The fate of the Post-Industrial Pagodas

As previously mentioned, last Christmas I got F a book about the craziest places of Belgium, liberally scattered around the kingdom, and not that many of them within easy reach. I did find one not too far away: the Post-Industrial Pagodas.

Photograph from 2005 by B. Frippiat

These 36 towers were built in 1999, from industrial cable spools, by singer, actor and artist Julos Beaucarne, to channel positive energy into the new millennium. They embodied a poem he had written in the early 1990s, for his album Tours, Temples & Pagodes Post-Industriels:

Le constructeur de pagodes veut toucher le ciel
Planter des antennes immenses pour capter les messages
Qui viennent du fin fond de la nuit et du bout du jour
Il veut que le voyageur s’arrête et regarde soudain se déplier tous les plis de son âme
The pagoda builder wants to touch the sky
Plant huge antennas to capture messages
Which come from the depths of the night and the end of the day
He wants the traveler to stop and suddenly watch all the creases of his soul unfold
Il veut pénétrer la matière même de l’univers
Il veut faire signe à toutes les planètes, à toutes les galaxies
Il veut lancer des messages, jeter des ponts entre tous les êtres, entre tout le vivant
Le constructeur de pagodes, de temples et de tours médite sur la verticalité
He wants to penetrate the very matter of the universe
He wants to signal to all the planets, to all the galaxies
He wants to send messages, build bridges between all beings, between all living things
The builder of pagodas, temples and towers meditates on verticality
Il récupère les matériaux usés dont plus personne ne veut
Il les empile à la manière des enfants
Petit Poucet, il sème sur son passage des repères géants
Et ce faisant, il signe éperdument le paysage post-industriel
He recovers used materials that no one wants anymore
He stacks them like children do
Like Hop-o’-My-Thumb, he sows giant landmarks along his path
And in doing so, he indelibly marks the post-industrial landscape

As the years wore on, the pagodas became increasingly dilapidated, as was always the artist’s intention.

Undated photograph by Marie-Anne Pauwels
Photograph from a 2021 blog post by Ann Vandenbergh

The site of the pagodas is the farm of Wahenge, which has a pleasant but coincidental euphony with Stonehenge, near Beauvechain which is mainly famous for its air base.

It’s not too far off my route to and from the girls in Tienen, so I went to look for it last weekend, and was astonished to discover that the Post-Industrial Pagodas had simply vanished.

taken by me on 17 September 2023

It turned out that there was a simple explanation. In January 2021, eight months before Beaucarne’s death, he agreed with the landowner and the municipality that they would simply burn down the pagodas, leaving only a patch of scorched grass. One mysterious capsule and one surviving spool mark the scene.

But apart from that, the Post-Industrial Pagodas are marked by their absence. Consider yourselves duly informed.