18th April – decades of a date

18th April 1986 – I am 27 years old and it is my wedding day…

18th April, 1966
18th April, 1976
18th April, 1986
18th April, 1996
18th April, 2006
18th April, 2016
18th April, 2026

*No, I don’t remember days that were 18th April in all these years, or the dates of Easter in 1966 and 2006. But the Internet has its uses, and one is a plethora of calendars where you can check these things.

*Goding, which works perfectly well as a family name in English, sounds weird to Swedish ears since it’s a slang description for an attractive person – think “sweetie”. Mrs SC assumed the gentleman had taken the name, but I suppose he might have had an English Goding ancestor.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

There’s something in the Brussels Air

There’s something in the Brussels air – among other things the spores of yeast, and also the spores of art

Brussels Air - To peel a ball - 2To be sure, there’s more in the air everywhere than we can usually see – dust motes glimpsed dancing in the sunlight are not even the half of it. Just at present I’m going through a pollen reaction phase. I know that the Brussels air is laden with pollen because my eyes are itching and my nose is running, I just can’t see it. Can’t see it except after the rain when pollen scrubbed from the air scums puddles and leaves yellow-green lines on car windscreens where the wipers have rested at the end of an arc.

Brussels Air - Dekkera bruxellensis - English partBut there is something special in the Brussels air: spores of the wild yeast B. bruxellensis (aka Dekkera bruxellensis). Belgian lambic beer is brewed without the addition of brewer’s yeast. Instead the fermentation vessels, filled with barley malt and wheat mash, are left open and the wild yeast in the air that lands on the mash starts the fermentation.

Brussels Air - Ne touche à rien - Don't touchNow, though the yeast spores do exist in the wild in the air of the Senne river valley where Brussels stands, and though lambic beer was originally brewed – 900 years ago – just from these wild open-air spores, more recently the lambic process is started within the brewery. After all this time there is a higher concentration of wild yeast in the air of the brewery and so the process is more reliable nowadays than perhaps it once was.

Theoretically, though, anyone can make beer in Brussels – just expose some sweetened barley porridge and let the wild yeast get to work. Not that most people do. It’s far too much trouble.

Anyone can make beer – just as anyone can make art

And anyone can make art out of anything.

Brussels Air - The biography of objects 02 - carpet, wild yeast, fixative resin plus Ombre indigène - videoMost people, though, don’t have the eye to see what might be art in the world around them, and only some of those who have the eye also have the cast of mind, the urge, the skill, the talent, the time and patience to create art from what they see. It’s as though the spores of wild art in the air that settle on everyone, that are breathed in by everyone, have to find the right person. The right vessel in which to start the process of fermentation. (To take the metaphor further, just as today there is a higher concentration of yeast spores inside breweries, I suppose students in art schools are more likely to breathe in a higher concentration of art spores.)

WIELS café spaceAll this is brought to mind by the Edith Dekyndt exhibition (I keep wanting to call her Edith Decadent) at the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre here in Forest/Vorst. The WIELS centre occupies a former brewery and several of the great copper vats in which lambic beer was once brewed share space with the cafe and bookshop on the ground floor. Up above are four floors of gallery space, two of which at present are given over to Dekyndt’s exhibition Ombre Indigène (Indigenous Shadow).

Brussels Air - The biography of objects 07 - carpet, wild yeast, fixative resinEdith Dekyndt is a Belgian artist who is clearly very inspired by science in general and biology in particular. Judging by the examples of her art on show, she is fascinated by the appearance of material that has been subjected to some sort of biological influence. Yeast for example, which she has persuaded to grow as a fungal carpet on a woven carpet.

Brussels Air - One Thousand and One NightsSome of the works on display have been created specifically for the space and make references to the history of the brewery and the brewing process. The installation called One Thousand and One Nights is a carpet made from dust collected from around the gallery over the period of the year. A light illuminates a shape on the floor and the dust is swept and raked within the lit shape. From time to time the light shifts and the gallery guard has the job of repositioning the dust in the new shape the light creates on the floor.

Brussels Air - A portrait of things - vivarium, fake fur textile, humidityThe temperature and humidity of the Senne valley, and the water of the river, are also key elements in brewing the local beer, and these elements Dekyndt also makes use of. A kind of long narrow aquarium bottomed with artificial fur fabric and with condensation beading the glass. Petri dishes with cultured bacterial growths – again, bacteria from the air we breathe. Projected slide image after projected slide image showing the range of colour and form the bacteria take.

Wiels Centre for Contemporary ArtI come out of this exhibition fascinated. A little disgusted, true, but definitely fascinated. I also come out a even more impressed by the amazing filtration job my nose, mouth and lungs do – and the protection afforded by my immune system – given the range and volume of the micro-organisms, unseen, that I am breathing in from the Brussels air.

Is it art? Yes, it is. In the same way as written science-fiction is literature (which I believe to be true). This is science-art.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

Back in Brussels airport

Yesterday, as I write, I flew back to Belgium after a few weeks at home in Gothenburg. It was exactly two weeks to the day after the bomb attack on Brussels airport, and up until Monday I had not expected to pass through Brussels International. I was fully prepared for a flight to Antwerp or Liége followed by a bus journey, but no.

Brussels airport is struggling back onto its feet, shaking off the effects of the attack, and the first planes in and out flew on Sunday. Not to say that Tuesday was business as usual by any means. There were just a few flights and the place was emptier and quieter than I have ever seen it. Still, though, it was working.

Back in Brussels airport: the arrivals/departures gates

Here are a couple of photos taken of the gates. The moving walkways were running, but just a few people were travelling on them.

Back in Brussels airport: moving walkways

Back in Brussels airport: panorama of shut shops

Many of the airport shops were shut (above), though the restaurants around the atrium (below) were open. However, most travellers seemed keen to pass through and move on.

Back in Brussels airport: the atrium

Back in Brussels airport: cart

This electric cart (above) carried a reminder of why Brussels International needs to re-open as soon as it can. But the baggage reclaims hall (below) was desolate.

Back in Brussels airport: baggage reclaim hall

Back in Brussels airport: security

I didn’t think the security was very obvious, but it was certainly there (above). The direct trains and buses that usually shuttle passengers to and from the airport were suspended. It was taxis only (or private cars). The taxi queue was long, but orderly and efficient (below).

Back in Brussels airport: taxi queue

Sea of flowers and the steps of the Bourse

Later in the afternoon Mrs SC took me by the Bourse to see the flowers and signs and all the people who still stand around here, meditating, mourning, praying, adding their own messages and/or taking photos (above), “Pas au nom de l’Islam” – Not in the name of Islam.

There were a lot of signs posted by the international communities that call Brussels home (below). “I am Brussels,” they say, and “I am Palestinian/Congolese/Moroccan/Cameroonian. Stop violence. End racism.”

Messages at the Bourse

Even Brussels public transport (STIB) is wearing mourning after the bomb attack on the Maelbeek station. A current campaign to get people to use public transport has been adapted to the circumstances with a monochrome colour scheme, a mourning band and a re-purposed hashtag.

Brussels public transport (STIB) in mourning

Bruxelles c’est nous tous – Brussels is all of us.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.