Delft research in the Rijksmuseum

News – 30 November 2022 – Web redactie Kommunikation

A smart alternative to the sandbag and an experiment with clay that will teach us more about strengthening our dikes. These are two examples of Delft research that currently hang as art on the walls of the Rijksmuseum. The pictures are part of the exhibition SUSTAINABLE / SUSTAIN / TENE by the artist Sharelly Emanuelson, who settled in Delft a while back to get answers to the question: What do people do about sustainability in their daily lives?

At the beginning of this year, photographer Sharelly Emanuelson visited various locations on the TU Delft Campus. One of these was Flood Proof Holland, a test site with the aim of developing smart alternatives to the sandbag, but where floods are also simulated to test and improve e.g. Sharelly’s visit resulted in an art-science cross-fertilization. ‘When I started working at TU Delft, I never really thought I would be standing in the Rijksmuseum. Or that I wanted to see some of my work in the Rijksmuseum,’ says water innovation expert Lindsey Schwidder. “At the same time, I don’t think it’s that crazy at all. The aim of our living lab is to invite people to show concrete things. You can do that on your own campus, but the Rijksmuseum is of course much better.’

A prayer for climate art

Traditionally, there has been a strong connection between the work of scientists and artists. Perhaps the most famous example is Leonardo da Vinci, who studied natural sciences with the eyes of an artist and created paintings based on scientific insights.

According to Lindsey, it is therefore more than logical that the artist Emanuelson approached TU Delft: “Recently, I have noticed more and more how important it is to emphasize that there is no direct opposition between art and science. In fact, there are just so many similarities. For example, a museum is good for creating meaningful connections between past, present and future, but also for boosting the imagination. This power of imagination – stimulating the creative and associative – is often the fuel for scientists to arrive at new insights or make surprising connections. Additionally, I believe that if we turn science into art – anywhere – we can really take things a step further. Like society as a whole. We will talk about it, and that talk will hopefully lead to positive action. In short: let Sharelly Emanuelson’s beautiful exhibition be an encouragement, a prayer for climate art.’

This exhibition is a contribution to a dialogue about the essential sustainability questions that we as humans consider: What do we hold on to? And what do we let go of?

This exhibition is a contribution to a dialogue about the essential sustainability questions that we as humans consider: What do we hold on to? And what do we let go of?

CO2 conversion

The works in Sharelly’s exhibition are grouped around different themes, where human action is always central. The images show how people deal with issues such as water management, erosion and waste treatment differently. These consequences are big or small, temporary or permanent. With that in mind, Emanuelson photographed several initiatives in the Netherlands and on the six Dutch Caribbean islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius and Sint Maarten.
One of the photos that just missed Sharelly’s exhibition was taken in TU Delft’s energy accelerator Ruud Kortlever’s laboratory. Under the umbrella of the e-Refinery institute, Ruud and colleagues are working on technologies for the electrochemical conversion of sustainable electricity, water and air into fuels and chemical building blocks. Daniël van den Berg – one of Ruud’s PhD students – explains what can be seen in the image: ‘CO2 released when we burn petrol, coal or gas, for example, and accumulate in our atmosphere. It actually creates a kind of blanket under which it gets warmer and warmer. To keep climate change (which is the result of this) somewhat within limits, fewer greenhouse gases must be released into the atmosphere. You can achieve this by emitting less, but you can CO2 also actively remove from nature. From that CO2 then you can make new fuels from the air, or raw materials for industry. You recycle – as it were – CO2. We at e-Refinery are trying to get a handle on that process – that raw material transition.’

Less greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, that is ultimately what the energy transition is all about. You can achieve this by emitting less, but you can also reduce CO2 actively removing it from nature and then converting it into new fuels.

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