ARIAS Start of the Season – Review

September 28: ARIAS Start of the Season


Held at the DAS Graduate School, the ARIAS Start of the Season event began with an introduction by the programme director Jeroen Boomgaard, who noted that the event coincided with the exact day on which the UvA’s Humanities faculty was occupied, over two years ago. Boomgaard continued by acknowledging the union between the five institutions that came together to form ARIAS and touched upon the negative impacts of bureaucratic pressures, which take attention away from practices of research and teaching. The importance of finding approaches that strengthen each other, as well as forming groups that energize themselves were also among the core points he emphasized, continuing with the ARIAS mission to connect people from the realms of art, science and research who might not otherwise cross paths.


Following up Boomgaard’s speech was ARIAS programme coordinator Flora Lysen, who provided the audience with a refresher on the past year with ARIAS, talking about the ARIAS x KNAW lecture series, successful ARIAS initiatives and collaborations that arose during that period. Lysen then introduced Dr. Daphne Lentjes, the ARIAS funding advisor from IXA, who went on to explain the role of IXA in helping researchers pursue applications with the help of ARIAS.


After the introduction, the seven tables of the day were introduced, with the initiators of each respective table asked to pitch their topics, and following the pitches, were invited to begin their first 50 minute round of discussion.


Dubbed the “Amsterdam Design School” table, table one was home to a discussion that departed from the idea of establishing such a school, and the expectations that would surround such an endeavor education and research-wise. Consisting of designers, researchers and instructors, the table became a forum for discussing the design “values” one might ascribe to the Amsterdam and Eindhoven schools in comparison, as well as the ideas of community building and profit versus solidarity. Bringing Amsterdam into the “Dutch design” conversation became a point of exchange, which led the table members to discuss the possibility of an Amsterdam Design Week, which would then bring the city’s design students and researchers together, providing a platform to achieve momentum, flourish discussions, draw attention to research and establish a network.


The second table, headed by Amal Chatterjee, was focused on creative writing and closing the gaps that arise between creative and academic writing when trying to connect to a wider public. The discussion began by delineating the characteristics of creative and academic writing, and touched upon the differences between writing as an individual action and writing in groups, where the need for an alternative approach was brought into the conversation. From this alternative point of view, the idea of a writing workshop group came into fruition, which, in Chatterjee’s words, “aims to look at alternative ways of writing and looking at writing”.


Focused on “Research in and through Film”, the diverse guests of the third table discussed the ideas of “film as research” and “film is research”, where the members were invited to muse on the dichotomy these two proposals. The ideas of “researching through making a film” and “researching and making a film” were at the core of the discussion. As a result, the group planned two future screenings to look at what research in an through film could potentially mean for diverse groups.


Headed by Boomgaard and René Boer, the fourth table was the site of a discussion on the contributions that the arts can make to the commons. Using the Zeeburgereiland Project as its point of departure, the table members discussed the power relations between artistic institutions and the city within the project. One of the main strands of discussion emerged as the importance of discussing “commoning the arts”, before “commoning the world”, as well as historical examples of such processes and what can be learned from them.


The fifth table, which was initially focused on Artificial Intelligence and led by Sandberg’s Policy Advisor Jaap Vinken joined forces with the design table, which ended up bringing a variety of different perspectives to the design discussion.


Vrije Universiteit’s Dr. Manon Parry was the initiator of the sixth table, which focused on the medical humanities. Parry spoke of her intentions to form a summer or winter school for the programme, as well as finding support for the new MA track she is planning. In order to transform the teaching programme, Parry spoke of the current research streams she is pursuing, namely “Evidence Expertise and Authority”, and “Cultural Traces of Health and Medicine”. In discussion of these elements, the table members decided to work together towards organizing a Winter School for 2020, as well as working on a collaborative MA track.


The seventh and final table was led by University of Amsterdam’s Maike Steen, who spearheads the Law Lab initiative, which aims to achieve a paradigm shift in the field of criminal law by designing the “courtroom of the future”. Steen explained that the approach would be focused on the human scale of things, as well as factors like safety, trust and reconciliation, with particular attention paid to how different cultures manifest in the courtroom. By bringing the narratives on the courtroom under the spotlight, Law Lab aims to look into the roles, places and archetypes that exist within the atmosphere, while incorporating forces such as design, dance and architecture into the mix.


At the end of the first round of discussions, a new table titled “Radical Imagination: Places, programmes and people for just, equal and free art and education” was created by attendees of the Amsterdam Design School table, namely Marjo van Schaik and Juha van’t Zelfde. The group focused on establishing an understanding of radicalism, oppression and imagination within the context of Amsterdam as a city, going so far as to plan a mapping project of the city’s radical history.