Ambassador Britta Peters

Britta Peters is an expert when it comes to art in the public space. Peters is artistic director of Urbane Künste Ruhr and curator of the leading outdoor exhibition Skulptur Projekte Münster 2017. She is, amongst other things, involved with the Emscherkunstweg, a route of permanent artworks along the river Emscher. With her knowledge and experience, she is the appropriate ambassador for Deltawerk//. Photo by Caroline Seidel

Britta Peters is ambassador for Deltawerk//, the former test location located in the Waterloopbos that has now been transformed into a monumental work of art by RAAAF and Atelier de Lyon. Read about her experience of this artwork.

Technological monuments

"Together with my colleague Marijke Lukowicz, I work on on the Emscherkunstweg, a route of permanent artworks along the Emscher River in the Ruhr area. Just as in the Waterloopbos, it holds strong traces of the industrial past, for example huge technical buildings such as wastewater treatment plants that have now fallen into disuse. The Emscher area has traditionally been related to mining and steel production, but the situation has changed so that now it is strewn with these remains.

They are some sort of hybrids of technological monuments and almost abstract 'sketches'. By this I mean that if you don't know much about their background, you can still appreciate these remains as really great buildings. And if you know more, it becomes even more interesting. That is why we are looking for ways to explain the technological and sociological context of the buildings and the surrounding landscape, through artistic means.

First impression

Marijke and I drove especially to the Netherlands to see how RAAAF and Atelier de Lyon have given new life to a huge concrete channel that was once used to generate huge waves. It was interesting to us to visit it on site, because it is a permanent artwork that is connected to the reuse and reshape of this industrial area that is the Waterloopbos.

My first impression was that Deltawerk// was a colossal wall, and I found it hugely ... monumental. As we walked closer to this wall, we suddenly saw that there was an entrance to the space. And we found the artwork to be much more subtle than this huge concrete wall would suggest.

We noticed all kinds of small details that reveal how the artists concentrated on the dynamics between intersections, lines, light and the whole architectural setup of the space. In the delta flume, for example, there were small windows through which people could see whether the wave machine was functioning properly; the light that is now allowed to enter through the windows is beautifully reflected in the water.

Re-enactment of history

The delta flume that RAAAF and Atelier de Lyon have worked on is strongly linked to the security of the natural borders of the Netherlands, the efforts to ward off possible threats coming from the waterside. It is located in a forest filled with scale models of waterworks. It is here that the Waterloopkundig Laboratorium used to test hydraulic projects such as the Delta Works, yet the models have been left unused for years now.

By turning the delta flume into this monumental, architectural sculpture, RAAAF and Atelier de Lyon have undertaken a ‘restaging’ of the history of the space. The places where they made cuts in the walls of the flume tend to raise questions. If they hadn't modified the delta flume, you would simply accept that these are the historical remains of a machine that used to make waves. But by sawing and altering the shape of the walls - not entirely but just enough - they draw your attention to the technology and history of the flume. Using artistic means, they bring to the fore the artificiality of the idea to invent a wave machine to test the strength of the coastal borders.

Artists as initiators

I understood that it was RAAAF and Atelier de Lyon’s own initiative to work with the delta flume. I find it interesting that they themselves determine in which places and on which themes they work, since art in the public space usually is more applied in nature. To decide for themselves which situations they want to engage with is true self-empowerment - and something I really appreciate.”