Through its annual Call for Fellows, Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Research Department acknowledges and gives visibility to projects offering departures from established modes of thinking, knowledge production and research methodologies.
Applicants do not require a degree in the discipline they chose to investigate, yet are expected to display deep engagement with the subject matter. Neither a curriculum vitae nor letters of recommendation are requested. The fellowship is not contingent upon the completion of a specific outcome or end product. There is no age limit for applicants. Applicants of all citizenships and places of residence are welcome.
For this iteration of the Call for Fellows, the Research Department selected the theme of BURN-OUT, and invited 2017 fellow Ramon Amaro to be the guest curator of the Call.
With this theme Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Research Department wanted to address on the one hand the growing number of bodies that under unrelenting pressure, overwhelming demands and calls to push themselves daily, are exhausted. And, on the other hand, to explore how this malady is only one of the symptoms of the persistent presence of exploitative structures on scales ranging from the individual to that of the wider social, institutional and biological ecologies.
‘Burn out’ is to stall, to become otherwise unusable. Yet ‘burn out’ is an opportunity to break open, promote action and catalyze change towards new relations. The emphasis was put on projects that aim to reshape existing structures as spaces for public and private good. The Call also encouraged applicants to propose projects that impact the ongoing activities of Het Nieuwe Instituut, and in particular its Research Department. This could involve forms of engagement, and strategies for internal and external collaboration that are not dependent on exploitative, extractive, and discriminatory technologies and economies.
Between the announcement of the Open Call on April 18 and the deadline of June 1 2018, Het Nieuwe Instituut received 138 entries in response to the theme BURN-OUT. Proposals came from Austria, Barbados, Egypt, Guatemala, India, Italy, Romania, Switzerland, The Netherlands and many other countries. The proposal topics ranged widely: some explored burn-out in relation to specific groups, such as among disillusioned political activists. Others re-conceptualised the notion of burn-out, for instance through re-imagining it as a daily occurence rooted in systematic oppression, or by applying it to the state of the environment. They also provided critical responses to a neoliberal society in which burn-outs are pervasive, for instance by replacing individualised self-help apps with collective alternatives, or by drastically re-structuring broken education systems.
The 138 entries were read by the Research department at Het Nieuwe Instituut (Marten Kuijpers, Katía Truijen and Klaas Kuitenbrouwer) who made a pre-selection of 30 projects from the total number of submissions that best exemplified the criteria announced in the terms of the call.
Both the pre-selected proposals and the entire application set were made available to a jury comprised of Ramon Amaro (Lecturer in Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, University of London, Het Nieuwe Instituut Research Fellow 2017), Sandi Hilal (architect, co-director Decolonising Architecture Art Residency, DAAR), Nishant Shah (Dean of Graduate School at the ArtEZ University of the Arts) and Jasmina Tešanović (author, feminist, political activist, translator, and filmmaker). The jury was chaired by Marina Otero Verzier (Director of Research, Het Nieuwe Instituut). The jurors were asked to read all 30 pre-selected proposals and invited to nominate any other projects for inclusion.
The jury meeting was held on 29 June 2018 at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Proposals were evaluated, as stated in the Call, on the basis of their engagement with the fellowship theme, depth of investigation, idiosyncrasy, connection to Het Nieuwe Instituut’s mission, and potential for exchange between fellows and across disciplinary boundaries.
During the pre-selection and the selection process, Het Nieuwe Instituut’s team members and jurors abstained from voting on proposals by individuals or groups with which they are affiliated or have a conflict of interest. The jury’s decision and the report were published and presented on 10 July 2018.
The jury recognised and awarded a Research Fellowship to three projects, each of which demonstrated critical rigour and depth of understanding of the broader issues that are at stake in their proposal. Each also deviates from conventional research methodologies and manifestations, combining different fields of expertise and knowledge production.
The three selected proposals depart from locally embedded stories and contexts, but also connect to timely global developments. All projects are sharply positioned within current political discourses, demonstrate ambition and precision. Instead of addressing burn-out as a contemporary mental health issue, the selected proposals transcend familiar tropes of burning out, and introduce different temporalities, geographies and dimensions of burn-out, as a structural phenomenon.
Alongside these outstanding projects, which will be developed as part of the fellowship program, the jury also chose to recognise three additional projects. The proposals, while not awarded by a fellowship, will be considered to be part of the institute’s public programme of exhibitions, events and publications, as well as that of its partners.
Natalie Dixon with Silences, Oppressions and Omissions. How to read a story about burn-out.
Elisa Giuliano with A Hat and a Bicycle. Welfare capitalism and the female working body.
Malique Mohamud with The Bodega aka Avondwinkel as a site of archival practices
Selected Extended Collaborations
Golnar Abbasi and Arvand Pourabbasi with Worknot!
Samira Daneshvar with Deformative Work
Gabrielle Printz with Producing the Self, Burning Out, and Laboring to Care
As in previous years, a more extensive report on current research topics, references, languages, geographies and methodologies based on the received proposals will be published by Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Research department this Fall.
Application Report 2016
Application Report 2017
Silences, Oppressions and Omissions. How to read a story about burn-out by Natalie Dixon
“In western cultural history, burn-out tends to be presented as a condition reserved for a particular few, often insinuating issues of class and gender. However, this tendency runs contrary to the reality of burn-out which is a more universal condition that especially impacts working-class women. Addressing this omission in the story of burn-out is significant as routine experiences of exhaustion amongst women tend to be forgotten or relegated in our collective consciousness. Considering this perspective, my research project utilizes a family photo archive as a starting point for awakening a critical train of thought about burn-out in the female body. Contributing to feminist scholarship, this research aims to elevate individual experiences of burn-out to more collective questions of women’s work in the family. The central method is a form of narrative unearthing, a way of noticing affective moments in family history by using the female body as a source of information. Most significantly, this story is in conversation with emerging research techniques within the field of machine learning that read and assign meaning to body language. This research will benefit from access to a number of collaborators and archives, notably those of Het Nieuwe Instituut and those concerned with women’s work, the body and artificial intelligence.”
This project brings to the fore the post-colonial discourse in a very personal and unassuming manner, through the lens of a family archive. It proposes to read a story on burn-out through an unexpected and unique methodology for such an endeavor, that is, by locating and collecting the silences and omissions left by those who are now absent. In doing so, the project stands out as a critical form of storytelling, in which the body is a medium, and the digital memory and critique an ending point. While investigations on digital memory are too often reduced to projects on archiving, and storage of information, this project brings human agency back into the equation. The jury encourages Natalie to question the actual materiality of the found archive.
A Hat and a Bicycle. Welfare capitalism and the female working body by Elisa Giuliano
“A Hat and a Bicycle starts from the story of Borsalino, Italy’s oldest hat maker, established in Alessandria in 1857. The company was known for hiring a largely female workforce in a time when this was a rarity. The employees, known as borsaline, were given a complimentary hat and bicycle, and the image of a woman riding to the factory wearing a luxury hat is still vivid in today in Alessandria’s popular imagination. In the 1910s the company set up a pioneering social security scheme, and later commissioned architect Ignazio Gardella to design hospitals and housing projects. The women had a unique opportunity for emancipation; yet their bodies were instrumentalized not only for the production of luxury hats, but also to build a progressive image of the company. Drawing from feminist critique and performance studies, the project will study the movement and physicality of female workers both inside the factory and in the public sphere (where they were frequently humiliated for their unprecedented independence). The research will ask whether the borsaline ever burned out, and to what extent this was counteracted by a progressive work environment. Through the lenses of gender, space, place, and gesture, burn-out is investigated not as an individual issue but in terms of collective labour relationships. The aim is to create an index of gestures that will be the basis for a performative work.”
The proposal addresses the history of Borsalino as a lens to study the labor unions under capitalism, and in particular addressing a collective body of women. By reflecting upon an historical case study, it recognizes that burn-out is not only a contemporary phenomenon. The jury recognizes the precise, nuanced and multilayered approach to the levels and acts of resistance involved in the socio-economic and political relations surrounding Borsalino workers. Rather than romanticizing their history, Elisa dares to deal with contradictions, and acknowledges that there is not one way of reading the stories of these women and their positions within a larger ethos of gender in Italy.
The proposed methodology opens up many different fields of practice. As an artistic project that involves performance, it promises to be more visible than conventional academic research; it positions itself strongly in a discourse on new materialism, and brings physicality and performance to the stage. The jury recommends Elisa to think about how gender operates in a wider context, connecting this case study to current social struggles. The topic could appeal to other spaces and temporalities.
The Bodega aka Avondwinkel as a site of archival practices by Malique Mohamud
“This project hopes to articulate the emergence of a Diasporic esthetic situated in Rotterdam by means of a Bodega. It’s a contemplation of an (future) institution derived out of the typology of el Barrio. In this research, the Bodega is viewed as a historical, physical and conceptual site where life situated in up rootedness comes into meaning. A space that houses interactions and transitions, and simultaneously represents resilience and shared lived experiences. A place where the maturing of this multicultural society is viewed through a counter cultural lens.
Rotterdam, the harbor city of a former colonial super power, is home to some of the most culturally diverse neighbourhoods in the world. The ethnically diverse counterculture this city has birthed, has become the face of popular culture in the Netherlands. Still ‘it’ resides in a vacuum of institutional underrepresentation and systemic marginalisation. Thus, the convergence of narratives and localities in neighbourhoods like Delfshaven are trapped in informality. Here, the term informality refers neither to a typology of space nor to a type of users, but instead illustrates a way of using space that differs from the intended regulatory use. But what happens when the informal becomes formal? What would happen if spatial agency is written into everyday practices? Such a reimagination and or reiteration could serve as a means to mitigate past, present and future trauma’s linked to black subjectivity in this post colonial era, a way to harness the potential for innovation, self reliance and allround dopeness. Malique Mohamud and the Concrete Blossom network will investigate what such an institution could and/or should be. Can I get an Amen?!”
This proposal addresses the bodega (a local neighbourhood food and goods shop), as a space of representation and the production of Diasporic life. Without glorifying bottom-up practices, Malique proposes an exploratory research method that draws out the often hidden productions of local life, which Malique argues manifests itself in a variety of formats. He looks at encounters that are already rooted in sites such as the bodega, and emphasizes how bodegas operate as places for knowledge production, and as such places we must turn to if we are to fully understand Diasporic culture in Rotterdam. More so, the project can also be understood as an invitation into this often taken for granted world of social relation and knowledge production.
The jury recognizes the local urgency of such a challenging endeavor. While informal gathering spaces in Rotterdam are squeezed out because of processes of gentrification, the bodega is one of the remaining spaces of non-normalized and anti-regulatory communality. As a place for communication and exchange, not subjected to the processes of inclusion and exclusion in which institutional spaces are embedded, the bodega is seen in this project as a model for another type of public institution. The jury invites Malique to reflect upon the overdetermined politics in regards to informal spaces in Rotterdam, the legal questions that are at stake and the restrictions of the spaces. The project will benefit from an awareness of the romanticism that often characterizes discourse on informal spaces. And finally, it should critically look at the limits of exchange: it can be violent to ask a community of safety to reach outside for exchange.
Deformative Work by Samira Daneshvar
“In lexicography "the human activity that falls under the category of work, at least in some of its uses, is linked to pain, to labor, and to accomplishment". Deformative Work explores anatomical abnormities that are caused and developed by work associated with the field of architecture. Repeated movements, or still postures -factored by time- decays the productive body and results in visible anomalies. Translation of work-induced disorders into aesthetics of physical figures renders the physical impact that the body endures in achieving efficiency.”
The proposal aims to bring the professional fields of medicine and architecture together in order to create a series of wearables that render visible the effects of work on the productive body. Samira investigates anatomical disorders that are caused and developed by work associated with the field of architecture and design, and will produce artistic illustrations and fashionable garments that are immediate translations of work-induced disorders. The jury encourages to further develop the methodology and the theoretical framework.
Selected Extended Collaborations
WORKNOT! by Golnar Abbasi and Arvand Pourabbasi
“Burnout is an umbrella term for symptoms that describe worker’s mental unwellness. Thus, a political term for controlling the laborer. And “breaking open” starts with reclamation of life, not excluding work from it. The home is the tragic scene for the outburnt subject performing depression, disappointment, withdrawal; also possibly framing the process of reclaiming new subjectivities. To collectively re-think everyday performances of being fatigued, being othered, shaping kinship, in the minor spaces of our homes, resisting, and reclaiming, this project brings the (spatial) conditions of the house into a series of mobile installations, that literally serve as spaces of discussion.”
This precise and articulated proposal investigates the home as the locus for burn out. The jury appreciates the potential of the project to actively engage with the local context in Rotterdam. The jury also encourages the team to investigate the home not only as a (privileged) space of comfort in which one can withdraw, but also as a contested space, that is often a territory for patriarchy, liberalism and violence.
Producing the Self, Burning Out, and Laboring to Care by Gabrielle Printz
“The working persona of the architect is a project now naturalized in practices of identity design. In the collapsing distance between what you are and what you do, self-maintenance and self-care attend to the perpetuity overwork--small reliefs that prolong burning-out. Against exploitative conditions of design-as-labor, how might collective acts of self-making lend to an architecture of care? As a feminist archaeology of the design collaborative and other co-productions of “architect,” this proposal asks how configurations of the designer-in-common might be available as recuperative measures, as political strategies, and as methods to overcome one's own exhaustion.”
The project proposes to document the collective productions of the design persona. It looks at how Het Nieuwe Instituut’s state archives of Dutch architecture and the contemporary architectural production in the Netherlands form a constitutive identity, as well as the male heroics that still structure the production and recognition of Good Design. By looking at the techniques by which a “we” is produced, Gabrielle aims at opening up the possibility of a more inclusive architecture practice, and archive. And more importantly a subjectivity of the designer-in-common that transcends the notion of author and producer and could substitute the otherwise burnt-out proposition of worker-as-subject. And that introduces the, much needed shift in thinking towards the idea of caring as a collective practice.