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Tiny splashes, splashes against the wall of the exhibition space


05 July 2021
This month's topic: Rift-ass-borderResident Editor: Helena Grande

Tiny splashes, splashes against the wall of the exhibition space

This text starts with the humming of a melody*

It all began with the simple observation: there are no doors in exhibition spaces.
I don’t mean another entrance door.
I also don’t mean a door to the office.
Not a door to the archive,
or toilet,
separating modes of production – for better or worse.
These doors have locks and authorities who hold their keys.
These doors are one of two kinds of doors in an art space.
They form an enclosure within the art space.
And this enclosure is the exhibition space.

I might walk along the walls alongside these doors,
following their architectural trail.
And as I walk, I measure the exhibition space.
And it is one space, where one room simply leads into the next room.

In this movement in and around the exhibition I encounter the second kind of doors.
Doors that are absent.
Rendered visible only in the arch,
the partition wall that doesn’t cross the whole width of a space,
leaving a gap for me to pass.
The absent door becomes visible with every turn of my body around a corner.
A turn an absent door does not disturb.
Absent doors are doors withdrawn from my movement.
My body floats, curves and turns, cruising with little architectural hold-ups and hiccups.
A sailing boat, from harbour to harbour, across water, shore to shore.

It has been raining again. My cheap raincoat, basically a piece of plastic, acts like a pressure cooker. My skin sticking to my shirt that is soaked in sweat. A small creek of salty fluids is finding its way through the mountain range that is my spine.

My pulse slightly heightened from the bike ride. 45 min, all across town. But it is OK – putting some music on, I am still able to do it. It comes with just a small exhaustion. “A good everyday-work out” – they say. 45 min, all across town. From one edge of affordability to the other. The frontier is growing. Growing, roughly speaking, in a circular shape. Like when you drop a coin in still waters. The tiny waves pushing outwards. Pushing and pushing.

As I bend down to lock my bike, I notice, on the inside of my legs, at the bottom of my trousers where they meet my sneakers, a small patch of skin becomes visible as I lift my foot to wipe off wet dirt, that splashed on my legs while biking through the rain. It’s been more of a drizzle really.

I approach the building. I push open the door.

The sound of the waves touches my eardrums.
Waves, in the wake of my sailing movement sent towards the shore.
Tiny splashes, splashes against the walls of the exhibition space.
Against the inside of my skin,
my liver and lungs.
My eyes, lips and the tip of my tongue.
My legs, my arms, my spine.
My head, my heart.
And as my body floats through the open space,
I wonder: where does this movement come from?

Obviously, let’s face it, there is nothing natural about it.
The path through and out and in the open,
acquired by means,
inherited by custom and good fortune,
learned by heart,
until blind to the water,
until seamless and well oiled.
The eyes on the horizon: always, necessarily, improving.

This our movement – as modernistic and mystical as the architecture that facilitates it.
A freedom of movement that is universal only in terms of its territory, as every inch should be accessible.
But not universal regarding its subjects:
who is enabled to float?
And who is forced to?
And who cannot, is not allowed?

With a needle pinned to North, and a needle pinned to expansion,
obscured in a union called culture and progress.
The open exhibition space: an abstraction.
A flexible backdrop, and thus a somewhat generous organization of space
that can host all sorts of things, assumingly equal,
carrying the promise of (physical) neutrality:
providing the same conditions for everything and everyone, a level plane
– while that promise is accumulative in itself.

But let’s not get in over our heads, carried away by a stream of thought.
I fetch a door handle to pause
in this unfolding of a movement of thoughts.
Catching my breath.

I push the door handle down, pulling the door to open.
“Oh, hi.”
I take a step backwards to the side holding the door open, letting him pass.

I like his shoes, I think to myself.
A somewhat squished leaf, or maybe it’s two, entangled, pressed together, is stuck to the sole on the right inside of his left shoe. Probably dragged in from the muddy wet outside.
When he has passed I turn, watch him continue on his path. He is on a fast pace, and I fantasize treading after him, hastily catching his rhythm putting the tip of my shoe on the leaf. And as his shoe lifts off the ground again the leaf peels off his sole.

I got to go. I am running late.
It’s my nephew’s birthday today.
He’s not really my nephew, but the son of a close friend. Either way.
He turned 7. I promised we will make him a hat out of carrots.
And I got him one of these disposable cameras as a gift.
Last year, before they moved out of town because of the rising rents, we made pancakes together for everyone. We made them look like pirate faces. Sliced strawberries as a bandanna, the blindfolds with chocolate sauce, and the earrings we drew with maple syrup.

The kitchen was a mess we had to clean, but he was so proud of the pirate pan cakes.

What are the odds of running into someone at a door?
But then again, don’t we run into each other by a door most of the times?
When distinct movements of bodies meet, wait and hesitate, temporarily appear together,
for an undefined reason, nothing guaranteed neither necessary.
For no other reason then the architectural setting.
Other than passing by, a door – the smallest, tiniest of encounter.
I enter, the door swings shut behind me.

The door is slowing me down, might even get me into a hold.
Asking me to stay just a second longer, maybe longer than is right.
While, but also, nevertheless calling me.

A scent of staggering, then accelerating.
Notwithstanding its call, I step into, enter the adjoining space – like turning the page in a book.
For a second I look away.
As doors open and close.

As doors open and close,
attuning my rhythm to the rhythm of the architecture,
the pace of my steps, becomes the pace of my thoughts.
Like conjunctions in a text, doors bring thoughts together.
Bringing about relations wrapped in a rhythm
that unfolds as I move through them, with them, always more than what is seen.

* Soon All Cities by The Ex

This text was originally written as a score for a performance as part of the exhibition “Upon arrival and during our stay; leaving, leaving, and leaving again.” at P////AKT, Amsterdam in September 2020. After having walked through the exhibition space, the office and down a small hallway past a storage, the viewer would end up in a small atelier space at the backside of the building. From there, every 25min a boat departed, taking a small group of visitors onto the canal. During this boatride at one point 2 performers would read out this script, and then drop off the audience at a 5 min walk from the exhibition.


1) “Humming”: a short sequence taken from the documentation of the boatride (performers: Frederique Pissuise and Marek van de Watering; video: Jacob Dwyer)

2) “Tiny splashes, splashes”: a video sequence from the artist’s sketchbook

3) “Floorplan”: a drawing made during a conversation with Matthieu Blond in preparation of the exhibition

4) “Playing Tag”: a track from the record “Hmm… 1, or 2 or so metres. Inside” (ventil-records) made for the exhibition.

Listen to the whole record at

5) “Don’t say doors don’t tell stories (non-neutral relations)”: a poster series by the artist, 2 color offset prints (60x42cm), 2021

6) “Soon all Cities”: by The Ex, from their 2018 record “27 passports” (ex-records). Listen to the whole record at


Stephan Blumenschein (1983) is an Amsterdam-based visual artist. In his artistic practice he takes up the spatial as a subject through the investigation of physical spaces as well as inner and imaginary spaces. With an interest in historical, socio-political and ideological conditions he cares about how he/we imagine, make and organize spaces. He focuses on the spatial experience and the way the “social” is defined by how we work with and through space. How do we enter and manoeuvre through the different layers and relations of spaces? Appearing and disappearing through the doors and behind the walls; to linger and wait, exit and return; to take, share and give space.

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