Wilhelmina Minis-van de Geijn Lab
The Wilhelmina Minis-van de Geijn Lab is Van Eyck's Lab for nature research. It is an adaptive centre of expertise for developments in the landscape, ecology and sustainability. It is an invitation for commissions and ideas, a place for reflection and play for landscape architects, a proposal to see nature as a way of thinking, a place for trans-disciplinary dialogue, and as a result of all of that, functions as a knowledge hub for anyone interested in looking at nature in new ways.
The Lab enables artists to explore in depth, through their work, their relation to nature. It gives them an opportunity to do active research (literally, to get their hands dirty) and to consider the subject of nature in relation to ecological and landscape development issues. It’s a place to build bridges – bridges between art and other disciplines (from agriculture to biology) and bridges between humankind and nature. The Lab is a tool to help us reveal our illusion of separation.
INITIAL THOUGHTS WILHELMINA MINIS-VAN DE GEIJN LAB
‘To the orthodox seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century imagination, natural scenery was appreciated largely for the extent to which it spoke of agricultural fecundity. Meadows, orchards, grazing fields, the rich sillion of crop lands - these were the ideal components of a landscape. Tamed landscapes, in other words, were attractive: landscapes which had a human order imposed upon them by the plough, the hedgerow and the ditch.’
- Robert McFarlane in Mountains of the Mind
What we classify as nature is often man-made landscape. Very few areas in Europe still represent true wilderness and what McFarlane states about the 17th and 18th century still very much applies today; a beautiful landscape is a landscape tamed by human activity. And we don’t only enjoy the beauty; the land is key to all our further enjoyments made possible by resources extracted from the ground. We became addicted to these fossil fuels and raw materials to such an extent that it resulted in humankind becoming a climatic and some state, geological force. The proposed new geological epoch - which marks the significant impact of humans on earth - is called the Anthropocene.
This impact comes with a responsibility towards ourselves, nature and other species. We are facing a wide range of serious environmental challenges; from mass extinction of species, loss of biodiversity, to climate change. However, we shouldn’t see these crises as just a disaster, it is also a great opportunity to demand and help build new systems that serve people and planet in a more equal and balanced way than neo-liberalism does.
A new system requires a new mentality; we need to re-think our relationship to the natural world. Is nature solely a resource for us to be enjoyed? Or are we nature? We are stuck in the idea that the world revolves around the human. This is why we didn’t want to believe Galileo Galilei: we humans want to be at the epicentre and there is little awareness of potential non-human narratives. The Wilhelmina Minis-van de Geijn Lab proposes to let go of the superiority of our own approach and allow for a more holistic view of nature as well as society.