Bart Lodewijks Bochum Drawings 2 Bobiennale Germany, 13 to 23 June 2019
The last time I travelled away from home for an extended period was six months ago, when I was in India. The drawings I produced there look much like the drawings I’m doing here in Bochum: the same corners are missing, as if they’re not entirely complete. In Bochum I did seventeen drawings – plus one. That one, which was supposed to be the first, will receive its own report, because it really isn’t a drawing – at least, no chalk was involved, though a great deal of work was. I fell short in getting permission. All that remains of my efforts is a missing corner, a story about a drawing that didn’t materialize.
A BAD START WITH A HAPPY ENDING Buildings have roots, just like people. That’s what I try to unearth with my drawings. 06-11-2019 After a hearty breakfast, I walk out into a scorching Bochum and pass by an Aral petrol station; the polished chrome of the pumps and the dominantly blue-painted station finished in aluminium sheeting sparkle at me. Shiny sports cars, four-wheel drives and luxury estate cars, all famous German models, drive slowly in and out of the station: the perfect setting for an advertisement. I watch as a motorist performs the fuelling ritual almost mechanically, seriously perturbed by the equilibrium between human and machine. A mobility scooter with a homemade trailer rattles into the station from the pavement. The trailer is loaded with shopping bags and canting dangerously to the right because of a nearly flat rear tyre. The driver is wearing sunglasses and a faded leather motorcycle jacket, with patches gaffer taped onto it – presumably trophies from a
past life. Wisps of grey hair hang down from under his jean cap. Mounted onto the handlebars of the scooter are a horn and a large rear-view mirror, like the kind you always see on American trucks. He parks his contraption at a grey concrete wall where a tyre air pump is installed. He hauls himself out of the scooter, and when I see him struggling with the tyre valve, I rush to help. ‘Your valve won’t fit a car pump,’ I say. ‘You need an adaptor; otherwise, the air can’t be pumped into the tyre.’ ‘Scheiße,’ he says, ‘all these systems where nothing fits.’ My eyes are glued to the grey concrete wall: a perfect drawing surface, I think to myself. Behind the glass wall of the kiosk, the cashier is busy shaking her head ‘No’. ‘We don’t have any adaptors,’ she says once I’m in the store. ‘Is there any chance I could speak to the manager?’ I ask. She points me toward a man in blue coveralls on a ladder frantically re-stocking the shelves with soda. ‘Sir,’ I say, ‘I’m working on a largescale drawing project and I would like to ask you if I could draw some chalk lines on the grey wall behind the tyre pump.’ He looks as if he hears thunder in Cologne. Did I say something wrong? Surely he saw me offer help to the scooter driver and can thus surmise that I mean no harm. ‘Sounded to me like you were looking for an adaptor,’ he says with irritation, gazing at the hapless scooter driver, who’s still monkeying around with the
valve and the air hose. ‘He’ll have to go to a cycle shop or something like that,’ says the manager curtly. Why so many different systems? I wonder. ‘I can’t help you,’ the manager interrupts my thoughts. ‘We don’t have any adaptors for tyre valves and I have no authority over the wall. You would have to get permission from Aral headquarters, directly across from us.’ I look across the street and my heart sinks. I see an enormous glass-andconcrete building, a modernist fortress with battlements and hundreds of windows you can see out of but can’t see into, a mirrored palace where a legion of businessmen cook up who knows what deals, where no one has any idea of what anyone else is up to, exactly, let alone that I would be able to find the right person to grant me permission for a chalk drawing or anyone who would know where the tyre valve adaptors are. Back outside, the scooter driver rides over toward me hopefully, his trailer careening even more sharply to the right than before. ‘Scheiße, that only let out more air from the tyre,’ he curses, when he realizes I came up empty-handed. ‘I’ll go ask in the building across the way if they have a valve adaptor for you,’ I promise. ‘At Aral?’ ‘Yeah, let’s go together.’ We boldly cross the street. ‘Do you live in Bochum?’ I ask. ‘Yes, in the flats behind the petrol station.’ When we reach the revolving
door, he says he would prefer to wait outside, leaving me to enter the building alone. ‘Of course, it makes sense that the station manager didn’t give you permission right off,’ says Marcus, an easy-going guy who’s in charge of security at the headquarters. ‘People can get bent out of shape, and we all want to keep our jobs,’ he continues. ‘Do you guys maybe have an adaptor to fit a bike valve onto a car tyre pump?’ I ask, changing the subject. Marcus thinks it’s hilarious that I’m asking for such a trinket. ‘Come with me,’ he says. We navigate our way through a labyrinth of hallways and screening stations to the building’s basement. Without looking too long, he pulls the coveted copper valve adaptor out of a metal toolbox. As I’m saying goodbye, I ask him what the best course of action is for my drawing plans. ‘The fact of the matter is that the wall is part of the back of the block of flats. If the residents give you the go ahead, it’s up to you,’ he decides. Pleased by what he said, I walk out the revolving door but find to my dismay that the scooter driver is no longer waiting at the designated spot. Dammit, just when I need him, the bird has flown the coop. I curse under my breath. But not to worry, I tell myself, as a resident of the block of flats he certainly wouldn’t object to me drawing on the wall; he’s just not the type for that. I’m starting to
feel a sense of urgency; it’s almost noon and I haven’t produced a single line of chalk. I walk back into the station store to alert the manager that everything is settled. ‘I have permission,’ I say. It’s so close to being true it sounds convincing. ‘I forbid you to draw on the wall,’ he answers immediately. ‘But just now you said that I had to get permission from headquarters across the street, so that’s what I did, at your suggestion…’ I reply resentfully. But he doesn’t let me finish. ‘No, I don’t like it.’ ‘There’s a high-pressure washer along the wall. I promise I’ll spray the drawing off the wall after I’m done. Why are you opposing me?’ ‘Because I don’t like it,’ he says. I feel like telling him what I really think but can’t seem to utter anything more than ‘you’re an obstructor’. Frustrated, I leave the store. A car that’s just finished tanking up misses me by a hair and the driver gestures angrily and honks. As if, in a country that boasts of its freedoms on a daily basis, it was illegal to risk your own life, I mutter to myself. I’m clamping the valve adaptor in my hand like a piece of chalk that can’t be used to draw with. I walk to the grey wall and place it on the air machine, putting things right.
06-12-2019 As soon as I arrive in Bochum, a thunderstorm hits; the city is washed clean before I start working. Seeking cover, I end up near a nightclub whose facade is out of the wind, a place offering protection against the rain. I press my back against the wall under the neon sign – Golden Girls tabledance – and wait for the shower to blow over. People rush past with their collars turned up and umbrellas unfolded; no one pays me any mind. I start to draw on the wall in the pouring rain.
06-12-2019 The cream-coloured brick facade has an intricate structure; it pleasantly reflects the light and sets off the chalk nicely. There are many nightclubs in Bochum whose outward appearance has changed little since the nineteen fifties. On the surface, these clubs appear derelict, as if theyâ€™ve lost their spirit; only if you have an eye for it can you see their beauty.
06-12-2019 I decide to let the chalk edges that form along the side of the ruler stand, creating small ridges, a relief that produces shadows. Itâ€™s a bit like acupressure: concentrated force on a single point. By repeating small planes here and there, I hope to bring about a release in a neighbourhood. â€Š
06-12-2019 Later that day, an architect points out to me that the nightclub’s facade has protected status. ‘Years ago, the owner replaced the facade with a sexier version and it cost him dearly,’ the architect says. ‘By the way, your drawing reminds me of that flag by Jasper Johns.’
06-13-2019 When I ultimately arrive at the place I had wanted to start drawing, I’m blown away by all the graffiti. There is almost no free space left. The wall is covered in spraypainted names, words, symbols and abbreviations, tags that mostly seem to say ‘I was here.’ I am sometimes tarred with the same brush as my illustrious predecessors, but what I seek with my drawings is a greater closeness to residents. That’s diametrically opposed to the hit-andrun mentality of ‘I was here’.
06-13-2019 A resident lets her Miniature Pekingese out; the little pooch jumps excitedly up on me. ‘He recognizes me from three years ago, when I drew on the billboard,’ I say. It’s a bit of a gamble, because I’m not entirely sure that there was a Miniature Pekingese who jumped up on me then. ‘Was that three years ago already?’ asks the woman, surprised. ‘Yes,’ I answer and realize that if I had a tail, I’d be wagging it right now.
06-13-2019 ‘The meaning of your chalk lines escapes me, but in the lower right it looks like a spider web,’ says the Miniature Pekingese’s owner when she returns from their walk.
06-14-2019 By having the drawing on the street side jump over into the parking lot, I make a connection with the private area. The residents, however, are nowhere to be seen; itâ€™s as if nobody takes care of this place.
06-14-2019 Except for my encounter with the owner of the Miniature Pekingese, nothing too spectacular happens on Rottstrasse.
06-14-2019 Taggers choose locations that have fallen into disuse, because they can work there without being seen. For me, such places are less ideal. My drawings only truly come into their own in densely populated neighbourhoods, where itâ€™s impossible to predict what might happen if you start drawing on a wall without being asked.
06-14-2019 Before I leave Rottstrasse, I draw a large, half-open frame next to the billboard.
06-14-2019 It looks like the chalk stripes are disappearing into the wall, so as to pop up again elsewhere in the city.â€Š
06-15-2019 A bike ride through the city leads me to Bochum Hamme, a densely populated residential neighbourhood that caught my eye last year, too.â€Š
06-15-2019 Passers-by smile when they see me working. You can tell from the subtlety of the chalk lines and the decisions in the drawing that the people here are not as indifferent as on Rottstrasse. I feel comfortable here, as if I could draw anywhere.â€Š
06-15-2019 Somewhat farther up, on Hermannstrasse, I continue drawing without a care in the world, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.â€Š
06-15-2019 Knocking on the door to ask if I can put chalk on the apartment building would lead to an irreversible delay in the drawing process, and that would be a waste of the seven days I have left.â€Š
06-15-2019 That purple bike was in the exact same spot last year at this time. Iâ€™ve been seeing bikes everywhere, and in my effort to have my drawings become part of the city, such locations are appealing. â€Š
06-15-2019 I’m startled by a cough from a grumpy-looking old man, dressed in a faded dust coat, observing me from the entryway of the building. Could this be Hermann, the bloke the street’s named after?
06-15-2019 ‘Hermann’ barricades himself in the door opening and points, without even noticing the drawing, to the chalk dust that’s fallen on the pavement. Was I also planning to clean up that ‘mess’ afterwards? ‘I suspect the rain tonight will help a bit,’ I say. He interprets that however he wants and disappears back into the building.
06-16-2019 I look at the drawing from the other side of the street and though I am far from satisfied, I decide to leave it as it is; maybe tomorrow will bring new insight. It is only then that I notice a large blotch on the facade at the top of the street lamp. A stain about the same size as the chalk dust sprinkled on the pavement. Itâ€™s not directly related to Hermann, but I do feel that maybe he was the one who pointed it out to me.
06-16-2019 The next morning, all of the drawings along Hermannstrasse have disappeared, and it was obviously not caused by the rain, because then there would have been miniscule bits of chalk left on the wall. It was presumably Hermann who produced such an uncompromising shower.â€Š
06-16-2019 The genial atmosphere on the street makes it difficult for me to keep my attention focused on the drawing process. ‘It’s Sunday!’ I hear someone exclaim.
06-16-2019 I discover a curious form of relaxation on this gorgeous Sunday: I stretch up as far as I can on tiptoe, with my arms against my head, to draw at the highest point I can reach without aid.â€Š
06-16-2019 The drawing becomes part of the street, along with the traffic bollards and trees.â€Š
06-17-2019 Between the concentration required for drawing, the beautiful weather and the fact that Iâ€™m left completely in peace, the street almost disappears into the background for me.â€Š
06-17-2019 The white chalk stands in stark contrast to the coal-black past of this neighbourhood, a district that is also much more prosperous than I imagined.â€Š
06-17-2019 Mothers on carrier cycles with child seats and the attendant progeny ride through the street. Old people pass by only occasionally, dragging the weight of the cityâ€™s industrial past with them, the last remnants of coal smouldering in their eyes.â€Š
06-18-2019 A forty-five-minute bike ride brings me to the outskirts of Bochum, to a green zone where the university is located and large concrete blocks of flats were built in the nineteen sixties to accommodate a massive influx of students and workers from Southern and Eastern Europe. â€Š
06-18-2019 As I wander around, I can’t help but feel there’s nothing for me here. What am I supposed to draw on? The public space has been co-opted by all the cars; there are car parks, stores, an athletics track and green zones with fenced dog parks. The functional, controlled nature of the environment ‒ absolutely everything has been efficiently designed ‒ almost causes me to turn back. Until I reach Im Westenfeld, a crooked village street with neat little row houses, sandwiched between high buildings and a metro station.
06-18-2019 On Im Westenfeld, thereâ€™s a red house that stands out from the others. The paint has been unevenly rolled on, creating a sort of patchwork of surfaces on the facade.â€Š
06-18-2019 The Tahiri family lives in the red house, with two daughters and a son. They left Kosovo in 1992 to try their luck in Bochum. ‘Germany is a good place to earn money, but the people don’t really look out for you. I’ve resigned myself to that,’ says the lady of the house.
06-18-2019 In my mind, Iâ€™m projecting a drawing on the right side, near the window. Mrs Tahiri gives me a questioning look, unable to guess the reason for my unexpected visit.â€Š
06-18-2019 ‘It looks like you all once pasted letters on the front of the house,’ I say. ‘I learned German, English and a little French to get by here,’ comes the response, ‘but it was my family in Kosovo that really got me through. We called and wrote to one another a lot.’ ‘You see,’ I say, ‘your correspondence left its imprint on the facade.’
06-18-2019 ‘Would it be all right with you if I made a chalk drawing on your house, in the lower right, near the kitchen window?’ I ask Mrs Tahiri. ‘A chalk drawing?’ she replies, surprised but not unwilling. ‘Yes, a drawing that relates to all the letters you exchanged with your family in Kosovo, a frame, like a blank sheet of paper.’ I indicate with my hands about how big the drawing would be. ‘I’ve just cycled through Bochum looking for a suitable drawing location. Your house has the most poetic facade I’ve seen,’ I say. ‘I don’t mean to be rude,’ she says, ‘but
can we wash the drawing off if we don’t like it?’ I nod, happy to be able to get to work. ‘As soon as the drawing’s finished, it belongs to you and you can do with it what you will.’ ‘Would you like some coffee?’ asks Mr Tahiri, contemplating the drawing. ‘It looks like a lined sheet of paper, the kind we used to write on,’ he says, as he hand grinds the beans in a coffee mill that came from Kosovo.
06-19-2019 Frau Andrea lives across from the Kosovan family, and she has already come out a couple of times to see what I’m up to. She watches my progress while holding a little girl barely a year old. When I approach the pair, she says to me, ‘I can’t quite figure out what you’re doing, but I do find it interesting because I’m a music teacher in a Kindergarten, somewhere they also use a lot of chalk. This little rascal is my granddaughter Mira. We’re two of a kind.’
06-19-2019 ‘Maybe it would be nice if I continued the drawing from the neighbours across the street on your house,’ I suggest carefully to Andrea. ‘Right here,’ she says firmly, pointing with her free hand to the wall abutting the kitchen window, as she clasps little Mira tight in her other arm. ‘A chalk work like across the street; that’s a lovely idea, isn’t it Mira?’ The little girl points imperatively with her plump little hand toward the wall. The choice is no longer up to me.
06-19-2019 Before I get down to work, Andrea offers me a full lunch, which we eat together in her small, decorative kitchen. ‘My two daughters live in Bochum, as well,’ she tells me. ‘My parents live a few streets away, and my son is in Frankfurt but comes home almost every weekend. I’ve lived here nearly twenty years now with my husband. You can’t even imagine it, but after the war this house was built for two families: one on the ground floor and one on the first floor. Almost ten people living in a space the size of a postage stamp.’
06-20-2019 I always have a preconceived plan so as to get a grip on a particular location, but the drawing process is more haphazard than the straight lines would lead you to believe. Everything around me is in constant motion: scooters, cars and children at play produce a lot of decibels. Sometimes the traffic alone is so distracting, I canâ€™t manage to draw. Of course, then there are times when you could fire off a cannon without me noticing.â€Š
06-20-2019 A thickly set line consumes approximately one entire chalk stick.â€Š
06-20-2019 I sometimes wonder how much chalk dust Iâ€™ve inhaled over the years.
06-20-2019 Iâ€™m a bit surprised when the neighbour Achim also wants a drawing on his house.â€Š
06-20-2019 Achim and the Tahiri family get along well together. â€Š
06-20-2019 A brief rain shower causes panic among the Tahiri family. They want to cover the drawing in cling film so it doesnâ€™t get washed away.â€Š
06-20-2019 The shower passes but given the high humidity and hot temperature ‒ it’s about 30 degrees ‒ it’s bound to rain tonight and the drawing will disappear anyway.
06-20-2019 As long as it remains dry, everything’s fine. Andrea’s house provides a perfect view of the day’s work.
06-21-2019 The next day, the Tahiris tell me that their neighbours, a young family who had been watching me like a hawk for two days, came over to enquire about the chalk drawings. ‘It’s so German of them to ask us instead of asking you directly,’ says Mrs Tahiri. ‘We didn’t know what to tell them. What are the drawings really about?’ she asked. ‘They’re part of one large chalk drawing running around the world,’ I told her. The couple looks at me expectantly. ‘Buildings have roots, just like people. That’s what I try to reveal with my drawings.’ Mr Tahiri nods in
agreement: Why not? he seems to think. ‘But may I ask you why your house is painted red?’ I ask. He shows me a photo on his mobile phone of a small red boat that appears to be bobbing around on a lake in Kosovo. Painted on the bow is a black two-headed eagle. ‘The flag of the Kosovan people is red with a black two-headed eagle in the middle. Painting a black eagle on my house was a step too far for me,’ he chuckles wryly, ‘but the flag’s colour seemed acceptable.’
06-21-2019 ‘You can also draw on our house,’ says the neighbour lady Alex bluntly. I’m a bit surprised by her invitation because her husband and young son have been refusing to give me the time of day.
06-21-2019 ‘A drawing on your facade would be less visible than against the red background; it might even be invisible. There’s a certain risk involved,’ I say, asking myself whether I’m happy with her invitation or dreading the job. ‘Can I ask you why your house is yellow?’ I ask. ‘There are insulation blocks behind the facade and the variation in temperature between inside and outside causes a kind of block pattern on the facade. So, we have to put a new layer of paint on our house every couple of years, otherwise it looks terrible. We chose yellow, but it could just as well have been blue,’ she says.
06-22-2019 Frau Andrea tells me her grandfather served on the Eastern Front in the war. ‘He sent home painted letters and kept a diary. We always thought it was because of his artistic inspiration that grandpa managed to survive the horrors of the war.’ She lays out some of the letters from that time on the kitchen table; they’re loving messages to his wife and children, but he also describes the soldiers’ suffering. ‘Grandpa kept painting after the war. There’s a work of his from 1954 hanging in the living room.’
06-22-2019 We stand looking at grandpa’s painting of a German Alpine landscape. ‘Can you also paint like that?’ asks Andrea. ‘It’s very difficult; it requires years of practice. My grandfather painted, too. Maybe I’ll give it a try in my next life,’ I say. ‘You’re more one for chalk lines, huh?’ she responds. ‘Maybe I could draw something on the wall around your grandfather’s painting.’ ‘With chalk?’ she asks. ‘I think so,’ I say. A while later, I’m drawing on the wall in the living room and Andrea comes
up and stands next to me. ‘The clouds in the painting and the chalk lines fit nicely together,’ she muses.
06-22-2019 The drawing on Graf-Engelbertstraße is produced under special circumstances. The home’s inhabitant, Marko, plays violin for the Bochumer Symphoniker. The windows of the house are open as I’m drawing and I allow myself to be transported by his playing.
06-22-2019 Marko and his wife Nika are supporting my participation in the Bobiennale; the drawing is an expression of gratitude.â€Š
06-23-2019 No one can tell me when the bird landed on the facade of Am Alten Stadtpark 68 or what species it is.â€Š
06-23-2019 His beak is too short for a pelican, not to mention that pelicans have fairly long necks and webbed feet, not talons.â€Š
06-23-2019 The pelican symbolizes the selflessness of motherly love. They are often depicted with a self-inflicted gash on their breast, made so that they can feed their young with their own blood.â€Š
06-23-2019 ‘I’m almost positive it represents a pelican. My children grew up in this house and nothing bad has ever happened to them,’ says the woman living there.
06-23-2019 I look at the bird and imagine what Bochum looks like if you fly over it. â€Š
Colophon Bart Lodewijks â€“ Bochum Drawings Drawings, text, photographs: Bart Lodewijks Editing Dutch: Danielle van Zuijlen Final Editing Dutch: Lucy de Boer Dutch-English translation: Nina Woodson Image processing: Huig Bartels Design: Roger Willems and Dongyoung Lee Publisher: Roma Publications This project is part of the bobiennale festival der freien szene bochum, at the invitation of adhoc, galerie januar, Kunstverein Bochum. Special thanks to Christian Gode, Hugo Koch, and Nika and Marco Genero. ÂŠ Bart Lodewijks, 2019
Bart Lodewijks - Bochum Drawings Part 2, English