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Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making investigates the potential of Critical Making as a bridging concept, addressing practices at the intersection of design, technology, activism and artistic research. The concept ‘Critical Making’ was originally developed by Matt Ratto and Garnet Hertz in response to maker culture, and referred to practices that critically engaged with technology. Both Virtueel Platform and Premsela, prior to their fusion into Het Nieuwe Instituut, investigated this concept in events and programmes. While it had the Maker movement and its Maker spaces (i.e. FabLabs, hacker spaces, and other public workshop facilities for distributed, personal digital fabrication) as its points of departure, Critical Making has become much more inclusive and has emancipated itself from its original context. In the research project Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making, the concept of Critical Making departs from a narrow focus on Maker movement and examines the broader field of contemporary art and design practices. 

While Critical Making is characterised by a liaison between thinking and making, the same can be said for artistic research, as it was established as a new academic discipline at the end of the 20th century. Traditionally, contemporary art has had an edge over design in regards to the rigour of its critical discourse. Drawing on critical theory, conceptual art and institutional critique have radically addressed issues of gender, class, ethnicity and even questioned art as such, in its aesthetics, ethics, economics and politics.

The project Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making will research the extent to which this radicality can inform broader notions of Critical Making and how artistic research may expand the vocabulary of Critical Making. Conversely, the Open Source and DIY practices of Critical Making can be constructively used to question modes of production and distribution in contemporary art and design that would benefit from more reflection and criticism, including: authorship, intellectual property, ownership and privileges of participation. This research project received a grant for the project from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) as part of the research programme Smart Culture – Art and Culture.

The research project focuses on the following questions, all of importance to the practice and position of Het Nieuwe Instituut: We observe that 21st-century creative industries as a hybrid of art, design and technology have largely been framed in economic terms, subsuming 20th-century art and culture. Critical Making offers an alternative logic, including creative disciplines in an overarching concept that is not economically, but socially and artistically driven. Can Critical Making be truly critical by overcoming the industry logic of techno-optimistic makeability? In other words: How can art, design and technology fulfil a critical and reflective role in society[, including the possibility of revealing and challenging power relations? And what could the role of aesthetics be in this criticality, other than the surface aesthetics of consumer culture and of commodification based on advertising?

Read the Critical Making Position Paper


In this project, main applicant Prof. Dr. Janneke Wesseling (Leiden University) and co-applicant Dr. Florian Cramer (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) have joined forces with Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (researcher and programme developer Digital Culture at the R&D department at Het Nieuwe Instituut), Lucas Evers (leading Waag Society’s Open Wetlab and Open Design Lab) and Marie-José Sondeijker (director of West Den Haag). In addition, designer, researcher and Hackers & Designers co-founder Anja Groten and media artist, researcher and educator Shailoh Phillips have recently joined the team as PhD candidate and junior researcher respectively. Candidates for two other positions will be recruited in early 2018. There's a job discription for the research position 'Embedded Artistic Researcher in Critical Making'.


The researchers will contribute to different events and programmes of Het Nieuwe Instituut, (and the other consortium members) from a combined practical and theoretical perspective. The consortium will organise a series of Critical Making workshops with art and design students and teachers in several Dutch art schools, including Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam and the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. Furthermore, various public presentations, a national and an international symposium will be organized. At the end of the project, the project outcomes will be disseminated through a peer-reviewed, open access, hybrid paper and electronic book.

  • Monday 8 January 2018: Critical Making session with Shailoh Philips and Hanna Piksen.
  • Friday 17 February 2018: Critical Making session with Max Hampshire and Jaya Klara Brekke.
Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker