3. At the landfill site, walk straight ahead, parallel to the forest edge. The path soon bends right. Follow the bend and continue walking across the field. Keep following the path to the far corner, turn right at the T junction, so you stay on the landfill (the path may be partly overgrown), thus circling the site. Keep following the path, also where it makes a gentle turn. At the end, you will return to the path where you turned into the old landfill. Follow the path to the left and walk into the forest. Turn right at the T-junction. To your left is a large hole from the old gravel quarry that now contains water. Walk straight ahead until you reach a turnstile. Go through it and immediately turn left. This plot is called Op ’t Rentelen.
Beginning in summer 2021, The Butterfly House Foundation, which I run with my partner Sandra van den Beuken, shall lease this 1.3-hectare plot of land from the Province of Limburg. We are going to transform it into an ecological, flower-rich grassland. Its business model prioritises nature over humans. The foundation evolved from my work, and in recent years we have done projects in public space through The Butterfly House Foundation, from butterfly gardens to flower fields, in collaboration with universities, art schools, citizen researchers and local residents.
Our plans combine art and nature development and focus on knowledge about the landscape. We intend to bring back former landscape elements that we found on old maps of the Op ’t Rentelen plot. These features include standard form fruit trees and shrubbery to create a better transition between forest and pasture – thus creating a more gradual shrubland seam – steep edges for solitary bees and bumblebees, extending hawthorn hedges, introducing flower-rich grassland, and installing nesting boxes for owls and birds of prey. As well as common fruits, the field crops will also include herb-rich hay, which is sought after for horse owners by the foraging trade.
In addition, we also harvest for my large museum works, installations and exhibitions. Because participation in our foundation’s projects is essential to us, we can now work in the field with other organisations to give courses, such as scything and pruning. We shall invite locals to come and help pick the fruit and process it. We shall also involve scientists in the research of converting grassland into flower-rich grassland. The whole project will offer me new opportunities to realise more publications and artist’s books.
Very Contemporary – a network of contemporary art institutions in the Meuse-Rhine Euregio, of which Bureau Europa is also a part – invited me to participate in their 2021 exhibition programme. I made ‘Barbed Wire Vegetation’, which is standing in the meadow. This work deals with time, boundaries, the landscape and ecological processes.
The work developed from my research into barbed wire vegetation. Under barbed wire grows a unique flora that forms its own habitat. This often includes special types of plants. The grazers leave the vegetation under the barbed wire, and it is not possible to mow. Therefore, there is no soil disturbance. This creates a particular biotope. The meadow posts that keep the barbed wire in place are permanent beacons in the landscape and therefore tell a lot about it. But the meadow posts are also separate biotopes, with mosses, lichens and other small vegetation. For many insects, the meadow posts are also places to warm up. Many butterfly species use them to rest and gain energy by unfolding their wings towards the sun and then continuing on their way. For the little owl, it is a vantage point when hunting for insects.
The barbed wire in this artwork remains independent of other fixed elements, such as hedges and trees, or indeed other barbed wire. As a result, this material’s intended function – the demarcation of an area – is lost and serves instead as an artwork. The QR code next to the work provides more information.