Shifting Baseline (excerpt)
Part of ‘Phantom Limbs’ installation
Video, 41:45 min
Dutch nature is a human construction. It literally starts on paper. It begins with an idea, to a design, to a construction site, and eventually a landscape. It’s not remarkable that the artificiality of our landscape influences Dutch artists. I myself grew up on the edge of one of the largest natural landscapes in The Netherlands. This place has always had a big influence on me. Like most forest visitors, I use this forest to escape from daily life and find solitude between the tall trees. This place is now the source for most my projects.
In The Netherlands forests are too unnatural to live naturally. We created nature, but we can’t create natural balance like Mother Nature can. We have to keep intervening to keep forests alive. This makes human intervention a daily occurrence and makes society an obstructive presence within forests. This human presence is often an obstacle in the forest visitor’s search for solitude.
Most forest visitors don’t recollect what disappears from a forest. They forget what changed their surrounding and accept the new, impoverished nature as reality. They define what is ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ to current, not historical, conditions. This is called ‘Shifting Baseline’.
In the video work a tree’s destruction is reversed. Instead of watching a machine destroying a tree branch by branch, the tree is build to life. Not only does the work show an imaginary example of the constructions in Dutch landscapes, it is also a grieving vow for the harm that is done to nature. It’s almost comforting to see the tree brought back to life, though at the same time tragic, because you are aware the tree is being destroyed in reality.