ARTIST IN RESIDENCE JULY-SEPTEMBER 2018 TIENGEMETEN
COMMISIONED BY HET LAATSTE EILAND / NATUURMONUMENTEN
The work I created during the summer of 2018 for Festival Het Laatste Eiland and Natuurmonumenten. I was given the opportunity to work on a cross-over of nature and culture, to create a spatial intervention that connects past and future in a full-on sensory experience. Goal of the organisations was to bring a different crowd to the island of Tiengemeten, with a new way to view history and future of this ‘Last Island’.
The building I got to create an intervention for, was the old Quarantaine. A place where ill shipmen stayed to either ‘heal or die’ after their overseas travels. The part of the island is called ‘Weemoed’ (Melancholy). Without sadness, it felt like stepping back into the past and reconnecting with my background in the Dutch countryside. The building was turned into a folly by landscape designer Luc Engelhard, giving it back to nature to inhabit, but attaching it’s sense of history to the landscape.
I focused on the harvest of one herb, since it tells many tales.
Solidago Canadensis, or Goldenrod, is an exotic species, not native to Europe, but thriving in these conditions. It is hugely invasive and unwanted at Tiengemeten. However, there is a beauty in this plant, which I got to share in this work. Both it’s wealth in smell and colour are striking, but it is well known as a medicinal and dye plant.
The first part of the proces was harvesting and drying the flowers for weeks, a beautiful mindful way of living with the land, the local flora and fauna, and weather circumstances. Seeing about 4000 stalks of flowers taking space, shaping room and creating atmosphere with its perfume, quite organically the idea of building a golden room, architecture from plants, came to mind.
Creating a piece of architecture, cultivating nature again; the belligerent character of the plant translated to a sharp unwelcoming barrier. Once inside, it was an intimate embrace of the honey, meadow and piney scent, with the woolly texture of the dried flowers and wealthily emerged seeds. At the same time one could take a sip of the drink I made, accepting the healing qualities of plant and landscape, by them entering our bodies, connecting full circle with the history of the island.
The open space still carried a memory of it’s past inhabitants. By using the flowers in shapes that echoed their former presence, there was an awareness around the circumstances on which they had to leave 25 years before. Giving the entire island of Tiengemeten back to nature, asked a big sacrifice from it’s inhabitants, who’s families put their energy in cultivating the land for two centuries. By shaping the flowers to the buildings former function, it became a memorial site for people that had lived there through the 200 years and a keepsake of their work with nature.