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Government Censorship Yields Accidental Artwork In Dutch Landscapes

The Netherlands’ authorities don’t want you looking at their classified landscapes.

A few weeks ago we looked at how Germany was blurring thousands of locations on Google Street View because the Berlin State Supreme Court dubbed the technology an illegal invasion of privacy. This resulted in a bizarre landscape of mist-covered buildings and censored houses. But it’s not just Google’s Street View that causes concern. The company’s ambition to give the world virtual form has also seen many countries blotting out parts of the landscape on Google Earth, claiming reasons of national security.


This censoring is what UK-based artist Mishka Henner explores in his work Dutch Landscapes, which highlights this very modern form of censorship. His work focuses on the Dutch government and their rampant censoring of such places as royal palaces, fuel depots, and army barracks. These classified plots become bright, multi-coloured polygons contrasting starkly with the Dutch countryside and cities. The use of such a bold censoring technique further highlights the discrepancy between what’s part of the satellite image and what’s been elaborately hidden by the authorities, in the process creating an unintentional artwork.

Henner parallels these impositions with the physical alterations made to the landscape by the land reclamation project—which include manmade dunes, dykes, pumps—started in the 16th Century and continuing to this day. This engineering helps keep the land from becoming submerged under water due to the Netherlands lying below sea level. Henner explains:

Seen from the distant gaze of Earth's orbiting satellites, the result is a landscape unlike any other; one in which polygons recently imposed on the landscape to protect the country from an imagined human menace bear more than a passing resemblance to a physical landscape designed to combat a very real and constant natural threat.

Below are some images from the series, you can find more on Henner’s site.

Leeuwarden Air Force Base Antennas


NATO Storage Annex, Coevorden

Frederikkazerne, The Hague

Mauritskazerne, Ede

NATO pipeline station, Stokkum

Noordwijk aan Zee

St Haagsche Schoolvereeniging, The Hague

Ministerie van Defensie Willem lodewijk van Nassau kazerne

National Park Lauwersmeer