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17 September 2024 

Claiming land for/through art

Critical Reflections, event in cooperation with UvA, University of Amsterdam

Initial framework for talking about the ‘colonial dimension’ of Dutch land art.
Date: September 17, 2024
Time: 17.00 - 19.00 hrs, time still subject to change
Location: University of Amsterdam
Language: English
Speakers: Emily Eliza Scott, Hanneke Stuit, Anja Novak

This event is a cooperation between Land Art Lives and the University of Amsterdam (UvA)

Link to participate will follow

A colonial attitude

The most iconic pieces of American land art are found in the vast landscapes of the American West. These regions have a painful and unresolved history of settler colonialism, in which Indigenous peoples were in many cases systematically dispossessed of their ancestral lands and way of life. The increased attention to the colonial past also means that land art is seen in a different light. Many ‘pioneers’ of land art treated the land as a tabula rasa, or blank slate, onto which they sought to leave their authorial marks (see: Emily Eliza Scott, ‘Decentering Land Art from the Borderlands’, ‘X Marks the Land’, ‘The Desert in Fine Grain’ in The Invention of the American Desert, eds. Lyle Massey and James Nisbet). To what extent did, and do, such artistic practices reflect a colonial attitude towards the land and its original human and more-than-human inhabitants? And what are the similarities and differences between America and the Netherlands in this respect?

Land reclamation

In contrast to that in North America, land art in the Netherlands is often located in man-made polder landscapes. As a result, there is a clear affinity between land art and the Dutch tradition of conceiving land as something that you can construct and mold to meet your needs (see: Anja Novak, ‘Precarious ground: An experiential approach to Land art in Flevoland’). Moreover, Dutch histories of land reclamation are closely linked to colonial history. Dutch engineers created polders in Suriname and Indonesia to optimize the efficiency of plantations and land drive, and colonial labor structures were also applied in the Netherlands, for example at the agricultural domestic Colonies of Benevolence in Frederiksoord-Wilhelminaoord, Veenhuizen and Wortel (Belgium) (see: Hanneke Stuit, ‘Pastoral entrapment and the idyllic-carceral continuum’; Hanneke Stuit and Neeltje ten Westenend, ‘Plot, Tree and Lane: Plotting Counter Visuality in Growing Archive of Reconstruction’). What view of this colonial history emerges when we look through the lens of land art?

Through the lens of land art

During this evening, set up in collaboration with the University of Amsterdam, we attempt to explore the 'colonial dimensions' of land art in the Netherlands. We feel that there is a story hidden here that connects the land-related issues mentioned above and reveals connections between land use and land art in Flevoland and elsewhere that have hardly been discussed.


We invited Emily Eliza Scott – assistant professor of History of Art and Architecture and Environmental Studies at the University of Oregon and co-author of Critical Landscapes: Art, Space, Politics (2015)– to speak about the colonial associations of American land art. In addition, Hanneke Stuit – associate professor of Literary and Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam and affiliated with the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA) – will speak about the ways in which colonialism has been 'brought home' in the Netherlands. Anja Novak – assistant professor of contemporary art at the University of Amsterdam and affiliated with the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture (AHM) – will moderate a panel discussion in which we try to bring these topics together.