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