Placebook (60)

by Nikolaus Knebel


I don’t do selfies. I am not on facebook. I also don’t keep a diary. I even shut down my website that I had so carefully designed, because I could no longer stand spending so much time on polishing up my old works instead of producing new ones. I am put off by the over-boarding ficitionalization of reality that is happening everywhere now. So, I am probably the last person to expect writing a blog. And yet, I happily accepted – out of the blue – the invitation from Georg Diez to write this one here.

The invitation came at a time when I was to handle two uphill battles at the same time, building up a new study programme for architects in Oman, and building a pioneering low-energy building on campus. Reason enough to decline the kind offer to write a blog. But on second thoughts, reason enough to take on the challenge and make it an opportunity to sit at least once a day for half an hour and take the luxury to think instead of acting all the time. While other people in such situations book yoga classes, I thought that writing a book might give me moments of relaxation. The motive for producing this text is thus openly selfish. Even more so since I have no idea who – if anybody at all – would be reading it.

The idea to produce some kind of reflection on the term facebook had already existed for a while. It came up when I was thinking how I could stimulate my students to search for educational situations beyond the facebook. Since, for me it was faces and books that taught me much of what I know, I wanted to develop a series of lectures on this. And the more I thought about it, I realized that it was also places that formed my views. Hence, shift from writing about faces and books to writing a placebook.

The task to write 60 short pieces, or picks as they are called here, seemed overwhelming. But like in any fruitful brainstorming session, it is helpful to set a target beyond what seems reachable, because only then one can enter into territory unknown before. The first few places that I wrote about were pretty obvious, then it became harder, and finally I could reach into memories of places that I had long forgotten, but which in one way or another had meaning for me.

I like visiting places. But I don’t take photos while travelling. I don’t like looking into my own camera. I prefer looking at places, and writing about them. Just like in the story by Jorge Luis Borges: “Jemand nimmt sich vor, die Welt zu zeichnen. Im Lauf der Jahre bevölkert er einen Raum mit Bildern von Provinzen, Königreichen, Gebirgen, Buchten, Schiffen, Inseln, Fischen, Zimmern, Instrumenten, Gestirnen, Pferden und Menschen. Kurz bevor er stirbt, entdeckt er, dass dieses geduldige Labyrinth aus Linien das Bild seines eigenen Gesichts wiedergibt.”

In the end this placebook is a self-portrait. It is a selfie, indeed.

all PICKS von