More about this artwork

Riff, PD#18245

Like a strange archaeological discovery, Riff, PD#18245 protrudes from the artificial topography of the IJsselmeerpolder. The land art monument was created by the Swiss-Dutch artist Bob Gramsma at the invitation of the province of Flevoland to commemorate the centenary of Zuriderzee Act passed by Dutch parliament. The act endorsed the decision to close off the Zuiderzee with a dike and initiated the land reclamation of the polders. Riff, PD#18245 is part of Land Art Flevoland, a collection of nine land-art works by internationally renowned artists, such as Robert Morris, Anthony Gormley, Richard Serra, and Daniel Libeskind. Riff, PD#18245 is at once a site-specific sculpture, an architectural structure, and a monument, made from negative space. The tectonic work is the trace of an excavated hole. It seems emerge from the natural-cultural landscape, and frames it at the same.

Riff, PD#18245 was developed and constructed by Bob Gramsma in collaboration with WaltGalmarini engineers and fifteen subcontractors and consultants from Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands over a period of two years. A big challenge were the statics of the massive artwork, which had to be devised before the construction and yet would still permit artistic decisions on the site. Metaphorically speaking, the main idea was that during the construction process the statics of a boat had to change into the statics of a bridge. During the casting process, Riff, PD#18245 "swims" in a mound of soil, while in its final state it is suspended from a mostly invisible complex core structure like a bridge. The work stands on partly visible piling foundation, consisting of frames, ribs, and a keel, but it also hangs on a steel construction, hidden in its hollow interior.

In a first step, 18 concrete piles were rammed into the ground. On top of pile foundation, a steel structure was erected as well as the concrete walls of the staircase leading to the platform on top. Around this core structure, a huge mound of soil from the surrounding agricultural land and from the bottom of the Zuiderzee was heaped up. An extensive opening, reaching down 2 metres below sea level, and two deep cones, reaching down to the level of the other pillars, were dug as a sculptural mold into the mound. The process of digging uses the labour of construction to create striking landscape traces – space without architecture. Concrete was poured and pneumatically projected into the cavities to produce an inverted sculptural reproduction of the shaped void. After the concrete had dried, the heaped-up soil was bulldozed and scattered back into the surrounding landscape. An intricate seamless concrete sculpture of 38x13x7 m, resting on partially visible pillars was revealed. A small staircase was then built onto the platform, which hovers above the ground in context with the horizon the sunset and surrounding topography.

Riff, PD#18245 is a sedimentary trace of the artistic and the production process that creates an opening between the present and the forgotten past. It creates a nexus of time and space, which invites the viewer to reflect on both dimensions. By mining the ground, Riff, PD#18245 points to another world from within.

"When is art?" is an important question in Gramsma's work, framing art as a way of looking at the world rather than as a finished product, pointing to the intricate temporality and functionality of artworks, influenced by social and natural forces There is no final state of an artwork, no attainment of the artwork, which would be a mere mirror of an unattainable ideal in the artist's mind. Rather, the work is a process, which begins before its construction and goes on long afterwards.

Like the polder, the work was created in several stages, which were marked by opening acts. Already while it was being constructed, Riff, PD#18245 started to generate memories in the minds of the audience. This process will continue into the future as an ecosystem will evolve inside 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. Likewise social practices will evolve in, and around, the space created by Riff, PD#18245, which will come to define and redefine its meaning. The monumental blueprint of an excavation, which has since disappeared, turns into a poetic landmark, a hollow building, a sculptural body with a natural patina growing over time, which will fulfil various social uses and will accrue an unpredictable history of its own.

At the same time, it will become part of the landscape surrounding it. Like an archaeological discovery, it protrudes from the artificial topography of the Ijsselmeerpolder and the Zuiderzee bed. Riff, PD#18245 builds on the spirit of Land Art and engenders a new perception. The slightly slanted volume echoes characteristics of the Polder at the same time, Riff, PD#18245 pops out of the landscape and appears foreign in this environment – a hull resting on angled pillars, aligned with the dikes. It is reminiscent of other interventions in this particular landscape: water management, flood protections, and the renaturation of the landscape.

Riff, PD#18245 is situated next to a dike that demarcates the border of the renaturated new and the "old" land. The sculpture looks westward in the direction of the sunset providing a visual link to the Veluwemeer and 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 an incitement for the viewer to dream those stories. It is a way of visualizing both absence and presence, a sculpted ghost, or spirit, which opens up a new space for rethinking the relationship between material and memory. It is a residue of memory, honouring the past, while serving the present.

By means of the elemental opening 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 historical time as we access this exhumed vestige.