An die Dinge muẞ sich das Kind gewöhnen, es muẞ sie hinnehmen, jedes Ding hat sein Stolz.

Rilke 1914


Years and years ago – perhaps I should write: light-years ago, as my companion has already departed from this world – in the Teylers Museum in Haarlem the two of us visited the collected works of Giorgio Morandi. My friend and colleague wrote the catalogue, the best piece he ever did.

Morandi’s oeuvre consists of nothing but an almost endless series of little paintings of vases, bottles, pots and other kinds of vessels, things that are in the way of other things by throwing light on one another or by taking this away.



Morandi, Bottles and Vessels

As so often in those days – when the two of us did research on English and French Gardens, undertaking nice study-traveling supported by our Faculty of Architecture – he introduced me once again to something I had not heard off. In this case mysterious Morandi.

Before I go into this, I simply have to tell an anecdote which typifies both the team we were and his idiosyncrasy. Planning our garden tour in France, he decided that each day we should drink one perfect bottle of French wine. As the Faculty paid for this, he did not have any qualms – I, by contrast, am a purer soul.

The trip was planned for a glorious early French spring. It turned out to be the coldest I ever lived through. As the plan also involved ‘always eating outside’, picnicking every noon in some park or garden, we did as planned. Thus, inside gardens that would have been magnificent if the weather had been all right, we sat on two camping chairs, opening bottles of superb Chateauneuf du Pape or exquisite Bordeaux, however so under-cooled that one could not decipher their origins.


Now, for my siesta lying on the bed, I let my slumbering eye rove around the shadowy contours of the room. Under a certain angle I perceive on the little shelf above my clothes, draped on their hangers under a useless little mirror, two earthenware pots I placed there long ago as a sober decoration.



All of a sudden, up there in the heaven of this bedroom, in their mauve-grey garment they constitute my own Morandi in vivo. No two ways about it.



Meditation it is – the contemplation of the ever changing light, flooding in through the small window of this room which is fitted in between walls of half a meter thick, as its glow slithers around these two objects, lisping a song of sparkling shadows dancing over the pots’ surface and over the grey-white wall that supports there being.

Ai – the compassion things have for us – stones, a work of art, a flower, these pots – how they have mercy on us – the reason why we nurse and cherish them in turn.



Once in a while, ever since my first recognition of their essence, I place them in a slightly different position. My experiment with chiaroscuro, without the slightest shade of an hypothesis behind it – free lance science of a would-be artist. Whatever! What I do is minimalizing Morandi’s method of using different things for different paintings – I use the same little vessels over and over again.



Up there, they float sublime – color and light allowing these tiny objects their relative proportions, such as they would never achieve outside, in real life.

Sierksma, La Roche 7.5/2015


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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