Set-up vegetable farm: Internship at PeerGroup

Set up of small-scale vegetable farm in Donderen – Province of Drenthe

Location: the headquarters of the PeerGroup, Depot Donderen. The vacated ammunition Depot Donderen was built in the time of the Cold War and is working space of the PeerGroup since January 2011. The bunker complex sits in a small forest and has several ammunition buildings of varying sizes with open space in between. The PeerGroup shares the grounds with care farm Peest. The site, with the neighbouring farms is popularly called ‘Donderboerkamp’.

Commissioner: PeerGroup, a theatrical group that specializes in site-specific theatre in the northern provinces of the Netherlands working with themes of, in and for rural communities.

STA73745The PeerGroup is looking for a student who relates to the creative energy of the artist community of PeerGroup while bringing along collaborative skills, agro-ecology knowledge and an open mind for co-creation and learning. The student will be selected on the basis of an intake on the site. The student develops a plan and makes it happen with the support of the PeerGroup. The student can live on-site during the internship.

Applications with a motivation letter:

Request for a master student interested in place, landscape and population

The PeerGrouP is a location-art group that specializes in site-specific theatre and visual arts in the northern provinces of the Netherlands. The PeerGrouP consists of a lively mix of theatre makers and artists who are inspired by the landscape, the location and the local inhabitants. The quality of food, ecology, practical knowledge of the landscape, community spirit and the supply of energy are recurring themes within the PeerGroup’s projects.

The PeerGroup is looking for artists and researchers willing to participate in their P.A.I.R. (Portable Artist in Residence) project. The P.A.I.R.-project promotes artistic social commitment while focusing attention on man and his surroundings. The P.A.I.R. will be visiting three different locations (Veenkoloniën, Donderen, de Wolden) in the north of the Netherlands (Drenthe) to meet local inhabitants and to investigate their surroundings. In the past three years, the PeerGrouP realized three P.A.I.R.-projects every year. In 2012, the P.A.I.R.’s fourth year, the theme is Landscape Population. The landscape and its meanings in relation to the inhabitants and other users will be looked at on different levels.

The Rural Sociology Group and the Peer Group are looking for a  (preferably Dutch speaking)  master student interested in landscape, place, population and art, who is enthusiastic to do his/her internship or thesis in this site-specific project, starting preferably around August. The student-researcher will actually stay in the P.A.I.R. (see photo) for a while in September, in the area of the Wolden (near Meppel) in the  north of the Netherlands, while doing participative research.

Possible research questions are for example:
– What is ‘sense of place’ for the local population in the Wolden?
– Which meanings to they give to the landscape?
– Do inhabitants experience local identities? Do they have story-lines related the landscape?
– How are meanings, identities and sense of place linked to underlying values of people?
– How can meanings identities and sense of place be translated to recommendations for practice and policy? (people’s participation, community cohesion, networks)

Places are constituted by sedimented social structures and cultural practices, endowed with meaning and the constitution of identities, subjectivities and difference. In other words: culture sits in places. ‘Sense of place’ refers to an individual’s connection with a place (location, building, landscape) and to their experience of place, including different senses (sight, hearing, smell, movement, touch, imagination, purpose and anticipation). It is both individual and inter-subjective, closely connected to community as well as to personal memory and self. Sense of place has many components such as place attachment, place identity, place commitment and dependency, belongingness or rootedness or community connectedness and community cohesion. We will focus here on ‘Sense of landscape’. Sense of place is rooted in underlying values, about what people perceive as important for their quality of life. People value places and express agency and take leadership in shaping their own place. On the local level people reflect on and negotiate the conditions of engagement/participation, rooted in underlying values. If people become more aware of their source of passion, values, feelings and sense making, this can enlarge our ‘cultural repertoire’ and lead to a more inspired use of our environment.

The student researcher will carry out ‘on-site’ participatory research from a development and/or historic perspective on the sense of place and values of the local population in the Wolden in Drenthe, in the early autumn of 2012. The student will potentially cooperate with students from other educational institutes (AOC’s).The research will be supervised by the RSO group (Ina Horlings) and the Peer Group (Henry Alles). If you are interested, please send a mail before March to Ina Horlings (

Sus Rinus: November

The pig slaughter process is not a visible part of our daily relation to food anymore. In fact hardly anything of the growing, rearing, processing and slaughtering is visible to us. We can therefore assume to be more civilised than our ancestors while eating meat because it is so easy to close our eyes for the killing and chopping done by others. How horrified would we be if we had to chop the head of the chicken that we intend to cook tonight. How awful and sad it would be to slaughter Rinus after you got to know him intimately.

Increasingly, I come to think the other way around; how awful that I eat an anonymous pig who had an anonymous life together with a few million others and who’s parts are being used in at least 187 products without us knowing. How horrible that this piece of meat sealed in a plastic box with a number of ‘stars’ (see Keuringsdienst van Waarde) does not really link my thoughts to a concrete animal. How outrageous that I shovel my food in without thoughts about that little piglet grubbing around, to the wiggling of a fully grown pig tail while he is playing pig, to the socializing that they do, to the little naps they take, to the way they run to be fed.

Anna, Bom, Rinus and Alie were not only literally digging up the border but they also symbolise the border between a pig and our food (see the wonderful report with lots of pictures of assistant farmer Onno van Eijk). A culture that values their food, is a culture that knows their food. Once you know, fed and cared for Rinus, his meat becomes precious, the slaughtering an intense and difficult ritual and nothing of him will be spoilt or mindlessly consumed (see also the Volkskrant article).

The care and attention which naturally appear when you are involved in all aspects of the food leads to a quality which is recognised elsewhere in the world as a strong food culture. The majority of us, however, are made to value brands instead of food.

Sus Anna; The Peergroup

The story continues with the feeding (see earlier blogs). Feeding Alie, Rinus, Anna and Bom was my task. For the afternoon snack I collected half a bucket of acorns along the street. They looked like vacuum cleaners, quickly hovering up the spread around acorns. For dinner they first ate some bananas, spread around again to make it possible for me to reach the feeding hod with cooked potatoes. The moment the potatoes hit the hod they stormed at it to be the first. The second round of soaked muesli in milk ended in my a narrow escape from being run over.

A proverb goes like ‘one pig won’t get fat’. Alone, they eat gently from your hand. It is the peer group which makes the pigs extremely competitive. How human. Among peers they aggressively have to assert themselves. It reminded me of someone’s story. Growing up in a family with ten kids in the early sixties, the fiancées of bigger sisters were put to the test at the dinner table. Leaving the precious meat for the last bite they always found an empty plate once their fork finally reached out for it.

Alie, is the leader of this small group and therefore the biggest. Anna is the smallest. She is always struggling to get enough. She only eats when she has assured herself that no one is coming after her. When I threw in some spread around bread pieces she just ate one, walking around with it searching a safe place while the others were grabbing the next pieces coming from me.

Sus Bom; digging up the border

The mobile ‘farm’ is built as self contained solar artist-in-residence (see earlier blog) with an upstairs sea container as a living unit and a downstairs working shed, now in use as pig barn. Looking at Coevorden’s industry on the horizon, I spent a stormy night literally located on the border between the Netherlands and Germany. Border markers run through the middle of the field. The pigs freely walk to Germany and back, with no worries about different rules and regulations. 

Their snouts are not ringed – something which still is allowed in Germany. This means they can do what they most like; digging up the soil. Their border walkway looks like a freshly ploughed field with an occasional mud pool where they dug a particularly deep hole. They spend most of the day re-doing their previous digging, if not sleeping, taking a mud bath, eating grass and being fed. 

border marker

Pigs have bad vision but have extremely good ears. Bom keeps an ear on me when they all go for an afternoon nap. Piled on top of each other they lightly sleep. If one moves it takes a while with small talk oink’s before they sleep again. I try to be silent but a click of the camera is enough for Bom’s ear to raise. It stays alertly horizontal and a subsequent oink wakes up all for a new digging round.

Sus domestica Alie; Bunte Bentheimers

I am living with Alie, Rinus, Anna and Bom today. I am assistant-farmer for 24 hours. This means I have the responsibility for the care and well-being of four ‘Bunte Bentheimer’ pigs. This breed is known to be very social but also a bit slower in growth and with a bit fattier meat. Such meat is not in fashion at the moment. The breed almost disappeared. 

Alie, Rinus, Anna and Bom are part of the art project “The year of the pig” of Elles Kiers and Sjef Meijman which connects visual and culinary art with animal husbandry (see also tomorrow’s Volkskrant). The industrial production of meat – and food in general – is more and more seen problematic. Pig production takes place behind closed doors and hygienic corridors. The confined and artificial circumstances alters their natural behaviour. Today’s livestock industry is a complex story with many different points of view. To make rearing pigs visible, such as is done here, is a guarantee for debate. 


 Nearby farmers came to visit. Afraid of contamination they were extremely careful. And angry. For the difference in what they have to comply with and take into account in contrast to the simple way in which the pigs are held here. Vegetarians have been angry too. For the fact that these pigs are reared to be eaten. Rinus – the gentle red-haired male – is most likely the first candidate being the larger of the two men.

How art and rural life meet

Drying fish in Sarah's work

At best sceptical were most of the islanders of Mandø about the Any Questions? art project on their island. Not many were fond of modern art. Their highlight of the year is the Mandøfest which brings back many related to Mandø in july for a celebration of tradition and island culture in big family gatherings. The Vadehavsfestival is different and the ‘elite’ art is distant this culture. However, the aim of the festival was to instill inhabitants of the wadden region with new wonder about their own environment.

How to prevent that the project on Mandø would completely bypass the community because of separated mental worlds? Inspired by theories on action research – in particular appreciative inquiry – and on social interaction (see Collins 2004. still the best explanation) we formulated a social process to embed ourselves in the place. In three steps (oct/june/sept) we worked at building a positive chain of interaction with the islanders which accumulated – also to my surprise – in openness to and interaction with the artists and the art works.

Tea and cookies

The shopkeeper commented how moved she was by the threedimensional house drawing on top of the dune and that it was this moment rather than big audiences which was – maybe-  important too. An unannounced barn concert attracted islanders who normally do not go anywhere we were told. People passed by our café with a bottle of wine or wiskey or came to have ‘tea and cookies’ in and near the house of Sarah and holding up her window. Our bonfire in the withdrawing sea at the landart site of Liesbeth attracted ‘a record of people’ according to the man who fanatically helped building it with lots of diesel (however many stayed at the dunes because the way through the grass was too dark unfortunately).

Peter With's Café

We became part of this community for a week, using the closed café, sleeping in people’s summerhouses, struggling with internet as they do, enjoying the wadden nature and the endless horizon. The embedding of the project and the dialogue in which it resulted inspired us too, as can be read on the waddenart weblog. Thanks, people of Mandø for opening up to us.

concert with barn materials

Modern art in a rural setting. The art week on Mando, DK

Dario makes music with tent poles of Sarah inside her threedimensional drawing

The sunny weather, a great mix of people, the lovely atmospheric cafe and the beautiful wadden nature have contributed to a kick start of the Any Questions art project on the Danish wadden island Mando. We officially started yesterday with a reception with the inhabitants and for the week to follow there will be daily performances, concerts and ongoing art works made by the individual artists as well as in collaboration with each other. Two writers will observe and reflect on how modern art is meeting people on this island, see previous blog

You can follow us at

The waddenart group blog will be daily updated by the organisers, the artists and the writers with stories and pictures about the art works, the island and the people.

Art and social interaction on Mando; Call for Researchers

The Wadden Sea coast of Denmark from Tønder to Blaavand is a beautiful natural and rural area with three wadden islands Romø, Mandø and Fanø. For the third time, the biannual Wadden Sea Festival from 4 to 12 september draws attention to this area with various forms of Contemporary Art at many different places. One of the art projects is organised by Foundation Waddenart on the island Mandø. This is a special island, very small and only accessible at low tide through a gravel road at the sea bottom.

The project Any Questions on Mandø is an interdisciplinary project, an experiment to integrate art and research in one project and at the same time embed the project in a local place. Foundation WaddenArt started in collaboration with SDU to explore the question of quality of life for the inhabitants at Mandø in October 2009. The findings fed into the Call for Artists to attract Contemporary Art in Installation art, Performance art and Landart. Five different artist(groups) have been selected to work daily to create works of art during the festival in september. 

There is also space for three researchers to be involved in the project in september. We ask researchers to reflect from a research background in the social sciences or art & humanities to what they observe during the festival. We ask you to observe and write a short story based on personal experience and empirical observation which can be performed during the closing event on Mandø. Are you interested questions such as; How does contemporary art relate to the cultural and social life of the community on Mando? How do the people on Mando relate to a festival that is not theirs? How is Mando expressed? What symbols the links between past, present and future? What are defining factors in change and stability? Then please look at this link for the full Call text and the way to submit your interest to Foundation Waddenart.