Alÿs, Francis :  exhibition catalogue A Story of Deception
The work of Alÿs that probably captivated me most was When faith moves Mountains. In this project for the Art Biennal of Lima in 2002, Alÿs made a group of 500 students equipped with shovels move a high sand dune 10 centimeters from its original position. This piece is full of ambiguity at various levels – social, political, religious – which are discussed in the many reviews that you can find about it. Much less is said about the work as a comment on the relation between people and landscape. Take the image of the dune after the project. At first sight it’s the same: someone who didn’t know about the project would not notice any difference. And at the same time it’s not, because you know it has been slightly displaced. It’s not the same, above all, for the students who did the hard work and for the spectator empathizing with them. For them, this dune has become familiar and in this way has differentiated itself from the numerous other dunes in the desert around it.
The exhibition catalogue A Story of Deception gives a good overview on the work of Alÿs, but overemphasizes – in my opinion – the metaphorical and political levels. By reading all these interpretations, it suddenly feels almost one-dimensional, and my fascination for the work dissolves.

Benning, James : Ruhr
Seven long, entirely static shots on different locations in the German Ruhr area. By being forced to watch at the same spot for a long time, you start to watch differently and your feeling of time changes.

Boon, Louis-Paul : The chapel road / Summer in Termuren
This diptych tells two different stories about the same location, namely the Chapel Road in Termuren, close to the industrial provincial town of Aalst. One story is the historic narration about Ondine and the rise and fall of socialism, which starts in the nineteenth century. The second story is about the writer and his friends who live in the time of today, give comment, and talk about their concerns in daily life. I especially like the last part of the diptych, where the historic narration approaches the time of today and all plan in the book seems to dissolve, it just babbles on and on in an endless stream of ordinary life small stories. It writes an end and even then continues, after the end, as if it wants to fade out instead of presenting an artificial grand finale.

Calvino, Italo : Invisible cities
I do not necessarily believe everything Marco Polo says when he describes the cities visited on his expeditions, but I did continue reading with greater attention and curiosity than in many other books of travel literature.

Cuyvers, Wim : Montavoix and Tekst over tekst
The former architect Wim Cuyvers created a refuge in the French Jura, near Saint-Claude. He writes the following about it:
“The refuge turns out to be the most public building: it’s the only public building that doesn’t have to be accessible for the fire patrol and thus for police forces, the door has to remain open, the door has to turn inwards: it’s an inviting door.

  • One will have to walk from and to the refuge.
  • The refuge is in no way an institutional, not even an associational project.
  • The individuals that live for the time being in the refuge will make a living by working in the wood, they are ‘forestieri’. ‘Forestieri’ is the word that Agamben uses in his original, Italian text for ‘refugee’, ‘stranger’.
  • The ‘guardians’ of the refuge will be young criminals.
  • The refuge is not a leisure place.
  • I consider the wood, which is next to the city as a contemporary, actual public space.
  • Refuge – refugee. In the refuge one will ‘talk’ by means of space.
  • The building of the refuge is historically called ‘Le Montavoix’: the mountain with a voice.
  • Everybody is welcome in the refuge.
  • Please help the refuge to exist.”

And: « Je crois qu’on peut faire une errance fixe, immobile. On peut être dans l’errance en restant toujours dans le même lieu. Il n’est pas nécessaire de bouger.”
His book of essays Tekst over tekst (“Text on text”) was also very inspirational for me.

Bruno De Wachter

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