(source: Vince de Vries, Wikimedia Commons)
The meadow planted near Eschenau in Upper Franconia by herman de vries, die wiese - one of the best known works of European land art - is no longer being maintained. According to a comment on the artist's website, 'in 2019 herman de vries decided not to intervene anymore and now the meadow will become part of the Steigerwald.' It is not surprising, because the artist is now eighty-nine, although I sometimes think artists who work out in nature must be a lot fitter than the average. There was a short interview with him in The Independent five years ago that said he was scaling back his work. 'The artist walks in the nearby forest every day, although health problems in the last year have slowed him down. He keeps a map charting his walks on the wall of his kitchen, which becomes an art work at the end of the year. He finds fallen trees: "They are nice sculptures, no? A sculpture that nature makes."'
I have been looking back at the Michael Fehr essay 'Herman's Meadow' (1992), which was reproduced in the Kastner/Wallis book Land and Environental Art (Phaidon, 1998). It was written six years after de vries and his wife Susanne began the project. I was struck by the lists of species in Fehr's descriptions of the meadow's development. Here is a quote from the essay with the lists turned into columns:
As a border, they planted a hedge composed of a variety of shrubs:
as well as a row of cultivated and semi-cultivated trees:
and older varieties of
- and let it take its natural course. Late in the year, after seeding, half of the area was cut and the cuttings removed, so that the fodder meadow - overfertilised up till then with artificial fertilisers and liquid manure three times yearly - would lose some of its richness. In the following year, herman and Susanne collected seeds along embankments, paths and the edge of the forest from plants that had been resistant to the farmers' machines and liquid manure sprays and planted them in their meadow: in molehills and earth which had bcen dug up by wild boars. Consequently,
had a chance to spread. These were joined spontaneously by
and runners from the aspen at the end of the forest developed shoots in the upper part of the meadow.