The becoming, The being & The meanwhile

The Becoming, The being & The meanwhile
subsurface as living climate archive

Land in Wording, Amstelpark Amsterdam
#1 Genesis, #2 Onland, #3 Breath of Soil(s), #4 Soft Soils, #5 aardtijd, #6 toenadering, #7 Foreshadowing | residual intimacy, #8 Sphagnarium, 2019-ongoing

as timescaping, matterscaping, landscaping, climatescaping

A 24hr exercise in ‘worldmaking’ that follows the sun around the world. Drawing attention to the social, ecological and spatial phenomenon of peat in the context of World Peat Day on June 2, 2020.
24/7 online global workshop 'Inhale. Exhale. The art of making an Earth sphere'. Video Matter of Time, 2020. Photo:Jacqueline Heerema.
soil as Earth
A 24hr exercise in ‘worldmaking’ that follows the sun around the world. Drawing attention to the social, ecological and spatial phenomenon of peat/soil in the context of World Peat Day, Re-Peat Fest 2020. I also made a sand sphere from dune sands beneath my home, untouched by sunlight for 120 years, a reference to the social and urban segregation of sand and peat in my hometown. Online global workshop ‘Inhale. Exhale. The art of making an Earth sphere’. Video Matter of Time, Earth Day, 2020.

Land in Wording

Since 2019 I work on an ongoing artistic field research project called ‘The becoming, The being & The meanwhile’. This project is themed around Land in Wording, a tiny swamp at Amstelpark.
I was triggered by contemporary romantic narratives that state that “This part of the park is still an original piece of land from before the Floriade”. But is it? Or is this a form of staged authenticity?
During the process, I question ethics of appropriations/validation of soil/Earth in art and heritage, and of being ‘indigenous Dutch’. I aim to enhance a more reciprocal relationship with soil/Earth as living entity, that sheds another light on the way in which we relate to each other, with the other and with otherness. 


At the intersection of art with paleontology, geology, archeology & ecology, I question how natural nature is in Land in Wording. I reconstruct the genesis. It appears to be a man-made swamp. A transitional ecology – neither land nor water –  designed as an “instructive garden” with “relocated nature” for the horticultural show Floriade in 1972. I notice that during the past 50 years we lost these narratives. 
I explore the phenomenon of ‘time’ and the representation of nature-culture and climate, in three timescales: the becoming, the being and the meanwhile of the subsurface landscape. I encounter a living climate archive.
(1) Genesis, artistic field research, 2019

Source location: Land in Wording, Amstelpark. Amsterdam.Photo Jacqueline Heerema.
Source location: Land in Wording, Amstelpark. Amsterdam.


After reconstructing the genesis of Land in Wording, I find on the surface a 17th century artifact. 
A majolica shard of a porridge bowl, part of the ear, with Haarlem curl, mid to 2nd half of the 17th century.  An index fossil, parallel in time with the first mentioning of the country estate Amstelrust on the river Amstel, dated 1635.
With climate scientists and -activists I drill in the soils and collect 10 meters depth of subsurface soils with a time-depth of approx. 6.000 years. At a depth of 5.35 – 6.25 m. we find in marine deposits a 6 mm wadslakje (Peringia ulvae) as an index fossil, indicating that this area knew once an intertidal ecology.
(2) Onland, public intervention, 2019

Breath of Soil(s)

During the drilling I am confronted with an uncomfortable sensation: 

people, plants and animals breathe, but Earth also breathes…
(3) Breath of Soil(s), exhibition and public programs at Zone2Source, 2020


I organize three public programs with Zone2Source in het context of the exhibition Breath of Soil(s) as an exercise in anticipation:
I: Between image and language with climate scientist Tanya Lippmann (VU) and the international youth collective RE-PEAT. II: Joop Beljon (1922-2002), sculptor, teacher, writer, inspirator and my tutor at the Royal Academy of the Arts, dept. Environment. An afternoon about artistic ideas and source material in the arts with Roeland Beljon, guardian of his father’s artistic heritage. III: A Soil Analysis workshop with climate scientist Tanya Lippmann (VU), geologist Bert van der Valk (Deltares), historian Mathijs Boom (UvA), philosopher Lietje Bauwens.
Breath of Soil(s), public programs Anticipations at Zone2Source (2020).


Since this drilling, I am the guardian of 10 meters of subsurface living soil.
I question ethics of appropriations. In general we tend to perceive mining as destructive exploitation of natural resources, but how do we perceive mining for the sake of art, of beauty?
Some subsurface samples even started to sprout… 

Soft Soils

I start to work on the in-between-ness of art & heritage with soil, questioning processes of validation of value, and if soil benefits from this process? 

During my artist-in-residency in 2020 at Sundaymorning@ekwc, the international centre-of-excellence for ceramics, I explore the notion of the natural and the artifactual, of hybrid fossils-artifacts. I had noticed at the intersection of art, paleontology, geology and archeology a parallel in the becoming of a fossil and of ceramic techniques, like a mold, cast or imprint, and the understanding of climate as temperature, humidity, etc like a kiln.
I make a 3-d scan and mold of the archeological artifact, a shard of a 17th century porridge bowl I had found on the surface of Land in Wording. With this mold and different samples of depth of the unfired collected subsurface soils, I start to work on the in-between-ness of art and heritage with soil/Earth, to approach soil as a living entity and a world in and of itself.

I experience the beauty and vulnerability of soil/Earth: they speak for themselves.
(4) Soft Soils, to be exhibited at Arti et Industriae, due to COVID postponed to 2022


While the exhibition of Soft Soils became postponed due to COVID restrictions, aardtijd emerged.
During the process of working with unfired subsurface soils – as a supposed reversible process – I experience again an uncanny sensation: 

the subsurface peat shrinks, thus visualizing the sequence of peat, carbon storage, oxidation, land subsidence…
and this process is irreversible

This awareness triggers my interest in peat as a terraforming, a landscaping entity in the Netherlands. If we look critically into the history of the Netherlands, we find so-called peat colonial landscapes that shaped the spatial, social and ecological environmental conditions in Groningen, Drenthe and elsewhere. With these exploitations of natural resources – literally digging the soil from under our feet – the Dutch inflicted problems that affect contemporary and future imbalances due to the impact of/on climate change.
(5) aardtijd, 2021-ongoing

toenadering [ˈtunadərɪŋ]

Artistic research in progress, of exploring sensorial connections or sensoilations – not being able to touch – light – reflection.

Subsurface soil/Earth that has not been touched by sunlight for millennia:

6.000 years of subsurface soils of Land in Wording, submerged underneath a constructed swamp 50 years ago; 12.000 years of submerged peat soils under the North Sea marks the transition of the Pleistocene to the Holocene; 277.000 years of sub-lava soils, since the volcano Colli Albani erupted (IT).
(6) toenadering, i.c.w. dancer-choreographer Kenzo Kusuda, artist Eline Kersten, climate scientist Tanya Lippmann at Glazen Huis, Zone2Source, June 2021.

Validation of value of soil/Earth, through the arts, heritage…?

“… adopt the reverent researcher posture: hands behind backs, 45 degree forward pivot from waist, and on tiptoes… (Alice Twemlow)”

aardtijd, making use of classic re-presentation format of art, heritage: a pedestal.
Royal Academy of The Hague, Artistic Research Group – Alice Twemlow, Katrin Korfmann, Vibeke Mascini, Jasper Coppes, Hannes Bernard, Louis Braddock Clark – visit during research at Glazen Huis, summer 2021.

aardtijd | foreshadowing | residual intimacy

While the exhibition of Soft Soils became postponed due to COVID restrictions, aardtijd emerges.

An art work that is too vulnerable to touch, while seeking sensorial connections with soil/Earth.
The work is in my studio and sunlight reveals a new notion, of foreshadowing.
Subsurface soils that affect contemporary and future time. 

During my second artist-in-residency at EWKC, I make a 3-d scan of this art work and a 3-d mold to explore different aspects of tactility with peat mosses, seaweeds, algae and biogenic earth materials, diatomaceous algae, kaolin or porcelain clay…Experimentally I discover a kinship between different entities, which either repel or attract each other. I call this residual intimacy.

Porcelain is generally regarded as something of value. What is the value of soil/Earth?
(7) Foreshadowing | residual intimacy, 2nd artist-in-residency at Sundaymorning@ekwc, 2021


I start a Sphagnarium. A living collection of Sphagnum mosses with the aim to learn to take care and to reveal the beauty, vulnerability, resilience and versatility of Sphagnum. 
(8) Sphagnarium, 2021-ongoing

Special thanks to Zone2Source, Sundaymorning@ekwc, In Principio, CLUE+/VU, Tanya Lippmann, Re-Peat Collective, Bert van der Valk and many more. Supported by Mondriaan Fonds, Stroom The Hague.

Part of Exploded View, Art and Research on Layered Landscapes in Transition, organized by CLUE+ (Interfaculty Institute for Research of the Heritage and History of the Cultural Landscape and Urban Environment, VU University Amsterdam), Stichting In Principio and Zone2Source.
Participating artists: Krijn Christiaansen & Cathelijne Montens (KCCM), Barbara Neves Altes, Jacqueline Heerema, Jasper Coppes, Pavèl van Houten, Eline Kersten, Birthe Leemeijer, Wouter Osterholt, Miriam Sentler, Leonid Tsvetkov, De Onkruidenier, Curdin Tones and Frank Mueller, Collectief Walden