This is This and This is This

Hey!

Happy New Year.

Here are some things:

This is some snow. This is "a little glow in the dark" at the presses. These are the first dummy tests for the "dislocate" books. This is a good whiskey (after having a few). This is some more work done on the "yakuza" solo exhibit in april. And these are flowers for my mother.

....and there's much more to come.

2013 is going to be a good year, I'm sure of it. For all of us... it has to be. My best wishes to each and every one of you... and see you soon.

a

Slowly shaping Heavens

The Blank Canvas (comp) - en route to Auschwitz - 2012 That evening, I set out to drive 1.100 kilometres to photograph forty-eight blue skies. I was to be a first grand field test for Heavens.

I've been told that a good visual story is one that leaves sufficient "blanks" so the viewer can fill in and latch on... Not leave too little to the imagination, but also not leave too much; try to make it just right.

In this case, wanting to photograph 1,634 abstract blue skies seemed to be a little over the top: the idea is actually so abstract that it simply leaves everything to the imagination. Even photography itself. I'd be demanding a lot from the viewer. The work becomes a very, very delicate bubble in support of the story, even if it was quite deliberately done that way...

But might it be just too thin? Will it hold? The heaviest of stories paired with the simplest of photographs?

It seems like I might be venturing off into installation territory for this one. Not a bad thing per sé, not bad at all... but quite a break from my previous work, I must confess.

Reducing to the essence... Man, I don't think I've ever reduced anything to this extent.

That's the thought process I'm struggling with now: shaping Heavens into something possible. Because Heavens is me adding my little tiny drop, however small, to never forgetting the Holocaust. Because I believe we should not forget. And I'm scared that we might be. And if an installation turns out to be the best vehicle to bring this message across, well, then...

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Hmmm... I just realize that the above might sound overly cryptic to everyone - maybe even to me. I guess I should describe the concept behind Heavens pretty soon. And show a photograph too.

First on my to do list. Promise.

 

But now, sun's setting, spring's started, evening's beautiful. Today's given, tomorrow's never promised. Enjoy the now.

a

 

Meet Gaston | Heavens

Meet my late grandfather, Antoine Libens. Alfons Libens & Jeanne Degros were his parents. But everyone called him Gaston. Gaston is the reason that I 'm starting my next long term project: Heavens.

Heavens will become a personal journey, me trying to make sense of something unimaginable. Something unspeakable. Something that took place in Europe 60 years ago, before I was born.

I feel the need to personally understand and place the huge and unimaginable injustice done to so many millions during the years of the Holocaust. A darkest page in human history, yet a page never to be forgotten.

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It all started with my grandfather during WWII, when he was a geography student at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium.

gaston-libens_P1020863

One night, when Gaston was home asleep, Nazi soldiers raided the house. In the middle of the night they banged the door and forced their way in. His mother woke up from the noise and pushed him out of bed and out the bedroom window onto the flat roof. The soldiers were on a mission to round up and deport all university students who were member of a certain fraternity, with members active in the resistance.

It didn't take long before the soldiers entered Gaston's bedroom. Though it appeared as if the bed was unslept in, one of the soldiers felt the warm mattress and deducted that he must be hiding somewhere in the immediate surroundings. Outside in the meantime, Gaston had been unable to find a hiding place on the flat roof, the only thing in the nearby being a glass dome shaped window in the roof, behind which he desperately tried to tuck himself away as much as he could. One of the young German soldiers, about the same age as him, opened the bedroom window and climbed out onto the roof.

It was impossible not to spot my grandfather.

And indeed he did. My grandfather peering through the glass, acutely aware that he could as well just be standing up and in plain sight, and the German soldier looking straight back at him. Then It happens. They lock eyes for an instant. Both men in their late teens. Both men black hair. Both men look at each other for an eternity, in which they seem to realize something more, something bigger than that wretched war.

The soldier steps back inside saying "Nein, er ist hier nicht."... the cue for my grandfather to make a run for it. Over different roofs, several houses down the road where he jumps off into a courtyard.

Unfortunately Gaston jumps straight into a dog pen, waking up the dog who starts to bark loudly. It's about 2am now. Gaston frantically tries to keep the dog quiet, eventually succeeds, and stays in the pen literally for several hours, waiting. Hours later, he climbs out of the pen. As he walks back to his house, at the end of the street around the corner, he suddenly gets pulled into a house by one of his neighbors... a woman suspected to be collaborating with Nazi Germany. She pulls him into her house, whispering "Antoine! Hide here, wait, they're still staking out your house waiting for you to return...".

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My grandfather's life got saved twice that night. And by two of the most unlikely people to do so.

A tiny story of hope in what were the darkest of days for millions.

(From that moment onwards, everywhere my grandfather went, he was always shown a secret escape route or hiding place... everyone in town and at the university knew they were after him, and all worked together to keep him safe. In the end, he survived the war not being deported.)

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I'll be going into detail as to what I intend to do and how I intend to do it, and seek your wisest advice... I'm full on in the research phase now... the photography, the concept, the reason for the title, what I hope to achieve, my fears and aspirations, my sadness, my journey, hopefully my determination to be able to finish this project as i envision it, as that is what I fear the most: emotionally, this might just actually weigh too much upon my shoulders...

I have no answers. But maybe, just maybe, I could provoke good thought.

Lest we never forget.

a