View this document as a pdf, or purchase it as a print-on-demand, bound book for € + shipping. Printed digitally on Munken Print white 80gr, measuring 297 x 210 x 7 mm, counting 34 pages and bound with a metal wire-o.
Fill in your details below to purchase your book, or save this URL to view and order 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.
9040 St-Amandsberg, Belgium
All books are shipped within 10 working days after your order. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about your order.
Because all books are printed on demand we can not offer refunds.
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 14.10.2023 17:04, printed on ____ and contains 17 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.
Photographing the house and the clearing it stood in proved difficult. During summer, the nettles and brambles slowed down the pace. Some plants stung the elbows. The clearing only became visible when the sun fell through the opening in the canopy. On cloudy days the clearing disappeared.
‘As the order of institutions follows its course, or as huts give way to villages and then to cities and finally to cosmopolitan academies, the forests move further and further away from the center of the clearing. At the center one eventually forgets that one is dwelling in a clearing. […] Yet however wide the circle may get through the inertia of civic expansion, it presumably retains an edge of opacity where history meets the earth, where the human abode reaches its limits.’
Pogue Harrison, R. ‘The Ecology of Finitude’, in: id., Forests. Chicago, 1992, 245.
During the preparation of a seminar, I reread Pierre Bayard’s Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? (2008). On the inside of the back cover, there’s an inscription: it appears I wrote down a license plate number – something I have the habit of doing when a situation seems suspicious.
In Qui à tué Roger Ackroyd?, Bayard analyzes Agatha Christie’s famous detective novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926). The literary critic disagrees with detective Hercule Poirot’s conclusion: Ackroyd’s murderer is not the narrator, James Sheppard, as Poirot would have it. It’s a delirious interpretation, ‘consistant à rechercher minutieusement des indices, à interpréter des faits et à organiser nos déductions en une construction d’ensemble harmonieuse’.
The car with license plate number XHD 558 is unknown to me. I can’t recall what I saw that urged me to write it down, nor the time or location when I saw it.
Bayard, P. Qui a tué Roger Ackroyd? Paris: Minuit, 2008.
It has been snowing. A black BMW is parked on the other side of the street and is cut in half by the separation between negatives 4 and 5. Apart from a slight kink in the landscape, the negative on the right is a perfect continuation of the one on the left. The fence around the orchard, the branches of the apple tree and the power lines connect implicitly in the void between the negatives.
Based on De Cleene De Cleene, The Situation as it Is. A Photonovel in Three Movements (APE, 2022).
The architect’s photographic archive contains seven images that can be labelled as panoramic pictures. However, they only appear as such when the photographs are viewed in the archive, as strips of negatives. In order to see the panoramic construct, the viewer needs to be presented with two consecutive negatives.
There are two kinds of panorama in the archive: the kind that can only be attributed to a kind of laziness or a need for efficiency on behalf of the architect, and another that originates from frugality.
The former type of panorama is created when the architect is documenting the situation as it is: it is compulsory to document the context of the building or lot, as part of a building application. He simply pivots from left to right, capturing the first and second photograph consecutively. On the filmstrip a panorama appears.
The other kind of panoramic picture only appears at the end of the film role. The last negative on the film has been exposed (the twenty-fourth or thirty-sixth), after which he exerts force onto the lever to move the film forward anyway. Some films are known to have, by accident, a twenty-fifth or a thirty-seventh negative. The plastic between the sprocket holes tears and the film does not advance enough. The result differs fundamentally from the other kind of panorama: there is no separation, no void between the negatives. Rather, there is a slight overlap. A thin, vertical strip of film that has been exposed twice, suggesting contiguity that might not be there. The two exposures might be from altogether different sites, creating a new situation.
Based on De Cleene, M. & De Cleene, A. The Situation as it Is. A Photonovel in Three Movements. Gent: APE, 2022
Here, on his kitchen table, Marcel Poulet, an expert on the stoneware tradition in the center of France, is explaining his archeological work on ‘whale ovens’.
I started collecting images and plans of ovens, for the beauty of those abstract technical lines and for what we can learn from them. In gathering the material that makes up this Atlas, and in sharing interests and knowledge, I learned that many people know about ovens, either in their homes, gardens, ateliers, factories, streets… Everyone transforms things through heat. Even bodies need warmth and produce some themselves.
Clementine Vaultier’s interests, although trained as a ceramist, are in the warm surroundings of the fire rather than the production it engenders.
In the archive of the architect O. Clemminck, there is a piece of a plan of a building in a suburb in Gent. It presents the ground floor. There is a kitchen, a salon, an eating place, a meeting place. The missing part would have stated the exact address, the name, and maybe the profession of the owners. The plan of the first floor might have given an indication of the number of (anticipated) family members, based on the number and size of sleeping rooms.
At the southern edge of (the plan of) the lot, O. Clemminck has drawn a laundry room that gives out to a vérandah. The spelling of the Dutch word – nowadays written as veranda – is remarkable, as is its etymology, which is unclear and a matter of debate among scholars. The word might have Portuguese (varanda: railing) and Catalan roots (baranda: barrier), maybe also origins in the Lithuanian Žemaitan dialect (varanda: loop plaited from flexible wings) and might also be traced back to a Sanskrit root (varandaka: rampart separating two fighting elephants).
The vérandah O. Clemminck proposes is 2,40 meters by, at least, 2,80 meters.
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
Shortly after crossing the Thur the couple reaches their car. They’re freezing. As the sun sets they drive through the mountainous landscape. The heating hurts their fingers.
The next day, they return, but the scene looks different. It’s warmer. The Thur appears to flow faster.
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
(‘Slice of more than three meters in diameter, sawn from a Mammoth-tree, given by California to the botanical garden of New York, and presented there’)
Thiery describes the ‘patriarchs’ of the plant world. This slice of a Sequoia, which fell in 1917 in Yosemite National Park, is 1694 years old. A woman of the New York Botanical Institue, where the slice of the patriarch is presented, counted the rings. If one would look at the picture with a magnifying glass, Thiery writes in a footnote, the reader (with good eyes and a fair amount of knowledge of the English language) would be able to read the labels indicating the important global events the tree witnessed. They are transcribed and translated by the author. The end of the Roman occupation of Great Britain. Columbus arriving in America. The Declaration of Independence. This is a lie: the text is illegible, even when using a magnifier.
In the photograph, the slice, as on view in the New York Botanical Institute, is presented upright. To prevent it from rolling away, two small triangular slices of wood were posited at the left and right side of the slice. The type of wood of these slices, nor the age of the patriarch from which they stem, are known.
Thiery, M. Het woud. Een proeve van plantenaardrijkskunde. Gent: De Garve, s.d., p. 59.
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.
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.
Five white boulders close off a shortcut for motorists who attempt to cut the bend in the road. The southernmost roof’s pitch runs opposite to the landscape’s slope. The lower roofline is, therefore, only about one meter above a small, triangular patch of grass which is hidden from view by a hedge. In summer, when the roofing gets hot and soft, text and drawings get pressed or carved into it.
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.
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.
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.
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.