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Land Art in De Volgerlanden, an account
the land and the art
Holland thanks its name to the woods which stood there - 'holt land' (wood land). The higher lands were gradually deforested and the wetlands and lakes were laid dry. The result was a virtually flat country with 360 degrees horizon all around you.
I photographed this sunset above the farmland on one of my many walks along the perimeter of the town, Zwijndrecht, where I have lived for four decades. I loved to sketch and paint these landscapes.
The landscape, which had become an agricultural area during the course of hundreds of years, surrounded the town, except on the south side where it is bounded by a river, the Oude Maas. On the photograph we see the fields which lie around the town Hendrik Ido Ambacht, which used to be called Hendrik-Ido-Oostendam-Schildmanskinderen-Groot-en-Klein-Sandelingen-Ambacht.
When I returned from having spent my youth in California, it was the typical Dutch wetlands-landscape which impressed me the most. For centuries the willow, which is an indigenous plant in the Netherlands, was cultivated for the many uses there were for its branches: such as woven fences, baskets, broomsticks, mats on which dikes were built, etc.
During the sixties I used to paint these willows in their natural habitat, not realizing that less than ten years later I would be incorporating them into my land art projects.
The municipality of Zwijndrecht, which in the sixties of the last century had built a collection of sculptures in the public space, commissioned me to make a proposal for a work of art which would be functional and would 'fit in its surroundings'. A few decades later such work would be coined 'site specific art'. I suspected that they must have actually been thinking of a play-sculpture or something in that category. When I asked which location they were thinking of, the town architect said that I was free to make suggestions as there were many possibilities in the growing town. Already during the first half of the sixties I visited a certain location on various occasions - I liked to walk along the Walburgpad (Walburg Path), which bisected a large greenhouse horticulture area and formed the boundary between my hometown and Hendrik Ido Ambacht, where my mother was born; my father was born in Zwijndrecht itself. The boundary was actually formed by a long, narrow waterway (more like a ditch) which was the only visible division between the two municipalities. It was to become the edge of Zwijndrecht's new urban expansion called Walburg.
My first drafts were about a landscape project oriented on the sunrise. One of them is shown below. A ramp resembling a bunker-like concrete launching pad would rise out of the ground and serve as a base for four polished stainless steel monolinear biplanes - each two meters tall - in formation - pointed towards the east.