What do cities tell us on human minds?
In all of its variations—brusselization, brussellisation, bruxellisation, verbrusseling—the meaning is the same: the haphazard and anarchic development of cities. The term originates from the city of Brussels in the sixties and seventies—my childhood—during a period of uncontrolled development amidst laissez-faire planning and a lack of zoning regulations.
It was at this time and here, from the window of my room in Woluwe St Lambert, that I began to capture the view of the city with my camera. Like Nicéphore Niépce's first ever photograph, taken from within the natural frame of a window, my first view of the world, of Brussels, was through the unique perspective of my "frame."
Frames of Mind
The city is a state of mind. A state of the mind.
It is a projection, a materialisation of human minds. All the emotions we feel—ambition, contempt, empathy, modesty, harmony, incoherence—are on full display within urban construction, interfering with each other, if one looks for them. Do you see this when you really look?
Growing up in Brussels during the sixties and seventies, I looked through a frame—the window of my room—at an urban horizon abruptly punctuated by newly constructed apartment buildings and their accompanying cranes. I used my camera to understand and find dignity in this alien environment. Back then, and now, when I observe the interferences of opposing urban structures, I like to capture the new motives found at their intersections.
In a sense inspired by Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte, Brussels "is not a city." Unless its lack of an identity, evident in its heterogeneous overlays and disparate elements, is what actually makes its identity. Maybe the very essence of a city lies in the chaos of its buildings.
Does the same go for people like me who live in or grew up in Brussels? What is our identity? Am I a “Bruxellois,” and if I am not, does this negation define me and the others? “Zinneke” is the nickname for the inhabitants of Brussels, a word that means bastard and originally referred to city stray dogs. How has this lack of an identity shaped who we are? Who I am?
Brussellisation and urbanisation mould our cities—they reveal themselves wherever we travel, wherever I am. Extensions of the minds who created them, I stand in the midst of these manmade constructions for decades now, my gaze trying to uncover evocative images: fragments or clusters, silhouettes, intriguing patterns. Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
All photos by / Credit to: “© Eric Vander Borght, Bruxellisation.com”
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