Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk • Photographer, Netherlands

The Andromeda Strain

Landscape Stories: In the "AFTER THE CRASH" group show of the ISWA European project you are one of the artists of the exhibitions. The group show wants be a map of the international current of the Art – Science. What is your application of science to photography ?
Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk: I use science as an inspiration for my photography. I look at the way scientists work and the materials they use. Scientific photography is meant to research something, to show something without artistic purposes in the first place. This is a language or way of working I can use in art work. For me photography is about being fascinated by what you can discover, and this is no different for a scientist. Often I read about scientific discoveries and they can be so surprising, absurd or beautiful, in a way I could never create in my imagination as an artist.

Untitled, from the series The Andromeda Strain, 2007

Landscape Stories: Your series with archetypal nature as their source of inspiration or point of departure, test the limits of authentic and artificial nature photography, not sidestepping a brush with abstraction. Tell me about the role of science in the construction of your photographic series and the use of a language similar to the "National Geographic".
Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk: I used simple experimental methods to achieve the effects in this series, physical or chemical effects that I have known as a child, or discovered on the internet. Because I need to transform a certain place, which reminds me of the more exotic places you would see in for example National Geographic, I use these effects. Usually I find some kind of material or technique that invites me to perform a certain experiment. Then I can find a location in the outside world which combines well with this experiment, thus creating a new work which suggests exotic locations or natural phenomena that you would see in documentaries or in National Geographic.

Untitled, from the series The Andromeda Strain, 2007

Landscape Stories: The Andromeda Strain" series is the discovery of a world of fascinating details, from the mysterious architecture of the microorganism, the incandescent forest, the cosmos, the virgin planets, and spaces of primitive beauty.
How do you choose the locations for your work?
How do you perfectly balance artificial creation with images shot in nature?**
Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk: I choose locations which are in very normal mundane environment, around my city Amsterdam, which is very far from an exotic or wild location. I just need to see a potential in these places, they can remind me of something which I have seen in scientific and natural imagery. For me the process of transforming something in my imagination is important, and in the resulting work you would still see this process. I combine the works made outside with works made in the studio, and some works outside I have applied effects to, this is all to make a balance where everything seems to come from the same strange world. The barrier between fake and real disappears, between the large and microscopic scale. There is no opposition for me between nature and artificial, because the only way we perceive natural beauty is through these conventions of photography.

Untitled, from the series The Andromeda Strain, 2007

Landscape Stories: The natural is so surreal, you give a new atmosphere. What's your idea of beauty?
Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk: For me beauty is when the mind perceives a certain order, an order which is created by careful imagination or by laws and processes of nature. In that sense beauty can exist in art, but it is more a by-product of the creation and reception of art. I am most interested when beauty borders on the sublime: when something is overwhelming, disorientating or fearful, inducing a reaction in the viewer. That's also why I am interested in natural phenomena like forest fires and volcanoes. And then some of my pictures have so much detail, or are unclear in the scale of the work, so the viewer cannot focus.

Untitled, from the series The Andromeda Strain, 2007

Landscape Stories: Tell me about the role of the geology in your works.
Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk: Geology is perceived as an immensely long process, showing the workings of time, which cannot be grasped by the human frame of mind. This is why people are fascinated by geological formations. It is a challenge for me to photograph something I made in the studio, or found on a construction site, which reminds of this totally different timeframe. Photography and geology have such an interesting reality, because photo's capture something, which grew in millions of years, in a fraction of a second; I play with this fascination, which is very common in vernacular photography, in my staged works.

Untitled, from the series The Andromeda Strain, 2007

Landscape Stories: Your fascination of the natural landscape!
Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk: It is a place of possibilities, a place where you are alone. You are a visitor in an ecosystem which doesn't care so much about you. They have their own laws, and you can only guess what's happening there, what lives the organisms lead. There is a sense of timelessness.

Landscape Stories: Next project?
Cassander Eeftinck Schattenkerk: I am working with saltcrystals. I create a structure which overgrows with crystals, so it becomes a landscape which grows autonomously, using the elements of water and salt, along physical processes. It reminds of something between geology and biology.

Interview curated by Camilla Boemio