‘To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life.’
This is Wageningen University & Research's mission. We are a research institution that focuses on the domain ‘healthy food and living conditions’. We do not just develop top-quality expertise; we also help translate our knowledge into practice worldwide. Support our projects and contribute to the quality of life.
As a present for Wageningen University & Research centennial birthday we want to install a spectacular sculpture in the central pond (see the simulated image). It is modeled realistically after the charismatic water beetle Dytiscus marginalis, flying out of the water. The wingspan is 5.20 m. At night, the water beetle will softly glow through fiber optic lights powered with solar energy.
The sculpture will become a photogenic centerpiece of the campus but also has a beautiful symbolic meaning that will be posted on the bridge in a playful way, and also on a linked website accessed through a QR code.
The meaning of the sculpture
First, we link back to Darwin who was surprised to find the same freshwater animals across the world. He wondered. Would this be because ponds are so ephemeral? Sooner or later drought or other trouble forces animals to migrate to a better place? Darwin was right. That is why this charismatic diving beetle has wings. Societies are like ponds. Every once-a-while trouble hits somewhere forcing people to leave. Parallels between more recent exodus scenarios are not hard to see. Migration creates tension but also catalyzes fresh visions. Baruch Spinoza, son of political refugees in the 1600’s, opened our eyes to the risk of dogma so profoundly that our highest national science award is named after him. This installation is an homage to thinkers that migrate between countries but also between ways of seeing the world: different cultures, branches of science and arts.
There is also a second symbolic layer to the sculpture. Ecology as a science kicked-off in 1887 through an inspirational essay “the lake as a microcosm”1. The author Stephen Forbes describes the intricate web of underwater life inspiring a whole new branch of science. However, the prophetic final argument of his essay is only recently starting to reverberate: lakes can indeed be seen as small worlds - ‘microcosms’- reflecting many aspects of our society. The science on tipping points is an example. Demonstrated initially for lakes, it is now used to understand phenomena ranging from depression in humans to collapse of stock markets or entire societies.
Due to its spectacular nature and the central position the sculpture will become a favorite spot for selfies for the thousands of international and Dutch guests and students we receive each year. Much like the successful IAmsterdam installation on the Museumplein the image will thus spread across the globe.
Art & science, a special relationship
I have developed the concept for the proposed art piece together with the Danish sculptor Vagn Iversen known for his hyper realistic installations. My philosophy is that both scientists and artists are interested in identifying essential questions about the world around us. While scientists attempt to answer such questions, artists merely bring them to our attention. Often the questions last longer than the answers. Good art invites us to think and provides a long-lasting inspiration.
Join this project
We invite you to become part of this project by donating. We are especially interested in you spreading the word, but donating will really make you part of this beautiful project for life.
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