Changing Landscapes / Alterando Paisagens

Trans-disciplinary exchange programme between Dutch and Brazilian artists on changing landscapes and land-use.

Large-scale alterations into the landscape such as hydroelectric dams, geo-engineering, mining and monoculture plantations are ways to remove entanglements to place. These alterations have long-lasting direct and indirect trickle-down consequences, including flooding, uncontrolled fires, extinction of species, deforestation and polluted soil and rivers. Land-use, particularly for energy and food, define the aesthetics of the Brazilian and Dutch landscapes, whether it’s monocultures or greenhouses, dams or wind turbines. Mostly for food and fuel, both Brazil and the Netherlands are homogenizing landscapes to such an extent that we are losing the complex notion of place and belonging. Traditionally flora and fauna would define a non-urban place; biodiversity is complex web, influenced by temperature, humidity, windflows, bacteria, mycelia and many other ecosystemic factors. They all feed off each other and form intricate interdependent relationships that create liveable habitats for endless amounts of species, including humans. We propose that removing these entanglements could suggest the non-place of the 21st century. In Marc Augé’s Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity (1995) it were airports, motorways, hotels, parking garages marking the loss of relations, history, and identity of our current society. Now, more than 25 years after ‘Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity’ – we could say it’s the global floodings, fires, monocultures, draughts, minings and large-scale deforestation that mark and define our age of ‘post- supermodernity’. 

The starting point for the project is the notion that due to the increased global demand for fuel and food-production, agricultural lands are increasingly becoming ‘non-places. Irrigation and fertilizers allow us to adapt landscapes to such an extent we can grow crops that are popular (soy, corn, potatoes, sugarcane, rice, wheat), though completely alien to their context. In greenhouses, popular in the Netherlands, we create artificial micro-climates to increase efficiency. One could even say that a wheat field or a greenhouse, are just as domesticated as an urban landscape. Both Brazil and the Netherlands are important players in the global food-market, increasingly affecting ecosystems to the point of collapse. Though the countries are on opposite ends of the globe, they are simultaneously at the forefront of being affected by the climate crisis. Brazil due to deforestation, agrotoxics and all the entangled complexities and the Netherlands because it’s prone to rising sea-levels – amongst many other reasons. 

We believe artists have an important role to play in bringing important topics to the public in new ways. Both the two curators and the executive producer met each other in the Brazilian Amazon in August 2019 during the Labverde residency. The forest fires were peaking and we bonded over our deep concerns about the future of the Amazon. A big part of the deforestation is due to land-grabbing to create lands for monocultures and cattle to graze. Fudder and meat that is then exported to countries including the Netherlands. Though one a very small country and the other very big, both Brazil and the Netherlands are important and entangled players in the global foodmarket.  The urgency for change is bigger than ever with ecosystems collapsing and zoonotic diseases on the rise (due to habitat loss of species). We want to raise awareness both in Brazil and in the Netherlands and allow for knowledge exchange on this topic. We also believe there are a lot of innovative solutions in the Netherlands when it comes to efficient farming and greenhouses whilst the Netherlands can learn a lot from for instance traditional and indigenous practices and community-based farming.

Changing Landscapes/Alterando Paisagens is an online exchange program between Brazilian and Dutch artists who are interested in topics such as land-use, food-systems, land-reclamation, energy (from hydro-electric dams to wind turbines), farming, climate, biodiversity and other related topics. Through curatorial conversations, Reading Groups and other forms of knowledge exchange, the purpose of the project is to stimulate creative engagement with the (problematic) notion of the anthropocentric landscape in both countries.

Two artists from the Netherlands and two artists from Brazil have been selected, by the curators, in collaboration with residencies Labverde (Brazil) and Valley of the Possible (Netherlands/Chile).

Changing Landscapes/Alterando Paisagens is a project partnership between the Green Art Lab Alliance, TAL – Tech Art Lab and A boneca conceitual, supported by the Consulate-General of the Netherlands in Rio de Janeiro.

Exhibition

Transkitchen, a project by Daniela Serruya Kohn

Art as a bridge.  Create and cross its fields. An ancestral kitchen offers living food. Mixed milenar techniques to produce paper. Sometimes support, now as an object. The making process of relational objects with bacterial cellulose made with foodwaste is an experience with different possibilities. Peels to feed living dreams. Carry out the ideas and establish a conversation with nature. Observe the existence of microorganisms, cultivate without colonizing them. Interact and learn with the rhythm of the microcosm about the transformation of materials and time. How to make it visible? Fermentation and poetry walk on the same ground. A new map. A leaf grows by coexisting bacteria.

Check the full exhibition of Daniela Serruya Kohn‘s works here.

‘half-hidden, moss-driven, cloud-like’
(work in progress), a project by Marit Mihklepp

Through the daily revisitation of 6 sites in her local park, artist Marit Mihklepp started to nurture an intimate relationship with her direct environment, perceiving its subtle changes with all her senses. Creating relationships with our local landscapes helps us to start caring about them; it allows us to see how they change with the seasons or which species are depending on it, using it as their habitat, breeding, feeding or mating grounds. This exercise is something anyone can do, training the senses and making notes of change or stillness. A meditation that is born from simplicity, yet enables to perceive complexity of place. Each day of March 2021, I went for a walk in Westduinpark, The Hague. I moved on the same route, took notes and made photos of the same six spots. It was a simple exercise to understand how a more persistent practice of meeting the same landscape would tune and connect my body to different rhythms than my own. Rather than looking for something specific or entering with an existing plan, I tried to walk with an empty head. I had no idea if this stubbornly systematic way of phone-photographing made any sense. The writings marked the observations of encounters, mental states or anything I picked up on the way. It was a struggle not to (over)think and not to fall back into the built-in patterns of having to produce something immediately. Perhaps also because the dunescapes started as human-made places where now the multisensory languages of weather and dune beings – pines, rain, highland cows, marram grass, blackbirds, sand, clouds – are once again creating their own order and chaos. All 31 days of March met in a single image of each chosen location. The writings became a reading, shifting away from the landscape that triggered them, to any landscape where the listening might take place.

Check the full exhibition of Marit Mikhlepp‘s works here.

Decomposition Project:: Weaving a Garden As a Forest And a Forest as a Cemetery (work in progress), a project by Maurício Chades

After living in different neighborhoods of Brasília, I moved to Alto Paraíso de Goiás last Fall. Right in the heart of the Cerrado, it’s the second-largest Brazilian biome after the Amazon Rainforest. I undid my life in the Brazilian capital intending to move to Chicago. When I was prevented from going abroad due to the pandemic, I helped my mother to buy her house in this small town, with a good yard to create a forestry garden. When we arrived, the soil was damaged, not even the grass could grow. I have a background in agroecology, and hurried to intervene in the space by planting many species: native, non-native, fruits, vegetables, unconventional food – the greatest variety possible, to make sure to take advantage of the beginning of the rainy season. Initially I was reluctant to understand that my practice of transforming a landscape would be a new artistic project, but recognizing that I would be here indefinitely, I realized it was an opportunity to transform my confinement into an artistic residency. Bounded by the four corners of the new house, I wove alliances with visible and invisible beings, creating a heterogeneous and pluriversal yard.

I am borrowing the ecological concept “disturbance” to name the actions I have done in the space waiting for unpredictable results: what happens when I give a coconut flan to worms? What if I inoculate family photos with liquid fungi culture? To make art arise from ecological relations, for now, I am committed to developing two pieces: the first is a site-specific installation,  called Tower: Vertical Perspective On Multispecies Relations; and the second is an experimental film, shaped as a twin piece (that may be a short and/or a video installation). Disturbance is a term commonly connected to demage, “but as used by ecologists, is not always bad – and not always human”, Anna Tsing says.  Some disturbances are small: like the insertion of an exotic species tree. Some are huge: such as the burning of hundreds of hectares of Cerrado. What follows this last disturbance so common in the dry season is the exuberant regrowth of many plants that have deep roots and thick barks. Which attracts hungry herbivores who, before, fled the fire. Disturbance opens the terrain for transformative encounters, making new landscape assemblages possible. “Disturbance can renew ecologies as well as destroy them”. In the garden, many of the disturbances are being provoked by me, but I am excited to see the system being driven by other beings, independent of human action. In order to expand the idea of ecology, I propose that disturbance should be understood not only as changes brought about by ecological relations in the garden, but also those that alter the socio-political context. In our stories, disturbance is the element that makes the plot move forward, beat by beat until the climax is reached.

During the first few months here, I dedicated myself to activating the house, creating a system of production and consumption. We have a worm farm, another composter for food waste that the earthworms do not like, a reservoir of water discarded by the washing machine and a fire pit. Everything turns into soil, even the ashes. When we harvest from the garden, we are interested in discovering new recipes. It is a home inclined to agroecology because it retains the energy it produces. The techniques of this type of agriculture teach how to keep everything in the land. Prunings, branches and leaves all emphasize a subtle interval between life and death, composition, and decomposition. By cultivating the largest number of species, the need for pesticides against insects is suppressed, precisely because a chaotic forest dynamic is simulated in which hardly any species can overpopulate and become a pest. Such chaotic dynamics, in which several plant species inhabit the same bed (the opposite of a monoculture model), attracts many species of birds, insects, and fungi.

We are not used to reading stories without human heroes, Anna Tsing tells us in The Mushroom at the End of the World – On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. I’m bringing here one of her inquiries, word by word because it sums up a big question of the Decomposition Project: “Can I show landscape as the protagonist of an adventure in which humans are only one kind of participant?” How can I recognize other living beings as “persons,” that is, characters of stories? The story I want to tell identifies the webs that are woven in the backyard of the house that I live in with my mother, my boyfriend, my two cats and endless  other beings. But it also includes the city and spreads throughout the countryside of Goiás State – agribusiness and its immense hectares of monocultures and cattle pastures. What could an agroecological garden mean in the middle of this “green desert”?

Tower: Vertical Perspective On Multispecies Relations has a four grounds structure that suggests the narrative of the twin film piece: the first floor is where the worms are, waiting for food offerings to the dead loved ones; the second is an altar which my mom customized with photos, rosary and other Catholic objects. The next is a solar power-based fountain that spreads humidity, attracting birds and butterflies. The last floor is a plate with fruits and seeds offered to the birds. I painted a blue triangle on the wall that would make it easy to change the background, putting the birds in other landscapes through chroma key effect. In addition there’s still a fifth act in the narrative, which is the fact that alongside the tubes that structure the piece I am growing bioluminescent mushrooms that, I hope, will glow green during the night, giving the installation a night version. To have mushrooms fruiting in the center of the garden is also a way of remembering that below the garden-forest ground, fungal bodies extend themselves in nets and skeins, binding roots, and mineral soils. The film narrates those multispecies relations in a vertical perspective and includes my mother as a character telling her own expectations to the garden. We hear her testimony offering each one of the plants she puts into the ground to one of her deceased loved ones. She is weaving a garden as a forest and a forest as a cemetery.Understanding that the Tower is a site-specific piece, it is limited to be experienced by those who can witness it in the pandemic context – the residents of the house, the birds that visit every day in search of food, insects, fungi, cats. The work cannot be physically transported to an art gallery, since it is activated by the ecological forces of a specific place. I propose the Tower as a piece that helps us to see the network of relationships that is established in the garden and beyond. Some species, such as fungi, grow in the structure, while others, birds and insects, are randomly attracted, increasing the indeterminability of the encounters. As much as I seem to be confined and alone, this is a collective and collaborative project. Not because I know who my collaborators are, but much more because I don’t know many of them who operate in this system. Because their presence is invisible, and sometimes even their work asks us to squint our eyes so that it is noticed. I believe that at some point I will need to think more about the idea of interspecies authorship. After months of interference in the space, I already recognize the recurring presence of certain beings, which I could call “oddkin”. The net is always growing, earthworms, caterpillars, ants and flies. I am going towards them, who don’t always run away. I already feel wanted too. We are drawn to each other.

Check the full exhibition of Maurício Chades‘s works here.

Super Organisms, a project by Suzette Bousema

Invisible to the naked eye, but threatened by our activities. How can we tap into the network of an underappreciated but crucial organism? The mycorrhizal fungal network is the largest living system that ever existed on Earth and plays a crucial role in ecosystems, carbon storage as well as our very existence. Commonly described as the ‘internet’, or the ‘brain’ of the forest, almost all plants are connected through this below-ground fungal network. Often referred to as a form of communication, plants “trade” carbon with the fungal network, improving access to nutrients, minerals and water. More than half of the carbon processed by plants during photosynthesis passes through mycorrhizae and is stored in soil.  This ancient symbiosis between plants and fungi is threatened by human activities, such as the use of fertilizers and pesticides, deforestation and change in land use. When I first discovered this collaboration between plants and fungi, I noticed how we tend to compare it to human structures, such as the internet or the brain. To a certain extent this helps us to stimulate empathy with, yet simultaneously limits our understanding of this relatively unknown phenomenon.

‘We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than we know about the soil underfoot’ –Da Vinci

Knurl is a 3D printed electroacoustic instrument, designed by brazilian musician Rafaele Andrade, who studies at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. In collaboration Andrade and Bousema have created a compostable version of the instrument. This performance has been recorded at Bousema’s exhibition in Dutch national park De Kaapse Bossen in The Netherlands.

With this project Bousema aims to connect to the below-ground fungal network, using all the senses. In collaboration with perfumer Merle Bergers she is creating a scent that represents the fungal network.

This project was done in collaboration with soil scientist Nadia Soudzilovskaia and PhD students Riccardo Mancinelli, Weilin Huang & Chenguang Gao. The project is supported by MIAP Foundation and Mondriaan Fonds. In the summer Bousema will work at Textiellab Tilburg (NL) to create a weaved wall hanging that depicts the symbiosis between plants and fungi.  Follow her progress on her website: www.suzettebousema.nl and Instagram @suzettebousema If you would like to stay up to date on projects and exhibitions, send an email to suzette@bousema.eu

Check full exhibition of Suzette Bousema‘s works here.

Artists

Daniela Serruya Kohn

Lives in Belo Horizonte. Graduated in Painting at Fine Arts School (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro). Semi finalist at Rockefeller Food System Vision Prize (2019-2020); Changing Landscapes Residency (2021). Autocozinha: weekly at Freud Cidadão Mental Health Care Center, Belo Horizonte (ongoing). Realizes Dinner in the Dark: multisensory gastronomic experiences (2017-2020). Through Cozinha Nômade, a transdisciplinary project created to integrate Visual Arts, Ecology and Food Culture, it offers food awareness workshops through wild fermentation and develops studies with biomaterials to address the relationship between human beings, food and its social interaction.

Marit Mihklepp

Estonian artist, currently based in The Netherlands. She holds a MA degree of ArtScience (Royal Academy of Art, The Hague) and a BA degree of Textile Design (Estonian Academy of Arts). She focuses on the existing and speculative languages between humans and other-than-humans, and develops works in collaboration with stones, trees, bacteria and ordinary objects. She was a contributor for Migrant Journal No.5: Micro Odysseys magazine, and a website publication Meaning Seeking Animals. At the moment Mihklepp is working on a new piece which will be shown at the group exhibition in Narva Art Residency in April 2021.

Maurício Chades

Visual artist and filmmaker from the Brazilian Northeast. He holds a Master’s Degree in Art and Technology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Audiovisual, both from the University of Brasilia (UnB). He is currently pursuing an MFA at the SAIC School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation department. Decay, death rituals, speculative fiction, inter-species relations, and territorial tensions are some themes of his work, which takes different forms with each project – between film, installation, bio-art-and-technology, and performance. In 2019 he presented his first solo exhibition, Pirâmide, Urubu, at the Digital TV Tower in Brasília.

Suzette Bousema

With the same curiosity as a scientist Suzette Bousema visualizes contemporary environmental topics. Planetary conditions and our place in them are the starting point in her work; the way humans interfere with nature and how we relate to the Earth on an individual level. By visualizing the beauty of scientific research, her aim is to contribute to ongoing environmental debates in a positive way. Inspired by the book hyperobjects from Timothy Morton, Suzette visualizes ‘objects’ that are too big or abstract to grasph, such as climate change or global pollution.

Team

Yasmine Ostendorf – programme curator and director

Researcher/curator Yasmine Ostendorf convenes the Green Art Lab Alliance, a network of 50 cultural organisations in Latin America, Europe and Asia that is in pursuit of social and environmental justice. She is also the founder of the Nature Research Department at the Jan van Eyck Academie (Netherlands) and the  Future Materials Bank. She has been curator-in-residence in various art institutions, including Bamboo Curtain Studio (Taiwan) Kunst Haus Wien (Austria) and Capacete (Brazil). She is currently based at a permaculture farm and foodforest in Minas Gerais, Brazil, where she is tending mushrooms and working on her book ‘Mycelium as Methodology.’ 

Gabriela Maciel – programme curator and director

Founder and director of TAL Tech Art Lab organisation (since 2011). Creator, director and curator of in person and online cultural projects in Brazil and abroad, such as, most recently: Changing Landscapes; Tech Art Lab Session 1 Brazil Switzerland; Possible Futures; EV_Largo (2019-2021); Co-curator of Re_Act, Contemporary Art Laboratory and Matter non Matter (2017-2018); Embassador and curator of The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale in Rio de Janeiro (2013/2017). Her cultural projects are published in: Scandale Project, Art Reserach Map, JuneJoonJaxx, Art Tribune, Artsy, O Globo, ArtRio, Premio Pipa, Wish, The Kinsky, DasArtes and ShiFt Japan.

Patricia Bárbara – executive producer

A.k.a. A boneca conceitual, is a creative producer and transdisciplinary artist and has a degree in Cinema. She has worked for many of the most important arts and culture festivals in Brazil, such as Festival Curta Cinema (1997 to 2006); FEMINA – Int’l Women Film Festival (2004, 2005 and 2012); Festival Panorama (2007 to 2009); Festival Atos de Fala (2014 to 2016); Festival Ultrasonidos (2019). Festival Multiplicidade (since 2012). Simultenously she developed her performative work, Where she uses her body as a tool for commenting and questioning patterns, rules, limits, conformation, imposed distances.