SUBDUED PRESENCE

Clear is the missing form of the one
who was not there and never existed.

Cees Nooteboom, Liturgy

_______________

The effect of The Blue Rotunda in the Amsterdam Vondelpark is only perfect under conditions that have become very rare in Amsterdam. It was designed by the Baanders Bros. Architects. Only when this little building is surrounded by the splendour of wintery bare trees and if it is encased in a cool, snowy landscape its impression is perfect.

 

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However, you must do with a summer photo made by someone else. The airy, wintery suggestion made above will set your imagination probably at work. Thus I make of this summery picture a ‘cool medium’.

Marshall McLuhan pointed out that – for their proper observation – such under-cooled images demand an active contribution from the observer, simply because the gaze is not allowed to delight so easily in a wealth of informative stimuli. This is why black and white television is cool, colour television by contrast hot, because the latter is ‘so much like real reality’ and not, like black and white, merely its shadow

The picture which I did find on the web, showing The Blue Rotunda indeed shrouded in snow, would have negated this little mental experiment as it will be explained. A series of vulgar colour lights in that picture, suspended from ugly cables, was also disenchanting.

My earlier winter suggestion of bare trees and wintery whiteness is now ‘doing’ something to the summer image as presented above, in itself of course also already splendid. The imagination of my reader will, as an of course, add something to it. Snow! Just imagine the whole area covered in that white powdery ice and see these blue circles beginning to float as in a polar Fata Morgana.

Of a subdued presence this architecture – low-key, winter and summer. Modernity at its best. All notion of horror vacui is absent. I at least, one who is always calling himself loquax, become silent whenever I see it.

A similar impression is given by the pavilion the architect Wiek Röling once designed for the sculpture exhibition in The Sonsbeek Park in Dutch Arnhem. When I visited it in 1986, I knew of no pavilion as I just came there for the sculptures.

 

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That’s why the little building struck me while suddenly rounding the curve in a path, as a bolt from the blue. It literally made me freeze – which is what defines The Sublime. Presence absent. An epiphany of I knew not what.

After all these years I’m still in the dark.

The only difference between this photo-shot of Röling’s little pavilion and what you saw at that time were the sculptures exhibited in this white ‘elevation’. That’s what it was designed for – as a floating pedestal for other people’s beautiful art.

However, the building itself is also a sculpture. This edifice is of a complete and horizontal transparency. No inside, no outside. A fragile white jewel, in which the architect has caught an emerald green nature as his precious stone.

A rectangle become virtual cube. Whatever their weight, those sculptures on display were balancing on light. The structure itself had the subtlety of a Giacometti sculpture, the volatility of Bacon’s figures escaping their existential bounds. A mirage, evaporating before your eyes. There, unruly fenced in, the arch poles of life co-habited. Art was born.

I write in the past tense, the pavilion was dismantled a long time ago… Subdued presence, now become absent.

Sierksma, February 2017

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Author: rjsiersk

contact: rjsiersk@xs4all.nl 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. He would not ind being a cat.

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