Sophie Lea Perry
projects & works
Former Farmland

shows & archive
Edith Russ site for Media Art (Oldenburg)


Sophie Lea Perry (ENG)
Published in catalogue Landscape 2.0 for Edith Russ Site Oldenburg

Former Farmland
Wapke Feenstra’s ‘Former Farmland’ is a site specific artistic project encompassing the diverse practices of art, anthropology, oral history and psycho-geography. Through creating a walking dialogue with farmers across the landscapes where their working lives were once lived out, Feenstra explores the unique features of the land, and their impact on the personhood and prospects of those who inhabit it.

As farming enterprises within the countryside enter a period of transition in response to the expansion of cities and commercial pressures on production, farmers begin to sell their land, changing their practices and livelihood. Feenstra recognizes that the skills and capacities built into individual histories will eventually be rendered worthless without their ritual of use upon the earth.

Over years, landscapes become ingrained with layers of memory, embodying different meanings for those who inhabit them. Moving on foot across former farmland Feenstra and her participants engage in a tactile relationship with the environment. Emotion and reverie emerge as they move past landmarks, surfaces, paths and gradients where integral events of a person’s life were staged; all the more immediately for being within that place. This is a different kind of memory from abstract recollection. Feeling the ground beneath the feet, and meeting the landscape with the eyes mimics being on the land in the past.
Yet the land has changed. The produce grown there may not fetch what it used to. Some farmland is now the site of suburban homes, and here the farmer may not be able feel the soil in his hands or tread the paths he once could. He may be happy with the price he got for his land, channeling his profit into a new way of life, or the land may now yield only an element of loss.

The narration of experiences from the past and present, and expectations for the future bind Feenstra and the former farmland walkers in an act of creative poesis. The artist acts as a catalyst, initiating a process of recollection and vocalization within a context which would not exist without her initial presence.

These recollections are expressed to the audience through a blend of photography and testimony, transmitted to a mobile phone as they stand on the land where the farmers lived and worked. Over the course of the exhibition, tours of the land will see the routes walked by the public as the stories are read aloud. Finally, a market stall selling produce once grown by the former farmers stands as both a memento and manifestation of skills and soil.
The piece becomes an artifact. Wapke Feenstra prevents the specialist knowledge and personal memories of the earth from disappearing into the ether, salvaging and and collecting experiences so that they may remain part of our culture and consciousness. In a world where perception is often based on exterior judgments and visual stereotypes, Feenstra makes visible the simultaneous overlapping layers of meaning that lie within our neighborhoods, out of sight, until now unknown to other citizens.