The time in between Godelieve Spaas, Week 2

Life Behind Walls

The intelligent lockdown is keeping us inside. As a consequence, my work and life now takes place within the walls of our house. Sometimes this confinement feels safe and pleasant. Sometimes it feels as though the walls are closing in on me, like wild, terrifying things. I am practicing to get better at this Life Behind Walls. I alternate daydreaming with making soup, writing with watching the news, and Zoom meetings with walking through the garden. I haven’t succeeded in finding a good balance between all of these things, and much less at improving my creative fitness, as Arne called it. My thoughts wander back and forth between aimless cycling through the clouds and getting stuck in circular reasoning. So far, neither has led to any groundbreaking ideas.

I recall a conversation that Koen Delaere had with some Rabobank people about the ways artists find their inspiration. Some of them stay in bed until some dream or vision overcomes them and they get up to work. Others don’t sleep for days so that they can experience the ideas and images that arise from that state. Everything—from meditation to drinking, from a bare and empty studio to one teeming over with stuff, from extreme routine to maximum variation and freedom—can lead to inspiration and creation. Wonderful stories, but not ones that I can easily apply to staying creatively fit, I’m afraid. The artist Bruce Nauman made a lithograph with the words “PAY ATTENTION MOTHER FUCKERS” written in reverse. For a long time, the piece hung in his otherwise empty studio. Why was it so important to Nauman to constantly remind himself to pay attention?

Dagmar Baumann, who made the work shown below, said that painting is primarily looking. Looking at what emerges, what works, what doesn’t. Something unintentional can end up being good. The trick is to be open to whatever presents itself, intentionally or accidentally.

I believe her. The things I write to put off writing what I’m actually supposed to be writing are often some of my best work. Frequently these pieces also inspire me to write about what I’d been planning to write about. Perhaps play helps me to strengthen my creative fitness.


This Life Between Walls makes me want to turn inward, but without nourishment and inspiration from outside, that’s a deafeningly quiet place to be. And the reverse is true too. The days filled with meetings and talking to people all over the world creates so much noise and chaos.

Thanks to this In-between Time, I’ve had the room to turn my attention to things that I’d simply overlooked before. This is the first time I’ve noticed that the red tulips in the garden are the first to bloom. The other colors follow later.

When I look out my window, I notice how people move past one another while trying to remain 1.5 meters apart. People hasten their steps, slow down, step aside, or stand still. It looks like a dance. I am more conscious of where my attention goes from moment to moment. I discover that it’s easier for me to formulate another sentence after staring at the trees and roofs than when I don’t. I practice switching between my own ideas and observing my environment. I realize that switching between big tasks like daydreaming and small ones like washing the dishes makes the dishes more fun and quicker to do. In contrast, if I switch between two big tasks then I end up getting lost and if everything is small and detailed then I get stuck. The variation energizes and inspires me. My creative fitness improves.

The more I practice, the better I get. It feels a bit like dancing. I can change the tempo, speed it up, slow it down, move between two, three, or four alternatives. Space emerges in my Life Between Walls. I use what I see, I feel inspired, and I make it my own. Slowly but surely, I am becoming the choreographer of my Life Between Walls.


Four strengths (4 krachten), Godelieve Spaas 2009,

Schilderijen van Dagmar Baumann

More contributions from Godelieve Spaas


Rabo Art Collection

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