I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Monday, October 15, 2018

Welcome to the working week

I know, I know, I'm not working. And I wouldn't be working even if I still had a job because I'm not well enough. Most of the doctors -- and there have been many -- that I have seen in the past several weeks have been wonderful. But some have been dismissive -- I can't tell you how many times I've been told that the fact that I got sick in Africa was “probably just a coincidence” and has nothing to do with what I'm experiencing now, no matter how many times I say that I was in excellent health before I went to Africa.

Now I have some proof. My primary care doctor got sick himself while I was gone, and closed his practice, so he wasn't available to consult on any of what's been going on. But I got my records from his office last week, and confirmed that at my annual checkup in May my heart rate was 76. The year before it was 70. So perhaps the fact that since Africa it rarely gets above 60 and spends an uncomfortable -- in every way -- amount of time in the 40's means that something did indeed happen when I got sick in Rwanda and that whatever it was has affected my heart.

One doctor actually recommended that I see a psychiatrist because I'm probably just anxious about retirement. I am quite experienced with anxiety, and there has been a lot of it recently, but I am not in denial when I say that retiring from my job is not even in the top ten list of things that are currently making me anxious. Boneheaded comments like that are.

The picture is from the Fine Arts museum in Ghent, where they are restoring the Van Eyck altarpiece from St Bavos Cathedral, one panel at a time. You can watch the restorers at work, then walk over to the cathedral and see the finished work.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sunday bird blogging

A flycatcher, probably an ashy flycatcher, in Rwanda.

About those displays

I really liked the way they identified the various pieces with numbered layouts (this is what I wish the Kirkland Museum did.)

But oh the way everything is jumbled together on a platform running the length of one wall! It's just a mess.

As for the rest of the museum....

There were interesting modern pieces, mostly displayed very badly, unfortunately. This very cool Poltrona di Proust chair from Alessando Mendini from the 1970's in front of stained glass panels from the 1880's was an exception.

I love those greens.

May I have your attention please?

One final Maarten Baas. There are voices coming out of those horns, but they're all whispers, so you can't really understand anything they're saying.

I really love the visual effect though -- all of those round shapes and colors.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Real Time

This Baas series was very different: a wall of grandfather-style clocks, with clock faces that were actually embedded video screens. When each minute passed, the blurry man in the background erased the minute hand and drew a new one.

Still more Smoke

More Smoke

For the newer pieces, Baas burned iconic examples of modern furniture. Video screens mounted on the wall showed the pieces being burned. Seeing the actual fires is a little eerie, but there's also a kind of naughty pleasure, the way spoiling your dinner with candy can be fun once in a while just because you're an adult and you can. 

All kids want to play with matches. Few of us fantasize about burning our sofas, but if someone pointed you to a pile of wood and told you it was going to be burned, wouldn't you want to say “Let me do it!”

And it would be fun!


Most of the museum was given over to a retrospective of the work of Maarten Baas, a Dutch artist. Most of the references I found for him online afterwards described him as a furniture designer, but the pieces on display included video and sound and seemed much more like modern art, or at least an interesting intersection between art and design.

These are two pieces from his Smoke series, created when he was still a student. He burned existing pieces of furniture, then restored them with epoxy so they could still be used. It's the kind of concept that sometimes makes me cringe, when cool ideas produce results that are boring or stupid. But these pieces are strangely beautiful. The photos don't really capture the texture of the charred surfaces and I wish I'd taken closeups.

Here's a quote I found from an old newspaper article from 2006:

“I was thinking about why we want things to stay the same,” said Baas. “Why do we buy things and don't touch them? Why do we think symmetry and smoothness are beautiful? And what would happen if we do the opposite of what we ought to do with furniture - if we burnt it?”

Design Museum Ghent

I would have loved Ghent even without this museum, but I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon I spent there.

It's housed in an 18th century mansion with a modern wing near the city center, and that contrast between an older setting and modern displays reminds me a little of the Musée d'Orsay.

This is the interior courtyard.

Saturday reflections

Window reflections at the Design Museum in Ghent.

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Belfry

The original tower was completed in 1380, although the spire at the top was added, and refurbished, through the centuries, most recently in 1913.

You can take an elevator to the top, but I didn't. I'd been in a belfry in Mons just a couple of days before that, and the afternoon the sun came out I decided I'd rather take pictures of the facades in better light.

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