Between the Lines @ Winter sessions, V2_ Lab for Unstable Media, Rotterdam, NL

During the Winter sessions, artist Marjolijn Dijkman and electrotechnician Lukas Pol further developed the robotic experiments for the new film and sound installation Between the Lines and the new performance Natura Rebellis. These two productions are part of Marjolijn Dijkman’s artistic research project Between the Lines, which traces the monumental impact of climate change, industrialization, and the First World War in the polluted and traumatized landscapes of the ‘Zone Rouge’ located in the northeast of France.

The installation and performance, which include new compositions by composer Henry Vega, will open in May 2024 at V2_ Lab for Unstable Media in Rotterdam.

The Winter sessions at V2_ Lab for Unstable Media are a one-week production residency designed to develop a clear concept into a presentable sketch. The residency provides a highly productive atmosphere with support, feedback, and expert supervision.

The research project ‘Between the Lines’ focuses on the catastrophic effects of drought and climate change in the forests of the Zone Rouge in the North East of France. It relates to the ongoing struggle to deal with the aftermath and remnants of the First World War within the global climate crisis, which impacted this particular landscape on a monumental scale.

Germany donated spruces to reforest the thousands of hectares of polluted landscape in the Zone Rouge in France as post-war restitution. They planted many mono-cropped Norway spruces in straight rows, following the scientific production forest management invented in Germany. These dense forests aimed to protect people from entering, creating a ‘Living Sarcophagus.’

In the scorching summer of 2018 and 2019, a hundred years after WWI ended, the bark beetle Ips Typographus invaded these monoculture forests. The National Forestry Agency (ONF) has by now cleared most of the infected areas. This is important to avoid forest fires, a dangerous and slow process with abundant pieces of unexploded ordnance in the soil. The sanitized, barren, and re-opened landscape symbolizes the consequences of the war, the industrialization of forest management, and the impact of the current climate crisis.

Context: Climate Change in The Red Zone (Zone Rouge):
After the First World War, nine villages and surroundings in the zone were sealed off completely, rendered death traps by unexploded ordnance, and contaminated beyond habitation by the arsenic, chlorine, and phosgene the opposing armies aimed at each other. There are also still over 16.000 bodies in the ground that were never recovered. 

There are estimations that about 12 million unexploded shells still reside in the soil and that this de-mining process will last another 300 to 700 years. The most feared are corroded artillery shells containing chemical warfare agents such as mustard gas. 

French farmers constantly find unexploded ordnance and shrapnel when ploughing their fields located on former battlefields, a process that is called the ‘iron harvest’. The de-mining services in the North of France recover thousands of tons of unexploded ordnance each year.

Follow Marjolijn Dijkman:

Artist, Researcher, Co-founder Enough Room for Space

Marjolijn Dijkman (1978, NL) is an artist and co-founder of Enough Room for Space, living and working in Brussels (BE) & Saint-Mihiel (FR). Dijkman is a research-based and multi-disciplinary artist whose practice focuses on the points where culture intersects with other fields of inquiry. The works themselves are speculative, partly based on facts and research, but often brought into the realm of the imagination. She is part of the artistic research cluster Deep Histories Fragile Memories as a Ph.D. candidate at LUCA – School of Arts Brussels / Leuven University under the supervision of Wendy Morris and Kyveli Mavrokordopoulou (2023-2027).