On magic and mountains

So much for blogging about my art school experience – I had to quit after a measly three months. My asthma made it impossible to continue and in January 2010 I had to throw in the towel.

I have been able to keep up my weekly home cinema experience Kunst!Film! and I kept adding pics to my Flickr sets ‘On My Wall’ and ‘Waiting For’, but that’s about it for most of the year. In september I went back to Artless, for a short, but vibrant course by teacher Dieuwke Spaans. Together we collected ideas to act as a starting point. She helped me re-discover what I had known all along: that I love land art: stuff done to change space, to change or intensify the experience of the landscape, make one look at the landscape differently, surprisingly, magically. In land art I recognize my own love for landscape and nature, which I explored extensively from a scientific point of view as a geographer and struggled to help preserve as a civil servant. Art and science both look at the landscape differently, but to me they are equally able to enchant it.

So… what now? In December 2010 I left the Netherlands for a three month stay in  Davos, Switzerland, at the Netherlands Asthma Center. Once my overexcited airways start calming down from all the torture they suffered over the years in the Low Countries by means of air pollution and moisture, I might just start to feel better and build up some much needed energy. Not just for sustenance, but for creativity, for expressing myself in different ways. I want to surprise myself – and perhaps others. My main focus in Davos will of course be to restore my health, but being surrounded by majestic mountains and masses of snow is certainly an inspiration I hope to tap into.

Davos is famous for Thomas Mann’s book The Magic Mountain (1924), in which a young German gets to spend seven years in a Davos sanatorium to treat his tuberculosis. I remember reading this book (half of it actually, twice), and feeling the magic of the mountain myself. No way I could resist re-reading the book, so I took it from the hospital library. I hope the mountain will do its magic for me.

Note: because my posts will no longer mainly be aimed at my fellow Dogtime students (rather an international bunch), but also at current and future asthma patients in Davos, I choose to continue writing in Dutch from now.

Can’t help it

I just love drawing

Hello, I’m Els and I’m a user.

I use cables. I use money. I use language. I use the internet. I use a washing machine. I use a tooth brush. I use oatmeal. I use my eyes. I occasionally use a man. I use electricity. I use insurance.  I use the sun. I use Twitter. I use books. I use a brain. I use a fork. I use a Museumjaarkaart. I use the improbability drive. I use time. I use a human body. I use toilet paper. I use paint. I use Flickr. I use clothing. I use an iPhone. I use coffee. I use the Earth. I use charcoal. I use ATM’s. I use DM’s. I use paper. I use Google. I use Amsterdam. I use hands. I use oxygen. I use paper handkerchiefs. I use vitamins. I use memory. I use speech. I use washing-up liquid. I use glass cups. I use  imagination. I use plastic bags. I use binoculars. I use VLC. I use gravity. I use a bicycle. I use a nail file. I use Art:21.  I use a contraceptive. I use iCal. I use public transport. I use a bed. I use a bath. I use a beamer. I use an appartment. I use Dropbox. I use a toilet. I use knowledge. I use ignorance. I use images. I use The Wire. I use soap. I use taste buds. I use a scanner. I use salt. I use email. I use Dutch. I use handwriting. I use the IMDB. I use vocal chords. I use a bank card. I use maps. I use artificial lighting. I use nails. I use WordPress. I use sugar. I use snow. I use a camera. I use software. I use people. I use the beach. I use food. I use HandBrake. I use Amazon.com. I use Greenwheels. I use documentaries. I use wi-fi. I use buttons. I use paracetamol. I use electrical outlets. I use cassette tapes. I use Transmission. I use a dictionary. I use The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. I use USB.  I use Camping Gaz. I use you.

It’s all about sharing – Kunst!Film!

Once upon a time, because I love sharing my experiences with others, I decided to buy a beamer, clear some wall space and started showing my collection of art documentaries to friends on my now famous Kunst!Film! (Art!Movie!) nights. This has been going on now for over a year. Often we discuss what we’ve seen for a bit, we let it inspire us, but mostly we have a great time sharing our creative and art-loving lives and the odd bottle of wine.

Personal favorites so far:

  • Art:21 – PBS series, now in it’s fifth season. Every episode has four portraits of  contemporary artists loosely connected by a shared theme, lovingly made and no boring talking heads. Don’t know what to ask for Christmas? Look no further.

  • The 1998 Channel 4 series This Is Modern Art by Matthew Collings. I just love the way he talks about art – no pseudo-intellectual bullshit, but straight-forward and often personal insights for anyone who’s interested in modern art. Beware: he might actually make you think.

Burning the midnight ink

I found some time to work quietly to make some drawings. At night I often find it easier to focus. This is the result.


Last week’s LAB assignment was to create an avatar mask. In my early years on the internet I used to hide behinde a cartoon avatar and hardly ever revealed my true identity. Over the past years I discovered that being part of the social media world as myself was so much better than hiding behind a digital mask. So no matter how interesting it might have been to create a new identity I felt this one had to be about my real online presence. My avatar is part of it and thanks to it people in varied places all over the world like Shanghai, New Jersey, Bavaria and Amsterdam will immediately recognize me as @fiederels. So I made ava-ava, and stayed true to myself.


Photography: Daphne Horn - @ikbendaf

I rather like the other possibilities of the ava-ava, like sharing my identity with others. By lending someone my avatar, do they become me a little bit? Being @fiederels – please tell me what it’s like!

Months ago  I had some great fun on Twitter when I borroughed someone else’s avatar and created minor disruptions in his time-space continuum.

At this moment I’m using my ava-ava as my avatar on Twitter. Now I have an ava-ava-ava.

Lino to ice

Anything can be art. In communication class we re-make – but not quite – another student’s art work. Using different media, re-interpreting, distorting and of course misunderstanding, result in surprising new works. This week I transformed Victor’s work by turning linoprint into video. I used my own imagination and associations, but tried to remain true to the simple composition and atmosphere of the original work.

Waiting for….

This summer I took this picture while waiting for my boat ride along the Amsterdam canals.

wachten op twootje

Just a few days later I shot these

wachten op de buswachten op de tram

– and ever since I can’t stop. Is this how projects are born?

waiting for

For Kicks

My iPhone accompanies me everywhere, keeping me connected to my social networks. I love taking pictures and sharing and discussing them on Twitter, Mobypicture and Flickr. The iPhone also records video but  until recently I had not made an effort to creatively explore film making. I just never had this itch, like the one I have when I see something and want to – must! –  shoot a photograph. Guido van Troost’s assignment to add video to a given soundtrack gave me an awkward feeling because I had no idea where to start. Silly, but there it is. Not starting anything was the result. No creative process, no film, but lots of guilt. Wasn’t I supposed to be this creative person, enjoying making things?

I’m fortunate to be blessed by a small army of friendly ass-kickers and one of them did his duty and  made me go out and GO FILM! There was little time left to film and edit the movie, but all of a sudden my brain cells were stirred, tickled and and bubbling. I had great fun shooting several bits of movie in the familiar streets at less than five minutes from my home. Ordinary scenes happening every day like people cleaning the streets, a building project, animals in a pet store and a toy shop display were suddenly not so ordinary anymore. Best of all I had a great time. Editing with iMovie also proved to a lot more fun than I had anticipated. I’m pleased with the result, but even more with this lesson of just doing it. OK, also liked the butt-kicking.


‘Make an ugly drawing’, was last week’s assignment for drawing. Sounded easy enough… but it wasn’t. I tried and failed. Not that I made a particularly beautiful picture, but the result was boring at best and it was obvious I had made at least some esthetic choices while drawing. Is it even possible not to make such choices? How conciously are they made? I certainly can not remember making them.

Consequently I spent a lot of time pondering why ‘ugliness’ is so hard to achieve. It turned out I hadn’t been the only one struggling, because every drawing presented by my classmates was greeted by a heartfelt ‘but this isn’t ugly!’ from the others. So did we fail? I don’t think so, because the journey towards my not-so-ugly picture has taught me a lot about the way I work, think and feel, and I’m sure most of us have had similar experiences.

When I was a little girl I absolutely adored the illustrations in a children’s book by Gilbert Delahaye. Those same illustrations now seem way too pretty, almost nauseating to me. Beautiful or ugly? How can a pretty picture be so repulsive to me? A strong emotional reaction appears to be important to experience either beauty or ugliness. Next week’s assignment is to make a beautiful drawing, so the journey continues.