Het Nieuwe Instituut has instigated research in architecture, design and digital culture since its foundation in 2013, fostering programmes, exhibitions, lectures, archival investigations and publications in the Netherlands and internationally. Through its annual fellowship programme, Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Research Department acknowledges and gives visibility to research projects offering departures from established modes of thinking.
This year, the Open Call for Fellows focused on the theme Regeneration. New Institutional Practices. Following on from recent calls on the body’s burn-out (2018) and planetary exhaustion (2019), the 2020 programme invited collectives to take current conditions of burn-out and exhaustion as a point of departure to generate forms of collective organisation and action.
The theme emphasises the need for generative, collective and practice-based endeavours to test and rehearse new notions of the institution and ‘instituting’. The call is an appeal to reimagine the protocols, collective decision-making processes, forms of care, working ethos and financial structures of institutions. It welcomes initiatives that make explicit the unacknowledged logic and consent mechanisms, as well as the often abstract and invisible forces and relations, that traverse the social spaces of institutions.
Envisioning, bringing into practice and sustaining new institutions demands a reconsideration of established daily organisational structures, methodologies and dynamics. Therefore applicants were also invited to recognise the intimate connection between established and ‘new’ institutions, by reflecting on the adaptability of existing systems and their ability to transform. How to relate to the past critically, yet hopefully, in conceiving new modes of living together? Could existing structures be reshaped as non-exploitative spaces for public good? How to set free the potential that already exists in the world around us? How can design, architecture and digital culture contribute to, imagine and put in motion anti-racist, feminist, decolonial modes of institutional practice?
Moving on from Het Nieuwe Instituut’s previous calls for fellows – which were open to both individual and group applications – this year’s call specifically invited collectives to apply. With this call, Het Nieuwe Instituut aims to support collaborative practices within design, architecture and digital culture, extending beyond the notion of individual authorship. No institution exists without all its constituent members, and organisational processes are as vital as imagination for the existence of any institution.
The call did not impose ideas about what collectiveness implies, nor did it provide guidelines on the number of members or the different relationships that should exist between them. From design networks to worker cooperatives, from collective households to biosystems, applicants were encouraged to reflect on – and reinterpret – their definition of a collective practice, and explain who counts as a collective: for instance, are multispecies and more-than-human collaborations emerging along human alliances?
Applying collectives were encouraged to submit a critical and forward-thinking research proposal that addressed the 2020-2021 core theme, and that aimed to collectively disrupt, rethink, experiment, generate and gather new methodologies and forms of institutional practice in order to foster structures of support and care.
Collectives from all places of residence were invited to apply. Neither a curriculum vitae nor letters of recommendation were requested. The fellowships were open to all degree levels in all disciplines (design, architecture and digital culture). Equal priority was given to those without a degree or institutional affiliation who can also demonstrate a high level of creativity, critical thought and other potential in their respective fields.
Between the announcement of the Open Call for Fellows on 16 June and the deadline on 27 July, Het Nieuwe Instituut received 198 entries in response to the theme Regeneration. New Institutional Practices. Proposals came from Australia, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, China, Denmark, France, Ghana, India, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Spain, Thailand, the UK, Ukraine, the USA and many other countries. Topics ranged from labour conditions, gender equity and institutional self-abolition, to developing legal frameworks for civic contracts, new pedagogical structures and experimental educational formats, to indigenous knowledge networks, new food and consumption infrastructures, decentralised resource libraries and alternative art institutions.
All the entries were read by the Research Department (Delany Boutkan, Ludo Groen, Anastasia Kubrak, Marten Kuijpers, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Setareh Noorani, Katía Truijen) who made a pre-selection of 29 projects that best exemplified the criteria announced in the call.
The pre-selected proposals along with the entire submission set were made available to a jury whose members were: Guus Beumer, chair (General and Artistic Director, Het Nieuwe Instituut); Susana Caló and Godofredo Pereira (research collective whose work focuses on ecology, institutional analysis and social movements); Jeanne Van Heeswijk (artist); Malique Mohamud (former fellow and current advisor at Het Nieuwe Instituut, designer, hip hop futurist and founding member of Concrete Blossom); The Nest Collective (multidisciplinary arts collective creating applied-research methodologies in film, fashion, literature and other media); Marina Otero Verzier (Director of Research, Het Nieuwe Instituut); Elizabeth A. Povinelli (Franz Boas Professor Anthropology and Gender Studies, Columbia University and founding member of Karrabing Film Collective); and Cassie Thornton (artist and feminist economist, founder Feminist Economics Department). The jurors were asked to read all 29 pre-selected proposals and invited to nominate any other projects for inclusion.
The jury meeting was held on 27 and 28 August 2020 via Zoom. Proposals were evaluated on the basis of their engagement with the fellowship theme, relevance, singularity and connection to Het Nieuwe Instituut’s mission. The jury members discussed how the proposals might impact other institutional practices and methodologies, how they combined outward and inward thinking, how they engaged with notions of scalar organisation or with more-than-human species, and how they operated beyond borders.
During the pre-selection and selection process, Het Nieuwe Instituut’s team members and jurors abstained from voting on proposals by groups with which they are affiliated or have a conflict of interest. The jury’s decision and the report were published and presented on 15 September 2020.
The jury praised the wide range of proposals and collectives that applied, and the critical as well as generative engagement with the theme. The jury recognised and awarded a Research Fellowship to two projects. The two selected proposals demonstrate urgency and ambition, involving cross-disciplinary and collective forms of research and action.They depart from locally embedded institutional contexts, yet also connect with the quest to develop new modes of thinking and practice, in order to foster structures of care and support.
- O grupo inteiro with Drought, Nurturing, Orós, Caatinga, Sertão
- Resolve Collective with Following Infrastructions
Drought, Nurturing, Orós, Caatinga, Sertão
By O grupo inteiro (Carol Tonetti, Claudio Bueno, Enrico Rocha, Ligia Nobre, Vitor Cesar)
“Drought, Nurturing, Orós, Caatinga, Sertão [DNOCS] is a proposal for a beta phase of six months, which will allow research and experimentation, and meetings and processes, to establish a becoming-with-Caatinga institution, as an act of resistance against extractivist, capitalist and developmentalist power. What we understand as the beta phase is about imagining – creating an ‘institution essay’ to guide a transformation process towards becoming something else.
Caatinga is the biome that predominates in the north-east region of Brazil: a semi-arid environment with extreme climatic variations and long periods of drought. It has been taken to be a difficult place for economic exploitation by the colonial project, creating an image of a poor and hostile, dry and arid land. However, it is invulnerable to the colonial project, due to its acute cycles of life and death and its radical socio-environmental reciprocity.
Assuming that decolonial positions and resistance processes are inherent in Caatinga, our research and instituting approach is not one of projection, but of listening and mutual exchange. In particular, reviewing and renegotiating the ways we understand caring for water and Caatinga’s radical reciprocities, implies recognising the importance of other practices, knowledge(s) and their interactions.”
Drought, Nurturing, Orós, Caatinga, Sertão is a contextual, intriguing and beautifully presented proposal, in which the collective asks what is truly important for life to regenerate. It proposes looking at water as a resource, and listening to a territory, Caatinga in Brazil, that is marked by its scarcity: a semi-arid environment with extreme climatic variations and long periods of drought. The jury recognises the ambition and the relevance of the project, and the need to address drought as an entanglement of climate, politics, land, sun, soil, rituals, stories and water. The aim of O grupo inteiro is to establish a decolonial 'becoming-with-Caatinga institution’, through inviting various forms of knowledge: artistic, architectural, environmental, digital, design, agency and witchcraft. The jury acknowledges the precise, intersectional approach, and is positive about how the collective approaches the land not by dominating it, but instead engaging with it as a spiritual entity, without making any ‘life’ or ‘non-life’ assumptions. The project is particularly pressing in a country with rapid deforestation and in which democratic institutions are being dismantled. The jury supports the collective’s ambition to push for other imaginaries and lifeways. As it concerns a site-specific project, the jury encourages O grupo inteiro to think about ways to make it more than a digital project, as is suggested because of Covid-19, in conversation with Het Nieuwe Instituut.
By Resolve Collective
“The ‘institute’ dominates much of our collective imagination of what it means to organise. But while all institutions can be theoretically regenerated to become platforms for political transformation, this project responds to the ubiquity of the need to regenerate.
Instead, to make infrastructural is to radically decentralise resource, creating space in which ‘access’ is perpetually a verb, not a noun, and upholding dissipative practices; performative, responsive, and redistributive modes of operation that cause leaks and loopholes in organisational space where communities of care and networks of maintenance can flourish.
To explore possibilities for infrastructing institutional space, the project centres three key action-research activities. The first is ‘folding’ and ‘unfolding’; ways of mapping and re-organising institutional space by bringing together and separating its disparate and familiar parts. The second is centring ‘leaks’ and ‘loopholes’ in institutional space through co-creative workshops and co-designed interventions with an institution’s constituent and more-than-human parts. The third the documentation, critique, and celebration of dissipative relationships within institutions and the trial of exercises in collectively valuing them.”
With its proposal, the Resolve Collective aims to make institutional space infrastructural. The interdisciplinary design collective combines architecture, engineering, technology and art to address social challenges, with a focus on young people and under-represented groups, realising equitable change in the built environment and enforcing networks and communities of care. The jury is impressed by the sharpness, creativity and energy of the proposal and its self-reflection, as well as its strong visual language, shown both in video and graphics. The jury supports the collective’s approach to design as a mechanism for political and socio-economic change, and its aim to find portals of change through the act of ‘infrastructuring’. Furthermore, the jury values the highly interdisciplinary and collaborative research approach and working methodology, combining co-creative workshops, deep listening exercises, collective forms of documentation, and conversations with human and non-human parts of institutions. These create ‘folds and unfolds’ to address issues from multiple angles, such as ecological-societal-financial, spatial-philosophical, and technological-biological perspectives. The jury invites the collective to think carefully about the afterlife of the project after the six-month fellowship, as well as to reflect on what it means to work with, and to intervene in, the three proposed arts, educational and health institutions.
As in previous years, Het Nieuwe Instituut will publish a more extensive report on current research topics, collective practices, references, languages, geographies and methodologies, based on the entire set of submitted proposals in response to the call, later this autumn.