Between the Lines

Film and Sculptural Sound Installation


Still from ‘Between the Lines,’ Marjolijn Dijkman, 2024

‘Between the Lines’ is a visual essay film with an orchestra of robotic drummers playing trunks from the protected forest near Verdun.

The sound and film installation focuses on the effects of drought and climate change in this forest located in the Red Zone (Zone Rouge) in the northeast of France. It relates to the ongoing struggle to deal with the aftermath and remnants of the First World War within the global climate crisis, which impacted this particular landscape on a monumental scale.

The 120,000-hectare Red Zone was defined by the French government after the war as “Completely devastated. Damage to properties: 100%. Damage to Agriculture: 100%. Impossible to clean. Human life impossible”.

Nine villages and surroundings in the Red Zone near Verdun were sealed off completely, rendered death traps by unexploded ordnance, and contaminated beyond habitation by the arsenic, chlorine, and phosgene the opposing armies aimed at each other. There are still over 80.000 lost soldiers buried in the forest of Verdun who were never recovered. 

As a post-war restitution, Germany donated spruces to reforest the thousands of hectares of polluted landscape. They planted many mono-cropped Norway spruces in straight rows, following the scientific production forest management invented in Germany in the 18th century. These dense forests aimed to protect people from entering, creating a ‘Living Sarcophagus.’

In the scorching summers of 2018 and 2019, a hundred years after WWI ended, the bark beetle Ips Typographus invaded these monoculture forests around Verdun. The National Forestry Agency (ONF) has cleared the infected areas in the last few years. This is important to avoid forest fires, but it is a dangerous and slow process because millions of pieces of unexploded ordnance are still present in the soil.

The sanitized, barren, and re-opened landscape symbolizes the consequences of the war, the industrialization of forest management, and the impact of the current climate crisis.

 Still from ‘Between the Lines,’ Marjolijn Dijkman, 2024

The film consists of short chapters with black-and-white assemblages of contemporary film and drone images, recent aerial LiDAR images of the craters and trenches in the forest, and historical photographs of the devastated landscape after WWI. These are interspersed with slow panoramic close-ups of bark from fallen trees with bark beetle traces.

The sound installation refers to the military marching bands and Morse code communication during WWI and the sounds bark beetles use to navigate under the bark. Electrotechnician Lukas Pol developed and built the robotic installation, and composer Henry Vega was invited to develop the composition for the robotic drummers in relation to the film.

Performance ‘Natura Rebellis’ in the installation ‘Between the Lines,’ photo Fenna de Jong, 2024

The installation can be activated with an additional live performance, ‘Natura Rebellis,’ written for three vocalists by Henry Vega. This performance builds on the installation ‘Between the Lines’ and highlights our conflicting nature while revealing our capabilities to live in harmony. 

Between the Lines (2024)
Film projection (4K) with sculptural sound installation
Duration: 30 min. (loop)
Size: Variable
Concept: Marjolijn Dijkman
Sound Composition: Henry Vega
Cinematography & Editing: Marjolijn Dijkman
Assistant Editing: Léo Ghysels
Production Sculptural Installation: Marjolijn Dijkman, Wim Dijkman
Production and Development Robotics: Lukas Pol
Tree Trunks Donated by: National Forestry Office (ONF) Verdun
Archival Images: Documentation Center – Verdun Memorial, Private Collection
Aerial LiDAR Images: National Forestry Office (ONF) Verdun
Supported by: Deep Histories Fragile Memories, Luca School of Arts / Leuven University, Mondrian Fund, National Forestry Office (ONF) Verdun, V2_Lab for Unstable Media
Thanks to: Orlando Aguilar Velazquez, Isabelle Bergot (Verdun Memorial), Wim & Els Dijkman, Sebastiaan Helbers, Wendy Morris, Rebecca Theeuwsen, Guillaume Rouard (ONF Verdun), Maarten Vanden Eynde, Noël Varoqui

Natura Rebellis (2024)
Live vocal performance
Duration: 25 min.
Sculptural Sound Installation: Marjolijn Dijkman
Composer: Henry Vega
Vocalists: Anat Spiegel, Kevin Walton, Jannes Coessens
Commissioned by: O. – Festival for Opera. Music. Theatre.

'Between the Lines' at V2_ in Rotterdam, NL (2024)
'Between the Lines' at V2_ in Rotterdam, NL (2024)
Close up up tree trunk with beetle traces, 'Between the Lines' at V2_ in Rotterdam, NL (2024)
'Between the Lines' at V2_ in Rotterdam, NL (2024)
'Between the Lines' at V2_ in Rotterdam, NL (2024)
Close up up tree trunk with beetle traces, 'Between the Lines' at V2_ in Rotterdam, NL (2024)