Ongoing Land Art project
Tom Herck & Niels Vaes

Tom Herck (1984) and Niels Vaes (1987), two young artistic explorers, quest for the essential truth of Land Art worldwide. Their voyage to document Stonehenge, The White Horse of Uffington, the Cerne Abbot Giant, the Peruvian Nazca Lines and Machu picchu and Ankor Wat (Cambodja) might help to unravel some of the mysteries of these sites and to clarify their meaning for past and future communities. The two artists have been encouraged by Graham Hancock's documentary Quest for the Lost Civilization (1998) to discover some of the locations that Hancock visited at the time - Egypt is still on the wish list -. The documentary by author Hancock outlines the theory that ancient, highly advanced civilizations have sailed the planet around 10,500 BC, spread astronomical knowledge and built ancient observatories [1] 

A fascination for the universal mystics of land art and ancient geoglyphs[2]  has brought Tom en Niels together in their first collaboration. The transience of nature and history is an important theme in Niels and Tom’s art. The result of the 'voyage of discovery' on the 3 continents - shared via Social Media - will be a Land Art performance on a yet to be discovered setting. The artists are fascinated by the question why people all over the world through all ages have made this type of land art. Most of the geoglyphs are explained on the basis of the galaxy, the cosmos and above all: the sun. Many prehistoric and indigenous cultures in Europe, America and Asia have built earthworks that combine astronomical observations with their religious cosmology (eg the prehistoric Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England and the Temple of the Sun, Machu Picchu in Peru). Contemporary Land Art artists worldwide still find inspiration in the sun, the cosmos and the elements.

During their journey, the artists fell under the spell of the snake cult.[3] Snakes have played a role in art and culture for centuries through their hidden way of life and behavior and are portrayed in Land Art worldwide very often. In many cultures the snake is part of mythology. Snake and dragon symbols are often used interchangeably, with similar functions. The venom of the snake is supposed to have a fiery quality similar to a fire-breathing dragon. [4] However, the snake has always had many positive associations. Snakes symbolize medicine, pharmacy, peace and eternal life. However,the artists have not yet found the place where the constellation of the Serpent Pit was worshiped by one of the mythical lost civilizations. This will be the location for their latest Land Art project. With this work, the artists will revive the lost civilization.

The enchanting visual effect of the performance will awaken feelings of wonder, overwhelming and inspiring the viewer. The performance that Tom and Niels create - like the Nasca Lines - is a reflection of heaven on earth and an ode to the red fire of the sun. Are the lines a conglomerate of all heavenly knowledge, once known by indigenous peoples? Do they serve to mark an astronomical event or phenomenon, such as the light of a supernova? The installation will form a kilometer-long chain, in the shape of a snake, ending in a large snake-head. The catharsis of destruction and creation connects art and war with each other. The artists literally 'illuminates' the paradoxical relationship between nature and humanity. Land can be considered as a resource, exploitable and appropriate, versus the concept of land as a source of life, fertility and creation.

Tom and Niels draw freely from the ancient mythology, cosmology, philosophy, and images of nostalgia and violence in their practice and materials. Inspired by landscapes, architecture and archeology, Tom and Niels approach time and space both in a formalistic and a conceptual way. With their large-scale perishable performance, the two artists emphasize that the potential of Land Art and performance lies in unguarded, honest communication without interference from the art world or limitations by a museum. The work shows a universal message, confirming that we are all connected by people, place, time and space.



[1] Skeptics can mock, but Hancock seriously points out similarities between gigantic stone structures in the Egyptian desert and the Cambodian jungle. Hancock cleverly uses computer graphics and aerial photography to illustrate the surprising similarities in old structures found from the North Atlantic to the south. Hancock raises some puzzling questions everywhere, and his arguments are supported by mathematical equations and astronomical diagrams.

[2] A geoglyph is a large design or motif (usually longer than 4 meters) that is produced on the ground and is usually formed by clastic rocks or similar sustainable elements of the landscape, such as stones, stone fragments, living trees, gravel or earth.

[3] In many myths the snake symbolizes life and death, the underworld. The most famous story in the West is that of Adam and Eve and the snake from the Bible. Other communities connect the serpent with wisdom and knowledge. In ancient times, the serpent was associated with the goddess of the moon and a symbol of knowledge and wisdom. Kundalini Yoga is based on the theory that the snake has rolled up energy at the base of its spine, ready to rise from the snake's sex center. Many myths are based on the idea that many snakes overwinter underground and seem to renew themselves by regularly shedding their skin. The act of destroying the snakeskin means that different communities associate it with rebirth and immortality.
In Egypt the cobra represented several ancient gods and Cleopatra is associated with it, but it is said that she used the poison of the cobra to end her life. A cobra found in the tomb of Tutankhamen was supposed to be a protector. In America, the rattlesnake in many sub-religions still symbolizes potency and fertility.
The film Quest of the snakepit (2019) that Tom and Niels shot during their world tour shows the inspiration that the artists found in the ancient snake cult in relation to astrology and archeology. The film emphasizes how Tom and Niels use universal Land Art elements as a starting point for their concept. They immerse themselves in culture and history by visiting mythical sites and taking part in ancient rites such as drinking Cobra blood in Cambodia

[4] Draco is one of the earliest described constellations - a creature with a serpentine or reptilian body - and as Taweret, the goddess of the northern sky, already appeared in astronomical records of the ancient Egyptians. The Greeks called it "Draco", the dragon, which appears in one of their myths as Ladon, a dragon with a hundred heads guarding the golden apples of the Hesperides. According to the British author Graham Hancock, Angkor Wat, for example, would have been built as a representation of the star constellation Draco.

© edit by Victor Maillard
© text by Lara van Oudenaarde