(Theun Karelse, NL) as a youngster I was interested in drawing as a way of learning about the world and subsequently studied fine-arts at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam before joining FoAM, a distributed group of transdisciplinary laboratories operating at the interstices of art, science, nature and everyday life. My interests and experimental practice explore edges between art, environment, technology and archaeology. I practice and support ecosystem and landscape regeneration in Europe, India and Afrika. My outdoor studio consists of serveral gardens that serve as testing grounds for urban biodiversity, climate adaptation and indigenous knowledge systems. I'm a board member of the Embassy of the Earth, part of the Future of the Delta team at the Embassy of the Northsea and Speaker for the Living at CCU the world's fifth zoöp.

Current and ongoing

2024: A CULT OF THE EARTH, artist in residence @AcademyofArchitecture to develop the 2024 Winterschool, and assemble 10 guest-tutors for 10 student teams -- The Infinite Table a printed publication inspired by the 19th century myriorama -- guest teaching and talk @MARegenerativeDesign, Central StMartin's, London -- Groote Denkers talk @HetGrooteMuseum, Amsterdam -- Deep Steward will over see the pond @HetNieuweInstituut in Rotterdam for the next four years as part of the 'Dutch more or less' exhibition -- Otterdam now floats @Z2S in Amstelpark, Amsterdam, as part of a two year collaboration of three artist-run gardens -- CURVE at het Lage Noorden, Friesland -- Sonic Head Masks, A5 sized publication with Peter Barens and FoAM Earth studio --

2023: Creature Lab @ projectweek Breitner academy with Darko Lagunas -- A Fieldguide to Machine Wilderness, our publication of the artist-in-residency at ARTIS Royal Zoo -- the floating Otterdam garden in Westerpark for the Radical City expo @Transnatural -- Otter residency @ Strandlab Almere -- The Anarchive publication series with FoAM -- Maasai White Mountain Future Design Basecamp in Tanzania with Embassy of the Earth -- PLEIN 23 tutor/guide for the ARTEZ Arnhem architecture student workweek -- asisting in the design and development of UMAA inflatable pavillion for Mille Plateaux, Centre Chorégraphique National La Rochelle -- Waters of Ol Doinyo Nyukie research project focussed on Maasai and Mount Suswa, Kenia with Slow Researchlab -- assisiting Thomas Thwaites in building his Harmless Car @Zone2Source, Amsterdam -- Onzichtbaar Zeeland a publication @ Ambassade van de Noordzee -- talk @ MA Regenerative design, Central StMartins -- UUR U, music and debate in collaboration with Sander Turnhout (SoortNL) and Ferry Heijne (de Kift) --

2022: Winterlab guest teacher @ ArtEZ Zwolle -- MonsterCode @ Amelisweerd with Sjef van Gaalen & CCU -- talk during A Seat for the Sea @ Framer Framed -- Perception Festival Wageningen University -- Machine Wilderness residency programme @ ARTIS Royal Zoo with Zone2Source -- Machine Wilderness talk @ Central Saint Martins, Digital Innovation Season -- Deep Steward @ Dutch Pavilion Triennale Milan with Ian Ingram for Het Nieuwe Instituut -- Machine Wilderness art-science fair @ Groote Museum -- field-experiments with PIFcamp Slovenia -- MonsterCode workshop during FieldAcademy @Zone2Source, Amsterdam -- MonsterCode talk during SPLINTERED REALITIES symposium @ RIXc, Latvia -- Changwon Sculpture Biennale, South Korea

Future of the Delta

field-research for the Embassy of the Northsea

Practicing exposure

With landscapes rapidly transforming and disintegrating out there beyond our front doors, the controlled environment of a studio or lab no longer feels very relevant to me. To engage with the full complexity of swiftly changing worlds, fieldexperiments and fieldstudies have become vital parts to artistic practice.

As a radical exposure of our thoughts and our acts field experiments make you focus on direct experience and open up space to discover unknown-unknowns. I'm not talking about going on a fieldtrip for a day, but about establishing something that honours and nourishes all involved. This process of deepening relations takes time and often challenges preconceived notions about who are the experts and guides. They may not even be human.

We think and act differently in the presence of other beings, in the middle of a sandstorm or floating in a river, than we do at a conference or working in a studio environment. The Earth still hold millions of different intelligences, so I'm trying to listen. To be part of a much bigger conversation than just the human conversation. A conversation that is embodied and speaks to all our senses and may undermine how we see ourselves to some extent.


welcoming back the Otter to Amsterdam with a floating garden


As an icon of wetlands, the otter is calling to us: to reimagine our relationships to water, waterrich landscapes and their vast biodiversity and kinship-networks. Gardeners, landscape architects, and urban planners of Amsterdam may have started to think of bees, butterflies and birds when they design and manage our urban green spaces, but the return of the otter feels like a game-changer!

Otterdam is a floating garden with common and rare indigenous water and swamp plants, which is cyclical; its structure biodegrades over 1 or 2 years. This project explores the gap between Dutch watermanagement and our horticultural practice (gardens and parks); unlike the Aztec chinampas or indonesian chrimp gardens the Dutch have never really developed a culture of watergardening. Some initiatives are starting in seaweed faming, butour freshwater ecosystems are relatively unexplored. Project aims: exploring animal wisdom as guide to gardening and ecological practices, exploring ghosts (Tsing et all) and hauntology as an active ecological practice, exploring celebration as an ingredient of how we relate to non-humans, creating moments in our culture for celebrating our connections to other forms of life.

>> More: Otterdam page in Radical City..

Location: Waternatuurtuin, Westerpark, Amsterdam 2023, moving to Amstelpark, 2024.

Machine Wilderness

residency programme at ARTIS Amsterdam Royal zoo

Machine Wilderness ARTIS residency programme

March 2022 / June 2022 field experiments @ ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo and Groote Museum

Residents: Driessens & Verstappen, Heather Barnett, Thomas Thwaites, Ivan Henriques, Antti Tenetz, Špela Petrič and Ian Ingram.

Machine Wilderness is an artistic fieldresearch programme exploring new relationships between people, our technologies and the natural world. Machines have become an intrinsic part of our world (according to some a second nature). But their presence is highly disruptive to the worlds of other beings on land, in the seas and skies. How can technologies relate more symbiotically with other living beings?

Residency programme: In 2022, seven artists join the Machine Wilderness residency programme exploring the rich and diverse worlds of animals, plants and microbes in ARTIS and MICROPIA. From March till June artists will each be experimenting for a number of weeks in the park to get closer to the lives of other creatures and reveal hidden worlds. Visitors can see them at work during their research or learn more in artists' presentations. By exploring the relations between technology and other life forms we investigate how animals and plants share signals, how they learn, set boundaries, or organize their lives. Through experiments and prototypes we try to find ways to engage with their worlds more deeply. Can machines help us rejoin the great conversation with life?

>> Visit the project website..

Locations: ARTIS Amsterdam Royal Zoo, ZOOdio, and Groote Museum

Machine Wilderness is based on long-term research by Theun Karelse at FoAM and developed into a programme in collaboration with Alice Smits of Zone2Source.


rediscovering how to encode knowledge
directly into landscape


Humans as a species operate within a framework of symbolic representation that enables us to articulate ideas, share ideas, plan, design, make decisions, and reflect. We associate this with literacy, but for the majority of human evolution, we used very different frameworks, sometimes even the landscape itself to organise thought. All over the world cultures associated knowledge to features in the landscape; the Aboriginal songlines of Australia, the Native American pilgrimage trails, the ceremonial roads of the Pacific Islands, and the Neolithic causeways and henges of Europe.

This is landscape as mind-palace. MonsterCode brings practices together from a wide range of sources, and experimenting in Amsterdam with these almost entirely forgotten ‘techniques’ of ‘applied animism'. It has transformed not just how I think, but also how I perceive and relate to my environment, my views on the role of the human organism in landscapes. My walk to the supermarket is now also an epic journey through a timeline of human evolution that I'm encoding there.

Monster refers to imagination. Code refers to encoding things geographically.

2021/22 - Fieldsessions: Amelisweerd, Almere Strand, Amstelpark and PIFcamp in Slovenia.

Random Forests

enviromental machine learning

Random Forests

RandomForests is a field-program interested in the potential of machines for environmental learning. Until very recently the ability to relate to the environment was limited to plants and animals, but now machines are starting to blur those lines. Random Forests explores what environmental machine learning could entail and if an artificial agent could become environmentally literate. What does this emerging 'synthetic world- view' mean for the appreciation of environmental complexity and the power-relations between our technologies and their environment? Could environmental literacy in the artificial agents that populate our environment create any opening towards environmental solidarity, intimacy, affinity, allegiance, reverence, commitment and kinship? >>More soon..

2018 - Field sessions: ArsBioarctica at the Kilpisjarvi Biological Fieldstation in the Finnish Arctic, Imrama on Terschelling Island (the Netherlands), Dinacon at Koh Lon Island (Thailand) and MAAJAAM Estonia. Supported by: Stimuleringsfonds

Maajaam WildBits

floating observation raft

Maajaam: Wild Bits

Wild Bits asked artists to investigate notions of digital nativeness and digital immigrants. Although our digital infrastructure is shaped by collosal human bias, it operates in densely populated multispecies realms. I proposed to investigate where to place the 99,9% of other species within the spectrum ranging from digital natives to digital outcasts.

The method would be to select one local organism at Maajaam - bird / mammal / insect - and make it central to the investigation, making use of a rich array of investigative techniques: ecological / artistic / digital observation strategies. On arrival my focus was immediately taken by the creek running through the MAAJAAM terrain with an enigmatic bever-dam and expanding out into a small lake, which no-one had visited for decades. So some sort of exploratory and sensorially immersive raft was called for. >>More soon..

2018 - Supported by: Stimuleringsfonds

Next Doggerland

residency on the Zandmotor

Next Doggerland: Mammoth Soup

Next Doggerland was the result of my residency on the Zandmotor near the Hague, from November to December 2014, as part of the Badgast residency programme of the Satelliet- groep. The Zandmotor is a unique temporary artificial island which is said to mark a mayor shift in Dutch approaches to coastal landscape engineering. During the months of working on the Sandmotor I was truck by the narrative of ‘building with nature’ which is often used to describe this shift and where it resonates with strategies of rewilding, aggregate architectures, machine wildernesses and landscape regeneration.

I spent the first night sleeping on this slowly self-organising four trillion ton monster carrying a full sensor array on its back tracking it’s movements. I slept under the massive observation tower, standing in the middle of this still rather desolate 3km expanse. After storms I started finding many fossils which arrived with the sand from the bottom of the NorthSea, where many animals (and people) lived during the last ice-age. That area of land (about the size of a typical European country) is now known as Doggerland.

Among the fossils I found, were large Mammoth bones, teeth of Woolly Rhino and many shards. When I showed those shards to experts, they said there was little scientific value in conserving those fragments, so I started thinking: if not conserved, could the opposite be done, to activate them? With experimental chef Sjim Hendrix, we made a Mammoth Soup by boiling the ice-age bone fragments, and during the public expedition we tasted it with audience and archeologists. Perhaps the first people in 12.000 years to taste Mammoth? >>More soon..


an inflatable art/science performance pavilion


In 2013 Cocky Eek imagined Sphæræ an inflatable multi-dome pavilion based on clustering soap-bubble surfaces. We developed the project together, where I focused mostly on technical aspects of the space and constructing it in-situ.

Sphæræ consists of five semi-transparent bubbles of different sizes, together forming a multi-dome construction designed to serve as a platform for artists, scientists, and performers to make 180° works and compositions which explore the phenomena of light, sound and movement within the domes. A ventilator transforms air into a building material that forces her delicate membrane into shape. The surface becomes a carrier of immersive experiences with tailor-made works that follow the topology of the spherical architecture.

Multi-media artists/scientists/composers performed challenging compositions in the domes. So Sphæræ is not just a structure but a full programme co-curated by Evelina Domnitch and Dmitry Gelfand. The single membrane space can touch down on uncharted territories making temporary ecosystems with fragile and complex atmospheric conditions as an instrument to explore the phenomena of light, sound and movement.

Locations: The Pavilion has traveled through festivals as Kunstvlaai A.P.I. 2013, NL, Ars Elctronica 2014 AUT, TodaysArt 2014, NL, GOGBOT 2014, NL, AxS festval 2014, Los Angeles, USA, iii 2015, NL, {Un][split} Science & Art Festival 2018, München, DE.


transient realities


trg is the first project I took part in at FoAM. It is a responsive environment aimed to make four fundamental forces apparent on the human scale: the fictional equivalents of gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear interaction. It unfolds, expands and curls up based on the energy levels within its perimeters.

trg is part of the t*series environments at FoAM which are immersive hybrid realities, or responsive “play spaces.” They are designed for full-body interaction of human participants with “irreal” responsive worlds. TGarden, txOom and TRG - the three distinct groups of environments within the series - are technologically enhanced spaces that encourage playful explorations of physical and digital surroundings, as well as fluid dialogues between people, materials and media.

More about the origins and backgrounds of trg: //Fo.AM


embodyment, architecture and space/time

The Elephantman-man

#embodyment, #architecture, #prosthectics, #spacetime, #performance

Towards the end of Victorian Britain the first sounds of the Industrial Revolution echoed across Western Europe. It was also the time when the first hints of a revolutionary new understanding of space and time began to surface, from Euler, Hilbert and Ernest Mach, to come to full synthesis in the theory of General Relativity by a patent clerck in Bern.

A particular man who lived in late-Victorian London seemed to be a physical embodiment of those radical new concepts. Joseph Merrick - who is probably better known under his stage name the Elephant man - physically manifested the mysteriously curved topologies, non-euclidean geometries and deep self-similarity that emerged in physics. Like a living fractal he limped through the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution towards modernity. His face a cubist portrait avant-la-lettre. Some photographs of Joseph Merrick exist which resonate fully with the early black and white images of barren planets and moons of the solar system that featured in the astronomy journals my father subscribed too. Brutal and breathless places with no athmosphere. It's as if he lived there in that timeless realm of mathematic rules beyond the living Earth.

The human body is the part of the universe we inhabit directly. So a prime focal point for any study of our imaginaries of space and time. Spread over a very long period, I developed a way to embody the very different physical presence of the Elephantman, culminating in a prosthetics suit made by a special effects studio. To me feels like wearing a kind of space suit. This became the Elephantman-man. >>More soon..

Period: from 2000 to 2019. Supported by: Mondriaan Fund