Drifting Through Den Haag

The following is a record of a derive which was voice recorded on Saturday 19th November 2011.

“One of the basic situationist practices is the dérive, a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiences. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.” – From the Bureau of Public Secrets



A rack of small cards, business-card sized, in the lobby of the hotel.  All with small holes in them to hang and representing discounts for various attractions, activities.  Not just in Den Haag, but Amsterdam and various other places with unrecognisable names.  One had a picture of a car on it and I take one.  It is for the car museum. Count the pictures, count the card.  Ten down and seven across – meaning 70 different cards for different attractions.  Notice that there are more than one stack of car cards, so maybe not as many attractions as appears.

Going through the airlock doors.

An old couple with matching brown leather jackets looking in the window of a clock shop.  A small shop window but  home to15 different ornamental clocks. Can’t hear the tick tock.

A life-size native American statue in the street.

A pigeon.  Try following the pigeon.  Moving too slowly, I’m not interested.

An art shop.  A lady in a beige coat with her bicycle parked goes through the prints.  Crap old art.  A few nicer Kandinsky prints.  And there’s the black doll. I took a picture of it last night.  The UK outlawed these dolls  as blatant racist objects decades ago.  They were called Golly-Wogs.  Shocked. This one is in the window of a shop…what kind of shop it is….it’s a manicurist?

A wonderful old shop called Emma with trinkets, chandeliers,  earrings and old dolls and statues…..another black doll!  I think it must be Black Peter.  I thought Black Peter was in Spain.  I must investigate.

Postcard stand with Dutch Royal family all over it.  Old lady I don’t recognise, must be a royal – she looks wrinkly and thick with make-up.

Why am I not actually doing anything?  Just walking and looking.  And breathing heavily.  Pulling on my cigarette.

The street I decide to follow opens up into a plaza.  A hundred tables and chairs completely unoccupied.  It’s November and the floor of the cobbles in the plaza are covered with fat brown leaves.  It’s not cold, but some of the chairs have blankets on them….I wish I could follow a bird, the ones that are flying….no they are going too fast.

A fountain spouts froth.  A man tries to sell me a magazine…maybe the Dutch Big Issue.  Regret not talking to him, but I don’t feel like it.

A red brick building.  A red lion.  Gold.  Hollandia.  So many bicycles, some look hand made.  I’m going to touch the next bicycle I see.  Going to touch the handle bars.  They are rubbery and cold.  It’s a glance rather than a grip.  Man gives me funny look.

I already don’t know where I am.  I am walking down a tram-line, which feels a bit wrong.  Not sure how quiet there approach is.

Standing outside an American Book Shop.  10 copies of Steve Jobs biographies fill the window.  I’m going in.

Wonder why considered American Books? Lots of books by non-Americans.  Heading for the art section and contemporary art books.  Discover Keri Smith’s This Is Not A Book.  Like.   Read book on label tagging cover to cover (it is mostly pictures of label tagging). Leave my small picture of a car inside the guide to guerrilla art book.  Is the book an anomaly? Opposite art books are an array of books on war and politics.  Take This Is Not a Book and place it in front of a book about Tackling Somali Pirates.  Tony Blair grins at me.  I remove all Tony Blair’s books and head for the crime section.  Can’t find it.  Better – I find the horror section and fill the shelves with Blair.  Find a lovely but trite book called Greed – a self-help book about how not to be greedy – with these in my arms I return to the biographies of foul leaders and place the Greed titles in front of George Bush .and friends .

After another twenty minutes I have re-arranged others – mostly art books.  Those people browsing for politics, history and especially romantic fiction might now stumble on some art.

Pay for two Keri Smith books.  Feel ok about the unnoticed rearrangement now.

Sitting on a shiny polished bench, watching people go into the bookshop.

Away from the bookshop another cobbled square.  Autumn grey grand.  Lone protestor carrying his words on a cardboard sign.  I show interest.  He doesn’t.  He has a brightly coloured satin sash around him.  Can make out the word Ir-an on his cardboard next to a picture of a fist and broken chains.  He looks glum.

Despite not wanting to take pictures I cannot resist recording a very public men’s toilet.  In the distance behind the pisser, I see a giant hording of the girl with pearl earrings.  She is everywhere.  The size of Mubarak in the film I have.   The one where he gets torn down by revolutionaries. The girl is the height of the building she is on.  Up close, I can get no purchase on her.  Instead I follow Japanese people down a slope, through glass sliding doors.

No mobile phones.  No cameras.  No bag bigger than an A4 letter size (?).  No vocal recordings of a derive. I have to write not speak.  Decide to tag every toilet roll in the ladies.  Realise I have no tag, so drag one up from the 1983 Bristol graffiti days.  My resurrected tag surprisingly remembered perfectly.  Hopefully will touch the arses of many.

Picking up an audio guide and switch it to Japanese.

Rubens didn’t always paint that well.  Bible stories, fruit, piles of books.  Want to cut the strings holding the paintings, but nothing to do it with.  Hushed mumble mumbled.  Want to shout bums very loud but I don’t.

Switch  back to English to understand van Haecht’s Antwerp Art Collector.  People drinking, playing with a globe.  Emily Godenker tells me it’s an imaginary museum and freaks me out.  It is. A portrait painter Ampelles paints Alexander the Great’s concubine, Campaspe and falls in love.  Alexander gives Ampelles the girl and keeps the painting.  It about the power of the painting says Emily.  It’s about how you can fall in love with a portrait subject I think.

Fucking hell.  In amongst the Holbeins and the Rembrants, Francis Bacon’s crucifixion screams out like a pleasing monster.  It’s next to Van de Weyden’s dead Jesus with a Flemish backdrop.

Up some more stairs and more fucking hell.  The usual red walls filled with salon-style masters – but the frescoed ceilings are crazily daubed by something more contemporary.  Need to know.  It’s Get Lataster. 1987.  Icarus.  Can’t look anywhere but up.

Decide to follow two nuns.  Look at everything they look at.  Pick them up at the Anatomy Lesson.  One nun looks like Larry Grayson.  Gerrit van Honthorst’s violin.  Nuns ignore Rembrant’s laughing man and point excitedly at Gerril Dou’s old woman.  JESU XP PASSIO heart and a cross.

Why place a chair with a sign Geen Zitplaats (don’t sit)?  Is it a work?  Lost the nuns.  Found them again.  Listening to audio guide for a different painting to that which I am looking.  Have idea for making alternative audio guides for great museums.

Bored with the nuns now.  Almost running.  Past Van Gough’s  and Cezanne’s fields.  Nuns appear to be following me now.  Can’t shake them.  And there is the girl.  The one with pearl earrings.

A few hours into my drift.  Fun for me – but may be as interesting as someone else’s dream for others.  Only it is/was real.

Totally escaped the nuns.  Folded the feedback book into shapes.  Now drinking beer.  I don’t really like beer. I write Francis Bacon Rules on a left-behind Napkin.  Exit Through The Gift Shop.  Want to look for a cemetery.

Following the sound of a crowd.  50 protestors.  Shouting.  Don’t understand. There is my Iranian with the sash.  Man in broken English with German and Dutch says Ashraff.  Iraq.  Iran.  Very bad.  Regime change. Dictator.  No good.  Hands me a piece of paper in English, which explains the protest better.  I fraudulently chant.

Feel fraudulent.  Self absorbed. No sign of a graveyard.  Opposite protestors another palace with huge hording –  an Escher painting.  Try to enter, but decide if I have to pay, I won’t.  I have to pay.  I don’t. Seeking ways of illegal entry, but fail.  Pick up an Escher leaflet instead.  Looking for a bench to sit and look at the hording.  No benches.  Distracted by another Black Peter outside the Museum Shop.   Ask a woman with long hair and long eyelashes about Black Peter.  It is Schwarz Pete,  Dutch Santa’s helpers are all black people from Africa.  Schwarz Pete hands out presents to children on 5th December.  Feeling distinctly uncomfortable with this celebration using, to my British eye,  a racist effigy.  Lady insists Schwarz Pete is good, not bad.  Feel she might be glossing over something.  Need to ask more people.  I pass Bansky Exit Through the Gift Shop.

Been walking for half an hour now in one direction.  Fear I am a bit lost.  No signs or maps.  Flats to rent.  Residential area.  No benches.  Might be going back in the same direction I came, but adamant not to exactly re-trace steps.  Canals.  Bamboo.  Looking for that fountain.

A man with a limp walks by with his girlfriend and I overhear him saying I am a bit scared and lost.  Massive déjà vu.  Nearly get hit by a car – looking the wrong direction as I cross the road.  Smile at woman holding her baby.

This would be ultimately more fun with more than one person.

At last I see Escher again at the far end of an avenue of trees.  Not sticking around – I think he got me lost because I didn’t go in and see his crazy staircases.

I follow the train tracks until my feet ache and happen upon the chairs with blankets again.   Still no people.  I wrap myself in two big black blankets.  Another beer.  Chips.  Mayonnaise.  Be rude not to.  I write Follow The nuns on leaflets for The Mauritshuis.  Ask the Dutch waiter who Schwarz Pete was he said he deliversh giftsh for the little childrensh.  Denied any darkside..perhaps I am asking the wrong people.

Pigeon lands on the table and takes a chip.  Warme Choco Met Slagroom.


5 responses to “Drifting Through Den Haag

  1. I love your bookshop terrorism and the fact that you left your mark all over town! It does read distinctly like you found the coffeeshops though, just saying…

  2. No, not a single coffeeshop. High on life, Tom

  3. I like it! Very drifty! But you’re right it is more fun to do with two or three because you can have discussions and disagreements. Come back the Situationists. The slogans at political marches are all too polite for a start. And anyway a march through your city is now entirely contained by the police force with a ‘mobile kettle’. Sous la plage, la pave.

  4. very good blog i like it.

  5. I enjoyed reading your blogs. Just keep it up!

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