Jason van Bruggen
Lowland: Beside the Rising Tide
Canadian photographer and filmmaker Jason van Bruggen’s Lowland looks at the Dutch historical and cultural response to rising sea levels, at a moment when nations across the world are imagining complex hydro-engineering responses to rising water for the first time.
The artist’s recent journeys to his ancestral homeland are informed by an ongoing examination of climate change—whose noticeable effects have now shifted from primarily polar regions to landscapes in the mid-latitudes—and by his parents’ experiences as members of the generation that was “squeezed out” of the Netherlands. Encroaching seas and the ensuing lack of opportunity and space at the time of the 1953 Zeeland flood and after WWII forced many to emigrate.
The manufactured lowlands where people have settled in recent decades are especially susceptible to the impacts of rising water driven by climate change. Nearly sixty percent of the Dutch landscape is below sea level. By looking at Dutch life behind the dijks today, Lowland asks a number of questions, namely: Can we live with climate change? Can we engineer our way out of it? What is the significance of the Dutch example to the rest of the world?
Presented outdoors at Evergreen Brick Works in one of Toronto’s lowest lying areas, van Bruggen’s images ask viewers to contend with the soon to be universal experience of rising water.