Bik Van der Pol
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Facts on the ground
The big undertaking of accomplishing the railway system in the US: the location where East and West shook hands, hugely informed American land-art artist Robert Smithsons decision of where to locate the Spiral Jetty. The Great Railway thus resulted directly, one could say, in this work of land art.
The ambition of the initiators of the land reclamation project in the port of Rotterdam, Maasvlakte 2 (MV2) is not un-similar to those of the builders of the Great Railway.
The creation of MV2 aims to offer the port of Rotterdam the opportunity to retain and expand its leading position in Europe during the coming decades, thus enabling Rotterdam to continue to intensify its indispensable hinterland connections. The importance of economic growth, and a wide range of labour opportunities supported by a large infrastructure of services and transportation links to the rest of Europe will secure Rotterdam as a major port. To achieve this, MV2 is being formed after many years of discussion and preparation. Reclaimed land will slowly emerge in time through the construction of beach, sand dunes, rubble and concrete blocks as a sea defence. Inside these defences, sand taken from carefully selected locations at sea will make land, and soon, the sea defence will be closed and land will shake hand with land.
Facts on the ground
Closely following this process we became interested in researching the poetics of 'making'(poiesis), and we explored similarities between the becoming of an artwork and the making of new land. What establishes an artwork? Are there similarities with processes and the specialisms that will finally result in MV2? What roles do poetics and aesthetics - if any- play in this enormous process? What decisions defined the design, its form? What tools are being brought into action; how do they function? And if aesthetics plays a role in the development of this project, then how do dredgers, engineers and planners relate to ideas and concepts of beauty and perfection?
Circling over and around the site, approaching the location like a prey, following the line of the sea defense, the maps of Maasvlakte 2 are being recreated and re-enacted, as a drawing in the sky, using the helicopter as pencil and the filmcamera as the paper where its traces are left. Recording the aspects that informed the final design and the making of a landscape through all its different stages and presences, the experience of time becomes tangible, resulting, finally, in the making of a drawing, the 23 minutes long film Facts on the ground. Facts on the Ground is made on the invitation of Portscapes curated by Latitudes.