MEDIA: Audio, line drawings, conceptual sound art
After I found that newspaper on the train, I decided I had to go there.
The particular article describes the location in great detail.
Apparently it is the last spot of the Noordoostpolder that was made dry, the last bit of levee that they closed up. There are strange undercurrents haunting that corner, and sailing pleasure boats is strictly prohibited as ships often get into trouble around the waters. Surrounding farmlands are a disaster, seepage water results in soggy fields and failing crops. Finally, Rotterdam war debris from the 1940 bombing was used to fill up the dike, displaced bits of a destroyed city. My new city too. I was unable to let go of this detail, I had to go there.
To listen to the bricks.
Within days after my discovery I started preparing my trip. Some special equipment had to be built, and as I had no prior knowledge of how to go about it I had to move in a high pace. Every material was to be researched, carefully selected, purchased and tested before use. I got professionals to look at my prototypes and to fix any difficulties in the schematics and wiring. In one particular department store I was ogled by the cashier because I bought their full stock of pillboxes. Little did he know I was building an experimental hydrophone, and had already destroyed several containers by hot glueing defective piezoelectric discs into them.
You can probably imagine that the first models disappeared stillborn into the trash, mainly because the junkie at the electronics store had sold me a batch of old recycled components for a maximum price. The products of a few expensive lessons learned however were rewarding; a secret opamp model and a pretty blue plasti-dipped hydrophone for underwater purposes. For the sub-surface recordings I added three steel rods and an obscure custom differential measurement device to my toolbox. To work around the potential danger of failing gear I arranged some extra equipment; a pro hydrophone and XLR compatible recorder. Finally I made sure to pack camera and a fishing rod. This last item would provide me a safe distance from the wild waters, as a fear of drowning on the spot was slowly building after a fair warning by family members. It would be ill-advised to underestimate the situation.
By concurrence I was able to find means of transport and a hostel without too much hassle, the remoteness issue had dissolved and travel went according to plan. On the first morning after arrival, I gathered all my tools and technology, got a rental bike and set foward in heavy anticipation. The dike already visible from kilometers away in the clear weather with strong north wind, while riding asphalt with poetic names; the Tarnished Road - among others. Meeting people in the last stretch of my trip is a rare event, most of them looked away when I passed. The jogger whom I asked for directions towards the tower was the last person I would see in the next hours.
Then, finally, I crossed the levee by a hairpin turn that went up on one side and down on the other, through the grazing sheep. Upon reaching the other side, the wind got full access to my body and my hair swept in my face. The water was very impetuous, and the tower was clearly visible at some distance. Such a beautiful minimalist landscape - blue, grey, grey, grey, green, green, all of this arranged in elegant folds. Yet I felt self conscious, as I was making my way to the dike's bend. I arrived there a little before midday, put down my bike and sat down for a while in order to tune into the place.
The atmosphere had a trace of heavy presence, my wrists feeling warm and itchy despite of the gusts of wind pushing against me and my gear. A solitary bumblebee lingered, possibly attracted to my blue plastic bags. I could hear some distant birds in the shrubbery behind the dike, while water was butting onto the boulders in front. Between the boulders the water was burbling softly, and I found shrimps living in the dimples. Still wary to move too close to the edge of the boulders I set about making atmospheric recordings on top of the levee, and of the sloshing water while keeping on the basalt. With my coil pickup I searched around the foghorn tower for electromagnetic fields, but there was nothing. Curious how my obscure custom differential device would function, I planted the steel rods in the dike in a place where the war debris was to be located. Exciting 50Hz humming and unknown crackling came trough my headphones - could this be a hint of it?
By now I had gathered enough spunk to move to the edge of the water. I still had to be cautious not to disturb anything, as the boulders were not slippery but shifted under my feet. Should I drown, nobody would be able to rescue me in time. This place is serious business, and I felt lucky with my fishing rod - now I was able get the hydrophone out there more or less safe. At least there were no humans watching as I was making a fool out of myself while the hydrophone got stuck between the rocks. Excellent, now I had to get on the brink. Underneath the surface I could monitor watery turbulence in different varieties and a ship engine, but the extra layer that I was looking for remained absent.
There is only so much wind one can take. Disenchanted, I had reached that point and left the location. My thoughts kept occupied as I cycled back against the wind. During my hours at the corner of the land the word 'SIREN' kept occurring to me. It knows a threefold existence around the debris filled dike, the defective fog horn in the tower the most obvious, but I could not dismiss the sirens haunting the restless water and finally the sound of the air raid sirens that must have saturated the rubble below the soil. I decided to go back, and go beyond. I am determined to find it.