White Room

White Space

Günther Reiß is not a man of great hesitation. If he has to make a decision, he does it and bears with the consequences. Usually, he is convinced, there are not many consequences anyway.

This crazy traffic requires a decision. His boss may be raging, the whole company can curse him, but he cannot and will no longer wander around in this ill-built, brain-blazed street labyrinth searching for an unknown, presumably long shut-down address until he slides dead from the driver’s cab.

“These guys are a few sandwiches short of a picnic,” Günther says loudly in his lorry seat. He has turned around the sign with his name, which normally hangs on the windshield, as if he does not want to be recognized here in Brussels.

“For two hours now I’ve been hanging in this shit hole of a city and cannot find the bloody street,” he continues. “A gallery should be there. What exactly is that? Some work-shy nutcase, I guess, who makes money from shit, but cannot afford a proper address. The Capital of Europe. Yeah. Not enough copper for road signs, though. One alley more crooked than the other. Do they have no lorry drivers here? And now I’m back at this darned Flagey place again. This must be the Bermuda triangle. I have enough! I give up.“

He calls his boss. In vain, he does not pick up. Presumably, Peter is busy with his new business idea: Art Transportation. Such nonsense, Günther thinks. “Niche, my dear chap, niche,” Peter had said to him. “Making dough where others are too expensive”, Peter had triumphantly swayed at the end of the evening beer.

Are you kidding me? Where is the dough now, eh? The artists got lost in the niche of this twisted city. Well, it’s gotta be without him. He is driving back to Dortmund right now. He calls up Peter again.

“Günther, what is it?” Peter answers the phone at the first ring this time.

“I’m going back, boss!”

“Have you already delivered the installation?” Peter asks.

“Already? Funny. I’ve been curving here for hours. The street does not exist anymore. I’m going back now. ”

“What are you saying? Did you get lost?”

“No, I am not lost. You cannot drive here. All one-way streets, everywhere this Flagey. Everyone is honking. Just now, a bus stopped in the middle of the road, the bus driver got out and does not come back. I have enough.”

“Günther, are you nuts?” Peter is shocked, especially because he knows how stubborn his longest serving driver can be.

“Where are you? I check the navigation for you,” Peter offers.

“No, boss. Don’t take it the wrong way. But this niche thing is nothing for me. I prefer to drive ten deliveries of milk to Omsk than get anywhere near Flagey again. Take care.”

Peter looks at his I-Phone in amazement. Günther simply hung up.

***

In a very bright backyard loft of the Rue Victor Greyson, Merle Schönwart, young and renowned sculptress and installation artist, sits and looks at the empty champagne flutes from the evening before. She will have to wash them before her cleaning help comes, not to annoy her.

Despite her success, Merle cannot get used to the artist’s life. She can neither sleep in at mornings nor does she like the numerous parties. And she especially despises the marketing of her work. These strange gallery owners, who all look like plucked birds, or the curators, who all seem to have curly hair and eye-rings; they speak to her in languages she does not understand. And they do it continuously. Last night, she even kissed one of them, so that he would keep his trap shut for a few minutes.

The last five years have been crazy: Culture Talent Scholarship at the University of Brussels, exhibition in London, the offer in New York. Back to Europe. Guggenheim. Then Brussels again. Own gallery. Agent. Most talented young artist of the year. Design of the entrance hall of the Centre Pompidou. Never ending interviews and shoots. And with what? With these silly miniature photos, which she shoots in Polaroid style without focus and fits them on huge colourful metal structures. People love it. Her Polaroid metal installations are standing in front of the Prado, on the Alexanderplatz, in the Central Park and now next weekend at the Jaques Brel House during the Brussels Gallery Weekend. A small but fine project, she thinks as her tablet buzzes.

After she hung up, Merle feels unaccustomedly light. As if she was floating under water. Her last installation would not make it into the Jaques Brel House because, for some reason, it was back on its way to Germany. She had to think up something else. She smiled and dialled the number of the curator she had to snog up last night. “Let’s see how well you improvise,” she thought.

***

Hans Ditzen is over 70 years old and so rich that he does not really know what to do with his money. He has everything he needs, loves his life in Uccle, and sometimes he visits his few relatives at Lake Constance. He does not like to fritter away and brag. So he thinks of investing in art. He is lucky. The first exhibition, or whatever one calls it in these modern “gallery weekends”, is from a German artist, his country of origin.

But how astonished he is when he enters the exhibition room. There is nothing in it. First he thinks the visitors might be covering the exhibits, as happens with the Mona Lisa in the crowded Louvre. But no, here one can see only freshly painted white walls and a white ceiling. You can still smell the colour. Hans looks at the brochure, which was distributed at the entrance and reads:

Sequences become structures. All ultimately derives from the root of the desire to understand, it generates consciousness. Its most important motivation may lie in the mysterious depths of eternity. We have a supposed understanding, which, however, always turns out to be a great ignorance, seeming clarity, which easily vanishes. Truths of thought and thoughts of truth shrink to rudimentary, imperfect knowledge energy. In the face of the regular failure of principles of reason we ask ourselves ‘Is everything just conceived?’ In the end we decide between despair and feelings of guilt, gratitude and devotion: The cryptic authority may have the most honest expression.

Hans does not understand a word. Nevertheless, this bare space touches him. When everything around us has faded, he thinks, we can still exist in glistening white and feel as fresh as newborns. He scrolls to the number of his financial administrator. There has to be a way to buy this white room. It is worth it.

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About writingbrussels

Seven Writers. Three Languages. One City.
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