Happiness with Aziz, 2013

Happiness. A photo shoot in collaboration with Aziz, march 2013. Part of ongoing series 
A Glass of Water (Some Objects on the Path to Enlightenment) A series of works based on weekly buddhist classes in a small buddhist temple located in a basement under a sun tan studio  in the east of Amsterdam.



Amsterdam, 6 March 2013

I leaf through my notes from the last two years: three notebooks and a stack of loose sheets of paper with scribbles and sketches. Half of them have no date and it’s quite a challenge to organise them in sequence. Nor is that necessary, because there is no chronological order in the lessons; they more closely resemble a repeating pattern. The words compassion, emptiness and dedication are repeated most often. There is one question that I notice returning every couple of weeks in the notes. On several pages in my jotter stands the comment: ‘Basic question is: How do we become happy?’
And written in small letters alongside: ‘It is “we”, not “me”’.

It’s about the happiness of all living beings, any enemies we may have included. And we don’t follow the lessons just for ourselves. To remind ourselves of this we end each lesson with the pronouncement in chorus of the following sentences:

May all beings have happiness
and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free of suffering
and the causes of suffering.

On 1 April 1973, John Lennon and Yoko Ono presented the Declaration of Nutopia at a press conference. Lennon was facing problems with his application for permanent residence in the USA and raised this satirically in the public arena. The Declaration of Nutopia didn’t just relate to Lennon himself, but was aimed at everyone:


‘We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA. Citizenship of the country can be obtained by declaration of your awareness of NUTOPIA. NUTOPIA has no land, no boundaries, no passports, only people. NUTOPIA has no laws other than cosmic. All people of NUTOPIA are ambassadors of the country. As two ambassadors of NUTOPIA, we ask for diplomatic immunity and recognition in the United Nations of our country and its people.’

John Ono Lennon, Yoko Ono Lennon

Nutopian Embassey

One White Street

New York, Ny 10013

April 1st 1973


On 12 March 2013 I meet Aziz in Blaka Watra. I’ve known him for a long time. He is one of the regular visitors and has been addicted to drugs for decades. He has come up with an original way to fund his addiction without having to steal. He walks through the streets of Amsterdam with a flowerpot balanced on his head. It usually contains a plant with lushly flowering blooms, sometimes a cactus or a small shrub. Every now and again he stops for a group of tourists or in front of a full café and performs his act with heart and soul. He dances, spins round, kneels on the ground, keeping the flowerpot in equilibrium the whole time. The highlight of the act is a series of push-ups, stretched out on the ground, with the flowers remaining perfectly poised on his head.                                                                                                      He has been performing the act for years and even on the dullest, darkest winter’s day it provides a ray of hope, a brief moment of pleasure. As well as some money, often without him even having to ask for it. He has recently been putting on his show dressed entirely in white, turban included. It never seems to tire or bore him, and he seems to enjoy it just as much as his audience, which he always leaves behind smiling.


Caption 1 : Aziz in front of Blaka Watra, 12 March 2013.

Caption 2: Declaration of NUTOPIA; Photocopy and ink.