Day 25: Grande Soiree de Expo

Friday the 25th of February at 6pm the expo opened for public. It will be up until wednesday 2nd of March.

Some people I visited during this month came to visit the expo and a lot of friends showed up. It was a fine evening.

And this is what it looked (looks) like… (click on the images to enlarge them)
1. From the outside.

2. Inside of the ‘aquarium’
2a. Right side.

2b. Left side.

2c. Back wall.

All images, sentences and words used to create this exhibition came out of the rue de Laeken. Nothing was added! Below you find a little more explanation that I handed out during the opening.

The exhibition can be seen from outside the gallery until the 2nd of March.

That’s all folks & thanks for following this project! Over and out.

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Day 21: Pubic hair in Congo

Just a quick post of a quite remarkable meeting I had.
The owner of gallery Congo invited me to visit him. He was cured from the Mexican flu.

His name is Jacques Van Overstraeten and more than a galery owner he is an artist, J.V.O.. As I didn’t know what to expect and as he shows me stuff quite in a haste, I forget to take pictures at the start of his tour. He doesn’t shows me anything of his galery and moves directly to his own work. After a quick look around he takes me to his workspace.

Once there, he goes into his “kitchen” where he takes a cast from his form. “It’s more difficult when the girls aren’t shaved properly”, he tells me. Indeed, since 2009, the female genitals are the most recurrent image in the oeuvre of J.V.O.

With this image he created dozens of works. One is called “Eau et Feu” or Water and Fire.

At this moment he is working on a big board depicting a world full of vagina’s.

This map of the world recurs in other works he made. A world full of cigarette buds, broken toy cars or images of intestines.

And to end of this post I just like to show you another work he ‘pointed’ me out.

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Day 17: Le sou du vieillard

On wednesday I visited the non-profit organisation, “Le sou du vieillard de Bruxelles“, or the penny of the old man from Brussels. I was welcomed by Claude Evrard, who said he prefered not to be in a picture. If someone wanted to see him, it would be the best to visit him.

The organisation was founded in 1923, to help aged people who live in difficulty. This help is mainly moral support. The organization visits people in nursing homes or persons who are lonely. They cover 60 homes in the 19 different communities of Brussels. They organise tea-times, bus-trips and music-performances.

The organization does not receive any grants and organises everything for free. Its resources come from membership fees, donations and patronages. All the work is done by volunteers. They are non-profit, non-religious and non-politic.

It all started 1923 when there used to be big markets, at the end of a market day there used to be a big “bal populaire” or dance. The market vendors decided on one of these dances to collect money to help aged people. Everybody was aked to give 5 cents or “un sou”, a penny in Brussels at those days. This “sou” is still the logo of the organisation. Because the city though of this as a great idea, it gave the permission to collect money in the bars and taverns of the city.

Mister Evrard says that at the time they started everybody lived together “dans une ambiance bon enfant”, which means that everybody knew eachother and lived together as one big community, as one big family. The baker, milkman and grocer put everything on the doorstep, so people just had to open their frontdoor to get their goods. He believes it would be impossible to do that these days. He also tells me it’s getting more difficult to find volunteers to engage in the projects. At this moment they work with 40 volunteers for the sixty homes they cover.

At the end of my visit he shows me some posters of events in the past that are designed rather nicely.

Today two of my friends came and helped me with painting one wall.

As I’m working hard to make a good show the 25th it is my hope a lot of people will show up, as the 25th will be the only day my work will be on show. Maybe also some time during the 26th, but after that it will be gone for good, as I have to clean the space for the next artist. So if you got the time…

This will probably be one of my last posts before the 25th.

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Day 14: Chacun pour soi et dieu pour tous.

Today at 2pm I had an appointment with Irene Mervant. A lady with lots of energy.
She lives on the second floor, above ‘Aquarium Desbarax’.

She is a single world traveler from Lyon and has been all over the world. She tarvels as a backpacker  and goed ‘into the wild’ as much as possible. She tells me she travels to be looked at. It sounds strange, but when she explains it, it makes sense.
Her mother used to have several husbands/friends, with three of them she made a child, but they all abandoned her after a while. You can see a picture of a painting of her mother and a picture of her together with her bother and sister (all from different fathers).

As her mother wasn’t at home that much either, she never got the attention of a parent, like other children have, she explains me. So during her travels she looks for attention, she looks for people that really and truely look at her and touch her to see who she is, to dicover her. That’s why she travels into the wild, she says, where people aren’t used to see tourists and look at her with big eyes when she arrives there. In a way, she is also in search of the mother/parents she never had. She realized this a couple of years ago, through a devine experience. But more about that later.

As she had seen so many things in her life it was quite difficult for me, as for her, to decide what to show. So I asked her which country she visited had touched her the most. She gave me three, as she couldn’t just pick one: Laos, Panama and Tanzania.

In the north Loas she came in touch with the The Burmese Giraffe Neck Women. Who are allowed to cross the border, as it is good for tourism.

In Panama she came in touch with the Indian locals, and had a wonderfull experience as she stayed for five days with two elder woman in a village on the San Blas Islands.

When she took a boat trip to see all the islands, she took a picture of her favorite island.

In Tanzania she did a safari. The animals that she loved to see there were the giraffes, as they were easy to spot and every time they stoped the giraffes turned their heads towards them to really take a good look at them. Next to the giraffes she saw a female lion ‘savouring’ a zebra…

Next to all the beautiful things she saw in life, a lot of misery crossed her way, when she was travelling. Especially in Madagascar and India.

At the end of my meeting she tells me it is God who showed her the right way, and showed her what she was looking for in life. She believes it is not a coïncidence I came in touch with her this week, as I am searching myself. So she invites me to come with her on Sunday to one of the gatherings of the “Assemblée Chrétienne Biblique” and gives me a book called “Answers for Living”… I’m curious…

After that she accompanies me one floor down to meet Mariette Grignard. A lady who will turn 100 years old on the 26th April. At first she doesn’t really feels like meeting other people as her neck hurts, but after a while, she is very welcoming. She used to live in Clairemont, close to Verviers, but moved to Brussels long time ago.

Her appartement is full of dolls, plates, pictures, plants, … as she isn’t able to throw things away. Here you can see what it looks like.

Despite her age she has a good memory, she hasn’t lost her sense of humor either.
She once fell over on the floor and started crying for help. Irene who heard her as she lives above her, called the police and the firemen to come to the rescue. They forced the door and put her in her bed. Three policemen and four firemen where standing around her bed asking if she was ok. “I’m ok”, she said, “and if one of the gentlemen feels like sharing the bed with me, don’t be shy…”.

At the end of my visit she said I could stay to do her household. A proposal which I kindly declined, but I am planning to go and wish her a happy birthday on the 26th of April. And if you wish, you could send her a card on the 26th as well, I’m sure she would like it, as she has no children :

Mariette Grignard
Rue de Laeken 102

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Day 13: Invitation

As I am planning to work more and visit less, I decided to give myself more privacy. I don’t really like it when people watch me work. So I put paper against the windows that served as an invitation for the 25th at the same time.

This is what it looks like from the inside… where you can see I started the real work. More soon!

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Day 12: C’est du brol

Yesterday, nothing really much happened, that’s why there was no post. I was invited by a woman to have lunch with her and her collegues of a law firm situated in the rue de Laeken. But this will only take place on Thursday.


In the letter I posted a few day ago, I invited the people of the street to come and visit me today between 2pm and 6pm. As I posted almost 200 letters, I was hoping to get some response to this invitation.
Guess how many people eventually showed up?? *drum roll*… 5! I guess trying to motivate the people through a letter, doesn’t seem to be such a great idea after all.

The first ones to enter were Lydia B. and a friend/collegue of her, Sandra Gremet. They were there to take the interview for Radio Panik. Which will be broadcasted on the 18th of this month.

Next to them, Johan Hendriks came to visit me. He has been living in the street for seven years and lives right next to ‘Le temps d’une pose’. In 2004 he was asked to write a text about the street, and he promised me to look it up and bring it to me (if he could find it).
He told me the neighbourhood use to call ‘Alhambra’, as there used to be a cinema with this name in the street. There is also a big parkingspot with this name, just outside the street.

Thanks to Lydia and Sandra, another woman came to the gallery. Her name was Irène Mervant, and she lives above Aquarium Desbarax, on the second floor. She tells me on the first floor there lives a woman who was born in 1911, so she is, right, 100 years old. She invited me to come and visit her and the elderly woman on Monday.

And finally a guy visited me, who wasn’t even living in the street. But as he was so kind to bring me a visit and give me a present I include him in this post. His name is Freddy Gillisjans and he offered me 4 DVD’s with children’s series on them, for which I gave him a copy of the article about the history of the rue de Laeken.

So I guess it wasn’t really what we would call ‘a success’. But yeah, half a loaf is better than none.

I would like to end this post with a nice qoute I just read in a book yesterday but which is quite irrelevant (or not) to the rest of this post:

The truth is a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, anthropomorphisms, in short, a sum of human relations which were poetically and rhetorically heightened, transferred, and adorned, and after long use seem solid, canonical, and binding to a nation.
Truths a illusions about which it has been forgotten that they are illusions.

Friedrich Nietzsche.

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Day 10: Nous avons christianisé l’Afrique, maintenant il faut africaniser le christianisme.

Today I’ve mostly been selecting pictures that are useful for my final project.
Apart form this I found a good reason to go to the KVS or the Royal Flemish Theatre, situated in a nineteenth-century theatre in the rue de Laeken.

I bought a ticket for the monologue “Missie” or Mission. A play written by award-winning writer David Van Reybrouck and played by the great Bruno Vanden Broecke.

Bruno Vanden Broecke crawled into the skin of an old, but still sprightly missionary in the Eastern Congo who is looking back on his life. With amazement, buoyancy and sorrow. In this fragmented monologue he reflects on choices, commitment and above all trust. The topic its makers have in mind is the relationship between ‘mission’ and ‘mysticism’. Does one opt to dirty one’s hands or rather to follow the contemplative life? A reassessment, without irony, of the missionary as a tragic human being. (KVS)

It was a beautiful play. Full of conflicting emotions: one moment I sat with tears in the eyes of laughter, at other moments with tears of emotion, then I was angry, then quiet of  disbelief. It made me reflect on my own life and “mission”. What the hell am I’m doing in fact?

After the performance I bought the complete text of the “Missie” play, because I wanted to reread it and share two excerpts of it with you. They are in Dutch as I didn’t want to touch on the integrity of the text (Google translate might help you with a translation in your own language, if you would be interested in reading it).

Van alle sacramenten is de eucharistie het mooiste.
De eucharistie… maar ja, dat is… zeker hier in Afrika.
Dat zijn mensen die samenkomen, die verbondenheid, zoals bij de allereerste christenen. De Afrikaan is een gemeenschapsmens, hé. Dat is ongelooflijk . En dan de mis staan doen onder wat golfplaten en ondertussen een paar kindjes dopen.
En in ’t regenseizoen,
als’t dan plotseling helemaal donker wordt overdag
en de dikke wolken die samenpakken,
alsof dat ’t nacht is,
en die eerste druppels op dat zinken dak ,
dop dop dop dop
er zijn geen muren, alleen dat afdak,
en dan dat onweer dat losbarst
bliksem, zo hard, de wereld die scheurt gelijk een oud hemd,
weerlicht, kraken, donder
en de regen die slaat en striemt,
want die druppels, die zijn dikker dan in België,
’t zijn gelijk touwen of natte keitjes,
ongelooflijk vind ik dat, na al die jaren, nog steeds,
dat brute geweld, in die natuur,
die bomen,
die takken die zwiepen,
die plotse koelte,
en hoe al dat water van dat afdak stroomt,
plotseling hebt ge wel wanden aan uw kerk,
wanden van water
en het moment dat ge denkt dat de wereld nu echt vergaat,
slaat de regen nog wat harder…
en dan een beetje zingen samen,

met die mensen,
die allemaal hun schoon kleren hebben aangedaan,
want dat kunnen ze hier goed,
zelfs de grootste sukkelaar… op zondag…
een beetje zingen over die man die liefde is en, en, en…
ge kunt u dat niet voorstellen
als ge daar niet geweest zijt,
kunt gij u dat niet…

Hier leven ze zoveel langer dan vroeger en ze lijken almaar banger om iets te missen . Laatste keer dat ik er was, ik hoorde niks anders.
Druk, druk, druk.
Hectisch,  jong, hectisch. Dat leek een nieuw woordje toen. Ik kende dat niet.
Ik ben dringend aan vakantie toe.
’t Is nog maar september, ik weet het.
Maar toch.
Een huizeke in d’Ardennen.
Of een cirytrip met mijn maten, naar Barcelona of Berlijn, dat moet niet ver zijn.
Of wat quality time met de kids.
Of een keer wandelen aan zee, waarom niet ?
Gewoon efkes oeeef.
Efkes helemaal niks.
Efkes in mijn bad met mijn broebelingskes.
Ik snap dat niet. Ze hebben meer tijd en minder rust.
Want ze willen dat nog en dat en dat. Efkes niks?
Maar neen, ze willen altijd alles. En ook van den eerste keer.
En liefst altijd nog voorlopig.
Wij kozen hé.
Hier in Congo is de gemiddelde levensverwachting nu 45 jaar. Da’s niet veel, hé, en een paar jaar terug, met den oorlog, was’r nog veel minder. Aan uw veertigste zijt ge hier een oude mens. Maar der is geen enkele Congolees die zich zal haasten om nog ’t een of ’t ander mee te pikken, dat bestaat niet. Die pakken
dat gelijk dat het komt. Die zijn daar gerust in.
Maar als gij niet gelooft dat er nog iets komt achteraf, dan moet ge het er nu uit zien te halen, hé.
Dan hebt ge alleen dat ene leven hier, die paar schamele jaarkes, die paar onnozele tutterjaarkes. En dan
wordt ge de vijand van de tijd, van uzelf, en uiteindelijk van uw eigen leven.
Altijd alles, altijd alles, altijd maar alles, want als we straks doodgaan is’t niet éfkes niks maar altijd
niks. En da’s niet veel, zunne.
Ze hebben de eeuwigheid afgeschaft, omdat ze dachten dat ze die later niet meer gingen nodig hebben,
maar ze hebben er nu al alle dagen last van.
Ge kunt maar graag leven als ge ’t niet te erg vindt om dood te gaan. Ge kunt maar geven, als ge
zelf niet te veel te verliezen hebt. Anders zijt gij een kramp, een mossel die zich vastzet op een boot die
toch ooit wegvaart.

David Van Reybrouck

Just now, a girl, Lydia B., knocked on my window.
She lives in the street as well and received my letter. Like three other (younger) people I met in the street, she comes from France and has been living in the street for one year now. She works for a local radio station and asked me if she could do an interview about the project, one of the following days (Yes, offcourse!). She also brought me a picture of some kind of folk-festival field (if I understood it well).

And today in the street I saw and old man cleaning his windows. Every few strokes he had to stop to catch his breath. I was thinking to go to the other side of the street to help him a little, but instead I just took a picture – next time I’ll help him!

That’s all for today. I also decided not to visit anything in my street myself. Only if I get invited or someone visits me I will gather new information. As I have already enough for quite some work.

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Day 9: Wu Zuoren

As I told you yesterday, I was invited to meet Ezekiel and Sarah at their place in Rue de Laeken. As I got there I also met Corentin, who was visiting.

Ezekiel and Sarah live together (not as a couple) in a house behind a house (don’t know the word for it). They have a terras between their house and the house in front, which is quite nice.
Ezekiel originally comes from Nigeria. He studied financial management in Paris and stayed for one year on Erasmus in Madrid (not only for his studied, he tells me). As he started a relationship with a girl from Kortrijk, he moved to Belgium. He moved in with Sarah when the relationship ended. Right now he’s working as a model for Dominique Models and designs his own bags.

His father still lives in Nigeria, but his brothers and sister all moved to other places. One is in London, one in Malesia and one in Germany. They’re taking over the world…

Sarah is a girl form France, who moved three years ago to Belgium. Her family moves around a lot and she moved to Brussels together with her brother, who is a musician. Two and a half years ago she came to live in rue de Laeken. In France she studied a lot of things, and now she works as an artisan and makes juwelry. She isn’t planning to stay in Brussels forever, but she believes it’s a good place to start an artistic career.

She likes the street a lot as she calls it a “rue de petit village” or “une drôle de rue”, where everything can be found and it is easy to get to know people. She tells me some funny stories about some of the shopkeepers in the street, who seem to know everything that happens in the street. In the street someone gave her the nickname “papillon” or butterfly.
She also tells me the older people who live in the street don’t really know what’s going on outside their street, as everything can be found within this street of 610 metres.

The visitor is called Corentin. Who is an artisan as well, who does Marquetry. You can find some of his work on his website.

After I asked them the questions, I took some pictures at their place (they have birdhouses inside…) and we watched LKN Confidential together (the movie about the street), as they asked me if they could see it. Surely it was a nice encounter!

Lees verder

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Day 8: H1N1

Today I was planning to visit “gallery Congo” just on the opposite side of the street.

Last week the owner told me he was going to call me to tell me what time I could come over. At 1pm I decided to call him, as I didn’t hear anything from him. He said he had the mexican flu of the H1N1-virus. “Et je te jure”, he said,”ça fait mal, qoui. Mais peut-être dans deux jours. Je te rapellerait.” So no visit to the Congo-gallery, instead I did some mexican swine flu research in the web.

I also went to De Keyn paint-shop again to get me a bucket of paint with a mystery colour.

Just now a girl knocked on the gallery window to ask me about the project as she found the letter I posted yesterday, and she was going to come back later with some pictures! Which is nice. Never though I was going to get response to this letter this fast.

And I received my first message today as a result of the letters. Tonight at 7pm I am invited by Ezekiel & Sarah at rue de Laeken 122. Tell you all about it tomorrow. Although I think the daily updates will get shorter (and maybe not daily anymore), as I will start work more for the 25th.

Ow, and I found out in a book that “Laeken” comes from the English “lake”. Because the land on which Brussels was developed was very marshy. Quite a few streets in this city bear the names of ancient swamps or rivers.

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Day 7: An idea never comes alone & chocolat.

When I arrived at the gallery, Betty was there, waiting for me. She brought me four books and an adress that could help me in my search for information:

To start my own search I went to “Bruxelles nous appartient/Brussel behoort ons toe” where they promised me a copy of the movie “LKN Confidential” a movie made by The Italian ZimmerFrei collective.

And they kept their promise. The collective made a nice documetary about the street, which, badly enough I can’t show you completely on the blog (hm, it’s even impossible to take screenprints… someone?). But most of the places I visited so far were also integrated in this documentary. I also saw some things that I haven’t discovered so far and look quite interesting. In a way, the surprise is gone now, but on the other hand it helps me to go to the right places in the street.

Secondly I posted a short text about my project on the blog of brussels. Which you can find here.
Because I want to digest as much as possible information about the street I decided to write a letter to all the inhabitants in the street. From several friends I received translations of this letter in Spanish, Chinese, French and Polish (I occupied myself with Dutch and English). Many thanks to Bea Vasquez, Kar Man Pang, Natacha en Dominique van den Boer en Danka Radski for the translations!

This is what the letter said:
Lees verder

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