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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.

General Comments

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.

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.”

Jury Comments

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.

Delany Boutkan, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani
Alex Walker