An archive of arts and research news & reflections on ARIAS events from each season.

News and Blog


“Who’s Afraid of the Archive?” – Review

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“Who’s Afraid of the Archive?” – Interdisciplinary meetup for artists, scholars and archivists


Organized in collaboration with the Humanities Cluster (HuC) of the KNAW and ARIAS, “Who’s Afraid of the Archive?” kicked off with an introduction by Gijs Kessler of IISH and the ARIAS program coordinator Flora Lysen. While Kessler focused on the types of projects and studies conducted at the IISH, the Huygens Institute and the Meertens Instute respectively, Lysen touched upon the ARIAS mission to help artistic and academic perspectives compliment each other.

Following on Kessler and Lysen’s introduction, Turkish artist and video activist belit sağ, who focuses on archiving and documenting politically oriented social movements in Turkey, made an opening speech, where she spoke of the nexus of her work. Describing her work as “making sense of images and narratives”, sağ went on to explain how she retrieves meaning from her materials, exposing them to the audience from a first person perspective. By situating archives and the practices of archiving as co-conspirators in her work, sağ went on to provide examples from prominent events and protests in Turkey’s hectic political past, including 2013’s Gezi protests. sağ concluded her presentation by introducing her video collective “”, which is an audiovisual archive of social movements in Turkey, with counterparts like  “” (India) and Mosireen (Egypt) respectively.


After sağ’s speech, the attendees were invited to join a table of their choosing, based on the numbers they were given upon entrance. The first of the discussion tables was led by IISH’s Gijs Kessler, who situated the focus on labour relations and work and power balance in the workplace, calling for a more activist approach. By introducing subjects from various places in the labour hierarchy, Kessler informed his audience on the circumstances and challenges within labour relations, ranging from visualising the challenges, accessing experience and using that experience for research.


Table 2, which was led by Douwe Zeldenrust of the Meertens Institute focused on an introduction of the audio collection of the KNAW, which features 6,382 hours of digitised audio from 1998 to 2018. Zeldenrust began his introduction with a brief overview of how the Meertens Institute covered the topic initially, and continued with examples from the archives that he shared with the participants. Ranging from captures of authentic dialogues and dialects to “household sounds”, the discussion also touched upon the sound project “Institute voor Huisgeluid”, led by Meertens’ artist in residence Elise t’Hart.


The third table of the evening was focused on inclusivity and led by IISH’s Leila Musson, Hannah MacKay and Thijs van Leeuwen. Beginning with a presentation on their work with inclusivity and noting that various other archives experience the same problem, the then trio introduced a prototype for inclusive archival data storage. By offering a way to shape archives via peer reviews, the prototype would allow some semblance of control, as well as enabling the audience to interact with the archive. Pointing out the difficulties of archiving migrant groups, Leila Musson commented on the lack of diversity in the archives and invited the audience to brainstorm on possible solutions to urge people to share their stories.


Focused on reading and writing in the margins, table 4 featured a contribution by Mariken Teeuwen, who is a professor at the Huygens Instituut. Teeuwen began by outlining the definitions and multilayered meanings that the margins carry in medieval texts and how much importance is placed in the study of such texts within the research that is carried out at the Huygens Instituut. By classifying margins as personalized notes that aim to engage with the memory of the reader and to capture their attention, Teeuwen introduced a main point of comparison between Latin textbooks and a modern book, “Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince”, centering the discussion on medieval reading practices and their reflections reflect our practices of reading and writing today.


The fifth and final table of the evening was led by Amsterdam born artist Pieter Paul Pothoven, who presented the audience with a lively discussion on the 80’s group RARA (Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action). Describing RARA as a riddle in itself, Pothoven went on to explain how he began to work on creating an archive on the collective, as well as opening its status as an organic entity versus a fixed entity to discussion. Contending that a “closed archive is a missing point of information”, Pothoven continued with visual examples and accounts of his communications with several prominent figures in the collective, concluding that while the process itself has been a long one, “archives themselves are not the work, archiving is.”

ARIAS Start of the Season – Review

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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.

Arts & Education: New Sites and Concepts for Radical Pedagogies in the Arts – Review

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Arts & Education: New Sites and Concepts for Radical Pedagogies in the Arts


What’s next in art and education? How are contemporary arts engaging in education, and how do practitioners from art and education respond to the issues of today? The final evening of the Art Knowledge series aimed to answer these questions, with the contributions of Jurgen Bey, Josien Pieterse & Amal Alhaag, Jorge Lucero and René Boer.

Moderated by Marijke Hoogenboom, the evening began with Sandberg Instituut’s Jurgen Bey, who began by talking about our relationship with education. Situating education and knowledge at the heart of our journeys of discovery, development and decision-making, Bey proceeded to question how we need to decide on what is necessary and what is not. Stressing that technologies such as VR and AR have changed our “reach” in terms of knowledge, Bey spoke of how we now explain our so-called reality through culture. By situating ourselves “a minute” away from our reality, as in the example of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, Bey suggested that taking such a stance could improve our perspective. Jurgen Bey continued to set the stage for the following speakers by talking about the “humility” that comes with being a student, whereas he himself was of the opinion that the culmination of each individual in such an environment actually formed a large system, one that has the potential to have an impact on the city and the structures to which it belongs. We should be much more aware of the fact that students make up an large number of the Amsterdam population and that changing students’ ways of housing and studying can bring radical change to the city of Amsterdam. Bey concluded his introduction by stressing that education should be seen as more than something that is “given”, but something that we need to “act on”.


Josien Pieterse and Amal Alhaag were next to take the stage, with Pieterse beginning to outline the details of their concrete proposal for education, focusing on a “public” master’s programme that offers collective learning opportunities. Alhaag continued by emphasizing the fact that the difference between Western and non-Western art has outlived itself, where the line between who is represented, who makes decisions and whose issues are discussed is increasingly blurred. By focusing on identifying ideal practices, Alhaag and Pieterse reported that they focused on four issues, namely canonizing art, rewriting history, local contact points and local cultures. Alhaag also expanded on the practices adopted at Framer Framed, where they feature works that each disclose a story and question in themselves. By featuring a variety of voices, topics, domains and perspective, Framer Framed emerges as a social domain, where it is possible to learn openly and think together. Following up on this idea with the Side Room initiative, Alhaag explained that it aims to think outside of institutional critiques and encourages learning differently, intersectionally and in a communal, playful way that enables skill sharing.



Following Alhaag and Pieterse was artist and educator Jorge Lucero, who began with an account of how he began teaching and expanded upon the importance of being “playful” within institutional contexts, as well as developing the ability to be institutionally literate. By being institutionally literate, he explained, it would be possible to read what is happening, what types of mechanisms, power dynamics, and pedagogical strategies are at play within an institution. Lucero followed up on his conceptual explanations with concrete examples from his work, namely “Folding Collages”, wherein he folds certain images from magazines and scans them, creating what he terms “descaled, playful work(s)”, as well as Slow Instagram (where he screenshots low-resolution images from loading Instagram pictures), and his in-class practice, “Teach Anything”, where his students are urged to teach something they have expertise in, from the Heimlich Maneuver to stargazing.


The last contribution of the evening was by René Boer, who spoke about his work on embedded educational experiments, with the Cairo Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CILAS) at its core. A discussion based, shared learning environment that is set in a caravansarai in Cairo, CILAS was part of the booming number of art centers and political collectives that emerged after the Egyptian revolution. Providing an overview of the institute’s background in inception in Cairo, Boer spoke of how it works towards re-imagining higher education and returning to the city. Boer continued expanding on the current status of CILAS and then introduced his Zeeburgereiland project, which serves as an arts and education space with a master’s programme of its own.

Arts & Ecologies: Politics & Poetics of Moving Materials – Review

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April 19: ART-KNOWLEDGE #3
Arts & Ecologies: Politics & Poetics of Moving Materials


An evening dedicated to discussing and exploring how the arts and artistic research contribute to planetary-scale questions of ecological transformation and disaster, this the third edition of the ARIAS and KNAW lecture series took place at Literair Theater Perdu, with the contributions of Adam Nocek, Isabelle Andriessen, Katja Kwastek, Ginette Verstraete, Joost Adriaanse and Ester van de Wiel.


The event was introduced by Kristine Steenbergh, who sketched the possible contributions of the arts to ecological issues with examples of research conducted at the Environmental Humanities Center at the VU. The first contribution by Adam Nocek offered an overview of how geophysical systems can intersect with the narratives through which we understand the world. Nocek further situated his line of reasoning by focusing on the idea of myths and how they can be dissected as sources of information that contribute to our understanding of the Earth’s natural history. By coupling myths and artistic practice, Nocek expanded on the way “elemental media” come to surface, where multiple layers of planetary scale computing and governance intersect, which he called geocommunication. Arguing that myths are part of the intelligence and genealogy of geocommunication, Nocek explained how the emerging field of geomythology explores the Earth’s transformations over time. Geomyths are increasingly becoming the subject of scientific scrutiny, as they can also be considered as “noisy channels” that carry information.


Nocek was followed by Dutch artist Isabelle Andriessen, interviewed on stage by prof. Katja Kwastek, who spoke about her practice of producing sculptures that decompose and transform while on display. Drawing her inspiration from the intersections of nature and technology, Andriessen explained the process that goes into making her sculptures sweat and decompose, which also involved getting into contact with chemists an scientists across different fields to achieve the intended effect. “I always attempt to make the work ‘move’.”  Andriessen’s presentation was followed by a display of two synthetic “perfume” samples, as well as tryouts of skin-resembling ceramics used in her exhibitions.


Finally, the team members of the ‘Re-source research project’ (Joost Adriaanse, Ginette Verstraete and Ester van de Wiel) take the stage. Collaborating on a joint project that focuses on the journey of resources in a given industry and situation of resource scarcity, Ginette Verstraete spoke for the trio and presented the audience with a large scale map of their work. Explaining that they work with and through the city, Verstraete commented on their use of scale for the visualization of residual materials and their journey through the city. Adriaanse continued by stating that their work is situated somewhere between explaining the reality and explaining the possibilities. Following up on Adriaanse’s comments, Ester van de Wiel added that their objectives for this resource related project also included getting a clear sense of location and all the actors that were involved, proceeding to explain the flows that were displayed to the audience in meticulous detail. 

ARIAS x DRIFT: Art, Writing and Philosophy – Review

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13 April: ARIAS x DRIFT: Art, Writing and Philosophy


Taking place at Lab111’s Kapel room with Amal Chatterjee, Josef Früchtl and moderator Divya Nadkarni, the ARIAS x DRIFT Art, Writing and Philosophy panel offered its audience an “after hours” exploration into the themes of artistic research, scientific and creative thinking and writing.


Kicking off the discussion was Divya Nadkarni, who began by asking “What place does art research have in academic disciplines?”. By situating art as more than just an object for analysis, the speakers first delved into the bird versus worm metaphor (which was also one of the themes of the festival) and expanded upon how the roles have been reversed – the worm has now become the predator, the storyteller. In that regard, they discussed the meaning and place of artistic research as an intersection of the way we grasp the world.


Writer and academic Amal Chatterjee continued the conversation by bringing up an important point about the differing perspectives one can assume from academic and “writerly” stances. Explaining that the academic point of view allows us to see art as “representation”, he explained that the writer sets that gaze aside and establishes a more personal relationship with it. Chatterjee further outlined the process of the “writerly” standpoint – the writer creates an artifact and has to let it go and reconcile his idea of perfection with it. The perfectionist idea has to be destroyed and the writer moves on, while the scientist or the philosopher would not dream of doing that, they are ready to discuss their work and dispute their critics.


Connecting that theme to philosophy at large, Professor Josef Früchtl spoke at length about how the intersection of art and philosophy always produces multiple points that inform the individual, stressing the inter-related nature. Explaining the “multiple, multifarious and multifaceted” tendencies of art, Früchtl described philosophy in relation to it as something that “seeks to create different languages to look at the world.” Früchtl then went on to mention how prominent names like Nietzsche and Derrida had an intrinsic connection to literature in their work, as well as talking about Plato, who “exiled literature and art” in his utopian view of society, but himself wrote what is now termed “philosophical literature”.


The panel then went on to expand on the role of artistic research in this diagram, as well as how it constitutes a new phase for art, science and literature. Früchtl commented on how the relationship between the three disciplines is based on differentiation and how it presents a challenge for those looking to distinguish it. Describing artistic research as a tool that invites and challenges us to think more precisely about what research means, Früchtl explained how it borrows the rich perspective, perception and understanding of art and opens up the lane for further discussion and exploration.



Bringing up Michel Foucault as a figure who stands at the intersection of art and science, Früchtl commented on the revolutionary powers of the two disciplines and how their intersection could provide completely new ways of looking at the world and brought the panel to a conclusion by stating that there a lot of progress to be made in this new and promising avenue.

Arts & Health: Debate About Artistic Research & Cultures of Care – Review

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29 March: ART-KNOWLEDGE #2
Arts & Health: Debate About Artistic Research & Cultures of Care


Focused on arts and health, the second instalment of the KNAW & ARIAS Art-Knowledge lecture series took place on March 19th, bringing together Yvonne Dröge Wendel, Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, Rachel Spronk and Paul Gomes to explore how artistic research and cultures of care intersect.


Moderated by Patricia Pisters, the evening began with German artist Yvonne Dröge Wendel and her introduction to her work De Coupé, an installation in the form of a real life train compartment for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. With seats that do not face each other and countryside footage outside the window, ‘De Coupé’ explores the idea of “doing nothing.” Reminiscing about the initial steps of the project, Wendel spoke of how they started out with by observing the old patients in the nursing homes to answer the question: “What do old people want to do?”


Focusing on patients that were heavier cases who had difficulty with simple daily tasks, Wendel explained that they set out to explore the idea of “doing nothing”, specifically the most pleasant, beautiful, accepted form of doing nothing, with as little input as possible. Describing ‘De Coupé’ as a “calming experience”, Wendel shed light on the logic behind the artwork, offering a behind the scenes look at the challenges of bringing art into a care space. Her presentation concluded with a question to the audience: how do complex art projects like De Coupé find institutional embedding?


Wendel was followed by Ana Maria Gomez Lopez, who began with an anecdote featuring Nobel winning surgeon Werner Forssmann, who developed a procedure that allowed cardiac catheterization by self-experimenting. Inspired by Forssmann’s story, Lopez began working on her most recent project ‘Punctum’ – with which she aims to explore and question the limitations of her body by self-experimenting, by way of using a medical set-up to exteriorize the circulatory system. Lopez continued by expanding upon how self-experimentation can radically rearrange and change certain conventions, allowing us to question their corporeal normativization in the medical world.


The third and final contribution of the evening was by Rachel Spronk and Paul Gomes. A professor of anthropology and a film director respectively, the duo’s collaboration zeroed in on the story of a leper colony in Nigeria with the underlying themes of poverty, conflict and migration. Spronk began by remarking on how Africa is often portrayed in a negative light in the mass media worldwide. Explaining that they set out to change that outlook, Spronk detailed how their “medical mission” came together by painting a picture of the remote, small village and its residents — who could be regarded as ghostlike castaways at the first glance, but have managed to thrive socially and form a new community of their own, forming intra-ethnic and intra-religious bonds.


Gomes, whose work explores personal issues, migration and the notion of “home”, went on to explain how the focus of their story switched to the clinic in the leper colony, which, through the efforts of its dedicated staff, turned itself into a general hospital. Supplementing their story with various types of footage from the clinic, Gomes remarked upon the intricacies of representing concrete issues of life and death, as well as producing work that avoids stereotyping its subjects.

Writing Worlds: Debate about Creative Writing in Research – Review

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22 February: ART-KNOWLEDGE #1
Writing Worlds: Debate about Creative Writing in Research


“What can artists gain from entering the community of academic writers? What can scholars and scientists learn from different forms of writing, such as poetry, prose and science fiction narratives?”


These were the questions that brought various names from different spheres of art, research and writing together on February 22nd, for the first instalment of the Art-Knowledge lecture series by ARIAS and KNAW, the event featured readings and deeper discussions on how art, research and writing collide in our modern times, as well as how they reflect in the Dutch education system of today.


Kicking off the event was Belfast-born writer Maria Fusco, with excerpts from her latest book “Give Up Art”. By zeroing in on the position of the writer as a “creator of new beings” and touching upon the how the ideas of constriction and consistency play into the creation process, Fusco outlined today’s author’s newfound status, which she ascribed as somewhere in between the poetical and the analytic. Introducing the idea of anonymity as a useful tool for allowing the writing to exceed the writer, Fusco shared her observations of the new topologies surrounding creative writing, echoing Judith Butler and Gilles Deleuze. Suggesting that one must gather an arsenal of tools to write with – sometimes even going as further to contruct the tools themselves, Fusco emphasized the importance of “amateurism” and outlined her stance on experimental writing and how that ties into the arts.


Dutch poet, visual artist and writer Maria Barnas was next – talking about how the fabric of reality is tied to descriptions and images, Barnas mused on how our language and knowledge of the world is shapen by this relationship. By situating language at the heart of her work, Barnas shared her thought on how production, perception and reflection play into the relationship between writing and object development, as well as the concept of art writing as a tool for writing “with” art or “to” art, rather than writing “about” art.


The third contribution of the evening was by Zurich-based artist and researcher Tine Melzer, whose latest work features a “réunion imaginaire” between Ludwig Wittgenstein and Gertrude Stein, which she described as a meeting of analytical and poetical minds. Drawing upon Wittgenstein’s theory of “language as a game”, Melzer progressed this philosophical investigation by referring to one of her previous works titled “Aspect Change”, where she explored the relationship between language and image, language as a shared practice and as a host for the imagination.


Concluding the evening was Miriam Rasch, who started out by reflecting on our digitally mediated times and remarked upon alternative forms of writing, such as writing through the medium (be it an Excel worksheet, Facebook updates or text messages) and how language lives in online spaces, providing insight towards both sides of the argument. By introducing the central question of “How do we write when we write online?”, Rasch expanded on her upcoming work “Shadowbook” and how “the dark side” of writing online is at the core of it, with particular focus on what happens to language within the confines of the digital. Describing her methodology as “researching writing by way of writing”, Rasch further explained how she frames these narratives as pieces of autofiction that border within the self, as well as talking about her new book “Zwemmen in de Oceaan”.

Arts and Research in the News

Metropolis M Interview with Jeroen Boomgaard & Flora Lysen




UvA Faculty of Humanities Magazine Interview with Jeroen Boomgaard




“A north-south divide in artistic research land? Notes on articulating methodologies-in-the-making,” reflections on an artistic research symposium, Flora Lysen