Onno Dirker

The River Journal

Site: The Terek River

The idea:

The plan is to set up a camp (bivouac) on one of the islands in the River Terek for the Alanica Art Festival in Vladikavkaz. A person is doing research for some days on the river. The focus is on the ecology, the condition and capacity of the river. It concerns an artistic research, it is not scientific.

A few things are combined in this idea:

  • going to bivouac, the desire to go out into nature
  • setting up a river research, going on an expedition, doing fieldwork
    (little bit strange spectacle, ufo-landing)
  • being in quarantine, keeping your distance (corona-time). Maintaining the distance is part of the artwork.

Prior to the performance, is a phase of devising and planning. In this process the plan is given shape. This is an important part of the art work. I want to show the preparations in advance, the study and research on the River Terek, by publishing an online journal. In the context of the festival, this journal can be considered to be a "sketch of the imaginary”.

So the work of art begins by showing the preparations for a bivouac, before it actually takes place. The tasks and research goals are highlighted.

Actually the process can be divided into three phases:

1. Prior. Time of preparation, study, remote work, online publication, the imaginary

2. Bivouac. Work on location, live on site

3. An annual report. Conclusions, bundled together

1. The preparation.


from March until the bivouac


Looking at the River Terek from my studio in The Hague. The view from a distance.

In the coming weeks I will be working on an online journal, downloads in pdf, for a website/fb. Later it can be used in printed form as a poster-newspaper and distributed during the actual performance.

Approximately I make about 4 editions of The River Journal.

There is an emphasis on the sensory perception, with topics currently in concept, such as; The sounds of the Terek; Colors of the Terek; The course of the Terek; City-Riverlandscape;

To observe and be watched; Range, Domain and distance, A fish in the river; The environment. The first edition will be released in March. I am working on it now, it’s called: ‘The passage of the River Terek’.

The goal is to create ‘suspense’ before the real experience can take place.

2. Bivouac (at the river) The real act.

Duration of 10 days

What: A performance. Set up a bivouac for an intensive long week, living and working on site on a small temporary islands at the River Terek in the city of Vladikavkaz.

Immediately from the moment I arrive in Vladikavkaz, I take up my post on an island at the river. In itself, setting up a bivouac is a nice thing to watch. The spectacle can be seen from the banks and bridge. The scene creates a strong image. This action is perhaps puzzling, somewhat strange.
The layout of the camp is an installation. At night, the lighting in the tent(s) will give a beautiful sight. In fact, the whole thing offers many possibilities in terms of installation and design.

Except setting up a camp the researcher continue to work on his research at the existing qualities of the River Terek. The results are displayed directly somewhere in Vladikavkaz. These are the daily reports (kind of journals). The bivouac is like a field studio, an artistic laboratory. The researcher is going out on a walk or ‘excursion’, but he always stays near the river and keeps the distance. He is not going into town. His appearance is that of someone who is focussed and undisturbed. Very strange perhaps.

Besides a tent, a field kitchen and something like sanitary facility, it is important to have a work table on the bivouac. The daily reports (on paper, hand-made) and a collection of lost and found objects are displayed the very next day on a board/case at the nearby bridge, or in the museum.

Afterwards, the artist visitor and his bivouac disappear as quickly as they came. As if it was a delusion.

Contact between the artist-researcher(s) on the river and the people in the city can be desirable. Yet, we have to keep in mind that remaining distance is a major part of the art work (the river as a barrier). It may be an idea to make a miniature cable path to exchange messages and materials.

Of course there are still a lot of matters to discuss. About what is desirable and what is practical. All this in mutual consultation and with consent. In the coming period we make a final scenario (publish it and include it in the journals), it is part of the process. In the first online phase we are still working on the imagination.

3. Annual Report


Made after the performance (2022)


One annual report. Results bundled together, the journals and the results of the field research, perhaps in the form of a publication, a movie…

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