Bel’s Pilgrimage was an orchestrated walking tour over a distance of 11-kilometer (6.8 miles) trough the countryside of Southern Limburg. The pilgrimage has no other purpose then the road itself and is a meditation undertaken by the feet aswell as an acted-out metaphor, produced by a body in motion. This orchestrated walk explored the relationships between time, distance, geography the body and the mind. The act of walking in Bel’s Pilgrimage was a collective performance choreographed over an area and time trough a scripted hiking guide and a specially designed map, participants were led trough an area that is know for it’s sights of religious devotion and rare flora and fauna. In the walk stories about local piety were interwoven with information on contemporary and ancient industrial pollution that left its traces in the environment. The zinc pollution in the area had, for instance, created a tangled history in which the chemical element both functioned as a poison and a cure. Prepackaged “Life Earth” (Medical Clay) made from local Loess that comprises nearly 100 % Pleistocene essential minerals was available to the walking public.The path followed the meanderings of the kundalini snake along sites that functioned as positive and negative organic poles. The hiking guide came with a map of the area in which the Asclepius led the participants’ trough 12 successive stadia. The walk, dedicated to the pagan God Bel – the big eared demi God immortalized on the alter in the church of Holset and described in the fanciful history of the area by the local priest at the height of the romantic era -was punctuated by alternating stops at mud sites- sources of therapeutic healing clay and healing wells. A uniformed ‘caretaker’ was stationed at every significant point on the route stood to guide the travelers to healing wells and help them apply the medical clay.A grotto and birthing pool made from compacted recycled garbage (though from a distance resembling finery/ filigree) was erected in a field at the point where many roads intersect to form what appears on the map as a six-armed star. A hole was dug in the earth directly in front of the grotto and half filled with baptismal muddy water. The tangled history of the region was symbolized by two examples of local flora and fauna: ‘Het zinkvooltje’ (the zinc viloa) a flower which, by adapting to the pollution caused by mining learned to thrive in the region and the Vroedmeesterpad (a toad) – which, like other amphibians has suffered serious population decline in the Anthropocene era. The zinkvooltje and the toad functioned as the positive and negative organic poles that link up to form an electrically charged natural/unnatural circuit across the ‘holy ground’ of South Limburg.
photography: Ranu We and Moniek Wegdam
book and multiple design by: Paul Gangloff