SWEET-SWEAT speculates on the possibilities for a new type of human adapted to a salty habitat. Anecdotes, news stories and philosophical concoctions provide snippets into a multiverse in which we discover how we can learn to act as many organisms have done for centuries. Can we adapt to a saltier landscape and what might the ‘salt-loving human’ look like?

For the Netherlands, a salinifying climate is a real situation. As humans, we adapt the landscape to our desires and needs, without moving with the developments of our country. On the coast, we find many salt-loving plant species, also known as halophytes, which have adaptive qualities to survive in extreme conditions. What can we as humans learn from plants that have been climate adaptive to a changing environment over the centuries?

Salt is a fundamental building block for humans, plants and animals. Salt in the landscape determines how we can live in this environment. What can we as humans learn from salt-tolerant and salt-loving plants that have been climate-adaptive to a changing habitat over the centuries? How might the climate-adaptive properties and mechanisms that plants have made their own serve as a trigger for human evolution? Cultivating wild plants into innovative crops has always depended on human desires. But what would happen if we shift the perspective back to that of a plant?

In an inquisitive way, de Onkruidenier has been delving into the halotolerance of plants that can grow and survive close to the coastline since 2015. Nowadays, many people live in delta areas or even below sea level and are committed to keeping out the influences of climate change and sea level rise as much as possible. We flush our polders with fresh water to reduce saline intrusion and we reinforce our dykes to protect ourselves from floods with salty seawater, simply because humans are not equal to salt. To what extent in our human evolution have we factored in a scenario where fresh water becomes scarcer and sea level rise forces us to look at our environment differently? What can humans learn from the evolving qualities of halotolerant plants, which even harness the salt entering their system to benefit from it? When you realise that 97% of all the water on earth is salty, wouldn’t it make much more sense for humans to find a way to settle in saline environments? Can plants provide us with new insights about the human relationship with our rapidly changing environment?

Welcome to the Interspecies Supermarket

Thank you for visiting us!
During Oerol 2023, de Onkruidenier was taking shifts at the Interspecies Supermarket on the beach of Terschelling for 10 days. In our refrigerator department and a fresh produce department, we offered an assortment of washed up bottles with the packaging as carriers of a message, and brand new hybrid objects developed in-house.

The Interspecies Supermarket is not about eating or being eaten. We do, however, question our role in the food chain and explore the contours of a future food system on the coast line. The audience takes a route back to our origins in the sea. After all, the coastal landscape is the nursery of all life on earth. 375 million years ago, our ancestors, the first vertebrates, crawled ashore. But not only our ancestors, even commonly known vegetables have their origins on the coast. Where the tides determine the catch of the day: the waves bring foam ashore, supplying the tide line with organic particles, bacteria, algae, moss creatures, jellyfish, crabs, feathers and shells. 

By learning to look differently at our consumption behaviour, we become part of the relationships in the landscape. Taking a close observation we might be able to see agriculture in the air, look at the sea as a refrigerator and the beach as a pantry. Have we left the refrigerator door open for too long? 

Cultural Sedimentation, Resilient Adaptation and Aquatic Speculation

Shaking hands with a 2000 year old fingerprint: ⁣⁣This is just one of the many highlights of the fieldwork campaign that we joined in the Pontine Marshes, located southeast of Rome. ⁣⁣

Last year from September till half of November, de Onkruidenier was invited as artist in residence at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (KNIR). In the framework of this research period we zoomed in and out on the many time layers in the framework of our project SWEET – SWEAT Cultural Sedimentation, Resilient Adaptation and Aquatic Speculation. Aside from doing a lot of reading and exploring in the beautiful KNIR library, collecting visual images and wandering around the city, we had the pleasure to join an archeological fieldwork mission in the countryside. As part of our long term research SWEET – SWEAT that is related to the Dutch landscape, we connected these previous experiences to the wetlands of the Pontine area. We joined in on the ongoing research of archaeologist and project coördinator Tymon de Haas, archaeobotanist Mans Schepers and PhD archaeologist Manuel Peters. Tymon has been looking into the traces of Roman settlements in this local landscape for 20 years. We zoomed in on the irreversible human interaction with the landscape during the past millenniums and we participated in an archeological survey to connect the research to current day interpretations of the past. ⁣⁣Scanning the time frames of plenty of shards, to create and speculate about new pictures of human landscape relations.

Many thanks to Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the KNIR and Akademie van Kunsten for making this collaboration and residency in Rome possible.

Relearning Aquatic Evolution > Training

In June of 2022, de Onkruidenier arranged a session of nine performative trainings on the coast of the island Terschelling, during the OEROL festival. Together with our audience, we explored elasticity as an embodied concept, we activated our vocal chords and taste buds while moving through the porous zone between land and sea. This way, we performed the release and tension of this coastal ‘border.’ 

As a new chapter for SWEET – SWEAT, we developed a participatory training to be performed with 25 participants. During low tide, we would perform four exercises together. First we focused on the question: Where have we landed? With our ears, we tapped into the different layers of the landscape. What do we hear below, or above us?

After that we started making sounds together by activating and extending our vocal chords using an elastic as a tool. From high IIIIII’s reaching to the sky, to wide OOOO’s opening our hands at the ocean and low AAAAA’s moving downwards connecting to the wad. The group transformed into one polyphonic organism, while the elastics vibrated in the gusts of wind. The third exercise started by connecting the lung capacity of the group. We simultaneously breathed and walked together, casting shadows of jellyfish or octopus-like creatures onto the wet sand with our elastic ‘tentacles.’ Finally, arriving back on dryer land, we tasted a miniature perspective on the  landscape together. What do you taste when you internalize your environment with locally foraged ingredients?

Instead of transferring knowledge, the main aim of the training was to collectively embody the intertidal zone. With the training we wanted to explore how to move together with the tides and all organisms of the local ecosystem by creating a new language with all our senses. We looked for and found the elasticity of cultural and linguistic separations between land and sea, audience and performer, or body and landscape. Instead of explaining our idea of elasticity, we took nine sessions to train our audience in both their senses and their own cultural memory and language to explore this idea. Tangled together in elastics, we speculated on what a future of living with our seas might look, sound, or even taste like. What do you sense when you embody a landscape?

Read more about Relearning Aquatic Evolution in this article, published in the Circostrada reader

Relearning Aquatic Evolution

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

Special thanks to IONA Stichting for their support.
Photography by Beeldsmits


SWIET – SWIT is the Frisian edition of the long term research project SWEET – SWEAT and brought de Onkruidenier to landscapes in Friesland around Leeuwarden and Beetsterzwaag. For this floating work de Onkruidenier specifically zoomed in on the polder of Skrins, a meadow bird area located in a reclaimed channel of the medieval Middelzee estuary. The special occasion for this work was Arcadia, a 100 day triennial during which you could visit artworks throughout the entire Friesland area, all of which focus on the local landscape. De Onkruidenier had the pleasure of creating an installation for the Fries museum’s entrance.

SWIET – SWIT is a discussion piece where we explore how we can adapt to the changing landscape and climate. What are we going to eat? Can we adapt ourselves just like plants? The foil we installed on the museum’s windows filters specific colors on the light spectrum that support plants to grow. The work conjures up all kinds of speculative ways of measuring for us to question the controlling human behavior directed at the landscape here in the Netherlands.

Over a 100 day period, white pineapple strawberries, black rice, salt-loving potatoes, taro plants and all kinds of duckweed grew in our installation while we took care of this new ecosystem together with the Fries Museum’s staff. Part of the installation was a public programme consisting of three events where we internalized these new landscape imaginations by activating our taste buds, wandered around Beetsterzwaag and looked into the aquatic history of Leeuwarden.

SWIET – SWIT is a collaboration between Fries Museum, Kunsthuis SYB and de Onkruidenier.
The project was made possible by Arcadia and Mondriaan Fonds
With special thanks to Josine Sibum Siderius, Laura Kneebone, Rebekka Bank

Mare Memoria – Floriade

In the soil of the Floriade grounds, countless microorganisms live in a different reality: a salty phantom sea. The microorganisms, also called diatoms, think they still live in the Zuiderzee, while this area has been closed off from the Wadden Sea for 90 years.

In the work Mare Memoria, de Onkruidenier takes the audience into the world of these organisms and collectively depicts the hidden presence of the sea. With a site-specific new work, the artists also question the way we in the Netherlands continuously control the water by controlling and measuring the water level. How do we actually relate to the way we constantly refer to the NAP, how we use words, letters and numbers to interpret the world around us in a language with which we think we can fathom nature? In contrast, they propose an alternative perspective. Can smell, color and different materialities support us to experience our living environment in a sensory way? Can our bodies again serve as a measuring stick in how we relate to the landscape?

In the artistic research, de Onkruidenier became interested in the dynamics of smell. A smell that is difficult to describe, but very recognizable, is the smell of the sea. This smell now appears to play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Scientists have discovered that “the smell of the sea” is caused by a tiny organism that is so abundant that it has a significant effect on the planet’s climate through the large amounts of sulfur gases they produce. One of those gases, dimethyl sulfide or DMS, we recognize as the smell of the sea.

We spoke to scent artist Frank Bloem, who took us through his research on the role of scent in our environment. He told us that the smell of sulfur is not only connected to the sea, but also to Brussels sprouts or rose petals. The cabbage family has its origins on the coast. A common ancestor grows there: the sea cabbage. Perhaps cabbages still carry the sulfur compound as a salty memory. But sulfur is also important in gypsum or lime compounds found in the walls of our homes, as well as in the shells of marine organisms.

In the research, de Onkruidenier also came into contact with a scientist who has been looking at silt for years. Bentish ecologist Harm van der Geest describes the feeling in which the microorganisms find themselves as in a jar of hair gel; enclosed by extremely large hydrogen molecules, much larger than themselves. De Onkruidenier depicts this reality through scented gels that activate the phantom sea through scents that we put together in collaboration with Frank Bloem.

Moreover, with the installation Mare Memoria, de Onkruidenier shows various elements connected to this sweet and salty ecosystem. In a world where sea levels are rising and the soil is sinking beneath our feet, de Onkruidenier questions how we as humans can relate to this. Can we learn to adapt to the changing landscape rather than the other way around? Can we, like those microorganisms, generate a salty memory in our bodies? Mare Memoria activates the salty memory of the organisms in the sludge and thus speculates on future scenarios for humans.

The installation of various rulers creates the suggestion of a measurable and controllable landscape. Like a folding rule, the work zigzags through Utopia. It is likewise reminiscent of the different heights of waves that come ashore and break off on the coastline. The rulers themselves incorporate a variety of colors and objects. It makes visual which parts, smells and forms are part of the SWEET – SWEAT ecosystem, forming a visual series of associations and narratives. What can we find the sea in?


During LANGSTME, the triennial of Kunsthuis SYB, De Onkruidenier organized a site-specific training session called SWEET – SWAT – SWEETIE – SWEATER – SWETSEN. This training took place at the magisterial White Lake of Beetsterzwaag. Using a performative installation, the toponyms of the local landscape were examined. In what ways are names, language, our bodies and the landscape intertwined? And how can we unravel these different layers of the landscape by activating our senses in new ways? Together with the audience, a number of different exercises were done to look for both new sensory experiences and alternative relationships between body, landscape and language. Using a number of tools, including the new CryptoFoam developed in collaboration with Kai Udema, De Onkruidenier activated the changing dynamics between ourselves and our environment.

Brienenoord eiland

Training sessions at the Brienenoord island

How do we experience the landscape when we leave behind the pace of economic times and begin to adapt to the rhythm of ebb and flow? What do we see, feel, taste and experience in harmony with the plants and organisms in the marine ecosystem?

Between March and May, de Onkruidenier spent several intensive periods – DEEP DIVES – on Brienenoord Island to explore new perspectives and training techniques for the evolution of salt-loving humans.

During their research period at the Buitenplaats, they saw the island change, the water rise and fall with the tides, and most importantly, they encountered themselves. How adaptable are we as humans really in the land between ebb and flow? How does our own experience of water change when we experience it physically and, in our wading suits, literally feel the water rising and can no longer reach each other? The Weedman became fascinated with the continuous transformation of the island. It shows and feels different every time.

On May 15, de Onkruidenier gave a presentation through 4 training sessions to let go of the ‘land and water thinking’.

De Peilwachter

At the beginning of this year, at the invitation of Museum IJsselstein, de Onkruidenier started an eight-month research project into the traces of the sea. Since the middle of the 19th century the influence of ebb and flow has hardly been felt in IJsselstein. The painting of De IJsselpoort of the city of IJsselstein, as seen from the barony of IJsselstein by the artist Jan Weissenbruch (1822-1880) previously provided us with fine inspiration. The research has led to a new work the Peilwachter which has been installed on the Bolwerk, an outdoor location opposite the museum. The work can be seen as part of the exhibition on empathy: ‘No man is an island.’ with several works spread across IJsselstein.

West Terschelling

Become a salt loving species

Can we, like plants, adapt to a saline landscape? What would this ‘salt-loving human’ look like?

A saline climate is a realistic situation for the Netherlands. As human beings we adapt the landscape to our wishes and needs, without moving with the developments of our natural environment. Along the coast we find many salt-loving plant species (halophytes) that have adapted evolutionarily to survive in extreme conditions. What can we as humans learn from plants that have been adaptive to a changing environment over the centuries?

In the test zone SWEET – SWEAT, de Onkruidenier experiences nine days of living with the sea. The zone between the tides is their new habitat.

Van Eyck academie

Open Studio’s Van Eyck — mapping an ecosystem

By Domeniek Ruyters for Metropolis M

In the main building, I end up in a talk by De Onkruidenier about the sugar beet, which has a precursor in the beach beet, a primordial plant that was resistant to salt water. De Onkruidenier has built a whole story around it and depicted it in a market display on the floor divided between two studios. The installation offers a combination of ecology and economy, with numerous playful moments of action, to make the transformation from seed to plant to yet another plant and food product (drink, sugar cube) optimally clear. A striking detail are the holes in the wall through which the artists involved play large assignments carved into wooden planks to each other. When I’m talking to one of the weedkeepers, a hand suddenly pokes through the wall and hands me something. After the explanation, I walk back to the other room to look at the so-called “pelleted” sugar beet seeds, which are industrially coated with a blue layer to make them easier to sow as grains. Like the beads of a bead necklace they lie in a petri dish.