Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rijksmuseum Library in Amsterdam

Does it still count as a library visit if it’s a library inside a museum?

Now, it’s not secret that art museum have some of the best libraries in the world. Most of them are pretty small. Most of them have limited hours, or limit their attendees to art students or museum  members. I have gazed in the windows and behind the gates of many such museum libraries, but I have never seen a library that was an exhibit of its own.

When Pierre Cuypers build the museum in 1885 he designed it with the library in mind, and to this day it is the largest library of art history in the Netherlands. Indeed the library was a very deliberate part of the museum, and was always intended for use my individuals eager to learn.  For a long time, the library was inaccessible to the public while it was being restored, but since 2004 it has returned to it’s original purpose, and the public may come in, browse, read, and study…sort of.

The first floor of the library allows visitors, albeit incredible quiet ones. The books on the first floor are modern and able to be picked up and read.  No photographs are allowed on that floor and you are being watched the entire time.

But the second floor is where the real beauty is. This is were visitors are allowed to photograph to their hearts’ delight. But you can’t go beyond the small balcony, walk down the aisles, browse the centuries-old books. You can just look and photograph. So this isn’t a true library in that sense. But it is a remarkable piece of architecture and design.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Lobsters in Amsterdam

Strangely, in just one day in Amsterdam, I managed to see no fewer than three lobster motifs...

Lobster in a painting at the Rijskmuseum

Crocheted lobster pillow in a window display

Lobster mosaic on the floor of the Rijksmuseum

Friday, December 23, 2016

Photo Diary: Best of Amsterdam

How does one ever put together a “Best of” photo album? 

Should they be the most artistically pleasing or technically advanced photographs? 

Should they be the most recognizable or representative of the place? 

In my case, I choose photographs that capture the essence of my experience in a place. 
If I am just passing through a city, which is the case in most places, I can I claim to know its true identity? 

The photographs are a compilation of mine and my partner’s views and experiences of a particular place in a particulate time.

Here is Amsterdam in September 2016, as seen my two people who’ve been in love for over six years.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Amsterdam Street Style Day 1

Day 1: landed at 6:30am after an 11-hour plane ride. Fashion aim was for comfort and ease. Slightly chilly day and partly sunny. 

Denim cropped jacket: HM
Striped Maxi dress: Target

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mizu No Kuni: MUSEUM104゜

The entrance

The wild. The weird. The wonder. The Mizu no Kuni (Country of Water) MUSEUM104

Nestled in the mountains of Shimane prefecture, I must have drove past this place a thousand times before I ventured inside on my very last day in Shimane. When I went in, I immediately regretted not going sooner. This is the kind of place I might have liked to go every month, if anything just to be there. I have no excuse for not going there sooner or more often, except that I knew too little about it to be intrigued. Indeed, if you google this museum in English or Japanese you will find almost nothing except its location – which is obscure - and opening hours – which are sparse.  Indeed, when I went there I had only an hour to spare, and I had to race through the enormous exhibits and sprawling landscape just to see it all.

Little is recorded on the internet about this wondrous place. Part contemporary art and part quirky science, it’s an odd blend of attractions.  The first thing to experience in the museum is the building itself, a sleek modern edifice, strangely complements the century-old homes and ancient landscapes that surround it.  It is technically located in the town of Sakurae, which is an unincorporated hamlet in the bigger town of Gotsu, which runs from the mountains to the mouth of the Gonogawa River.  

Walking to the ticket desk was an experience in and of itself

Designed after Noah's Ark

The mountains are always in the background
A sobering exhibit

The "treehouse"

Small art can be found everywhere

Like the Bosch devil on his thrown

After looking at the outdoor exhibits, one ventures inside to see the modern art installations.
According to,  the best way to describe this museum is "a facility that thinks, feels, knows, and enjoys 'water.'"

Why water is in quotation marks (in Japanese they look like 「」) is a curious observation. My reasoning is that the concept of water here is not merely physical. It is a place to explore water the metaphor, water the life-giver, water the destroyer. Many of the artworks were difficult to interpret. I should mention that the museum has not English language signage or literature, but even with that I'm not sure I would have understood everything. 

I decided to make myself part of this sculpture

A metal fish that moves 

One room of the museum was three floors and dedicated entirely to a single exhibit, which consisted of a film of slow-moving lights, accompanied by harmonious sounds, giving one the impression of being at the bottom of the ocean. During the exhibit, visitors climb up a shallow ramp, slowly ascending three floors, all the while viewing the light show and hearing the sounds from different angles. As you ascend, your perspective changes, and by the time you are at the top it is as though you are watching an entirely different show. The top is a dead-end, and you descend down the shallow ramp exactly the way you came. 


The artworks stand in contrast the museum’s second building, which is set up like a kid’s science exhibit. I enjoyed being there alone on a Sunday, where I could play with all of the machines, making bubbles and whirlpools, and watching the power of water in it’s many forms. 

Science amazes my simple mind

Condensation board

Making a whirlpool

Coupled with the total isolation of rural Japan, and the oddness of these exhibits, the Mizu no Kuni is definitely on of the strangest museum I have ever visited. Of course this place is not to be missed if you ever find yourself in Gotsu, Japan, and may well be worth a trip there just to see it. When the once-obscure Izumo Taisha has become a popular tourist destination, stay off the beaten path and make the pilgrimage to this place. 

The lush greenery of the mountains grows everywhere

The Gambia: Photo Diaries from the City

Although I flew into Banjul, I spent very little time there. Most of my time 'in the city' was actually spent in Banjul's sprawl...