Publication Veldwerk II
With Veldwerk, each year Kunstenplatform PLAN B invites a group of artists to carry out an artistic research in the rural space. During the second edition, these artists were Daems van Remoortere & Fallow, Sebastiaan Willemen & Lola Daels, Joris De Rycke, Lucas Devolder, Karolina Michalik and The Post Collective & Anna Housiada.
Each tackled very different themes: from commons to saline agriculture, from labor migration to the impact of dams on ecosystems, from a nature documentary to an investigation into how we can relate to new landscapes. More information on the artists and their trajectories can be found here.
Like every Veldwerk edition, these trajectories were compiled into a publication, documenting and deepening the process of the various researches. The publication is mainly in Dutch, though various chapters are in English or translated in English. You can find the English translation of the publication introduction here below.
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Images © Leontien Allemeersch
Introduction Veldwerk II (English translation)
DIFFERENT LANDSCAPES, NEW STORIES
Rural space, the countryside, the village, the periphery, there are so many terms for the specific and at the same time elusive area that lies beyond the city. How can we understand this space in all its complexity, and in doing so: what can this space mean for and in contemporary art? With Veldwerk, each year Kunstenplatform PLAN B invites a group of artists to carry out an artistic research around these and all additional questions. During this second edition in 2022/2023 these artists were Joris De Rycke, Karolina Michalik, The Post Collective & Anna Housiada, Sebastiaan Willemen & Lola Daels, Lucas Devolder and Daems van Remoortere & Fallow. Departing from their own disciplines, experience and areas of interest and in their own inimitable way, they delved into their version of that rural space. Each artist or collective invited the rest of the group to participate in their research during an exchange moment at a central location for that research. There the accumulated knowledge was exchanged and possible next steps discussed.
During that process, each of them encountered a wide variety of mental and physical landscapes. Piece by piece, these offer a counterweight to clichéd ideas about the countryside that are still very much alive. The landscapes that the artists question in their research are far removed from the nostalgic postcard reality of church steeples, market squares, farmers and ricks. They paint a different and much less familiar picture of the countryside as a critical zone in permanent transition. Many major issues of our times show themselves here in their specific local guise.
In Ruderalia, Joris De Rycke describes the flora found in environments intensely and permanently altered by human activities, such as the mine tailings in Genk. These unique plants tell the story of industry and globalization and show in an exceptional way the intertwining of history and landscape. Stuwland, the research by Lola Daels & Sebastiaan Willemen, also shows a landscape scarred by industrial mega-projects. Dams are both places for silence and recreation and potential disaster areas and disaster zones. The artists explore all these different relationships to that infrastructure and what can be found under the water.
Lucas Devolder and The Post Collective & Anna Housiada explore not so much unusual landscapes, but rather other possibilities of and for those landscapes. In Gemene honden, gemene gronden, Devolder cycles past places that functioned as common or still do. They are accessible to everyone and the area and everything that comes out of it is managed in community. The Post Collective & Anna Housiada are also dreaming up a different kind of countryside in their project МЕТАСПОРА. In their process, they look for ways to re-root in the rural space of Belgium, a landscape unfamiliar to them. They do this through new versions of rituals from their own cultural backgrounds. In МЕТАСПОРА, the rural environment becomes a place where new and healthier relationships emerge to a country that is not your homeland.
What other stories would these landscapes tell if only we listened closely? Karolina Michalik explores the link between the tradition of wild mushroom picking in Poland and the (Polish) seasonal workers who help in the industrial cultivation of mushrooms in West Flanders. In doing so, she stumbles upon the total invisibility of those workers. Another untold story is that of salinization. For Archeologie op zilte bodem, Daems van Remoortere & Fallow follow the advancing coastline. That evolution, a consequence of climate catastrophe, among other things, is accompanied by the salinization of soil and will forever change the way we do agriculture. Fueled by interviews with farmers, scientists and policymakers, they devise other ways to deal with this evolution.
OTHER METHODS, NEW OPPORTUNITIES
The urban context offers a convenient network of white cubes and black boxes, artist communities and word-of-mouth information. But how to proceed in the rural space? The different landscapes within which Veldwerk takes place challenge the usual methods of artistic research. Where do you find that one extension cord when working on a mining ridge? And how do you get in touch with often embodied and hard-to-access knowledge around agriculture, management of territories or subtle dynamics of local identity and belonging? During Veldwerk II, we looked for tools to do just that.
These were not predetermined, but emerged from the logic of the project and the local dynamics that act upon it. Sustained time spent in a fixed place opens up the possibility of generating a meaningful relationship with an environment. The Post Collective & Anna Housiada watched each season pass by from their fixed location in Zarlardinge. For his part, Lucas Devolder found another possibility in the form of a tour. Rather than staying in a specific place for a long time, his itinerary allowed him to connect different landscapes and information and stories to create unique forms of knowledge.
In addition to the stay and the trip, Veldwerk II consisted largely of conversations; among the artists themselves, but even more so with experts. After all, the knowledge and specificity of the rural lies in countless experts by experience. Lola Daels & Sebastiaan Willemen asked those living near a dam how they feel in relation to that enormous infrastructure and whether that feeling has changed over time. For his part, Lucas Devolder exchanged knowledge with people involved in the operation of common grounds. Karolina Michalik also went through conversations in Bavikhove looking for traces of the presence of seasonal workers.
By assigning each of the projects its own chapter, this publication aims to show the diversity of landscapes created and explored in Fieldwork II. But at least as much, it wants to show the attempts to understand those landscapes, relate to them, and spin stories out of them. Each chapter is therefore given its entirely unique logic, reflecting the research and its method. Together they form an invitation to help shape the critical zone of the rural.