Constructie van Riff, PD #18245 in januari 2019. Foto: Yvo Sajet

Essay Riff, PD #18245, a land art monument

Riff, PD #18245, a land art monument
celebrating 100 years of the Zuiderzee Act

A collaboration of artist Bob Gramsma and engineer WaltGalmarini AG


Riff, PD#18245 is a site-specific work, a Land Art monument. The tectonic work looks like it is emerging from the natural-cultural landscape and, at the same time, helps to frame it.

A mound of soil was heaped up on a foundation of slanted pillars. Large cavities were dug into the mound and then cast in concrete, thus creating an inverted sculptural reproduction of the void in the mound. Afterwards, the mound was removed, and the concrete sculpture cleaned of loose soil and sand. The result is a large-scale work, supported by three stalactite-shaped concrete volumes and the pillars of the foundation, which are partially visible. The monument is in context with the horizon, the landscape and the sunset. A stairway leads up to the top of the structure, inviting visitors to overview its surface.

The process of digging uses the labor of construction to create traces of landscape – space without architecture. The sculpture re-interprets the material and historical conditions of the site. The slightly slanted volume echoes characteristics of the Polder, like dijken, greppels, vaarten en kavels or ophoging, ontwatering, ontginning, renaturatie and ontzuiling (vertical segregation). At the same time, Riff, PD#18245 also appears foreign in this environment – a hull resting on slanted pillars, aligned with the dikes. It is reminiscent of other interventions in this particular landscape: water management, flood protections, the signs of the transition from fishing to agriculture, and the renaturation of the landscape. It literally emerges from, and melds into, the artificial topography, the geology, the IJsselmeer polder and the Zuiderzee bed.


At the same time, Riff, PD#18245 is a trace of the artistic and the production process, outlining an interstice between the present and the past. The trace as an index of the working process creates a nexus between time and spatiality. The monumental blueprint of an excavation, which has long since disappeared, turns into a poetic sculpture, a hollow resonant body with a natural patina growing over time.


Riff, PD#18245 looks southwest westward across the renatured land in the direction of the sunset and the amusement parks, providing a visual link to the Veluwemeer and the the Flevopolder, the largest man-made island and its physical vastness.


Riff, PD#18245 becomes a space for the audience to project, or to reanimate, their understanding of the site, its history and its present. The sculpture is at once a tool to reflect on history and an incitement for the viewer to dream those stories. It is a way of visualizing both absence and presence, a sculpted ghost, or spirit, that opens up a new space for rethinking the relationship between material and memory. It is a residue of memory, honoring the past, while serving the present.
By means of the elemental exposure of the earth, the missing cast, and the past that it encapsulates, we are reminded that earth and its history — as well as the cosmic forces or energies shaping it — are beyond human intelligibility. But we can try to understand, or appreciate, their unfathomable presence in time as we access this exhumed vestige.

Production

After creating a foundation by driving piles deep into the ground, a huge mound (70 x 40 x 7 m, +/- 15000 m3) was heaped up on top of it, consisting of sand and clay from the agricultural land and from the bottom of the Zuiderzee on the site. A wide sinkhole, reaching 2m under sea level, and two narrow deep pits, reaching down to the level of the pillars, were dug into the mound. Reinforcement structures were built, and concrete poured and pneumatically projected into the cavities to produce an inverted sculptural reproduction of the empty space. After the concrete had dried, the heaped-up soil was bulldozed away and returned to build the new environment for the New Nature Programme. An immersive sculpture, whose platform hovers above the ground, is revealed. A small staircase cuts into the platform.

The piece is approx. 37,5 m long, 13 m wide and 7 m high.
Using the local soil as falsework, as well as formwork, and reusing it after the production for the new reserve is a very ecological, as well as economical, casting technique. It allows to produce an intricate seamless hollow concrete cast in one piece. After the structure was cleaned, it is ready for the public and the winds to take over. Within time, an ecosystem will evolve on the inside of the hollow body, and the surface will be partly covered with moss, chalk, and salt efflorescence. Little gaps in the shell enable insects and animals to build viable habitats inside the hollow body.

The whole production process is open to the public to provide an in-depth vision and understanding in the making of Riff, PD#18245. The sculpture itself thus starts to generate memories in the minds of the audience – a process that will continue well into the future as weather and nature gradually take over the sculpture, altering its shape and functions over time, while the wind is playing on its resonant body.

Text: Martin Jaeggi