Landscape, soil, cheese and me

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Landscape, soil, cheese and me Adel Cersaque Lire en Français

This is the Ardennes landscape that was browsed for 1 month,
gathering milk from 4 farms in 2 countries

The biotope of soils’ pastures from an organic farm producing
cow milk was explored and analysed with a microscope

Different types of cheeses were made in the Jan Van Eyck Academie
kitchen with “wild” and domesticated ferments

The cheeses were shared with resident artists
during the ripening weeks following April

An old wall covered with drawings representing soils’ inhabitants
of 3 different scales constitued the main piece of the 2021 Open Studios

Along the wall, Aliki van der Kruijs’ Soil and sacrement, 2 curtains
echoing the exhibition and the sounds recorded in the landscape

The counter-shape of cheeses produced, whey resulting from 250L of transformed milk,
was exhibited beside the curtains, the fresco and cheeses

The Soft Protest Digest is a research collective associating Danish farmer and artist Nickie Sigurdsson with Adel Cersaque.

Largely confined to the Jan van Eyck Academie (JvE) during their residency, The Soft Protest Digest adopted an introspective approach orbiting around questions of transition and self-sustenance in dire circumstances, such as pandemics and planetary crises. Robin has made and ripened cheeses from locally produced raw milk. He took pains to record his extensive cycling journeys to dairy farmers, from whom he also collected soil samples to study their biota. These deliberative performative routines entangled him in the landscape’s rhythms of mutualism, growth, and decay.

The landscape was constituted by a space of ±50km² area that I browsed for 30 days. This web of 4 farms brought me to meet 4 Dutch and Belgian farmers. This same landscape provides pastures for their domesticated animals (cows and goats) to graze plants that they digest and transform into the milk purchased. On his way to each one of the 4 farms, Robin described the landscape and recorded himself. While cycling, he tried to describe what makes this landscape: the addition of living beings growing, hunting, socialising and working in the surroundings of the road network from home to farms.

♦ SOIL ♦
During the last week of April, Robin extracted a small piece of soil from the pastures of Hoeve de Koeberg, René and Claudia’s organic farm. Along the purchased milk, this soil sample was brought back home and “visited” with a microscope to look for living beings in it; thus reflecting on the decomposers’ primal activity to decay and recycle organic matter, the environmental changes threatening their mutualism, and its analogy with the way microbe societies make cheeses.
For the Open Studios, a fresco was drawn with burnt wood from the garden on a very old, worn out wall from the Jan van Eyck Academie’s garden. It was meant to depict 3 sizes of the soil’s decomposers: macrofauna, mesofauna and microfauna.

The cheeses were made 5 days a week with raw goat and/or cow milk from the 4 farms around Maastricht. They were curdled with rennet to make uncooked soft cheeses, that could be pressed too. Half of the cheeses were ripened with various ferments (G. candidum, P. camemberti, P. roqueforti) and the other half developed their own milks’ “wild” microbiota. They were aged for 1 week to 1.5 month in a cold moist room, without any energy input to control the room’s conditions.

♦ ME ♦
“Please define yourself, cheese.
I am a colony of micro-organisms living on a substrate they feed on.
I am an unpredictable collaboration between domesticated animals and wild microbes.
I am an extension of human’s digestive system on a food they can barely process.
I am a complex process that preserves various types of fragile milks for weeks if not years.
I am the curdling of proteins and fats of an organic liquid based on water.
I am a convenient shape to store, transport and share nutritious food.
I am a culturally rooted type of processed food that exists in a wide range of periods and places.
I am a set of tastes and sensations that varies from cloudy softness to dirty feet fragrance.
I am farmhouse cheeses, artisanal cheeses, dairy cheeses and industrial cheeses.


    April 2021 and ripening weeks following

  • 1 month performance during our residency at the Jan van Eyck Academie
  • From 23th of June to 3d of July 2021

  • Exhibition of 2 cheeses, the soil biotope fresco, the leftover whey, the recordings from milk errands and Aliki van der Kruijs’ Soil and sacrement for the 2021 Open Studios.


  • ♥♥ Claudia & Hoeve de Koeberg (NL organic cow farm)
  • ♥♥ Ferme du Temple (BE cow farm)
  • ♥♥ Maurice & Zorgboerderij Ravensbosch (NL organic goat farm)
  • ♥♥ Melkgeitenbedrijf Noelmans-Peters (BE goat farm)
  • ♥♥ Aliki van der Kruijs (the curtain Soil and sacrement in the exhibition)
  • Marente van der Valk (Food lab)
  • ♥ Claudia Bos (JvE Cafe Restaurant)
  • ♥ Karin Rijpkema (JvE Cafe Restaurant)
  • ♥ Volunteers from the 2021 Open Studios, Jan van Eyck Academie

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