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calculate your water footprint

After the ecological and carbon footprint calculators, there's now a water footprint calculator, allowing you to calculate your own water consumption. The footprint is defined as "the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed".

The results are quite enlightening. Though food, especially meat and coffee, appears to be a main culprit of a big footprint, the catch-all category of "industrial" consumption takes up three times as much. (The site offers a wealth of information, but is curiously vague on this category.)

It would seem there's a difference between a water footprint and a carbon footprint, as water, unlike fossil fuels, is a renewable resource. In other words, fossil fuel consumption is a zero sum game, while water consumption is not. This is a bit too theoretical though, because what matters is the availability of water in a given time and place.

Water is a renewable resource, but that does not mean that its availability is unlimited. In a certain period, precipitation is always limited to a certain amount. The same holds to the amount of water that recharges groundwater reserves and that flows through a river. Rainwater can be used in agricultural production and water in rivers and aquifers can be used for irrigation or industrial or domestic purposes. But in a certain period one cannot use more water than is available. A river can be emptied and in the long term one cannot take more water from lakes and groundwater reservoirs than the rate with which they are recharged.

With this in mind, the national water footprints are also interesting. The Netherlands, for instance, while having a water footprint slightly below global average, has 89% of its footprint outside the country. Much of the water imported (in the form of products like fruit, coffee, cotton) comes from countries with serious water scarcity.

a tool to deceive and slaughter

Intriguing conceptual art piece by Caleb Larsen, titled 'A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter'. It consists of a shiny black box connected to the web, which will put itself up for auction on eBay. With every new owner this process repeats itself, so that the "sculpture exists in eternal transactional flux".

The work was based on Robert Morris' 'A Box with the Sound of its Own Making' and Jean Baudrillard's writings on the art auction, which he characteristically described as the "crucible of the interchange of values, where economic value, sign value and symbolic value transfuse according to the rules of the game".

Ironically, Larsen receives 15% on the work's value increase, so you could also call this an artistic pyramid scheme... In his defense, see Larsen's comment on this Wired article. For more background, see his book 'The Value of Nothing' (PDF), where he explains how the contract with each buyer is an integral part of the work, ensuring their "continued participation".

And for the current auction, see Atooltodeceiveandslaughter.com.

when the new season makes its way

If after seeing 'Hadewijch' (reviewed before), you're curious about the 13th century poet, mystic and beguine ('begijn') from Brabant, here's a sample of her work.

Hadewijch's visions and mystical poetry are classics of Middle Dutch literature, and in recent years have seen a revival in translations into modern Dutch as well as English. Inspired by the courtly love poetry of the troubadours, Hadewijch used their conventions to evoke her love of God. And like later mystical poets - St. John of the Cross especially comes to mind - her passion and sensual imagery often blur the line between worldly and spiritual love.

When the new season makes its way,
the mountains and the valleys sleep
and everything is dark and grey.
 And yet the hazel comes alive.
The lover may misfortune reap,
 but he'll outgrow it and revive.

What good are the season and its joys
for him who seeks love bright and fair,
when all the world his trust destroys;
 no one supports him, no one true
to share his love with and declare:
 'My soul fulfilment finds in you.'


You fearless ones, whose trust endures
and who live freely in love's care,
take pity on the one love lures
 into a dark and lonely hell.
Those who have answers well may fare,
 but my heart in despair does dwell.

I saw a radiant cloud arise
out of a dense and darkened sky.
Its beauty took me by surprise.
 I lingered in the sun, at play.
But all this proved a dream, a lie.
 Who'd blame me if I'd died that day?


Yet all these matters I address
are known too well and won't astound
the noble whom God gives love's stress
 so they can taste its sweetness too.
Before a harmony is found
 there's bitter sorrow to get through.

Love strengthens and it brings rough weather,
 as the adventure will show.
Ah, how it all comes together,
 the stranger cannot know.

From 'Song 16', translated by Judith Wilkinson. Poetry International Web also has 'Song 5' and 'Song 17'.

For the original Middle Dutch flavor, Coster has her collected 'Strofische Gedichten' ('Poems in Stanzas'). And if you really want to delve into it, see the in-depth Dutch resources at the KB and DBNL.

as slow as possible

Though this is a belated post on the short documentary 'Es wird einmal gewesen sein', which screened at IFFR, there is plenty of time to write about its subject - 630 years, in fact.

The film documents a project in Halberstadt, Germany, to perform John Cage's composition 'As Slow As Possible'. The performance, on a church organ, began in 2001 and will last 639 years. The note changes, once every couple of years, have turned into 'mini concerts' in their own right. (The first year and a half, by the way, was a silent pause.)

This, ehm, lengthy and unavoidably philosophical concert is a consequence of the simple fact that Cage never specified how slow his piece was to be played. It is the kind of theoretical exploration Cage became famous for. His oeuvre also includes the composition '4'33"', consisting of four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. (For a great performance, see this video.)

In this case, the sheer length of the performance - assuming it will be completed by future generations - is so mind-boggling it can only be compared with the building of cathedrals or pyramids. Except there will be no monument - it only exists as long as it lasts, the ultimate testament to the fleeting nature of sound, and of time itself...

If you happen to be in Halberstadt (near Leipzig) during your lifetime, don't miss this concert!

iffr: time code

On Sunday the IFFR offered a chance to revisit a classic of digital filmmaking with Mike Figgis' 'Time Code' (2000). A decade later, its formal innovation is still inspiring, and its Hollywood satire more entertaining than you'd expect from such a radical experiment. But mostly, it remains an interesting cinematic experience, challenging notions of authorship and viewership.

In 1999, Dogme 95 had already experimented with the new DV format and its guerilla filmmaking opportunities. But Figgis created a different set of rules: an entire film in split screen, divided in quarters, and shot in one take, resulting in four simultaneous films.

Set in Hollywood, the film(s) loosely follow(s) a group of people in the film industry, all connected somehow to a casting session at production company Red Mullet (which, self-referentially, is the name of Figgis' own company). It was shot in fifteen days, which in this case means the entire film was shot fifteen times - rehearsing and shooting at the same time and getting the timing of four simultaneous storylines right.

This split screen setup means the sound plays an important role in guiding the viewer. While Figgis mixed the sound live on a number of occasions, the story is composed to concentrate mostly on one quadrant at a time. Composed, in this context, should be taken literally: Figgis, who is also a musician, wrote the film on music paper.

The idea of 'Time Code' as a composition provides the clue to the film's central innovation, which was not to do it in real time but to add a spatial dimension to an essentially temporal medium. Even though the sound guides our attention, the eye is free to wander around the four different screens - to wonder what that person is doing in location B while this person is talking in location A.

In theoretical terms, 'Time Code' poses phenomenological questions about how viewers construct their own story, and to what extent the 'author' influences that construction. For some viewers this is precisely not what they want from a film - they want their eyes on a dog leash, strictly guided through a rewarding story. But more adventurous viewers will find in the spatial openness a reward of a different kind, akin to interactive art and games.

See also this Salon interview with Figgis from 2000, which which aptly sums up the movie as "engaging from moment to moment, largely as a humorous game".