Dutch landscape as changeable places

A post by Eddy van Mourik, in response to changeable places

Initially, looking at the changeable places site takes me back to Dutch Landscapes. The urban sprawl around Rotterdam in particular. I grew up on the edge of Rotterdam and as an avid cyclist I used to enjoy the Dutch countryside almost every day. Ten years later I found myself utterly and completely lost in giant housing estates wandering around, feeling quite lost for quite a while. The shock hit home properly when I turned a corner and suddenly recognised where I was, not more than a mile from where I grew up. In an area I used to cycle through every day.
In general, I think the Dutch perspective on Landscape is an interesting one. It was originally a large flat expanse of brackish marsh that by its very nature was featureless and therefore malleable, in essence it is one of those few places where Le Corbusiers fantasies about the made landscape of modernity were actually applied on a large scale.  The underlying land was completely erased in the process. Personally, by nature I am more like Le Corbusiers pack donkey, at the mercy of the shape of the landscape, finding the way of least resistance. And I think this is why I somehow feel lost in my own native landscape and much more at home in for instance the British one.
I once created a series of works about finding the source of the river Rotte, Rotterdams namesake and the river I grew up next to. As I found out the source was actually a windmill pumping up water from the surrounding polder. This windmill, however does not predate the naming of the city of Rotterdam. The question is what came before. And it is this kind of conundrum that one encounters constantly when looking at the history of the Dutch landscape.

I like the mention of looking forward. I tend to question conservation. Instinctually it makes sense to think we need to protect what we have. But if we need a new paradigm to save ourselves on this world it is not one of protecting what we have but understanding the source and consequences of our actions and understanding the world as a process. We simply do not live in a static world and so many environmental conservation practises (e.g. felling of non-native species etc.) are not actually sustainable and seem to be diametrically opposed to what ecological thinking has to offer. It would, I think, not be so bad if there were more permaculturists and landscape ecologists involved in the making of policy concerning our landscape.

And following this train of thought I am also thinking of how changeable places relate to the opposite: static places. So many British landscapes are conserved to look the way Constable painted them. They are caught in a perpetual past. In a sense they are an image of a landscape.

Furthermore in terms of changeable places I am very interested to look at places where the actual land use does not comply with planning laws, e.g. what the state has decided that land is meant to be used for. Having lived in Devon for a while I have become more and more aware of people using land for habitation that is neither owned by them nor designated to be used as such. I am interested to look at how these semi nomadic dwellers perceive their environment, their sense of place and expanding that to their place in society. I am thinking this is deserving of its own blog post though, so more soon.
Eddy van Mourik

Artist website  www.eddyvanmourik.nl

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1 Response to Dutch landscape as changeable places

  1. mohoohoo says:

    Thanks Eddy! I took the chance to talk over this with two Dutch folk living in Scotland. They agreed with you about the Netherlands continually reinventing itself. The country apparently has no ruins to speak of, everything is operational. Years ago, Michael was asked by an English lady at a posh dinner party: ‘Do you have ghosts in Holland?’ ‘Oh no’ he said ‘They have all been cleaned away’. The other Dutch expatriate left the country in favour of Scotland as she wanted wild places and greenery in her life. They agreed that UK habit is to look back, to think how things should be.

    I wonder what you make of these links:

    Geert Mak. An Island in Time: The Biography of a Village. Vintage 2010. (Published as Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd, 1996 in Dutch)

    http://www.nextnature.net

    http://vimeo.com/16962056 ( an animation by Matthias Hoegg, not Dutch, but a good story!)

    Are there links you suggest?

    Kate

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