239 Things

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Studium Generale 1000things lectures, The Hague

239 Things

The Spanish interior architect Iñaki Aliste Lizarrald draws detailed maps of houses from TV series and films.

From Will & Grace to The Big Bang Theory to Up to Breakfast at Tiffany's: fans will instantly recognise the apartments they have so often taken a peek into. Lizarralde (42) meticulously studies the series to find out the precise location of furniture and the way the rooms are connected.

'About five years ago I started to draw the interior of Frasier's apartment,' he writes in an email from Azpeitia, a small town in the Spanish part of the Basque region. 'I liked the series and the apartment, which I wanted to analyse. Then a friend asked me if I could draw a map of Carrie's flat from Sex and the City. That's how this got under way.'

Lizarralde claims he isn’t a complete tube-addict. 'My own taste is somewhat old-fashioned: I like Six Feet Under, Upstairs/Downstairs and Twin Peaks.' However, in order to draw up a map he goes through each and every episode, finger on fast-forward, not to miss a glimpse of the interior.

'Episodes in which the houses are clearly brought into view I study extra carefully. The most important set, usually the living room, features in every episode, so that's easy. But rooms that are more rare to snatch a glimpse of are built anew each time someplace else in the TV studios. Similarly, interiors of houses in films are often hard to reconstruct, because in films they hardly ever show you the whole place.'

Since most series are shot in TV studios, the maps don't show squares or rectangles as in a regular house. 'Films are often shot in closed sets that resemble a normal house. TV series and sitcoms, on the other hand, are made using something like theatre sets,' the interior architect explains. 'The designers use tricks to make them seem bigger. That's why many maps are shaped more or less like a trapeze. Jerry Seinfeld's apartment, for instance, is actually tiny. Yet the angles of the walls are wider than ninety degrees to make space for the actors and the interior. Additionally, these angular rooms make the room look more dynamic.'

Lizzaralde neither tries to make them into normal houses, nor does he strive for a perfect rendition of the sets: 'I translate the aspect of theatre to the realm of architecture, that's where my interest lies.'

Meanwhile, the draughtsman has become unemployed ('for various reasons'), yet he uses his twenty years of experience in interior architecture to make the maps as truthful as possible. 'I know much about measurements and proportions. In the final drawing, everything must be right: the measurements and proportions, the furniture, the colours of the woodwork and even the location of the accessories.'

The final drawings are made with a felt pen, ink and crayon on coarse drawing board. 'I find that this method is peaceful. As an interior architect I used to make digital drawings too, but to these maps I wanted to lend that sense of warmth that only handmade drawings possess.'

It costs Lizarralde around thirty to forty hours to finish a drawing. He sells his work on Etsy.com. Then he copies the whole drawing, which costs him another ten to fifteen hours. And he isn't pricy: they change owners for just forty euros.

The Greek philosopher Anaximander believed the world to be shaped like a barrel and that humans inhabited the flat top. He was the first to draw a map of the world as a flat round button with a border of blue, representing the ocean. Three blue streams of water divided the world into three practically equal portions. The map resembles today’s Mercedes Benz logo. With this mappa mundi, Anaximander consolidated the three known regions of the world at that time: Europe, Asia, and Libya (part of Africa). Those who are familliar with the study of cartography understand the difficulty in drawing up a map based soley on experience.

Take, for instance, the Catalan Atlas, consisting of 8 parts, from 1375. The map follows Marco Polo’s journey and could be compared to a medieval comic strip: a camel drawn caravan rides past castles, cities, through criss crossed routes, two naked men dive for pearls, a servant drives an elephant with the snap of a whip, and text fills the empty spaces. The book, II Millione attempts to provide exact details of his journey but it remains unclear to the geographer how to compile a map using vague descriptions such a day of travel, a day of sailing, or two days walking. The atlas is an amazing visualisation of an unknown world.

Catalan Atlas

For many years, many speculated wildly on the shape of the earth. Flat, round, or oval and shaped like a zeppelin. Mathematicians broke their heads over how an oval shape could be translated to a flat paper. As early as the second century, Ptolomeus folded a sheet of papyrus into a cone, drew all he knew of the Earth, and flattened it. A map. He also introduced the concept of the meridian, lines of latitude and longitude and introduced a catalogue of names of places and their coordinates. He understood that distance and direction were the most vital components to any map.

Catalan Atlas

Artists love maps, their systems, the legend, and the puzzle of depiction. They often make a version of the “real” map to which they can add their own truth. The surrealists were in shock from the horrors of the first world war, and Paul Éluard rearranged the world in a map of the world in which the world’s “pure” cultures were give prominence and some World War I countries were given little to no territory.

The artist Annesas Appel is obesessed with maps and systems. Like the early cartographers, Appel attempts to visualise that which we’re not capable of understanding.

In the View on the World Map 04 (Entities 2013), Appel presents her view on the world in the form of a book. After searching the Internet, she stumbled upon the Bosatlas (the most popular Dutch atlas) on which Europe is centrally placed. We’re so accustomed to this map that we hardly consider the option that this is a choice, one could also use Jerusalem as a map’s central point, like the faithful did. Or Russia. Annesas Appel contextualises herself with the Western tradition in which each individual sees him or herself as the centre of the world.

According to the Bostatlas there are 232 countries. Annesas Appel begins by isolating each country from the grand scheme and proceeds to very carefully draw each province of every country. She then lists each province alphabetically, but leaves out the names of the countries to which they belong. The provinces of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, and so on, follow one another in a long string, page after page. Appel’s atlas is not a fantastical creation, but a new rendition of the scientific Bostatlas. All is drawn to scale, all must be accurate. The Russian sub-region, Yakoetie, is relatively enormous and, however impractical, its true to life scale is accurate in providing a measure for the rest of the provinces portrayed.

The Netherlands consists of 12 provinces that you think you may know, but once removed from their whole they look like flimsy abstract bits, like little animals or fluffs of moss. American provinces seem like they’ve been drawn with a ruler and the legend shows that the Cook Island provinces are too small to even see.

It would be grand if, like Ptolomeus, the atlas included a register in a long and seductive list of exotic names, like Badakhshan, Badghis, Baghlan, Balkh, Manyan, Daykundi, Farah, Frayab and so forth.

For more, please see: http://www.annesas.nl/

I think the essence of life reveals itself in traces, in all the mistakes, the broken pieces we touch, the evidence of usage of things and surfaces, more so than in the successes we encounter in life. But what is the essence of the trace (if it has such a thing)?

For me, Barthes clarifies this through writing about the essence of a pair of pants: ‘What is the essence of a pair of pants (if it has such a thing)? Certainly not that crisp and well-pressed object to be found on department-store racks; rather, that clump of fabric on the floor, negligently dropped there when the boy stepped out of them, careless lazy, indifferent. The essence of an object has some relation with its destruction: not necessarily what remains after it has been used up, but what is thrown away as being of no use’[1]

gerlach en koop, Opschuiven

The void comes to you as a revelation, it surprises, it amazes, sends you adrift into your own imagination. The void appears over time, through the accumulation of dust on a surface where a thing or an object is hanging, standing, lying. The trace appears only after taking the thing away. It is usually not made intentionally because it just appears on the spot where you hang your paintings, clocks, and shelves; place your furniture etc. The more time, dust, and light particles alter the surface area in terms of colour or appearance, the more the trace reveals itself.

Wolfram Scheible
The void trace has the ability to surprise, because it only shows itself after removing an object, an action that can give the person the idea that he or she has discovered something in their domestic space that was covered before. It is a revelation of a literal nothing, a piece of surface that has not been covered with the layer of dust that the rest of the surface embraced, because it was covered already by something else.

The theft of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in 1911 attracted an immense crowd of people from all over Europe, to visit and see the void in the place where the painting had hung before, [2] but not the thing itself since it was stolen. Thus the theft of the painting elevated its status even more. But what is the power, the driving force for wanting to visit the place, only to see the void? The void becomes the protagonist in the piece, but only because there once was a painting with a certain status. With the example of the Mona Lisa, it is obviously the status of the painting and the mental memory of the image that constitutes the status of the void.

Peter Wu

The spatter is a joyful trace. It is like confetti on the surface. It shows itself mostly in the shape of little drops like little points on the surface. Sometimes they are gathered around a big central blot. Sometimes spatters looks like stars with a thicker centre part where thin lines depart from and stretch outwards. It can be created by throwing a glass of wine on the floor: where the wine will hit the ground, most of the liquid will strike, but around this centre there are tiny drops bouncing up again and falling a bit further off centre or touching a vertical other surface like a table leg or a wall. It resembles the fun of water, of playing. It is also joyful because it describes an instant, a moment that doesn’t last more than a second.

The waterfall, which only spatters at the bottom, is purely energy. The clashing of the water on the surface, the uncontrolled way the drops shoot through the air and land until they merge with the flat water’s surface. The same energy is visualized in the spatter trace, but then fixed on a ground. One moment of action is frozen and never able to repeat itself. Just as photography is the freezing of a moment, the death of the object, the still image where all the energy has been drained from, so the spatter a singular event: a moment fixed for just one time.

Wolfram Scheible

The smudge is the touch. It is distinctive because of its physicality. The smudge is, in essence, something you would make with your finger, hand or elbow or another piece of limb, together with some medium that makes it appear. This medium can be grains of powder, greasy substances, or anything that stands out on the surface that is being smudged.

Smudges are made by people; people with dirty hands, or dirty working clothes that fall on the floor. The smudge is always a human thing, the result of a directional action, like smudge traces you find on doors that are always touched on a certain spot near the edge of their surface on a height between approximately one and one and a half meters from the ground.

There is no trace without a past. It tells you that something has happened that took place at a moment in time before you see the trace itself. A trace can tell what has been on a surface, or for how long the surface has existed. A trace can reveal the inner layers of a surface, or show the most used places in a space. A trace can be made in an instant, like a coffee stain, or it can take years for a trace to develop, like the expansion of a wooden door.A trace shows time in itself.

This text is an excerpt from a full essay, to be read here.

[1]Barthes, Roland. The responsibility of forms, page 158, University of California Press, 1991

[2] Leader, Darian. Stealing the Mona Lisa – What art stops us from seeing, Faber & Faber, London, 2002.
This occurrence is the starting point for Darian Leader’s about why empty gallery spaces are attractive and why we like to look at art.

1. Bezuidenhoutseweg. A cold city, that was clear to me even before my train reached the platform. Amsterdam is warm, Groningen is, The Hague isn’t. Amsterdam was my city, or so I thought, the city where my parents squatted in the 1980’s, where Wim Crowel learned his trade. But now I got off at Bezuidenhoutseweg. I could handle a cold city. Leeuwarden is cold, when there’s no one around at 2 AM and the streets are draped in an orange glow. I was introduced to The Hague with the cold somewhere in the background, residing in its parks. Now it slowly encroaches.

2. Herengracht. Everything started to become volatile. Things I had considered good and true for years lost their worth. Whenever I was back in Leeuwarden, the city that I thought was mine seemed alien. Every time I tried to map the changes, they turned out to be bigger than I had thought possible. I was more susceptible to everything - and that’s exactly when I met her.

3. Zuiderstrand. Night, ebb, low plain of wet sand, now and then highlighted in the beam of a lighthouse. This is where we made a pact, our feet in a black North Sea. We stayed till we were numb and walked back past construction works and public buildings with their pilot lights burning.

4. Waldeck Pyrmontkade. Sunday, and The Hague was dormant. On my way to the Museum Quarter, in a daze. This was where the city was warmest, lukewarm, paralysing, a substance in which you could sink away completely and sublimate. Here, she and The Hague became inseparably connected and became my city. Then already I could have anticipated how long it would last. The end felt merciful in a strange way, normalising. I was home for a week and missed the city. When I got back The Hague was, almost in a gothic fashion, mysterious and inviting.

5. Prinsessegracht. She’s here still, but further removed, behind glass panels. It’s autumn now and The Hague is cooling. Everything signals: come closer, sacrifice your previous refuges. This city changes me more quickly than any other place I’ve ever lived and I’m looking for escalation. I want to see this place at its coldest, absolute zero, after that I can handle anything. Yesterday I fell asleep on the train, missed my transfer and washed up on Amsterdam Central Station nauseous and confused. I didn’t recognise that city anymore.

Soft, pale pink, and firm. God’s buttocks are glorious. How could they not be, this is God we’re talking about! They were revealed to me in Verborgen musea – Erotische kunst by Peter Woditsch (2008), a documentary about secret erotic art collections. In the film, professor Charles Méla speaks of the divine behind painted by Michelangelo in the fifteenth century in the Sistine Chapel. Approximately four million people view this behind every year. How did Michelangelo dare? Did the patron Pope Sixtus IV simply not notice it, did he tolerate it in the name of artistic freedom, or was he well aware and appreciated it as a gag? In all nonchalance, Michelangelo casually reveals the creator’s butt. It’s almost as though they wound up on the painting by accident, like in a snapshot taken where God, after creating the sun and the moon and the elements, spins around abruptly so that a flash of buttocks is seen through the fluttering of his robes.

It’s almost unbelievable to think that in the heart of Vatican City, Michelangelo’s God has been floating in this compromising position above the heads of robed clergymen and the tourists who are required by the pope to cover their shoulders and knees. Funnily enough, I noticed nothing when standing under Michelangelo’s fresco as a schoolgirl years ago. If a tour guide had pointed and said, ‘Look, God’s butt!’ I would probably have found this a very extraordinary view, but on my own and without the help of language, I completely overlooked it. I saw what I expected to see: pious art.

Thanks to Peter Wotisch’s documentary, I now know that the Vatican possesses one of the largest collections of pornography in the world. When the invention of the printing press spurred an influx of sinful and blasphemous texts and illustrations, the Catholic Church began the Index Librorium Prohibitorium: a list of forbidden books, in an attempt to temper these abominable publications. In order to know what to forbid, the Church carefully kept track of what arrived on the market. The Index-collection is unfortunately not open to the public, but artist and collector Jean-Jacques Lebel was once allowed a peak into it. He saw shelves full of male genitals, taken from classical sculptures bought by art-loving popes. Before being placed in the halls of the Vatican, the penises were removed, neatly labeled and stored away. The castration wounds were covered with marble fig leaves. At first, the thought of these genitals stored away made me giddy, but now that the forced castration of Henk Heithuis has been revealed, it seems there’s not that much to laugh about.

Other museums manage their pagan erotic art in a different manner. In Villa Borghese in Rome, for example, there’s a sculpture of a hermaphrodite sleeping on his or her side. The side on which both breasts and penis are visible is faced towards the wall. The unknowing visitor sees only the back, and remains impervious to its dual gender. If I think back to my youthful disinterest, I’d almost think that Villa Borghese could have saved itself the effort of rotating the sculpture.

Jean Michel Traimond, guide at the Louvre and at the Musée d’Orsay in Parijs, often notices that people seem oblivious to what they’re really looking at. If it were up to him, it would stay that way, because young women, children, and prudes should not be confronted with sex in the museum. One of his examples of such a sinful work is a centaur embracing Bacchante by the Swedish sculptor, Sergel. On one side, the centaur holds the arm of a priestess, but you’ll see that the other hand is laid on her behind with one finger stroking her anus, the other one touching her vagina. According to Jean Michel Traimond, most museum visitors never notice this, because they perceive the museum as a venerable institution with no room for primitive urges.

‘Art is for the bourgeoisie, a delight for the elite. It’s unthinkable to the greater public that something as ‘low’ as erotica could also be considered art.’

The longer you think about it, the stranger it becomes: the only ones who behave in the museum are the visitors, the sculptures themselves are stiff with sex and violence. I think I’ll go to the Rijksmuseum and the Allard Piersson soon, I’m curious what I’ll see now that my eyes are finally open.

With thanks to Lucy, roaming art platform.