CLOMPEN THROUGH BELGIUM
Navigating Sideways with a clog, and 4 SIDETRACKS
by Katie Etheridge
Discovering a small pair of hand carved wooden clogs painted with ‘Souvenir Belgique 1945’ in a Cornish charity shop just days before departing for Sideways, Katie Etheridge and Simon Persighetti decide to take the WW2 souvenirs ‘home’.
Saturday 8th September 2012
The right clog travels via Exeter to Belgium with Simon, who is walking with Wrights & Sites on the last leg of the epic Sideways festival.
The left clog takes a train to Lewes, and spends a few days in Brighton and the Sussex Downs before boarding Eurostar with Walking Artists Network.
Through mobile picture messaging, the clogs call and respond to each other across seas and borders, as talismans of place, time and distance.
Thursday 13th September 2012
Both clogs arrive in Zutendaal, the location of the final Sideways festival weekend and symposium. Tied to belts and bags they become more than a talking point, and start acting as a kind of lens to navigate this place, what Misha Myers might call a ‘homing device’.
SIDETRACK 1- Duvel Walk
The Duvel walk [deceptively strong Belgian beer, pronounced DOOVLE] starts from the promisingly named ‘Party Centre’ in Mooi Zutendaal Narvik Holiday Park, and can happen any time after midnight. It should be undertaken in small groups. Leaving Party Centre, walk in decreasing circles around the identikit ‘log’ cabins until everyone has remembered their cabin number and broken into their accommodation.
Friday 14th September 2012
Walkie Talkie Too. Talking with WAN artists about objects and how people invest meaning in them, I offer some hand sized wax and clay legs, relics from recent project Signs & Wonders with Phil Smith and Simon Persighetti, for people to hide as future archeology [see Amelie Daems burial video]. We commissioned artist Helen Hockin to make 400 legs as part of a larger project in response to the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire witch trials. These objects, given away in market places and on country tracks, and containing seeds from the home landscape of the accused Witches, are invitations into a complex his/her/story, but also act as a kind of souvenir. A remembering.
Searching online I find a pair of clogs for sale, almost identical to die clompen [the word we have made up to describe the clogs] but with a US flag instead. The seller says that they were carved by Belgian artisans and sold to soldiers as mementos to send home.
SIDETRACK 2- Stinkhorn Walk [with thanks to Glen and Anna from Airspace for the tip-off]
Walk into the woods looking for phallic fungi. Use your nose – the Stinkhorn mushroom will announce its presence through a pervasive aroma of rotting meat. When you finally spot the white zombie penises springing up from the forest floor, much fun can be had poking them with a stick and giggling at the fleshy recoil [thanks to Mim King for this discovery].
Saturday 15th September 2012
SIDETRACK 3 – Barefoot Walk
Stash socks, shoes and other encumbrances in a locker. Set out barefoot on the specially designed 2km trail at De Lieteberg – gateway to the ‘Hoge Kempen’ National Park. Stimulated by wood, pebbles, mud, water, rocks your feet will send you lots of messages: “Ouch” “Why don’t we do this more often” “Are we nearly there?” Enjoy zingy soles long after you have put your socks and ‘leather coffins’ back on.
In a dark cemetery in Zutendaal, as Orquestina de Pigmeos extraordinary night walk starts to unfold, I stand adjacent to neat lines of war graves, watching jets of water lit by flood lights exploding like fireworks in the sports field next door, to a live soundtrack of joyously squealing children, hidden from view by a tall hedge.
Later, in the woods, I move with the audience towards a light, and the rhythmic sound of metal on stone. A man is chiseling the letter A into a slate-like slab. As hunting horns fade away, the deep repetitive chip chip chipping etches itself onto dark trees and haunted ears.
The performance unfolds into a mini festival at the farm. DonkeyXote, the digital donkey is tucked up in his stable. Paradise cafe provide palm trees, food, Duvel and good cheer. An accordion band play on the back of old wooden wagons. The DJ booth is a little red caravan, the dance floor, a red rug on the grass. Its the last night for us, and time to return the clompen to their homeland. After a beautiful conversation with Franz, the farmer, earlier in the week, Simon suggests that he is the right person to receive die clompen home.
Franz is touched, and reveals that he actually collects clogs, having about 100 pairs already in his barn, dating from the 1920’s onwards. He wears wooden clogs every day, to do the milking. Carved from one piece of wood, these tree shoes perform better than steel toe capped boots. As we hand the clogs over I ask Franz what the Flemish word for clogs is. “Klompen” “Clompen?!” “Yes, klompen” If ever stuck for a word in Flemish, think onomatopoeically.
Sunday 16th September 2012
SIDETRACK 4 – Silver Horn Walk
Start at Brussels Midi Station, following the line of the elevated railway tracks, drift through the huge rag market, past burnt out hotels, endless lingerie stalls, and salon du the, until you reach a giant traffic intersection, overlooked by a 3 meter long silver horn. Climb the steps up to the mouth of the horn. Cup your hands over the mouthpiece and shout or sing your heart out to passing walkers and cyclists.
Wednesday 19th September 2012
First pint of Spingo [deceptively strong Cornish beer, pronounced SPING-GO] back in my local near Falmouth. A conversation about Sideways reveals that Bill, one of the regulars, spent large parts of his childhood in post WW2 Belgium – his father worked for the war grave commission, as a gardener. Stories of languages, friends, and places lost and found spill out over several Spingo’s. Bill still wears clogs around the house.
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