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#2 A Matter of Time

This is the second of a series of exploratory essays. With which I aim to connect the dots of my artistic practice and research endeavours.


Heat cannot become heat again, and that “is the only basic law of physics that distinguishes the past from the future.”1

– Carlo Rovelli


Being in the city where I spent five years of my young adult life is mesmerizing. I recognize places, and rediscover the streets without necessarily knowing where I am going. Breda is different and strangely the same, most people I knew here left and most of my friends who stayed have children now. On almost every corner I feel like I have been there before. I remember riding my bike in the dark to the glitter round-about, my usual route to go to the art academy, and I think I found the street where we had our first artist-collective: BOM Ateliers five studios in an abandoned post-office.

It leaves me with a feeling of awe and a gentle warmth, it all seems so distant, experienced by someone I was a long time ago. I could probably go anywhere here, and have layers of spatial and emotional memories pop up. While biking around I can feel my body remembering the corners, crossings and the snowsomehow when I look around I most vividly recall the surroundings with a layer of snow.


[…] no one can simply “remain the same”, as it were, “without doing anything”. To remain, one needs to passor at all events to “pass through – something we shall call a TRANSLATION.””2

– Bruno Latour


As our bodies are continuously moving to stay in the same place, our nervous systems are continuously recalibrating while categorizing the information our senses continuously detect in our surroundings. As stalagmites3, our cognition collects material, stacking it, forming a body that can persist, and needs a vast amount of time to develop and grow. Each stalagmite is different, depending on the intervals and the components of the dripping matter. As my body follows the rhythm of experiences, stalagmites follow the rhythm of falling drops – each having their own sense of time.

Intensity can make things appear as a fraction of a second or an infinite vastness. Earlier this year I got stuck in New Zealand, the people I stayed with were Portuguese, and even though I can grasp parts of the language, I had no idea what they were talking about. In the process of accepting my new life on the other side of the world I felt my brain shifting. While observing this process, I realized that everything that had happened before was slowly getting blurry, pushed to the background by this experience.


Disasters loosen the bonds with the past, and create space to imagine the future.4

– Rebecca Solnit


Now, half a year has passed, and I am observing myself rediscovering my own memories in the stories of others. The retelling of our own stories with the stories of others enables us to see connections outside of our own established framework of anchor points. It brings about the multiplicity of any story and our individual strategies to arrive at linearity, wherein cause and effect dynamics create meaning. Abstract facts do not change our minds, what has an impact on our reasoning are experiences and our attempts to formulate connections.5 When events happen one after the other in close proximity our minds draw connections6, applying visual and emotional cues that serve as anchor points. In the act of unconsciously connecting the anchor points, the framework for our reality develops – an (individual) experience of the world.

Every time I retell my stories they start anew and change, I am choosing different words, just a slightly different angle, and thereby a multitude of directions to move the story toward opens up. I am observing my interpretations of the past, and expectations and predictions of the future shift through this process of continuously formulating new connections.


November 2020

Nele Brökelmann

Witte Rook, Liniestraat, Breda, Netherlands

image: screenshot from Blender, video essay Platform | noun, often attributive in the making (november 2020)

This essay is written during the first phase of my Artist in Residence period at Witte Rook and forms the backbone of my video essay Platform | noun, often attributive (part 1, november 2020). The residency is made possible with kind support from Stroom Den Haag in the form of a research subsidy.

1) The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli, p. 22

2) An Inquiry Into Modes of Existence, Bruno Latour, p. 41

3) Wikipedia, 18/10/2020: A stalagmite (UK: /ˈstæləɡmaɪt/ or US: /stəˈlæɡmaɪt/; from the Greek σταλαγμίτης – stalagmitês, from σταλαγμίας – stalagmias, "dropping, trickling")[1] is a type of rock formation that rises from the floor of a cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings.

4) A Paradise Built in Hell, audiobook, Rebecca Solnit;

"A startling investigation of what people do in disasters and why it matters: Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster – whether manmade or natural – people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?” -

5), 27/10/2020

6) Naomi Klein, On Fire, p. 44: “When intense events happen in close proximity to one another, the human mind often tries to draw connections that are not there, a phenomenon known as apophenia.”


Dit project is mede tot stand gekomen door financiële ondersteuning van STROOM Den Haag in de vorm van onderzoekssubsidie.

Nele Brökelmann: Platform noun, often attributive
Dutch version below. During her residency, Nele Brökelmann is taking the online platform of Witte Rook as a small case study. ...
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Situating In the summer of 2019 Nele Brökelmann, Katarina Petrović and June Yu came together to talk about their shared inter...
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