CCA  Center for Contemporary Art and Ecology 

18 May – 25 August 2024



Book Tickets

— A group exhibition on the malleability and profitability of the Dutch landscape through global and advanced capitalism.

Participating artists: Berkveldt, Daan Couzijn, Mirte van Laarhoven & Anne Nieuwenhuijs, Vera Mennens, Víctor Muñoz Sanz, Sissel Marie Tonn & Jonathan Reus, Joppe Venema, and works from the Collection of the Cultural Heritage Agency by: Joop Dam, Ben Ikelaar, Edith van Leckwijk, and Eduard van Zanden

For centuries humans have been working against nature in the Netherlands. Dykes are raised, polders are deepened, water is directed to areas where it was not held before, and conversely water is pumped out of areas that used to be naturally rich in water. We build cities, towns and roads, without attentiveness to the local, natural environment, its conditions and dynamics. Increasingly, we have exhausted our living environment to a point at which adaptation, let alone recovery and regeneration are no longer possible. We are increasingly accelerating drought, floods, soil subsidence, heat stress, downpours and crop failures through the continued depletion and exhaustion of natural ecosystems. The time has come to foster new alliances with nature and our shared living environment. Nature can act like a sponge and a container (think of soil which is able to retain water), as a barrier shielding us from the wind (think of dunes and floodplains), as an airconditioning (think of forests and parks where temperatures are considerably lower than in concrete and paved sites), and as a nursery for animals and other organisms we depend on for our subsistence (think of insects and soil life). Additionally, more nature means more places to recover and strengthen both physical and mental health: not just for humans, but equally for all the forty five thousand organisms with whom we share this land.

The group exhibition FROM RASTER TO VECTOR: THE NETHERLANDS AS PROFIT LANDSCAPE examines the malleability and constructed nature of the Dutch landscape. From the polders and the waterworks to the current nitrogen crisis, the exhibition demonstrates how the Dutch landscape has become entirely indexed on the vectors of advanced capitalism. In other words, the available land is transformed to maximise profit on the one hand, and to uphold the current degree of mostly human-centered wellbeing on the other—by resisting and working against the increasingly erratic and unstable living  environment. Is the horizon of profit maximisation any longer sustainable in the Netherlands within the current climate regime? The artists in the exhibition offer a historically-informed and current perspective on the future of the Dutch rasterised landscape, becoming increasingly subjected to conflicting interests concerning welfare, prosperity, economy, technology, innovation, and ecology. In their work the artists provide a counterpoint to the deterioration of the Dutch landscape and the rapid decline in biodiversity, in search of possibilities for recovery in regenerative landscapes, aimed at  more-than-human sustainable, resilient and shared living environments.

FROM RASTER TO VECTOR: THE NETHERLANDS AS PROFIT LANDSCAPE exhibition campaign image by Lisa Rampilli.

The saying goes: “God created the Earth, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.” For centuries the Dutch identity has been inextricably linked to the country’s ability to conquer nature and tailor the landscape to continued human habitation. As a proud exporter of technologies in the fields of appropriating land and cultivating nature, the Netherlands is enjoying its reputation as the world’s most efficient processor of land. Ever since the very first polders were created in the eighth century, the cultural identity of the Netherlands has been associated with reclaiming seascapes and turning these into profitable landscapes. We are currently researching the legacy of polder construction, now looking at it from the perspective of the many contemporary and future ecological issues the Netherlands is facing. To what degree has the urgent reconsideration of how we imagine and handle the Dutch landscape affected its sociocultural identity, something that most recently came to the surface during the agricultural crisis? How long can we keep putting our trust in technological innovations (politics of resilience) that are not aimed at solving ecological challenges, but rather on displacing or postponing these? 

Roemer Visscher, Daer de natuer heeft ramp, set het vernuft een klamp (“when nature proves disastrous, (human) ingenuity will provide a solution”), 1614.

When people think of the geography of the current Dutch landscape, and its accompanying industry, they often picture an organised grid of urban, rural, and pastoral lots demarcated by a national border. But this is far from the truth. Advanced capitalism is completely globalised, totalising and all-encompassing. Because of its high demand for soy beans, the intensive cattle breeding industry in the Netherlands is, for instance, actively contributing to deforestation in Brazil. Those same soy beans are transported to the Netherlands where they serve as fodder. The soy-fed cattle is then slaughtered in the Netherlands to be processed as meat products, leaving behind all nitrogen on the limited acreage, after which seventy-five percent of it is exported to countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, and China. Has the Netherlands thus become an (agricultural) business park? Globally advanced capitalism, which is prevalent in the Netherlands, transcends national borders and can no longer be confined behind the lines or boundaries of some kind of natural, non-capitalist sphere: it has become a global economic vector. Because of this there is no longer a major chain of development that allows countries considered to be economically ‘backward’ to follow those in front to the top of the value chain, and neither is there any kind of true wilderness left to be preserved in its pure and unspoiled natural state. Instead, capital only has a subservient, though unexploited, hinterland at its disposal that in itself has been completely vectorised on global value chains. 

The excesses of this system are currently reflected in the state of decline of the Dutch landscape. Scaling up, intensification, as well as the accompanying increase in traffic, are resulting in the deterioration of the landscape. Whether we are talking about the nitrogen crisis, the protection of the Wadden Sea against oil drilling, floods in Limburg, or earthquakes in Groningen, political reality seems extremely flexible while the boundaries of our ecosystems are fixed. In the exhibition FROM RASTER TO VECTOR: THE NETHERLANDS AS PROFIT LANDSCAPE, artists and other stakeholders are researching possibilities for a more balanced interpretation of the landscape, with proposals for more circular and sustainable relationships between economic and ecological interests. However, the participants are not considering the landscape to be an entity that is best left to its own devices. Landscaping is a verb, something that requires a continuous effort to ensure a better spatial quality, albeit beyond exclusively human-oriented interests, and as a unilateral answer to climate change. For this we need proper designers, imagination, and design talent.

Download exhibition brochure

Curated by Niekolaas Johannes Lekkerkerk, assisted by Sergi Pera Rusca.

FROM RASTER TO VECTOR: THE NETHERLANDS AS PROFIT LANDSCAPE has been made possible with the support of the Mondriaan Fund, Municipality of Delft, Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds, Iona Stichting, Stichting Zabawas, Van der Mandele Stichting, Stichting Mr. August Fentener van Vlissingen Fonds. We thank them all kindly for their support!