The two characters Tree and Soil together form the word Mori, Japanese for forest. In Shinto culture trees symbolize renewal, purification and refreshment through their ability to store water.
The residue of mankind
With Tree and Soil we underline the intrinsic beauty and value of nature. Connecting past and present, we examine the relationship people have with their natural surroundings. Following the transformation of the deserted landscapes around Fukushima, we often felt like archaeologists of the future, trying to understand what happened in a distant past when a mysterious force resulted in the evacuation of towns, villages, and forests, leaving only a residue of human presence.
In this publication we combine our landscape photography with material from naturalist and explorer von Philipp Franz Siebold’s collection held in the Netherlands by Naturalis Biodiversity Center. Stationed on the Dutch trading post at Dejima in the early 19th century, he had the opportunity to travel throughout the country and to take home not only a vast quantities of artefacts, plant and animal specimen but also a treasure trove of woodblock prints made by the Japanese artist Kawahara Keiga. Siebold's collections illustrate how Japanese culture is deeply rooted in and inspired by nature.
In addition we used images of scanned leaves, fruits, and branches from plants collected by Siebold which are still growing and flourishing in the Leiden Hortus Botanicus.
Text and photography: Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth
Curator: Iris Sikking
Essay: Erik de Jong, Professor of Culture, Landscape and Nature (University of Amsterdam)
Graphic design: Kummer & Hermann
Printed by: Rob Stolk Amsterdam on Olin Natural White, hard bound, 12 foldout pages
Publication: Spring 2020
Publisher: Hartmann Books
We were inspired by the Japanese concept of landscape Fukei which combines the characters for wind and shadow, two elements subject to change in a continuous play of light and dark. Panoramic pictures and landscapes show the evacuated villages, fields, agricultural grounds and the surrounding nature with forests and mountains. Audio recordings make up a rich and almost tangible soundscape with birds singing in the fields and trees, water running downhill in little streams and water drops rolling in slow motion from the leaves, crickets awaking and other insects buzzing.
From static fixed positions, lengthy video shots reflect the process of slow change with miniscule changes in the landscapes, like water drops, snowflakes and the wind in the branches and leaves.
Tree and Soil
Antoinette de Jong and Robert Knoth
Two-channel audio-visual installation, 20.30 min and prints
Curator: Iris Sikking
Video edit: Peter Claassen and Thomas Roebers
Upcoming exhibitions Tree and Soil in 2021: Photomuseum The Hague, Kunsthaus Wien/Museum Hundertwasser in Vienna and Museum Kulturspeicher in Wurzburg.