d e s c e n d i n g m o u n t a i n
It’s not easy to keep a secret place. We like to be somewhere first. The idea of being the only one seems liberating. There is an incomparable joy to reaching a personal resort without crossing even a single elephant path. As if a stream is less refreshing if other hands have cupped and drank from it; as if a panorama pretentiously composes itself having been witnessed by the multitudes. I can therefore imagine that many mountaineers got frustrated discovering that any day-tripper can visit the top of the Mont Blanc in Haarlem. For it was in the Teylers Museum that I saw, displayed in a glass cabinet, the top of what for centuries was known to be Europe’s highest mountain.
There are more settings that have somehow obtained the unaccustomed status of an artefact. Any period room transforms similarly, but can we also disconnect a place like this - so particularly characterized by the coordinates- from its location?
Is it possible that the top of the mountain resides hardly 3 meters above sea level, 4776 meter under the rock where it once rested upon and just a stone's throw from what has been nominated to be Hollands best shopping street?
From a technical point of view, a top looses the characteristics of the supreme from the moment it reaches the same height as the part that was underneath it (at the moment where there two tops?) The more so once this fragment descended to the base of the mountain. This happened in 1787 after the highest part of Mont Blanc (which was not blanc), was disconnected by the person who some years before had assigned it as the highest point of Europe: the Genevan scientist Horace- Bénédict de Saussure. He was among the first to climb the mountain and determined the exact height of the mountain based on barometric data and a previously performed calculation using triangulation. Afterwards he decided that it could spare a couple of centimetres.
Is a top an object? I wonder while I’m left mesmerized behind the glass, my eyes resting on the top of the Mont Blanc. With my hands lazily in my pockets I feel ironically confronted with the symbol of physical subdue and conquer.
But still, even if the highest point only exists by the grace of all pieces underneath, the top displayed in the cabinet of the Teylers Museum is in no sense, even after 227 years, downgraded to a simple pebble. This ostensibly simple piece of stone is suddenly revalued by the realisation that it was once considered Europe's highest point. The topaz and the ruby pale, and even the diamond loses its lustre when you think of a lover on one knee, offering his beloved a ring stowed with the former tip of Europe.
Deze tekst is ook verschenen als gastbijdrage in Salvo-periodiek #5 Actual Size
Kijk voor meer informatie en om het magazine te bestellen op deze website