social life & social media
Bruno van den Elshout
Bruno van den Elshout is an independent artist. In 2012, he photographed the North Sea horizon at every hour with 8,785 views into the exact same infinity. In this talk, he discusses about the abundance of tranquility and space in the project ‘New Horizons’ in which he portrays the sea and the sky above at a fixed location over a period of one year: ‘to see what you have never seen’.
camera | Photos
We live in times where it seems like everything we make has to be interactive, and I think a lot of things around us or maybe everything around us is already interactive by nature.
Who of you here’s tracking something today? Wat are you tracking? Movement, steps. Any heart beats cool. You make a nice group of guinea pigs for this experiment I’m going to do with you. I’m going to show you one day out of my project which helps me, the project New Horizons, which helps me I photographed the North Sea horizon for one year at every hour at every day and night. So that’s 8,785. You’re going to see only 25, it’s only 24 hours and if it seems long, think of the fact that we have compressed that into nine minutes so you actually get a lot of time for a little time investment.
I wonder what you experience while watching this movie, so please do watch carefully.
Thank you very much and thank you also for being so patient and staying with the movie and stay within the movie hopefully.
Before this presentation I distributed some cards about this project and told you I was going to give you instructions. What I would like you to do if you want to is to write down on the front side in one word the dominant feeling that his film brought about. And I’m not going to ask you to hand them in. you can keep them to yourself so don’t care about what I think, so just see for yourself.
Anybody who wants to share? Surfing , cool. Changing, cool. Anybody with boredom, one person, okay.
I’m currently working on a book and I can tell you that everything you say will be part of this book, so if somebody got excitement, excitement will be in the book. If somebody got boredom, boredom is part of the book. I’ll tell you more about that later.
I was supposed to answer three questions today, so to also remind myself I put them down as part of the presentation.
What did you do? I photographed the North Sea horizon for one year, at every hour, at every day and every night. And here’s some examples to the ones you already saw. Then I made an exhibition, because when I was a couple of months through in the project I thought it would be a good idea to show how diverse this one single place can be just with time passing. Then I put all of the photos together at the end of the year and this is what it looks like. It starts with the 1st January 2012 in the upper corner until the 31st December in the lower corner.
Anybody discover any patterns? Length of day. Yeah, starting with very short days, ending up with very short nights and then back to the short days again. Cycles of the moon. Sunsets. Missing pictures.
After organizing this exhibition and showing people how diverse the photographs were, also putting all of the photos together, I was looking for a way to get more out of this wonderful collection of images that we compiled throughout the year, also because I wanted to make a book.
I knew that diversity if I wanted to show the diversity of the project 40 photos were going to be enough. If you see 40 photos and you see the 41st and even if it’s completely different, if all the pictures are different the idea is still the same, and I knew there was more so I wanted to find out.
I did that in quite a special way, by putting down a chair on the beach at midnight and sitting there until the next midnight. So the nine minutes you just saw passing in nine minutes I seen tem passing in 24 hours.
That’s quite an interesting experiment. I did it once on my own. Then there were a lot of people who were curious to experience the same, so the next time I did it in a group or nine people, and I’m expecting to do it in an even bigger groups sometime I the future. Also I organized it for myself and that’s an easy way of organizing.
I organized myself a walk on the beach starting during the darkest night of the year. It was 3rd December, 2013 during the new moon, that’s when the beach is the darkest and almost completely black. I started walking at sunset until the next sunrise. So that’s 16 hours of walking and you may wonder why would you do that.
The first time I sat on the beach I wanted to think about abundance, in how I believe there’s enough for everybody all of the time, we just happen to be not aware of that. so it’s interesting to think about how can I be aware of this abundance.
The second time with a group of people we called it a free flight, and we were thinking about effortlessness, how working hard is an option in how softly or gently is also an option. Because things in nature they unfold by themselves. So why would we be working hard to get something done. That’s also something quite interesting to think about.
This walk during the darkest night of the year I wanted to find out what it felt like physically to be a pioneer. Because when you walk a the darkness of night there’s no point of reference you have around you and you want to keep moving; that’s what pioneers do. And I wanted to find out how that felt. And all of this information, all of the insights I collected made me think about this book that i want to make should look like.
The last episode of finding out about the qualities of the horizon dates from last week-end. It’s an introduction in sea-rowing. I’m going to do sea-rowing to get even closer to the horizon and to find out even more about what this horizon is telling us.
How did you do it? For the technical people this is the interesting part, so this is how I did it.
During the Christmas holidays of 2011 which is when we built this, we were here almost 24 hours per day. We had prepared quite well but not well enough, so that was adventurous.
So we spent a lot of time then and we got it to the point where at least we were able to take photos from the 1st January at midnight and have a photo every hour. We didn’t manage to setup everything behind it to get the upload automated to ge the information from the weather station we built it on the rooftop and to connect to the local trending topic on Twitter, because those these we posted on the website.
No they were different. We changed them three times at a day, any photography people in the room? One.
We used three different semi-automatic programs in the camera and we were expecting about the camera to tell us about the live situation, because that’s what cameras do; they measure the light then they decide which aperture to use. But infact the camera is keeping this information to itself, it’s not very open and shared. So it says I know the light situation and you have fun. So that was one of the many many things that we had to find a solution for, and what we did is download a list of sunset and sunrise times from the website of the NASA if you need then they are all available, and you can automatically generate them for any position on earth.
So we had these tables, and just one minute before the full hour we would check what time of day it was, which light situation and then push one of the programs to the camera and say okay, this is what we want you to do and everything else you make it up yourself.
We also had heating and this tube sprays water, and this all sounds luxurious and maybe even funny, but if you don’t have this within two weeks you will only be photographing fog and that’s not what we wanted.
In the orange case we had a big computer with no moving parts, because it had to be switched off for the whole year. And you saw some missing photos. We had a flood one time and that’s too much technical information and I don’t even want to talk about and that was quite stressful.
But this is the machine that did it. The sea, if you see the picture on the left the sea is obviously that way we were facing straight towards England. This is what the backend of the system if you can call it that looked like, I could also see this on my phone and people could also see the results on the website because they were published from April onwards they were published automatically on the website. Some people even woke up and looked at our website before seeing out of the window.
Then started a new adventure. This is the adventure of inviting people to the book making process, because once I found out I wanted to make a book, and this is what the book is going to look like. For those of you who know bookmaking this is very exciting. The book lies open flat on every single page; that’s not what books normally do. If you want them to do that you have to pay a lot of money in Switzerland; the company happens to be in Switzerland and no other reason than that.
It turned out to be an adventure to create and publish this book, because I calculated that it would cost me €100,000. And I didn’t know how to do that and I couldn’t find anybody who wanted to tell me, so I thought I would find out and tell everybody else.
These are the people who are working on this book with me, maybe someone sees a familiar face or maybe not. We are preparing the book, and we have now designed the first 53 pages and there is going to be 212 in total, and the book is going to weigh 3500 g, so it is very suitable for putting on a piano.
As I told you, if we put more than 40 photos in the book we really have to think well about what we’re going to show. So what we’re going to show is a whole cycle of a journey. It starts home, it ends home, and in the meantime it takes you through boredom! What else did we have. A lot of different faces as you go through as you travel through a journey all maybe even through life. And that’s musical, and that’s why this preparation phase also looks a bit like a musical piece, and that’s also what the book is also going to look like; a music piece.
A lot of costs have already been covered because I sold 150 books even without having anything to show. And I’m now organizing a crowd funding campaign for Forticans, and for the Dutch people they will probably already know it. I am aiming to sell another 250, and we are now getting close to 300/400. So it’s a lot of digits, and 100 more books at least to be sold during the next two weeks and that’s the bottom line.
And to get to the point to know where we can produce the book, it’s not the full €100,000 yet, but it’s at least we know that we can produce it. This is the place in Switzerland where we carry 40% of the budget once we are there, so I thought it was worth visiting it to actually see the people who make this wonderful stuff and see if I trust their faces. They are very nice people.
What did you learn? This is complicated, because this is almost as learningfull as life itself, so I learnt a lot. These are some spreads from the book and I’ll show them while thinking of what I learned.
What I learned from this book is how extremely valuable it is to start out with an idea and see where it takes you, because this idea started out just with the wish of putting something next to the busy hectic lives that we tend to live, or I’d tend to live at least and to know that something is just going on forever. You can always go to this horizon, it’s always there, it’s always beautiful, and a lot of things in life are not always beautiful. Sometimes you have war and sometimes you have other bad stuff, but you can always go to the horizon and enjoy.
I also think that there’s a lot you can measure, and there’s a lot you can capture but it all falls or stands with that whether you can put life to it. You can measure something, but can you make something. Can you make something happen, and that’s where it gets exciting.
And also from this project, this has been huge training for me to choose my reality to decide of what I think is important, and just go for that and forget about everything else. I can tell you that it’s scary, it’s adventurous, but it’s very much worth doing.
And I’ll leave you with a quote by somebody who greatly inspired me by writing a book called (liptique France?, Perrie?), And his quote is, ‘when you think of the future, your responsibility is not to predict it but to make it happen’.
Thank you very much.