Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Pigeon Tour

This is a guest post by Barbara Josine Haenen.

GIR is very honoured to include her contribution. I am very glad to see GIR growing to become bigger than my stupid brain.  Other people from the city have always had immense influence for GIR. Without them I would never have been getting into Rotterdam at all but rather I would've just gotten into my own dumb head. 

By the way, please send me an email( icsbiat @ gmail DOT com) if you want to write something for GIR. Getting into Rotterdam is much more relevant when we do it together. 

Pigeon Tour

One wednesday my roommate and I had breakfast in a café. We decided to do so because I am moving to the Amazon rainforest soon, to carry out some thesis research, and we wanted to seize the opportunity to do something fun together in Rotterdam while we still had the chance. After breakfast I dropped her off at the train station and went to the zoo to write my first ever Getting Into Rotterdam article. I decided months ago to write it, and I always knew it was supposed to be about Blijdorp. Almost every time someone asks me to suggest something fun to do in Rotterdam, I recommend the zoo. When I was very little I lived really close to it. I still visit often, I have a membership card.

On the way to the train station my roommate and I discussed what I should write about. I knew pigeons would be a good focus point. Somewhere on our walk we came up with the idea for the Pigeon Tour; it is a guided tour around the zoo, where a pigeon acts as a guide. Which means that in order to go on a Pigeon Tour, you need to go to the zoo, pick a pigeon, follow it, and see what happens.

Because this idea came to me at the last minute, when I got to the zoo, I first went to the Rivièrahal to think over the plan. The Rivièrahal was designed to look like a cathedral and contains a kind of greenhouse full of birds. Tour. In this big birdcage some of the birds get to fly around freely, outside their smaller cage. Long sheets of plastic in front of the doors keep the birds from flying into any other part of the zoo. I walked in and stood still next to a cage with two toucans in it. After I took off my jacket and my scarf I took a few steps, and the toucans followed me to the left side of their cage. The toucans couldn’t lead me anywhere because they were in a cage. None of the other birds in the Rivièrahal could take me anywhere either, because they were also in a cage, in a way. At that moment I realized, for the first time in my life, that the birds in the Rivièrahal cannot actually fly around freely. The reason I had always thought of it that way before, is that they can stand and walk around on the same path that I walked on.

The pigeon might be the best guide through life because it is completely free. I have been to the zoo many times, always with other people. Sometimes I get the sense that as a result, I end up walking around in the zoo along the same predictable routes. A pigeon could provide a good new perspective. A pigeon in Blijdorp is also a particularly suitable guide not only because no one in the zoo would think to put a pigeon in a cage, unlike a toucan, but because pigeons, like me, live in Rotterdam. There are not many animals who would know how to survive if their natural habitat were replaced with a city; a pigeon, however, finds a way. I also live in this city. Wild animals in Rotterdam generally need to be relegated to a place like the zoo, whereas the pigeon has no need for it. Pigeons don’t have to be in the zoo, but sometimes they go there anyway. So what does a pigeon do in a zoo? Where does it go?

On my way out of the Rivièrahal I accidentally chased a pigeon through the automatic doors. It felt like a sign.

And so I started the Pigeon Tour. The first thing I learned was that going on a Pigeon Tour makes no sense and is highly impractical. Pigeons fly away, and usually to places where you cannot reach them. On the way to the train station my roommate had suggested to look for a diseased pigeon, one that couldn’t fly, to follow on foot. When I couldn’t find one of those right outside the Rivièrahal I went for a walk, on my own, looking for an appropriate pigeon.

Looking for a pigeon guide made me feel like Madeline in the movie Madeline, in the scene where she loses her hat, and in order to find her hat, she pretends to be one. Eventually she finds it under her bed. I spent most of my time either looking at the floor, trying to find a walking pigeon, or at the sky, when I wanted to know how many pigeons were flying overhead. Everything else in between the floor and the sky was a little bit irrelevant. Giraffes became almost completely uninteresting. I saw a white feather lying on the floor and it looked like a clue.

It made sense to me, at some point, that it might be easier to find a pigeon, or try to be more like a pigeon, around other birds. I considered whether maybe the pigeon community in Blijdorp had managed to integrate with other bird communities in the zoo. Then I found out I couldn’t enter any bird enclosure because they were all closed off as a result of national preventative measures against bird flu. I saw some pigeons in the ostrich cage but I couldn’t follow them in there. That made all other birds more interesting, and what particularly drew my attention were the chickens. There are chickens in a chicken coop hidden behind a staircase under a wooden Longhouse.

This is a picture of me standing on top of the stairs, looking down at the hidden chicken coop.

These are some very close-up pictures of chickens, looking straight at me.

Another sign.

The chickens were interesting because they were also birds that aren’t really supposed to be there. I’ve seen many chickens in places besides the zoo and always found them more interesting in those contexts. Today, however, these chickens, hidden underneath a house and behind a staircase, seemed relevant.

In order to carry out a Pigeon Tour effectively, you also need to learn to act like a pigeon, and distance yourself from the people around you. That might be the most challenging part; that pigeon touring is very isolating. At some point I found two walking pigeons walking, so I followed them. I followed them in a circle around the little train that leaves near the zoo entrance and provides a guided tour, two times. They may have been trying to tell me something, but probably not. To other people I probably looked insane. If I were more like a pigeon I wouldn’t have cared, and that would probably have made for a better Pigeon Tour.

I found the most pigeons near cafeterias and restaurants and food stands. They were usually eating crumbs. I followed those around for a bit, in small circles around picnic tables. At the time I felt as though things were not going as planned.

In the end I think you can learn the same lesson from both trying to behave more like a pigeon, and from attempting a Pigeon Tour. Which is, that things do not always go as planned. As they often do in life. Much like being alive, going on a Pigeon Tour makes no sense sometimes. It involves a lot of wandering around aimlessly. During moments when the Pigeon Tour was not taking off, I realized how weird of an activity it was, and how nobody had asked me to do it, and as such I had no idea what exactly it was supposed to entail. In the end that didn’t matter, because I did go on a Pigeon Tour, and saw some pretty things along the way, and the air smelled nice, because it was spring. Nobody asked me to go to the Amazon rainforest for my thesis research either. Sometimes I worry that that is not going to go to plan either, or that I’ll forget why I ever went there in the first place when I get there, or that it will all start to feel ridiculous and unnecessary. But then I remember that there are beautiful trees there too. Just like in Blijdorp.

Once, outside another bird enclosure in a big net, also closed off to me because of national bird flu prevention measures, I saw a different kind of bird. It was black, or dark blue, and looked almost fluffy. I don’t know what species it was. I considered following it only because I couldn’t find a pigeon at the time and this bird was walking slowly along the path, next to lots of green. When I got closer, it flew to the top of a door made out of hollow tree trunks. It sat down and knocked its beak against the tree trunks several times, I don’t know why. But for a second I thought to myself, that maybe he was guiding me somewhere, maybe directing me towards the door.

I looked through a crack in the closed door, and a few steps behind it, I saw another closed door.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Is that you??? practiced on 01/09/16


at around 09:30 in the morning I went to Rotterdam's Eendrachtsplein and
I waited for a specific stranger who I didn't know (and who didn't know me). He also didn't know that I would be waiting to meet him. I did know his name and I knew what he looked like. I sat in a café and started waiting.

In total I waited for an hour or so. He didn't show up (this is as expected), but some ideas did pop into my head and I have been telling people about them since. A new chapter for GIR should consist of talking to people about urban wanderings and wonderings and hearing their feedback, such that GIR becomes conversational.  I've been getting some feedback I liked. I heard my roommate, for example, describe this waiting exercise as "supernatural". It is very flattering. I blush.

these are the ideas I've been talking about:

I found that when I am waiting for a specific person, the way I pay attention in public space adapts to my immediate purpose. My attention spikes when someone enters my field of view. As soon as I can see someone, my attention locks onto him as I evaluate whether he is the one I have been waiting for (and an anticipation builds up). As soon as I confirm that he is not (and feel a slight disappointment), my attention shifts to the next person who enters my field of vision. I don't notice anyone who exit my FoV because it is irrelevant to my immediate objective.

I also found that I was paying specific attention to people who looked like the guy I was waiting for. This was a 20-something brown-skinned Asian guy with black hair. Every time such a person appears I notice my anticipation rising. Even though none of them was my target-person, just the fact that they share some physical features makes them more likely to be him. On the other hand, every person who do not meet these physical requirements (anyone who would be female, white, black, blonde hair, red hair, elderly, children etc) were quickly screened out and ignored. Because of my immediate purpose, so many had become effectively invisible, while those who fit my criteria become extra-visible. I know that in this hour I saw a lot of brown Asian men at Eendrachtsplein. I have no idea how many black women walked by.

I think the key meta-observation is that, were the subject of my wait to be a different person, my experience of waiting and seeing people in a public space would also have been completely different. The experience of being in a public space and watching people could, therefore, be designedby giving the observer a specific purpose. With different sets of purposes, being in the same location in the same city watching the same pedestrians could result in different sets of feelings and conclusions. If you want yourself or someone else to feel a certain way about a city and its people, you could design a waiting exercise to achieve this goal. ( The skin/hair features is just incidental in my practice but one quick idea for a desirable goal would be, for example, to combat or study racial profiling.)

I didn't apply a narrative to the exercise because I wanted this session to be simple. But it is of course possible to do such a thing. I could pretend, for example, to be my subject's long-lost childhood friend. Maybe he had saved my life in the local swimming pool. Maybe he owed me a lot of money but I have recently decided to forget about it. With plot-devices such as these, the waiting (and the anticipation-disappointment cycle) could become much more emotional and theatrical.  Alternatively, I can also pretend to be an assassin with a contract on someone's head. Or, as per the assassin trope, I could be an assassin who has a contract on another assassin's head, and I anticipate to strike him at his most unsuspecting moment: as he makes his kill on a target (who is the person we both wait for).

Designing a narrative for waiting would be, in many sense, like directing a movie , only that the movie exists both in the urban physicality and in your head, and you are directing and watching at the same time. For me this also implies an experience that is super-immersive, super-entertaining and super-satisfying (or super-under-satisfying as the target person will most likely not show up). While I am interested in virtual reality and augmented reality via technology, I think I am even more interested in augmenting your own reality via an internal head-theatre. 

The other thing I noticed during my practice was that a lot of other people were also waiting for someone. I can tell from the way they look around and pay attention and from their body language of patience and expectation (and slight boredom). Public space, especially those near hubs of transportation, are also waiting space. These are locations that people would typically arrange to meet. You could also say that they are meeting space. Indeed, in any kind of meeting, unless ALL parties arrive at EXACTLY the same time (which is unlikely), there is bound to be some waiting. The wait could be very long or very short, but it is almost inevitable, and therefore all meeting space are also waiting space.

And then, in the English language at least, "meeting" could have two meanings: 1) It could be an arranged appointment where people physically gather, 2) or it could be people getting to know each other for the first time. In both kind of meeting some waiting is involved. There is tremendous poetry in imagining the city as a place where people wait for and meet each other. Did I just say tremendous poetry? Did I mean to demonstrate that my imagination of romantic urban feelings are still those of hazy and blurry teen dreams?

When I was a teenager I had this fantasy that people would be able to find a kind of soulmate who match the exact quirks in their personality, such that when they arrange a meeting, instead of being on time, they would both be early or both late, but exactly as early or as late as each other. In my more recent fantasy I think the city is a complex network of waitings and meetings and what is late for one person could be early for another person. What is late for one meeting could be early for another meeting, etc etc. Waiting, therefore, is the consequence of every unique mismatch between people, and the fact that they eventually manage to meet at all is them counter-balancing this mismatch by making the effort to catch each other in the flow of space-time.

My father has a story of when he was young, he had arranged a date with this girl he really liked, but on his way to that meeting place he got into a traffic accident and his motorbike was wrecked. On that day he never got to go and meet her. There was also no mobile phone in this time, there was no way for them to contact each other, and he wondered how long she waited for him (minutes? hours?). He never saw that girl again. He felt pretty bad about this. And then, some time (maybe years) later, he met my mother.

There is beauty in the kind of waiting where the other person never shows up. The city is full of people waiting for and meeting or not meeting other people, and the city is therefore both a complex network of human intersections and a complex network of human mismatch. As I practice the exercise I participate in these networks and they become overwhelming.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Urban Poetics #1: "Is That You???"

In this series of Urban Poetics, I describe urban experiential exercises and I go perform them in Rotterdam. Some of them are inspired by existing theories and practices. Some of  them will be my own invention. Most of them will be some kind of play that induces an atypical experience of the city. You could go do them (and modify them) and record your findings too. These are acts that could possibly generate rich inspirations, or poor inspirations, or an overwhelming-ness or underwhelming-ness, or regeneration or other forms of urban satisfaction.

My current approach is to take the plunge and hope for the best.

This first workshop entry, "Is That You???",  is an exercise in "waiting for someone to show up" as it's own independent cycle of means and end.

The exercise is inspired by Debord's notion of the "possible-rendezvous." but specified for our time and for (I think) a more incisive effect on the practitioner.

It is a meditation on the city as a place where people meet each other (both in a cosmic-fatal sense and in a day-to-day arrangement sense), supplemented with a meditation of the internet as a place where people meet each other (also both in a cosmic-fatal sense and in a day-to-day arrangement sense). As the ties between urbanity and the internet become tighter and thicker, these meditations become increasingly relevant (in the same ways that meditations are ever considered to be relevant).

The exercise is described in 3 (+1) steps.

Step 1.
Go on Facebook and choose a random person using a random-selection method.

The least complicated way I came up with is to use a random name generator . Generate one name (first name), and search for this name on Facebook.

The first person that comes up should be the person you wait for.

Step 2.
Go to a location where people usually arrange to meet up with each other, i.e. some sort of urban gathering point. You could choose a landmark or a station of public transport (e.g. bus or metro station).You could also go to a café, but then you probably have to order. Any other location where you would meet up with someone is possible too.

Imagine a reasonable time for a meet up and go to this location at that time. This is dependent on your personal interpretation of reasonableness. (I wouldn't go at 3 AM but you could do that if you're okay with waiting for people at this time).

I chose to go to the famous Kabouter Buttplug in Rotterdam at 09:30. This is a most typical location for people to meet. I've met with many people here countless times.

I drank coffee when I waited.
Is there a better waiting-drink? What about waiting-food?

Step 3.
Stay in that location and wait for that randomly selected person to show up at the pre-imagined time.

You could bring a book or listen to portable music, just do what you would usually do when you wait to meet up with someone at a specific spot. Remember, though, to keep your eyes and ears open enough so that IF this person actually shows up, you could notice him/her. Wait until the meeting time, and then wait for as long as you would like to afterwards. I suggest waiting for a minimum of 30 minutes and maximum of a million years. Leave whenever you want to, but try to have some patience.

Step 4. (optional)
blog about it

I'm off to talk about this exercise at the TEDxRotterdam open mic. When I get back I will type up a full post about its outcomes and other thinkings. First I need to sort them in my head to be spoken.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

National Exhibition of Bollards

I still remember the first time I saw these poles from across the street, and my immediate reaction was that "duuuude this is GIR as fuuuck". Maybe I should work on being able to pause this GIR-radar from my urban perception.  Maybe it distracts/distorts a direct and natural interaction with the city. Writing this blog had, in some ways, influenced what I tend to pay attention to when I walk on the streets. And as you know, to pay attention to something is also (by definition) to ignore something else. Attention is psychic energy and I only have so much. When will I get omniscience? I wonder if King Solomon had that. I wonder if ultimate wisdom can enable one to simulate omniscience. I wonder if the Masons know some techniques in the art of maximising psychic energy and experiencing the universe as built space.

I digress! These poles, or as I've since learned are called 'bollards', convene on a street corner at Vierambachtsstraat in Rotterdam's Nieuwe Westen. The open space is labelled  "Landelijk Tentoonstelling Voor Paal", or "National Exhibition of Bollards". The bollards of  different shapes, sizes and purposes are brought in from various cities in the Netherlands and collected in one location here. I read that the local resident's organisation set it up in 1994. Whoever that dreamt up this idea must have had a charismatic and affective mind. Building something like this really is an act of empowerment. It is one thing to travel around the country, taking mental pictures of different traffic poles and proclaim that your brain contains a National Bollard Compendium. It is another thing to build the compendium into a physical museum, so that anyone in the presence of the collection has immediate experience to the national variations of this specific street-furniture item. How different can Dutch cities be, when it comes to small details on their street sides? Here is exactly how different they can be. Look. You can see. You can even touch. Feel the difference. Go on. Yes, that IS concrete with extra gravel.

I don't think I have a favourite, although there are some specific ones that I liked.

This thing with a little blue house is nice. It could be a shrine. Maybe as an impromptu mini temple, you could place a small idol in the house and quickly say a prayer. Next person, next sacred item in-house, next god, next religion. Modular micro-worship spot for a multi-religious community. Utopic!

This one is made of wood and looks like it belongs in water. I'm quite sure I've seen others like it in canals and the sides of lakes. It is extra exceptional, then, to see it on land. 

"Chaining totems". Ok that doesn't really sound like Channing Tatum. Forced jokes are embarrassing. I remember one time I've seen a toddler trying very hard to step over a chain hung between two poles just like this. I watched the kid struggle for a while, and then, in demonstration of my adult manoeuvrability, I walked up and gracefully hopped over the chain, or anyways I tried. The chain caught my foot, I tripped and fell and almost face-planted on the pavement.  Hahaha.

I'm not sure what these guys are supposed to be. A couple? Two dancers shortly before a duet? Rival swordsmen? Two raindrops one millisecond after impacting the ground? All of the above?

This pyramid is kind of like a centrepiece of the exhibition. I like to imagine that it is a live-size pyramid (like those at Giza), and the other poles ancient skyscrapers made of metal and stone. The entire site become mythological and epic from the perspective of an ant-size observer. That's the magic of proportions, no? If you imagine your "true self" resting in an infinitely small centre core of your body, then your physical body becomes like the size of an universe.

I should probably stop demonstrating my imaginaut manoeuvrability before I trip myself some more. The exhibition could look like many things (a chess game frozen in time, a graveyard, a system of sun dials etc etc), but there is tremendous charm and wonder in what it already is. It's just visually amusing to see all these poles hanging out here. I read that local people sometime use this space as a meeting spot. You can even sit on some of the shorter bollards. It's basically brilliant. I dunno if GIR can ever be a physical museum as great as this one, but I hope that these words at least offers an urban mental space for you guys to hang out. I'm hanging here all the time. Jeez, who needs omniscience when you have GIR? Why would I ever pause my GIR radar? I fucking love it.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

small picture post 1

I haven't had time to do bigger posts for GIR (but I do have big plans) (my life looks like it's made up of doing 1% of 100 different big plans)

Here is a small post with some loose pictures from the past year

Rotterdam Central Station, February 2015

I'm pretty sure this was valentine's day
I like to make these small gifs because they capture moving moments in a kind of flux
it's the intersection between motion and immotion
I also want to do a blogpost on screens and moving images in the city
we are saturated with them
Nesselande, November 2014

Small bridge. In this case what I like is how I always set my handycam on auto and it always surprises me with bizarre and surreal white balance. This was taken a while ago though, and it was taken at the twilight after sunset. Maybe the colours really did look like that. It is now November again. I should go back.

Spijkenisse, November 2014

Entrance to pedestrian/bicycle underground passage. These pillars have multi-coloured huge marbles embedded in them. The whole underground tunnel section has marbles in their walls too. 

Near Luchtsingel, November 2014

Concrete stumps with tops painted yellow. I wonder if their positions map out some astrological sign? They can be used as stools, but also they seemed very appropriate to practice parkour on. I also really liked that snake and I wanted to do a blogpost on the Serpent City, looking for signs and symbols of snakes in Rotterdam. I might still do it, but I think this specific snake is painted over with new graphics now.

Swan Market in Van Nelle Factory, Februrary 2015

Blurry image of the Swan Market so as to not violate anyone's privacy. There is good food at the Swan Market. The Van Nelle factory is also an UNESCO world heritage site. Re-using old factory buildings for new creative industries seems to be fashinable parlance in the grammar of urban strategies. In Rotterdam I also know there is De Fabriek van Delfshaven. There are probably more in the country (I've seen some in Eindhoven). I like them. Sometimes they give off this yuppie aesthetics but whatevr bro it's nice and snug and we are allowed this comfort zone. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Details: Station Noord (& space-time)

I spent some time on and around the Rotterdam Noord train station. This is a small station that has two platforms (one for each direction) and a building attached to its southern side. The building was constructed in 1953 and housed a NS office as well as a passengers' waiting room on the top floor. At one time this was a more crucial point of transit, and international trains to Germany used to stop here. Only slower sprinter trains stop at this station now. The NS office also closed down in the early 2000s, and the building, no longer needed for its original purposes, had been converted into an art exhibition space. Usually it's pretty great for everyone if any old-timer finds new life in artistic expression, and especially if the artwork connects with a relevant piece of his/her history.

I don't know what art projects are currently going on in here though. The space has a website, it has a recording of some projects that took place before, but the site doesn't say anything about the now. The door seemed closed too but maybe I should've knocked.

Anyways I was here in the now, and I walked around the station in hope to notice some details. I can share a few with you.



two Thomassons at Station Noord
I've briefly written about the stamp machines in Rotterdam Central Station before. In that same blogpost I also spoke of Genpei Akasegawa's Thomassons. Thomassons are, in Akasegawa's definition, inexplicable objects that can be observed on the streets: architectural vestiges in the urban environment. As the urban landscape experiences renovations and transformations, some small details from previous times are left behind, for one reason or another. Stairs that lead to nowhere, walls that define no specific spaces, these are objects that serve no real purpose other than simply being there, yet they have been indefinitely maintained in their original places. Therefore, Akasegawa concluded, they must be works of art.

These two things seen at Platform 1 are, then, prime examples of Thomassons. An elevated door on an outer wall that 1)doesn't open and 2)doesn't provide entrance/exit to anywhere, such a door is a classic Thomasson. Its kind had been spotted all over the world (1, 2, 3, 4). This specific door used to connect the waiting room to the platform, but the small bridge in between had since been demolished.

The outdated stamp machine, like its cousins in Central Station, is also a functionless urban object that's maintained in its original place, and therefore another Thomasson. The label, Buiten Dienst (out of service), is appropriate for both items in this situation.

I do find charm and comfort in many otherwise functionless things, but I don't have a great thesis that frames Thomassons in an anti-economic-efficiency meaning-structure. Also I don't know if Akasegawa would consider a comprehensive meaning-structure necessary, he was primarily interested in urban objects as they are. My best shot at this would be to imagine two hypothetical urban societies that mark the two ends of a spectrum, one super-sterile and completely without Thomassons, another super-chaotic and saturated with Thomassons. Neither scenario is entirely desirable, but if our society is placed in a middle of that spectrum, I'm pretty sure I prefer for it to move towards the latter. It would be a culturally richer society that has a physicality which spans across more time.

Walking to the end of Platform 1, there are some more leftovers that are less visible. Probably there are many more that I cannot see at all. These don't qualify as Thomassons because they're not maintained but rather are abandoned.

greenery behind the end of platform 1 contains leftovers

(Concrete stubs in the green. The first one is near the building. The last one has the NS name on it.)



On Platform 2's noise barriers we see the artwork of Aukje Litjens, titled Vogelvlucht (Bird Flight). It is the flying motion of a white bird, presented in a progression of moments in time. When passengers are riding on the Intercity toward Rotterdam Central and passing through this station in speed (the Intercity doesn't stop here) , it may be possible to view this artwork as an animation. It is an example of viewing movement-through-time by experiencing movement-through-space.

Alternatively, I have also animated this artwork as a gif image, so it is now possible to view this animation without being on a train. There were 64 frames, each a different moment in the bird's flight. Note that I chose to perceive this work as one bird in flight through time presented in 64 moments, but it is also possible that these are 64 birds flying one after another, frozen in the same moment in time.Or it could be 32 birds frozen in 2 moments in time, or 2 birds in 32 moments or 8 birds in 8 moments etc. My intuitive perception is not more correct than any other possibilities.

At several different points on Platform 2, I have noticed leaves from nearby trees that grew through the crevices between the metal sheets of the noise barriers and made their way in.

Some of them are painted black while others remain green. Presumably the black leaves were painted over when they did the paint job on these metal parts. My initial speculation was that these leaves must have grown out at different points in time, some before the paint job and some after, and if we look at the painting schedules in the last year we might speculate when did each of these strands of leaves breach the barrier.

On second thought, the more likely possibility is that they only did the paint job on specific sections of the barriers in order to cover up some graffiti. Therefore some areas were painted and some were not.

To determine how likely each of these possibilities are (they could be both true), I would have to know the (re)-painting schedule of this station and also the growth schedule of these trees (eg knowing if they shed off dead leaves every year and grow everything anew). The painting information I could not find anywhere. As for the trees, I looked up these trees on the Bomenspotter Rotterdam app, and their species is Platanus x hispanica (also know as London Plane). These are, indeed, deciduous plants that loose all their leaves annually in winter and grow new ones in spring. All these leaves must be new, so I guess, then, that the paint job was done pretty recently in the past 2-4 months or so.  The leaves at these different spots on the platform are also roughly the same size, so they can't be too different in age. If we look into recent graffiti photos on the platform (like these) since the start of 2015 and identify which graffiti disappeared, we can probably figure out a timeline.

(and probably the first step in understanding any stretch of history is figuring out a timeline.)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

rotterdam sci-fi snippets

Earlier in 2015, I have entered some pictures into a sci-fi contest organised by the Center for Histories of the Future (CHIFT). The assignment was to take and/or modify a picture of some place in Rotterdam, with the purpose to imagine the city in 2115, one hundred years from now. The contest is currently being reorganised. I'm not sure when all the entries will be made visible on their site, so I thought I would share my pictures here. Each entry has a picture accompanied by one short description of a scenario. I have made 3 of these. 


An'Gels, creatures made of light, have descended from the sky to share with us the Arcane Secret of the Universe (ASU). They ask for nothing in return, but will share the information under one condition:

The An'Gels detest the ground, and will only allow this information to be transferred from at least 150 meters away from the Earth's surface.

In an arrangement between An'Gels and the Dutch government, it was decided that the ASU will be broadcasted from the tallest buildings in the Netherlands, in Rotterdam's Noordeeiland. The information will be broadcasted in light-based wireless telecommunication (Li-fi). During broadcasting, all lights in the city must be turned off.

-Smart Segway-

In 2115, Rotterdam, like many other urban areas in the world, had adopted a mechanism of perfect-traffic. Every type of traffic is connected to the internet and regulated to prevent accidents. Not only are cars and public-transport automated, walking and cycling had also been completely replaced by the Segway. Pedestrians and cyclists were unruly, unpredictable and uncontrollable, and they presented a high level of threat to other road users. The Smart Segway systems, on the other hand, can detect and prevent any dangerous traffic situation. Users will be unable to drive their wifi-connected Segways into danger, as the perfect-traffic mechanism stops them from doing so. 

In 2115, the number of traffic accidents in Rotterdam is 0.

- E-B Chronogate-

In the year 2115, one-way time travelling had been invented. Scientists developed advanced Chronogate technology that allows any matter (including human beings) passing through the gate to be reliably launched into the year 3115. There's no way of knowing whether these matter will ever make their way back. There's no way of knowing whether inhabitants of the 32nd century are happy to receive anything or anyone from 2115.

As it stands, many people are willing to find out. There are many reasons to leave the year 2115. Even though there is no way of knowing what 3115 is like, many are willing to take their chances, believing that things can only get better in the future. This popular demand for time travelling grew so intense, that cities around the world began to construct public-access Chronogates. In Rotterdam, the derelict Erasmusbrug had been readjusted to fulfil this new purpose.

After paying an operational fee, Rotterdamers can drive their modified vehicles into the E-B Chronogate and leave everything else of 2115 behind. It is not unlike the ancient folklore of Elves leaving Middle Earth. As this is not an easy decision, however, there are also many who take a U-turn right before the gate and drive straight back into Rotterdam city. It must be noted that those who change their mind at the final moment are not entitled to a refund.

If the best science fiction asks questions rather than provide answers, then I'm probably pretty talented at making sci-fi. I'm way better at posing questions than finding answers.  Anyways if we're talking about the future, many answers are not found but rather are made. I like the phrasing of CHIFT founder Etienne Augé: Science fiction doesn't predict the future, the future doesn't exist yet. Sci-fi does, however, prevent and invent many versions of the future. The Rotterdam-based CHIFT aims to cultivate sci-fi in the Netherlands. If successful, it would be truly empowering for the Dutch society to be able to prevent and invent versions of the future to its own liking.

On my end, this notion is relevant to one specific GIR project. On the very first GIR blogpost I wrote about using the Rotterdam metros as a system for fortune-telling. I have been meditating and developing this system since, I will elaborate on this in another blogpost (hopefully soon). The teaser thought, so to speak, is this: Wouldn't it be personally empowering, for you to be able to prevent and invent different interpretations of your own future?

While CHIFT advocates the societal relevance of sci-fi, I have been meaning to advocate the personal relevance of magic practices. As it turns out, we could both design processes to advance our respective fascinations while incorporating the Rotterdam urban environment. I'm pretty excited to see the other sci-fi contest entries when CHIFT eventually makes them viewable. It's usually great fun to experience the city through any kind of genre-specific fascination. In addition to the Sci-Fi City and the Magic City, we can also live in the Romantic-Thriller City, the Noir City, the Horror-Comedy City and so on and so forth.