God, the potter, made your eyes and ears from clay:
now it pleases him to take away from this a little.
Just think of what your Maker said:
‘Though dust to dust: you have no say in this’.

[God heeft u van een kleij die oor en oogh verheugden
Voordrachtelick gedraaijt: nu lust hem van die kleij
Wat aerdighs af te doen. Denckt of de Schepper zei,
‘Schoon’ aerde, wordt tot aerd: wat staet u toe te seggen?’]

Huygens’ psalm Ooghentroost [my translation]


One whose own live has been given a term, is likely to pay more attention to other people’s deaths. Like mirrors. All of a sudden, the movie The Belly of an Architect confronts you with yourself.

Its protagonist: an American architect visiting Rome, who is preparing an exhibition on the work of his pretty dull 18th-century colleague Boullée. While organizing the models and the catalogue, the doctors tell him that his belly aches are caused by a cancer. In the finale of the film he throws himself backwards from the top of the ugly marbled monument for Victor Emanuel II, in which at that very moment his exposition is being opened by little fascist shits who have abused him all the time.

Perhaps, its maker Greenaway had Hitchcock’s Topaz in mind. In it that movie the spy Philippe Noiret is thrown from a high up window of his apartment, ending his life – like our architect in The Belly – on top of a car roof.

While visiting the small community of Chauvigny, Ton and I climb up to its dominant, massive donjon, built in the old town high upon the rocks. Long before this day already, I walked around the edifice so many times, looking up against it, yet never entering. Now is the moment.

Its interior is an impressive space, even larger than the huge monster already suggested from the outside. Its spacious effect is reinforced by the fact that, apart from the colossal height of the tower, down inside the building there appears another deep space which has been excavated in the rock mass.

The museum which is housed here, shows a jumble of dead cultures – some pieces, more often numbered shards, collected in a dig a little further in this beautiful France.

Things always seem less dead than previously living beings. The death of what was living is something irrevocably final. The shards and the jewellery in these show-cases, after all, are here live before our eyes, more or less up for grabs. There is also a huge industrial machine from the 19th century, which can still be touched by hands and captured by my lens.

Back again outside, the weather has turned wet, bleak and windy. Before going back to the car, we make a detour around the giant mass of stones. All at once, there it is, like an epiphany: a tiny corpse of a bird lying on the pavement. Certainly a shock, yet so photogenic. Still, it won’t last long.


Dust thou art, to dust thou shalt return…

My head above the precise point where the little body lies, I look straight up along the wall of the donjon.


Did the young bird – for that it is – not listen all too well to his parents, did it set off towards the heavens too soon, however in a haze of wishful thinking? For this undertaking the little fellow surely did not have enough feathers – yet.

Or was he pushed out of the nest – accidentally, by the parents, perhaps intentionally by a little companion? Conceivably he was a bit suicidal, someone who, from the started of his life, did not like it and instead jumped without flying.

Suum cuique. Each his own perspective, cheerful or sombre. Each his own, often pointless questions.

Sierksma, 14.9/2015 La Roche

In my series Death – no. VI


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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