Quite some time ago I started a series of little texts which were called FOUND OBJECTS and another one called ORPHAN SIGNS. This piece is a new episode in both. ‘New’ in the sense that most of them were not yet published on Sequences.

Again and again one encounters objects, the existence of which is surprising. They are an utter, often mysterious enigma. As the years go by I found less and less ‘interesting’ things in the space of the Emmaüs charity shop in French Le Blanc.

The past seems to be exhausted. Older generations on the farm who were still using objects that have become outdated by so-called progress did indeed preserve these for quite a while. When they died, the property was emptied by their kin or by the next owner, thus things found their way to the brocante or to Emmaüs.

This habit is dying. More and more furniture is now removed by a new generation of people who are not charmed any longer by what is useless and by what they don’t understand. Now, instead of ending up on flea-markets, such objects land directly on the rubbish-dump.

This time, though, I was lucky. On the floor, in a little corner, placed against a table’s legs, two inscrutable objects were awaiting me. Identical like the former Twin Towers, signs without meaning.

I lifted one up to inspect it. So heavy it was, that my arthritis claw immediately dropped it again, perhaps also the result of a fear which a foreign body inspired in my own Fremdkörper.



Its huge weight increased the riddle.

First I made a tour around the little hall, risking that someone else might steal them away from me. What an awesome price for the two pieces together – 25 Euro. After all, we are on a flea market…

By the time of our second encounter ‘the thing’ had only grown in mystery. This time I pick it up with both hands. Its ‘top’ appears to be made of heavy Russia leather. Then a modest man gives out, hoping that the seller also has no idea, so I won’t look too stupid. But the man does know.

“This, sir, is a knee strut, once used by the blacksmith while shoeing a horse. As this job took quite some time, he needed to stabilize the knees. With both of them on such an aid he did well, provided of course that they are heavy enough not to slide around. They are made of cast iron.”

It is of an elegance – so beautiful! And everything according to Sullivan’s design maxim: Form follows function. In order that the pressure of the knee does not move the strut forward, while at the same time the knee is saved from sliding off, there is a little dip in the leather and up front the thing rises a bit, resting on a steel ledge.



Its construction is hyper ingenious – strangely enough also the explanation of that tempting, smooth, glossy leather. The Russia leather is nailed onto a steel frame in such a manner that its interior is waterproof.



Via an opening which can be closed with a steel cap, the steel/leather vessel is filled with fluid. Thus, the knee rests pleasantly on a water bed, the blacksmith can focus all attention on horse and horseshoe.

‘Hence the horseshoe shape’ my tongue almost said. Luckily I kept her inside. Occasionally you need to be 100% silly and 100% ignorant. Don’t fake intelligence…



That we are confronted with decent stuff may be deduced from the relief text embossed on its bottom. Even though France rather not imports anything, for a trick like this the smith had to turn to a German tool factory called Maschinen Fabrik.



Now, I merely wanted to buy one of those marvels – on its own it is even more of a miracle than as a set. And after all, I am not a blacksmith; I even need to check the amount of horsepower of my car to know whether it will be able to carry the weight of just one of them.

So I asked the man if I could buy just one. No problem! Now, what would be its price? 10 Euro, sir! Arithmetic in such a provincial town seems to be in less good shape than the antiquities which occasionally appear on its flea market…

At the same time: ‘Found Object’ and ‘Orphan Sign’.

A reference to another social cosmos – one still hinging on just that one horsepower per individual horse, an animal of flesh and blood at that. Nowadays each of our motors harnesses so many horse powers, each of these equally strong. In workshops they do not take motors apart any longer. Everything turns on modules which can be replaced wholesale, after a computer has analysed the beast.

Horseshoes have become redundant.

Sierksma, La Roche 21.6 / 2016


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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