Sculpting This Earth will be the first documentary to the celebrate land art of artists in the southern hemisphere.
The film, made by Cape Town-based CineSouth Studios, will showcase the work of the foremost land artist in Africa, Strijdom van der Merwe. Shot across Southern Africa over the course of 2021, the feature is scheduled to release internationally in 2022.
Strijdom van der Merwe is an internationally recognized land artist whose works have appeared in Japan, Kenya, Malta, the United States and across Europe. This film, however, focuses on the artist’s work back home, making it more emotional and personal.
“This is where I am rooted. I have personal, emotional and artistic connections here, in a land rich in ancient markings,” Van der Merwe said in an interview. “Those ancient markings in the landscape were left by early human inhabitants.”
Previously CineStudios was responsible for the documentary Day Zero, documenting the 2017-2018 water crisis in Cape Town and the 4 million people in the city who were cut off from water due to the effects of a changing climate.
Land art is one of the lesser known mediums, which started in the 1960’s, and can be defined as artworks highlighting nature or using natural materials. The land art of Strijdom van der Merwe therefore illuminates the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal for Responsible Consumption and Production by creating art out of what the planet has already given us.
The film’s title was taken from the second collection of works by Strijdom van der Merwe which came out in 2011.
In collaboration with the changing seasons, van der Merwe uses the remote natural settings as his canvas during his travels, creating his art over a stunning range of natural landscapes. His materials are the leaves, feathers, water, soil, sand and stone he finds at the site, bringing nothing with him but his keen eye.
He uses these materials to create geometrical forms — inspired by nature and also destroyed by it. What makes his works so beautiful is their impermanence and the knowledge that time and nature will move them and that the artworks and their materials are only temporary unless captured on camera.
Sculpting This Earth was directed by Victor van Aswegen, the chief executive of CineSouth Studios.
“There is a sense of reconnection to nature and the natural world at a time when many people globally feel cut off from nature,” Van Aswegen said.
“There is a widespread and growing realisation that the natural world is under threat and in many places in rapid and terminal decline.”
Van der Merwe’s works offer “a sense of reconnection to nature and the natural world.” In times when most of our days are spent in air-conditioned rooms and houses, we can feel very distant from nature and the changes we are forcing upon it — that is until those changes threaten the homes we hide in.
As each season of sun and rainfall shapes the landscape, nature creates new opportunities and materials for van der Merwe to work with, from the Karoo to the Cape Town winelands to Kimberly.
There are few documentaries to be found on land art, almost all of which centre around northern artists, making this film a first of its kind and a valuable addition to an under explored genre.
These “fragile and ephemeral” works need to be captured in order to be immortalised for a global audience that may never set foot on the landscapes the artist is celebrating.
“The art, made of materials known to people everywhere from their daily lives and surroundings, speaks a deeply universal human language, transcending all boundaries of country and culture, moving people with meaning and emotion, regardless of where they are on the planet,” Van Aswegen said.
“The art speaks a deeply universal human language, transcending all boundaries of country and culture, moving people with meaning and emotion, regardless of where they are on the planet," he added.
The one minute teaser trailer can be seen here.