Throughout the years I have been very happy to exchange knowledge through coaching, giving workshops, organizing labs, and guest tutoring. For the past four years, I have developed and led MA Ecology Futures at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures with an affiliated position as a researcher in the connected Biobased Art & Design Research Group, working on the innovation of art education through the development of art-science discourse.
This highly ambitious and versatile Masters programme has been in a stage of development and growth, where there is an emphasis on interdisciplinarity and collaboration within our existing courses. Design practice and theory are co-taught, encouraging dialogue in relation to current social issues and civic urgencies that are relevant today, where the role of design is valued as a key tool for social change. The team is committed to supporting ambitious and diverse context specific and situated research approaches.
The master's programme Ecology Futures focusses on how art and design can help define and change the narrative around today's anthropocentric worldview. Through artistic research rooted in scientific methodologies, students are challenged to develop their own position, both theoretical and practical. Linked to the new Material Incubator lab space, students are encouraged to explore and engage with the biological world as a way to express concepts, directly incorporating living matter into their work. Together we have envisioned all kinds of different ecological futures, developing critical work about our position as humans in relation to all other living and non-living entities, aiming to achieve a radical shift in perception on society today.
"Through this position, I hope to translate my deep interest in human-made ecosystems into a critical MA course that brings forth artists that know how to imagine, shape and comment on alternative ecological futures."
In the academic year 2019/2020, a series of elective modules were piloted, while the full program was constructed and rolled out from September 2020 on. Together with Darko Lagunas Léon and Milton Almonacid, I developed the course Decolonizing Ecological Futures. With Ana Lisa Alperovich, a module was developed to enable students to experiment with and create new eco-materials. Based on the FIBER project Cartographies of the Vanishing now, an initiative of myself, Jarl Schulp and Mark IJzerman, another module was developed diving into sensory cartographies. And finally, biotech methodologies were introduced into the curriculum in collaboration with the Material Incubator Lab, a newly built professional lab at the art academy in Den Bosch, initiated by dr. Elvin Karana.
In the academic year 2020/2021, the role of bio art & design gained ground in the curriculum with two modules led by biodesigner Emma van der Leest and biotechnologist Emma Luijtjens exploring bacterial leather, mycelium and slime molds. Cartographies of the Vanishing continued with Jarl Schulp and Mark Ijzerman and included an in-depth workshop by Lili Carr of Anna Tsing's Feral Atlas project. Methods in art and activism and a practice of "care" were introduced by Suzanne Dhaliwal, while alternative collective futures and community relations were explored by Jasper Griepink in a collaboration with curator Imke Ruigrok and in connection with the RE|Nature festival that took place in Den Bosch in October 2021. Foundational theory and methods were in the great hands of dr. Alison Sperling.
In the academic year 2021/2022 dr. Adriana Knouf joined the team developing two modules on scifi and bioart, using fieldwork, microscopy, lichen and slimemolds in the artistic process and with her employment completed the full team formation.
For organisation Gemene Grond (Common Ground) I ideated, curated and led an interdisciplinary residency programme on the topic of hydrocommons. In a rich programme with lectures, location visits and work sessions, the group worked on the central theme “Water is what we make it”, collectively exploring the question: “What makes water?”
The programme featured lectures by dr. Rick Dolphijn, dr. Eveline de Smalen, Riikka Tauriainen, Sissel Marie Tonn, as well as introductions into the area by the municipality urban planners, water advisor and city ecologist. It included a guided visit to the Utrecht archive, a fieldwork day with a visit to the area and a canoe trip on the Utrecht waters. The group shared their many and diverse expertise by way of short workshops like spell-writing, wordplay and (collective) prompt-writing, microscopy and more. They finally produced a fluid publication in the form of a radio broadcast, which can be found here.
Gemene Grond (Common Ground) is a new, long term arts programme in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Gemene Grond departs from the idea of shared ownership and joint responsibility for our ‘public’ space and wants to rethink and innovate artistic work in the urban environment. Equity is at the heart of everything they do and the organisational structure as well as the actual content of the programme are shaped through commoning.
As bodies of water, we are both different and in common
— Astrida Neimanis
The Leidse Rijn is a man made canal that gradually came into existence, as the natural flow of the Rhine started to meander extensively and eventually became too shallow for sailing. In four sections, an easy to navigate, efficient waterway was installed and with it, a multi-actant ecosystem evolved. Present-day, the historical connection between Leidse Rijn canal and the Singel is in part inaccessible, however this is about to change as a major effort is underway to refurbish its urban surroundings. Though manmade, the waters of the Rhine flow through the canal on its way to the North Sea, and as such, the Leidse Rijn is part of the Rhine delta, which connects this urban ecology directly, on a material level, with the Alps glaciers. The river system, before fanning out, crosses six countries while further west, whatever enters the waterway in central Utrecht, ends up in the North Sea. And so, asking “What makes this water” invited us to think beyond the original efficient function of an 11 km canal, and to imagine what the waterflow touches and moves. We considered the Leidse Rijn and the canals of Utrecht as an embodied, man-nature negotiated territory, in which, in the words of philosopher Astrida Neimanis, all are “simultaneously partaking in a hydro commons of wet relations” (2017). This residency provided a unique opportunity to work from the perspective of this water, thinking through different ecologies that exist in and around the canal.
Collectively and diffractively, we considered the meaning of the interconnectedness of the Leidse Rijn, including the flight patterns of bats, the trekking of fish, the border zone between water and land, and the ‘rewilding’ of the embankments. From this process of knowledge co-creation the organisation formulated an open briefing for dialogue, that is considerate, carried by everyone involved and taking into account all inhabitants of the watery system. This briefing was offered for use in the process of decision-making in the upcoming urban development of the Leidse Rijn area in central Utrecht, as well as for commissioning an artistic intervention in the area. The programme was thus simultaneously an open invitation to learn, research and create and fostered new relations, collaborations, and valuable insights into this rapidly changing, intensively networked urban ecosystem.
During the pandemic, we launched "Dutch Invertuals Academy" as a way to share our knowledge and transcend borders while confined to our own houses. It is aimed at young professionals and at discovering new ways of working, exchange knowledge, get inspired, explore new materials, and experiment. As one of the three main tutors I guided a group of eight designers in their personal projects. This first edition of the academy program, projects were shipped to the Netherlands and exhibited at Dutch Design Week.
The academy offers an intensive, six week online program and is currently running for the second time. Theme of both editions is "True Matter", exploring what truly matters to the participants, working with their local context and materials, and providing a foundation in methodology by inviting experienced members of the collective to give workshops and lectures.
In 2018 I co-initiated a new and currently ongoing program, which kicked-off with a week-long lab for professionals. Called Cartographies of the Vanishing Now, the project is focussed on research and development and explores the potential of sensory art and alternative cartographic methods to remap reality in the age of environmental collapse. It sets out to capture the impact of the growing ecological instability on the way we organise and model our modern world, traces the forces behind environmental change and simultaneously shifts perspectives.
Media artists, designers, performers and musicians, as well as scientists, botanical experts, anthropologists, activists, bots and other spirits are all welcome to join the COTVN community through a series of activities that researches the topic of instability and explores symbiotic relationships between man, technology and ecology.
COTVN community The project brings together communities around FIBER, Waag Society, MA Ecology Futures at the Master Institute of Visual Cultures, Valley of the Possible and Simulacrum Magazine.
The first instance of Cartographies of the Vanishing Now happened in the shape of a five day laboratorium in Amsterdam in the week of September 9 to 13, 2019. A selection of makers and thinkers set out to research and define a wide variety of subjects, experiment with environmental data, create concepts and prototypes for new works and collaboratively shaped the future pathway of the project under the guidance of lab mentors and visiting guests. The lab consisted out of lectures by Ruben Jacobs, Mapuche philosopher Milton Almonacid, Shailoh Philips and others, masterclasses by Mark IJzerman, Tivon Rice and Jonathan Reus and a guided fieldtrip. The week ended with a fully sold-out public event at WAAG Society.
and others Find the full program at www.fiber-space.nl.
— Ruben Jacobs, COTVN interview
“We have a collective power which we can still, in a sense, decide what to do with, without having the illusion of having full control of what happens next. (...) I think that we need to find a story that helps us to navigate that very uncertain new world we are in.”
Through the years I have given many workshops at institutes as WAAG Society and MU Artspace, guest tutored for Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts & Design and set up and thought a new elective about algae at TU Delft. Part of the minor 'Prototyping with and for Emerging Materials', this elective set out to introduce working with algae through lectures, workshops and guided assignments. Connecting institutes, the developed curriculem will flow back into Ecology Futures, where science and art can meet.
Should you be interested in any of the above mentioned programs or are you curious what I can do as a curator or tutor for your organization, I am always open to new collaborations. Please find my contact information here.