In the Netherlands we have a long tradition of fighting against water. Many typical Dutch landscape types owe their identity to this. At the same time, the role of seawater seems to be gaining in importance. The reclamation and salinization of the Netherlands form a new reality for which we will have to find a new form of interaction. The natural reflex of the Dutch is to adapt the landscape to the needs of man. With water workshop LOLA, The Weedkeeper turns the perspective on this issue 180 degrees around and looks for aquatic evolution of humans as adaptive species.
Part of the water workshop – designed by Overtreders W – is a material research by De Onkruidenier and Overtreders W into building materials from raw materials that can be extracted and grown in the future production landscape, such as oyster shells, islet cane and madder. The starting point of the research is hemp lime: a building material from hemp shells and lime, from which strong and insulating walls can be built. Step by step, we further develop hemp lime as a circular future-proof building material with new sustainable raw materials as components, other colors and other structures. The results of the weed lime research are first applied in the design for the pavilion of the municipalities of Almere and Amsterdam at the Floriade Expo 2022.
2020 was the year Ghent and Flanders were honouring the Flemish painter ‘Jan van Eyck’ and de Onkruidenier was fortunate enough to be invited by The Design Museum in Ghent to create content for two experience rooms for their large scale ‘Kleureyck Exhibition’. In collaboration with the Jan van Eyck academie’s Food Lab and Paris based food designer Céline Pelcé, we developed a concept deeply rooted in the colourful landscapes of the ‘Ghent Altarpiece’ by Jan van Eyck. His unique use of colour was the genesis of our explorations as we set about devising a new piece which we named ‘Re-table(au)’.
The realistically depicted scene in this particular painting is an imaginary one, where locations and seasons are innovatively blended. This concept of imagined reality provoked thoughts amongst us relative to our current global food system in which the fiction of van Eyck’s depiction of exotic produce is now very much a non-fictitious reality where almost all edible produce (at least from the Ghent Altarpiece) is possible to source all year round regardless of its natural season.
Re-Table(au) is an endlessly evolving foodscape reminiscent of seasonality; where both established and fledgling exploration/preservation techniques and poetic rituals are presented in a tangible way. Activation moments occur throughout the exhibition in which the evolving tableau is shared physically and internally through a ritualistic experience of colour and flavour in a multi sensory environment including edible objects and other concoctions allowing you to literally digest the landscape.
A film was created as part of our piece Re-table(au). The film tells a story of how we created the work and how we collaborate. A collaboration, in our opinion, means being a colourful sensorial ecosystem activating the relation between plant, landscape and the body. The functional as well as poetic elements in the video consist of, for instance, printed textiles, ceramics and preserved flavours that are all sourced from plants and represent contemporary tools for ceremonial rituals, in order to feed our eater imagination.
For years, the Netherlands has been hiding behind ever-higher dykes. These dykes are our right to exist, we have been taught, the salvation from ruin. But is this really the case? Is constantly raising dykes because of rising sea levels really a sustainable solution, and what would happen if we actually welcomed the sea? To what extent is man with her physical ability to adapt and develop a more symbiotic relationship with water?
Since 2015, de Onkruidenier has been researching how we can build a different relationship with our salty and wet habitat. Our proposition is that humans can adapt to their environment not only technologically, but also physically and biologically. When curator Rieke Vos invited us to develop a new work for the exhibition ‘Chapter 5ive: Countryside, the Future’ at Het HEM, Zaandam, which flowed from the research by Rem Koolhaas and Samir Bantal, we were left with some questions. How do we represent our research that is all about adapting to the sea, inside of a building where the aquatic landscape seems absent?
Relearning Aquatic Evolution is an ecotone that floats between the zones of land and sea, embracing the circadian rhythm of the tides. In this installation we welcomed audiences to explore an indoor sedimented landscape. Each day during the installment phase, we poured layers upon layers of chalk sedimentation onto the floor, embracing the circadian rhythm of the tides. We then surrounded it with various floaters, moving in patterns directed by the sea’s gentle rhythm. This way, we trained our bodies to adapt to the tidal cadence indoors while we prepared for outdoor aquatic training sessions. We hosted these sessions on the island of Terschelling during Oerol festival 2022, connecting the landscape of the wad to the indoor landscape of Het HEM.
The installation at Het HEM shows how the sea is around us at any time, even when we are at home waiting for the kettle to boil. In our buildings, ‘shells’ of concrete made out of mixtures of former sea creatures, we create constant chalk sediments in the spiral of the kettle. Activating our own tidal landscape indoors in the cadence of water flowing up and down.
Contributing artists to Chapter 5ive: Ian Cheng, Jasper Coppes, Agnes Denes, Cathy van Eck, Future Farmers, Christian Jankowsky, Suzanne Husky, Gerard Ortín, Diogo Passarinho Studio, Musasa & Maarten Vanden Eynde, Rembrandt van Rijn, Xinlin Vivian Song, Agnes Waruguru, de Onkruidenier and others