the- documents.org
the- documents.org tracked the entries you viewed during your visit. It documented your path through the website. As such, the time spent on the-documents.org turned into this – a new document.

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the-documents.org
is an online platform, collecting, describing, presenting and generating documents of all sorts. It documents documents.
Your path through the collection lead alongSwarms, Tineke’s Sparta K-10, A Sparta K-10, Rue Verte, Brussels, Potholes, Crash (1), Garage Paul > Garage Robert (collection of 2023), Negative sheet 21, negative 24, negative 24,5, Negative sheet 17, negative 36, negative 36,5, We were a modern house, Negative sheet 16, negative 24, negative 24,5, Knee, License Plate, Negative sheet 13, negative 24, negative 24,5, Negative sheet 55, negative 4, negative 5, Negative sheet 02, negative 5, negative 6, Tracking, CLOSED NO POWER. For prescriptions go to Walgreens 2690 Mission OPEN UNTIL 5 PM., pgealerts.alerts.pge.com/, Traces of logging on Mount Egaleo, 12:13, Flashlight in a dark corner of the Oval Room, The Loop of the Sparta K-10, The Saddle of a Sparta K-10, Rue Verte, Brussels, K10 in Folder Sparta Bikes 2011, Green or blue, Two Sparta K-10s, Owned by Fred and Partner, A New Sparta K-10, John’s Sparta K-10, Tineke’s Sparta K-10, A Sparta K-10, Rue Verte, Brussels, Le dos-cul ment, New Year’s Eve, 2015, Seacat, Debatably graded, Consolations, Neptune in opposition [20/20] – A constellation, Neptune in opposition [19/20] – Approximation, Neptune in opposition [18/20] – View of an interior, Neptune in opposition [17/20] – Remote, Neptune in opposition [16/20] – Unrest, Neptune in opposition [15/20] – Plethora, Neptune in opposition [14/20] – A rolling shed, Neptune in opposition [13/20] – A foraging fox, Neptune in opposition [12/20] – Culmination, Neptune in opposition [11/20] – Alpine, Neptune in opposition [10/20] – Kinship, Neptune in opposition [9/20] – Rooftops, a windmill and power lines, Neptune in opposition [8/20] – Diamonds, Neptune in opposition [7/20] – Leather, Neptune in opposition [6/20] – Pier, Neptune in opposition [5/20] – Magnolia leaves on a cloudy afternoon, Neptune in opposition [4/20] – Dispersion, Neptune in opposition [3/20] – Azure, Neptune in opposition [2/20] – The airfield, Neptune in opposition [1/20] – Approach, Oven encounter, Moulds for speculation, 300 year old seaweed, Firing tool, Aggressive mimicry, Learning broom-making again, Owls and cats, Mary, Last night I dreamt of Juan Pedro, What the left hand forgot, AI submission, Stopwatch, Sea glass, Zebras, View, Wheelhouse (replica), A peregrine falcon in the internal perimeter, A Fever Dream, Backpack, Mould, Another letter from abroad, Mirror, Croûton d’Or, Straight in the morning, curvy in the afternoon, Inflation, Raisins, Vérandah, Market, 12M m3 [8/8] Heating, 12M m3 [7/8] A Fissure, 12M m3 [6/8] 56 years, 12M m3 [5/8] It’s Freezing, 12M m3 [4/8] Dam, 12M m3 [3/8] Swell, 12M m3 [2/8] Thaw, 12M m3 [1/8] Rapid Snowmelt
25.03.2024

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 25.03.2024 22:36, printed on ____ and contains 90 documents on _ pages.
(https://the-documents.org/log/25-03-2024-5820/)

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.

  • De Cleene De Cleene is Michiel De Cleene and Arnout De Cleene. Together they form a research group that focusses on novel ways of approaching the everyday, by artistic means and from a cultural and critical perspective.
    www.decleenedecleene.be / info@decleenedecleene.be
  • This project was made possible with the support of the Flemish Government and KASK & Conservatorium, the school of arts of HOGENT and Howest. It is part of the research project Documenting Objects, financed by the HOGENT Arts Research Fund.
  • Briet, S. Qu’est-ce que la documentation? Paris: Edit, 1951. 
  • Gitelman, L. Paper Knowledge. Toward a Media History of Documents.
    Durham/ London: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • Oxford English Dictionary Online. Accessed on 13.05.2021.

the-documents.org

July. Our eight-month-old son has a fever. We have a hard time getting him to drink enough. The tally marks on the back of a tortellini-box keep track of the diapers he wets and the millilitres of milk and electrolytes he’s able to hold down. 
Stuck inside with worrying parents, a sticker-book about a farm is his brother’s favourite pass-time. Tired of having to go back and forth between the pastures and the sticker-filled sheets we decide to use my arm as a repository for animals that share a habitat.

the-documents.org
Swarms
22:35:13
the-documents.org

On 29 September 2022, I search the internet for the factory details of an original Sparta K-10. First I come across some second-hand K-10s. On marktplaats.nl, a Sparta K-10 is for sale for 60 euros, but anyone interested may also make an offer. The seller’s name is Tineke. She lives in The Hague and writes that the bike is ‘easy to take along’. The K-10 she is selling has no chain guard, but it does have a chrome luggage rack. This makes the bike more practical, but in my opinion also less attractive. Her bike also has a bell, but no elegant loop at the end of the long, curved tube around which the frame is built – most other K-10s do have such a loop – or has it disappeared behind the top tube of the luggage carrier? If Tineke is also the owner of the bike, she is much taller than the owner of the Brussels bike, as her saddle is a lot higher, and it is also more or less straight. Moreover, the handlebars are very high thanks to a different stem, which makes the model of the bike a bit unbalanced. I don’t know if I would have photographed the bike for sale in The Hague.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
Tineke’s Sparta K-10
22:35:25
the-documents.org

This bike regularly pops up on the streets of the Brussels neighbourhood where I live. On 4 June 2021, it stands in Rue Verte, in front of the entrance to the Reine Verte Park. The park is built on one of the steepest slopes in Brussels. That condition required a clever park design, in which you can hang out or walk from Rue Verte to Rue des Palais, up, or vice versa, down. The park is well cared for by city services. 

The bike is an orange Sparta K-10. It has a remarkably low entry and high handlebars. As a result, it seems to be a comfortable bike, albeit one whose body posture while cycling is not geared to the gradient of our neighbourhood, in which it usually stands. Moreover, it has no gears and the saddle is very slanted.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
A Sparta K-10, Rue Verte, Brussels
22:35:34
the-documents.org

Holding two cans of spray paint, a city employee walks through a sweet chestnut grove on the graveyard. He’s looking for potholes.

the-documents.org
Potholes
22:35:43
the-documents.org

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.

the-documents.org
Crash (1)
22:35:53
the-documents.org

A year ago I moved into Solange’s appartement. From the balcony, I see half the parking lot and the adjacent high rise. On the mailbox, I haven’t replaced her name for mine. 

1. GARAGE PAUL, (+32) 0489. 764 540 / recto-verso NL/FR
2. CASH 24, (+32) 0466 15 32 16 / recto-verso NL/FR
3. GARAGE NADIM (+32) 0470 606 474 / recto-verso NL (1)
4. GARAGE NADIM (+32) 0470 606 474 / recto-verso FR (2)
5. GARAGE GABRIEL (+32) 0489 76 45 40 / recto-verso NL (1)
6. GARAGE GABRIEL (+32) 0489 76 45 40 / recto-verso FR (2)
7. MAGNUM’s (+32) 0492 92 70 70 / recto-verso FR
8. GARAGE ROBERT (+32) 0492 92 70 70 / recto-verso FR (1) 
9. GARAGE ROBERT (+32) 0492 92 70 70 / recto-verso FR (2)

I don’t know whether Solange owned a car.

Bieke Criel, lives and works in Gent (BE). Intrigued by landscape, movement, light and the poetics of what lies in between. Does not own a car, loves to drive one. Part of 019.

the-documents.org
Garage Paul > Garage Robert (collection of 2023)
22:35:55
the-documents.org

A malfunctioning of the camera leading to a double-exposed negative. The car is decisive in establishing the relationship between the superimposed photographs. In the middle of the image, we see it parked in front of the house. Slightly less visible is the same car, repeated but further away. This makes it possible to deduce that the dark outline of the house, with the roof and the chimney, is also the same house as in the other photograph. This time, the house is photographed relatively frontally (the slightly angled point of view allows to bring the shed at the back of the house in the line of sight), and from nearby. At the bottom left, the lines that make up the street help to see the continuity of the one photograph, while the electric wires at the top right aid to comprehend the other one. 

The camera malfunction speculates on a future addition to the plot. The dark, outlined shed’s scale is realistic with regards to the scale of the house and itself (the shed) in the other photograph. Its position with regards to the other buildings seems logical. It imposes itself as a possible second shed for the owner to build in the next few years. In that future shed, the car, now standing in front of the house, could be comfortably parked.

the-documents.org
Negative sheet 21, negative 24, negative 24,5
22:35:57
the-documents.org

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.

the-documents.org
Negative sheet 17, negative 36, negative 36,5
22:35:57
the-documents.org

My dream hollyday We were a football
on the beach
We were a modern house.
We were a We swim in the swimming
pool.

June 2022, Marche-en-Famenne. I arrived half an hour early. Waiting for my family to pick me up at the station, near a linden tree, I found a yellow page lying on the pebbles in front of the wooden bench I sat on. It had been a hot day. The sun was finally setting. Music playing in the distance. A white Volkswagen. Windows closed. Hard basses, trembling across the road. Folded three times, the sheet of paper had the size of a DIN A7. A white BMW pulled over. Seven glass jars in a container.

the-documents.org
We were a modern house
22:35:57
the-documents.org

‘Meunerie Duyckers & Conors, les nouveaux moulins’, better known as ‘De Nieuwe Molens’, is a flour mill established in 1897 in the north of Gent along the Verbindingskanaal. Due to increased production, the original 1897 building doubled in 1904. 

Only the facade of the iconic warehouse has been preserved along with the recently renovated gasometers. The building is now part of the Tondeliersite. It has been converted into lofts and flats, and was extended with a new construction.

https://inventaris.onroerenderfgoed.be/erfgoedobjecten/18269

the-documents.org
Negative sheet 16, negative 24, negative 24,5
22:35:57
the-documents.org

The scientific exactitude sought for in the Iconographie de la Salpêtrière and the Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière, the (in)famous scientific publications stemming from Paris’ psychiatric hospital La Salpêtrière (1876-1918), lead to an abundance of photographic images in their pages. The photographs’ ideal: ‘Trace incontestable, incontestablement fidèle, durable, transmissible’.1 The ambition of exactitude results in cold, and often cruel depictions of patients. In the digitized version of the Sorbonne library’s copies, some photographs have left an imprint on the opposite page. The knee of Charles, ‘le géant’, adds an unwanted layer upon its measures on the opposite page, while the photograph of the knee itself loses ink.2

1

Didi-Huberman, G. Invention de l’hystérie. Paris: Macula, 2014, 72.

2

Launois, P.-E., Roy, P., ‘Gigantisme et infantilisme’, Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière, Tome XV, 1902, 548, pl. LXVI, online: https://patrimoine.sorbonne-universite.fr/fonds/item/2613-nouvelle-iconographie-de-la-salpetriere-tome-15?offset=6

the-documents.org
Knee
22:35:58
the-documents.org
Knee
22:35:58
the-documents.org

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.

the-documents.org
License Plate
22:35:58
the-documents.org

In Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, Convolute Q is dedicated to the panorama. Benjamin writes: ‘Setup of the panoramas: View from a raised platform, surrounded by a balustrade, of surfaces lying round about and beneath. The painting runs along a cylindrical wall approximately a hundred meters long and twenty meters high. The principal panoramas of the great panorama painter Prévost: Paris, Toulon, Rome, Naples, Amsterdam, Tilsit, Wagram, Calais, Antwerp, London, Florence, Jerusalem, Athens. Among his pupils: Daguerre’ (Q1a, 1).

Benjamin, W. The Arcades Project (H. Eiland & K. McLaughlin, trans.). Cambridge/London: The Belknap Press of Harvard  University Press, 2002, p. 528.

the-documents.org
Negative sheet 13, negative 24, negative 24,5
22:35:58
the-documents.org

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-documents.org
Negative sheet 55, negative 4, negative 5
22:35:58
the-documents.org

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

the-documents.org
Negative sheet 02, negative 5, negative 6
22:35:58
the-documents.org

I drove through the neighborhood seeking evidence of the disruption using a power outage map as a compass. Winding through quiet streets, I stumbled upon a lone blue PG&E truck idling opposite a charred utility pole with fragments of wood and wire strewn across the pavement. I parked my car and walked toward the truck to ask the driver what had happened. He pointed to the top of the pole where a porcelain insulator dangled precariously from a high-voltage line. “Tracking,” he said curtly. “Is that like a short circuit?” I asked. “Kind of,” he replied before pausing. He finally elaborated, explaining that the problem arises when moisture from morning fog settles on power lines, creating a pathway for electricity to arc across components.

He then input something into a handheld device before driving away, leaving the repair for another service team to complete. I gathered the debris intending to collect the remaining components that comprise a utility pole, each having failed in one form or another. I shipped the fragments to Maziar the following week.

Mathew Kneebone is an artist based in San Francisco. His interdisciplinary practices takes different forms, all in relation to an interest in electricity and technology. He teaches studio and thesis writing at California College of the Arts.

the-documents.org
Tracking
22:35:59
the-documents.org
Tracking
22:35:59
the-documents.org

[13:42] Maziar: Power out at Rib now.
[13:45] Mathew: It’s windy here today, sorry!
[13:45] Maziar: Saying from the comfort of his electrified home, or…you also have no power?
[13:45] Mathew: No, I don’t. But, typically, outages in the city are shorter than in regional areas. PG&E website estimates service within two hours…Maybe you could post a business sign on Rib’s window?1
[13:52] Maziar: Yes. Though my phone is almost dead. No light. Can you send me a text for the sign? I can’t access the drive.
[13:52] Mathew: Yeah.
[13:52] Maziar: I feel reality hitting. Not so much the reality of blackouts in the U.S., but the reality of life and work…and that it is time to go home.
[13:55] Mathew: “CLOSED NO POWER For prescriptions go to Walgreens 2690 Mission OPEN UNTIL 5 PM.”
[13:55] Maziar: Thanks.
[13:56] Mathew: Yeah, maybe it’s time for you to leave for the night. I’m going to drive around to see what’s happening.
[13:59] Maziar: Okay, enjoy.

1

Local businesses experiencing a blackout typically post handwritten notices on their street-facing windows. These condensed notes detail acute symptoms felt at a community level, hinting at the improvisation required to maintain social harmony.

Mathew Kneebone is an artist based in San Francisco. His interdisciplinary practices takes different forms, all in relation to an interest in electricity and technology. He teaches studio and thesis writing at California College of the Arts.

the-documents.org
CLOSED NO POWER. For prescriptions go to Walgreens 2690 Mission OPEN UNTIL 5 PM.
22:35:59
the-documents.org

On a windy morning in April, I was on a video call with a friend, curator Maziar Afrassiabi. He listened patiently from Rotterdam as I labored over a direction for my research. It concerned a device I installed in his art space, Rib, six months prior, that monitored blackouts across California by scraping real-time data from utility companies. When a county experienced a significant blackout, it would cut Rib’s electricity in kind—causing Rib to inherit and adapt to conditions that shape Californian infrastructure. During its operation, I’d been researching the grid—learning what it is, why it fails, and how communities respond when it does.

We took a short break. Maziar, with tired eyes, stepped away for a smoke. While waiting, I watched the power lines outside my window sway limply in the breeze. In spite of its apparent lifelessness, I’ve always thought of electricity as a psychological force. My mind wandered through a cursory model of the grid, idiosyncratically cloudy and detailed.

Energy simultaneously generated and used, cascading infrastructural operations in a blink. Outlying stations burning, vaporizing, absorbing fuel, spinning vast electromagnetic turbines. Oscillating current. Neighboring transformers boosting volts to kilovolts, compensating for lost energy coursing through long-distance transmission supported by pylons peppered across Menlo Park.

Current flows into enclosed substations. Transformers, insulators, resembling a kind of industrial Watts Towers—though uninhabitable and anonymous by comparison—step voltages back down to levels safe enough for wires traversing the city. They branch out through streets via buried cables or, like the lines outside my window, are strung atop Douglas fir utility poles at roughly 30-meter intervals…curious vestigial markers. I’d read somewhere they were provisionally pitched when Samuel Morse found that telegraph signals wouldn’t transmit through the earth.

Each pole divides vertically into distinct zones, spaced apart for safety. Treacherous high-voltage wires from substations pass along the top, while safer signals—cable internet and landlines—hang nearest to the ground. The high-voltage wires enter through a barrel-shaped pole-mounted transformer. Within, submerged in oil, two tightly wound copper coils magnetically harmonize, delivering 240 and 120 volts to three exiting wires, each connected to the electrical meter attached to the building…

A blackout in my neighborhood cut my thoughts and the meeting short. The sudden silence in my apartment indicated Maziar was also in the dark. I received a text message from him and the utility company.

Mathew Kneebone is an artist based in San Francisco. His interdisciplinary practices takes different forms, all in relation to an interest in electricity and technology. He teaches studio and thesis writing at California College of the Arts.

the-documents.org
pgealerts.alerts.pge.com/
22:35:59
the-documents.org

‘The saw cuts are sloppy and appear to be made in a haste.1 The cuts are situated at a height of approximately seventy centimetres from the ground. The hill’s protected woods have seen an increase in these scattered traces of illegal logging since a rise in tax on heating fuel in October 2012. Many Greeks set about logging illegally in protected woods, mostly in the colder North of the country, but also here in Egaleo, a western suburb of Athens.’

1

First published in: De Cleene, M. Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Roma Publications, 2019

the-documents.org
Traces of logging on Mount Egaleo
22:35:59
the-documents.org
Traces of logging on Mount Egaleo
22:35:59
the-documents.org

During a two hour tour, H.V. (head of the science collection) guided us from the library to the observatory and back. Along the way, he touched upon various rarities: one hundred ninety-five volumes of the Encyclopédie Méthodique (according to H.V. the most complete copy left in the world), the severed summit of Mont Blanc (‘Actually de Saussure brought back a triangular piece of rock from just below the snow line near the summit’), an original copy of the publication on the infamous Lügensteine (‘These date back to the time before the hoax was unveiled’)… 

In guiding us from room to room, H.V. piled oddity upon curiosity. He showed a particular interest in all things fish-related.

First published in: De Cleene, M. Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Roma Publications, 2019

the-documents.org
12:13, Flashlight in a dark corner of the Oval Room
22:35:59
the-documents.org

On 12 October 2022, I see a third orange Sparta K-10 listed on marktplaats.nl, after Tineke and Fred‘s. It is sold by one Fr from Zevenaar. Fr put the bike up for sale four days earlier. According to Fr, it is a ‘luxury station bike’ and ‘camping bike’. He is asking 199 euros for it. Fr explains the bike as follows:

‘Luxury sparta unisex bike with 3-speed shimano-nexus.
Striking specimen.
Looks like new.
Please note……fixed price!
Ideal for station, camping or for some nice touring.
Equipped with:
Front and rear battery lighting
Handy front and rear luggage rack
All-terrain tyres
3-speed gearbox
Comfortable drifter saddle
Integrated cable lock
Large dingdong bell
A real eye-catcher’1

According to Fr, the price is fixed, but on the website you can make an offer, albeit only from 199 euros. Fr’s Sparta K-10 has three gears. The Sparta K-10s of Tineke, John and Fred that are still for sale do not have gears, the Sparta K-10s in Rue Verte in Brussels and on cyclonewebshop.be do not have them, and in the 2011 Sparta leaflet we did not see that option either. In short, we come across a Sparta K-10 with gears for the first time. There is a small typing error in Fr’s explanation in Dutch – the t in geïntegreerd is missing – but those who like to browse on marktplaats.nl read smoothly over that. One of the photos of Fr’s ad shows the loop attached to the back of the bike. You can clearly see how that loop forms the end of an integrated cable lock.

1

‘Luxe sparta unisex fiets met 3 versnellingen shimano-nexus.
Opvallend design exemplaar.
Ziet er uit als nieuw.
Let op……vaste prijs!
Ideaal voor station, camping of zo om lekker mee te toeren.
Voorzien van:
Batterijverlichting voor én achter
Handig bagagerek voor én achter
All terreinbanden
3 versnellingen
Verende zadelpen
Comfortabel drifter zadel
Geïnegreerd kabelslot
Grote dingdong bel
Een echte eye-catcher’

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
The Loop of the Sparta K-10
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How slanted is this saddle? Anyone looking at the full photo of this Sparta K-10 might think that the street fence is pushing its saddle down at an angle. However, the bike and its saddle are leaning against the fence, they are not pushed under it. Whether the saddle is as slanted as the photo suggests, we are not sure. This detail of the photo suggests otherwise. The rail to which the saddle is attached is already mounted slightly less slanted than the line of the fence behind which the saddle is partly hidden, and above that part of the fence something vaguely protrudes from the back of the saddle. Presumably that is the edge of the saddle, which would reassure us about the cyclist’s comfort.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
The Saddle of a Sparta K-10, Rue Verte, Brussels
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The company Demuynck from Heist (B) has put the 2011 brochure of Dutch bicycle manufacturer Sparta on yumpu.com as an ePaper. According to yumpu.com, this was reportedly done on 28 September 2013. The leaflet is titled ‘Collection Overview 2011’. On pages 68 and 69, the bike is called K10, the frame says K-TEN, while a version presumably a bit older is usually for sale second-hand as K-10. The K10 is a ‘practical, compact city bike’, it is available in one unisex frame size 50 and it has an integrated cable lock. There is a loop at the back of the large tube to which the rest of the frame is mounted. This might be the end of that lock. There are optional carriers, front and rear, and there is an optional lighting kit. The recommended retail price is 299 euros.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
K10 in Folder Sparta Bikes 2011
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According to @missbluesette, the green K-10 put up for sale by Fred from Zwolle that I came across on marktplaats.nl on 29 September 2022 is not green, but blue. The colour resembles turquoise, I explain, a colour I have always called green. No, turquoise is not green, but blue, she replies. And the texts of my Instagram posts are too long, she says, so she doesn’t read them.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
Green or blue
22:36:00
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Fred from Zwolle offers two Sparta K-10s on Marktplaats.nl on 29 September 2022. The asking price for the two bikes is 250 euros, bids may start from 200 euros. The green bike has a front light that is powered by a rim dynamo, while in another photo we see a front light on the orange bike that is presumably battery-powered, as may be the case for the rear lights. The carrier mounted at the front of the green bike is clearly a luggage carrier, as is the one at the back. What the carrier mounted at the front of the orange bike is for, is unclear. The description of the bikes does mention the function of the loop protruding from the frame at the back of the Sparta K-10:
‘20-inch bikes that we have always used while camping. No gears but smooth and light pedalling. Ideal for running small errands close by or a quick errand in the toilet building. They are light and quite short making them easy to take on the train. Ideal as a short-distance bike between station and work. Both are, furthermore, in good condition. Each bike comes with a key for the integrated cable lock. Are listed as a ladies’ bike but I (male) get on just fine.’1

1

’20 inch fietsen die wij altijd tijdens het kamperen hebben gebruikt. Geen versnellingen maar soepel en licht trappend. Ideaal om kleine boodschappen dichtbij te doen of een snelle boodschap in het toilet gebouw. Ze zijn licht en vrij kort waardoor ze makkelijk mee te nemen zijn in de trein. Ideaal als korte afstandfiets tussen station en werk. Beiden zijn verder in goede staat. Van elke fiets beide sleutels aanwezig voorzien van een geïntegreerd kabelslot.Worden als damesfiets genoemd maar ik (man) kom er prima mee vooruit.’

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
Two Sparta K-10s, Owned by Fred and Partner
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On 29 September 2022, I find a picture of a new Sparta K-10 on the website of cyclonewebshop.be. The bike is matt black and has a chaincase and a nice luggage rack at the front. The typical loop at the back is less noticeable in this photo. This is partly due to the colour of the bike.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

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A New Sparta K-10
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John from Middelburg offers a K-10 without a loop at the back on marktplaats.nl. His K-10 does have a front light, which strangely never seems to be mounted in the front of the long tube of the frame. The asking price is 75 euros, bids may start from 50 euros.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

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John’s Sparta K-10
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On 29 September 2022, I search the internet for the factory details of an original Sparta K-10. First I come across some second-hand K-10s. On marktplaats.nl, a Sparta K-10 is for sale for 60 euros, but anyone interested may also make an offer. The seller’s name is Tineke. She lives in The Hague and writes that the bike is ‘easy to take along’. The K-10 she is selling has no chain guard, but it does have a chrome luggage rack. This makes the bike more practical, but in my opinion also less attractive. Her bike also has a bell, but no elegant loop at the end of the long, curved tube around which the frame is built – most other K-10s do have such a loop – or has it disappeared behind the top tube of the luggage carrier? If Tineke is also the owner of the bike, she is much taller than the owner of the Brussels bike, as her saddle is a lot higher, and it is also more or less straight. Moreover, the handlebars are very high thanks to a different stem, which makes the model of the bike a bit unbalanced. I don’t know if I would have photographed the bike for sale in The Hague.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
Tineke’s Sparta K-10
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This bike regularly pops up on the streets of the Brussels neighbourhood where I live. On 4 June 2021, it stands in Rue Verte, in front of the entrance to the Reine Verte Park. The park is built on one of the steepest slopes in Brussels. That condition required a clever park design, in which you can hang out or walk from Rue Verte to Rue des Palais, up, or vice versa, down. The park is well cared for by city services. 

The bike is an orange Sparta K-10. It has a remarkably low entry and high handlebars. As a result, it seems to be a comfortable bike, albeit one whose body posture while cycling is not geared to the gradient of our neighbourhood, in which it usually stands. Moreover, it has no gears and the saddle is very slanted.

Lars Kwakkenbos lives and works in Brussels and Ghent (B). He teaches at KASK & Conservatorium in Ghent, where he is currently working on the research project ‘On Instructing Photography’ (2023-2024), together with Michiel and Arnout De Cleene.

the-documents.org
A Sparta K-10, Rue Verte, Brussels
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This is a trace, and it is not.
Ceci est une trace et ne l’est pas.
What is a trace?
Qu’est-ce qu’une trace?
Le document n’en est pas, le document documente.
Documents what?
Peu importe, le mot ‘document’ est dérivé du latin docere, c’est à dire…
to show, to teach, to instruct. The document is docile, unlike the trace.
La trace ne montre pas, n’enseigne pas, n’instruit en rien, à moins d’interpréter.
The trace as indexical: it does not ‘show’ though one can see it. It does not teach,
sauf que tout nous pré-existe, ou plutôt, nous insiste, n’est-ce pas?
It doesn’t: it’s never there as such until we name it so.

Documenti!
Papiere!
Poètes, vos papiers!
(Léo Ferre 1956)

Le document.
Le dos-cul ment.
Le d’au-cul ment.
Le dé au cul ment.
Mais co-ment?

Butt how?
The do-cum-meant.
The doc-cue-mint.
The dock-comment.

This is a cardboard mousepad.
Are you happy now?
Are you happy?
Are you?
Now?

document: a paper or set of papers with written or printed information, especially of an official type.
(https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/document)

‘He’s more of an official type.’

A document is a written, drawn, presented, or memorialized representation of thought, often the manifestation of non-fictional, as well as fictional, content.
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Document)

‘She was quite content.’

 Tha back-ass lies!

Sébastien Conard (1982) is a graphic artist, writer and teacher. He draws, writes and publishes comics, post-comics and artist’s books. From 2023 until 2026, he will explore the graphic trace in the context of a postdoctoral research project at LUCA School of Arts. 

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Le dos-cul ment
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The end of 2015. For hours, precipitation of all sorts had impeded a view of the Asian side of the city. Ships went out of sight before they reached the horizon. I can’t recall where exactly we were standing, or what we were visiting. I imagined it to be a place full of history. The Bosporus seemed agitated.

The Greek historian Herodotus wrote about Persian King Xerxes’ torn after a storm demolished the bridge he was building across the Dardanelles, at the other side of the Sea of Marmara: ‘When Xerxes heard of this, he was very angry and commanded that the Hellespont be whipped with three hundred lashes, and a pair of fetters be thrown into the sea. I have even heard that he sent branders with them to brand the Hellespont. He commanded them while they whipped to utter words outlandish and presumptuous, “Bitter water, our master thus punishes you, because you did him wrong though he had done you none. Xerxes the king will pass over you, whether you want it or not; in accordance with justice no one offers you sacrifice, for you are a turbid and briny river.”’1

Two days later, heavy snow delayed our flight back home. For hours, we were stuck inside the cabin, watching the tarmac. Passengers wanting to get out scorned the stewards. Trucks sprayed a fluid on our plane’s wings. We arrived at the family gathering just before midnight. Underneath the unlit fireworks hanging from the chandeliers, desert was being served.

1.

Herodotus. The Histories (A. D. Godley, trans.). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920, book 7, chapter 35. Online: https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0126%3Abook%3D7%3Achapter%3D35

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New Year’s Eve, 2015
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Coming back from holidays, we were waiting for the ferry to take us from Ramsgate to Ostend. We were well on time. As the ship entered the harbour, I asked my parents if I could take a photograph. It’s the first photograph I recall taking. I remember my dad telling me to wait long enough for the ship to get closer. I didn’t. I only got one try.1

It took a while before the film was developed. I couldn’t stop imagining what the photograph would look like: some picturesque waves in the foreground, the shining white ship, the red and blue text on the side, and a cloud filled sky.

1

Following every holiday, when we got home, the garden and our house would be photographed with the remaining exposures on the roll of film in the camera.

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Seacat
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The two photographs arrived in Belgium inside a used hardback1 in spring 2016, though it is unclear how long before that time they were actually taken.2

Photograph #1 measures 151 x 100 mm and shows two young people who appear to be mountain climbing and captured while clearing a ridge. Behind the two subjects a bluish mountainous landscape is vaguely visible, suggesting a vantage point of some considerable elevation. The person on the left is wearing a white T-shirt and a bracelet, and has several earrings. The person on the right is carrying a backpack. What appears to be a black tank-top may in fact also be the straps of the pack. On their head they wear what appears to be a grey T-shirt or other garment, presumably to protect the subject from the sun; this person also has earrings and is wearing a necklace and sunglasses. The weather appears nice, both subjects are smiling and appear relaxed. The effort may well have been staged.

Photograph #2 measures (approximately) 43 x 62 mm with the left, bottom and right sides appearing to be cut, rather unevenly, with scissors. It has the typical appearance of an American high school yearbook photo and shows a young person wearing a shiny black blouse and a necklace. They have blue eyes and below-shoulder length auburn hair. The red lips appear painted. On the back of this photograph is written in a clearly legible hand:

Clay, I can’t
wait until next
year when we’re
in grade 12!3
Have a great
Summer and
call me [XXX XXXX]4
by the way, I haven’t
forgot about how big UR

The only assumptions to be made somewhat safely from these two items are that (a) the book has once belonged to ‘Clay’, and, (b) a relationship of a close, friendly, perhaps even intimate, nature has at one time existed between ‘Clay’ and the person in the second photograph (assuming also that (c) the note on the back of the second photograph was indeed written by the person in that photograph). The circumstances surrounding, and/or motivations (‘Clay’’s or any third parties’) behind the book’s ending up in a used-book shop5 must necessarily remain a matter of speculation. There are no reasons to assume that the book was gifted to ‘Clay’ by the note-writer (or by anyone else) as no dedication appears in it.6 It must also remain inconclusive whether there are either two or three different persons appearing across the two photographs, and whether any of these is in fact ‘Clay’.

Indeed, the number of questions raised by these items far exceeds the number of answers they provide. Even leaving aside the nature of the writings in the book, one cannot help but speculate as to:
— how much, if any, of the book ‘Clay’ ever read;7,8
— what happened to the CD originally included with the book;9
— why the unrelated inserted materials were not removed from the book before sale (as opposed to the CD);
— whether ‘Clay’ did in fact ring up the writer of the note over that summer;10 indeed whether the two ever did meet again, remain close during their ‘senior’ year, perhaps even stay in contact after graduating;
— the meaning of the rather cryptic final line of the note.

1

The book is a first edition, first printing hardback copy of Word Virus: the William S. Burroughs reader, edited by James Grauerholz and Ira Silverberg, with an introduction by Ann Douglas, published by Grove Press (New York) in 1998 (160mm x 235mm, 532pp.). On the used book aggregator webstore, the book was graded ‘Very Good’ (or, VG),* which proved a realistic assessment as it appeared (in fact, still does) largely unread with a dust jacket in equally good condition and no markings inside whatsoever. In fact, the book’s condition might well have warranted a ‘Fine’ (F) grading were it not for the only notable (yet not noted) defect, which was that the ‘Spoken Word CD’ that was originally included — as indicated by a 32mm diameter round sticker in the top right corner of the front of the dust jacket, and the glued-in envelope in the back of the book — was no longer present. This defect may well have accounted for the apparent disparity between the state and grading of the book and the low price of $4.53 (shipping not included) it was sold at, although the fact remains that this incomplete state ought to have been mentioned in the listing. Since the time of purchase, however, markings were added to the book, presumably with an additional adverse effect on its market value: appearing on the half-title page, they are in dark green crayon and of an abstract nature and were made by the current owner’s infant son.

* According to the terminology of the grading scale proposed in 1949 by AB Bookman’s Weekly and still widely, if not universally, in use in the online used book market today, albeit with some additions or modifications by individual platforms. See Wikipedia for a brief overview.

2

Elements of style and physical nature of the artifacts may be taken to indicate an origin roughly contemporaneous with the book.

3

‘[In the United States of America, the] twelfth grade is the twelfth school year after kindergarten. It is also the last year of compulsory secondary education, or high school. Students are often 17–19 years old. Twelfth graders are referred to as Seniors.’ (Wikipedia)

4

A 7-digit phone number, without country or area code, redacted here.

5

Located in the state of Nevada, no further identification of the particular shop was provided on the aggregator webstore, and it must be noted that the book was subsequently shipped from ‘Auburn’, presumably Auburn, CA.

6

Indeed in accordance with its ‘Very Good’ grading, which is generally understood to explicitly list any defects such as markings (including dedications) but also any missing materials.

7

Quality hardbacks being notably easier to read without damaging the book.

8

Speculations on this, and any potential subsequent extrapolations are, fortunately perhaps, further inhibited by the fact that the book presents a rather generous cross-section of writings spanning the entirety of William S. Burroughs’ famously prolific career. The inclusions span the period between 1929 and 1994. Although undertakings of this kind will inevitably meet with criticism, the consensus indeed seems to be that the editors have done an excellent job in selecting and presenting the material. Was ‘Clay’ mainly drawn by the hard-boiled straightforward prose style of the early novels; the highly experimental and provocative writings of the ‘middle period’ (traditionally labeled as rather ‘hermetic’ and ‘cold’, though they are quite often not without a haunting, perhaps even ‘poetic’ quality); or the later, one might say ‘integrated’ style which saw the earlier experiments wedded to a certain ‘return to narrative’ and, in old age, traces of a much more ‘humane’ author than ever before (if a point of critique may yet be formulated, one might indeed say that the writings from this later period (roughly 1978–1997) are somewhat favoured (quantitatively) in the Word Virus volume; as these have a (still: relatively) greater ‘readability’ than much of the older material that may indicate a decision of a commercial nature, yet there is also the fact that these texts were written in collaboration with one of the editors of Word Virus)?

9

Being in fact a promo sampler for the 4CD Giorno Poetry Systems compilation of William S. Burroughs material also released (by Mouth Almighty Records and Mercury Records) in 1998. See Discogs.

10

Nevada has three area codes (702, 725, and 775), yet quick Google searches of the 7-digit number combined with any one of those yield no easy identification. Considering the overall scarcity of information, however, it seems clear that anyone seeking to reconstruct the biographies of ‘Clay’ and/or the note-writer should take up this line of investigation.

David Depestel hesitates in trying to make something of himself; a character, a profession, a fixed mode of being, are for him concepts that already shadow forth the outlines of the skeleton, which is all that will be left of him in the end.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_used_book_conditions

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelfth_grade#United_States

https://www.discogs.com/release/673857-William-S-Burroughs-Selections-From-The-Best-Of-William-Burroughs-From-Giorno-Poetry-Systems

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Debatably graded
22:36:02
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Debatably graded
22:36:02
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In the philosophy aisle of the largest used and remaindered book shop in the city — which is a regular stop on my lunchbreak walks to escape the dreariness of my office job — that particular day a set of books caught my eye. They were four copies of the same edition of a title I had never had any inclination to read. It was the near-uniformity of the four books that made them stand out. Upon closer inspection, there were two more copies of two other editions of the book on the shelf.

It was immediately apparent to me that only three minor moves were required to bring the six copies together on the shelf, and to arrange the four copies of the same edition so that the level of sun fading of their spines would make their lettering form a white to dark pink gradient. I could think of no shade of the letters that would tastefully match the very light blue of the rest of the spine, which had remained relatively uniform across the four copies.

After having moved the books, I took a photograph of them with the camera in my smartphone.

It occurred to me only afterwards that while handling the books I had not leafed through them.

Some days later, going through my photo folder, I came across the picture I had taken to document my somewhat neurotic but oddly satisfying action and noticed that the camera had been in square mode and that the photo was blurry. I have not yet gone back to take a better picture.

David Depestel hesitates in trying to make something of himself; a character, a profession, a fixed mode of being, are for him concepts that already shadow forth the outlines of the skeleton, which is all that will be left of him in the end.

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Consolations
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As we point the telescope to the sky – cloudy, and filled with chaotic bursts of rain – the dispersion of the city lights accentuates the swirling, frantic raindrops. The roof we are standing on is uneven. A puddle forms underneath the apparatus, around the right leg of the tripod and our feet. The sound of a car on a wet street, below. A kitchen light is flicked on. Temperature is low for a mid-September night, and getting lower by the minute. It seems impossible to tell the depth of field we are documenting, and at what distance from our position these fleeting constellations occur.

Excerpt from Towards Civil Dusk (De Cleene De Cleene, 2020)

Neptune in opposition [1-20] is part of ‘Documenting Objects’, a research project by Arnout De Cleene and Michiel De Cleene at KASK & Conservatorium, the school of arts of HOGENT and Howest. Their research is financed by the HOGENT Arts Research Fund. Previous research into this subject has amongst other things led to the documentary film Towards Civil Dusk and temporary public observatories at 019, Gent and Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp.

Thanks to:

Angelo Van Daele
Arthur Haegeman
Chris De Pauw
Emi Kodama
Frédéric Thill 
Gentil Van de Vijver
Guy Wauters
Hannah De Cleene
Jan Scheers
Jonas Temmerman
John Sussenbach
Kunsthal Extra City
Philippe Molet
019

Astropolis (Oostende)
Cercle Astronomique Mosan (Herbuchenne)
Koninklijk Observatorium Ukkel
Observatoire Astronomique Antoine Thomas S.J. (Namur)
Observatoire Astronomique Centre Ardenne (Grapfontaine)
Publieke Sterrenwacht van de Westkust (Koksijde)
Volkssterrenwacht Armand Pien (Gent)
Volkssterrenwacht AstroLAB IRIS (Zillebeke)
Volkssterrenwacht Beisbroek (Brugge)
Volkssterrenwacht Mira (Grimbergen)
Volkssterrenwacht Urania (Hove)

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Neptune in opposition [20/20] – A constellation
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Sundown at the public observatory in Beisbroek. A choir of birds mixes with the continuous hiss of the freeway nearby. The camera captures the receding colours. The blinds are open; the half dome is closed. 

A documentary approach: moving along a tension between proximity and distance. If the pendulum swings to either side, it becomes difficult to speak of the documentary. Proximity without distance, and distance without proximity, undermine it, precisely because any approach is then out of the question.

Excerpt from Towards Civil Dusk (De Cleene De Cleene, 2020)

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Neptune in opposition [19/20] – Approximation
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An observer draws on experience, and instantly sees a female partridge. Cumulus clouds. The Southern pole star. It’s the ‘all-at-once-ness of virtuoso perception’, Lorraine Daston writes: ‘Sure, swift, and silent, “without pause for mental analysis,” observation is grounded in long familiarity with the phenomena in question, be they curlews or streptococcus bacteria’ (101).

Excerpt from Towards Civil Dusk (De Cleene De Cleene, 2020)

Daston, L. ‘On Scientific Observation’. Isis, 99 (1), 2008, 97-110.

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Neptune in opposition [18/20] – View of an interior
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‘My backyard is oriented perfectly, I can see the entire southern sky without obstructions. 
In two years, they will start building an apartment block, though, two floors high with a roof on top. The height is not a problem, but of course it does mean heat and potential turbulence. I just hope they will be well insulated.

This is what I like doing. I have never been interested in remote observations.1 In my backyard. I hear the geese flying overhead at night. An owl. The silence. I want to be near.’

In the photograph John Sussenbach is manipulating the telescope’s focus slightly during the recording.

1

To make better images, astrophotographers can rent time on a ‘remote observatory’: a fully equipped observatory located in a less light-polluted region and with a more stable atmosphere than the one the average amateur astronomer lives in. A command given from a computer directs a massive telescope in Chile towards a desired spot.

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Neptune in opposition [17/20] – Remote
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In Six Stories from the End of Representation, James Elkins writes: ‘Astrophysicists are well practised in “cleaning up” photographic plates by adjusting colour and contrast, removing images of dust, correcting aberrations, restoring lost pixels, and balancing uneven background illumination. When it comes to blur, the usual strategy is to specify what counts as “smooth” and what counts as “pointlike,” and then refine the image until it exhibits the required pointlike properties’1. Still, some astronomic images keep a certain amount of blur (although it would be technically possible to delineate them). Elkins continues: ‘blur does not need to be a matter of distance from some hypothetical optimal clarity: it can be a functional scale, independent of the viewer’s notions of clarity and even of the image itself’2.

On the night of 22 November 2021, I join John Sussenbach in his backyard while he captures Neptune.

He invites me to join him and his wife for dinner. A prayer. Soup and bread. The images he makes, he explains, are complex from a temporal point of view. The light coming from Neptune has travelled for four hours before it reaches us. Moreover, these images are not photographs of a singular moment, but stacked frames of a video-recording. In doing so, he can, to some extent, eliminate the effects of a bad ‘seeing’: the negative effect atmospheric turbulence has on the light that reaches the telescope.

A bright dot is jumping around on his laptop’s screen. ‘That’s Neptune’, he says. With his index finger he follows the dot. ‘That’s the bad seeing. That’s the unrest.’

The next day I send him the photograph I took of him standing on his ladder, dangerously placed on the edge of the tarp covering his pool. ‘Nice to see the open star cluster Pleiades in your photograph’, he replies. He attaches the image he made that night: ‘If there would have been a clear storm on Neptune, it would have shown’.

Image by John Sussenbach. 22 November 2021 19.00 UT North up
C14 f/11 and ASC462MC camera plus ADC, Houten (NL)

1

Elkins, J. Six Stories from the End of Representation. Images in Painting, Photography, Astronomy, Microscopy, Particle Physics, and Quantum Mechanics, 1980-2000. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008, 59.

2

Ibid., 62-63.

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Neptune in opposition [16/20] – Unrest
22:36:03
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Neptune in opposition [16/20] – Unrest
22:36:03
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Each night a plethora of amateur-astronomers gazes into the sky. Their instruments and locations are often inferior to the means available to professionals. Yet, what they lack in terms of technology and location, darkness and mirror surface, they make up for in the collectivity of their observations. They are patient observers, spread around the globe, not bound to the strict schedules and limited availability of the large telescopes in the Atacama Desert. 

When amateur astronomy became fashionable, it led to a surge of information stemming from a large group of distinct observers: seafarers, physicians, typists, masons. Theirs were valuable data, but if they were to be put to scientific use, they needed to be standardised. How to overcome the subjective element inherent in every empirical observation? The amateurs had to be instructed to recognize patterns, by means of visual examples. They had to be trained to use the right terms to describe their observations. They had to turn chaos into order. Recognize what they were looking at. A nebula. A red giant. Neptune’s faint blue-greenish colour resembling the flame of the gas stove.

Hueso, R. e.a., ‘Neptune long-lived atmospheric features in 2013-2015 from small (28-cm) to large (10-m) telescopes’, Icarus, 295, 2017, 89-109.

Lorenz, R.D. e.a. ‘Backyard spectroscopy and photometry of Titan, Uranus and Neptune’, Planetary and Space Science, 51, 2003, 113-125.

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Neptune in opposition [15/20] – Plethora
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Summer 2019, between the swingset and the mesh greenhouse, astrophotographer Angelo Van Daele closes the observatory. The wheels roll smoothly across the rails embedded within a concrete slab. His former observatory is now a chicken coop. His neighbour’s trees need pruning. The camera mounted on the exterior of the shed allows him to see the instrument from inside the house.

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Neptune in opposition [14/20] – A rolling shed
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A first try at using the instrument for making a recording: excitement as we succeed in pointing the telescope at the brownish dot afar we just noticed on the other side of the valley. As it continues scavenging, we wait for night to set in. 

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Neptune in opposition [13/20] – A foraging fox
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The orthopaedic surgeon left early that morning for his shift at the hospital some twenty kilometres away. It must have been around the time Neptune was at its highest, invisible in the morning sky. 

When he got back later that day, we attached a tow cable to the front of my car and the back of his.

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Neptune in opposition [12/20] – Culmination
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Neptune in opposition [12/20] – Culmination
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The car is parked on a gravel path, a few metres down from the small road crossing the village. It would be hopelessly stuck the next morning. While trying to capture Neptune through the rental telescope, I run back and forth between the tripod on the small lawn and the trunk several times to get other eyepieces and adapters.

I align the telescope, using three stars: Vega, Arcturus and Deneb. 

I hear an animal. I look up and notice the interior light of the car has switched on. 

A motorcycle around 3:14. The driver is shifting gears rapidly. I don’t see any headlights in the valley.

Fog sets in. Saturn practically disappears from sight. Jupiter appears as a blob. 

I’m 380m above sea level. The highest hill in the area is barely 500m of height. Still, the fog and the settling dew, along with the nightly cold give it something strangely alpine. 

The fog lifts.

I can still clearly see the ridge in the east. It should be darker.

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Neptune in opposition [11/20] – Alpine
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Theory becomes the apparatus. A metonymic relation. A trope of nearness. Miniscule gravitational disturbances become known as a kilometres-long, L-shaped facility. Particle physics: a circular tunnel beneath the Geneva hinterland. 

Somewhere in the early 1970s, our grandfather, a carpenter by trade, buys a telescope1,2, installs it on the lawn, and points it over the hedge. ‘I remember seeing the craters on the moon. The rings of Saturn,’ he told us. 

In the shabby plywood box I made to transport the telescope lies a metal ring I ground flat to be able to attach my camera and focus it on infinity.

The hedge, now three metres in height, shields the lower part of the sky from sight and needs pruning.

1

Tasco / Reg. No. 83140 / 140 Power / Reflection telescope / D=3” / F=700mm / Coated optics / Model No. 3TE-R / Japan

2

‘It never fails to draw you in closer – the moment when you raise a pair of binoculars to your eyes. In that instant, life is magnified clearly; as if just for you. The curious bird that becomes instantly identifiable. The night sky that never looked the same after that night. The actual sweat running down the brow of a sports hero. The sun scattering light across a clear stream as you trace for signs of a Rainbow trout. These are the moments of magic that Tasco delivers. Simple, pure and honest. And for another split-second, you’re struck by the quality of experience weighed against the value you’d previously placed on “just a pair of binoculars.” Welcome to a world where, “Seeing is Believing.”’ (Tasco Manifesto). 

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Neptune in opposition [10/20] – Kinship
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Neptune in opposition [10/20] – Kinship
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A scene in German author and director Alexander Kluge’s Die Patriotin: a half-dome opens; the protagonist, Gabi Teichert, stares into the telescope. A montage follows: the waxing crescent moon coming into focus; a night vision of a cityscape with industrial elements; archival footage of a cityscape with skyscrapers during daytime; a giant fire; a woman giving birth aided by a midwife; raindrops falling into a puddle of water; a time-lapse video of a city at sundown; a ship floating by with, in the background, on the shore, windmills; images of tanks rolling by; close-ups of a purple-lit face of someone looking into the camera; archival footage of an air raid.1, 2

In a conversation with Ben Lerner, Kluge sees himself as someone ‘creating constellations’: ‘We deal with moving bodies. “Moving reality.” […] And this is something that you cannot present in a linear way, but in the form of constellations. “Constellation” refers to cosmic matter and gravitation. There are suns, moons, planets. There are also the dust particles, tiny particles that orbit around the sun for centuries according to physical laws. And there’s no hinge, no screw that connects them. Invisible connections.’3

1

Kluge, A. (dir.) Die Patriotin. München: Kairos Film, 1979. https://youtu.be/ZRuQ3SUgSSk?t=449

2

Kluge, A. Die Patriotin. Texte/Bilder 1-6. Frankfurt am Main: Zweitausendeins, 1979, 60-64. https://monoskop.org/images/4/49/Kluge_Alexander_Die_Patriotin.pdf

3

Lerner, B. & Kluge, A. The Snows of Venice. The Lerner-Kluge-container. Leipzig: Spector Books, 2018, 66.

Excerpt from Towards Civil Dusk (De Cleene De Cleene, 2020)

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Neptune in opposition [9/20] – Rooftops, a windmill and power lines
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It is said that ‘if a space traveller were unfortunate enough to enter the atmosphere of one of the giant planets [such as Neptune], he or she would not find a single solid surface. Instead, as he or she descended into the planet, our traveller would find that the temperature, pressure, and density would all continue to increase smoothly, with no sharp transitions. Assuming that he or she was adequately protected from the temperature, pressure, and radiation, our traveller would eventually “float” at that level in the atmosphere where the surrounding density and his or her own density were equal.’

It is said that it storms on Neptune.
Violently.
1200 mph. 

They observed a great dark spot and called it: The Great Dark Spot.

It rains diamonds on Neptune.

1

Miner, E.D. & R.R. Wessen. Neptune. The Planet, Rings and Satellites. Chichester: Springer-Praxis, 2002, p. 18.

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Neptune in opposition [8/20] – Diamonds
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Neptune in opposition [8/20] – Diamonds
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A seminar on spectroscopy: how, by splitting light into different, separate rays, it becomes possible to deduct the chemical composition of stars and planets far beyond our reach, as those elements have an effect on the light that reaches the spectroscope. Beautiful graphs presenting colour in schemes of black and white. From the moment the course gets into the physics of light, my mind wanders off. What approaches the observer turns blue, what elongates itself becomes red. The teacher’s leather shoes squeak as he goes back and forth between his self-made spectroscope and the desk. Redshift. Blueshift.

We meet him a couple of weeks later on the rooftop of a university building. He opens one of the half-domes. The sound of the mechanics is as obtuse as the shape it alters. A command on the computer based on coordinates: above our heads, the telescope slews slowly, only to halt at an apparently indistinct black region. From within the dome, we send ourselves an email with the photographs that we took of Neptune. 

University classes will start in a couple of weeks. The city air is crisp. The roundabout below is strangely calm. On the horizon, the canopy of a southern forest delineates the sodium-lit sky. 

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Neptune in opposition [7/20] – Leather
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As an architectural structure, the pier is fundamental in observational astronomy: it can be found in the backyards of amateur observatories, as well as in professional ones. This column is a quintessential part of the physical interventions that are necessary to distinguish noise from valuable data. The pier disjoints the telescope from the observer, from the observatory and from the surroundings. Tremors of passing cars, the astronomer’s footsteps and coughs, the neighbour’s soundsystem: they could result in an agitated telescope. A falling mug would cause the instrument to shift lightyears away from its target.

In August 2019, I visited Chris De Pauw, an astrophotographer, at home. He showed me his private observatory. As we were both waiting for clouds to obscure the sun and get softer light for the photograph, he told me about the rolling shed, its advantages and the modifications he was planning on. 

On closing the observatory – by rolling the shed over the instrument – he manoeuvred the instrument into its ‘park’-position: an azimuth of 160 degrees and an elevation of 8 degrees above the horizon. The shed’s doors and hinges barely cleared the telescope.

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Neptune in opposition [6/20] – Pier
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Neptune in opposition [6/20] – Pier
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While calibrating their telescopes, or dealing with unforeseen, cloudy weather, amateur astronomers tend to trade the far for the not-so-far, and point their telescopes at their immediate surroundings.

Excerpt from Towards Civil Dusk (De Cleene De Cleene, 2020)

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Neptune in opposition [5/20] – Magnolia leaves on a cloudy afternoon
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As the light of celestial objects travels through the Earth’s atmosphere, the various wavelengths that make up this light are refracted differently. This effect is called ‘dispersion’ and results in colour fringing on the edges of planetary discs: images with a sliver of blue at the top and a red one at the bottom appear.

When celestial objects are positioned close to the horizon (like Neptune when observed from Luxembourg) the images are severely affected: the path of the light through the atmosphere is longer, leading to greater dispersion. 

For the same reason sunsets are red, Neptune turns from a monochromatic blue disc into a misaligned, multicoloured oval. 

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Neptune in opposition [4/20] – Dispersion
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Neptune in opposition [4/20] – Dispersion
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The planet Uranus should have followed a course as predicted by Newton’s laws. It didn’t. There were ‘residuals’, the 19th-century observers said: irregular data, which had to be interpreted as Uranus deviating from the projected trajectory. They could think of three possibilities. A) The planet Uranus was too far away from the Sun, which might render the Law of Gravitation invalid. B) The observations were incorrect. C) There was another planet, still further and yet unknown, with its own gravitational field and pull, causing Uranus to deviate from its course.

Following hypothesis C, astronomers predicted the position of a planet with a gravitational field, influencing Uranus, by means of mathematical calculations. Telescopes were directed to that calculated spot. There was a luminous point, with a touch of bright azure blue.

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Neptune in opposition [3/20] – Azure
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September 2020, three days before Neptune is in opposition, I meet Frédéric on top of a hill in Luxembourg. 

Earlier that day he had sent me the coordinates of an airfield for remote controlled aeroplanes. He told me to meet him there at 20h. The airfield is situated on the top of a hill, granting a clear view of the horizon. Removed from highways and city centres, only the southern horizon lights up, where the Grand Duchy’s capital is located, some 15 kilometres farther. The weather is promising: ‘We might get a chance to see and photograph Neptune!’ he wrote. 

I get there early. Frédéric is already setting up his tripod. Two elderly men are training for the perfect landing.

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Neptune in opposition [2/20] – The airfield
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When the Sun, the Earth and one of the outer planets of the Solar System perfectly align, with the Earth positioned in the middle, the outer planet is said to be ‘in opposition’. It’s a moment of planetary approach and of optimal viewing conditions: the Earth and the outer planet are at their closest and brightest. 

Neptune in opposition [1-20] is part of ‘Documenting Objects’, a research project by Arnout De Cleene and Michiel De Cleene at KASK & Conservatorium, the school of arts of HOGENT and Howest. Their research is financed by the HOGENT Arts Research Fund. Previous research into this subject has amongst other things led to the documentary film Towards Civil Dusk (2020) and temporary public observatories at 019, Gent and Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp.

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Neptune in opposition [1/20] – Approach
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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.

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Oven encounter
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In Veurne, at the bakery museum, old speculaas moulds are presented in an almost religious fashion. Looking at these wooden blocks, they appear to be the negatives to Romanesque sculptures.

How does it feel to be conserved and showcased when your nature is to be a tool? What would it mean to re-use them, to fill those empty molds, to shape something new without altering the matrix, to project what it would be like, to try out recipes and different baking, to learn from it and enjoy the results together? What scenes are even depicted? We lost part of their meaning, we could dig further, browse the books, ask our grandparents and collectively invent whatever narrative they might hold.

Clementine Vaultier’s interests, although trained as a ceramist, are in the warm surroundings of the fire rather than the production it engenders.

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Moulds for speculation
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This stack of seaweed was offered by Henning, a farmer of the wonderful island of Laeso. This matriarchal pirate island, north of Denmark, is known for its tradition of building roofs from the seaweed growing in the surrounding salty water. Back in time, women would harvest and slowly weave the material around wooden beams from shipwrecks. This time-consuming process and technique of building shelters from what comes from the sea engaged the population in working together, building a ritual around each construction. Then those wild, yet full-of-care roofs, conserved in salt, would last for hundreds of years.

When I arrived on his land, Henning told me about how he restores those old beauties, weaving fresh seaweed around old beams and pressing the collected old material into insulation panels for new buildings. We talked about the clay of his land and how seaweed can become a material for ceramics in the process of making glazes. 

Clementine Vaultier’s interests, although trained as a ceramist, are in the warm surroundings of the fire rather than the production it engenders.

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300 year old seaweed
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Jolimont, December 2021. The place is in ruins. We occupy the domain with students of La Cambre in an attempt to practice ceramics with what is there. In the former ceramic atelier, we gather everything that was purposelessly there: a weird collection of things from the past, waiting to be organized, displayed, used or thrown away. 

The firing tool was made to take out the accumulating ashes from the firebox, to keep the air flowing in the oven, raising the temperature, reaching our ceramic-making goal of 1150°C. Not very efficient, time or heat resistant, this savage, yet poetic composition barely survived the firing. 

The wooden handle was borrowed from a broom.
The scraper is a fragment of a chandelier previously hanging in one of the salons.
The connecting element is an old electrical resistor we found in one of the dismantled ovens.

Clementine Vaultier’s interests, although trained as a ceramist, are in the warm surroundings of the fire rather than the production it engenders.

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Firing tool
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The Cryptolaemus montrouzieri is commonly known as the mealybug destroyer. This species of ladybird gets its nickname from its capacity to battle mealybugs in plantations and greenhouses.

The website waarnemingen.be that gathers observations of plants and animals in Belgium lists multiple observations in the wild of the Cryptolaemus montrouzieri. The website explains that ‘in (northern) Europe, the species is widely traded and used in greenhouses and will regularly escape from them. But this ladybird cannot survive our winters (yet?). Sightings within the Benelux must therefore be entered into the register as “escape”. However, the species is already established in the Mediterranean area.’ (our translation)

The larvae have a waxy covering that makes them look like the mealybugs they prey upon, allowing them to avoid being correctly identified by the ones they are about to devour. 

In an attempt to get rid of the mealybugs on my plants, I ordered 25 adult ladybirds. They were dead on arrival.

https://waarnemingen.be/species/600135/

https://waarnemingen.be/observation/244840499/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggressive_mimicry

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Aggressive mimicry
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This video-still is taken from a documentary about ‘Le Coin du Balai – De Bezemhoek’, a Brussels neighborhood on the edge of the Sonian Wood. Historically, the inhabitants had the exclusive right to harvest young shoots of trees to make and sell brooms. In 1976, filmmaker Willy Biesemans captured the last broom-maker, still in possession of this vernacular knowledge. 

Nowadays, the Sonian Wood is commonly understood as a place of natural beauty surrounding the city. The wood the forest produces is managed as a chain of production and sold in public auction to the best buyer. The bulk of the forest’s produce is exported abroad and eventually imported back as manufactured goods.

Clementine Vaultier’s interests, although trained as a ceramist, are in the warm surroundings of the fire rather than the production it engenders.

Biesemans, W. De Bezemhoek. 1976 (YouTube – De Bezemhoek)

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Learning broom-making again
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For about an hour, he has been saying ‘owl’ at regular intervals. A cartoon character he picked up somewhere and is now fantasizing about, I guess. Or a Disney reference in one of the songs that have been playing on repeat all day, in the car, driving home from holidays. 

50 kilometers further, I recognize the birds in the high-voltage pylons along the highway. 

According to the amateur experts at hoogspanningsforum.com, these French pylons – used for conducting electricity from 63kV to 400kV – are nicknamed ‘chats’: the wiring can be interpreted as feline whiskers. 

Some genera of owls, such as the Megascops or Screech owls, have whiskers. 

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Owls and cats
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On a morning sometime in January 2022 at the dinner table, after a cozy sleepover, she took a deep sigh full of relief and cracked a charismatic smile while looking at the festive breakfast that was in front of us, saying how she felt. Alone in a park I wrote in my notes: ‘Spoiled & Blessed’. Half a year later I was going through my purse, dehoarding some stuff I gathered in the past weeks. I stumbled upon an old receipt from the laundromat. It had a drawing on it that I drew some time ago, when we were having drinks to round up an exhausting project that took way too much time and energy. After putting the receipt back in my purse, I returned to my work to finish some stuff. Back at my computer I emailed myself: ‘don’t forget to plant sunflower seeds’.

Tjobo Kho is a graphic designer and publisher based in Amsterdam. Since 2017 part of the floating collective and publishing platform OUTLINE, and recently started his own publishing house no kiss?.

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Mary
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While I was sitting in the laundromat one evening waiting for my laundry to finish its cycle, La Isla Bonita by Madonna came on the radio. Competing with the rustle of seven rotating laundry machines, the song reminded me of a T-shirt that was now being washed.

The short phrase in the song’s lyrics ‘last night I dreamt of San Pedro’ would nestle itself somewhere in the back of my head and bubble up every now and again for no particular reason. I made this shirt for the occasion of Valentine’s Day in 2019 to commemorate my friendship with Jan-Pieter. I remember once mumbling the lyrics to La Isla Bonita, replacing ‘San Pedro’ for ‘Juan Pedro’, forgetting it for some time and then a while later printing it on a T-shirt.

Tjobo Kho is a graphic designer and publisher based in Amsterdam. Since 2017 part of the floating collective and publishing platform OUTLINE, and recently started his own publishing house no kiss?.

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Last night I dreamt of Juan Pedro
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At the end of the day, riding home after work, I find a text on my hand: 

            C
            D[…]ers
            Desk
            K
            Communication book

‘Diapers’, I recall, and stop at the shop to buy them. Sweat, dust, and manic hand rubbing have rendered parts of the writing illegible. ‘C’ is for Carl, whose newborn I need to visit as soon as possible. Sometimes, I can’t remember what the initial stands for. I don’t have any friends with names beginning with a K (who have newborns I need to visit).

The right hand writes, the left hand serves as the canvas. The back of the right hand, folded around the pen, is blank and tells the always already written on back of the left hand, whose palm never holds a pen, what to register. Right: an author. Left: a poem, sunken into the pores. 

Back home, I trace ‘Desk’ again, as not to forget to clean it tomorrow.

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What the left hand forgot
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What the left hand forgot
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‘Submission for an art project named the-documents.org’ is a collection of 9 images1 generated by DALL·E mini2, an open-source AI model, on the basis of the prompt ‘Submission for an art project named the-documents.org’.

DALL·E mini is a freely available AI tool that generates images based on a description of the desired image (a prompt) provided by a user.

Though DALL·E mini seems to be primarily used as a source of humour within the online community – being able to create a set of images from any specific or abstract prompt – it also gives rise to more serious questions on AI ethics and copyright. As the model is trained with unfiltered data from the internet, it may reinforce societal biases, generating images that contain stereotypes against minority groups. DALL·E mini and similar, more advanced tools, are also capable of creating art ‘in the style of’ when they have sufficient data to source from (e.g. using a prompt as “Van Gogh painting the Eiffel Tower”). This leads to the legal and ethical question whether an artist should have a say in the use of his/her artwork as AI input data, and whether the artist should be able to claim rights for AI generated images based on this data.

1
2

DALL·E mini was created by Boris Dayma et al. 2021-2022, https://huggingface.co/spaces/dalle-mini/dalle-mini, to be migrated to www.craiyon.com

Ward Verwaeren is a legal counsel in the tech industry, and former IP lawyer. He tries to know more about art than the average lawyer, and more about law than the average artist.

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AI submission
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He’s wearing a digital watch. It looks like a Casio. It’s impossible to read the time, no matter whether you are studying the high-resolution scan of the negative or the negative itself, with the aid of a loupe and lightbox. 

The device had a stopwatch function. When we were around eight and ten, we used to compete in trying to start and stop the stopwatch in the shortest possible interval. The smaller the gap, the closer to zero. Sometimes he would also have a try. We once managed to get it down to 00:00:00:03. Neither of us dared to press ‘reset’ and try again.

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Stopwatch
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At the beach of Cap d’Antifer in Normandy one can find ‘sea glass’ between the pebbles: pieces of broken glass that have naturally weathered by being tumbled by the ocean, over and over. Sharp edges and smooth surfaces vanish. The historical origin of the glass pebbles (glass bottles, a shipwreck) erodes. Only the colour of the pebbles gives an indication of their history, be it vaguely. Varieties of green sea glass are common, but other colours, such as red (Shlitz beer bottles) or yellow (interbellum Vaseline containers), are more rare and have to be sought after attentively.

It’s 4.15 PM. The tide is pushing three people towards the cliffs.

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Sea glass
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On Mondays, before noon, I go to the supermarket with my two-year-old son. After passing the lasagnes, the loaves of bread and the fruit and vegetables, we make a short stop at the aquarium with the lobsters. Around New Year, there are two of them. 

After we’ve paid for the groceries and have put them in the car, we walk into the pet shop. We look at the parrots (Jacques, Louis and Marie-José), the rabbits, the guinea pigs, the assorted caged birds and the fish and turtles. He’s very fond of the Cyphotilapia Frontosa Burundi. He calls them zebras. They hail from Lake Tanganyika, the label says. It’s the second-oldest freshwater lake, the second-largest by volume and the second-deepest. The pet shop has adorned their aquarium with a scene of ocean waste.

In an effort to avert guilt, I look for something cheap and more or less useful to buy: birdseed, a snack for the neighbour’s cat, a comb for his grandparent’s Labrador, etc. 

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Zebras
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According to art critic Rosalind Krauss, nineteenth-century stereographic images presented ‘views’, not ‘landscapes’. Looking at a stereographic image through a stereoscope involves a particular experience that is altogether different from looking at other types of photographs, or paintings, as it is defined by ‘the isolation of the viewer with an image from which surrounding interference is masked out‘.1 An image of a violent and sudden eruption, higher up on the mountain, hanging next to a stereographic image of a petrified lava flow, would not be perceived.

1.

Krauss, R. The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths. Cambridge, Mass./London: The MIT Press, 1986, 139.

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View
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The GPS-plotter displays the ship near Keyhaven Lake, indefinitely. The sea appears calm, the horizon is level from one perspective.

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Wheelhouse (replica)
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At the nuclear waste processing facility. While the photographer and the head of the communication department are making their way from the processing building to the temporary storage building, they walk past the central chimney.

 ‘On the highest of the accessible levels of the chimney, operators were finding small steel rings. They gathered them, but soon noticed that new rings were added. At a certain point at a rate of one ring a day.
[…]
It took them some time to realize what they were, so they started collecting them by slipping them onto a piece of rope. By now the rings on the rope span about this distance [spreads his arms to indicate a distance of about 1.2m].
[…]
They turned out to be rings that came from pigeon’s legs.
[…]
On top of our chimney resides a peregrine falcon.
[…]
I was told pigeon fanciers have a tendency to give a peregrine falcon – or any other bird of prey in their area – a hand at disappearing, but this one took up residency in the internal perimeter, where – as you know – access is severely restricted.’

First published in: De Cleene, M. Reference Guide. Amsterdam: Roma Publications, 2019

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A peregrine falcon in the internal perimeter
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During the night, both of us get unwell. One of us is shaking, intensely and relentlessly. The windows are open. For minutes that seem to be hours, it feels like it’s freezing. We get extra blankets. Then, it gets too hot.

One of us dreams about coccodrillos. It starts out with a single animal, like the one we saw in the National Archaeological Museum, escaping from an aquarium, and ends with lots of little ones crawling all over the place. It’s impossible to know how many have escaped.  

The other dreams about seismologist Luigi Palmieri’s unfortunate assistant and his family’s quest to redeem his good name. To deprive him of the burden and guilt set upon him by Luigi Palmieri’s report of the 1872 eruption of Vesuvius, the assistant’s offspring were building a monument just below the observatory in which their great-grandfather fell asleep. The monument was permanently, and continuously, unfinished.

We both dream of hearing fireworks in Naples. 

In the morning, we’re slightly alarmed that we both got sick and feverish at the same instant. It’s the middle of January, and the weather has been summerlike all week. A gentle morning breeze flies in from the Neapolitan bay while we wait for the bus to take us to the airport. 

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

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A Fever Dream
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_44A6588.dng
At 13:26:43 I took a photograph of a concrete building without windows in an industrial zone just south of Brussels.

_44A6590.dng
At 16:46:15 I photographed a succession of office buildings in the same industrial zone. 

_44A6589.dng 
I must have walked about 1 kilometer between the concrete building without windows and the section of the industrial zone with the offices. At 13:43:49, the camera, safely stored in my backpack, recorded 0.4 seconds of the 20 minutes it took me to get there. 

In The Snows of Venice, Alexander Kluge wonders whether he can take the liberty to conjure up what the sky looked like on 31 December 1799, as Schiller made his way to Goethe’s house. He goes on by saying that, historically, there’s a ‘LACK OF SENSORY ATTENTION AT CRUCIAL MOMENTS’.1 There are exceptions, though, like the cameraman that was sent out to document the fireworks on New Year’s Day 2000. The camera was turned on prematurely. The batteries were used up by midnight, but ‘certain gray tones, however, filtered through the cracks of its protective case, conveyed the motion of the walking cameraman, the transportation. The incompletely shut, low-information container was documented exactly […] To this day it provides inexact testimony as to the qualities of the leather of a twenty-first century carrying case and the precise sensitivity to light and dark demonstrated by a twenty-first century recording medium.’2

1

Lerner, B., Kluge, A. The Snows of Venice. Leipzig: Spector Books, 2018, p. 53

2

Ibid.

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Backpack
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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

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Mould
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Because an acquaintance of the family was a missionary, the postage stamp collection had a large quantity of stamps from the Philippines. You had to boil water, hold the empty envelope above it, wait until the glue and the missionary’s saliva loosened and evaporated, and then gently peel off the stamp. Then, it was put on a piece of pink blotting paper. Once dry, the stamp was slid into a tailor-made booklet.

Between a Horta building’s facade and King Baudouin’s portrait, there are exotic fish, religious scenes, butterflies, and advertisements for NGOs. 

Mango is the Philippines’ national fruit. Pope John Paul II visited it in 1995. There was a guerrilla unit in Northwest Pampanga during WWII. 

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Another letter from abroad
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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.

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Mirror
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The archive of O. Clemminck, architect, was preserved in a box of croutons – by him, the historian who gave it to my father, or someone else (it contains a letter written by Clemminck’s widow asking a client to pay the bill her husband had sent). The croutons had a flavor of fine herbs and, a stamp on the box with the plans in it says, should have been consumed before April 1987.

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Croûton d’Or
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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).

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Straight in the morning, curvy in the afternoon
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A 250 meter walk away from the seaside. A sign states in Dutch and French: 
‘!!! NO PARKING !!!
Wrongly parked cars will be chained and only released upon payment of a € 40 parking fee’

The 40 EUR parking fee the sign threatens to charge is communicated by a relatively new sticker stuck on an older sign. Underneath the three black characters (€, 4 and 0) on a white background, there’s a relief: 7 characters declaring a parking fee of 1500 BEF. 

1500 BEF equals 37,18 EUR1. In changing currency, the fee increased by 7,58%.

1.

The Belgian franc was the currency of the Kingdom of Belgium from 1832 until 2002 when the Euro was introduced. 1 EUR is worth 40,3399 BEF.

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Inflation
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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.

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Raisins
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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.

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Vérandah
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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.

1.
2.
3.

Márk Redele pursues projects that fundamentally relate to architecture and its practice but rarely look like architecture. www.markredele.com

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Market
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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.

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12M m3 [8/8] Heating
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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.

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12M m3 [7/8] A Fissure
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Where once there was twelve million cubic metres of water, excavators and trucks are moving dirt and rocks that have been hidden from sight for 56 years; piling them up into a temporary dam: a batardeau.

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12M m3 [6/8] 56 years
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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.

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12M m3 [5/8] It’s Freezing
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Seven years after the devastating flood, in 1954, the building of the dam is decided upon. Between 1959 and 1963 the infrastructure is built, and the reservoir gets filled with water in 1964 to act as a buffer for sudden floods and to guarantee a flowing Thur through the highly industrialized area downstream.

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12M m3 [4/8] Dam
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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.

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12M m3 [3/8] Swell
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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.

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12M m3 [2/8] Thaw
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December, 1947. Rapid snowmelt coincides with torrential precipitation. At the bottom of the Thur valley, in Wildenstein, the water gathers.

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12M m3 [1/8] Rapid Snowmelt
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