Cabinet de lecture
Musée de la Ville d’eaux, Spa
28/08 – 14/11/2021,
03/04 – 13/11/2022
Part of 7 Walks (resolution), a research project by Vermeir & Heiremans
Its healing water sources have made Spa a popular meeting place since the 16th century. Through the centuries the city became known as the ‘Cafe de L’Europe’. Visited by kings and tsars, artists and philosophers, it was a haven for conflicting philosophies, political ideas and artistic visions.
Drinking water in precise quantities from specific sources was the cure offered in Spa for different ailments. In the 18th century walking became part of the cure. Initially a number of promenades were developed in the city center, such as the Promenade de Quattre Heures and the Promenade de Sept Heures. Often they were not much more than an open meadow where the ‘bobelins’, as the international visitors were called by the locals, gathered. It was the Englishman Berkeley who had the idea to actually start walking in the woods that surrounded the city.
Henceforth and specifically in the 19thcentury different trails were designed that invited the international guests of Spa to take a hike. The mayor Joseph Servais had three trails constructed in the hills on the south-side of the city: Promenade Meyerbeer, Promenade des Artistes and Promenade d’Orléans. All of these walks were made in the tradition of the English landscape garden in which rocks and rivers were displaced to create picturesque scenes or ‘tableaux’. In that sense they are testimony of a specific relation between man and nature.
7 WALKS draws inspiration from the intangible legacy of the city’s historical walkers. They inspired the project to develop walking as a research method. Their conflicting ideas on property – monopolisation versus mutualism, creating scarcity versus sharing – serve as triggers for discussions and encounters with the landscape around Spa. As a research practice, walking is a mode between research and artistic, educational and flâneurial practices. Walking also has a history in the arts, as well as in literature and philosophy. For Surrealists, Situationists and Fluxus artists, walking was an important tool.
The endless network of trails connecting water sources, water capture points and different markers in the landscape are like a one-to-one scale palimpsest landscape. Some traces have been very well preserved, while others were almost erased by time and events past. 7 WALKS wants to make a number of possible connections, both historical and contemporary, between these different physical traces. These connections can be ‘authored’, determined by one entity, but they could also be based on chance using a number of game concepts. This would render all walks different each time the game is played.
In revisiting the past practice of walking in Spa, we might be in danger of romanticising the process of walking as a momentary and ephemeral practice, which uncapturable nature is its essence. The advent of the culture of mass surveillance means of course that walking today generates infinite amounts of data collected through our smartphones. These data are privately appropriated and mined. Contrary to that the data gathered by smartphones during 7 WALKS will be integrated in a common resource: OpenStreetMap, a free editable geographic database of the world.
39_La carte topographique de Spa et tous les fontaines minérales aux environs, et des montagnes et de chemins qui y conduisent avec des observations sur les dimensions, les hauteurs et les intérieurs des montagnes. Levée aux ordres et sous l’inspections de monsieur le docteur Ash Médecin Anglais de Londres Coll. Med. Londin. Soc. S.R. Et S.A.S. Au mois d’août 1787 par T.J. Collin géomètre arpenteur juré de Sart. (London: Faden, 1788).
40_Plan de la Ville de Spa et ses environs (Spa: Engel, 1910)
41_Zone de surveillance pour la protection des eaux de Spa et environs et zones de prévention des prises d’eau de l’administration communale de Spa de la S.A. Spa Monopole et de la S.A. Exirus. (Spa: J. Werner, 1998).
42_Plan des conduites amenant les eaux des sources et l’acide carbonique naturel à Spa Monopole. (Spa: Ivan Dethier, between 1957 and 1968)
43_Plan of the city of Spa and its environment (Openstreetmap, 28 August 2021)
7 WALKS (resolution) consists of a series of walks in the therapeutical landscape around the city.
The project draws inspiration from the intangible legacy of historical walkers and invites its participants to explore a balance between private property of and access to resources that we hold in common as a society. 7 WALKS questions how basic human rights enter into dialogue with individual private property and exclusive use rights. The project responds to current and recently intensified debates about the necessity and position of art in today’s society. Like water, art can be considered a basic necessity of life, a proposal that many international resolutions have promoted. Download the map here (PDF: 1,6MB)
The following walks are mapped:
THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF ART
Walk#01_Through the City centre, around Pouhon Pierre le Grand
Friday 10 September 2021, 2 to 6 PM
A CYCLE OF NATURAL AND ARTISTIC VALUES
Walk#02_To the Fagne de Malchamps via Promenade des Artistes, returning via Source Pia
Saturday 11 September 2021, 11am to 6pm
GAMBART’S MONOPOLY ON ARTISTS
Walk#03_From Source Géronstère to the former estate d’Alsa via Promenade Meyerbeer
Sunday 12 September 2021, 10.30am to 6pm
CHATEAU D’ALSA, THE “VILLA SOLEIL DES ARTISTES”
Walk#04_To the Villa Hoctaisart and promenade De Walque.
Monday 13 September 2021, 2 to 6pm
BRANDING THE WATER
Walk#05_Promenade d’Orléans to Source Sauvenière, Pouhon des Artistes and Waux-hall
Tuesday 14 September 2021, 2 to 6pm
A NATURAL OR ARTISTIC LANDSCAPE?
Walk#06_Source Pia to Géronstère down Meyerbeer and back via Barisart
Wednesday 15 September 2021, 2 to 6pm
CAPTURING WATER FROM THE ARTISTS’ SOURCE
Walk#07_Promenade des Artistes, Pouhon Delcor to Promenade Cherville to Waux-Hall
Thursday 16 September 2021, 2 to 6pm
A CONSPIRACY OF EQUALS IN SPA?
Walk#08_To Promenade Deschanel and Frahinfaz, further to Balmoral, back via Promenade Arago.
Friday 17 September 2021, 11 to 5pm
A MONUMENT TO THE CREATORS OF WALKS.
Walk#09_To source Broxhou via Reikem and continuing via Berkely,
Saturday 18 September 2021, 2 to 6pm
PIRACY AND COMPETITION
Walk#10_Prince de Condé to source Wellington, Tonnelet and Marie Henriette, back via Sous-Bois