Enough Redundancy in the System
Video HD. Color, no sound. Two videos: 33’18’’/ 12’29’’ Light box. Duratrans print 60x40 cm.
This project took place during a “test closure” accomplished by the operational team of the Maestland barrier, a storm surge barrier located in the main shipping waterway access to the Port of Rotterdam. This civil engineer work was built in 1997 as part of a program developed by the Dutch government to protect the land from a threat of water rising around its territory. The program was named “Delta project” and began after the catastrophic flooding of 1953.
The design and characteristics of the structure resulted in an ambitious monumental construction that has become itself an iconic sculpture of sorts, as well as an assurance of protection. So far, this civil engineering work has not been set on motion in response to a flood threat.
Since it is a pioneer prototype, its efficacy can only be verified conducting an annual test closure, during which the operational team remains locked up for 24 hours in the control building located next to the construction. Throughout the course of that day, a number of exercises and situations rigorously scheduled are rehearsed repeatedly in order to simulate, act and experiment all the phases of a state of emergency. Everyday actions such as sleeping, showering, and eating are also programmed accordingly.
These unusual circumstances allowed for the elaboration of a film script rigorously following the plan of action designed for the test closure (and an eventual emergency), where the rooms of the control functioned as film sets, and the operational team played as the actors that they, on the very first place, where.
The main computer system controlling the storm surge barrier is called in its Dutch name: Beslis en Ondersdeudend System (decision and support system) and Besturings System (control system). The short name for this designation is “BOS BES”, which in Dutch matches the name given to a wild plant. A drawing of this plant is used as a cover for the instruction manuals used by the operational team working in the barrier. A photograph of this plant is shown in the light box that accompanies the video installation.
The installation reverberates the sense of threat experienced by the West in face of the very “nature” it devised —and the technologies thus engendered in order to control so called nature’s violent impact on the constructs of human culture, as it were. Therefore, the series of routine tests of such apparatus are revealing of an anticipated knowledge about the frailty of Eurocentric grandiloquent imperial dreams vis-à-vis the rebound of the complex phenomena eluding these epistemic frameworks.