Jasper Coppes & Esmee Geerken – Shadow Soil

Participants of Our Living Soil

In their project, Jasper Coppes (1983) and Esmee Geerken (1985) focus on the recent debate surrounding contaminated soils. We hear about PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) almost every week. These man-made non-degradable Teflon particles have penetrated our living environment’s deepest regions. We are advised not to let our children play on building sites because they are full of lead. Animals graze in the river area have dioxins in their bodies because the river brings them in from factories along the water. During the development of ‘new nature’ in a lake along the Maas, ultra-fine rock powder was discharged from Amsterdam ports. This was allowed after it was classified as ‘soil’ by the government, despite harmful advice from ecologists.

There is no getting around it: our landscape is full of pollution, no matter how picturesque or wild it may be. Yet it remains difficult to achieve social awareness of this pollution simply because we cannot see the pollutants. With their video installation ‘SHADOW SOIL’, Coppes and Geerken want to make these invisible contaminants visible and thus contribute to a broader debate on our dealings with ‘ground’ substances. At AMOLF, the institute for complex materials, where Geerken is a guest researcher, they made scans of the discharged stone powder with an electron microscope. In doing so, they found mysterious spheres covered with nanoparticles of rock powder. Do these spheres belong in the ground or not? Coppes and Geerken let them float through the landscape like strange objects. How do the nanoparticles move within the ecosystem of the lake? Two transparent sedimentation tubes show how slowly the stone powder settles compared to the sand that initially lay in the plan along the Maas.

Shadow Soil is an intermediate stage of the more extended film project that Coppes is working on this year, in which the same scans of the toxins will be used. The film will be completed in the autumn of 2022, thus after Our Living Soil. It will be screened in an Amsterdam cinema in cooperation with Zone2Source.



With courtesy of: Rustan Söderling, VRIZA: Lonnie van Brummelen and Hilde de Bruijn, AMOLF Nanolab: Igor, Dylan and Hans, de AMOLF workplace: Iliya and Ricardo, the Self-Organizing Matter group, special thanks to Arno van der Weijden, Jordan Ellingwood.

In the press