I have never been to Belgium, cannot speak any of the languages spoken there, am uninterested in the history of that land, its wars, politics and they have a dull flag. Strangely, something grows from the minds in that place which beguiles me, fastens my attention and tosses its culture to my affections, which smothers it with kisses.
It began, as many things for me did, when I was a child and I developed an annoying obsession with the animated television program, the Smurfs. The tiny, cyanotic homunculi living in mushrooms, separated by vocation were the blades on the drill of their metaphor that dug ever deeper into my affections.
In my backyard, mushrooms grew and at the school I attended, the word ‘smurfy’ propagated onto my conversation, much to my older sisters chagrin. The Smurfs demonstrated fair and equitable social interaction in opposition to greed and material acquisition, of the programs antagonists. What is not to like.
During this time, maybe before, I was wrapped into the adventures of Tintin and his dog, Snowy. Drawn with clean lines, and modern-ish adventures presented a kind of pleasure of obviousness that the noisy lines of Asterix and his bewildering, old fashioned capers could not, on real paper unlike the poorly printed comics one found in shops at the time. The comics in the store had over-blown adventures an were always interested in distortions of humanity and activity that repelled me. The Fantastic Four could be a little more human and dress better, there is nothing wrong with a good hat on a rainy day.
Belgium has a more balanced two language situation some what like Canada, without the geographic space. It is close to the latitude of where I was born; 54º, Antwerp is 51º. So there is a good chance that it is also muddy with an overcast, white sky, populated with tired, angry people who resent their neighbours they can’t understand for some reason they cannot think of.
As I grew older I listened to a assortment of music from this nation; Front 242 and the Lords of Acid populated these days with songs of machines, corporate life and sexual transmitted disease. Things which I was drawn to, filled the newspapers and pulsing televisions. Jacques Brel is not bad either.
Later looking into the fog of culture, roiling about, I found it difficult to look away from artists who’s work could stand without discourse. Silent. The sad words which sophistically follow artwork are often broadcast by people who did not like or believe art can express what it needs to on its own. Like a seatbelt, the sensation of security can create peril and reason for its use. In this case the danger is ocular failure, blindness. The overt and obvious, self-contained work of Magritte and Broodthaers can travel through ones mind without the propulsion of text and is oblivious to the dangers of the open mind.
Belgium’s national holiday is my mothers birthday, they seems to care about art books, the most tawdry of art mediums. A nation state exporting cultural production into the sewer of my appreciation.
Thank you and keep up the good work!