Non-destructive visual cannibalism

Not everyone will experience the same excitement, but when my girls discovered an old tractor under a ruined porch in the Italian house we rented for an autumn holiday I grabbed the camera and nearly rolled down the slope to the outbuildings.

The more you get involved in graphic and illustrative work, and the more you use 3D modeling and rendering software, the more you need textures, rust, chipped paint, corroded metal, examples of tubes, bolts, pistons, rods and wires.

An old tractor, abandoned to the elements in an open arcade is like gold-dust in a clear mountain brook. I spent the remaining afternoon exploring the worn and weathered organism until the early dusk set in and the mist rose from the valley. Sheer poetry. Old cars are often cannibalised, and the parts used for the restoration of another. This was purely non-destructive visual cannibalism. After which, the machine was left in peace.

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An orange package

Sometimes things are destined to remain a partial mystery. Just as a mediaeval mystic used the beautiful metaphor ‘Cloud of Unknowing’ to refer to God, I will probably forever refer to a mysterious object I recently bought as ‘The Orange Package’.

During the last years, for a period of about 20 weeks, split in two series of ten I spend some hours on friday afternoon in the charming village of Haren, just south of Groningen while my youngest daughter is rehearsing with the Vivaldi Strings. This is a youth ensemble lead by a brave and energetic violin teacher, who pushes the abilities of these children to a maximum which, ideally, occurs during a public performance in a small chapel in the town centre.

These one and a half hours during the rehearsals constitute, I realised, practically my only genuinely idle time during a normal week. Where office workers, and people working in institutions have long lunches and coffee-breaks, leave the office at 4, have all kinds of payed off-days; an independent just works …, during lunch, with or without a coffee, while trying to cook dinner at the same time, during the evening, the weekend … no breaks, no payed leave. So I decided to spend these precious hours in the best way I can, doing absolutely nothing relevant at all.

After dropping my daughter at the cultural centre I park my car in the underground car park, and, once surfaced, I walk leisurely towards a small shopping centre. Haren is a wealthy place, housing the upper-crust of Groningen society. And that is clearly visible. The street is filled with people wearing thick blue Loden-coats during the colder season, and colourful expensive casual clothing or light tweeds during the milder seasons. Hats in all shapes, sizes, and materials, but mostly tweeds, are a prominent feature. Crossing the street is a hasardous business, because the people there somehow never managed to acquire the driving skills that are essential to contribute to a safe living environment. So I run over, quickly observing the blank expressions behind the thick turtle-rimmed glasses of the people steering their Saabs with unpredictable speed and direction through the stream of bikes, motor-cycles and fellow pedestrians. The main street in Haren is a permanent demonstration of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Then I make my way through a small covered passage with typical shops, such as a tailor, a small, mediterranean looking man with a philosophical expression, and a specialised coffee-seller, an open shop-front that freely spreads a wonderful fragrance of freshly ground coffee through the Passage.

My first destination has been reached (my second destination is the public library, where I stay the remainder of the time, reading Dickens, or books about pottery and polymer clay figurines). A large shop with mainly biological foods, natural produce, cheese from small farms, olive oils, japanese sea-vegetables, vegetarian products etc etc. For me, the main attraction of this shop is that everything looks, tastes, and smells different. I always end up with a bag filled with bread, soy products, oils, chocolate, soap, floor-cleaner (that leaves a great smell of fresh linseed-oil for days) and things I can’t really identify, but which look great.

Like this orange package which caught my attention one friday afternoon.

the orange package

It has a beautiful image of a turtle on it and is completely covered in writing. A little metal ring sticks out of the package. Kneading the package carefully reveals that the content must be something like a circular brush with very strong bristles. The shop-keeper told me it is a brush. Used for brushing vegetables in the macrobiotic kitchen. He proposed to open the package, but I refused. This package with its elegant typography and beautiful contrast between the black ink and orange paper will remain closed forever. Even if someone shows me a similar brush, the one inside this package will only have been seen by the factory workers in Japan that made it and wrapped it. It was a product in a shop, but I, by the power invested in me, elevated it to the status of cultural heritage. Ha ha!