THE CAPTAIN’S BLACK LOG

The Captain’s Black Log Book

012
Friday, August 4, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


OPPORTUNITIES

Like on the huge East Indiamen that used to sail to the orient, the captain on the Ship of Fools has his quarters on the back deck – and his retrograde porthole astern. His horizon faces the past and fades away. To be able to set the course for the helmsman and the fool steering mates he needs to savor past opportunities and calamities to create new ones. For a sailor this quest for opportunities sometimes borders opportunism, especially if no remnant lingers on the bottom of the ship chest, as routinily is the case. To clarify this best, better to abandon English tongue and invoke the charms of Dutch sailor’s lingo that by sheer practice solidified into petrified phrases. That starts with a seemingly innocent but basic and brave maritime practice like ‘laveren”, that simply means to zigzag against the wind and to reverse the direction just before hitting the obstacles. This “overstag gaan”, an essential nautical manoeuvre to be translated as “to tack”, easily smells like “to change your mind”, very much like the very sensible “omzeilen” or “sailing around” smells like to fight shy of any problem or conflict. The Dutch expression “met de winden meewaaien” or “blowing with the winds”, is a sound nautical principle but means something like “to swim with the tide or “to go with the flow”. This paradox has found a sumptious expression in the Dutch verb “schipperen”, whose significations, confidently, equivalent an express course to a sailing licence. Basically it means “to steer a ship” or “to show good seamanshood”. That simply means acting along the circumstances. This implies to vacillate, to be trown back and forth, to give and take, to bargain and to compromise. That includes quite some botching, patching, wobbling, dabbling, bungling. jumbling, muddling, fudging and swindling. It strongly invites to dodge rules and regulations if required. It often implies to come to arrangements and tangible results. Again it smells like to yo-yo and not to be principled. There’s a befitting 18th century paraphrase of “schipperen” that quotes: It seems I always waver, but I keep my ground and never give up (“Ik schijn altoos te wijken, toe te geven, maar bewaar mijn grond, en geef nooit toe”). The principle is to be unprincipled but to stay loyal to the set course. Tomorrow the ship sets sail. The set course is an eternal pilgimage in praise of folly. For months people ask if everything is ready. Many things get ready, at best, on the way. Still, the ship never has been so well prepared. The real question is if the crew is ready. The biggest danger on the seas is the crew.

011
Friday, July 28, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


AUSTRALIA

This log is about our destination. There’s a widespread misunderstanding that leaving the ship behind in the Australian desert would be the Glorious Grand Finale of the Fool’s Odyssey. Too bad that in these days of instant communication it’s virtually impossible to breed the rumours and mystifications that were the soul and reputation of our travels. Is the ship still around ? Where the heck are they?  Did they sink ? Weren’t they bankrupt?  Luckily not many read this log book. The fact is we actually do NOT want to go to Australia at all. It is a small, misogyne, racist, xenophobe island. Here we speak more about systems than about people. When investigating our trip we hit the nearby, romantic sounding, “Christmas Island” that houses more refugees than inhabitants. That Australian island happens to be a detention centre to where the Aussi can exile his conscience into oblivion. Pretty much as the Dutch exile their colonial past to other exotic holiday islands. The fact is, crossing the Australian desert on wheels is a descent into hell. The poor ship is deprived of her natural habitat just as the poor fools are submitted to health and security regulations. No chance to enter own board while driving through the desert. No chance to dive into the ocean under the pitiless heath. Our interest to travel to Australia is the travel itself as an itinerant art festival. Australia is only the banner around which to rally artists and dreamers for a tribute to the millennial history of the “World Turned upside Down” alias “The Ship of Fools” that always in history has been a ship on wheels. Australia is the dry plain where beautiful images, stories and dreams can blossom. The Dutch mounted a dozen expeditions to look for a continent full of gold, called “Southland” that proved to be Australia. They found the continent but never the gold. Now, the shipload of our next expedition to the Southland is not the imaginary gold but instead the very tangible immaterial wealth of an artistic and cultural exchange between artists and audiences of different cultures. A tribal elder from the Uluru Rock invited us to visit them in their lost paradise as a symbolic contribution to the still ongoing decolonisation of the continent. The desert trip is not a Fitzcarraldo heroic exploit, just an expensive tender for a crane and trailer to get the ship there. For Hieronymus Bosch and many of his contemporaries, the travel of the Ship of Fools indeed was a descent into hell. Only returning into the ocean we enter paradise, purified. We sail to Australia to have a destination. After that, the fool’s trip starts, without any destination. To get there, the crew now is feverishly liberating all the corners, corridors and cabins from the rubbish that has cumulated there over three decennia’s. Next Saturday a shipshape ship sets sail.

010
Friday, July 21, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

THE SECRETS OF THE FOOL’S TRADE
To launch a Ship of Fools and keep her sailing has only be made possibly by a bizarre set of conditions and secrets. In fact, such a project is unthinkable in any other country than the Netherlands. I’m not talking about Erasmus and his “Praise of Folly” or about Hugo Grotius and his “Mare Liberum”. It’s just the circumstance that nowhere in the world there’s such a rich maritime heritage with so many centenary ships and the sailors and mechanics that keep them running. Where else in the world a linguist who never sailed in his whole life would buy a vessel and simply set sail? A similar essential condition is the Amsterdam culture of freedom, protest and alternative lifestyles that mark the city. One of the symbols of this could be the Festival of Fools back in the seventies that became the forerunner of an international festival culture.  The ship doesn’t even has to pay taxes for not being of any value. So it’s a well-kept secret we’re sailing a luxury yacht with two toilets, ten private cabins and a bath as big as the ocean. Just go shopping in Monaco where you start with 20 million for a 20 meter yacht and add one million for every meter you want more. That makes us a thirtyfold millionaire. That ship supposedly not being of any value has proven to bring an enormous additional benefit. After all, if you run into problems and find your yacht impounded you just wait a surprisingly short time before they start supplicating you to look for other destinations. Another well-kept secret is the blessing of a motor that is devoid of any electronics and that only needs diesel, oil and cooling water. That indefectible motor, for being built much too solid, only provoked the bankruptcy of the factory. That motor didn’t need any repair or service in 25 years and allowed a linguist to face the seas saving on mechanics. Another of the secrets is of bureaucratic nature, sailing without an address, without budget, possessions, counting, accounting or bank statements. The real secret is of a psychological nature for which we better consult a psychiatrist. Or else of a religious nature, The School for Fools slowly turns into The Church of Fools. The Sekt of Holy Fools. This weekend a 14 persons delegation from London join us to grace the final days of the festival. They’re Butoh-dancers, storytellers and musicians. Panic on board. Under the huge table in the saloon and under the scene on the deck we’ll create a dormitory. What if the best asset of the ship is her jolly arrival in port that spontaneously brings a cheerful mood to most mortals and even to most harbour officials?

009
Friday, July 14, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

FAREWELL TO AMSTERDAM
The NDSM, the former Amsterdam ship yard turned into an artist laboratory, is being sold. The lady in charge of protecting the unique character of the wharf, resigned. In our naivity we think to say good bye to Amsterdam but in fact it is the city herself that says good bye to her reputation and perspectives. It is the NDSM that says good bye to the city. The free zones in town are being marginalized and dismantled. The same civil servant that generously offered us for two years a free mooring on this Amsterdam top spot, now measures his steps on the quay to worship his God: the square-meter price. The Fools, after dining with the King, can sleep with the dogs again. We set sail as the Ambassador of an illusionary town eager to be transformed into a hub of a zombie Airb&b decor. Farewell ! Our farewell show becomes the swan song of a proud city sinking in the mud. It is a show about dreaming and travelling, about freeing yourself of the seduction of power and money. It is a no budget show made by a crew of about fifteen dedicated to a collective creation. We were very much surprised with the euphopric reaction of the public after the premiere. The scenery, with the city, the ship and sails indeed is stunning. I suspect the real drama of the spectacle is the public realising to be left behind when this ship really hits unknown destinations.

008
Friday, July 7, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


UTOPIA
How to find a name for a ship that is not there yet? I decided to look for her name in a Russian dictionary, knowing that there isn’t any authentic Russian word that begins with a A. The idea was to find a Russian sounding word that would be understandable in the mayor European languages. Very quickly, on page two, in between the letter Az (A) and Azbuka (Alphabet), the word “Azart” shined up , significating “Fire, Passion”. Wauw! A passion for art from A to Z ! That yielded much more than I was looking for: the name of a vision. It took some time to know that the dictionairy’s translation was a very poor rendering of the riches of the word. It took some more time before we managed to adorn an Amsterdam square with this name. It took 25 years before a Russian paintor and novelist published a novel titled “Azart”. He came to the ship on his first travel to the West in the illusion to find an artist in residence on a millionaire’s yacht. Instead he found a bunch of artists surviving on a ramshackle ship. It made a big impression on him and a quarter of century later he wrote his novel “Azart” as a parable about constructing an ark, about the place of man in society and about the spirit of utopy. I realised it must be the utopian character of the project that attracts the potentional crewmembers, despite all the trouble, hardship and sacrifice it involves. So then, with what motivation? The collectivity of the process? The artistic challenges? The purity of the nature and oceans? The quest for new horizons? The desire to escape the restrictions of society? With what message? So far, it’s very clear that ship’s life functions as a school. A school for fools. The French veteran sailor, fed up with the vegan food on board, carefully and lovingly prepared the two steaks my brother secretly give us out of pity. While looking for some wine the dog of the skipper devored both of them in one blow. One day earlier this dog teared carefully and lovingly his hat apart. Veteran pirates too keep on learning.
Your captain August.
——
007
Friday, June 30, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East



MAGNUM OPUS
The Magnum Opus of the theatre ship Azart is her one-way travel to the Other Side. This took thirty years to get loose. It is fascinating because travelling, living, playing and storytelling come together in a kind of collective Total Artwork or ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’. It fascinates for its fragile and hazarduous character that borders irresponsability. Meanwhile, the captain lost control. He lost his digital memory and every single one of his phone numbers. He lost his power of purchasing food for the crew. He is still fighting by patiently dumping the rubbish the crew still persistently loads on board. The trip becomes an organic collective process. But not really yet. The theatre director, used to third world conditions, keeps control of the artistic process. Daily rehearsals decreted. The skipper commands the sailing. Only two crew members ever sailed. The sea shifts out the sailors. After Canarias, Senegal might replace Ghana, for its proximity. At the Blue Square on the NDSM we got an Amsterdam ferry terminal as neighbour.

Your captain August.
——
006
Friday, June 23, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


THE JOBS

Five weeks left to set sail on the ultimate, permanent world trip. What are the tasks of the crew? First, you have the captain who accounts for the global vision and communication. Letters and programs. Last saterday, his lap top and his mobile telephone were professionally stolen. By bad chance the back-up memory was part of the loot. Twenty years of digital memory whiped out in one strike. Reset to zero. Liberation. Luckily, all the pictures and images are already thoroughly classified by the archiviste Marja. Meanwhile, the skipper Axe has multiple jobs like revising the sails, masts, ropes, tubes, batteries, electronics while revising the kitchen and the toilet and creating theatre props. Simultanously. He promoted the Motor Room into the Motor Saloon by hanging a chandelier there. The main sail happened to have been the happy home of a rat famile that left five holes to be fixed. A Basque Delegation came over especially to repair some seriously leaky salt water cooling tubes that have been installed in the early sixties and not been touched after. The French sailor is organising drawers, boxes and cases for the instruments and the bolts. The Basque actress and French mamma make a hat for the narrator in the show as four other actors are engaged in making props. The guest director gives a row of instructions. Our Amsterdam artist duo is immersed in organising and publicizing the coming festival. The French musician is only three days on board marvelling. The floating asylum is getting ready to sail.
Your captain August.
——-
005
Friday, June 16, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

THE SPACE
On the premises of the artist laboratory NDSM in Amsterdam North we fools create a Blue Square that has a particular spaciousness: at one side the skyline of down town and at the other side the emptiness of a former ship yard. It’s a unique place because very central in town and surrounded by mere space. No living quarters half a mile around. That’s one of the extraordinary privileges of sailing a Ship of Fools: to be systematically moored on very top spots. Hometown Amsterdam provides an excellent illustration of this: our Blue Square now turns into a ferry terminal just as earlier the Azart Square turned into a ferry terminal. Communication hubs on hot spots ! But then, hot spots we find all over the world and it’s hard to say which are the most beautiful. The derelict quay in Barcelona where we spend two winters now turning into a Hermitage Museum? Or the last bridge before the real Hermitage in Sankt Petersburg? The tiny island we shared a whole winter with a 14-th century Venetian castle near the Greek Island Levkada – the spot where Cleopatra lost her sea battle and empire? The Saint-Angelo fort in Malta? A 12-the century cathedral in South-Italy? The very end of the majestic river Rhône where we spend three winters? The really beauty perhaps is not a specific place but to hop from one to another. We’ll appraise them by bringing a Blue Square to all of them. In preparation of our Festival of Fools we bordered the Square with five bath tubes.
Your captain August.
——-
004
Friday, June 9, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


THE CREW
Who are those fools that are ready to set sail on a one-way voyage to the other side of the world? Which qualifications they need to enlist? The answer is not easy. The real question is what it takes to persist. Romantic sights about exotic destinations do not travel far. To start with, you hardly get a chance to be lazy. And you need a certain level of courage and sociability. Most helpful is to be detached of petty worries about stuff and money. To be free of expectations and to be ready to face incertitudes. Crucial is a high state of forbearance because of the daily dealings with your companions that makes the hour and the day. And, for sure, you got to have an idea why you’re in and what you want to express. Because, basically, you give everything and don’t get anything. So, who’s the crew? As always, for the coming travel we take some locals on board. So I’m not the only Dutch anymore. Now we have a skipper who knows better navigating than his captain. By far. And somebody who  finally knows something about sails. Then, there’s a duo of performers that are flying high through the Amsterdam art scene. There’s a would-be sailor boy trying to escape his cruise bar in Amsterdam. A descendent of slaves from the Caribe who’s passion it is to play with tiny objects creating animation movies. A retired French sailor who’s pension alone triples the whole budget of a world tour. A French street musician playing the double bass, guitar, bouzouki, baglamas, ukulele, piano and the clarinet. A Basque actress putting her career at stake by preferring the Fools to a famous Portuguese theatre director. A couple from Valencia that’s perplexed by the whims of the Dutch spring. A skinny cineast from the Spanish Plain who returns to the ship after another year studying at the film academy. A French mom with two kids completes the gang. The sea keeps rocking.
Your captain August.
——
003
Friday, June 2, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East


THE PASSION
About eight weeks before departure for an eternal world trip and still the motor room has to be finished, a show to be made, a festival to be held – with the ship’s chest dramatically depleted. If we wouldn’t have done this a double dozen times before, I never would have believed it. This time, the enterprise is of sheer heroic dimensions. The zero state of the ship’s chest is inversely proportional to the enthusiasm of the crew. This challenge defies common sense. Three holy duties are to blame that the Fools, if they want to be taken serieus, do not have a real alternative to accept this challenge. Thrice Hurray! First, the sailing to the Orient as a remake of Amsterdam’s nautical history belongs to the core inspiration of the project. You can’t really abnegate the very pledge that took thirty years to come to fruition. Another imperative reason we can’t possibly forsake is to meet the standard we’ve set ourselves by naming the ship “Azart”. At that time we still had no clue about it. This word travelled from country to country and got – in passing –  fascinating meanings like fate, luck or chance. Or else meanings like danger or risk. At the eastern end of the trip, in Russia, this “Azart” turned into a glorious “passion to put everything at stake”. Holy Duty ! Nor have we, fools, any serious chance to rewind the millenary fool’s history that is our passion, our bread and – by extension – our future. We’re unwise by vocation and profession. Only the dynamics of our story telling can guaranty our continuity. We can only survive if we are collectively funded. The food waste store is partner already. Not to make others jealous I was asked, while leaving, to hide the free meat destined for the few meat eaters left in a rapidly veganising crew. Another partner is Professor Doctor Herman Pleij, national expert in the nature of Dutch characteristics. His contribution is a solemn lecture in the last weekend of our farewell Festival, a sermon titled “The Crazier – The Better”, about The Necessity To Be A Fool.
Your captain August.
——
002
Friday, May 26, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

THE LAW
So far, the Fools have visited about two hundred cities. Every time, the big challenge is to earn the respect of the local population. At first, that’s a hard task, given that the ship and especially the crew defy the most common perceptions about what is normal. In fact, they invade the scenery with the alarming question: who is the fool around here? Children and artists are the first to regale the fools. There’s always a minority that upon seeing the ship stiffens automatically and beyond repair in a kind of premature rigor mortis. But the curious thing is a certain phantom pain that overpowers the community as soon as the ship is gone. Gradually, the ship creates a space in the surroundings and in the heart of the people and by leaving, she leaves a notable void. But now there’s another question, not less interesting: does the local neighbour deserves respect on his turn? Sometimes, this proves to be even more difficult, by the indifference and a kind of egocentrism ruling the place. Basically, it’s fear of petty interests being disturbed. That’s especially sad if idealism turns into commercialism. This fear often gets into grotesque dimensions as soon as the authorities are concerned. They grant themselves the responsibility to set rules and then see themselves forced to apply them for fear of losing their job. At present we’re hunted down by a civil servant who happens to be a legalisation freak and who earlier with phoney arguments succeeded to chase the Art Vessel Stubnitz out of town. The poor man believes them himself. Poor City. So it happened we had to present a theatre performance illegally on the quay side. It happened we had to chase away many parents who wanted to show their kids the ship as they’ve done all over the country since centuries. For this log book the disparate arbitrariness of civil servants in so many countries stays an eternal source of amazing content. Just now a Russian writer publicised a novel called Azart, a title borrowed from the ship’s name. Apparently, this novel is a tribute to the spirit of the utopia and to the European values the ship Azart represents. Things of positive interest.
Your captain August.
—–
001

THE BLUE BARGE
May 19, 2017
The Blue Square, NDSM, Amsterdam
52º23´591´´ North, 004º53´522 East

We summon all companions of wild manners
With greetings and salute
To come to the Blue Barge
And into the Blue Barge’s Guild
(Jacob van Oostvoorne, beginning XV-th century)

With these words a satiric sermon launched – for a crew of wastrels and misfits – an imaginary voyage straight to damnation. Now, after six centuries, things finally get serious. Now a crew comes together for a real journey of indefinite duration and with unknown destination. A one way pilgrimage in praise of Folly. In about two months the barge sets sail. The sea chest literary is empty. Just in time Amsterdam TV-News came up with a crowd funding campaign. Weekly the captain records the anxieties and longings of the crew. He talks about negotiations with dignitaries and fools – or about the state of the pipework in the engine room or the provisions in the kitchen.

On board are actors and filmmakers and a sailor who is officially is a hand deck but actually the commander. The epic journey finally starts. It’s preparations lasted thirty years. As in most seaman’s stories, the disasters, misunderstandings and blunders remain the best reading. But Fellini said: And The Ship – She Sailed !
Your captain August

Written By August Dirks

4 Comments on “THE CAPTAIN’S BLACK LOG

  1. dirk Reply

    June 1, 2017 at 9:36

    wow looks all good

  2. Anne Harrison Reply

    July 30, 2017 at 3:26

    Dear Fools and foolers, please sound your horn as you pass my ship De Pappillon, moored forever on land at ADM, once bound for Australia but sunk by a mysoginist racist Australian in a petulant rage of domestic violence. Transformed by artists, ADM free folk, and the shrew into a sculpture of wind whimsies, and dreams to stand for freefolk, the Flying Ship De Pappillon sends wind whispers to lift your sails. Please salute her on your way and I will forever be your fool, x Anne Harrison of De Pappillon p.s whenever you need a help or hand, or fire to sing by when you get to Christmas Is. or Aust. I am among other things a lawyer, which may come of use when you sail into these racist waters and will take your call.

    • August Dirks Reply

      July 30, 2017 at 5:16

      Hey Anne, it’s a big honour to salute the Papillon, the very ship that saved us in 1994 for a commemorial tour in Germany about the 500 years of the first edition of the “Ship of Fools”, the world’s first bestseller (Das Narrenschiff, Sebastian Brant, Basel, 1494). At that time an opera singer, who happend to be a lawyer, had impounded our own ship. Even now, in all her sadness, she’s of a rare beauty. What’s really sad, it seems probably, they’ll evict the ADM and with that the Papillon…
      About the reasons to sail to your small Island…
      https://www.azart.org/the-captains-log/
      Good luck, we’ll be there, if the winds stay favorable.
      Fortune Favours Fools
      August

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *