Proposal by: Marjolein Boter en Brood

Future skin of the city

Project proposal

As a visual artist I would like to experiment with phenomena under water and on the water surface. What is going to happen when I hang different materials in the water? What grows on there? What leaves its traces? Watching how nature makes an oeuvre.

With the rise of the sea level, the city of Amsterdam may disappear under water in the future. What will the surface of bridges and buildings like the palace on Dam square look like after a few years? Barnacles, which are related to lobsters, crabs and shrimps (crustacea), make their own shield. Will they cover the city in the future? Can everything that lives under water contribute to absorb CO2?

In the future we may need this underwater world more than we realise now.


Description of the project

In the past I did a number of tests in the clear sea water around the isles of Vlieland, Mull and Schouwen Duiveland and more recently, at Mediamatic, in the brackish water of the Amsterdam canals. I want to continue this research along the Mediamatic quay on the Oosterdok. What kind of ‘drawing’ will the underwater fauna and flora leave on, for example, pieces of metal? What will stay behind? What will it look like? Non-humans as the makers.

My idea is to do a number of experiments in the water of the Oosterdok along the quay near Mediamatic with the phenomena of this site. I would like to try out  different materials like wood, metals, fibers, glass, stone and wax. What will grow on these different surfaces? What kind of traces will the brackish water barnacles, shrimps, mussels, weeds, amphipods, bryozoans and many species of snails leave on these materials? What will happen under water with light sensitive plates? What will the pattern of scratches look like, made by floating objects – as a result of the waves – on a waxed zinc plate. With acid I will etch these drawings and print them. I want to see if I can organise an exhibition to the work hanging under water from the quay with swimming visitors.

For quite some time already I make series of work in which the landscape is the focus point, in which the landscape forms the work. My recent research into the most direct interaction between the phenomena of a site leads to an underwater oeuvre. I leave it to the wind, the waves and the underwater life to create their own drawings/work and so they write their own cartography.

Climate change with the rise of the sea level as a result, will heavily affect the the Netherlands and especially the western part of the country. This part of the country lies way below sea level. Will the low lands disappear under water in the future? According to philosopher Bruno Latour, the world is one eco system, a delicate balance of which everything and everybody is a part. You can only think about this system from the awareness of interconnectedness. We are part of the ecology, nature is not something outside ourselves.

In order to gather as much information as possible about an area – in recent projects: an island, a valley in Siberia or a park in Amsterdam-  I ask specialists from different disciplines to join me. During projects in the past I worked together with the ecologists Joop Schaminee and Bas Pedroli, aquatic ecologist Gertie Arts (all from Wageningen University), hydroloog Ies de Vries of Deltares and marine biologist Marnix van Straalen.

For this specific project I would like to ask the assistance of:

  • The Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). One of their projects is research after the ability of the underwater life to absorb CO2. The institute is researching how our waters can contribute to the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere. My experiments could possibly be in line with their research into an increase of CO2 storage or be a visualisation of that research.
  • Landscape architect Thijs de Zeeuw because at the moment he studies the possibilities of the co-existence of different species and, in the underwater landscape of the Oosterdok, the live of the non-human. He does this as artist in residence of the architecture centre of Amsterdam Arcam (Onderzoek AiR 2021-2022). With him I could organise swimming exhibition visits to my Floating and submerged art’.
  • Sytse Folkertsma, head of the print facilities of the Gerrit Rietveld, because of his knowledge of graphic techniques, like etching and working with light sensitive plates. Experiments with these techniques is his focus.
  • Marine microbial ecologist Fleur van Duyl of the Nioz (Netherlands institute for Sea Research) in order to analyse exactly what is growing on the materials under water.
  • Landscape architect Linde Keip because of her thesis Intentions for the unintentional.


How does your project fit in with the current interests of Mediamatic?

Just like me, as an artist, Mediamatic is interested in experimenting with (new) life materials. Like Mediamatic I often work with scientists such as soil experts, aquatic biologists, landscape architects and marine biologists. Like Mediamatic I think about possibilities in the future. May be with Mediamatic we could organise some lectures to further discover and learn how art, design and science merge, for instance about the possibilities of designing with living organisms. Could we use some of the brackish water weeds in the brewery?

How long do you need for the project? 

At least six months.

Names and links to the website of everyone involved in the project. 


This proposal is part of the 'Penny for your Thoughts' project 2021.