Week Five

In which I puzzle over surrealism, go to a castle and teach everyone how to play hearts.

I wouldn’t really call myself an art lover. I can appreciate art, I can enjoy a few hours spent in an art museum, but I don’t love art, not the way I love movies or music or literature. Art fits right in there with the rest of the “fine arts,” but it’s never held my attention quite like the rest. It’s kind of bummed me out from time to time, actually. Am I not sensitive enough to love art? Not patient enough? Am I not actually as smart as I think I am? What a nightmare that would be. I might be touching a nerve. Let’s reel it back in.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that, after 21 long years of painful separation, art and I have finally found each other. We found each other in the cold, dark rooms of the Magritte Museum as a very tall French woman explained that nothing is real except for everything, and art is all around us and you don’t need to understand metaphors to figure it out. Surrealism, man. Magritte is at once lowbrow and highbrow. His works are sometimes devastatingly hard to figure out, but only because the explanations are simple that we don’t even consider them. All of his pieces require third, fourth, fifth viewings to fully understand, and exactly one of the titles is helpful in figuring out the message of the painting. But “message” implies some abstract interpretation. It’s more of a definition I guess, a literal interpretation and a removal of context. And even then, you’re probably overthinking it. I’m generally a fan of symbolism, of assigning meaning to every little thing, every phrase and every prop. So parting with that was dizzying for me, and it changed me a bit I think. Thanks, René. I do truly love “art,” whatever that means, in all its brilliant and awful forms, from the mess that is surrealism to the trashiest of movie trash. I love it all. Okay, I’m gonna talk about The Boy Next Door real quick: my parents (and grandparents) should absolutely NEVER watch The Boy Next Door, it was rather scandalizing, but let me just tell you, it was a master class in garbage. I’ve never seen such gleefully meaningless trash, so separated from our reality yet so unflinching in its own. Truly beautiful. And JLo is still hot.

So the rest of the week, though not as enlightening, was still good. I’ve reached the halfway point and my internship is still enjoyable, but I’m actually just getting more and more excited to go back to school and finish up so I can officially join the workforce and fully realize whatever potential I might be exploring right now. Maybe on some level this internship helped quell my underlying fears about growing up, because I am definitely the youngest person at the office. My excitement about returning to school coincided neatly with my first and last ULB class assignment – a 2000 word essay on the existence of Belgian identity, which is essentially an angry mixture of two other identities. It was sort of hard to get going, but once I got over that hurdle the rest of the paper just sort of spilled out. Because we successfully wrote and turned in 4 page single-spaced papers, we naturally decided to treat ourselves, and on Friday afternoon we ventured to the mall to see Spy. Besides, after Jurassic World I was I need of a more feminist Hollywood victory. Plus movie theaters are air conditioned. Our apartments are not.

The trip of the week was to Ghent, which was wonderful and weird. It was Antwerp minus all of its many strip malls plus some extra castles and canals. I’m pretty sure the last castle I visited was Edinburgh Castle, or maybe, if such a thing exists, York Castle. Or maybe just the museum. Or maybe neither. Shoutout to mom for making me keep a journal because I seriously would have forgotten a solid half of that trip if I hadn’t written it down. Thanks mom, you know me better than I know myself. Cliché but true. But Edinburgh Castle I remember very well. And now I have Gravensteen Castle, which was sort of sparse but still very cool, complete with a wall you could easily trip off of, that wall was seriously a hazard, and a torture room which was just gross. I also got to see a beautiful cathedral, St. Bavo’s, and a free classical music concert that achieved the impossible – it made me sort of miss JURB. The Ghent Altarpiece was on display at St. Bavo’s and, even though I had to pay 4 euro to see it, it was totally worth the trip to Ghent alone. It’s unlike anything else, being in the presence of something that’s existed for hundreds of years, been stolen and re-stolen and admired for so long. So yeah, Van Eyck’s Altarpiece was an experience.  I also rediscovered that I really love classical music, which I tend to forget. I should listen to more classical music. We ended the night in Ghent drinking beer with our legs dangling over the canal, which was precious. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of the time I’ve gotten with my friends here, the ones I started the trip with and the, like, 3 I’ve gained since. My feelings of fondness for my friends faded once we got home though, and they all showed me how much they appreciated the 15 minutes I spent explaining how to play Hearts by kicking my ass at Hearts. I’ll have my revenge.

Things I saw:

The Magritte Museum

Spy (with Dutch & French subtitles) – profane and refreshingly respectful of its female lead | ★★★★★

Gravensteen Castle

St. Bavo’s Cathedral

The Ghent Altarpiece – “the most stolen artwork of all time”

Ghent Town Hall

Belfry and Cloth Hall

Things I tried:

Croque Monsieur – so un-exotic, but it still counts | ★★★★

Turkish pizza | ★★★★★

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