vrijdag 30 oktober 2009

Cork at night

Madame X

Does it ever stop raining in Cork? Yes, it does. Now and then, inbetween the showers. While the clouds gather their strength, I run into the streets to catch the last bit of daylight. All the wet surfaces reflect the light beautifully.
I film the sidewalk, the carlights throw their beams over the tiles, people walk by. Legs, light, yellow leaves. A French woman asks me to remove her from my tape, “It is very important to me” she says in a soft voice. I wonder why. I don’t tell her I only caught the lower part of her legs on tape. I just nod and when she walks away I film the back of her head. Nobody except me will recognise her.

God's peephole

The fall (Dyke parade, Cork)

donderdag 29 oktober 2009

The bird (Mardyke Walk, Cork)

On memory

The French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty once wrote that memory is contained in the objects themselves. They do not trigger memories but actually store them.

woensdag 28 oktober 2009

New project?

When I was walking around in search of chewing gum (look here
for more info about the how and why) I found this house. There were actually three of them in the same road, near UCC. It would be brilliant to connect those dots and make huge drawings on those walls.

Seeing things


When I walked from my apartment to the project space a woman passed me wearing a perfume I knew. I used it for a while a long time ago. Although I had to walk in another direction I followed her. I don’t know why. She was older than me and wore a red coat. She had a plastic bag in her hand. I tried to stop following her but I couldn’t. We walked through Cork for half an hour. She didn’t once stop to turn around and look at me. Maybe that was what I was waiting for.

If there’s one thing I remember of my former stay in Cork 16 years ago it’s the scent. It is still there, I smelled it yesterday evening. Turf. For a long time after my return from Cork I couldn’t stand the smell of it. Bad memories I guess.

I did a little bit of exploring yesterday. There wasn’t a lot I remembered. I was hoping my feet would find their way but they didn’t. There were moments I had to look at a specific location three times because I knew I had been there before but the new image apparently didn’t fit the old one. The lines got distorted. Smudged. Worn out. The colours had faded like an old photograph.

In Waterstones (I’m a book addict) I was surprised to find the book I wrote about earlier. There was a pretty small philosophy section but one of the books on the shelves was “The art of memory” by “Frances Yates”. It had been there for a while. Waiting for someone like me.

dinsdag 27 oktober 2009

Me and my view

vrijdag 23 oktober 2009

donderdag 22 oktober 2009

The head

Pacata Hibernia map, 1585-1600

woensdag 21 oktober 2009

ambiance, adjacency, area, aura

My old bedroom at 20 Friar Street is on the market. A man called Ivan rents it out for € 380,- a month, house share. “A beautiful town house, 5 mins. from the city centre, that would suit a professional or student”. I look at the photos online. There’s a washing machine and a dishwasher these days. Microwave and internet. The cupboards in the kitchen are the same. Ivan likes candles and there’s a dreamcatcher on his wall. He doesn’t mind dogs but he’s no big fan of plants. I wonder if I’ll meet him. I wonder who’s going to be the new tenant.

Books I’m reading:
Species of Spaces - Georges Perec
Watching the stars (a field guide)
Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino
Animal, vegetable, miracle - Barbara Kingsolver

I suddenly realised I’m about the age my mother was when I first went to Cork. That’s intriguing.

1: the fact or condition of having a location in space or time
2: a particular place, situation or location

Main Entry: locality
Definition: environment
Synonyms: ambiance, adjacency, area, aura, backdrop, background, circumstances, climate, conditions, context, domain, element, encompassment, entourage, environs, habitat, hood, jungle, locale, location, medium, milieu, neck of the woods, neighborhood, place, purlieus, scene, scenery, setting, situation, status, stomping ground, surroundings, terrain, territory, turf, vicinity, zoo

Main Entry: locality
Definition: neighborhood
Synonyms: adjacency, area, belt, block, closeness, confines, contiguity, district, environs, ghetto, hood, jungle, locale, nearness, neck of the woods, parish, part, precinct, propinquity, proximity, purlieus, quarter, region, section, slum, stomping ground, street, suburb, territory, tract, turf, vicinage, vicinity, ward, zone, zoo

Main Entry: locale/locality
Definition: physical setting
Synonyms: area, bailiwick, belt, district, domain, haunt, hole, home, location, locus, neck of the woods, neighborhood, place, position, region, scene, sector, site, sphere, spot, stage, stomping ground, territory, theater, tract, turf, venue, vicinity, zone


Line of research

I made these drawings (together with a number of others) in a neighbourhood called "De Pijp" in Amsterdam bij connecting old bits of chewing gum on the side walk with white chalk lines. I'm hoping to make some similar drawings in Cork in the coming weeks.

dinsdag 20 oktober 2009


Rediscovering locality? Googling these words I found “A case of traditional vegetables in Kyoto.” It sounds somewhat like the title of a poem or an absurd theatre play. In Holland there’s some serious attention for “forgotten vegetables” these days. I love that term, forgotten vegetables.
“Honey, where did you put the leeks?”
“Damn, I must have left them on the roof of the car when I tried to find my keys.”
But seriously. Some forgotten vegetables: rutabaga, knotroot, salsify, scorzonera, Jerusalem artichoke.
Maybe I can ask some people of the older generations in Cork about their “forgotten vegetables” and start a little vegetable garden in the Basement Project Space. Good idea. Only it’s October and I’ve only got three weeks. Mmmm.
Different approach: maybe I can find the forgotten vegetables and make some memorable dishes. Invite some neighbours who don’t know each other for dinner.

maandag 19 oktober 2009

First idea

Did you see the photo of me standing in front of the door of my house in Cork at 20 Friar Street 16 years ago? I’m pretty sure the skirt I’m wearing is still lying around in my house in Amsterdam somewhere. I’ll bring it to Cork, take a photo of myself wearing it in front of the Basement Project Space, cut one very long ribbon out of it, tie one end to the door of 20 Friar Street, walk all the way to Camden Quay holding the ribbon and tie the other end to the door of the Basement Project Space.

Here and there

I was reading Paul Auster today and bumped into these lines:

"A man cannot know where he is on earth except in relation to the moon or a star. Astronomy comes first; maps flow from them. Just the opposite of what you would expect. If you think about it long enough, your brain turns inside-out. A here exists only in relation to a there, not the reverse. There’s this only because there’s that; if we do not look up, we will never know what is down. Think of it, boy. We only find ourselves by looking down at what we are not."

(Paul Auster, Moon Palace, p. 153-154.)

And indeed wikipedia tells me that:
"Locality in astronomy is in theory closeness of the observer relative to the observed astronomical phenomenon under consideration, and thus in practice the relative closeness of the phenomenon to the star system of the Sun."

My English dictionary gives me three definitions for the word locality. The first two I understand easily. Place (1) and location (2). To me there is a definitiveness about “place” that is different from “location”. A location can be located. It can be defined by other locations, it is “around the corner from” or “in the middle of”. A place is what it is. It is defined by itself. It has its own rules. It doesn’t care about other places. It is seperate where a location embraces.
It is the third definition I like best. I’m not sure if it is the best definition because I don’t know exactly what it means. And I don’t know how to translate it. In Dutch it says “plaatsgeheugen”, a gorgeous word. If you translate both parts of the word you get: plaats = place, geheugen = memory.
Might it be a memory for places? Does it mean the skill of squirrels to retrace the place where they burried their nuts? Or the part of the brain where the memories about different places gets stored so you’re able to find your way to the baker every morning and remember where that cute little square in Paris was?
In her book “The art of memory” Frances Yates describes “the method of loci”. In this technique a person memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of “loci”. If one wished to remember, for example, a speech, one could break up the content of the speech into images or signs used to memorize its parts, which would then be 'placed' in the locations previously memorized. The components of the speech could then be recalled in order by imagining that one is walking through the building again, visiting each of the loci in order, viewing the images there, and thereby recalling the elements of the speech in order. A reference to these techniques survives to this day in the common English phrases "in the first place", "in the second place", etc.
Or might “plaatsgeheugen” be the memory of a place? And if so, where is this memory located and what would a place remember? The people who passed in the last year? Rain? Sunshine? Historical facts? Words? Smiles?
I’m thinking about the landscapes the Dutch painter Armando painted. He painted places where acts of war took place without leaving any visible traces. He called them guilty landscapes. He writes: “They grow and remain silent. Whatever happens. And a lot has happened around those trees. People crept up on each other and killed, they hit and humiliated. So you could say the trees are accomplices, you could say they are guilty.”

The return

There’s a photo of my mother and me standing in front of a house. She was visiting with my father who took the photo. I’m not sure what time of year it is but it seems to be chilly. A brick wall, a brown door, a couple of windows. I’m trying to remember what it looked like from the inside but it’s all a bit blurry. I remember some of the rooms, or more likely I remember the photos I took of those rooms because I can’t remember other details, there are no hallways or courtyards or bathrooms in the house in my head. The number is wrong. 20. I remembered it as 37. 37 Friar Street. Where did the 37 come from?

I turned 21 in Cork. It was the day I arrived. I didn’t know anybody and my phone wasn’t connected yet. I spent the day on my own. What did I do? I must have eaten some cake. How could I have forgotten the cake?

It must have been chocolate cake. Maybe I went to Fellini’s on that day to eat a piece of birthdaycake. I used to go there on Sundays to listen to opera while sipping my coffee. I wonder what they play there these days. I wonder if it is still there.

It is surprising how little photos I took of Cork. It is even more surprising how little I remember of those 7 months. There are some flashes, an archeology lesson at the university, tuna rolls at a pub nearby, daily walks from Friar Street to the college rooms, leaky shoes. Playing cards and listening to Tom Waits in the kitchen. Big chunks of Dutch cheese sent by my mother. Trying to speak Irish in Dingle. The women with their shopping carts waiting for their husbands outside the St. Paul Shopping Centre. The dark hair of the landlady (what was her name again?). The red curls of the other girl in the house (Mary?).

I forgot most of the language. I learned Old Irish, Middle Irish and Modern Irish. I forgot why I learned it.

There are more things I forgot, I’m sure. But they will be there. They moved out of my head back to Cork to await my return. Next week. Tuesday 27 at 10.15. I’ll be there.

Rediscovering locality

“Rediscovering locality” is the theme for an annual art festival in Cork, Ireland, organised by the artist led organisation Art Trail. I am invited by the Basement Project Space for a three week residency culminating in an exhibition as part of the ArtTrail festival.
For an artist like me who loves to work site specific it is a wonderful theme, even more for an artist who lived a completely different life 16 years ago in Cork as a history student and has never been back since. Is there anything left of me? How will my memories lead me? What is this locality I’m going to rediscover?