Research report: Second visit to Bavikhove (Karolina Michalik)

With her project perpendicular parallels (as part of Veldwerk II), Karolina Michalik asks questions about labor migration within the agricultural sector and the connections it creates between different places. Starting from mushroom farms in Flanders, who often rely on the hands of Polish seasonal workers, she is guided by themes of individual and collective (embodied) knowledge, hobbies, myths, and our complex relationship with the landscape. Read more about this project here.

Since a few weeks I plan intuitive visits to Bavikhove, the West-Flemish town where a large mushroom factory caught my attention. On their website they describe how their mushrooms are picked by gentle female hands and how important that is for the fragile work. I try to not plan anything or have any preset goals, in order to see the place from the eyes of an outsider. My notes treat situations and experiences as data without any projections from my side.

We arrive in Bavikhove by a similar route as last time: biking from Kortrijk along the river until the mushroom farm. There there is a crossroad that leads into the town. As we approach the center the town seems just as empty and quiet as the last time. The only difference this time is the flags hanging from windows of some of the sleepy houses. It is only when we approach the street of the church and school that we see barriers set up and people passing by. There are a couple bars open with outdoor seating and two bouncy castles for kids. On the main square in front of the church there is a big stage set up and behind it a small theme park with one big ride which spins like the hands of a clock, a small carousel, bumper cars and two trailer with games and prizes, and one fries stand. There are loud screams from the spinning ride mixed with music blasting from speakers and the sounds of games being won and lost. There are not very many people, mostly kids playing with games set up for them and people sitting at bars. After spending some time in the main square we go further from the center to the natural reserve where the men were cutting grass last time. The streets are empty as before, the loud sounds of the festivities fade and lightly echo through the empty streets. We pass the mushroom farm but all of the garage doors are closed. As we make our way back towards the town the sound tests for the concerts overlap with the chiming of the church bells. We pass the main square towards what looks like the local dance hall. We come into what looks like a school gymnasium, where some school celebration is finishing up. There are round tables set up and on the other side there are teenagers dancing on tables in the background of men who are folding up tables and benches to put them to storage. There is loud music and the dj plays his last song. Everyone is invited to continue the celebration at the main square where concerts are scheduled to begin. In the main square there is now more people then before, gathered in front of the stage. The concert begins, and behind the stage the rides continue. Biking away from the center through the mostly empty streets, the sounds of the concert fades.