Opening interview with Benedikt Terwiel

EMAP Residency 2024

This April, IMPAKT will be joined by EMAP resident artist Benedikt Terwiel. He will be working on his new project LAND BEFORE LAST, which explores the impact of industrialisation and human intervention on our planet. In this opening interview, he tells us a bit more about the work and what inspired him.

Before we dive deeper into the work, could you tell us what you envision the final work to look like?

My work LAND BEFORE LAST will be a black-and-white film installation, recorded in a digital terrain model that has been created from land survey data. It will portray a region of the western Netherlands from which all buildings and facilities apart from their imprint on the topography have been removed. The film will explore this wide deserted field of nameless traces, whose anonymity and timelessness make it appear as ruins of a dystopian future or an archaeological site from a long distant past.

Which parts of LAND BEFORE LAST will you be working on during your residency at IMPAKT?

I will mostly research and visit the locations that the film is focusing on. As the film is shot in an entirely digital environment, I need to see what you experience when visiting the actual sites. It will certainly influence decisions made in the further development of the film but also in its potential understanding and narrative.

LAND BEFORE LAST explores the impact of industrialisation and human intervention. What interests you about these topics?

When I did several long distance walks in Europe between 2006 and 2012 I first experienced the expansion of our human habitat. Passing through our everyday landscapes of cities, industries, rivers, and high-ways, through centers and peripheries, gives you an idea of the size and extension of the man-made environment and puts it in relation to the scale of your own body and its physical limits. The dimension in which human civilisation is transforming the planet is shocking.

The erasure of all buildings in the human environment and of all life seems above all to be an erasure of its history. It leaves behind a bare and mute terrain, an anthropocene relic that needs a poetic fabric and/or a soundscape as its new narrative.

For this work, you will be collaborating with musician and artist ANOHNI. What will be her input in this project, and how did this collaboration come to be?

ANOHNI, whom I have known since her exhibition at the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in 2016, will develop this part of the film with me together. Her contribution will help to break through the stasis that dominates the images and makes them conceptually otherwise too impenetrable.

In the announcement of this residency, the work was connected to the Dutch infrastructure and extremely designed urban landscape. What makes this landscape so fascinating to you?

The Netherlands have a long tradition of land development and terraforming as well as a legacy of works that relate to it. I have visited some of the sites like the Robert Morris Observatory, Robert Smithson’s Broken Circle/Spiral Hill and Marinus Boezem’s Groene Kathedraal. The economic connection between Rotterdam and the Ruhr Area, which comprises one of the largest industrial regions, as well as the fact that the Netherlands ranks as one of the most globalised countries in the world makes it conceptually interesting for my purpose of portraying these traces of the Anthropocene on the planet.

One of your previous works, Another Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (Rollo) (2020), was exhibited in our IMPAKT Festival 2022 exhibition. Is there a connection between this work and LAND BEFORE LAST?

Maybe not a direct connection, but Another Distinguished Member of the Humane Society (Rollo) is a digital fossil, shaped after an actual fossil of the Berlin Museum of Natural History. It is conceptualized as a potential character that may have inhabited these digital landscapes or similar ones. He and his three sculptural siblings – Uncas, Hektor and Boncoeur – are related to the Newfoundlander dogs that inhabit the so-called “Geschichtslandschaften” of Theodor Fontane´s novels, and are reminiscent symbols of a romantic connection between civilisation and nature.

There’s something ominous and maybe even apocalyptic about the title ‘LAND BEFORE LAST’. Can you tell us more about the meaning of the title?

The title suggests a timeline in the landscape in an almost biographical sense – an age before a closing future. It resonates with a subtle form of the disappearance of memories.


About EMAP
The European Media Art Platform (EMAP), co-funded by Creative Europe since 2018, is a consortium of 15 leading European media art organisations specialised in Digital and Media Art, Bio Art and Robotic Art. Through an open call, EMAP members offer practitioners two-month residencies to support emerging media artists in the production of new work. Previous EMAP artists at IMPAKT are:

Anna Ridler (2018), Joana Moll (2019), Clusterduck (2020), Liliana Zeic (2021), artist duo Sasha Litvintseva & Beny Wagner (2022) and Dasha Ilina (2023).


Residencies & projects archive

Website by HOAX Amsterdam