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to the boxes

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curriculum vitae

Monday, October 16th. 2023

It has been a long time since I moved up into the High Desert of California, where I found this grand Telephone repeater station. 

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This repeater station, also called a switching station, amplified the telephone signal between Bakersfield and Los Angeles. This was built in 1929 by Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. It was a self-contained facility for its workers with various types of residential facilities, stables, an incinerator, a machine shop, a cistern and a water tower with a windmill.


Panel frames at the Connections Museum, Seattle. At the extreme left, you can see part of a line finder frame. The prominent frame in the center of the photo is the District Selector. On the right is a portion of a sender frame.

Very likely there where similar racks here in this station.

The station itself contained racks full of electrical gear and vacuum tubes, cables came up through a big pipe into a troth and up into the racks,  a little gas flame heated up the soldering pot, the big wide open space flooded with light, windows could be opened and let a cross breeze in.  A huge high voltage electric panel  sits in the shop, a note on the tall breaker box reads : #24 back up battery room. The technology became obsolete, the gear was taken out and all was abandoned in the 50’s.

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Well, this is a very different place in comparison with where I lived  before: spending my youth in a small town in Holland,  living in an apartment in New York, several lofts in Berlin, and an 18th century harbor building in Rotterdam, leading a city life in the world of theater as a scenic artist, technician and set designer.  Here, my eyes looked through the big arched windows and found a wide open world, filled with rabbit weeds, old oak trees and animal life, the coyotes I heard, the birds I saw, the occasional rattle snake I encountered, I embraced it all.

I ventured out. 

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The ravens live on the balcony of the tower, the barn owls on the top floor, the bats under the roof tiles, the hawks circling above, it was all magical to me. This new world informed my own work in a big way. I was curious and intrigued, a Raven died, the others came to his funeral croaking loudly around him, I was impressed by his beauty and might. These are not trophies, not at all,  with all due respect I preserved their beauty and tell their stories, how their lives ended perhaps, what I saw in them, projecting my own life story in the settings I gave them. The form of a diorama was a good way to to this, and so the collection of  The Boxes, as I call them, came to light.

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All the while, The Compound, as we call it,  has come to feel like a big aircraft carrier where people land and take off,  ideas are exchanged, prototypes built, books written, music composed. Many have gathered around the airplane wing table and we enjoyed times of lively life.

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The collection of the boxes grew slowly, getting more refined, especially in the way I use lighting. I come from the theater world and know well that good lighting makes the magic. The boxes became stages for owls, ravens, a pigeon, assembled creatures. They became the characters, the actors and story tellers.


I renovated the old tower garage for them and transformed it into

a museum, ”Museum in the Tower building”.  In this beautiful old space now filled with wonder, they resonate with each other and create a mysterious feeling, a sort of Wunderkammer with its own soundtrack, softly humming in the background. A chandelier kindly lights visitors’ faces as, in the presence of all these small worlds, we break bread, lift our glasses and share our own tales.

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Alongside I started to set up still lives in the old Dutch Masters style, I am myself Dutch after all, and photographed the characters before I placed them in a box.

After more than two decades, I still feel like a visiting caretaker, responsible for honoring every fallen bird with a story and a place to shine.


to the boxes

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curriculum vitae

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