International Call for Fellows
Through an International Open Call for Research Fellows, Het Nieuwe Instituut invited practitioners and researchers in the fields of architecture, design, and digital culture to work in residence from June to December 2016. Applicants have been asked to submit an independent research proposal that illuminates their own approach to research, including specific and unconventional methodologies. In particular, they have been encouraged to challenge how research is conducted within an institutional context, pursuing alternatives to the expectation of predetermined outcomes, the use of official jargon, and the inertia power of the curriculum vitae.
The fellowship is a 6-month position that entails individual work, collaborative work with other fellows, interaction with the Research & Development department, and collaborations with external partners. Fellows have access to the facilities of Het Nieuwe Instituut, including the reading room, archives, public spaces, and presentation rooms. In the long term, the program is also intended to complement, reflect on, interact with, and critique the ongoing activities of the institute.
Between the announcement of the open call on 15 February 2016 and the deadline of 28 March 2016, Het Nieuwe Instituut received 243 entries in response to the international call for fellows. Proposals came from India, South Africa, Belarus, Ireland, Chile, Spain, Italy, the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and many other countries. Topics varied from automation to experimental theatre, oral histories of architectural models, dance in institutional spaces, projects on mandatory positivity, technologies of warning and civic alarm, and artificial intelligence.
Each entry was submitted in line with the requirements, and was accepted for consideration by the Research and Development team at Het Nieuwe Instituut (Marten Kuijpers, Landscape and Interior; Tamar Shafrir, Things and Materials; Katía Truijen and Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Digital Culture), who made a preselection of 35 projects from the total 243 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 Tom Avermaete (professor of Architecture, Delft University of Technology), Guus Beumer (director, Het Nieuwe Instituut), Anselm Franke (curator, Haus der Kulturen der Welt), Vinca Kruk (designer/artist, Metahaven), Marina Otero Verzier (head of research & development, Het Nieuwe Instituut) and Jana Scholze (associate professor, Curating Contemporary Design at Kingston University). The jury was asked to read all 35 pre-selected proposals and invited to nominate any other projects for inclusion—an opportunity of which they indeed made use.
The jury meeting was held on 12 April 2016 in Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. Proposals were evaluated on the basis of idiosyncrasy of subject and methodology, depth of investigation, connection to Het Nieuwe Instituut’s mission, potential to cross disciplinary boundaries, and potential for exchange and collaboration between fellows. During the preselection 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 was published and presented on 28 April 2016.
The jury was truly impressed and excited by the wide range of proposals and the creativity and excellence they demonstrated, proving the richness of contemporary research practices as well as the importance of public calls and opportunities that offer a place for projects beyond the standard institutional or academic formats. While recognising the critical rigour and depth of the proposals, the jury also encourages all applicants to continue exploring specific and unconventional working methodologies that could expand and offer departures from established modes of thinking.
Reading and evaluating the proposals was both a pleasure and a challenge, as the interest in the topics proposed and the strong commitment of the applicants exceeded all expectations. Given the level of the projects and the relevance of the topics presented, the jury decided to expand the number of fellowships from three to four. The jury also chose to recognise three projects with honorable mentions. Additionally, Het Nieuwe Instituut sees great potential in a number of other proposals that could be developed as independent projects within the institute’s public programme of exhibitions, events, and publications.
The number and diversity of applications allows for further reflection on the state of contemporary research practices in the fields of design, architecture and digital culture. Thus, a larger report on current research topics, references, languages, geographies and methodologies will be published by Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Research and Development department in the coming months.
Terra Infecta by Andrea Bagnato
“Following multiple deadly epidemics in recent years (HIV, Ebola, Zika), public health experts have become increasingly aware of the relation between infectious diseases, space, and human activity. While it is well documented that the prevention of epidemics was important in shaping the modern city, the role of pathogens in wider processes of territorial reorganisation has not been the object of the same attention.
Terra Infecta is a research project in two parts. It is an investigation of how infectious diseases (in particular malaria and yellow fever) have influenced historical patterns of inhabitation and land use, especially within colonial environments. In parallel, it studies global anthropogenic transformations (urbanisation, deforestation, resource extraction) in terms of their consequences at the microscopic scale, laying the ground for an epidemiological history of modernity.
The breadth of such questions calls for a new ecological understanding of the interactions between space and people, and for new visual languages to represent them. Terra Infecta will bring together work and experts from design, visual arts, epidemiology, environmental humanities to weave new collaborations and explore whether architecture can contribute to a better understanding of planetary health.”
Comments from the Jury
The jury finds in Terra Infecta a strong, provocative, and extremely relevant proposal. Dealing with the question of health and its spatial consequences, Terra Infecta builds on the modern movement’s preoccupations with hygiene to develop a new geopolitical understanding of disease and its relation to architecture. The proposal looks at both historical events and materials and the contemporary spatial politics of deadly epidemics in order to generate a public debate on the role of pathogens, governmental and nongovernmental health organisations, pharmaceutical logics and their impact on land use, modes of inhabitation, human displacement, and processes of territorialisation and deterritorialisation. The project offers a compelling and ambitious proposition about the scale at which architecture and urban design and planning can be understood, as microscopic pathogens are mobilised for the planetary management of bodies and populations.
Terra Infecta proposes the editorial process as a collaborative research method, featuring expert voices from different disciplines, and circulating to the public as it evolves in the form of monthly publications. Furthermore, the project would make a valuable addition to the current conversation on the role of architecture in the future of healthcare in the Netherlands, by offering a new set of tools and perspectives to the question.
The jury invites the researcher to envision and develop a particular visual language and visualisation techniques for the project in addition to the written work, and to engage with the collections of Het Nieuwe Instituut’s archive.
The Contents by Simone Niquille
“The Contents is a research project in film and writing on digital identity, data ownership, imaging technology and the resulting power structures affecting real bodies.
Imaging and capture technology is digitising our bodies at a resolution and frequency never attained before, and this tendency is only accelerating. Be it for the purpose of digitally ageing Brad Pitt on screen or biometric citizen profiling such as India’s national ID program. The Contents is located somewhere between the film industry’s CGI special effects, a corporate strive for ever more intuitive interfaces and biometric surveillance; all of which require some of our body to digitise in order to function.
As imaging technology progresses, what are the future uses of these collected and stored digitised bodies for identity creation? The higher the image resolution, the more believable and authentic the reproduced avatar. In 2014, Jan Krissler produced an Apple iTouch readable silicon fingerprint from a high-res photo of the German Defense Minister, successfully unlocking an iPhone. The question of future identity hinges as much on digitised body data ownership as on the governance of the networked space of appearance. Who controls the narrative, who controls the screens and who owns the avatars?”
Comments from the Jury
The Contents is a compact project that masters the balance between precise research and a sophisticated sense of humor, lightness and convoluted narratives. It seeks to understand and represent the nature and extent of shifting notions of identity within contemporary visual and security regimes. For that purpose, Simone Niquille digs into recent history to bring to attention some of its most fascinating episodes in which technological advances and science fiction, pop culture and global politics intertwine around the question of self-representation.
The Contents looks into our digital personas and asks to what extent they belong to or represent the bodies on which they are ostensibly designed. By addressing global publics of lookalike actors and discussions about (higher) resolutions of imaging technologies, Niquille engages critically with today’s online spaces of appearance. The project embraces interviews as a common methodology in oral history, combined with fact-fiction films and essays as a research strategy, which resonates with Het Nieuwe Instituut’s interest in developing alternative ways of looking at historical narratives, mobilising archival material, producing knowledge, and disseminating research.
Black and White and Red All Over by Noam Toran
“Black and White and Red All Over charts a course through the varied forms of political theatre from the first half of the twentieth century. From the Soviet Proletkult theatre of the 1920s, to the agitprops of 1930s Europe, through to the socialist, anarchist, and union-run theatre troupes in the Americas and European colonies, the project aims to shed light on some of the dynamic ways in which theatre, through its coalescing of fictional and factual material, has informed, or infected, radical and revolutionary consciousness.
The project will take on the form of a ‘living’ piece of research, in which the materialities of early 20th century political theatre – its methods, tools and codes of communication – are ‘revived’ through new adaptations, dramatisations and re-enactments which are developed in an open and collaborative framework. Working with local professionals and the public, the aim is to fill Het Nieuwe Instituut with collectively built sets, costumes, posters, banners, and musical scores which echo the energy, ethos, imagination and political urgency of a previous era, but which provide the creative foundations for new critical approaches to our contemporary socio-political circumstances.”
Comments from the Jury
The jury recognises the potential and ambition of the proposal by Noam Toran, which locates the practice of theatre at the core of radical and revolutionary consciousness. The project stands out due to its unexpected yet strong research methodology that brings historical sources to life as 1:1 scale experiments with writers, actors, dancers, costume and set designers, among others. It also bears a strong connection to Het Nieuwe Instituut’s long-term research on exhibition formats, in particular its 1:1 series and exhibitions as research platforms.
By turning the institute into a theatre, the proposal could catalyse the genesis of new forms of spatial and artistic research, using Het Nieuwe Instituut as the site of experimentation with the identity of cultural institutions, but also as a true public space for engagement, debate and action. The jury also identifies the challenges associated with the development of the proposal, as dedicating the whole institute to theatre would demand a form of engagement beyond what the fellowship presupposed, as well as further resources and commitment from the entire organisation. The proposal, therefore, demands a commitment to an intimate yet public spatial dialogue from both the researcher, the institute, and the larger audience and community. The jury considers this challenge a beautiful, thrilling opportunity, and encourages Toran to fully embrace this ongoing negotiation with the space and dynamics of the institute as a mode of research and public interaction.
Alchemic Dialogue by Füsun Türetken
“Based on the concept of panmetallism by Deleuze and Guattari, this research formulates a critique on capital and conflict through materials, more precisely metal. It includes an analysis of key marketplace forums, like Wall Street and the London Metal Exchange, and investigates the production, destruction, and the reformation of the World Trade Center Towers in order to write a forensics of power emerging in the post 9/11 era. Taking the architecture of the World Trade Center, the icon of American Capitalism, as point of departure, the study reflects on conditions of raw material, mining and the world of finance, and then turns to the afterlife of the World Trade Center metals as they become reincarnated in commodities, be it soup cans or aircraft carriers. The narrative is structured according to the periodic table, the system of chemical elements, which I associate with events and metals. The narrative identifies nodes of a rhizomatous network of metals that represent objects, subjects and institutions and their entanglement in the moment the system collapses.”
Comments from the Jury
The Jury was impressed by the sophistication of Alchemic Dialogue. The proposal deals with the notion of “material” in a way that, until now, has not been sufficiently addressed. The research methodology proposed by Füsun Türetken appropriates the periodic table and treats its elements as nodes in the network of metals, in order to unveil a fascinating narrative around a series of historical events, subjects, and organisations. The research will be visualised and made public through film and installation pieces.
Türetken’s proposal is unique in its approach to physical matter as a condensation of political and financial resources and imbalances, with implications for the construction of space, the circulation of currency, and the manufacture of objects. Using the medieval concept of alchemy as a paradigm for the interaction and transformation of metals, her approach evokes the kaleidoscopic viewpoint necessary to understand how materials, both as landscapes and as unitised commodities, interact with society to acquire meaning. Türetken bridges between many different disciplines — design, material studies, archaeology, geopolitics, and economics — to offer a provocative investigation into the invisible forces shaping design.
Acknowledging that architectural culture, at least for the last two hundred years, has been advocating the white/future revolution in a literal sense, m-a-u-s-e-r retrieves its black/past moments and elements. It is in the dialectics with openness, light, and transparency that dark spaces can become a means by which alternative forms of architecture can be imagined.
Víctor Muñoz Sanz
Lights Out! is a timely and solid proposal that analyses the production of space for and by fully-automated industry. Lights Out! reveals how economic decisions and industrial processes function as key factors in the development and direction of spaces and entire territories.
Positive Properties is a visual and qualitative research project that maps the phenomenon of unbridled optimism in the contemporary design culture and discourse. With an in-depth visual audit, readings and interviews with authors, Michèle Champagne proposes to develop a vocabulary and visual language to describe and draw this new bubble of positive thinking. Her project suggests that critical perspectives and positivity intersect in complex ways in contemporary media, generating their own inertias and multiple, overlapping truisms, recreating reality in the design sphere as a dynamic version of itself.