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Exploded View
Art and Research on Layered Landscapes in Transition


Motivation behind Exploded View

Europe has a long tradition of describing and protecting parks, gardens and landed estates as heritage. Gardens and parks have been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List since the early years of the list in the 1970s. In 1992 UNESCO redefined the theme of cultural landscapes. Gardens and parks were then listed as ‘designed landscapes’. Three new categories were introduced: archaeological landscapes, ‘living’ or ‘continuing’ cultural landscapes (mainly agrarian or industrial landscapes) and ‘associative landscapes’ (mainly landscapes that are the result of natural forces, but that are also part of the human domain through their connections with religion or art). Nowadays, all categories are represented on the World Heritage List.

Exploded View is an exchange between two urban parks, the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica in Rome (organized by Krien Clevis, curator of the Appian Park) and the Amstelpark in Amsterdam (organized by Alice Smits, curator and director of Zone2Source). Exploded View has joined forces with the Interfaculty Research Institute CLUE+ (Cultural Landscapes and Urban Environment) at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, which has been founded in 2008 with the explicit aim to study cultural landscapes as heritage, focusing on the past and present of cultural landscapes in relation to urban transformations.

The central aim of Exploded View is to explore these two parks in Rome and Amsterdam by inviting an international group of artists, designers, academics and students each with accumulated knowledge and extensive experience in the field of research on cultural landscapes to research the parks in unexpected ways and to propose plans for future uses from the perspective of their heritage. Exploded View brings together artists, designers, landscape architects, academics, city planners, ecologists, curators, researchers, local experts and park users, in order to exchange and develop new perspectives on these two parks within current urban transformations.


Heritage Landscapes, urban planning and design

Central to Exploded View is the concept of heritage in relation to landscape and art. At the heart of the project are the fundamental changes that have taken place during the last decades questioning the perception of what constitutes heritage. Firstly, in spatial terms the concept has widened significantly. No longer is heritage related to specific iconic sites and objects in relative isolation. Instead, the emphasis in defining heritage is shifting from the localised (monuments/sites) to whole landscapes and urban environments, and from the physical to the immaterial world of memories and traditions.

Secondly, while for a long time heritage has been defined from an essentialist perspective, reflecting the past of a given community as an objective historical reality, nowadays the past is rather seen as a mirror of contemporary society. Monuments, museums and the landscapes of which they are part, are not neutral transmitters of the past, but lieux de mémoire, or places and modes through which communities create and safeguard their collective memories. The strength of these more recent, constructivist approaches lies in promoting critical thinking on how heritage landscapes have been constructed and used throughout time.

The project Exploded View operates in this latter paradigm. It unites academics and artists in a common challenge to reveal the multiple layeredness of the Appian Park and the Amstelpark as heritage landscapes, to document and study how these landscapes have been constructed both mentally and physically and how they receive new functions and change meanings during this process. The challenge in doing artistic and scientific research in these specific areas is to write these biographies, thus revealing the multiple meanings of the landscapes and making them visible and experiential by unpeeling its layers, as occurs in an “exploded view”.


The methodology of landscape interpretation that we apply in Exploded View is based on an integration of approaches from earlier work done by CLUE+ (e.g. Zandstad- and Testaccio-projects) and curator Krien Clevis in the project ‘Transition Zone’ in and around the ENCI-area in Maastricht, and the practice of transdisciplinary artistic research Zone2Source is doing in the Amstelpark. This shared methodology led to the collaboration of these parties within Exploded View. It is based on a practice in which different stakeholders – ranging from archaeologists to ecologists and heritage experts, practitioners and local residents – all provide their own visions and aims that are involved in the creation of their own notion of place. In Exploded View, these visions and aims can exist side by side, telling their own story. These perspectives are shared with the artists and designers, who will take this multiplicity of views as the starting point for their research, and will use artistic research methods in combination with the ethnographic approach of participative observation. This means that the artists and designers are simultaneously observing and participating, using several ethnographic methods like writing, drawing, collecting/ordering, documenting, interviewing, photographing, filming, walking, etc. Jointly, artists, designers and stakeholders analyse the complexity of the multi-layered heritage landscapes in a collaborative, co-creative laboratory context. This fieldwork will result in project proposals to be developed later in the year through which the research will be communicated to wider audiences.

With the collaboration between CLUE+ and Zone2Source, the project links up two Amsterdam based institutions, an academic and artistic one, in a unique effort to integrate science and art. We believe that the exchange of knowledge creates new and more transverse connections and collaborations leading to new approaches and expanded knowledge. The collaborative work of a wide group of artists and designers, academics and other experts as well as locals, will establish an immensely interesting platform for knowledge production and future visions. 


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