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Drunken ship entering Brussels

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“Drunken ship entering Brussels” by Erik Pevernagie, oil on canvas, 100 x 130 cm


Nonsense can be an ingenious architect of sense, as it may turn things upside down and, so doing, sharpen our perception, stir our imagination, clear our mind, and refine our judgment. Like poetry might interlock with science, and emotion with intellect, so are sense and nonsense relentlessly interacting, and this interplay enriches the filigree of our thinking pattern.

If we think the world has no sense, we are still free to enjoy all the imaginable nonsense.

The Bible teaches us that "Fools are in numerous" (« Stultorum infinitus est numerus »).

Plato gives us already a description of a ship filled with crackers floating without a pilot, making an allusion to the state governing without vision.

In the Middle-Ages, they embarked fools on barges ("ships of fools") in order to get rid of them, somewhere else in the country. In 1494 Sebastian Brant gave us a fun illustration of a ship of fools filled with people who live in a carnivalesque mood of madness and takes a course to Narragonia, the country of fools.

Jheronimus Bosch could, of course, not refrain from giving his peppered vision on the customs of his time in his painting.

"The drunken ship entering Brussels" is drifting fleetingly in the immersive surroundings of an otherworldly city. It floats rudderless and cramped through a harsh, abstract reality crushing on its way the "Atomium," a symbol of the city. It forces a breach in the gate of its fantasy.

The ship is a metaphor for a population that has been described by Julius Caesar as brave but crazy, disorganized, and unpredictable. "The Belgae are the bravest." ("... Horum omnium fortissimi sunt Belgae ..."). "It is quite right to say that they were men of outstanding courage."

In the past centuries, the country has often been a battlefield. Waterloo and Flanders' fields have indeed left their impact on the spirit of the inhabitants.


This country produced the surrealistic emanations of René Magritte and the eccentric displays and performances of Marcel Broodthaers, who rode on camelback through the city center, direction Museum of Fine Arts.

Phenomenon: Madness and surrealistic fantasy

Factual starting point: Ship crushing das Atomium