Bik Van der Pol. Eminent Domain

20 Jun 2015 – 7 Sep 2015

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For their commissioned project at The Power Plant, Bik Van der Pol continues their investigation on the ways that human activity in the globalized age has a direct effect on ecological systems.


Liesbeth Bik and Jos van der Pol have worked collectively since 1995. The production and circulation of knowledge is an important tool in their practice, which is predominantly context-specific and largely driven by examining the potential and possibilities of art and research. Their projects often take the form of site-specific installations, participatory environments and discursive activities in order to make visible the largely unnoticed conditions or realities of a globalized economy and its effect on urban and natural spaces. 

For instance, in 2010 the duo first exhibited Are you really sure a floor can’t also be a ceiling; an architectural structure loosely based on Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth house. Largely considered one of the most radically minimalist homes ever designed, the Farnsworth house aimed to intertwine the realms of indoor and outdoor space. The artists’ model functioned as a temporary home for butterflies, recognized as an indicator species for climate change as they are particularly sensitive to environmental degradation. 

For their commissioned project at The Power Plant, Bik Van der Pol continues their investigation on the ways that human activity in the globalized age has a direct effect on ecological systems. Their title references the concept of eminent domain coined by author Hugo Grotius in 1625. Eminent domain is understood as the power that the State may exercise over land within its territory, whereby the government or one of its agencies has the right to expropriate private property for public use through payment or compensation. By foregrounding this concept, Bik Van der Pol’s project alludes to the increasing privatization of previously public goods including territory, property and the public domain at large. 

Through installation and sound, they have conceived of an environment in the gallery that makes it possible to grasp the overwhelming data related to ecology and species extinction figures. Soundscape Ecologist Dr. Bernie Krause contributes to the environment through the installation of collective and structured sounds produced in healthy habitats in Borneo, Costa Rica, Sumatra and Zimbabwe from the 1990s. Since their original recordings, each habitat has changed drastically as a direct result of human intervention and natural disasters. Krause’s soundscapes coupled with figures affected by ecological changes results in a project that moves data from abstraction to experience. 

By physically situating and mirroring the viewer amidst these statistics, they shift from spectator to engaged participant. As a result, Bik Van der Pol’s research offers an opportunity for the gallery to become a site for discursive activities that examines both the re-articulation of public and private property and the threat of such activities on natural environments. 

Through their practice, Bik Van der Pol aim to articulate and understand how art can produce a public sphere, and to create space for speculation and imagination. This includes forms of mediation through which publicness is not only defined but also created. Their working method is based on co-operation and research inquiries surrounding the activation of situations serving the creation of platforms for various kinds of communicative activities. Recent solo shows and projects include Ternitz, Austria (2014); 31st Bienal de São Paulo (2014); Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2014); CAFAM Biennial, Beijing (2014); the Biennale of Mercosul, Porto Alegre (2013); Hoog Catherijne, Utrecht (2013); Between A Rock and A Hard Place in collaboration with Musagetes, Sudbury, ON (2011); The ENEL Award; MACRO, Rome (2010); and The Western Front, Vancouver (2010). Recent curatorial projects include Kunstfort Asperen, Acqouy (2011); and Plug In, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2009). They are currently the course directors of the School of Missing Studies at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam.

Audio field recordings by Dr. Bernie Krause, Wild Sanctuary, Glen Ellen, California. © 2015 Wild Sanctuary. All Rights Reserved. 


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