The Essay that I wrote for Critical inquiry:
Six years ago I slipped on a slippery square hitting my head hard, only a concussion I thought but I had such a knock that I wanted to stay in the dark for the first six weeks and mostly lay in bed. Continuous headaches and I was dizzy and nauseous all day. This took over 7 months. After a few months I was able to walk short distances. On the table in my living room was a map of Rotterdam. Every day I colored with a pink pencil on the map which street I had walked. I walked a different street every day through my new neighborhood. Never for long because I wasn't physically capable of that. I rested a lot and often, minimum a quarter of an hour, no more than 20 minutes. When I went outside I took a mat and pillow with me. I couldn't stand noise for a long time, so I closed my ears with earplugs, leaving only my view. In this way I explored my current living environment at a leisurely pace. The slow pace and the fact that it was the only outing of the day made me want to take it all in, glad to be outside for a bit. Slowly the map started to turn completely pink around my house because I could go further away, tentacles appeared pink, the tentacles became longer and longer. As I was unable to cycle I did everything on foot, a pace at which I could look around considerably better and love for walking was already there. I was extremely depressed during the period, not sure if I could still work on the intensive care and friends cooked for me for months. To end the day on a positive note, I wrote down three things every day for which I was grateful. Those were always small things close to home. I live on a houseboat and stared a lot at the water, where there is always something happening. I saw the grebe with the boy on its back, the cormorant catching fish underwater, the bream coming to spawn, a kingfisher above the chains of my ark, but above all all the colors and movements of the water. There were so many little beautiful things to be thankful for. I wrote: I am grateful that…. and then what I was thankful for. I threw all the little notes in a vase, there must have been minimum 2000 when I stopped. In the dark on bed I learned to distinguish the sounds of the water birds, also the different sounds that a water bird produces in different moods, defense, calling ect. Resting was a big part of my daytime activities, and to relieve my neck I always lay around my back and often on the couch. Through the many windows on my ark I can see the trees on the shore, I saw the blossom appear, then the leaves grow in fresh green, the blossom fall, the dark green of the summer leaf, autumn colored them red and then looked I to the empty tree and everything started all over again. Sometimes I experienced the emptiness and I could leave it as it was, without feeling sad. Wallece Stevens wrote in the poem the Snowman:
For the listener, who listens in the snow
And, northing himself, beholds
Nothing that's not there and the nothing of that is
Because I rested everywhere while walking, I saw the world from a lying position several times a day, which is an interesting position in places where you normally don't lie down so quickly. Viewed many ceilings, trees, skies, buildings in the city, mountains, the roof of my Citroen 2CV, the beamed ceiling in my house and so much more. Now I read this tip in “The art of perception” 131 ways for more creativity, inspiration and wonder in everyday life. One is "look up" if you want to notice things you didn't see before. I indeed have the experience that you see a lot that you never saw before, another tip is “Draw everything” During this difficult period I started drawing, I couldn't do so much anymore. My first drawing was my cup on the table, then the rest on the table. That taught and forced me to really watch. Don't draw what I thought I saw, but what I actually saw. Milton Glaser, graphic designer; “The great advantage of drawing is that when you look at something, you see it for the first time, as it were. Sometimes people never really see anything in their entire lives.” The drawing expanded, just like the card that was now permanently present on the table as my hold on. In “Zen, the art of seeing” I recognized myself in the text that when not knowing is at its darkest and coldest, then the light tends to emerge on its own. It took a long time before I experienced light again, but it did happen. It was hard for me to bear crowds and noises and that made me decide to travel alone to the mountains.
With the car I drove very slowly towards the Alps, with a bed in the back so that I could also rest on the way and although I drove less than 200 km in one day I got where I wanted to be, because I slept the car. Didn't have to do anything. With a backpack with a bed on it to rest I walked around Mont Blanc in ten days, I slept in mountain huts. This became the walking tour that changed my life. Because I took all my time, didn't walk much, didn't walk fast and wasn't in a hurry, I saw an incredible amount. Was I so receptive to what was happening, regularly I became emotional of the incredible beauty, little miracles in my path gave me joy. So many beautiful flowers, insects, the color of the water and so on. Here too I often viewed the world from a lying position. During this journey and actually this whole period I had to let go and accept so much, but above all I was allowed to receive a lot. I don't think I've ever seen so much, been so "open" to the world around me. Master Eckhart a theologian and philosopher of the late Middle Ages said that you must have an empty temple at your disposal for God to enter. Is that what happened? I went without expectations, if it didn't work I would stop, everything was a win. Was I so empty that I only had room to see because of it? A Zen master lived in poverty and was not jealous of the people who accumulated wealth, he was not afraid of losing something because he had nothing. I now find that an interesting thought, because just when I could little or nothing, I was given space to look and reflect on everything in my path. Only then did I see that there are so many things to be thankful for. The gratitude notes became a work in the first year at the academy. Everyday life, the world around me, especially close by now appears to be my biggest source of inspiration, walking is part of it.
Recently I visited the exhibition in the Lakenhal in Leiden by Claudy Jongstra where I saw, among other things, the work “Nine”. The work is large, and almost space-filling. It is located on the floor in the second room that you enter when viewing the exhibition. There is no artificial light on it, the only light that enters is from a window in the extension of the work. I was amazed, didn't understand…why was the work in the dark? Why was there all black fabric on the floor? Why hadn't they just turned on the light? Previous work I saw by this artist had so much dynamism. Because I wanted to understand, I stayed, I stayed long. I saw people coming and going, they watched quickly. Looking at the work it came to life in a very measured way, the colors appeared slowly, almost rose from the work, filling the space. The work revealed itself slowly, in small portions but increasingly intense. All kinds of greens, blues and even hot pinks emerged, all kinds of shades of brown and orange. I didn't seen all those colors when I entered. Claudy Jongstra wants us to start using our senses again, she had deliberately not illuminated the space. The colors came to me. You really had to take the time to look and experience that. I thought it was beautiful, was emotional by the work, found it overwhelming. There was so much depth to it. Rothko wanted the space of his paintings to flow into the space of the viewer. That new space can then be filled with waiting, was his theory to be receptive. As the aforementioned Empty Temple may have been, Rhotko was a fan of Eckhart. My curiosity about the artwork made me stay.
In developmental psychology, curiosity is seen as an inner drive to explore your environment. Part of that is sensory curiosity, which means that when you see, hear or feel something you want to know more about it. Curiosity results in figuring things out, trying them out and discovering. Based on this theory, it is believed that curiosity is the engine for well-being and personal growth. While writing the motivation letter for the academy, a friend pointed out to me to mention it as a strong personal characteristic. I remember that in my youth I was curious, especially when we were on vacation. During our hikes through Norway and (wild) camping on the high plateaus, I already set out to discover. Could play for hours along streams, watch the water pour over the boulders, follow the stream, upstream until I couldn't go any further. Always wondered where does the water come from, where does it go. I liked to climb trees when we camped in the Netherlands and spent my time watching and listening. Loved sitting among the leaves of beech trees, on a thick branch and quietly looking around me, the light coming through the leaves, the rustling, a squirrel darting past. When I enter curiosity as a search term, I mainly see children's books and information about learning projects for and with children. Little information is about curiosity in adulthood. Hans Aarsman, photographer, has his own method of looking and being curious. He mainly looks at news photos and sees things that most people overlook. “I want to see what's theres to see,” he said in a 2009 Ted talk. This way he research and sees in the photo, interesting and/or hilarious stories come to light. On his site he says that we are inundated with numbers, surveys and economic forecasts, he just starts counting himself. Started counting trucks at the Piet Hein tunnel in Amsterdam in 2014, made graphs and continued to do so till 2015. He discovered that freight traffic was increasing significantly and therefore concluded that the crisis was over before CBS did.
When looking, the dictionary gives the following descriptions: seeing (something or someone) consciously - "she looked around but could not find her child" So purely practical, looking around to look for something. Further research gives: Looking - at with attention with the eye . Look : see This is the first that seeing is seen as an explanation of the word look. Yet you can look at my idea but not see something, or overlook or pay no attention to it. Do you have to pay attention to see something? Is the puzzle word "distinguish" a good description? Looking-at: focused or with attention of the eye. Looking-at: facing a problem It seems like looking at several parts of it, could there be a subdivision or can it be made? The etymological dictionary clearly does not provide a clear origin of looking.
A number of scientific researchers observed 465 museum visitors between the ages of 18 and 78. A number of works of art were selected in advance and then it was measured how long the visitors stayed. One had to stand for a minimum of 3 seconds to participate in the study. The result of the research is that people spend an average of 28.63 seconds looking at a work. 35% of those visitors were busy with their phones and made selfies with the artworks. It also mentions that 15 years ago visitors are looking 27.2 seconds. The visiters view the artworks and then move on to the next artwork to repeat the ritual, most museum visitors do not consider looking at the deeper meaning of the artworks. This was certainly what I saw with the work of Claudy Jongstra at the Cloth Hall. In this case, the work was worthless to most visitors because it revealed nothing in half a minute. Bregje Hofstede describes a similar experience in an article. Based on the above research/article, she goes to view a work of art in a museum and takes half an hour to view the work. She chooses a work with the title: "without color", which consists of white squares on a white canvas. Although after 5 minutes she thinks it's a stupid idea, she continues to observe. She sees the gray edges, there are irregular spots in the work, a stain seems to have been painted over. She wonders if the work was ever damaged or if the artist was tampered with? The squares aren't quite square either. Many visitors immediately turn around when they see completely white canvases, Bregje writes, something I also experience in the Cloth Hall with the 'black' work of Claudy Jongstra. . Art historian Jennifer L. Roberts has her art history students look at a work of art for a long time, three hours to be exact. Looking quickly yields results in our current society, the opinion about a work of art can completely change because of this assignment is her idea behind it.
Gusve Flaubert, author:
“If you look at something long enough,
Will it get interesting on its own?”
You look with your eyes, but you see with your brain, so you need your brain to be able to see. Another aspect is that what you see is determined by what you subconsciously expect to see. In the book the philosophy of looking, the authors want to teach you to postpone your own judgment and to look first, to look contemplatively. Both to art, to the world around you and to yourself. The more you see of yourself, the more you see in paintings and vice versa is their idea. Zen considers the art of seeing as the art of seeing.
I've found that I see significantly better when I'm quiet, or when I'm alone. I am less distracted and have much more eye for what is or has happened around me. I am reminded of a work by Marina Abramovic: The artist is present. In a Ted talk she tells that she tells the curator of the MoMa that she wants to sit on a chair with an empty chair in front of her. The visitors are allowed to sit on the chair opposite her and look at her. They can sit as long as they want, they are not allowed to move and/or talk. The curator thinks it's an idiotic idea, the chair will remain empty, nobody has time to sit there, this is New York, is his reaction. The New York Times also has its reservations. Marina sits there for 3 months! All museum opening hours are 8 houres every day and 10 on Fridays. She looked approximately 1,500 visitors in the eye in 736 hours and 30 minutes. The public waited in lines for hours, people slept in front of the museum, when they took their seats they were watched by the other visitors, by cameras and by Marina. They could no longer escape, only to themselves. After 3 months at the Moma her life had changed, she said, she saw so much loneliness, sadness and pain. There are photos and videos of the performance and a striking number of visitors are crying. She gave them the opportunity to open up and then the waterfall of pain can come loose, Marina says in a documentary about her work. The audience watched and experienced. Years ago I did a mindfulness course. What stayed with me most is that the group had to look carefully at a raisin, that seemed to take forever and then you had to consciously feel and experience the raisin in your mouth. The texture, softness, hardness and the like, I can vividly remember this experience. Flowmagazine has exercises “Looking with fresh eyes” As a child would look, without labeling or making judgments. The exercises are often based on meditation, distracting your attention, pretending to see the world for the first time. The magazine has turned it into a booklet which is offered in the “Flow small happiness box”. A question that comes to my mind is: “Do we become happier when we watch better?” Watching with attention has also become a business model, it seems, is that because so few people have time, so much is required of ourselves and we go through life in a hurry? Francis Bacon, philosopher and statesman (1561-1626) believes that through induction, a way of reasoning in which sense perception is the basis for all knowledge, can interrogate everything. From there one arrives at experiences and observations . Bacon was the founder of empiricism, a philosophical movement that states that experience is the basis for all knowledge. Mindfulness means paying conscious attention, in the moment, without judgment. Filmmaker Veysi Yildirim was born with hearing loss and developed a sharper vision as he calls it himself, he made the film “Deep looking”. The film invites you to slow down and find inner peace. The film shows people around the world, in slow motion, up close. A meditative experience arises that makes us look at it in a different way, he uses film as a medium to let people experience inner peace and empathy. Veysi says in an interview that he often takes off his hearing aid to remove the noise that distracts him. During the screening of his film, he does not want air conditioning or other noises in the room. People have to experience the silence. Tacet is a work in the Klankenbos in Pelt, Belgium. It is a soundproof glass box in which the visitor can sit. This is about consciously experiencing the silence without visually changing anything. I myself put in earplugs when the stimuli became too much for me, so that you only have to use one sense, that of sight. In the mountains I am very happy when I hear the silence. I can almost experience it as deafening. Especially in the early morning in the mountains when I set out from the mountain hut, it is a mystical experience every time. Being alone I am not distracted and can fully experience it as it is. Last summer I walked alone, completely enclosed by clouds, creating a kind of damping, as if I were walking through cotton wool, in a soundproofed room, only the muffled sound of my own footsteps on the different surfaces. So incredibly special, also because there was very little to see through the cloud. When I was sure that I was walking well, I could completely surrender to it. In the seventeenth century, the French philosopher René Descates lived in the Netherlands. Descates defends the idea that by examining your personal thinking, you can find clear and straightforward principles from which to derive all kinds of truths. He finds that human perception is so unreliable that he doubts the reality of that perception. When in doubt you should reject it is Descate's opinion, there must be demonstrable arguments. When in doubt, it must be clear to everyone that there is doubt, that is, that one thinks. There is an I who doubts and who thinks. This self-examination leads to the famous formula Cogito ergo sum, I think, therefore I am. The art of painting is learning to see what can be seen. Many painters worked according to the book by Van Mander (1548-1574), the book teaches the painter to paint lifelike what was most common at the time, painting in such a way that it seems lifelike. It made viewers think, which eventually led to the camera obscura. Both Caravaggio and Johannes Vermeer are said to have used this technique. In the Victorian era, in the mid-19th century, the camera obscura was built as large as a house, so that people could view the surroundings for a fee. Interesting that money was spent to look at the environment that was already there in a different way, or is it of all times? Now one pays (me) to silently look at and taste a raisin. A raisin that I just have in a bag in my kitchen. Is that the difference with children who are not yet focused on the future ? Like this haiku from Basco :
Come on, get out!
In the haiku poems there is only the here and now:
Oh, old pond!
a frog jumps from the side,
sound of water
This also reflects a wonder about everyday things, something that Ramana Maharsi emphasizes in the above poem, an Indian yogi and guru born in 1870 In Museum Voorlinden I saw Skyspace a work by James Turell. A square room with benches along the edges to seat visitors, there is a square hole in the ceiling. It is specially tuned to view the twilight but also just in the day it is an interesting work. Sitting you stare at the sky and experience it differently than when you are outside, because of the attention with which you look at something ordinary, it becomes unusual and therefore special. A work that immediately comes to mind is by Job Koelewijn. A mobile cinema, with easy cinema seats. The visitors look at the film screen, which is no more than a hole outside through which the cinema visitor looks at reality, with the support of film music, at the here and now. He puts a movie screen in our daily existence, as it were. Job Koelewijn says that the work is also about the passing of time and you can make the film yourself in your own imagination. Job is interested in reality. The ordinary images of the street are experienced differently by the music that evokes certain emotions. An incredibly powerful work.
I am fascinated by flat drinking cans. I see them all over the street, especially around parking lots and along the curbs. I'm always curious how long they've been there, how many cars have already driven over them, has someone punctured their tire, something that ever happened to me, who threw it on the street and why do people throw so much on the street in the first place? Pollution and waste have been with my attention for a long time and now I pick up the cans to create something and perhaps start a discussion. I read in "The art of perception" by Rob Walker that there is such a thing as "mental picture" or "search picture" described by ornithologist Luuk Tinbergen. Songbirds prefer one particular beetle over all other insects. They find their prey faster because of this particular search image. It is a visual form of the expectation to find meaning in the chaos. When I discuss it with others, they have never noticed that there are so many flat cans, they think I am flattening them myself. Now that I pick them up, there seem to be even more than before. I regularly walk with a girlfriend, always the same round along the Rotte, sometimes we agree to discover something new on our familiar route. Sometimes we are silent and see what has changed. Sometimes I realize I haven't seen anything during our hour and a half, I'm always a little disappointed, sometimes we see an incredible amount. In the library in Rotterdam I'm always touched by the following poem that hangs large on the wall near the escalators, written by K. Schippers in 1980, poet in Amsterdam. Although I'm only now discovering that it's a love poem.
You don't need the things
to be able to see
things need you
to be seen
This week my granddaughter of three months was with me, we practiced together because from November I'm going to babysit her for one day every week. I got her out of her crib and put her on the bed next to me. Because of the novelty and the unfamiliarity, I had stayed nearby. She was so concentrated looking at the ceiling that I lay down next to her and watched... Although I have looked at this image so many times, it remains fascinating. The sun shone on the water, the water reflects the brilliance on the ceiling. It moves, it sparkles, it's different every moment, it's incredibly beautiful every time and so simple…..if you pay attention to it. We watched together, it could fascinate her for a full hour. When my daughter was little I sometimes stopped because she saw something I didn't. She once saw a cat in a busy street from the front seat of my bicycle. It took me a long time to see a cat sitting somewhere behind a window on the 2nd floor, she was (still) looking up. I am thankful that my granddaughter comes every week, there is so much to see!
Pay close attention
you pay attention to