The Naked Island. Unveiling the Dichotomy of productive and romantic Territories.
Eastern Flemish Coast, Zeebrugge, Belgium
Land and Sea are of a very different kind. One roots people to their contexts, tying them to its borders, properties and complex systems of relations; the other suggests the possibility for limit-less, unconditional wandering, an overwhelming experience of movement, in both space and time. This ancient tension between the anthropic process of colonizing Land – as the space of exploitation for collective survival – and the unseizable wilderness of the Sea – the realm of individual bravery – is the founding act of western societies. However, this delicate balance – or perpetual confrontation – is now endangered by its own premises. Land, as intrinsically limited, is reaching its maximum capacity: to ensure our survival and growth, the Sea is being identified as the new frontline for the rationalizing logics of territorialization.
The Sea-as-a-territory is a political imposition: it is the tool for the collectivity – or the state – to enforce its hegemony on the sea-scape. Being the Sea a context-less space, dynamic, free from roots and limitations, the logics of colonization and exploitation are projected with even more harshness and strength. The Sea is facing the risk to lose its original role as memory of individual freedom – beyond the state; nevertheless, its exploitation is crucial to the survival of the collectivity and cannot be avoided. Therefore, the notion of the Sea-as-a-territory needs to be mitigated, in order to re-establish a coexistence of opposites, or at least to create awareness of the dualistic relation between the two paradigms of Land and Sea.
The North Sea is urbanizing quickly and violently; such trends appear to be most visible in the Flemish Coast, a region which is deeply struggling to rule on its waters – groundwater and sea – while planning further expansions towards the sea, to protect the coast from storm waves. To meet the needs of the region – and of the collectivity – while mitigating the territorialization processes towards the Sea, the construction of an island is proposed, to be realized in four phases: the formation (I) or the act of imposing order with the definition of a protective wall; the accommodation (II) or the territorial reclamation using natural conditions; the production (III) or the desalination of seawater as act of exploitation; and the colonization (IV) or the human element, through the construction of a system of pools. The constant confrontation of these four elements – the wall, the landscape-in-formation, the desalination plant, the baths – constitutes the possibility for a different interpretation to the Sea-as-a-territory. Their relation – spatial and temporal – might become the trigger for a new consciousness on the mitigated narrative of territorialization, this time ruled by the intrinsic condition of ephemerality of the process itself. The island-as-an-outpost – or the island-machine – is a fortress; and fortresses are always doomed to surrender.
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Belgische stranden (beaches) 1967. Zeebrugge Oostende. Captions from Michael Rogge.