Podcast #3: Embassy of the North Sea

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In the third episode of our podcast "What is that doing here?" Esther Didden and co-host Khadija al Mourabit spoke with general director Thijs Middeldorp and artistic director Harpo 't Hart of the North Sea Embassy. They also spoke with Laura Burgers, writer and lawyer, working at the University of Amsterdam and member of the Embassy team.

The Embassy of the North Sea was founded in 2018 to give voice to the North Sea and marine life. To do so, the organization has mapped out a route to 2030. First, the sea is listened to, then team members learn to speak to the sea, then negotiate on behalf of the sea and marine life.

On paper, the interests of the North Sea are excellently covered, but reality is more unruly than that

The Embassy of the North Sea is a collective of landscape architects, lawyers, scientists, philosophers, ecologists and artists and is directed by three permanent team members: Thijs Middeldorp, Harpo 't Hart and Christiane Bosman. There are similar examples worldwide. In 2017, the Whanganui River in New Zealand became the first river in the world to be designated a legal entity, after a decades-long struggle by the Maori.

They are concerned with adequate representation of the North Sea

Since then, guardians of the river have been able to sue other parties should they harm the river's well-being. And a Lagoon in the Spanish region of Murcia was granted legal entity status last fall. The Embassy's aim is not to make the North Sea a legal entity per se; that would only be the beginning. They are concerned with adequate representation of the North Sea, and the road toward it is a years-long route of searching, imagining, discovering, concluding and, above all, moving forward.

On paper, the interests of the North Sea are perfectly covered, but the reality is more unruly than that. The Embassy wants us to see that. A tremendous inner drive motivates them. In October 2022, they organized a test case at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Embassy versus the State of the Netherlands. Imagination played a very important role in this process, a film was shown and the judge had to feel in a basin of water. The first phase was concluded with the trial, although listening to the North Sea always continues.

This year's BK lecture (Feb. 10) discusses the topics of the podcast series.

What other topics are covered in this series?

About the podcast

Under the title What's that doing here? BK-information brings a ten-part podcast series about artists and the social issues they deal with. In each episode, philosopher and expert on art in public space Esther Didden and a co-host discuss artists who realize their work within a social context. A context in which very different criteria apply than within the "usual" art discourse. Why do they work within that context and what does it bring to their artistry? What criteria do they have to deal with? And what does it bring to society? What does an artist add when he or she sits at a conference table?

You can also listen to the podcast via:
Apple Podcast
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The next podcast appears on March 17. In it we will talk with Ida van der Lee. Her project Names and Numbers has been ritually commemorating 2,800 Jews deported from part of Amsterdam's Oosterpark neighborhood since 2012. A special memorial site has been set up on the Kastanjeplein where everyone can symbolically bring a Jewish victim home step by step. Participants in the ritual commit to a name, make a personal nameplate and place it at the correct address in the large map of the neighborhood. This Street Monument grows every year.
What is that doing here? is made possible in part by the Mondrian Fund and the Pictoright Fund.

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