zondag 30 september 2012

Reading Rilke

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything.

(Rainer Maria Rilke, 5. April 1903, Letters to a young poet)

zaterdag 29 september 2012

The missing link

The Lekkermakery, the people who prepared us delicious food during the weekends, had an old-fashioned automat, containing small items for consumption like bags of crisps, cookies, chewing gum. On the last Sideways night I threw € 2 in the automat and obtained 4 items: a bag of crisps, some mints and a small cigar and a lighter. The crisps were eaten the same evening by Claudia and Marie-Anne. I gave the mints to somebody, I don't remember who. I kept the cigar and the lighter.
When everybody left on Monday I stayed behind, put up my tent at the final Sideways location (Frans' farm) and tried to be silent for a few days before returning to my "normal" life. On the last night, the Wednesday night, I sat on one of the big wagons that stood next to my tent in the field and smoked the cigar. I kept the plastic cigar holder and brought it back home.

In Amsterdam I didn't know how to fit back in my old life. It is a feeling I know, it takes time to decompress, to find a new way in-between the old life and the new experience. Thinking of ways to incorporate the Sideways experience in the road I want to follow, I thought about a place I had visited in spring this year, the Metal Cathedral, a place where they had offered me some space to play and think and give new meaning to old ideas. I had declined the offer because there were other things to do, but I hadn't forgotten about it.

When I checked their website I saw they were in the middle of creating a new continent, an 8th continent, constructed out of plastic only.

Next weekend the continent will be presented to the public. This Tuesday I will put the plastic cigar holder in my pocket and start walking to the Metaal Kathedraal. On my way I will gather more plastic items and in four days I will be carrying enough plastic to build my own island. I will join the 8th Continent on Friday. You can see what will happen then HERE

I won't remain at the 8th continent. Normal life is still waiting. But I'll buy myself a new 3 piece walking suit this autumn and I will wear it as long as is needed, covering the inside world with what I see and hear in the outside world. It will be my armour. A soft one. One I can take of easily without loosing its protection.

Something for today

Build a fire, my friend,
So it will crackle.
I will show you something good,
A big ball of snow.


vrijdag 28 september 2012


And again I return to Craigie Horsfield, like I did many times before, trying to understand what he is saying, having the feeling I'm on my way, having walked sideways.

“As we read each of us experiences differently, we are within this, we place ourselves towards others, so that there is the story, here on the page, the story we bring as readers, and that which is between us: this complex of relation. We attend to this between, the story and ourselves, bring our experiences, our stories of our experience, recognise and in our recognising enter into our own lives. This is our engagement as audience, these tenacious, these “sticky” connections, the things we bring with us, understanding, enquiry, compassion perhaps...This is something which happens now between us. In this action is described art, and it could be said of a picture, an event, a gesture, a shadow; but it is in the between, and if this between fails there remains only separating detritus: information, document or witness, unrealised, inert, sterile matter. But this misleading is perhaps misleading as though it were space, distance, and separation, when it is rather place, our present being. This is how the world occurs, and not in parts but entire and presently, the way we happen.”

"Art as conversation, dialogue, and negotiation is, within the generative relation of thinking together, part of an attention to the world. These are the traces of an epic, of individual lives and of a people, ourselves. Taking place in the present, we are, in our acknowledgment of self with others, together in history, realized, becoming, through our conversation, through that very being together. The present, such as it is, is in our relation. In this is the confluence of relation as becoming together and relation as "telling".

(from the Introduction in "Relation")

There's a beautiful video with Craigie Horsfield talking about the huge tapestries he made for an exhibition in Antwerp two years ago here

just now

you might be right
"I think therefore I am" was a mistake

have been reading bits and pieces on the Sideways website
retracing steps
following other peoples' footsteps
faces as maps
objects as people
things in the old and new meaning of the word*
things I didn't see when I was there
carrying them into my present
finding and loosing

I can hear the ice cream man coming!

* "Originally, 'thing' meant a gathering of people, and a place where they would meet to resolve their affairs". Tim Ingold, Lines (p.5)

zondag 23 september 2012

“Stories only happen to those who are able to tell them.”

(Paul Auster)

"Every living being is stitched into the world"

(Tim Ingold)

inside outside

A video explaining my project can be found here (thank you Donkeyxote)


"From time immemorial the art of keeping diaries while on the road was popular among the people, and such great writers as Lord Ki, Chomei, and the nun Abutsu brought it to perfection .... The readers will find in my diary a random collection of what I have seen on the road, views somehow remaining in my heart - an isolated house in the mountains, or a lonely inn surrounded by the moor, for example. I jotted down these records with the hope that they might provoke pleasant conversation among my readers and that they might be of some use to those who would travel the same way"

Matsuo Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches, p. 73

zaterdag 22 september 2012

About being donkey eared

Something which we know must be dawn -
A different darkness, flowed above the clouds,
And dead ahead we saw, where sky and sea should meet,
A line, a white line, a long white line,
A wall, a barrier, towards which we drove.

When I look up, I realize the stars have faded. It is silent at farmer Frans´ farm. Five ´o clock, all the animals are still asleep. I´m the only one left at the final Sideways location. I just came back from a night walk, still wearing my suit. My pockets are empty though. I walked tonight with these 5 lines, T.S. Eliot wrote them for The Waste Land, which is considered to be one of the greatest poems in the English language. They were never printed though, since his friend and editor Ezrah Pound convinced him to take them out.

I only took one book from the Walking Library. I will return it in due time when I will fulfill my last duties as a Walking Librarian. It is Calvino´s "Le Città Invisibili", Invisible Cities, the book I suggested when Dee, one of the two head librarians, asked me what book I would take on a trip if I would be allowed to bring just one book. It got stained and torn in the last four weeks. A lot of people have read it. It is dog eared, which in Belgium and Holland is called "donkey eared". I´m planning to reread the pages with the stains and folded corners. I won´t necessarily read the words though.

Marco Polo describes a bridge, stone by stone. "But which is the stone that supports the bridge?" Kublai Kan asks.
"The bridge is not supported by one stone or another," Marco answers, "but by the line of the arch that they form." Kublai Khan remains silent, reflecting. Then he adds: "Why do you speak of stones? It is only the arch that matters to me."
Polo answers:"Without stones there is no arch."

I didn´t write much in the last two weeks. One of the first things I lost during my walks was the fountain pen I brought from home. My favorite one. It is the second item in the list that is embroidered in the inside of the waistcoat, inside my three piece walking suit which by now contains two weeks of memories in the shape of words and drawings. There are about 10 other items in the list. Most of them I retrieved, my ring, the blue cap, my left walking stick, my dinner card. My sunglasses fell in the Albert Canal which made sense. But I don´t remember where and when I lost my fountain pen, which is the only thing I regret about the loss. I like to think about my lost objects and remember the place where I saw them last.

Yesterday I made my first solitary walk. Something was missing, although I´m not sure what it was. I could´t have changed from a solitary walker into a social walker (whatever that is) in two weeks, could I?
I saw traces everywhere. I saw the broken ceramic tiles Amelie collected. I saw a pond that would have been perfect for Simon´s boat object. I heard a woodpecker using Claudia´s laughter. I saw leaves as yellow as Yana´s dress.
I didn´t see any donkey traces but the donkey pace is still there, in my feet. It is the only thing I hope not to loose.

What is the connection between foot and tongue?

Somebody posed this question during the symposium "Walking on" on Saturday.
Are my words, your words, our words, like steps? Is moving through a book similar to moving along a road? Before Sideways I might have said yes. Now I realise there is a big difference. On the road the people you meet are real. They have their own words. It is like Marco Polo says:

It is not the voice that commands the story: it is the ear.

Somebody else said there were no stories in the last weeks. There was just the walking. I tend to disagree but I´m not sure. It all comes back to determining what it is, a story. What it is, a walk.

Do stories need to be told in order to be heard?

Is the walking the only true story? Is it the traces lost and found?

As every reader knows, the point, the essential quality of the act of reading, now and always, is that it tends to no foreseeable end, to no conclusion. Every reading prolongs another, begun in some afternoon thousands of years ago and of which we know nothing; every reading projects its shadow onto the following page, lending it content and context. In this way, the story grows, layer after layer, like the skin of the society whose history the act preserves.

(Alberto Manguel, Into the looking-glass wood. Essays on books, reading and the world. p. 272)

When Claudia interviewed me and asked about a special moment I told her the story of Simon and the donkey.
I was walking with books in my pocket and Simon came up to me to ask for a book to read while walking. A book, any book. I took a random book out of a pocket, "Travels with a donkey in the Cévennes" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Simon opened the book somewhere in the middle and started reading out loud. He read how Stevenson woke up one morning early and was overwhelmed by the nature surrounding him. He looked around him and saw the donkey. During the early morning hours he had walked a seemingly perfect circle in the grass.
Simon looked up from his the book with amazement and said that the exact same thing had happened to him just that morning.

A few days later, during a reading in the Walking Library at Zutendaal, I told the audience Simon´s story. I tried to find the quote in Stevenson´s book, but I could´t find it. I tried again later, going through the book for over an hour without a result.

Maybe it never happened.

The most special moment wasn´t just one moment. It was the moment that recurred every walking day. It was the moment after we woke up, packed our bags, waited for breakfast, drank coffee, ate our breakfast, waited for the tents to dry, cleaned the dishes, packed the tents, packed the van, waited for everybody to do the last things they needed to do to be ready to start walking. It was the moment after we started out as a group but not the moment straight after. Maybe 10 or 15 minutes later, when we started to disperse ourselves along the road, after we had chosen or had been chosen as a walking & talking partner or had decided to walk alone for an undetermined period of time.
It was the moment we were walking again, alone and part of the group at the same time.

vrijdag 21 september 2012

Mine (not mine)

donderdag 20 september 2012

“Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth."
"What giants?" Asked Sancho Panza.
"The ones you can see over there," answered his master, "with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long."
"Now look, your grace," said Sancho, "what you see over there aren't giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone."
"Obviously," replied Don Quijote, "you don't know much about adventures.”
(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote de la Mancha) 

Before I had left home Cervantes had fought with Calvino and Calvino won. I brought Invisible Cities and not Don Quixote. But there it was, on my first walking day. I didn't know what to think, I didn't think until on my second walking day there was another one, ridiculously small, as if it wasn't real. The third day I was waiting for it and it wasn't until at the end of the walk that this majestic specimen suddenly rose out of the earth. There was a circus tent behind it. I could only stare at it in awe. The fourth day I searched the landscape for  a windmill but there were only trees and houses. There were clouds and birds and people and wind but not a single windmill. At the end of the fourth day I sewed a windmill on the inside of my waistcoat. As I did on the fifth day and the sixth and the seventh, every day until the last day.

On this last day I gave my sunglasses away. They had accompanied me since the day I saw my last windmill (I originally wore a different pair but they fell in the Albert Canal). I gave them to a man who had travelled all the way across Belgium with a donkey. He took them to Barcelona so they could see the sea.

(Don Quixote looking at the sea near Barcelona, awaiting the day. "They beheld the sea, a sight until then unseen by them; it struck them as exceedingly spacious and broad." Engraving by Gustave Dorée) 

woensdag 19 september 2012


The Clash, London Calling
the bell of the ice-cream van
donkey Biegel at 6.55 in the morning
a beer bottle being opened
voices of the people on the road
my walking stick on the pavement
the bucket dancing on the donkey's back
the waves of the Albert Canal
pages being turned
the moaning at the end of the long walks
the silence at the moments of happiness


- blue toenail left foot (donkey Biegel stood on it)
- healed wound on my right shin (bumped into a wooden bench when I was trying to find a hiding place for the unexpected hail together with Claudia)
- scar from blister left foot that was bugging me for three days in a row (first week)
- faint bump where Amanda slammed the cardoor on my head
- small scar on my left hip where the belt of my suit rubbed along my skin every day
- big blue bruise turned yellow on the back of my right arm (unknown cause)
- restless feet
- confused mind
- continuous internal smile (also regularly visible on the outside)

maandag 17 september 2012


zondag 16 september 2012

impossible images


at the farm, final location, (polaroid of me on my first day by Amelie)

zaterdag 15 september 2012


It is not me touching the stone but it is the stone touching me.
I'm seeing the tree with tree-eyes.
I'm touching the stone with stone-hands

(Tim Ingold, symposium Moving on, Zutendaal)

zondag 9 september 2012


Together let us eat
Ears of wheat
Sharing at night
A grass pillow

I started carrying Basho on my third walking day. I had had a difficult evening and I needed something to get into a different state of mind. In case you don't know: Matsuo Basho was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. He is known as the master of haiku. He made a living as a teacher, but renounced the social, urban life of the literary circles and was inclined to wander throughout the country, heading west, east, and far into the northern wilderness to gain inspiration for his writing. His poems were influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements.

Basho was popular on our Sideways walks. Many wayfarers carried him, letting his poems guide their minds along unexplored paths while their feet walked along the designated route.

In Turnhout our feet rested for three days. During the festival the Walking Librarians distributed 10 books around the festival terrain of the Klein Engelandhoeve. Every book had a connection with the location it was placed in. "After the car" was located next to the busy road. Nan Sheppard's "Living Mountain" on top of a huge pile of branches. "Travels with a donkey" in the field with our animal walking companion Biegel, etc. We took people along the route and read from the different books. I had put Basho on some stones next to a green pond.

When by the end of the day I checked if all the books were still there, Basho was missing. I looked around to see if somebody had taken the book to read it but couldn't find it. Then something caught my eye. There it was. On the ground. Placed under the leg of a table to level it.
I was upset for five seconds. Then I heard Basho laugh. And I laughed with him.

zaterdag 8 september 2012

Jorge Louis Borges

Today there's this note on the Sideways website:

The greatest sin a man can commit is to not be happy.

I agree, but it's hard. And maybe it should be. I've been a sinner myself. Trying to change (I'm in the right direction!). And in the meantime being comforted by the knowledge that I'm in good company. Here's Borges:


I have committed the worst of sins
One can commit. I have not been
Happy. Let the glaciers of oblivion
Take and engulf me, mercilessly.
My parents bore me for the risky
And the beautiful game of life,
For earth, water, air and fire.
I failed them, I was not happy.
Their youthful hope for me unfulfilled.
I applied my mind to the symmetric
Arguments of art, its web of trivia.
They willed me bravery. I was not brave.
It never leaves me. Always at my side,
That shadow of a melancholy man.

I'm not sure where this fits in but I've got a feeling I have to add the polaroid I recently found in my parents photo archive. I've been a polaroid addict myself since 2007 when my good friend Christian French (aka Transitman, more about him HERE ) gave me a beautiful sx-70 polaroid camera. What I love most about polaroid (or "impossible film" as it is called since Polaroid doesn't produce the material any more) is that you can't influence the process or the result. You just push the button and out comes an amazingly perfect tiny world you can hold in your hands.

I wonder what they are looking at, my mother and father, what is depicted on the photo they hold in their hands. I wonder if it holds the secret to the risky and beautiful game of life. Or maybe this is what every polaroid photo by nature holds. Maybe that's why I fel in love with the polaroid. Because they will me bravery. And at times even give me the opportunity to be brave. And happy.

More polaroids and impossible images HERE.

donderdag 6 september 2012

dinsdag 4 september 2012


I chose one book to carry on the day to come. Trees of Britain and Europe. I took it with me to the hostel and read it while my neighbor, whom I didn't know yet, was snoring in his bed.
I read about the Swamp-cypress. The common Silver-fir. The Norway Spruce. The European larch. The Western Hemlock-spruce. The Black Walnut. Beech. Tulip Tree. All commonly planted for timber.
The next morning I carried the book in my pocket. My neighbor walked in front of me. He carried a wooden table on his back.

 (Boris Nieslony)

lost words

maandag 3 september 2012

First walking day

Walking with Charles Dickens' "Night walks" in my pocket

Taking of