PHANTOM LIMBS
by Maike Brinkman


University: Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Course:  Bachelor Fine Art Photography
Year of graduation: 2017
Thesis: Phantom Limbs
Contacts: maikebrinkman[at]gmail[dot]com | website

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Abstract: Dutch nature is a human construction. It literally starts on paper. It begins with an idea, from a design, to a construction site, and eventually a landscape. It’s not remarkable that the artificiality of our landscape influences Dutch artists. I myself grew up on the edge of one of the largest natural landscapes in The Netherlands. This place on the Veluwe has always had a big influence on me. Like most forest visitors, the forest allows me to escape from daily life and find solitude between the tall trees. It should be no surprise that this part of raw nature acts as my (natural) source for most of my projects.

In The Netherlands forests are too manufactured to exist naturally. We created nature, but we can’t recreate the natural balance like Mother Nature can. We have to keep intervening to keep forests alive. Human intervention is a daily occurrence in forests and makes society an obstructive presence. This human presence is often an obstacle in the search for solitude. In the thesis for my project ‘Phantom Limbs’ I examine the reasons behind the felling of trees within Dutch forests. Often trees are cut down to improve existing ecosystems. There are, however, many reasons behind the cutting down of trees that only benefit us. It brings us money, space, safety and more.

In the forest I grew up many trees were felled this year in a short period of time. I photographed all remnants of the tree trunks in the ground and the void they left in the canopy. The surrounding, living trees get more opportunities to grow. In the work they honour the felled, dead trees for their sacrifice. In a book, the tree trunks are cut out of the photograph and placed over their corresponding patch of sky. The work also includes actual tree trunks with the same sky photographed printed on their surface.

In video, the process of a tree’s destruction is reversed. Instead of watching a machine destroying a tree branch by branch, the tree is build back to life. It’s almost comforting to see the tree brought back to life, though at the same time tragic, because you are aware the tree is actually being destroyed.
‘Phantom Limbs’ acknowledges the dilemma behind the felling of trees. It shows the loss for the forest whenever a tree is taken down, though also shows the opportunities it brings other, surrounding trees. The project’s title is inspired by phantom pain. The sensation of feeling in a limb after it has already been amputated.


© Maike Brinkman, The book ‘Phantom Limbs’ 2017 


© Maike Brinkman, The book ‘Phantom Limbs’ 2017


© Maike Brinkman, Acacia tree trunk with photo print on location (Veluwe) 2017


© Maike Brinkman, Acacia trunk in installation at Graduation Show wdka 2017 


© Maike Brinkman, Video still from ‘Phantom Limbs/Anatomy of Trees’ 2017 

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To browse more from Thesis Project Archive click here. Contacts and submissions are welcome at thesis@urbanautica.com