Space Programme 2011

February 3d 2011. It was the middle of the night when I received the message. I was invited onto the SPACE Programme 2011. While jumping a hole in the air I wondered where I'd left my space suit.

The Space Programme offers artists of all disciplines an opportunity to collaborate, experiment and innovate in an inspiring environment. The project takes place over a two-week period at Castletown House Co. Kildare, it is an open ended process hosted by The Performance Corporation. The programme facilitates artists from diverse backgrounds to collaborate and explore their artistic process while removing the pressure to come up with an end product.

This weblog gives an insight in my thoughts and working process during the Space Programme and tells about some projects that came out of this wonderful opportunity.

dinsdag 6 september 2011

dinsdag 30 augustus 2011

Back into Space

In 6 hours I'll be flying back to Ireland to work with Laura (choreographer & dancer) on what we started in March this year. We're going to be based in Kinsale and there probably won't be an opportunity to put material online, so I'll get back to you and this weblog when I return in September.

zondag 3 april 2011

Balloon project first edit

This is what Laura and I came up with after working one afternoon together. We are hoping to develop this idea further into an installation in 2013. Originally we were working with composer and music technology developer Justin Yang who was planning to connect small spy microphones to the balloons.

I cannot

Laura Murphy (dancer and choreographer) and I worked together on a video which isn't ready yet and might become an installation but here's one part of the work in progress.

The Snow Queen

This was a project initiated by Duncan Molloy (writer and director) about the fairytale The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. It is a tale told in seven stories and if you want to know more about the fairytale you can read it here.

Duncan had asked five people to visualise five parts of the story. He started the presentation by telling the first part of the story, "About the mirror and its pieces" to the audience. I was asked to transform the 5th story. It is called "The little robber maiden" and it tells how Gerda, the heroine of the fairytale, is captured by robbers while she is looking for her friend Kay, whom she loves dearly. She is brought to the robbers' castle, where she is befriended by a little robber girl, whose pet doves tell her that they had seen Kay when he was carried away by the Snow Queen in the direction of Lapland. The robber maiden lets Gerda go but keeps her muff because she finds it so pretty. She gives Gerda her mother's gloves instead to keep her hands warm in Lapland.

This is what I made: I took my old gloves and embroidered the
names "Gerda" and "Kay" on the inside of the gloves. When the audience was ready for the 5th part of the story I presented them the gloves and asked somebody in the audience to wear them. The names were invisible, nobody (including the person wearing them) knew they were there. For the rest of the performance the names were warmed by the palms of the hands of the person wearing the gloves.

(Ideally everybody in the audience would get a pair of gloves and after the performance people are told they can take them home. Maybe they will never discover the names on the inside. Or maybe they will get a letter with the gloves, not to be opened until they are back home. The letter will tell them to look inside the gloves.)

Duncan performed the last part of the story himself. He sat in the middle of a dark room, headphones on, concentrating on something happening inside his head while the northern lights were projected onto him.

dinsdag 22 maart 2011

from one end to the other ...

The Giant and I went to the other end of the island today. Keem beach, where they used to catch basking sharks by trapping them in nets which were attached to the cliffs, killing them by harpoon from currachs (traditional boats). It was a tough journey but we made it. On the road I thought of many things I wanted to write about but they all disappeared in the seawind. I’m left with an empty head. For now at least. Overnight it will probably fill up again.

Some old thoughts instead. For example: the marathon I (did not) ran on my final day in Castletown House. Friday March 18th I was exactly 14.058 days old. I decided to walk/run this exact amount of steps on the stairs connecting all the floors of Castletown House, starting from the first step on the ground floor and walking up and down until I would make my 14.058th step. I asked everybody to walk in and out, use the stairs like on any other day, do some cheering from time to time, hand me some water or a sandwich or a towel or anything else I might need. By walking those 14.058 steps on those stairs, surrounded by or passing the people I worked with so intensely, my whole life and those two weeks, possibly even those two hours in which I walked and ran, became one and the same thing.

Of looks and landscapes and Lucy's

The Giant* and I went on a trip along the Atlantic Ocean today. We did well together, steep hills, amazing cliffs, sheep staring at us wherever we went. The sheep reminded me of something I read just before I went to sleep last night:
“The eyes of an animal when they consider a man are attentive and wary. The same animal may well look at other species in the same way. He does not reserve a special look for man. But by no other species except man will the animal’s look be recognised as familiar. Other animals are held by the look. Man becomes aware of himself returning the look. “ John Berger, About Looking (p. 4/5).
Although I spend quite some time in Ireland in recent years I never had the chance to spend a lot of time outside. The landscape here is breathtaking. It changes before your eyes. Clouds veil and unveil the views. When you close your eyes and open them again you moved to a different world.
I did some thinking about how people are influenced by the landscape they live in. How the gaiety and cheerfulness of the Irish can be traced back to these clouds and bogs and austere mountains. I’m not sure I found the answer yet but I’m pretty sure a certain degree of compensation for all the rain comes in somewhere. A combination of softness and roughness might be another thing to look at.
I also thought about Lucy’s, about the old Lucy at first. I met her in Greensboro, North Carolina in 2007. We were both working at the Elsewhere Living Museum. One of the things I remember about her is her red coat. It was a wintercoat, long and heavy. Red as you image the colour when you hear the word red. It was june, blazing hot. We sweated our way through the residency programme, wearing shorts and tiny t-shirts. And then Lucy fell in love. She fell madly in love with a red wintercoat even though there was no way there would be any space left in her suitcase and wearing it wasn’t an option. But she bought the coat and took it with her to England. I don’t know how she did it but she did.
I never thought about it again until today. I looked at the videomaterial I shot at the Space Programme. I saw the red coat starring in it. Lucy’s red coat. But a different Lucy. And a different coat.

Here's the new Lucy in the Map Room in Castletown House. She's wearing her red coat.

* Giant = the brand of my bike

Achill Island

My wonderful partners

maandag 21 maart 2011


Trying to be a mountain

I don’t know where to start. At the startingpoint? That makes sense. But not in this case. My startingpoint is today, which is just over two weeks since the Space Programme started. I’m looking back at a project where for once I was really in the moment. Maybe it makes more sense not to talk about it. But if I don’t I’m afraid I’ll forget. That’s probably why I transported myself to a house opposite a mountain. The mountain has been there for ages. When I look at it I feel at ease. It is the extreme opposite of what happened the last two weeks. I’m standing still and the mountain moves. Of course I don’t mean the mountain itself but the image of the mountain. My perception of the mountain. It is different every moment. It turns from grey to brown to orange to black to golden. It is covered in clouds or impressively naked. It is threatening or beautiful or comforting. Sometimes everything at the same time.
I rented a bike to explore the island. When I’m on my bike - a Giant - I don’t think. When I’m on my bike I’m the mountain. Everything changes around me, I change colours and texture and my surface becomes wet or shiny or dusty. The island stares at me. I try not to stare back but sometimes I can’t resist. Especially when there are mountains in sight.

Now here

Do you see the small cluster of trees in the middle of the left side of the left photo? That's where I am. In a pink house, surrounded by bog. If you look carefully you can see me sitting behind the window on the 1st floor. Staring.
The mountain looks golden now, the stones shattered on its flanks shine like diamonds. There is a purple cloud softly caressing its peak. Blue sky. The day is almost over.
I'm trying not to move. When I move I will forget.

woensdag 16 maart 2011

I'm sorry

I've got 1.000 things to tell you and a huge amount of exciting images and ideas to show you but literally no time to write. I'm in the middle of a whirlwind, a tornado of people and disciplines, yesterday I was a dancer, today I sang in a chorus, friday I'll walk a marathon and inbetween I'm drawing and photographing and thinking and trying not to sleep so I won't miss a second of this amazing adventure.
I'll get back to you next week. I have to dive back in now.

dinsdag 8 maart 2011

maandag 7 maart 2011

a bed is a space is a page is a bed

“What does it mean, to live in a room? Is to live in a place take possession of it? What does taking possession of a place mean? As from when does somewhere become somewhere become truely yours?”
(Georges Perec, Species of Spaces, p. 24)

I’m writing this from my bed. I call it my bed already, although this is only my second night here. The bed matches the room. It is old and very comfortable and covered by a beautiful quilt. There are four pillows and I’ve got a nice overview since the legs are extra long. Actually the bed is closer to the ceiling than the windows are which is somewhat strange. When I’m in the bed I can see the river.

“We generally utilize the page in the larger of its two dimensions. The same goes for the bed. The bed (or if you prefer, the page) is a rectangular space, longer than it is wide, in which, or on which, we normally lie longways ..... The bed is thus the individual space par excellence, the elementary space of the body (the bed-monad), the one which even the man completely crippled by debt has the right to keep: the bailifs don’t have the power to seize your bed.”
(George Perec, Species of Spaces, p. 16)

We made a tour through the Castletown House today. The rooms are amazing. One of them is called the State Bedroom. There is an enormous yellow bed in it. William Connolly, the son of an innkeeper who became the wealthiest, most powerful politician in Ireland and the man who had the Castletown House build, used to sleep there. Or maybe he didn’t. He was receiving guests there in the morning while sitting up in bed and being dressed. Like they did in the French court at Versailles.
Imagine that. Waking up and facing a group of visitors watching you being dressed. Imagine being dressed. Imagine being in a big yellow bed being dressed while being asked peculiar questions. I can’t imagine what they would ask. Or how answering questions while being in bed can impress people. Not even when it is an enormous yellow bed.

Maybe my dreams will make up for my lack of imagination. Let’s see where my bed takes me tonight.

zondag 6 maart 2011

The memory of a tree

From today on I’m living in a mini cathedral. You can find me behind one of those round windows, sitting on the ground, trying to read the signs some insects have left in the wooden floor. Staring out over the estate. At eight pm they close the gate and I’m locked inside a mysterious landscape. I made a walk in the afternoon, when it was still light. I found a hole in the roof of a small temple and thought about getting a ladder and sticking my hand through the hole to touch the sky. Later on I saw a tree carrying its own memory. A tree within a tree. Shaped like the trees I used to draw as a child.

zondag 27 februari 2011

About space

Writing in a different language is like moving around in unknown space. It makes you aware of yourself. You have to take care, be cautious, keep an eye on your fingers writing, you can never turn the autopilot on. You never know for sure if there isn’t a better way to put it. You lack the subtleness you are used to when writing in your own language.

For me, writing in English is about describing. It is about telling a story. I can try to make it about language, about words, but it will never work unless I am in charge of the words. Or maybe it is the other way around. Maybe I am in charge. I pick the words. While writing, I translate my Dutch thoughts into English words. In Dutch, the words pick me. They steer me in a certain direction. They confuse me, deceive me, attract me. They’re in charge. And I think I’m a better writer when I’m not in charge. When the words rule. Not my thoughts.

But anyway.

I was talking about space. Writing about space. Filling a blank space with black letters. Emptying my head. Creating a new space with words.

Earlier I wrote about Space with a capital S. Outer space. Stars and planets and infinity. I wrote about how space can be used as a mean to help memorizing things. I didn’t write about the importance of space in my work yet and I won’t today (although I did realize today that these days “space” is far more important in my work and life than “time” is, which I used to phocus on when I studied art). Today I want to think and write about space as in “Space Programme 2011”. The Space I will be part of from next Sunday on. A Space filled with or formed by 9 participants, 2 facilitators and a number of additional guest facilitators.

There is the space of the Castletown House and the grounds surrounding it. This is a very interesting space and will be part of our thoughts and actions but it isn’t the main space. There’s the space to experiment and collaborate without the pressure to create a fabulous work of art. Mental space. I love it. There’s never enough of it in the perfectiont’s mind that inhabits my head. And then there’s this other space. The space inbetween the people who will be part of this project. An empty space that will be filled with thoughts and gestures and ideas and collisions. Conversation, misconception, creation. It is the same space that is inbetween you and me right know. Me writing this and you reading this. That space. As infinite as Space with a Capital S. As exciting and confusing.

Trees and me

Apparently March 6th -13th is "national tree week" in Ireland, or "Seachtain Náisiúnta na gCrann" in Irish. It is organised by the tree council (I imagine a big group of all kinds of trees standing around a table - trees can't sit and if they could, they wouldn't use wooden chairs - writing with their pens because pencils are banned during their meetings, discussing all positive aspects of trees in our lives and environment). There will be a walk of the Castletown Estate with Dr. Olley, of the UCD School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering on Sunday March 13th.

I'm a big fan of trees. All kinds of trees. But I think birches are my favorites. I don't know why. Maybe because of their colour. Their seemingly sensitive skin. Their uncanniness. Their eyes. Their untreeness. (But what else could they be but trees?)

I took thousands of photos of trees through the years. I filmed their subtle movements. I used them in installations and interventions.

I'm curious to meet the trees at the Castletown Estate. And Dr. Olley.

All are welcome to attend the walk. You're advised to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for your comfort. I'll wear green. Or maybe white.

woensdag 16 februari 2011

Star Man

(polaroid, 2008)

It was a coincidence. I wasn’t looking for him but there he was. Star man.
I had googled “ space programm celbridge” and first on the Google list I found “Star Man Project”. I immediately forgot what I had been looking for and read about Dave the Star Man who has an asteroid named after him (21782 Davemcdonald) and who’s an amateur astronomer specialising in astrophotography, providing data to a variety of organisations (the Minor Planet Center and NASA). He operate’s the Celbridge Observatory and collects amazing images of solar systems, nebulae, galaxies and supernovae (take a look here). An astronomer in Celbridge. Somebody who knows about Space. I would like to meet him when I’m in Celbridge.

Stars have been on my mind lately. In my last project in Ireland I made drawings on the streets, connecting old bits of chewing gum by drawing white chalk lines inbetween them. The results unintentionally resembled star signs.
The most amazing thing in this project was that some of the star signs “came alive”. For example: I drew the “weeping woman” on a street leading towards the river Lee. It looked as if her tears were flowing into the river. A couples of days later the river flooded a big part of the city.

You can read more about this particular project here.

The art of memory

Thinking about the SPACE Programme I followed my memory back to an earlier occasion when I visited Ireland and found a book called “The art of memory”. In this book 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”[= locations]. 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.

At that time, for days I thought about this “method”, was completely intrigued by it, then forgot about it. Now it popped up again. I think the location for the SPACE Programme, Castletown House, triggered it.

Would it be possible to write a text (or use an existing text) and use the lay-out of this magnificent building to remember this text? Place images "on" specific locations and by walking a predetermined route, recall the words that are connected to these images?
Or do it the other way around: connect words to objects that are already there? Write a text around these words. Walk the route and by seeing the objects, remember the text?
Could this process be turned into a performance of some kind? I bet it could.