711 steps

“I closed the front door of my house in Amsterdam behind me and walked 711 steps. As a child I used to count them. My steps, I mean. I took a certain amount and tried to reach the given goal within that number. Usually the goal was my house or a shop my mother send me to in order to get some things she forgot during her usual morning shopping. If I succeeded, the day would be mine.

I don't remember any specific day I failed my mission. I don't remember any day I succeeded either. I just remember the ritual.

This morning I had a goal, as in the old days. This was to be found at step 711. I crossed a couple of roads on my way, bumped into a woman walking her twin dogs, avoided some kids playing football, noticed a giant pigeon looking at me taking my 699th step and reached my goal. There it was. A grey tile on the sidewalk. Next to it another similar tile. Next to it a bike leaning against a streetlight.
I looked around me. I knew this place. But I never knew it was a 496 meter walk from my front door. I took a picture and retraced my steps. The door was where I left it. I hadn't expected anything else.”

I wrote the text 10 years ago. Today it will be performed again by the trio “To be sung”, Albert van Veenendaal wrote the music for it. I wrote the song, which wasn't a song by then, for my first walking project ever.

10 years ago I read a call for the job of bridge guard in Slovakia, in a small city on the border with Hungary. An artist residency was looking for somebody to guard the Mária Valéria bridge, a creative person capable of building a virtual bridge.

“In the year 2001 the Mária Valéria bridge between Stúrovo (Slovakia) and Esztergom (Hungary) was reopened. During its history, this bridge was destroyed and unusable for a longer time than it was actually connecting the two towns.

The rebuilt bridge deserves to be saved from further destruction by people. To this aim, mental protection is more important than physical protection. As long as the mental connection between people is intact, the bridge is not endangered.

The post of Bridge Guard requires a person in whose work boundaries of countries of eras are bridged, mental, social, religious or political boundaries are crossed, different scientific fields are connected, or various artistic media are utilized.”

(from the Bridge Guard Residency website, http//www.bridgeguard.org)

I wrote the following to Karol Frühauf, the initiator of the Bridge Guard residency:
“I studied history. I learned seven languages but prefer to be speechless. I herded sheep in France. I prefer mornings to evenings. I rather make stories than be the subject of them. I’m fond of rituals. I hate miscommunication. I keep forgetting I’m growing older. I keep forgetting I’m an artist.
For being an artist and being a human being is the same thing to me. I’m trying to make art the way I lead my life. In my artwork, I’m trying to show how I experience the world.
In a way, art is something “out of this world”, art creates a world of its own, mirroring the real world, using elements from this real world. They depend strongly on each other, art and the world we’re living in. One can’t do without the other.
As an artist, I’m balancing on the border of these two worlds. This borderline is my subject.”

I was hired.

I prepared myself well. In the last months before I moved to Stúrovo, I walked an imaginary bridge. 496 meters. 711 steps. Every day again. Always starting from my doorstep, always ending anywhere. Anywhere 711 steps from the startingpoint. I filmed every walk. I took the material with me to Stúrovo to use it for an installation. I remember the day I walked the real bridge for the first time well.

Once you're a Bridge Guard you never cease to be one. Today I will go to the Roode Bioscoop in Amsterdam to hear To Be Sung perform Albert van Veenendaal's 711 steps, music that was inspired by words that were inspired by the dream of a man who once fled Slovakia and came back to built a home for artists, to change the world in his own humble way. Today I will think of the Mária Valéria bridge and how living and working there made me feel borderless.

 (In the photo you see the bridge with me in the foreground, involved in the intervention "Biological Graffiti" for which I planted a flower bulb on every new spot I discovered during my first weeks in Stúrovo)

No comments:

Post a Comment