There’s a Stoic exercise referred to as ‘the view from above’ in which you imagine looking at the world from a distance. It could help you achieve some mental equanimity and a more realistic perspective on your life.

Powers of ten by Eames reminds me of this exercise. In the video the camera zooms out from a scene in a parc towards the edge of the universe (and then zooms in again to DNA-level).

Powers of Ten by Eames Office on YouTube.

I tried to create my own view from above guidance based on a biological classification. Here it is in reverse order:

  • Universe
  • Galaxy: Milky Way
  • System: Solar
  • Planet: Earth
  • Life on Earth
  • Superregnum: Eukaryota
  • Regnum: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Classis: Mammalia
  • Supercohors: Placentalia
  • Ordo: Primates
  • Superfamilia: Hominoidea
  • Familia: Hominidae
  • Subfamilia: Homininae
  • Tribus: Hominini
  • Subtribus: Hominina
  • Genus: Homo
  • Subgenus: Homo (homo)
  • Species: H. (h.) sapiens
  • Specimen: crrmnsrg
  • Datestamp: Late 20th, early 21st century AD

You could expand the above in time with this beautiful video from the American Museum of Natural History about seven million years of human evolution:

Seven Million Years of Human Evolution by American Museum of Natural History on YouTube.

We’ve got distance and time covered. We could add size with this interesting video by Harry Evett:

Universe Size Comparison 3D by Harry Evett on YouTube.

Maybe these videos affect you too. I find they have a soothing effect. They kind of ‘put me in my place’ by highlighting the fragility of my life.

During the first years after quitting I had a Twitter account sometimes.


I put some of my thoughts through several rounds of automatic online translating, ending with Dutch. Then I tweeted them in camel case, like this (thank you Internet Archive):

gepubliceerdLichtWolkenEnDuisternis #milk

Milk refers to an acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) technique for cognitive defusion.


I walked for a random time interval, bearing a cardinal direction. Then I shared ISO 8601 compliant tweets, like this:

20170219T1430+1/1501 180° #walking #interval

Still passing time and trying to navigate our world/my life — not necessarily ISO compliant …

Sea squirt, Wikimedia Commons.

The sea squirt. It has a brain until it hasn’t:

… a young sea squirt navigates the great oceans until it finds a rock that is secure, located in water that is just the right temperature, and surrounded by food. Having found a home, it settles down. Sea squirts are in fact sessile animals; once they take up residence, they never move again, come what may. The first thing a sea squirt does after setting up home is to eat its own brain. And why not? It’s possible to live and be a sea squirt without one.
— Giulia Enders in Gut (Scribe Publications, 2015).

Maybe I shouldn’t overthink it. I have a brain so I have to walk …

An easy way to start drawing (again) …

Exercise one: keep your eyes closed

Close your eyes and take a couple of breaths. With your eyes closed, start looking for colours and shapes.

Next, try to visualise what you saw before you closed your eyes by imagining contours of objects, shadows and highlights.

Exercise two: keep your eyes open

Do the same with your eyes open. Look around. Compare contours, shapes and colours. Notice parallel lines and gradients.

Exercise three: trace in the air

Keep both eyes open and look around. Use a finger to trace contours in the air. Use your thumb and index finger to compare dimensions. Take it easy, don’t squint.

Exercise four: draw on surfaces

Use your finger to draw what you see on different surfaces. Feel the difference between materials but keep looking at the subject.

Don’t forget to stop when you get bored!

Vroeger kon je Microsoft ScanDisk gebruiken om de harde schijf van je computer te defragmenteren. Op het scherm kon je dan zien hoe je computer cluster per cluster opgeruimd en gerepareerd werd. De bedoeling was om door de reorganisatie van data de computer efficiënter te laten werken. Ik liet het programma soms lopen hoewel het niet echt nodig was. Het voelde alsof ik mee gerepareerd en opgeruimd werd.

Microsoft ScanDisk aan het werk. (Het eerste stuk is eigenlijk fragmentatie.)

Je verwacht van mij een bovenmenselijke inspanning. Een opoffering. Of toch op z’n minst een concept ‘waar je zelf niet op zou komen’. Ik moet groter zijn dan het leven, jij wilt iets om naar op te kijken, een dataset die je zelf nooit zou kunnen bemachtigen …

Tehching Hsieh, One Year Performance 1980-1981 (Time Clock Piece).

Tehching Hsieh deed tussen 1978 en 1986 vijf performances die elk een jaar duurden. Het eerste jaar liet hij zich opsluiten in een kooi, het tweede jaar tikte hij elk uur af op een tikklok in z’n atelier. Dan een jaar zonder dak boven z’n hoofd, gevolgd door een jaar vastgebonden aan iemand anders. Het laatste jaar deed hij niets met kunst. Daarna probeerde hij dertien jaar onzichtbaar te blijven …

Don’t get heavy

Keep it light and

Keep it moving

Radiohead, Present Tense

Defrag lives … I was working on it when I euthanised my art career in 2015 … But completed a version during a residency in Iceland in 2017 … Now, 2020, ten year anniversary of Slag (first solo show), it’s still in my thoughts …

Defrag, 2017, photo: Pieter Geenen.