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Art-griculture

Words:

Edd Norval

Photos:

Daan Roosegaard
March 17, 2021

Daan Roosegaard’s breathtaking light installations on farming land highlight one of the most crucial, yet overlooked aspects of our society - the agricultural business. At the junction of science, technology and art, the GROW project functions uniquely for each; as growth-aid, agricultural optimisation and social commentary.

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These vast fields of light - as large as 20,000 square meters - are the result of a two-year collaboration with scientists to develop a project that is as functional as it is aesthetic. Collaborating with Wageningan University & Research, Roosegaard began to understand the photobiological qualities of plants and wondered if he could produce something to enhance the growth process.


Utilising the properties of red and blue light and UV on plants, which can help strengthen their metabolism and increase resistance to disease respectively, the artist beams LED lights onto the plants in such a sequence as to promote even growth. 


How this manifests is one giant light show, capturing the various forms of the leafy vegetation - which, in the case of GROW, the project was used on leeks. Naturally being used in the dark, when natural light begins to subside and the cold takes hold, a dazzling motion of light washes over the fields, working its way across the organic surfaces like soft ripples in the sea. The fields come alive, reminding us of the life present in these plants.

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One thematic continuity of Roosegaard’s art, prevalent in his GROW project, is the way that people/life and technology can be connected. On his website, it reads, “We create dreamscapes for the liveability of our future landscapes. Clean air, clean water, clean energy, and clean space are our new values. Light is our language,” before continuing about his approach to change through art:


People won't change because of facts or numbers. But if we can trigger the imagination of a new world, that's the way to activate people. I don't believe in utopia, but in protopia; step by step upgrading the world around us. Art is our activator.


Nature is not something to be controlled, but something that we can work with in clean and environmentally friendly ways. It’s about harnessing potential, rather than bending it to our will. Roosegaard’s approach to art is that of a visionary scientist - one whose focus on light has seen him grapple with issues as broad as pedestrian safety in his Van Gogh Path and even tackling the coronavirus in public places with URBAN SUN - where a specific light is able to kill 99.9% of the virus, alongside providing the psychological stimulation we feel from seeing the sun’s rays.

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A ‘maker of social designs’ more than an artist, this Dutchman is slowly changing the way we view the place of art in the public, alongside our role as part of one giant global ecosystem. The Netherlands is geographically unique. It’s flat and almost one-third of the country is submerged below global sea-level. Resultantly, there are opportunities and limitations aplenty. 


Consistently forward-thinking in their approaches to art, science and technology, the people of the Netherlands can consider Roosegaard to be at the very front, pioneering a new, safer and cleaner tomorrow.

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