Saturday, 14 May 2016

National Exhibition of Bollards

I still remember the first time I saw these poles from across the street, and my immediate reaction was that "duuuude this is GIR as fuuuck". Maybe I should work on being able to pause this GIR-radar from my urban perception.  Maybe it distracts/distorts a direct and natural interaction with the city. Writing this blog had, in some ways, influenced what I tend to pay attention to when I walk on the streets. And as you know, to pay attention to something is also (by definition) to ignore something else. Attention is psychic energy and I only have so much. When will I get omniscience? I wonder if King Solomon had that. I wonder if ultimate wisdom can enable one to simulate omniscience. I wonder if the Masons know some techniques in the art of maximising psychic energy and experiencing the universe as built space.

I digress! These poles, or as I've since learned are called 'bollards', convene on a street corner at Vierambachtsstraat in Rotterdam's Nieuwe Westen. The open space is labelled  "Landelijk Tentoonstelling Voor Paal", or "National Exhibition of Bollards". The bollards of  different shapes, sizes and purposes are brought in from various cities in the Netherlands and collected in one location here. I read that the local resident's organisation set it up in 1994. Whoever that dreamt up this idea must have had a charismatic and affective mind. Building something like this really is an act of empowerment. It is one thing to travel around the country, taking mental pictures of different traffic poles and proclaim that your brain contains a National Bollard Compendium. It is another thing to build the compendium into a physical museum, so that anyone in the presence of the collection has immediate experience to the national variations of this specific street-furniture item. How different can Dutch cities be, when it comes to small details on their street sides? Here is exactly how different they can be. Look. You can see. You can even touch. Feel the difference. Go on. Yes, that IS concrete with extra gravel.

I don't think I have a favourite, although there are some specific ones that I liked.

This thing with a little blue house is nice. It could be a shrine. Maybe as an impromptu mini temple, you could place a small idol in the house and quickly say a prayer. Next person, next sacred item in-house, next god, next religion. Modular micro-worship spot for a multi-religious community. Utopic!

This one is made of wood and looks like it belongs in water. I'm quite sure I've seen others like it in canals and the sides of lakes. It is extra exceptional, then, to see it on land. 

"Chaining totems". Ok that doesn't really sound like Channing Tatum. Forced jokes are embarrassing. I remember one time I've seen a toddler trying very hard to step over a chain hung between two poles just like this. I watched the kid struggle for a while, and then, in demonstration of my adult manoeuvrability, I walked up and gracefully hopped over the chain, or anyways I tried. The chain caught my foot, I tripped and fell and almost face-planted on the pavement.  Hahaha.

I'm not sure what these guys are supposed to be. A couple? Two dancers shortly before a duet? Rival swordsmen? Two raindrops one millisecond after impacting the ground? All of the above?

This pyramid is kind of like a centrepiece of the exhibition. I like to imagine that it is a live-size pyramid (like those at Giza), and the other poles ancient skyscrapers made of metal and stone. The entire site become mythological and epic from the perspective of an ant-size observer. That's the magic of proportions, no? If you imagine your "true self" resting in an infinitely small centre core of your body, then your physical body becomes like the size of an universe.

I should probably stop demonstrating my imaginaut manoeuvrability before I trip myself some more. The exhibition could look like many things (a chess game frozen in time, a graveyard, a system of sun dials etc etc), but there is tremendous charm and wonder in what it already is. It's just visually amusing to see all these poles hanging out here. I read that local people sometime use this space as a meeting spot. You can even sit on some of the shorter bollards. It's basically brilliant. I dunno if GIR can ever be a physical museum as great as this one, but I hope that these words at least offers an urban mental space for you guys to hang out. I'm hanging here all the time. Jeez, who needs omniscience when you have GIR? Why would I ever pause my GIR radar? I fucking love it.

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