Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TOTEM - Franky Verdickt @ A&Gallery

Photo © Franky Verdickt
Since I discovered Angels & Ghosts Gallery in Ghent, I follow their diverse activities. Aside from photo exhibitions, the gallery owners Wouter Van Vaerenbergh and Ben Van Alboom publish the newspapers Not Another Graphic Designer and The A&Gazette (already 4 editions). A month ago, Elisabeth Ouni was exhibiting 'A Polaroid Story', which I really liked. Now, A&Gallery hosts Franky Verdickt.

Franky Verdickt is a photographer based in Brussels, who graduated in 2007 with a Master in Photography (with honors) from the school of visual arts Sint Lukas Brussels. The same year, he traveled to Amsterdam to receive the prestigious Photo Academy Award. In July 2007, he joined Photolimits — a Belgian based platform for documentary photography. Five years of exhibitions in Beijing, Paris, Madrid and Copenhagen: Franky Verdickt is now exhibiting 'Totem' in A&Gallery, a project way more engaged than documentary photography!

Here we live.
Photo © Franky Verdickt
‘True, but I really can’t be bothered with labels. I like taking photographs – and that includes experimenting with different styles and techniques. I guess it’s like being able to speak more than one language. I’m sure some people are perfectly fine only speaking Dutch for the rest of their lives but I also like to communicate in French or English. I look at photography in the same way: one minute I’m shooting construction workers for a documentary project, the next I point my camera in a different direction to take a photograph for Totem. I feel it’s okay for a photographer to do that. In fact, I wish more photographers did. A lot of them are just tak- ing the same pictures over and over again – not even slightly embracing the possibilities photography has to offer but calling themselves artists nonetheless. Seriously, for photography to be art, you’re required to do something with it.’
 Franky Verdickt
source: A&Gazette Vol. II, n.2

Real Estate Paradise.
Photo © Franky Verdickt
For his project, the photographer went to China, Egypt and Brazil over 3 years, pursuing his obsession with how people build homes:
‘I find it fascinating how our lives are so gravely effected by the place where we live yet a lot of people rely on big developers to build them a house or an apartment. Oh, but don’t worry: the brochure said the new place will be so you and I guess a lot of those houses and apartments actually do have everything a person requires. So how come they feel so cold and empty?
Take the hutongs in Beijing per example: one day you’re living in a community where everybody knows your name, then the government forces you out of your home to build an enormous apartment building where you get to spend the rest of your life not knowing anybody. True, you got a new house — nice and clean; and let’s not forget there’s air-conditioning — but often there’s a huge difference between a house and a home.’
Franky Verdickt 
source: A&Gazette Vol. II, n.2 

The Pastoral Living.
Photo © Franky Verdickt.
Don't be mistaken then: a home is not a house. 
Totem emphasizes a global reality today. Real estate businesses (both public and private) are throwing people our of their own homes, to put them in a new house. On the long-term, these new residential buildings are more expensive than their former homes because of multiple reasons (augmented services which the new residents never asked for). Eventually, they have to move out of their new house, leaving their spot for richer people.

Homeless in their house.
Who is responsible then: the governments? the real estate agencies?

Photo © Franky Verdickt.
All exhibited prints are for sale; signed and numbered by Franky Verdickt.
- See A&Gallery staff for more information or send an email to email(at)angels-ghosts.com.
From November 8th until 24th, 2012 (11am - 6pm) at Schepenhuisstraat 17, 9000 Ghent.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Photo exhibition: MONTAGUE & CAPULET - The triumph of feelings by Ava Llorente

The gay and lesbian rights in France is an ongoing debate. It seriously became official last week with the Same-Sex Marriage Draft-Bill, supposedly put to Parliament in January 2013 (this 3 months period might be extended if the public debate is still strong in early 2013). However, in Belgium the same-sex marriage is legal since 2003 (becoming the second country in the world to legalize it at the time)! Two countries geographically close but culturally separated by a ten-year gap?

Belgian LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) associations organize a bunch of various activities throughout the country. In Brussels, the Rainbow House provides information and a café open to all to meet in a warm atmosphere for the French and Flemish speaking communities in the capital. One of their initiatives is a photo exhibition called Montague & Capulet - The The triumph of feelings.

Title obviously inspired from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet tragedy, the exhibition takes place in the FNAC Brussels, Avenue de la Toison d'Or, from November 9th to 30th, 2012:
I flew over these walls with the light wings of love. Stone walls can’t keep love out. Whatever a man in love can possibly do, his love will make him try to do it. - William Shakespeare.
I got interested in this exhibition because it aimed to capture the daily life of homosexual couples in Brussels. On the second floor of the FNAC (Toison d'Or), there was 20 pictures on the walls. There weren't much people but I really liked the work the artist Ava Llorente has made.

More than 400 years have passed since Shakespeare wrote these lines, but contrary to what one might think, the walls he evoked remain intact for many people around the world.According to their country, they risk imprisonment or even the death penalty. They are discriminated against, humiliated, persecuted, beaten, raped and murdered. Their only crime in the eyes of society and eyes of the state: to love someone of the same sex.
In Europe today, being gay is not a crime. The Netherlands and Belgium were the leaders in the fight against homophobia. However, do not think that one can live with his love without having to hide: homosexuality remains among the old taboos having a hard life. This is not because the law prohibits discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation that people minds are changing at the same pace.
Even today, two men or two women holding hands in public are sufficient to hear comments fusing. Stupid sex remarks in the best case, physical attacks or insults in more severe cases. And sometimes the irreparable. 
However, these people want nothing more than to live their lives peacefully and live their love. Two soulmates who have found each other and want to share their daily lives. Nothing more simple, nothing more than natural.
This exhibition aims to share with you, moments of the daily life of these lovers. Daily life impregnated with concerns and aspirations that we all share: to live with a loved one, to build its nest, a lifelong commitment. In short, nothing could be more normal for two people who love each other. Except that this morality is - for now - inaccessible for millions of people around the world.
The wings of their love unfold as it will pass through the walls, until the day when these limits are no longer stone.
Ava Llorente

Bruno and Thierry have
the plunge and
 moved in together. 
It only needed a few finishing touches like flowers for their new home.

It's been 6 years Patrick and Jacques live together.
Some habits are installed in their daily lives.
This is in turn, for example they choose the music they listen to at home.
Patrick has a degree in Japanese energy healing,
which is very nice for Jacques who can enjoy professional massages at home.

Raped by boys of her village in Senegal and then beaten by the man to whom she was married by force, Aminata took refuge in Belgium. She met Thiony who is expecting papers. Taking from their love the force needed to move on, they hope to begin a new life in Europe. To prepare Aminata has resumed her studies. By fear, the two women asked not to mention their real names.

Both Fatou and Diagne have fled their home country, Senegal, and met in Belgium. Still waiting for papers, they are forced to live in poverty. If their asylum application because of homosexuality is rejected by the judge, they will be forced to return to their country. A country which punishes homosexuality with sentences of five years in prison and where homosexuals are subject to rejection and violence on a daily basis.

Would that mean that some Belgian minds didn't change yet even though the law prohibits sexual-orientation discrimination since 10 years? Apparently yes. But you can't force people to think. Hum, this 10-years gap again! We're all human after all. This exhibition puts the light on a fight that's far from over: LGBT rights in Europe. France, you're next. Thanks to Rainbow House and Ava Llorente.

Check out the exhibition yourself within 2 more weeks!

Belgian cuisine: Fritkot Festival in Brussels

Photo © Tony Le Duc
I told you already, the fries business is serious in Belgium. No wonders why there are so much 'Fritkots' (of 'Friteries') in Brussels. Cravers can even get an app to find the best 49 Fritkots in Brussels! But there is more to it...
Brussels' year-long food festival is as ambitious and wacky as the name – Brusselicious – suggests, with events taking place everywhere from a gourmet tram to a restaurant suspended above the city, not to mention a tour of the best frites in town.                                         
John Brunton, The Guardian.

Why the Belgian chips, miscalled French fries, are better than anywhere else? Probably because it's a passion. And also because they're prepared in a very specific way:

- Use Bintje potatoes;
- hand-peeled & -cut them into sticks (size? about the girth of a lady's finger);
- use 100% beef fat;
- fry them at 160°C until they're pale but cooked through;
- leave them to drain and cool down;
- re-fry at 175 °C until golden and crispy.

Brusselicious Cone + 1€ = Fries.
Photo © EDanhier
With Brusselicious 2012, the Brussels-Capital Region has decided to showcase every step of the gourmet journey — from product ingredients to the finished delight on our plate. That's why they organize different events as the Fritkot Festival from November 1st until December 4th 2012.

This is a celebration of the Belgian product that the Frenchies love so much that they even try to make it their own. Anyway, by picking up an empty cone in one of the VisitBrussels tourist offices or getting one through street-marketing in airports, train stations or traffic lights; the consumers can then go to one of the 20 participating fritkots (see map below) and get the cone filled with fries for 1€.

The reward: a giant cone of legs.
People often queue up there, mouths watering in anticipation, before finally getting hold of their paper cones overflowing with golden, salted and crispy fries. Of course, they often add a large dollop of sauce. The first bite is followed by a blissful silence, which speaks volumes for the quality of the occasion. 

The point is also to vote for the best fritkot in Brussels, which will then be awarded a weird cone full of people legs. Kinda conceptual. But it might serve as a eye-catching attraction for the lucky fritkot. Each voting consumer has a chance to win a party for him/her and 20 friends at the winning fritkot ;)

For me (and the Lonely Planet), one of the best fritkot in Belgium was Fritland. But it isn't participating in the festival. So, I wanted to try out the Friterie Martin, supposed to be nearby my flat, at Place Saint-Josse. It is a very famous institution created in 1931, which Martin Aspers took over in 1970...until he closed down in 2009 (the poor man was 70 years old), which created a shock for the locals. The thing is that he was pealing his bintje potatoes himself, giving his fries a golden color and a crispy and podgy taste, but never too salty! Eventually in 2011, Zoila Palma Altamirano, a 37 years old Ecuadorian woman (moved in Belgium in 2003) fulfilled all the specific requirements (appropriate training, type of oil and potatoes used, the accompaniments, etc.) of the paper posted on the fritkot by the Saint-Josse Municipality which wanted to keep the Friterie Martin open, as it is considered a Saint-Josse tradition (source: Lalibre.be).

Palma and the other participants for the launch of the Fritkot Festival.
Oct. 23rd, 2012 - Place Royale. Photo © EDanhier
However, if you look for Friterie Martin on the Place St-Josseplein as stated on Brusselicious website, you won't find anything but Friterie St-Josse - Chez Palma. Here she is! Palma, serves her fries with other accompaniments (as the traditional frikandel) to the people used to the old Martin. One night, I finally went there with a big hunger! I was delighted.

Fries from "Chez Palma".
Although it was cheap, it tasted really good. And Palma was really nice! She made the waiting time a bit shorter than usual. Of course, she uses sauces from the famous quality brand "La William", as lots of other fritkots. As a good neighbor but mostly because it deserves it, I voted for Friterie Martin, alias Chez Palma (it's becoming harder and harder to follow, right?) for the best fritkot ;) I wanna go back there with 20 friends!
Obama should pay a visit to one of the 5,000 Fritkots in Belgium?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A grey day on the Belgian coast: Nieuwpoort seaside

Because of a day-long seminar on Human Resource Management in a hotel in Nieuwpoort, I had a chance to discover a bit the Belgian coast. Eventually, there's not much to say! I mean, have you ever heard of the Belgian beaches? Me neither. Only Belgian citizens enjoy the summer season there...

The Flemish coast is rather small (65km long) and counts 13 resorts: Nieuwpoort is one of them. However, its marina called Eurojachthaven can host 2,000 boats which makes it one of the biggest in Northern Europe! It's also "famous" since the WWI where the Yser river was used as an obstacle against the German army.

Nieuwpoort-Bad: Beach & pier.
I took a walk on the empty beach. There was a fog and a light wind, but no rain. A weather like Brittany, France :) But the landscape wasn't as good as my home region! There was an endless line of residential buildings all over the coast. Ugly concrete bar! I went to talk to some fishermen on the pier...

Nieuwpoort-Bad: Beach & residential buildings.
They weren't successful. Just a passion for them. A 2h window of fresh air, a few days a week. Indeed, the boats and professional fishermen with nets take everything out of the sea. The only things left are the mussels to pick up at low tide.

Nieuwpoort-Bad: Entrance of the marina.
I don't think Nieuwpoort is a must-see on a visit to Belgium. But how can I say that after a short walk on the beach? A solution would be to visit Ostend or Knokke, and make a pit-stop in Nieuwpoort in between! These two other cities are way bigger ;)

So yes, 

all of these pictures,

they're from my phone. 

Sorry for the quality.

Strategic Human Resource Management - Seminar on Competency Management: STARR interview & Quinn's model

Hogeschool Gent organized a 3 days-long seminar as a collaboration of 3 courses from the Faculty of Business and Public Administration: Performance Management, Strategic Business Game and Strategic Human Resource Management (SHRM). Besides enhancing personal skills, knowledge and abilities regarding these courses, the seminar aimed at enhancing group dynamics and atmosphere. Of course, participation is compulsory for each student following either one (as me: SHRM), two or three courses. 

Hotel Cosmopolite
However, the tricky part is that it doesn't take place in Ghent, but Nieuwpoort, on the Belgian coast. Students have to get there by themselves (50mn of train to Ostende + 45mn tram to Nieuwpoort). The Hotel Cosmopolite*** was chosen to host the seminar, probably due to its 10 equipped working rooms, its restaurants (brasserie and gastronomy cuisine) and the capacity for students to check-in a room for a night or two. In other words, yesterday I paid 20€ for lunch and dinner (mandatory fee) and 16€ for transportation. My seminar (9am-7pm) was oriented towards Competency Management, divided in two parts: the STARR interview and the Quinn's model.


Situational interviewing or STARR (Situation-Task-Action-Result-Reflection) is a semi-structured interview conducted by line managers and Human Resource (HR) managers in the course of multiple HR processes (recruitment, development, appraisal, etc). The goal of this type of interviewing (for the interviewer) is to deduct the applicant's competencies, based on his/her past work or hobby experiences. The difficulty of this interview is to ask the right follow-up questions. But it surely comes with the routine.

The seminar lasted 3h and was managed by Mieke Audenaert and Annelies De Vuyst. About 40 students participated. We conducted such STARR interviews among ourselves, based on one real past experience. We gave feedback to each others on our performance as interviewers. The main output is to be able to fulfill the STARR table (see example below) while interviewing a job applicant. 

Example of situations where my behavior allows to deduct competencies.
I understood the STARR interview type and I feel confortable using it from now on. I guess that was the seminar's goal so it was successful.


- What am I good at? 
This question is useful for people that often change jobs (every 5-6 years before getting bored?) because when they know that they're good at something, they'd enjoy doing it, hence, they'd enjoy a job that fits their competencies (and maybe they'd stay longer in the same position?).

"Quinn's Competing Values Framework"
Source: Quinn R.E. et al. (1996). Becoming a Master Manager: A Competing Values Approach.
Quinn's model is one of the most popular management and leadership models in management literature. Based on his role model theory (see role framework below), there is also a small test to find out which roles fits best one's personality. In the seminar, directed by prof Alex Vanderstraeten in the afternoon (3h), we (only 15 students) started by positioning ourselves in one of the four quadrant of the model. I felt that the Open systems model fits my personality because I'm interested in innovations and technological development, I like evolving in unpredictable situations and I quickly adapt to these situations thanks to previous experiences — continuous learning.

"Quinn's Managerial Leadership's Roles"
Source: Quinn R.E. et al. (1996). Becoming a Master Manager: A Competing Values Approach.
Then we had to go through the different roles and their descriptions to figure out whether it really fits our personality. For me: yes, I like to think that I'm creative. And I like change, trying new stuff and combining existing solutions for a better one that suits me. I could be an inventor. I also like to talk about stuff I recently read and discovered so I guess I present ideas. I could also be a bit of a broker. 

Based on a competency dictionary  we pointed out in group that an innovator would master the following competences: (1) Adaptability (2) Communication (3) Problem solving and Judgement (4) Innovation & (5) Impact and Influence. This enlightened our personal competency profile and gave us more information in case we go to selection interviews or assessments.

Of course, one doesn't have to fit in one single category for the whole career; there are rooms for change! However, it is possible to develop competencies (e.g. through trainings), but can you develop your personal characteristics? Young people believe that yes, everything can be changed. Older people tend to think it's genetically embedded.


This day-long seminar was good. But the organization wasn't (it was confusing). I simply don't understand why we had to pay pay almost 40€ to go to a hotel 2h away from Ghent, since there was no added-value from this. Everything could have been organized at Hogeschool! Eventually, as there was a strike from the Belgian railwaymen for 24h from 10pm that same day, most of the Erasmus people (the only students enrolled in only one course, thus only one day of seminar) left during dinner — which we still had to pay for (no discussions possible).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Moving out of my student room at UGent

Voilà, my girlfriend got an internship in the European district in Brussels for the next 3 months. This is exactly the time I've left at UGent until I go back to Linköping University in Sweden and work my ass-off on my Master Thesis. I figured out I'd move to Brussels for the time left and commute to Ghent (1h approx.) for classes and group meetings. The only thing was to leave my student room in the University Residence; in other words, cancel my contract with the UGent Housing Department.

This contract has a minimum rental period of 3 months. Before signing it, I made sure it was possible to shorten this rental period with the Housing Department's person in charge (Myriam Van den Branden). That's why I signed a contract to rent my student room from September 1st until November 30th, planning to move in a bit later (September 20th) and shorten the contract shortly after arrival. However, Myriam informed me that the only possibility to move out of my student room would be to:
- find another Erasmus student (not free-movers, PhD or Belgian students) at UGent (not Hogeschool) 
- willing to rent a student room in the University Residence
- hence, signing a new contract (with a minimum rental period of 3 months) with the Housing Department
- from my departure date: October 31st — when I move in Brussels and after 2 months of contract (even though I didn't even used the room for 1,5 month).

Finding this key person was difficult. Well, impossible. I looked where Erasmus students hanged out most of the time: Facebook. Even though I found similar students desperately looking to move out of their student room, and others not even considering living in the University residence; I couldn't find anyone interested. Neither did the Housing Department: the waiting list was empty!

My last shot should have been to sub-rent my room on the private market for only 1 month. But that's stated as forbidden in my contract. In the best case: I'd get expelled of my room and that's what I want, right? In the worst case: I'd get expelled of my room, I'd still pay for the last month due and they'd keep my deposit of 135€. Screwed!

Eventually, I didn't even have to take any risks because no one wants a student room in the University Residence. Why then? First of all, it's expensive compared to the private market where a furnished studio can be found from 300€/month (contracts with minimum rental periods as well). Then, the kitchen facilities aren't suitable for students: they have to bring or buy everything (pans, cutlery, etc.), usually only for a short stay and it's not enough equipped for everybody (approx. 20 rooms) using the kitchen at the same time (no oven, a single microwave). There are only 3 washing machines (3,5€ without the powder) for everybody and the 2 driers, well, they don't dry (once, I waited 2h without results)! Also, some rooms aren't practical, they are all different so you just gotta be lucky! Eventually, the monthly Internet usage restrictions of 12GB bandwidth is too limited.

Anyway. I'll pay my November's rent of 391€ even though I don't live in my student room anymore. I'm deeply sorry for the students having trouble finding a room for a short stay in Ghent, but the administrative paperworks from the UGent Housing Department made it impossible.
391€. The price to be able to live with my girlfriend in the capitale of Europe?