Nonhuman Nonsense with Marte Stoorvogel

Mud & Flood: The Return of Nehalennia

In collaboration with Marte Stoorvogel (Department of Estuarine & Delta Systems, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, NIOZ)

Mud & Flood proposes a resurrection of the ancient Zeeland goddess of Nehalennia, reborn as a contemporary goddess of the mud and the flood, who can help us remove the hard boundaries between water and land, based on the science of NIOZ.

The Netherlands is a river delta, with a large parts of the country below sea level. For centuries, land has been reclaimed from the sea by the construction of dikes, levees and pumps–engaged in a constant fight against the forces of nature. There is an old saying: "God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands".

These lowlands are in crisis, as rising sea levels due to the climate emergency push hard barriers to their limits, risking disastrous floods.

A paradigm shift is happening, where scientists and engineers are trying to find ways of building with nature instead of against it. Nonhuman Nonsense see this as an opportunity for a turn to a hydrofeminist relationship to the water, the deltas, the mud, the marshes. A shift where we see the human not engaged in a heroic fight against danger and evil, but as something interdependent on the nonhuman beings that we share ecological habitats with, interconnected through the waters.

A transformation not only of our actions, but of our way of thinking, of making sense of the world–a type of transformation that occurs on the level of the philosophical and the mythological. They therefore propose to resurrect the ancient myth of the forgotten goddess Nehalennia, and create a new cosmogonic narrative based on our scientific understanding of the mud and the flood.

The jury was impressed by the amount and quality of research done for the proposal, as well as the obvious enthusiasm of the scientific partner. The project combines a local context with a mythological figure, both characterized by potential and peril. The jury appreciated the team’s perspective of the sea as a platform of engagement; with water as a body with which to co-exist, instead of to combat. The jury was also admiring of the poetic and perhaps overdue concept of a hydrofeminist goddess the artists put forth, as a means to advance toward a re-enchantment of the world.