In search for the ‘Genius Loci’ and 'The Self–Cleansing Power of Man and Nature'.
With the commemoration of the 1st World War 1914—1918 in prospect, Dutch photographer L.J.A.D. Creyghton and Brussels–based writer, poet and historian Serge R. van Duijnhoven plan to conceive a very interesting project. It is composed by Van Duijnhoven’s recorded stories and poems, and by Creyghton photographed landscapes in which the over seven hundred miles frontline will be followed that runs from Nieuwpoort and Ypres in Belgium, through Northern France, towards Verdun and Basel in Switzerland; all in accordance with the described places from diaries and journals of four veterans of the 1st World War.
The starting point for this quest are the poignant and personal notes and diary reports of Odon van Pevenaege, Louis Barthas, John Jackson and Carl Heller, a Belgian, a French, an English and a German-Dutch soldier. Four men who fought for honor, people and country in the trenches but nevertheless lost their sight of empathy and (co–) humanity.
As Louis Barthas [France/1879–1952] wrote in one of his war journals: ‘…common suffering forges the hearts together and makes hatred disappear. Between indifferent people and even opponents sympathy was created. If only we had spoken the same language!’
In the summer of 2011 the book “What I see I can not be, a poet in search of the sources of the Green Forest” by Serge R. van Duijnhoven and L.J.A.D. Creyghton was published. It contains customized texts, poetry and prose combined with custom shot photography. This little jewel is in content representative of the intended book they want to make about the Hindenburg frontline 1914—1918.
Both author and photographer will be visiting most of the places described in the diaries. They write, make sound recordings, illustrations and photographs. Eventually they come to a selection of about fifty panoramic photographic landscapes and as many texts which will represent both fact and fiction as well as past and present. The aim is the full text to be translated in English, French and German so that eventually a mulitlingual edition is available to a wide audience.
Modular Form: Subject to sufficient funding from several parties we work with six modules; modules that standalone are very valuable in themselves and have a right to exist but which together have an additional value and can absolutely reinforce each other:
The Goal: With “If only we had spoken the same language!” the Hindenburgline Project aims to acquaint people from the broadest layer of our multicultural society with “The Self-cleansing Power of Man and Nature”. We accomplish this by a literary—art project exposing the so important part of our history, which actually is the cradle for Europe as we now live in.
Through image, text and sound [a web site, multilingual book, traveling exhibitions, an educational program and literary-musical meetings] we hope to stimulate our target audience—young and old, of all origins and religions in our multicultural society—to learn from our ancestors, our history and each other, to understand and to respect each other. We have the ambition to show the project not only in the Netherlands and Belgium but also in France, England and Germany.
With the backdrop of the 1st World War as a starting point and as an example to tell our story, with their work Creyghton and Van Duijnhoven pull visually and literary parallels from the past to the present and from the present to the future.
Through the panoramic landscape photos by L.J.A.D. Creyghton in combination with the prose and poetry of Serge R. van Duijnhoven we want to draw attention to the subject and the importance of not only factual— but moreover the moral sustainability.
If sufficient funding is provided there is not only the basis for a travelling exhibition and an educational project for schools, but also a narrative and visual SUPER book will be published.
The first exhibition will open on april 9, 2016 at the renowned De Pont Museum in Tilburg (NL). At this very moment we investigate sites in Belgium, France, England and Germany where the project could be displayed .
We are pleased to announce that we have welcomed the first sponsors.
If we find sufficient funding, the book in digital form should be available for free to libraries in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England and Germany. By making use of the digitalised material—as an E-book/APP for the iPad for example—library’s and students can download it from our website so the story of brotherhood, compassion, empathy and the self cleaning power of man and nature can be told and passed on.
United we stand! This is an ambitious plan for which we we can use all moral and financial support by multiple parties, so together we can make it into a success.
Ypres/Ieper, Belgium (C-print-dibond-perspex, 90x200cm)
For the impressive, complementary war book ‘If only we had spoken the same language!’, writer, poet and historian Serge R. van Duijnhoven takes care of the literary component. The author provides the former war landscape—that in a quiet way shows up in the photographic work of landscape photographer L.J.A.D. Creyghton—of sound and story. Image and text are surprisingly a two—unit, which will also appear from the sophisticated design of the book. Just as was the case with their joint publication Wat ik zie kan ik niet zijn (Pels & Kemper, ’s-Hertogenbosch, 2011), in this original work the photographer and writer try to give voice to numerous genius loci (individuals, factors, conditions) along the sevenhundred mile trail rising from the former front—and borderlandscape.
It is a matter of holding eyes and ears wide open. A matter of brisk walking and trying to capture the fading outlines of the past with pen and paper in hand and the Leica camera on a lightweight carbon fiber tripod. They are going to catch the echoes of the war turmoil, the voices of the dead, the physical and mystical traces on the surface of the ever so rudimentary disturbed and scorched landscape that is left behind. In this book, The Great War on the continent will be brought back to life in a sensory way; mile after mile, story after story, lifetime after lifetime. The history again made palpable, graphic and thus—also for younger generations—made understandable.
The Hindenburgline* will be followed from the Westhoek in Belgium along Ypres and Northern France, towards Verdun and eventually to Basel, can be interpreted as an epic hunting and hiking trail along the capricious meandering riverbed of different nationalities, languages, people, cultures and social social differentiations that between 1914 and 1918 catastrophically came to a clash.
*The West Front of the Hindenburgline consisted of five operational zones (Stellungen) with names from Germanic mythology. These were, from north to south: Wotan, Siegfried, Alberich, Brunhilde and Krimhilde. They consisted of numerous concrete bunkers with machine guns, heavy rolls of barbed wire, miles of tunnels and numerous trenches and command posts.
Atrail of over seven hundred miles, one hundred years, thousands of stories and millions of lives, takes us to the heart of the matter. Towards a claustrum in TIME, where past and present in some way seem united with each other. The murmuring of many to arms called individuals, the sighs of men and women from the infirmary, the stories of the many smugglers and their contraband attempting to penetrate the front lines and the barbed wire fences between the warring parties, the cynical testimonies of girls of easy virtue working in day and night shifts in the villages behind the front to pump a little life into the soldiers with congé. Here and there even the lament of a scorched hill that, in the course of battle, saw it’s vegetation and it’s crops, it’s flora and fauna to die to make room for the infinite rougher version of the life that his caves and underground passageways previously mainly in silent activity used to accomplish. The human insect armies of the dead, that brutally plowed nature and ripped to shreds.
In ‘If only we had spoken the same language!’, all these different facets of the battle are covered in striking miniatures, dialectical sound poetry and picturesque scenes. To gradually, after a long road of frequent differences and a myriad of hues, yet again together to fold an overview. A panoramic scene. A polyptych with planes which all together open and can be folded.
The conflict that began with the bang of a gun on a bridge in Sarajevo and four years later was swollen to a Titan battle between the nation states of inhuman, say Olympic malice. What began as a swirl in the air hardly heard at a hundred yards away degenerated into a hurricane. And hundred years later it’s still buzzing in our ears and creates a blind spot in our eyes. Confusion also because of the destruction that all those millions and millions of Europeans completely captivated. That whipped hatred, that much mischief, misunderstanding and failure. The horrors it caused. That even the normally so quiet countryside a century later still sighs: ‘If only we had, if only we had … if only we had spoken the same language.’The book ‘If only we had spoken the same language!’, acts as a literary and photographic guide roadmap. Text and images introduce the nowadays reader in a sophisticated way back to the hallucinatory heyday of the nation-states in mutual alliances that, with a chilling death drive, fought for their destiny in the trenches and on the battlefields between Ypres and Verdun.
With ‘If only we had spoken the same language!’ L.J.A.D. Creyghton and Serge R. van Duijnhoven deliver a work that, despite everything, in the tranquil and recovering countryside will talk with the authentic and shrill voices of people from the past.
The rich variety of panoramic landscape photographs in Creyghton’s distinctive style and the catchy life stories by Van Duijnhoven in both prose and poetry form—as the Great War enters his first centenary experience—a unique contribution to this sad but necessary centenary. Held together by an overarching framework of numerous historical reflections, this book also has an educational destination that makes it suitable as teaching material for secondary—and highschool students who want to relive the past in an intense and hermeunistic manner.
The book can be seen as a sensory panorama where the reader together with the authors can walk through. The noise of the Great War, and the response of the small human emotions that result from the endlessly protracted conflict in and around the trenches, will be heard and felt on the pages. The human tragedy that occurred on both sides of borders and language front lines and emerged into the fragmented European landscape will unfold gradually between the lines and the landscape–portraits.
The history made audible, palpable, conceivable and made more understandable. That’s the premise as well as the goal of the book.
— UNITED WE STAND —
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