Bart Lodewijks - Noordereiland Drawings 2 (ENG)

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B ar t Lodew ijk s

E nglis h

Noorde re iland Draw ing s 2 Iron F loats

W ith photos by Jan K empenaers 1


N oordereiland Draw ings B art Lodew ijk s , 20 20 -20 21

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I c reate a permanent c halk draw ing on the is land in honor of its 15 0 th annivers ary. T he mos t obv ious s olution would b e to fix a draw ing on a wall s omew here . A nd w hile that would not b e too diff ic ult from a te c hnic al s tandpoint, it would not b e muc h of a c hallenge either. W hat is more, s ealing a c halk draw ing would b e a trave s t y : w hy would I do s uc h a thing? C halk draw ings are made to fade away.

W hat if I had a s pe c ial line of N oordereiland c halk produc e d and pas s e d the s tic k s out to y oung and old ...? T hen it would not b e a draw ing but the ac t of draw ing that would endure and b e permanently anc hore d to the is land ... I s it dow n on a park b enc h under a c he s tnut tre e,* w hic h may well b e older than the is land its elf, and am floode d w ith ideas .

* In ab out 18 70 a narrow s trip of R ot terdam -S outh was c ut off from the re s t by the c ons truc tion of a new harb our. T his b e c ame N oordereiland . It is remark able to think that s ome of the tre e s and building s have b e en here longer than the is land has . 1


Tour

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A f ter hav ing moore d at N oordereiland for a y ear and a half, B ert is mov ing his s hip to the c it y of S c hie dam, jus t to the we s t. H e has re s er ve d a s lip in Voorhaven, an arm of the Nieuwe M aas w ith a v iew of the famous S c hie dam w indmills . F rom there, it w ill b e a s hort walk to the long -term c are fac ilit y w here his w ife H enriët te re s ide s . ‘If y ou want to learn ab out life onb oard a s hip, c ome s ail w ith me .’

I as k the photographer Jan K empenaers if he would like to doc ument the move; we have b e en trek k ing out together quite fre quently re c ently. It is s till early w hen we arrive at N oordereiland . ‘B ert is n’ t ex pe c ting us for two hours , s o w hy don’ t we take a tour of the draw ings I’ve made on the is land over the pas t few we ek s; otherw is e, we might not get a c hanc e .’

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Jan take s s quare blac k-and w hite photos .

I s how him the y ellow triangle and other draw ings on P rins H endrik s traat.

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T here are s till s ome pie c e s of c halk ly ing on the s idewalk from las t we ek . I c ons ider c ontinuing further on the draw ing; then Jan c an wander around the neighb ourhood .

‘ You s hould leave the draw ing the way it is ,’ s ay s Jan.

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S inc e I only work by day light and the day s have b e en get ting s horter, none of the draw ings have b e en c ompletely finis he d .

M y w inter work is c harac teriz e d by inc omplete, damage d draw ings .

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A n old man in a c aptain’s hat heads in our dire c tion and c ros s e s the s tre et, s c runc he d dow n in his duff le c oat.

His w ife follows ab out thre e y ards b ehind, holding an empt y plas tic s hopping bag .

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T he old man grow ls at us , ‘ W hat ’s the point of all that? ’

His w ife s mile s apologetic ally, as if embaras s e d by her hus band ’s c omment. ‘H e s aile d his w hole life,’ s he s ay s .

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T he large heart s hape w ith the words ‘E IL A ND B O U LE R S ’ was already on the wall of the s ubs tation b efore I drew on it. ‘ W ho are the E iland B oulers ,’ I wonder aloud, ‘and s houldn’ t the name b e one word? ’ ‘It s hould at leas t b e hy phenate d,’ Jan maintains , ‘and w hy are the words s taggere d at a diagonal? ’

W e c huc k le at our s illine s s and ne e d to draw as s oc iations . ‘I adopte d that s lante d margin from “ E iland B oulers ” in the draw ing as a c ertain foothold,’ I s ay.

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‘ T hat old grouc h and his w ife are probably jus t as c los e a s k ipper c ouple as B ert and H enriët te,’ I s ay to Jan. ‘B ert told me that there are almos t no more hus band and w ife teams work ing the inland waterway s . A ll the s ailing c ouple s are pret t y muc h retire d .’

T he weather is mild for this time of y ear. W ithering re d and y ellow leave s lie s c at tere d on the pavement.

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A n elderly lady w ith a walker is let ting out her York s hire Terrier, a lapdog w ith a long , grey c oat and bulging ey e s that look around in as tonis hment. ‘H e is s uc h a s we etie,’ s he s ay s .

S he points out to us the row of bric k mas onry jus t under the eave s w hic h has b e en de s igne d into s was tik as and runs the entire length of the apartment c omplex .

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‘I don’ t k now if they are s was tik as , w hether they s hould b e remove d or in fac t lef t in plac e, w hether I s hould b e as hame d of them or not, b e c aus e it truly is unus ual,’ s he que s tions aloud . ‘During the b ombing raids , the K rauts hole d up on this s ide of the is land: I rememb er that time all too well. T he s was tik as are a relic of darker time s , though oddly enough, the building date s from the early fif tie s .

T hey ’re an open s e c ret, w hic h is w hy I pointe d them out to y ou.’

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D e s pite the s was tik as , this part of the is land is a fine plac e to hang out. T here is a c ourt y ard w ith plent y of room for c hildren to play, s urrounde d by he dge s and s mall bac k y ards s et off w ith jury -rigge d fenc ing . T he s quare -s hape d apartment c omplex has four s torie s , high enough to bloc k the w ind from the c ourt y ard and low enough to s e e T he S wan.*

‘A t leas t in the war, y ou c ould hear the threat approac hing; y ou c ould run into hiding and then c ome bac k and re s ume y our life . B ut agains t this v irus , there ’s nothing y ou c an do ex c ept wait, lis ten and hope for the b e s t,’ s ay s the old woman, leaning on her walker.

* T he E ras mus brug (19 9 6) is the sy mb ol of R ot terdam, popularly k now n as ‘ T he S wan’ (‘D e Zwaan’ ) b e c aus e of its tall, w hite, arc hing , asy mmetric al ne c k . 15


‘ T here ’s a b oule s c ourt under the leave s ,’ s he adds in the s ame breath. ‘Look …’ S he s hove s s ome leave s as ide w ith her fe et and a s trip of y ellow gravel w ith a s omew hat s unken c onc rete b order appears . ‘ T he pe ople w ho play b oule s around here c all thems elve s the E iland B oulers (Is land B oulers).’

I als o drew on the bac k of the s ubs tation. I work s ome more on the draw ing that did not get finis he d las t we ek .

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Draw ings not ex pos e d to w ind and rain are immune to the w inter weather.

T hat c omment by the old man in the c aptain’s hat (‘ W hat ’s the point of all that? ’ ) ke eps running through my head like a mantra . W hat if s ailing the rivers is pointle s s; play ing b oule s is pointle s s; plac ing a friez e of s was tik as is pointle s s; doing the s hopping , pointle s s; art, pointle s s; even jus t as k ing y ours elf w hether there is a point to s omething , pointle s s ...? T hen y ou might as well do w hat y our heart tells y ou and draw on the s tre ets w ith c halk . 20


‘ T he as s ignment is to c reate a permanent c halk draw ing on the is land in honor of its 15 0 th annivers ary,’ I ex plain to Jan. ‘ T he mos t obv ious s olution would b e to fix a draw ing on a wall s omew here . A nd w hile that would not b e too diff ic ult from a te c hnic al s tandpoint, it would not b e muc h of a c hallenge either. W hat ’s more, s ealing a c halk draw ing would b e a trave s t y : w hy would I do s uc h a thing? ’ C halk draw ings are made to fade away.

C halk los e s its power w hen y ou s eal it. F ix ing is a form of arre s t, c onfinement... there is nothing c elebratory ab out it. A permanent c halk draw ing s hould not b e an impris onment.

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‘M ay b e y ou c ould do s omething w ith the pie c e s of c halk y ou alway s leave b ehind on the ground? I think the idea that c hildren pic k thos e up and us e them is ins piring; it trans c ends generations . Ins tead of leav ing a finis he d artwork b ehind, y ou’re pas s ing on y our artis tic potential to the y ounge s t inhabitants . T hrough y our ac tions , the c halk ing c an live on. You c ould turn it on its head, mak ing not y our draw ing but draw ing as an ac t permanent,’ Jan s ay s .

T he woman w ith the walker interrupts our c onvers ation to s ay that s he has not heard any thing ab out a 15 0 th annivers ary, ‘... and I’m 9 2!’ S he is c urious to hear w hat the draw ing on the front of the s ubs tation repre s ents . ‘It is a triangle in the s hape of a s hip,’ I s ay, w ithout giv ing it muc h thought. Jan s mile s . ‘ T he b ot tom half of the wall has b e en c leane d w ith a pre s s ure was her,’ I c ontinue . ‘If y ou us e y our imagination, y ou c an s e e the triangle floating on the s pray -was he d part of the wall like a s hip on the water.’ S he laughs and s ay s , ‘ Your s hip doe s n’ t have enough b ouy ancy. It would imme diately tip over: “c aps iz e ” is w hat we c all that in s hipping lingo. W hat y ou’ve done there, that ’s not pos s ible .’

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Le av ing the Is land

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T he Nieuwe M aas has an open c onne c tion to the N orth S ea . T he diff erenc e b etwe en high and low tide is ab out one -and a-half metre s , w ith high tide and low tide tw ic e a day in R ot terdam .

T he draw ing on the old bridgehead on the M aas k ade is s till s hips hape . R ight alongs ide it, B ert c as ts off the mooring line s of his s hip.

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B ert and Jan hit it off right away. T hank s to the high tide, H enriët te ’s bike c an b e eas ily lif te d on b oard .

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‘S oon, from S c hie dam, I’ll b e able to take the bike to s e e my w ife,’ s ay s B ert in antic ipation.

‘I s lid part of the c orrugate d s he eting over the hold s o y our draw ing on the pipe wouldn’ t was h away in the rain,’ B ert points out.

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H e apologiz e s for the s tain on the draw ing I had made earlier in the c abin.

T he firs t puff of s moke e s c ape s from the c himney s tac k .

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‘H ow doe s it fe el to leave? ’ I as k B ert. ‘It ’s s ad . B ut, as the F renc h s ay, c ’e s t la v ie,’ is his ans wer.

B ert s ounds the s hip’s horn to s ignal his departure from N oordereiland .

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‘A ren’ t we heade d in the w rong dire c tion? I thought S c hie dam was towards the ports ,’ I as k . ‘ W e ’ll turn around in the middle the M aas , in front of the W illems brug , and then s ail under T he S wan,’ s ay s B ert.

T he s hip tremble s from the forc e of the engine s . ‘It ’s almos t like a mini earthquake,’ I try to s ay ab ove the nois e .

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‘S he has a die s el engine from 19 6 0 ; they don’ t build them like that any more,’ B ert s ay s proudly.

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A s we are turning , the engine s put ters , and the s hip s tarts v ibrating . ‘M us t have b e en a pie c e of drif twood,’ s ay s B ert. ‘D idn’ t s e e it c oming .’

‘G ood thing metal doe s n’ t float; that c ould de s troy the s hip’s propeller,’ I s ay. ‘O f c ours e it doe s! “ Iron floats ,” as we s ay in s hipping: jus t look at this s hip,’ B ert re s ponds .

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O ne los e s all s ens e of time on the water; the bank s glide by like a s low film w ith no b e ginning or end .

T he move would b e a wonderful c aps tone to my time on N oordereiland, but I w ill s till have to go bac k . I have months of work ahead of me .

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I watc h the frolic k ing , s plas hing wave s and breathe in the s alt y tang of brac k is h water w ith hints of die s el ex haus t.

B ert is at the helm, up top in the c abin. ‘ T his w ill probably b e the las t time I s ail on my ow n s hip,’ he mus e s . ‘I’m ac tually already retire d .’ H e c learly enjoy s performing the familiar ac tions and hearing the s ounds emanating from the b elly of the s hip; he even enjoy s inhaling the nox ious die s el ex haus t.

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T he giant O M A building looms on the s outh bank .* N o s mall things allowe d, it s e ems .

* D e R ot terdam is a building on W ilhelminapier de s igne d by R em K oolhaas ’s O M A (O ff ic e for M etropolitan A rc hite c ture). T he pier is the mos t dens ely built pie c e of land in the N etherlands . 36


R ot terdam grows s maller and s maller.

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S c hie dam is famous for its old w indmills and its genever dis tillerie s . T he c it y has a long , thriv ing indus trial his tory and was onc e nic k name d B lac k N az areth.*

B ert pops his head out of the c abin to s ay, ‘ W e ’re almos t there .’

* T he Dutc h w riter B ordew ijk w rote ab out S c hie dam in his novella Verbrande erven: ‘S ummers it s at amids t the lus he s t Dutc h meadows b elc hing like a blac k volc ano. T he raging fire s of the glas s work s enc irc le d it in a garland of hellis h ros e s .’ 38


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I want to c all out ‘L and, ho!’ but realiz e jus t in time that an inland s k ipper would never s ay s uc h a thing .

A s B ert s te ers the s hip into Voorhaven, I s ay to him, ‘I really admire how y ou and y our w ife would drive to s e e y our s ons every we ekend, even w hen y ou were moore d in F ranc e or G ermany.’

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‘O nc e we got a c rane onb oard, we c ould go s e e the c hildren on the we ekends ,’ he replie s .

‘ Te c hnology kept our family together,’ he adds and moors the s hip.

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‘ T he b e s t thing was alway s to b e all together on a s ailing s hip; that prov ide d a s ens e of c alm .’

I underline the new b erth w ith a c halk s tripe .

‘ W hen y ou c lamb er ons hore, it fe els like running into a wall,’ B ert s ay s .

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B ac k on the Is land

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W hen we get bac k to N oordereiland, Jan and I run into the old man in the c aptain’s hat and his w ife again. T he c ouple is returning from the neighb ourhood groc er, as if no time had elaps e d b etwe en this morning and now. B ulging from the s hopping bag are s ome le ek tops and c ut gre en s tems . A biz arre line oc c urs to me: A le ek pops out of the s hopping bag like a dis grac e d punk s on. T he s entenc e is nons ens e, but the idea that there might b e a s on out there entertaining opinions entirely foreign to thos e of his grumpy father is at leas t a lit tle funny. H e s till give s me a dis approv ing look , ex c ept now he grumble s s omething diff erent than ‘ W hat ’s the point of all that? ’ O ut of the blue, he s ay s , ‘If y ou enjoy it, then y a ne e d to do it,’ and walk s c atankerous ly on. It s ounds a bit more enc ouraging than his c omment this morning . His w ife nods in agre ement, tightly c lutc hing the heav y s hopping bag . S ome c arrots tops and

c elery are als o s tic k ing out. A s s he pas s e s , s he s ay s s omething barely audible, though undoubte dly wellintentione d and s we etly meant: ‘ You don’ t even k now y ours elf w hat the point is of w hat y ou’re doing , do y ou? ’

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T he old bridgehead on the M aas k ade look s de s olate .

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In the meantime, the E iland B oulers have s c raw le d a derivative of their name on the s ubs tation.

T he s e k ids c annot all b e s o lit tle: their draw ings reac h up too high.

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S inc e night has y et to fall – there is s till enough light in the s k y ‒ I draw on the s ubs tation’s ventilation s haf t.

T he old man in the c aptain’s hat happens by y et again and c alls up, ‘ W hat, have y ou c limb e d up onto the roof now ? ’ H e s mile s as if it reminds him of the old day s .

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‘ W hat ex ac tly did y ou mean ab out the s c at tere d c halk pie c e s c ros s ing generations? ’ I as k Jan onc e I am bac k dow n on the ground . H e replie s , ‘ You s houldn’ t take it too literally. C halk is a material that ’s b e en us e d for c enturie s; it has a c ertain permanenc e .’ ‘B ut the s ame thing c ould b e s aid of paint, c ouldn’ t it? ’ I as k .

‘C halk is dirt c heap; it is a prac tic ally worthle s s material. You c an find it every w here . W e ’ve all w rit ten or draw n w ith it at s ome point – it ’s very democ ratic ,’ he ex plains .

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A t the end of the day, Jan goe s to the neighb ourhood groc er to buy s ome food for the trip home . M ay b e I s hould produc e s ome s pe c ial N oordereiland c halk s tic k s to hand out to y oung and old, I think to my s elf as I wait. B ridge s c ros s generations : the entire is land permanently work ing w ith c halk . ‘ W hat y ou’ve done there, that ’s not pos s ible,’ s aid the elderly woman w ith the walker in referenc e to my draw ing on the s ubs tation. C ould s he b e

right? B ert s aid that iron floats . It almos t make s y ou think y ou c ould walk on water. Iron floats … c halk endure s . If y ou enjoy it, then y a ne e d to do it. I s it dow n on a park b enc h under a c he s tnut tre e that s e ems older than the is land its elf and am floode d w ith ideas .

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N oordereiland Draw ings B art Lodew ijk s , 20 20 -20 21

T his proje c t was c ommis s ione d by M urals Inc . / S tic hting Dragende M uur. S pe c ial thank s to M arle en van W ijngaarden.

Tex t and draw ings : B art Lodew ijk s P hotograhs : Jan K empenaers C opy e diting: Danielle van Z uijlen w ith thank s to Jan K empenaers Trans lation: Nina W oods on G raphic de s ign: R oger W illems , R oma P ublic ations , A ms terdam

S upporte d by : M ondriaan F onds , B KO R – C B K R ot terdam, P rins B ernhard C ultuurfonds , Van O mmeren de Voogd S tic hting , E liz e M athilde F onds , S tic hting B evordering van Volk s k rac ht

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