over the edge of the container.
This is the spread one sees upon opening the bird field guide that once stood, as the stamp indicates, in the library of a psychiatric institution.1 It shows birds’ silhouettes, as they can be seen beside the road.
The drawing has a kind of Hitchcock feel to it.2 The birds seem to be spying on each other, as they also seem to be spying on the unsuspecting passer-by.
The composition of the scene is marvelous. The electric wires, the tree, the wire fence, the double framed list with the birds’ names, handsomely positioned in a birdless patch, at once superimposed on the telephone wires, and pushed to the background by the skylark.
Imagine seeing this scene. What are the odds: to see the silhouettes of Europe’s twenty most common species of birds in one glance, from your car’s window, as you are driving home at dusk.
Before closing the book, the last spread seems to show the birds fleeing, maybe attacking.3
The stamp indicates that, at the psychiatric institution, the book was part of the sublibrary for the Catholic Brothers of Charity. The crossed-out part indicates that there was also a separate physicians’ library, to which the book might have originally belonged.
On the web, discussions on whether Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) was shot in colour or in black and white, abound.
Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. & P.A.D. Hollom. Vogelgids voor alle in ons land en overig Europa voorkomende vogelsoorten (J. Kist, transl.). 3d ed. Amsterdam/Brussels: Elsevier, 1955.
On the second to last day of a research visit at CERN, there was some spare time in the schedule. I took a long walk towards building 282 in search of some excavation samples: cylindrical pieces of rock that were preserved when the tunnel was dug, glued to a block of wood and frequently exhibited in museums over the last three decades as material evidence of the earthwork and as a witness to the depth. The route led me along the back of building 363 where the wind caused young trees – now gone – to scuff the facade over time.
First published in: De Cleene, M. Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Roma Publications, 2019, as W.569.EXC CERN, Towards Building 282, in search of excavation samples
[The man points at the waybill1 on the floor behind the glass door that closes off the abandoned and dismantled hall.]
‘It used to be here, I’m sure.’
[He looks around.]
[He turns towards me.]
‘Are you also here for the Leen Bakker?2 This used to be a Leen Bakker. I just looked it up on their website. They are open from 9 to 6 today.’
[He points at the waybill again.]
‘It was here. I remember well. It’s been years. But it’s here.’
[He walks away.]
‘I’ll look around.’
The waybill documents the transport of a 30m3 container filled with approximately 5000 kg of waste from this branch of Leen Bakker to a scrap processing company in nearby Ninove. They take care of scrap, both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. They also have a recognized depollution center for end-of-life vehicles.
A chain of furniture and interior stores with branches in the Netherlands, Belgium and the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
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.
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.
On May 23rd 2021, the planet Saturn appears to be stationary among the surrounding celestial bodies in the night sky.1 This is an attempt to capture this planetary standstill.2
A telescope is set up in a pasture, near a forest edge, pointed to the south-southeast morning sky.3
The standstill is de facto inexistent. It’s the moment when Saturn’s apparent prograde motion turns to a retrograde motion. Since Earth completes its orbit in a shorter period of time than the planets outside its orbit, it periodically overtakes them, like a faster car on a multi-lane highway. When this occurs, the planet being passed will first appear to stop its eastward drift, and then drift back toward the west.
In astrology, Saturn’s retrograde movement is generally a time of karmic rebalancing. Previous bad behavior could be punished. But hard work and responsibility could also be rewarded.
This is the third instalment of De Cleene De Cleene’s Public Observatory. Thanks to Volkssterrenwacht Mira, Grimbergen.
Briet, S. Qu’est-ce que la documentation? Paris: Edit, 1951.
Gittelman, L. Paper Knowledge. Toward a Media History of Documents. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2014.
Oxford English Dictionary Online. Accessed on 13.05.2021.
‘Saturn Retrograde May 23, 2021 – Karmic Love’, Astrology King. Accessed on 15.05.2021.
In the introduction to her book Qu’est-ce que la documentation?, French ‘documentalist’ Suzanne Briet asks what a document is. In a scrappy scan of her book I found online I am highlighting almost everything she writes. Is a star a document? Briet says it isn’t. But the catalogues and photographs of stars are. When I quickly opened the file with Apple’s ‘Preview’ application to check the above paraphrase, the highlighted sentences were illegible.
Briet is cited in Lisa Gitelman’s Paper Knowledge (2014).
Briet, S. Qu’est-ce que la documentation? Paris: Edit, 1951. Online: http://martinetl.free.fr/suzannebriet/questcequeladocumentation/briet.pdf
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.
The 48-inch Oschin Schmidt, a renowned reflecting telescope at Palomar Observatory, California, was used for the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey (POSS), published in 1958, one of the largest photographic surveys of the night sky.
Based on the man’s pipe shadow’s direction, thrown onto the telescope, there is reason to believe an off-camera flash was used to make the picture.
The Authenticity bunkered crude fuel in the Panama Bay. She navigated back and forth between the artificial island Isla Melones and ships leaving or waiting to enter the Panama Canal. On February 14th 2015 she had been moored for a couple of days near the Centennial bridge when the AIS-transponder momentarily signalled the ship’s position in the woods of the Bosque Protector de Arraiján. Afterwards no signal of the ship was received for 41 days, until she reappeared near the port of Bahia Las Minas, at the other side of the Panama Canal.
First published in: De Cleene, M. Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Roma Publications, 2019
Marine Traffic, Authenticity (Caribe Trader, PA), latest position, 09°01’40,71” N 79°38’18,59”W, viewed 14.02.2015, http://www.marinetraffic.com
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
It’s 21:49 on Tuesday May 4th 2021. I’m sifting through the folders of a back-up drive. When I reach Archief2A/2017/wigny donder, the subfolder contains 103 items (97 DNG-files, 1 JPEG-file and 5 PSD-files). The photographs are all very similar. They show the silhouette of the same tree and hills, the red light of the telecommunications mast on the left and the orange glow of the street’s sodium lights. The thunderstorm moves from right to left. _44A3920 is the only exposure (10 seconds) that recorded lightning bolts.
I looked up heat lightning, also known as silent lightning, summer lightning, or dry lightning, which is simply cloud-to-ground lightning that occurs very far away, with thunder that dissipates before it reaches the observer. On YouTube I watched: Top 10 Dangerous Lightning Strikes Thunder recorded on Camera (HIGH VOLTAGE!!) followed by Lightning Strikes at the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open. It’s 22:07, I am doubtful at first but become convinced I can hear thunder afar.
‘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
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 torn off section of roofing on the grass has part of a text carved in it: ‘UDI’ and ‘EN’ are still legible. It must have come from another roof; the one shown in the photograph has no missing sections, nor visible repairs.
The roofing that is still on the garage shows a drawing of some kind. A floorplan for a squarish building with a supporting column along each side, or the layout for a tactical explanation, perhaps.
In what order and by whom the various texts and drawings were carved into the soft roofing is unclear. To the right of ‘EVA’, a heart symbol and an arrow (pointing to the left), the roofing reads ‘SIMON TU ME MANQUES’.
The short sentence usually – yet hastily – translates to ‘Simon, I miss you’. However, in French the ‘you’ (tu) is the subject and has an active role, whereas the ‘I’ (me) is the direct object. In short: by his not being there, Simon actively effectuates hurt to the one who carved this text.
Seven very similar and rudimentary buildings take in a trapezoid plot of land in Gilly. They are located between the school on the Rue Circulaire and the houses along the Rue de l’Abbaye. The structures are built of orange brick, concrete structural elements, whitish steel gates and roofing. Every garage has its own number, hand-painted in white on the concrete lintel above each gate. In summer the roofing gets hot and soft.
Halfway March my dad started finding empty clam shells on the banks of the Zuidlede along the pasture where he used to herd sheep. He had never seen this type of clam before. There were easily seventy of them along a hundred metre stretch of riverbank.
He brought two specimens to someone he knows in the neighbouring provincial domain. She would look into it, she said, and that she would probably pass it on to someone at the educational department.
Yesterday he (my dad) received a printout of the Dutch wikipedia-page on the Brakwaterstrandschelp (Rangia Cuneata). On the page Paul (who sends his regards at the bottom of the document) traced around the scallops with a blue ballpoint pen.
My dad added in capitals – also with a blue ballpoint pen – that the Rangia Cuneata is an invasive species, native to the Gulf of Mexico. The first time it was observed in Europe was in Antwerp in August 2005, most probably they reached Europe in the ballast water tanks of large ships.
Until recently, for as long as I could remember, the packaging of Tabasco® Pepper Sauce had been unchanged. On the front of the packaging, there is a photograph of a bottle of Tabasco®, scale 1:1, against an orange background.As far as packaged goods go, this is a highly idiosyncratic and quirky example.
The background colour approximates the colour of the liquid inside the bottle, resulting in as good as no contrast. Moreover, as the image of the bottle is scale 1:1, the packaging becomes kind of unnecessary and superfluous, also because the life-sized image of the bottle is the only way information is given to the customer: there are no additional slogans, no repetition of the brand name, no props and no decor. The image of the bottle advertises the bottle. It seems to add nothing the bottle could not do by its own (like a bottle of wine does).
What makes the packaging truly stand out, however, is the fact that the image of the bottle is not positioned vertically, but is slightly askew. It seems to be the result of a design error, and has an amateur feel to it. The decision to keep it as such and not correct it up until today, is, however, a stroke of genius. The non-vertical positioning alters the relation of the image of the bottle to the bottle inside: as the box is standing on a shelf, the tilted image of the bottle undermines its representational superfluousness.
Interior of Eben-Ezer: photocopies and replicas of among other things an Edit du Roy and a photograph of a Marche pour la liberté de conscience, 1956. Handwritten labels are added beneath the blue frames. Due to limited lighting, and an interdiction to use the camera’s flash, some labels are illegible, even when zooming in on the picture. It is unclear what the bottom left replica of a painting is (it has a Brueghelian air to it) and the upper right replica of a photograph.
The walls are made of flint, harvested from quarries in the neighbourhood.
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.
On May 6th 2020, 14h06 and 31 seconds, the Belgian Seismological Institute records an earthquake with a 1,7 magnitude in the region of Braine-Le-Compte. Three reactions from people in the neighbourhood, filed by the Institute, confirm the official seismological recordings. The Institute’s website classifies the earthquake as a ‘quarry blast’.
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.
A skiing holiday with my in-laws. The ski pass does not allow you to visit Schatzalp. We buy a separate ticket and take the train up the hill to the hotel, which served as the backdrop for Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain. The stately hotel and former sanatorium is gorgeous.
Meanwhile, a new virus is spreading. Some people are coughing. I am keeping distance while waiting in line to take the train back down to the snow-covered village.
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.
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
Yesterday I had my shoulder checked by a radiologist. He took an ultrasound and saw some minor inflammation of my right subscapularis. After giving me some advice – ‘we could give you a shot of cortisone in the shoulder. It would relieve you from your pain for six weeks and then, without proper exercise, you’d be back where you are now’– he walked towards the door. ‘I propose you do this exercise thirty times, three times a day.’ The radiologists put his right hand on the doorframe, his arm stretched, the weight of his body on it and then leaned forward and back again, while keeping his arm stretched. ‘This will increase the muscles around the sore subscapularis. It will take months.’ After giving me his advice, he sent me back into the dressing room. I put my shirt back on and went into the waiting room. The nurse called out my name, charged me 14,00 EUR and gave me a card. ‘This code will allow you to look at the images of the ultrasound at home’, she said.
Today I entered the code and password and – instead of my shoulder – found the röntgen-images of someone else’s broken heel.
Recreational airfield at Grimbergen, webcam footage.
09:10:00The frame shows the first movement on the terrain. The gate has been opened, the barrier lowered. A black car is in the back. In the forefront, aviation signs on the ground: a yellow cross on a surface painted red; an arrow in a 90° angular shape; two circles connected by a line; a T-shaped line.
09:20:00Two men talking, each one on one side of the barrier. The man on the side of the airstrip has two dogs with him. The aviation signs have changed: the arrow is gone; the horizontal bar of the T-symbol has moved to the other side of the vertical line; one yellow line that made up the cross on the red surface is gone, leaving one yellow diagonal line.
10:09:01A small white aircraft (the two men and the dogs are gone).
10:20:01The aircraft in the same position, with what seems to be an open roof.
10:40:00Aircraft leaving the gas station where it was before.
11:10:01A white car at the gas station, where previously the aircraft was stationed; a silhouette of a man, perhaps.
11:30:01White car gone.
11:50:01Small white aircraft at the gas station; man in red jacket next to the aircraft. Not clear if it is the same aircraft seen in frame 10:09:01.
12:10:01Aircraft appears to be heading for take-off.
12:40:01White dots on the grass that appear to be birds.
14:10:00First precipitation: snow, visibility lessens.
14:20:00More snow, wind is stronger; someone has replaced the yellow stripe so that, again, a yellow cross is formed on the red background.
15:10:00The grass and the concrete get increasingly white. No aircrafts, vehicles or persons can be discerned. The aviation signs beneath the thin-layered snow are still visible, and unaltered.
Every so often architects ask me to photograph projects of theirs under a blanket of snow. Snow-days are rare around here. In an attempt to avoid a futile drive along roads in winter conditions, I check webcams near the project-to-be-photographed before setting out.
Webcam Grimbergen, meteobelgie.be: https://www.meteobelgie.be/waarnemingen/belgie/webcam/272/grimbergen
Depending on the perspective one chooses to look at the address, the house is adorned or not. The perspective from the main road is an image made in August 2020, the website (Google Maps) says. Our car is in front of the garage. It must be the end of August. We drive home from the hospital with the newborn, who doesn’t stop crying. Maybe I tightened the belts in the car seat too much. Arriving at our house, we see the slogans and decorations friends have hung at our front door. On the sill of the neighbour’s first floor window, there’s a brick that must have fallen from the second floor facade.
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.
Besides the scale indicating the length in centimeters, and the marks made by using it, a folding ruler displays other marks. These are the marks found on the weber broutin www.weber-broutin.be folding ruler, from left to right:
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.
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.
On the second to last evening before we head home, we go for dinner at Suzanne’s house. She has invited a friend, a national deputy for the region where she grew up. We eat fish and patates douces. We drink beer. The deputy’s secretaries – there are three of them – closely inspect the worn manuscript we hand them. In blue ink: proverbs of their region, written by my girlfriend’s grandfather in local Kikongo language. In red: a Dutch translation. They laugh. A month later, the deputy will become Vice-minister of Internal affairs. The proverbs get marked by fresh grease stains.
All chairs are empty, but all face something different. The bottom photograph shows empty chairs facing empty desks. In the middle picture, empty chairs face each other (underneath the inaudible sound of the cinema above). In the top photograph, the chairs seem to be facing the photographer. However, the altar’s in front of the photographer. He stands at the back of the provisional church. The chairs face the photographer and have turned their backs to the altar.
Revue Héraclite, 5 (1), april 1936, p. 7, paper, from the archive of architect O. Clemminck.
As a result of intense drainage of drinking water, an area around the Belgian city of Waver was designated as having a potential for land subsidence – the downward movement of the soil over an extended period of time. People in Waver were startled to find their town mentioned in an international study published in Science. Flemish newspaper De Standaard uncovered that the researchers had used an older study, published in 2005, which claimed that the soil in Waver had moved some five centimeters in a period of eleven years. Pictures of fissures in Waver-facades had been added to the original article.
Last year, cracks in our living room wall were covered up by placing plasterboard in front of the plastered brick wall. As such, we avoided having to paint the wall with the cracks and the marks left by the IKEA Billy bookcases.
A square photograph with an Arabic and French text underneath it is mounted on a foam board, in turn mounted on a sheet of plexiglass. The picture in the middle is flanked by a photograph of and a text about the tumuli of Umm Jidr (left) and the excavations at Abou Saybi (right). They are mounted on the West wall of Guest Room 3 at the Qual’at Al-Bahrain Site Museum, Seef, Bahrain.
Necropolises make up the main archaeological testimonies of the Tylos period (4th century BC – 3rd century AD). The urn in the photograph contains the remains of several babies. They most likely fell victim to an epidemic. The size of the ruler next to the urn remains unspecified.
The photograph of Room 3 was made while in mandatory self-isolation after flying to Bahrain from Frankfurt and waiting for the result of a Covid-19 test.