Scorched Earth                                                                                 2024

Materials: Lead, concrete, 3D scans of Verdun battlefield, Unreal engine, AI controlled characters, water, sensors, glass, metal, reproduced Neolithic axe, clock, calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, calcium sulphate.

Photography by Ira Grünberger

Created for and in cooperation with Highlight Delft Festival and New Media Center in TU Delft

Kind thanks to all the cooperators in this project:

Arno Freeke, Yosua Adisapta Pranata Andoko, Luuk Goossen for creating the Unreal Environment and sensor connection. @ New Media Center

Dirk Hoogeveen for creating a lead axe and helping with concrete casting

Luis Maly for the metal work

Rémi de Matos Machado and Joseph Hupy © ONF-SRA–LIDAR 2013 for the 3D scan of the battlefield

Ahsan Latif for the help with formatting point clouds

Supported by Gemeente Delft and Amarte fund

"Scorched Earth" starts with the story of the Zone Rouge. It is a special area of France, a place scarred by the violence of World War I. This area, once a fierce battleground, now bears the toxic remnants of warfare.

A digital landscape shows a wolf hunting lambs. This scene is set in the 3D scan of the Verdun battlefield, where craters from the century-old explosions are still present. AI controls the animals behaviour in real-time. The lambs have a shelter in the ruined barn where the wolf cannot reach. Yet, they have to come outside for food and water, becoming exposed to the wolfs aggression.

The second element is a glass container with copies of a Neolithic axe found in the area of Verdun. These axes, cast in concrete and lead, connect to the material heritage of war. The axes slowly leak chemicals in the water. A sensor measures the gradual poisoning.The wolfs aggression in the digital environment intensifies according to the reading of the sensor.

Water saturated with limescale chemicals is dripping on the pendulum of the tall clock. As the pendulum gets heavier, the clock slows down, altering time in the digital landscape. "Scorched Earth" weaves a narrative of violence, memory, and matter. Setting conditions for the past, virtual and present to construct a new history.