Mobilities

I’m tempted to write something about the end of an uneventful week, but frankly all manners of things happened during the last few days.

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A fortituous addendum to the collections of the experimental media group saw that the goal of becoming a decent designer is now closer than ever before.

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Then I finally got the screenprinting to work after some embarrasing failings, and churned out a pile of unintelligible “Show me some thing”- posters. The text being nodebox output recolored in Illustrator. Apart from this, I trudged onward with studying Python, and from time to time I actually felt some learning seeping in. I have also been reading the rather demanding but very interesting book “Fluid concepts and creative analogies” by Douglas Hofstadter, something which might have some inspirational bearing on my project. Additionally it is a good prop for extruding a suitable air of pretentiousness while sitting alone in some café.

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I also managed to increase my mobility in a fortuitous way. On tuesday I had found an discarded, old ladies bike with one pedal missing. I had this rusted beauty, complete with skirt-protective netting, repaired at a bike shop on friday, and this dramatically bettered my capacity of moving about. Most distances here in Antwerpen are of the walking kind, but still a bike is a massive improvement.  The public transportation, save for some inscrutable night bus routes, basically shuts down at midnight, after which the choice for a bicycle-challenged nightrunner leaving some party or other, is to punish the feet, or the purse – taxis being roughly as expensive as in Helsinki.

Another upside to biking in Antwerp is that the city is amazingly devoid of any sort of height differences, which means that one manages with bikes that in some other location would be barely usable – like my find. This still doesn’t mean that I’ve abandoned the idea of getting a fixie or somesuch, but even this temporary rubbish bike is immensely useful.

I also bought a low-quality lock for keeping my ride; but I’m not overly concerned that it will go on its own ways, because Antwerpen seems to have a peculiar culture of bikes in bad condition, secured with locks hardly deserving the name. Apparently, an unlocked bike is fair prey, but locked ones are left more or less alone, no matter the lock, unless they are particularly desirable. At least that is a conclusion I’d draw from looking at the parked bikes that litter the streets.

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My newfound freedom resulted in some explorations around town. I need to see Antwerpen in Miniatuur some day!

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The quay is so high, that the moored boats look more like buildings. The setting sun interestingly highlighted the patchings done to this containership’s paintwork.

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The Sint Annatunnel is rather curious, some 572 meters of pedestrian tube under the Schelde river. Apparently the tunnel has featured in many bad art-film projects, and probably countless tourist photos, this being my contribution to that, then.

Then the bike also came very much in handy during the weekend’s music festival at Trix, located outside the center and some five kilometers from my house. The event was a smorgasbord of current Belgian indie and some larger acts, divided over two days. Nothing was outstandingly exciting, but some bands were good fun nevertheless – in spite of the slightly oppressive timing of the concerts, typical of this sort of event. No room for encores, that is.

Local indie bands that could be mentioned include Work; considerably noisier and better live than on myspace, and Blackie and the Oohoos, playing Twin Peaksy- oddball blues-pop. There was also two german bands, one, Ter Haar, playing nerd-rock in the vein of, say, Foals. Ter Haar has some interesting things going on, but the drumming needs tons of extra tightness and inventiveness. But props for one of the guys eating an apple on-stage between the songs. The other, It’s a Musical, was doing german glockenspiel-poptronica in pastel outfits, while cute, ultimately remained a bit hard to pin down.

A positive surprise was the local hero Stijn that I’d dismissed as some cheesy-cheap electro rubbish – unsurprisingly – because that’s what he is on record. What begun as more or less a comedy act, resembling Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno character, developed into rather deep synth trickery and heavy techno tunes with wide influences.

Not good music, but the silliness of it was quite winning. His stage show was somewhat reminiscent of what Jamie Lidell does, and I heard that the guy has a cellar room in Trix, filled with vintage synthezisers. Which is nice. Of course it adds to the fun that a large part of the audience find him massively cool.

Less positive, but equally surprising were the covers that some groups saw fit to perform. A Brand’s renderition of LCD soundsystem tracks were bad enough (and they were decked in silly white costumes), but General Mindy really took the prize with a mind-boggling acoustic cover of Animal Collective’s great track Peacebone nasally performed in bad english. I won’t bother supplying links to those bands, if you really must, look them up. Additionally, local indie favourite Meuro turned out to be total rubbish – according to my friend Danny he’s a bit of a wildcard live, sometimes interesting, sometimes massively boring. This was the latter.

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Some visual culture then. Antwerp’s museum of photgraphy is a nice affair. There was a rather interesting little exhibit on spy cameras, and an exhibit on Belgian photo history. The main show was Erwin Olaf, a dutch photographer well-known for fashion and editorial illustration photography, and general controversiality.

That was mostly all surface, but a rather grotesque and glossy surface nevertheless. Even if the “controversiality” of some of the images was of the more banal kind.

In stark contrast to that, then, the chinese artist Yang Fudong had made a quite profound and arresting slow-tempo installation, East of Que village, with several screens following the life of feral dogs in a rural chinese village.

I also appreciated the young belgian photographer Vincen Beeckman‘s analytical approach to default-ugly snapshot pictures. You see a lot of that nowadays, but some of his images were genuinely inventive and the seriality gave them much more, they were glued in groups to the wall and had small explanatory texts in french scribbled with pencil beside them.

On sunday evening I visited the photo museum yet again, as it also functions as the local film archive / art film theater. The film I saw was The Terence Davies Trilogy, a semi-autobiographical story by its namesake director. One could not say that the film handled its themes of oppressive schooling systems, catholic guilt, death and closeted homosexuality in an all-too subtle manner – in parts it was unintentionally humorous, and the acting was stilted. However, some scenes were genuinely haunting and the whole thing was beautifully rendered on black and white 16mm film. The handful of people watching the thing at the theater were even more looking the part of art-film geeks than the ones you find in Orion back in Helsinki.

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