Monday, April 30, 2012

Topography - Waddinxveen

It is difficult to write about walks. Ideally the description of a walk should be like good erotica - it should excite and be - in a minimal way - a substitute for the real thing. But when I try it comes out like a biochemical description of the erotic act - technically correct but not very inspiring.
How to write about places like Waddinxveen where - even according to the guide - nothing exciting ever happened and no interesting person was ever born? And what can we learn from such a walk?
We can learn about the fractal nature of human landscapes. About the intermingling of old and new. About the random patchwork of bad and good architecture. And the always interesting differences between the unintentional backsides and showy front sides of architecture. We can see - in a rough way - the year rings of the city, starting in the old center and fanning out to the suburbs.
We can see the remains of 19th century industry when ships with wood arrived here along the canal. And we have to realize that all that furniture industry has been globalized away by IKEA and China. And we see the agriculture in the background, a branch of industry that has remained in the same place for at least 300 years, ignoring changes in technology, politics and EU-subsidies.
And we can witness the flow of car traffic, that modern river that has overtaken the transport function of the canals. Nowadays water transport is only used for heavy bulk cargo like sand, bricks and stone. And for containers from China. But once the oil runs out water transport might become viable again.
We are amazed by the closeness of the urban tendril of the highway and the virgin countryside. Artificial nature maintained in its original state by careful management and tax money. And again a network of smaller transport canals. Trade and money invades every nook and cranny of the landscape.
This mix of economy and landscape is very authentic. Remember the Breughel paintings? How farmers used every inch of the landscape for survival? You're now walking inside this landscape.
The farmers have not moved but they've shifted markets. Where they used to grow fruit for the cities they now grow garden plants and trees. Later these will be transplanted into modern suburbia to give an illusion of nature and private space. In the meanwhile we can enjoy the structured and efficient chaos of horticulture.

I wrote this piece at the breakfast table in one session without any research. Later looking on the Internet I saw that I had missed the following facts:
  • These inconspicuous places can be very old. This place is from the 13th century. The history is totally invisible (I intend to write more about that, how is it possible that centuries have become invisible?)
  • It hosts the "Forgotten place". An artwork marking one of the many lowest points in the area, 7 meters below sea level.
  • The Wikipedia list of monuments is laughably short. There is a lot more to see when you're "in situ".
I did not consciously copy the style of the previous Gilbert & George entry but somehow it must have entered my subconscious.

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