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Takeover #211 Milah van Zuilen

Milah van Zuilen: Instagram / Website

#211 (12/09 - 16/09, 2022) written by Robin Speijer, interview by Joris Broekhoven

We see a grid made out of coloured squares. They aren’t just plain squares however, each of them is a piece of a leaf that’s been carefully cut out by Milah van Zuilen. 
Milah graduated in 2021 from the Willem de Kooning academy, at the Fine Arts & Photography department. To create her works, she ventures out into nature, where she collects her materials in a scientific fashion. Before starting at the art academy, she doubted between going there or doing a study related to ecology or biology. After choosing art, that fascination for nature immediately showed up in her work.

“With my work, I draw the field of visual arts, ecology and science together. I aim to create a visual conversation between manmade and organic shapes. To me, the square is the ultimate form of human presence or cultivation. It’s alien to nature, and a huge contrast with all the shapes you find when walking in the forest.”

When creating new work, Milah starts with an area, like a forest. Based on what she encounters there, she creates rules for herself that will shape the fieldwork she will be doing. For example, she may use the route she takes to record which species of trees occur, or scan the entire forest floor. After collecting the materials, she assembles them into a grid. In this process, she wants to make as few choices visually as possible and follows the order in which they were collected.

“I feel this has quite a strong link with photography. They are almost aerial pictures of the area or forest once they have been glued together on the grid, line by line.”

Her works aren’t always made with leaves. They can also be made with tree bark, sticks, or other natural objects. Apart from her fieldwork grids, Milah has done various projects in which these natural objects are juxtaposed with or formed into squares. We have the urge to organize everything into boxes, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Through her work, Milah wants to show a softer alternative to our human approach to nature.

“The results of my research do not serve any human-first values. In contrast to environmental science, the field of art allows me to formulate autonomous research questions. I want to show the beauty of research for research’s sake, the simple process of being outside and observing.”

During Milah’s takeover, we can expect to see new works and parts of her process. We will be taken on a trip through the local forest, and into her studio. That same week, she will also be preparing an exhibition she’s taking part in, which we may get some sneak peeks of!

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